Why write at all?

It’s terrific Tuesday, the nickname I give this one day of the week where I have nowhere to race to anytime soon. I have hours stretched out before me until I have to get dressed and I guard these hours with vigilance. I do not volunteer to sub classes or leave the radius of my neighborhood on Terrific Tuesdays. It is reserved for something I have come to value as priceless — doing nothing. Or in the case of today —writing —which to my frustration lately feels interchangeable with doing nothing.

I attempt to write about a conversation I had with my son back in July when we were outside on my balcony wearing tank tops and sandals.

The piece isn’t going well. I am no longer clear why this exchange impressed upon me some kind of necessity to write about it, but as I sit with my laptop staring into endless space I consider this idea questionable.

He tells me he has regret over a major time in our lives. What comes to me is hearing him say, “It wasn’t worth it. I delete a description of his shoulders and his hand gestures. It feels off to write about body language. There’s something else I am scratching at. There is some other reason my consciousness solicits me to write about this point in time. But I am off key. I don’t know for sure how I know that or even if I could trust my judgment — it’s just a feeling that overcomes me. The creative process feels both haphazard and yet, necessary.

I stay with the piece despite my confusion, my ambivalence, my utter hopelessness — feelings that derive less from this little scene I am writing and more from thinking about my other work, my manuscript which is saved in butchered sections somewhere on my icloud. This used to be work that I took as far as seeking representation. Work that I am on the verge of letting go of. Retiring. Forgetting about.

Does my writing need to lead anywhere? If my writing never gets seen, published, celebrated does my writing exist at all?

I am not that far away from slamming my laptop down and giving up. Especially when my thoughts deliver existential doom: What is the point of this? Where is this going?
Is this worth it? I could be doing other things with my time.

I am pulled back to the balcony and my son. I stay. I wonder what is underneath this? I remember his face. I write, his past still haunts him. I write about how I want to knock the heaviness off of his back “I have learned to be tough,” he says to me in a kind of it’s me against the world way. I want to challenge him. To change his mind about what tough really is.

I wait for another arrival of words to come out of the air and press on the feelings that stayed with me long after our conversation. I go back to that deck. It isn’t enough to say that I was sitting beneath him, crouched on the deck. He was in the chair. It isn’t enough to say that I almost interrupted him mid-sentence. It isn’t enough to describe how worlds were moving inside my body to accommodate for the space a mother needs to provide for her grown-up son to voice his truth.

That feeling. (There has to be a better word than feeling). I trudge through to find specificity. The detail lies not on the outside- not on the deck chair nor the way he held his hand over his glass. The scene is inside. The being of this world and myself. A presence that whispers (and sometimes shouts) how this moment matters, it reveals, it is the world beckoning for me to take notice of how much of life there is to take in. . . and write toward.

I am sorry. Thank you. I love you.

This morning my husband asks me if I used his razor.

“No,” I lie.

“Are you sure?” He asks again. He treads carefully. He wants me to come clean but he also knows if he pushes too hard I might turn against him—a behavior I have been known to resort to in some cases like when the moon is full or I when I am being irrational. He knows this about me. He also knows that I am trying no longer to make this be the case. I want to be better than that.

He approaches me more as friend than foe. Despite my mounting guilt, it does not go unnoticed that he is doing an exemplary job communicating. This is one of the many things that I love about my husband. He is always self-improving.

I, on the other hand, feel as if I have just slipped back in time. No longer the vulnerable open-hearted wife that I have nurtured into existence over these past months — I was now sixteen years old with only two choices in front of her: Keep up with my lie or get in trouble.

I grab a sponge from the sink. “Well, I did use it but it was a while ago.”

He wants details. “What would you say a while ago is? Three days? Yesterday?” He stands in the hallway and I am a few feet away at the counter. I search my memory and retrieve the moment I used the razor and tried to match the scene with the day of the week. Was that Wednesday? Would that be far enough back to claim it was a while ago? I change the subject. He walks the dog. I look down the hallway and decide to vacuum.

I drag the vacuum out of the closet. Was it so hard to tell him the truth? Was it too uncomfortable for me to face an innocent lecture on hygiene? Or was it an unwillingness to surrender to one of life’s greatest prayers:  I am sorry. I think about the enumerable playdates I hosted at my house over the years. Stubborn children with crossed arms. A broken toy. Me standing there pleading. You can say it, I would cajole. Just say I am sorry and you will get the toy, the cookie, the remote control back. . .

I think about the time I used to rip tags off of purchases after my husband asked me not to spend money. “Is that new?” he would ask when I walked into the kitchen wearing the new sweater or a pair of boots he did not recognize from our life before. “What, this?” I deflected. “I bought this a while ago.”

I cannot tell you how many moments in my life I wished for a do-over. The moments I wished I had reigned in an impulse, put the credit card back, the phone down, did not hit send, asked before taking. It is only now, being older, and calmer, and less likely to be thrown around by life’s crazy pushes when I see the spaces in my day where I can be better to the people I love.

It isn’t always perfect.
Sometimes I take without asking. I fib. I lose patience with my mother. I remember her telling me she used to do the same with her mother. I can hear her in the kitchen getting short with her on the phone. “Ma! Enough already!” Her mother died when she was 40. This week I turn 47. I tell my friends who are a decade younger they are approaching the best decade of their lives. I mean it.

Maybe all the years of breathing on a yoga mat. Of being practiced. Of noticing myself in relationship to everything and everyone around me. At 47 it is easier to admit I am wrong. That I don’t know. That I made a mistake. To stop explaining myself. It is easier to accept the consequences of my actions because I am less likely to act without realizing the weight of a consequence. I am more able to see the ripple effect of my words, how they can trail into generations ahead. I more apt to pause, constructively. To keep my pulse in the future I am bumping up against. This might feel better right now, but what about in an hour, a month, a year from now?

And as for the moments that I regress, those times I welcome a visit from that me of the past who still likes to take charge and stomp around the house with her fists in the air. I tell her I am sorry I wasn’t more present for her when she needed me. I tell her we no longer have to worry about seeking approval the way we used to no matter the cost. I thank her for showing up until she softens in my arms, quiets down and lets me love her.

The successful one

     I was once given this sort of advice from someone who I deeply respected in business. He said to me, “Your best revenge, is your success.”
     I knew what he meant. It was a time in my life when my yoga studio which I had co-owned for almost a decade was going through a sad divorce. My partner and I were breaking up. It was brutal. Traumatic. Devastating. On us. On our communities. On our friendships and families. On our business. This advice while well intended seemed to impress upon me that it was only when I surpassed my former partner in business that I will be free of the pain the breakup caused.
     As time passed and transitions have made that point in my life seem more distant and oblique, the regret of how it all went down and choices thereafter still claim its territory within. I have a hard time buying that it has much to do with where I ended up. Letting go I learned is a creative process as much as forgiveness is. It’s two steps forward where I might reach the pinnacle of calm acceptance, and three steps back where I might feel gripped by the burn of having no control over so much.
I repeated my mother’s advice as if it were that easy.  “We cannot look back, we can only move forward and learn from our past.” Of course, the lessons I have learned. Where would I be without them? The lessons I received about my own behaviors, my own shadows, my own weaknesses, they all came rushing forward as if they were begging for my attention. I may not be grateful for everything that happened, but I can be grateful in every moment for these lessons which have shaped me and are defining some of my finest aspirations today. I listen for the ways my present has benefitted from this kind of learning.
It is my body most of all that tells me how over things I really am. I wonder about that on days like today where I feel compelled to write about this or days like yesterday when I was triggered unexpectedly by a conversation I had with a dear loving friend and longtime student. She was filling me in about her life, her yoga practice, and mentioned innocently that my old partner’s classes “are packed.” “It’s so crowded there,” she said. “She is running a good business.”
While I wished to God that my first response was one of beauty, that the accrual of these lessons would have showed up when I told my friend, “Oh, I am happy for her. She deserves that success.” I said the words and wanted to stand by them completely. But, amidst that I could feel in my belly those small tentacles of my own ego catch hold of me and for several breaths in the conversation I felt the uprising of hurt and pain, jealousy and regret. I looked around at where I was in my life and started comparing. I started tragically asking, what if things had gone another way? What if I had done things differently? And the line up of questions that ran completely against the current of reality. Of the present moment. Of accepting what was. Of looking around at my life and embracing exactly where I am. I am starting anew. I am not sure how it will all turn out. I don’t yet know from where my stability will arise. I resisted the self-denigrating side of me that wanted to blurt out, I deserve where I am.  That according to my business advice, I was on the losing side of success.
There is a place within me that is at peace with all the ways my life has been led.  There is also a place within that longs to have a do-over. That wishes I can look back and take with me the centered, older clearer version of myself that sits in my bedroom in Chicago feeling humbled and softer. (Had I known then, what I know now…)  I know I am a better teacher now than I ever was. A better mother. A better friend. Possibly a better business woman. (I would hope).  I wish that my past could somehow know me as I am now becoming.  That I can bump into my old self and carry her along with me rather than chastise her for all the foolish things she did.  She is not a mistake. She is and will be such a huge contribution in me understanding, valuing and creating a life that is successfully lived.