good morning friends! I just wanted to stop in and let you know that I’m still here, planning to come back, planning to write.
this summer has been a little rough, and I’ve been focusing inward a bit more. I’ve sought distraction and guaranteed happiness and to help others. I’ve run on the beach and laid out in the sun and held friends’ babies. I needed a break from thinking deeply about myself. I needed to keep busy.
but I’ve been checking in on you all, and keeping track of your tumblr lives, and I’m looking forward to joining you again in this little community very, very soon.
a few months ago, toward the end of yoga class, we sat on our heels, spines straight, shoulders relaxed, chins tipped down ever so slightly, stretching the crowns of our heads toward the ceiling. our eyes were closed as we spent a few moments focusing on our breath.
one breath for someone you love
one breath for someone who needs it.
one breath for yourself.
at the time, my older sister was living on the third floor of my parents’ house, and things were tense. my sister wasn’t taking care of her health, and my parents worried constantly that their efforts to save her would fail. they tip-toed through their lives, balancing along a line that ran between setting boundaries and fearing that if they pushed her too hard, she’d walk out the door and they’d no longer be able to keep her safe.
I took one breath for my mom, who’d been alone with my sister for a few weeks while my dad renovated a house they’d purchased earlier in the year. my mom had called that weekend to tell me that she hadn’t seen my sister in two days and had spent sunday worrying that she’d have to call my dad to tell him his daughter was gone.
I took one breath for my sister, because I knew she wasn’t seeing clearly how badly things had become. I sent her a breath for strength, because we’d all tried for years to help her and we needed her to help herself.
I took one breath for myself, because I just felt so powerless, because I felt so angry, because I missed the sister I’d loved and admired as a child.
a few tears silently slid along my cheeks.
since that night, I’ve practiced those three breaths countless times. they haven’t always gone to my mom and my sister – my family, or my friends and their families, or acquaintances, or strangers have needed the support that is tangled with those deep, expansive inhales and slow, steady exhales.
last night, though, I once again took those breaths for my parents and my sister and myself. my sister died a little over a week ago, and since then I’ve needed a breath to dispel the helplessness I feel; my sister needs a breath for peace; my parents need a breath to remind them that they are loved.
I’ve been struggling and feeling completely inadequate. I feel uniquely ill-prepared to handle anything like this. I’m angry at my sister, and angry at myself for being angry at her, frustrated that I can’t articulate how I feel, ashamed that sometimes I can’t muster an emotion and other times I’m an inconsolable mess.
I’m totally awestruck by the outpouring of love and support I’ve received – I’ve needed it so much more than I knew I would. I’m exhausted – I’ve barely slept since last sunday. I have no idea what any day is going to be like, and planning for several days from now is a game of chance. I hate using the term passed away, because that’s not how it feels. there is no calm right now, nothing slipping slowly and silently away. her death itself happened quietly, but it feels violent and jarring and heartbreaking.
my sister moved out of my parents’ house about two weeks before she died, so her absence isn’t something that is felt in every moment. instead, I buy vegan cashew-oat waffles and remember that she never hesitated to taste-test the weird and unconventional recipes I insisted on making. I pull her favorite blue dress over my head and remember how much she loved it. I leave her funeral and my first instinct is to reach for my phone, to commiserate with her about how ridiculous our family is. If I focus hard enough, sometimes I can even hear her voice telling me she loves me. and each time I feel that tug of memory, I take a breath.
(can you tell? out of the office, so no social media filter today.)
social media filter: my office blocks all social media sites. we’re each allotted a “quota period” of sixty minutes per day, broken into ten minute increments. boo.
hey friends, how’s it going?
I attended a particularly difficult yoga class last night and walking up stairs today has been a bit of a chore. it doesn’t matter how often I go to yoga class (like, every day), my body still finds new muscles to work, new ways to move, and new places to be sore.
what have you been up to? anything new/exciting/fun/different?
sometimes I go back
and listen to your voice
from old recordings.
my heart beats hard against the inside of my ribs
my throat tightens
my lungs press all their air out and refuse to refill
as I place the cassette into the stereo
and let my fingers hover over the buttons
so I can stop you once I can no longer take it.
my heart pumps harder still as the tape begins gliding inside the machine
those few seconds before you begin to speak are loud and empty
and the swell of nothingness is deafening.
on the days when I can make it this far,
by the time I hear your voice, my own ears are ringing,
and I can barely hear anything at all.
your laugh comes first.
you laughed first that day, before you began.
you absentmindedly introduced yourself,
and now my stomach sinks and twists.
your fingers begin to tap out those notes, slowly at first.
the piano’s pedals squeak under your feet
and I’m not sure I can make it much further.
my brain spins and darkens.
my lungs scream for oxygen.
my heart pounds and aches and threatens to burst.
now I’m drowning in the rhythm of your words.
I’m suffocating under the weight of your melody as you sing and of your body as we sleep,
I’m swept out to sea by the lilt of your song and the tilt of your head as you lean down and press your lips against mine.
you’re sweet and smooth and gone
and I’m dying.
before more seconds manage to tick and tick and tick away,
I close my eyes and push the eject button.
I cover my face with my hands.
I close my eyes against the darkness.
I search for the sounds of anything else,
of the wind or the radiator or the creaking hardwood floors,
anything that will fill my bones with something new,
and I forget.
and for the past week or so, as studying and anxiety increase (and as I admonish myself for not just getting this out of the way in july), I’ve been subsisting almost entirely on kashi frozen waffles, bananas, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and almonds.
send help. and food.
after a long rant about how I won’t be running until march [because my brain simply isn’t structured in the way that would be required for me to isolate out-of-shape running from bar prep and I’m unwilling to compromise my exam score for a few runs in february], I just signed up for three races in april.
and I have plans to add the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k in may, because who can pass up a run for such an oddly specific cause — kidney health in the united arab emirates?
building my stamina, preparing for the nike women’s half (hi danielle!), kicking performance anxiety’s tush, and putting my nyrr membership to good use.
right now, I’m really looking forward to march.
[yoga versus running.]
I haven’t been running in exactly thirty days. exactly. almost to the hour.
the flu was followed so closely behind by more being sick.
at first it was the general malaise and weakness that comes with a fever and a retching cough. later it became a requirement in order for me to become healthy.
by next week, it will be because I know the worst part will be my own frustration, anger, rage that my body is no longer able to do what it once did with relative ease.
thinking about it makes my hands shake.
I’m not ready for that yet. in four weeks, I’ll take the bar exam that I skipped this summer. I’ve been studying like a mad woman, but I worry that I’ll be unprepared. lots of the test takers are also re-takers, so they’ve already seen the test. I have not. they know what to expect on test day. I do not. what if I’m studying the wrong things. or studying in the wrong ways. they aren’t even questions anymore, just statements.
this is arguably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, ever.
and I just can’t add to these days and nights of studying the disappointment that I know will accompany the disconnect between the way my mind expects me to run and the way my body actually runs.
I think I’ll save that for another day. maybe february 28th will be a good day.
in the meantime, and from the beginning, I’ve had yoga.
one hour a day.
and when I think about what I could be doing and compare that with what I am doing, the differences between the two catch my breath. every single day.
one stresses discarding problems outside the studio, the other becomes a silent conversation during which I systematically solve my problems while my feet move swift and silent along the pavement.
when I run, every step is filled with a thought, a question. my mind replays conversations, sorts through scenes from my weekend, remembers, ponders, sings along to the music. I can lose myself and let miles pass unnoticed.
when I’m in yoga class, I actively seek to clear from my mind the distractions of my day. focus on my body in each moment. the heat that builds in my legs, the shaking in my arms as I reach farther and straighter and higher and longer, the sweat that trickles along my forehead and leaves tiny damp spots across the mat.
when I leave yoga, my body feels somehow both weaker and stronger. when I arrive home from a good run, my body feels at peace and exhausted.
yoga and running are physically demanding in different ways. yoga builds muscles, running builds stamina. yoga requires you to stand still and allow your body to burn. hold your body up. use your muscles. and breathe. running requires the collaboration of your lungs, which are just plain out of your control.
I find yoga to be much easier, despite the soreness that sinks into my shoulders, hips, thighs, biceps, torso when I skip a few days. I’m easier on myself in yoga class. if I can’t fully articulate a pose, I push myself to the absolute limit, remind myself that I will be better tomorrow, and breathe. and I am better tomorrow. success is so visible.
when I run, I rage that I’m not better. my expectation for more has brought me to tears right out on the public sidewalk. ability increases at such an imperceptible rate, that it’s easy to wonder whether any of your effort will ever seem worthwhile.
I love both. I should do both. I will. just not today.
for today, I focus on lengthening and strengthening my muscles, because I know they’ll support me when I return. I practice dampening the internal dialogue, focusing on form and structure, hoping a renewed and revised attitude will allow for a smooth transition.
today I’ll stick with yoga. tomorrow I’ll run.
[aren’t we too young for this?]
it’s such a silly question, we’ve already had so many life-changing, age-inappropriate experiences.
losing parents. that wasn’t supposed to happen. we were too young.
losing friends. that wasn’t supposed to happen. they were too young.
but it really hit me when a friend (whose wedding I attended late last september) called to say he was thinking of getting a divorce.
I felt a wave of familiarity; just eighteen months ago, lying under a full moon, wet hair and wet clothes spread across the grass, I listened as a friend tearfully confessed that she married too young, that she needed to get out, that she needed help.
the best I could offer then was a couch and a space free from judgment. now, I’m responsible for advising the parties of their rights. of optimum choices. now I’m picking sides. now we’re picking sides. we’re responsible for every decision.
and this struck a different chord. something about institutional memory. watching a relationship from it’s first moments.
and it knocked me down that we had to spend days and nights and weeks on the phone talking about the pros and cons, when he called from outside an attorney’s office to ask if he was doing the right thing, when he texted me that he was scared of being alone forever.
my beautiful, perfect, strong, fierce friend filled with fear.
we’re not supposed to be prepared for this.
but our decisions now are of the make-or-break variety.
we’ve been kicked and shoved and we stood back up and kept going. but every once in a while, don’t you just wonder, aren’t we too young for all this?
oh january, I’m ready for you to go.
january began beautifully. filled with lovely holiday memories, new year celebrations, renewal.
january has become so melancholy, though, and I’m ready for a new month. I’m ready to try again.
the flu hit us all a few weeks ago. tired and uncomfortable. and just as quickly as it came and went, something new knocked me down.
no vigorous activity for at least four weeks. doctor’s orders. I eased into yoga classes — the body needs to move. still, no movements too quick, for now, you are breakable.
then I was suddenly shoved down again. I’ve spent the last six days moving between bed and work and bed.
I was so excited that this weekend might finally be the turning point. I made plans, agreed to attend birthday parties, yoga classes (still no running), movies, brunch. instead, I stayed awake long enough to eat breakfast, before crashing.
I’m spinning in two directions. my mind is restless and bored. my body is fighting me. constantly exhausted, fragile, hurting.
this will end soon. but I am unaccustomed to this sedentary, delicate lifestyle. I don’t normally sleep so many hours. every single night.
oh my. february, I can’t wait to see you.
I saw you against last night,
now it’s been twice already this week.
as soon as my eyelids fluttered
closed, there you were,
unsuccessfully attempting to suppress the grin that was wrinkling the corners of your eyes.
and you pressed your palm into the spot just above my knee
and you pressed your lips into my cheek
and you laughed as you pointed out that we were the only ones wearing pink.
I looked over your pink oxford shirt
as you leaned so close it blended into my pink cotton dress
and I smiled
because we didn’t plan it this way
because I don’t even like pink
because somewhere in its depths, my mind was pressing the edges flat as a reminder that this tiny moment is merely a dream.
and when I awoke, again,
I wondered how often you find yourself here
across a table
at a seat adjacent to mine at a bar
brushing fingertips as we pass on the street
how often do you stand, walk around the table, and lean down to whisper into my ear?
how often do you push your arm across the inches along the bartop that separate you from me, until only the pointiest bones in each of our elbows touch?
how often do you call out my name, catch the crook of my arm in your hand, all to ask how I’ve been?
how often do you wake up, squeeze your eyes closed quickly, exhale deeply under the crush of disappointment at all this destruction, and wish it all could be any other way?