I woke up this morning and I wanted to exclaim happiness from the porch for the world to hear. Life is easy, life is dependable, and life continues to offer me glorious unexpected glimmers of joy wherever I look. Sometimes, like this morning, the joy bubbles up in my chest and I have to throw it somewhere. I’m blogging about it now because, well, its my modern version of shouting from the rooftop. This poor neglected corner of the Internet has been gathering dust in the last weeks, and deserves some light and love.
Writing here doesn’t claim much of my attention anymore. I’m not sure if that will change in weeks and months ahead. I’m busy with my job (which I happen to love), my son (at whom I marvel every moment), and my life, which is wonderful and miraculous. I still practice a lot of yoga. I still want to meditate more, and I’m almost always so full of gratitude I have trouble not smiling hugely at everyone I encounter.
Another blog absence coming to an end–I have been busy in the real world, scribbling notes in my bedside journal and the moleskine in my bag when I can so I don’t forget any insight I’ve grasped at in the last weeks.
We moved. Again. Actually, we moved home. All through the years we were in Massachusetts, and this past year in Charleston, we never stopped referring to Maine as “home.” It is comforting that we’ve returned to enthusiastic and open arms after so many years away. Though I am a bit sad to say it took a scary car accident and 12 months of melancholy loneliness to get to this point… such are the trials of life. We are happy now which is all that really matters. The past is over, we learned some things, and we have moved on. Moving into happiness is always the goal, right?
Marriage, moving, motherhood–all of these things are loosening my grip on rigidity and perfection. The more I seek perfection the farther away it seems. So I’ve let go of trying to be that perfect girl in my 20 year old mindset (I am 30 now, after all). That 20-something doesn’t have years of independent living in her memories, she does not do yoga, she is lonely and though she may look lovely and beautiful, she is sad. It took ten years of running–literally around the planet–to settle back where I began, but this time it is with happiness on my side.
Happiness currently takes the form of a toddler, a wonderful half Japanese man, a dog with a curly tail, a yoga mat and salty air, a deep bath, walks along the rocky coast. But my experience of happiness is fluid, and I am happy when I am soaking wet in the hurricane-like weather we had last week, running late, splashed with spilled juice, and in uncomfortable new shoes. Because happiness doesn’t really have just one form, or any form at all. It isn’t a big house in the suburbs with a husband making a gajillion dollars a day so we can stay home and eat bonbons and write poetry. It is not traveling around the world, it is not spending every day at the beach until the skin is tanned beneath earnest coats of sunscreen. It doesn’t have a designer logo, and it will never ask for dues. It is not a destination, as the saying goes, but a way of being and breathing.
Happiness is a feeling of peace. It is waking up in the middle of the night and being able to go back to sleep without worrying about the agenda for the day ahead. Happiness is a deep inhalation and a steady exhalation. It is a soft seat for a weary body. It is gratitude and hope and humility. It is quiet pride and loud reverence. Happiness is knowing when to be persistent, and happiness is knowing when to let things be still. Happiness is waking quietly in the morning, and sitting softly beside the bed, honoring another day we have all been granted on the earth together. Happiness is meditation, happiness is action in inaction.
Someday soon this sentence, sunset and life will be over, so what sense is there in crunching up over worries? It seems we’re all on a path towards goodness, and though there are difficult times in life, happiness is always just around the corner.
So, we are leaving South Carolina. My experiment in southern housewifery is over, and I have to say it is with a great big sigh of relief.
A sense of relief not unlike the shockingly icy temperature of a Maine ocean on a hot summer day. I’ve been longing for that burst of coolness, refreshment from the stagnant. I’m actually looking forward to the fall and a change of scenery.
I miss my family, and we’ve done enough exploring here. The South is a different country from New England, with a different value system and culture from what we prefer. I want to raise my son in a place where being different is not jeered at, a place that values education and alternative takes on life. I’ve met acquaintances with many new variety of tree, plant and human. I recognize the weather, speech and traffic patterns, and I am okay with eliminating the term “y’all” from my vocabulary. Maybe some day I will curse the snow, but I miss those gray winter landscapes, and we all miss poking around in the woods without fear of lurking alligators and snakes. But, I have no remorse haughtily saying see ya to cockroaches. Its been like a year abroad for us, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience the regional differences in the country, not just overseas.
I have made a list of things I love about South Carolina.
…in no order of importance:
- Meandering the trails at the James Island County Park
- Easy to one of the top ten beaches in America
- Sitting outside on the patio all year long
- This place. And the view from this bar
- Walking along the battery with iced tea on a Sunday morning, and stopping to let our son splash in the pineapple fountain
- The amazing quality of local fruits and vegetables available all year–and my new love affair with okra
- Hearing the trees rustle outside our bedroom windows (never the dull roar of sirens and traffic)
- The general lack of anything even slightly resembling traffic
- My rediscovery of a genuine yoga practice
- How my plants flourished here–my lavender blossomed this year for the first time in 6 years.
It has been a swell year, but I think if I was really honest with myself I knew we weren’t really going to live here for long. It was a fun temporary change, this sojourn in southern living.
Read this article, and then ask yourself where yoga will be for you this weekend.
Something stirred inside me today. Some deep part of me that was buried– in my chronically tight shoulders or neck, I believe. Both are more open now, but it did not come easily.
Maybe it was the discouraging week I had, the rain and tropical storm warnings left few opportunities to be outside for very long, and I was starting to get quieted down and overly-rested with the weather. But then during this morning’s practice, something stirred, released, and left a multitude of emotions and feelings in its wake. It was about being assertive, knowing what is worth fighting for, and what to calmly walk away from. My quiet and grateful mood on the morning drive to the studio seemed to match the lunchtime traffic–aggressive and in a hurry. I wanted to be first in line at the farm stand, and I utilized my car’s turbo more often than I really needed to, arriving home with a shorter temper than when I left.
One of the things about yoga: it touches everything in your life, if you let it. My yoga practice is like wringing out a cloth, there is always more to be extracted and manifested. I return to it day after day (err, hour after hour…) because it brings me such a solid ground from which to move. So I am surprised and disquieted when I leave my mat feeling emotional and mentally weary, but I shouldn’t be.
Yoga has been better for me than my thirteen straight years of talk therapy. It usually gently prods free the things I’d rather not think about but need to release to make room for more love. It is very jarring to sit up from a savasana with less steadiness than when we start, but it is an important part of the process. Its like the newly released emotions are still powerful enough to wound again, live (invisible) wires shooting out of the chakras. The yoga mat is a space for the mind as much as it is for feet and hands to grip the earth during the asanas. As the body learns to let go of its long-ingrained holding patterns and rigid postures, folded within the tight muscles are little pieces of hurt, anger, frustration, embarrassment, fear, and anxiety. That is why we’re so loose as young children, we have no emotional attachments except for love, and that is all we need to be happy. On the yoga mat we learn how to take moments of meditation throughout the day, gaining an innate sense of what is right and wrong and what is possible at this point in time.
I know it might sound ridiculous, but think about it. Muscle tightness is one factor in the struggle to touch the toes to the head in scorpion, but the emotional bracing which forbids this movement is the key to unlocking the full expression of the pose. I think this is one reason people have a hard time sticking with yoga classes, or choose other more forms of active purely cardiovascular forms of exercise. Sure, yoga as exercise is part of the reason I do it, but I never would have stuck with it this long if it didn’t also stretch my mind, my heart, and my spirit.
Today I stewed over a few relationships and situations, berating myself for spending time even thinking about it. But then, sometime while I was at the beach with my family, all those urgent feelings of hurt and anger dissipated with a puff. They were uncovered during my practice, and then released into the hot salty sea air–the perfect place for such emotions to simmer away. I breathed love into places of my heart that had been overtaken by negativity. I’ll sleep without trouble tonight now that I have let go of some anger and confusion no longer bound within my hips.
A house on the sea and a foot in the city, Violet used to tell me dreamily. She meant Paris, of course, and the coast of Maine–never the reverse, “American cities are so vulgar,” Violet would say. When we were younger I actually believed one day we’d still be living down the hall from each other, with me extracting choice camisoles from her closet, and her sleeping until noon.
One summer, when we were 14 and 12, our parents took us to the coast of Spain. They went to bed early every night, so we explored the Costa del Sol with a guileless innocence. I was afraid of men at 14, but Violet looked at them like they were another species, to be studied and understood. Her sexuality was awkward and some nights I’d beg her not to wear a certain dress because she embarrassed me. But she’d shimmy her bottom in too short skirts after I walked first into bar or a restaurant. Violet welcomed the attention we got from the dark Andalusian men. I preferred to sample deserts and sweet liquers before scurrying back to our lovely ocean side auberge to write it all down in my journal. I though Violet would want to record her experiences too, she was the writer in the family after all, but we must not have caught the same jet lag, because she turned into a night owl while I relished every sun drenched day.
Eager to get back to my room one night, I left a dark dance club in exasperation when Violet repeatedly ignored my pleas to move along. I lost her. I should have stayed and searched for her, but I thought her admirers would look after her. I should have held her tightly by the hand. She was only 12.
Violet returned mid morning the next day. She was barefoot and gleeful. We took a walk on the rock of Gibraltar, and she collapsed into fat tears when one of the naughty monkeys stole the fedora she had returned with that morning. Our father had to console her with a visit to Prada to find a new pink wallet to take her mind off the tragedy. Everything that day was irrational, but at the time it seemed completely normal. Violet didn’t sleep until late that night, when she guiltily stayed in with me to watch Audrey Tatou movies. I quizzed her on what she had done, but she was vague. My questions were eventually returned with blank stares and vacant gaps in my attempts at conversation.
When we got home two weeks later, our relationship was markedly different, and that sense of shadowy superficiality never disappeared. Violet closed her bedroom door, and took mysterious daily walks to the post office. We’d never shared our diary entries out loud again.
For college, I studied marine biology in Bar Harbor, while she started at Hampshire, transferred to the American University in Paris, then back home to Boston University. I’m still unsure if she received a degree. That is the way our life so quickly and precariously unraveled. We saw each other along the way, long weekends during the semesters and longer weeks over the summers. But I was never clear what she was looking for, even what she majored in, besides boys and parties. I can pinpoint the end of our childhood though, when I stopped believing in her innocence, and she stop seeing me as infallible.
Now, Violet and I see each other every other year or so. We talk on the phone sporadically, but have never sustained regular conversations. I send her pictures of my son, usually with terse or no reply. I can’t remember the last time I saw a picture of her face, so to me Violet always looks 12.
Writer’s note: For this post, the name of this bloc, In Progress is very apt!