Friends, I am back from (clears throat) a yoga retreat in Nicaragua. Yes, yoga. More specifically, the Find What Feels Good/Yoga With Adriene retreat. The essay below is what I took there and took from it.
Friends, I could tell you about the monkeys that played in the trees above me, howling hilarious (or rapacious?) noises at each other; I could tell you about being overwhelmed my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean—how hard the waves break (no, really I couldn’t); I could tell you about that ocean’s throaty, sultry rhythm and blues, and how, as in Matthew Lippman’s poem “From God’s Notebook” one can hear it and say “It is my fault, it’s not my fault”; I could show you pictures worthy of (if I had the right hashtags!) capturing the Instagram hearts of thousands of scrolling strangers worldwide, one photo in particular of boats without docks, anchored right beyond shoreline, bobbing like fishing tackle and lures, and beyond these boats a succession of blue oblivions; how conflicted I felt about traveling somewhere and meeting very few residents besides staff; how conflicted I felt about how much I have, how I need to work harder to share it. Then, there were the flowers, like bright mid-century atomic clocks, like the skirts of can-can dancers, big and flashy and a little peek at something sexy; American flowers, I’m afraid, will never do now.
Sometimes I’m convinced the Earth was the mold for the curvature of the question mark. The only thing forged in iron the questions.
Who am I and what am I made of?
Do I want to make my mark on the world or leave no trace?
What is home? Where is it? Can’t some well-intentioned child set me on the front of his bicycle and pedal me past the moon and there already? When will I be beamed up to where I am supposed to be?
In my real life, my career is not thrilling, and sometimes can feel like it lacks purpose or meaning. My hobbies interest me more than my 9 to 5. My spouse and I recently moved to a beautiful area but I have yet to make lady friends (essential to any Jane Austen novel and also to the good life!). I struggle to acknowledge that I take issue with these things because I live such a charmed existence of choices (dog! loving spouse! instruments and books strewn across a house! a garden! family and friends who if not near are dear to me!); but of course (only me?) repression always seems to transform into wallowing. I’m fine! I’m fine! I’m . . . lying in bed all day and if you question it I am hissing at you like a cat trapped under a laundry basket.
If I sketched this life out, it would look so plain, Lindsey, this hissing voice starts up. Maybe you don’t have friends because you’re a weirdo, Lindsey. (Fair enough.) You’re a traitor to feminism because you are young-ish and married and are not leaning in, Lindsey. What about your obligation to the planet? To your family and your mentors? To yourself?
And that move to that beautiful place.
Home is a slippery word. It seems everywhere you go, someone is telling you about home and what it is and that there’s no place like it. Home is where the heart is; home is where the light is; home is wherever I’m with you; change your place and there you are!
Click my heels three times.
Enter another night spent on the Youtubez (I’m gonna say with wine, but if wine wasn’t present, it was in spirit). Enter watching yoga video on said Youtubez or Googling for one and finding YWA at the start of a new year, a year, I promised myself, that I would work to “embrace routine,” that I would work to be content. There was pre-recorded Adriene saying it was time to be responsible for my own happiness.
It’s own your shit o’clock!
It was a bigger decision for me to get on the mat the first time, to get on it every day since, than it was to pony up for a YWA-style trip to Nicaragua, which I did.
The first night there, we were supposed to say what brought us; for me, I talked about having been more brain than body before yoga. It’s true. A mind can float anywhere, a body can only be one place at one time.
But what kind of home is a body?
The mostly inescapable kind. An untakebackable gift.
It’s hard enough to be comfortable in my own brain, much less my own body. How to build anything outside of either? Instead, for years, I went invisible. It’s easier than it sounds. After all, isn’t there a whole song about hiding light under a bushel?
The only answers I’ve found: Burn the bushel. Not either but both. Less or more and. (To make that or mean more than it did before—Sondheim fans unite!)
In a foreign country in a jungle on a mountain in a hut under a ceiling of dried palm fronds, I laid down. In a guided meditation after a particularly steamy practice, Adriene asked us to imagine a walk in a jungle, at some point landing on a warm rock on a beach, making ourselves comfortable.
“What do you see?”
The top of my vision: a(n extremely fashionable) straw sunhat, ocean in periphery, and front and center, there on the sand, my husband in the cap he always wears and our dog, walking toward me.
Imagine that—a desire fulfilled, and yet. What I want is what I have and I just want more of it.
Soon before heading to Nicaragua, I read an article about how Emily Dickinson—that poet long rumored (despite any attempts toward right-ing) to have lived a lonely spinster life (can spinsters have un-lonely lives? nay!) crying into her rejection letters, locked in an attic in Amherst—had a garden full of rare flowers, that she spent days and seasons at this hobby, that when she was alive she was better known as a botanist than as a failed poet.
To think, a life thought tragic (and sexless! and progeny-less! but thank goodness we kept the only thing worth salvaging—the art, right fellas?) was full (and created life after life after life!) and maybe (who knows?) full of happiness on the daily. One way to draw it is dreary; another full of color and light. (The truth maybe an overhead projector on which we can layer slides.)
Like those poses where I’m pretty sure it looks like I’m doing nothing but I’m working up a sweat, from the outside it’s hard to know how much work is going on inside. Looking from the outside in—I don’t have to do that with myself; why not grant myself the gift of not doing that? The world is full of harsh eyes; I can give soft eyes. (I give really good eye—sue me!) The world is full of bustle; I can give stillness. The world is full of noise; I can give it a listen, I can give it quiet, but that doesn’t mean being invisible.
I misunderstood the dictum to, in times of trouble, turn inward. I thought it meant going it alone. I mistook my shell for my insides and wasn’t careful and almost, or did for a moment, turned to stone. But then, during those years, all that darn laughter, all those dreadful singing people on porches and on couches, all the bad dance moves one can’t help but dust off. I’m thankful for all the people who weren’t afraid of my being afraid, who aren’t afraid of extremes of volume or feeling, or of fumbling. People who will just sit with you are the best people. (Many people who took the FWFG Nicaragua trip are the best people.)
In line to board the plane from Managua back to the States, an older woman—dressed in bright blue—in front of me was speaking to the flight attendants in Spanish, trying to work something out. Double-checking that I had out the right tickets, that I hadn’t dropped my passport, I didn’t pay it much mind. When we reached the nexus between plane door and hall, I realized she was trying to transport a piñata, several feet tall, of a blonde girl onto the plane.
I like that stupid-looking, needs-a-comb blonde piñata girl—full of nothing or full of sweets—waiting for the delight of being busted open. I like the lady in blue insisting—checked or no—she make it on the plane. I’m grateful she asked (or, that I think she did), and that we sat rows apart on a machine in the sky headed toward a place we both chose to go.