The day started out beautifully. Simply. Coffee, of course. Straightening up around the house–emptying trash and recycling, washing a sinkful of dishes by hand, picking up bits and pieces of trash from the living room, where the girls made Valentines for their classmates Thursday night.
Sweeping the floor, folding and putting away piles of clothes.
This kind of activity pleases me greatly, especially when it’s not the end of the workday but rather Saturday morning, the whole weekend ahead of us.
I found my way to the green yoga mat I didn’t set foot on for most of this past week, a week that alternated between days that felt lucid and easy and days that felt slogging and heavy and long. I completed two videos from this free 30 Day Yoga Challenge, with a teacher named Erin Motz. I’ve been enjoying these; they are short (between 12 and 20 minutes), and often I keep going when one is over, following whatever other poses my body asks for and needs.
Mani was in our bedroom with her timer set for one hour, working on her novel. Later, we’d both comment on how good it felt, to have our space filled with that kind of concentration, each of us doing something we say we want to do but have had periods of not making time for. “It feels like how we’re going to live,” she said. “It’s how we are living,” I noted. And then she added that she’d almost said, “It’s how we want to live.” We both smiled at this sequence–from want to, to going to, to neither wanting or waiting, but living.
At the end of my practice, I spent quite a while lying on the floor in savasana with my arms stretched out at my sides, body long, breath easy. When I placed my hands in prayer position, I brought them to my heart and held them there for a good long while, offering thanks for so many things, and praying for many things, too. The mat faces the bookshelf in the living room, and earlier I’d had to resist the impulse to start fussing with the books while I was in upward dog. Now, though, I was sitting up. I bowed to the floor, then reached for one book at a time, without thinking about which one or why.
One after another, the books I pulled and the pages I opened to amazed me; some would clearly work their way into a new writing prompt (I’m going to work on the ones for April tomorrow); others reminded me of something I needed to hear; and in one, I found a homemade bookmark from an artist friend, painted on one side with a beautiful handwritten note dated June, 2008 on the other: Trust gravity. As you embark on each moment’s journey of light and dark and mystery, feel held, grounded, by this nourishing force. The book this was tucked into was “Bird by Bird,” in a chapter called “Writing a Present.”
I went into the kitchen after that, clutching a stack of books. Mani was washing a pot to cook rice. I went up behind her and nuzzled her shoulder, feeling grateful for the quiet within and around us. I showered and fixed myself a breakfast of fried eggs and toast and juice. Mani read the most recent installments from her novel to me, and I sat on the edge of the bed and on the edge of my seat, listening, visualizing the scenes as if it’s a book that’s already complete, which I am quite convinced it is and that she’s just channeling it. It’s that good.
The next few hours passed with us just here. We had a couple of bouts of debating whether she felt well enough to go out; her blood pressure and potassium have been very low, which can cause–and has been causing–significant light-headedness and heart palpitations. As much as we were both feeling a bit cooped up and wanting to get out of the house together, we decided it’d be better for her not to push it. The landlord came by to change some lightbulbs. Mani made another pot of rice. She read me this moving story about an Orthodox Jewish family with a gay teenaged son, and how they’d chosen to move to a brand-new community where he was accepted and they were welcomed.
I made a batch of chocolate-chip cookies.
At this point it was 3:30pm. Suddenly a little feeling of The Day is Going By Too Quickly started to seep in. We needed a few groceries; I wanted to bring cookies over to my parents’ house, where my dad’s recovering from surgery (and woo-hoo we got him hooked on “Breaking Bad”–I can’t tell you how irrationally happy this makes me; and only he could compare it to a Dickens novel and have that make perfect sense).
The snow was starting to come down more heavily by then. My parents were very happy for the cookies. The car was none too happy about the roads, but I made it to Stop & Shop. While I was in the deodorant aisle reading ingredients and trying to find something fragrance-free, the phone rang. It was Aviva, calling from Virginia. She and Pearl and their dad are on a road trip for the school break. She sounded giddy at the 45-degree temps there and asked if it was snowing here. She said, “No snow here! Just God Rays!” I still don’t know what God Rays are, but in my mind they are rays of sunshine with a southern accent.
I went to the Starbucks drive-through for a latte, then drove home. I made it about 4/5 of the way up the driveway before the front left tire got stuck, just spinning and spinning against an ever-deepening groove of snow. At this point, I could feel how my mood had shifted. I was annoyed, irritable, cranky, and absolutely sick and tired of winter. One of the downstairs neighbors, a college student who wears leather slippers and likes to cook, came outside and offered to help. He got in the driver’s seat while I attacked the problem spot with a shovel, loosening things up enough for him to gun it the rest of the way to the top of the driveway. I felt like I needed a nap after that, or to scream, or a good cry. Or all three maybe.
Mani was where I’d left her an hour or so earlier. I was glad to see her. We’d both had a funky afternoon after a really sweet morning. All in a day. She asked how I was and I told her I was in a mood, or a mood had covered me like saran wrap, and all the while there was the voice over, the one that asks God not to listen for ten minutes while I kvetch. Why don’t I want God to listen? First of all, God surely has better things to do. Also, it’s not the message I want to send. That said, feelings are just feelings and there’s no better way past but through the meh and the wah.
“I want a spa day,” I told her, a little sheepishly. She closed her computer and turned to me. “I have what might sound like a stupid Poor White Trash question, but… what exactly is a Spa Day?” I cracked up. Sometimes our socioeconomically different backgrounds birth the best conversations. I began describing my shallow dream day, the one where we spend hours–the steam room and the sauna, a waterfall surely, all kinds of treatments with delicious products with ridiculous names, and heavy, soft robes, and a pool and sunshine and… And then I got teary and said really it just feels like all work and winter and I want a vacation and for a variety of Very Real Reasons that is not in our cards right now, and it’s hard for me to admit wanting to be spoiled in this way.
That’s when I burst into tears.
She pulled my head to her chest and I sank into the perfect way we fit together. “Julianna was right, at our wedding, when she said you are such a beautiful crier,” she said.” I looked up at her. “Really?”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s like Katherine Hepburn, those old movies where they show the woman from the side, and her tears are lovely and her make-up’s not even smudged. Me, when I cry, I get all blotchy and mottled and it looks like the world ended on my face.”
At that I laughed and settled even more deeply against her warm and firm embrace. Then we talked and talked about Spa Day, and how she’d get a massage but then go eat a $25 bowl of gelato while I indulged in all the other things she’d find boring, and how much she wants to do that for me.
“If I had to choose between this and a Spa Day, there’d be no contest,” I whispered.
“Spa Day,” she said, all deadpan. We both laughed then.
“I want both,” I said. Feeling, in that moment, that it’s really ok to ask for more–especially when I always come back to knowing that I already have everything I need.
Happy Valentine’s Day.