“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The combination of menopausal weight gain with the after-effect of an untreated hip injury sustained in late 2008/ early 2009, creates a waddle to my gait. I can’t get past feeling like my pelvis is moving through jello. Walking requires efforting. For the record, I hate that. My hip injury is one firm leg to my yoga practice, which morphs from being entirely casual to focused, intense, gripping and all that crap. The other thing that stands my practice is pure fascination. Yoga is a never-ending thread. For all those people who glibly chirp, “Every thing happens for a reason!” I reply, “maybe. But sometimes that reason really, really sucks.”
There’s ever so many “things” I wish had not happened. Despite how great my son turns out I do wonder: would I have become such a young single parent if my mother had not died when I was 20? If my best friend hadn’t died when I was 17? Would I be a happily married middle-aged lady if my husband wasn’t a using addict? Would I be a professional yoga teacher if I hadn’t broken my hip? There is a material difference between “making the best of” and “achieving a goal.” I didn’t work at getting a baby. My brother and sister-in-law, by contrast, took advantage of every treatment known to Kaiser in order to get their kids. I’m also not the type to aspire to being a wandering mendicant. I lose my stability and security to my last husband’s enduring addiction. His life for mine is an ugly trade. A deal with the devil.
Would I give up yoga if it meant a single addict became sober for life? Would you? Luckily we don’t have to ask ourselves such questions. Sunsaluting, lotus posturing, pranayama and meditation has no effect on the lives of others. Religions promise an end to suffering. Yoga is a balancing act. If I raise Kundalini successfully up shushuma nadi to the sahasrara chakra I win. But what exactly I win differs from teacher to teacher, studio to studio, lineage to lineage. Stilling the mind, controlled calmness allows the Self (capital “S”) to be re-cognized. Nobody said anything about realigning my hip. And so I trudge on, making small steps here and there, curing my own ailment, with elephantine slowness. It’s a process, that’s why they call it a practice.
Who is this mysterious “they” anyway? If you were imagining a council, like the one in Nicea in 325, that codified Christian beliefs – too bad. Yoga is not like that. Yoga is a mostly oral tradition that wends its way through charismatic swami/gurus through the ages. Unashamedly self-contradictory. The sutras of Patanjali preach nonviolence. The Bhagavad Gita? Not so much. Arjuna is supposed to do his duty, fulfill his dharma. Those people he’s been asked to kill? They’re already dead. Feel sad for them all you want Krishna, kismet will not be denied.
I wonder how to be a truly disinterested party, detached and observant and still retain a shred of humanity. Not-caring is essentially easy, and yet, in practice, very hard on the soul. It’s a lot like math. (Say what?) Bear with me. I can have seven candles but take away the candles and what happens to my seven? Seven is abstract. I can be disinterested in politics, detached from relationships, but take away the politics and relationships and what happened to my indifference? Maybe that’s why yogis of yore left wives and children to be ascended masters. Until or unless I have something I actually, physically, literally care about – how am I to disconnect, depart and deprive?
That’s the two sides of the addiction coin. Without an object to avoid addiction wouldn’t exist. Nobody becomes an addict for the sheer fun of losing hope, losing home, losing integrity – those are just the side effects of a life seeking to evade worse fates. Addiction represents a better condition one hundred percent of the time. That is why former users of every hell: former smokers, gamblers, over-eaters, alcoholics, all believe in “Rock-Bottom.” Not to be confused with mildly irritating, slightly shitty, or regular bottom. Regular bottom, like losing custody, divorce, homelessness or unemployment is never quite a bad as life without substance. Only Rock-Bottom actually parts the sky and glimmers a distantly towards a different way of life. The Land of Tears has many mountains, rivers and flat plateaus.
Ouch in the Land of Tears
(Mountain) I quit running regularly when KWS is born because I can’t afford the very expensive recently invented “jog-stroller.” I have no one at home to watch a baby for an hour, so I walk in lieu of running for a couple of years. When my kid is old enough to walk for himself we take many a fine hikes. As a two year old he is a avid participant. I’m about 24 the last time I pay to be in a fun run. The fun run in question is a fund raiser for firemen. I like firemen. After signing up I imagine a whole new aspect to the sport opening out to me – perhaps KWS and I will become fun-runners together. But you already know the end of the story: it’s the last fun run. Why?
(River) I’m walking along, KWS’ hand lightly in mine, in the dazzling aloha sun when a little boy points at me. Very loudly he asks his soccer mom “Why is that lady walking alone?” I stiffen. She shush-es him, shielding him with her body from my gaze. I’m actually NOT alone, I’m with my son – but the truth is, she’s walking with a posse of women and children, strollers and toddlers and me? I don’t have a mother, father, sister, brother, friend or relative here to cheer me on. I’m suddenly, brusquely, acutely aware of being alone, very alone. Ouch. In an instant the fun evaporates. Why am I doing this ? I wonder to myself. I can hike for free on Tantalus. I run into no one in the Manoa Valley. I remain unable to justify participating. After all, the firemen can have a donation whether I show up or not.
(Plateau) More than 30 years elapse before I reach equanimity. But reach I do. I realize “Everybody runs alone.” Ultimately every body runs alone. Yup, even if I am pushing a stroller or a wheelchair, I’m really doing the running part all by myself. Even in a posse of church ladies or soccer moms, each body runs alone. Why pay some organization for a fun run when I’ve been galumping along the trails of the National Forest for years now in happy penguin obscurity ? Why subject my ungainly gait and my menopausal expanse to the wide eyes of others? To paraphrase the Boomtown Rats, I can see no reason, ‘Cause there are no reasons. What reason do I need to be shown? And that’s why I’m going to run in my first 10k since that sunny day I was 24.
Now y’all play nice!