But I’m still not going to join a gym or stop drinking
Thus beginneth another year at Fussy.org. Updates for 2014 will be monthly, if you’re wondering whether you should drop me from your feed reader or not. Blogging: it’s less urgent than ever!
I’m not one to do year-end roundups, but I would like to remember December 2013 as the month I realized I not only needed to but had the resources and energy to stop half-assing so much of my life. (Brace yourself for an explanation that might involve yoga.)
Normally (when I’m not sitting in bed playing iPad solitaire) my life strategy* has been to stand just inside the sideline of [something] and see if I like/can succeed at [it] without putting a whole lot of effort, focus, or hope into making [it] work. The list of [things] I have approached this way includes knitting, sex, college, buying a car, parenthood, cooking, working in publishing, relationships, and preparing for my own death. You truly can make a life for yourself by relying on other people’s energy and commitment, especially if you don’t mind knitting sweaters that don’t fit or eating partially-cooked chicken.
*”Why are you such a fatalist?” my father once asked me in frustration when I was a teenager, to which I did not have the vocabulary to reply, “Because I’m smart enough to get decent grades without trying too hard, I’m pretty enough to get attention without trying at all, you’re emotionally abusive and controlling, Mom is a detached and passive female role model, the Catholic shame I’ve been infused with from birth controls every other aspect of my life, and I’ve learned to feel helpless most of the time.” God, being a teenager was the worst.
The sad irony, of course, is that trying to save yourself from disappointment by not really caring so much how something works out will lead to having to accept disappointment as a result of almost everything you do. Now, it’s true that some degree of disappointment is inevitable in a lot of what life brings, and it can be used to spur us on to refine what we want, learn new skills, find friends that really get us, and figure out how much yarn we need to make the sweater beforehand, instead of running out three-quarters of the way through.
Yes, that’s Jack’s Christmas sweater, and I ran out of yarn three-quarters of the way through. I started it last year (unsurprisingly, given that it’s me we’re talking about, it was supposed to be last year’s Christmas sweater). I just assumed that the box of vintage Irish wool that I found in my mom’s house after she died was enough to make a sweater. And it would have been enough, if my husband were the size of Reese Witherspoon.
Anyway, the sweater humbled me. I had to buy different yarn to finish it, and it’s weird and poochy around the shoulders in a way that blocking hasn’t been able to solve, and I’m about to accept the fact that I need to rip out the entire top of the sweater and knit it again to make it right. And I can’t tell you how much it shocks me to hear myself say that. Historically, I have not been a person who goes back and fixes her mistakes, I’ve been the person who says fuck it and shoves a year’s worth of work to the back of the closet in chagrin and goes to bed to play iPad solitaire.
But what really drove home the idea of slowing down and doing things right (here comes the yoga): back bends. I hate them. I’m afraid of them. They require a huge amount of openness in the chest and shoulders along with leg strength, butt awareness, and a fair amount of spinal flex, none of which I was graced with at birth. For years I’ve been hurting myself over and over again by sort of heaving myself up and doing them in this bad, misaligned way and feeling envious of the people who could drop back into these delicious, flawless arches. Most days I’d just avoid doing back bends altogether. Which is a perfectly fine attitude (something hurts: stop doing it), but just underneath giving up was this nagging belief that the poses you hate are the ones you need the most, so I’d keep coming back to back bends but I’d continue to approach them in the least-yogic way possible: grit teeth, hold breath, wrench self up. Why? Because that’s what we do when we’re scared, and that’s what I did, hurting myself again and again, I guess because my ego couldn’t comprehend that there was something that didn’t come easily to me. I belonged to the looks and good grades come easy club, right? So why couldn’t I skip all the hard work and years of slowly developing the strength and openness I needed and make my body do this one thing?
In yoga they sometimes talk about “the gift of inflexibility,” which I’m finally beginning to appreciate. Not being naturally flexible means you have to develop awareness and you have to develop compassion for yourself, and your ego has to back the fuck off because it might take you years to do something that the guy on the next mat can do the first time he tries it. So it’s a “gift” because that guy can wander off and be amazing and buff without developing any of the interior qualities that you, if your ego can face you rolling around on your mat like a stranded tortoise, will discover inside yourself — things like patience, bravery, humility, and being able to laugh at yourself because let’s face it, you look like a stranded tortoise lying there. And your ass is really lumpy.
So this is my new year’s resolution: to do what doesn’t come easily at first, to do stuff right. To listen to people who know what they’re talking about and let them guide me when my internal guidance has led me to a dead end. To be the best _________ [friend, knitter, worker, writer, dog washer, wife, mother, woman, human] that it’s possible for me to be from moment to moment without gritting my teeth and holding my breath and heaving myself in and praying for it to be over. Standing still, looking, breathing, not running away from others, not running away from myself. Not trying to skip to the finished thing without having done all the work that leads up to the sweater that actually fits, the back bend that seems to do itself, the novel that works, the promise fulfilled, the deeply satisfied existence.