There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way but a place.
~Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems XXII
I’ve been sitting, lying, sleeping, eating, icing, crying, laughing, reading — inside this place where I live for the past four days straight. Not because I’ve been ordered into quarantine, but for a multitude of other reasons that compel me to shelter in place. Or is it sheltering in the way?
Saturday, I put on some music and did a self-directed yoga practice in my 20x20 room/yoga studio, wearing all black, to finally mourn the loss of my country. The one I grew up knowing. The one that only represents part of the story. I refused to reply to any messages that contained the words “happy” and “4th of July” together.
Sunday, I woke up sad. As should be expected when one is grieving. As I boiled the organic purple, orange and yellow carrots, I noticed they made the water look blue-green and I thought maybe that’s how things are supposed to be.
Yesterday, I rolled over in my bed and noticed hundreds of specks of light on my walls and ceiling. I looked down at the floor and realized I had thrown my sequin pillow in the perfect spot for it to refract the sunlight in a brilliant splash.
I was growing weary of my rest. At some point in those days, after my grief yoga session, I had finally decided to believe I’d hurt myself. There was a place (the way?) near my back left ribs that had been hurting me for a few weeks. A mild pain, one that mostly surfaced during an inverted burp/hiccup?. And so, I reckoned it was associated with my ribs or intercostal muscles, or both. I surrendered. Which is part of the reason I’ve been sheltering in place.
By the time I saw the splash of refracted sunlight on my walls, I was feeling pretty down. With no dog to walk, no yoga to do, and practically no desire to write, my sad feelings were starting to outweigh my happy ones. Add the daily 100+ degree Fahrenheit heat summer has given us, and there’s not much desire to be outside either. Not to mention the pandemic and election season and the social justice uprising and unemployment and other heavy things happening in the world.
That light did something to me, though. The beauty instantaneously lifted me. And I thought maybe that’s how things are supposed to be.
Today, I reached out to one of my YTT trainers, who also happens to be a massage therapist. I told her about the pain in my back and asked for her thoughts and recommendations. She said it could be a rib out of place, and that I should rest, ice it, and do only gentle mobilizations. I cried in shock and fear. I can’t recall ever displacing a rib, if that’s what has happened.
Please don’t tell me what you think is wrong with me. Unless it’s to say I’m too damn funny and hurt your stomach from laughing too much when you read my words. That I welcome. Right now, it’s more likely that I’d make you cry, though. And I’m sorry, or you’re welcome, depending on how you’re feeling.
I walked downstairs to make myself an ice pack. I tried to stop crying but I was texting with two friends who love me and kept making me emotional just by being their sweet, caring selves. I couldn’t bring myself to talk. This wasn’t just about the rib. It was about everything attached to the rib.
The rib is attached to muscles I may or may not have torn. All of that surrounds my heart and other organs. And then there are the rest of my bones and muscles and tendons and ligaments and skin. And just above my ribs, at the top of my spine, is my skull and brain and face. And my mind and spirit and the rest of the universe.
And yoga was never about fitness to me. Well, not the bodily kind. It was about mental wellbeing and emotional healing. And I don’t know how I hurt myself, but I do know how much I wanted my heart to open every time I practiced because I was tired of it being closed.
My mind had become so hurt by my body, I tried to correct the situation and heal my mind with my body. Or something like that. I wanted it to happen immediately, and I wanted to keep everything healthy and whole forever. If I could just try hard enough, I could let go of all that trauma and grief and depression forever. If I could do enough backbends and open my heart enough, I would be fixed.
The place is the way.
But it keeps changing.
I marveled at the ice that I pulled effortlessly out of an ice maker. A separate ice machine, unattached to a refrigerator unit. Something you might especially find in a place like Bakersfield, where summers are fiery. I made myself an ice pack and lay down on my mat for a different kind of yoga.
Afterward, I made myself some lunch. As something baked in the oven, I went outside to sit in the sun. I sat on a rocking chair on the front porch and hid in the shade of a beam. I looked down at my black sweatpants and flannel shirt as I felt my bodily temperature rise.
As I began to get uncomfortable in the sweltering heat, I flashed back to a time and place where there wasn’t air conditioning or ice on the other side of the door. I stayed a little longer in the discomfort. In the place I was outside. In the place I was inside. In the way.
Maybe it was trauma. Was the heat triggering me? Will I spend the rest of my life being triggered by different things, no matter how much dancing or yoga I do? No matter how many mindfulness and wellness practices I learn? No matter how much beautiful light I see refracted?
All I could do was feel it.
All of it.
The heat and the cool air on the other side of the door as I walked back through. The ice I used to mend my broken body. The taste of the food I so easily cooked, that came to me so easily at the market, by way of aid money I’d been given because of disaster. The lingering confusion about what Wendell meant about the way and a place. The soothing sound of slow electronica music. The beauty of the sunlight spilling inside through the window. The tears. The laughter. The aching for a more joyful, peaceful world and self. The anxiety and sadness. The love.
I let myself feel it all.
And I thought maybe that’s how things are supposed to be.