A November day, like today, with its deep frost–prisms of light illuminating the cold–is a lot like me as I age, or who I aspire to be, say by 60 or 80–all the fruit, the desire, the harmony fallen away–so that what remains–the stone, the empty branch, the fading blade of grass–is immersed in this stark and exquisite offering–of clarity.
10 years ago, after my youngest entered school full-time, I took a major detour in my exploration of new career possibilities.
Rather than enroll in a Masters Program in Organization and Development in New Hampshire, or in a vigorous life-coaching mentorship out of Colorado, and in lieu of resentfully renewing my lapsed teaching license in Vermont, I showed up at a place called Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts–to dance.
130 accredited hours later, I was a newly minted Let Your Yoga Dance instructor, something I could barely admit to friends when they asked about my unusual time away from home and family.
During this decade of detours, I earned my 200 hour yoga teaching certification, crafted an online writing journey through the chakras, and frequently returned to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I assist leading presenters.
Now’s a good time to admit that all these detours were an attempt to avoid (and covertly bolster) what was truly calling me–a desire to write–which led to a companion desire–to create as much space around the writing as possible–apart from mothering/partnering/homemaking and earning some semblance of an income. Quite a dance!
But as feared, the more I immersed in writing, the less I desired anything else, until this moment when all my desires have whittled down to one: to finish the book that I began in 2012 while assisting a non-profit that took me to Chile and Japan and brings me annually to the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations—opportunities which I’ve let wither on the vine of an increasingly singular focus.
What has also whittled down, in parallel form, is my income.
While I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to increasingly earn in creative and life-giving ways; this is often accompanied by angst around rising household expenses and the fear of not earning/being/doing “enough.”
And yet, after much inner struggle, I came into a place of surrender this summer, softening into my deepening commitment to the book as if it were a daughter, and into the limited income that caring for her affords me.
Out of this clarity came the decision to simplify my income–to two parallel offerings a season–one in writing and one in dance–two wings to support my own journey and that of others.
Ironically, my hard-earned clarity was met by my husband’s who shared that he was ready for me to make more money, three times as much in fact.
We laughed at the synchronicity.
After the laughter, was the nitty-gritty. I zeroed in on the necessity of retiring one role (Motherhood) before landing the next; and so we sat down with the budget and made it work with a commitment to adhering to it more diligently; because after all hadn’t we managed to make ends meet in much leaner times when the kids were little and he was a new teacher.
With this commitment and clarity was met with Autumn’s back-to-school energy, I renewed by daily work on the book, and as a result, I experienced a growing sense of self-trust and possibility, both of which had waned as a result of inner conflict.
Meanwhile, I set to filling my fall sessions, which fortunately are the easiest to fill at this time of year.
After some initial sluggishness, my online writing journey was fully enrolled; while enrollment in the dancing journey stalled; and remained stalled, even as the starting date grew closer and closer; and my anxiety grew larger and larger.
Over the past decade, the dance has become an integral part of my own health, and my commitment and connection to community, not to mention a creative outlet for that part of me who is teacher, crafting music, movement and chakras in a conscious flow.
But faced with an unsustainable enrollment at a time when sustainability was key, I had to make a choice.
Suddenly, the point of the audio book that I ordered over the summer came into sharper focus. In Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer introduces a form of guidance that reveals itself: When way closes.
Was way closing on dance for me? After ten years? Could I let it? Couldn’t I try harder? Certainly I could bring the dance to one of the surrounding towns who had long asked for me to do the same…
I fretted. I gave one last effort. I meditated.
This morning I refunded the enrollments of a small handful of students who were ready to begin the dance this week.
In doing so, I felt a surprising sense of relief and also a predictable measure of unfolding grief, tinged with old essences of embarrassment and shame.
In the meantime, I’ve crunched the numbers, only to discover that even the simplest of jobs will meet what I’ve earned nourishing consciousness with music and movement and writing.
The absurdity of my past efforts on this account is hard to bear in the black and white of a spreadsheet. But not in the light of the matching absurdity of devoting so much time to a book that no one is waiting to read–at least no one with a check to match the years of effort; not to mention the absurdity of laying down so much promise–professional and financial–to surrender my body and life–as home–to two splendid human beings–twenty-three years ago and counting.
What I realize only now, as I write, is that this letting go brings me back to the yogic principle that guided me as I first set out to lead the dance a decade ago: Ishvara Pranidhana.
So overcome was I with self-doubt and recrimination about my capacity to lead, not to mention the insanity of my detour from serious career pursuits, that each night, before the students arrived, I was forced to bow my head on my mat–in full surrender–Ishvara Pranidhana–offering up my failures and successes.
This same surrender is required now.
I could have danced all night, yes, but instead, I’ll return to the classifieds, seeking a fit for an increasingly un-fittable woman who is ready to accept the ease of income, in devotion to the calling that she cannot refuse.
Am I always surprised by the 50+ on the label?
My first thought this morning: I mistakenly purchased the wrong bottle of supplements.
And then I remember: Oh, right, that’s me.
Though apparently I reserve some measure of doubt.
A refusal to be aged out of society?
I suspect something more elemental–a wonder to have been oneself for so many years.
And now, alas, I can’t remember:
Have I taken the supplement or just marveled over my relationship to the label again?
~Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.”
Long before digital clocks attracted attention to and affection for numbers, like 1:11, the Salasin family from which I come was enthralled by them, and not only the bankers and the accountants among us.
Family homes were often referred to numerically, most notably: 6012, but also 1811 & 747.
And even the ministers & scientists among us, marveled at numerical synchronicities:
~How the home at 6012 Pacific, for example, was exchanged for the home at 6201 Park.
~How the beloved Patriarch died and was born on November 17 in 1991 and 1919.
~How the wedding shower for the Matriarch’s namesake–a date which was exceedingly difficult to pin down among a half-dozen bridesmaids from different parts of the country–landed, unbeknownst to any of us, on the anniversary of the accident that took the Matriarch’s life.
This numerically-steeped DNA may explain why my enthusiasm for numbers is rarely matched:
“69 days separate me from Menopause! On the 296th day of my cycle! With my menses 269 days late!”
“My husband and I were both born on the 8th of the month, and that we delivered our first (& second) son in the 8th month of the year, and each of our birth dates is celebrated as a holy day in celebration of the Mother of God–her Immaculate Conception, her Feast Day & her Assumption.”
Throughout childhood, the number 8 was my favorite, while 3 has been my favorite ever since. (That’s all I’ll say about that. I can tell no one is interested.)
Despite this absorption with dates and numerals and time, I’ve always (and increasingly) been better fed by language. While my early adult years were often spent in the role of treasurer or bookkeeper, I now spend my time almost exclusively with words (just ask my bank account.)
Family finances aside, what is even more alarming is the assault I felt on the eve of my 69th day before Menopause when presented with an algebra problem.
Like a donkey, my brain refused, and so I slid the paper away, until I looked up to see all the other mothers earnestly engaged.
I reminded myself that a decade earlier I had been one of two parents to solve the algebra problem at my older son’s back to school night.
But on this 69th day before Menopause, even with assistance from another parent and then the classroom teacher (how embarrassing!), the mathematical drawer in my brain remained stuck.
There is a magic to numbers and to words that I don’t fully understand and don’t know that I ever will, but I’m being invited to deepen the inquiry.
Which explains the mystery of this piece of writing to me, but probably not to you.
I frequently find myself engaged in mysteries–an inexplicable lifetime practice of doodling the letters of the alphabet for instance.
And since the age of 16, there has been a single word that remains my favorite, a reverence which is often mistook for a mathematical or culinary interest, but which actually springs from the pleasure derived from the simple sensation of the sounds at the front of my mouth.
A week has passed since I posted this exploratory piece of writing on Facebook, and now it is the first day of Autumn and Day 303 in my cycle.
I love 3’s, Remember?
And it turns out that the last day of my cycle, should I continue toward Menopause, without a setback, will be November 23, 2017.
My last day,
You can’t make this stuff up.
(ps. Pumpkin-pecan is my current favorite.)
I wake with a start and a stirring. A tug. A pull.
“I have to go to the ocean,” I tell my husband.
Our bank account disagrees; so I tell it that I will drive there and back in a single day, departing absurdly early and returning late, without the need for an overnight stay.
But a week passes, and still I haven’t recovered enough from that tenacious August respiratory virus to fund the energy needed for this kind of day trip; which is unfair because it is this very virus that no doubt produced this untimely insistence on the ocean. It is already September, the air is cooling, and school has begun.
Rumi’s words echo even as my commitment wanes:
What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.
When a week passes and a string of summer-like days return, I go to the pond–a place where I am stirred, again and again, by beauty and light, but like a toddler, denied a specific spoon, I am unsatisfied.
“I must stay overnight,” I say, and with that, I renew my commitment, and add to it–boldness and creativity, while my efforts are met, without success.
I go to bed on Monday, muddled, and wake the same on Tuesday, and decide to find clarity, inside:
I get on my mat.
I write in my journal.
I take my supplements.
I tend the garden.
I shower outside.
I do what needs doing for work.
All the while, I do something else, slowly, nonchalantly, covertly, just in case, little by little—setting aside, at first, some underwear, and then a bra; and then an outfit or two; a toiletry kit; some beach things; waters and snacks, and finally a meal for lunch and then dinner.
At 11:00 am, I leave a note for my family on the kitchen table:
Be back tonight or tomorrow.
Just then, an email comes through–a single night in an Airbnb at a very friendly rate. I update my note to my family.
It is well into the afternoon when I arrive up the coast of Maine, not all ideal, and I have to resist chiding myself so that I can receive what daylight remains–to sit and read and take in the smell of the sea and the sounds of waves, and to walk in the surf, and finally to float and then to submerge myself fully in Her embrace.
Afterward, I rack up a $9 check at an upscale restaurant–a glass of Portuguese wine and a mini lobster roll with fries—Yay, Maine Happy Hour!—and when I arrive back at my room, I receive another email–an unexpected payment from a client—for the exact amount of my stay.
Alas, the angsty restlessness I felt in needing to come, and in deciding to come, and even in the coming and the arriving, continues, even the next morning as I sip coffee at my favorite cafe, and even as I walk along the stunning cliffs at the lighthouse, and even as I sit in the sand and build a sand castle like I did as a child; so that it is a continuous practice, this being with me, with awareness and compassion:
“Of course, you’re restless,” I say. “These are shifting times. Not just summer’s end, and your mother’s anniversary, and a month of coughing, but this heartbreak of an administration, and the fires and floods and shootings, and then, of course–this leaving of motherhood, not to mention hot flashes and a road trip without air condition.”
Exactly 24 hours after I arrive in Maine, I begin driving south, and then west, and three hours later, I cross the Connecticut River from New Hampshire to Vermont, and then turn off the highway to stop at the fish market to soften the separation of the sea and me.
Mothers do, you know.
They drop their kids off at daycare or at school and never come back.
These words appeared like a mantra after I’d written the note to my family, ominously hinting at a larger leaving, and continuing, even after I arrived back home.
I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving.
I half-thought I might not make it to Maine or home again. That I’d die on the road like my grandmother did just a year older than me. I remind myself, firmly, that I’d like to transform without such drama as she (or my mother) enacted.
And still, my spirit is called into the wild, and as I lean in to listen, I hold back, for fear of going too far.
(Related post: Cleavage.)
Full moon and fox den and hotflash…
In lieu of releasing into a deep sleep,
I open to the sensations around me,
including the ocean-like rustle
of the breeze through the trees,
and the squeal of pups,
and the fine mist across my forehead & between my breasts & in the crook of my arms;
and I ride it all,
like a wave,
only not the kind that crests & breaks & tumbles
toward the shore,
but the deeper swell,
that rises and falls, rises and falls,
And I think:
This is how I’ll die.
And I think…
Thank you Mom.