Yoga

So, I’ve been doing yoga since the spring semester wrapped. And it always makes me think of San Francisco.

While I was out there that month (two summers ago–two! I can’t believe it’s been that long), I took classes in a fading blue Victorian across the street from Golden Gate Park. I could walk there from my apartment. The studio was also a commune, and you could stay there after class to have a vegetarian meal with the yogis who lived there. It was very San Francisco.

Those classes were beautiful. I’d walk a couple blocks, climb the hardwood stairs to the studio, borrow a mat, and chill out until class began. The people who took these classes came in torn sweats, with frizzy hair and beautiful, lean bodies. Our teachers chanted and sang, and we did a lot of breathing exercises. It was the same class every time. No hot yoga, nothing trendy, no bells and whistles (though I’m pretty sure there was a gong).

Light streamed in through a wall of windows that faced the park. The windows were kept open, and we could hear the sounds of the day going on below us–the occasional car, a school field trip, construction work.

Each class was an hour and a half, and I have never felt so calm, so centered, so relaxed as I did leaving those classes.

It was really lovely.

I am enjoying the classes here, very much. But of course they aren’t quite the same. Most people are dressed very nicely. Their nails are manicured. They have designer yoga towels. (The studio sells them for $80. A towel!) The studio itself is very nice, quite high tech, with special floors, a hot room, and large, expansive spaces. The windows are never open (it’s far too hot outside already).

When I leave my yoga classes here, I feel good. I feel very good. I feel like I’ve exercised. But there is a little magic that feels missing. There was something about that studio in San Francisco. Maybe because the teacher who learned my name was one of exactly two people in the entire city who knew my name and said it out loud. Maybe because there was a sense of continuing life there–this was a home. Maybe it was the park. The architecture. Or all of it.

The longing I feel for the city, for that time before everything fell apart, that longing isn’t unpleasant. The memories are clear and sweet. So, I will go to yoga. I will go to yoga and find, somewhere, that I am the same person whether West or East, whether happy or sad.

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Six Months

It’s been six months since Tom died. I keep having the same dream. Someone who has died is alive. But I know in the dream that person is about to die. Most of the time, it’s Tom. I dream that his death was a mistake. He was not dead, just sleeping. He has now woken up. But he still has cancer, and he will still die. And I know what it will feel like when it happens. In these dreams, I remember the first death, remember the real death, and I know what’s coming, and I dread it.

The other night, I dreamed that my grandfather, dead ten years now, was alive. He looked well. He walked. But the doctors were going to take him off a life-sustaining medicine, and he had two days  to live.

In another dream, Jesse and I went to Florida and found his dad, still alive but very ill. I immediately began thinking logistics. Who we needed to inform that his death had not happened. I couldn’t wait to call my parents and tell them it had all been a mistake. It hadn’t happened.

In only one dream has my subconscious saved Tom. In that dream, we were in Key West, just as we were last year, the week before he died. But in my dream there was a conference of doctors at the hotel we were staying at, and one of them realized that Tom had been misdiagnosed. He didn’t have cancer at all. A simple surgery could correct what was wrong, and we would have him back. Healthy. Well.

In that dream, I wept. I wept because I knew what it felt like to lose Tom, and I knew we would avoid that pain. At least awhile longer.

Waking from those dreams is strange. I wake from one dream and find myself in what feels like another.

I talked to Vicki, Jesse’s mom, on the phone the other day. We talked about the dream-like (nightmare-like) quality life had taken on the last six months. It feels like I fell asleep and woke up to someone else’s life. And I would like my old life back now.

It is what it is. We keep sleeping and waking. Six months.

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December 2012

There’s very little I remember about last Christmas.

I feel like I can remember every moment of Thanksgiving, every moment right up until that text, right up until I heard the news.

After that, my memory comes in fragments. Impressions. I know we went to Jessica and Nathan’s wedding, and we danced desperately, danced like we could out-dance our grief, danced like if we just kept moving, the pain couldn’t touch us. I remember Simona and Darren’s visit, remember talking until the early morning hours, crying on the couch. Our hand-me-down couch that my parents bought when I was in sixth grade, before I thought much about the word cancer.

I remember the people who brought us food. I remember Jessica coming over the day it happened, bringing us Chinese food. I can’t remember tasting a single thing.

And Christmas. I remember little about Christmas.

Christmas Eve, I remember driving around Titusville, the little coastal town Jesse and I both grew up in, I remember driving around that town looking at lights with everyone who was left: Jesse, me, my parents, his mother, his sister, my grandmother. Jesse and I spend Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas Day with his (and have been since we were dating as teenagers.) We listened to Christmas music on the radio. I coughed in the backseat, getting sick again. But the whole city was lit up, and we listened to the songs we’ve heard every December of our lives and looked at the same Christmas decorations we’ve been looking at since we were kids. The luminaries–tiny lights in paper bags. One here or there on fire, a little torch.

How many luminaries have I put out with my dad over the years? When was the last year I did that? Did I have any idea that was the last year?

That night, last Christmas Eve, we drove by my old house. I didn’t want to look at it. The yard Dad kept so nice was overgrown, the neighborhood weary looking.

Across Carpenter Road from where I lived was Lantern Park, where the kids whose dads were dentists or office workers lived. They always had the best lights.

And for a few moments, I could pretend I was sixteen and none of this had happened. And Vicki and Becki were joining us and Tom had stayed home. For a few moments, he could still be alive, just across town, and we could look at the lights that have always been there, will always be there.

The only thing I remember about Christmas Day is Vicki crying when she opened a locket Becki bought her with Tom’s initials on the outside.

The rest of December, it seems, I was sick. Then, everyone else got sick too. We limped into the New Year.

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November 2012

Something I’ve learned about grief: It’s not linear. It doesn’t dissolve in a smooth curve upward. Instead, it comes in fits and starts. Grief eases, gives you a break, a breather, and you think things are getting better, things are looking up, the sun has started to peek through the clouds, the frost is thawing, and then wham! It’s back.

Like the transition between winter and spring.

Like how the daffodils poke up and bloom and you feel things are starting to turn around, and the trees bud, and you think about planting herbs. And then it’s 40 degrees again and things die all over. That’s how grief is.

I got the news by text message.

I was teaching, while Tom died. I was in Morton 205, upstairs. I don’t remember what we were doing. The schedule from that semester says my students read “Hills Like White Elephants” and “Araby” that day. Were we discussing those stories? What was said? What questions did I ask? What, really, does it matter?

All I know is that I got back to my office and pulled my phone out of my desk drawer and saw Jesse’s text: “Dad just died…”

I won’t try to describe the feeling.

That’s all I can write today. I was teaching. I got the news by text message. I’m talking about Hemingway, and my husband’s world is falling apart.

That was fall, and we’ve been through winter, and now we’re in spring, but it’s still fits and starts. One step forward, two back.

Thanks for bearing with us.

Love,
esb

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January Continues

Well, our weather has finally figured out it’s winter. The morning air is frigid, and the heaters in the buildings at school operate at various levels of competency. One day, they’ll be full blast, and we’ll all be sweating, as we toss aside our scarves and roll up the sleeves of our sweaters. The next day, the heaters will be dialed back, and we’ll be hunting for earmuffs as we clutch cups of scalded coffee.

At home, Jesse and I continue our sriracha obsession, and I have discovered I like breakfast. We’ve been milk-and-cereal folks all our lives, but now we’re eating scrambled eggs with sriracha, egg sandwiches with avocado and sriracha, and breakfast burritos with–you guessed it–sriarcha. (On off days, we have oatmeal or Bob’s Mill seven-grain hot cereal…without sriracha, sadly.)

For the holiday weekend, we visited my aunt and uncle in Charlotte, and it was a low-key, restful weekend of catching up and eating too much (my aunt is a brilliant cook) and watching bad sci-fi movies (Chupacabra Terror, anyone?).

Now we’re back home and busy tearing through our to-do lists, going grocery shopping, playing tennis.

This is what I love about January. Things get done. Diets are kept. Exercise schedules are maintained. Even the cold feels appropriate (though don’t tell anyone I said that). It’s a clear feeling–this month, this weather. The fog of last year, the overindulgence of the holidays, the muddy uncertain sad times start to fade and dissipate, just a bit. Replacing them is a clarity, a focus. The sadness is still there, of course, but it’s something you get used to, something you learn to expect, to accomodate.

I yearn for spring, for warm weather, for growing things, but this time feels right for now. A time for life to hibernate and for things to clarify as we prepare for whatever’s next.

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