Went to yoga tonight, with the usual monkey mind and ring of pain around my shoulders. Left a little calmer and a little less cramped up. Met a woman there named…well, doesn’t matter what she’s named. Anyhow. There was a chair set up for her, to accommodate her yoga practise. Pretty much the first thing she said to the other student and me was, “I’m old, girls.” She said it like a fact she’d brought into being simply by believing it and repeating it. And man, was she cranky about it.
She huffed and wheezed through class, which is par for the course for me too some days, depending on the day, frankly. There was a lot of laboured getting down on the floor and more laboured getting back up onto the chair. A little bit of muttering, when the other student and I were doing something a little bit advanced, “I want to do that too.” Petulant muttering, at that. But then she’d push too hard and end up in a position she had no business in, a position she could do little to get out of. You could feel the anger and panic coming off her. Well, I could, anyhow.
As class ended, she asked if anyone was going in her direction. I was, so I said I’d walk home with her. As we walked, I was able to get my first good looks at her. She didn’t look particularly old. No older than my mother…and I don’t consider her old even a bit. She’s sixty one or two. I asked how long she’d lived in the neighbourhood. Twenty years, she said, more than. Used to be on West Street, but then the car dealership bought those houses, now she’s around the corner. I was about to say, wow, you’ve seen some changes, but she practically interrupted herself to let me know that she hates the neighbourhood. Is scared of it. Won’t go near the Common after five or six at night, even in the summer. Hates the photo studio at the corner of Agricola and West, but hated the cafe more. The drugs, the bands!
I held my tongue. I walked her to her door, and let her know she could count on me for walks home each Tuesday night. And then I strolled home alone, at her osteoarthritic pace, and thought about the many ways in which this life has cracked me open. The ways in which I could look only on the dark side, see the rot in myself and the world around me when I was younger. And the ways in which now I can barely see that rot even if I search with all the lights on. I felt the way my hip joints, ever desk-job stiff, moved a little more smoothly through time and space. I felt the way I would have scorned myself for feeling fifteen years ago. Serene. Open. Receptive. Ready.
I think about the careful balancing act, between keeping my head clean enough for happy living, but not so clean that I can’t write. The writing happens best when my head’s a little dusty, and little grimy, a little cluttered. But the living happens best when my head is ordered, awake, clear. The trick, I guess, is one of flexibility. The willingness to abandon what I think I know (hate! fear! so angry!) and stretch out into what I don’t know, trusting it won’t hurt me. Much.
The writing is there, a tap waiting for me to stretch out my hand and turn it on.
2 responses to “Flexibility”
That tap image just blew my mind. Enjoying your blog, Stephanie!
Perhaps the woman’s apparent distrust of the neighbourhood and her obvious distaste for everything else in life are the manifestations of loneliness: Is it possible that your walks home with her might bring her around?