January Airport Blues
Hey there. Happy new year.
This time of year, a decade or so ago, I'd be flying back to SFO after spending New Year's in a fair amount of drunken revelry with my old college crew at the beach in Delaware. We had a wee annual tradition (which some of the more-local folks have kept alive yet today): spend a couple of days together at a beach house, catching up, singing bad karaoke, walking the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, you know. I usually spent that return flight home wrung-out, dehydrated, yoga-pants-clad and nostalgic, but always glad to be coming home to California.
Ten years later, things look a little different. I still ended up spending a long chunk of my post-New-Year's weekend in the airport, but this time I came home sober, wearing stretchy prego pants, and reading about 1970s midwives in Tennessee, whilst chugging water.
Kinda missed the hangover.
* * *
On Friday we flew down to LA for a quick weekend, after spending the holidays here at home. We were pretty proud of ourselves for not having to deal with the usual holiday blizzard-flight-delay drama, you know? I'm just rounding the corner on 33 weeks now, which means my window for being able to fly safely is quickly closing, and my bandwidth for that sort of travel commotion is shrinking rapidly. So when we found out that Robb's friend Britta was teaching a Birthing From Within workshop in Topanga Canyon on Saturday and Sunday, we figured it was a perfect opportunity to squeeze in a quick little trip away and knock out some important training with someone we liked and trusted at the same time. Best of all, no frozen airports involved. We'd zip down to LAX from OAK and effectively circumvent all of the weather-driven airport headaches going down in the middle of the country.
Sunday evening we closed out a powerful weekend of natural-birthing-talk and made it to the airport in plenty of time to grab a little dinner before our 8:50 flight. Thanks to the weekend's delays everywhere else, after printing our boarding passes we found out our plane hadn't yet arrived and we'd be stuck at LAX til 11:15. Which meant arriving in Oakland at 12:30am and getting home finally, finally, somewhere around 2 o'clock this morning.
We sat in the airport for a bleak 4 hours. As you might imagine, there were a lot of crabby, tired, family-exasperated folks hanging around. I consoled myself by thinking we could enjoy a nice lingering dinner and some quiet down-time. You'd think LAX would be all up on the healthy organic gluten-free vegan train the same way SFO is. You'd be wrong. After marching up and down the concourse in a failed search for anything healthy, inhaling some shitty nachos and ogling Robb's beer with mad pregnant-lady jealousy, we planted our butts in plastic chairs and watched the clock until sleepily boarding around 11. Around 2:30 this morning we rolled in. The whole thing was all kind of a fog.
It was a good reminder that we're all interconnected, eh? Your suffering is mine, and mine is yours.
Ditto your cold weather delays. My late plane is your late plane. And your late plane is most definitely mine.
This morning I've been reading all of your windchill updates from Minnesota and Wisconsin and chuckling with self-congratulatory delight at the fact that that level of cold is just an old childhood memory for me anymore. I always feel extra proud of having chosen to move to California in moments like these, when everyone else is moaning and groaning about snowplows and school cancellations.
The schadenfreude almost makes up for the fact that living in California means it's impossible to buy a home unless you've got family money, or that private schools here cost obscene elitist amounts that make me want to curse techie capitalists and move to Montana.
Almost, but not quite.
Bottom line: it's good to be home. We've got a fire churning in the fireplace, even though the high today is 63 and it's warm enough to head out for a hike in a few minutes.
I'm teaching 2 yoga philosophy lectures at the Flying Yoga Teacher Training immersion this weekend, and am really looking forward to it. That means that any downtime this week will be turned to nerdy forays into Sanskrit and samkhya. The yin energy of this time of year feels nicely suited to that kind of quiet intellectual work. I'm happy to be doing it.
* * *
We are just under two months away from due date now (though the little man could reasonably arrive anytime in February, given my family's history of month-early babies), and that feels real. Robb has been amazing about making the nursery come alive. I've never been one for that whole painting-cartoons-on-the-wall-in-primary-colors sort of thing. The room is simple and spacious and light and clean, and we've got a crib (sans mattress), a dresser, and a fab glider going on (again, all thanks to The Mister, whose willingness to dive into acquiring the necessary infant paraphernalia is a tonic to my ideological aversion to shopping).
Folks have been amazing about donating adorable hand-me-down teeny-tiny clothes, which have all been washed and folded and tucked away. So we're doing fine. After a weekend of birthing talk and breath meditations, dare I say we might be feeling a little bit ready.
Though the notion of "readiness" is, of course, an absolute laugh.
[Lesson #47 from this weekend: Chuck the carefully-constructed birth plan and just go with the flow, sister. This whole popping-out-a-living-being thing is all about dropping any illusions of control.]
Speaking of jokes (and letting go): my yoga practice. I miss it so much. I miss backbends SO much. I miss inversions and Down Dog and Chaturanga and all of it. Achingly so.
Friends ask how I'm doing and really it's all quite fine, quite gravy. I can't complain about a single bodily ache or pain, other than maybe having a hard time sleeping at night. But it's the palpable ache for the practice that is so difficult. To spend 15, 20 years of your life honing, developing, daily perfecting a tool for finding ease in body, mind, and spirit and then to just have it not be available at all, well, sucks.
People say, their eyes twinkling, "Oh, you're just doing another kind of yoga right now," and I get it, I really get it, and that's a very nice thought. But the bottom line, if I'm going to be honest here, folks, is that I really fucking miss my asana. I feel jealous of my male friends and colleagues who never have to experience this vast loss of mobility. I am beyond attached to my practice, yes. Attached because it has served me and my life so well over the years. Attached because it has lent my days light and grace and equanimity and release. Attached because it makes my body and my mind feel so damn good, makes me a better friend and sibling and listener and wife. Attached because it allows me to give more than I am able to without it.
So it doesn't make it any easier to let it go when people point out that we "shouldn't be attached." Because I am a yoga teacher, I "get" all the ways in which this loss of mobility is in fact a great teacher, a "blessing" if you want to get super-Pollyanna-ish about it; I get it, I do, just the same way we always say that injuries and aging are our best teachers. But that doesn't mean I like it. That doesn't mean I don't miss the hell out of feeling light and strong and athletic and spry. That doesn't mean I don't grieve the loss of the strong core and the light body that could move and spring and flow and stretch in ways this swollen heavy body does not. And I wish for a greater space in which I could speak that truth without feeling like a failed yogi because I am not always able to meet this vast bodily change with ease and grace and peace.
Strap a bowling ball onto your gut and walk around that way for a few months, add in a little insomnia and low energy and then tell me patronizingly how much I'm glowing.
I guess I'm just saying: let's be real. Let's not get so lost in the airy-fairy language of earthy mama fertility goddesses that we lose sight of the reality of our actual embodied experiences. There are beautiful aspects of pregnancy — my god, yes, there are: the depth of intuition, the feeling your baby move, the seeing him kick from the outside (trippy!), the sense of connection, you know, all that pretty stuff that prenatal yoga teachers love to go on about. But there are complicated aspects, too, shadow sides, that I think a lot of us in Positivity Land don't fairly acknowledge: the sorrow of losing many aspects of one's old self, the bodily discomforts, the fears and anxieties, the physical and emotional heaviness.
The inability to have a cocktail at the airport bar when your flight is delayed 4 hours.
I'm all about seeing the light and the beauty and the silver linings. I just wanna make sure we've got fair space for all of the other aspects of experience that come with being alive in a body, too; that we don't get so wrapped up in spiritual bypassing, thinking ourselves holy and enlightened, that we forget to be real.
What don't they tell you about pregnancy? They don't tell you that while you're "glowing" and "radiant," the hormones in your body that are starting to open your pelvis and relax your joints are also slowing down and relaxing your digestive system. So you're constipated for days on end, no matter how much broccoli and hummus and sauerkraut you eat.
It's hard to feel full of rainbows in that state.
* * *
Glad to see the 49ers pull off a victory yesterday. Glad to see the sun coming out here in West Marin. Glad, really glad, to be teaching twice a week at Yoga Toes this month before heading out for maternity leave in February.
Not so glad to see Yoga Journal launching all kinds of diet-y "Fit and Fabulous" New Year's programs. Not so glad to see that the new Editor-In-Chief comes from Self magazine, and that she is a self-proclaimed "fitness junkie" with a background in fashion and nary a mention of philosophy in her opening press release. Not so glad to see all the well-intentioned-but-often-naive resolutions being made out there that no doubt will spiral into self-flagellation and harsh self-judgment when their impossible-to-keep pressures get to be too much.
As in every January, I'll be glad when all of the media emphasis on "New Year, New You" fades away and we can go back to billboards and newspaper articles and internet ads about car insurance and Fritos again. I get so tired of the annual January detox talk and the redemptive-bodily-transformation salvation language that gets mythologized around this time of year. If we are to be happy, if we are to really find contentment (santosha, in yoga-speak), we have to start where we are, as we are (Atha), and really let that be enough, trusting that fulfillment and completion are not always "over there," but can, in fact, be found in the here and now, the discomforts, the uncertainties, and, dare I even say it: the constipation.
So, seriously, please, for me, and for your own sakes, in the midst of all that culturally-ubiquitous New Year's self-improvement talk, just remind yourselves:
There was nothing wrong with the "old" you. You are innately good.You know that, right? That the fantasy 30-pounds-lighter, detoxed, Crest-White-Stripped, green-juicing version of yourself would be just as good and as happy and as complete as the right-now, squishier, softer, nacho-eating, TV-watching you?
You are innately wise. You are innately lovable, here, now, just as you are.
Don't forget. It's true.
* * *
Stay warm out there in the hinterlands today. I don't wish to live in the square states again one iota right now. Though I send you all much solidarity and several strong pours of whiskey to power you through.
Tired love from the new nursing glider in our living room, next to the not-quite-yet-past-its-prime Christmas tree, while the fire crackles and I pretend that my mug is full of a steaming black brew instead of the disappointing runner-up that is my cup of raspberry tea.
To new beginnings. And old, unshakeable goodness.