Yes, I’ve heard the new Taylor Swift single. No, I don’t like it. Taylor, we get it–time to move on, gurl.
SOMETHING I’M DOING: BOAT POSE (NAVASANA)
Once, I had a six-pack. As in abs. As in literally, once, for just one day. I had succeeded in achieving the perfect storm of starvation and leg lifts and marveled as I pulled my shirt up in the bathroom mirror to gaze at the definition. I counted–yep, six. Any pride in my accomplishment lasted all of five minutes after which I smoothed the shirt back across my belly, walked into my bedroom and calculated how many fewer calories I could eat the rest of the day. Even with ribs and hip bones protruding and a thousand leg lifts a night, my lower belly was never, and would never be, perfectly flat. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini. My belly was shameful and relegated to the confines of pleated waistbands and slouchy sweaters. I perfected the practice of looking at myself in the mirror, angrily pinching and grabbing at what little flesh lay at my lower belly and feeling disgust. Years prior, as a normally-sized teenage girl with a normally-sized soft stomach, a boy I was kissing ran his hand across my waist and over my belly. He snickered and patted my stomach as my insides churned and turned from breathy excitement to existential dread as he whispered in my ear, “What are we going to do about this?”
This. Jelly belly. Fix it, hide it, poke it, prod it, pinch it, grab it, hate it. Make it go away.
Smaller. Always smaller.
Three weeks ago, my Monday morning yoga class had finally dwindled down to its expected summer attendance of eight or so members. When I have a smaller class, I’ll often encourage them to suggest something specific they’d like to work on. “Boat pose!” one of my regulars shouted out. A chorus of groans fell across the room, as it often does whenever someone suggests we focus on abs. Boat pose it is, I said and began the class.
My yoga practice is a fantastic core strengthener even without boat pose. With all the planks and chaturungas and transitions and balance poses, a body gets a pretty decent wakeup call to the midsection. I’ll often teach many classes without throwing in focused ab work, but when I do, I am always reminded of the power of a strong core. Yoga taught me that a strong core goes far beyond the pursuit of a six-pack.
Navasana, I cue. We hold it for five breaths, then lower down and hover with our feet and shoulders off the ground, then extend our arms overhead. Five breaths. Up again, boat pose.
Breathe. Shake. Hover. Extend. Sit up. Boat. Breathe. Hover. Shake. Extend. Repeat. Release. Stretch. Sigh.
Who am I?
Yoga has taught me that the core of who I am is supported, quite literally, by my strong core. I stand tall and sure, connected to what I know to be true, to my core beliefs, to my gut instincts. When I am strong in my core, don’t mess with me. I am unmessablewith. I can hold plank for days and boat pose for breaths beyond breaths and beyond. But my belly? Still soft.
This belly, this miraculous thing that built two humans within. This belly that I allow to soften and breathe into and watch rise and fall when the world seems to spin out of control. This belly that sends me clear and true messages about what to do, who to believe, where to go. This belly that nourishes and guides and can be trusted. Loved, even.
My days are no longer filled with the requisite thousand leg lifts but I’ve been throwing in Boat Pose in every class I teach ever since that day three weeks ago, groans be damned. What was hard at first is getting easier. What was soft and unsure is becoming strong and certain.
Six-pack? You bet. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
SOMETHING I’M COOKING: ZUCCHINI BREAD
It was nearly eight o’clock in the evening last Wednesday when the doorbell rang. My daughter and I exchanged annoyed glances until I relented and went to the door. My annoyance grew into a broad smile as I saw one of my daughter’s friends in the window, her arms filled with three infant-sized zucchini. I was already laughing when her friend stated, “I’m not one for subtlety, so if you don’t mind, I’d love another loaf of chocolate chip zucchini bread.”
Here are two things I love: baking and clarity. I think the world needs more of both.
Ever since November 8th, 2016, I have felt at a loss for words. My writing had dwindled down to nothing because I figured there was nothing worth saying. Every creative being I know struggled with this after the election. So much despair, so much hopelessness, so much fear. So. Much.
So I baked. I baked cookies and cakes and sent them out into the world. Spreading sweetness, far and wide. Baking is soul work for me and it’s one thing I do fairly well. I keep a supply of flat-rate boxes at the ready, just in case a faraway friend needs a little pick-me-up. A few years ago, I wrote an essay titled “Smart Cookies” and challenged people to tell me about what they were passionate about. What they thought about. Tell me what lights you up, I said, and I’ll send you cookies. Delicious, homemade cookies. Sadly, just a small handful of folks took me up on my offer. I still have the folder filled with their stories in my office. Sacred stories for sweet treats. I would have gladly baked for days to have received more stories, more conversations, more connections.
I took the three zucchini babies from the teenage girl’s arms and thanked her. She started to apologize for being so direct and I told her no. Don’t ever apologize for asking for what you want. Why do we do that? I wondered and thought of the beautifully simple, symbiotic relationship of her asking for what she wanted and the happiness I felt by being able to give it to her.
If my baking makes the world a little less awful for a few people, then so be it.
I still have zucchinis. If you want a loaf of zucchini bread, you have to ask for it.
SOMETHING I’M LISTENING TO: NAKED GIANTS
Music saved my life. Music continues to save my life anytime I find myself feeling isolated and alone, having a pity party for one and convinced I have no friends or a meaningful life. I dive into Spotify or YouTube or iTunes and hours later emerge lighter. Hopeful. Connected.
I mention this because Naked Giants reminds me of the type of band that would have saved my life as a angst-filled teenager. They are a local band, from Seattle–a three-piece, high-energy garage band of the craziest caliber. They’ve been getting some notice lately–most recently at the Capitol Hill Block Party this past July where my music-savvy millennial son proclaimed Naked Giants’ set as one of the highlights of the weekend. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform with Car Seat Headrest during The Best Encore I’ve Ever Witnessed as they came together and jammed out two Talking Heads covers that left my friend and I both slack-jawed and asking “what just happened?” We saw them again earlier this year at the Fisherman’s Music Festival in Everett as they headlined their own set. I love this band. I love Naked Giants. And the drummer reminds me of a young Rob Lowe.
The best news of the day is that Naked Giants have an upcoming show near you that you need to go to. They’ll be playing with Thunderpussy (another astonishing Seattle band) at an event called Summerzover at the Everett Yacht Club. Buy your tickets here and I’ll see you there. If you’re reading this and you don’t live near me, just wait. Naked Giants is on their way.
If you go, I’m not offering to buy everyone a drink, but you might get some zucchini bread out of the deal.
Now, watch this and I’ll tell you about three more things next week.