Yesterday I heard that Ben Affleck will eat for a dollar and fifty cents a day to bring attention to the plight of 1.4 billion people in the Eastern Congo who live on less than that.
That same afternoon I made my family a decadent dessert; which I burnt. In my non-sequitur fashion I had noticed dirt on the stovetop when I closed the oven door and began a cleaning frenzy. I guess I hit the temperature control. It seems like the smoke would be a giveaway but I’m so used to my old appliances acting badly that I didn’t bother to wonder why steam was rising through the grate on the stove about a half hour into the hour it was supposed to bake. Actually, rushing and tired and sloppy I had run off several other random tasks at the same time. My multi-level chore style usually results in a bunch of half assed shit though it suits my disposition.
When I took the charred mess from the oven amidst the sorrowful stares of my family, I thought guiltily of Affleck’s initiative and that someone in the Congo could have eaten for ten days on what I wasted on that self-indulgent treat.
I couldn’t let the thought go though I went back to the store and bought the ingredients again, not to be a quitter or let my guys down. Affleck’s initiative nagged at me though I wasn’t sure how his gesture would help the people in the Congo any more than me eating my peas as a youth would help the starving children of China whom my parents invoked at the dinner table.
I was still in a foul mood all day today and though I’ve been cutting myself slack through months of mood swings and exhaustion and the Who gives a fucks, I was feeling like a real pisser. I couldn’t get right and couldn’t blame Ben Affleck for invoking that initiative or myself for not saving anyone or anything or any domestic event gone wrong. In truth I was just sick of myself being so scattered, so pointless lately. I headed for the woods to get a fix; to get right or maybe to just get away from myself and my first world problems.
An hour without a human soul in sight including my own was a nice respite. It was hot and I raised my arms to retie my hair. Pain shot like a knife through my hurt right arm. It does that when I raise it carelessly ever since I hurt it last winter. Seems there is some damage to the scapula and the clavicle and the rib heads that insert into the shoulder. I eschew further medical help and pretend I can fix it with the help of yoga and my limited knowledge of rehab and massage. Medical bills aren’t my priority and I figure I’ll be fine some day when I least expect it.
I sat down to take a breath and rub my arm on a weathered bench that sits beside the trail overlooking the lake. I noticed a small silver plaque that read:
A heart with passionate curiosity
And unfolding grace. Namaste
In memory of Vernon Sharp
In my self- involved stuck in the past way I momentarily wondered that I didn’t know the name Vernon Sharp harkening to a time when the yoga community was so small that we all knew who each other were. Kind of in the way you see a stunning 30 year old in spandex and think that you look just like that because you forgot that you lived twenty something more years than that now and you didn’t notice that time changed you. Or that time had presided at all.
I placed my hands behind my hips, planted my feet in the ground and raised my chest through my arms in the pose called purvottanasana. I didn’t give my shoulder a chance to weigh in. The soul of Vernon recommended it. As the backbend unfolded and my chest willingly rose to receive the breath, my head fell back and I got an eyeful of chartreuse filtered leaf laced sky. My weighty thoughts took wing.
I bid a fond farewell to Vernon with gratitude for his hospitable seat. Home, I remade that dessert and then dinner from a recipe I’d seen on a cooking show. I didn’t feel guilty but was conscious of my humble riches and bowed my head to the hungry, the sorry and the unsheltered. I thought of Ben Affleck who is worth a reported 65 million but knows that all the money in the world won’t fix the world’s problems and asks us to stand as one heart and mind toward a fairer tomorrow.
I had stood on the bridge on the trail home, thinking about old folks who break a hip and never live again. That had never made sense to me. But after a year of feeling put out by an unrelenting hip pain and then an arm that took my grace and enthusiasm I think I suddenly got how defeated, how hopeless it feels when an aging body weakly lingers in pain and demise. Maybe that’s why I keep pushing past pain. I want to be bigger than this body.
Last Sunday I cranked up a heart stomping play list after the last student had left and I hit the mat. I brought down some old school Hilary dancing/ yoga interspersed with handstands at the wall to take it down a notch despite my injury. The right elbow bent to protect the shoulder every time I went up and I knew it wasn’t the best situation but I wouldn’t use a strap because I know that sometimes something has to give so something else can soar. Anyway my soul was so happy I couldn’t imagine it would leave a lasting scar.
I don’t know how the hungry and battered maintain in a way that one once privileged cannot when broken. I wish the same thing for all of us because maybe it’s the one thing that can’t be taken away; that we know that somewhere in our selves the light always dances in the trees and the music always plays. May discomfort or despair or fear not shut that out before the last light falls and the last notes fade away.