Two weeks post-op

Two weeks ago, right about now, I lied onto an operating room table (it was heated! how lovely!) and joked with the anesthesiologist as he put me to sleep so that my surgeon, the father of a college friend (thanks, Jewish geography), could extract my kidney and pass it along to a room down the hall to be placed in my father’s body.

In the last two weeks my life has become more simple, slow, uncomplicated than I could have imagined. It’s been two weeks since I read a book, a blog post, a newspaper article. It’s been two weeks since I opened my work e-mail. It’s been two weeks since I’ve cleaned anything. Used a stove or an oven. Shopped in a store. Touched a laundry machine. Carried anything anywhere. Slept through the night. Could lie flat in a bed, stand up straight, or go anywhere on my own.

Not to mention, yoga. It’s been two weeks since my last down dog. Plank. Push up. The simple things.

In the last two weeks I haven’t spent more than fifteen minutes of any day outside. This is, maybe, the biggest change. I’m used to thirteen or fourteen hour days, going from work to lunch to yoga to dinner with friends. Home late in time to crash and do it all over again. I’m not one to lounge at home, even for a day. Being sick and stuck at home for three days in May was torture.

The thing is, you get used to it. A friend asked me yesterday what my plans for the day were. And, without irony, I told her about my plans to shower, give R a grocery list, talk to another friend on the phone. Maybe take a walk around the block if I felt up for it. A busy day by these new standards where “shower” is a major event on my to-do list.

I’m finding that I can barely remember the rest of this summer. It seems as distant as last year, the year before. What did I do?

Maybe it’s for the best. I know that, in the last few weeks before I came home for surgery, I felt stronger than I ever have before. I don’t remember the feeling of it, but I remember the thought; I remember knowing it. And I was so scared of what it would mean to let that go. How could I let that go? (And how could I let the rest of summer go?)

But this new normal is now normal and so the difference –usually–doesn’t feel as big as it is. If I can’t really remember it, then I also can’t dwell on it. Occasional panic about ever being able to “have my life back” aside, thinking about life three weeks–or three months–ago brings a similar dull nostalgic ache to thinking about college or childhood summers in Israel. It’s distant past by change, if not by time.

As I write, I’m looking at the sun through the windows in my parents’ house and watching the leaves just barely sway on the trees from the slightest breeze. This is the new equivalent to taking a walk, or lying on the grass with the sun in my face. But I’m finding that my heart is lighter when it’s bright out even if I can’t be in the sunshine. In this one, tiny moment, it’s enough. That’s the new normal.

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On yoga

I just got off the phone with my mom, who took her first yoga class on the same day that I signed up for a 200-hour yoga teacher training program.

We talked about flexibility (and our mutual lack thereof), about how foreign everything seems in the beginning (“the instructor was talking so quickly about cats and dogs and I didn’t understand her”), about how embarrassing it can be to be in a class that asks you to do so much more than your body seems capable of doing (“she kept giving me these pitying looks”).

To my mother’s credit, she’s taking her first class at a month shy of 57. I was only 22-turning-23.

We talked about blocks, how her instructor asked her if she wanted “a weird rectangular thing” and my mom could only say, “I would hardly know what to do with it.” I mentioned that I used them too, still.

“What? How can you be a yoga teacher if you can’t touch the floor?”

Oh, mom. 

Really. All the teachers I have seen are very flexible. Who is going to want to come to your class if you’re not?”

Most teachers don’t demonstrate all the poses. Besides, maybe some students who aren’t super flexible might want to learn from someone who understands what that’s like.

“Well, do the teachers at the studio know how inflexible you are? Are you sure they think you’re ready for the training?”

Maybe it would be easier to be mad at her, but I can’t be. The questions she asked me tonight are the same questions I’ve been asking myself over, and over, and over again. What if I’m not ready? What if everyone else thinks or knows that I could never teach but doesn’t want to tell me? What if I’m making a giant fool out of myself? What if this just isn’t right for me? Who cares how much I like it? Maybe it’s just not a good fit.

I’m so excited to start TT, but I’m also scared. I know  the training will be hard for everyone in ways I can’t imagine. But I also know that most of the people in the room will probably be more flexible than I am. Stronger than I am. Braver than I am. They’ll have muscle-memory my sports-and-dance-averse body doesn’t have.

I wonder if they’ll wonder what I’m doing there.

Of course, it’s on me to put my faith in the process. To trust everyone who encouraged me, even when it’s hard. To sit with the fear and worry and embarrassment and breathe and let them be. Hopefully, eventually, they’ll work themselves out.

The motivation to prove my mom wrong probably isn’t such a bad thing, either.

If my friends still lived here

It’s been a pretty rough morning.

I know exactly which of my friends I want nearby as I read these articles but, like most of the people I’m closest to, we no longer live in the same city.

If they still lived here we’d be getting together tonight. J would pick up a bottle of wine and make a loaf of bread. D and I would grab cheese, maybe a vegetable or fruit for balance. I’d set a batch of brownies in the oven, timed to come out exactly when they came over. (It wouldn’t work; timing is none of our strong suits. We’d eat them a little cooler, a little late. It wouldn’t matter.)

If they still lived here we’d lie on couches, or maybe just sit on the floor wishing it was still warm enough to spend evenings on our porches.

And we’d talk. And we’d worry.

I would tell them how scared I am. How sad. How I can’t imagine getting the pictures of dead men in prayer shawls and bloodied prayer books out of my head. I don’t normally see eye-to-eye with ultra-Orthodox men–not that they would even look into mine–but death is death and prayer is prayer and terror is terror. It couldn’t have been me, but it could have been me, in that synagogue. My prayer shawl looks a lot like their prayer shawls.

Yet the Biblical allusions in the Israeli government’s call for revenge with “a heavy hand” make me queasy. B’yad chazaka u’vizroa netuyawith a strong hand and an outstretched arm–is how G-d led the Israelites out of Egypt, yes, but what about the cost? The Exodus story is full of illness and pain, culminating with the death of all the first-born sons of Egypt, the drowning of all of Pharaoh’s army in the sea. This is a moment we are taught to celebrate but, again, death is death.

It’s a cycle. Horror begets horror. A violent Israeli response can only be met with more violence. History shows that pretty clearly. Death leads to more death.

But how could there be no response? Who can see the pictures and do nothing? Who can read article after article about stabbings and do nothing? Isn’t there a need to show that actions have consequences? What does a government need to do to protect its people, not to mention its country’s existence?

It’s an awful cycle and the worst part is that it seems there’s no way out. Participating makes it worse. Not participating might also make it worse.

Can anyone truly imagine real peace anymore?

If my friends still lived here I would tell them how surprised I was to see the news prominently displayed on the top left corner of the New York Times’ website. The Times is not particularly friendly towards or forgiving of Israel–an above-the-fold article laying no fault on the Israeli government in headline or lead is rare. I would tell them how, cynically, I immediately wondered if it’s because this time the dead are all American and British citizens.

I would tell them how I feel guilty for being so cynical.

They don’t live here anymore. Instead of having them over, I sent them e-mails saying how much I miss them. Instead of freshly-baked brownies, I’m eating dollar Rite-Aid cookies. Instead of talking I’m reading articles alone in my cubicle and writing, and processing, by myself.

This way is ok too, I guess. But I do miss the cheese and their company.

Yours truly,
~hbd

Note: It seems the New York Times agrees.

Confessions/What is this all about?

It’s the cold, lonely, quiet, moody days that make me want to blog.

Oh, sure, every time I pull something I’m excited about out of the oven, I think about how I’d like to share it. G-d knows I take enough low-quality, awkwardly-going-for-kinda-artsy-but-then-I-gave-up pictures. Everyone I’m Instagram “friends” with knows too, for that matter.

But there are so many people who do that so well. Yes, they each had to start somewhere. But I’m a typical twenty-something, remember? We don’t want to “start somewhere.” We want to find what we’re already, naturally amazing at and have it all come easily.  Forget hard work and awkward beginnings. Forget improvement-we’ll know it’s right when we start off perfect.

Ok, I’m simplifying a little. Glossing. Of course I know–we all know–that hard work is invaluable and unavoidable; the options for success might just be work hard or fail. But it IS hard to find the energy to enter at the very bottom and believe in yourself enough to slowly, steadily, carve out a spot. Especially in fields so very wide.

Anyway. It would seem that for now the purpose of this blog is to soften the edge where anxiety, self-doubt, and boredom meet. To meet me in those moments when I’ve already talked my head off (really, typed my fingers off) but still feel unsettled, tired, alone. That’s the only time I want to write, really.

It’s a way of breathing into discomfort, I guess, and yes, I stole that phrase from my yoga teachers (thank you). It’s a place to process when I’m not quite ready to deal and change but know that I need to stop whining to anyone within a two foot radius of my cell phone’s invisible network channels–i.e. everyone whose phone number I have. (And yes, network channels is the official term for them.) To sit with life and see if I can’t make myself feel a little better just by being.

In the more restorative yoga classes I’ve been taking recently we’ve been practicing pigeon pose, a hip opener, using bolsters to help us ease into the otherwise deep stretch. For now, this blog is my bolster, my toe dipped in the water until I feel comfortable enough to commit and dive in.

Maybe what I’m really writing is a blog about growing up. (Which means we’ve solidly entered the young-adult (non)fiction category.)

Maybe there will be brownies and kale frittata here soon. Or musings on yoga and Judaism. Thoughts about being first-generation American. Anxiety about what it means to be an adult but not quite ready to take care of yourself and make decisions with consequences. A mix of all of the above.

I guess the nice thing is how endless the possibilities are. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Yours truly,

~hbd

In the beginning

I’m just another twenty-something.

I like to cook but I love to bake. I practice yoga more nights a week than my wardrobe and washing machine can handle. My third-best-friend is a bottle of Febreze.

I would like to call myself introspective and thoughtful, but the truth probably hovers closer to “self-involved.” Isn’t that what they say about our age group, after all? Navel-gazing is our biggest talent and favorite pastime.

I cherish time spent with friends and close relationships.

I make too much noise. The aforementioned navel-gazing turns to too much worry, too many complaints. I’m starting to feel like a hummingbird, inordinately loud, even while staying in place.

So, invisible internet world, I move my thoughts to your silent and instantly silenceable platform. Keep me company, please, as I boisterously hum my way through the rest of this decade, ungraceful and off-pitch.

Yours truly,

~hbd