A List of What I Did Not Do Today

I did not do my taxes.

I did not finish my school work (taking a class from Cornell, sounds so smart, doesn’t it?).

I did not go outside to enjoy the spring air, and prune the cherry trees.

I did not fix myself a very healthy lunch, and eat it. I drank lattes.

I did not update my budget by putting my expenses into their categories.

I did not vacuum up the dog hair that is all over my house.

I did not work out.

I did not do my morning devotions, morning yoga, call the pharmacist, the college or the doctor.

I didn’t even go shopping for the microwave splatter-cover thing. (How does one lose one of those?)

I did wake up and bury my head in my pillow, while crying, “I don’t want to get up. I don’t like it out there. Let me stay here.” I have no idea to whom I was speaking since I live alone, but, I did repeat that over and over, while in the fetal position.

So, today doesn’t tally up on Cinthia’s timeline as a productive day, (I can always state the obvious, can’t I?), despite the fact that I eventually got up, took a shower, and even walked the dog. Mostly today, I talked on the phone to my friend, Debbie N., and stared out the window. So, I not only messed up my productive day. I messed up her’s. You’re welcome, Debbie.

Here’s what I have to say about being productive: I don’t like it.

Who’s to say staring out the window isn’t being productive, anyway? Since, we’re on that topic.

I used to be an avid rock climber. I climbed every rock from Yosemite to Looking Glass. It was fun. You know why? Because on that rock, with 500 sheer feet below me, endless, unseeable feet above me, and nothing but me in that tight, but very open space, I couldn’t stop to consider if I vacuumed before leaving the house, or if the taxes were mailed, all I could think about was my next move. I was there. I had to be. It was thrilling not because I was hanging onto some rock by my fingertips, but because my brain was completely engaged in that moment. There was no multi-tasking going on. It was total focus. I loved it.

I have a friend who takes pictures, and she says, “My best pictures are the ones I take when I am completely in the moment, not the subject, but me. When I am fully present, the pictures are always amazing.” That makes sense to me. How can you “capture the moment” if you aren’t in it?

There is this feeling I get when things get out of whack. You know, when I’m being all-productive-all-the-time. It ends with me in the fetal position crying into my pillow. While that may seem silly to some of you (and perfectly normal to others, thank God), I think I need to listen to that part of me. People scream to be heard, and while that isn’t the best form of communication, how else does the part of me that desperately needs a break, convince my SHOULD SELF that a break is needed? My continual checklist doesn’t include hanging out with friends, watching a movie, taking a long lunch, or walking the dog by the river. I do sometimes do those things, but not nearly as often as I should, and really, not until I am so exhausted I’m staring out windows, and bugging friends who are trying to work.

I used to have the quote highlighted below taped to my computer. I think I SHOULD tape it there again. It’s a good reminder that staring out windows, climbing rocks, or taking pictures, helps all of us to better see the lack of harmony and proportion between life and work.

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

So tomorrow? No to-do list. Aggie and I are hiking the Davidson River. That’s her definition of a productive day.

Old Woman With Her Butt in the Air=Dog Pose

I glanced in the mirror to see how I looked doing dog pose. Well, let’s just say that Mariel Hemingway can keep her job as poster girl for yoga. But it felt like I was SO IN THE POSE. You know how you’re walking down the street and you’re thinking, wow, I look good today. You’ve got on your adorable, new brown sandals (they are brown in this scenario because I did just buy a cute, new, brown pair–picture to come), and you’re wearing your skinny jeans and then, bam, you see yourself in the window of a building and you’re kinda shocked because, when the heck did you get that old?? Or that fat?? Or that whatever? That ever happen to you?

After glancing at myself in the mirror at Cindy’s studio–which, correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear the place is all mirrors–I wanted to crawl under a rock. I know Cindy, my yoga teacher, would say to thank my body for supporting me in the pose, heck, for supporting me period. She’d say to do the pose my body will do. That it isn’t a competition, and so forth. She’s fairly guru about the whole yoga thing–and I’m fairly North Carolina and Southern–but she is sincere, so I stay and try to focus, and try not think about how I look like an old woman with her butt in the air.

The rest of the class did not go well.

Anyway, I drove home determined never to do yoga again, never to go to a yoga class again, and to become an old lady who lives in her garden clothes, and never cleans the dirt out from under her fingernails. Okay, so that is actually me already. I was going to embrace me, how’s that?

But then my dog, Platypus (Platy for short) got up to greet me, doing his dog pose first to get the kinks out. I watched him stretching his front paws out, his butt up in the air, and he looked so happy, and because he’s two feet tall and four feet long, his dog pose is a looooonnnnngggg pose.

So, I kicked off my new brown sandals, and did dog pose on my kitchen porch. Here’s what I have to say about dog pose when you’re not glancing in a mirror to see if you’re Mariel Hemingway’s new buddy. DANG I LOVE DOG POSE. It feels so darn good. I pushed up through my arms, stretching my back upward–really getting my butt up there–standing on my tip toes and then, when I had stretched up as far as I could go, I put my heels down. It was amazing. I stayed there for almost five minutes playing with the pose while Platy ran under me, sniffed my nose, licked my ankles and generally went nuts because he wanted petting.

I told him, “Give me a minute Plat dog, I’m doing dog pose, buddy.”

I know if I had glanced in a mirror again, I would have seen an old lady with her butt up in the air, but I didn’t care. My body was supporting me, and I was treating it with care. I’m getting a little weepy thinking about it so I’ll end here.

camels yoga

How do Camels Breath?

I’ve never seen a camel. I’d like too. I’d also like to breath more. You know, breath in, breath out. But mostly, I’m too busy to do that. I know you know what I’m talking about.

Cindy, my yoga teacher, teaches me a pose called Camel pose or Ustrasana.  It’s a funky, little back bend. When I was a kid, I watched TV from the position of a back bend on the living room floor. It was easy. I popped right up, wrists turned backward, feet pushing me higher into the bend, and my chest rising. It felt so good. I could stay there forever.

It was so easy to breath after doing that. I don’t do that anymore. Now, I watch TV lying in bed.

Fortunately, Camel Pose does not require this complete back bend stance. Instead, I am on my knees, with my legs extended behind me, hands reaching for my ankles, neck dropping toward my feet, my spine coiled into my back, my chest open wide. The total time Cindy allows for this pose is thirty seconds. Thirty seconds, then come out of the pose (carefully) and then thirty seconds again. It is enough.

camel pose breath

Cindy Dollar doing camel pose with props. Thank the Lord, yoga lets you use props. This picture is from her website, no photographer is noted.

Cindy gives you reminders when you’re in the pose. She instructs that while your body is bent backward and your arms are trembling with the weight, to press your legs into the floor, and press your hands into your heels, then lift your sternum higher. There is a reason for this. The action between my legs and my arms creates a stronghold, a structure which supports me in the pose. Once supported, I am free to lift my sternum, coil my spine, and the reason for all this contortion: Open my chest, and you guessed it, breath.

Here’s what I discover in this pretty awkward position. I’ve got to breath to stay here.

My breath comes rapidly at first. I’m afraid my arms will give out before my timer does and I’ll be in a heap. So, I breath. The breathing stabilizes me. It slows down the panic and allows me to concentrate, to press my hands into my ankles, press my legs down and be strong again. For thirty seconds.

I have another friend, also named Cindy. She works in the medical field. She doesn’t advise smoking, but she does advise doing what smokers do. “Smokers,” she says, “take breaks to breath.”

Camel Pose is a breathing pose. That’s what I accomplished today, breathing. And, here’s why that is important: I’ve got to breath if I’m going to stay here. I mean that literally, but also, not. Life is a haul, and pacing myself requires breathing.