Yoga is hard.
Make all the jokes you want—and I’ve made plenty since I moved to Hippie Heaven, Nelson, BC—a good yoga class is a bonafide workout in every sense of the word. I have not done a lot of yoga over the years but several weeks ago I let my friend Dana drag me out to a local class that mixes yoga and Pilates because I know that the two things I need to do most these days are core strength exercises and stretching. Welcome to middle age, ladies and gentlemen.
The class was tough, the instructor was knowledgeable and friendly, and the hour-and-a-half session ended with some deep and much-needed relaxation.
When I returned to Nelson after my Dad’s death and the nightmarish weeks that followed, I was eager to get back to my fitness routine. My physical and mental well being are so closely joined that I can’t consider one without the other. Tuesday, spin class; Wednesday, yoga; Thursday, TRX—that’s the current schedule, (hopefully with short runs to be added in again soon).
Wednesday night yoga rolled around and it felt good (and painful) to be back on the mat, lengthening and strengthening. Aside from one hilariously failed attempt at Crow Pose, I was confident and happy. Then we all lay on our mats, on our backs, closed our eyes and listened as the instructor guided us through full body relaxation, beginning with breath and then moving to consciously relaxing from the head down.
“Relax your forehead, feel your eyebrows rise and spread apart.”
I relaxed my eyebrows. Huh, who knew eyebrows could be tense?
“Relax your face, let your jaw go loose, let your mouth fall open.”
So glad no one videos this part of the class.
“Feel the back of your body against the floor, feel it sinking into the floor, trusting the earth to hold you up.”
My slack jaw tensed.
“Think of what you would like to let go of.”
I forget the exact words that came next. What I remember is that feeling, that tightening around the base of my neck, the warning signs that it was coming. Again. Still. I was going to cry.
Damn it. I was so tired of tears.
How could I trust the earth to hold me up when it had dropped me twice in less than two months?
A few tears slipped out, tracing hot streams down the sides of my face before I could shut the spillways. I didn’t wipe them away. If I believed in an afterlife, believed that my sister was somewhere looking down on me, there is no doubt that she would have been savoring the irony of her stoic, tear-free younger sibling fighting to keep from dissolving into a puddle in the middle of a room full of Lulu Lemon-clad mostly-strangers. For Kelly, I left my face untouched.
For me, that was a big deal. A colossal, holy-cow-am-I-really-doing-this deal.
I am a private crier. No matter how sad I am the floodgates slam shut at the sight of even one other human. Even when that person is my husband, the most trusted and loved person in my life. I’ve tried, with varying levels of success, to change this habit. Not that I want to blubber shamelessly wherever I am and whoever I’m with, but now and then wouldn’t be so terrible.
Worst of all, sometimes when I’m right at the edge of public tears, my body flips a switch and changes them to laughter—weird, awkward, hideous laughter.
Back in April, sitting with two of my dearest friends, I related a moment I had spent with my sister that had crushed me. I looked out at my kind, compassionate, long-time friends as I spoke, knowing that I was completely safe to let the welling tears flow…and out it came.
“It’s fucking awful,” I said, laughing the hideous laugh and hating myself.
I’ve often worried that my friends and family must think I’m made of granite or that I don’t love or trust them enough to share my sadness. How weird must it be for them to read these Chronicles, with me spilling my deepest and most shameful feelings on a regular basis, and then to sit across from me in person as I relate the story of my sister and dad’s death, dry-eyed and in a matter-of-fact tone? If I told them, in that moment, that every word was like razors in my gut, would they believe me? How could they?
In the past six months, I have cried more, and more violently, than I have in the past sixteen years. Ninety-five percent of those tears have been cried privately—in the car, in my room, in the shower, in a tent. Because of this, I have imagined that my friends and family could not possibly grasp how desperately I have been clinging to their kindness, how a single word of sympathy has had the power to keep me moving forward.
Then Monday happened.
After I announced that I wouldn’t be attending Worldcon this year for financial reasons—and being okay with that decision—a few friends offered to help me out. I declined. I had not made that decision public with the intent of gaining sympathy or with the expectation that someone should come to my rescue. It’s just a convention, for goodness sake, it’s not like I need a kidney or something.
Then a few more friends offered.
Then a few more.
“You are too sweet. I’ve had a few offers of help but I really can’t accept. If I had a manuscript to pitch or something, I might say yes but letting other people pay for my fun I just can’t live with,” I said.
Then my friend, neighbour, fellow writer, and amazing human being Deryn Collier, speaking on behalf of what I now call the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons, wrote this to me:
But if it came freely and with no strings attached. Like cash out of the sky. Could you then? Because your steam all got used up on serious family stuff, and maybe your friends want to help out with some fun. What if it is our way of showing we love you and believe in you and want to support you? What about that?
What about that? What if I was wrong and despite my lack of public waterworks my friends truly could see how wounded I was?
“What’s wrong?” Prez asked, at the sight of me slack jawed and weeping in front of my laptop.
I explained. After some discussion with Prez, I relented. What happened next was overwhelming.
Friends Wendy Kelly and Anthony Sanna led the charge with a Facebook post of unparalleled awesomeness. Soon, online donations were popping up in my inbox, people were messaging me with other offers of help and support, my good friend Helen Lutz donated her car for my use, and everywhere I turned there were words of love and support and appreciation.
I spent the next forty-eight hours alternating between tears and laughter.
Today, Wendy dropped off a pile of cash donations, which she had collected in an oh-so-appropriate Star Trek lunch box. I hugged her. Three times. Maybe four. There weren’t tears but not because I was holding them back, simply because for the first time in weeks I felt good, happy, at peace.
Wednesday morning I will depart for Spokane, Washington with a smile bought and paid for by the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons.
So there I was in yoga class—yes, we’re back there—eyes closed, face wet from those rebel tears. I thought about the earth that had grown so unsteady beneath my feet since the day my sister first went into the hospital. No, I could not trust the earth to hold me up. Not now. Not yet. Maybe never.
But when the earth lets me fall, I can trust my friends, my family, and my community to pick me up. Long after Worldcon has come and gone, that is the gift they have given me and that is a gift that will last forever.
Thank you all.