And So It Is, Mindwebs

A Subtle Lie.

September 28, 2012

So delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe. That’s one definition of subtle.

I’ve been thinking about the word subtle and the power of it. Tonight as I taught my beloved gentle yoga class, I had everyone lie on a bolster in a twist. I told them that they wouldn’t feel much. 

That it was a subtle stretch but that often the subtle things are the most powerful.

Aren’t they?

The subtle truths, subtle lies. The subtle way things change and then one day we wake up and everything we thought we knew, gone. Just like that. No more father. No more job. No more summer. No more Sunday. No more morning. It seems as if it is always all of a sudden, this sliding into something else.

One day someone just dies or leaves or quits their job and although it may feel like a sudden dynamite, a grenade thrown into your life as you make buckwheat pancakes, really it was a subtle breaking down, a slow deterioration of all things knowable. It was a subtle knowing that this is not working for me and I must go. A chipping away at what was once there.

The subtle things are the most powerful except often we don’t pay attention.

The way someone look at us, their eyes softening in the way someone in love might lower their lids, a slight hesitation to leave your face so soon, because what if it wasn’t there the next time they looked? They couldn’t take that risk so they let their eyes linger a few seconds longer before looking down at the menu and saying Yes, I will have the trout. 

The subtle way someone stops looking at us, their hands counting places they wish they’d been, their eyes looking for something in the room to focus on, something solid and unchanging.

The subtle signs of aging. Around the eyes, the mouth. All of it so quiet. At the same time so determined.

The subtle way my sister and I swung from the great white flab hanging from our grandmother, our Bubby’s arms. And while she drove, sometimes lapsing into Yiddish, how we played with it like language, palpable and subtle, growing in our anxious hands.

Loving every minute of it, this curious feel of age, of skin that had been through more winters than summers. Letting it slip like liquid through cracks between our fingers. Wishing we would get old just by sitting in that car, by playing with her deteriorated years. Years which swung, somehow transformed into flab on the backs of her arms.

That couldn’t have happened overnight. It was a subtle transformation just as the one which led us to want to stop aging. No wait! Slow down! Do not turn me into my ancestors!

The subtle lies we tell ourselves until they are no longer a gentle tap on the shoulder but a brick wall of hard rain. The subtle way the words I am not smart enough, I am ugly, I am not thin enough, I am never going to be able to finish all sink into the potholes of a mind, the words hardening until the soft mud of them fills every crack and only a sledgehammer can break them apart.

The subtle way depression can return after such a long absence like it had been there all along, sitting in it’s favorite chair, reading the paper. Oh me? I’ve been here for a while. You just haven’t been able to detect the the signs. I’ve been precise and delicate but you haven’t been paying attention. Can I stay?

Here’s what you say: No.

And then enough pussyfooting around. Man up!

Pay attention. See the signs. Life will sneak up on you if you let it.

As my dear Mary Oliver says in Mockingbirds:

how the old couple

had almost nothing to give

but their willingness

to be attentive–

but for this alone

the gods loved them.

What I am saying is this:

Be attentive.

There is no such thing as subtle.

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No Comments

  • Reply chantalandfam September 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Needed to read this right now. Thank you!

  • Reply Amy Esacove September 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm


  • Reply nancy rattle September 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    But dear Jennifer …. subtlety can often be imbued by wisdom. Me …. I’m an elder …. though I’m fairly done with subtlety. In my experience, it’s important to pick one’s battles mindfully. Always speak from the heart and trust.Life is good – even in the midst of its messiness.
    Great post,

  • Reply nancysilverlake September 28, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    p.s. … life will sneak up on you whether you let it or not!

  • Reply nancysilverlake September 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    use the wisdom to strengthen yourself, don’t lose it, waste it and don’t f’ing fret over it. You are very tuned in. Faith does not ever have a cost factor, It’s always has benefit … especially when you question it. The serious questioning and examination – as painful and conflicted as it might be, serves to bring us home – to ourselves and for others.

  • Reply Nicjane September 28, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Wow, this is so true and touched me when I needed it. Thank you, thank you!

    • Reply nancy rattle September 29, 2012 at 12:29 am

      ultimately, we are all on the same journey. We just need to learn how to get closer to each other. This is the path of the fearless warrior. My prayer is that we’re all doing the best we can and if we’re not, we at least recognize opportunities for changing outcome through mindfulness – ourselves first, then others.
      As an ancient sage said “sweep your own doorstep first …. then …..”.
      Some do, some don’t.
      It’s a daily challenge for me. I know I’ll always have my life’s work cut out for me in the process! I love it …. I love the challenge of trying to be ‘a better human being’ in this life. We need to be conscious. I believe that every individual has potential for contributing to this effort … even in the smallest of ways, which can ‘subtley’ translate into very huge ways. At least, this has been my amazing, very quiet life experience spent largely in observation.
      I love Jennifer for this, she is not confined by her personal boundaries. She shares big-time with the rest of us who only pay lip-service to ‘manifesting’!
      Let all of us appreciate our blessings in whatever form they appear. We have no idea where/when the next lesson may appear. Our only responsibility is to be ready to receive.


  • Reply barbarapotter September 29, 2012 at 6:13 am

    The subtle signs how we look back and see/feel them. The sudden impact and then the changes good or bad but all part of our journey. A powerful piece.

  • Reply Diane Kerch Alzate September 29, 2012 at 7:26 am

    right on the button…the dot, well said!

  • Reply jamesvincentknowles October 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    ~ a gift for you ~

    there’s a poem in the ground beneath your feet
    & in the air you breathe
    in the wine you drink & the water you bathe
    in the sky above, light or dark
    a place you can taste the love in you
    where you can feel the sun’s magnificent warmth
    or see the twinkling of night’s diamond stars
    & watch the subtle dance of earth & moon
    a place in your heart, wherever you are *jvk

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