It was the theme of my yoga class this morning. Let’s remove them, I suggested to my beloved class. Their eyes got wide and afraid which I understood very very well.
They looked at me as if to say I just wanted to do a couple of downdogs and sweat, why do you have to do this shit, lady?
Of starting a new book. Of finding a partner. Of writing. Of becoming a yoga teacher. Of having a baby. Of leaving a partner. Of traveling. Of quitting a job. Of getting a job.
Of being happy.
Those types of Things.
But then. But then, I will have nothing to hold me back. The afraid eyes widened.
May whatever is holding me back reveal itself. May I have the courage to release them, I suggested to the room before we took our first Ohm.
How scary it is to have nothing to hold you back anymore, to be so unencumbered. It is a thing of power and most of us are scared of power in the way we are scared of what we don’t understand: love, aging, death.
I was afraid to let go of my label of “anorexic.” Then who will I be? Anorexia was my set of crutches and I walked around town with them under my arms, and a small little limp, just enough to handicap me when it came to making a move in any direction whatsoever. I will not let go of these crutches I demanded as I slept walk through my life. They are mine!
I was not above beating people with them either. Anyone who came to close to taking them away from me. These are my Things That Get In The Way. Nobody can touch them! as I poked the offender with the soft end of the crutch. Gently, so it wouldn’t hurt. They would know I still loved them but that they could not take my crutch away.
What things get in the way of the small pleasures that wait for you when you wake up in the morning? Before your eyes can focus on the lampshade or on the other body in the bed, what things enter your mind as if they belong there? What heavy objects knock about in your chest before you even put your jeans on?
The things that get in the way are often real things, ordinary things, things that you will forget as soon as you sit down and bite into your sandwich. Then there are the things that are not ordinary, that are so not ordinary in the way that they have caused you to stop and take inventory on your life as you know it.
For example: your baby dying, as is my friend Emily Rapp’s baby, a very real and horrendous thing to have to wait for. It will part the sea of you. One side of you will be on the shore with your baby son, and the other side of you immersed in the sea itself, drowning fast but not fast enough. What is getting in the way of you and your baby is a very real and unspeakable thing and you can’t even move, you are that split in two. Both drowning and not drowning at the same time.
Then there are the things that get in the way which are soft and malleable. And still very precise. They know exactly when to get you. They will leave no stone unturned and will leave you to bleed there on the table if you don’t pay attention. They know that right there, first thing in the morning, before your eyes can focus on the lampshade or the other body in the bed, that there’s the best time to get you. They know they can make you scared of what is going to happen to you, of what will people think, what if you can’t have a baby, what if this isn’t what you really want?
And your eyes start to come into focus and nothing looks like same. The carpet, the sink, the wall, the other body in the bed. You touch everything to make sure you are awake, and of this you can’t be certain. If you were awake wouldn’t it all make sense?
How you are right where you should be and that there can be no question of that because there is no other option. You were never not here. You were never not going to lead this very life. There is no alternative. As much as you try, you will never be able to wake up and have had a different history. You will always have turned right. You will always have chosen this.
So why doesn’t it make sense?
Because things have gotten in the way.
You have to grab them by the throat and let them know that you are not afraid. Say it: I am not afraid.
Two weeks ago, before I got my glasses in London, I dreamt I’d gone blind. In the dream, I’d felt around for things I would recognize, corners of tables I knew from bumping into them, people I loved and their shoulders and noses. Their smells. I was scared that darkness would be all I would know anymore. As if my own skin were falling over my head in a black hood.
I couldn’t remember what anything looked like in the dream. As if along with my sight, all of my memories vanished too. What a sunset had looked like or my father’s face.
Slowly, it seemed years passed in this dream, I became unafraid. I started to remember what things had looked like. And they looked more beautiful then they had in real life. The sunset was the kind you swear you’ve never seen anything like it, not ever and my father’s face was real, and he was breathing, his nostrils flaring a little with each exhale.
I’d woken up sweating and cold in our hotel room, but as soon as my eyes started to focus on the lampshade and the other body in the bed, I realized what the dream had been about.
That I was not blind. That I could see. That is what the dream meant.
And as soon as I say I am not afraid there’d be nothing in the way.