It was January 5, 2014. That morning, I got up earlier than I'd like. I didn't shower. I slouched around feeling terrible about all of my jobs and all of my future, and then I snapped at my mom for offering me sweats to wear to the tai chi class my sister had invited me to.
I drive away by myself, chewing cinnamon gum to kill the garlicky bite of the cold shrimp scampi leftovers I shoveled in before leaving. I arrive at the class in jeans and Doc Martens, shifting my wallet and car keys from hand to hand. My sister and her boyfriend were taking an earlier class in the hot yoga room, and when they come outside to greet me, her bare shoulders steam in the cool winter morning.
The place and all of its classes have weird names that are kind of like American Gladiator names like Buzz and Power. For all I know they have a class called Frostshock. I was worried that everyone would look a little bit Lululemon, but this is still Albuquerque, so I kind of fit in with my Target yoga pants and ironic t-shirt. I don't hold a lot of truck with places like this, but the class is free and I don't mind a good sweat.
We head in and I set up a yoga mat. I haven't touched a yoga mat in like ten years. It's super hot in there and I put contacts in because me sweating + glasses + inverting my head = no bueno.
The instructor is a young guy wearing nothing but muscles and low slung gym shorts. The guy to my right is also muscley and wearing low-slung gym shorts. I feel lumpy, but not too lumpy.
Teacher says the class will be in silence, then puts on music. I don't know any tai chi and by the end of the class I still don't. The music is vaguely Asian inspired. We do the forms, over and over again. As usual I work too hard at first and go all out for everything. Teacher squats deep on his right leg, left leg out to the side and I do too, no hands. Then back up to standing on one foot. No problem. Bad. Ass.
As the forms go on, I get tired. There are reasons he is muscley and I am lumpy. My feet get tired from gripping the floor. My legs are tired from squatting. I am tired. I am sweaty.
Calisthenics follows. I rest my head on the extremely warm floor as everyone else does plank position.
Then on to the deep stretching. Teacher says someone requested hips and I think to myself: Hips! I can do this! as a joke because I have enormous hips. Then I realize we're doing hip *stretches* and actually, I AM good at it. For all the times I have felt inflexible, hips are not the problem. We sit in pigeon pose and my foot goes to sleep because I've leaned over so far. We sit cross legged and I lean over til my head is on the floor. We sit in butterfly and my face pushes gently between my feet...then I stretch it further out. I'm sweating so much I can measure my stretch by where the drips fall.
Anyway, my legs are falling asleep like whoa when finally we sit up. Then we lay down for guided meditation. I can barely lay flat because my hip flexors are kind of stuck in their folded up position.
I look up and realize I've been directly under an enormous ray-gun-from-the-future space heater the whole time. Teacher asks if we made a new year's resolution, which obviously is the reason we're all there on January 6.
His voice is measured but not soft or treacly. He guides us to choose a resolution that will help us be better people and I think: Huh, my main resolution is writing. When he asked, that's the one that popped up. So, we're laying there breathing really hard and sweating and I'm thinking about writing and wondering how that relates to sweating so much. Maybe I'm just high on endorphins, but I begin to think: breathe in experience, breathe out words. Breathe in sensation, breathe out words. Writing is a process of experiencing, digesting, sharing. It's a cycle like breathing and I can get behind that.
I think about writing and I get an image of loose cotton wisps being brushed away, unimaginably light obstructions. Quantity and ease, not quality and struggle. Creating space and letting the seed grow. I know you just threw up in your mouth a little bit because all of this shit is awful and trite but that's how it felt.
Then he asks: What is your favorite color? Behind my eyelids blooms the deepest cloudless New Mexico blue sky. Tears spring to my eyes, a convulsion of recognition and grief. He says, when you see this color, think of your resolution. When you see it, let it guide you, no matter how much you don't want to do it or how many times you forget. Why blue, I think. What does a deep, painful, cloudless sky give? I breathe and sweat some more and then I remember the void, Yves Klein's obsession with blue being a void. Yves Klein jumping off a building. Bluewater diving. The void in The Wheel of Time, the void in meditation, the quietness of the editorial voice shutting down. Pure, deep, mysterious, overwhelming blue.
I imagined writing first thing every day. I imagined the blue sky in New Mexico and in Minnesota. Every day I will see it and I will write. I will get up in the morning and seek the blue void. I will remember that the desire to write is the calm blue unending sky and not the tempestuous gray sea or the glimmering green leaves. It is a big endless bowl and it is mine to drink from.
What it really comes down to is even a guy in short shorts can make you cry during guided meditation if you're ready and willing. Even an unemotional, ridiculous, unlikely tai chi class can crack the nut that is ready to be cracked.