I made two New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not going to tell you what they were. Mostly because I don’t want you to judge me. I will say that one was about not doing something and one was about starting a new practice. Today is January 14. I have kept up the new practice. I was able not to do the other thing for six days. I haven’t given up on it. But I also didn’t keep it. I’m trying not to judge myself, but I think it’s pretty clear that the sheen of the resolution has worn off–it loses its ability to inspire once it has been broken.
We all know that resolutions don’t work. They don’t really change our behavior. I don’t usually make them — maybe one out of every three years I make some resolutions. And yet, there’s something so attractive about the idea that a new year can bring a new you. Just resolving that things will be different can make them so. Much of the critique of New Year’s resolutions amount to a critique of willpower as an effective way to change our lives. We need to engage in practices and projects because willing ourselves to be different does not work. Read more
Any day now I’m going to cry in yoga. I’ve been having this thing happen to me where I’m holding a position and I’m sure I just cannot do it anymore and I have that emotional release that happens when you cry only I don’t cry. I stay in the pose, and it is amazing. Today I had that same feeling but only because I kept falling out of poses that I know I can do and it was so frustrating.
Last week, I had a class that was really frustrating. I didn’t seem to have my balance. Poses that I had felt strong and successful doing in the class before were a struggle. I was annoyed with myself. I already mastered this! Why do I have to deal with this again? Lying there on my mat in shavasana in between poses it occurred to me that this is life–having the same struggle over again even though you mastered it before. Read more
I started school when I was four. At the time, my mom had four kids and I was a particularly active little kid so my mom wanted to get me out of the house. I sound bitter but I’m not upset. This meant that I was a year younger than everyone I went to school with. There were good times. I was married off to other students at recess all through first grade. But as we got older, the difference between being our ages and the meanness of kids just came out. It was a private Christian school, but the kids weren’t nice. By fifth grade I felt left out. Kids refused to speak to me. They made fun of me. I didn’t know what it meant or how to handle any of it. I didn’t know that these were things you talked to a teacher about. It was hard. Still the highlight was the ride back and forth from Olney to West Philly during which the principal who drove us taught us the Hebrew alphabet, which I can still recite.
In the middle of the year, my mother began talking about moving us to public school. I liked the idea of doing something new. My mother talked to my first grade teacher who suggested that she hold me back a year if we switched schools so that I could catch up socially. So she did. I transferred to my local public school. I was in a class that was split 5th and 6th grades. Once I had my mother write a note saying I felt like the 5th graders were being ignored. I was like that. I made friends. Sort of. I was nervous. I didn’t know if people who didn’t go to church with me could be trusted. But mostly the students were kind. Read more
Monday night I went to a high intensity interval training pilates class. During my third minute of elbow planks, I thought I was going to cry. I cried once when I was running a half marathon, when in the last half mile I realized I was going to PR. There’s something about that moment when you think you are reaching your threshold and you just cannot do anymore and then you keep doing it. That moment is where you realize the struggle is mental.
I’m reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It also brings me close to tears. Murakami makes me feel guilty for the times I have stopped because of the pain. He makes me feel bad for being a mid-distance runner and not a long-distance runner. In the pilates class, which is grueling and unlike any pilates I have ever heard of, the teacher berates us for giving up. I understand that. Motivate, push yourself. That’s all good. But I had to learn to pay attention to pain in running and to take it easy–to do what looks like giving up, to stop feeling the exercise as demand.
At one point Murakami talks about the one time he ran an ultramarathon. After mile 34 his breathing felt good but his legs wouldn’t work, so he had to propel himself my moving his arms and hands. Then at mile 47, he broke through a wall. It stopped hurting. He kept going. He ran the next fifteen miles unencumbered. I think I know that feeling. It happens for me three minutes into an elbow plank. It’s when you realize that you can persist through the pain if you tell yourself to just keep on. Read more
Sometimes you need some good gifs. All these gifs include a hand. And there’s one for every occasion. Read more
I joined a yoga studio in the first week of January. It wasn’t even a New Year’s resolution. I tried to make plans with a friend, actually a former student from Bryn Mawr, and she said she was going to the yoga studio she just joined, so I said, ok, I’ll do that. It’s a hot yoga studio, as I mentioned in my post about how hot yoga made me think about cold running again. It’s really hot, like 105º in 40% humidity. The first yoga classes I ever went to were in a Baptiste studio on Walnut right down from the Penn Book Store in University City in Philadelphia. The classes were packed. But it felt like a serious workout. I’d run the mile and a half from my apartment to the studio to get warmed up. I don’t recall ever having had a conversation with a teacher there, except this one time when I was hungover and smelling of cigarette smoke when I must have looked like I was going to fall over and pass out and a teacher looked at me with a kind of smirk and asked me if I was ok. I might have still been drunk. Read more
Yesterday I made a trip to my local Goodwill, which I do semi-regularly. I worked through the racks, examining the degree of wear, looking for stains and holes, checking the brand names. It got me thinking about going to Village Thrift at Broad and Olney in Philadelphia after school – I went to Girls’ High right across the street. I didn’t really like to go. The store always smelled. I was never very good at finding good pieces. My older sister on the other hand was a thrift store force. She was patient. And she was very discerning. I’d run out of energy about a half hour in and want to leave and she’d say ok, and then start looking through another rack that she hadn’t worked through yet. She’d pull out everything that could possibly be worth wearing and then we’d have a cart purge at the back of the store when we were done. Even though I could only stand about a half hour to her hour and a half, there was always such joy in the good find. Read more
People seem generally agreed that 2016 was a crap year. The best people died and the worst people won. In the face of this crappiness, I sat down to think about the happy things of this past year. I made this list before Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died and before a colleague was harassed by white supremacists for mocking their racist concepts and now I don’t have much enthusiasm for sharing it. I’m concerned about focusing on my individual successes in the face of collective adversity. I know that the political losses of this year and the emboldening of the agents of injustice will require vigilance and thoughtfulness for the sake of creating a new and better world. I recall the good things of the year then in the spirit of possibility for doing that work.
- It was my first year as a tenured professor.
- I’m on my first sabbatical.
- We bought a house!
- We moved to a big(gish) city.
- I turned 40.
- Some really great people came to visit.
Leigh Johnson made her way to Indianapolis for a weekend-long jam session.
Villanova in Indiana
Jay Blossom sighting
The Johnsons stopped in all the way from Sharyland, TX.
Happy birthday to me with nieces and nephew who visited us in Indiana for my birthday.
- I had a gloriously sunny Cape May vacation with the nieces and nephews and sisters.
The Nabors kids in Cape May.
- I gave some good talks and got some good feedback on the book project I’m working on.
- I went to the Eastern APA, philoSophia, Ancient Philosophy Society, Wonder and the Natural World, Feminist Ethics, Methodologies, Metaphysics and Science Studies, SPEP, Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, IPA conferences this year.
- I reconnected with old friends in Philadelphia and New York City.
- I attended a dear friend’s wedding.
- I found a running group in Indianapolis.
- I’ve been doing a reading group on some stuff I’ve been thinking about in the background for awhile and am glad to get into deeper.
- I made some new friends in Indianapolis.
I’ve been in close contact with alum from the last three institutions I’ve taught at (Wabash, UTPA, and Bryn Mawr).
Wabash in Broad Ripple
Lunch with Wes Chamblee in South Bend
The celebrity deaths, the lack of indictments for police shootings of Black people, emboldened racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, Brexit, the political situation in Turkey, the surprising election all made it a year of possibilities foreclosed. At the same time, it was for me a year that established new possibilities- a new house, a new city, the tenured life, sabbatical. I’m not entirely sure how to hold these things together. I’m working to make my own new possibilities a place from which to address and resist the foreclosed ones.
The featured image is of the lighthouse at Cape May, NJ, lit by the sun. I leave it here as a metaphorical demand for lighthouses.