Some mornings began with me leaving the bed to bend into a down dog, stretching away the night’s tightness. I’d stand and create triangles and trees with my body moving through a twenty-minute routine to end in Corpse pose. Often in the evenings, I’d grab a bolster and slide my legs up the wall to relieve the day’s tension. After twenty years, I still can’t stand on my head nor balance on my shoulders. I can’t explain the sutras beyond ‘they’re about a way of life.” I can, however, say this practice calms my mind, focuses my breath, stretches my muscles, and fills my heart.
I’ve been writing professionally since my twenties. For newspapers, magazines, arts organizations, state bureaucracies, and more than a few universities. Finally, in my fourth decade, I am writing for myself because writing is another practice that calms my mind, stretches my brain muscles, and fills my heart.
Yet, while my heart is full, my ego continues to strive for perfection, long conditioned to believe that the goal is preeminent, and the practice is just pastime. I asked myself if I’d missed my creative peak on this highway of life. Had I gone right past it in my hurry to publish a book?
Recently, after a solitary walk on the beach I was convinced my writing life was over. I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, and I had spent too much time reading about writing and not enough time writing.
It was a glancing blow to my ego to say that because many great writers, storytellers, wordsmiths, publishers, and people of all kinds declared as I did, I’m going to write a book about this someday. Folks who, like me, gave it their all and failed. That same ego declared when I began yoga that I’d be doing headstands someday, until the fear of a tumble kept me earthbound.
Someday has arrived.
I’m in the second half of my life and happily so, I’ll add. Here’s why.
Theologian Richard Rohr writes in Falling Upward (2014) that most people think of this time of life as “largely about getting old, dealing with health problems, and letting go of physical life.” And I did, at thirty, but now, with experience, I find this that stage of my life is really about so much more than the physical aging of my body. It’s about the growth in my soul.
A quick recap. Someday arrived. I haven’t published my novel. It’s sits, draft three, shelved among the books about writing and books written by others. I have osteoporosis, arthritis, wrinkles, and grey hair (well, it’s moonbeam with an underlayer of bright blue). And I cannot do a headstand.
But I found affirmation.
I learned that the writing of my novel was more important than the publishing of the book.
I discovered that reaching for the ceiling each morning pretending I’m a tree is more satisfying than standing on my head.
It’s the practice, padawan.
Writing and yoga are practices that provide a living income for some, not me. I practice for my health. Mental health. Heart health. Spiritual health.
Rohr characterizes this stage of life as the time to ‘fall upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found it fullness…connected to the whole…”
So that’s my life for my sixties and beyond. My yoga plan is to practice daily and enjoy the feeling of breath moving with movement. Not a day passes without words forming my story in my head or on paper. At least until my ego awakens and screams at me to publish the book and stand on my head. At which point, I’ve found three sun salutes in rapid succession can shove the ego back into its appropriate sleeping place.
Kate M. Carey writes from Lexington and Surf City, NC.