The best thing I ever heard in a yoga class was this: Trust the earth to hold you. When lying in shavasana, or corpse pose, surely the easiest of all poses, flat on my back in a neutral position, the teacher would utter those words, and when she did I’d feel my bones settle ever so slightly. Only then would I realize I’d been holding myself in as if every molecule in my body needed to be drawn in tight to hold together. I’d see that I’d been resisting gravity, ignoring the fact that the body will hold itself together just fine without my help. And I noticed that when you let go of holding yourself together and sink your bones into your flesh and your flesh into the ground beneath you, you begin to float just a bit, and remarkable things happen.
I noticed it most recently at the chiropractor where I sought relief from lower back pain, lying face down on the table, electrodes on my back startling my muscles with irregular shocks. I could feel myself tilting downwards, as if I might slide face-first into the floor. But the doctor surely wouldn’t leave me at such a precarious angle, so I willed myself to relax and trust the table to hold me, and the change was remarkable—all at once I felt as if I were flying, hurtling through space. Which, I suppose, we all are, all the time, though we rarely stop to enjoy the sensation.
Walking among the overgrown lilac bushes on Summit Avenue with Moxie in the softly falling snow recently I felt it too, felt my network stretching out their hands to catch me if I should fall, should I ever fall, if I ever dared to fall. But falling feels less likely because I sense those arms outstretched, sensed in the emails that ping in from across the sea and across town, little reminders that I am remembered, I am here, I am loved.
I have dreamt of skidding down a hill on skis beyond my control, only to have a friend reach out and steady me; dreamt also of tumbling out of my single into murky river water, and seen a hand reach out to pull me to the surface. My friends may not have had to fish me out of the drink yet, but there are other kinds of saving, and maybe, in small yet significant ways, they already have.
On E’s birthday in late May I was low, down and moody, unable to smile; could not even locate the muscles to bend into a smile to please the world, and could not have said why. I returned home early from a family outing to the heart of Berlin, and E had returned with me, tired of walking. I sunk into my bed at three in the afternoon and pulled my daughter on top of me like a blanket, my birthday girl who turned eight that very day, and I let her sweet warmth flood me while silent tears streamed down my cheeks past my ears to soak into my pillow, and I could not have said what on earth was wrong, except that I was tired, so very tired, and had forgotten how to live my life. I was sunk in the barrel and unable to climb my way out. I was to have come back to the flat to make my girl a birthday cake, but I’d forgotten about it entirely, and by the time I got up it was too late, two hours spent in this state on a fine May afternoon, lying in bed with my daughter who surely could have spent her waking hours better than that.
Perhaps she saved my life too, little gifts we give we never knew were in our power nor ever meant to give; she never even asked about the missing cake. My friends would fish me out of the river because that’s what you do if someone falls in. Minnesota friends weren’t aware how their emails sustained me while we were gone; rowers did not know that their interest in having me in their boat would one day help me climb out of the clutches of a bed’s gravitational pull, rise, and do what one must.
Saved my life because now I am here, my snow boots clumping along the path, my husky pulling at the leash, the lilacs frozen in a state of grace, chilled and bare and open to the elements, and me with my Berlin secondhand scarf pulled close against my neck. I am here, I am alive, I am remembered, I am loved, I am saved.