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February 2010

January 2010

Double Dare: The Brooklyn Version

Do you remember this show? I do, vaguely. Kids would compete for some kid-approved prize by completing grueling obstacle courses. Inevitably, if they did manage to finish, they would emerge from some sort of tunnel covered in egg yolk, slime, and limp noodles, victorious and eager to accept their booty.

The reason I bring up this random show, is because most, if not all of the time, running errands in New York often feels like an adult version of Double Dare - minus the egg yolk and the coveted prize. Instead of cash and a new television, your reward is clean laundry or a stocked refrigerator. Great, thanks.

Yesterday I set out to do my laundry. My laundromat is about 4 blocks away. I gather my mounds of dirty clothes. I decide that yes, I will wash my duvet cover, even though removing it from its comforter companion is akin to running about 4 miles. Why it requires so much energy, I have no idea, but when I finally do separate these two goliaths, I am sweaty, out of breath, and covered in feathers (hello - Double Dare!) I regroup and carry the granny cart (my Brooklyn version of an SUV) down my three flights of stairs. I return up the stairs to bring the laundry bags down. Back downstairs, I wrestle them into the cart, only to realize that I have left the detergent in the apartment. I mumble to myself. Five minutes later, I am back downstairs, detergent in hand. Let's do this.

Rolling into the laundromat, I am immediately filled with dread. Why are there so many mother-loving people in here!?! It's as though everyone in the boro of Brooklyn is doing their laundry. My heart races. I look desperately around for two empty machines. One on the far right, and one on the far left end. I muscle my way into the fray, practically mauling a small Chinese boy in the process. I cram my clothes, sheets, towels and monster duvet into them at the speed of light; somehow convinced that if I pause for even a second, someone quicker will rip my belongings out and use my machines for their own pleasure. This may sound crazy, but anyone who has forgotten about their clothes in a New York dryer can attest to the horror of seeing their freshly laundered belongings stuffed angrily into some random cart. You snooze, you lose in this fair city. And, strange people fondle your underwear. But - back to the moment - I've done it. My stuff is securely in the washers, and soon it will be in the drier. I, super productive human that I am, will go to the gym while my clothes dry. The granny cart will serve as an air dryer for two white shirts that, if thrown into the drier, will fit me like sausage casings. The worst is over. I have conquered phase one of Saturday laundry.

I arrive back from the gym just in time to see that I have one minute drying time left. I congratulate myself on my timing. Oops, turns out the monster duvet actually turned into a duvet burrito inside the dryer. Still wet, I shove it back in for 20 minutes, Annoying, but not the end of the world. 'Runaway Bride' is on the postage sized television, and a table is open for folding. At last, a half hour later, my cart is ready to roll. I am overjoyed by the concept of clean underwear.

One block, two blocks, three blocks, so close to home. Then: a bump. My shins smack into the cart and it tumps over - my white shirts poised to take the brunt of the fall. I yell an obscenity. I pick the cart up and survey the damage. Without a word, I turn around and wheel the cart back four blocks to the laundromat, throw the shirts back into the washer, wait a half hour for them to be done, roll those four damn blocks back again with a watchful eye, take the laundry bags out of the cart, climb the three sets of stairs to my apartment, go back down to retrieve the cart and repeat the process, and then - THEN - I am done.

And what is my prize?? Wrestling my comforter BACK into the duvet. Awesome.

"Yoga People"

Well, here I am. Cup of coffee: check. Sense of purpose: check. Self-consciousness: check.

Actually, this is not so different from the way I felt the first time I was in a yoga class -- minus the coffee. I had joined a friend who was super into it - mostly because she had been practicing for a few months and her butt had gone from good to great. She looked fantastic, and I, well, did not. It had been a long winter of red wine and dairy products. Beyond her taut bottom, I had noticed a difference in the way she carried herself. Shoulders back, face open, eyes bright. In sharp contrast, I was, more often than not, hunched against the February wind, scowling and blood-shot. I wanted to do whatever she was doing. When I asked her what was up, she told me about her new devotion to yoga.

My heart fell. I was not "a yoga person". Yoga people drank water out of tin bottles they kept on them at all times. They had "The Artist's Way" committed to memory and were vegan. They had a gentle touch and never did things like break their brand new coffee decanter against the same spot in the sink once a month because they were washing it too roughly (seriously, the people at Bed, Bath & Beyond know me at this point). They didn't even drink coffee. They drank green tea. This was not me.

My friend rolled her eyes as I concluded my list of reasons why I could not do yoga. "Quit being such a cynical scardey-cat and just try it once," she said. I pouted, but gave in. That night, thinking about the class I had decided to take the next evening, I obsessed over the fact that I had no proper yoga clothes. I would look  like a geek in my running gear and everyone would laugh at me.

I arrived at the studio like a deer in headlights. As I paid for my class, I surveyed my surroundings. Not so bad. A little twee in that San Fran, boho hippie kind of way, but not offensively so. I changed into my running shorts and t-shirt, cringing as I watched the other women in the dressing room pull on their various forms of slinky gear. It felt like my first day of kindergarten - when I showed up with a generic backpack in a sea of Dukes of Hazzard, Care Bear and Strawberry Shortcakes. I reminded myself that I was no longer in kindergarten, but a grown-ass woman. I ran the New York Marathon. I earned the right to wear these shorts no matter what the occasion. These Gwyneth wannabees could suck it.

Once in the studio, I waited for the teacher to arrive. While I was coiled on my mat with the ease of a threatened cobra snake (What do I do now? Do I stretch? Lay on my back? Attempt a headstand?), my classmates seemed to be taking that time to relax. They sat on their folded blankets with their eyes closed, no doubt thinking about things like Gandhi and tempeh. I tried to do the same, but only ended up wondering about what to have for dinner. I could pick up a salad, but I really shouldn't spend the money...What is wrong with me? What is so hard about cutting vegetables myself? How lazy am I? I should have pre-cut them all this weekend, so that they would be ready, but what did I do instead? Watched an Intervention marathon, that's what. Thankfully, I was saved by the voice of the teacher, who had walked in while I was spiraling into madness.

The details of the class from that point on blur a bit. I liked the teacher. I liked her voice, and that she began by talking to us about her day in a really open and endearing way that even my raging inner cynic was charmed by. I also noticed that she had breasts - something I had been convinced that yoga people (well, yoga women, that is) did not have. I liked her. I relaxed. We went through the poses, and because I was pretty clueless, I mirrored the woman in front of me. My muscles unclenched for what felt like the first time in months, which was not to say that the positions were easy. I struggled with most, if not all, of them. But it felt good. I let go, and before I  knew it, was lying on my back in a sweaty, blissed-out  haze. There was something to this yoga thing. Who knew?

I left class that night the way I always leave class now - standing taller, smiling and open. It's funny, as I just wrote that, I cringed a bit. It sounds like something "a yoga person" would say, right? Which I guess brings me to my point, if it even is a point. Of course, there are "yoga people" -- people that really identify with the practice and thrive off of the lifestyle. And I've learned that there's nothing wrong with that. It's a good thing for the universe, really, even if sometimes the pretentiousness of some of these people makes me want to scream. However, there are also so many people in a yoga class that simply enjoy the practice; that like the way it makes them feel. It's that simple, really. It's not about the gear or the fact that maybe some of them can balance their entire bodies on their forearms, much to your jealous amazement. It's about feeling good, and taking that feeling with you. Sure, this feeling may be instantaneously diffused by the the fact that your face is in someone's armpit on a crowded subway car afterwards, but at least you were able to hold onto it for a few moments. It really is something.

I feel like I'm rambling. Apologies! It's my first blog and it's early in the morning. Am I supposed to thank you for reading this?? Not sure, but I will anyway. Thanks! Until we meet again....

Balancing Acts

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For these four friends, yoga is just the beginning... 

Fans of The Friday Night Knitting Club and Girls in Trucks will welcome this charming and moving novel about four women—10 years after their college graduation and in the midst of life crises—who help each other balance their former dreams with their present lives through the power of yoga and friendship.

Learn more about this debut novel from author Zoe Fishman...

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