So I’ve been teaching this yoga class. My beloved friend Jennie bequeathed it to me shortly after I met her, which was shortly after we moved to Wichita. (I showed up at her yoga studio, two hours later she came over for tea, I gave her granola, we went for a swim in the pool, we announced ourselves New Best Friends.)
The yoga class I’m teaching is out east at the Wichita Country Club, 6:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. The first time Jennie drove me there, she turned to me in the parking lot. “Hey, wanna teach today?” A goofy grin slathered itself over my face. I’d never taught yoga before, but I’d been planning to. If I dove in without the option of preparation, how could I possibly be nervous?
It was fun. It was a little scary. It was a (thankfully) small class.
The second time I prepared, of course. I pored studiously over the notes Willa sent me. I typed up my sequence for class. I memorized it. Teaching that class was fun, too.
It was less fun arriving home afterward, because David likes to leave for work by 7:00. (We’re a single car couple. Usually it works.) Leaving at 7:33 caused all sorts of stress for him. He barely arrived in time, had to deal with buses in the parking lot, and started his day feeling behind.
So yesterday morning I had a Clever Plan. Ride my bike to Jennie’s. Borrow her car. (What are New Best Friends for, right?) Jennie would ride my bike to teach her 7:30 class at Urban Oasis. I’d drive back to Urban Oasis to meet her and retrieve my bike.
My Clever Plan didn’t work precisely the way I expected it to.
It started with a wrong turn on the way to Jennie’s. It was 5:20 a.m., dark, and I was riding a new route. (Riding the river walk early in the morning seemed like a Questionable Plan. You’d agree if you saw the underbellies of the bridges along the river.)
I would have called David to look up the route for me, but my phone charger died two nights ago, and with it my phone. (I ordered a new charger. I didn’t pay for expedited shipping. I’m cheap like that.)
I stopped in the middle of a (mostly) deserted street and realized I was pointed the wrong direction. I touched base with a tough-looking guy who happened to be the only other person nearby. (Usually I’d feel nervous about talking to a tough-looking guy at 5:20 a.m. in the dark on a (mostly) deserted street. But what’s a girl to do? My primal urge to Not Be Late overpowered my usual sensibilities. I have an incredibly powerful primal urge to Not Be Late.) The tough-looking guy was friendly. He agreed I should turn around.
Back on track, I zoomed along dimly lit roads, the beacons on my bike blinking me forward like a large, caffeinated firefly. Then I hit a hefty bump, and my bike started making a Terrible Noise. I pulled over. What had happened? My bike rack seemed less stable than before. Perhaps a screw had fallen off? Perhaps. But the chain wasn’t clicking into place properly. I couldn’t see what had happened. It was dark. (Have I mentioned this?)
I rode on. I stopped a few more times along the way to peer at the shadowed machinery of my bicycle. (Even in broad daylight, comprehending machinery isn’t my strong suit.)
Meanwhile, my mind raced. I’m probably waking up people in every house I pass. (It truly was a Terrible Noise.) Will Jennie be able to ride this bike to her studio? Am I a despicable New Best Friend for leaving her a Terrible Noise-Making Bike? What time is it? Why don’t I wear a watch? (Because I usually have my cell phone.) Why is my cell phone dead on this oh-so-rare occasion when I need it to call David for help? Why didn’t I pay for expedited shipping? Why are we a single car couple? What if I’m LATE?
At Jennie’s, there was a little more light. I tucked my yoga towel underneath the rack, and the bike made less of its Terrible Noise. I locked my bike to the tree and found her key in its hiding place. I got in the car and drove.
In the car, I remembered a favorite Hafiz poem.
What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
Repeating this poem in my head helped at the red lights. It helped along the section of 13th Street that is almost entirely orange spiky cones. (I took this picture weeks ago. The cones seemed both confining and significant then, too.)
Let me be clear. The Hafiz poem helped. It did not fix the problem. I was neither Tripping over Joy nor bursting out in Laughter. I just suspected that I would be. Eventually.
After a few minutes of poem-remembering, I began praying to the clock on Jennie’s dashboard. Please be five minutes fast. Please be five minutes fast.
At 6:02, when I arrived at the Country Club, my prayer was not just answered but surpassed. I was so agitated that I almost walked into a window instead of the main entrance, but I got into the yoga room at 5:57. Jennie’s dashboard had been seven minutes fast.
I was relieved, of course, but the class was significantly larger than before, and I taught in a semi-frazzled state. It didn’t help that I hadn’t prepared much. I had a beautiful playlist and led what might have been perceived as a lovely class, but beneath it all a cruel voice was murmuring in my head, You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence.
Back at Urban Oasis, I joined the second half of Jennie’s 7:30 class. We breathed and moved and I thought about Hafiz. If only surrender would make its way from my brain into my body.
After class, I examined my bicycle. The problem was obvious in sunlight. A screw had fallen off, and the dislodged rack was scraping against the chain. No big deal.
It was only 8:30, but it had already been a long day. I gave my New Best Friend a hug and headed home. In the parking lot of my apartment building, I realized that I hadn’t returned her car key.
At this point, I was on the brink of tripping over joy. I was almost ready to burst out in laughter. I turned my bike around, thankful that it’s a short ride to Urban Oasis.
I believe life often offers perfect outward metaphors for our inward condition. Remember when Stoneridge was going through its difficult merger to the tune of construction noise?
My current reality is a Clever Plan undergoing a series of moderately distressing hitches. Wrong turns, Terrible Noises, dim lighting, orange spiky cones. Except these particular hitches are all in my head. Do you really think you’ll ever make money writing? How do you expect to pay for this yoga teacher training? Why not find a normal job already? You get the idea. You are a fraud. A fraudy fraud fraud fraught with fraudulence.
In Hafiz’s infinitely more eloquent words, I still think I have a thousand serious moves.
On the second ride home from Urban Oasis, I took a picture of a church marquis. “Home in the Heart of the City.” The surrender was seeping in at this point. It’s true, I thought. I might be scared and clueless, but I am home.
I gave up on making serious moves, at least for the day. I began to savor small things, like the warmth of clean laundry on my hip.
I sat down at last with Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, a gift from my friend Andrew. The first pages were so luscious that I took out a pencil to start underlining.
I made David’s favorite blueberry coffee cake while listening to a podcast that made me weep with hope for the Christian church.
Hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber reminded me of grace. She reminded me that the voice saying fraudy fraud fraud has a good point, and that’s where God comes in.
Speaking of God, could there be ecstasy more pure than the ecstasy of a cat receiving a hearty brushing? Sometimes I don’t need my questions answered. Sometimes I just need Gus to purr like the cosmic engine he is.
Late in the afternoon, I gave my bicycle a temporary fix, just in time to ride to my first hula class.
That’s right. Hula.
Last week I met a woman at Urban Oasis who’s in a hula troupe. They rehearse at a studio a mile down the street.
Elisa, the teacher, has never been to Hawaii. “Thank God for Youtube,” she said. I grew up taking hula in Kailua-Kona, and you’d never know Elisa hadn’t done the same.
It’s been 16 years since I rehearsed ‘ami and hela and kahele, but my hips remembered it all. If you know what my hips have been through in the past year, you’ll understand why I was grinning like a buffoon the whole bike ride home.
The day started with a Clever Plan. It ended with a homecoming. Somewhere between the wrong turn and hula class, I surrendered.
Nice chess game, God.