“It’s not that I don’t want the art that my body can make. It’s just that sometimes it’s been too hard to get there.”
On asking our bones and muscles what they need, and pausing to listen to them before we launch ourselves out of bed in the morning. Also- our bodies as complicated sewing machines, and fiddling around in our guts with tweezers.
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 25 November 2023.
I lay still in bed this morning, unmoving.
Listening closely to every rise and fall of breath, to every shift. To every little thing that my body had been trying so hard to tell me for weeks, and I kept saying no, not now. Later.
My body is not to be ignored.
It was getting louder. Interrupted nights of sleep, anxieties. Plaguing fears, some real, some imagined. Some based in some long gone truth. And I lay there this morning and listened. I lay there this morning and felt my spine move once, twice. On the third move, the plaguing pain that arced out of my hip and ran down halfway to my knee, eased, and then stopped. By the fifth click, I could feel my shoulders again.
I wondered, as I lay there, why I had been silent so long. Why I had ignored what I already knew: that each one of these clicks was a piece of art.
I have a very fancy serger. A serger is a specialized kind of sewing machine. It wraps the edge of the fabric in thread as you go. So that the fabric stays whole. Without protection, the edges of woven things come undone. Without protection, things come undone.
So it does this very specialized work. But to do this very specialized work, it often needs three, four, even more needles. And in order to thread those needles through the complex workings of the machines, historically, traditionally, one has needed patience and time, and wisdom and practice. And a pair of tweezers.
And a pair of tweezers.
I did not want the pair of tweezers, so for the longest time I did not have a serger. And then one company decided they were going to solve this problem. I don't know exactly why they decided to solve the problem. But I imagine it has something to do with an aging clientele. And so a few years back, they figured out how to connect the beginning to the end with these little air tubes.
So when you want to thread it, you put the threads partway through- the easy part. And then you turn this knob or a lever and it pops these tubes into place. And then you push a button and it literally blows the threads across. It uses air, pressure, wind- it uses wind to place the threads. And then there they are, right at the foot of the needles.
I hear rumors that the new version of this machine actually threads the needles, too. And then they're just there and you can just sew. You can just do the creative thing you were put here to do, that you put yourself here to do. You sat down in front of the machine to make maybe leggings or a tunic or a t shirt or a ball gown. And you can do it. Just like that. Without an hour and a half of setup time.
And when you want to do something slightly different, you don't have to go through a resetting-up that takes as long as the task or longer.
I imagine they did some very sophisticated customer research and discovered that the reason people don't use sergers is not because they don't want what the serger does, it's because it was too hard to get there. And I would venture, I would venture, that my body is much the same thing.
It's not that I don't want the art that my body can make. It's just that sometimes it's been too hard to get there. So how can I make it easier to get there? Well, one of the ways I can make it easier is by lying in bed for an extra hour. By not springing out of bed right away. By lying in bed for an extra hour. Until that lover flips, and those tubes pop into place. And everything can flow. The thread is just there.
Unfortunately, complicatedly, life is not usually like that, for most of us. Most of us don't have the option of the flipping of the lever and the tubes going in place. Not because we don't have the lever and the tubes.
I believe we all have the lever and the tubes. It's not because we don't have it. It's because even that couple of seconds of threading the beginning- the part before the lever- that few seconds of threading the beginning. And then remembering that the lever is there, that we don't have to fiddle around in our guts with a pair of tweezers.
And that we can just flip the lever and wait. And press the button and hear the wind and wait. Take a breath and hear the wind. Feel the wind in our lungs. Even that little tiny thing sometimes feels insurmountably large. Feels like too much. Feels impossible.
It's nobody's fault that it feels impossible. It feels impossible because of large, intricate systemic challenges. There are boulders and sometimes we don't have wings. But... But it is only five minutes. One of the challenges of living in the world is that sometimes things feel infinitesimally small and sometimes things feel enormous. And when things feel infinitely large, it is hard to begin them.
I have talked before about dishes and how they take five minutes but it feels like they take half an hour. This is another thing that only takes five minutes. Five minutes. That's maybe... what? Five tiktoks. Five medium length Facebook posts. One substack. The time it takes to bemoan the fact that it's time to get out of bed.
You can go ahead and bemoan while you're listening. It's okay to multitask this one if you need to. But take the extra three seconds, five seconds, to get comfortable. Sometimes I have slept an entire night on wadded up sweatshirts, pillows, stuffed animals, sheets, blankets. Instead of taking the five minutes to straighten them out. Not even- it feels like it takes five minutes. It takes 30 seconds.
I have 30 seconds to straighten my pillow, to make my night comfortable. Do I believe that I deserve that 30 seconds of attention? Do I believe that I can engage 30 seconds of tending to myself, my own needs... without becoming so awake and alert that I can't sleep? What do I believe about myself? Who am I?
It has been several years since I remembered that I can listen to my body. I knew intellectually the whole time, of course I did. But it has been several years since I have remembered it in my bones. And this winter- as the winter is coming on properly, there is frost on the grass. As the sun rises, low and oblique, I throw the curtains open every morning to drink in the heat. Every little bit counts. And my office is now the warmest room in the house.
In this first proper winter in six or seven years- and not proper by Maine standards, but there are seasons here. The leaves have turned and fallen. In this first proper winter in six or seven years, I can feel my bones returning. I can feel the ocean even an hour away.
I can feel. I can feel again.
And so this morning, I lay still in bed and inquired of my muscles and bones: what will you have? What do you need? And they slowly clicked into place.