Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Boatman and the Maxi Pad

I haven’t worn a Maxi Pad in over a decade.  Almost a decade and a half.  I hate Maxi Pads.  They make you feel like you’re wearing a diaper.  You walk around positive that the whole world can see the little bulge between your crotch, and the sweat that seeps out on either side of your underwear, and that they can smell the smell that comes from… 

When I was 12 years old, I competed in a provincial swim meet in Brantford, Ontario.  The morning before we left, I looked at the brown streaky patterns on my underwear and figured I had more extensive skid marks than usual.  I used to get so nervous before swim meets.  I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night and when I finally did, I’d dream that I was late for my race, and I’d lost my goggles and when I finally dove in after everyone else I’d forget what stroke I was supposed to be doing and I’d put my feet on the bottom and get disqualified.  Once, not in a dream, right before my race, I was standing behind the blocks and I puked gobs of orange juice into my hand.  I walked to the garbage, flung the orange gobs off of my hands, and then squatted down at the side of the pool to rinse them off in the water. The whistle blew and I stood on the blocks. I can't remember if I came in first or second, but I did win some sort of medal.
The morning before provincials, I figured that my nerves were just coming out the other end.   I threw out my underwear, got dressed, walked to the swimming pool that was down the street from me, and hopped on the bus to Brantford.  We stopped at the Tim Horton's/Wendy's rest station along the 401, Then I went to the bathroom and I discovered that the streaks had multiplied, and transformed into a brighter shade of red and they were coming from a different hole than I’d originally thought. 

For a loonie, I bought my first Maxi Pad in the restroom pad dispenser.  It was two inches thick and eight inches long.  All the way to Brantford, I looked out the window and thought of all the women in the world who had to wear Maxi Pads.  I did not feel happy to join the club.
At the hotel room before the swim meet started, the chaperone did her best to explain the logistics of a tampon, using her thumb and index finger as a hole and getting her daughter to insert through in two easy steps. 

I did not understand how there could be so much room up there.  For the tampon, and for other things.  In the bathroom, I made about a dozen attempts.  I limped out into the hotel room with my feet far apart. It felt like there was a knife up my crotch.  There was no way I could do breaststroke kick.  All my races seemed like a long shot.

Everyone knows that you can’t wear a Maxi Pad underneath a bathing suit.  And certainly, you can’t go into the water with one.  Of course I didn’t do that.  Instead I paced around the pool deck with a towel around my waist, praying that a massacre wouldn’t start dripping past my groins.  I jumped into the warm-up pool frequently, since my chaperone had said that for some reason periods didn’t flow while you were in the water.  While waiting behind the blocks for races, I would hope that the official wouldn’t take too long to blow the whistle, and that once we were on the blocks, he wouldn’t take too long to fire the gun.
It took me about eight months to figure out how to use a tampon without feel like I was stabbing my own uterus.  Although you’re not supposed to let tampons clog yourself overnight, once I figured them out, I renounced Maxi Pads right away.

A decade later, I began to bask in the wonders of the diva cup. It’s a silicon cup that you stick up there and it will catch your blood almost all day.  Minimal pollution for the world, less cost for you. And it’s interesting because you get a glimpse of your fertility all at once, before you dump and flush it down the toilet. The set-up is pretty good, but the other night towards the end of my monthly happy bleeding time, I complained to the Boatman that I was tired of sticking my fingers up myself to insert a blood capturing contraption.  He innocently suggested that I use one of the Maxi Pads that a house guest from the summer had left under the bathroom sink.
“No, no, no, no, no!” I proclaimed.

“How bad can it be?” asked the Boatman.  And he procured a Maxi Pad from the package.  After unwrapping it and removing the paper strip on the back, he stuck the pad into his boxers.
"It's not so bad," he said.  "I kind of like it." And then he went to bed. 

A couple of days later, I heard the Boatman laughing in our basement laundry room. 
“What is it?” I asked.  He came upstairs, bringing with him the Maxi Pad that he’d absentmindedly thrown in the washer, and then into the dryer with his boxers. 

 Here are the exquisite photos.

Boatman and Maxi Pad.

Forearm and Maxi Pad.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

"A broken body is not a broken spirit"

Ever since I knew they existed I have been terrified of spinal cord injuries.  Having been active my entire life, I cannot imagine ever not being able to move or feel any part of my body.  One of the most traumatizing events that ever happened to me was someone else’s spinal cord injury.   I was 21.  It happened towards the end of my second year living and working at a l’Arche home, where people with and without intellectual disabilities shared their lives together.  At L'Arche, there was only one woman who had a physical disability as well as an intellectual disability.  Her name was Isabelle, and I’ve written about her a few times before.  Isabelle didn’t have a spinal cord injury, but she was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that comes in all sorts of manifestations.  For Isabelle, it meant that she was mostly paralyzed and needed help eating and changing her clothes and brushing her teeth.  She always sat in her wheelchair or lay on her bed with her hands held out to the side, her fists clenched and her  forearms forming 45 degree angles with the sides of her body.  Sometimes she said, “aaaa-aaa-aaa,” and often she laughed and smiled looked up with her eyes.  Looking up with her eyes meant “Yes.”  Looking down to the right-hand corner of her eyes meant, “No.”  She hardly ever said no.  Most of the time she was smiling and laughing and looking up. 
Isabelle at the river
It was easy to make Isabelle laugh and smile and look up more.  I knew all of her favourite songs.  I think everyone thought they did, though we were always singing different songs to her. Her very favourite was the ABC’s but she also liked Puff the Magic Dragon, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” James Taylor, the Beatles, Christmas carols all year round, and anything about Jesus.  Isabelle also liked it when you talked about her friends.

 Her favourite friend’s name was a like magic word.  If you talked about Elizabeth*, Isabelle would squeal and laugh, squeeze her hands close to her sides and look up with her eyes, over and over again.  "Yes, Yes Yes."  Elizabeth was a teacher at the Montreal School for the Blind where Isabelle went to school.  For around thirty years, she’d taught children like Isabelle, taking them swimming, singing them songs, reading to them, and helping them to communicate and gain as much independence as possible.  Though Isabelle had been in her class a number of years back, Elizabeth made the effort to keep in touch, stopping by Isabelle’s classroom regularly and organizing visits to Isabelle’s home.  During her visits, she’d drink tea and eat cake, take Isabelle for walks and read her poems. Elizabeth also recorded Isabelle tapes of her reading stories and poems.   She had a soft voice and lovely British accent.
“Hi Isabelle,” the tapes would begin.  “It’s Elizabeth.  I’m going to read you some poems.”  Isabelle loved Elizabeth's voice and she loved everything that rhymed.  One of her favourite Elizabeth tapes had Elizabeth reading William Blake’s songs of innocence and experience.  At the lines, “Tyger Tyger Burning Bright, in the forests of the night,” Isabelle would crack into joyful hysterics. 

Back when I used to live in the home, Isabelle cried about once a year, when all her friends went home from her birthday party.  All we needed to do to make her feel better was put on the Elizabeth tape. 
One Wednesday evening in the spring, I biked back to the home in pouring rain at the end of my day off.  Nathalie, my Francophone house leader was washing the dishes in the kitchen. “Quick,”  she said. “ Read the letter on the fridge.  I don’t know what it means.  It’s about Elizabeth.”  In my soaking wet clothes, I ran to the fridge. Over five years later, I have the letter memorized. 
On Saturday afternoon Elizabeth Freeman went for a bike ride and somehow crashed.  She endured several jaw fractures, but more important, was injured to the spine.  She has already had several operations and although it is too soon to make a prognosis, she may have done permanent damage.

For weeks, this letter was all that I thought about.  Why would this happen to someone who had devoted her life to empowering children who use wheelchairs?  Why would she have to be in a wheelchair too?  It was too absurd, too ironic.  I was devastated for Elizabeth, but also terrified for the fate of my own spine.  I rode my bike every day. It was just a matter of time before I would become injured to the spine too. 

 A month or so later, Isabelle was graduating from her school, since all the students graduated the year of their 22nd birthday.  We’d prepared cake and a thank you song for all of the teachers.  It rhymed and was to the tune of "Puff the magic dragon."  The teachers were touched and delighted.  Isabelle had been a big star at the school.
Still at the rehabilitation hospital, Elizabeth hadn’t been able to make it.  But she made Isabelle a tape for Isabelle to listen to at her party.  I have the words of the tape memorized too.

 “Hi Isabelle,” she said.  You could still hear her British accent, but her voice was a bit muffled.  As soon as she heard her voice, Isabelle started smiling and looking up.  “If I sound a little funny, it’s because my jaw is stuck together with wires and an elastic band.  As you know a little while ago, I had a bad, bad bicycle accident.  I was riding long and my bicycle hit a bump.  I went flying over the handlebars and landed on my back.”  Matter of factly, she went on to say that she couldn’t feel or move her legs.
“So like you Isabelle, I have a wheelchair.  And the people here use a lift to get me out of my bed and into my wheelchair.  It was scary at first, but I’ll get used to it.” She said that her arms got tired from pushing herself in her wheelchair, but that too she’d get used to.  Then Elizabeth said that she was sorry she couldn’t make it to Isabelle’s good-bye party, and that they’d have to get together sometime soon.  Isabelle laughed and looked up.

“Yes, Isabelle,” Elizabeth said. “Some day when it’s really nice outside we’ll get together and we’ll go for a walk.  I don’t know how, but we’ll manage some way.” 
Since that party, Isabelle and I have had several visits with Elizabeth.  She’s truly a delightful woman. At one point there was hope that the swelling in her spine would go down and allow for more movement and sensation, but that window of possibility has probably passed. 

“Of course, I would love to walk,” she said to me.  “But I know that people can have valuable and enjoyable lives in a wheelchair.”  Then she looked over at Isabelle.  “Right Isabelle.”  And Isabelle laughed and said yes with her eyes. 
A couple of times, Isabelle, Elizabeth and I went swimming.  Elizabeth was lowered into the water on the chair lift first.   Isabelle went next and I waited to catch her in the water.  Before her accident, Elizabeth had taken children like Isabelle swimming so many times.  She would have loved to help Isabelle swim again.  But how could she if she couldn’t make her feet touch the bottom? Elizabeth didn’t complain, but I just thought of all the other people in the world who would never think of taking Isabelle swimming.  It wasn’t fair. To this day, I might be less accepting of the whole ordeal than Elizabeth is.

After I moved out of the house for people with disabilities, I started to practice Ashtanga yoga every day.  Although having the opportunity to practice was a total grace, I remember feeling immensely conflicted about it.  Headstands, backbends, all this was meant to take me deeper into myself.  But how could they be that important when other people couldn’t walk?  How could these postures relieve my suffering when wonderful, giving people like Elizabeth were stuck in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives?  What will happen when I fall off my bike and everything goes to shit? 
Over five years after beginning a daily yoga practice, I try to be grateful for my life and my body as it is right now.  Despite this, I often feel frustrated by my body’s trivial limitations, and terrified that all of its abilities will be taken away.  And I feel guilty for feeling all this, because it seems shallow and not very spiritual. 

Yesterday, I came across this beautiful TED talk by Janine Shepherd, an Olympic hopeful who was severely injured during a training bike ride.  

I highly recommend that you watch Janine’s magnificent story.  Her talk is called, “A broken body is not a broken spirit.”  It's a really good reminder.
The End.

*Name has been changed for privacy.  If you meet Isabelle and would like to know the real magic word, let me know and I'll tell you.

Isabelle looking angelic.
A broken body is not a broken spirit. And what does broken mean anyways.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go by Erica J. Schmidt

Erin Ball, My Favourite Acrobat
Not Separate From All That Is
My Life's Purpose
What People Really Need 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Three Outstanding Gifts to Purchase Your Loved Ones on Black Friday

If you are going shopping on Black Friday, my first advice to you is do not get killed at Walmart. Now that that's out of the way, I will tell you what you should buy.

Nearly a month ago, I reached the auspicious age of 27.  This is a multiple of 108 and the total of 3 cubed and I am very happy about it.  I was also very happy about the thoughtful and generous gifts that the Boatman presented me with.  27 years old, more than a decade into my yoga career, and I am not beyond presents.  Oh well.  I'm okay with that.
Here are the gifts from the Boatman.

Item One:  Prestigious Literature
The featured book is called "I Heart Female Orgasm."  It is an extraordinary orgasm guide by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller, a couple who have experienced and inspired many female orgasms all across America and in their own bedroom.  As you see in the picture, the pages have astounded and blown me away.  Here's a link where you can buy it: HEARTING FEMALE ORGASM  Dan Savage once said that God didn't put an exclamation point at the end of the Female Orgasm.  Well, sometimes he or she does, and sometimes he or she doesn't.  This book helps us learn how and why.

Item Number Two:  A toy. 
This toy was made by "California Exotic Novelties."  Maybe you can guess what it is and give yourself a prize.  The Boatman bought it at Halifax's excellent sexual merchandise and book store Venus Envy, located on 1598 Barrington Street.  A couple months ago, I tried to sign up for a workshop there on the Extraordinary Female Orgasm, but not enough people signed up!  Sad.  And yet the fallatio workshop was full.  Figures.  Well, maybe next time.
Item Number Three:  More Prestigious Literature

This captivating book is called, "What's your poo telling you," and it's written by Josh Richman and Anish Seth, M.D.  The Boatman has never dated anyone as fascinated with poo as I am.  He knew I would love this book and he was right.  On the front cover, the authors promise "Loads of facts about your health."  And They honour this promise and I have no complaints.  Each short chapter holds a wealth of information about the myriad variations of scatological formations that you may witness before flushing.  Following a compelling description, Dr. Stool weighs in on the potential causes of your poop situation be it a Monster Poo, Rambo Poo, a Sneak Attack, Déjà Poo, Soft Serve, Number Three, Camouflage Poo, or Many Many More.
Here's Dr. Stool's website

Perhaps you've heard the yogis say that the optimal stool should float, and that a sinking stool contains toxins.  Well, Dr. Stool suggests that the reasons for floating are Gas and Fat.  So maybe the sinkers aren't so bad.  That's a relief.
Ashtangis planning on going to Mysore might benefit from this book as their innards adapt to the new and exciting climate.  Just a thought.

And on that note, I'll leave you with a nice excerpt from "What's Your Poo Telling You?"
It's possible that if you've already been to India, you'll be able to relate to this type of Poop: Number Three.
Also known as Butt Piss, Liquid Poo, The Runs, Oil Spill, Hershey Squirts....  And let's save the other synonyms for when you buy the book!
Here's the Low-Down from page 40:

"Number Three 
Although you know that you need to sit down for this rear deposit, Number Threes come in a liquid form and have little to no texture.  When passing one, you feel as if you are urinating from the wrong side.  A Number Three is often a violent discharge, sometimes with very little warning, and may often be accompanied by tremendous gaseous emissions.  As you feel its sudden onset, your sense of relief that you made it to the toilet in time is quickly replaced by the ill feeling associated with the release of a Number Three.  The explosiveness is so severe that it often results in brown splatter hitting the underside of the toilet seat.  At times, the splatter is so great that you have to wipe remnant off your butt cheeks when you are finished. Number Threes are not pleasant." 

Well said, as far as I'm concerned.  Get your own copy of WIYPTY and read Dr. Stool's eloquent explanation of Number Threes.  In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to the American folks, and it wouldn't hurt to Look Before you Flush!
The End.

Thank you so much to my love the Boatman for these delightful gifts.
What's Your Poo Telling You?

Twitter: @mypelvicfloor  

Saturday, 3 November 2012

No One Could Have Given More: In Loving Memory of John T. Smith

I just attended the funeral of a lovely man named John Smith.  Despite his extremely common name, John was an extraordinary person who I met while I was teaching and practicing at the local yoga shala. He died quite unexpectedly at age 59, of a brief and sudden illness.   

The church where the funeral was held was absolutely packed.  John clearly touched many many people.  
When they played the hymns, you could hardly hear anyone singing because everyone was crying. 

At the yoga studio, John practiced in the far left-hand corner, next to the window.  In warm, or at least reasonably uncatastrophic weather, he took his bike, which he also took on treks across a number of countries, along with his dear wife.  Whenever I subbed Mysore, I would arrive on my own bike at the very last minute.
“You don’t know what quarter to six means, do you?” he’d joke.  Then he would watch in feigned annoyance as I struggled to unlock the door.  John greeted everyone with a bright face and sincere interest.  

No one was spared from the teasing, but I don’t think anyone wanted to be. One day as I unrolled my mat in the Mysore room, John turned to me and pointed to the name that was printed on my yoga mat.

“Good thing your name’s there!” he said with a big smile. “Otherwise we wouldn’t know who you were!”
I started to say something back, but then Seth the instructor said, “Sssshh!” from across the room.  Over the years, it seemed that John caused many of us to be “Ssshhed” many times.  Probably none of us minded. 
Besides being a yogi and avid cyclist, John was a dedicated practitioner of karate and tai chi.  In the evenings, he would often do more than one karate class.  Some mornings, he would hobble in, favouring one side of his body or the other.
“You alright, John?” I’d ask.

“Oh yah,” he’d say.  “Just a little sore.”  Some years back, John had had hip replacements in both hips.  This never seemed to hold him back.  It was refreshing to see John practice.  He was delighted at what he was able to do, while maintaining true equanimity when faced with his limitations.  Due to his enthusiastic cycling and karate endeavours, his teacher Seth used to recommend that he do an intense psoas stretch before beginning his practice. 
Once, Seth had been away for a while and I noticed that John hadn’t done the psoas stretch for a couple of days. 

“So how about the psoas stretch?” I asked.
“Oh yah, better do that,” he said.  He grabbed a chair, bent one knee and slid his foot and shin against the wall.  For thirty seconds on each side he clutched the chair, grimacing in pure agony.  Then he stood up and continued his practice.  When others spoke of their struggles with various postures, John would shake his head, smile and say, “I don’t care.  I can do Baddha Konasana.”  No matter what he was talking about, there was always that twinkle in his eye, as though he was witnessing some sort of miracle. 
Baddha Konasana: John took great pride and delight in being able to do the pose, despite two hip replacements!
Every once in awhile, his replacement hips would pop out of place, usually in Trikonasana (triangle pose).

“Oh well,” he’d say.  “They’re not mine.  Can’t feel a thing.”
Listening to the tributes at the funeral, it seemed as though John was not someone who held back or did things moderately.  He gave everything had to every endeavour he took on:  family, friendships, yoga, work, karate, travel, cooking, chutney and jam...  For lack of a less cheesy sentence, it was very sad, but also very inspirational.
As a friend put it at the reception, “It makes you want to try harder.” 

Once John brought me a little jar of strawberry jam and it was absolutely delicious.   He was always trading chutneys and curry with other yoga practitioners.  I think that John was able to thoroughly demonstrate that where love and generosity are involved, there’s no need to hold back.  I hope to be able to truly remember this. 

Although I don’t know John’s family, I wanted to give them a card to express my gratitude for John’s presence in my life, and to offer my condolences.  It took me a long time to choose the card.  In the end I picked out  one with a picture of a silhouetted person on a sunsetted beach and her golden retriever.  Below the picture were the words, “No one could have possibly given...”

Inside the card was the word, “More.”

I thought that this message really captured John.  This morning before the funeral, as I was filling out the card, I turned it over and looked at the back.  There were the words, “Pet condolence greetings.”  The card company had created a line of Pet Sympathy Greeting Cards, to console people who had lost their dogs, and cats, and goldfish and guinea pigs.  I had purchased a pet sympathy card in memory of my friend John, a vibrant and remarkable human being.  Shoot. 

At first I thought that I wouldn’t use the card, and that I would just write something in the funeral home’s online guest book.  Then I realized that the words were actually right.  And John always took immense pleasure in catching and making fun of me in one of my typical socially awkward mishaps. 

So I thought I’d give John that satisfaction and I filled out the condolences card meant for the death of a pet.
Dear John, I do believe that nobody could have given more than you. I wish that I could see you one more time.  Though this is not to be, I will do my best to try harder and to give more.  I will think of you during my practice, and during my days.
Love, Erica.

Dog Friend in Gokarna, February 2016

Monday, 22 October 2012

21st Century Yoga and an End to Self-Care

Someone just wrote an article called, “An End to Self-Care.”  The author claims that our society is way too concerned with avoiding burnout.  We should focus our energies on social engagement, on community action, on making changes.  No more, change yourself, then change the world.   Change the world, and you yourself will be transformed too.  Everything changes all  at once.  It’s so efficient.  Although I understand some of what the author has to say, I find the article to be a bit preachy and one-sided.  That said, I love Nathan’s response to it.  Nathan happens to be one of the contributors to the book, “21st Century Yoga:  Culture, Politics, and Practice.”  Writers Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey have compiled ten excellent essays that discuss contemporary yoga in our western society.  Yoga’s potential, its gifts, its limitations. 

Buy the Book Here.    Or on Amazon.
Topics range from healing anorexia through yoga to teaching yoga in the military, and how yoga does and doesn’t challenge the political status quo.  Just because we become more clear-headed and self-aware does not mean that we will go on to lead a more peaceful life, to be a “better” person.  Nearly every essay hit home for me, but these two essays are  spurring the most thoughts for me right now:

Matthew Remski’s “Yoga Will Not Form a Real Culture Until Every Studio Can Also Double As a Soup Kitchen and other observations between yoga and activism,”
And Michael Stone’s  “Our True Nature is Our Imagination:  Yoga and Non-Violence.” 

To put it simply, both authors urge teachers and practitioners to move beyond the fabulousness of our acetabular rotation and use our practices to serve others, to build community, and transform the world. 
Before the arthritis sneaks in.
Transforming the world can take place on a small scale, as small as nourishing and giving within a loving committed relationship, within a friendship.  I've experienced this sort of transforming love with the Boatman, and it's something I've never had before.  And of course we cannot forget the Big Black Dog.  I don`t discount the great importance of these relationships but lately it seems that in other areas, I am paralyzed, alone on my yoga mat, waiting for my acetabulum to become more fabulous.  I have been waiting for a long time. 
I have written about how yoga transformed me and my life, how it taught me not to llie.  I wasn’t lying when I wrote these things, but I’m not convinced that “Yoga made me a better person.”  Before I committed to a daily practice, I made concrete and honest contributions to the world.  When I was a teenager, I helped my parents take care of Glendon, a little boy with cerebral palsy.  I spent summers working at camps for children with special needs.  Two years into university, I left school to live and work at a home for adults with intellectual disabilities.  I stayed there for two years.   Many of the people around me didn’t own yoga mats-they still don’t-and perhaps they wouldn’t necessarily become better people if they did. 

It was when I left the house for people with disabilities that I found Darby and Joanne at Sattva Yoga Shala.  After five or six years dabbling in different types of yoga in different capacities of commitment, I finally had the time and energy to embark on a daily practice.  My acetabular rotation became increasingly fabulous.  I learned how to go upside down.  Most importantly, within days of beginning morning Mysore with Darby, with the help of a temporary source of sexual gratification, (The Vegan Life Coach, not Darby!), I stopped puking in my mouth.  Puking in my mouth, or my deal with rumination syndrome/bulimia, is this long, sad, boring story that is just one variation on the plethora of stories of people around the world who struggle with eating disorders.  Even though I never “achieved” a trophy anorexic weight, or damaged my body to the point of a stroke or a heart attack, I come back to this story again and again, not only because the puke came back again and again, but because the experience was Hideous and Traumatic. Before my yoga practice became consistent, everything I did was tainted with puke.  I was young, with pure intentions and an open heart.  I wanted desperately to serve: to transform the world and transform myself.  But in the background of all the valuable work I did, all day long I could taste the puke.

While I was caring for others, feeding them, changing their diapers, the taste of vomit stopped me from fully experiencing where I was.  I wasn’t fully there for them. 

Of course, we can’t all be “fully healed”  and “fully in the present moment,” before we’re ready to serve.  Otherwise no one would ever do anything for anyone.  But how much self-care is reasonable?  How much is necessary? 

When I left the house for people with disabilities, I felt both extremely guilty that I would no longer be serving in the same capacity as I was before, but also convinced that I never wanted to do anything so all-consuming ever again. 

Five years later, those years at that house are probably the most tangible “contribution” that I’ve ever made. In the meantime, I’ve maintained a daily Ashtanga yoga practice.  I can count the number of unsanctioned days off I’ve taken (besides Saturdays, moondays and ladies’ holidays) on less than one hand.  In misguided attempts to further cleanse and purify my body, and a failure to curb my tendencies towards overexercise, remnants of my eating disorder returned within eight months of daily practice.  My symptoms lingered for a few years, and then went away.  Ultimately, my yoga (asana) practice has shown its potential for healing, self-absorption, and shall I admit it, some physical violence.  Although sometimes I would like it to be, practice isn’t an insurance policy that gives you a pass for the rest of the day. 

That said, this is not a “breaking up with Ashtanga” letter, and I do feel that my practice has benefited me immensely and it remains a necessary part of my routine of self-care.  I will keep practicing wholeheartedly, but perhaps I can let go of some of the neurosis that’s wrapped around completing the same postures in exactly the same way every day.  And I need to remind myself that even though there are things I learned on the mat that I couldn’t realize while I was frantically changing diapers at the house for people with disabilities, other very important things occurred while I was changing those diapers.  Despite my then mediocre acetabular rotation. 

In his writing and interviews, Michael Stone always speaks about yoga being an act of intimacy.  Our yoga practices should allow us to engage in more intimate relationships, both with ourselves, with others, and with the world.  I guess that this means we may be practicing yoga more often than we think, or perhaps not as often at all.
In any case, I thank Carol Horton, Roseanne Harvey and all of the contributors to 21st century yoga for inspiring these reflections.  I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to the next volume. 

The End.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

A Broken Body is Not a Broken Spirit
My Life's Purpose
The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice

Friday, 12 October 2012

Simon Says

One day a year, I leave the house without taking a shit.  It's the worst day of the year.  I hate that day.  This week, I've had that day three days in a row.  I've been working at a call centre for the local elections, and I need to leave the house at 7 AM.  At an obscene hour, I wake up to practice yoga.  Despite caffeination, and my most miraculous manifestations to the universe, evacuation just hasn't been happening.  Not before yoga, and not after.  I remain clogged up most of the day. 

Simon hates to hear about my bowel movements.  He's an anomaly.  Simon says it's the most shitty and uninteresting part of my writing.  And he hates my blogposts.  He refuses to read them.  "Write our book," he says. A couple months ago, we started our third book together.  We finished our first book "The Little Savage and the Hermit" last fall.  One of my lifetime achievements was not throwing a plate at Simon at the liquid lunches we had during the revision process.  We sent the manuscript out to a bunch of small press Canadian publishers.  A publisher from Toronto called us back in January.  He seemed really interested, although it was centuries before we heard from him again. 
In the meantime, Simon said that we should write another book.  Many times I've written about playing Simon says with Simon.

"Suck my dick," he used to say.  So I would.  There is only one man in the world I have ever slept with whose dick stays hard after a Long and Thorough Blow Job.  Simon is that person.  After the Long and Thorough Blow Job, Simon would still feel like having sex.  Usually, I wouldn't. But Simon would say, "Let's have sex," and so we would.

Although Simon and I have not had sex for a long time, sometimes we still play Simon says.  After we finished the first book, I thought that probably it was a terrible idea for us to write another one.  But since we sort of had a publisher for our first one, I thought then the second one would be guaranteed to be published and then my dream of being Rich and Famous like Margaret Atwood would be closer.  Plus for some reason, writing with Simon is some of the easiest writing I do.  Often my writing process is painful, and agonizing and angsty.  With Simon, the struggle is less.  Perhaps it's because I am writing about myself, and my audience is clear.  It is easy to establish my voice.  I can write about whatever I want and I don't have to be deep or literary or groundbreaking like Margaret Atwood.  Angst and all, I can just be myself.

So even though there was a high chance of more liquid lunches and plate-throwing, I decided to go ahead with The Little Savage and the Hermit Part Two, and more recently, Part Three.  Simon writes one chapter, and then I write the next.  These days, it's my turn.  But I'm sitting here constipated at the call centre, and I got nothing but shit-filled blogposts and facebook clicks. 
During my clogged up lunchbreak, I decide to call our publisher, to get some inspiration and motivation.  The publisher is a very small press in Toronto.  They were supposed to confirm publication with us in the summer.  Summer became September and now it is October.

"Oh hi, Erica," the publisher says.  "I was going to email you.  We're not going to go through with it. 
It has been a difficult year." 

I am in too much of a constipated zombie to say anything more than "Okay, thank you."I hang up the phone and call Simon. 

"Oh, we knew it wouldn't work out," he says.  "It was fake good news."

I yawn and feel gassy. 
"Well, we are both dead inside," Simon says.  "It doesn't matter." 

I return to my windowless cubicle beneath fluorescent lights. 

The woman next to me has the same name as a bird. Her name is a secret for you, but once one of her callers asked her to repeat it.  She repeats it and then there was a pause.
"Yes, like the bird," she says.  "The Big Black Bird." 

Every once in awhile the lady named after the Big Black Bird makes a high pitched squeaking squawking noise.  Not like the Big Black Bird. 
Dead inside.  The phone rings.

"Thank you for calling the ### help centre.  I was not named after a Big Black Bird.  But I'd love to help you."

Someone wants to vote online and they do not have the internet.  I'll be helping him for the rest of my life.  My supervisor brings me chocolate desserts.  I eat them and slowly start growing into the shape of my chair.  I will never take a dump again. 
Sometimes I just want to post The Little Savage and the Hermit online and be done with it. Margaret Atwood would probably say that this is dumb.  But we aren't playing "Margaret Atwood Says." 

I am not Margaret Atwood.  We've been over this ten thousand times.  Big Black Bird lady does her squeaking squawking thing.  She's wearing a grey hat.  She's  not Margaret Atwood either. 
The call centre phones aren't ringing anymore.  On Facebook, my friend writes that she's going on the Ellen show.  To talk about her self-published book called "Thank You For HPV."  She will empower Ellen's viewers to heal their HPV without taking a drug or a vaccine or ripping things off of their cervixes.  All this makes me feel unempowered and embarrassingly jealous.  I should have had a sexually transmitted disease in my title. I should have tried to contract a sexually transmitted disease on purpose.

Then I scroll down and see that my friend is not really going on the Ellen Show.  She's just manifesting her success to the universe, and on Facebook.  I feel dumb for being jealous.  When my friend gets on Ellen, I WILL be happy for her.  I will manifest that happiness right now. 

Happiness.  Not dead inside.
There are other things to manifest:  Tomorrow will be a new day at the call centre.  My supervisor will bring other kinds of snacks.  I will shit before 9 A.M.  The people on the phone will know what the internet is.  I will spend all day not writing back to Simon.  The Big Black Bird Lady will be wearing a different hat.  Maybe she will make a different noise.

Simon always said that I'm just like him, except I'm female and he's way better at getting orgasms.
Simon says that there are some vulvas, like mine, that you keep licking and licking until you realize that you're a hundred years old and you're gonna die in a second...

In one hundred years, Simon won't be licking my vulva.  The elections will be over.  I'll have taken ten hundred thousand shits and ten hundred thousand different times.  My cervix will be HPV free. Margaret Atwood will be dead.  And the children won't play Simon Says anymore. 
The End.

Synopsis: The Little Savage and the Hermit  (for those who haven't read it yet)
The Little Savage and the Hermit meet on a disintegrating biodegradable yoga mat.  Erica, an imaginative, eating disordered yogi plays the Little Savage, while Simon a reclusive author, is the Hermit. 

This is a modern love story, wrapped up in a bigger tale of solidarity. One writer can love another writer, and that's pleasant, but the greatest thing a published writer can do for an unpublished one, is to write a book with her. Thus the saga unfolds, punctuated with poetry, drama, dreams, sex, humour, alcohol and other trendy dysfunctions.

The book revitalizes the ancient form of the epistolary novel.  Simon opens by recounting the yoga mat scene with nostalgia and a very bad poem.  Erica's response, “What the Tornado Said,” undermines their intimate encounter, refusing to believe that this hermit could have made her wet like the morning.
Although the book was her idea, Erica quickly becomes resistant to continuing. She fears that the process fuels an impossible relationship and believes that she is too self-indulgent to create anything of value.  Simon, however, sees the clear potential in her writing and is too stubborn to let her give up since that would mean that he would lose his shot at a book he's eager to see come to life.

A third of the way into the novel, a dramatic narrative turn transforms Erica into a cardboard box. From this point on, the completion of their novel becomes inevitable and their love for each other, undeniable.

Countless mornings, magic toe shoes and more bad poems ensue, but unfortunately, Simon retains his hermit limitations. Long ago, he chose books over people. With her savage fires and cardboard box angst, Erica can`t do much to change his mind. Once the book is finished, the Little Savage wishes she could begin again, and longs for their “bright happy faces in the wet happy morning.” Classic shitty relationship, carried out by geniuses. At least now they have something to show for it. The hermit's happy. The book is ready.
The Hermit is actually dead.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

Simon Girard 1979-2015
What a Beautiful Face
Guillaume, Part Two

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Kiss Test

Today is my mother's birthday.

It is also the birthday of the first boyfriend I ever had in high school.

The third boyfriend I ever had in my whole life.

Who were my other boyfriends?

Boyfriend #1:  Kindergarten with Ms. Stroman.  His name was Ben.  A few months before kindergarten started, my mother took me for my first hair cut.  The hairdresser named Terry had short straight dark brown hair.  She had man's hair and a man's name.  I thought it was confusing.  But at least she was very nice.  She thought that my blonde unruly curls that fell past my chin were very sweet.  She and my mother agreed that they would be even sweeter if they were shorter. A big bowl of curls on top of my head.  So she chopped the hair around my head and soon there was a bowl of curls above my ears and all the way around.

"Oh that's adorable sweetie," said my mother from behind the hairdresser chair.

"Isn't she cute?" said Terry the hairdresser.  I didn't know why Terry called me a she.  Now that my hair was so short, I looked like a boy.  That afternoon we were supposed to go swimming.  My bathing suit was white with red stripes and a blue flipper-the-dolphine jumping just above my bellybutton.  I knew that I couldn't wear this bathing suit anymore.   With my hair so short, everyone would know that something was wrong. 

I made my mother take me to the department store where she bought me ugly green and blue shorts that I would wear every day now that I was a boy.

Then I arrived in Ms. Stotman's junior kindergarten class.  My hair was still short. Terry had trimmed it just before school started.  On my first day of school, I wore my "Party Animal" sweat suit.  Lime green pants and a sweat shirt with lime green sleeves and a white body with some monster type animal and the words "party animal" on it.  Very flattering.  But at least I wasn't pretending to be a girl.  During free time, Ben and I met in the dress-up corner.  He suggested that I put on a tutu.  I decided that this meant that I was a girl again. I put on the tutu right away.  On the playground, Ben and I kissed on the lips.  Our parents let us hang out with each other on the weekends. We traded stickers. 
Once at Ben's house, we took off all of our clothes in the backyard, turned on the hose, and then sprayed each other and the windows of the house. Inside, the couch got wet. Ben's dad got a little bit angry at us and gave us pretend spankings while we were still naked.  The naked spankings felt thrilling.  After junior kindergarten, Ben and his family moved to Australia. 
During senior kindergarten, Ben sent me a postcard:

“Ben says he loves you and misses you and wishes you were here.”  LOVE BEN

That was the last I ever heard of Ben. 

Boyfriend #2:  I got my next boyfriend in grade one in Mrs. VandenBosch's class.  His name was Kevin.  Halfway through grade one, Keven had to wear braces on his legs like Forrest Gump.  So his legs were always in the shape of a triangle.  To walk, he had to swing them to and fro.  Then he had to go to the hospital to get an OPERATION.  I don't think that we became boyfriend and girlfriend until after that.  When Kevin returned to school, he had to use a wheelchair.  I remember waiting on the pavement for the school bell to ring and we kissed on the lips many times.

Then I skipped grade two and lost all my friends and my boyfriend.  When you're in grade three, you're not allowed to kiss boys in grade two.  Absolutely not. 

Boyfriend #3:  This was the one who was born on October 9th. The same day as my mother.  We met in grade nine band class. I played the trombone and he played the saxophone.  We both had braces.  At the school dance, he asked me to slow dance.  In grade nine, I was in love with Michael Brown and Alex Crampton who were both on the swim team.  I saw them every day at practice but they were way out of my league.  So when the saxophone player asked me to dance, I said yes.  I hated dances, but slow dances were the easiest because you didn't need any coordination or rhythm. The guy decided how much space there was between you.  The saxophone player decided there wouldn't be too much space and I could feel his boner between my legs.  I felt mostly neutral about this experience, but a little bit cozy.  The next week, we went out for lunch every day.  There were no boners and no kissing and I felt okay about this.  On Friday, it was his birthday.  I made him a big chocolate cake.  At the end of the day, he asked me out.  Like would I be his girlfriend.  I said I would think about it.  At swim practices, while we were doing our abdominal exercises, I asked everyone what I should do.  Michael Brown said that I might as well go for it.  I thought the world of Michale Brown so I figured I would follow his dating advice.

That night, I called the saxophone player back and said that yes, I would go out with him.  The next week, whenever we went out for lunch, we held hands.  At the park, sometimes he would put his arm around me.  I tried not to lean over in the opposite direction.  Every once in awhile, he would put his face full of braces close to my face full full of braces and then I couldn't help it.  I would look the other way. 

At night after swim practice, we would talk on the phone. A lot of the time, I would do my homework at the same time.  I was an excellent student. The saxophone player always called me "hon." At the end of our phone calls, he would say, "Bye, I love you."

Sometimes I would say I love you too, and sometimes I wouldn't.  At swim practice, while we were doing our abdominal exercises, when people asked me how it was going with my saxophone player, I would get all red and wish that it was time to jump in the water. 

One day we had walked home to my house for lunch. All the way there, the saxophone player kept leaning over towards my face and I kept lurching away.  His breath didn't smell that great and I felt certain that our two sets of braces would end in catastrophe.  If Michael Brown or Alex Crampton had braces and they'd wanted to kiss me, maybe it would have been different.  We'll never know.

When we got to my house,  my mother was giving a piano lesson.  There were fresh white buns on the counter.  The saxophone player put her arm around me and led me in front of the radiator, which was right next to the counter with the buns.  The saxophone player had a better strategy this time.  With both hands around my waist we stood before each other face to face.  I knew he was going to lean over soon and I knew that lurching away would have been rude and awkward.  Luckily, I had another strategy.  I had the buns.  I grabbed a fluffly white gluten-filled bun and I shoved it in the saxophone player's face. 

He seemed a little taken aback.  We sat down at the table and had lunch.

Eventually, in the backyard, I gave in and we made out briefly.  Our braces didn't get stuck and it  could have been way worse.  Still, throughout the whole 45 seconds of it, I kind of wished it was over. 

I broke up with the saxophone player over the phone the night before my birthday.  In total, our relationship lasted three weeks.  For my birthday, he'd bought me a big expensive basket of vanilla scented soaps and body sprays from the body shop. He gave it to me in band class even though we were broken up.  I thought that was nice of him even though fancy soaps usually give me rashes.

I sprayed the body spray on my neck.  At swim practice during abdominal exercises, Michael Brown made fun of the smell. 

Mike Brown, Perth Ontario's Olympic Star
Since the saxophone player, I have devised something called the KISS TEST.  The KISS TEST means you kiss me and afterwards, if I want to kiss you again, then you pass.  If I don't want to kiss you again, then you fail. Usually once you fail, you cannot take the test again.  Over the years, some people have been allowed to take the kiss test again, and pretty much every time, they kept failing.  It is a very accurate test.  I'm proud of myself for inventing it. 

Although perhaps without our braces, the saxophone player and I would have done better.  We'll never know, just like we'll never know if Michael Brown and Alex Crampton would have passed my kiss test. 

In any case, it doesn't matter anymore, since according to Facebook, Michael Brown, and Alex Crampton and the Saxophone Player are all happily kissing.  I am happily kissing too.  The Boatman passed the Kiss Test with Flying Colours. 

 The Boatman, Kiss Test Winner, 2011-2015

This confirms my belief that there is a successful kiss test out there for everyone.  Thank goodness.
Success in Kissing is available to all who seek it.  Those with braces and those without.  Be persistent, be patient, and in case of catastrophe, be sure to have some buns within reach. 

The End.
Happy Birthday to My Mother and the Saxophone Player.
Here is our friend Gluten. Always there when we need him. Or her. Or them.

Gluten, Always there for us despite everything.
Created by the Boatman at