It was raining hard now, only the second rain storm since Harvey hit eight weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to get on the road this Sunday morning at 8:30 am. I usually like the strong wind before a storm and the dark sky with the anticipation of change, something brewing and a cleansing rain, but things feel different now.
“It will be okay Maria,” I tell myself. I try to convince myself, but I’m not steady as I drive across the bayou, the same one that flooded over its banks, the same one that caused such havoc. The water is low, “it will be fine,” I say again.
Rhia starts class; the theme is freedom, She explains that freedom is often a place that we are striving hard to get to. What if we reframe the question like the yogis did? What if the question becomes what keeps us from freedom? What binds us so that we don’t think of ourselves as free?
I repeat the question in my head. “What is it that binds me from feeling free? My first thought it “everything, ” and I sigh with annoyance for my “give up now” attitude. Wow, Maria, you’ve been up for an hour, and this is where your mind goes?
I picture a bandaged ankle, my ankle, how for a short while I had to wrap it with a flesh-colored elastic 1-inch wide that I clinched with a little silver clamp a few years ago. How I liked that feeling of being supported. My sprained ankle felt safer and held when it was bound. I would try different ways of crossing the straps to make them tight but not too tight, to make a pretty pattern, the crossed straps looking mildly like a ballerina’s toe shoe ribbons, or what this non-ballet gal thinks that would look like. Noticing the translucency of my skin, how thin it looked on the ridge of my foot compared to the fleshy thick medical band and how I needed the tape and felt better with it but also a bit uncomfortable, a reminder throughout the day that my ankle wasn’t quite right- not ready yet to be free.
So Rhia’s sharing “What is it that binds you?” is an interesting question that floats through my mind, I want to write it down, but I don’t want to interrupt my pose and the class by getting up and searching for a scrap of paper and pen in my purse. I admonish myself for not having brought a notebook in from the car, but I wasn’t thinking of lines I wanted to record, I was struggling with my yoga mat, an umbrella, rain and trying not to get drenched walking from my car to the studio door.
I didn’t get up, and I try not to worry about forgetting this line.
What is it that binds me?
And the rain gets heavier; maybe I notice it more because I am still, it’s very quiet in the studio with the 10 of us on our mats, just breathing in and out, no sound even from our breath. I open my eyes and look up at the ceiling; It’s definitely raining harder. I try to see if there is truth to my thought. The only windows are high up- the building was originally a grocery store- there are screens on the windows so I can’t see the size of the raindrops. I map out my drive home in my head, going through the possible routes, visualizing the streets and following them looking for underpasses, dips and any low spots as if my eyes are now the lens of a camera on a drone looking down from above. Do I need to change how I get home? I exhale. My thoughts scatter like a dropped bag of metal pie balls on this wooden floor that looks like the one in my kitchen, we are only 5 minutes into class, and my mind has already exhausted me. “You’re safe,” I tell myself, at this moment, you are safe; you will be safe driving home.
What is it that binds us? What is it that takes us away from a sense of freedom? It’s all based on perception and how we define freedom. And I know what the bind is. This desire to be safe, to feel safe. Physically safe, romantically safe, emotionally safe, financially safe I need that feeling of safety, I crave it and yet I also know that is exactly what is suffocating me right now, this desire to know before taking action, this desire to have proven results before taking the plunge or even putting my toe in the water. It’s a drive for safety that binds me from my freedom.
No one can promise or deliver a risk free life. It doesn’t exist.
And I know I don’t want a risk free life, some of my greatest memories are from taking a risk, saying yes to a trip, an invitation, an opportunity, the not knowing bringing excitement, new energy, but somehow everything feels riskier now.
I know my life has been squelched and squashed recently from these cords that bind so deep into me they leave indentations in my flesh, like socks where the elastic is too tight and when removed my skin is embossed with the zigzag of threads and it takes rubbing and time to plump it up again.
The idea of cutting cords is too savage an image, too bloody a visual in my mind; I see knives, an umbilical cord, and a chunk of flesh. I work on erasing these drastic images quickly from my head.
What if Maria, you don’t have to cut the cords? What if the cords that bind you just unwind? Like the elastic bandage around your ankle. I picture the ribbons of the ballet slipper falling in slow motion from the ceiling and puddling softly on the floor beside me.
What if freedom can be like that? Where I actually don’t have to do anything. What if the bandage can unwrap itself and I don’t even notice it’s gone? My “ankle” feeling safe, protected and secure even without the bind. My actual ankle hasn’t missed the bandage for years.
I’m quiet after class taking my time folding up my blankets, rolling up my mat, wanting to remember this idea of freedom and what it is that binds us. I write those sentences down on the scrap of paper I do find in my bag while everyone else puts on rain boots and jackets. I probably look a bit odd scribbling away, but I don’t’ care. I’m almost the last one to leave; it’s still raining but not so hard.