Monday, March 3, 2014


As I square up my feet over the thin silver line in the floor, I look around the room to find her. The one that will be better than me. The one that will have a better body, narrower shoulders, smaller thighs, better flexibility. I know that her legs will be straighter and her balance will be surer and her leg will effortlessly float over her head, while I tug and wish and remember a time when mine could.

I find her immediately. Her blond dreaded hair bursts from its ponytail on top of her head. She eyes herself confidently in the mirror, searching out her own form, trying to find the balance that the class demands from her. Her biker-short clad legs reach down to the floor, long and lean as her hands fold under her chin, ready to heat up her breath. The tattoo wrapping around her left side is of a woman, topless, with eyes and expressions that look remarkably like the girl herself;  the ink representation reaches into the bandana binding her real chest and emerges out the top, visible again as she raises her arms up above her head. The eyes of the tattooed woman are just as searching as their real-woman counterparts; I avoid making eye contact with either.

As the class flows from pose to pose, bodies start to heat up. Droplets of water suspend from our elbows and fingertips, falling to the towels that brighten the room. My eyes slide to watch her often, like a ship that keeps slipping its moorings. Her spine bent just so, legs perfectly straight, hamstrings lifted and long. I see her catch her own eye in the mirror behind her perfectly flexed foot, resting her chin on her leg, the other leg pushing against the floor, balancing without a quiver. She isn't perfect, but she is perfectly composed and assured of herself in this room. Her familiarity is obvious and I'm instantly envious that her life allows her this luxury on a daily basis. I wonder what life, job, home gives her the luxury of daily hot yoga; and while it's true that we all have our indulgences, the things that we must do to keep us sane, in my heart I resent whatever life gives her such a regular practice.

But that is me. I look the best in the room and I throw my everything at them, wanting to keep up. It isn't enough to know that I can walk back into Bikram after two years and keep up with the class; I want to gauge my value and test my mettle against the person that I know will always be one step ahead of me. It will never occur to me to think she might think she is enough. Or that her life isn't perfect, because in this class, she is perfection and I am not.

I shouldn't be envious. Real life shouldn't depend on being better than someone else. She has worked for it, and I appreciate hard work. It's a left over habit from sizing up the competition at gymnastics meets, knowing I was the best and my team was the best and we would dominate each event. Part of it is longing for those days of absolute surety of being the one to beat. That it carries over into deeply personal arenas like yoga is probably inappropriate, but it's so natural that I do it automatically. I am still that girl, but she is not me. And my heart sinks as I realize that even when I am able (one day in the far future) to afford the time and effort of regular luxuries, I will be even farther from that girl, from that long ago body that did everything my mind required of it and asked for more.

And then: the cool rag over my face, finally turned away from the truths of myself and the girl in the mirror, it comes to me. It doesn't matter what she can do, or what I used to do. I am suddenly grateful for what this body still does. My demands are less, but the flesh still obeys my commands. For a few minutes, lying there on the floor, my body feels sacred, and I can set envy and longing aside and just be grateful. I thank all my parts, even the broken ones that suddenly, fleetingly, feel whole.


Amy Sorensen said...

Think of it this way: You are brave enough to go. I don't think I could ever bring myself to even try it.

I totally understand though. Sometimes I wish I could just throw off all of the restrictions that are both placed upon me and I place upon myself, and find someone new behind my boring fa├žade. Dreds! (gah...can you imagine my hair in dreds???) tattoos! (except the only one I want would be small and barely noticeable.)

But I think that ship is gone for me.

You're amazing!

Amy Sorensen said...

So, just to keep you company in your enviousness, I just didn't go to the gym but spent 25 minutes reading all the blogs that make me envious. Make me want to rip out my throat with envy over their perfect, beautiful lives. And their successes. And all of my...non-success. I feel like one of those dud fireworks.

I think I'll go eat something now. :)

Melanie said...

I know the girl you're talking about! Well, I don't KNOW her, but she was there when I went with you long ago - if you went to the yoga studio near the Rack in Sugarhouse. The studio was challenging people to do 30 days in a row of classes, and she had completed the challenge. I felt my eyes going back to her throughout the class, just as you described.

So I read an article that someone on FB linked to, and I decided that for Lent I'm going to give up comparing myself to others. Sounds kind of dumb, but I really need to stop thinking that everyone else is perfect and I'm just a sorry sack.

I'm glad that you were able to appreciate your body in the end. You're in incredible shape - especially if you can hold your own in that class!

And Amy, if you're reading this, I read your blog and think you're amazing. Just like you're doing with the blogs you read. Don't sell yourself short. ;)

Feisty Harriet said...

This is such a wonderful post, thank you for sharing.


Rebecca J Ferguson said...

Beautifully written!!!!