I was going to write a post about the little joy motor and its buttons that we carry around with us but then my yoga teacher today talked about la météo internale today and I liked that analogy better. I am happy most of the time here in Toulouse. And the weather is mostly just right.
My yoga teacher here yells at me a lot and is very concerned about my lax outer thighs. I’m not unhappy when she gets on my case because it’s very consistent and I’m here to learn. I feel like I, like many Americans, am too soft on the outside, my muscles need to engage way more and our infrastructure doesn’t let us walk 7 miles a day just in our regular lives, and far too hard on the inside, we are tense and anxiety-ridden. So I need to compact my hips but also relax my diaphragm, expand my thoracic cavity and get into the joy. The weather outside (climate change, politics, job conditions, family) can be extreme but how’s the weather inside?
A long time ago, when I was in my early twenties, I wrote down a list of things I knew could improve my internal weather. I don’t know where the list went but I know it included riding my bike up hills, being outside in the sun and stimulating intellectual conversation and connection. Practicing yoga, running, tango dancing (if the tanda is right), breathing, meditating, a quick handstand or two, hugs, writing letters to my lovely correspondents, reading poetry and crying more, writing with my writing groups and talking to friends would all go on my current list. And so here I am, doing many of those daily and in three languages most days, four sometimes if I’m lucky! I chose Toulouse for its yoga, mild climate, my few social connections and the possibility of dancing. The first three have been bonus awesome sauce, the dancing will come. I have a year here to fix some new internal weather patterns, to make a new and exciting multicolored map of pressure zones, and to figure out how to smuggle it all back to the USA, aka STRESSLANDIA.
Yesterday (in my French writing group) I wrote about the intense comfort of lounging around with a good girlfriend having meandering conversations about nothing really on a day when time is fluid. I think of Gwen in Mexico City in our hip hotel, of Gillian and I on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in Paris, of Cambria with tea on her front porch couch, of Heidi and all our cafe outings, of Mary in high school when we would just lie on her bed for hours, of Jillian and our long ago California walks, of Véronique at the playground when the kids are all off and running, of my cousin and I squished together warm and happy on her orange couch. Good friends have enormous weather powers. They are Zeuses of the soul. They can bring rain to your arid crops and sun to your tossed and stormy seas.
I was lonely in my teaching life in the US. I didn’t have very many of those kinds of friends nearby and the ones I did have were stressed out and busy themselves. Americans have to know how to invest (because hardly anyone gets a pension), know how to comparison shop for medical care, know how to drive and keep a car maintained (mostly crap public transportation), know how to shop for and fix lunches that keep for a few hours and that children will eat at school, and then figure out how to pay for it all, including the looming college education. We are a stressed out nation and reading the news makes it practically unbearable.
I am hopeful that this year away from the US, off of work, doing so many of the things that bring good weather to my inner mountains and lakes will help me learn how to build some strong outer walls (thigh muscles, boundaries, routines, plans for a sustainable life) so that inside I can keep the sun shining and the fountains flowing.