It looks like the European borders may well be shut to Americans and for a while. I have had such freedom to travel in my life that this announcement feels disheartening or frightening but it is absolutely not something I can control or even plan for. Perhaps we shall return next summer, perhaps not.
In 2023 Airbus plans to be more or less back to normal. No one in the US seems to be talking like this, with such a faraway date, but I believe French businessmen (I’ve only spoken with men), doubly conservative in their expectations. People are just going to have to hold on for a few years and I too shall need a longer plan. Or no plan. It might go like this: quit a job, move, shift things around, buy more yoga ropes. But it definitely doesn’t go like this: make a detailed plan, count on reality being what I have known before, or get my hopes up for some kind of ‘return’ to whatever life used to be. Masks on, housing prices down, terrible unemployment, almost no planes in the sky.
And the bigger picture, the longer view, the good spiritual training of always and incessantly being in liminality. Neither this nor that. My students and I will not sing together this fall, we will do something else. I have no idea what it will look like but I know I will show up to teach them everything I can in the way that feels like it could help them the most.
I have played the American game of life. Buy a house, have a child, save for retirement, find a steady job and you win! I remember being in my early thirties and going on retreat with a bunch of middle-aged women who had very complicated lives with many problems. I was slack jawed. I said to them, ‘but at your age, you have everything, life is simple and sweet and you can just enjoy it, how can your lives be so complicated?’ And they laughed and laughed and invited me to teach yoga at their gym.
My happy ending is over, smashed against the concrete pylons of bad government and newly robust white people narcissism, and I am not unhappy to steer through a sea of change. I’ve got litotes and tautologies and thanks to Wole Soyinka and Bayo Akomolafe and Henri Bergson and Lydia Davis, I’ve got some other ways to think about time and space. I do not know when I will do what. We are all flying through completely new concepts of time and I am thankful for all the poetry, the dancing, all the asanas and all the challenging people I have known. This is not my first bounce but surely it’s the most collective one.
Everyone asking me when I will be back, what I will do, where I will teach. Always, always with the future plan. When and where will be TBD and TBA from here on out. Fuck the agenda. I do not know. One day I will look back on these roller coaster years and laugh at what I thought I used to know.
The patriarchy made the women in my family nervous. Plan, plan, plan. Preserve the peaches and write up the calendar and ally with the power just in case and so my generation has drifted out to sea, looking for a new compass, one without a phallus at its center. I am looking forward to pulling that needle out of my arm, the dark vein of all of those survivors. What are you going to do? When are you going to decide? What’s your future plan? Moments after I walked off the dais after giving the graduation speech at my university, literally not yet off the ramp and onto the grass, I remember a male professor in regalia asking me what I was going to do with my life. It was my 25th birthday and it was a great day there in the California sun and although I didn’t have the courage to tell him to fuck off, I said the polite version. Life was golden in that very moment and why did I need to be grilled about the future? What are you going to do with that degree, young lady? No more future heroin, no more planning OxyContin, no more rolling on that fuel of future fear. I’ll never get there anyhow when the here and now is so enjoyable.
I think back to sitting in the dust with Pakeo in Tanzania. Will it rain? We need rain. The animals are looking for water. The sun was going down and a dark wall ambled across the horizon. It will rain, he said, or it won’t. From here on out I want to be like that, embody so many men I have known who could sit and watch the fire just waiting for the drops to actually fall, or not. I think of my son’s stalwart sixth grade teacher, backpacking, snow, we just go on, we can do this, our feet will be cold and our food unappetizing but we can do this. It will all work out, or it won’t. This constant talk of nervous planning, of forecasting all eventualities, of creating flow charts of the mind and destiny, is a massive and feeble illusion of power that we foist upon our girls most of all. If you do this and do that then you will get this and get that – is not true, maybe never was.
Abhijata said we simply cannot prepare for everything. We do not control the world. But what we can do is be ready. Fold your hands, sit very tall, prepare your center for the waves and the work to come. We can be strong and grounded and awake and take exquisite care of those around us and ourselves. This does not mean we have to spin into imaginings of this future, this black sauce that they were so sure would save me, the infinite calculations of the 3 am mind. Drawing up all eventualities does not bring succor. My grandmother was not ready for death. Some of the most ‘prepared’ people I know, go bags at the door, are not ready for their world to be shaken. Plans upon plans and lots of projecting math and what it it’s true that we as a culture have just made time up as a grid against which we can pile our coins?
What if the future is only there to give the illusion of something called growth. Tomorrow I shall have more than I had yesterday. Such a malady. A sickness of more and tomorrow. I am in it up to my neck and I want out. This is my chance.
Call me up in 2023 and I’ll tell you my plans. Until then it’s going to be all improvised, all the time.