I was semi conscious on the morning after the inauguration, having resorted to the one thing that could make me forget that a man who refuses to accept responsibility or apologize for his actions can so easily move into the seat of power after condemning a woman who’s worst offense was to focus on her work. J’s friend texted me that he was going salsa dancing, and I pulled myself together to go. Had I stayed in that night, I just would have tortured myself with that photo of J kissing his new girlfriend and obsessed about all the things he kept from me. Had I drowned my sorrows as an alcoholic might have, or as I myself might have decades ago, or stuffed myself with a pint of ice cream and double-stuff oreos the way we women have a tendency to do, I would not have had the energy and wisdom to see the signs that came my way on Saturday. Having turned my attention to that which I love and loves me allowed me to be present on the day that women came together.
Outside my office, a skeleton crew of ladies speculated about the ones whose absence coincided with the marches in Washington and Boston. “Betsy was going on a bus.” , “she took a bus to the Commons?” “no, she went to Washington” “did she go with Kath?” “I don’t think they went together”, “the new girl went, too”, “Who?” “I’m not sure of her name, she’s in real estate”, “did they go together?” “I don’t think so”…. And so it went as I sipped my coffee and opened my mail on Saturday morning. There are few things more soothing in the world than the sound of my ladies chatting between groans as they workout together at my studio. Women are such dear and special people.
|Among the first notifications to pop up on my screen was a photo taken four years earlier. It portrayed my student, folded forward to support me in a yoga scorpion pose while another student looked on. It was taken on the day that we all arrived for a class to find my studio had been broken into and robbed the night before. I remember being stunned, unable to form a thought, unable to move, until I noticed my students starting to warm up without me. I had to pull it together for them, and so I snapped out of my stupor and started my lesson on Acroyoga.|
After explaining the exercise, I lay on my back and they lined up to rest their hips on my feet so I could lift them off their feet into an airplane. My students are pole girls - students of pole dance. For the uninitiated, girls who pole are a particular breed. They are fiercely independent and physically strong. “Surrender” is not a verb they understand easily.
Acroyoga is a practice that requires trust and communication between a base and a flyer in which the flyer must relinquish control. Pole girls normally negotiate their movement with a hard apparatus that will leave them bruised and burned if they don't control the action, so, trusting and relinquishing control are foreign concepts to them. Pole girls are also always extremely tight in the arms and shoulders. It was an incredible challenge trying to stabilize their rigid bodies.
“Stop trying to hold on! LET GO!”, I yelled afraid I was going to drop her.
The look on my student’s face amuses me to this day. Thanks to the teacher/student dynamic, she didn’t fight me the way she might, say, the man in her life. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise and she let go. With that she released the tension and draped her torso between my feet and arms like a sheet on a clothesline. A look of peace swept across her face.
“Mmmm! This feels so good!”
My legs held steady and strong as each girl floated and allowed her control to drift away. And, though it was me holding my students up so they could fly, it was my students who made me high that day. As I sipped my wine over dinner later I realized that what the robbers took was replaceable, but the ability to support a strong woman so she can fly is priceless. I felt rich beyond measure.
As I attended to my work while the next group of ladies pumped iron outside my office, another notification summoned me. It was a man from “the group”, a supporter of the current president with whom I had argued for deriding the safety pin. He often tried to communicate with me privately when J and I fought.
“Hung out with your ex last weekend for the game. He doesn’t like football, does he?”
“I always thought he did, but he might have been distracted” I responded, realizing that J and his girlfriend were making out while “the group” watched football.
And he continued, trying to drag me into a conversation I knew better than to engage in.
“some men prefer the company of women over football, and the reason women are attracted to J is that he’s different than most men”, I wrote. “Well said” he replied and changed the subject.
And there I sat, annoyed and agitated. I turned back to the photo from the day before. J had clicked on the “love” button under it. As I meditated on it, I realized it wasn’t the fact of J kissing his new girlfriend that had me agitated. Some part of me was made happy by looking at the photo. I remembered what it was like to love J. I knew the sensation of his touch at my waistline. And I know the joy of being with a man who is willing to ignore his friends and the football game, to give me all the attention I crave. “Lucky girl”, I thought, "enjoy it while it lasts. This is the best time." The memory of the way it feels made me smile. So then, why did I feel like an oyster with a pebble?
When I got home, I logged on again, and was flooded with pink. Photos of almost everyone I know wearing pink pussyhats marching with their friends and daughters, holding signs that read, “Empowered Women Empower Women”, and “We are the grand-daughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn” and other, women-focused inspirations. The excitement was palpaple. Every news outlet covered the march, showing pink hats on women in Washington DC, Boston, Melbourne, Berlin, Paris, Buenos Aires, Kosovo… all over the world women joined together in solidarity to protest a pussy-grabbing misogynist. I sat up, excited, inspired. “There are so many!” I thought, “When women come together, they have such power!”
I wanted to be a part of it, despite having missed the march. I wanted a pink pussyhat. I decided to crochet myself one that night. I checked online for a yarn store nearby. “Shit!” I looked at the time. “It closes in an hour!” I jumped up and threw on the Hot Pink Doc Maartens J had given me on a previous birthday and rushed to my car.
Speeding through the winding roads of Ashland at night tempered my excitement somewhat, and the agitation that had nagged at me that morning re-emerged as I drove. There was unfinished business between J and I. That’s what it was. I had dated after he walked out on me, and I enjoyed myself. The contrast of the more traditional masculinity of those other men to J’s sweetness made me realize how much I loved and missed the company of men. But, when J popped up at my door that June, the drive and ambition and outlook that excited me dissipated into the soporific lull of wanting and waiting for J to come around. Like the food coma that follows a heavy pasta dinner, I was on hold, not moving, just stuck waiting for things to process. I wanted to be with J, but, how could I ever explain to anyone who knew what he had done that I had forgiven him when he had never asked to be forgiven? I remember the night at the police station.
“You’re just going to take him back.”, said the older officer disdainfully. “No I won’t!” I answered emphatically, “I write about domestic violence. I know all about that. I won’t be that woman who takes him back!” The shift from disdain to hopeful surprise on the officer's face remains stamped on my memory. I can't say I know him, or would recognize him if I saw him again, but the idea of appearing before him to explain why I took J back brought me enough shame to keep me accountable.
“There’s no way, Paulina.” I thought as I drove. “Unless he acknowledges what he did and accepts responsibility for his actions, you can never know if he learned to manage his emotions.”
I suddenly realized that I was driving along a road I didn’t recognize.
“Damn it!” I really wanted to get to the store before it closed and had just lost precious time by missing my turn. I got angry with myself again. I was angry for letting J. consume my thoughts so much that I missed my turn. I was angry for letting J into my life to take up so much energy and so many years. If people cross paths for a reason, what was the purpose of our relationship?
“Another freakin’ mistake!” I thought, fuming.
I prepared to back-track when a little voice crept up and said, “There are no mistakes, Paulina”
I was jolted out of my head into the moment. “No, that’s right!” I thought, “There are no mistakes."
I keep going and look around, "Ok, then, I surrender. Where am I supposed to be if I was supposed to miss my turn – show me.” I kept myself alert for for what might come across my path.
And I came upon a big white sign that read, "Faith".