Monday, July 7, 2014

Keeping My Practice on My Mat (Joy Preble)

I’ve never had a lot of hobbies – or like Jen Doktorski mentions in her post from a couple days ago, I’m not even sure that some of the things I’ve done even fit the definition of a hobby. I have played the piano on and off since I was six. I collected things for awhile—even a rock collection when I was about seven, spurred on by a book on geology. In my office closet I have my collection of novelizations of the original seasons of Star Trek, mostly written by James Blish, which I picked up here and there starting in junior high and which spurred me into writing Trek fan fic on yellow legal pads with my like-minded friends. As I am fond of telling people, this was before the Internet, and thus a very low-tech version where we exchanged stories with each other and everyone responded enthusiastically to my various love interests for Mr. Spock. Yes, this tells you almost everything you need to know about me. The rest can be surmised from the following: In high school I dated the 1st chair bassoon player from the marching band. I was at that time the 1st chair viola player in the concert orchestra. Yeah. Mull that over for a bit. When you're done, you can ponder my collection of Buffy novelizations and paraphernalia. (Witch Pez like the one Oz gave Willow, anyone? Buffy/Angel lunch box?)

Did all of the above influence and inform my writing? Absolutely. Although not always directly and more in the sense that whatever I have done for the most part I have embraced my passions fully—at least for a few moments. (The rock collection was a mistake. It bored me to tears and it was dirty and heavy to lug around and possibly a brief substitute for my pet parakeet that had recently died of pneumonia because my mother had hung the cage extra high so the cat wouldn’t go after Pippy – who developed said ailment in the blustery drafts near the ceiling of our historic register apartment in Chicago one frigid winter and dropped dead. (Literally. He fell off his perch with a clunk while we were eating dinner. I buried him in a shoe box in the back yard.)

Pippy wasn’t a hobby, though. He was a dog analogue since my father said dogs weren’t for city-dwellers. Or something to that effect. I just know I responded by bringing home stray cats and buying birds at the pet store with my allowance and winning gold fish at carnivals and also buying a bunch of turtles at some point. We have a dog now, by way. She is a 60 pound basset/boxer mix. Yesterday she pulled on her leash vigorously while in the ecstatic throes of a post-poop victory lap, and I tripped over a clump of mini-monkey grass, fell out of my Birkenstocks and face- planted. The ensuing shiner is a thing of beauty.

But back to hobbies. (here, gentle reader, you are suspecting that I have none.) For the past year or so, I have been faithfully practicing yoga. I am mostly horrible at it, but I keep going. I try to keep my practice on my mat, as my teacher Tiffany likes to tell us. Occasionally she can’t help herself and wanders limberly over to adjust my various positions. I am decent at balancing on one leg. My flexibility is increasing but not so you might notice. My downward dog is decent. My child’s pose is better. I  have mastered the yogi pushup… at least more or less. I see a difference in my body… at least more or less. I even left the ground for two breaths in crow. I will never, ever stand on my head.

Mostly what yoga has done for me has helped me quiet my mind. For an entire hour once or twice a week, I have learned to be focused and still and quiet. You know what was the hardest pose to learn? The final pose, called savasana – or corpse pose—a pose of complete relaxation. We lay still and flat and empty our minds for five solid minutes. Do you know how LONG that feels? Longer than five minutes.

But the silence and the focus and the ability to lie still and breathe and just ‘be’--- these are things that have had an effect on my writing. Writing novels is such a strange and cerebral activity. You are in your head all day long. It is a relief and a lesson to be in my body instead. And to understand that all of this—the writing, the publishing, the moments where I can’t help but compare my career to someone else’s and come up wanting and wanting—really is about the journey. It really is about being kind to myself. About praising myself for coming to the laptop with good intentions and a full heart each day just as I praise myself for coming to the mat. (Who am I kidding? Some days I limp to the laptop and the mat. I curse their existence. I clock watch like a fiend.)

Namaste, gentle reader!



10 comments:

  1. You've inspired me to collect Buffy merch and try yoga, Joy! I want a Buffy/Angel lunchbox and the idea of quieting my brain for five whole minutes sounds amazing.

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    1. I love my lunch box! Although I must admit I have never actually put a lunch in it.

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  2. You know I full endorse collecting of Buffy/Angel and/or Star Trek paraphernalia and have done a bit of that myself (Spike action figure). I've also just started yoga this year and I love it for the same reasons you do--I need that space to quiet my mind big time!!!

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    1. Spike action figure! Did I ever tell you about my five minute chat with James Marsters? The result of our annual Texas author booth at Austin Comic Con. But I had to meet him while I was wearing my purple evil mermaid costume…. Yeah.

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  3. You're braver than I am when it comes to yoga; I haven't tried it yet because I'm afraid I'll fall over and bring everyone else down with me, like human dominos.
    I had a rock collection when I was a kid too; I think it was back when people had "pet rocks" (except I just thought the rocks looked pretty).

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    1. You will fall. But if you're on your own mat, you're safe!

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  4. I had done yoga, but it was more about breathing. This year, I tried a yoga studio near me and it was a yoga I haven't experienced before--challenging and really focusing on body. I loved it. I hope to go more. I love Buffy too and think it's awesome you collect Buffy paraphernalia.

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    1. My personal theory is that the vast majority of YA paranormal writers are Buffy fans.

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  5. I am SOOOOO with you on the yoga. Total life-saver.

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    1. Some days I crawl to class. But yeah. Especially on those days where your brain is yelling "I'm a hack loser who couldn't write her way out of a corner and everyone is getting accolades except stupid loser face me," yoga helps calm the noise, you know?

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