On Saturday, women and supporters of women marched in cities and towns all over the world to protest against injustice, including misogyny, sexual assault, and discrimination. They sent a message to the incoming American presidential administration that people were watching and ready to act in response to injustice.
I wasn’t there. I didn’t march with them this weekend.
A month before the US presidential election, my friend Norah and I made plans to spend a weekend at the Kripalu yoga center in western Massachusetts. My last trip there was transformative in helping me find the reset button for my eating practices. Since then I’ve maintained some of those changes—I’ve largely eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet (e.g. no nutrasweet in coffee or tea, and almost no diet coke), which is one of my goals, as it seems more healthy-to-me (yes, there’s also evidence for health benefits to this move, but, as Sam says, you do you).
I planned this trip in part for Norah, who has been attending to ailing parents and dealing with the effects of family deaths, all of which are physically and emotionally draining. She needed a break and a rest, and I found the perfect program for her: an entire weekend of yoga nidra, deep relaxation yoga. I’ll post about this kind of yoga practice another time, but suffice to say, she has unwound and de-stressed like nobody’s business in the past two days.
For me, I chose a weekend cooking course called “5 ingredients, no time”. Who could resist? The executive chef of Kripalu, Jeremy Rock Smith, taught knife skills, stovetop/oven techniques for cooking both vegetables and proteins, and menu planning. He also kept us in stitches, amusing us with his irreverent and hilarious commentary on everything from millet-as-bird-food to Kripalu itself (“welcome to Ohmville”). We cooked (and tasted) more than 20 recipes, all featuring interesting vegetables, spices, and a variety of proteins. I now feel recharged to face my kitchen with new ideas for healthy-to-me and tasty-to-me cooking.
But I kept feeling conflicted all weekend. I didn’t march with those women and friends-of-women. Their cause is my cause. I feel a civic responsibility to participate, to be active, to show up to protest when I see injustice. And of course there’s the FOMO: fear of missing out. It’s clear, just from the smidgen of Facebook posts I looked at (there’s deliberately limited internet access at Kripalu), that the experiences of women who attended were tremendously positive. And that’s great, and I’m moved and delighted by their pictures and stories. But I wasn’t there.
Let me say here that I am aware of the position of privilege from which I am approaching this dilemma. First, I am lucky and grateful that I have the resources of time and money to choose to come to a lovely place like Kripalu for a weekend. Second, I am aware of the benefits to me of others spending their time and money and other resources to march in protest against something I am also against. So I thank them here from the bottom of my heart.
All that said, spending time engaging in self-care around clearly identified personal issues (emotional exhaustion for Norah, and being stuck around healthy-to-me eating for me) feels like some steps in a long march of our own. It’s hard to set aside dedicated time for this. However, it’s already resulted in a bunch of benefits for Norah. She says that spending all this inward time has made her ready to get back out there. Good on you, Norah!
I’ve been dealing with feeling stuck about health behavior change over the past year. I’ve toyed with challenges, eating plans, new gym memberships (pro tip: don’t rush to join a gym when you’re feeling blobby and out of shape; it’s not the right time), etc. Yes, I’ve been riding some, walking some, doing some yoga, and the occasional other physical activity (e.g. cross country skiing the one time we got snow in Boston). But I don’t feel like I’m in charge of my eating and activity. I still feel buffeted about by my schedule, my emotions, the world, everything.
I want to march. I want to march for justice, peace, and truth. I want to march for inner peace, for calm resolve, for my life goals of health and happiness.
I used to march a lot. I mean actually march—I was in high school and college band. I was on the flag squad and loved it. I wore a white cavalier hat with a big red feather and carried a seven-foot long flag that I swooshed and slammed around (in accord with others, of course). It was so much fun, marching at half-time at football games and parades. I enjoyed being part of a large (and in this case musical) group, moving with a purpose.
Moving with a purpose. That’s what I missed most about missing out on this weekend’s march. Being at Kripalu felt like marching in place, which is not as fun as moving forward. But I remember from band that getting the lineup right is important, too. You don’t want to step off on the wrong foot.
Here’s hoping that Norah’s and my next steps will be toward all of our goals, inner and outer.