Today is a federal election in Canada. It’s a tense time for progressives. Our relationship with our high school boyfriend Justin didn’t survive the first few weeks of university — he kept drunk-texting us and not showing up when he promised — and we were ready to break up with him by Thanksgiving.
But the alternatives aren’t obvious. There’s your tough, smart and committed aunt who’s off doing fabulous things and doesn’t make it to the family holidays, your sister’s mean and sullen boyfriend, the nice guy your cousin is bringing to dinner for the first time, the brother who is always off in the other room playing some super complex strategy game, and the drunk racist uncle who won’t shut up. Canadians seem to be all over the map, it’s been a pretty ugly campaign, and the only thing for sure is that on Tuesday morning, we won’t feel anymore like the only major western country that can sit comfortably (and slightly smugly) knowing that we’ve resisted the tension and polarization that’s shaped politics for the past four years.
There is a lot of anxiety swirling in the air. So how do we breathe through it?
Well, my first thought was yoga. I haven’t been doing as much yoga lately, being obsessed with my feminist cross-fit style gym, punctuated by a couple of runs a week. But the day before a tense election seemed like the perfect time to re-engage with Iyengar yoga. So I looked up the schedule for the studio across the street, paid for a new set of class passes (ignoring the pang over realizing that my last set expired with a couple of unused classes), and trotted on over, mat over my back.
I signed in, collected the pile of props iyengar usually demands, and lay down to quiet myself. A few minutes later, I suddenly became aware that the room was filling up with people who weren’t grabbing mats, and then one of the studio owners came over to check in. “Isn’t this Iyengar?” “No, Cindy’s away. This is a EATT training workshop.” I stared, stupidly — “but I signed up online?” “The website was wrong.”
(Note I’m not even sure he apologized — he’s not the reason I go to that studio).
The person at the desk did apologize and said they were giving me an extra class credit, and I slunk out of there, my mat under my arm, feeling foolish. Nothing like lying on your back in the wrong class to bring back all the high school angst.
So much for breathing through the election tension. But lesson learned: there will be frustration, and unexpected detours, and moments where I’m going to have to bite my tongue. Got it.
An hour later, that lesson showed up for real, when someone in my life told me they’d voted conservative in the advance polls, parroting a reactionary discourse about too many immigrants, liberals limiting free speech and giving in to identity politics, and oh, the debt! “Why would you do a thing like that?” I said mildly. Direct and clear.
I had work to do, but the angst was still swirling. It was the perfect October day, about 12 degrees, windless, sunny. My body was a little sore from all the squats and suchlike all week, but I decided a run would shake out the anxiety. I mentally planned just half an hour, just enough to breathe in some oxygen.
I started running and then… I just kept going. Over to the valley, and up through the secret pathway through the city. I felt strong and I felt present. The ground was under my feet, and my body and my soul let me put one foot in front of the other. Step, step, step.
At my turnaround point, there was a lesson on the bridge: LOOK BOTH WAYS.
Got it. There’s more than one perspective. Other people have reasons for the choices they make. Vilifying them isn’t going to help anything.
I let the familiar rhythm of running overtake me until an hour and 11 km had passed. The longest run I’ve done in a few months. Me, at my essence.
I ran up from the valley trail at Queen Street, where the Bridge of Wisdom had another lesson: “the river I step in is not the river I stand in,” it says in comforting iron. Every moment will pass. No moment will be the same as the one before:
Got that lesson too. Whatever happens, it will pass.
I got home, knees sore, body tired, and sunk into the tub. Grateful for my body, grateful for my neighbourhood and my city, grateful to be reminded that I have the fortitude and clarity I need for anxious times.
(And PSA for Canadians still undecided: this site aggregates different projections and identifies the best way to vote in your riding if you want to vote strategically: https://votewell.ca/) Vote well!
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who voted in the advance polls, and changed her mind just before she made the X.