Keeping despair at bay (part two)

Week two of my campaign to stay cheerful through what looks like a long, dark, cold and isolated winter was a rocky one. When I wrote last week, I felt pretty optimistic about all the measures I was putting in place. Perhaps that was because I was fresh from a week in Prince Edward County, where it is easy to blur the hard edges of reality, or perhaps it was because few of my plans had yet to be actualized. As I should know by now, there can be a veritable chasm between a plan and its reality.

Living in the moment and staying grounded

I attended my first yoga class at the Kingston Seniors Centre with considerable trepidation, not being known for my flexibility, whether physical or other. I slouched into the class, dragging along my yoga mat, which my partner had retrieved from the basement after, I believe, a mouse may have sampled it in a few spots. Instant relief: no one in our small group either looked or dressed like the enthusiastic (young) women I see doing yoga in gyms. Happily, I found a spot in the back row, where I figured I could contort myself with no witnesses other than the teacher.

Our first instruction was to sit on the floor cross-legged. I got down the floor successfully, if ungracefully, but crossing my legs was another matter entirely. Our very pleasant instructor urged us to push through discomfort but to stop when we hit the pain mark. I seemed to hit pain without even passing through discomfort, so after just a few moments uncrossed my legs.

And so it went for the entire class: some exercises I could start and not finish, some I could not even start. I excelled at the corpse pose, which seemed to be nothing more than lying on my back, arms by my side. While I knew I was out of shape and lacking in joint flexibility, I really had no idea of the extent of my body’s rigidity.

Was I in the moment, as I have heard yoga should help me be? Indeed; I was in the moment for every one of the agonizing 60 minutes of the class.

Did I leave feeling grounded? Yes; in fact, I was so grounded I could barely get up from the floor at the end of the class.

Portrait of the artist as an old(ish) woman

I returned to the Seniors Centre two days later for my acrylic painting for beginners class with considerable enthusiasm and a basket full of exciting looking supplies as per the list provided by the instructor. My optimism sagged when I got to the door to see the class described as intermediate.

It was obvious that, despite the “beginner” listing in the program calendar, everyone else in the room knew exactly what to do: they set up their easels (not on the supply list, but fortunately some were available in a closet), set out their palette knives (not on the supply list), notepads (not on the supply list), knew where to find water and, in some cases, brought out art works already underway.

I struggled through the class, feeling like a fish out of water compared to the other students, and approached the instructor after the class for some advice about whether or not I should continue, given that I was definitely not at the intermediate level. His response, not particularly helpful or supportive, was: “It’s up to you.”

Up to me? I quit.

Managing the slough

It was a bleak Wednesday in our house last week, as I reflected on my not very successful attempts to buoy my spirits through yoga and painting. News about the pandemic did nothing to offset this mood.  Numbers of new cases were higher than ever, and it seemed apparent that large cities were headed towards the red zone or even lockdown. All of this, as we were approaching the time of year when many of us traditionally gather with family and friends to share meals, drinks and social time.

I turned to my well-tested feel-better system: I made lists. Lists of the baking I plan to do, gifts I want to make, possible ideas for celebrating the festive season with our kids, possible cottages to rent in next summer. From those lists came more: shopping lists, a baking schedule and more.

By Friday, I was beginning to feel quite restored, a feeling that only increased when I spent a couple of hours with my daughter making festive season urns. We had registered for a workshop with a local greenhouse and, the previous weekend, Kate had picked up our sand-filled urns and all the greenery we would need. In the relative warmth of her garage, we watched the Youtube instructional video and assembled our urns. Truth be told, we mostly got caught up with one another’s news big and small, while glancing occasionally at the video. By the end of our work session, we were both very pleased with our efforts.

The week that had started out so badly ended on a modest upnote and left me ready to stride into the next week hoping for the best.

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