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At the end of a yoga class, you lay on your back in a final savasana and this, they say, is where the real work gets done. The poses and pushing and pain were all in preparation for this moment of corpselike stillness, where the toil soaks into your bones. Prone, your body integrates the changes you’ve made and when you reemerge you are born again. The person you were when you entered your practice is gone, twisted and torqued and sweated out on the mat.

Today is Sunday and I am in my own kind of savasana.

For three years I avoided stagnation by piling on more chaos, traveling, burning through my savings, ending up back at my parents’ house to let my bank account refill. Yesterday, I sent 50,000 carefully culled and crafted words to an editor with the intention of turning them into a book. Those two things could not have coexisted, but the book never would have happened if not for the movement. Each story was about moving, moving on, and my long-held mantra that the scariest place to go is nowhere.

For months, those stories permeated my every thought. Now that they are out of my hands, I feel like I’m just laying here. I’m waiting, like I always have, for the next big thing to happen. I’m once again waiting for my life to start.

You should know that nothing scares me more than being stuck. I disguised that fear as adventurousness and chased the dream of finding my most best place, my perfect neighborhood, my highest self. I thought I was looking for home, and as long as I didn’t find it, I could maintain my perpetual state of flux. I felt at home in the change, but I also felt disconnected and chaotic. In my wandering, I was a broken power line violently sparking after a storm. My energy had nowhere to go, so it went everywhere.

Secretly, I prayed for home. I felt ungrounded and separate from myself. I hoped that I would find home at the same moment home found me, that I would know beyond the shadow of a doubt, and I would stop, and I would feel peace for the first time. In each new place, I wished for both a safe harbor and a version of myself that I could finally love. I figured that best-possible-version would only find me in the best-possible-place. I made it impossible to find her, because she would only emerge in a beautifully appointed bungalow in a trendy part of an up-and-coming town. I thought we’d only meet if I was engaged in my cool new hobby or partaking in an Instagram-approved workout. I was trying to build her life from the outside in.

I chased her apparition by scrolling lists of bests, on a quest to find where she might be. Best places for singles. Outdoorsiest college towns. Best cities for fashion-forward dog-loving yogis. Each option was perfect on paper. They covered superficial basics like housing prices, job markets, proximity to Whole Foods, but tax brackets and traffic stats don’t make a home. What I needed to know was how it felt to wake up in a place and breathe its air, how I would be molded and changed when I let a place permeate me. Home, I decided after years of failed attempts, was a symbiotic creation.

In 2020, I chose to start building. I moved to Asheville in the middle of the pandemic, refusing to let an encroaching crisis stomp on my long overdue arrival. I drove South from Milwaukee and the lockdown order made getting through Chicago a breeze. I watched with delight as icy bleakness gave way to blooming Spring. I arrived safely, and that was supposed to be the end of the story, because I had broken free from the cycle. I could stop bouncing like a ping pong ball from the stifled security of family to the half wild adventure of solo travel. I would end the exhausting entropy of entanglement and escape. I would finally let myself emerge, at home in the world.

But making the choice wasn’t enough. After I unpacked and forced myself to rest and catch my breath, the old impulses remained. I was pulled to connect with what was out there. I ached for my normal distractions, but the lockdown pushed them all out of reach. I couldn’t exhaust the new city in a single weekend like I usually would, I had to go slow. My new life was on government-enforced hiatus.

Conditioned by decades of movement and novelty, my mind revolted. I drove around desperately looking for signs of life. I hiked and golfed and learned to shoot guns. I ruminated about Asheville being the wrong choice, scolded myself for not thinking bigger, going crazier. I dove into a vortex of doubt because years spent controlling a slowly burning wildfire made constant change feel safe.

Confronted by that moratorium on the things I thought made up my life, I was forced to notice that life continued in the background. I was my life, regardless of the things I did. So for once, I just sat. I embraced the lack of stimuli and let restlessness and loneliness wash over me without reacting and from that savasana, inspiration emerged.  

I sat at my laptop because I had no other choice. I had tried literally everything else. Writing through the slowdown created order out of disordered thoughts, and I began to feel safe inside the stories I wrote. I word processed half-digested experiences and connected the dots between moments. I discovered significance and meaning through thoughts that revealed themselves through manic fingers on a keyboard. Each hour I spent writing was a therapy session, each revision a breakthrough. I am running from myself! I’m not at home in a new city because I’m not at home in my skin! The secret is to accept myself as I am, unadorned by peacock feathers of cool experiences and exotic destinations! A-ha!

The more I felt settled in myself and my work, the more I began to let myself imagine a real home. It was unfamiliar territory. I quieted the part of my brain that is so afraid of stuckness and imagined, for the first time, a place to live that is anchored in commitment and self-realization:

It’s beautiful, and has space for all of me. It’s got texture and charm, open spaces and cozy nooks, bright sunlight and grass-scented patios for sitting in slow sunsets. It is the centerfold from some luxe living magazine, and I am the ethereal hostess floating room to room in a silk robe. I sip coffee and listen to the birds before holing up in my office in the eaves to write. Soon my ruggedly capable husband brings me a snack and sweet distractions. Together we sit on the teak and leather chaise, gaze at the salt wall, and talk about what I’m writing until the banter sends sparks of inspiration flying and I kick him out so I can dive freely, supportedly, back into my work.

Somehow, in my wildest unfettered fantasy of home I still make myself unavailable, abandoning people to sulk in the company of books and open windows. Shame sets in as I process that even in my perfect vision of my perfect life, I am ethereal, unmessy, and barely present. My big dream somehow still includes the desire to disappear.

Watching my fantasy unfold through that Vaseline-smeared lens, with all my same big walls in place, feels like the latest in a long line of distracting delusions. By indulging it, do I continue to hold my head under the water of dissatisfaction? Will I soon gasp for breath and die, unfulfilled?

Or, in a kinder reframe, is my fantasy perfectly justified because my dream house has space for the parts of me that need to escape sometimes? These are the first green shoots of a dream, after all.

Either way, I rest in the knowing that my mind and my body are absorbing the work I have done. My mind settles in the stillness after bringing 33 stories to life on paper. My body soaks in safety after 33 years of perpetual motion. As I wiggle my fingers and toes and come back to life, I am showing you that I am still here. I’m glad you are too. Namaste, you guys.

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7 thoughts on “still”

  1. The depth and humanity of your scribes require multiple reads. Nuanced, at once joyful and conflicted. Doubt seems to be your filter. Rather than charging headlong into the next sticky situation it causes you to breathe, be, reassess, take your time; and time is life.
    Enjoy and embrace the doubt. And keep your eyes peeled for that ruggedly handsome perfect fit.
    Thank You for motivating me to start my Yoga practice after years of my own doubt

    Congrats on moving forward with your 50,000/33!!

  2. The realization that we run from ourselves is so great. I’ve noticed it so many times. Even when completely still. Loved reading this and hearing there’s so much more coming!

  3. Secretly, I prayed for home. I felt ungrounded and separate from myself. I hoped that I would find home at the same moment home found me, that I would know beyond the shadow of a doubt, and I would stop, and I would feel peace for the first time……I so get it. Well said Whitney

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