September 9, 2013 § 13 Comments

Wake me up, when September ends. – Green Day

It’s September in North Carolina. The pool is already closed for the year, but stepping outside is like walking into a sauna while wearing flannel pajamas. Yesterday at the bus stop, it was 90 degrees with 97 percent humidity. The other mothers and I shaded our eyes with our hands and had to open our mouths to breathe.

September to me is a bit like March. It is a month of waiting for things to change but feeling that mostly, things are exactly the same. The leaves are turning brown and gold at the edges, but we are still in shorts. Kids are in school, but everything else shouts summer: smoothies and ice pops, Saturdays at the beach, fireflies and cicadas, and butterflies as big as baseballs.

September has never been a good month for me. Now it’s a month of transition and restlessness. In the past it’s been the month of breakups and disasters, and one year it was endless rain. When I was 28, I lived in Mission Hills, an old part of San Diego that overlooks the bay and Coronado. Our apartment was built into the hill high above the airport. My roommate and I used to sit on our faux leather couch watching the planes land and make those cumbersome, heavy turns once they were on the ground. The roar of their engines was comforting to me. It sounded like things happening.

On the morning of September 11th, the planes were halted. The airport was motionless for days, the stillness terrifying. For days I have been writing and rewriting this post, trying to tell my story of that day and what was lost. In the end I just deleted it because we all have a story of that day, and trying to tell it now seems a bit like hijacking a tragedy: Pay attention to me. Feel sorry for me.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do in my yoga classes this week. It’s been twelve years so perhaps I should just go about my business of telling people where to place their hands and feet. But that didn’t feel quite right either. A few weeks ago, in my own practice, I did one of my Seane Corn yoga videos in which she said, “The body remembers everything. And that includes hate, heartbreak, loss.” Loss. The thing I am learning as I get older is that time really doesn’t heal all wounds.

Perhaps time gives us some distance, maybe a little space, but time also makes things complicated in that we begin to layer our tragedies, or at least I do. September 11th is not just the catastrophe of a day but the sum of all heartbreak from a lifetime of Septembers, the same way that JFK’s assasignation now symbolizes not just the death of a president but the loss of a certain glamour and promise, hope and prestige. We remember the Challenger not just as a shocking tragedy but also as the sucker punch, the explosion of innocence. Now, it seems, rather than being united by a horrible day, we are united by our grief. As in so many other instances, the universal has become personal and the personal universal.

This past weekend I was irritable and impatient. On Sunday night, Scott and I were awakened by a deafening thunder storm, and when I fell back to sleep, I dreamed of tanks in the Syrian desert, dust and ash falling like ticker tape. And then I was in the ocean, and the tanks were shaped like humpback whales, diving and surfacing in the black water.

Fear, grief, and anger have been shadowing me since the beginning of the month and I am trying to dodge them because I don’t want to be afraid and sad and angry twelve years later. I want to be good. I want to be fine. Instead, I have this unreliable, calcifying heart.

I have been doing a lot of yoga videos this week because I don’t have the energy to do my own practice, or maybe, what I am lacking is faith. Luckily, I came across this one with Sienna Sherman, in which she reminded me that the antidote to judgement is curiosity; a sense of wonder, even for our faltering hearts.

On Sunday I read this essay by Pico Iyer, in the New York Times, entitled “The Value of Suffering.” In it, a Zen artist tells the author that suffering is a privilege, that it shakes us out of complacency. I am not sure I share this view yet, but that’s probably because I am more neurotic than complacent. I think the privilege is being alive, and suffering is its byproduct.

In my own class – miles and miles away from Seane Corn and Sienna Sherman – we did a grounding practice, full of lunar namaskars and forward folds. And I decided not to say too much except to quote the master of wonder himself: Mr. Rilke. May you too have patience with all that is unresolved in your own heart.

 “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to a  Young Poet,” 1903


§ 13 Responses to September

  • Jena Strong says:

    Last night on the phone, V and I had a whole conversation about September and March. And November, too. The sense of in-between. Transition months. Keep breathing, my friend.

  • not calcifying… perhaps in a lull, but not calcifying. still beating, pulsing, in all its luck and beauty..
    i’m in love with september, and i’m holding onto it, because the world is too much with me right now, all the things that are falling down are mountains of my days, and so the crispness of september is a godsend. . .

  • One of my favorite writers (you), quoting one of my favorite writers (Rilke), reminding me to do of one of the hardest things (replace judgment with curiosity). Thank you for all of it, especially for being you and for speaking so eloquently to all of our faltering hearts.

  • Being patient with the questions–especially the big ones–is something that I struggle with all the time. Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to be here, in the thick of the storm. Your writing, as usual, is beautiful and illuminating.

  • This unreliable, calcifying heart. Oh, me too. Me too. I don’t know what to say other than I am right next to you, and thank you. xoxo

  • Yes. To everything. I am having such a struggle with September this year, and your words comforted me. Thank you.

  • Jan says:

    ““The body remembers everything. And that includes hate, heartbreak, loss.” Loss. The thing I am learning as I get older is that time really doesn’t heal all wounds.”
    Yes. My body is speaking to me in so many ways these days, and this helps me realize that I need to pay attention to it. And to tend the wounds.
    So thank you.

  • I actually love the idea of September. For me, as a student and then a teacher, I always thought of the beginning of the school year as a fresh start, a time of new beginnings – though the fact that I was teaching (a high school World’s Religions class, no less) on that September morning 12 years ago has brought this month a heavier weight to bear.

    Sending you love and light. May curious, cleansing energy be yours today and always. xo

  • staceylo says:

    Pamela, I read this the other day but in reading your comment this morning, realized I never commented. I have such a love/hate relationship with September. It feels like the new year to me which is both exciting and scary. Overwhelming in so many ways. Transition and change sure are hard!!

  • Nina Badzin says:

    I’m with Stacey . . . that love/hate the exciting/scary. You explained those feelings so well here in this piece.

  • I thought about skirting around 9/11 in my Yoga classes this week, but used the day as a reminder to pause and appreciate life and those we love. That day I emailed someone close to me and told them I loved them after we hadn’t spoken in a while. It was all that needed to be said. Sometimes love is just enough.

  • All I know is I read this and my heart hurts, resonant with tanks become whales, calcification along scars born of wounds I cannot quite fully recall, perhaps dating to lives before the one I dimly know.

  • mb says:

    love! i had the good fortune of living in the city where sianna sherman teaches and attending her class once a week for a year or so… amazing. i will look forward to having more income someday and getting a yogaglo membership! it looks fantastic.

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