I’ve stopped bundling up against the cold this winter. Well, at least on moderate days when I know there won’t be snow or ice. I’ll wear short sleeves and leave my jacket unbuttoned. I’ll hang my scarf at home and walk out the door. I just want to feel the cold biting at my skin.
I have hated New York for making me so uncomfortable these past two and a half years. The cold gives me a water faucet nose that’s impossible to shut off, and a blue blue heart that makes me ache down to my toes. Even when summer, so familiar to me, would arrive, I would sweat on the subway and smell it on everyone else’s skin and it didn’t seem like I would ever escape. Maybe its an anxiety thing? I can’t be sure.
Like I said, it’s been two years. Two winters and, so soon, three summers of my little life spent alternately sweating and shivering on subway cars and cracked sidewalks, on beaches and in parks, in beds and showers. Primal functions of my body on display. My body on display.
Last summer was when things began to shift. I would feel a drop of sweat start to crawl down my spine and I would hold onto it like a secret. I would think of how functional my body was, how she was taking care of my beating heart and brain, keeping us cool inside her thin skin. I would climb subway stairs with the anticipation of sun on my cheeks again. And in December, when I ached for sunshine in my usual way, I also began to ache for those sweaty bodies and their human scents, bare skin all over the place, shoulders and knees finally freed, the flesh of everyone’s thighs so exposed, kind of vulnerable.
Yoga is all about practicing discomfort. Or that’s what my teacher tells me anyway. I don’t think I know anything about it really. Every pang in my body still sends me into a hypochondriacal panic. But something really has shifted and I’m comfortable at the feet of this city, this earth, this slowing exploding pile of stardust, in a way I’ve never been before.
Recently, on my walk home from yoga class, I found myself repeating a mantra of sorts: your place in the family of things. I whispered it again and again to myself to the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement. It’s a phrase from a poem that you should know if you don’t. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever felt in my entire short life. But I’m starting to feel it now, I think, as I walk shivering through the cold and sweating through the heat happy to feel any of it at all.