When I was in middle school my two best friends both had divorced parents, and they both spent their summers out of state. I suppose it didn’t end up making a huge difference on a practical level for me since my siblings and I spent our summers absorbed in family togetherness which, unlike many children I’m told, we relished.
But still, I wanted to stay in touch with my friends. Email wasn’t a thing yet, and I have always hated talking on the phone. So my two friends and I sent each other letters. We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we would send a single letter in a loop: one person sending a note, the second one adding to it, the third contributing even more and forwarding the whole thing back to the first person.
The problem with e-mail and Twitter and these rapid fire communications is that they encourage us to share the feelings of the moment. If you send a letter, you have to write something that will still be relevant in 2, 3, 12, 17 days (depending on where you send it) when it finally arrives and is read.
To write a letter is to play the long game. To ignore the fact that you were watching your feet one day and walked into a wall at the office and instead contemplate the path of your career and the meaning of your work. To forgo the tirade against the guy who cut you off and ponder the ways our bodies move in modern society.
I love letters. I still write the occasional letter, though I rarely send one. I think my life needs more letters. Not only to communicate to others but to work through my thoughts for myself. These daily moments that we are all so concerned with look different when I think about them as part of a larger picture, as a whole life.
Although I am the oldest of my parents’ four children, and the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side, I’ve always been the youngest one doing whatever I was doing. Because of differences in cut-off ages in schools between Virginia and Texas I was younger than all of my friends in my grade. Through a series of events having nothing to do with intelligence, I graduated from college six months before I turned 21. Add to that the fact that I’m a little short person (and therefore look young) and wherever I go and whatever I do people are awed by my accomplishments.
I didn’t realize that I had let other people’s amazement go to my head a bit. Until now. I am turning 30 this year and I am no longer the youngest person. No longer can I rest on the laurels of my assumed precociousness. The precocious child grows into nothing more than a well-balanced adult.
Like moving away from the glamorous Big Apple, I find that who I am in the world can no longer depend on cheap tricks or sleight of hand. I feel like a reasonably accomplished person, but that’s not so hard to do at this grand adult age. Certainly not the same as holding a college diploma and giggling about how you can’t legally drink yet.
One of the things I appreciate so much about my yoga practice is that has nothing to do with my age. I was never a dancer or a gymnast and, as I am fond of telling people, when I first started I couldn’t even touch my toes. I had no kind of physical head-start, and as a result I have had to slowly and patiently chip away at my physical limitations. I have admired (OK fine, envied) the ex-ballerinas and childhood acrobats who have leapt on well-stretched limbs onto the yoga mats beside me. Yoga is so visually pretty when you can do those amazing things with grace and ease.
After the short flush of green rises into my cheeks then fades I remember that I’m actually lucky to lack those natural physical gifts. However lazy I’d like to be, however much I’d like to shut down my brain and pose like a glamor queen, the fact is yoga is still hard work for me. Even the “advanced” poses that I can do require a great deal of concentration. The humility is profound. The lesson is not one that you can learn early by being preternaturally clever.
There is something exhilarating by stripping away your pretentions. If time (the bastard) must pass it’s nice to know that there are exciting discoveries that can only come with age, with time and patience, with an acute lack of interest in praise.