But this particular time instead of sifting through pistachio shells snuffling for the.very.last.nut with the tips of my fingers like some kind of sad zoo animal, I've let my mind wander.
In a deeply-folded nook of my memory I've found a new and surefire procrastination and one that's delicious too. It's thinking lovingly of lemon meringue pie. I'm piecrastinating. Not from a box mix. Oh no, lady, no. The phrase "stiff peaks" must be applied to the egg whites.
I'm musing about the hours-long process of making crust from scratch with ice water, and standing over a copper pot making the lemon curd filling.
The words "lemon meringue pie" sound smooth, decadent yet innocent, and lump-less like so few things in life.
The lambswool-like meringue is in pleasingly caramelized carbonic tufts. Sweet marshmallowy-fluffy as the pillows on the bed in a Crate & Barrel showroom? Plumped with pride as the chest of my grandmother who was well-endowed and on whose bosoms (as she called them) I rested my head, while she stroked my hair and told me how wonderful it was that I was in the world, the young peaceful child I once was, when deadlines were shmeadlines, goofy things grownups got caught up in, like vacation planning -- and I operated in the vast open present moment only, and my only care was, When's dessert?
Fish pose or matsayasana is one of the poses my yoga teacher calls "a chest opener." Chest opener sounds like "can opener." A simple kitchen staple.
Below is a grainy still of one of the famous fathers of American yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, doing matsyasana (according to some ancient texts, "the destroyer of all diseases.") See how his upper back makes a U?
My upper back by contrast is like, You Damn Fool.
Because I have thoracic and cervical osteoarthritis, the pose is more literally like a can opener, like the scene from Alien when the alien pops out of John Hurt's chest. My chest is like Middle Ages armor. A slab of 200-year-old oak, or a coral reef. Fixed. However, I love fish pose. I do it with an assortment of assistive devices, blocks and bolsters and straps and I lie there lifting my sternum a bit to the overhead lights, steaming with effort, trying not to be blind with jealousy of the vertebrae of the other people in the room, the healthy middle-aged whom I loathe since getting sick, and when some heart-shaped ass asks, "Can I take this pose deeper by resting my head on the floor?" it is with great resolve that I resist saying oh fuck off. I like fish pose. I guess because I like knocking on the door of my armor. Hello? I ask. Who's there? Why the stiff-as-iron cage around your heart?
In order to get its dimensions, and to find a fissure to explore, to get a handle on my topic, I have to put on snorkle, fins, dry suit and dive in.
Research is like following Ariadne's golden thread through the labyrinth. You pass rooms. Corridors that go nowhere. Some that lead promisingly only to locked boxes and you're like, Screw this. I'm getting up from my desk and snacking on shell-on pistachios.
Other times you get daffy, mixed up, and giddy and think down is up and kick toward the substrate and not the sky and lose all track of time and the dog (remember? you have a dog), who has been whining to go out all this time, can finally wait no longer and pees on the rug. This is a true story.
Sometimes you catch a glimpse of the Minotaur and that's scary. You want to walk away from the Minotaur. Sometimes you think you have the Key to All Mythologies like poor Mr. Casaubon in Middlemarch and you chortle, Victory! Huzzah!... but it's premature, the way goes dark again. There's more work to be done.
Then -- well, how do, thread -- there it is again, gleaming. Take hold of it. Don't let go.
I started a yoga practice though saying the phrase "yoga practice" makes me want to hurl; I don't want to be one of those Lulumon-clad expensive-blonde middle-aged estrogen-plummeting women who rush from their hair appointments to their yoga classes with their batik-print of elephants Fair Trade mat carriers and hemp 'n leather water bottle holders. Which is to say, I am fighting with myself.
I just saw this really adorable batik-print of elephants Fair Trade mat carrier. I had say, as if talking to my dog, NO! HEEL! DO NOT CHEW!
My "yoga teacher" (again, I want to hurl) is this lovely 60s round grandma-type who goes around when we are in corpse pose spritzing us with lavender water, asking us beforehand, if that's okay. I'm like, "Douse me, good woman!"
She adjusts my bolsters. She encourages me to find my sits bones, while the New Age Andean-pipe music softly flutes. She makes a point of suggesting we collectively dedicate our practice to something like world peace and in that moment while my "back body" is supposedly "finding the ceiling," I'm like, "Righton. World peace it is."
Orange is my favorite color. It's the color of the second chakra Svandhisthana if you're in to that sort of thing which I kind of am; I started taking yoga.
Orange is everything that I want to be and so frequently am not: warm, engaging, bright, voluptuous, generous. The element of the second chakra is water. Its sign the moon. How poetic is that? I want my sign to be the moon, goddamnit.
My contrast I am tight blue. When asked what kind of stone I would like in a ring I would probably say baguette sapphire. Lapis. I wear denim every day. I caught a glimpse of myself in the yoga studio mirrored wall and dang if I wasn't wearing on my face the under-eye smudges of the sick and tired, those twilight shadows that can only be described as midnight blue.
I'm also very veiny. Criss-crossed with blue rivers across my neck and chest. "Veins prominent" is how my physician clinically described it. Apparently, it's a thing.
Blue and orange go well together in flowers, in prints, in throw pillows elegantly tossed on the living room couch of photographs in designer shelter magazines. They occupy opposite ends of the color wheel.
So it's no wonder I like to gaze at things that are orange as if I'm parched for it. I drink it in, Tibetan monks' robes, sunflowers, the last leaves of the flaming maples.
This picture of an owl captures the look I frequently have on my face. This owl is like, Repetez-s'il-vous-plait, I didn't quite hear that because I have feathers in my ears, I have to do bloodwork again because there was "some confusion" at "the lab"? Have you seen my talons, sirs?
This is the look I give my Husb., when he says something incredulous like, "We have to budget for the holidays." Or when it's 10 pm on Sunday night and one of the kids pipes up, having had the whole weekend to tell me, "I forgot to tell you, Mom, but I need a cerulean t-shirt for tomorrow's field trip can you run out and get one? It must be cerulean! Teal will bring shame on the whole 3rd grade class." And I fix them with my view-finder gaze like they're an insect pinned in a museum collection.
This is the look when I'm on deadline, staring at a blank page.
I know there's a jittery, warm-blooded little story out there, like a field mouse in a fall-brown umber field. But it's well-disguised among the stalks of freshly-threshed wheat. If I stare owlishly long and piercingly, and yellow-eyed enough I know it will move, it can't help itself, and it's movement will alert me to it, and I will swoop in on silent wings with my feet out.
As a freelance I am often asked, How Do You Organize Your Work Day? This is how.
6:30 Wake. Where am I?What's my purpose? Fumble for the light box ON switch.
7:00 Take dog out. Muse over what food word would best describe the color of the sunrise. Peaches? Hmmm. Not peaches. Tangerines. No. Grapefruit granita. Yes, that's it.
7:34 Big mug of coffee.
8:00 Get kids to school.
8:10 Reboot laundry. Tidy. Dither. Hobnob. Putter. Consult Fly Lady like a good housekeeper, and then feel hysterical: There Is So Much To Do. The Holidays Are Upon Us like...ravening beasts. Strike that. Positive reframe. I have so much to be thankful for. Like all these Lego pieces on the floor.
8:30 Recover cortisol levels, arrest the shrinking of my telomeres by resting on the couch imagining I am a 19th-century Brit. Lit. heroine in a parlor drama. Sigh big sighs.
9:00ish to 11-ey. Find Grit and Determination. With ropes and pulleys pull myself up the ears of my ratty rabbit slippers. Ass in captain's chair. Beam me up, Scotty, to the flow of words. Write. At least 500 words give or take, maybe, weather-dependent, depending on if my toenails suddenly need attention, or I am distracted by the dog, or there's an interesting bird at the bird feeder.
Anything I write after noon is not worth the effort. So the rest of the day is devoted to research, reading, editing, and other diffuse mental gymnastics like daydreaming and walking which, as they say, is really complicated, controlled falling.
Yes, it's official. I've been flipping through MORE magazine, the magazine for "women of style and substance" (read: middle aged) in the various doctors' offices whose doorways I darken.
I am une femme d'un certain age, as the French say, a woman of a certain age which is a nice way of saying I've earned the right to go blonde to cover my grey and talk publicly about my estradiol level which is the topic of this post.
(Shade your eyes if you can't handle the truth: the truth is that being a woman in her 40s is like walking to school uphill both ways with an uncool backpack on.)
I want to make light of it, this stumbling dwindling end of my fertile years, these endless headaches, the gritty dry eye, the getting up from a sitting position on the ground from playing Uno with my kids that involves groaning and clutching for the coffee table with my claw-hand of early-onset osteo-arthritis while they go, Geez, Mom, stop grunting. Stop farting.
The above video of a singing uterus helps. Funny women help. So does chocolate. So does a good hot bath in which I pour fragrant bubbles made in Italy and scrub myself with a loofah trying to uncover fresh, vibrant, youthful-looking skin through vigorous exfoliation. Then I cry. That helps too, sometimes. So does fiction.
Then, yesterday, I had a shouting match with a box of cereal. "Why won't this fucking infuriating sealed plastic bag open, godamnit! and FURTHERMORE breakfast cereal as a whole conceit is an example the kind of decadence that caused Rome to fall," and I caught myself and thought, at this stage in my life there is nothing I am above.