Yoga, Malaise, Ink

“Are you interested in our spin?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what that is.”

“Oh it’s great, I’ll put you in it. There’s a black light, loud music, it’s so fun. You’re all on bikes.”

“Oh wow. Okay. I’m actually going to pass on that one. I have PTSD and am high anxiety with really sensory-driven panic attacks. I think I just need quiet yoga.” The whole truth is that spin sounds like a fucking nightmare to me.

Megan, the enthusiastic woman who answered the phone when I called to use the yoga studio gift card a sister-friend had passed along to me, understood and recommended the restorative class. Candles. Calming. Yes.

A stick figure of a woman with curls in her hair laying face-down on the floor with bent knees tucked under her
Yoga in a pandemic primer. Start here.

I haven’t regularly moved my body with intention in a long while. I haven’t felt well. Much of my pandemic has been spent fighting low fevers (presumably from the pelvic inflammatory disease I grew from having vigorous sex in a hot tub right before the shutdowns began) and my own hypochondriasomething I’m just starting to understand. It helped when I read the term medical anxiety. Much of my life, the word hypochondriac sounded like faker in my head. Years and years and years of panic attacks later, I understand it as: the mind-body’s incredible ability to manifest physical symptoms of sickness through hyper-awareness of itselfevery pin-prick of pain noted, questioned, and declared an alarm sounded to a hair-trigger fight-flight-freeze mechanism in a fragile nervous system. The PID led to a lot of antibiotics (which in turn led to other discomforts and things that need to be corrected in my body), and the (possibly stress) fevers still show up. It hasn’t been a good time.

The hypochondriac’s worst fear, at least this one’s, is that we’re not wrongthat we’re going to die in front of a crowd, gasping and shaking while our mothers, partners, best friends, and doctors assure the onlookers it’s just anxiety, not out of neglect but from well-earned exasperation and jaded immunity to our perceived histrionics (in my early days of experiencing grand mal panic attackswhat I call it when I really think I’m dying and can’t see through the trees of awful mental woods I’m infriends lost sleep holding my hand at night until it subsided, my mother had paramedics called to her house, it’s tiring). But we also don’t like going to the emergency room for panic attacks. Again.

So today there’ll be yoga, because I need to start functioning like I’m not sick and see how I feel. After that, a tattoo.

Five horses in red, orange, yellow, green, and blue painted on a black background on a brick wall with a tree blocking most of the orange horse
Park West Playground in Lincoln Park

I’m getting my first highly visible ink work done. The others are all on my torso, easily concealed. It’s also the most emotional piece I’ve ever gotten: a reimagining of a mural that overlooked the playground I grew up near in the city. A band of horses traveling up my arm, racing toward a sunflower, because when I revisited the park in October (a midnight detour on our way home, part of the new-love ritual of showing who we are: I come from this place—from North Side playground in 1979, from there-used-to-be-a-costume-shop-on-the-corner and we-didn’t-own-a-car-because-we-didn’t-need-one, this is where I skinned my knees and learned to pump my legs on a swing, this is the dirt that made me), the sight of the artwork made me weep. I couldn’t believe it was still there. My friend hugged me and let me cry, and he pointed out a sunflower across the street, the orb of the bloom reaching into the halo of the adjacent alley’s street lamp. It presided over us.

Tonight, I’ll get the outline. Color will come later.

If I get through house cleaning, laundry, cooking, yoga, and emotional tattoo time and still feel energetic enough to do it, I’ll play music tonight. No guitar, just singing. I don’t want to disrupt the healing with strumming. The ink is going on my right arm so it won’t take the constant sun-fade of hanging out my van window all summer. I want to take care of this one.

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