This graphic has been circulating on the internet lately, and it encapsulates much of my thought about yoga, writing, meditation, and the general practice of being a human in the world.
Yesterday I wrote a little about "writing now" as opposed to when we are "enough."
Today, I've been thinking about writing ugly. Or doing yoga ugly.
It's definitely been ugly for me on both fronts. Early in my time doing yoga, pushing up into Chautaranga involved me laying on the floor, tucking my toes, and grunting.
That was it, no lift off, just a lot of "unh unh unh," sweating, and a red face.
Similarly, the first academic article I sent out was quickly returned to me with a reader's report that opened with the sentence. "This is a very strange essay."
The essay on Augie March, New Criticism, and The Partisan Review remains unpublished to this day (though I still suspect an idea lurks there.
And, the ugliness doesn't go away over time. I am currently ripping apart the thing that was once a dissertation, that transformed into a rejected book manuscript, and that is now, well, a Frankenstein's monster of some sort, held together by clipboards, tape, post-its, a lot of scribbles and a little faith. Yesterday, I recruited my husband to help talk me through things, and I held up a post-it with my hieroglyph handwriting on it, hoping it was a brilliant question or reminder to myself, only to discover that it read "Fuck?."
Such failure/ugliness abounds when you work daily on hard stuff. What I like so much about the graphic above is that it reminds us that failure doesn't make us not artists/writers/yogis/whatever. And conversely, one time success doesn't make us those thing either.
Did a last article get accepted? Rejected? Keep writing anyway.
Did you fall out of shoulder stand? Did you nail a perfect handstand? Keep practicing anyway.
The adage that you are what you perpetually do holds true. Even if you do it messy. Even if no one else likes it.
The practice is what defines the practitioner.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote