The Beauty In Broken Things
On witnessing female rage and Black joy.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for “yoga dance.” It was the only yoga class available in our short lunch window on the first day of our Cheryl Strayed writer’s workshop (the author of Wild) at Kripalu, a yoga retreat center in the Berkshires. I didn’t expect I’d walk out an hour later with goosebumps on my arms and my face wet with tears.
For the first half hour, 50 or so of us women danced in circles around the room to music that was a bizarrely satisfying combination of dubstep EDM-meets-spiritual yoga hymns. Most of us didn’t have rhythm so we resembled adult-size toddlers oscillating between having temper tantrums and running away from our mothers. Once I let go of caring what I looked like, it was a liberating sensation. And I could see the other women, at least the ones who didn’t have their eyes closed to spare us all the embarrassment, felt the same way.
But the real climax of the unexpected spiritual journey came two-thirds of the way in, when we were told to partner with a stranger. We were to take turns freestyle dancing for our partner, while they held out their arms to us, with palms facing the ceiling, in a gesture of offering and receiving. Of course I paired up with a grey-haired boomer, a bright-eyed woman presumably in her sixties.
I went first, closing my eyes as I danced for her, out of fear of judgment. After a couple minutes of slicing my way through the air with my arms, spinning in circles and stretching my torso in every direction, I opened my eyes to switch turns. To my surprise, she was crying. The movement I had thought looked ridiculous brought her to tears. I had moved something in her.
Then, I let her dance for me. Her movement shifted from gentle and hesitant to forceful and angry, her eyes squeezed shut the entire time. When she was angry, she pushed her arms out in front of her, as if to say “get away from me.” She shook her hands, her feet, her short grey bob. I began to cry too. What I saw in her movement was years, decades, of pent-up frustration; of words she wished she had the courage to say; things she never did but wanted to; repressed emotion.
Like the Grinch, I felt my heart swell inside my chest. And then I looked around, and saw all the women similarly letting it all out with their partner making space for them. I thought of all the years of injustice women have overcome, how we continue to fight for our rights.
Next, we were given colorful scarves to dance with. “Could this get any more ridiculous?” I thought to myself. We were told to treat the scarf like our inner child. After a couple minutes of twirling around with my scarf like an idiot, I slowed down to look around and was dumbstruck by the sight before me.
Suddenly I saw all the women in the room as innocent-little-girl versions of themselves, the person they were before life disappointed them; wore them down; moulded them into what they thought they were supposed to be. One Asian woman cradled her scarf like a baby. Another larger white woman used it to frantically cut through the air.
And then I noticed a stillness in the middle of the room. A Black woman was standing completely still, her scarf cocooning her body. Her eyes were peacefully closed as she hugged herself. Like a statue, her lack of movement stood out amidst the flurry of colourful activity around her. Once again, my heart ached and I started to cry. I saw, in this woman’s stoicism her pain but also her resiliency; her vulnerability; her unapologetic self-love.
In this exact hour, on the other side of New York state, 10 Black people were being murdered in a grocery store. The day before, I stayed at an Air bnb a few minutes away from that same grocery store. We arrived to Black people sitting on the front steps of their house across the street, eating fried chicken and hollering warm welcomes to us. On the street, smiling Black children rode their bikes and chased each other. The warm, sticky early-summer air was filled with Black joy; the air of a tight-knit community. It’s this very essence that made the neighbourhood a target.
In our writer’s workshop that weekend, Cheryl Strayed tells us to “write the beauty into the broken things.” If there’s anything I’ve learned since losing my mom, it’s that what makes life beautiful is the co-existence of two opposing truths; that both beauty and heartbreak can exist in the same space. It’s what I saw in my white partner dancing before me; in the Black woman hugging herself in the middle of the crowd; it’s how I’ll remember the neighbourhood in which I stayed in Buffalo.
When I was in New York City last week, I had the pleasure of stopping by Pearl River Mart, the emporium of Asian goods that has become New York institutions since opening in 1971. Founders Ming Yi And Ching Yeh Chen first dubbed it a “friendship store,” after the “friendship stores” in China that were sanctioned by the Chinese government to sell crafts made in the country to foreigners. “He called it a ‘friendship store’ to say we welcome all, no matter your background or race,” president Joanne Kwong tells me. Over 50 years later, with four locations, and a customer base that is no longer limited to Chinese immigrants, their “friendship store” has proved to be a success.
To compete with the increasingly more wellness-oriented hotel offerings, this upscale hotel chain launched their “Life Lived Best” wellness program a couple months ago. From healthy menu choices to a 24/7 “Wellness Concierge”—Peninsula hotels is making it easier to find wellness while on the road. The real standout experience is the spa-style bath, complete with aromatherapy essential oils and televisions built into the bathroom wall.
👧 A culture that kills its children has no future.
“It feels like the United States is regressing, but we’re actually just getting redrawn according to this minority group’s architectural renderings of a Christian Nationalist Theocracy. We’re free to pound on the doors. But we’re stuck in the design. With all these motherfucking guns.” - Anne Helen Petersen.
🇨🇦 The U.S. should look to Canada, Australia and the U.K. on how to prevent gun massacres.
💙 An Asian American college couple won’t let racism ruin their love story.
⚰️ Why we’re obsessed with stories about grief.
🚇 Do you feel safe riding the NYC subway?
“Genuine tragedies do happen, but they are rare, and sometimes getting hit with a tossed bottle of urine is the price you pay for living in the greatest city in the world.” - Reeves Wiedeman.
💉 How New York’s COVID war spun out of control.
🇺🇸 And this one’s for the Angelenos.
“L.A. was the first place to teach me that sometimes, sadly, love is like that, too — as heavy and dull and bleak and indifferent and sprawling as it is, you might barely feel it but it’s there, it has you.” - Porochista Khakpour.
👩🎤 Contemplating the return of the mullet.
👴🏼 Grandfluencers are sharing a new vision of old age.
“Being lucky enough to have the last chapter of your life be the best chapter of your life? If you have any say-so, for God’s sake, have the best be the last.” - Gaylynn Baker, 85.
😂 A guide to lol.
“Lols ‘signal basic empathy between texters. What began as signifying laughter morphed into easing tension and creating a sense of equality.That is, ‘LOL’ no longer ‘means’ anything.’” - John McWhorter.
As if Roe vs. Wade isn’t enough, the United States is facing a baby formula shortage. What does the shortage reveal about the country’s flawed supply chain? This episode of Time To Say Goodbye gets into it. On the same topic, they discuss the politics of oversized baby carriages and regressive family leave policies.
Then, they get into a critical discussion of the Buffalo shooting. What is the solution to the rise in mass shootings? Is more policing really a good idea? What is the history behind “replacement theory”? As always, I appreciate their nuanced take on a complicated issue.
The food at Kripalu was healthier than I would’ve liked (I’m sorry but rice cakes do not count as dessert! 😤 ). But there were a few foods I particularly liked. Thankfully they’ve got the recipes online so we can recreate them at home.
👩🍳 Ginger scones
Speaking of quinoa, I leave you with this hot take/good laugh.
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