The Black Hole Meets The Sun

Simulated view of a black hole in front of the...

Simulated view of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud. The ratio between the black hole Schwarzschild radius and the observer distance to it is 1:9. Of note is the gravitational lensing effect known as an Einstein ring, which produces a set of two fairly bright and large but highly distorted images of the Cloud as compared to its actual angular size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last couple weeks seem somewhat blurred in my memory. Day to day, fretting over which bills are past due, which bills have passed their grace period, and crunching number after number trying to figure out if and when we can get ourselves on track and how we manage to keep hemorrhaging money even when we’re nickel and diming ourselves for all we’re worth. Each day’s tips are counted and logged onto a calendar. My husband’s income is charted as well, from each of his jobs. On paper, we should be fine.

If everything went by what was “on paper,” most of the world would run a bit more smoothly.

“You’re having trouble with your mortgage payments? Hm, that’s strange. It says right here that your income is high enough to cover it. We’ll just adjust your payment history. You’re right as rain!”

If ooooonly.

And so things fall by the wayside. Things like writing and answering that question people have been shoving in my face like a durian popsicle since I was in sixth grade: “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

I’m almost thirty. My husband is almost thirty. We ought to both have answers for that by now. But he’s working two jobs, and I’m waiting tables for a living while my history degree and near double major in history and Central European Studies  moulders in a box somewhere. Come to think of it, I am not even sure where my college diploma is. That’s how little it matters of late.

And so the black hole of finances has consumed us once more. I don’t have a huge number of weapons in my arsenal against it, but I do have a few.

I’ve even tried out a couple new ones. For starters, there’s Tai Chi.

I’ve always been fascinated with Tai Chi. I remember watching a group of adults move through flowing poses as a child. I thought it looked graceful — just standing by as a casual observer managed to relax me somewhat. But I never had the opportunity to try it until I discovered a free video on FiOS.  The soft movements and slowness of the forms mask an underlying strength, buttressed by breath and energy. There are strength in those poses. By the end of my first few practices, I was sweating, but my breath came deep and strong as if I had just awoken peacefully from restful slumber.

I bought a five dollar DVD that included a segment on Qi Gong, which is Tai Chi’s even more mellow counterpart that focuses on healing and strengthening. Where Tai Chi is a respected form of martial art (its steady slowness makes many people assume it would be a useless form of defense, but the forms are meant for balance and defensibility, and I dare anyone to take on a Tai Chi master), Qi Gong is a renewal, a way to recuperate both body and spirit by harnessing the body’s energy. Call it chi, call it life force, call it the holy hand grenade — but it helps, and after just a few sessions, I’ve felt a difference in both my body and my level of anxiety.

And then there’s yoga.


What I cannot do. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never thought I would be a yoga person. Someone telling me in a calm, throaty voice to reach down and casually pick up my foot and pull it up to my face makes me turn blue just thinking about it. I can no more grab my foot and lick my knee than Homer Simpson can, but the beginner’s yoga practice I’ve begun has poses that focus on core strength and building flexibility where there is none. For the kid who would just bend her leg and grab her foot in ballet class, a slow approach to these maneuvers is vital — and much less unsightly.

These are small weapons, small changes I can make to help avoid disintegration via black hole. Even if life is stressful, they create moments of clarity and calm, and my body is the stronger for it. Whatever they’ve helped to get flowing has spurred my creative juices as well, and the drive to write that has been waning over the past few weeks through the mire of stress has returned to tap me on the shoulder and smack me across the face with a very silly white glove.

I don’t have any big news yet, but I am hatching a plot. Perhaps these full body journeys of meditation and movement really have captured the radiance of the sun to shine it into the maw of the black hole.

There are some things in life that you cannot change. There are points where you have to admit you’ve done all you can for one area and only time can do the rest. In those cases, all you can do is change your focus to things you can change, the things that are in your power to alter for the better. I can’t fix my finances overnight, but I can foster a sense of well-being by taking care of my body, eating well, and enjoying the small pleasures of my kitten’s purr or my puppy’s soft coat.

As a kid, I used to go with my mom to meetings for family members of alcoholics, and I remember the prayer very, very well. And though I’m agnostic, it still seems relevant.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

What helps you combat stress? How can you holistically approach life?

About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on May 8, 2012, in life intervention, Terror Tuesday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I love your ability to find the bright spot, Emmie. Artists do not survive without that particular compass. I combat stress with hot baths, taking a morning walk with my husband, and I have two “go to” girlfriends who always make me feel better. We now, unfortunately, live so far apart that the telephone has taken place of long lunches, but I always hang up wearing a smile.

    • I hear you on the long distance best friends — mine are in Toronto and Scotland. We were all together at my wedding, which was phenomenal, but it’s so hard to stay in touch with people sometimes, and it sucks when the people you’re closest to are far away.

  2. Tai Chi is amazing. I did it for awhile some time back. Now I’m trying my hand, er, body at parkour. It’s (almost) the most fun I’ve every had while getting that sweaty.

  3. I loved your post, Emmie. Your writing here is very “immediate” and I’ll bet your novels are great.
    For the past few months, I have felt the stress of deadlines. I’m thinking of signing up for yoga. Maybe later, Tai Chi. But I’ll start with the yoga.

    • Thank you!

      Deadlines can definitely be a major stressor. Bleh.

      If you have FiOS or Comcast TV, you should have some free exercise videos available on demand, and there are usually a couple of beginner yoga videos. That’s a great way to give something a shot in the comfort of your own home without paying more money, at least to see how you feel about it!

  4. We all need our outlets. Mine are much more mundane, I suppose…a walk when things get too stressful, or a bike ride, perhaps. In college, I could also tack photography on to that, but now that I’m working the 8-5, finding time for long photographic ventures is tricky. But since moving to Colorado, I also have beautiful mountains to do any of these things in…and that is certainly relaxing.

    Best of luck on your foray into Tai Chi and its erstwhile companions. Some truly graceful motions can come out of those, and for those who do partake, I understand it can be as relaxing as can be–pretzels aside of course. Though the visual and the talk of pretzels makes me crave one.

    Curse you, insightful, Emmie, for now I hunger!

    As they say, it’s the little things, and you seem to have your head wrapped around that detail quite nicely.

    Always aim for that gleam in the darkness, my friend.

    • Thanks for your comment, Chris!

      I miss the mountains — a lot. There is so much noise where I live. My husband and I were just discussing that, how we can never seem to get away from the thump of our neighbors’ music, the blaring beeps of the garbage trucks that seem to come at the worst possible moments, the train horns at all hours of the night and day, and the 7 am lawn service here at our apartment building. Lately I crave silence and stillness like a desert wanderer craves shade. I might need to invest in a tent soon and get my arse out of the city here and there.

  5. Usually I turn to yoga, but my finances are sooooo crappy at the moment that even yoga isn’t helping! I think things have now gotten to the stage where I have done all I can and what is meant to happen, will happen! As long as I have my health, my boyfriend and our cat, then that is all I need!! Hope your finances work out better than mine!! 😀

  6. You can start a dog walking business/side job? Get the stress relief from walking a pooch and make money?

  7. Robert Moores

    No matter what the outlet, I am a firm believer that only during moments of tranquility are you really experiencing life. The noise – both literal and figurative – that exists outside the state of tranquility is not reality, but distractions from it. Best of luck in all your endeavors. I know that I enjoy your writing, and if you really want it, you can absolutely find success as a writer! I think anything that allows you a moment of contemplation will help you see that for yourself. =) The only thing causing you stress is you. Bills come in the mail and you either can or cannot pay them. Stressing doesn’t change that, right? So why bother?

  8. I used to do Tai Chi too. No one realizes how hard it is to hold a position and move that slowly. How much it strains in a different way and how much it centers and calms. 🙂 These days, I’m into archery and meditation for my mental well being. 🙂 Something about focusing my mind helps bring it to a happy place. 🙂 That and shooting holes in targets–oddly relaxing. 🙂

  9. And of course you’re right–the Serenity Prayer is relevant “even” for an agnostic! Go ahead and substitute a word instead of “God,” of whatever you DO believe in… (A sense of connection with other people? Serendipity or Synchrony? Meaningful moments? Love?) I figure at its most basic, the word “God” is simply a place-holder for the idea that SOMETHING out there is bigger than just-me, whatever name I might call it… 😉

    I like Kourtney’s suggestion too! I’ll be at the shooting range this week, and I may just pin some of my bills on that target! Might be therapeutic… 😉

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