“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life.” – Annie Dillard
This week I’ve been on an intensive STOTT Pilates mat course in a tiny little rural town called Methven, in the South Island of New Zealand. I love how Pilates compliments yoga, and the science behind the strength. I think both practices can change lives; they’ve certainly changed mine. I’ve been looking at different courses for more than a year, but they were all held in large metro areas over a long period of time. When I found this course, the very one I wanted, held only 4.5 hours’ drive from me and over nine days, in the discipline I wanted, I was blown away. How lucky! What a great coincidink! The course is being held in a wonderful new centre which opened only three-months ago and is a stark contrast to most regional gyms. It’s boutique and gorgeous, very Instagrammable, boasting an infared sauna, a float tank (I know. Who knew that was a thing? 800 kilograms of magnesium in a small pod, where you just…float around in the dark for an hour. Google it.) and a lovely Pilates studio with all the props you can poke a pointy stick at.
The course is made up of nine divine women from all over the place. One is from India, on her travels around the country. One played hockey for New Zealand at the Rio Olympics; another rows for the country in the national team. One is from Methven with an eight-month-old baby who also teaches CrossFit; another has four kids and is setting up a gym in a wee rural community where her husband is the pastor. One is battling severe endometriosis and wants to be able to help women like her; another has left her corporate career in the wine industry to set up a Pilates studio. One hails from the UK but lives in Queenstown with her Brazilian lover; they just adopted his teenage brother so he could move to New Zealand and access an education. All carry with them a spark, a flame they’re nurturing to better their lives and the lives of others, and all have a warmth that I haven’t met in such a collective before. I like each one, and would happily drink wine with them all.
Yesterday I was idly chatting to one of them about my recent luck. I would consider myself an exceptionally lucky person. Right down to my DNA. I was born into love and feel it all around me. I’ve had a fabulous life, and while not without its ravages, it has flowed more than it has ebbed. I have health and I have relationships that nourish every part of me to a cellular level. I’m a happy person that has been dealt so much kindness. Yes, I’m very, very lucky. I was telling my fellow student about how, a week out from my Pilates course, I still hadn’t booked accommodation, nor did I have a way to get to Methven. Mainly out of dithering. All of my options were growing my costs; hiring a car was blowing my budget outta the water on top of renting a room. Then in two days, things unfolded around me. My aunt realised she had a friend whose sister lived just outside Methven and they generously offered me their spare room. Then the owner of the yoga studio I teach in offered me her car; she was going to be away for two weeks and her car was sitting idle. So much generosity. I remarked to my fellow student what a stroke of luck it was that it all fell into place. She replied, she didn’t believe in luck. She believed in a conduit of sorts, a type of gas exchange, where what you put out, you also gather in. If we’re not calling it luck, (and I’ll be dammed if I’m calling it #blessed) maybe we could call just call it thanks. Maybe when we say, “Oh, I’m just lucky” when someone exclaims over your situation, it dims the frequency of your ball of magic, ducking its head in false modesty. Perhaps it’s better to wrest the buoyant reason behind it all back into our laps, give it a squeeze and gracefully take some accountability. For if we say we aren’t responsible for our good luck, surely it throws away all blameworthiness when darker times shadow our door? And that is a dangerous fox-trot towards accepting a life-time pattern of behaving badly, and eschewing responsibly for the consequences. Sure, things are sometimes beyond our control. But our response to the slippery shadows is right within our grasp.
I’m not sure if our fortune always blooms in direct response to our spirit. I think of awful things that have befallen wondrous people, and wonder how that equation works. But I do think there is a correlation between your energy and the frequency you attract. That you welcome into your life what you believe you deserve. That a happy heart is often a sturdier, more sure-footed route to a solution, than an intellectually brilliant plan. The more I feel grateful for, the more thickly I gather things to be thankful for; armfuls of fragrant abundance wafting on the breeze. As the saying goes, ‘Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.’ It makes me think of what a dear friend of mine said, when we spoke of our incredible privilege and good fortune, living our lives as white, educated, middle class women in 2019, and how that can often usher in a sense of guilt for having so much, when others have little. She said to me that we should say thanks, and simply wish it for others too. Harbouring guilt and wringing your hands over what you were given is a shunning of joy, which is everyone’s natural birthright. Argue for others, hold them up, do work that strives for conditions that are brighter for more. But hold a glad heart with thanks for your gifts. It serves no one, to shine less.