4) Stretch.

my pilates view

It is usually about the midpoint of class when, hips tucked, back flat against the long mat, I hear Jan say:

Drop your chin toward your chest, slowly now, and feel that nice stretch along the back of your neck.

This must be what heaven feels like, I think, as the day’s tensions rise from my body.

I didn’t expect to love Pilates so much. But there’s something about how it folds so nicely into my life that makes it feel seamless, effortless almost. (I think that’s a funny thing to say, now that I read back over the sentence. I am sitting here on this couch and every muscle in my body aches from the Tuesday/Thursday combo class I have rejoined this January.) But this is the point I want to make. It’s like I’m gasping for breath and down drops an oxygen mask. A long, slow, intense stretch, and I can feel my body teem with life.

And it’s not just physical exercise that results in this miracle. It’s stretching of any kind.

Last Monday night I packed away my insecurities and walked bravely into a non-beginner’s painting class for which I am sorely unqualified. It’s ridiculous to be in the profession I am in (advertising) and know so little about art. My practical experience amounts to an afternoon at The Louvre (don’t mean to downplay the significance of that afternoon—it was one of the most amazing of my life) and a guided tour of the Who Shot Rock ‘n Roll photo exhibit at the fabulous Columbia Museum of Art. No art history in college, not even an “art” class in high school.

What I did have under my belt was one oil painting class last Fall that resulted in such a financial hit for supplies I knew I couldn’t quit. So I decided to start thinking of painting as a passion, just to rationalize the investment.

if only the model had been a frenchman wearing a beret

Anyway. Last week’s class was all about learning to look, and understanding that art is about interpretation. It was terrifying to pick up that charcoal for the first sketching exercise. It got worse when we were asked to move the charcoal to our nondominant hand. But the class flew by, and by the end, I couldn’t wait to move on to painting, next week.

It was thrilling to stand out there on the edge a bit, in unfamiliar territory, in a situation in which I could not predict the outcome. It made me realize how comfy cozy life can become if you don’t push it once in a while.

Pilates, and Painting, and What Else? I shall add to my list of What ifs for January:

Remember to stretch.

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