I know I should throw it away, yet I stand beside the garbage, my lower lip extended, an unexplained anxiety settling in my upper ribs. Really? This is it? I actually can’t believe I brought this sock full of cornstarch to Asheville with me 15 years age. It has waited, ignored in a corner of the bathroom drawer, for its return to the limelight, to no avail. And now, I throw the sock in the trash, then say, wait a minute, it’s a perfectly good sock, just dump the cornstarch. As the white powder covers the compost, a little voice says, “Don’t worry. You can always fill up another sock if you need it.”
For twenty-five years, at least twice a week, I put on white face as a professional mime, and then “set” the make-up by smacking myself all over the face with a sock filled with cornstarch. It gave my whiteface a kind of china doll look, smooth, porcelain like, no pores, no greasy dribble. I stopped performing regularly in 1999, and almost all concerts after that did not involve whiteface. I didn’t even like whiteface, often calling it a cliché-ridden look. And yet, I held on to the sock.
The mouse I was chasing this morning ran into my sneaker. Oh good, I thought, I’ll just take the sneaker outside and he can depart into the woods. I went outside and shook my shoe. He wouldn’t come out. I looked inside. He was clinging to the front of my shoe, making himself as small as possible. Irritated, I grabbed his tail to pull him out. Nothing doing. He was not going to let go of this dubious haven. I left him outside. An hour later, he was still in the shoe. Finally, when it started pouring rain, he made his escape.
Speaking of escapes, somewhere between 4000 and 350,000 Atlantic salmon made a daring break for freedom in August. Some folks blamed the eclipse, even though the escape occurred a couple days before. Others blamed global warming for higher than usual tides. In any event, the pen broke. Imagine being part of a gang that is high on drugs and has been swimming in circles since birth.
Salmon #1: Dudes, this is it! Let’s get the hell out of here!
Salmon #2: I don’t think that’s a good idea. I hear you have to hunt for your own food out there. And how will I renew my prescription?
Salmon #3: I need to do a couple more laps.
Were the escapees simply random victims unleashed into a cruel world, or daring innovators willing to let go of security and risk death for a taste of freedom? As we speak, while thousands of the rogue salmon have been captured, hundreds of members of the Salmon tribe have eluded capture and are making a new world for themselves, living out the American dream of finding a new land of opportunity, pillaging and foraging, letting go of the false security of the pen.
Could our attachment to objects be a similar kind of prison? I’m not talking about hoarding (which is definitely a prison!). These no longer useful items that gather dust in the corners of our bureaus – the too small shirt that I looked so amazing in back in 1983, the tights so old the elastic has died in the waistband, my mother’s measuring cup – fill my house and my mind. I think about things like voodoo, or about psychics who sense something about a person based on a personal item. Do we imbue objects or places with some kind of power that supports and simultaneously traps us? Am I penned in by my memories and perhaps missing a chance for seeing something new – in my life, in my home, in myself?
So then I start to think – if I’m like the salmon stuck in the routine of the pen, or the mouse hiding in the safety of the shoe – is it possible that it is more than “stuff” that is imprisoning me? The stuff is the material, but the prison is my habits. Of course, I need good habits: brushing my teeth, remembering how to get to the office. But when do habits get in the way? Habits like holding my shoulders up, or needing to be right (oh what an awful habit), or ‘angsting’ at 4 am over whether I remembered to pay the phone bill? Are these prisons any different from the stuff I can’t let go of?
When I think about health, I equate it with freedom. The freedom to be who I truly wish to be – my original self. I’ve tried many strategies in my life, with greater and lesser success. I love that this month’s theme includes both health and awareness – because these touch on my passions. Since I gave up the whiteface, I have continued my love affair with movement, teaching Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement to thousands of people. Not just because it’s my job, but because I need to remind myself daily that the way to freedom is to learn to see the escape hatch and have the discernment to know when to jump in the ocean and when to hide in the shoe, when to let go of the sock, and when to caress my Mom’s measuring cup. I teach what I need to learn. And no, I have not yet thrown away my whiteface makeup. But I can’t remember where I hid it.
When not chasing mice, Lavinia teaches others to chase away pain, fear, and other clutter teaching the Feldenkrais and Alba Methods. www.laviniaplonka.com