Monday, August 23, 2010 at 9:18PM
So the yogi believes challenges in life present us with opportunities for awareness and grace. Through our practice, we develop the ability to see the ebbs, flows, and blows of our human experience as part of the often-long and lovely path to enlightenment. Over many lifetimes, we work to balance our reactions, choices, and emotions. Eventually, we can ride the wild, rollicking waves of life like a skilled surfer pre-tsunami…Or, we let that wave knock us on our butt and we crash and tumble, mouths full of saltwater and seaweed, not knowing which end is up or how long we’ve been under, until we finally beach ourselves exhausted and embarrassed on the shores of humanity.
The problem, like when surfing (or so I imagine, I have actually never surfed), we often don’t know we lost our balance until we’re under water, fighting for air. I will now drop the surfing metaphor. My point is, like the cliché’ goes, hindsight is 20/20. We can all look back at our reactions to something and realize how we could have done better. This too is a way to practice yoga! It’s all information, haven’t you heard me say that!?
I’m troubled to say that very recently I handled a situation with about as much grace as a dancing buffalo…or contestant on “Dance Your Ass Off.” The story is, my 5-year old daughter gave herself a haircut. she had thick, very curly hair, all one-length to mid-back. Using “child safe” scissors, she lobbed off everything in front of the ears and whatever else she could reach in the back to about chin length, giving herself a thick set of short bangs. It looked like a ridiculous blond mullet, like Kate Gossleins hair backwards. When I realized what she did, I was horrified, shocked, stunned…and totally insane. I hate to admit, I became a total psychopath, grabbing my own hair, panting, running around the house screaming “Where is the hair!? What have you done!? WHY? WHY? WHHHHYYYYY!?!?!” I wanted to cry! My baby’s gorgeous hair was in a pile on the bathroom floor. Shockingly, embarrassingly, no pranayama came to my rescue. No ancient sage floated before me and reminded me of what was truly important. I was thoroughly, completely, deliriously intoxicated with what had happened. I lost it.
She was sobbing. (I rarely get this angry or this loud.) Eventually I went outside to just calm down (I had to get away from the hair! Every time I looked at her half-eaten doll bangs I started all over again! WHY WHY WHY!? For the love of God WHY!?!). When I came back upstairs, I hugged her, said what I should have said in the beginning--that we loved her and although she shouldn’t have cut her own hair, it didn’t matter and she was beautiful and wonderful and we’d get it fixed. I was choking on Every. Single. Word. I am ashamed to say that I obsessed about her hair all night, imagining her school photos and Christmas cards—she’d have to wear a beret and feign French-girl chic! I awoke with the same dread in my gut. Trust me, the bed-head version of her self-chop was even worse. It looked like a Halloween wig or like my Bischon died up there. Long story short, we got an emergency haircut and are doing the best we can with what remains.
As time went on I became increasingly perturbed about why I would react so strongly. Am I that vain? Did it tie into my identity, to have a daughter with pretty, long hair? Was it a girl thing? (She’s my only one…and incidentally had not only cut her own hair, but gave my 3 year-old son a bad trim as well ) Why did I care so much? It’s just hair and it grows back! I kept thinking about how I failed myself, the situation, my daughter by my reaction.
Engrossed in these thoughts of failure, I was again FAILING to use my heightened awareness and knowledge of yoga! It occurred to me then: people, this is what we call attachment. As humans we all naturally become attached to things. We link ourselves and our identity to experiences, memories, relationships, and outcomes. If we don’t keep these attachments in check, they will throw us off-balance and take us into a life of fear or repression. We tend to lean toward attachment or aversion…and to be too much one or the other is not desirable. Like the yin and yang we must try to find a place in between both places—where we are connected, present, brave, but detached. (or “less-tached”) I have always known I’m a major Attacher. I come from a long line of “worriers,” which is a more socially-acceptable way of saying the same thing. Believe me, I work on this, I practice and breathe and meditate to keep myself even-keeled, invested but not, heaven-forbid, ATTACHED.
Yikes. So, clearly I was attached to something in this scenario. The self-examination continued and honestly, I was scared to keep asking myself the questions. I decided it didn’t matter (after all, it’s a slippery slope—wanting an answer to my behavior was again drawing me into that pattern of attaching to a certain outcome). Obviously, I had to find a way to let it go. In this clearer state I could see that this would eventually be a funny story and in some way possibly represent Polly’s independent spirit or her knack at self-styling.I could also see that it was one of what will probably be a myriad of similar tales of near-disaster—the children driving me to the brink of insanity, challenging every part of me that knows better.
But I could see too that I wouldn’t always react so carelessly. I imagined this long line of stories like slides on a projector, one after the other on a blank screen in front of me. I saw that in many of them I was who I wanted to be, who I worked and prayed to be. The kind of person (and mother and yogi) who (here comes the surfing metaphor again) would let that wave roll, get a sense of my balance, breathe deeply and feel my belly lift up to give me support. I’d gaze to the horizon and lightly hold my stance as those waves came crashing on—all the while feeling the sun and wind on my face—and with all the grace of a well-trained ballerina, like those on “So You Think You Can Dance,” or a dolphin in the water, I’d ride it out. I would float in the middle of the madness and see clearly the sandy beaches of wisdom, and I’d manage somehow to carry myself and my child ashore.
In the meantime, I will put scissors up high.