Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Unrelated Gift

Fair warning: This has nothing to do with presents. But I wrote an essay for the yoga studio that was published regionally...and I don't have a better any forum in which to share it with the rest of you. Enjoy! (So I guess it's a gift for you, right? Let's go with that.) 

I tell people that I'm bad with names.

"I'm sorry, I'm bad with names," I say. As if the spot in my brain that remembers simple words is a Bermuda Triangle of irretrievable alphabet soup.

I join in jokes about forgetting names and being much better at remembering faces. As if this quirk binds me to others in the same way that having strong cravings for peanut butter or playing the new Adele CD on repeat makes us more similar.

The truth is this is a big, fat lie. I'm good with names. You know that icebreaker activity where you have to remember the name of every person who introduces themselves before you? While everyone else sits on their hands, mumbling letters and rocking like dementia patients, I coolly dip a ladle into that alphabet soup part of my brain and regurgitate every name in one seamless strip.

So why lie? To be more like you. Not in a "more like you, dementia patients," way, but in a "more like you, people with normal hands way." Because the rest of the truth is that names usually come packaged with a handshake. And this is where I stop paying attention to letters and start freezing the part of my brain that registers facial reactions. I have taught myself to shut down my senses for a full five seconds until the handshake moment passes. Like blinking. Or cutting a frame out of a film strip.

It's easier this way. Much the same way that keeping your eyes open in tree pose is easier. Or stepping into forward fold instead of jumping through your feet is easier. It becomes familiar, and we feel comfortable. When we feel comfortable, we feel competent. And when we feel competent, we might be ready to take a risk somewhere else.

So where is that line between maintaining security in order to improve elsewhere and merely holding yourself back from something greater?

I don't know.

I do, however, know that I like stepping forward into my forward fold.

I know that I've started closing my eyes in tree pose.

I know that I can get better at remembering names by accepting the potential disgrace that comes with the words. But I also know that I could extend my left hand instead of my right when meeting new people and therefore avoid the whole dilemma at once.

I don't do that.

That line between security and risk is different for each of us. That tightrope, that thread, that spider's silk  is ever-changing. We have to be able to let it shrink or expand or divide in varying ways in order to become our authentic selves. In order to call others by name. In order to bond with friends beyond sharing quirks or bad habits.

But if you have the new Adele CD, I totally want to burn a copy of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Unplanned Gift

It's a well-documented (by me) fact that I wait too long to eat. I am easily distracted and then I forget and then I am starving and have no ability to make decisions. Instead of choosing to put foods together as a real dinner, I take down a bag of carrots, a canister of almonds and a block of cheese while standing in the kitchen because I have gotten myself to the point of needing to immediately ingest something besides gum.

Apparently this pattern holds true for my writing as of late as well. I have so much to say, so much has happened since I was last here, I have no ability to make decisions about how to start. Instead of choosing to put words together as a real story, I am sitting in front of the computer about to shove out a random assortment of glimpses at my life because I have gotten to the point of needing to write. Immediately.

Maybe I should plan more. Maybe this would allow me to eat cooked foods and craft more complete essays. But as part of my easily-distracted personality, I also just read my friend J's blog.

She wants to stop planning. Is this "we want what we can't have," or "we want what we can't be," or "we don't appreciate what/who we are?" Maybe it's all three. Because as I sit here frustrated with myself for not having any foresight whatsoever, J is halfway across the country, berating herself for compiling too many to-do lists.

By her account, chucking her "Type-A" personality was the only way she could have gone on her world-tour vacation, the only way she might be able to leave the job she doesn't want, the only way to have a fuller life. By my account, this ability to plan gave her the foundation to save enough money to take that trip, to write a list of all the destinations she hoped to visit, to provide her the perspective to judge whether of not she likes the job she has.

As a non-planner, I don't wrestle with quite the same issues J does. I don't wonder whether I could have a better job. I love what I do because I do things that make me happy. And when they don't make me happy anymore I do something else. I don't plan it out. I do, however, run into other issues that true Type As don't deal with on a daily basis. Things like deciding to teach yoga before figuring out if I can make a living wage doing so. Or deciding to move out of Chicago before deciding which state to move into.

Diving into things headfirst without planning sometimes makes me feel like a giant disaster. A financial fuck-up. A messy, storm cloud of momentum without a strong center focus. A child-person of sorts and less of an adult.

But then I read J's blog and it reminded me: I'm no more a giant disaster than J is held back by her post-its and to-do lists. We do things to help us function in a way that makes sense to our true being. For her, that's planning. For me, that's letting myself be pulled in any direction.

In the spirit of who we are, I might send her a pad of paper title "To-Don't List." But I haven't decided yet. Let me finish shoving these almonds down my throat first.