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.


  1. You're making me think, Kate! Great post.


  2. Kate, I read this today at the studio, too. So freakin' good, lady!