Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting Back on the Horse

So just when I think I've overcome my fear of doing the Yoga Handstand (see What Are You Afraid Of? post on 2/10/10) I went and dislocated the second toe on my left foot doing the very thing I have been trying to conquer for so long.  UGH.  Does this mean I'm going right back to square one?

The ironic part of dislocating my toe is that I was doing the handstand quite well last Sunday in my yoga class.  I got up on the first try with my feet balanced against the wall.  I managed to stay up for 15 solid breaths after which I came back down to the ground.  I heard the instructor say "five more breaths" and for some reason thought it was necessary to get back up again for those last five breaths.  Because I was still kind of wobbly from being upside down for 15 seconds, when I tried to vault myself back in the air I lost my balance and came down the wrong way on my toe.  I heard the most horrific cracking sound and looked down to find my toe bent in an unnatural, completely abnormal way.  My toe was actually turned toward me.

I packed up my yoga gear, hobbled out to my car, (barefoot in the Michigan winter, no less) and headed to the emergency room.  I was convinced my toe was broken and I would have a disfigured, crooked toe mocking me for the rest of my life every time it peeked out from a pair of summer sandals.  Can you believe my first thought was that I better not have a crooked toe peeking out of my summer sandals?  To my huge relief, the ER doctor reassured me that my toe was merely dislocated, not broken.  She popped it back into place (yes it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch) and I was on my way. 

The whole time I was driving to the hospital I kept thinking that I shouldn't have done that stupid handstand anyway and that I would never try it again.  Ever.  I clearly have issues with this particular pose and I thought this was surely a sign from above that the yoga gods were excusing me from ever doing a damn Adho Mukha Vrksasana (ah-doh moo-kah vriks-SHAHS-anna) again.  I swear I could hear their sarcastic whispers in the far off corners of my mind teasing me as they speculated about my inability to do such a simple thing.  I  convinced myself by the time I reached my destination that I may not even do yoga again at all.  Period.  I was talking myself right out of ever doing another silly downward facing dog or triangle pose.

When I found out my toe was dislocated and not broken, I sighed with relief that foot would not be grossly disfigured and I would, indeed, wear my sandals this summer as planned.  As I thought more about my morning however, I realized that I needed to find a silver lining to this story instead of vowing to swear off yoga forever.  I had to find a good reason to get back on the proverbial horse. 

As I replayed the morning's events I realized that I was obviously mad about hurting my toe but I never gave myself credit for getting up on the handstand for 15 seconds in the first place.  I only chided myself for not accomplishing my task the second time around and managing to damage a toe in the process.  I really didn't need to attempt the second handstand.  My bad.  I know better now that I should only get up once and however long I stay is my measure for the day.  I need to be cognizant of that incredible accomplishment and give myself credit where credit is due.  My dislocated toe might not have been a sign from the yoga gods to quit altogether, but rather a warning to quit pushing myself past natural limitations.  The more I thought about how far I have come in my yoga journey over the past several months the more I appreciated what my body is capable of doing, not what it isn't.  

So, I took this week off from my usual workout routine to let my toe heal.  I slept in a little bit later each day.  I enjoyed a little extra TLC from the hubby and kids and I gave myself a break.  I won't be going to my yoga class this Sunday, but I will go next week.  I promise I will get back on the horse and this time I will try to keep myself moving at a slow trot and resist the urge to sprint into a full gallop.

My toes, and I'm sure the rest of my body, will thank me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When is it Okay to Lie?

Some lies are a necessary evil.  There I said it. Some of you might think that I'm off my rocker because you assume that any form of lying is wrong and I used to believe that, too.  But, if I didn't censor some of my more scathing thoughts with an occasional, complimentary little white lie, I might be friendless.  I choose not to be friendless so I lie.  How do I justify lying even if it's to protect someone's feelings?  Because I'm lying to protect someone's feelings...duh!

Don't for a minute kid yourself into thinking you don't lie or that other people aren't lying to you.  You do and they are.  How else could we live in a semi-civilized society?  I have the utmost respect for someone who tells the little white lie to help ease the awkwardness of questions like, "does this make me look fat" or "do I sound like my mother?"  When I was pregnant I remember receiving over-the-top compliments like, "you can't even tell that you're pregnant!" or fibs like "you're legs really aren't that swollen"  Those unsubtle liars need to come clean right now and admit that I clearly resembled a Weeble (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!) and my bloated legs required their own zip code.

So, you and I lie now and then to protect someone's feelings.   We can rationalize it and condone it.  But what do we tell our kids who are, hopefully, learning that all forms of lying are wrong?  I can't very well separate a little white lie from a bold-faced lie and explain to an almost 7-year-old that it's okay to lie in one situation and not in another.  What kind of message does that send?  We are pretty clear in our house that lying is unethical no matter the reason and I'm sticking to it.  I am cultivating consciences here and those consciences need to know right from wrong.  I'm not giving any indication now or in the foreseeable future that it's okay to lie even if it is a little white one.

My kids will figure out on their own, eventually, when and if a little white lie is necessary. By the time their consciences are equipped with a compassion meter that allows them to protect a friend's feelings, they will have already developed a sensible moral base.  Until then, I'm going to continue my mantra that lying is wrong.  I am going to keep pounding it into my kids' heads day after day.  I'm going to keep acting exceedingly dramatic when Nicholas tells me that his friend lied about pushing another kid on the playground (What?!  That sounds horrible!  What kind of animal would do that?!) or that his classmate ate someone else's cookie at lunch and didn't confess when asked (What?!  He told a bold-faced lie...just like that...with a straight face?!  I know you would never lie like that Nicholas.  You know it would break my heart!).  I want him to notice that I'm terribly disappointed when I hear stories about other kids that lie so that he won't even consider lying when presented with the chance.  I am not naive enough to think he won't ever test his own moral values, but his capacity of knowing right from wrong will ultimately prevail.

Nicholas is understandably skeptical when I tell him that bold-faced liars will get their due punishment.  He doesn't have any solid evidence of that yet because some of his friends get away with being deceitful.  I continue to try and convince Nicholas that, in the long run, it's much easier to tell the truth and face your consequences. When he asks why I tell him simply - liars need good memories.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Are You Afraid Of?

Have you ever heard the quote, "do something every day that scares you" by Eleanor Roosevelt?  The message is obvious that you must challenge yourself to do things you think you cannot do. I'm not sure I want to do something that scares me every single day, my to-do list is already long enough, but I am intrigued by the idea of getting out of my comfort zone now and again and pushing myself to cross over my self-imposed boundaries.

I'm scared of doing things at which I think I'm no good.  I'm scared of looking silly or doing it wrong, which often puts me at odds with myself because I want to try new things but my fear somehow gets in the way.  My older son, Nicholas, on the other hand, is scared of monsters and the dark.  He doesn't like to go in his room by himself or up the stairs by himself or anywhere where there is no light.  Even if he turns a hall light on he still doesn't want to enter his room alone.  Both of us are letting our fear dictate what we do and when we do it. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about doing more things that scare me.  Like, trying to do a handstand in my yoga class.  I have been going to the same Ashtanga yoga class for about six months and for six months I have avoided doing the handstand. Every time the class embraced the pose and walked or floated their legs up the wall,  I would wimp out and do a reverse table pose instead.   Week after week I convinced myself that I couldn't do the handstand because my wrist hurt or I would just fall back down anyway.  I didn't think I could get my legs up, let along keep them up.  So, I never even tried.

The one thing I like about yoga, or about how my instructor teaches it anyway, is everyone is allowed to feel comfortable at whatever level suits him or her.  For example, I don't feel bad that I can't do a boat pose because I know my core is weak.  I am working on that.  But, I still attempt the boat pose and modify it as necessary.  My instructor is very good about offering modifications and reminding us that we are okay wherever we are in our practice. He never pushed me to do the handstand and never belittled me when I didn't try.  But, that damn handstand was still haunting me.  Why was I so afraid to try it?  What was I avoiding?

A friend decided to join me for a yoga session and I convinced myself that I would do the handstand that morning.  She was new to Ashtanga and I assumed she would be watching me as she tried to understand the poses and twists and bends.  I figured that morning was as good a time as any to just put my fear aside and go for it.  When we got to the studio and found out that not only was my instructor not teaching that morning, but it was a "follow the yogi" class instead, I almost turned and ran.  I had no desire to do a "follow the yogi" class (what if I don't know the poses?) and I was not at all interested in doing a class with the owner and master yogi himself. Talk about intimidation. 

I didn't run.  I was scared, yes, but I took a deep breath and we went inside anyway.  I was uncomfortable, but I decided to push through it.  I know that the only limitations are those that I place on myself so I decided to cross over my silly, self-imposed boundary.  Why do I impose these ridiculous boundaries anyway?

It turned out to be a great class.  I learned a few new poses and came out of my comfort zone a time or two. The highlight of my morning, however, was finally accomplishing the handstand.  Even though my heart was racing and I was anxious, I planted my hands on the floor and pushed my legs up into the air.  I seemed to float effortlessly as I placed my feet on the wall, relaxed and took several deep breaths.   I stayed up longer than I ever thought possible.  As a matter of fact, the handstand was so easy that I was shocked I didn't try it sooner.  I was convinced for so long that I couldn't do a handstand only to find out it was much easier than I ever anticipated.

I wish Nicholas could understand that the monsters he manufactures in his head are much worse than anything real. He makes himself sick with worry and panic by creating an unrealistic vision of what lies ahead.  I can see that so clearly in him, but apparently not in myself.   I realized that morning in my yoga class that my fear of the handstand was completely unfounded. When I try to convince Nicholas that monsters aren't real, I need to practice what I preach.  My monsters aren't real either. 

I thought of all my Sunday morning yoga sessions spent fretting over something that turned out to be much simpler than expected.  Imagine if all of my fears were allayed by trying something new and finding out that my fear was worse than the actual task.  Imagine what I can accomplish if I choose to believe that I really am capable and let everything else fall into place. 

I am capable.  And, I'm going to start doing more things that scare me.  I am convinced now that I will be pleasantly surprised.

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