Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Not The Tailor

A few years ago I had a pair of dress pants shortened. To my dismay, the tailor had made one side longer than the other and I didn't know if I should go back and complain or what. I had already worn them out a few times and didn't notice the difference in legs until I was standing in a full length mirror months after the job was done.

Awareness was something often brought up during my yoga teacher training. It's funny how often conversations with friends lead to the topic of awareness. Most people are not emotionally intelligent or aware of themselves at all. I might as well say that none of us are really. And it's funny that we don't notice things or bother with self observance unless something is pointed out, and then we deny it anyway. Is it really anyone's job to point things out in the first place?

In yoga training we spent every afternoon discussing anatomy. Unfortunately much of the discussion went completely over my head. It felt like we were discussing things better suited for chiropractors and physical therapists. I looked forward to learning about anatomy, but this was really hard and I didn't know how to apply it. I get that we want to be aware of people's injuries and give alternate poses for those in pain, but the specifics of an injury and how to tell if someone has it seemed strange to me.

Each day we did a posture lab in class where the instructor picked out a few students and everyone watched them do a pose. We offered suggestions to make it better then watch the transformation, often times resulting in oooohs and aaahhhhs from the class. A pose I was called up for was Utkatasana, or commonly referred to as chair pose. The problem was that I was going into it with a deep sway in my low back since I thought we were supposed to sort of reach for the sky as we take a deep hamstring stretch. Nope. The torso has to move in one piece and stay in line with the hips. Ah ha. I didn't mind that everyone made a circle around me and commented on what my body was doing, until one comment.

A guy in class said that he could see I was twisted and one arm reached out longer than the other. I had no idea what he was talking about. He asked if he could move my arms while I was in the pose, and I could not believe how much he moved me so that I was "straight," or "aligned," as we like to say. The instructor said that I am a person with a curvature in the spine and that everyone should come look. They all stood behind me and commented on things I couldn't see. I didn't get angry but it was weird. I couldn't get how a bunch of yoga practitioners were determining what was wrong with my body.

Luckily the instructor said that for someone with a curvature like this, it isn't helpful to give them that kind of adjustment. If my arms are being pulled away from where they naturally go, then I automatically move my pelvis creating yet another unhealthy curve. She also had all of us stand in a circle and look at each other's shoulders reminding us that we are all a bit skewed and it's not a big deal.

A few days later we were deep into anatomy and again I had no idea what the hell people were talking about. I was completely lost and zoning out, when a thought occurred to me. If we know all the ins and outs of carpal tunnel, are we supposed to tell someone that they probably should get checked for it? All the manuals say that we are never to diagnose or give advice, but here we are learning all the things that are wrong with people, and learning how to delicately say something. I raised my hand and asked why it would be appropriate for a yoga instructor to point out something about the student's anatomy. I am not comfortable with this. My point was that just coming to yoga itself is an act of wanting to learn about your own body and if injuries or strange occurrences come up, you can then go talk to your doc about it.

The classmate who pointed out my crookedness immediately wanted to know if I was upset by his comments and suggestions. I said that I wasn't but I honestly didn't see how it was useful. So I'm crooked, so what? I told the class that I had a yoga instructor that told me she could see one side of my body was higher than the other in my down dog, and I thought so what? I mean you can see something that someone else doesn't, but what am I supposed to do with that information? Run out and get an MRI? Chiropractor? Freak out?

The discussion then turned from what I was trying to point out to people's emotional health and how we have to be careful of what we say so they don't get angry or hurt. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't trying to attack anyone, I just don't know how helpful it is for someone who isn't a doctor to tell a student: hey you have this going on, did you know? I tried to reiterate but there seemed to be a consensus that yes, it was our job to make people more aware. A yoga teacher has the ability to help people gain awareness of their body and connect the mind to the body, and that it is a cornerstone of this practice.

Well, I'm not telling anyone that they might want to get anything checked out, that is up to them. I feel that the awareness teachers are hoping their students gain will happen by default. The more you challenge your body the more you find out what your limitations are. My motto in teaching yoga is going to be that I won't tell anyone how to live their life.

The weirdest thing in all of this is that I guess I forgot about the spinal curvature. I'm sure my parents have funded a couple years of golf club memberships for my chiropractors and physical therapists. In high school I suffered with extreme back pain, but with a few lifestyle changes I can walk and dance and do yoga and I'm fine. A long time ago, I figured that this was going to be as good as it gets. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do about it now if I don't feel bad.

But don't I feel bad? Sitting in an office all day gives me sharp low back and leg cramps. This doesn't happen on a regular basis to most people I know. I always thought that I just hated sitting all day, but there is an actual physical response. My body is rejecting the position due to the spine's movement. What a lightbulb. I never noticed this before but I lean heavily to my left, and am probably never sitting with both shoulders aligned. Since figuring this out I mindfully push over to my right more so there is less pressure.

Would I have realized this if not for the discussion in yoga? Chances are that I would have over time, but it's good to know. Lately I've been a little upset and paranoid about it, but we are all walking around with things wrong with us. When I have more money I could try rolfing or something to straighten out more. Getting upset about one boob being lower than the other or how I will look as an old lady isn't worth it. I'll just have to take calcium and embrace crookedness. From now on, both pant legs have to be measured instead of using the guide from one. It's not the tailor, it's me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dear Friends

I know you mean well.

Is it possible that because I talk openly and honestly about myself that you feel like you should give advice?

I don't need it. I am great. Some set-backs have occurred. Several really. I am the broke Bridget Jones. That's fine. She was super adorable in both the book and movie.

It's nice of you to say things because you read some article that you think will help me, or because you had some friend somewhere that had a terrible experience doing something that I wanted to do.

But come on.

The facts are that maybe you didn't know me when there was less confusion and there were solid goals with achievable possibilities. Or maybe you didn't believe in what I was doing then anyway. I tried hard and it didn't work out.

And then I took on other things that I thought would help.

And then I tried to do something completely different because I believed I deserved to be successful somewhere. And then I panicked and was disappointed in the circumstances.

But I will be honest again and say that your discouragement doesn't help either. You may not realize you are discouraging but several of you say things like: "teachers don't make any money." " law school is soooo expensive." "there aren't any jobs for lawyers." "there aren't any jobs for MBAs." "there aren't any jobs for teachers." "journalism is dead." "liberals arts is for yo yos and flakes." "what's the point in more school anyway?" "you shouldn't go into that field unless you're 100% sure you want it." "I wouldn't take anything for less than X amount of money." "there are too many graphic designers now." "there aren't any jobs there aren't any jobs there aren't any jobs."

It may seem like some of these comments are helpful, but no one is ever 100% sure on a decision. There are doubts about everything. Why feed the demons that stop people from giving themselves a chance? And so what if there aren't any jobs that we are finding now? It won't always be that way. And you might have to move or really stretch the original idea out to get paid doing what you want. Or you might have to accept abysmally low pay.

And by the way, guess what else is expensive besides education? EVERYTHING. Everything is stupidly expensive from buying birth control to raising a child. From buying groceries to running a restaurant, it's all ridiculous costs. It's not a good reason to avoid doing what you want. I definitely have learned that one over time.

It's no one's fault but mine that I refuse to accept lousy circumstances for myself and have been unemployed and frustrated many times over. But I am taking chances. Sometimes they end up very bad, but someday they will be very successful. It will have been useful to go through these areas of disaster and growth.

And no, I do not want your help with my resume or LinkedIn. I have a career counselor from which I gain a lot of information. In addition, I recently went to an informational interview with an HR director who gave me opposing information from the career counselor. That would mean that you probably do not know better than I, since no one has the right answer. I think LinkedIn is unhelpful for my current circumstances anyway. This may change, but if I don't want to be an administrative professional, then why would I create a profile saying I am one?

I dare say, most of you are sitting behind a desk possibly getting a fatter ass, and just wondering what it would be like if you gave yourself the chance to do something different, or talking yourself out of it altogether. Or you are reading articles and deciding that you know a lot about a field you are not in, or have not experienced. I don't think it's fair to decide you know something about a friend's road if you haven't traveled it.

I do know people that have gained success in fields that people think are a wasted effort. A friend of mine just landed a role on a network sit com. An acquaintance opened a photography studio six years ago and is now doing better than ever. A travel friend I knew was a dancer in Riverdance. The lawyers and MBAs and teachers and small business owners that I know are doing ok, even if they do things differently from what they intended. And yes I know plenty of people unable to do what they want at all. I don't believe that anything they tried wasn't worth it.

So what is the point of putting down any field or degree or confusion or choice? The job market or the career decision might just be plain luck or good timing. Or it works out because you successfully went after something specific and didn't give up until you got it. If things didn't work out then there is plan B, C, D or whatever you end up on.

If there is anything I learned from temping at an advertising firm this year, it's that there are some incredible salaries out there for people who got their foot in the door of the right place. There are also some stupidly inflated salaries for arbitrary positions in which the value of said position could evaporate in a moment's notice.

I'm sorry to get on the defensive because I know that I whine and am easily disappointed. But it's ok to listen and relate rather than discourage. It's all going to work out anyway.

Yesterday I made an onion tart with apples on top and it turned out unbelievably disgusting. So I threw the whole thing in the garbage and laughed it off. I can make it better next time.

Yes sir.

I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.