I mentioned something earlier this week about hating it when women leave toilet seats wet. Its gross and unnecessary. But today my problem is the actual toilet. MY actual toilet.
We came back from a relaxing weekend away in the Berkshires (la-di-da, not so fancy – we stayed in a dorm at a yoga retreat for 500 people, but the hiking was wonderful,) to find our toilet busted. Not literally – just unable to fill water up in the tank. We tried jangling the chain, closing the seal shut, etc. Plumber comes, fixes it, same thing happens that night but instead of an ongoing run like a waterfall, this one comes and goes at 2am, 4am, 6am…
This morning, he came with a new seal and fingers crossed, I’ll sleep through the night. It got me thinking, though, about how important trade and technical schools are. I’m good at MacGyver’ing things, and I would have eventually fixed the issue, but still – would have been nice to even get some basic plumbing info growing up. Or electrical. Or understanding how the gas system in the house works. Or how to clean out to a/c vent. The basics – things that we use in our day to day life. My dad did teach me how to change a tire, and he never shied away from showing me how to do other things just because I was a girl. He worried early on that because I was such a tomboy, I might end up ‘having’ to do these things for myself anyway.
Not everyone needs a college education, least of all a liberal arts one. Yes, it makes me a well-rounded person, able to carry on a wonderful conversation at a cocktail party, but can I fix a toilet when its running in the middle of the night? No.
I took a yoga class at my gym a few weeks ago – at the NY Sports Club. Now, having practiced yoga for 25 years and taken some amazing classes with truly inspiring teachers, I don’t have high expectations of yoga classes at the gym in general. That being said, I used to have this amazing teacher at 24 Hour Fitness in San Francisco about ten years ago. He was an older man, wore socks during class, and tie-dye shirts. He had this incredibly calm demeanor. And somehow, he always knew when I needed to hear “You are stronger than you know.” But generally, the yoga teachers aren’t as great as you’d get at a yoga studio. And yet… I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, which may be my downfall. I took a class with this woman a few weeks ago, she was awful – monotone, but military style, letting people practice while in terrible positions and likely to injure themselves, giving zero time to breathe between postures, and super clunky transitions. The idea that a gym class will be HARD so they can SWEAT makes them 1. give up on any actual yoga teachings and 2. submit people to possibly hurting themselves by developing bad postural habits.
I swore after that class, I wouldn’t take another one at the gym and then tonight, because I’m a moron, I did. Same teacher! I kept telling myself to stop having judgement, stop comparing, stop stop stop, but hey, I actually HAVE a shit ton of experience and while I’m not a better human being, I am likely better equipped to notice these issues. I’m guessing teaching a class at the gym doesn’t pay well, so they take what they can get but ugh. Almost the worst.
When I began learning meditation, about 20+ years ago, the school of thought was that you could force your brain to be silent – that is how enlightenment would come. Stare at the flame of a candle, think blank thoughts… when I hear this now, it seems preposterous. Through decades of research, we have a better understanding of the human brain. Learning to achieve a cessation of mind chatter, a silencing, is like training a puppy. Which, anyone who has had a puppy knows, can be frustrating, annoying, and requires patience and consistency. And now that mediation, yoga, mindfulness, and any activity that is supposed to bring about a greater sense of self is all the rage in the Western world, the pressure to do so – especially here in our United States of Competition, is great and inevitably linked to failure. In that mindset, if you’re unable to achieve a pretzel body and a quiet mind, its more likely you’ll give up and go eat a bagel. At least, that’s what I do. Along with some general beating up on one’s self. ‘It’s not for me, I’m not good enough, I can’t do it,’ yada yada. What we don’t learn, what we can’t learn until someone has brought us up this way or taught us, is that it’s alright to forgive yourself. It’s imperative, actually.
I read an article recently about the founder of Spanx. When she was growing up, at the dinner table her father would ask what she had done to fail that week. He’d high-five her if she had a failure to share, defining failure as ‘not trying’ instead of ‘not succeeding’. We can’t grow or learn without struggle, and failures. And so, I forgive myself – for not meditating the last couple of days, for not making a blog entry yesterday, for overreacting to something my stepdaughter said last week, for not communicating to my man about my needs, for making a social faux pas with a friend. I used to hang on to all of these failures. Each and every one, and they would pile up and I’d feel that I couldn’t possibly achieve anything – good relationships, self-care, progress in my writing, or ever truly realizing what good I am to the world. It is a work in progress to let these things go, to realize I was lazy – which is a quality I abhor in others – and that everything is still going to be all right. But I’m trying.