Saturday, October 29, 2011
David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed columnist, called on 70-somethings to send in a “life report” evaluating their mistakes and accomplishments. He got his idea from the alumni life reports published by Yale at 25 and 50 years after graduation. He remarks, “The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them.”
I’m not 70 yet, but Brooks’ contempt for ordinary working slobs rankled me. Yes, those of us who have worked for the same company our whole life probably do worry that we seem boring—to people like Brooks. But my steadiness under pressure, even the pressure of boredom, is what I feel proudest of. I took on the scary challenges of adulthood and never (or rarely) backed down. I got up every morning and went to work, even when the job was tedious—or intimidating. I was modest in my consumption, resisting the temptation to splurge on luxuries, and I put away savings for my children’s education. I paid my taxes and never cheated. I bought a home and took good care of it. I helped my friends when they needed it. I tried my best to be a good parent, staying awake worrying so often that my friends mocked me. I handled horrible illnesses—my own and those of relatives—not gladly but with care and concern. I showed up when I was supposed to, and always tried to do the right thing.
And yes, there are moments when I feel my life has been a modest one of the sort that Brooks would dismiss as a passively led one. And yes, I wince at the idea of swapping life stories with my more illustrious classmates at a college reunion. But sometimes the biggest challenge is to act like a grownup and do the boring thing.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
A friend of mine who owns a country house in New England told me an interesting fact the other night. He said that you can haul away all the boulders and rocks in your fields, but more will appear. As water seeps into the earth and freezes, it pushes stones to the surface. Hey, I thought Mother Earth was on our side.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
In my yoga teacher training, I was encouraged to “play the edge,” to stay just inside the limit of my strength and flexibility. As I get older and deal with more injuries, perhaps incurred by adhering to this maximalist approach, I’m finding that I get way more benefit if I “play the middle.”
I’ve always resisted props: chairs, blocks, straps, bolsters, folded blankets. They clutter the room and take away from the purity and beauty of the poses. But these days, I’m finding that using the damn props works better for me.
Playing the middle and using the damn props are allowing me not only to avoid injury but also to focus on form. Form used to be just a lot of blah-blah-blah to me, especially since I used to set up my sticky mat at the back of the room and didn’t actually hear the teacher’s precise instructions, taking my cues instead from watching the people in front of me. Now I’m inching closer to the front of the class so I can catch every word.
There have been times in the past few months when my injuries made me think I’d soon be rolling up my mat for the last time. But using the props, backing away from the edge and focusing on form—maybe there’s some stickum left in my life.
And where there's yoga, there's hope. Because one of the things I've always valued about yoga is its influence on other areas of my life. Work on strength-building poses, and suddenly I've got emotional fortitude. Work on flexibility in class, and suddenly I'm able to roll with the punches at work. So without yoga, I'd be a menace.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
My dad has a favorite saying: “There are no heroes.” And lately I’ve been finding that it explains a lot. Example: Watching the George Harrison special, “Living in the Material World,” I felt perplexed by his contradictariness, his saint-abroad-devil-at-home aspect. (The secret to a long marriage, his widow said wryly, is not getting divorced.) Suddenly, the explanation came to me. “There are no heroes,” I said to myself. And immediately it all made sense. Ditto with cranky but otherwise sterling domestic partners and children, and cherished friends who let you down. Double ditto for charming cats with disgusting bathroom hygiene.
Try it. Next time you’re pissed at someone, let the words untangle your snarled brain: “There are no heroes.”
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
So I stopped by my hair salon to make an appointment to get my hair cut, and I noticed (how could I not?) that my stylist was wearing a gas mask to give a client a Brazilian straightening. And it got me to thinking. Shouldn't the client have been wearing a gas mask too? And maybe she needs to wear it for months, until the formaldehyde washes out entirely? And maybe any customer who walks in should be offered a gas mask as well? Maybe I'll just forget the haircut. Too dangerous.