Rewiring by Diana Wilson
YEARS OF SELF-PUNITIVE RESTRAINT have rendered her devoid of fat. The Orange County type rolls up her Botox-branded yoga mat and tucks it into her armpit, awkwardly shifting her rather ample breast implants right into my line of sight. Which is fine. It keeps me from getting caught blankly staring at the impossibility that is her inflated lips. That would be rude. At least the wildly disproportionate boobs are designed to be gawked at. Mentioning that she’s forcefully platinum blonde would just be stereotyping.
Lightly padding out of the room like a cloud goddess, I am flush with blood in a healthy, vigorous way. Proud of my pinkness, and my accepting, placid state. Until I stand again next to her very expensive tan. Then I wonder if I’m just plain blotchy. A little threatened, I scrape together a sense of superiority about my progress toward all-knowing peace, when compared with her failure to get the point of yoga.
Being an appropriate person, I wait for her to stride off to her Range Rover before giving my very spiritual yet grounded teacher the “oy vey” face. Asking her nonverbally how she attempts to guide to selfless enlightenment someone so loudly material.
“You know,” she lovingly surrenders in the most patient tone, “you have to meet people where they are.”
“…right,” I apologize in a slow-burning revelation, catching my judgement. How non-yogi of me. She’s probably a really nice person. (Probably not.)
“What an asshole,” I groan to myself of my shameful default personality.
With one clean, ego-free lesson, the instructor rewires the way I expect change. It’s not a switch, it’s steps. We’ve all agreed that the body doesn’t change in a day, and we accept the repetition of exercise. But as we do in the West, we sever mind from body and forget that reforming the mind is done in the same incremental way. None of us wants to feel threatened when tiptoeing into change, especially in the vulnerable realms of the mental or spiritual.
“Only ask for an inch from them,” my teacher nudges, “it must be their own will to give it.”
The revolution is personal, I realize. And slower than we’d prefer. Three or four years into yoga practice is when I could tell my muscles were changing. You show up, and you show up, and you show up, and maybe one day your thighs are less jiggly and you find enlightenment. A sweeping change always seems sudden in retrospect, but it’s orchestrated in the day-to-day. I cram my feet into my little boots for the walk. “White girl in Southern California goes to yoga class in 65-degree weather wearing Uggs,” I read the setup to myself, deadpan. Might as well pick up a green smoothie and hashtag that shit on Instagram. I am the new devil.
You walk past enough sports bars in your ruminating vedic bliss state (which I proceed to do), and one of two things happens: You float by in a zen nothingness, or you come careening back to Earth gagging at the acidic beer/piss/cigarette mélange coming out of Sharky’s Cantina. Some of us are really working on letting go, and some of us have been doing it since happy hour started. Whatever gets you out of your skin, man. I’ll concede it’s possible I’m the one doing it wrong.
“How was yoga tonight?” I’m asked.
It’s some creepy older guy, half in the bag, probably even living in that bag. Or wandering-eyes bro dude who’s somehow still drinking beer without removing his cigarette from his mouth. It’s fine. If yoga is the gateway drug to spiritual fulfillment, then asking about yoga could be the sidewalk in front of the gateway. I am an ambassador with my glowy niceness. “Come,” I outstretch my arms, “I can tell you of the oneness.” I can always feel them staring at my butt as I walk away.
“You have to meet them where they are,” is on repeat in my patience lobe.
“They are where they are. They are where they are.” I mantra walk by the ice cream shop on the corner. Why do I always feel bad for the person sitting outside eating ice cream alone at night. It’s one of those things where you always figure, you’re with somebody, and you say, “Hey, let’s go get ice cream.” And then you go get some ice cream. Was this guy I’m passing by just sitting at home alone? Turned to himself and said, “Hey, how’s about a cone,” and now here he is?
There’s something about lying on the floor in a darkened room. Something about meditation, and failing at it. Something about candles and ambient sitar music. Something about how freshly loud and colorful the world is when you rejoin it. The tea i’ve been drinking on my walk has gone cold. “Guh,” I review my beverage. Too cold to be comforting. Too warm to be refreshing. Tepid: A state no one prefers for anything. It’s purgatorial.
“Hey Jim,” I offer with an easy smile. My retired neighbor sits with hound underfoot, lording over the night from his porch. You want to stay friendly with that guy. That guy sees everything. And knows when the hardware store is having a good sale.
Offloading the day, I drop bags, mat, pants, pretense. Home is a place without judgement. Well, it is when you live alone. I should know. I just judged everyone I witnessed on my walk home. Judged ‘em hard, too. “What an asshole,” I check myself again. This time aloud because I can. Stripping off sweaty yoga clothes is like flipping the edge of your skin inside out and peeling it off, I think. The stretchy lavender top splats on to the floor. Skin pile.
After you shower and do that naked examination thing that everybody does, you really gotta get up in there and look yourself in the face. My forehead wrinkles are getting deep, and my eyes narrow a bit in disapproval. After 30, these moments started happening where I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t write off Botox. “Keep it together,” I caution my dying idealistic self. Changing for the worse is a slippery slope. Changing for the better is an uphill slog. “You are beautiful” I marker onto a sticky note and place it on the mirror. Oh gawd. I’m one of those girls now.
The naked humility of the moment hits me like a wall of water. The meditation videos I watch and delete from my viewing history; the self-improvement books I tuck away when people come over; the inspirational post-it notes in my house… fine. It’s all fine. Nobody wants to appear to not have it together, but who gives a flying shit, do whatever it takes for you to find peace. If it’s monkish minimalism, knock yourself out. If it’s dressing in drag, great. A Ph.D. after your name? Sure, whatever. If you need fake boobs, go get yourself some boobs. I can’t care about your boobs anymore. It’s exhausting judging people, and it’s more exhausting fretting the judgement of others. The fact that we can set it all down at will is a revelation.
“We are in a revolution of acceptance,” I say to no one.
Silence hangs for a second as I try to decide if i’m onto something big, or if I’m merely realizing adult autonomy about 15 years after everyone else normally does. “Revolution” carries such importance, and a tone that it’s sudden, violent, or spontaneous. Instead, it is accumulated, massive effort. It is repetition of grit up to a tipping point which we experience as change. A revolution is a joiner’s crusade. I guess when it’s your time, it’s your time. “Okay,” I state confidently.
I pace excitedly back into the bathroom to begin the five hopeful layers of wrinkle creams, clearing gels, and preventative serums. “Is this being a revolutionary? Deciding not to care if I look weird to other people?” I raise eyebrows unconvinced to the mirror girl. “You can’t be a revolutionary,” I accuse her. “You have a 401k and a cubicle.” I lose my momentum for a beat, but as a newly enlisted freedom fighter I push on. Tomorrow, I’m going to excitedly tell everyone at the office about how they can seriously just… do whatever makes them happy. I’ll sound like a woman who just discovered that air exists.
“Yeah,” they’ll dismiss my madness nodding politely, “we know we can,” and they’ll go right back to their spreadsheets.
Clearly we have a long way to go. My fellow office workers, Botox lady, and me. But we are where we are. When I see her again at class, I give an inch of effort and appreciate her instead of judging her. I may change one day, surrender my piousness on the topic, and need her injectables doctor’s phone number. On the walk home, I take a different route. Not my option B route. But I legitimately push myself to walk a completely new route. Aren’t I just the poster child for change. Hoo boy. Now we’re cookin’ with gas. “Progress over perfection” I write on another sticky note, and slide my finger across the top, affixing it to my door frame.
Read more beautiful musings in SN6: MAYDAY – available on Amazon!