Last night, I sat with family and friends and listened to Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. She’s awesome (MD, dancer, engineer, Lego figurine, the list goes on), and so was her presentation. She had so much of value and substance to say about many things.
One thing was exactly what I needed to hear, though. She was asked how she dealt with people who were negative or stood in the way of her accomplishing her goals, and she gave a wonderful analogy involving her cats. Anyone who has owned a cat knows that as the human you can get multiple levels of acknowledgement from a cat–they may actually act like they know you, or they ignore you like you aren’t even in the room with them. And her answer was, sometimes you have to work to change someone’s mind, and sometimes, you have to be the cat. Ignore them, go around them, don’t even turn an ear their way as you keep working and doing your thing.
That struck a chord with me.
This week has been a struggle. I don’t know if its season change, full moon or whatever evergy out there but I’ve seen others struggling as well. I’ve been working hard on my book, and keeping up with everything else I do (except for house cleaning, which is piling up). And I was in class with a new black belt leading the class, and he’s in amazing shape and I just couldn’t keep up with his pace. I wanted to leave in frustration and exhaustion and the sheer anger that I am still overweight after doing all this work for a year. I huffed through sit-ups at the wrong, slower pace and asked myself, Why am I doing this? It’s been a year and I’m losing weight at this glacially slow pace. I could go to some happy yet mildly challenging yoga class. Why am I pushing so hard that I’m sweaty and nauseous and just a mess?
And I wonder where I’m headed, me looking like an orange-belted cotton ball in this uniform. There’s a new student in class who is in awesome shape and totally kick ass, and she seems super nice. But this girl can do jumping jacks in circles around me. And now that she’s in class, it has been announced that any belt can be in black belt club. And I know, the announcement is for her. This is a rerun for me. I’ve done yoga for 16 years now, and I love it, and I remember the studio where I studied the first year. I was so into it and doing multiple 90 minute classes per week, but none of the teachers said anything about the teacher training program to me. I heard about it when, standing in line to check in behind a brand new student and former gymnast, the teachers gave her the full sales pitch. To her, not me, the one who had been coming regularly for months.
I went on to do my teacher training elsewhere, and went even further to become a 500 hour PYT Professional Yoga Therapist (they’ve changed the hours and titles since then). And I was a freaking good yoga teacher and therapist. I still miss it.
I hadn’t thought about the yoga thing for a while, but it’s funny how perceived or real slights like that stay with you. In both instances I’m there working hard because I choose to be, but… Should I be? Am I the cat, ignoring external cues and just hauling my fluffy self in there twice a week even if I’m not their ideal student? It’s what I did with yoga and it turned out okay, although I seriously seriously doubt I am on the path to teach this, I do enjoy learning it. But is it the right place for me? I always wonder if somewhere there’s a Mr. Ninja saying, I don’t know why she keeps showing up, like a music student with no talent. But who are we to stand in the way of someone enjoying something, no matter if they’re good at it or not? And how subjective is “good”?
I’m questioning with no real answers, but just wanted to share. I’m sure there are others putting themselves out there and wondering if it’s the right choice.
That brings me back to the brilliant Mae Jemison, and one of the quotes she gave toward the end of her speech:
When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. (Cythia Heimel)