What the yoga cow calendar teaches
I should’ve known 2016 was not off to a good start when the picture for January on my new calendar — the one with cows doing yoga — was subtitled Balance. Uh oh. What was going to happen in January that would require me to focus on balance?
Here’s a summation of 2016 up to the fateful day. New Year’s Day: restful. January 2: late Christmas family shindig. January 3: sewage flood.
Despite paying half a dozen plumbers, we periodically have small sewage floods. The January 3 flood was not small. The contractor said we needed to refloor the entire house. My sainted husband, who laid the wood laminate flooring by hand not once, but in some sections, two or three times due to other flooding events, was crushed.
Because these floods always, always, always happen at night and on a weekend or a holiday (this one occurred on a Sunday) — we spent the night in a hotel. The next night we moved our bed into the back living room and slept fitfully to the sound of 11 dehumidifiers in a 1,650-square-foot space.
The third night we considered sleeping in our tent in near-freezing temperatures to escape the soul-crushing noise, but there was only one problem: Did we still own a tent? If so, was it in the storage building? And did we really want to explore that doohickey in the dark? Finding the tent might mean standing on unstable boxes of the kids’ old toys perched between the lawnmower and the tubs of Christmas decorations, and frankly, might require more balance than either of us wanted to attempt. We stayed inside and used earbuds.
Every picture of bovine yogis in the calendar makes me smile. I’ve been doing yoga long enough to know what poses the cows were doing. Balance, yoga-style, is simply getting into an awkward position and breathing. Then sinking deeper while still breathing.
Our yoga class is full of people who pretend not to notice when one of us falls out of a pose. The day I’d been trapped indoors for 12-plus hours with dehumidifiers, I fell a lot during yoga. By the end of the class I had regained some measure of balance. In fact, I’ve found that how well I balance is usually a pretty good indicator of how I’m actually doing. It’s like a thermometer for my true emotional state. If I can balance fairly decently, then I’m OK. If I can’t, well, then I might have been faking my smile more than I realized.
In the WACOAN magazine, we run a feature each month called “Keeping Balance,” in which we interview working moms. When we ask them how they keep balanced, most of them admit they don’t, at least not in the idealized way society asks women to balance: be sexy, be smart, exhibit endless patience with fussy children or exasperated teens, set goals and achieve them at work, hold your liquor, converse wittily on every binge-worthy pop culture phenomenon, care deeply about world events and local causes, pray and act and take care of yourself and everybody else and make sure your clothes and makeup and hairstyle reflect fashionable yet financially sound lifestyle choices. These women know better. They do the best they can.
Sometimes our interviewees recognize they are living in a season of imbalance. Perhaps they have a new baby bringing all sorts of disorder to what used to be an organized daily routine. Sometimes these women choose to let something go, like basic nutrition or sleep, to achieve career goals. All of them have sacrificed something here or there (or possibly here and there).
Because that, friends, is what balance looks like. It’s not a seesaw coming into equilibrium. It’s more like playing a game of Freeze in which the music suddenly stops and you have to hold the strange pose in which you find yourself. And breathe.
While our house was torn up and remade, I was unbalanced. My dresser was in the garage, and my shoes were on the piano bench. At one point I had to crawl over furniture to find the drawer in which I’d stashed my journal.
The upside of the chaos inside my domicile was I didn’t have to clean it. That’s one area in which I remain unbalanced because I don’t care enough to care. I would rather walk a marathon on tiptoe than clean my house. With workers coming and going, with flooring going and coming, with trimming and painting, sweeping was pointless. Steaming with my fancy mop: laughable. There was no balance to keep. There was simply dwelling in an awkward situation and continuing to breathe.
And, of course, not missing a yoga class.
P.S. Our house is almost done.