Category Archives: be true to yourself

Because You Can’t Make this Shit Up. #Customer #Service #humor #insurance

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I went to my gynecologist for her annual spelunking appointment and she wrote me a new prescription today to help with (men, you can come back in a paragraph if you want) my hormone-induced perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, bloating which mimics the USS Dallas (as seen in “Hunt for the Red October”) spontaneous melodrama, night sweats, in-the-basement reason forgetfulness, brain fog, insomnia, inability to make sandwiches, and laundry neglect (that last one’s a gimme).

The medication is relatively new, so I’m relatively freaked out about it. There isn’t too much data on it. It’s a super low-dosage cousin of some rather storied and potent shit out there, so I’m not sure I’m dedicated to the cause yet. I mean, what’s (sorry men, I lied, come back in another paragraph) wrong with some really heavy cramps, ennui, intense bleeding, possible anemia (isn’t the harpie look in this year?), totally inconsistent period arrival and the occasional urge for solace by digging a hole to China under a crescent moon with my bite guard?

Other than Flonase and antibiotics for the occasional lapse of taking my Flonase, I don’t take many prescriptions. I like to go the herbal route. The supplement route. The what-the-fuck-is-in-this?, but-at-least-it’s-not-linked-to-inducing-suicidal-thoughts route. It might not always be efficacious, but I also believe in the placebo effect.

So today, because of this new script, I called my insurance company to learn the ropes about costs and copays and deductibles. Before I got too deep into the details, my very helpful Aetna rep told me I needed to call CVS / CareMark whose wizards would know the answers to all my prescription-based questions.

This is how that call went…

CareMark: Thank you for calling CareMark, may I have the member ID?

Me: Hi, this is Molly Field. I’m calling to find out cost and copay details for a new prescription. The ID number is  1234567.

CareMark: Who do you work for? >slurp<

Me: Uh, myself. My kids. I don’t have a job that provides insurance. I’m a … yoga teacher…?

CareMark:  Are you Daniel?

Me: No. I’m me. I’m his —

CareMark: Why are you calling about Daniel? Are you calling on his behalf?

Me: No. I’m calling on my behalf. My name —

CareMark: Why do I have Daniel’s information then? >clichslurk<

Me: You asked me for the account number.

CareMark: Who is this?

Me: I’m his wife. He’s my husband. I’m calling on my own behalf for me about … me.

CareMark: What is your name and date of birth?

Me: (relieved: now we are getting somewhere.) My name is Molly Field my date of birth is ___ ___ 1829.

CareMark: Ok. Why are you calling? >slurk<

Me: sigh. To get cost information on our policy and how much a new prescription will cost… When I dropped it —

CareMark: What is your account number?

Me: I just gave it to you and it seemed to confuse —

CareMark: Account number please. >skicch< I can’t look up anything without that… Do I have your consent…

Me: Yes. You have my consent. The account number will give you … it’s 1234567.

CareMark: Am I speaking to the spouse?

Me: Yes. On my own behalf about medication prescribed for me.

CareMark: How may I assist you?

Me: Ok. I’d like to know cost and copay information about a medication called STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS.

CareMark: That’s the 7.5mg dosage, correct? >skicch.<

Me: (after memorizing the promotional crate it came home in, complete with two obscured magnets to keep it closed, what the what is this? a Michael Kors bag?? Now I know where the money is being spent by this pharma) Yes, 7.5.

CareMark: A 90-daysupplyis$97. Untilyoumeetyourdeductible. >skich.<

Me: What is the deductible?

CareMark: Thereareseveraldeductiblelevelsonyourplan. >slurp.< Oneis25anotheris35andthefamilyis65. Per year. >clitch<

Me: (what the fuck is that sound?) Ok. So what’s the copay?

CareMark: What are you talking about? What copay?  >shlink<

Me: (irked and confused and super curious about what’s in her mouth) Ok. You just said … if I’m following you, why would I pay the full $97 for the 90-day supply seeing as how I’d met at least one of the deductibles you mentioned? I mean, even at the 65, I’d only need to pay, what… $32 and so then, what would the copay be after that?

CareMark: You >sklurk< wouldn’t have met the deductible.

Me: But you said the deductible was three levels. You said “25 and 35 and 65.” Those are the figures you gave me. So if I pay $97 for a 90-day supply, I would have already met the deductible. Yes?

CareMark: >slurp< No. Nowhere near the deductible.

Me: (slamming face with desk, wondering about the need for this medication when all I think we need to do is rid ourselves of idiots at call centers) But … that’s close to $400. A three-refill 90-day script, which is what I was given, will cost … $388, way beyond the deductible you quoted me. You just said, “25, 35 and 65 are the deductible levels…”

CareMark: (audible groan) >querlk< HUNDRED. TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED, THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED. SIXTY FIVE HUNDRED.  (you freaking idiot.) That’s your deDUCTible levels.

Me: (oh hell NO you didn’t…) HUNDRED?! As in Twenty-five hundred dollars for a deductible? Is THAT what you meant? (CareMark Mistress of the Dark is >sklerking< in the background…)

You said “twenty-five, thirty-five and sixty-five” and didn’t say “hundred” after any of those figures. So naturally, I thought you were talking about an entirely different denomination… >pausing to listen< Um, (with obvious bitter disgust) are you eating something? Because I can’t unders–

CareMark: >pause< No. I am not eating any — I am SUCKING on a COUGH DROP. I am SICK today. >SLERK SKECK CRUNCH<

Me: >pause.< Oh. I ask if you’re eating something because I’m having a hard time understanding you. You aren’t speaking clearly. And, that you left out of that deductible information by a factor of one-hundred.

So, then, yes, doing the math that I understand now, I would not meet the deductible. That’s fine. It is what it is.

Now, since CareMark has been our prescription program provider for several years, can you tell me what my family’s history was last year on what we paid for prescriptions so I can get a sense of whether or not we even came close to meeting those deductibles? You know, so I can get a ballpark on —

CareMark Viper from Hell: You want a WHAT? >sklerk< From WHEN?

Me: (fuck you; you work for me) I’d like to know if you can provide me with a … report, yes, a report of what we paid last year for prescriptions so that I can understand how that shaped up… I know some systems won’t give access to data so maybe you need to transfer me (please o please o please transfer me…), but I’m just looking for a snapshot, if you will, of how much we paid —

CareMark succubus: I don’t know what YOU’RE talking >slurk< about, but I can give >sklech< a COST REPORT (you moron) of your prescriptions from last year. I can send it to you …

Me: (incredulous) Mmmmmm Nnnnnooooo. That won’t be necessary; you don’t need to print it out and mail it to me, I’m just looking for a quick-and-dirty here (still trying to be niccccce….) so that I can .. can you just look at it and tell me?

(envisioning bats pipping and fluttering about her head; her face slack, with green from the reflecting the screen) Is there a screen you can click on? Do you have that (carefully choosing my words) ca-pa-bil-i-ty on your sys-tem that will show you that his-tor-ic in-for-ma-tion so you can just tell me the cost report from reading it on your screen? (SMILING a TOOTHY GRIN but with narrowed eyes.) 

CareMark demon: (likely hunched over one of those ancient monolithic IBM 8600 desktop computers we used to call “machines” back in the 90s) You didn’t meet it. >slerk< You didn’t reach your deductible last year.

Me: (oddly proud that we didn’t need that insurance but pissed we paid for coverage for it) Oh. Did we come close? I mean, would have this addition of this STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS last year, hypothetically of course, would it achieved the deductible? (at this point, i’m not sure of why i’m asking about any of this; something about this woman made me want to pick at her though…)

CareMark: No. >sklerrrrk<

Me: Ok. Well, that’s that. (sincerely) Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.

CLICK.

Me: hello?

She hung up on me. Not a “Thank you for calling CareMark and giving me a job to do and keeping my wages coming in…” or “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” or, I don’t know, “Good bye.”

I think she needs the medicine more than I do.

So then I called Aetna and told them what happened to me. They took a full report.

You’re allowed to be sick. You’re allowed to sklerk on a lozenge. But you’re not allowed to be viperous. You’re just not.

Here’s the final thing: I’m a big girl, I’m healthy, I’m happy and living a very wonderful and stable life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this puff adder would somehow meet up on that phone line with someone who’s really in need. Maybe a mother of an infant with a blood infection; a father who’s son is in rehab, y’know: PEOPLE. I was concerned that she would affect a person who’s rattled, whose spouse just had a stroke, or who needs to know about his or her new health plan and that this agent would treat that rattled spouse or parent or patient so horribly that the day would be ruined. 

Truth be told, I thought of my father, who’s 84 now, and if he needed to call CareMark to ask about his prescription benefits. I thought about my mother-in-law, who’s 29, and considered her situation with that agent and I decided I couldn’t let it go. 

So I called CareMark later on and spoke with management. The manager I spoke with was mortified by Elvira’s behavior and grateful that I called back. 

CareMark redeemed itself to me on that second phone call. It turns out it’s not a “deductible,” it’s a Maximum Allowable Benefit (MAB), which is the exact opposite of a deductible. A deductible is threshold you must meet by paying into it, and  it would eventually reduce your out-of-pocket expenses as you go forward. When you reach your deductible, your costs go down. The MAB is an already established account, with funds already in it, that when you buy your medication, that sum is deducted. When you run out of the MAB, you pay more. It’s like a bet the insurance is taking, that you will try to meet. 

I don’t know how that rep has stayed employed.

Why am I in the basement and what am I looking for down here? Geez, I hope it’s not for the laundry.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 15 — Seeing Things for How they Really Are #teaching #yoga

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It has been a very long time since I last wrote a blog post. Personally, lots of things have been going on; primarily, bronchitis and a sinus infection for me, a mild concussion for my middle son, college visits for the older son, Hallowe’en (which is truly a Holy Day around here), lots of glorious rowing, and helping to run the registration desk for a large regatta. Oh! And I had a basal cell carcinoma removed, but I’m good. (I’ll write about that later, it’s pretty funny. Well now it is…)

The most notable executive news for me is that I have decided to stop teaching my evening adult yoga class. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. When I took over the class from a well-known instructor and teacher trainer, I remember her sigh-saying as she handed over the metaphorical keys, “I always thought that this class would blossom with someone in the community running it…”

Looking back through my jaded lenses, that should’ve been a sign to me… I have been reluctant to admit the truth about the reality of the yoga potential here.

You can’t get much more “in the community” than me as I live less than a mile from the facility. The logistics remained the same. Even payments carried over. For students, it was easy-peasy.

That said, changes were a’coming and people don’t always adjust to change.

The first change was that people were about to get a new yoga teacher. GULP.

The second change is that I was about to shake up the payment scheme. People do like their money. They also like to do whatever the hell they want with it.

The third change was actually a constant: I can’t change who I am… But people said they liked my style, they loved my classes, they wish they could keep taking them…

In retrospect, at first, I tried to be all things to all people: I tried to be that departing instructor. Then I also tried to be the original instructor who started the class. So that’s two separate people besides me — the funny thing is: I never attended either one of those teachers’ classes, so who knows what I was trying to replicate.

The first two instructors ran the classes on what I like to call a “peace love happiness” hippy punch-card scenario. That’s not at all my style. I treat yoga more as a studio business would: you buy a set of classes in a “session” (a finite period, say 10 weeks, so you attend the commensurate amount of classes remaining during that session and classes could carry over only per request).

Upon taking the helm, I decided that I would honor for two more months whatever “balance” remained on the punch-cards, as several of these cards had been in circulation for TWO YEARS and were unused.

In fact, several of the people on the original email list never contacted the second instructor, they never attended her classes for the one-year period when she took it over. It was only when they heard from me, that “use it or lose it” was in effect, that they attended classes.

In a punch-card world, someone has to keep track, someone has to “X out” a class on that card. At a studio, a receptionist can do that. I don’t have a receptionist. I don’t babysit adults, nor do I “X out” anything. We are in our 40s and beyond, people. If you’re going to make your yoga teacher hold you accountable, you’ve got problems.

Before starting the classes, I consulted with my brother. He’s an MBA with a big job and he and wears fancy shoes. He gave me his advice and told me why he likes to pay for his fitness instructors and how he “gets it” that this isn’t about “nice feelings” but rather, it’s a transaction of values. “Don’t let people confuse you either, this is a business transaction. Yes, yoga is all about energy and feeling good, and being good, and all that shit; but it’s also a transaction. It’s about money.” He told me (along with my own yoga teacher) to change the payment program to “buying a group of classes in a ‘session'” instead of a “punch-card” because a punch-card doesn’t impart a commitment to the self and to the practice, and that self-improvement, as we all know, only works when you work it.

“If you don’t show up, or you don’t do the work, how can you expect any changes?” he reminded me. “I could go get McDonald’s or a Slurpee instead of coming to your class. I don’t value you if I don’t show up. I also don’t value myself, but that’s totally different, and not your problem. Your problem is waiting on people to follow through: to take you up on the service you are trained to provide them. Your service won’t be like anyone else’s, that’s what they’re buying. They’re buying YOU for 90 minutes. Not with a punch-card, but for that time only.”

He could sense that I had a problem asking people to pay me for a service that I felt they could just as readily perform on their own.

“But they can’t, can they? They can’t see their own misaligned knee or that their shoulders aren’t stacked, can they, unless they’re looking for them… but even then, if they’re looking, they’re not ‘doing yoga‘; they’re concerned with their appearance… They can’t see how the pose is performed, or hear you talk about what to feel or engage what muscles where or to loosen their jaws, can they?”

“No.”

“That is reason enough to pay you. Shit, no one but a trained and observant teacher who is doing the work with them, and who can talk about where things are working, as they do the work with them, can tell them that stuff.”

So he was right. Over the last 21 months, the count of participants ebbed and flowed. My most successful quarter was about a year ago: I had about seven registered session students, and several drop-ins. I bought myself a pair of boots last year. I didn’t ever make a killing. I could use the money to pay for gas for a long road trip and maybe a nice dinner out for my family, but that was it.

Then the numbers started to really drop last spring.

Lives change: elderly parents get sick, job requirements shift, people move, bodies ache, people lose their jobs or their motivation… My purpose on this planet is not to judge anyone’s decision to do anything, but to rather look at where I was feeling satisfied and if I was being “of service” to people; if I was actually helping people instead of sitting there picking my navel and feeling sorry for myself because no one showed up anymore.

The numbers continued to drop. I had three registered students, and only one regularly showed up. More logistical challenges for the other members, wrenches thrown in the engine.

It became a real drag.

I have a giant IKEA bag holding 12 yoga blocks; 6″x 2′ strips of my old yoga mat for extra knee / spine / elbow support; and 12 static double-D ring straps to hold poses or to stretch more effectively. I played amazing music (Todd Norian, “BIJA,” get it) too. I spoke softly and humorously about what was working in the poses. I offered modifications to challenge or support the body. I sprayed lavender oil mist in the room. I recited a guided breathing exercise during savasana for anyone who was interested. I infused a brief yoga nidra during every meditation. I had created, in my estimation, the very class I always wanted to attend. It wasn’t perfect: I was nervous teaching inversions, but I tried every so often and most people didn’t really care for them. I was not teaching to change people, or to get them to do something they’re not comfortable with. My goal always, has been simple: to help people feel good and let go.

But the numbers continued to drop. One day, I was quite certain no one would show, so I texted the people that hadn’t let me know and one did come to class! I was thrilled to see her! In fact, I even had a drop-in that night! Two people in the room with me! It was really nice! But I knew it would be short lived, so I decided that night I was throwing in the mat.

If it weren’t for one seriously dedicated person, and she knows who she is, I would’ve given up a long time ago. She asked me one night, “Is it discouraging when no one else comes?” I was so touched and surprised and defensive of the question. I answered sort of automatically, “No, it’s nice you’re here; I enjoy being here with you…” But I do wonder about it all… I said to myself.

The concept of “walking out on this class” never occurred to me. Nor had the idea that I had a choice. Growing up in the world I did, with the mother I had and the father I had, I couldn’t leave my post, or my mother would falter. She could die. I couldn’t stop my sentry work, or things would fall apart. My father was relying upon me to keep watch, to let him know how things were going, to let him know if Mom was sick or where she was, or what she was doing or who she was with. I had to stay. I had to keep my post. The same thing happened with the yoga, I guess. Even as I type this right now, I realize that I’d taken the position of yoga instructor to heart. There’s nothing I don’t do that isn’t done 100% and I think people have come to expect that from me. I have come to expect that from me. That’s fine, because I’ll always try to deliver. But my duty was to the yoga mat, and to hold the door open, so to speak, to the space where we practiced. To always be ready for people to come in. And to wait, even alone, in the dark, in that big room for people to come because that meant they would be safe. That meant they would be well. That meant they were taking care of themselves. I could relax when people were doing yoga, because they were secure. I knew where they were.

I’d never been given permission to retire. Failure was not an option, nor was deciding that the seas were too strong and that the prevailing winds were simply trying to teach me something: to lie down, to batten down, to steer my craft to calmer seas… to stop waiting for adults to show up at night. (Woah, that use of “adults” just now, just typed itself.)

It’s hard to admit. If it weren’t for the health club where I was recently hired, and if it weren’t for the growth in those attendances and the news from the health club management that I “have quite a following” for my yoga classes, I would be crushed.

They say ego is not supposed to be part of a yoga teacher’s energy, but if it weren’t for a healthy ego, I would keep trying to make this work despite the obvious signs it wasn’t working. It’s November, chilly, and once daylight savings time ends, people go into hibernation mode. They do NOT want to leave their homes, no matter how glorious the yoga. I get that. But still… it’s hard on the ego. However, empathy must prevail: it’s cold and dark out, who wants to leave home?

What also must prevail is the absolute truth that anyone’s decision to not come to yoga classes that they’ve already paid for has NOTHING to do with me. I really have to get my head out of my ass.

I have had some really interesting students, too, in this evening class. These are amazing people with some pretty spectacular disorders and physical challenges; I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach these people because they taught me as well: that no matter how strong a teacher I want to be, there are SOME THINGS I will never match. (That sounds a little too familiar to my story growing up, doesn’t it?)

In the very beginning, I had a student who became very attached to me. She was sweet and sparkly-eyed. But I have limitations and I’ve done a shit ton of couch time to not only allow for the existence of the flags, but to see them and turn heel and run.

I can’t handle that, when people become attached to me. There are only four people and two dogs I will be OK with attaching to me: my kids, my husband and Charlie and Murphy. This is not to say I’m not a reliable person. I absolutely am reliable. Just don’t expect me to be your everything; I’m barely my own anything.

This one student somehow identified with me. Maybe it was my kindness, or my optimistic attitude toward her situation, and my utter newness toward her and her idiosyncrasies. I was sincerely proud of her accomplishments despite a major disability. But, like they all do, these empty souls whose mommies didn’t love them enough (raises hand sheepishly), she attached to me. She idolized me, for something, and inevitably, I disappointed her. I treated her like I treated everyone else, despite her identification of me. She thought she was someone special to me, because I was someone special to her.

My job as a yoga teacher is to teach yoga, not cleanse your soul. I teach yoga, not emulate Jesus. I teach yoga, not act as your therapist. I teach yoga, not solve your problems. I teach yoga, not be your mother. I teach yoga, not set you apart. I teach yoga, I teach yoga, I teach yoga. I ask for payment. I expect you to show up. I teach yoga. That is all. If I am lucky, we will become friends, but we are equals. I am not superhuman, but I am very sensitive to energies, so the moment I feel people set me apart and think of me as special, I start to feel sick, as though I am picking up their self-loathing; it’s a very tenuous sensation: it feels like you don’t know if you’re coming or going: “are these my shoes?” After many years, I know when I start to do that to other people, make them my saviors. So I take a deep breath and I re-center myself. Don’t make anyone else your idol; it’s a lot to live up to. 

I liked to get to the space early, to loosen up myself and to prepare to teach, go over notes, play with a transition or a flow, or select a reading for the class. It was as though she could see the parking lot from her house because as soon as I pulled up, she would be walking up or waiting on the steps for me. She would text me in the morning, “Hey Doll! Have a great day!” on days we didn’t have class. I said inside to myself, for her benefit, please don’t do this to me, don’t do this to yourself.

On the one day she wasn’t waiting for me or preternaturally aware of my arrival, she stormed into the room. She started barking out her day. This was fairly common, but I could usually get her to simmer down, to let it go… but she was having none of that. I spoke to her gently and privately before others arrived about her disposition; suggesting that maybe she should take her dog for a strenuous walk instead of yoga, that I’d credit her for the class. She said the others knew her better and longer than I did. She wanted to pass out her business cards to the people in the class. She wanted to cross all sorts of boundaries. I said no. Absolutely not. “People come to yoga class to practice yoga, to get away from their day and their lives off the mat,” I explained to her. Do the business card thing later. Not before.

People started coming in. She was erratic. Like a loose puppy. I sat and waited, made small talk with students. I took up my chimes and started to sit up straight. People started to center on their mats. She fidgeted.

As I did during every pranayama (the seated opening breath and meditation sequence), I invited the group to give themselves “the gift of keeping the day outside and preserve this space, for the yoga, inside,” and I rang the chimes three times with our conscious inhales.

As usual during pranayama, my eyes were closed, so I don’t know if she glared at me, but I did open them after hearing her huff and snarl, to witness her get up, gather her things as noisily as she could, and let the door slam behind her.

Awwwwwkwwwwaaaarrrrd.

I spent a little longer in pranayama, for entirely selfish reasons, and we did some sort of conscious breathing exercise, likely alternate nostril breathing. I can’t recall the exact one, but we did it for another five minutes.

She never came back to my classes.

I fell from grace.

I became the “anti-her” person. Another bad guy. Another reason, as she told me in a text, during that class, for her to not leave her house.

Don’t give me that power. I certainly don’t deserve it, nor do I know what to do with it, I texted back to her the next day, followed by telling her I was glad she got home ok.

After several very quiet months, despite telling me to never contact her again (and I hadn’t to begin with), she sent me an email. A blog post from MindBodyGreen about how to be a good yoga teacher, “I thought you would find this helpful,” she wrote as an intro. It was about the importance of teachers keeping their egos in check; to not show off or show up the students with displays of magnanimous self-control or pious self-awareness. To not demonstrate crane, or bird of paradise, or dancer poses because it was too upsetting to those students who felt unable to perform them.

Ask any of my students if I’ve ever demonstrated crane or dancer without a request to do so; you will hear crickets. I purposely keep my classes mellow, meditative, mostly on the ground, and introspective because I know that no one is coming to me to look like the cover of Yoga Journal. I never expected this woman to exceed the massive limitations of her disability, but I never made her limitations the focus of the lessons. As an “all levels” teacher, you must teach to the highest ability, so that’s what I taught. No one was in those classes to levitate or balance on one toe, the classes were well-designed and challenging.

After Little Miss Backhanded-Awareness sent me that blog post about keeping the ego in check, I ceased all communication with her, and told her to give me distance as she demanded of me: “I’m not your Virgin Mary, your Jesus, your Buddha, your Saint. I’m a flawed, suburban mother of three who is working her ass off to conquer her own demons, so save your blame and finger pointing for your mirror.” >booya.<

But here we are again. Admitting the truth: the number of people coming to my evening classes has fallen. I can’t beat out the four health clubs in the 3-mile radius with their fee-inclusive classes; nor can I beat out the churches with their “Christian yoga” (ha! it is ABSOLUTELY to LAUGH!) versus my “satanic yoga,” I guess. So I am not going to try. I am finished being Sisyphus. I am letting the rock roll.

  
I’ve decided to go back to my teaching roots and teach children’s yoga. The classes are shorter, the students are shorter too. The kids are game, sometimes too game, but that’s what being a kid is all about. For me, teaching yoga to them is a game, and we play games. Kids are super honest and they are also really into noticing how things affect their bodies. At least in the way I teach it, they get that yoga is about everyone, not just one of us.

In my next post, I’m going to write about what it’s like to teach yoga to kids, and how we as parents can know if our kids are truly ready for the mat instead of us just wishing they were…

Thank you and namaste.

In Defense of Spirited Abandon and Cosmic Trust

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I live in an area close to Washington, D.C., however I spent my early youth, of which I recall a great deal, in Buffalo, NY.

We have received a fair amount of snow here, in the DC-burbs this winter. Nothing like 2010, however, and absolutely nothing like what the northeast has endured this winter as well.

I learned about a weather phenomenon, “the ice line” a few months ago. It’s aptly named. It’s what causes a shit ton of emotional and vehicular chaos in these parts whenever the air and surface temps drop below freezing but the substance falling from the clouds ain’t so sure it’s not in Florida. The result is ice. Sometimes it is ice covered by snow.

The issue is the unfortunate confluence of inexperienced drivers on ice and a southern state transportation department which has begrudgingly had to adapt to climate change.

Surely it snowed and was icy when George Washington was president, or before Vespucci found this continent. People, fauna, bears… They coped. They didn’t freak out, wring their dry hands and wonder about school closings, road conditions, Twitter updates and Brian Williams.

They just dealt. They looked outside their huts or caves, they said (in whatever language they uttered) “ok, different from yesterday. The elk skin will be most appropriate for the day along with those muskrat boots… and hand me my pashmina while you’re at it…”

Sometimes (most always) we know what we need to do. Most times, in an increasingly complicated (über-connected) world, it just means we retreat, we go inside to our inner wisdom, and decide for ourselves. Put down the familiar bottle of chaos we subconsciously looooove to stir up and cool our jets. We simply let go, leave it all up to the Fates, God, the Universe, whatever it is which gets us through dinner, and deal, knowing 1) it’s out of our control and 2) it’s nothing to freak out about.

I’m suggesting we do that now. Just breathe, assess and deal; go with our thimble-sized needs and address them accordingly.

One breath at a time.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 13 — Children and the Adults Who Still Are

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I’ve been inordinately blessed. I used to think it was luck but then I realized that it was not quite that simple, it has been more than me showing up at the right places at the right times. I don’t know who came up with the phrase, “make your own luck” but I like it.

When I roll back to look at the groundwork that has been laid out to bring me to this moment it’s a little astounding.

I harken back to my first yoga teacher, Vicki, whom I’ve always respected and admired. After being in her level 3 class for a year or so, I asked her, “Do you think I’m ready for vinyasa [flowing yoga, more aerobic]?” I didn’t want to leave her class, but she didn’t teach a vinyasa. She was honest and kind and said, “Yes. I do.”

I garnered the guts to attend one on a lark; I intentionally missed one of my Vicki classes at the studio to squeeze in a vinyasa class as a make-up on a Saturday morning. The standard teacher for that class was one Vicki had used as a sub for her class, and I really enjoyed her, so I was excited to see her again.

When I opened the door to the studio and stepped in, I saw that the teacher I expected to be there was not there, but rather another teacher.

I was confused. I almost considered leaving. People don’t like surprises I’ve found, and I’m a people.

But I carried on and took down a mat from the shelves, reached for a strap, grabbed a couple felt blankets and a pair of blocks. I didn’t know what I was in for, and with this new person, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

I loved it. I instantly loved the teacher and the class, as soon as it began. I loved the challenge of the flow which demanded both concentration and meditation, the marriage of breath and movement in a more fluid and contemplative way — there was no getting attached to any one pose in vinyasa, that was the best part. This substitute teacher had an impishness, kindness and an energy about her that I was so pleased to encounter.

So I was hooked. I returned to my Level 3 classes with Vicki, and dreamed of adding the vinyasa to my life. But then the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008 and $240 for 12 weeks of once-a-week yoga was a luxury; it was time / I had no choice but to buy some DVDs and learn on my own.

“I like you better when you practice yoga,” my husband has come perilously close to saying. What he’s actually said instead is, “I can tell when you’ve not practiced…”

It was also around this time of year when I first taught the sixth graders at the elementary school for eight weeks as a volunteer, so I was definitely feeling stressed because, natch, sixth graders totally know more about yoga and breath than I did at that point in my life after practicing yoga for ten years. (I sit here eyerolling with contempt at my inadequacy issues… how they cripple me…)

As spring grew longer, the pool season was opening and I procrastinated on getting out ducks in a row for the early bird prices (I swear I don’t know how this family would function without me sometimes). Usually I mailed it all in early but that year I didn’t. On the last day, I went to our neighborhood central office to submit my family’s pool registration and as I was leaving, there on a table beside the door was a flyer, “Spring Yoga with Kelly…” held in a location that was in walking distance of my home, and not in a studio in a creepy parking lot between a 7-11 and a loud restaurant. The classes were half the price, offered during the day when the kids were at school and then… THEN … I saw the picture of the yoga vixen on the sheet and I just about flipped, “THAT’S THE VINYASA SUB!!!”

OOOOOOOOH I was thrilled.

I dashed home and sat down to tap out an email to her to learn more about her classes and to also ask her if she was indeed the vinyasa sub.

Yes! The classes were ongoing and she was the sub!

OOOOOOOOH I was so excited.

But I was sad too. I loved Vicki. But I needed to save money. But I loved Vicki. But she was the sub… I needed to make a change.

I changed. I wrapped up the classes with Vicki and then jumped ship like a coward and started going to yoga TWICE a week near my home (I even walk[ed] to class every now and then!) and was still saving money. I was like velvet. My husband was so pleased.

Fast forward several years, a blossomed friendship with Kelly, a maintained friendship with Vicki, a mentorship with both of them, and too many downward facing dogs to count and I’m now a bona fide certified yoga instructor who put forth an intention, made a few shifts and have become the manifestation of what happens when you get out of your own way. (If I could just get that writing a book thing to feel better…)

So what have I learned? With teaching little kids:

1) they will point at you and then burst out in unmitigable laughter at you when you make the mistake of wearing a shirt that reveals your belly-button during tree pose. And there’s nothing you can do about it. They absolutely will not stop and eventually, you get over your self-consciousness, you figure out that it’s pretty funny, and keep things moving along.

2) they will tell you that they hate a pose and instead of trying it, they will opt for child’s pose on their mat. They don’t care, they are pure and real: if they think your proposal of cobra is a stupid idea, they’ll tell you that it’s a “dumb pose” and just curl up and wait.

2a) they will also learn to say, “it’s not my favorite pose, I’ll sit this one out” when they call poses “dumb” after a few instances.

3) they will start giggling when you say to them (when finding a scowl upon their faces) “Don’t smiiiiiiiiile. Donnnnnnnn’t smiiiiiiiiiile….” it works every time.

3a) they will also test you by frowning just to get the “don’t smile” challenge going.

4) they love to be sniffed out of svasana by a chocolate Labrador puppet named “Teddy Dog” and if you request that they not make a peep when they rise, to respect their friends, they will keep their sweet mouths zipped.

5) they like to partner pose. They have absolutely no issues or social bullshit on their minds; they’re all about the fun.

they are building a tent for their carnival.

they are building a tent for their carnival.

6) they seem to make no connection whatsoever to breath and calmness at first. They look at you like you’re speaking crazy talk and then a few weeks later will tell a classmate who’s having a hard time because he didn’t get the mat color he wanted to “breathe deep and slow… you will feel better and then you can have the mat next time…” and you will find yourself blown away and they will have to fetch Teddy Dog to rouse you from your unintended svasana.

7) they will completely lose their minds if you forget Teddy Dog.

8) they “love to play musical mats because only the poses get eliminated, not the kids!” When the last mat is “safe” they all have to squeeze on to it or at least touch it. When this happens, it’s all about making room and fitting on instead of squeezing out and “fitting in.”

Making room for all during "take-off" for airplane pose after a game of "musical mats."

Making room for all during “take-off” for airplane pose after a game of “musical mats.”

9) they will come to the rescue with their stuffed animal in their backpack when you forget Teddy Dog. Then all of them will dash off to forage in their own gear to show you their each respective special buddies they have in their backpacks and you will smile so deeply inside with the memory of your own long-lost buddy you brought with you everywhere. It seems so far ago…

10) they get it. When classes end, they bum out because they really enjoy them, and when the session ends, they cry because they love you. They give you pictures of yourself with them that they drew because they wanted you to remember them. “Because you helped me learn how to feel good when I am feeling all spazzy or want to punch my brother.”

Teaching kids keeps me grounded. I love teaching both sets of ages, and each presents its challenges. Adults won’t necessarily pout if they don’t get the mat they want (they bring their own) or if I instruct tree pose. But some adults pose their own challenges and that’s mostly where boundaries are involved. I would be absolutely leading you astray if I said that some adult practitioners don’t confuse the “kumbaya / namaste” vibe of a yoga instructor with loose structure or lack of policies.

Also, some peoples’ appreciation of yoga (“whatever, it’s a social thing for me”) might not be mine (“can be life changing, I’ve learned so much about myself on the mat”); regardless, i will always prefer mine.

Case in point: I had a student who’s missed a few classes them decide to “gift” a class (that would be missed due to a conflict) to friend based on the premise that the classes were already paid for. I had no such policy nor had I ever heard of the concept. If I were a dentist, and a patient came in for a scheduled root canal but decided to bring along a friend who needed a cleaning “seeing as how the visit is already paid for” I think I’d consider giving the wrong tooth a root canal. I wasn’t thrilled with this “gifting a class” proposal either (and SINCE WHEN is “gift” a VERB?!), but to keep things kumbaya, I let it slide, along with the shot across the bow, “this class only; I won’t do this again.”

And would you believe it: the student ARGUED with me, “I already paid for the class… what do you care? You’ve got the money…” and so then there was this part of me that was “Yeah, I see that…” but the other part of me that said, “No, that’s not how it works. Your tuition is for you; there is no ‘sharing’ of tuition… ”

It got worse. The student triangulated and went to the guest who then was so moved by my reaction (calm, professional yet firm with the scofflaw) that she apologized for coming to class… (Yeah, because that was what I definitely saw coming…) But this triangulation didn’t happen until after the student sent me an email starting with “I didn’t mean to upset you” and closing with “I won’t bother bringing any friends to the new teacher in town…” so you tell me, which was the dig?

It got worse. I basically wrote back to the student and offered her a refund, but not until I told her that her tactics were offensive and her triangulation dysfunctional; that things had reached a whole new level of weird because of what she did.

Then, only then, she wrote back telling me “this is awkward now.”

Now.

Not when she basically pooped on the drop-in fee, and me professionally by treating a guest “on her” (me) without asking about it first.

Not when she decided to triangulate and spew her self-embarrassment and project it all over me and her friend (nice) by trying to justify what she’d done by telling me I’m unreasonable.

Not when she closed her note with a non-smear of my classes.

Only when I called her out on her deplorable behavior and her non-smear. Then. Then it was awkward. Awkward as ass.

We agreed to part ways. I offered to refund her fully, but she said I could keep the money. Ok. She owed me $15 of it anyway for the drop-in of her guest.

She should come to my children’s classes, she’d feel more at home. They can act like children and not feel weird about it; and then when she acts like them, they can call her on it.

So that’s what I’ve witnessed and I’ve learned. That children are children and some adults are still children.

Last weekend, I went on a glorious retreat with Kelly. It was really nice. I noticed a few things about myself: that I go inward with lots of new people around me in an intense environment; that I used to be really codependent and I’d feel awful if I stood up for myself, I’d be afraid that by asserting myself that I’d offend someone else and I’m thrilled to report that I’m not codependent anymore; that I bond with lots of women a lot faster than I thought I would, and it’s a subtle and deep bond; and that I’m grateful for all the bumps, cracks, detours, pitfalls, traps, and more I’ve endured because it’s all part of my story, and that story has made me who I am. I waver on this, it’s still pretty new, but I think I’m finally there.

Thank you.