December 23: Appreciate: For what did you find a new appreciation this year?
Because I am a fairly obvious person, I will admit the following:
1) I am presently at a yoga retreat, on a beach, in a somewhat secluded part of Thailand;
2) It is intermittently brilliantly sunny outside and then pouring down rain — and it is raining in that fierce, cleansing tropical way that it rains in Asia, and in Florida, and all of those other places where people go to find themselves and to die;
3) I am reading Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly.” I read about this book from Gwyneth Paltrow’s insufferable goop newsletter, which, try as I might, I simply cannot quit. 95% of the time, I read goop, and I wonder if anyone else finds it as uncomfortably pretentious and aspirational as I do. The other 5% of the time, I read the advice earnestly and then I feel self-conscious about having just taken it seriously.
Numbers 1 and 3 have all the hallmarks of me being a Yuppie Asshole in the worst sense of the term. I am self-conscious about what I’ve written, because I’d like to think that I am at least a somewhat authentic person.
All that said, this is actually what I am doing, and what I am reading. The point, though, is that Brown’s book is about shame, and scarcity, and, to a certain extent, trauma. She doesn’t so much imply that we are living in End Times, rather, that we’ve lived through a decade or so of natural and man-made disasters, which have given people a fundamentally unsettled sense of the world. And I suppose that is true. I was thinking, too, about my own life. I was thinking about shame, and guilt, and the people around me. I was contemplating the ways in which I criticise myself, and the ways in which I am critiqued by others.
And I this got me thinking about joy, and gratitude, and…appreciation.
I have not taken the time to fully appreciate what has happened over the last 18-19 months of my life — the dramas and traumas, and the shame I feel about truly appreciating how deeply they’ve impacted me.
This didn’t occur to me until I was in the middle of one of our four hour sessions of yoga, and I simply could not hold the position. My arm gave out. I’ve practised yoga in a fairly serious and pretty disciplined way for at least the last decade of my life; I’m an athlete. There was absolutely no reason I should’ve have been able to hold a familiar pose.
Except, I was injured. I had been hit by a car 18 months prior, and my arm was never going to be the same. To date, I still couldn’t properly raise my left arm above my head — which probably meant that I should see the doctor again; which definitely meant that after four hours of yoga, I might not be able to hold a position.
I was ashamed of myself, though. And I got flustered, and frustrated, and tried to make excuses, and hide my perceived inadequacies when the assistant tried to come help me. I got defensive.
After the class, I was talking with the teacher. People came from far and wide this week to work with him. He’s well known, and he’s a bit weird, as all good yoga teachers are. He asked me some questions, and I gave him my excuse about why I couldn’t hold the posture. But he didn’t let me off the hook, though he didn’t harm me or hurt me further. He just shrugged and said something to the effect of: It’s better to modify than to chicken out.
I had not, until that moment, appreciated the depth of my shame — about the car accident; about my physical limitations. And I hadn’t appreciated that I was chickening out, either. Was it all so simple as a modification?
Probably not. But it was a start. I suppose what I am trying to say is that, in stripping away the layers of pretense, and peeling back the fronts behind which I try to hide, this year I’ve gained a new appreciation for being self-aware of Yuppie Asshole-dom, yes. But moreso, of being less of an asshole to myself.