The next time you feel like judging: A cautionary tale

15 Dec
This is what #winning should look like in yoga - if at all.

This is what #winning should look like in yoga – if at all.

The other night I went to yoga. I know it’s not supposed to be a competitive sport – it’s all about you and your edge. In fact, most teachers encourage you to make modifications so the practice is your own. That said, for a Type A person, it’s hard to not look around the room and judge assess people.

As shameful as it is to admit, my thoughts are often along the lines of:

  • Bet I’m stronger than her.
  • Wow – bold move wearing those shorts!
  • Eww – no pedicure? Hope that’s not a communal mat!

Tacky, I know, and I’m constantly working to turn off the judgmental voice in my head.

The other night was a good reminder. I was one of the last people to show up, so I tucked my mat between two women who were stretching before class. I began stretching as well, and in doing so, noticed that the woman to my right had an incredibly hairy shin. Hairy enough that I did a double-take on her face to make sure she wasn’t a man.

Indeed, it was a woman.

Once I confirmed that, I thought, “Well, it *is* Movember. Maybe she’s not shaving as part of the whole prostate cancer solidarity thing.” (If you’re not familiar, that IS a real thing. Check out this link.)

And to be fair, I’m lazy so my legs are lucky if they see a razor more than once a week. Even so – let’s note that I felt totally fine judging a stranger for her leg hair. (I am really a horrible person.)

So class starts. We do our sun salutations, our downward dogs, our vinyasas.

And from the corner of my eye, I’m watching my mat-mates, confirming that I’m executing the moves better than they are in some way. Building myself up because I’m the best in my row. Because yoga is a competitive sport, as it turns out.

About half-way through class, our instructor shifts gears and we go into balancing poses. “Tree,” she announces, and everyone shifts on to one leg, lifting the other to demonstrate balance.

The hairy-legged woman to my right drops to the mat and relaxes in child’s pose, not even attempting tree. Feeling victorious, I balance and extend my arms. Then – doing what I’m not supposed to do – I shift my eyes away from their “fixed point.” This move is guaranteed to make me wipe out. But I can’t help it, because I’ve just noticed something as my mat-mate shifts from child’s pose into her own version of tree: she has one leg.

Yes. I’ve spent half the class competing (in my own mind) with a woman whom I’ve judged for not shaving – and now I’m realizing that she is missing part of her leg and has a prosthesis lying on the floor next to her.

Image Source: http://images.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Screen-shot-2010-12-14-at-10.42.34-PM-500x346.png

OUCH. I’m such a dumbass.

While it was fresh in my mind, I was quick to write down a few lessons:

  • Careful how you define “winning.”
  • Question your motivation to compete in the first place.
  • Ask yourself if you’re putting others down to boost yourself up.

Oh. And never forget the old adage that you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Or on her prosthesis. And also? She was clearly better at yoga than I was. 

Giving thanks for humility this year. Thanks, universe, for reminding me we’re all One.

 

 

And now we wait…

7 Dec

Image Source: http://gooddogcoaching.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/xmas-cat-w-ribbon.jpg

When your *best case* scenario relies on hoping for your cat to shit out three feet of Christmas ribbon, you know some poor choices have been made somewhere, by someone.

In my case, I can’t decide if I’m at fault for pulling out green curling ribbon when wrapping a birthday present for my friends’ baby. Or if Miss Moneypenny – who suddenly decided that curling ribbon looked DELICIOUS – is to blame.

Regardless, one minute I was sitting there listening the Christmas carols and wrapping a present. The next, I was online googling “cat ate ribbon” and finding that I probably needed to rush her to an emergency vet.

Nevermind that it was 9pm on a Saturday and it was pouring rain outside and I don’t have a car. And the vet is located up near Maryland. Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong – I did consider just riding it out and seeing what would happen. After all, Miss Moneypenny didn’t seem to be distressed. In fact, she seemed oddly sated – and newly obsessed with curling ribbon.

Let me back up.

After wrapping my friends’ baby’s gift, I decided it would look better with a wee bit of ribbon on it. So I pulled out a spool of thin green curling ribbon – ribbon that I’m pretty sure was out frequently last year during the holidays and that seemed to have escaped Miss Moneypenny’s notice at the time.

I cut a four foot section of ribbon and draped it over the back of my chair while I returned the spool to its drawer. When I turned around, the ribbon was on the floor, Miss Moneypenny was sitting on top of it, licking her lips – and only a foot of it remained. I was baffled.

“Did you just eat that?” I asked. By the way she attacked the remaining foot of ribbon, it was obvious that she had. If I hadn’t moved quickly, that last bit of ribbon would’ve been down her hatch as seamlessly as a snake swallowing a tiny mouse. (This, from a cat who is super picky about her REAL food.)

Immediately, I thought of my childhood friend’s dog, Toby, who had once eaten an entire spool of dental floss – all 25 yards of it. My friend’s family had returned home to find the plastic dispenser hanging out of his mouth, and were able to pull about three yards of it out before it seemed to stick on something. They took Toby to the vet, where a chunk of his intestines were removed. Apparently that’s common when an animal eats an excessive length of a linear object.

I did what everyone does when faced with the prospect of bundling up their animal for a weekend/late night ER trip. I a) posted a query on Facebook, hoping my cat-owning friends would tell me I was over-reacting and could just stay home, and b) googled to see if the wider internet community could offer some reassurance that cats regularly ate three feet of curling ribbon and lived to tell about it.

Sadly, on both counts the response was, “Better get to the vet.”

I made one last attempt at avoiding the vet by calling the emergency line and asking if I could just monitor Miss Moneypenny and bring her in if she seemed distressed? Answer: No, get thee to a vet.

So we did. Thank you, Uber, for making that relatively easy. And the animal hospital was surprisingly well-staffed at 10pm on a Saturday. There must’ve been at least a dozen people working, and they were all really friendly. Fortunately, it was also a quiet night, so there were only two other people in the waiting room: one was a woman whose Labradoodle was having an allergic reaction to his vaccines, and the other was a man whose two daschunds had gotten into a tin of pure cocoa and needed their stomachs pumped.

Explaining that my cat had just ingested 2-3 feet of curling ribbon made me feel like they might send us home with a Darwin Award.

Instead, they sent us home without treatment and instructions to just monitor her for lethargy, vomiting or any other evidence that the ribbon had created an intestinal blockage. (I’d like to point out that that was the plan I’d originally proposed, and which they’d shot down over the phone.) There’s a 50% chance she’ll be able to pass it on her own, and a 50% chance we’ll need to go back for emergency surgery.

“Was there nothing that could be done NOW?” I asked, hoping to head-off both the possibility of surgery and having to monitor her litterbox for evidence that it had passed. I also didn’t want this trip to the vet – which would end up costing $200 – to be in vain. “Can’t we pump her stomach and make her puke it up? Or do an endoscopy and retrieve it before it works into her intestines in the first place?”

Apparently the answer to both questions is, “Not unless you want to spend an even crazier amount of money” – at least at 10pm on a Saturday night when their Surgical Internist is home in bed.

So I packed up Miss Moneypenny and we returned home.

Side note: The Uber driver on our way home puzzled me. He seemed to really like animals and was awesome about letting me bring a cat into his cab, but had some questions that indicated a lack of familiarity with cats. To wit:

Driver: How often do you need to cut her hair? 

Me: Cats don’t really need haircuts.

Driver: I take my daughter to PetSmart to see cats get their hairs cut. But there are never any cats. Just dogs.

Me: Yeah, I don’t think cats ever really get their hair cut.

Driver: How long can their hair get though? Very long? 

Me: No, it stays a pretty set length. You know how they have a winter and a summer coat? Maybe they just lose all their fur frequently enough that that’s why we never see it grow past a certain length.

Driver: Do you shampoo her? 

Me: No. Cats do a good job of grooming themselves.

Driver: What does the groomer do then? Just cut their hairs? 

????

So now we’re home. I’m monitoring her. And while I certainly don’t want to return to the vet for emergency surgery, I can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing that three feet of ribbon resurface.

My friend Andrew reminded me that he had an equally distressing situation some years ago when his doberman ate a box of dryer sheets. How’d it work out? According to his roommate, who witnessed the entire thing: “He looked like a tissue dispenser for about 20 minutes.”

At least dryer sheets smell nice.

A holiday Latin lesson…

29 Nov

Image Source: http://www.dumpaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/funny-unicorn.jpg

Thursday we were all loaded up in Alan’s car, heading over the river and through the woods with his kids in the backseat, on our way to their Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.

His son, who is in sixth grade, was playing a game on his phone. “Oh no!” he exclaimed. “I just killed a unihorse!”

“A unihorse?” Alan asked. “Is that a single horse or a horse with a small horse coming out of his head?”

“No,” his son corrected, “It’s like a unicorn but it’s called a unihorse.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Alan continued. “Because in Latin ‘uni’ means ‘one’ so technically that means one horse.”

“Yeah,” his son agreed. “It sounds funny, but when I was younger, I used to think unicorn meant one corn.”

“Well, that kind of makes sense,” Alan offered, “Because in Latin, ‘corn’ means ‘horn.'”

After a five second pause, his son said, “Well, that certainly gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘corny.'”

“And justice for all?”

25 Nov

Image Source: https://ionetheurbandaily.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/mike-brown-street.jpg?w=660

Last night I went to bed shortly after learning of the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict the officer who killed Michael Brown. I was sad and outraged.

I’m not saying that the officer should necessarily be convicted (I’d need to see all the evidence to decide), but I can’t understand how – in a case where an unarmed teenager was shot six times – there isn’t enough evidence to at least charge the shooter and move forward to trial. At least, that’s my understanding of what a Grand Jury is supposed to determine.

As I turned off my light for the night, I thought about Michael Brown’s family – and my friends who weren’t born with white skin.

About 45 minutes later, I was awakened by what sounded like screams coming from my alley. I bolted out of bed, grabbing my cell phone, thinking someone was being attacked and I’d need to call 911. Once I got my bearings, however, I realized I was hearing shouting, not screaming, and there were many voices, not one.

I pulled my shades and looked out to see waves of red and blue light, indicating police were already on the scene. Waking up a bit more, I realized that I was hearing a crowd of people protesting the Ferguson verdict. Because my windows don’t face the street, I could only see the police lights and hear the chanting.

My mind raced – was it a peaceful protest or was it teetering on the edge of a riot? I stood at my window, listening, and finally deducing that the voices and lights were moving – presumably marching down 16th Street to the White House.

I sagged back into bed, contemplating my reaction. I’d instinctively grabbed my phone to call the police and had found some reassurance when I realized they were already involved with whatever was happening.

 

One the whole, police do far more good than bad. And they’ve voluntarily signed up to put themselves in the line of danger to protect and serve their communities. I appreciate their service. But I wonder how different my view would be if I hadn’t been born with pale skin… if I were pulled over because my car looked “too nice” for me to own, if I had to worry that by wearing a hoodie I’d look “suspicious.”

If that were the case, I can’t say my first reaction in a potentially threatening situation would be to call the police. And that’s the conversation I think we need to be having.

Rather simply looking for justice in the conviction of his shooter, wouldn’t Michael Brown’s life be better commemorated by opening a real dialogue about white privilege and racial profiling, so we can begin challenging the thinking that prompts officers to read threats where they don’t exist – and that can prevent minorities from seeing police as their allies?

So let’s keep this conversation going. But let’s also remember that conversations aren’t people. Michael Brown was a “gentle giant,” a student and a son.

While he might not have gotten justice, I hope his legacy brings justice for others.

 

I blame the lateness of this post on the time change.

21 Nov

Daylight Saving Time baby meme

Unlike most people I know, I get excited on both ends of Daylight Saving Time. In the fall, I gain an extra hour of sleep and the mornings are brighter to wake up to. In the spring, I lose an hour, but it means than I have an extra hour of sun to prance around in on my way home from work. Overall, I’m not complaining.

But not everyone is onboard with the plan.

As an example, a few weeks ago I went to yoga over in Georgetown the Sunday morning following the clock roll-back. My instructor usually teaches yoga at 10 and pilates at 11:15. I showed up at 9:57 and the classroom was empty, except for my instructor’s mat at the front of the class. I settled in, kind of glad that she took her sweet time to show up.

Another student arrived and rolled out her mat. “Weird that the instructor isn’t here yet, right?” she asked.

I nodded. Usually, the instructor was a bit regimented in the whole thing. “At least her mat is here…”

About 10:10 she finally strolled in, and told us she’d been hanging out in the sauna. “So nice on such a cold day,” she said. There was no urgency indicating that she was 10 minutes late to class. In fact, she sat on her mat at the front of the class and began chatting about Halloween and asking if we’d dressed up.

It was weird, but I was also feeling lazy, so I didn’t mind that she was burning up some minutes that would normally be sweaty. Finally she said, “Well, looks like it’s going to be just us, so let’s go ahead and get started.”

We started. The initial sequence was a bit different than usual. Instead of downward dogs, we were doing 100’s. (If you’re not familiar, a 100 is where you’re basically doing a sit-up/crunchie and waving your hands to a count of 100. It’s a classic pilates move.) As the minutes continued to tick by, I kept wondering when we were going to transition to the aerobic part of the class and stop doing core work.

Quick meme - Batman & Robin - Pilates vs. yogaThen it hit me – she was still running on old time. She’d probably shown up for yoga at 9am (thinking it was 10) and thought that she had no students. So she went to the sauna and chilled – until it was closing in on pilates time. Having formed that hypothesis, I was curious to see if the rest of the class would support it.

Also? Pilates is a pretty intense workout if you’re not used to it. The other student in the class was an older woman who I’m pretty sure had never done pilates in her life. She kept shooting me glances that were more like questions. I suppose I could’ve interrupted the instructor and clued her in that we were there for yoga, not pilates, but it was sort of like a game of chicken. I wanted to see if the other woman would cry uncle.

As it turns out: no. So there we were, the first day of standard time. One extra hour of sleep under our belts – and an hour of pilates. Not the worst pay to enter hibernation if you ask me.

Some ecards - pilates

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