On assembly day, the elementary school kids file into the gym and then find their place on the floor with their classmates. The parents in attendance line up along the back wall. We all say the pledge, listen to the announcements and awards, and talk quietly with our friends. Last week, I walked Nora into assembly and saw her classmate’s mom. She’s great, easy to talk to and really friendly, so I squeezed in next to her to chat. I asked how her daughter was adjusting to second grade and how she liked her teacher. My friend commented that there was a kid in there that was challenging for her daughter and they were trying to develop some skills for handling the situation.
Nora’s got a kid in her class that’s been pushing her buttons, too. Though it’s tough, she’s handling it pretty well and gaining skills along the way. But I didn’t bring that up. Instead, I watched as I started some verbal diarrhea about a kid who is in Nora’s class again this year. Nora gets along with this kid, but his parents are kind of intense. I made some unfriendly remark about having those parents a part of the class again and maybe I even rolled my eyes.
As I walked home I was so surprised and embarrassed by my part in the conversation. Why would I bring up the “problem parents” and complain to this acquaintance of mine when any gripe or problem I might have had is long resolved? What’s still nagging at me?
After a little reflection, I realized that I’m bothered because I get the feeling that this particular mom doesn’t seem to like me or my kid. And it stings a little more because at one point we were courting each other and our families to be friends, so she knows a little about me and still doesn’t like me. In the time I spent thinking about it all, I could feel my hackles raise and a little argument start in my head. “Well, her kid… and that mom is so…” The way I’m protecting myself is by not liking her back and then complaining about some old, dried up toast.
We’ve all got these defense mechanisms in place to keep us from feeling stung or unliked or to protect whatever it is that is sensitive and hard to feel. I can see how much I dislike being disliked, so much that the feeling and memory of last year’s slight is still there with me at just the mention of a “challenging kid in class.” That defensive/unliked feeling brings with it a set of behaviors and conversation that isn’t my usual mode, and it’s not something I’d choose but there it was. The words spilling out of my mouth before I could do anything about it.
I have hope that bringing these things into my awareness will help me to handle this fear of being unliked. That by seeing that I still have this nagging bother will help me to unlearn the old ways of dealing with this and to develop some new healthier patterns. Yoga, particularly meditation, has helped me to see these kinds of changes before. I know it’s possible. The other piece that yoga can help with is a pause or a little space between reacting and responding. Yoga can help me to have enough presence to notice I’m thinking ugly thoughts before they become ugly words.
Even though I’m sorry I said those things in assembly, I’m glad that some good has come of them. I’ve got some practice and some work ahead. Yoga is the imodium to my verbal diarrhea.