On day 12 of a 30 day challenge of Bikram yoga, it isn’t so much the 102 F heat, or the rule you can only breath through your nose, or even that you can’t have any water until after the warm up poses are done that is most difficult.  It is managing your monkey mind that inconveniently remembers you haven’t filled out your kids fundraising fair trade coffee order that was due today while you try to balance in the aptly named ‘awkward’ pose.  Sometimes my distractions are mercifully erased by story telling from our instructor.  The other day when I was in yoga class our lithe 50-ish instructor told this story.

She told a story about ‘Dave’ a practioneer at the studio.  It seems that Dave was struggling in the class, struggling with the poses, the heat, and he wanted to leave the room.  She said as she saw his frustration mounting she repeated the opening instructions we hear in every Bikram class ‘work breath first, form second and depth third.  If you feel overwhelmed or ill just lie down on your mat and join in when you are able to again. ‘

Dave, after much grunting and groaning, picked up his mat to leave the room.  Leaving the room is a no no in this yoga.  She called out to him ‘Just take a moment and rest, don’t push so hard and jump back in when you can.’

It is too hot!  He replied.  ‘I have to just get out of here.  I can’t work in this.’

When she saw him after the class she encouraged him to just lie down when he feels overwhelmed, that part of the benefit of this hot yoga is to quiet the mind in the heat, to which he proudly said:

“I cant do that.  If I can’t give my 100% I just don’t do it.  It is just the kind of guy I am”

That is just the kind of guy I am.

Well hasn’t that just echoed through me head for the last several days.

I know I have said that exact thing so I don’t have to change.  Whether or not something is working in my life, I feel attached to some behavior that I proudly say “oh, that is just the way I am”.  Who is going to challenge that?  Who is going to ask me to not be me?  Truly!  Sacrilege!

Hearing that story though really helped me to sit a few feet back from my life and caused me to ask ‘where am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? As the saying goes.  Where in my life am I hurting other or myself under the defense line ‘ I’m not that kind of girl.’

I know that I used this thinking in my younger years.  That was when I avoided doing anything I didn’t feel I could really excel at.  It was only later that I realized that I eliminated many rich experiences from my life’s tapestry when I did that.  Things that made me uncomfortable were eliminated.  All easily and breezily cloaked in the noble phrase  ‘I don’t do that.  I’m not that kind of girl’.

I used to be a terrible poor loser at board games, so I stopped playing them.  I reframed it, as “I just am naturally competitive That is just the kind of girl I am”.  I’m therefore also the girl who didn’t’ get to enjoy many social evenings with friends over Sorry or Gin Rummy.

A few years back, some girlfriends and I went to New York City together and two of them confessed that they never travelled alone.  To scary and complicated they declared, and they just weren’t the kind of girls to take that on.  What a loss of life experience.  Many of my richest experiences have been my travelling alone in Europe, in the US, England and Canada.  I learned so much from my time alone.  Whether it was eating in restaurants by myself or embracing how self-sufficient I could be in foreign languages booking auditions and my hotel.  Self-reliance wasn’t just something I was born with.  It was something I learned.

How many times have I seen someone hurt because another person felt that they had to tell him or her the truth because that is just the kind of person they were.    There are just as many who pretended things were different then they were with good friends and lovers, because they don’t like to hurt peoples’ feelings.  That is just the kind of person they are.

When I paid….

Many years ago, when I was in my first year of University, after several unsuccessful auditions for the Banff School of Fine Arts Music Theatre Department, I received the “you are on a limited wait list” letter.  I thought that was bull.  I was crushed and disappointed at my failure to be accepted.  How could I hope to succeed as a performer if I couldn’t get into that school?

I’ll never forget when my mother called me shortly after I receive that letter to say that Banff had just called her and she had given them my number at school.

“They are going to call you.” She said excitedly “They are going to offer you a spot”

I felt sick.  In my head, being turned down in the first round meant I was never good enough.  I would feel humiliated to go now.  Everyone would know I wasn’t first choice.  I wasn’t that kind of girl.  I was the kind of girl who was the best first time through or not at all.

In an infamous moment of my personal history I said no to Banff because:

“If I wasn’t good enough for the first cut, I’m obviously not good enough to go at all”.

What did that gain me?  To be that kind of girl?

Yep. Nothing.  Stupid.  It was crazy stupid.

Expensive life experience, but I learned a lesson about myself and the story I was actively writing about who I was.  I’ve read that the source of unhappiness is the gap between what you have and what you expected.  The kind of girl I thought I was expected life to unfold one way, but life unfolds any old way it likes.  What does it all mean?  Only what I think it does.

Recently I was offered a role that someone else turned down.  I was the second choice.  When I told my husband, he asked me if I ‘Banffed’ them.  But I’m not that kind of girl now.  I’m the girl who is grateful for the opportunity to learn and practice my craft.  I said yes.

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