waiting on the front porch

she just stood there on the front porch waiting for her will to come and get her she was packed she had a suitcase full of noble intentions she had a map and a straight face hell bent on reinvention she was learning about please and huge humilities then one day she looked around her and everything up til then was showing and she wondered how did i get here without even knowing where i was going? ~ani difranco

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Location: montreal, quebec, Canada


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

learning how to be grateful for humiliation

last night i went to my yoga class, knowing that i was stiff and in a little pain. i can expect that when it's cold like this and i haven't done any deep stretching in a week. normally i love my tuesday classes because jodie's my teacher - she's so sweet and gentle that i liked and got along with her right away.

she had the stomach flu yesterday so a different teacher subbed for her - a man. i've taken a lot of studio yoga classes in my day and i'm not sure what it is (i mean no disrespect) but i've never liked or felt comfortable around any male instructors.

...but that has a lot to do with my herstory. i've found as well, through my informal polling, that male instructors like to touch and manipulate their students' bodies more - which is, in general, a no-no in my book.

so i took a deep breath once i figured this all out and told myself to stay open to the experience - that maybe i was wrong, and that there was a reason why i was supposed to take that class. i changed and unrolled my mat and got ready.

right away my "worries" were confirmed. in yoga i love doing flexibility postures (where the emphasis is placed on warming up and opening up the joints) because my joints stiffen so quickly and close in on themselves. i hate doing balance postures, because - well, i'm out of balance. one half of my body is literally shorter and lighter than the other half which means i can barely stand on one foot, much less tuck the leg i'm not using into the fold of my hip.

yesterday was a balance-postures class. i felt my heart sink right away as soon as i figured that out, because not only does my heart rate speed up (in the anxious, oh no i can't do this he's going to constantly correct and draw attention to me way), but it means i simply can't physically do a lot of the postures. so i'm left cooling my heels when all my body wanted and needed was a good 90 minute stretching out.

of course the teacher, never having read my file (which says under 'health concerns': born with cerebral palsy - i know because i wrote it down) constantly did what i was afraid he was going to do. in the leg lunges, which were fairly simple, the students were supposed to keep their knee straight and above their ankle.

(if you tried that right now, it's fairly simple. drop to the floor, extend one leg behind you, and keep your forward leg bent in a 90 degree angle. no matter how low you can sink into the posture, keeping the knee in front of the ankle is fairly easy - except for me. my left knee has never been able to do that properly - because of the spasticity of my tendons, my knee angles in, towards my other leg, and it hurts and is extremely uncomfortable when i try to reposition it. i'm working on opening up that area, but it takes time.)

so of course the teacher said to me, "no. the knee over the ankle. the knee over the ankle. see? like this." and i'm trying to maintain the posture and trying not to burst into tears (because this is a shy person's nightmare) and trying not to yell at him, "you think i don't know what you're talking about? i just can't do it, you jerk!"

this continued, with him commenting on the position of my arm in the warrior pose (ironic, no?) and then, at the end of the class when we're all rolling up our mats, he came up to me and said, in a loud voice,

"so, what happened to you? were you in an accident or something? is it your leg or your arm? i was trying to figure that out all class." and i said, quietly,
"no, i was born with cerebral palsy."

and he sort of stopped and looked and me and said, "oh? i don't know much about that. so...the yoga's helping?"

i told him, yes, it was, and that's why i did so much of it.

on the way to class afterwards i had to walk quickly so that i didn't start crying.

i know, for me, that my 'disability' is where a lot of my insecurity comes from. i guess i thought i was dealing with it better. i wish it didn't; i don't think that any disability should affect people's 'soul cores'.

for me, a lot of my confusion and insecurity comes from the fact that i can 'almost pass' for an able-bodied person. that's what my parents wanted me to do - that's why neither of them told me that what i had was actually c.p. - they didn't want me to grow up under a label which would help me determine my own limitations.

i remember lying on my mother's bed for so much of my childhood as she helped me do my physiotherapy exercises, watching the two of us in her mirrored closet.

"your left side is just weaker than your right side. if somebody asks you about it and you don't feel comfortable, just tell them you got in a football accident."

i remember going to kiddie kobbler to buy shoes for my first day in grade school and my face burning with embarrassment as my mother told the salesclerk, "see...one foot is about a size larger than the other. can you mismatch two pairs?"

i remember stroking the fingers of my left hand, imagining i could feel new nerves growing, telling myself that if i just kept it up, i wouldn't be this way anymore.

i remember sitting on the window sills of the library, because nobody picked me for recess dodgeball, and i'd close my eyes and in my head i would be the most graceful ballet dancer in the world. i would be light and beautiful and strong.

throughout my life i've had people tell me that i wouldn't be able to do things. like climbing trees (well, maybe they were right about that), or playing sports well enough to make a school team (so i didn't try), or building campfires ("watch out! you'll burn yourself! let me do it!"). and even though now i know that there's absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that it doesn't have to define me in any way that i don't want it to, and that i can do anything i set my mind to, there is a lot of rewiring that i need to do. a lot of sensitive spots that i'm trying to teach myself to let go of.

like it or not, people are often going to remark on my body, and i want to stop the internal cringe that happens when they do. the internal cringe happens because of a sense of shame that i have, i know that. i want to be gentle with myself and let it go. i want to understand myself better.

i want to be grateful to the opportunities and gifts that this life has given me, even the ones that come in lopsided and sometimes painful packages. and i am, most of the time.
i just wish that my first reaction towards such an integral part of myself - what makes me me, wasn't shame.


Anonymous ceanandjen said...

Is it wrong that I want to hit that yoga teacher upside the head...ignorant, insensitive ass. I'm sorry, but part of his job is to be a gentle leader, not....oh, I have not nice words for him.

You embrace your beauty my friend, inside, outside, all around. Having to overcome the challenge of not defining yourself by this C.P. has to be difficult. BUT, you do it with grace and purity. You are such an amazing being, you really really are. Do you know what I see? I see this as characteristics that make you more unique and more beautiful. There is no label or definition or anything of the sort needed. You are a being of light and love.

Happiness and love to you dear Bee.

xoxoxoxo Jen

12:15 p.m.  
Blogger Deb R said...

I find myself really, REALLY annoyed with that teacher. Even if he didn't take time to read his students files (which I kinda think he should've...silly me!), if he was observant enough to be able to figure out that some part of your body was causing you some problems in class, even if he couldn't figure out exactly what part or why, then he should've had the simple good sense and courtesy to stop nagging you until he understood where you're coming from. Sheeeeesh!!!!! That kind of stuff just annoys the living CRAP out of me and it's just that much worse when the person on the receiving end of the bad crapittude is someone I care about. You have one of the most graceful spirits of anyone I know. {{{Bee}}}

PS...sometime when things aren't quite so hectic for you with school and all, can we talk a little about chakras and things via email? No hurry, but I'm interested in hearing more.

12:24 p.m.  
Blogger Spiky Zora Jones said...

Hi bee. Sweetie don't sweat it. sometimes people want to show the better part of themselves, but baby doll...you come in two better parts. Be brave. be fearless. be bee the warrior. they will walk lightly arround you and they will know you don't owe any one an explanation. that is something you give to those you feel close enough to want too. I give them a sly half smile, turn and walk away.
Bee...I think you are wonderful and perfect.

12:26 p.m.  
Blogger b/sistersshoes said...

First, you must know that you are light and beautiful and strong. I could be angry with the instructor, but men only use half of their brain at once, so we can understand why he didn't realize something sooner and not point you out.

I know what you want bee, you want to be one of those people that I watch on the documentary channel that have some 'different' characteristic, and they are proud of it, as it defines them into a catergory all their own...and they feel special because of it. They are special because of it.

Well, I don't know what exactly what it was in your life that made you into this loving, tender, kindhearted person, but something did....you have genuine empathy for others, something greatly lacking in this world, where did you get that? You are unselfish and humble...why?

You are defined...this is the definition of bee. Does the cp have anything to do with this definition of you? Because if the answer to that is yes, than that is what I want you to think about.

Someone (a very wise old woman) once said to me, "If without Lupus, you turned out to be a cold heartess, selfish, no do gooder, would you still want a life without it?"

No, I wouldn't. I am who I am because of Lupus. Lupus is part of my definition and it is a good portion of the good parts of my heart. I am proud of that.

Happy Thanksgiving bee,
I am thanful for you,
you are a godsend in my life,
xox darlene

12:29 p.m.  
Blogger Jessie said...

oh bee, i'm sorry that you had that experience when you were trying to do something good for yourself. one thing i felt as i was reading this though is that it's quite possible that you taught this yoga teacher a lesson that he needed to learn. you taught him that maybe he needs to be more thoughtful and sensitive.

and, by the way, i love you just the way you are.

2:06 p.m.  
Blogger Hulles said...

Wow. Everyone else already said it. (Though judging men by the asshole that taught the class might be a little, well, sweeping....)

I really like that you said you wanted to be "the most graceful ballet dancer in the world." Isn't it a good thing that you did end up the most graceful ballet dancer in the world? At least in any way that matters.... Certainly you are in my book, anyway.

3:41 p.m.  
Blogger bee said...

thank you, guys. i really do appreciate all of your thoughtful comments and support.

jen~ um, wow. thank you. and i think you and deb r can be my virtual bodyguards now. ;) YOU'RE HIRED!

deb r~ also, see above comment. :) but yes, this weekend, once i stop panicking and am away from my life here (going to peterborough! you should google it! and pictures!) i'm going to be catching up on some emails, hopefully...and i'd love to start that conversation with you. definitely.

zora~ my supportive warrior sister. thanks, babe.

darlene~ thank you. happy thanksgiving to you - talk about godsends in one's life? you're one of mine. (and that picture of you and angela? made me wish that you and i could take one like that one day. i think we will.) and you're right, you know. i'm glad that i am who i am, and if not having c.p. would make me a different person, then no, i wouldn't want to live without it.

jessie~ i hope so (that we both learned something from each other.) and i love you, too. p.s. i think the package i need to go and pick up might be yours?!...oooh, i'm so excited!

hulles~ what a beautiful, beautiful compliment. thank you. i really do appreciate it. and i didn't mean to tar all men by one jerky teacher - what i meant was is that i, personally, have problems with male teachers touching me because of my 'herstory' which includes sexual violence. and with all the yoga classes i have taken, there seems to be a continuity or similarity between all yoga teachers. however, this is just me.

3:57 p.m.  
Anonymous Débora said...

Hi there, i´ve being reading your blog for sometime and so many things just echoed on me. i´m kind of shy so i never coment buy this time i need to. I started my yoga classes about 13years ago to help healling a back injury that was actually cause by my weight. I was 15 and fat and insecure and here in Mexico there were not that much yoga instructors, so i started yoga with a bunch of oldies (60-70 years old gals). who laugh at my clumsines. I lost some weight keep the practice by my self and all of the sudden find myself in poweryoga, vinyasa, ashtanga all so diferent from my iyengar for oldies style. Teachers challenging their bodies but no contact whith their souls... I think. It crushed my... "I`ll become a yoga teacher some day" dreams, it was embarasing going to clases (remember i´m clumsy, chubby and whith a back injury that hurts like hell in cold or humidity). I keep in finally found a good suporting teacher. I found Kundalini Yoga and now i teach it and i´m getting now my certificated for vinyasa instructor. Sorry if this is to long. What a whant to say is that some people forget what yoga is about. That teacher forgot it. Remember what happens on that mat is between you and your body and soul.

Sat Nam Ji

Sat Deva Kaur (Débora)

4:24 p.m.  
Blogger bee said...

thank you debora, for commenting and what you said. i completely agree. and please feel free to comment all you like - i want this space to be warm and inviting to all who want to talk.


4:27 p.m.  
Anonymous dana said...

Hi Bee - I've only found you here this week and I think you are such a beautiful writer - you express yourself so well! I know sometimes it seems hard to accept everything about ourselves. I struggle with this one too. Just remember that no two of us are the same - like snowflakes - and all of us are beautiful in our way. (even that yoga teacher)

And I agree with Jessie's comment: maybe the reason you were there at that particular class was to help him...

7:01 p.m.  
Blogger Jessie said...

hey, you changed your profile photo! i LOVE it!!! and it makes me realize how few photos of you i've actually seen! someday i imagine seeing that face of yours meeting me at an airport...i feel so impatient for that day!!!

8:33 p.m.  
Blogger a m y said...

This has me in tears. I worked with adults with a variety of physical and mental disabilities, and it broke my heart to see how they had been labelled and excluded and forgotten and ignored.

I admire your courage, and your willingness to share this, to go to yoga, to live such a full beautiful life, for not allowing something to define you. You are living the thing that I always encouraged my clients to do: to be a PERSON, not a disability. Even though you struggle, you embody that. You are living and growing and changing and being Bee--not CP. That is unique and difficult and admirable!

I know that it's easy to be irritated with the teacher, and I am as well. But to put a positive spin: you educated someone. And when people learn, and grow and have experiences like you gave to him, you spread the goodness, you help others learn. Bless you for doing that. You are making a difference.

Love to YOU, Bee. You are amazing!

9:12 p.m.  
Blogger Deb R said...

Bee, I think I've been to Peterborough once, years ago. For a few months one year, J was doing some contract work in Belleville and I was with him part of the time and I'm almost certain we went there one weekend, although I have absolutely no memory of why. :-)

9:58 p.m.  
Blogger Claire said...

Sweetie, you are fabulous and gorgeous - you know that, right?

Plus, that instructor is an aaaasssssss! Even with my well mannered mumsy Brit thang going on, I feel the need to slap him!


2:22 a.m.  
Blogger Shaz said...

Sweet b its all been said hold your head high and be as proud of u as we are.
Shaz x

3:50 a.m.  
Blogger JimmyJames said...

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving today.
People are sent into our lives for many different reasons and so often our ego gets in the way or is the cause of our lesson plans.

From the intolerant, we learn to bee tolerant
From the unloving we learn to bee loving
From the judgmental people we learn to bee nonjudgmental
From the uncompassionate we learn to bee compassionate
So bless our teachers and thank them for the gifts and opportunities of learning that each and every one of them brings to us.

5:34 a.m.  
Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Dear Bee,
I'm sorry that such a warm, loving, gracious woman that you are had to experience the pain of that situation. Although it may be a part of your life experience, CP does not define your spirit, your soul. I hope you have a wonderful time in Peterborough this weekend! much peace & love, JP

6:56 a.m.  
Anonymous swampgrrl said...

oh bee...if you were here it cover you in a big bear hug until we fell over giggling with joy.

i agree with Deb R. i am annoyed at the insensitivity of that yoga teacher. being a trained yoga teacher myself, i am ashamed at his thoughtless and invasive teaching ways. i would NEVER touch a student with her or his permission that is clearly stated in voice and body.

shame is a difficult emotion to bear. i hope that you can one day embrace all of your imperfections as what makes YOU you, and be crazy in love with yourself as a result.

7:34 a.m.  
Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

I can really, really relate Bee and am so sorry you had to confront, yet again, an ignorant person about your situation. For me I'm worried they're going to try and adjust something and my muscles will rip. I feel like I should wear a sign that says, "Fragile, do not touch".

Just so you know, my first yoga instructor was a man which I was furious about at first but he ended up being the best and never touched us at all. They are out there but they're hard to find.

8:16 a.m.  
Blogger ruby said...

oh bee.
i adore you so much.
please know that i am reading, even tho i am not commenting as much these days.

you are always close to my heart.

10:13 a.m.  
Blogger blackdaisies said...

oh my gosh ... i am so angry but mostly sad with respect to the yoga teacher and his ignorance ...

i cried while reading this, the tears still dripping down on the keys ~ you seem so wonderful and full of light and beauty and it breaks my heart for what you experienced on this day ...

my sister was born with severe cp and i miss her warm smiles and laughter still, she couldn't help but be somewhat defined by it as it controlled her life but the unbearable rudeness of being that stared and refused to see her beyond that still makes me sad ...

whereas my best friend ruben who used to define himself by his limitations (his cp doesn't stop him from living fully) makes my heart sing as he no longer puts himself down or sees himself as anything less than he is, a beautiful funny crazy caring person ...

many hugs and sorry for the ramble, sometimes i can't help myself ...

10:33 a.m.  
Blogger bee said...

um...you guys...thank you SO MUCH for your support. you have completely and utterly floored me and...i don't know what to say except thank you. it means a lot.

(hugs) to you all.

11:32 a.m.  
Blogger Susannah said...

okay, i know yoga is supposed to be all calm and zen, but if i'd have been there with you i would have told that teacher to fuck off in no uncertain terms. if that happens again send him to me and i'll put him straight! Grrrr

sweetheart, you are on the path, and you ARE most definitely a warrior - proud of you, love xox

1:48 p.m.  
Blogger Cheshire Cat said...

hmmm, sometimes people can be so insensitive. I never noticed that anything was physically different about you until i read on your blog about your cp. When i was younger i walked pretty weird and there was nothing physically wrong with me. i just thought you were supposed to walk toe heel instead of heel toe. i can't remember how old i was when my mom noticed and asked me why i was walking like that. afterwards, i started walking "normally" and i had to say over and over in my head, "heel toe, heel toe" so that i would walk properly.

9:11 p.m.  
Blogger Vesper said...

i just wanted to add my love here! you are truly amazing and incredibly talented. you've been given a gift, a divine one, and with that gift you've already touched every single one of us....and this is likely to happen with countless more.

i've read your blog at length and i know you to be full of light, love, courage, fire, strength, sensitivity, grace, talent, beauty, and compassion. you are blessed, and we are blessed to be able to share in the masterpiece that is your life!

12:10 a.m.  
Blogger Hulles said...

Abeille, just to clear things up I was actually referring to the "b/sistershoes" comment that men only think with half their brain at once or whatever it was she said. Not all of 'em, honey.

Anyway, I completely sympathize with your "herstory," and I wouldn't want a male yoga instructor anywhere near me if I were you. Come to think of it, I'm me and I don't want any male yoga instructors near me either if they're like that prick.

The support you have gotten in these comments is wonderful. It makes me feel good too.

4:05 p.m.  
Blogger getzapped said...

I can relate to both sides of this story, being a yoga teacher and being born with a birth defect. I'm sorry you had that experience. I had a similar experience with a male teacher years ago, and almost broke down in tears. However, I learned a lot from that experience. Maybe next time, inform the teacher of your situation because the teacher may not have the time to read up on each student. I always ask students if there is anything I need to know, especially if I've never worked with them. Not all teachers have this practice and some students are reluctant to reveal such things in front of others and that is where the file comes in handy. However, it's the student’s responsibility to some degree. This is one thing yoga teaches us, to be honest with ourselves, and therefore others. I hope your yoga practice brings you more joy and opening!

3:11 p.m.  

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