I recently dealt with a situation where my best-laid plans went terribly awry. Imagine being totally clueless when you open a mysterious package to find inside an item you are sure you didn’t order. Imagine this item is supposed to be a gift, and instead of being sent to you, it is supposed to be sent to your friend, who would wrap it up neatly, write a thoughtful card, and hand-deliver it as a touching gesture. Imagine this all taking place in a high-powered professional setting where it's important things like this go off without a hitch. Now imagine you’re me. I’m the third party who handled the logistics of sending the mysterious gift/package (as a side gig for a client). I ask for the package to be sent to the correct person, but the mistake is elsewhere in the chain of command. I do everything right, and things still go wrong.
When the mistake is discovered, I immediately send emails, made phone calls, took action. Which is good, because at least I’m doing my best to deal with a sticky situation. But what I noticed is that without moving from my seat on the couch, I have gone from relaxed to hyper stressed-out. Jaw clenched, throat locked down, breath shallow, heart pounding, and eyes starting to tunnel vision. Awash in anxiety.
I recognize what’s going on here. It’s my fight or flight, the automatic stress response designed to keep me safe from physical harm, kicking into high gear. If I were being chased by a bear, this would be incredibly helpful. Seeing as I am still sitting on my couch, having exhausted the extent of what I can do for the moment, I’m mostly just feeling like crap.
I like the part where care about the work that I do, where I take pride in attending to the small details. I love the satisfaction I feel when a project does go off without a hitch, and everything is smooth and seamless and elegant.
What I don’t like is the part where my body thinks I am facing down a pack of wolves. What I don’t like is that on some level I have put this stress up on a pedestal. In a way, me freaking out shows that I care; it reinforces my image of myself as a hard, conscientious worker who is invested and attentive.
Forcing myself to write it down, I can see that this link is weak at best. My physical stress response isn’t going to bring anybody else a sense of resolution about the situation. I can care deeply about- you name it, relationships, career, hobbies, politics, self-care, etc.- and I don’t need to prove it to anyone, least of all myself, by going off the rails anytime things don’t work out the way I planned.
This little fable brings so much home for me. I’m reminded that most of my difficult moments happen outside of my yoga practice. This is the work, to take the lessons of that practice and use them in the rest of my life, where the difficult moments reside. This is what it means to be on the Edge of the Mat.
This story has more awkward moments before it’s done. For my part, I’m choosing to take another deep breath (or 10) and handle the ending with a modicum of grace.