Happy new year, y’all. I’m starting it off with bronchitis and a sinus infection, but I’m hopeful and optimistic nonetheless. Yesterday, I had intended to write about my intentions for the new year, but I made banana bread instead, deciding I would blog today. (Speaking of blogging, I am participating in the #365yoga blogging challenge this year. Three posts a week for a whole year. Join us!) A long-standing new year’s tradition of mine is to allow myself a three-day “grace period” for the transition to the new, good habits I intend to cultivate in any given new year. Since one of the things I worked on in the latter half of 2012 was being more honest with myself, I’ll just call that what it is: procrastination. That banana bread–Isa Chandra’s recipe–sure is delicious though. Later this week, I really will write about my intentions for the coming (already started!) year. For the moment, I offer you this wonderful article from Kelly McGonigal of the Himalayan Institute regarding sankalpa (resolve). (Many thanks to Lori Burgwyn of Franklin Street Yoga Center for tweeting it.)
Last Thursday, after several of my colleagues at Provence and several of my kids’ yoga students had all contracted a winter upper respiratory infection which I thought I’d avoided this time, I started feeling a little sniffly. I had a headache, my throat was a little scratchy, but no big deal. It wasn’t too bad. I kept working and teaching, but slept more, ate extra nourishing foods, and downed some Emergen-C for good measure. It seemed like I would not get any sicker. On Saturday, it started to get worse. I taught a class in the morning (one of my better ones to date, dare I say), took a nap, then went in to work at Provence. My wonderful manager could see I wasn’t feeling well, so I was off the hook for that shift. I went home, rested even more, excited to teach a donation class for Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge the next afternoon. On Sunday morning, I felt terrible. Dizzy, achy, coughing, congested. Gross. Fortunately, I found an amazing teacher–Carrboro Yoga Company ‘s Lauren Sacks–to step in for me, and they raised $125 for the Refuge. I’m so thankful to Lauren for her willingness to teach (for free) on almost no notice. I rested some more on Sunday and during the day on Monday. I knew I absolutely had to work at the restaurant on New Year’s Eve, one of the busiest days of the year, so I was really chilling out. Most of my shift Monday night went well–I waited on some great people, regulars and newbies, service was smooth and fun, and our staff meal was over-the-top delicious. Executive Chef/Owner Baptist, Chef de Cuisine Justin, and the rest of our culinary team are brilliant! (If you haven’t eaten at Provence, you should seriously consider it for your next nice evening out or brunch.) Around 9:00 p.m., I started to feel really depleted, so I had my fourth hot tea of the evening and reminded myself that the night was almost over and I had all of Tuesday to rest and recover. On Tuesday, I felt sick in the morning, but better as the day progressed. In the afternoon and evening, I got lesson plans done for my classes this week, including an appropriate immune-boosting flow planned for today that will now make an appearance on Friday in Flow Yoga, 9:00 a.m., Carrboro Yoga Company. I did laundry. I baked banana bread and made dinner. I read a bit of The Raising, a great novel passed on to me by my sweet friend Caroline. I watched part of Dance Moms, then turned it off. (Don’t judge. You have your guilty pleasures, too.) I went to bed early, ready to teach at Durham Yoga Company this morning. I woke up SO SICK. I was coughing uncontrollably; I had almost no voice. No way I could teach. I immediately thought, “I should have had a sub in place for this morning just in case. How stupid.” Tons of other self-deprecating, negative thoughts rolled through, and then I realized I was hooked by a story line and needed to let it go and take appropriate action. I took a few breaths, mostly through my mouth because my nose is so stuffy, and made the calls and sent the emails I needed to send to get my classes covered. I’m so grateful to Sage, Lies, and Olynda (co-owners of Durham Yoga Company) for, instead of insisting I call every teacher in the Triangle at the crack of dawn so the studio didn’t lose a dollar (which is typical of most yoga studios, honestly), telling me not to worry, just to rest, they would handle it. They are the most professional yoga business owners I have ever met, and this is just a single example of many.
Many times when I get a minor URI, it develops into bronchitis. This has been happening my whole life. No allopathic doctor I’ve met seems to know exactly why I am prone to acute bronchitis, but they do know how to prescribe drugs for it. And most times it happens, it’s a fairly long illness: the coughing irritates my lungs more, which leads to more coughing, which leads to no sleep, which leads to listlessness and fear that it will never end. In Asheville last winter, I was literally sick with this for three weeks. I went through two rounds of azithromycin (it was probably viral, but that’s a whole other post), two Ventolin inhalers, a bottle of Hycodan, a bottle of Tussionex, and tons of OTC meds I tried before I went to the doctor. With health insurance, the whole ordeal cost me over $350. This year, I have no health insurance. I am a waitress and a yoga teacher. I’m not nearly as sick as I was last year, but every time I am sick with something minor, it makes me fearful. I won’t get on my soapbox about the ridiculous health care system in this country, but I will say that the cost of an average urgent care center visit in the Triangle area (minus labs, diagnostic tests, and prescriptions) is about $175. The average prescription cocktail (antibiotic [Z-pack], cough syrup [Hycodan], and inhaler [Ventolin/Proventil]) cost is about $125. (I am not pulling these figures from nowhere–I spent four years working in healthcare in a role where I tried to help uninsured and underinsured patients obtain care.)
Today, I am not interested in exploring the exploding costs of basic health care, or even why those of us with service jobs almost never have any health insurance benefits. I’m more interested in exploring why every time I get sick (once or twice a year, usually around the change of seasons), I beat myself up for all the things I should have done, all the ways I could have prevented getting sick, and why I seem to think it’s my fault. The yoga teacher in me knows that this is a good opportunity for svadhyaya (self-study) and reflection on my habitual tendencies. Rationally, intellectually, I know that bacteria and viruses are all around, and despite excellent (obsessive!) hand hygiene, a healthy diet, and appropriate sleep, we are all susceptible and we all succumb sometimes. My perfectionistic tendencies seem to play out in a big way here in an area where I have little control.
We can contact our inner strength, our natural openness, for short periods before getting swept away. And this is excellent, heroic, a huge step in interrupting and weakening our ancient habits. If we keep a sense of humor and stay with it for the long haul, the ability to be present just naturally evolves. Gradually we lose our appetite for biting the hook. We lose our appetite for aggression. — Pema Chödrön
Healthy habits are the area I can control; others’ habits and the presence of bacteria and viruses, I cannot control. Seems simple, but letting go of the illusion of control is something I still struggle with sometimes. So, this time, instead of struggling against reality–my habitual way to react in this instance–I’m practicing relaxing with what is. I am a little sick. Ok. It will pass at some point soon. Meanwhile, I can feel the feelings and sensations, return to the rhythm of my own breath, and practice gratitude for a day where I can lie in bed with my laptop and blog, for my friends who will bring me soup, and for time to read that awesome novel.
Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed. But bodhichitta training doesn’t work that way. A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s also what makes us afraid. — Pema Chödrön