Thurs. March 12, 2020: Sometimes You Outgrow Places

Thursday, March 12, 2020
Waning Moon

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth for the latest on the garden.

Lots to talk about, lots to think about. Yesterday was my birthday; tomorrow is Friday the 13th (one of my favorite days) which will encompass the pain-in-the-butt Home Energy Assessment in the morning, and then the follow-up appointment with the specialist in the afternoon. Next week is the next surgery.

It’s been a little more than a month since this particular health emergency started. It feels like much longer, because it’s taken up so much of my life, and put me behind in several areas of my life. I’m starting to take control again (and will do more so after the next surgery), make decisions, weigh evidence, and do what I can about moving forward in the areas that need change. I’ve learned a lot. Some of those have been hard lessons, but knowing is always better than not knowing.

I’ve been lucky in the support I’ve had around me from friends and coworkers and some random people I’ve met through different arenas. Seriously, something as simple as “I’m thinking of you. I hope you’re doing well” makes a huge, positive difference.

The silences have been telling, too.

The most disappointing one is from my yoga studio, and I’ve given a lot of thought to that. It has put into perspective and brought into light some things that have bothered me throughout my time at the studio, but I was willing to overlook, because I felt what I gained in terms of deepening my practice outweighed the things that bothered me.

That balance has shifted.

I have attended that particular studio for nearly two years now. Weekly, most of the time. Sometimes more than once a week. The location works. I like the atmosphere most of the time, the teaching style, the flexibility, and the price.

I’d visited the studio, which was under different ownership, when I first moved here. The owner at the time told me that it was useless to go unless I attended class there 2-3x week, and my only option was to be on Auto-pay. I could drop in once to try out a class, but after that, everything had to be booked ahead of time and on Auto-pay. I explained that, as a freelancer, that didn’t work for me. My schedule changes day-to-day, week-to-week. My income fluctuates. I can buy something like a 10-class pass, but I don’t do Auto-pay (not to mention that any Auto-Pay I’ve been on for anything has regularly simply taken whatever sum of money out of the account whenever they wanted, whether or not it was something I actually bought). The owner argued with me. I thanked her for my time, told her this was not the right studio for me, and that was that.

I was with another studio for about a year in another town, about a half hour’s drive. I liked a lot about it, but the teacher started making classes about her instead of about the practice, so I left. The first two summers I was here, I did sunrise yoga on the beach in Chatham, but over the years, with the increased traffic, the hour-long drive turned into nearly two hours each way, even that early in the morning, and it became unfeasible.

It never even occurred to me to go back to that first studio until I started studying with a specific teacher at her special events. I liked her style. She brought flyers in about her regular teaching — and she was at that studio. I mentioned I’d had a bad experience when I first moved here, and she told me the studio had changed owners.

I went back, I liked it for the most part, and I’ve been there for about the past two years. Last spring, there was an incident where I felt my trust had been broken; we sort of worked it out, although the studio did not fulfill a promise it made to help make things right. But I liked the studio, the teacher with whom I studied most often, the other teachers whose classes I tried, most of the other students. Some of the students only want to study with one teacher; I don’t like to get dependent on a teacher in that way. Life means change; teachers leave or go to another profession. I also like learning from teachers with different styles. I feel that enriches my practice. The price worked within my freelance life, and the payment schedule had options — you can have auto-pay, but you don’t HAVE to. Regular drop-ins are fine; if a class has finite room, they let you know. I sometimes felt like the teacher was trying to micro-control a little too much, especially in student interactions, but I thought maybe I was imagining it.

One of the things that has bothered me in all the studios here on Cape is the lack of community. They talk “community” constantly, but it doesn’t really exist. For the most part, we’re respectful and polite to each other in class. There’s some chatting amongst students. But most people are there for a respite from their day, not another social obligation. Some people come with friends, and they only interact with those friends. Some come in and out. But most people go to class and then leave.

In other areas I’ve lived/practiced over the decades, you wind up getting to know the “regulars” pretty well in class. They might not be your best friends, but generally, the chatting before or after class gets longer and longer, and there are usually one or two people with whom you connect and are in contact with outside of the studio. Maybe you’ll have coffee or a cocktail occasionally. Take a walk on the beach. Sign up for a workshop together you might not take on your own. If someone from class is sick, or suffers a loss, or has a crisis, one’s fellow practitioners rally around and offer support. Sometimes it’s in the form of physically doing something for someone (I’ve made casseroles, run errands, walked dogs, done laundry, etc. for fellow practitioners); sometimes it’s sending good thoughts, listening, just letting them know you care. There’s a sense of community.

Not here. People who’ve grown up here tend to stay friends with people they’ve known since childhood and not make new friends. Many of the people around here spend part of the year living elsewhere. They get together with their nearest neighbors when everyone’s home, have their families visit, but that’s it. I’ve tried to make plans with people from class, and they never come to fruition. Which is fine; if someone doesn’t want to hang out, I’d rather not hang out than one or both of us feeling forced and uncomfortable. I make plans once; if they don’t happen because the other person cancels, and the other person then doesn’t take the lead to make future arrangements, I let it go. To me, it means the person doesn’t want to spend time together, and that’s fine.

I also understand that far too many people who aren’t retired and living off investments have to work multiple jobs and are exhausted most of the time. But this attitude that “I don’t want friends” — which is said often in all kinds of contexts, disturbs me.

As a theatre person, where we build families of choice and expand them with every show, where the attitude is, “There’s always room for one more; pull up a chair” that’s an anomaly to me.

But people are who they are, and no one wants to be forced to be around people with whom they don’t want.

However, if you’re going to run around talking about compassion and community and connection in class, shouldn’t you also practice it outside of class?

Otherwise, yoga class serves the same purpose as going to church: you show up once a week and mouth meaningless words, then go back to being a jerk as soon as you walk out the door.

Another thing that bothers me (along with the lack of diversity) is that only Rich White Republican Ladies have the right to feel safe in class. Again, there’s all this talk about safety and inclusion. But when it comes down to it, Rich White Republican Ladies can say any racist, sexist, homophobic, inappropriate remarks, and we are all just supposed to sit there and put up with it because “it’s just the way they are.” But if anyone calls them on it, or makes a remark that is in opposition to something the Rich White Republican Ladies want to hear, the accusation is about “don’t bring politics into the studio” and making it “unsafe space.” Why are only the Rich White Republican Ladies entitled to a lack of politics and safe space?

And, in the world we’re living in, if you claim to follow yogic teachings, you’re not living your path if you’re not speaking up and acting to change things.

Whether or not it makes Rich White Republican Ladies uncomfortable or not.

This happens in studios all over the Cape, in my experience. I get that these studios are a business, and the Rich White Republican Ladies make up the bulk of the student population. Studios don’t want and can’t afford to lose the money.

But I want to be around people living their practice, not treating it like Religion Lite, where they mouth banalities so they can feel better about themselves and keep acting like entitled jerks.

I’m tired of the Rich White Republican Ladies doing and saying whatever nasty, inappropriate thing they want and getting away with it, but no one else can speak a different truth. It taints the purpose and the practice for me.

Another aspect of studio life around here I think is odd is that there aren’t classes on holidays. I get it on the big family ones, but a lot of these holiday Mondays are time that people who wouldn’t normally be able to attend class could. But classes are usually cancelled. Is it because the teachers need a break, too (which is understandable)? Or because people don’t show up on holiday Mondays here, unlike in other places where I’ve lived, where they flock to class on days off?

Thinking about this all and pulling it apart stemmed from the silence from the studio since I’ve been sick. I’m usually in regular contact with either the teacher or the owner. If I have to miss a class, such as the Monday meditation group to which I’ve gone for two years, I let them know ahead of time instead of just not showing up. The teacher has our emails and lets us know if there will be a sub or if class is cancelled for weather, or she’s sick or something else comes up. If she’s got something going on, I offer support, either by offering to do something tangible or doing energy work.

I thought the teacher and I built up a good relationship. We could talk about various issues, share good news and bad, have exchanged cards and small gifts over the years. Not quite friendship, in that we didn’t hang out away from the studio, but respect and appreciation.

If you’ve been following the bouncing IV needle here for the past few months, you know that when I had the urgent care visit and the first doctor basically told me I was at death’s door, I got in touch with the teacher. I let her know I had a medical emergency and was facing surgery or a series of surgeries and wouldn’t be in for awhile. I said that when it was all done, I would like to book a (paid, full price) healing session with her, but I didn’t know when it would be, because things were changing and getting booked day-to-day. She offered to do distance healing as a “gift” and said she needed some things from me in order to do it, and did I want more information? I said I wanted more information. She sent me a list that was absolutely overwhelming to me at that time while I was trying to deal with a slew of emergency medical appointments and surgery that had to happen within a week or two — AND said I had to book three healing sessions at a specific time at X price.

Now, I’m already frightened and vulnerable and losing work and worried about medical bills I didn’t expect. Everything is in flux and changing day to day; test results determine the next steps and how fast they have to happen. I CAN’T book three sessions. I can’t commit to the time and then cancel out at the last minute — it’s not fair to anyone. I don’t know what my financial situation will be due to missed work and incoming bills, and can’t take on any additional financial commitments, either. A “free” first session doesn’t mean a whole lot when the rest of the REQUIRED sessions (which I’d have to cancel anyway) are out of my reach financially. And the list of stuff she “needed” was overwhelming to me at the time.

I told her I couldn’t commit right now, because everything was in flux, and right now, the list was overwhelming and I couldn’t put it together and send it to her.

She argued with me. It wasn’t “what do you need, how can I help?” It was “Do what I tell you to do on my schedule.” Which rather shocked me, in the context of the past two years, and in the practice in general. She argued that putting together the list would “only take a few minutes” (no, it wouldn’t, and since I could barely even move at the time, it was too damn much), and that I NEEDED to do these sessions. Um, no, I NEEDED to work with the doctors so I wouldn’t die. That was the first priority. I had to not die. Then I get to heal.

I said I could not commit to it right now, with everything happening and changing so fast. She then told me I needed to book the post-surgery healing session now, because she books a few weeks in advance.

At that point, I didn’t know when the first surgery was scheduled or what came next. I told her I couldn’t.

I have never heard from her again. Not one word, since the 10th of February. Not one “how are you doing? I’m thinking of you.” Nothing. I didn’t want or need anyone from the studio to DO anything for me, but some good wishes would have been appreciated. But there was only silence.

Which tells me a great deal.

Compare that to the editor for the big article. We’d never worked together before. I was upfront with her about what was going on, got her the material ahead of deadline, and she worked with me around the surgery for the edits. This is someone who never knew me before, and she gave me more support than someone I’d been in weekly practice with for two years.

Heck, yoga studios into which I’ve dropped in occasionally in both Maine and Central Massachusetts have been in more frequent and more supportive touch than the studio in which I practiced regularly for the past two years.

I haven’t heard from the studio owner, either. Nor from anyone in the class.

Silence.

I am only a source of income to the teacher and the studio owner; I am irrelevant to my fellow practitioners. That’s the reality, no matter how many pretty words and phrases in which they try to wrap up the class experience.

I let myself feel the hurt and anger, because it existed. Silly to pretend it didn’t. No one wants to feel like they don’t matter. And then, I started picking at the threads of things that had bothered me over the time there, the things mentioned above, but that I’d chosen not to make a big deal out of because I felt what I got out of practicing there outweighed what bothered me.

That is no longer true.

I am deeply, deeply grateful for two years of deepening my practice and learning and growing. But I’ve gone as far as I can there. I need something else from practice-in-company and a studio experience. They are who they are, and they do what they do. I need something different.

I seriously doubt I will find it on Cape. I look at the other studios — auto-pay, demands that you attend several times a week (do they not realize that people work? Or are their only students more Rich White Republican Ladies who don’t work)?

I see a lot of the words of “inclusion” and “welcome” and “sanctuary” but I’m not seeing a whole lot of evidence of walking the talk. I may try some open houses that studios often give in early summer to attract the summer people, but I think the bulk of the practice will be home or remote study via online workshops (smarter in this time of virus anyway).

I worked to a place where I’m at peace with that. Acknowledge the hurt and anger, release it instead of letting it fester, realize I can’t get what I now need, and search for it elsewhere, while still growing my practice. I leaned on my practice, especially meditation, a LOT during this entire health crisis, and it was a huge help. I didn’t miss a single day of meditation through the whole thing. No matter how I felt, I sat at least once a day, often twice. I used breathing techniques in various appointments and in the hospital to get me through stressful or painful times. It made a difference.

Then I get an email from the studio on Tuesday. I saw the sender (the owner) and thought maybe she wants to let me know they’re thinking of me and hoping my recovery is going well. Silly me! Obviously I haven’t learned as much as I thought I had from this experience.

It was an email addressing the worries about the Corona virus. Which is a good thing. Talking about policies and practices and how everyone can protect each other. Responsible and necessary.

Then, they slip in the middle of the email that they’re going to start charging a rental fee for the mats in the studio to make sure they get cleaned properly. Um, what? We clean the studio mats after we use them. They claim it’s “temporary” but you know it will simply never get rolled back. Added fees are never rolled back; a new reason is always found for them. But people are “welcome” to bring their own gear to class.

So either rent the disinfected gear or bring in your own germy mat and contaminate the space? Seriously? People bringing in their own gear is MUCH riskier than using disinfected mats in the space. Because you KNOW people aren’t cleaning their mats every time they bring them to class.

It’s a way to get more money out of the students.

The email angered me. And then I laughed. Because it reinforced my decision that this is not the place for me anymore. And that’s okay.

I can still appreciate all I’ve learned and know it’s time for new teachers and new experiences. As a teacher myself, I’m delighted when my students outgrow what I can give them and soar. I’m very proud of former writing students who are out there in the trenches writing and publishing and living the writing life.

It has not been an easy journey, navigating these emotions and realizations along with everything else going on. But it’s been important.

Let’s hope I can apply the lessons moving forward.

Tomorrow is busy in all kinds of ways, and Monday is the Intent post, so it’ll be Tuesday before we have a good natter again, and I can fill in on the low-key birthday and whatever else happens over the weekend.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and peace.

 

Published in: on March 12, 2020 at 5:57 am  Comments (2)  
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