My sister has a friend we will call Hope and Hope has two sons we will call Thing 1 and Thing 2. One day, while cleaning up a mess made by Thing 2, Hope noticed she hadn’t heard from Thing 1 in a while. So she sat Thing 2 down with a distraction of some sort and went looking for Thing 1.
When she found him, Thing 1 was in her bathroom stuffing toilet paper into the toilet (having already, successfully clogged the toilet in the bathroom he shared with his brother). Hope sat Thing 1 down on his bed and told him he had to stay there and think about what he had done. He asked for how long and Hope responded, “Until you start making better choices.”
When Hope tells this story, she isn’t even back to the kitchen before her son calls down from upstairs, “Mom, I’m making better choices now.”
Why am I telling you this ridiculously cute story about a stranger’s sons? Well, like Thing 1, my period of silence was an indication of destructive behavior. Also, like Thing 1, I would like to think I am now making better choices.
But it wasn’t Hope or my mom or another family member that put me in a timeout. It was a hot yoga instructor. I know. I am shocked, too. But, yes, I gave hot yoga another chance (after swearing off it in the past) and even managed to hear what the yogi was saying over the sound of my own voice internally screaming about how much I was sweating.
It was still early in the practice. We had just started some gentle twists. The yogi (she was a talker, which was a nice distraction from the heat) mentioned coming back to our breath and rhetorically asked if we noticed that we stopped paying attention to it and that we could (if we wanted to) choose to focus on our breath. Just like we could choose to go farther into our twist. We had the choice to make our practice harder or make it easier and that so often in our lives we don't think we have choices, but we do. We choose every day what we want to do and where we want to spend our time and our energy.
This wasn’t the first time I heard this spiel about choice but it was the first time I didn't respond with an eye roll. Maybe the heat was softening me.
I had been really unhappy for a few months and it was easy to sit there (lay there) and think that it was due to circumstances beyond my control. I was stuck there. But, after that class, I started asking myself what I could choose to do to make myself happy.
Creating things makes me happy. Writing, knitting, decorating my home. But, I don’t have time (or money) to do those things. Except, I have plenty of time to rewatch SVU and Parks & Rec and I don’t even want to think about how much time I spend on Twitter and Instagram. I was choosing not to write or knit. I was choosing not to do things that would make me happy.
I also know I feel better when I am eating whole foods and exercising regularly. But, again, who has the time. Except, anytime I order from GrubHub it takes 30 minutes to an hour to arrive; time I could spend cooking a meal. And, if I didn’t stay up late every night mindlessly watching TV, I could wake up earlier and exercise before work. Again, I was choosing not to be healthy. Choosing not to be happy.
I am not suggesting that all obstacles can be overcome by shuffling your schedule or your priorities — there are such things as insurmountable obstacles: diseases and other people’s prejudices are two that immediately spring to mind. However, as a recovering skeptic I want to assure you, you do have some power over some things in your life: do not yield that power.
It has been a lot of work since that hot yoga class and continues to be a lot of work, but I think I am finally in a position to come out of my time-out.