Friday, May 20, 2011

Comfortably Uncomfortable


Tonight I had the profoundly elevating experience of dancing The Electric Slide with 60 fifth graders (and a smattering of younger kids and brave adults) at my kindergarten daughter's sock hop. Lucia, exhausted and already up well past her 6-year-old bed time, was tweaked out from the excitement of her first big social and begged me to dance one last time before leaving. How could I say no? And so there I was, flanked by preteens doing their thang, struggling to keep a rhythm and a pace to a dance I haven't done in twenty-five years.

My daughter's school is wildly diverse--socially, culturally, ethnically-- and the mosh pit of puberty I stepped into for this last dance was riddled with awkwardness, disorganization, grimacing and confusion. But it was also electrically inspiring. They were all doing their best. I remember those times, thirteen-year-old times, uncomfortably uncomfortable, pretty much all the time. But here these kids were, doing the Electric Slide, carrying each other through the discomfort. I loved it.

When I teach yoga, I often instruct people to find a place of being "comfortably uncomfortable." In other words, I tell them, "Go somewhere different, somewhere deeper, somewhere unfamiliar." Not to the point where you might injure yourself or have a panic attack, but somewhere where you are a little bit uncomfortable--"comfortably uncomfortable."

Lucia has started to tell me that I embarrass her when I break into song while we are walking to our car from school. Tonight when I stepped into the gym and started to do the twist, she tugged at my arm, desperate for me to stop. Poor thing. Mothers are embarrassing. There's just no way around it.

Lucia's embarrassment is not unfamiliar to me. When I was a teenager, I wasn't one of those kids who joined forces to do a group dance. I was the shy one who stood with the other shy ones. When did it happen that I lost that feeling of discomfort? I think part of it is my self-defined parental responsibility. I must do the things I was afraid or embarrassed to do in childhood and adolescence. It is my charge as a parent to show my child that being uncomfortable isn't really that bad.

I'm sure though, that what's helped me the most in getting through discomfort comes from being a student of yoga. How many days a week do I feel like a disaster? Rarely able to get my leg up to the perfect height in Balancing Stick Pose, falling out of Toe Stand for the 700,847th time. I'm constantly reminded that I'm not perfect, that I'll likely never be.

So, like those brave brave 13-year-old dancers, collectively leaning into each other to carry them through The Electric Slide, I do the same thing with my fellow yoga students. We fall in and out of postures, embarrassed, frustrated, awkward, but doing our best, together. Comfortably uncomfortable.

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