Tag Archives: writing life

I am the Jerry Seinfeld of Yoga

This week I was doing cat-cow pose in my new summer yoga class and feeling annoyed as the teacher’s voice faded at the end of each sentence.

“Breathe in and do … “ She’s dropped her voice to a whisper, and I think she said “cow pose,” because everyone is doing it, but I can barely hear her.

“Breathe out and arch your …”  She whispers “back” and then the rest—presumably she’s saying “into cat pose”—fades into silence.

It wasn’t until I was telling my coworker about it and she said, “Oh that sounds so relaxing,” that I suddenly realized, “Oh my god! I’m the Jerry Seinfeld of yoga!”

I had just seen the episode where Jerry breaks up with a woman because she eats her peas one at a time. And here I was a day later, crabby because the teacher was being relaxing at a yoga class. Or, was she being a fade-talker?

In my defense, I am a perfectly nice yoga student from September to June because I have a great yoga set up—a good Iyengar teacher who is irreverent and challenges me and a weekly class close to my house at a time that fits my schedule. She takes summers off to recharge, and I commend her for listening to what she needs. However, this seems to turn me into Jerry Seinfeld. As I scour the web for Boston yoga classes, things get dicey. You might be thinking, are you nuts? There are hundreds, perhaps 1000s of yoga classes in the Boston area alone. Yes, this is true, and it is also true that there are 1000s of women to date in New York City. Like Jerry, I have a long list of requirements that need to be met before I can even consider a date/class.

  1. I prefer Iyengar style yoga, and there is precious little of it in Boston. Go ahead and do a search. There is hot yoga, flow yoga, and lots of yoga that’s a blend of hot, hatha and flow. I don’t like sweating and slipping around on my mat, and flow makes me anxious. If I wanted to move around quickly, I would go jogging. I’m trying to slow down my body and quiet my mind, which I can’t do when I’m frantically going from down dog, to plank, to up dog, always a half beat behind all the other people who know the routine much better that I do.
  2. I have about 5 time slots available to do yoga. Some of the reasons for my restricted availability are real, such as I prefer to go when my son is with his dad on certain evenings and on the weekend. Some of the reasons are really just me being a princess, such as I’m not getting up at 9 am on a Saturday to do yoga. I love yoga; Saturday at 9 is not gonna happen.
  3. If the day/ time is right, then location becomes the next hurdle. A 5:30 class on a week night I can go is great, until I realize it will take me 40 minutes on the T to get there from work.

What happens when I find these select few classes? Apparently I turn into Jerry Seinfeld. For your consideration, I present this evidence:

Jerry broke up with a woman for having “man hands.” All my early yoga teachers were women, so I didn’t take a class with a man teacher until one of these fateful summers. I didn’t really think about it at the time. All teachers tend to gravitate toward the poses they like best, and at some point I know my favorite poses will intersect with theirs. Until I took the class with a man teacher. I was panting about 20 minutes in. Why? He was doing all upper body strength poses, because guys are great at those. It felt like an Olympic gymnastics practice. When I’m being kind, I tell myself that my upper body is an opportunity to practice increasing my strength. When I’m being myself, I curse out my arms while I struggle to open up a jar of pickles. Flexibility poses, my personal strength, were nowhere in sight. I hear you yelling, “Not all male teachers do that!” At the time I agreed, so I took a class with a different man. Yeah, same thing. Two strong apples can spoil the whole bunch. Jerry wouldn’t put up with “man yoga hands,” and neither will I.

Jerry broke up with a woman for not giving him a massage. I stopped going to a yoga class because there was massage involved. I was already on the verge of breaking up with the teacher for reading really bad New Age poetry while we held poses for a number of minutes. Believe me, it’s hard enough to hold a pose without your brain screaming out, “That’s cliché!” “Wrong use of that adjective!” “The horror, the rhyming horror!” Call it an occupational hazard of being a writer, but it was brutal. She only did that once a month, so I learned to skip those classes. But then she had a substitute.

I assumed the substitute would be a yoga teacher—how very silly of me. As I was getting settled on my mat, the substitute announced she was not a yoga teacher. If I were really like Jerry, I would have left right then and I would have been right. But I am basically an optimistic person (or delusional as the occasion warrants) and thought, “Well maybe she will just call out a list of poses for us to do.” Yeah, and Jerry Seinfeld will choose a woman over a funny voice. Then she brought out the tennis balls. Now I was concerned. I couldn’t think of one yoga pose that could involve tennis balls, even as a prop. “Let me show you what to do,” she said, as she proceeded to sit on all of her tennis balls, roll around on them, and say how good it felt. I have a fair amount of butt real estate, and I am OK with sticking it up in the air for down dog or for a forward bend. But that’s because everyone else is doing the same thing, so no one is actually looking at my butt. But I was not about to stick balls under my butt and roll around, letting them disappear under my ampleness, nor look at others doing the same. I truthfully claimed I had an upset stomach and left that class and continued my hunt. At least classes that didn’t have bad poetry or tennis balls now had a fighting chance to get on my list.

Jerry broke up with a woman for being too much like him. One summer, I found a class near my house, on the right day and at the right time. It wasn’t an Iyengar class, but it also wasn’t hot or flow, so it was worth checking out. The space was nice and the teacher chatted a bit before class. When we were all settled in, she put on music. Then she unfolded a piece of paper. With the sequence of poses on it. I never had a teacher do that before, and my very first teacher was still in training. I was part of her first guinea pig practice class, so she actually could have had a cheat sheet. So what’s wrong with it? It’s what I would have to do because I can’t keep much in my head these days, never mind a sequence of 20 or more poses over the course of an hour and half. When she had to pause in the middle of the class to consult it, I realized I wasn’t coming back. I go to yoga to confront the part of myself I’m OK with confronting—my can’t-open-a-pickle-jar- arms, my core that could use more “practice” to increase its strength, and getting my brain to stop spinning. Seeing a reminder that I can’t remember diddly squat? Not so much.

And there you have it, my dirty little secret. I’m the Jerry Seinfeld of yoga. Only about five more weeks to go until my teacher gets back, and I can say in a silly voice, “Hellooo, La La Laaa.”

Photo credit: Thanks to the the Date Report for the photo and listing of 23 of the reasons Jerry broke up with his girlfriends. Check them out!

The Original Funny Writing Mom: Erma Bombeck

I almost didn’t want to write about Mother’s Day, because 1) it’s technically over, and 2) it seems best suited for those natural earth mother types — you know, they have always known they wanted kids and have a total lack of fear of being responsible for producing a functioning human being. They seem to thrive in the chaos and intensity of it all, and have absolutely no fear of various bodily fluids. I am not that mother. I am the mother who hides her fears of failure in irreverence, which must be why I have always loved Erma Bombeck, the original irreverent mother/writer. I followed her newspaper column as a kid and it made me and my mom laugh. And though she is no longer a household name to anyone under the age of 45 and some of her writing is dated, she can still make me laugh. So here’s a little post-Mother’s Day homage to Erma. Thank you for making motherhood real and really funny. These quotes and more are posted on Brainy Quote. Learn more about Erma here. 

Never have more children than you have car windows.

One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.

When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he’s doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911.

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.

All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.

In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced in television.

I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: ‘Checkout Time is 18 years.

Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time.

Youngsters of the age of two and three are endowed with extraordinary strength. They can lift a dog twice their own weight and dump him into the bathtub.

Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.

Photo credit: Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

It’s All About Me, Hannah

So the season is over for the HBO series “Girls.” If you watch it and haven’t seen it, then come back after you do. I love this show and I love Lena Dunham, but it’s only funny:

  1. If you are very comfortable with how awkward you were in your 20s.
  2. If you enjoy things that make you laugh and feel very uncomfortable at the same time.
  3. If you are kind of clueless on both counts and you think it’s funny because it has nothing to do with you.

Think “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for women. That I even watch it is a small miracle. I only have time to watch a few shows and tend to live under a nerd rock when it comes to what’s new in pop culture—when people talk about Kim Kardashian, I hear it as Kim Cardassian and I think Rick Berman is doing a new show (Star Trek folks help me out here). On the other hand, I can tell you about the 25+ year Zelda franchise and that Nintendo made a huge misstep by not producing enough games for its latest system, the WiiU. Don’t laugh—you live with a 15-year-old hard core gamer and see what you can talk about at parties.

So I give a big shout out to my friend Colleen who turned me on to the show. I liked it from the start, and one night as were drinking wine and eating her secret-recipe wings, she told me the Lena Dunham character, Hannah, reminded her of me. I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants. Why? Because she was right. And I don’t mean that I’m like the talented and wise-beyond-her-20-plus-years Dunham. In no way did I have the perspective to frame my 20s while I was living them. I barely have it now. No, I’m talking about the writing struggles, the bad fashion choices (oh, god, soooo bad), the blurting out of awkward truths, the drifting away of college friends. The show is uncanny in how true it is and funny as hell.

This season hit close to the bone with the story line about Hannah and other talented writers taking jobs in the advertorial section of GQ only to realize it cannibalizes their personal writing. I am not a natural at the two most common jobs for serious writers—teaching and freelancing—so I’ve had traditional full-time jobs my entire career, and I always struggle to find the time and energy to write. I’ve often wondered would my writing career be farther along if I had taken a different path—Hannah’s path?  That path would have been the other story line that put an arrow through my heart: Hannah getting into the Iowa Workshop, aka writing Mecca. I, like every serious writer, considered applying. But I couldn’t see my way clear to leaving Boston, a city I love, or how to finance it and find my way back. I went instead to Emerson College in Boston for my MA (an MFA cost more and seemed too impractical). There I discovered my writing niche: personal essay.  Still, that accomplishment didn’t prevent me from holding a grudge against a former boss’s daughter who was my age and went to Iowa to advance her literary career, while I was stuck writing full-time for her mother. It was my first job, and I’m still a little scarred from getting handed writing assignments on torn paper stained with coffee rings and wrinkled cocktail napkins. But I’m not bitter. Well, not very.

Can you see how this show is messing with me? I was curious about how much of my 20-year old angst was apparent, so I asked Colleen what exactly about Hannah made her think of me—I’ve known her since high school, and we lived through our 20s together. I’ll admit asking her the question was very Hannah-like.

“I think the first thing was her pasty white skin!” answered  Colleen. Check. “Every part of her physical appearance reminds me of you – her hair, the shape of her body, her face.” Check. “She puts it all out there and not ashamed to do so – take it or leave it.” Half a check. Sometimes I did this, but not as much as Hannah or as much as I wanted to at the time. “She is not a typical beauty, but she’s gorgeous.” Well, thank you! “She’s hilarious, she’s a struggling writer, she’s creative.  I can picture having a conversation with her where she is analytical like you.” Yeah. That about sums it up.

Watching “Girls” for me is like Lena Dunham filmed my 20s and sold it to HBO. And they used Industrial Light & Magic to add in all the sex scenes, because I was boyfriendless during much of that time and was too earnest and Catholic-guilty for random sex.

So Lena, if you want to know what Hannah will look like in her late 40s, check me out on Twitter. I’d also like to tell you to get the hell out of my head and my life, but you’re too damn funny. Plus, how else can I find out how my life would have turned out?

Photo credit: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/03/hannahs-rock-bottom-tee-on-girls-season-finale.html