He and I have spoken once or twice before; I had run into him on a walk one day a few weeks ago, and we had stopped and talked about the weather for a minute. Today, I was a little thrown off guard since people generally don’t chat with me at class, and I said okay. He squeezed my hand as we headed in different directions to put away shoes/put out mats, etc.
And that felt a little weird. Okay, more than a little.
Setting up my mat, taking off my socks, flexing my ankles, I kept replaying the 90 second conversation. Was there subtext I should have picked up on? What are the rules of engagement here between men and women who are thirty years apart in age? Was my face too open and welcoming? Am I making something out of nothing?
I didn’t have an answer to any of the questions I was asking myself. I kept thinking about the fact that I had ninety minutes to dwell on the conversation - the implications of which would bear out at the end of class.
It is one of the hazards of being in a new culture with a different language - the nuances of social norms are also new. I am usually putting my energy into simply following the conversation, nevermind interpreting all the subtle data that comes along for the ride.
I wasn’t exactly starting my yoga class in the most zen-like mindset.
I tried to quiet my mind as we made our way through the poses, wanting to let go of all the thoughts and scenarios playing out in my head: how is this going to go? what am I going to say to him after class?
I let the breath take over and let each exhale be a release - releasing my body deeper into a pose, releasing my mind of the spiraling thoughts.
By the time we got to shavasana (the last fifteen minutes of class spent in stillness and relaxation), I was much calmer. The thoughts had stopped bouncing around in my head like little rubber balls. It was more like they were circling a drain, slipping away one by one.
Lying there on my back, an image came to mind of my body as a pool of clear water. Stillness had allowed the debris to settle, and I felt crystal clear. There was nothing murking up the waters of who I was or how I felt. I was simply, clearly myself - regardless of social norms or language barriers.
I saw the word honesty appear on the surface of water at my navel where it floated weightlessly, turning with the undulations of my breath.
At the end of class, I gathered my things, put on my shoes and walked over to my classmate. It was a little awkward, but I essentially told him that I had a husband and kids at home, and I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.
He seemed to feel the awkwardness, too. His words got stuck in his throat, and then they tumbled out, “Okay, non, non, moi, c’est pareil (apparently he has a wife and kids, too) c’est comme vous voulez, okay, au revoir.”
And that was it. I walked out of the building and headed home, trailing only a few anxious thoughts behind me.
Mostly, I felt crystal clear and comfortable with being honest - with having said what felt true for me.
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.