This is so perfect, I thought, humming with happiness while wrapping my niece’s birthday present: a Caboodles makeup case filled with all sorts of 8-year-old-friendly goodies. (Remember those Easter egg-colored superstars from the ’80s and ’90s?)
And I am wrapping this so perfectly, with the edges of the Christmas-themed paper lining up nicely (what’s wrong with a little Santa halfway through the year, I ask you?), and the Scotch tape going down smooth and silky, until I got cocky and creased it. Curses. Here’s where I spiraled: A $%#&% crease in my perfection. Another wrapping job foiled by my clear ineptitude. And my niece will probably think this is a boring gift (it’s not the uber-trendy, kid-friendly slime, after all) and that I’m a boring, stupid auntie. I am so not perfect and never will be. Insert great heaving dramatic sigh right about here. (Now who’s the 8-year-old?)
This sort of serpentine thought process also can take down my yoga practice. There I am, in the middle of class, thinking how amazing it’s all going — I’m breathing like a champ, sticking my crow pose without a face plant, holding warrior three for multiple rounds of breath, and then, bam, I topple over in tree pose. Curses, I berate myself again, there goes my perfect practice. Let’s call the whole thing off.
Wow. That is some harsh, perfectionistic, unproductive thinking, and over such ridiculous stuff. Nearly as bad as spilled milk, I dare say. But after years of teaching yoga, I know I’m not the only one who leans in this direction. Many a student has left class bemoaning the inconsistencies in their bodies. Maybe that day their hips were extra tight from too much sitting, and they couldn’t do half pigeon without a block. Or they couldn’t reach their heels with their hands in the backbend known as camel. Or, lordy forbid, they had to take corpse pose (final pose of class) 15 minutes early.
I hear so much internal pressure and anxiety and this feeling that their bodies have betrayed them and will never work right, even though in my book their bodies are doing pretty great by simply getting to class. But I see myself in them and am reminded how hard we often are on ourselves and how we can focus on the wrong things.
Paul Grilley, an internationally known yin yoga teacher, a style that practices long holds of seated postures, likes to talk about bones. Everybody’s bone structure and joint compression are vastly different, he says, and some of us, due to the way our bones are made, never can achieve certain postures or do exactly what the teacher is telling us to do with our body parts during class. And that’s OK. It’s wasted energy to feel upset about it.
I am also reminded of kintsugi, the traditional Japanese art that finds beauty in imperfection. Instead of tossing away broken pottery, a precious metal, such as liquid gold, is used to glue the broken pieces back together. The result is a one-of-a-kind piece with golden zigs and zags running up and down its sides. It’s been through the wringer, so to speak, and emerged as a different kind of beautiful. Its flaws give it character.
I realize this notion of loving our imperfect bodies, lives and personalities is a stretch. Much easier for me to write it than put it into practice, but at least we can start to consider the idea. Doesn’t it feel better than the alternative? I can consider that beating myself up over a creased piece of Scotch tape for a gift I put time, thought and love into could negate the whole process if I let it. So I won’t. Our imperfections, inconsistencies and the shape of our bones are what give us flavor.