I love my Yoga for Over 50 class. It’s slow and easy going and gives me time to think exactly how I am going get up from that forward bend. Lately I’ve started having an experience with breathing which I never thought could happen outside of ingesting a Xanax. I feel as though the breath is floating my body, moving it around so that except for that forward bend thing, I don’t have to think as much as I did in the beginning. I only have to breathe and float.
So it was hugely irritating when a Problematic Person from my Past (P3) showed up in class. She came in late, after the rest of us had settled into a flow. Setting up right in the middle of the floor, it sounded like she was wearing rain pants because she swished every time she moved. She had a special mat with her and every time she got off it, it sounded like she had fallen out of a bunk bed.
None of these impressions would be so extreme if I hadn’t seen who she was. She was a woman who had sung with The OK Chorale for several quarters. The last time she enrolled, she was looking ahead to hip surgery so she had some discomfort, ok, pain, going on. We were singing at Folk Life that quarter and preceding it with a warm-up at the Queen Anne Thriftway and Bay View Retirement Center, working our way down the counter-balance, so to speak.
Before the first class P3 informed me that a new federal law required me to provide transportation for her, and what was I going to do about that? This happened a long time ago, back when I didn’t question such assertions, when I believed that everyone in the room was a grown-up except me. Or in the parlance of the day, I gave my power away. I had only recently succeeded in finding a wheel-chair accessible place to offer the class per federal law and I was dismayed to learn that I also had to transport anyone who was physically challenged.
I said that I always arranged car-pools at the last rehearsal. I made that point to her eight times. Eight rehearsals. Eight queries as to how I could compensate her for her pain in life. Eight re-assurances that I would arrange everything at the end of the last class.
At the seventh rehearsal, she asked me to find out if there were handicapped parking spaces at the retirement home, and she could maybe drive herself. If this situation were to arise today, I might say something like this: “I understand your hip is a problem but is there something wrong with your dialing finger?”
At the last rehearsal P3 was the second person in the door. She presented herself to me and asked if I had arranged her car-pool. Today I might ask her what she did with that brain in her spare time. But what I said was: “You know you could have taken more responsibility for this.”
P3 turned away, red in the face. She was sitting with a friend, and chewing me to pieces when I found her and tried to repair things. She took one look at me and erupted, spewing something along the lines of she hoped that someday I was in excruciating pain and no one, no one cared. It was my turn to walk away.
As I tried to get the class started, she sobbed noisily in the back of the room. My friend Nina (rhymes with Dinah) who is a mother and high school teacher, and has faced down priests, sat next to her, and used her teacher voice to say, “This is not the time or the place for this behavior.”
The sobs crescendoed to wails as she laid her head in the lap of her friend who was the only person on earth who cared. She wailed all the way through the vocal warm-up. She wailed for ten minutes. Then she left.
The next morning, she cc’d me on the complaint she sent the Experimental College. And e-mailed me another curse, expressing her hope that I be in pain someday. Ironically enough, one of the sopranos was chauffeuring me to and from rehearsals that quarter because I was recovering from a herniated disc. But to mention that is almost too easy.
So this was the woman who walked into my yoga class. After class she said to me, “You look familiar. I know you from somewhere.”
“Do you?” I concentrated on tying my shoe.
She gazed into the distance. “It was a group of women, I think.”
“Oh. Well.” I slipped out the door.
So there it is. I hope she doesn’t come back but she probably will. Life does stuff like this. I understand the equation of emotional and physical pain plus arrested development multiplied by drama queendom to the tenth power that leads one to feeling entitled to go off on other people. And if one does it often enough, I suppose it gets difficult to keep track of the names of all the people one has abused. There may be people who slide out the door when they see me coming.
But splat into my great yoga experience? It would indeed be ironic if I needed a Xanax to get me to yoga.