My Yoga and My Temper
We're having a big snowstorm here in NC. And by "big snowstorm," I mean that we got about 5 inches and it's the south, so everything shuts down. The roads stay icy and most everyone stays home.
On the Friday before the snow hit, my family went to the grocery store for staples. It was late in the day, and my husband and my daughter were bundled up, ready for the weather. The parking lot was packed, and we had to hike to get to the store. Inside, people were cramming their carts full of provisions, and the shelves were emptying. We picked up items for simple meals and loaded our cart with the main essential: several bottles of wine. The checkout lines were long, spiraling into the aisles. By the time we piled our groceries onto the conveyor, it was beginning to sleet and the outside sky had darkened. My daughter was antsy and ready for dinner.
At the checkout, the clerk asked us for ID for the wine.
I disdain carrying a purse. My husband has one of my older, expired licenses in his wallet as back up, though it's rare he has to pull it out. (I'm in my late thirties. More relevant, I look like I'm in my late thirties.)
The clerk examined my husband's license and my spare one. "Do you have a new license? I'll need to see it to sell you this," she said, pointing to the bottles.
I was holding my squirmy, irritated child. "I know that license is expired, but it shows my birth date. I'm 37."
She shook her head no. "I need to see an unexpired license."
If you were standing next to me, you might have heard the audible snap in my brain that signals I'm about to lose my cool.
"Are you serious?" I scowled at her. "Sure, I have an unexpired license. It's all the way across the parking lot. I could walk out there in the sleet and hold up this busy line, but that seems ridiculous. I am obviously older than twenty-one."
My husband pursed his lips. He is the peacemaker.
Nonplussed, the clerk repeated that she needed an unexpired license, and I said it. That thing: "Can I speak to your manager?"
Thankfully, the manager looked at my cranky child, my expired license, my obvious 30-something wrinkles, and the long line. She let us buy our Malbec and Pinot Noir. It was easily solved, and we were on our way. Except that by the time we made it back to the car, the regret had already set in. The familiar regret. The regret I feel whenever my temper gets the better of me. This is the second half of my temper pattern: first I lose my temper, then I feel terrible.
Why didn't I just walk to the car for my license? The checkout clerk was just doing her job. She was probably tired from all these people. She was probably stressed about having to drive in this weather, too. If she sold alcohol to someone underage, she could lose her job. She was being diligent. I was the one who left my purse in the car. That was my fault. I could have been a lot more polite. I could have handled that so much better.
Ironically, being a yoga practitioner sometimes makes my lost-temper regret worse. The remorse spiral cycled into the yoga portion of the script: I'm a yoga teacher! I meditate! I breathe! Why can't I find these skills when life throws curve balls? Isn't that the point?
My temper embarrasses me. Being a yoga teacher who struggles with a temper embarrasses me more. (Shouldn't I have solved this already? Jeez.) Sometimes my temper makes me look like a big jerk. Often, it means that I have to apologize. And regardless of how right (and righteous) I feel when I am acting from a place of anger, I always feel badly afterward.
How do we make sense of that, as mamas? As yoga mamas? Anger isn't the problem, but the expression of it—the quick brain-snap that results in rude, short, or ill-conceived things being said and the deep regret that comes after. That movement— feeling frustration or anger and then reacting to it—is responsible for every single one of my guilty-mama moments of remorse.
The tools of yoga help. Breathing, moving, and sitting help me practice staying present in moments of frustration, but they aren't foolproof. I am often (sometimes) more patient these days than I was in the past. But sometimes (often) I still get huffy and pissed, instead of finding a better way. And when that happens, the tools of yoga are there, too, whether I lose my temper with my partner, the checkout clerk, or my daughter. Half the battle is making amends for my rudeness, the way I expressed my anger. But the second half of the battle is forgiving myself, letting it go.
Driving home, I was quiet. The sleet came down steadily, and my husband drove with extra care. We made it home safely, got our daughter to bed, and hunkered down (glasses of wine in hand) to wait for the snow to start. I lay in bed that night and reflected on the day: my fears, my anxieties, the mounting concerns that culminated in my lost temper.
And then I woke on Saturday to start my practice again: my yoga practice, the practice of keeping my temper at bay, the practice of living life. The world was covered in a white blanket of snow, and more was falling steadily from the sky. Everything was fresh and new. The roads were icy and undrivable. And there was plenty of wine.