I didn’t see it coming.
After a year’s absence from a yoga studio I used to go to regularly, I returned this morning for a restorative class. L greeted me and asked about my health and body. All went well, I breathed and posed and continued with my modifications, until I heard L’s voice whispering next to me, do you want to use this? I was kneeling with my eyes closed and back erect (while the other students were seated on bolsters). I opened my eyes and saw her holding a small hard wood bench. For what, I asked. To sit on, she replied with a smile.
Which is when I nearly lost it. In that split second, it took everything for me to restrain myself, to stifle the scream that threatened to escape from my throat (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!). But instead, as the word compassion swooped down into the small space between us, I replied quietly, no thanks. Then, after L placed the block on the floor beside me and returned to her mat, I crumpled into child pose, searched for my breath that had frozen up, and held back tears.
It happens. Shit happens. And, in my case, take a seat happens.
It happens in Bali too. Silakan duduk, they say (in Indonesian), pointing to the closest chair. Terima kasih, tapi tidak bisa, I reply (thanks, but I can’t). Their polite smiles and puzzled looks tell me they think I’ve misunderstood them. They repeat. As do I – often with a brief explanation. Another person will show up and, thinking that the first person forgot their manners, will pipe up: Silakan duduk. More smiles.
Sometimes I get the strangest looks. From Balinese and expats alike: Suspicion. Disbelief. Curiosity. Impossibility. But you can walk and swim and well, it’s just that you look so… so… healthy… so (so what, so normal?) What do you MEAN you can’t sit?!
I was invited recently to join a community networking hub space. It’s a great idea, lots of potential and I am an avid supporter of the project and place. This hub has been open nearly two months and most members show up every day or nearly so –partly because it has become known for its ultra-fast internet. What a boon and benefit. I’d love to join. But try explaining to them that it’s not feasible for me to become a member; not possible for me to pull up a chair (beautifully designed, uber-hardwood), not possible for me to carry my laptop because it weighs too much. The antithesis to an ideal working environment – for me. So I don’t join and I don’t go – and still, they don’t understand.
Even physicians and surgeons, who are familiar with my ‘case,’ who have seen reports and x-rays and cat scans and MRIs, even they cannot believe. But, but, but… how can you travel if you cannot sit?! Please, don’t get me started – unless you want a detailed play-by-play: I squat, I crouch, I kneel, I lean, I recline, I sway and I lie down. (Which is why I love some of Ubud’s restaurants, because I can slip out of sandals and recline on large puffy pillows to my heart’s content!)
It is alternately frustrating, infuriating – and, above all, isolating. Of course nobody believes me because I don’t focus on it all the time and refuse to make it a regular topic of conversation; because I continue to pick myself up out of bed when it’s the last thing I want to do; and because I am compelled to go to yoga, to swim, to walk every day – to stave off atrophy in my body, to create distractions from the pain. And because I’m just grateful for my abilities, rather than paying too much attention to any lack thereof.
But please don’t take it personally if and when we meet… and you offer, but I don’t want to take a seat.
Truly, it’s a pain in the ass. Mine.