September 2, 2011

Buttons. We All Have ‘Em.

Our Job Is To Make Them  A Little Less Push-able. 

I’m going to let you in on a secret. The only condition is that you don’t tell my kids. Deal?

I have buttons. And when they are pushed, I can seriously lose my cool. There aren’t too many of them, but some days – if I’m already a little frazzled or tired or whatever – they can be fairly easy to push. Days, say, like Sunday following a sleepless night spent on the living room floor, sandwiched between a restless dog and three nervous kids, while a hurricane blows by. Or Monday, when the power had been out for over 24 hours and I was imagining the emails and voicemails piling up like I could see the laundry doing in the hampers. Let’s just say that earlier this week, my buttons were all lit up.

As any normal child will tell you, there is nothing harder to resist than a glowing button. Can’t you remember being in an elevator as a kid? It was really hard to stop yourself from running your hand down that wall of buttons, wasn’t it? So, does it come as any surprise to you that my three kids (who, I might mention, are all old enough to know better, all also sleep-deprived from our night on the living room floor, and all suffering from slightly elevated levels of nervous energy as the new school year lurks around the corner) had a hard time controlling themselves when faced with my buttons? Me neither.

Push, push, push. Needless, ridiculous bickering? Check. Sassy, borderline rude responses? Check. High pitched screeching in back seat of car? Check. Endless requests? Check. Push, push, push.

I collapsed into the car after yet another round and asked myself out loud (Yes, yes. I was talking to myself. It was exactly that kind of day), “Why on God’s green earth does she have to push my buttons like that?” Without hesitation, a little voice piped up from the back seat, “Why don’t you make them un-push-able?” “What?” I said, turning around to look at my youngest who I’d forgotten was back there. “Just make them un-push-able,” she replied solemnly. “That should work, don’t you think?”

Dang. Out of the mouths of babes comes some of the greatest wisdom of all time.

Realistically speaking, the odds of me getting rid of all my buttons are infinitesimal. I’m not even sure I want to do that. I kind of think we’re designed with buttons. They are hardwired into our passions and our opinions. If we lost all our buttons, I think we’d also lose that “spark” of who we are. Therefore, growing up isn’t about ditching our buttons. Evolving into the people we hope to be requires us to learn to make our buttons a bit harder to push.

How do we do this? After a decade of practicing yoga, I can say without a doubt, that one of the best gifts I have received from the practice is a cooler head. I’m better able to roll with the punches. I’m more likely to let the little stuff slide. I think I’m easier to live with. I know I’m more level-headed. And I’m pretty sure that it takes more nowadays to push my buttons. As we repeatedly spend five breaths in uncomfortable postures, we learn that it is possible to wait out discomfort. We learn that sometimes, while we’re waiting, the discomfort actually fades away. We learn that when we “grin and bear it,” we’re often left simply grinning. As we move and breathe on our mats, we face many challenges. We learn about our knee-jerk reactions to hard stuff – which reactions are useful and which just make tough situations tougher. We learn about persistence. We learn about patience.

Sure there are times on my mat when I get in over my head and lose my cool. There are postures that still scare me. There are stretches that, no matter how patient I have been, still elude me. I’m fairly confident that this will always be the case. Similarly, there are always going to be days like the two I had following the hurricane, when my buttons are lit up as bright as can be. On days like that, my buttons will probably get pushed — one at a time or all in one swoosh like a wall of elevator buttons. And that’s OK. It turns out that I’ve learned on my mat how to follow my daughter’s advice. Yoga has taught me how to make them less push-able. My job is to keep practicing.

PS I spent the rest of Monday afternoon trying to “grin and bear” all the button-pushing. Guess what? It worked. Eventually, all four of us were laughing and grinning about my silly buttons. 

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