Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Fond Memory of Vienna's Mayor Jane Seeman

Mayor Seeman passed away on February 24, 2013.
This piece was printed shortly afterward in the Body Grace's March newsletter.

Miss Jane was Nicole’s, my oldest daughter’s, first preschool teacher at the Vienna Community Center. I had just given birth to my second daughter, Allison, in the fall of 1988 and Nicole started attending shortly before then; she was 2-1/2 years old.

Nicole loved wearing dresses. One hectic morning she picked out a red jumper that my mom had made for her, a white blouse, cute frilly white socks and her black patent leather Mary Jane shoes, and off we went to drop her off at preschool. As always Miss Jane was there to welcome everyone at the door so I dropped Nicole off and came home looking forward to putting Allison and me down for a nap, but as I walked by Nicole’s bedroom door I noticed something sitting on her bed. What I found, after further inspection, was her underpants. Yes, I had just sent my fancy dressed daughter to preschool commando style!

Mortified, I frantically grabbed Nicole’s underpants, placed Allison back into her car seat, and drove back to the community center.  I peeked in the window on the preschool door, caught Miss Jane’s eye and waved for her to come out.  Once she stepped out into the hallway, I told her how embarrassed I was to have sent Nicole to school without the proper undergarments, and in a down-to-earth, non-judgmental way this is what she said to me: “You know Mrs. Crerie, Nicole was really distressed at the beginning of class and when I asked her what the problem was, she told me that her Mommy had forgotten to put underpants on her. I told her I would give you a call to bring some to her, and that sometimes Mommies forget things, especially when there is a new baby in the house, but in the meantime, until you could get here, to just keep her legs together.” I smiled – how could you not – nodded, thanked her for calming Nicole down, and her good advice. When I glanced into the room, sure enough, while all the other kids were sitting crossed-legged in their share circle, Nicole was sitting very calmly with her legs straight out, glued shut. I took Nicole to the restroom, put on her underpants, and I apologized to her for my forgetfulness, as well as for any future issues I may have caused, which at the time she probably did not understand.  To this day Nicole has very fond memories of being in Miss Jane’s preschool class for two years. Yes, she does remember being distaught about not having underpants on, however she did forgive me, and I can attribute that to the sweet way in which Miss Jane handled the situation.

Fast forward twenty something years later and as I am unlocking the studio door one afternoon, Mayor Jane drives up to drop off her granddaughter for a teen yoga class. We chatted for a moment and she asked about my daughters, which I was so impressed by. I told her that Nicole is a mom now, and we both agreed that time flies by too quickly but that being a grandparent is wonderful! Jane asked me how my business was doing. She truly cared about the success of the small businesses in the community, and I for one, appreciated that. I will miss Jane Seeman. She loved Vienna, and it showed. When I think of her, I will not only think of Mayor Jane Seeman, a woman who believed in a strong community, but I will also fondly remember Miss Jane, a caring, kind and compassionate preschool teacher, who helped a little girl and a young mother through an awkward situation. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Wisdom Teeth's Wisdom

“Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we aren’t perfect.” – Mister Rogers

Well, this is embarrassing; I forgot to breathe in a highly stressful situation. How many times in my yoga classes have I said, “Slow, deep breathing helps regulate the heartbeat, decrease the blood pressure, and calm the nervous system”?  It is a safe bet to say at least weekly.

I decided to have all four of my wisdom teeth extracted over the holiday break after having some issues with them this past year. General anesthesia would be a new experience for me, causing me a lot of anxiety.  Knowing this, I focused on taking good care of myself before the appointment. I spent time practicing calming breathing techniques, sitting more in meditation, and making sure my diet was as clean and healthy as possible, not always easy around the holidays! But even with all my self-care, on the morning of the appointment I felt extremely nervous and scared. Fear is a necessary emotion. On the plus side it allows us to protect ourselves when we feel threatened, but it can also paralyze us, keep us stagnant, make us mute, and in my case, deaf.

It would have been helpful, sitting in the procedure chair, if I had listened to my own voice telling me to take slow deep breaths, but I was deaf to it, and instead became fixated on the heart rate monitor bleeping crazy rhythms, watching my blood pressure increase and getting worried that the doctor would not find a vein in my arm for an IV. I was getting upset with myself for not being able to control my body’s reaction to a stressful situation. What I needed was a teacher’s voice, a voice of reason, and that came from my youngest daughter, Allison, who was sitting in the chair beside me and witnessing her mom losing her composure. One of my last vivid memories of the morning was Allison putting her hand on my leg and saying in a calm voice, “Mom, look at me. Let’s breathe together.”  So we did.

During the next couple of days, healing took place in two different realms—my mouth and my ego. Boy, did I beat myself up emotionally!  I felt like a hypocrite. How could I not practice what I preach? Should I even be teaching yoga? Really, how embarrassing for a yoga teacher to fall apart like that! My thoughts were not pretty. And then I serendipitously came across the above quote from one of my favorite spirit guides, Mister Rogers. His words, as they so often do, pulled me out of my hypercritical attitude. I decided to give myself a break and practice another one of my teachings: “letting go of judgment.” I remembered times in my life where I had remained calm during major life storms, and that helped me feel better about myself. I am human, after all, and even yoga teachers have dark moments!

We are all teachers; we are all students. It is learning to step into the role being presented to us and accept it with humility and grace that make us a better human being. I needed a teacher the morning of my procedure. My daughter saw that, assumed that role, and in a loving, calm way helped me rediscover my breath again. I am so grateful to her and for her.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru. – Joko Beck, American Zen teacher (March 27, 1917 – June 15, 2011)