Last Tuesday, I think it was, I was feeling mighty tense in my own skin. The day started hot and got hotter and when I walked out the front door the humid oppression weighed on my shoulders like a drunk I was trying to help into the house.
I was feeling very put upon. You know the feeling, “Why does my life have to be this way? Now I have to stop and get gas, is anything ever going to go right for me in this life?” You know, the typical interior drama of an overheated constitution. This, my friends, is why I don’t regular the hot yoga scene. No one would want to talk to me ever.
This feeling of put upon got piled up on top of other put upon feelings like having to do stuff, like get out of bed, let the dogs out, put sun block on, brush my teeth. Have you ever had a day when everything felt like a chore?
I pull up to the gas station with sense to be grateful I remembered to get gas before the nightmare of a gas station at the foot of the three-mile bridge, which I have to cross to teach my afternoon yoga class. This is also a busy gas station, but the one near my house has plenty of parking and enough folks working the store.
I shuffle around in my car, pull cash out of my wallet and walk across the steaming pavement in flip-flops made of yoga mats. I wait in line behind someone else who looks equally put upon. I try to stand like I don’t have an attitude about everything, though I suspect I fail pretty miserably.
When it’s my turn, the man behind the counter is tinkering with the register. Surprisingly, I’m not in a hurry to rush to another point of put upon-dom, so I wait patiently. I look at him, curious about how yellow his hair is. Everything about him is in the sunny family, and when he looks at me I feel the full effect of his radiance shining upon my own dark and stormy countenance.
This man smiles and turns and looks like he’s glad to see me. I don’t mean in the “customer service” sense in which those of us relegated to customer service must make the customer feel like they’re glad to be seen.
This guy was different. It’s like he wakes up and is so glad to see himself anew that he just shines that on everyone the rest of the day. When he smiled his chest inflated, too, like he was gearing up to laugh or blow the storm clouds off of me with the generosity of his gaze. Then, perhaps, a rainbow might appear.
“Please put twenty dollars on pump six.” I see his eyes move from my own to the orange shirt with a charging, decorated elephant on the front. He looks from my chest to my left arm, where tiny white skulls circle my wrist; a Christmas present from my Teacher two years ago.
“Okay, twenty on six. Have a nice day!” He turns to tinker further with the register, telling it what to do.
When I walk across the still steaming parking lot, I notice I feel much less put upon. In fact, I feel pretty better (the language of a four-year-old that really suits this mood). I pump the gas and get back in my car, but am frozen there.
I feel this urgency, as though something has happened and also there is a small window of opportunity to act on this moment. I felt like I peered into the boundless possibilities of kindness and seeing one another and what that sort of presence can do, how it can change the air around us. I drive into a parking place right in front of the store, retrieve a business card and go back inside.
I wait behind someone else. I notice they are put upon, too. “I know buddy,” I want to say, “it sucks. But I’m glad to see you.”
When it’s my turn Mr. Sunshine leans on the counter, asking if he’d gotten the right pump. I lean across the counter, too, it must look like we’re flirting. Alas, no.
I say, “No, the gas is fine, you did a good job. But when I walked in here today you smiled at me like you were glad to see me,” for no apparent reason, I wanted to add, but didn’t want to come off maudlin, “and I really needed that today. Here’s a card for a free yoga class with me, I hope you come.”
Ah, that smile again! And now, he’s on the receiving end of something surprising and nice. Then do you know what this guy says? He says, “I knew you were yoga. I saw your bracelets.”
I knew you were yoga. He says. I’ve never had it put to me like that before, and never have I had someone so clearly state the purpose and point of my practice so succinctly. The “doing” drops away and eventually we just are.
Also, I could add that on this day, feeling put upon as I was by everything, I had forgotten that I was yoga until he put that sun shiny smile on me and made me remember.