Make Valentine’s Day Perfect-Forever

This weekend, I was back for more student-mentoring as a writing coach for College Summit. In other words, I was back to cracking jokes with my students and teaching them yoga while we all pretended to write personal statements for college. (Kidding. They all wrote personal statements! And I wrote half of one.)

Anyway, all humor aside, I had a really fantastic group of kids who were totally willing to go with the theory that doing all the yoga would help their writing, and even their anxiety. If only I had been wise at 16, too…However, one of my students, who totally won me over by quoting one of my favorite sections of Aristotle, also wrote about some time she spent in a shelter.

The thing was, she arrived there on February 14, 2008. I’m sure most of us remember what we were doing on this date, because it’s Valentine’s Day. One of the College Summit exercizes involves providing lots of vivid details about a certain event…here goes mine for Valentine’s Day:

I remember that on February 14, 2008, me and the ex-Good Friend/ex-Sig Oth tried to see a movie at MoMA. And it was sold out. I remember being really pissed about it. I remember blaming both of us for not getting tickets earlier. I remember being simultaneously furious that Valentine’s Day was so wrecked, and resentful that it was so lame. I remember eating a granola bar and being grumpy about how gross it was. I remember going to Blockbuster and fighting over who would return the movie the next day, and ultimately not being able to pick anything. I remember arguing over what we were going to have for dinner, and then I remember demanding to know where the relationship was going. I remember not being sure what I thought of his answer, and I remember going to bed not sure if I thought Valentine’s Day was stupid, or if I was crushed because mine was stupid.

Obviously, when you think about the kinds of details my student provided about that same date in history, you recognize a great disparity. For me, it was a total slap in the face. But of course, the problem with “gaining perspective” is that it’s often a short-lived experience. When you’re contemplating the past, you can see it. But when you’re annoyed, it’s hard to sit around thinking, “someone has it worse than I.”

So, I’m not saying that we should all walk around feeling overjoyed to be alive every second just because we’re not dead, but rather that there are ways of appoaching our own discomfort that seem less bottomless and out of control. Some things suck, and we’re going to feel that they suck no matter what. But the indignation, the sense that we are entitled to something better, is useless to us.

ER, my yoga teacher, has been reading this line from a Mary Oliver poem that I think sums it up: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement.” Even the unpleasantries can hold a level of intrigue. When we’re intrigued, we can draw a line between discomfort, and vehement self-pity.

This is clearly why my kids loved yoga, so much. I’m sure not having to sit at a desk and “write” had nothing to do with it…

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One thought on “Make Valentine’s Day Perfect-Forever

  1. Not long ago, someone at the rehab where I tutor asked how I was doing. I said I was doing okay, but recovering from a bad cold. She said “I'm recovering from addiction,” which did certainly put things in perspective. The trouble with gaining perspective, though, is that, ultimately, it's an attempt to belittle our own unhappiness rather than overcome it. The fact that the headache I have right now isn't nearly as bad as what somebody who's undergoing torture somewhere is experiencing might quiet my self-pity reflex and general sense of entitlement, but it doesn't make my head hurt any less or make me any happier about that. And then, actually, when a person is really depressed and feeling like the whole world is nothing but misery, pointing out worse suffering elsewhere only seems to prove the point….

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