• Madison Kolla

Ceiling Fans and Misery



Over the past month in Mysore, I have begun to develop quite a deep and intimate relationship with my ceiling fan. Although there remains a fair bit of physical distance between us - as I lay on my bed, gazing up at it for endless hours - we have come to an understanding, the ceiling fan and I. I look beyond it's (frankly - disgustingly) filthy blades, and appreciate the fact that it hasn't attempted a suicide leap from the ceiling and come crashing down on me while I sleep (you just never know with appliances in India). In return, the fan doesn't seem to judge me for my apparent ineptitude at life, or the hours spent mindlessly staring up at it, bemoaning my existence.

Why? 'Cause India. Or rather... 'cause Yoga - As it works me over (and over and over...), bringing to light all of my many insecurities and neuroses and flaws. The Very Exciting and Super Fun lesson for this week appears to be learning just how much I depend on external validation to bolster my waning self-worth. Maybe it's a first-born-compulsive-overacheiver-thing, but I rather suspect that we all fall prey to this particular trap from time to time. Whoot! So much fun. In my real life, I have quite an extensive network of people in place to reinforce how awesome I think I am, should I ever begin to doubt it. The best part about being in the healing profession is that you end up with a stream of people who are eternally grateful to you for making them feel more better. Unless you're really crap at your job and have hordes of unsatisfied clients, I guess - but thankfully, this has not been my experience. In school, I was an uber-nerd, and had good grades, and got loads of positive reinforcement from teachers. In yoga, I am an uber-bendy-nerd, and my teachers at home are very supportive. Throughout my life, I have been generally approved of by the authority figures surrounding me. I also take pride in being good at many of the things. This includes skills in areas such as: being on time; remembering to phone people on their birthdays; actually responding to emails; vegan and gluten-free baking; holding babies without causing them to cry; personal hygene; paying my taxes; having compassion for AND not yelling at incompetent humans; and sorting the recycling. And for extra insurance against occasional low self-esteem, I surround myself with friends and family that don't ever hesitate to inform me that I am, in fact, not a terrible person when I inevitably manage to hurt someone's feelings with my incessant sarcasm. Of course... things here are different. I'm not particularily GOOD at things here. For example, I often pay people using my left hand. This is a huge faux-pas in India, as they don't use toilet paper, and that's the hand you wipe your ass with. No one wants to take money from your poo-hand. Nope. And honestly, Madison - it's been two months. Figure it out already. We've already discussed my remedial yoga practice - a broken body doesn't exactly make for pretty asanas. [Yes. I know. Being bendy doesn't make you "better" at yoga. There is no "better" at yoga. It's supposed to be about shutting up your mind, remaining in the present moment, becoming a more enlightened and aware human, and all that shit... but it's really fucking hard to remember this when you're surrounded by all the freakishly flexible/strong/ more-better-than-you-at-all-of-the-things Ashtangis of Mysore.] And besides, even if I was pulling out an all-star asana practice, Sharath isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy yoga teacher who's going to flatter your ego over it. The extent of his praise is: "Good." Slight nod. Head bobble. He smiles the most when he's giving you a hard time for messing something up. Other things I am bad at in Mysore: -Getting along with my roommates. I never imagined it was possible to have so many talks about feelings with people that I wasn't even having sex with. (It is getting better though - the three of us have made a pact that we'll stop threatening to move out whenever one of us gets pissed off about something. I'm pretty sure this is the very definition of a committed relationship.) -Eating like a grown up. My version of dinner these days is one of three options: a) smoothie b) meusli and fruit c) an entire bag of cookies. The cookies are obviously the most popular choice. Clearly I am winning at life. And mysteriously managing to gain weight while in India and practicing intense yoga everyday. -Being a "cool kid". Practicing at KPJAYI is disturbingly similar to being back in high school. I made a half-hearted attempt to "fit in" at first, but unfortunately I don't actually care who is practicing which series. And I also can't keep track of who doesn't like/is avoiding/has a lifelong nemesis in that other person whose name I can't remember anyway. Too much work. And nobody was fooled - I have never ever remotely resembled someone who is cool. -Doing things. Remember? I have a deep and abiding relationship with my ceiling fan. So, to sum it up: Madison is bad at all of the things ---> No one to inform me that I am not a terrible, worthless human ---> Spends far too many hours staring at ceiling fan, contemplating worthlessness ---> Gets pulled into Swamp Of Misery---> Begins to remember all of the terrible mistakes/poor choices/bad judgements made over lifetime---> Commences cycle of guilt and mental self-abuse as trained in childhood of Catholicism---> Ceiling fan remains unsympathetic ---> Ceiling fan is a big stupidhead and I hates it. Remember that blog post where I said that India has made me slightly more dramatic? Mmmm. *Head bobble.* I'll now attempt to bring this all back to something vaguely resembling a conclusion (or at least a thorough psychoanalysis of my many faults). It is undoubtably clear that I have some perfectionist tendencies. I am very very hard on myself when I don't perform in the super-human way in which I (idiotically) think that I somehow should. I would never dream of holding anyone else to the impossibly high standard of perfection to which I hold myself. Go figure - I am kind and sympathetic to others when they make mistakes/poor choices/fuck right up, but demonstrating compassion towards my own self feels downright unnatural. Sigh. I am gaining a growing appreciation for the value of doing the "wrong" thing however - as it has taught me some pretty significant lessons, especially over the past year. And I'm clearly getting much much better at staring at the ceiling for hours on end, without feeling nearly as much pressure to get off my ass and be "productive" all of the time. Personality downfall #2: Far too much of my self-worth is tied up in what other people think of me. In people telling me that I'm "good" at the things - that whole external validation business. So being here in India, unable to do the things that I am "good" at, and without the people to praise me for the doing of said things, is severely affecting my self-esteem. This is quite lame, really. Because deep down, I know that my worth as a human is not based solely on the things that I do - and whether I do those things perfectly or not so perfectly. I just hope that I can begin to remember this more and more often, and not rely so much on the praise of other people. Mostly because my support system doesn't appear to be in the habit of following me around the globe when I decide that I need to run away. And because most people are generally busy enough working through their own personality downfalls. They probably care a whole lot less about what I'm up to than I think that they should. Surprise! - The world DOESN'T actually revolve around me. For those few people who actually do spend their free time judging others, I will continue to develop and refine my FuckyouIdowhatIwant attitude. I believe this to be a Very Important life skill and have begun teaching every 2 year-old girl that I meet to yell, "I do what I want!" (much to the chagrin of their parents). This motto comes quite naturally to most 2 year-olds (parents of toddlers will undoubtably agree). I wonder at what age it gets trained out of us? Kids go from unquestionably following their urges and instincts, but turn into teenagers that need constant validation from their peers. Who evaluate their actions only in relation to what everyone else is up to. I am reminded of endless fights had growing up with my sister - "Daaad... SHE did this offensive/unfair/unexpected/undesired thing to MEEE!" ... And the never-varying response of my oh-so wise Fasha (bellowing down the halls back at us) -"Don't you worry about what she did!! You just worry about yerself!!" Some damn good advice comes out of that man. You just worry about yerself. I mean, yourself. I'm really trying. So I guess I'll spend my last month here in much the same way I spent the first two. Wake up early. Go to yoga. Breathe. Quiet the mind. Come home. Stare for hours on end at the ceiling fan who has come to know me best. Ignore its dusty, dirty, and rough edges.

And just worry about my own.

#ashtangayoga #healing #learning #travel #yoga

© 2013 by Madison Kolla | Photography by Michelle Pichert, Douglas Ludwig, Sherida Rae Taylor & myself.

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