Cheese curds, after last Christmas, will forever be Nanna’s personal symbol of the perils of expectation – but let’s start with that lovely, young, expectant yogini. When she said “I’m pregnant”, I anticipated a flood of gushing-coochy-coo. Sometimes yoga studios seem knee deep in rainbows and unicorns. But this was different. She’d been in a deep funk, it’s her second pregnancy and she was haunted by expectations of the discomforts to come: pain, sleeplessness, all the fussing and fears that cluster around a newborn. “I just wished the baby could be immediately three years old,” she said.
Morning sickness didn’t help, and it kept her away from yoga. But once she returned to her mat, she figured out how she’d gone off track. “I was full of expectations,” she said, “and I was missing what was happening right now.” It was the lesson for that whole one-hour class: dropping all thoughts of how things ought to be and being with whatever turned up. As I was panting through a vinyasa I heard her say “how is your breath right now? If it’s not slow and even, back off, pay attention to what your body needs now, not how you could do it yesterday, or 20 years ago.” (Did she say that last bit for me? Everyone else looked like they weren’t even on the planet 20 years ago!) So I backed off and, once again, got a lesson in expectations. The cheese curd credo.
Last Christmas I was in Chicago. Before I left Sydney, I booked Christmas lunch at a swanky hotel in the heart of downtown Chitown. It’s a hotel I’ve always loved for its over-the-top Christmas accessorizing. The massive, overburdened Christmas trees that tourists stand in line to be photographed with. The splendor of a million lights sparkling off brass and crystal. I’d imagined Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, coming in from the snow to fat golden turkeys and 20 vegetable sides dishes and champagne and carolers. When we arrived at 1.30pm on Christmas Day, all of us dressed in our best clothes beneath gloves and scarves and winter coats, we walked into the dining room and saw . . . a couple of tables of random travellers, eating burgers.
I’d had expectations, but I hadn’t done my homework. I’d booked the table online. I hadn’t called to check Christmas dinner would be served at lunch (it wasn’t, it was served in the evening.) There were carolers, but their over-bright delivery was embarrassing in the empty room. With limited staff came a commensurately limited menu: burgers (and what those other tables were eating didn’t look great), pizza or pasta. And for starters, the choice was buffalo wings or deep fried cheese curds. My mid-western step-children were thrilled: fried cheese curds! Just like at the Wisconsin State Fair! We ate fried cheese curds. You could tell they were good, the kids told me, because of the rubbery squeak on your teeth.
I had a miserable Christmas lunch, I couldn’t shake the disappointment. I vowed to dedicate the whole of 2017 to learning the lesson of no expectations, the lesson of being OK with what is. I would have no negative expectations, like my yoga teacher, and no positive expectations, like my fantasy Christmas dinner, but maintain an open and accepting curiousity about life as it is. Here. Today. This minute. It’s a crucial lesson to learn, because if the law of karma has taught me anything it’s this: there’ll be more cheese curd Christmases until I learn it!
Happy Christmas from Yoga Nanna. Have no expectations for your Christmas, but love whatever comes your way. It will be just what you need, on December 25th and all through 2018.