Do the Math

Shannon hates math, and she hates homework. So she really, really hates math homework. Every afternoon it is a struggle to get her to sit down, focus, and work on math problems.  In between snacks, stories, and other distractions, she repeats over and over “I hate this! I hate this! Math is so stupid!”

I try to tell her, every day “You just have to change the way you are looking at this. Math is fun! You are learning. You’re being challenged. Your brain is growing.  Math problems are like little puzzles for you to solve.  You like puzzles, don’t you?”

But it’s the same thing, every night.

The other night I was in my bedroom with the laundry.  After a weekend away, there were a few baskets to be folded, sorted, and put away.   I found that my brain was skipping like a broken record. I hate laundry. I hate folding clothes. I hate hanging things, and finding room in drawers for them. This sucks. What a waste of my time.  I was doing exactly the same thing that Shannon does with math.

In my life, I have been fortunate enough to find things that I love to do, and to find the time to do them.  I love to listen to music, so I do it as often as I can. I love to run, love the feeling I get while running, and the feeling I have when I’m done.  I love to practice yoga. I leave classes in a state of bliss.  And I love to teach yoga. Sometimes while I’m in the middle of teaching a class I stop and think to myself This is awesome! I love this! And I’m getting paid to do it! 

But the love and the hate are all in my head.  There really is no difference between practicing yoga and folding laundry.  The loving or hating is a decision I make. If I decide that I’m going to fold laundry and love it, then I will.  It’s all in my perspective, the way I look at things.

There is a pose in yoga called Extended Side Angle, Utthita Parsvakonasana.   It is a pose that I (have chosen to) love.  My arm reaches toward the front of the room, in opposition to my back foot.  I feel a stretch and a rotation.  I gaze up under my arm towards the ceiling. It just feels good.   Last night, while I was in this pose the teacher said, “Why don’t you take a variation of this pose? Maybe gaze down at the floor instead of up under your arm?”    So I did, always wanting to try something new.

And I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.  I was looking down at the floor when I should have been looking up. It was all wrong.  I was wondering why she would even suggest such a crazy thing?!  I know it was a minor change, just a different gaze, a different perspective on the same pose, but I did not like it one bit. I liked the pose the way it was, the way it had always been, the way it was meant to be.

I started to think that when we see something a certain way for a very long time, we have a lot of trouble seeing it a different way. We don’t even want to try, even if that other way is also perfectly acceptable, or perhaps even better.    So I decided right then and there, as I gazed down at the floor, to make a conscious effort to look at old things from different angles.

And I decided to look at sorting, folding and putting away clothes from a different angle, an angle of love.  It can be another way to show my family that I love them.  When we do it together, we can turn on the music, sort, fold, sing and dance.  And when I’m alone, I can do the same, and lovingly dedicate it to them.

We all have to do things that we don’t particularly like to do.  But if we change our perspective and remember our intention, we can turn what we don’t like, into something that we love, or at least something that we can do lovingly.

As we sat down yet again to do math homework together, Shannon said, “I hate this”.

And I said, “I know you do, honey.  And d’you know what? I hate doing laundry. So I am making an effort to change the way I think about it… Why don’t you work with me on this?  I will try to find the joy in doing laundry, and you try to find the joy in doing math.”

She said, “I know what to do, Mommy!  I’ll fold all the laundry. And you do my math.”

It sounds like a pretty good idea. The only problem is…I hate math.

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