People often asked me how I raised G to be the way she is, and I would joke, I put her out in the hot sun. But actually, that is quite accurate. From young, she had learned to be comfortable in her discomfort, to learn to function in a less-than-perfect environment instead of complaining or running away. To be unafraid of little things and to see them all as part of life.
I read the BBC everyday for UK news, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this one about Malaysia, which does not feature often in the BBC:
You can access it here.
When we lived in Malaysia, it was often only my kids and other expat kids who ran around like blue houseflies (my mother-in-law’s descriptive word) in the hot sun. Their sports teams were made up predominantly mad expat kids who valiantly struggled through the searing heat. When one dared to complain, the (English, puce-red, ginger) sports coach barked, “What do you expect? You are in the friggin’ tropics!”
When I taught yoga to small children, an army of maids were on the go to rush forward and wipe the sweat off their young charges’ brows and cool them down with water. One mother even offered to pay me more if I used the air conditioning so that her little Emperor doesn’t ‘sweat’. As it was, many kids stopped coming, because it was too too hot.
Most of life, it seems, was lived out in air-conditioned houses, air-conditioned cars, air-conditioned shopping malls. Anything on either side of the narrow temperature range stopped normal functioning and all activities.
But maybe we Brits are crazy.
We don’t take kindly to our children moaning about heat. Or cold. I remember hating cold showers in school, especially the early morning ones during the winter months when there never was enough hot water, but my mum, ever-indulgent, did not write to my school to complain, as I had expected her to. Instead, she soothed me by telling me it is “character-building”.
And character-building it is, too.
Because we never pandered to our children’s moans about the vagaries of temperature, they took it as part and parcel of life, and got on with it.
Last year, my daughter arrived in Lisbon to play football. She had spent most of her childhood in Asia, only returning to the UK during the summer months. She had never known bitter cold.
And Lisbon was. The wind was biting, and this was totally unexpected. OMG, the wind! Whenever she took a free kick, someone had to hold the ball still for her. Yet these girls – who only trained in the hot sun – got on with it, despite the jet-lag, the cold, the discomfort. They did their very best, no complaints whatsoever. They just arrived at the pitch earlier, and warmed up more. No one complained and nobody was sick.
This is what I believe: physical resilience leads to mental resilience. As a yogi, I believe that we learn through our physical body, which is the easiest medium to master. If you can control the discomforts of your body, you can control the discomforts of your mind. Residence teaches you that you can’t escape life: whine all you like, but sorry, Sunshine, it is as it is. Suck it up.
And this is what I noticed about my daughter: she never gives up even when the odds are against her, and that mastery over physical discomfort has seen her through many of the challenges in her life, which she has faced with equanimity.