I had a weird experience at the airport as I was waiting on my flight from L.A. due to some vagaries of packing and space and the rules of carry-ons, I had no less than three yoga mats and two water bottles among the items I was carrying around the airport. I looked, in short, like a yoga bum, with a long tube slung over one shoulder and a large folding flat mat in my other hand as I filled my shaker bottle at the water refilling point.
It was false advertising, of course. I make no secret about how I feel about yoga; it is something I enjoy having done, never something I enjoy doing and that I certainly don’t look forward to. But I could see in the way people looked at me that not only was I sending out the message of “yogi”, I was interesting, because I don’t look like your usual yoga bum. I’m not slender, I don’t have a man-bun, and I was wearing combat boots, not sandals.
Eccentric yoga bum. I’m sure people thought I was making my way to Esalen or Goa or some other retreat. In reality, I was heading to Chicago to pick up my car and drive overnight back home to Madison.
But…what if I pretended?
The Subtle Seduction of Rock & Brew
I went to a brew pub – one I’ve been to before with my partner Natasha, in fact, called “Rock & Brews” in the terminal. I sat down, looked at the menu, ready to order my usual big hamburger and fries and maybe a lava cake for dessert…and suddenly this weird feeling came over me.
This isn’t what a yoga bum would eat.
I ended up ordering a Cobb salad.
I was going to go and sit and watch a movie on my iPad…but instead I found myself looking for an open space to do some inconspicuous standing stretches. I found myself checking my activity level on my watch. I drank more water.
In short, I acted like a yoga bum would act at an airport, short of actually unrolling my mat and going through asanas. Hell, I even had a freakin’ banana for dessert instead of Cinnabon!
I stood up during the flight to stretch my legs. That never happens.
It was weird. It was like a strange kind of cover identity, a secret agent disguise that didn’t let people know I was the real me who didn’t like yoga and ate his feelings.
It was kind of useful, to be honest. And when I landed, and went to the car, I picked up a monster energy drink to keep me company on the way home, and listened to 90’s pop songs with the bass turned up.
Because that’s how I roll, when I’m not in disguise.
Pick Your Cover
At the same time it was not lost on me that I ate more effectively at the airport than I really ever have before. I was better hydrated, I was less stiff, and in general I took better care of my body than normal.
Because I was wearing the disguise of someone who did that. It was quite useful.
It makes me wonder what other “lives” we can try on, just for a while, when we need to face a challenge. How would a scholar approach a research project? How would a hotshot entrepreneur approach making a budget? How would Mr. Rogers approach handling the kids tonight at dinner?
It’s all a projection, of course. A story we tell ourselves about how those people act. But sometimes it may be useful to borrow someone else’s story, for a while, so that you can give your own a rest.