One thing you don’t expect to get at age 34 is head lice or nits, well… I’m telling you it can happen! It affected me more profoundly than I ever remember at age 5 though!

Picture of some Forrest Yoga Teachers

On a crazy one month schedule of getting up at 2.16am and go to bed at 8:30pm — to practice with my inspirational teacher Ana Forrest, then assist her Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training in Cape Town — the last thing we needed was a critter invasion. But of course we can’t control when Sweet Medicine lands in our laps, or indeed on our heads 😉

Turns out one of the trainees had contracted nits from their place of work before the training and without knowing they had metamorphosed into lice…. and then we all got nits — all six of Ana’s assistants!

Eeeeek! Scratch, scratch…..

As soon as we found out, the crazy psychosomatic behaviour slipped in. Suddenly our whole bodies itched and there we were at 3am checking each others hair, like a bunch of apes and deciding what the hell we were going to do with our trainees when they arrived. It’s funny how extreme situations highlight parts of your character — one of mine is going into ‘fixer’ mode.

In the end we had to cancel a day of the training so that everyone could get treated, whether or not they had evidence of nits or lice. There was the additional complication of the general public coming to classes — they all had to be told too. That was a tough conversation at 6am… “Hi, are you here for the class with Ana? We’re really sorry, but it’s been cancelled, oh and by the way, you might have nits!” Of course we were a lot more graceful with our words than that….

Anger, love, hate, hassle, panic.

Out of the 6 assistants, 4 of us were living together for the month and In the space of a few hours we must have gone through every emotion — to the point where we were thinking “OMG is this really worth it”. I had my own break down a couple of days after the treatment. We had to routinely check each others hair and after our 3am practice, we found that I still had nits. Even after two treatments with potent chemicals, the buggers were still nesting in me! Maybe nits don’t seem like a big deal, but in the environment that we were in and because I was there to do a job — to help deliver this amazing training — I felt like I was a failure. That I was less of an assistant because I had to take this extra day to sort out these blo*dy nits! All that kept playing in my mind was “why me?” “why can’t I get rid of them?” I walked into the yoga room just before 6am, ready to cry, feeling momentarily defeated and picked up my drum, my mat and my yoga props for another deep clean. I sat of front of Ana and looked into her eyes. “I have to go — I still have nits”. She could see that I was upset about it, I knew that she understood, but I was still somehow ashamed and annoyed that it was me who couldn’t shake them off. How screwed up is that?!

Lice medicine

I’m itching as I write this, but I promise the nits have now gone!….I looked up what lice medicine would be in the Native American tradition, since I work a lot with animal totems — here’s what it said:

Louse (Lice) — Being sucked dry by too many responsibilities or torn in too many directions by well-meaning people, the louse is a message to withdraw and resist being pulled into situations we do not wish for ourselves. Lice are parasitic creatures that require a host in order to exist and indicates that we are either asking too much from others or they are asking too much of us.

As I reflected on this a few things rang true. All of Ana’s assistants got nits, but mine wouldn’t go. Maybe this was my lesson. I know that I have a tendency to be over generous with my time and energy. Was that the answer to the “why me?”… did I need to bring in some Armadillo medicine and manage my boundaries a bit better?! Not necessarily as an assistant, but in life in general.

There are so many other gross details that I could add, but I’ll spare you them, what I do want to share with is some of the things that I learnt from this whole crazy episode:

  • How one person’s oblivion or small action — in this case ‘non-action’ can have such an effect on other people. Not just because everyone had the inconvenience of combing through and treating their hair, but also the potential affect on the reputation of the yoga studio and even Forrest Yoga. There were bad posts on social media about this and it could quite easily have affected the studio owner’s business and livelihood. I’m really into Prof. Brian Cox at the moment and getting the hang of quantum theory. I’m not scientist, far from it, but the lice incident got me thinking about the concept that every movement, every action by every individual has an affect on the rest of the world, no matter how big or small. On a much wider social level this gives me hope and fear, because one person’s small actions create a barrage of knock-on-effects that affect us all. For me, this was a lesson about mindfulness and the importance of taking responsibility for yourself.
  • It’s OK to ask for help and there are silver linings. In my time of exhaustion and, quite frankly, ‘losing the plot’, I text my husband Dom, who was landing in Cape Town later ‘that’ morning. It was a kind of “I need you, I can’t get rid of these nits, I’m in a real state and I don’t know what to do. Please come and help me” kind of text. He dropped his plans and rushed to my rescue. Not an ideal welcome for him, but amongst my delirium (exacerbated by the chemicals), I can’t tell you how great it felt to be supported by him. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. Especially when we’re afraid that it might show our weakness or our vulnerability, but mostly all it shows is that we’re human! AND, in this case, there was a silver lining — I got to see Dom (after not seeing him for over 2 weeks) 6 hours earlier than we’d planned — and for longer.
  • Moments of tenderness. When you go through an experience like the Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training, or assisting it, you form strong bonds with the people going through the same thing. Much like in any extreme situation shared with others. The lice inspections and treatments on the day that we had to cancel everything actually turned out to be one of my Beauty Moments of the month. I still have the image in my head of us all pulling together out in the back yard of where we were staying and treating and combing each other’s hair. We were like a little ape family showing our affection by picking out the nits. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love the people I spent that month with without the lice, but it really did take our friendship to new levels — it showed how much we cared for each other 🙂

There are so many other points to make, but my final words here, are that even in the midst of trauma or anger or frustration, it is possible to find moments of worth, or tenderness, or Beauty. We ALL would have preferred not to have the lice, but they were there. We dealt with them and they even exposed a few valuable truths about everyone affected. Observing that was a learning process in itself — it’s funny what you find out about people’s character in extreme situations (and for some this totally tipped them over the edge). I was also grateful for the reminder that there are always choices in how you deal with a situation that has the propensity to majorly p*ss you off. So all in all, in a weird and magical way, I suppose (and I can’t believe I’m writing this!), I’m actually glad we got the lice….

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