The truth is, I got trapped by what yoga practitioners call "samskara." Samskara are past activators, ways in which you've handled events that affect what happens now. When you're caught in samskara, you're afloat in the ocean without a life jacket, bouncing about on the waves without control.
Even though it's been decades since I wrote any formal examination, I reverted to past actions and thoughts as soon as I was handed the test. I read the questions and my mind went blank. Completely. (In that moment, I discovered the meaning of "empty mind," although not in a good way.) I picked a random question and began to write. I fretted about poor sentence structure and correct phrasing. I wasted time worrying about the time. I overwrote three of the questions, which didn't leave enough time for the other two.
I was the last student out of the room and I left with a sigh. I could feel old habits returning, frustration, anger and disappointment arising. In that moment, I could have added to the turbulent samskara waves. What I chose to do instead was attempt to soothe them and use the aftermath as yoga practice.
Of course I want to do well, but maybe my definition of "doing well" is too narrow. The point of the exam was to write it and to get a feel for what it's like after all these years, not a bad thing if I have to write a three hour final. Since I'm taking this class for my own interest and I know I've done the work, does it really matter if I fail to meet my own standards on a test? As a teacher, I'm always spouting that failure is the best instructor; perhaps it was time for some of my own medicine.
Instead of fretting, I think I'll pack away my notes and texts for a few days. Next week is Reading Week; I'm looking forward to outlining my term paper and doing some reading on Hatha Yoga. Tonight, I'll put my feet up, finish some sock knitting. I may ponder why I don't get upset if I mess up a sock, but fall apart at the thought of messing up a written test.
I'll try not to cry too hard into my glass of white wine. That would be a waste of tears, not to mention a waste of perfectly good organic wine.
Have a great long weekend!