Socks on his hands

Published on November 21, 2012 by      Print
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By Rebecca Butler

I have a stalker. Ok, he’s not really a stalker. He’s more like a disgruntled student gone mad.

One recent day, “Donald” showed up to class and announced that he was no longer smoking pot, which he referred to as “giving up his mistress of thirty years.” He accredited it to the teachings of myself and another teacher. I smiled. The class politely clapped. I’m not going to lie, it was a little awkward. You see, we’re in Fort Worth, Texas, not Denver or Austin. If you’ve never heard of Fort Worth, well, then, exactly, but suffice it to say: Bible Belt. With the confession over, we quickly moved on.

Then he came to class again. This is not unusual, as Donald has been frequenting my classes for the last two years pretty much six times a week, mostly without incident. Yet in this particular class, he brazenly interjected a sexual innuendo about three quarters of the way through. I noticed his outbursts were becoming a pattern, but it seemed good-natured and I didn’t think too much of it. And the following day he showed up to class drunk as a skunk. His stumbling around and groping of the teacher in the class before mine took me aback. I could smell the booze on him. He seemed happy as a lark and completely unaware of his comportment. I made a split-second decision, thinking of the safety of himself and those around him, and asked him to leave.

Allow me to pause for some context.

Donald is in his mid fifties. He drives a scooter and he is often late. He delights in moaning loudly in down dog. It is not uncommon for him to wear socks on his hands when he starts slipping on his mat, rather than use a slip-free sweat towel. It’s also not uncommon for Donald to pay in Ziploc baggies full of quarters. All of these attributes are what make Donald one of my favorite clients, hands down. (Save for the moaning, but still.) Asking him to leave class was not my favorite chore, but one that I felt was necessary. He was highly entertained by the whole process.

Afterwards, we had a birthday in the family, so I was busy. Donald, apparently, was not. He started emailing… and emailing… and emailing… The emails went from jovial in nature to somewhat lewd to downright hostile, referencing a penchant for spending time on the gun range when not in class and knowledge of where I live. I was spooked, my husband was spooked and so was the studio owner.

In recovery mode, I reached out to a senior teacher whom I often consult. She advised me to make an altar and hold the individual in high regard and practice holding him in love and peace. She also suggested I make a sand painting. Meanwhile, my husband consulted his best friend—a former studio owner and teacher for twelve years. His words: that’s the shit I don’t miss about the yoga business.

Here’s the thing.

When we’re talking about, well, crazy people, I don’t get the whole altar thing. Nor do I get sand paintings. What does resonate with me is one teaching of Anita Moorjani in her latest book, Dying to Be Me. She says, “What you believe is true.” This may sound like a no-brainer, but it really hits home with me. Instead of stretching myself to believe in sand paintings and altars, I’m going to believe this: Donald was likely self-medicating with pot. When the pot-smoking stopped, his erratic behavior escalated. And that’s not gonna change with sage or shrines or juju magic alone. Sometimes actually doing something is the best medicine.


About Rebecca Butler

Rebecca Butler lives in Fort Worth, TX. Here, she fancies herself in a community that is at the genesis of change. By day, she is a self-proclaimed-intensity-junkie yoga teacher, serving as the lead teacher at a local donation based studio known as Karmany Yoga, a mother, and a wife… By night {when the house sleeps}, she is a writer, a dreamer and a poet. Her most meaningful moments are sometimes spent pushing a stroller, listening to her latest muse {from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer to Caroline Myss} and picking up poop from a 90-lb. silver lab puppy named Gunner. Her mother passed from ALS (Lou Gehrigʼs disease) in early 2012. Through this journey, Rebecca learned more about life, love and laughter than any book could have possibly taught her. It is in her memory that Rebecca chooses to live each day in Joy… Joy for life—the ups and downs, breaks and bruises and the glory. Oh, the glory. You can find out more about her teaching & writing at

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  1. Dan says:

    Protecting yourself is absolutely the right thing to do, for yourself and him.

    Many people with mental illness self medicate, unaware of any underlying condition – marijuana seems better than alcohol, legal issues aside, as it can reduce violent inclinations. The stigma associated with diagnosis often keeps people from seeking care within the medical system, and many treatment options are not fully covered by insurance with limited effectiveness and/or having a challenging side effect profile.

    Hopefully he has some compassionate people in his life who can guide him to seek treatment options: family or a community social worker or… But your priority is to be safe.

  2. Jenifer says:

    Yeah, I don’t get the whole altar/sand painting thing either. I mean, I do get “work on your end to bring back your personal equilibrium” by whatever means suit you, but I also would be like, “I need some professional help with this.”

    My process would be to talk to a social worker, a police officer, and possibly a psychologist just to get a clear picture of what may be going on and how to go about whatever process would be most appropriate for me and for him (without escalating the violence, getting services for him that he may need, or some other such).

    It could be as simple as being firm and direct; it could be as complex as restraining orders and the possibility of a short stint in a mental health facility (not of his choosing, but legally determined).

  3. lance says:

    Kat turned me on to you blog. I like it! I’ll give you some advice Dave Ramsey gave me in regard to ‘crazy’ people and our businesses. There’s not much we can do about ‘crazy’ in our families. However, keep ‘crazy’ away from your business (unless your business is professionally licensed to deal with ‘crazy’). My business is my lifeline to income. My income feeds & cloths my family. If a ‘crazy’ client/customer threatens that lifeline, they are gone (period). I stay away from crazy… Personal experience.

    God gave us a mind to solve problems. Most problems are solved in practical ways. Building alters and playing with sand may make you ‘feel’ good, they are not practical ways to stop a possible threat. Notifying someone who is professionally trained to deal with this type of thing is the logical/practical next step. My family and team’s lives & livelihood are a higher priority than offending a ‘crazy’ client. One bad apple can destroy years of hard work. We must protect our people :)

    my $.02

  4. Something for me | Choose Joy | Rebecca Butler says:

    [...] I’ve absolutely adored being featured on Intent. I wasn’t expecting to be published on Recovering Yogi, which was amazing. And I would be bold-face lying if I said that I’d ever thought I’d be on [...]

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