The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

I was the girl you saw crying in her pajamas

The totally humiliating experience of breaking-down in my slippers reminded me that not everything is under my control

<p>Kate Snyder is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Kate Snyder is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

If I had a nickel for every time a breathy woman on a podcast whispered to me through my headphones that meditation would solve all my problems, I’d have enough money to build my own yoga studio — or at least buy my own mat. I’ve tried so earnestly, so resolutely to find my seat in the glistening mecca of mindfulness that everyone from my dad’s friend from college to Gwyneth Paltrow insists that I practice. 

I’ve downloaded the apps, I’ve watched the instructional videos, I’ve sat criss-cross applesauce on the perfect pillow with the perfect wind-chime soundtrack playing from my laptop. But I can’t make it more than a couple minutes of consciously counting my breaths before my mind wanders irretrievably and I resignedly shut off the rain-sounds playlist and uncross my legs, a failure.

For so long, I couldn’t understand why I’d been so irrevocably ostracized by those beautiful rosy-cheeked people of Instagram and the like, beaming from the other side of meditation and visibly basking in their heightened states of mind. I’ve realized, however, that the very fabric of my being bars me from the practice. As a hopeless control freak, I can’t bear to cede the semblance of order and control I’ve so carefully constructed within my own thoughts. Almost masochistically, I relish the maelstrom of my mind, and though I acknowledge the well-documented benefits of mindfulness, I’m too obsessed with my internal PowerPoint presentation to part with its rapidly changing slides.

For me to temporarily surrender my “certified Type A” membership card would take a force with a magnitude greater than my own will. Not just any old smack in the face would do. It would need to be at a point when I was most vulnerable, most helpless, most weak. It would have to be while I was in my pajamas and slippers.

It was a regular morning by all accounts. I’d finished my oatmeal and was sitting over my empty bowl, willing my eyes to stay open. My hair still wet from the shower, wearing my great-grandfather’s sweater, my pinstriped pajama pants and my wool slippers, I was just readying myself to face the day when my roommate, Kelly, rushed through the kitchen in a frenzy. She was late for her doctor’s appointment, she wouldn’t have the time to walk, could I please drive her?

Even then I knew I was doomed. My car is a 1992 Volvo 240, and while it has served its generations of owners loyally, it’s inching closer to the junkyard with every turn of the ignition. This particular morning came after a night of rain, and one of the endearing and not at all inconvenient quirks of my station wagon is its penchant for breaking-down constantly when its engine is even the slightest bit damp.

I agreed to drive Kelly, though I walked towards my grey Volvo with all the dejection of one walking to their own execution. We stalled out twice on the short drive to Student Health, but I’d been successful in coaxing the car back into first gear at every hiccup. That held true until we made it to Jefferson Park Avenue, where my car finally, fatally, puttered to a stop for the last time. It was 8:25 a.m. — peak rush-hour — and the commuters’ horns were blaring as I sat, angled precariously between the turn lane and the oncoming traffic.

I’d heroically sent Kelly to go on without me. Left alone in the middle of the street, I tried again and again to set the car of motion, but each attempt left me rolling back into the traffic behind me. My gaze sped rapidly from mirror to mirror, meeting angry scowls everywhere I looked. I should say that at this point I’d been crying for at least eight minutes.

After much time had passed, I implored myself to get out of the car to face the glares with pride. Just as I felt for the door-handle, however, classes released from the medical school. All of a sudden, the sidewalks were awash with a new audience, one more terrifying than those 50-somethings in the sedans behind me — my peers. The soft fibers of my pajama pants seemed to fuse to my seat in protest, and I rested my head on my steering wheel.

I was utterly helpless — a lame duck in a cable-knit sweater as I was confined to wait for the tow truck to arrive. It was in this environment, one where I had no choice for an alternative activity, no calculable opportunity cost for my time, that I finally had to let my thoughts go.

Suddenly, the dingy windows of my Volvo seemed to shine in a new light, the frustrated horns began to sound like chirping birds and my mind went blank. I was so alienated from any hope of controlling the situation that I finally found peace of mind. It was the most successful meditation session I’d ever experienced.

My tears had dried by the time I crawled into the passenger seat of my dad’s pick-up — I’d called him in a panic almost immediately after my car broke down. He seemed tense, worried that I’d been left so emotionally raw by the experience that I might be teetering dangerously on the edge of another meltdown. But I’d been changed from the blubbering girl he’d spoken to on the phone. I’d lived through an experience wherein the reins had slipped easily from my clenched fists. I’d humbled myself in my utter lack of control and lived to tell the tale.

Only time will tell when I might find the next opportunity for such mindfulness — maybe falling from a plane while wearing my bathrobe? I can only hope.

Kate Snyder is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.