Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about movement. I’ve been attempting to retrain myself to think about my own body in terms of what is possible to learn or to become strong enough to do, instead of focusing on it’s limitations and problems. I’m working hard to move towards action, doing, feeling and away from shaming and appearance.
It’s not always easy to stay inspired for this kind of thinking in a “diet” culture that places a lot of emphasis (for movement) on looks – losing weight, less flabby arms, flat stomach – and comparing yourself to “how good” other people look when they are very skinny instead of what bodies can do and how they feel doing it.
To that effect, I started a board called “movement” on pinterest. I did this because I wanted a place to put body and movement and physicality things that were not about “diet and exercise” really. Pinterest already has quite a lot of that for anyone who wants it. I just don’t want it.
Here are some other people, events and factors that have been part of my new inspired thinking recently:
Like the rest of the world, I watched many events of the London Summer Olympics. Yes, I am totally inspired by the amazing Olympians, how hard they’ve trained, competed and their amazing physicalities and strength. However, recently, I also took some time to go to youtube and watch some events from the London Paralympics too. Those events were not broadcast on NBC and in fact, we not really mentioned by the American media much at all.
Well, let me tell you – that’s a DAMN SHAME – because these athletes are fucking incredible.
In that picture above, April Holmes, the Olympian from the USA, is 39 years old and still competing. She was a gold medalist in Bejing and world record holder in 2008 and won bronze in the 100M in London. She was a track and field athlete in college, lost her leg in a train accident 11 years ago and kept training and competing, eventually earning the title of the fastest amputee in the world. The Netherlands’ Marlou Van Rhijn (in the photo just to her right) was born without lower legs, she is only 20 years old and is currently the world record holder in two events. She competes in the class with single amputees, even though she technically is in the double category. She’s also competed at world championship level swimming.
These women are hard core. Beautiful and badass, just like the other Olympians from those other recent Olympic games a few weeks prior. And with a lot less fanfare and sponsorship opportunities. With a lot less privilege in our world, to be frank. I watched several of these races and swimming and volleyball and judo and I could go on and on about them. What these athletes are capable of – with various physical challenges, working with entirely different circumstances and bodily equipment (figuratively and literally) – is beyond… it’s just beyond.
The next time I feel my mental monsters try to bring down a pity party with self-hate and nonsense about how broken I feel and how frustrating my body is, I’m going to head back over to the Paralympic Sports channel. I’m going to think about how arbitrary the limits are in our culture of what is conceived of as beautiful, strong, healthy and capable. And then I’m going to tell myself to shut the fuck up and make myself move. Not out of shame or fear, the way mainstream “fitness” messages are targeted. No. Out of pure fucking potential.
2. My favorite ladies.
Three of the closest women in my life are lovely, smart and fun people who I’ve known for a long time. I have never known any of them to be traditionally athletic people, even though they’ve always been in relatively good shape, “normal” for society’s standards, they just aren’t really sporty “types”. However, they all have their own kind of commitment to a kind of training or movement that isn’t rooted in something superficial. That is what I find beautiful and interesting and why they inspire me.
- Kally is only a couple weeks away from running her second marathon.
Someone who I never knew to be athletic or enjoy sports (at all) growing up, set a goal a couple years ago and starting training. Just like that. Not in a “I’m going to jog for exercise” kind of way, not in a “I’m going to give it a try and see how it goes!” way either. Nope. Try “on this date, in this city I’m going to run a fucking marathon, best find out how to train to do this now.” And she did. And now she’s going to run a couple more. She’s eventually going to run ultras. How fierce is that?
- Kate is training to be a yoga teacher.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched as her own yoga practice has become a major part of her life and she has developed a certain kind of grace and comfort with her own body that I really want to have someday. I think her empathetic nature and patience will make her a really good teacher, and her focus, skill and strength make her a fantastic role model. My yoga practice has changed from watching this part of her life grow and her commitment to it. I always have a had a difficult time going to classes and practicing in public, but I can’t wait to take her classes.
- Darcy has this deep-rooted love of walking and exploring that is totally infectious. This is helpful because I live with her. My last post about exploring our new city? Yeah, that was ALL her. Wherever we go or live, Darcy cannot wait to be outside and walking and walking and walking. It’s her naturally curious nature manifesting in pure physical energy. She does not want to see the world from inside a car, she wants to be moving. She once walked home from her college in Chicago’s loop to our apartment in a northside neighborhood, miles and a couple hours away just because “it was a beautiful day out” and she “felt like going a different way.”
I love that about her.
I’ve always wanted to be more like her. Over the years we’ve often gone hiking together and taken lots of walks, and sometimes they have been fun and wonderful, but I’ve often I was struggling feeling self-conscious with every step too.
Lately I’ve been really embracing and enjoying walking with her a lot more. I used to think “I wish I could, but I can’t keep up.” I used to be endlessly embarrassed to be slowing her down or getting tired. Fuck that. She is honest with me and more patient than I am, so now we just go. Darcy certainly isn’t judging me for doing it slowly and having trouble. In fact, I often find that no one who matters is judging me but me.
Why did I spend so much time doing that to myself?
I remember someone once telling me that Fall was always a really harsh season, interrupting the energy and buzz of Summer, shutting down their body and life with it’s chill. This sounded alien and absurd to me. I am the EXACT opposite of this.
I absolutely thrive on Fall. I love summer and don’t mind some heat and sun, but humidity makes me feel like death. When the temperature starts dropping into the 60′s, I feel like every molecule of me comes back to life again. Suddenly I have this energy.
Last week Darcy and I went out walking in Beacon Hill and around Boston common on the first really, truly Fallish day of the season. It was heaven and I was in my element. Have you ever been to Beacon Hill? So beautiful, it’s made of narrow streets, cobblestones, gas lamps and yes, hills. I stopped at the top of one to take that picture and Darcy pointed out that I had totally gunned it up a hill! Usually that’s not easy for me. Or nearly that much fun.
That’s what this season does for me. Truly. I have like 800% more energy, will and stamina in this weather. Can’t wait for October!
* Bonus inspiration: My dog
I was going to include him in with my favorite people, but that wasn’t quite right. He’s not doing anything particularly awesome, he’s just being a dog. But living with him is awesome. Taking him outside in my beautiful neighborhood and seeing him greet the world as if it’s the first damn time he’s ever seen our street and OH MAN is it exciting – every time – is incredibly inspiring.
The thing about dogs is that, in addition to basics like food and shelter, two major things in life are both supreme pleasures and necessities – activity and exploration. We don’t walk dogs or let them outside for the sole purpose of allowing them to relieve their bladders, it’s necessary and vital for dogs to move and for dogs to explore and sense-out the world around them.
Living with my dog helps me to remember that humans have basically the same set of requirements, we just forget to be as excited about it.
Isn’t that sad?
New rule, like Max, when I walk out my front door: if I can breathe, if I can move, if the trees are still beautiful and the streets of my neighborhood are still calling to me like they always seem to be lately – I’m going to be really fucking excited.