I Sing the Body Electric Off Key

The gym has become a spiritual home for me.

I’ve been slowing down lately. Much of my life has been spent in a tornadic whirl of activity as I attempt to live out my conviction that life is too short to not do what you’re going to do. And as much as I still value that idea and the incredible things it has spurred me on to do, my body and mind have had enough.

Slowing down has been more difficult than I imagined. “Just give me a month to get everything off my plate.” Ha. That month has turned into a year and yet I keep saying, “just give me a month.”  The truth is that the commitments we make are like icebergs with their hidden roots that stretch much deeper than we realize at first sight. Still, my life is much less hectic, much less focused on achievement than it was last July.

Part of slowing down for me has been focusing on…myself. Sounds pretty basic but the truth is that all these years that I thought I had been sufficiently focused on my needs, my body has been protesting in ways I didn’t recognize. It’s like that fleeting pain you’ve always had that you thought was normal until you realized that it wasn’t. All those headaches, joint pain, fatigue…they weren’t normal to other people, just me. And that’s not normal.

I decided to get back into powerlifting last year. I had gotten interested in it back in 2013 and used a variety of books and YouTube videos to “train” myself. But last year I finally found a coach and began in earnest. The thing about lifting competitively is that you very quickly learn to connect your mind and body. At least, most people do.

Some people say that the mind/body connection is usually disrupted by trauma, meaning that many of us willingly, albeit subconsciously, learn how to tune out our bodily needs when listening to those needs brings us too close to remembering some trauma it has experienced. I never would have thought that this would be true for me – the strong one, the confident one, the one who will join in any scrap even if it means her ass is getting kicked, the one who faces down every truth without fear. And yet, my mind does not have the ability to connect with my muscles with the immediacy that it should. In some cases, it just doesn’t talk to certain muscles at all, in the same way that your mother refuses to speak to your grandmother over some years-old slight that she can’t even remember. I hear my coach say to me “sit back on your heels and squeeze through the thighs” and I don’t know what that means. My weight continues to crouch over my toes and my thighs lie slack as my quads take up all the work like a co-dependent family member. In fact, bodies that aren’t connected to their minds have so much in common with dysfunctional families. Certain parts become overdeveloped, having done the work of another muscle group for years, only to one day buckle under the strain.

But not all is trauma and bad news. Some of my muscles have begun a tentative dialog with my mind. No one is agreeing to anything yet but at least there have been some discussions. There are days where my hamstrings finally feel as though they have pulled their weight or my core finally takes on her responsibilities as a parent to the rest of my muscles. It’s on these days that I realize I am actually slowing down. I have made a momentary connection with myself and I feel strong enough to perhaps one day face the past head on – fearless, confident, and eager for the fight.

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