What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Let’s go! We’re going for a little ride. It may not be easy, but I hope it will be worth it. Sometimes you have to work harder than you ever thought you would just to put one foot in front of the other, but that’s OK. You are OK, just as you are. Yes, you have been hurt. There has been injury. Make whatever changes you need to make to be able to keep going, but just keep going.
Stop looking around and comparing yourself to everyone else. Just stop it. Every body has a different biography and a different biology and you are in yours so work with it and maybe even try to love it a little more. Worry less about what you look like and more about what you feel like. Yes, that person has the _____________ that you wish you had, so-and-so has the _______________ that you used to have that you’re terrified you’ll never get back, and right now none of that matters. Your task is to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.
It hurts. Dammit this hurts. Just. Keep. Going.
It is possible to go whole days, weeks, months even without truly feeling your heart beat. But wowza do you ever feel it now. You are pushing yourself. Past the nonsense and through the pain. And when you push yourself, your heart will let you know. When you grow, when you learn, when you’re scared, when you look at someone you love, your heart will get your attention and remind you what is important and how strong you are. Sometimes you just have to feel your heart leaping out of your chest like the eager arm of a star student shooting into the air when she knows she has the answer. Sometimes your heart has the answer but there is too much other noise in your head to clearly hear it.
This is cheesy pop song territory now. But just for this moment, give in to the pop. Imagine, for a minute, that the pop songs know a thing or two. That you CAN tell it to your heart, that love is a battlefield but you’re gonna hear me roar, that you shine bright like a diamond and are also (somehow simultaneously) titanium, and that yes, he oughta know. Close your eyes and listen for the beat. Now get on it. One foot in front of the other. You can do it.
You know where you’ve been and what you’ve done but even you may not know the full extent of what you can do when you put your mind and heart to it. Don’t crumble under some oppressive pressure to be amazing, though. You already are amazing; you just may not always own that and lead with it. That’s OK too, you’re learning. And when the lessons get foggy, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
You are not a superhero but you’re a pretty super person, and every now and again even super people have to slow down and catch their breath. Slow to a crawl if you need to, but don’t give up entirely. It is much easier to speed up again if you’ve slowed down than it is to recover if you’ve completely stopped.
You didn’t expect to be here on your own, but you are. So--what, are you gonna stop and ruminate on who you wish were next to you right now? Does that make sense? No. You are enough. That sounds like crazy talk sometimes but you need to get used to that idea. It may take some time, yes. And in the meantime? Breathe and keep going.
You are strong and right now you don’t look half-bad, either. Forget the number on the scale for just a minute and look at what you can do when you work with your body instead of against it!
You are alive in this moment and this moment is awesome! And you can keep going.
Everything that you have just read is what I was saying to myself during the amazing spinning class I took at the gym this morning. (Sure, it would be nice to completely get out of my head, but this was an uphill battle for me in every sense and I had to fight hard to get to the end, talking myself through every step.)
I haven’t taken a fitness class of any sort, let alone a notoriously cultish spin session, in years. I’m a regular gym-goer but as I’ve written about before, I’ve put on a few pounds lately that I can’t seem to shake and being in a mirrored room of other bodies to compare myself to where I don’t know if I will be able to do everything they are doing scared the poo out of me. Mentally, I’m a long way from the Pia of Steel who used to claim the front row position of the hardest class on the gym schedule and rock it out with relative ease.
But “I’m a long way from” and “used to” are phrases that I use way too often that just don’t serve me in the here and now. I remember the triumphant feeling of spinning, the way I could push myself when encouraged by a great instructor and also the people around me, all of us facing different challenges but on the same ride together. I’ve thought about going back for months now but hadn’t made the plunge until today. I was entering the gym for my usual solitary workout, and saw people setting up their bikes in the spinning studio. Something came over me and I ran to the front desk, signed up for an empty bike, and ended up on an unplanned, incredibly rewarding ride.
It’s definitely been awhile and I definitely stumbled, but I kept going. At the end, soaked in sweat and fighting for breath, my thunder thighs burning hot like the river Styx, I felt great. I had done something I wanted to do and sometimes that is the triumph, no matter how great or small the thing itself may be. A spin class might seem totally trivial to many of you, but for me to be down on my body the way I have been, dealing with a breakup, the only person in the class not in head-to-toe LuluLemon gear and using sneaker cages on the bike instead of wearing spin shoes… I was downright scared going in and I was victorious walking out.
Physiologically speaking, in terms of resistance exercise and weight training, to build muscle and gain strength the muscle has to be torn or damaged and it then it is the body’s natural repair process that makes it stronger.
The heart is made of muscle. Let the tears heal and become stronger.
After the class, a very fancy lady sweating perfume and elitism leaned in to me and hissed, “You should really think about getting a pair of spin shoes, dear. It’s a much better experience.” Ordinarily, I might have felt the need to tell her that I have an amazing pair of spin shoes, but they are in storage in NY, across the country from our LA gym. I might have found a conversational way to make excuses for myself, to tell this complete stranger whom I distinctly did not ask for shoe advice that I have moved across the country six times and it is really expensive, and I’m in the least financially prosperous time of my life right now so I came to LA this time with only essentials and have been making do with what I brought.
I might have dropped some stellar self-deprecation as I unhooked the admittedly unwieldy but absolutely acceptable, functional, and fairly genius sneaker cages from my bike, truly the only person in the room having to bend down and do this, drawing further attention to my alleged unworthiness.
But not today! Today, ain’t no one gonna break-a my stride. I just smiled blithely at her and nodded. My journey is none of this woman’s business and I don’t care if she thinks I’m a pauper who somehow snuck in through the back door. I don’t owe her an explanation and I owe myself better than not feeling good enough. I know who I am and why I am here.
Not every day starts off like this, of course. We have all been caught in our share of shitstorms, and there will undoubtedly be more to come. But right now, in this moment on this day, I know that I am capable of doing what I set out to do, which is amazing. My heart is telling me I’m alive and my mind is telling me I matter. I just wanted to share that with you, because if you can see these words, you matter too. It’s that simple. No matter what shoes you have on, you can take another step. Just keep going.
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