For 4/5 of my unnatural adult life, you could say that I was very much comfortable with not being an active human. Actually, comfortable isn’t an appropriate word so much as ambivalent is. Exercise was simply not my thing -- I wasn’t an athlete by any sense of the definition in high school. I was content with walking everywhere, but that was about it. If you had asked my roommate freshman year of college if I would eventually get on board with exercise, she would tell you that you were insane.
But, at 20, I started taking once weekly spinning classes, which dramatically changed my outlook on exercise. It wasn’t that bad! I actually looked forward to my 45 minutes of cardio. I often found that the tight feeling I felt in my chest (like I couldn’t breathe) would all but disappear by forcing myself to get a little short of breath. Who knew that exercise would help with my anxiety? Lots of people -- I just didn’t listen to them.
My point being, it took me a very long time to start exercising multiple times a week, if not daily, but now that I have arrived, I have started to learn how to cope with a number of experiences that extend beyond the space in which I am exerting myself. Some of this, I have come to realize by experiencing what is known to many as The Class with Taryn Toomey. It’s 75 minutes and my goodness, it is h-a-r-d and essentially comprised of repetitive plyometrics and calisthenics -- the repetition of which is the challenge.
We’re talking like, 5 minutes straight of burpees here (among other exercises), you guys, it’s no cake walk in any sense of the expression. And the thing about this repetition is, you really start to feel fatigue and discomfort. In a very real way. Three minutes into burpees, you want to stop. Really, who could blame you? You definitely want to scream. Which is great, because at The Class, you are actually encouraged to use sound and exert yourself audibly. This, my friends, makes all the difference.
Why? Well, you see yourself and probably hear yourself (internally) express resistance to feeling discomfort. “I don’t like this,” or, “I don’t want to do this,”or, “f*ck this burns, I am tired and wish I didn’t feel this way.” These are probably similar to things you have felt in other areas of your life. This has manifested itself in a very ugly way for me, because instead of recognizing discomfort with something and trying to move through it, I have often let myself internalize anger, or sadness or confusion, which ultimately only leads to me wading through a foggy muck while miserable. And I stay that way for a while. Or I engage in self-destructive behavior that will harm my in the long term to relieve my immediate need for “comfort in the short term.” It’s a subtly vicious cycle that has permeated most of my adult life.
As we move into 2017, I have decided that I’m going to resolve myself to at the very least, try not to internalize all of the things I feel but instead, let myself feel them. All of this became all the more clear to me with the loss of Carrie Fisher. She ranks among my many SHEroes, not because of her role as an iconic heroine in a classic film, but because of the work she did to pull back that stigma against those with mental illness.
In her memoir, “Wishful Drinking”, a book that makes me so happy I have re-read it time and time again, to the point that it is now in tatters, Carrie discusses at length her own experience with mental illness and addiction, and particularly her realization that she was relying on crutches to make herself feel comfortable. To rid herself of the icky feelings she didn’t want to deal with, she took drugs. I may not have the same life experiences or conditions surrounding me as the inimitable Carrie Fisher, but this concept of wanting to feel comfortable all of the time does. No one wants to feel sad. No one wants to feel anxiety. Who really wants to confront why they were dumped or why losing their job was so painful? No one. Especially me. But, the fact is, happiness is not a constant state of being and we should all remind ourselves of that. Rather, as Carrie so presciently explained, happy is one of a series of feelings or emotions you will experience in your day, week, month, year, decade or life. Knowing that makes all of the difference.
But I’m taking it a step further. I’m going to continue to move my body in ways that pushes me to my limit, in The Class, or out of The Class. I’m going to go for the run and push myself to not just jog because it’s less strenuous. Why? Because physical discomfort, much like emotional discomfort is fluid. You have to move through it. I’m going to strengthen my mind by strengthening my body, all while screaming during the whole process. In 2017, I will exert myself and try not to internalize every bad feeling. I’m going to do squats and lunges and burpees, and I’m going to grunt while I do it. I’m going to move my body, because that helps me feel happy. And happy is one of many feelings we should all let ourselves feel in 2017, if not just for ourselves, but for Carrie too.