Part 1 of this training recap is posted here.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
J and I were talking this morning as we do on all our days. Yeah, we talk exercise and Lists and the good, bad, ugly of my efforts with said Lists, but we also talk about a bunch of other stuff as well. Frequently our conversations trigger other thoughts and discussions.
I have no natural athletic talent or ability. I am not naturally thin, fit, strong, or anything else that would benefit me on my better health quest or to make exercise easier or more fun in flashy, show-offy ways. Extending that to life outside of the gym and any physical pursuits, in truth I really do not have any extraordinary or natural talents or abilities. Much of my life I have thought of myself as Jane Average. Or perhaps more accurately, I aspired to be Jane Average.
For many of us, our family of origin is not a Norman Rockwell painting or the stuff that is presented on family-oriented television series. For many of us, we have demons and ghosts and scars, physical and psychological, that follow us into adulthood. I remember my father telling my mother that my “inferiority complex” was a real thing and not getting better, and at 14, it struck me that my alcoholic father had more clarity than I ever realized. Like most people I know, my parents broke my heart repeatedly as a child. I forgave, because I loved them. Reality of the matter is that I grew up and once capable of making my own choices about who is part of the fabric of my day-to-day life, I did not much care for them as people.
The “inferiority complex” term stuck with me for years, mostly because it is or was true – that’s a debate that still comes up from time to time in my own mind. I felt helpless, hopeless, not good at anything, and not at all good enough. At everything – sports, athletics, school, life.
I decided really early on that the only way out of that was to try harder, work harder. It is a habit that seems to universally apply to all the endeavors in my life. Hard to explain family dynamics in the context of a blog post, but suffice to say there would be a winner (my older sister) and a loser (me) in the race to successful adulthood. In this day and age I am a serious law-abiding, rule-following Pollyanna, but as a child, I seemed like some sort of rebel with my curiosity and questions and desire to know about stuff beyond the superficial presentation.
Once the training bug got its claws into me – I have worked hard to ensure that I am at least as good as the rest of the training tribe, not a drag on J’s time, energy, and expertise. My fears of being the special needs trainee are well documented, yet so far back in my rearview it was like a different person who thought and felt and acted that way.
But it has occurred to me more than once in the last six months that I am not the average bear trainee. I work hard, I try hard, and I take on extracurricular study projects. I read and follow various coaches and fitness experts on Facebook. I have read more fitness blogs in the last year than just about anything else business or finance or even fiction related.
I am pretty much obsessed.
Early on in this journey, J suggested letting him be my gatekeeper as far as what I read or follow on Facebook. I did that exclusively for a long time, and now I find myself following links and hopping from site to site, blog to blog. For the most part it is interesting and educational on some level. The journey with J is pretty well established so that I am not led astray or my head turned by the mainstream marketing craziness that passes for diet and fitness expertise. It is fun to see things he has taught me on Facebook or other places.
There is no temptation for me in these other coaching or fitness sites. Occasionally I might ask J about something I see, but it’s not “teach me that!” type statements. More like, why are they doing that type questions. That said, my achilles heel is when they talk about results and goals and how if you’re falling short you’re not doing X, Y, Z, or all of the above. Anything that ever suggests I might not be working hard enough puts a little tiny chink in my confidence armor.
So going forward, I think it best for me, for right now, to cease reading such things, particularly posts or articles or opinions on anything to do with healthy eating and weight loss. Mainstream marketing and online voices, even well respected voices, are not doing much to advance my journey in a positive direction. IF I were completely capable of being objective, neutral, and evaluate what I read without taking it too personally, following the news and trends would be fine and good to stay abreast of the latest buzz. But I can’t be objective and neutral, and I believe it ultimately harms me.
With exercise, I am for the most part just fine. As I said, it’s interesting to me to read through what coaches J has mentioned in passing or follows religiously. It’s the “intensity” comments that tree me lately and that I will choose to bypass for now. I don’t need to let my insecurity flag fly or antagonize myself and sabotage my primarily positive outlook with my better health quest.
Which brings me to the meat-and-potatoes loitering in my kitchen sink: insecurity and a fear-based mindset. I know, had to wade through a lot of gunk to get here, right? But this is what happens when I go from the brief bullet-point phrases to actually expanding upon my thoughts 24+ hours later.
Since I got started on my better health quest, I have been a pretty consistent model of stability and consistency. I am at the gym at least 6 mornings per week, and one of the other members I see in passing most days has said to me twice in the last few weeks that I am clockwork in my routine, which I found very flattering.
Until I’m not. And then the rumblings of panic girl jitters start sounding in my mind and it feels like a major earthquake is about to occur.
To be completely fair to me, I have missed the last two consecutive Wednesday mornings for very good reasons: I could not rouse myself adequately to pull myself together and get to the gym on time. That said, I typically go on Wednesday evenings as well, for a lighter practice for me with tribe friend K, so it’s not like I am missing a lot of practice.
Thing is, I have a very healthy respect for my ingrained habit of giving up positive habits and good practices because of negative girl mojo and impulses. If it is not work related or somehow tied to a direct responsibility to someone else, my tendency to quit and abandon things before seeing them through to completion is typical behavior. If it is something I just do for myself, I may stop for a wide range of negative emotions – guilt, shame, selfishness, undeservingness. The debate of whether I am hard-wired this way or if the training from infancy is so powerful is actually irrelevant; my legacy of taking care of myself is one that I simply do not and will at some point stop, with or without advance notice and reason.
So while every perfectly reasonable soul in my life will tell me it’s fine to skip a practice from time to time, take a rest day, I have to not open my mouth and spill out the negative, self-loathing crap that skitters through my mind. It saddens me not only that I think that way about myself, but that others once closer to me thought it part of a need for reassurance and flattery. How I wish it were so simple. How I wish I did not have the mindset that does not hear or believe reassurance, flattery, or even the genuine compliments paid to me and my efforts.
Changing that – it’s work. It’s hard, arduous, apparently my whole life’s work. And I cannot relent on my discipline in this regard, and my fear of what I may do, what might happen if I loosen my grip even a little bit is very real. While in my heart and forefront of my mind I know I do not want to backslide and cease my ongoing effort with exercise and better health, a lifetime of poorer choices in taking care of myself have me genuinely afraid of relaxing and becoming too confident about it.
I do cling to my schedule, my habits, my routines. While on the outside I may look like a model of hard-working consistency in the gym, what drives that is primarily enjoyment of the challenge of mastering what I am learning and the process directly powered by a healthy fear of losing ground and gains earned thus far.
My professional success is rooted in the same sort of discipline, but different because I have a direct reward of compensation and the responsibility of being the wage earner in our family. Our economic present and future depends upon me, and it seems to tip the balance in favor of a healthier work/life balance.
In various therapeutic forums, we have discussed why I do not view taking care of myself in the same way I see making a living and ensuring M and I have the money needed to support our life and lifestyle. It comes down to this feeling of worth and self-loathing. Through the years, I have yet to find the path to complete acceptance without shame and harsh judgment. Sometimes I can do it, for awhile, yet it always seems to return to it’s natural, baseline state.
It is not so much I have completely given up on overcoming it so much as it is I am finding more productive work-arounds until they are no longer needed. Some wounds cannot be healed, only kept clean and sanitary and separate so they do not fester and infect the rest of me. In this, there is wisdom and empathy, and kind of a practicality that insists life goes on no matter how much you’re limping and bleeding behind the band-aids.
I’m closer now than I have ever been to emotionally, mentally, and overall physically healthy. And to keep pushing ever onward toward that – maybe it means continuing with a bit of a fear-based mindset. I work hard because it is the only way for me to feel productive and positive about myself. I certainly know how to do most everything half-assed, but I will feel poorly about those efforts and it will extend to feeling badly about myself. Even locked away in her cage, negative girl’s influence is never completely contained.
It has been a tough couple of weeks, and my optimism about my progress is mildly tainted by that. I know I have come a long way and the fitness highway stretches out before me into infinity. I’m excited about that. It’s exhilarating to imagine the challenges lying in wait and overcoming them, because I am quite sure it will happen for me with a lot of sweat equity invested. The hard work does not intimidate me, and I will not let self-doubt cripple me.
Just yesterday, someone in my real-life, face-to-face world asked me why I have a trainer and could I not do this myself, since I am on my own most of the time anyway? In context, this person sees it as an unnecessary expense, since he and his wife have always been athletes and are good at it. I explained some of us are not so gifted, and without someone to teach me how to do things, I would never know for sure if I was doing them right or not. Then he asked when it ends? What I said – when J retires or feels he has nothing left to teach me. But what I meant, it never ends; I will never stop learning or working to perfect my form, technique, ability.
And that, my friends, is my cheery thought for the day.