Be With Yourself

Things have been a little crazy for me lately - my mom is dealing with some health challenges, we have 3 tiny asshole feline ninjas running around, and work is always pretty busy leading up to the holiday season.  In the midst of all of it though, I've found some quiet, some space to just be.

Autumn makes me a little more reflective, internal.  I think it's that way for a lot of people.  Back-to-school always used to kick me into high gear with goal setting and planning and projects; but this year, I'm feeling a bit more settled and contemplative about how things are as they are.

Maybe it's that I've been so close to the business of life lately.  Helping someone with a chronic illness is sobering and often difficult, but it can also open up valuable opportunities for accessing compassion.  What I've learned this fall is that just being present for someone, holding space for their suffering, pain, and confusion, is a grace.  Oftentimes, people don't need you to fix something; they just need to know you care and that you're there.

It's a practice I'm trying to apply to my own life.  I find it much harder to be present for myself and what's coming up for me, than for someone else.  But you can't be a good caretaker if you're not taking care of yourself. 

Be with yourself. - superbalancedlife.com

Be with yourself. - superbalancedlife.com

I've embraced the usual things: meditation, yoga.  I've been an inconsistent practitioner of both over the past few years, but I'm starting to settle into a rhythm a little bit.  It's nothing mind-blowing: yoga 1x per week, and meditation as often as I can manage it. 

One of the things I'm learning is that the best thing we can do is work with whatever our reality is at the time.  A big theme for me these days is not pushing.  I used to push myself constantly, driven by my own fears that I was fat, lazy, and not enough.  Sure, I got a little thinner, and definitely stronger, but I also got a bunch of injuries and a heap of stress.  The nicest thing about my current headspace is that I'm taking things at a pace that feels sustainable for me.  Like, truly sustainable, no bullshit.

By being patient, checking in a lot, and waiting for the right time to move, I'm finding what works for me naturally.  Me and my body are a true team.  I'm just kind of letting things work themselves out.  It's very different from my normal agenda, but the sense of peace I feel has no comparison.

If you feel stuck, hot, frustrated, cockblocked, whatever, do what seems most contrary to what you'd like to do (life something, throw something, yell at someone), and sit down.  Try allowing those feelings to just be.  It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also been kind of the best ever, because there's always a neutral, safe place to come back to.  My feelings don't run me.  I just let them exist.  And then they move on, and so do I.

I know it sucks; Do it anyway.

Originally posted on the 4 Elements blog.

When I played roller derby, I had a saying with some of my fellow teamies when we faced endurance practice, or a small roster and were skating double or even triple jams: It sucks, but we're doing it anyway.

There's a certain power that comes from agreeing to do the difficult thing.  Our primordial brains often want to flee from activities or challenges we think will be too much or too hard.  It's very natural, but it can also get in the way of making the progress you'd like to make in training.  While I really dislike the phrase, "No pain, no gain", because it muddies the meaning of pain as a signal of impending injury or imbalance, the baseline meaning of it is pretty clear.  In order to progress, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

In roller derby, that meant skating more jams, trying new positions and skills, challenging oneself to be the best skater and teammate possible.  In weight training, it means slowly and responsibly adding more weight over time to make strength gains.  In nearly all sports, it means putting in the time and effort to train effectively and become a better athlete.

It's often hard.  It often sucks.  You're tired, you're tired of this exercise or repetition, you're not good at it, you think it's dumb, you're frustrated, you just want to leave it all behind and go have a milkshake or a beer.  I get it.

But your attitude matters here, more than nearly anything else.  If you can take a breath and go, "It sucks, but I'm doing it anyway", you have agreed to take on the challenge.  You have consented to go the extra distance to make a difference. 

I found that consent was the real key to being able to take on work I was initially resistant to.  If you agree to do something, you own it.  You can tell yourself that you can stop at any time, it's not a prison, and you are not trapped, but because you want to get better, you are doing the hard thing.  And then, at the end, you can own your success.

Courtesy of  Four Elements Fitness .

It feels really good to know that your success is solely your own.  Sure, trainers can help you with a program that will help you meet your goals, and that's important.  But ultimately, your training's success is up to your willingness to engage with it, your consistency, and your attitude.

The next time something is hard, acknowledge that it's hard, and then agree to do it.  See if you feel any differently. 

The Grace of Injury

So let's talk about my shoulder, shall we.  Ug. I really don't want to.  I have a lot of feelings about it. 

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below)Bartleby.com: Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via  Wikimedia Commons

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below)Bartleby.com: Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I have another shoulder impingement, and some wear on my AC (acromioclavicular) joint.  Basically, roller derby + CrossFit wins again in the "meat tenderized + overuse = OUCH" category.  No dang fun.

A couple weeks ago, a fellow CrossFitter asked me if I was doing the Open this year and before I ROFL-ed, I said something to the effect of "Nope, I'm recovering from a sprained wrist."  To which she replied, "You're always getting over some injury or another."

Guh.  *gut punch*

This statement stuck in my craw, a little bitter pill of resentment.  "It's true! I get hurt way more than anyone else.  I'm weak!  I'm lazy!  I'm lame!  Why can't I be a super CrossFit biohuman badass and just DO STUFF and not be stuck on the bench!  This shit never happens to Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet!  WTF?!"

My emotional reaction to another injury was pretty intense, and it came on the heels of all the other crazy stuff that's been happening in my life.  The good news is that I'm getting pretty good at dealing with big challenges, and the tools I use are more readily available and top of mind because of it. 

I've been reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, which is a book of Buddhist writings on how to deal when your life hits the skids.  One passage stood out to me:

We think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
— Pema Chodron

Things fall apart, and they come back together.  That is the circle of things, the nature of life.  I might "always" be recovering from injury, but honestly, we are all recovering from something at any given time--heartbreak, disappointment, sickness, death, a bad season finale. 

What's causing me emotional pain is my attachment to things having to always be happy and healthy and well.  The physical pain of my injury is difficult, yes.  But I'm increasing my suffering by believing that when I am in pain, it's the worst thing ever.  If I make room for my feelings, for the injury--if I have patience with myself and decide to just be with whatever comes up, I make room to honor whatever that experience is.

I tried doing this this morning in my daily 10 minute meditation practice.  I just let things come up and made space to hold them.  It was sucky.  I have a lot of feelings, and many of them are hard.  But afterwards I felt better, because I wasn't trying to run from my pain anymore, or shove it down into a dark corner of my psyche.  It was just there, just being.  And that took the sting out of it a little.

My intention is to make room for the good and the bad in equal measure, because in the overall scheme of things, the bad stuff allows us to learn.  It takes us out of our routines and patterns, shakes us up so we can understand more about ourselves and the spiritual, physical, and emotional work we need to do.  This experience of injury has been an opportunity to rest, to recover, to evaluate and reflect on what I want my life to be now, having been through the fire of the last few months.

So the next time someone says to me, "You're always getting over some injury or another."  I will say, "Naw girl, I'm always healing."