Well, that’s new

Photo: Pixabay via Creative Commons

Photo: Pixabay via Creative Commons

Last week after a particularly heinous day – one of those in which every third person I met noted that I looked stressed or wondered aloud if I was having a bad day – I was struck by the realization that a novel restlessness was washing over me.

“I need to go to the gym.”

This is a thought I’ve had many times before, usually accompanied by a guilt/dread combo. Mostly I wish I could be a floating head. I like things that require my head – thinking, conversation, my eyes, kissing. My head is socially acceptable, interesting even. Everything I have to offer society is in my head. My body, though. That’s a different story. The innocent, twisted logic of a child in fear led to certain choices about my body the consequences of which I still lug around with me today. I wasn’t blessed with an overabundance of grace or coordination. When projectiles like softballs or frisbees are involved, I generally catch with my face. I’ve always felt guilty playing team sports because I’m generally an asset to the opposing team.

All of this to say that I have a deeply ingrained instinct for avoiding things that remind me that I have a body at all. There are a handful of exceptions – camping and Cornerstone and hiking and the like. The general rule, though, is avoidance. I hate talking exercise with a guy I like, and prefer shopping for clothes solo. Even though I’ve tried to be active my whole life, those endeavors are like a weird secret habit I keep from people.

A little over a month ago, an old hip injury flared up. The initial injury happened four years ago – what I get for taking a kickboxing class (worst pacifist ever right here). A physical therapist friend has taken pity and started coaching me through the healing process this time around, and part of that has been restrictions on what I am allowed to do at the gym. Now I’ve spent a fair number of hours on personality tests in my lifetime, and have half-assedly joined some of the gimmicky weight loss groups out there. Any time some test or person has tried to determine my “locus of motivation” results are inconclusive. Apparently I’m neither motivated internally nor externally. Turns out, I’m most effectively motivated by rebellion. As soon as limits were placed on my gym activities, I found I wanted to do all the things.

So I’ve been going more regularly than ever before. I’ve been pushing the limits so I can find a sweet spot between healing and health. And last week, my brain fried and my emotions spent, I heard my mind say:

“I need to go to the gym.”

Not out of obligation. Not out of resigned acknowledgement that I live inside a body. But out of a genuine desire to inhabit my body. I needed to move, distract my mind from its spinning, wear myself out. As a friend said to me recently, apologizing for running late to meet up because he needed to go to the gym “and get his head on straight.”

It’s not the first time this has happened to me lately. After responding poorly to surprising news. After an intense and confusing encounter with an old friend. When an emotional cyclone erupted on me over a weekend of crazy. Last week, when all the expectations on me and my personal disappointments were layering themselves in my mind.

So I went. I cranked up the Irish pub rock (louder than my phone could approve of), exhausted myself on the bike, learned half a dozen new upper body lifting exercises. Stretched and yoga’d myself into a hazy puddle. My head, my heart, and my body all came into alignment, and for a moment all three were friends.

Hopefully this new-found impulse sticks. I’d like to learn more about this living below the neck, tiring and scary and insecurity-inducing as it may be. Incarnation, it turns out, is a visceral sort of thing.

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