Thursday, May 06, 2010

Self Care

I did some yoga today. I'm stiff and my breathing is ... well ... I'm barely breathing. I managed one breath deep enough that it hurt. I imagine that part of my lungs hasn't expanded in a few years. When I was young and tried to do exercise that I hadn't done in awhile I would be able to do it. I might feel stiff or achy afterward but I could do it. Not now. I have no range of motion, no stamina. Everything feels like a strain.
Barbara and I had an interesting talk about several body issues the other day. She has this great articulation about self care. When you're a baby and even a young child your parents take care of you. Hopefully. As you grow up you begin to take over. Again. Hopefully. But when you're young it doesn't usually take much time or energy. As you get into middle age self care begins to require time and energy. That has certainly been my experience.
I remember when I was a preteen and teen I was excited about self care. I bought lotions and acne creams and nail files. I read teen magazines for instruction. In my late teen and young adult years and became more invested in a rock and roll identity I began to eschew self care. Drugs, alcohol, risky behavior. Yeah baby. At the same time there was hippie identity, which included macrobiotics and yoga and drugs that didn't cause irreparable damage. All of which was expanded upon by the New Age in which self care revealed the true depth of one's self worth and probably concern for the planet.
I remember a time when I ( and many of my friends ) went directly from aerobics class to a bar and usually straight to the bathroom where we had a rolled up dollar bill in one hand and a cocktail in the other. And it always seemed to me that the people who partied the hardest were the first to show up at class the next day.
This is the American way. A commercial for junk food is followed by a commercial for a weight loss product and then one for a pill to enable the consumption of foods that may be difficult to digest and then an exercise program.
I always leaned toward the identities that hurt. And I think I did that as an act of rebellion. I'd been told for so long that, since I was fat, I was ugly and unhealthy. The simple eat less/exercise more equation was never simple for me. It required eating so much less and exercising so much more and never really resulted in success. Read: thin. Rock and roll, hippie identity gave me the attitude needed to reject some of that junk, buoyed no doubt by my grandmother's disapproval of dieting.
The book I'm reading mentioned referenced the Lacan Mirror theory and sparked a memory of standing in front of a full length mirror as a preteen admiring my flattened belly and budding breasts. My thighs were still "too big" but another week of diet soda would fix that. Uh. Not so much. I compare that to how I feel when I look in the mirror now. Older. Full belly. Drooping breasts. I've done standing in front of a mirror and work on changing what I see bit. And I often have moments of seeing beauty. What I'm certain of is that the view in the mirror changes even when my body doesn't. What is really reflected is how rooted I am in any given moment.
I feel resistance, bordering on contempt for people who do self care. I used to hate the lotion girls. You know, the girls who have a lotion for every part of their body. Now I am a lotion girl. Lotion for my feet. Lotion for my legs. Lotion for pain. Lotion for my hands on the desk, at the ready. It's exhausting.
My knee is much better but still hurts sometimes. And I experience days when all of my joints ache. It can be completely debilitating. Hence the yoga.
I watched an episode of House the other day in which he comes to realize how his anger and mistrust of everyone is a way of keeping him separate. I'd seen it before but something about it hit me this time. I'm trying to understand my own self imposed isolation. A conversation between Moyers and Barry Lopez brought on more thinking.
"And then you have to ask yourself, "Why does the Dalai Lama laugh? Why does Desmond Tutu--you know, was somebody that I worked with once--why is he capable of such laughter?" And I think part of the answer is that they're fully comfortable with the riotous expression, the darkness and the light, of what it means to be alive."
I like that. It feels lucid and useful.
"There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light."
Every week I rotate my plants. I enjoy watching the way they move toward the light. I have a plant that is only happy in one spot in my apartment. It really wants more direct light than I have available but it survives in that one spot. I move the furniture around it. Some of my plants are fine far away from the window and others need to feel the rays of the sun. So a "worthy expression" is determined by our individual natures.
I am someone who like the autumn and the early sunsets. I like the retreat inward. I also like this time of year when every morning is a bit brighter and every evening comes later. I know I need my inward time but I also need to be in relationship and dialogue to grow. How much of each changes all the time and my default is withdrawal. I have to push myself out the door. When I was younger it was the opposite. I wanted to be out in the mix all of the time.
I watch as House resorts to snarky, meanness and then watch as he becomes aware. In and out.
Yoga requires inwardness. I do often listen to the news while I do yoga but it seems less useful. Yoga is now physically and emotionally difficult. My resistance to self care continues. I lean toward it. Off balance and stiffly.

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