Reach For It: Reflecting on STRETCH

I have one of *those* coughs.
The ones where it rises deep from your lungs, wet and sore.
Born of an illness that isn’t quite enough to lay you out (I had that last week) but pervasive.

Funny that Steph’s post talks about missing yoga and missing the act of stretching. Because I’ve been feeling the same way.

School let out at the end of April; I moved and simultaneously caught two back-to-back sickness. Then a work trip to the midwest. And back home to nest.

My intention (holla to last week’s VOW) was to unpack the way I typically do — in mass and in one fell swoop. But one of *those* viruses (and another person) have a way of preventing you from automatically switching to your default; you need to adjust. You need flexibility.

So my dresser remains bare, drawers yet to be unpacked, our second room still a mess of piles and boxes. It’s driving me crazy. But I’ve been forcing my body time to heal. Time to get warmed up and out of this cold. Because there is no actual rush to get it done, just a self-imposed deadline to feel bad about failing to meet.

And that isn’t good for my mental plasticity.

I had also intended to embark back to a better exercise plan upon returning from St Louis. That didn’t happen either and the emotional kickback begat of unyielding structure has been biting at my heels.

Steph and I once discussed the challenge in loving your body when you’re not able to move it. Heart disease, a severed ICD lead, and literal micro-shocks to my system have left me too nervous to work out in the way I used to. To move and push and run. I can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t do it — but the rigidity of high standards still plays tricks on my mental ought-tos: I ought to be thinner — like I used to be. I ought to be eating 90% produce — like I used to. I ought to be spending every evening trying to get back to where I used to be.

These assumptions are like the kitchen cabinets I recently filled. While I calculated the best place to put what where, I looked at all the high shelves. I can’t put anything up there, I’ll never be able to get to it. Even on tip-toes, even STRETCHING as long as I could, it was inaccessible without a footstool.

But rather than live with the things I need always slightly out of reach, I instead just moved the whole goddamn shelf down.

To my level.
Where I am.
As I am.  And am likely to remain.

#VOWstretch & the Journey of the Love Warrior

“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”

Slay me, Cheryl Strayed (aka Sugar), just slay me. Just like spring has.

Sister told me the other night, delicately, that she though I may be a bit tender right now–her very PC way of challenging me to consider that I may have overreacted. I don’t disagree with her on that. But I did disagree with her suggesting I was too soft.

I feel like fucking stone, Sis, I said.

Minus the initial scene of the pain, I haven’t cried. I haven’t teared up. I haven’t felt pain. Or sadness.

I feel nothing.

Now I know that means that I am actually actively trying not to feel a whole lot of nothing (Thanks, Brené). My rib cage is making itself a big fucking anti-vulnerability barricade around my heart.

So this week, I continued on, just as I have been, and I honestly figured my post would be about yoga, since I went for the first time in a couple weeks this past Sunday.

It was not fun.

My body was crunchy. Uncoordinated. My balance was even more off than it usually is.

I left my mat feeling deeply unsatisfied and ran smack dab into that Cheryl Strayed quote and promptly flipped both of them the bird.

The thing is that I do actually miss yoga and know I just need to make more time for it. But this post is not about missing yoga; it’s about missing stretching. Not just the physical acts but also the spiritual, emotional and intellectual ones.

Believing in something.
Reaching for bigness.
Demanding more of myself.

This spring has taken a lot out of me professionally. It’s taken a lot from me personally. It’s left it hard to be soft and flexible and, therefore, brave and open.

So this week, as we

rest,

I am pausing. Thinking how I might return to the way of the Love Warrior and not just be open to letting pain change me but to finding joy and letting it as well (Thanks, Glennon, for your SuperSoul Session).

Annie Dillard & #VOWintend

I was listening to a podcast last week when the host quoted Annie Dillard.

It’s a quote I’ve heard several times, but during a week in which I was focused on INTEND-ing, it stopped me on some District street in the middle of my run.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

It’s a message that’s been coming to me more frequently from the universe these days: the intentionality (or lack thereof) with which I am living my life.

I say life, because it’s so true, what Dillard says.

It’s easy to be intentional with this theoretical lifespan of years. To think about the changes you want to make and the projects you’d like to tackle and believe there is and will be time to do them. That eventually things will settle down, and you will just do them.

When you start to think of your life as a single day—not in a last-day-of-my-life sort of way but in a day-in-day-out sort of way—it’s harder to hold that mindset with integrity. When you admit that how you spend your day-after-day is your life, it’s more difficult to make excuses. You simply are living the life you want or you’re not.

There are seasons in my life, just as I am sure there are in yours, when I am better at this than others. But as it almost always (and always will) happens, when life is throwing the most at me, I tend to be far under my best. And that’s because I simply let it happen. I stop being intentional. I start convincing myself that all I can do is go with the flow. That all I can do is stay in survival mode. But the truth is, I make that choice.

For example, working out used to be a part of my daily life. Every afternoon, I did it. It was not a choice I made; it was a non-negotiable part of my day that was vital to not only my physical health but my mental and emotional well-being. Then I started graduate school, and I didn’t have evenings in any more. So I relegated runs to the weekends. And then I really didn’t have weekends, so I just stopped. Incorporating it back into my life post-graduate school has continued to be a struggle. Theoretically, I have more time, but I have just as reasons why it isn’t a non-negotiable.

Now, for me, and I have known this for years, this choice is bad one for my mental health. Working out should be non-negotiable for me. While the changes in my waistline are noticeable to me, they are not significant shifts. What is significant is the lack of ownership I feel over my body. The absence of gratitude for it. The voices their absence empowers. And the not-who-I-want-to-be version of myself I become.

So last week, with #VOWintend, I made a different choice. I chose to workout. It didn’t happen every morning as planned, and it wasn’t always as long as I wanted. But I chose to make it part of my day at some point. And this week, I chose to make it part of my morning. And when it almost didn’t happen this morning for no other reason than I didn’t feel like it, I remembered those words from Annie Dillard.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

And the life I want to spend is one where I wake up and…

STRETCH.


Steph’s INTEND mantra: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Steph’s Song of the Week: Now or Never by Halsey

& Don’t miss Lin’s post on #VOWintend (currently being drafted).