“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
I was a late arriver to the gym scene. My husband took up jogging in the early years of our marriage, but I always told him I preferred to exercise my mind. With a good book, on the couch. After a while, in the interest of a peaceful marriage, I went along with early morning outings for a jog or a bike ride. That was not a skill of mine, either – I was ok with the riding part, but the dismounting neatly was always a challenge. I would wait until there was no one around before I even attempted to stumble off.
I had not been particularly athletic as a child. I loved to play outdoors, but didn’t have much of that natural talent that takes you to greater heights. You could count on me to be a team player, but just don’t expect me to deliver in a crunch. In netball I was the wing defender, sticking to my opponent like glue. In volleyball my aim (which I didn’t always achieve) was to avoid being hit on the head. I would volunteer to fill holes in the line up when the talented ones didn’t show up. What can I say, the spirit was willing, but the Jones athletic gene somehow skipped our generation.
It may sound surprising to those who think of the US as the leader of all innovations and style, but many of my ‘firsts’ took place in Jamaica. First time I had a facial, first time I had a pedicure, first time I had a massage. Part of the reason was that my best friend and instigator recognized that if she didn’t make me do something just for me, it would never happen. It was when I went to Jamaica that I shed all my daily responsibilities of work and motherhood, and remembered that before I was anything else I was a person, deserving of being pampered and nourished. It is amazing how many people (particularly those with the XX chromosomes) neglect themselves in favor of every other person in their lives.
Another thing that happened to me in Jamaica (trust me, there are many more firsts, but I have to save some for my memoir!) was that I realized that even though I had not been a star athlete, I had abilities that I never tested. As I watched my girlfriend and her sister working out (with a personal trainer), I realized that it could be fun, it could be done to music, and it might be beneficial.
But it wasn’t until I made the decision to end my marriage that I gained the motivation to put my money where my mouth was. I signed up for a gym membership and began my ‘eat your heart out work out regime’. I realized that time and four babies were taking their toll, and that even though I had never had to think about weight or dieting (breastfeeding four babies has a way of burning through the calories), I was entering a phase of my life that was not as forgiving. I started out timidly, mostly attacking the elliptical as I listened to ska and reggae classics (played on a Walkman – remember those?) and worked up a sweat. Tempted by three free sessions with a personal trainer I splurged, and with the help of Ignacio (no speak too good the English, but I loooooove this machine!) I toned and shaped and defined and crunched.
That was close to twenty years ago! Ignacio soon proved too rich for my blood, and I tried to work out my own routine. Until another friend got me into the classes – kickbox cardio, Pilates, and the like, ways of combining workout with weights, communal pain and pride. I discovered that having a partner meant that on the days that you could have talked yourself out of going, the thought that she wanted to go motivated you, and vice versa. It was a good way to end the day, to laugh off stress and sweat out impurities.
I wonder how many people are now motivated by the phenomena of cameras everywhere and social media to display your flaws? My daughter and I once treated ourselves to a Glamour Shots session, and fell in love with our airbrushed selves. I joked that I would no longer be seen in public, I would just send one of my airbrushed photos with an apology, I would stay forever airbrushed in people’s minds. But the cruelty of today’s world is that your friends are happy to capture and plaster candid shots everywhere, you have no time to suck in your gut, to turn your best side, to freshen up your makeup. Of course, the millennial generation and two year old girls everywhere have learned to keep their poses camera ready. And they make sure to delete all unflattering shots before anyone dares to upload them to the world.
I recently embarked upon a 21-day plant based diet (it has gone on for 28 days now!). I was partly motivated by a photo I saw on Facebook, a picture of me. I am not in the ‘eat your heart out’ phase of my life any more, but rather at a point where the miles are piling up on the milometer, and it is wise to take better care of our vehicles. My exercise routine is currently confined to a once a week Zumba session, but I console myself that it is better than nothing. In the Zumba religion we worship the beauty of a moving body, we appreciate the gift of rhythm and strength, we give thanks to those who went before us and we give a little wiggle for no reason.
This Friday morning I hope you are letting your body know that you appreciate how far it has brought you, and treating it in a way that will help you look good in random photos, and feel good at the end of a stressful week. I hope you are letting your inner beauty shine through the cracks that a life well lived has given you. And may you nourish and nurture yourself first, so that you can take care of all of those who depend upon you.