Owning power

Posted on March 10, 2015

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There are few things more intimidating than going to the free weights section of some big, rather expensive gym and being the only woman there.

Well, actually, there are few things more intimidating than going to the free weights section of some big, rather expensive gym and being the only woman there next to man who has gigantic, 100 lb free weights in each hand and is actually lifting those things above his head.

Ever since I decided to finally suck up my huge dislike for weight lifting and start this Jamie Eason bodybuilding program, it seems like I feel intimidated much more often than I’d like.

At first, it was because someone working out next to me had biceps as big as my legs. Then, it was the large amount of heavy, funky props I saw participants using in a group lifting class. And then it was the megaman who could, somewhat easily it seemed, shoulder press the size of a petite human with one arm.

I’ve never been one to shy away from pushing myself out of my comfort zone but, then again, rarely do new things have the power to make me feel so weak.

As I’ve mentioned before, feeling weak isn’t something I deal with well. I really don’t mind all that much if I feel stupid or inept or clumsy. But feeling weak? That’s the worst.

And I don’t just mean feeling physically weak, either. My memories of feeling emotionally weak-like all of those times I didn’t stand up for myself or the times I backed down too quickly or the times I got my heart broken or the times I realized a trusted friend wasn’t really trustworthy at all-all of these, too, have contributed to the visceral, gut-level aversion I have to weakness.

This is exactly why I decided to take on a body building program in the first place. This is about so much more than looking awesome in a bikini or finally being able to see my triceps (although that’s certainly part of my motivation). This is about feeling strong and confident and sexy. This is about a commitment to look everything that scares me right in the face and to refuse to be defeated. This is about feeling powerful.

So, there I am, at this gym that seems to attract people with huge muscles, and I decide-enough with the 10 pound weights. Enough with the wimpy, girly lifting. It’s time to get serious!

I pick up a 20lber. I start doing the deltoid exercises (just the way they look on the paper I’ve printed out) and then, I injure my rotator cuff.

I injure it bad.

As in, I now have to go to physical therapy three times a week bad.

I don’t know if everyone’s body is like this, but my body always seems to get sick or hurt in a way that’s way too symbolic to be a coincidence. Like the time in my life when I was consumed by malignant self-loathing, and then I got a big malignant tumor. Or when I refused to deal with some heart-breaking family issues, and then I was diagnosed with heart failure. Or how, every time I load up my schedule with so many commitments that I can barely breathe, I get some kind of respiratory infection.

So here I am again. Taking on things that are too heavy for me? Lifting too much? Letting my fear of weakness determine how I hold things up?

Check, check, check.

Sometimes, when someone is interested in life coaching and they’re not quite sure what it is I do, I ask them to tell me about their closets. What they like, what they don’t like. And then, when I give them a quick analysis of the areas of their life where they’d probably benefit most from coaching, they think I have some kind of psychic superpowers.

But I don’t have any superpowers. I just know that everything is connected to everything else. So when a person tells me she doesn’t think she has enough colorful clothes in her wardrobe or that her shoe collection is too impractical, I know what that really means.

I also know what it really means when someone, who is so afraid of feeling weak, tries to overcompensate for this and, in turn, allows herself to get hurt.

I get it, I get it, I get it.

I love Brene Brown. I don’t know what it is about that woman  but every time I read an article by her or see a clip of her explaining something on Oprah, I think-That woman knows her shit. What she says resonates with me. And one of her most well-known talks, the one that makes me cry every time I see it, is the Tedtalk she gave about embracing vulnerability.

This is what I’ve been thinking about as my PT has me roll a ball up and down a wall and do some strange stretches inside of a door frame-I keeping thinking-isn’t it ironic that I have to feel weak to get over my fear of weakness? And doesn’t (at least for me) weakness feel just like vulnerability?

It’s not like I don’t try to be vulnerable. I do! I mean, I write this very personal blog! My thank you notes to people come directly from my heart, with no self-consciousness attached whatsoever. I will often be the first person to smile at someone else and sometimes I’ll even be the first person to hug a friend when I see her.

But even this stuff, this small stuff, takes more courage than I’d like to admit.

The other day I was looking over my New Year’s resolutions because I know that it’s about this time when resolutions start to lose their sticking power and I didn’t want that to happen to mine. One of my resolutions was to start having “soul-deep conversations.” I remember, when I made this resolution, I had decided that it was time to be brave enough to be more real and more open with people. I’m friendly and extroverted and I’m like the queen of small talk but I don’t want my life to only be full of acquaintances and senseless chatter.

I miss those conversations that I used to have-the conversations that keep you up late at night and that make you think, for days afterwards, and that actually change your life. I miss having those and so I made that resolution.

Then I went back to being how I always am-determined not to show my cards to anyone. Turning away when someone starts to open up to me. Feigning indifference. Because, I guess I decided that when people see vulnerability, they pounce. Or they laugh. Or they think you’re too sensitive or too naive or too weak.

Except, of course, that’s not entirely true. Not everyone pounces. Not everyone will think that you’re weak. There’s certainly  a time and place to be open with people, yes, but those times are probably more prevalent than I allow them to be.

I’m not sure how I’m going to learn to muster up enough bravery to be more vulnerable in my daily life. I don’t have a plan for this and I don’t have a way to ensure that it happens. But this first step, this owning of who I’ve been and owning who I’d like to be-there is power in that. There is power in owning your weaknesses.

And maybe it won’t be so difficult to figure this out after all. Maybe I’ll just approach vulnerability like the way I’m approaching healing my shoulder. I’ll try it out and if it’s uncomfortable, I’ll try something else. I won’t push myself so that it hurts but I won’t hold back so much to inhibit strength, either.

I’ve been working on this poor rotator cuff now for a good two months. Recently, I’ve been able to lift again. Nothing super crazy or heavy, but enough to see results. I certainly don’t look anything like Jamie Eason just yet, but yesterday I saw a back muscle I’ve never seen before. For the first time in six months, I’ve been able to go to hot yoga and do almost all of the poses.

It is a slow undertaking, healing a shoulder muscle. It’s a slow, frustrating, painful undertaking. I wish it would just hurry up and heal so I can get on with my life but there’s obviously something I’m being taught here.

Our bodies are the wisest teachers. Mine seems to keep telling me that healing can’t be hurried. That real change often happens much slower than I’d like. And that, somewhere, within my perceived weakness, lies the potential for me to find a power I haven’t found before.

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