Sunday, April 14, 2013

Apologetics of the Body

And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
--Walt Whitman, "I Sing The Body Electric"

I bought a 50-pound bag of rice not to cook but to lift over my head and throw to the ground. I heard of a hill and drove the twenty minutes there to run it up and down, then drove the twenty minutes back.

I was asked by someone who doesn't know me well if I'm "still competing," and when it became clear she knew only the part of me that buys the rice and runs up hills, this bothered me.

And it bothered me that it bothered me.

So let's run up that hill together and see what's at the crest of my approaching midlife career shift, a certification in personal training after years of working in the arts and activities of the mind.

I think what we'll find is that the body needs no justification. Call me a gym rat, laugh at football players on a scholarship, assume the thick-necked among us are dumb, and I will tell you your identity cannot hide from your body image and abilities. I'll tell you that working with people on health and wellness means I have access to their full selves, because parts cannot be separated out without absurdist efforts.

Day One of theatre games with homeless women I told them that their bodies--prostitutes, some of them, sexual abuse survivors nearly all--their bodies are temples. Their bodies are homes, the only kind they have right now, the only place of regular familiarity; they must honor and care for what has been given.

But you might next scoff at my efforts to sculpt the deltoids and I'll remind you that God considered the human body the most worthy vessel for his arrival on earth, its frailties vehicles for a grand story of hope and, finally, strength.

No justification needed. Except to myself, for my feelings of discomfort. This woman knew only that I work in fitness, a field so branded by shakeweights and top ten tips that it's hard to appreciate the true successes. I wanted her to know that I read Yeats at home, and Zizek, and I teach theatre sometimes, and write some plays, and there's a book I'm trying to get published.

Because the body is tied up with the mind and soul, so, too, are my thoughts. It's embarrassing to admit how long I'd gone without purposeful movement, which is, as it turns out, how I learn and process the world. Because of time wasted, I want to help others see the big picture. The view from the hilltop.

I will have you, too, lifting that giant bag of rice once (and if) you're ready. Then maybe we'll talk recipes, or philosophy, or how you're feeling about it all. I'd like to think I'll draw like-minded clients, at least in spirit, the kind who'd appreciate an intuitive trainer.

One who likes the books but throws them out sometimes. With her nicely-sculpted arm. A June exam, here I come.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

good boys/lifting/bad things

I was accused this morning at breakfast for not keeping up with the blog.

"But I have nothing to say," I protested, feeling at once morally upright and also dishonest. For many thoughts have come to me, but none warranting an entire post. And now that I've ventured onto Facebook, those thoughts want to go shorthand for immediate consumption and liking.

The epigraph to Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes gives credit to Ortega y Gasset for this:

Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.

Yawning bunnies, Gasset. Cats in boxes, guns, Thomas Kinkaid paintings with religious sayings and also what we had for breakfast. Yummy! You like this.

I regret not having spent the winter months developing a deeper mindfulness, since you have to lay dormant anyway. And here we are in April--never mind this morning's snow--and the outside beckons, or at least the guilt to get the kids moving and out there. As the wind blows leaves and litter through the air today, I will throw a few thoughts around.

good boys
Many of you know we're raising money for diabetes research and a bike ride this summer. I've written elsewhere detailing each family member's contribution to the cause, with Simon's being the selling of comics at school--copies of hand-drawn originals, which are quite well done. Some kids have balked at his permission to do such a thing, even for charity, and others are happy to buy; he's made about 6o bucks.

Each afternoon he comes home from school and reports on the cash before dropping it into a jar. Recently, he arrived with a few extra bucks from his friend, who is selling his own wares for our cause.

This friend is making duct tape wallets, selling them to friends, and giving the proceeds to Simon for our ride. A twelve-year-old boy. A wild one, too--I've taken him and his brother to the movies, and these kids can't stop moving or talking. But his heart is right where it needs to be.

Now when Simon comes home, he reports on what he's made and what his buddy made, then drops both into the jar. I can't get over this act of generosity.

First instinct is to say rest cured my elbow of its two-year stint with lateral epicondylitis, but in the end recovery came, I believe, from not hitting stuff. This obvious fact was a good reason to finally end my stint with boxing, because I really do wish to have all parts functioning well into old age.

And this includes my head. There's no getting around the fact that in boxing, you get hit where your hard drive is stored. I have taken just two hard hits to the head, and that was enough to make me question the whole enterprise, at least for myself. Deep down, I regret having not had the time to study boxing properly, to make defense an instinct, because I do love the sport and feel I have the smarts to strategize, as well as the strength and power to do some damage. In the end, I didn't get that far, though I had a few moments of glory.

So I'm back to lifting, and enjoying the pure strength of it. In the final analysis, I am a meathead. I like muscle and I like lifting heavy stuff; there's not much more to it than that. I should be training for that aforementioned bike ride, but doggone it if it doesn't interest me at all, beyond doing something for diabetes. If I'm going to get calluses anywhere, I'd rather they be on my hands and not my butt.

There's a deadlift competition in July, and I've told myself to train slow and steady out of recovery. This was mostly working until last week, when I thought I was adding 5lb plates to either side of the bar but they were really tens. This went on for a couple of sets, while I was "taking it easy," and only when cleaning off the bar did I do the math properly. And patted myself on the back.

bad things
As the boys grow into new interests, memories return from my own childhood, and I tell them stories. Lately, many of these stories seem to reinforce exactly the things I don't let them do. Constant video game playing (though I had to collect quarters and get myself to an arcade). Junkfood eating (not my fault, but a fact). TV always on (also not my fault, though I could have diverted my attention).

Then you start to remember those who wronged you, or educated you in ways beyond your age, and though emotions are still part of those memories, you recall that you survived. And you know that your kids will, too, because you turned out mostly okay. With a lot to say, even when you stay quiet.