It’s not exactly breaking news to know that most women exist in a love-hate battle with their bodies. Some of us endure more of a hate-hate relationship; resulting in a daily experience of torment.
I lived that experience for a ridiculously long time. I thought being skinny would fix everything, whatever “everything” was.
I became so obsessed with being skinny that I pushed myself to weighing 97lbs. I won’t detail the gruesome schedule required to attain this ridiculous number, but I will tell you that my eating disorder almost cost me most of my vision.
But this isn’t some depressing story of another messed up girl who hates her body & tried to starve her life into submission.
Rather, this is a description of the liberation I found in my sport & the threat I face in having to let go of it as I have come to know it. I’m sure this sounds melodramatic & slightly depressing, but I promise we’ll turn a corner if you stick it out.
My life as an MMA fighter brought me face to face with my physical self. It shouldn’t be shocking to hear that for someone to essentially starve & over-exercise themselves to 97lbs, one must make the decision to tune out the body. In my field of work this is known as “disassociation”; & this was something, healthy or not, that I came to master.
In my opinion, some of my success as an athlete came from the ability to disassociate from physical discomfort. In this way, I did what I knew I needed to do; I shut off, tuned out & did what had to be done. Being an athlete presents an interesting dichotomy; you must tune into your body because your success depends upon it performing properly, & yet a successful athlete needs to ignore the physical & mental pain/discomfort/exhaustion from time to time.
When I wasn’t in a training camp I trained 5-6 days per week for 1.5-3 hours & the more I progressed in my sport the more frequent my intense training became. I was fuelled as much by the pursuit of progress as I was the fear that anything less wouldn’t be good enough.
And I suppose that fear leads me to where I am today.
Every day, I am limited by physical pain. I used to walk into the gym & do whatever I needed to do without much concern over the potential cost to my body. I hoisted 250lb men in the air for takedowns. I ran at maximum HR for 20 minutes or more. I sparred with people twice my size. I was beat up & beat down & I rose each day to do it again because I knew it made me better.
Today I count myself lucky if I can push a moderate pace on the Ellipitcal machine.
My body is asking for things I haven’t given it in a long time. It’s asking for generosity & patience & kindness & respectful acknowledgement of limitation. And I know without question that it is the right thing to do. My physical pain is a testament to what happens when one chooses not to listen to what the body asks for.
But I find myself at the door to some of my deepest & oldest fears.
I am afraid that taking it easy & scaling everything back will cause me to lose many of the things I love about my life & myself.
I am afraid to lose my strength & power. I am afraid of losing the sense of knowing where I belong in the world. I am afraid of losing my fitness & getting fat.
I am afraid that what I have to give is not enough because it represents a fraction of what I am used to giving: to my sport, to my training, to my goals & to myself. No matter what happened in my life, I always had the consolation that chance could never claim my dedication.
I am in a period of readjustment & those demons in the closet are stirring. My sport brought me assurance because I knew that no matter what I looked like, my body was the result of performance. Regardless of how it looked, I knew it could do amazing things.
But I can’t do many of those amazing things right now & so the balance is unsettled.
But here is where I turn it around.
I’m not going to act like being in pain every day doesn’t suck, because it seriously sucks.
But underneath my frustration & self-pity is the opportunity to listen. And this might sound like some new-age-hippy-bullshit, but the truth is that my life has been consumed with “shoulds” & “could’s” & “have to’s” for as long as I can remember.
I suddenly find myself asking the most preposterous question: “What do I feel like doing?”
It’s not an easy question to answer because it’s been so long since I asked it & it’s a question long answered by fear.
At first it was my fear of ‘fat’ & then it was my fear of missing an opportunity. That’s not to say there wasn’t passion & enjoyment, but what I wanted was never as important as what I thought I needed to do in order to be better.
In life’s ironic way, I find myself unable to not listen to my body because it is relentless in its reminders of what it can & cannot do.
And I find myself amidst a very physical experience & yet like all of life’s big, crazy events, what this is really about, is not what is happening.
It’s about so much more.
It’s easy to life a life full of distraction so the buzz of your doing distracts from the internal buzz of thought & experience. I am not saying that a life filled with activities & hobbies is a negative thing, but I think one can become addicted such things because within stillness echoes the rumblings of our darker side.
Being fully present in our lives is difficult & exhausting. We turn on the T.V. or laptop & tune out our internal world. In many ways this is decompression; it’s how we unwind from a long day of work or school or raising kids. But just as easily, what we do becomes a distraction from experiencing life & ourselves.
Our lives are claimed through sequences of seemingly insignificant moments. Whether you like it or not, you are here now, in this form, for a limited amount of time. I do not know what you could do right now to claim this moment as yours, but I know you have the opportunity to claim it. Whether you need to take a walk & admire the moon, have a glass of wine, or forgive yourself for not being perfect, you have the opportunity to tune in & listen, because not listening catches up with us sooner or later.
And that might sound like some hippy-bullshit…but my name is “River”, after all.