LGN 63: Love at the End of the World

Inside: New things for a New Year; Old aches; Goals?; Love of self; Is it still about looking good naked?; Especially women

I embarrassed myself in front of Keith again. I’ve got three things that are show stoppers:

  1. My shoulders (they’re okay until the cycle calls for a lot of shoulder work and then they get worn down…)
  2. My lower back (after certain things like kettlebell swings)
  3. Lower leg cramps (after a few hours of more intense exercise)

I went to a workout class Friday morning and my lower back stopped me. I don’t know the right words for it. Tight? It feels like a muscle thing. Lower right-hand side. It’s been present for a few weeks. But after the kettlebell swings today it just started humming and eventually ringing like a smoke alarm. It’s like when you do an isometric exercise and you get that burn except the muscle fatigue/burn doesn’t go away. It’s additive. If you see me squatting with my back against a wall I’m trying to give it a little stretch. Of course, by that point it’s too late. So far, anyway.

Oh well. Stupid aging and sedentary desk job habits. Gotta do some stretching and finally get a massage. Where’s my Tiger Balm? And where is this Traumeel? (GNC, possibly.)

Regrets

Anyway, it’s almost a new year. Man. That’s got me thinking.

I have a few regrets about things I’ve done or said. From my younger days mostly. The vast majority are concerning what I haven’t done or said. That may be cliche but it’s true. We all have them even when we say we don’t. But I suppose there’s a difference between acknowledging them and mourning them.

I’m thankful that the days are going to start getting longer. I need the evening sun for my sanity and life balance, I’ve realized. But every day when I’m looking forward to something in the future every now and then I realize that the clock is ticking.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve wasted the past few decades. I don’t know what to do about that. Then I think that I have fewer decades ahead of me than I have behind me and that’s just — what the hell have I been doing? Why didn’t I start strength training ten years ago?

New Things

Like, I’m in this new apartment now and it’s a really nice place. I’ve got the junk haulers coming in one more time on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been convinced that I do actually need some furniture and that things should match. Decor. My family is on the case now and I’ve got some friends with good eyes for crafting spaces.

When I come home I want to be relaxed and comforted and in an environment where creativity can flow. I want it to feel like a haven to other people, too. Or at least a place where a few friends can come and plop down on a couch and decompress for a while. Hm. I’ll need a couch for that.

Up until now I haven’t felt like I’m here, though. I feel out of phase. I haven’t had a chance to explore my surroundings. I’ve only seen about 10 people in the three weeks that I’ve lived here if that tells you anything (and it’s not a huge place). My commute is shorter. I can’t figure out where the time is going.

Goals?

Uh…

Do you have any goals for the new year or your next phase of whatever?

The Underground Athlete community came together to help me toward my photography goals. I’ll have more to say about that and many people to thank later.

Other than that and creating a space worth being in I don’t have many specifics. I’ll have to put some thought into it.

Is it too late to sow wild oats? Where do I get wild oats?

Love & Attraction

Since I just ate a nasty pizza (I started writing this on Wednesday night and it’s now Saturday night) I feel that this is a good time to pick up on the theme of love for self despite one’s flaws or weaknesses. It’s a frequent topic on BBG2WL. How to love yourself when society or The Culture is telling you all the reasons you should be insecure and compares you to caricatures of physical perfection. Many other sites and blogs, too.

I’d like to emphasize another aspect of it.

When reading these kinds of blogs and articles I have to keep in mind that authors doing these social/culture commentaries and the sites exist to make you feel like “the world is against you but when you’re on this website you’re in a safe zone”. That’s cool but if you only read such things that deconstruct society from a particular viewpoint you’ll end up with a skewed sense of reality and self.

I mean, if you only read the magazines that are at the grocery store checkout counter and if you’re susceptible to that kind of thing then, yes, you’re going to feel dowdy and alienated by comparison.

On the other hand, if you immerse yourself in websites that are all about criticizing society and norms you’re going to feel validated and eschew being challenged.  You can easily succumb to groupthink or an ideological bubble.

We’re attracted to whatever justifies our existing beliefs and notions. We’re attracted to whatever affirms us.

We have a myriad of ways to reinforce and live with our own insecurities as a form of recreation. We make a past time of a persecution complex.

Attraction

It can get so political. All this stuff is in the air and we feed on it. So much to the point that attraction and sexuality are highly politicized and pathologized.

Is it okay to want to be attractive? Do I have to lose weight to be attractive? Am I succumbing to society to fit some oppressive media norm?  Who am I trying to be attractive for?  Society?  Myself?  A potential partner or mate?

There are those who openly criticize overweight people. There are those who criticize skinny people and fitness buffs. And on both sides of the imaginary fence there’s that persecution complex about it. Like, people talking about their haters all the time.

I say F all ‘at.

Fitness is very attractive and I think there’s a reason why people with lean, trim, muscular physiques are held up as the standard. And as sex objects.

Assuming that attraction is based on some sense or interpretation of genetic longevity, it makes sense that society’s collective, archetypal ideals of beauty and sex appeal are going to be a physique and appearance that is symmetrical, physically formidable (tall, muscular, maybe lean, maybe sturdy), healthy and capable of longevity.

Bodies that look like they can hunt and/or gather. And reproduce. And fight.  And win.  People that we find “exotic” are nature’s way of saying, “Hey. These genes are complementary to your genes and could make for some kick-ass babies. For the species!”

Of course, we’re not currently in a state of constant survival and there is a lot of social and sociological hoodoo going on. Despite the fact that a lot of us are definitely not trying to procreate, our biology is much older than our society. I think that there’s some powerful Society in there but there’s also a lot of primal brain at the controls.

Luckily, it’s not a zero sum game. There are many forms, shapes and sizes to beautiful and sexy other than 10-20% body fat and chiseled abs. So many.

Is it still about looking good naked?

Somewhat.

Look at the Olympic athletes from this year. A lot of different types of bodies. They have optimized their bioware for their sport. They’ve achieved their physical potential plus some. They were pretty much all lean. The long distance runners were really skinny with strong legs. The sprinters were muscular and sleek. Beach volleyball players tended to be tall and lanky. Actually, I’ve only seen their butts because that’s pretty much all photographers took pictures of during that event. (I do have proof that it’s possible to take photos of attractive women being athletically awesome while including their faces and sport so I’m not sure what’s up with that. Maybe those Olympic photographers get paid per cheek or for units of salaciousness.  Pornification of everything.)

Gymnasts were petite and light yet muscled. The people doing weight lifting and throwing heavy things tended to be bulky (with more mass to transfer into moving more mass).

Like I’ve said before, I think we should all be aiming for a certain level of fitness. Not primarily to look like a magazine cover model but to physically function. We should all (assuming we’re able-bodied) be able to jog at least a mile under x minutes. We should be able to sprint. Do pushup, situps, pullups and chinups. We should be able to jump and land without hurting ourselves.

Everyone would have their strengths and weaknesses. A select few would be good at everything. I’m stronger than most of the women at the gym (in some ways) but I saw a few of them who are relatively new to the gym hold a plank for three minutes straight. I can’t do that. Not without going to side planks and high planks. That’s hardcore for us mere mortals who haven’t been training for years.

I don’t know about you but even from what I just wrote I’ve still got work to do. Namely, I’ve got to get my fat percentage down so I’ll weigh less, which will make a lot of these movements a lot less taxing. I also need to do activities outside of the gym that will help with endurance and stamina. Of course, it’s a priority to keep eating healthily. For me that’s going to have to exclude gluten. After doing Justin’s PRIME program I’m pretty sure that’s the main contributor to my allergy outbreaks and things.

If we could aim for that the body composition would take care of itself.

I say, if all you can do is move a finger then work that finger out until it’s the best finger you could hope to have.

BlackTalk

Okay, I’m going to be blunt here. Women, especially, seem to internalize struggles with their body image.

A friend on Facebook occasionally posts things curated from the internet about how curvy women are attractive, too. I think to myself, “Uh. No %$@!” And it’s amazing to me that at any point these friends have doubted their own physical appeal. I think, what have you been watching or listening to that gave you the idea that your physique is in any way inadequate?

Regardless of what I think that’s been their experience. They feel and have grown up with that pressure. I guess it’s hard to not pay attention to ignorant YouTube comments and what not. Online bullies. People running auditions who tell a girl that she’s not skinny enough to do x, y or z. No matter what you do, the negative things are much more sticky than the positive things.

At times, I have been roundly criticized for broaching the subject. I suppose that’s fair. I can’t fully relate to those external and internal pressures and expectations. The way the Media presents images and roles and how it can have dramatic effects on one’s outlook. S’truth.

Well.

I’m obviously not a woman but I am an African American. I do know a little about society’s expectations, assumptions, acceptance, non-acceptance, verbal abuse, verbal and physical intimidation and so on. I’ve been too black and not black enough on the same day. Black enough to be called nigger, coon, jigaboo and threatened in school hallways and not-black enough to be ostracized in my own neighborhood and called Oreo and things like that because I went to a white school and because of the way I talk. (I had to have speech therapy in the 6th grade for a speech impediment that came out of nowhere — pronouncing R’s like W’s. Then when I transferred to the G&T program at Holabird in the 7th grade I ended up talking like the people in my environment.)

I know about societal type casting, is what I’m trying to say. And what can happen if you step or are thrust outside of it. I have some sense of media portrayal and how damaging it can be. It’s not a direct comparison, obviously. In some circles, I still have entree that a woman wouldn’t get. It’s like comparing a bruised apple to a bruised orange, I guess, but in a culture where oranges are considered more valuable.

Our awareness of these things is much greater than it used to be. The world has changed a lot. Most chauvinistic behavior is no longer socially appropriate. Behind closed doors, sure. It hasn’t disappeared. But it’s generally not cool.

FatTalk

I have also not been anywhere near skinny except between the ages of 17 and 21 or so.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m some naturally skinny athlete putting down overweight people. I am overweight.  Still.

I have said many times that fat doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or ignorant. But it usually is the result of habits and behaviors. We can do something about our habits and behaviors.  Our choices.

This is a journey full of ups and downs. I’ve come a long way, believe me, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Then when I reach my goals I’ll have to work to maintain it.

The Love

I have been stocky/husky. I have been toned and ripped (in my early 20’s). I am now muscular (having lost a lot of weight over the past 1.5+ years) yet still well-padded and looking to take care of that last 10%. Let’s just say that I could easily help you carry your couch down a flight of stairs and if I fell I’d have enough personal cushioning to avoid any serious damage.

It takes self-respect, self-love and self-compassion to love yourself as you are AND admit that you’re flawed and want or need to change.  Because that means that your love is bigger than the physical you or the psychological or the emotional you. That’s meta-love.  It’s more than just a pleasant, positive emotion or a warm feeling.

The irony is that it’s easy to look at it like that when you’re talking about someone else.  Think how many people that you care about, despite of and including their flaws and quirks.  It’s so natural.  You have friends and family members that are overweight and you love them without reservation or judgment.  You also want what’s best for them — a long, fulfilling, active life.  You may even wish that they would, say, quit smoking.  Out of love, right?

Why is that so hard to apply to ourselves?

That’s what it takes to be bigger than Society’s messages, real and/or perceived. It doesn’t mean that you won’t doubt yourself and that you won’t have unproductive phases. Or catastrophic phases. It’s not magic or a quick fix. It takes effort and time to find what works for you and even that may change, but once you find it and run with it it’s like having the wind in your sails.

There’s no amount of words from anyone else that can reach those wounded parts, though. Words and encouragement sink in eventually or become a catalyst or fertilizer for a seed of inspiration and epiphany. One can hope. But it’s a very personal journey.

I learned long ago — with the wisdom and nurturing of my family — that no matter what Society had to say about me, my worth is based on what I do and not the prejudice or ignorance of others.

Occasionally, those negatives messages would get through. Like a cold or flu virus. But a healthy organism can fight off infection.

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.

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