You know how people say things that instantly take your breath away and those things are so clever that they don’t seem like insults or negative comments but you instinctively feel this sharp corner rise up from your heart warning you to be cautious of how you proceed? And have you ever noticed that those comments usually take you completely off guard? And have you ever thought to yourself, “she couldn’t have really meant that to be offensive… she’s nicer than that, right?”
She probably is nicer than that. She probably doesn’t mean to be offensive. She probably doesn’t realize your heart has suddenly become a razor blade and you’re a little bloody on the inside. Probably not.
It so happens that I shared some details of my past life with this colleague several years prior that would absolutely justify her thinking that I was full of rage. I may have acted in ways, even, that made it clear I had a fair enough amount of rage to go around. But it struck me in this instant, that my self-care, my commitment to health had come from a completely different place. I had truly let all of those past things go. Truly. When I made my commitment to health and self-care, it was because I had deeply understood how dependent my children’s ability to love themselves was on MY ability to love myself. Every time I ran or walked or lifted weights, I was doing it with joy, thinking about my baby girl, my almost pre-teen son. These kids were going to need to learn self-love and self-care and I understood that I had to be a model of that behavior. My life – in that moment – was flooded with joy and hope and love. I sought health because of, and through, those things, and nothing remotely like rage.
All of this came to me in an instant – and there was no way to articulate it. So, I smiled and laughed. But I always wish I hadn't.
What I also remembered in that instant was that I had, once or twice, earlier in my life, sought health through rage, through anger, and hurt and (something like) revenge. So, I knew exactly what my colleague was talking about. I remember being in a kickboxing class and being told to imagine someone’s face as we were punching. It was cathartic when an important face appeared as plain as day, in my mind’s eye, and I beat the living hell out of it. But after class, that face was still there. I remember dragging my ass to the treadmill at my gym once, just after my son turned one year old. I was exhausted. I had not slept well enough the night before. I was also, at the time, starving myself (a clear act of self-hatred). I did not remotely have the energy to run. But I forced myself to run by saying the MOST horrifically nasty things to myself. I went on for the entire 30 minute run about how absolutely worthless I was. I said things I wouldn’t say to any other human being on this planet – not even certain politicians that terrify me in their stupidity – not even the “pro-rape activist” guy currently trying to make himself famous by causing others misery. I pushed through that run with total hatred for my body; total, complete, hatred and rage. I left that treadmill in tears, but dammit, I had gotten my run in for the day.
Guess what though? Hate is not sustainable. Hate will kill you. Rage is a powerful force of energy. One of my favorite Johnny Rotten lines is: “Anger is an energy.” I sang it endlessly as a teenager and as a very young woman filled with hurt and terror and rage and pain so deep I didn’t think it would ever end.
And… to be honest… pain that deep doesn’t go away completely. Just last week, something triggered what some counselors have told me is PTSD. And, I had emotions suddenly that were difficult to control. I felt things that didn’t make any sense. I cried a lot. I forgot how to smile for a couple of days. But what I know now that I didn’t know when I was a younger person experiencing this pain is that rage, anger, hatred – those emotions do not make the pain stop. They just make it worse. They take the tiny thorn in my heart and amass a darkness so thick around it that there is no room for love or healing. Last week, when the pain came, there was a moment, maybe a day, that I was tempted to give in to anger, to rage. But, I remembered. And then I let go. And I allowed the pain to hurt me instead of change me. I honored it. I said, “I remember where you come from. It’s okay. I’m going to take care of you.” And then I did.
The alternative to just feeling it, honoring it and taking care of it, is letting it kill you. And I’m not going out like that. Nope.
Over the past several months, I have lost touch with what had become my steady routine of self-care because I’ve been pouring every available moment into my little business projects, which sustain me and bring me a lot of joy, but that clearly I need to figure out some clearer boundaries for. It took me about 20 years of teaching English to establish some clear boundaries there. But we tend to take less time to realize and correct our mistakes each time we make them so I’m hoping I’m learning those clear boundaries now. I don’t need to hope. I am. I know I am.
During these last several months though, I’ve been trying to muscle through runs and swims and weightlifting sessions and bodypump classes and everything else with an energy that isn’t exactly like rage but is definitely not love, or hope or joy either. “Shoulds.” My crazy-smart sister would say that I’ve been “shouldin’ on” myself.
This morning, for the first morning in about four months, I woke up with nothing that had to be done IMMEDIATELY. No grading. No email. No phone call. No contract. No handouts for class. Nothing. Just me, in my bed, waking up slowly, while my almost-teenaged (OH MY GOD) son and his little sister snuggled up for good morning hugs. I thought: “I should get up and go for a run” and then I shook my head and snuggled harder, helped my husband get them off to school, calmly and serenely completed one of my amazing “small muscle magic” workouts (these 5 practices of my own design that I LOVE!), and then did a loving kindness meditation.
For myself: “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe.” Until I got it through my head.
For a handful of people that popped into my mind -- family members, people from my church, colleagues, friends: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe.” Until I felt filled with gratitude that these people are in my life.
For (seriously) Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, that idiot “pro-rape activist”: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe.” Until I let go of my hate and radically accepted that we are all human beings, born of a mother, destined to die. This practice is a lot like mentally taking out the trash. What good was my hate or my anger doing ME? None. So, I threw it away.
Yesterday, I was notified that I have been chosen to serve as an ambassador to The Mermaid Club again this year! Getting this news flipped some kind of switch in my head. I remembered why I sought that ambassadorship in the first place. I remembered why I started Mermaid Fitness in the first place. I remembered why I was moved to commit to a life of health and movement and cooking and eating with love in the first place: JOY. HOPE. LOVE. Giving myself those sublime gifts and helping others find them too: that’s why and how I accomplish everything that I do. And it’s amazing what you can accomplish with Joy and Hope and Love. It really is. Yes.
Let go of your rage today, Teamies.
& Do ALL that you do with love.