Midsummer arrives on June 20th, which I greet with equal parts joy and gravity. I suppose that is fitting, as the sun reaches the height of its power here in the Northern Hemisphere and then begins a slow decline in strength until December. I feel like a drunken ballerina, teetering on this fulcrum of 2017. Summer Solstice is when I review the plans I had written down in January to see if I’m making progress or if revision is needed. I had some big-ass goals this year, too. Just looking at this list makes me wonder if I was in my right mind when I wrote it.
There’s a lot of stuff about nurturing my mind, body, and spirit, which sounds awfully noble on paper. Self-help books are full of this excrement, which is why they sell so easily. We want to be better. We rarely feel that we are enough. We hope the next program we try will make us be enough for ourselves, other people, our gods, or whomever we think we need to impress. An entire industry is built on the ingrained notion that there is always room for improvement, but it only works when the desire to improve isn’t wrapped in layers of shame and judgment. Most of the time, it’s wrapped like a super sized burrito.
I used the excuse that “I can’t start anything right now, because we’ll be moving” so I could sidestep any real attempts to change my patterns. That excuse is gone, so this week finds me walking through the doors of a gym and pumping iron. I had to examine all the reasons I wanted to train again. Some of it was ego, sure, but most of it was rooted in a sincere desire to do something good for my body. I’m over 40 and need weight bearing exercise now more than ever for strengthening my bones and making sure my muscles don’t atrophy. Muscle mass starts declining at a rate of 3% to 5% annually after a woman reaches her mid-30s, and fat rushes in to replace that space unless she finds a way to challenge those muscles.
I absolutely loved strength training when I first started doing it about a decade ago. I found unexpected moments of Zen in the repetitive motions of lift and lower, push and pull. Something about meeting resistance in the form of dumbbells better enabled me to meet resistance in all forms. Strength in the body became strength in mind and spirit. I have missed that, and the only way I’ll get it back is to train hard and consistently. I know this, and I’m ready. So it’s me vs. the iron, and it’s me vs. the whiny brat inside who wants to quit when her muscles get so sore she can barely move. When that happens, maybe I’ll remember the benefits of massage and Epsom salt baths…and keep going.
Some of what I put on my list has to do with building relationships and finding a tribe. I wrote: “Spend time with people who uplift, share from the heart, inspire, and support.” It sounds like I was looking for an AA meeting, and I’m not even an alcoholic. I question whether I can even be this sort of person myself, especially on a day when I’m sore from working out and moody as hell and telling the world to go fuck itself. I think I’ll revise this to: “Spend time with people who are real enough to drop their masks and will allow me to drop mine, too.” While I do have a few genuine friends like this, they are hundreds of miles away. Sometimes I need to actually sit across from someone while relishing a vanilla latte and dropping all pretenses that I have my shit together. I don’t. You don’t, either. None of us do, despite whatever we post on “Fakebook”.
Then there’s my never-ending desire to be in nature as much as possible, despite the fact that I keep ending up in suburbia. It’s almost comical. I wrote: “Take as many walks as possible in wild, natural places.” I’m not sure where the “wilds” of southern Alabama are yet. I did manage to find a botanical garden. Right now, any attempts to be outside are met with swarms of gnats, which keep multiplying with the rainstorms that occur almost daily. Wildness might have to wait until late autumn, or I’ll have to invest in a hat with mosquito netting that covers my face.
So I bow to our blazing hot star with honesty and practicality this year. No elaborate rituals, other than meal planning and exercise. No expectations. No parameters for my tribe other than authenticity, and I will endeavor to offer the same in my life and in my writing.
Peace & Solar Blessings,
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.