I did something recently I swore I'd never do. Of all the identify flags I fly, this one was not one of them. And yet I found myself signing on the bottom line – vowing to give money every month – to a gym.
(Insert wailing and gnashing of teeth).
I'll blame the entire breakdown of self on my friend Amber. The woman has five young kids and finds time to go to the gym each day – because it's good for her mentally and physically and she's made a habit of it.
Doesn't it need to be more complicated than that? It feels like it needs to be more complicated than that…
Truth be told, I feel weak. Like my body is unsure of itself in a way. You ever seen a drunk white person try to dance? It's a bit like that. Are my ankles weak? Are my arms that unsure of how to work? Why is my knee kicking out to the side like that?
Currently a wobbly branch, I want my body to feel like a tree trunk. Sturdy. Confident. Unmovable. Strong.
Last year, after harvesting a 75 foot row of onions, I was laid up on the couch for two days with a sore back. The life I've devoted myself to here on our farm is so incredibly physical – from stacking hay to digging potato trenches to hauling in boxes of cabbages to standing on my feet 14 hours a day. There's no end to the physical demands of being a gardener and farmer and mother and cook. My body needs me to make it strong so that it can devote itself to this work for years to come.
I haven't worked out intentionally in… I don't know… a decade maybe. There was so many pregnancies followed by so much lactation followed by so much child rearing. It seemed impossible. But that was nothing more than a weak mental ditch I'd talked myself into.
It's amazing how good we are at self-deception.
I often think of a good friend of mine who once wanted to do a solo in her middle school choir decades ago. She sang like a whimpering bird. Finally, her powerhouse-of-a-choral-director shouted: “Angela, DO YOU WANT TO SING?”…. “Yes.” she softly said back…. “THEN SING!!!!”.
I think of this often. My mind will play tricks on me. I want to do this… I want to try this… I want to develop this skill…
THEN SING. SING WOMAN!!!
Turns out, I'm not a victim of my children or my circumstances or my body. Turns out, if I want to become strong I can. If I want to find opportunities for growth, I can. If I want to train, I can.
I CAN SING.
Let's be honest with each other. “I don't have time for that” literally translates into “That's not a priority for me right now.” Hard truth, but truth none the less.
I'll be frank. I'm two weeks in: combining yoga with barre workouts with running outside in the orchards with weight lifting at the gym. I don't love it. It hurts. Often mid-reps I swear and collapse on the ground while I watch the instructor finish her reps with ease. What is she a monster? Some weird freak of nature? Where is she hiding those muscles? Can my body even do that?
At first, this deterred me. As if they had some magic-sauce I just wasn't born with.
And then I realized how utterly stupid that was to think like that. I couldn't garden the way I do until I'd trained for years. I didn't come out of the womb being able to hand milk a cow with ease. I can't cook the way I do because I was born with mad skillz. I worked. I failed. I collapsed. I got kicked. I ruined crops. I ruined meals. And then I just kept going.
I kept singing.
Weird as it may sound, my physical goals are to be like Tasha Tudor. She gardened, hard core, well into her 90s. She was bent over, crouching down, hauling buckets and wheelbarrows, digging trenches, milking her goats, and harvesting her crops. When I'm 90, I want to be strong.
I want to be able to garden until I see my last sunset not so I can live my best life or be the best version of myself. So I can be strong, and steadfast, and disciplined.
And so I strength train. I squat. I lift. I run. I expand into a stronger version of myself.
I'm so awkward and wobbly it's ridiculous. My muscles burn and I'm constantly sore. I jog like my uterus is going to fall out. My legs don't extend the way they should when I crunch. I don't squat as deep as those around me. I shake. I sweat. I rage.
But I'll sing. And I'll continue to flop around like a beached whale until I get the hang of it. And I will. Because I'll keep going.
We can learn. We can adapt. We can get stronger.
You want to sing? SING WITH ME.