Even though I consider myself a creature of habit, and changing those habits can be so hard, learning to thrive through life’s twists and turns has become one of my foundational and motivating goals. This week, as I moved again, for the second time in a year, I was tested mind, body and spirit. Old patterns have to give way to new outlooks if we want to keep challenging our limits and creating our best life, so, despite some discouraging moments, I pressed on, and I’m sitting in an (almost) organized new home.
Tough times are relative, but so many of our feelings are common, just delivered to each of us through different experiences. Whether I’m feeling lonely, discouraged, not enough, disorganized (man, moving is rough!) or scared, I have learned that by feeling and expressing, other people come along who understand. No feeling lasts forever, so I acknowledge, make a game plan, sleep or exercise (depending on time of day) and go again. I also know that our success depends on how well we can perform our routines despite our moods, because, let’s face it, there are just times we flat out don’t feel like it. To master any craft or life situation, we have to do it anyway.
Exercise goes a long way in getting me straightened out. Ironically, fitness became even more important to me after I was cut from the Cal Poly volleyball team after an ankle injury…a long time ago. It was then I discovered how much being physically fit influenced my mind, when I was faced with the reality that no one was going to make me show up for workouts, but that I felt so much better if I did it anyway. I learned that a long run would change my perspective on almost any problem, lifting weights made me feel strong and capable, and that recreational sports were a place to meet like minded people who enjoyed competition for the love of sport. In the past 20 years, I have run half marathons (finished one marathon - and decided that distance wasn’t for me), swam in Masters swim meets, and competed in indoor and beach volleyball tournaments all for the joy of competing and more importantly, to keep my brain chemistry in check.
The mind/body connection is real…and so are the lessons that we learn through it.
When we workout, the endorphins our body creates knock back brain fog and sadness and give us clarity to see how to move forward. Exercise and yoga give us so much body awareness that, for me, has translated to self awareness. Every time I step on my mat, I am reminded I have a weaker side. Too much trauma to my right foot and ankle, my root, has my right side full of scar tissue and my left side compensating for the weakness those injuries have caused. For me balance is a quest, I never really arrive there, but I keep trying so that I don’t lose more ground. We all have strengths and areas that we struggle in our lives, and most likely, they will never even out.
On most days, life feels a lot like my body, unbalanced. But for me, a full and beautiful life isn’t about balance, it’s finding presence in the imbalance that makes me breathe easier.
I was reminded this week, as I read this beautiful little book, Dear Her, our struggles become our strengths when we face them and allow ourselves to experience them head on, no shortcuts. Life can be hard at any stage. We are shaped by our trials as we walk through the fire and they create patterns, beliefs, aversions, and attractions based on what we allow ourselves to feel as we go through them.
Breakups, injuries, rejection, feeling like we don’t belong, being bullied, moving on, the ways we can have our hearts broken in this world seem endless sometimes and, just like our physical bodies after injury, these encounters with life create scar tissue around our hearts and minds just like physical injury.
At the site of an injury, scar tissue makes us stiffen up and reduces our mobility if we don’t make attempts to break it up. It can be the same way in life, because trying to avoid pain when it presents itself in our days, leads to a much smaller and less mobile existence. We have to be willing to risk the pain of failure and fatigue to gain the mobility that creates our best life. Often, that isn’t comfortable. When my PT goes after that nasty scar tissue in my foot and ankle it hurts like hell. But, when I walk out of there, I move more freely and create neurological patterns that make my game, and my day, better, more fluid, and stronger.
It works the same way for our hearts and minds. It’s all connected, don’t let your heart be hardened, the beauty of the experience often lies just beneath the pain, and through our example we can show the next generation that there is no shame in the struggle, and that embracing change, and even heart break, creates heart strength. A bigger and freer life stands just beyond our ability to break up that scar tissue and feel again, and we are all strong enough to endure it if we believe.
Happy Birthday Kate! Never be afraid to break up that scar tissue and feel. Life is a good place:)