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The Elephant in the Room

I purposely tried hot yoga today. I say purposely because after a chat with my sister in law, I realized that this is not something that some people would willingly subject themselves to. Specifically, she stated that she will never pay money to go feel like her electricity was shut off in August. I am used to hanging out in the gym the last couple of years. I have become hooked (though in some weeks "less hooked") on the process of strength and endurance training (ala a sort of Crossfit style, but I am completely sold on the concept that MY gym does it RIGHT and wouldn't associate with Crossfit--akin to the annoying cousin who KIND OF looks like you but isn't nearly as cool). Why, NO, it's NOT because my brother is one of the trainers. *Rabbit trail* Anyway, I tried Hot Yoga. I have been walking around a knotted up ball of stress for a good six or seven weeks now. Every life change possible has occurred in a few months time, and today it didn't feel like lifting was going to have the effect of quieting my mind. So I looked in to it. And was terrified. I'm NOT a fan of heat. I hate hate hate Arizona from late May to oh, Novemberish. But I needed something that was going to, although royally suck for a good hour, make me feel like I could have a normal non-spaz thought for a few minutes. So I showed up. I walked in the room and was hit with a punch in the face of pure hellfire with some tropic pre-hurricane weather thrown in. Ok. Cool. Breathe.
But then the same. old. feeling. hit me, the one that has prevailed in nearly every situation in my life. I was the elephant in the room. I wasn't there in yoga pants and a sports bra, because I consider others. If you have seen the preview for the new Pitch Perfect, where Fat Amy answers the door, mid-adjustment, and says "Sorry about my boobs, I was jumping", that's about the way it goes. One downward dog in a sports bra and I'm face planting while desperately tucking the girls back in. The leftovers from two pregnancies exclude me from yoga pants. Nope, not one of the chickies who snap back to anorexic glory in 47 hours. So I'm there in an appropriately draped workout shirt and some sort-of-but-not-really-capri sweats. Yeah. The ONLY one. Still, not giving up. Not throwing in the towel....yet. I still feel the same way walking into my gym. I have been *pretty* consistently there for two years. I have seen changes I didn't think possible and dammit, crossed the finish line of Tough Mudder last year. But still....the repetitive tapes in my mind remain. "Everyone is probably looking at you like you'll never make it through this." "No one wants to see you work out, it's not cute." "You can't run as fast/do a pullup/do as many pushups/run the stairs as quickly as everyone else. You'll be the lone one struggling to the finish line." I had no faith that I would get through this Hot Yoga crap today. But true to form and being by nature a contrarian, I told myself to shut up and at least try. IT. WAS. ROUGH. Ten minutes it though, I was an absolute rock star. And by rock star I mean
Mascara running (NOBODY BOTHERED TO WARN ME NOT TO WEAR MAKEUP, NOT THAT I WOULD HAVE LISTENED ANYWAY)...., hair stuck to my face, definitely taking on a disheveled "I've given up" look that I've discovered I can rock like a boss.
But I noticed something part way through the class. I was doing all of the poses, managed to not quit and not need breaks. I was mortified by arms-overhead poses where my baby stretch marks were debuted in all their glory and would quickly readjust, but whatever. I realized that my consistency over the last couple of years has made me physically strong. I am stronger now than I was at 22. I am healthier. I am happier. I could truly punch someone in the face and make it hurt. I can flip a tire and I can balance on one leg in some weird pose with my hands on the ground and not fall over because I have done balance training. It seems ridiculous that at 39 I am just coming to a place of self acceptance, though there are so many days where it's a struggle. Scrutinizing everything in the mirror. Being acutely aware at every moment of every angle of my body. It's full of curves and imperfections, some that can't ever be resolved in a gym. There are years upon years of feelings of worthlessness and body shame because of circumstances that happened at early, impressionable ages. I remember being the elephant in the room on the swim team from age 7. I remember being the elephant in the room as a cheerleader and vicious comments about the size of my legs in my cheer skirt. I may have been a cheerleader but I was the least skinny one. I remember being the elephant in the room when certain people in high school made the "moo" sound as I walked down the hall. I was no more than 140 pounds at the time. I remember being the elephant in the room at every birthday party or celebration. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I remember being the elephant in the room when told, at one point, as I rode in the car at seven months pregnant, that I was not a "hot wife". I remember feeling like the elephant when I learned of multiple affairs. IT HAD TO BE ME, RIGHT? Not the character flaw that precedes people who behave this way. I remember feeling like the elephant in dealing with psychiatric patients who have no filter and will spit every bit of their rage and contempt at you, most commonly picking on your physical attributes, whatever they may be. Those are the situations and words that stick, that become replaying tapes in your head for years until you meet them head on and figure out that that is why you react how you do in some situations. As my husband spoke in church this week, look back over your life and discover what the running themes are. What circumstances have shaped who you are now, who are the characters that contributed, and how do you get to a place of acceptance? How do you change the running theme, the word that has defined you and change it to the TRUTH? I truly believe looking to how God sees you and the treatment you receive by those who love you well is where you start. Realize that you are more than what has happened or what other people have labeled you. Even though it sounds cliché, go on who your heart and soul are, at the very core. I'm never going to be comfortable in a bikini. Or even shorts for that matter, which I haven't worn since the early 90's. I'll never be the fastest runner, I may never be able to do a damn pull-up (which quite honestly drives me absolutely crazy). I'm learning to accept what I see, while continuing to work on what I want to change. To be healthy and live long. To be attractive for the ridiculously cute husband I have (whose opinion, I have discovered, is the ONLY one that matters in this regard). It has helped immensely to dig into my story and figure out what the root causes of my adult reactions have been. I'm not going to lie, catching the way my husband looks at me and some of the words that he has said to me have reset the things in the past that I didn't think could be undone. Reading his list of "likes" he made when he was single, so he could remember who HE was, still makes me smile when I see the words "I like blondes". So I'll keep going to the gym. Definitely do more hot yoga. Keep hiking challenging mountains. Smile and say thank you when my husband says "You're HOT/beautiful/gorgeous/incredible" in his southern way. Love and accept being loved unconditionally. Figure out what God wanted me to learn through it all and how I can use it for Him. Be in the moment. Love my five kids, and, like last night, lead them in the cha-cha slide in the kitchen, including the hops, and just say "to hell with it" and jump away like Fat Amy. Adjust accordingly. I may always feel like the elephant in the room, but it's all in how you interpret it. An elephant will also kick your ass.

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