For the Love of Escape
Grade five assembly at John W McLeod school. We were all in the room that was used for both gym. music, religion class and the Christmas concert. The teachers are near the stage, and the students are all sitting on the floor, crossed legged. I am wearing shorts and in this crossed leg position, my eyes are drawn to the mole on my left leg. I place my arm over my leg so no one else can see it. I do not like any of my freckles or moles. I notice how big my thighs are, comparing them to the girls in my class who have already started to get breasts. Their legs are long and thin, my legs are short and wide. There is no sign of breasts for me either.
My legs never seemed to get proportionally longer, The thighs always seemed too big. I was teased for my round butt and my relatively flat chest throughout junior high school. In grade nine, In high school the pond was much bigger. On one hand, I could hide more easily in the classes with the super smart geeks. But that meant I also was not seen by the boys I had crushes on. Maybe one would say my body was athletic. I certainly did not look like Betty and Veronica in the Archie comics I read while sunbathing in the yard.
Bottomline.... I was not a fan of my body. Couple this dislike with my penchant for stress eating, sexual assault and we had a perfect storm. By grade twelve, I had stopped eating, striving to get the body I wanted. I exercised harder and more often, with each step arguing against the bullies and injustice. When on a ten day canoe school for certification as an instructor, I took a measuring tape since there wasn't a scale.
That same summer, I arrived at work after the fifteen kilometre bike ride at my summer job. In my hand was the usual coffee and bran muffin I picked up at the coffee shop nearby. The floor began to swim and the lights seemed to be dimming as I suddenly felt weak and started to fall to the floor. I am not sure how long I was on the floor. Fortunately, I was alone. I gradually felt okay enough to get to my desk on the fourth floor. I drank water with my muffin and felt better. Perhaps I just needed to refill my coffee. I had dropped it on the floor when I fainted.
Within twelve months, I was being treated for an eating disorder. I was gritty enough to starve myself. I was gritty enough to make myself throw up when I did eat. I was gritty enough to run ten kilometres, bike tens of kilometres a day, go to school and work two jobs. I was ashamed of my large thighs and wanted my waist to be smaller, my breasts to be bigger. I spent days where I would not leave home because I felt too fat and none of my clothes felt right. Fortunately, a psychiatrist was helping me to see how I used food to try to have some sense of control in a world where I could not control what anyone else thought or said about me.
When I found climbing, I found a sense of empowerment that very first day. I overcame my own self doubt and in that was great freedom. I was outside, in the sunshine. The water lapping at the rocks below and silence except for the breeze in the trees made me feel connected to myself. But we acclimatize. There were so few climbers and I happened to bring my grit to this sport and got good. I spent a lot of time practicing and relative to others, I was getting strong and capable. I won a few competitions here and away.
When infant mortality was forty percent compared to today's one in ten thousand. Imagine the anxiety of knowing that as a woman, you were a man's property, sold into a marriage for the betterment of families.
Yes, anxiety over a quiz or an aging body seems pretty ridiculous by comparison. Neither is life threatening. But the nervous system doesn't distinguish between the snake about to strike or the fear of imagined thoughts. The nervous system just responds with activation of the sympathetic response.... fight, flight or flee. And if you don't move your body, those hormonal influences just clog up the blood stream. If the thoughts are continuous and do not leave you alone, it starts to become problematic on our body, reducing our immunity, making us more irritable, high blood pressure, ongoing muscle tension, skin problems, headaches, and the list goes on.
The difference between STRIVING and THRIVING is simple... the sense of being complete, full accompanies thriving. One is empty and has a sense of lack in striving.
If a business is thriving, there is still activity and effort. But there is also a sense of already having, being enough. When one is striving for the finish line, one is not yet where one wants to be and one is actively trying to get there. You see this all the time in climbing. People hire coaches or trainers, or do weight training in order to get to the next level. Meanwhile, they are no longer enjoying the process of getting where they want to go because they are only focused out ahead of where they are.
Meditation will show striving energy immediately. The moment you try to get still, try to remain calm and sitting on the floor, the mind will begin trying to be anywhere but where you are. The mind will remind you of things to do, and the need to pick up some item. It will remind you that you might want to message someone. The mind strives for some entertainment. After you become more practiced at meditation and learn to relax and not follow every thought, your meditation begins to thrive. Less striving truly can be more enjoyable and rewarding.
Try it. For now, I will appreciate what my body can do. I will focus on contentment with stillness and following the thoughts that lead to enjoyment rather than grasping all the must do thoughts. How about you?
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