Pause Before Crossing: A Life Update

I am 30 years old and today I am experiencing my first snow day.

I have to say, my trip to Philadelphia so far has been exactly what I needed it to be. I haven’t written here in a while because, frankly, I had overwhelmed myself past the point of feeling like I could do anything other than breathe and try to exist.

It’s not like I haven’t done that before. I find things I like, get really into them and then overextend myself to the point in which I sit on the couch in a state of stress-induced anxiety, unable to move.

That’s where I’ve been the past month. Don’t get me wrong– the general structure of my life is great– still love my job, still have amazing people in my life– but once I started feeling good, I went too far too fast and put myself in a bad space.

Thankfully, I have a lot of people in my life who love me and help me take care of myself. I made it to Spring Break and got on a few red-eye flights to Philadelphia to see my friends Daria and Chris. I had every intention of doing Crossfit’s 18.4 Workout when I arrived and, fortunately, there is a box a two-minute walk from where Daria lives.

Of course, I was barely able to get two hours of sleep on the flight. I ended up writing and reading, so by the time I made it to Philly, I was pretty zonked.

Still, I planned to get to Fearless Athletics, until I made it to Daria’s apartment. “You know,” I told her, “I kind of wish I could nap instead of doing the workout.”

Daria looked at me for a moment, then said, “Yeah, it definitely sounds like you should do that instead.”

I thought about it. My brain screamed at me that I couldn’t miss a day of working out, that I  needed to push push push. Then, I stopped, and decided that now was the time to take care of myself.

So, instead, I got into bed and slept.

The past few days since have meant some working out, sure, but also just… being happy. I slept a lot, hung out with Daria, Chris, and their adorable dog Max while watching Bar Rescue, met Daria’s grandmother, had some stupid good food (much of it homemade), and just… took a breath.

Recently, I was lucky enough to get interviewed by the 30 by Thirty Photo Project, a photo project by Erika Nizborski. She took some beautiful shots of me, and interviewed me about my experience as a thirty-year-old woman. I told her that, now, at 30, when I turned thirty, I was in the best shape of my life.

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And that may be true–  I certainly put in the work.

But, looking back, I don’t think I was the healthiest I’ve ever been. Health isn’t just the measure of how hard we can push, but our ability to step back and let ourselves heal as well.

So, in the name of healing, I’ve tried to be kinder to myself the past few weeks (hence, skipping 18.3 and 18.4). A few Saturdays ago, I spent the day on my couch, watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and, honestly, crying. I realized there were a lot of things I needed to let go of, and some things I needed to forgive myself for.

I also gave up teaching Yoga at Mango Tree. As much as I really do love teaching Yoga, I needed to create space in my life to do some other things I need to focus on like my writing. Funnily enough, the day after I quit, some exciting opportunities started down the pipeline. God is always working.

I feel like there are some things coming, but I know I have to prepare myself for them, if only to appreciate the view.

The morning after I arrived, I woke up and took a very chilly run across the Ben Franklin bridge. It was beautiful, and right before I crossed over the bridge to head back, I took a second to stop, looking around, and just appreciate where I was.

That pause is so essential, such a powerful part of experiencing not just happiness, but understanding joy. Happiness is temporary and situational. Joy is being able to appreciate your life and its bustling craziness and the beauty in the breaths before the grind. Joy involves taking stock because it is the bone-deep belief that there is beauty and magic in your life if only you are willing to wait. 

So, at this pause, before I cross, I am so, so grateful, and excited to see what comes next.

So, This Is Love

It doesn’t hit me until I am doing laundry.

My body is already bone tired— there’s a weird pain in my hips every time I turn and I’m pretty sure I’ve permanently strained my rotator cuff, since every time I have to pick up anything there’s a weird pinching in my back. My shoulders sag; even my ear is sore from hitting the mat. I’m tired.

Then, I realize that my laundry doesn’t fit in the machine. I’m going to have to do at least two loads since I just remembered that there’s another pile in my gym bag I forgot to grab. I sigh, since it’s all going to have to be washed on hot and extra long because… frankly… it stinks. It’s covered in sweat and salt and spit and no dinky, express wash is going to be able to handle this.

I rub my eyes, split the load, and get ready for a long night of laundry.

When did this happen? I ask myself. Have I also had this much stuff to wash?

I realize that, no, it hasn’t always been like this. It’s because I’m switching identities multiple times a day now. I jump from middle-school English teacher to runner to CrossFit athlete to jiu-jitsu practitioner in a single twelve-hour period. Each requires its own costume, its own gear, and each has me use and abuse a new article of clothing. That increases the hours I spend doing laundry each week and since I’m out late doing all these things, it makes for a very, very long day.

So, this is love.

It hits me when I was hunched over the washer, stretching my hamstrings as the machine begins to whir. If love is the measure of our devotion and investment in something, the way we attempt to name the amount of time and affection we give, then I have been having an intense love affair for the past few months.

Love is multiple loads of laundry every week so that you have what you need. Love is line-drying jiu-jitsu gi and getting your own CrossFit equipment. It’s separating out piles of running clothes and looking for matching socks at 10 PM because you have to be up at 4:30 AM to run if you’re going to be able to get to everything else that day. It’s having to pack and unpack your car in multiple trips because between all the clothes and all the gear for these twelve-hour-days there’s no way you can carry it all at once.  It is, at the end of that day, running to your classroom and grading twenty essays in your jiu-jitsu gi because it’s easier to go straight to back to school then it is to go home. It’s sore shoulders and aching calves and groaning as you try and roll out all these muscles, knowing that the next morning you’re going to get up and do it again.

Because that’s what it takes. Or, more importantly, that’s what I want— it’s not about medals or accolades. I’m not a competitive CrossFit athlete or jiu-jitsu practitioner; I don’t win marathons. I simply love doing these things, even when they hurt. Even when I have a bad run or my lifts suck or I lose every sparring session, I am in a deep and intense love affair with my body. That love makes me move from workout to workout, knowing that the sacrifice and commitment now will mean something much greater in the long run.

After years of trying to understand love– of my family, my friends, my students, a man– I’m finally understanding what loving myself means. It’s the time and devotion and affection for the physical space I inhabit each and every single day. It’s investing in myself and that space to do things I never thought were possible.

“Joy cometh in the morning,” Psalms tells us. It’s not just a reminder to know that a new day always dawns, but a spiritual exercise in hope and persistence. Love is the mental wherewithal to persevere when things are bad because I believe that they will eventually be better. It’s knowing that, on the days when my body may not perform the way I wanted, the joy is in the practice itself and not the outcome. It’s believing that every failed lift or tired run is a step towards eventual triumph.

So, yes. It’s long hours and lots of laundry and an aching body. Yet, I know that at the end of that day when I finally make it back to my apartment, I will sigh happily with relief. Everything hurts except my heart. My heart is always bursting with a love for myself that completely new and thoroughly joyful.


 

Note: So, during aforementioned marathon grading session, I took a break to run to BJJ so I didn’t burn out. I definitely forgot a change of clothes and had to run back to my classroom in my gi to finish grading. The ridiculousness of it struck me, and I wanted to capture the moment. Thanks to Calamic Photography for the photo edits.