My husband and I are taking kickboxing classes right now. They basically amount to 45 minutes of continuous movement of some part of your body, usually several parts in rapid succession. Along with kicking and punching, there are lunges, squats, reverse planks, sit-ups, push-ups and other things that make me shake like a junkie.
Just over 4 years ago, I was pretty darn fit. I grew up fat, sedentary and slow, but when I moved to Memphis and found myself utterly alone, my nightly routine began involving 2-3 hours at the gym, sweating my ass off on the elliptical and, most nights, going through a full circuit of weight training.
What I’m saying is, I know my body can do this, that my muscles can become powerful enough, my heart strong enough, my lungs able to keep things moving along. But the real challenge, I’m finding, is my inflexibility. In all the time I was lifting weights and running in place to escape my poor self image, I was bulking up, tightening, but never really MOVING.
I watch the other students planting roundhouse kicks on their bags and hope that I’ll be able to loosen up enough one day to use my whole body to drive my shin into the bag. That I’ll be able to jump side to side with both feet at the same time. That that move where you go from a crouch to a full-out sprawl won’t be laughably impossible for me to even attempt.
Right now, though, everything’s locked. My pelvis feels like it’s fused to my femurs. My knees won’t bend. My ankles feel weak. It’s hard holding up more than 210 pounds, granted, but I know it goes beyond that. I know I should’ve been doing yoga in between weight-training sessions. I should’ve joined a gym where there was a pool to keep me limber. Those are things I still need to do today, and hopefully I will.
Tonight’s class was truly difficult. It’s been a rough week for me overall, and it’s left me feeling weak and utterly drained. I’ve been sick since Christmas Eve (probably still am, according to recent test results) but the symptoms have basically disappeared. Then on Sunday, I stopped wanting to eat – poof! – which is the opposite of who I am normally. I’m never NOT hungry. My brain and emotions have been pulled in a million directions since then, which is why I think I’ve lost all interest in food, but it’s still a little scary.
Tonight, as I tried to make those strong roundhouse kicks happen, I could feel the tension in my joints, the resistance to truly move. As I planted left and right crosses on the flanks of the bag, tears filled my eyes, my fists trying their hardest to mercilessly pummel what’s been eating at me all week.
It’s going to take a long time for me to truly loosen up, to do the moves right and put everything I have into these workouts. But as I think about my joints loosening, I also find myself thinking about the pieces of my brain that have been packed so tightly together for the last few years, at least, that my mind has become just as stiff as my hips.
The troubles I have socially stem from disuse. The mistakes I make are because I no longer know what it means to interact with people, build relationships, be a person myself. And I started making progress toward loosening up my brain this week, by attending an art studio session and building on a friendship. Those two things felt ridiculously good. So good that I could feel those little spots where my brain was welded together start opening up, letting little droplets of life ooze through the crevices. I was inspired, lit up, punch drunk, hopeful. And while the apex is behind me now, those tiny cracks are still there, reminding me there’s so much inside just waiting to get out.
I want my mind and body to be opened, as crazy-hippie as that sounds. I want to experience life and freedom and love and joy without self-imposed boundaries. I’ve spent my life feeling squelched by the world, when, in reality, I had the power to push past it, to loosen up those rusty joints and get moving. I had the power to choose not to make those ever-practical decisions that ultimately left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.
The only sticking point is, it’s hard to be alone in a revolution, especially when you’re not alone in life. It’s even harder when you’re one of those people who would lie down in the mud if it meant a friend in need could stay clean. And when you find yourself married and expected daily at your corporate job, it seems nearly impossible to redefine yourself.
I’m starting small for now, in ways I know will help. More kickboxing. More yoga. More drawing. More friendship. More talking. More therapy. More thinking. More writing. More nurturing my spirit in ways that I haven’t, probably, ever. I just want to feel the tightness leave my bones, my brain, my heart. I’ve been stuck for 28 years, and for once, I’d like to be able to truly move.