The misconception that I had regarding the lack of value on the physical body is the same thing as placing too much value on the physical body.
I took advantage of my body. Expected it to show up daily, with the same vigor, if not actually expecting more strength and flexibility to come simply because I was “thinking” about it. It is your only vessel in this life and because of this, your duty to take of it. Now, let me explain a little more because I can promise you, you will never catch me in a gym again in my life. I jokingly tell people that I’ve renamed the toilet “Jim” instead of John and I go every morning. I don’t know how many gym memberships I had bought in the past. I’d go for a day, maybe a week, and then I would end up canceling it after a year, all the while whether it be consciously or subconsciously having it provide some sort of validation. I can still remember the sense of accomplishment I would feel when in conversation I was able to say… “oh yeah, I’ve got a membership to that gym too…” knowing that I had driven by it more times than I had ever stepped foot inside.
2020 provided me with a lot of time that I needed and for the first time didn’t feel guilty. Prior to quitting my job, I had lost Paid Time Off (PTO) annually. The company policy allowed for a little over 60 hours to roll over and I would have 140-160 hours of PTO because my self-esteem was gained by efficiency in the outside world. If I wasn’t providing some sort of product for you, I truly thought you would forget about me. And my bosses took advantage of that, as well. Nothing, and I mean nothing, was ever good enough. I remember one year; I took a total of 2 weeks of PTO and that was inclusive of federal holidays, and I wore it like a badge of honor.
Little did I know, the daily diarrhea, sometimes no bowel movements for days, nausea, uncontrollable dry heaving, and full body aches weren’t my fault in the sense of intentionally abusing my body, but I was working myself into the ground. Where I would see this manifest most often was on vacation. Now, remember I didn’t take personal ones of those. It would happen at the company’s annual contest winner’s trip to Cancun, Mexico. The only big kid corporate job I had was in sales. And if you hit the annual quota, one of the ways in which they enticed you was with a vacation. It was an enormous feat, sometimes coming to fruition the last week of the year, and was an individual accomplishment, albeit a team effort. On the last trip I earned, winter 2020 and pre-COVID, I barely left my hotel room. We are talking about the epitome of glutenous where not a single penny of your own money left your pocket. From lounging all day at the pool ordering 20 shots of Patron at a time, drinking half of them with other coworkers, more commonly referred to as “partners”, watching the rest bake in the sun only to be thrown out an hour later with the cycle continuing 10 times. Don’t even get me started on the food. I ate at some of the nicest restaurants in the world with individual dinner prices in the thousands. I know because I signed the checks. Most of these dinners were mandatory which was fabulous news to me because that meant WORK! Dinners comprised of different teams, regions, practices, or departments and of course, I would attend those. I got to put on my face, dress to the nines, and show up for other people. Not only was I lying to myself, but people also expected me to show up a certain way. If I didn’t go to these dinners my loyalty and commitment were questioned. The conversations back at the office stateside would inevitably turn to… how are you doing? When’s the last time you saw your counselor? And because of how I was programmed, if their tone and body language read concern, I actually thought that they were. Rather, they were creating a narrative about me that I was disengaged or too emotional because a lot of the time in those meetings I was brought to tears. I thought to myself, why aren’t you seeing me for the great things I am doing instead of creating doubt? I now know this is their own insecurities projecting but didn’t have the insight or words to effectively understand and ultimately, communicate that to myself and others. The hotel’s pool area would be transformed into nightclubs where thousands of my fellow minions and I would dance the night away. Two things were happening here for me, the first showed up mentally with the lack of purpose and insecurity I felt when I wasn’t working. But the bigger problem was my physical body was finally done and given out. Of course, before leaving for a trip I’d add an additional 5-10 hours of work to really button down the hatches, wink wink, and make sure things ran smoothly… Okay… whatever you need to tell yourself to feel better. It was a lack of control and low self-esteem.
One year while in Mexico on the earned trip, I got laryngitis, having the company doctor sent to my room on day three. I didn’t even know the company traveled with one but after being holed up in my room for two days, eating the entire mini bar which consisted of nothing substantial, and incapable of ordering anything via phone because I COULDN’T TALK, I headed downstairs to the lobby. I started to carry around a notebook and pen just to communicate. I went to the front desk to order food and the head of travel overheard the conversation. The company would rent out multiple hotels with us being the only guests in them. Within an hour the doctor was in my room, giving me a steroid shot to the ass, and some additional medications. I honestly don’t know what they were I think some sort of OTC pain reliever and an antibiotic. The sickness only got worse, riding home on the plane with a double ear infection I thought my ear drums were going to explode, especially at those crucial altitudes upon ascent and descent. I still didn’t get it.
Choices result in action, actions lead to behaviors, and behaviors become a habit. My gym is now walking. I love to walk, and my dog appreciates it too. Initially, I was setting goals around the amount of time spent doing it or the distance I felt I needed to go because I am really good at negotiating. Sales remember? If I didn’t just do, AKA GO!, the bargaining would win, followed by guilt later in the day, and copious amounts of sleep two weeks later not realizing their interconnectedness. But this time, the haggling was with me. Normally I would try and walk 30 minutes, or I was trying to get my walking mile to 15 minutes. Now, I do it until I don’t want to anymore and I’m not concerned with the pace. Sometimes that’s 15 minutes, other days it is two hours. But I can tell you this, the sheer anxiety and malaise created in my bones by not moving are palpable. So, I implore myself to do it daily, that includes Saturday and Sunday.
My challenge to you is this, move, however you like to, but it is critical. You can crank up some music and dance around your living room, join a coed volleyball team, scream at the top of your lungs in a chanting fashion, or go to an actual “gym”. Only you are the one that can decide that, but it is necessary to generate and expend your fire with movement.
As I am writing this, I realize that they are individuals who are at the opposite end of the spectrum. You know who you are… doing CrossFit at the expense of both of your shoulders so you do a modified “W.O.D.” (Workout of the Day) or have a near panic attack ending in tears and you on the floor curled up in the fetal position because you can’t go for your daily run outside due to inclement weather. Remember, too much value on the physical body is the same thing as placing no value on the physical body. Shaming someone that resembles Mr. Universe, in turn, is the same as shaming someone for appearing obese. You do not know their story and that is not for you to talk about. There is a more common word related to this expected and accepted practice. It is called gossip.
There is one final state of being that is important to keep in mind, and I need to be transparent in stating I have been very fortunate in my life and haven’t had any serious ailments, accidents, surgeries, or broken bones. I know that is not the norm. I also am middle class. I have always had access to a dentist, doctor, etc. which I know is a privilege I was born into and definitely lent to my overall physical well-being then and now. Poor people are sicker. Rich people are sick less. Because of this, it is also important to allow your body to fully heal and to listen to it because your body is your soul’s best friend. It is imperative to do nothing at times. Doing anything else would only be abusive. But even in this state, a person can still meditate and practice different breathing exercises to get the fire that elemental to all of us out and in, daily.