This post is as sprawling and unashamed as a middle aged woman on a frayed yoga mat. Please bear with me.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve resumed my yoga practice, which I’d all but abandoned for most of 2016. Because I was practicing so infrequently, the yoga I did do seemed to aggravate my injuries. So I backed off completely. After a few months of nothing more than Depressed Couch Curl, I felt like this:
I wish I was being facetious. It was really that bad. I couldn’t touch my toes. I could barely bend over to scoop Phoebe’s litter box. Standing hurt. Sitting hurt. My muscles and tendons were so stiff and fibrous, I started to worry there was something systemically wrong with me, like some sort of connective tissue disease.
It got to a point where I missed yoga so much that I decided to pick it up again, at the risk of making things worse. At first, it seemed to make things worse. But, with more consistency, I’ve pushed past the “worse before it’s better” phase. Now, I’m probably at 60% of my previous ability.
I’ve recently become aware that the anxiety I experience while running, cross-training, and practicing yoga is mostly pent-up anger that’s only hurting me. I’ve developed an inhibitory reflex that affects my stride as much as the inhibitory effect of the actual physical injury.
Last week, I went on a (painfully slow) run with Chris and, instead of letting my mind run with fear and frustration, I ran my mouth instead.
“This is horrible.” “I hate this.” “I hate him.” “I hate her.” “I hate my body.” “I hate my life.”
I finished the run with considerably less pain and stiffness than usual.
I live in a culture that praises positive thoughts! positive vibes! positive energy! positive memes! Positivity is supposed to be the key to success. It’s useful to harness positive energy, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave negative energy unharnessed, unchecked, unacknowledged. Before you muzzle an aggressive dog, you have to confront and respect his aggressive nature. And maybe, if you really think about it, you’ll find a better alternative to muzzling the dog.
There is positive value in negative energy. I wrote a book about how innovation stems from dissatisfaction. I’ve done a lot of good things with a bad attitude.
At some point, you can delude yourself with positivity or “niceness.” You might not be able to recognize when someone treats you poorly, especially if that person claims to exude positivity. You might lose sight of the impact suppressed negative energy has on your physical body. Bad energy is like a bad fart. If you hold it inside too long, it will make you feel sick. It will hurt.
I’m not completely sold on New Age-y theories of psychosomatic medicine, like TMS, but I enjoy learning about psychosomatic theories of disease. I think living through such a perfectly tailored inferno for the past 12 months has made me question my culpability. If you’d asked me, last February, to write a screenplay of my absolute worst nightmare, it would play out like the past year, to a T. The exactness of the knife suggests I’m either living in a simulation (strong possibility, in my opinion) or making myself sick in real life.
Something I’m working on is not devoting energy to suppressing energy. In the past, I’ve been obsessed with perfectionism, but also with being a person who is palatable to everyone else, even people who are unpalatable to me. I’m a writer who’s often nervous to speak her mind. If I’m nervous to speak my mind, it should follow that I’ll be exponentially more nervous to risk running my body thousands of miles a year or pushing through challenging yoga poses.
I’m trying to say “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” without sounding totally lame and unimaginative.
I believe running is a human instinct that’s best exercised in harmony with all of our other human instincts. In that vein, suppression of any instinct could lead or contribute to pain and injury.
My instinct this evening was to write this post, even though it’s embarrassingly disorganized. Simply sitting and writing without fear is an instinct I’ve suppressed for too long.
More importantly, for the time being, I’ve decided that, if I’ve got a bad attitude, I’m going to run with it.