Can you imagine the look on a caveman or woman’s face if they were to emerge from back then to now via the dressing room of a TJ Maxx? Or, better yet, Barney’s? Sure, the whole electricity thing would have them gobsmacked, in awe. Then they would settle their jittery gaze upon the racks and racks of clothing and think, Why? What do you do with all of this?
Oh, I’d reply, we buy it! Then we wear it. Usually. Sometimes it sits in our closet with the tags still on, unworn.
Yea, that’s where we store our clothes.
Clothes? As in more than one piece? Do you not have water?
We do now! But who knows…we may run out. Yea, we clean our clothes. We also pay these guys called ‘dry cleaners’ insane amounts of cash to launder our clothes. I’m not even sure what they do to them. They may just spray them with some Lysol and throw a plastic baggie over them.
Don’t bother asking about plastic. It’s something we’re in the process of eliminating.
But why so MUCH?
Well, darling, to look good! To feel good! Clothes make the man, the woman. Yards of luxurious fabric or the softest tees and perfectly cut jeans…it’s our armor. Especially those Spanx. See, we don’t have to fend off wild beasts, or wildebeests even, so we basically pour it all into our clothing. The rest of our disposable income goes to our cars and coffee.
Don’t worry about it. They’d freak you out too much.
Why cover up this amazing physique?
I stare at his and wonder that myself.
Ours aren’t that amazing. We don’t have to hunt and gather. We just go over there to the Safeway. It’s safe to get all the food you want, more than you need, and they even have this stuff they say is food, but it’s not really food. But it tastes amazing! See, we don’t eat to survive, we eat to feel good. And we clothe our bodies to look good.
But more often than not we feel crappy and look unfit. Being naked in public is terrifying to the average person.
At this point he walks back into the dressing room shaking his large head and vanishes, to my dismay.
Oh, his body!
Oh, our bodies. What we do to our beautiful, miraculous bodies.
In those frenzied, bleak hours post Pocket Call I was out of my body. Not in a soul-traveling way, but in a divide and conquer way. My primal instincts kicked in with the threat of natural selection, Charles Darwin’s theory that only the strong survive, weighing down on me. You are so impressed right now. Don’t be. I googled it. The theory expresses exactly how I felt. Threatened. My safety, security, under siege. I felt shot out of a canon right into a fun house, the hallways lined with plastered collages of happy family to fractured family to void. Milky, black, nothing.
I couldn’t conjure up a single image of what my future held when just hours prior it was a scrapbook already finished. This hall would have ended with me and The Genius, old and happy. Proud of making it through. In love. I truly believed we were going to mature as a couple, our first step the move away from the regional family nest.
But in an instant that reality changed forever. My adrenaline surged. Thoughts and emotions ran wild, illuminated by the flashing lights inside my skull, blaring hot like nightclub strobes. Every realization – he’s with another woman, we’re about to buy a house, he’s really lying to me, wow, how long has he been lying to me, who is this person…oh, my God, what has just happened, how am I going to navigate this – blinded me.
While my emotions and thoughts went haywire and skyward, my body worked hard to ground me. I became very aware of its strengths and weaknesses and instinctively knew I needed to make changes to fortify myself for battle. That’s what it felt like. Like I was about to go into battle. The most overwhelming fear I have ever experienced ripped through me.
If I wanted to survive I had to get strong. Physically, mentally and emotionally strong. But first and foremost, physically. The compulsion to train was undeniable. The very next day, after buying the house we were going to grow old in, I began training as if climbing Mt. Whitney was 8 weeks away (It was only a thought at the time.) and I hadn’t hiked farther than the mailbox. In reality I had done a little hiking, when I felt it wasn’t eating into my time with The Genius while he was home. And when he was on the road I was with the dudes exploring our new surroundings, casually enjoying our time together.
I did not make caring for my body a priority. I would ask The Genius to cover for me so I could work out. He’d say, Sure, give me a few hours. Which would turn into 8, and then dinner time would arrive. Workout shelved. It left me feeling like I was white noise. My body weakened, it’s health not a priority for either of us. My lower back ached. I had no energy. My needs were going unmet, so my appetite made up for that. Dinner became my intimate moment of the day. And without much energy, any working out I did was less athlete and more tourist.
Those hours in the gym post Pocket Call saved me. I hadn’t worked out in a gym for years, preferring outdoor hikes to the fluorescent lights and the smell of fermenting body odor common in most health clubs. Each afternoon, with dudes in tow, I would head to the gym and pound that treadmill like I was running from a newly discovered arachnid – a cross between a tarantula and Pteradactyl.
They eat people, not flies.
For the first few weeks I was running from something, becoming a little stronger with each outing. I didn’t expect the fallout from the Pocket Call to get in line behind working out, but that’s exactly what happened. My body seized the top spot on my very short list of priorities:
Get physically strong.
Protect my heart.
Love the dudes.
That’s it. Those were my priorities. Crises sure have a way of simplifying things. While my feet racked up the miles, my mind processed what was going down around me.
Okay, I’m in a new place. I know basically no one. The dudes just started school.
Like wind-whipped pages of a newspaper, these images flew through my brain.
We just bought a house. The Genius is on another continent, I think, telling me there’s no one else in his life but me. That when he’s not with me he’s with no one. That he loves me. Yea, right. I have two months to figure this out. I have a choice. I can wait for his return and follow his lead or I can chart my own course beginning right this very minute.
I chose me.
At that moment I stopped running from something and started running to something.
(Full disclosure: I don’t actually run. Even when I do run, it’s really not running, it’s comedy. My treadmill workout was 4.0-4.2 MPH and a 6-9% incline for one hour, then 90 minutes, then two hours. Yep. 2. 5 days a week. Worth every sweaty minute of it. By the end of the first month I was addicted to the endorphins, salivating on my drive to the gym at the thought of witnessing my body rip through a workout with vigor.)
The desire to sit down and enjoy a meal was right up there with the desire to grow my armpit hair and pierce my nipples. I was not interested in savoring food. The crisis of the Pocket Call did not shut down my appetite, but it focused my cravings on those foods that would fuel me and leave me feeling light. Foods I could eat on the run.
I recall distinctly needing to feel as if I could spring up at any moment and flee.
I made the conscious choice to eat clean. If it didn’t grow from the earth, walk on the land or swim in the sea, I didn’t eat it. I didn’t want to eat it. Food prep went out the window. The closest I’d get to creating a meal was scrubbing a carrot or sauteing some spinach. Three steps was one too many. I ate a taco once and became confused and overwhelmed by all the ingredients. Eating one thing at a time – a carrot, an apple, a chicken breast, beets – was all my mind could handle. Nothing came out of a box or a bag.
Food was crucial as fuel, but meaningless in all other ways.
Bite, crunch, stare into space while my mind tried to fix the problem and my heart ached.
By the time The Genius arrived home, tail between his legs, I had shed 15 pounds at least. My back no longer hurt in the morning, I wanted to be IT in freeze tag, and time at the beach wasn’t spent sitting on a chair and gazing at the sea but seeing how far we could walk and climb and romp.
The workouts and new way of eating were not consciously designed to create a body that would attract The Genius, or anyone for that matter. My primal self chose that way of living in order to be physically strong enough to endure the emotional battles ahead. One part of self compensates for another. My body stepped up, big time.
It became the source of my personal power.
Ultimately, my new warrior physique saved me. To feel my body become strong, healthy and capable at a time when every other part of me was wrecked, was an inspiration. A life preserver in the middle of an ocean of despair. By the time The Genius returned I had transformed from pudgy Mom of two young boys to a fearless spirit, legs strong, core alive, ready to protect her fortress.
Kiss my taut ass. (Sorry, Mom.)
I recognized then the importance of a strong body. As a species it’s been a requirement for survival. Until now. Now we torture it to see whether or not it can survive. Just a few months prior to the Pocket Call I remember being in our bedroom with The Genius, frustrated by our lack of intimacy, and crying out, I hate my body!
Man, that cuts to the core to see those words and know they came out of my mouth. I told my own body, the unique, wondrous figure that carries my spirit through this 3D world, that I hated it. I allowed his insults and wandering eyes and hands – your boobs aren’t firm enough, she’s just a friend – to define me. I allowed that. The Genius did nothing other than speak his mind. Show his true colors. But I allowed it to define how I felt about myself. He didn’t love me, so neither did I.
I never completely stopped working out while married, but physical exertion to the degree necessary to replicate the benefits of hunting, foraging, farming, fighting for survival wasn’t a goal. Not until my emotional survival felt threatened. Duplicating that effort resulted in a strong and balanced body which helped to settle my emotions and leave me confident that I would flourish, not whither and hide.
The foods I ate and the exercise I relished proved to my body that I did love it, even though emotionally I was still not there. That’s all it needed to feel. Loved. My 3D body, the source of my personal power on this planet, needed to feel loved in order for me to fall in love with myself. I couldn’t love just parts of me, I needed to love all of me, beginning with my body.
My need to survive has been replaced with a desire to thrive. The daily workouts have slacked off to 3-4 times a week. That’s maintenance. I’m not here to simply preserve my form. That seems like a missed opportunity. I’ve got one shot with this body.
I want to let it be the star of this show. My spirit will always live on, but this physique has its moment right here, right now. It’s time to let her rip.
Who’s with me?
The dress is the result of Julie’s creativity and your words and spirit. HGM morsels of wisdom preserved in wax the color of blood. And love. Thank you, Julie. Thank you, kittens.