This might be another provocative post. So if you are not in the mood to be provoked, you may be excused from my table of truth. But if your proverbial feathers aren't easily ruffled, or you don't really care if they are ruffled, or you are featherless, welcome. At least I am not talking about sex today.
I used to live at the gym. I treated it as a temple of sorts. If there were answers, I figured they would be found somewhere between the elliptical machine and the shoulder press. For many years, I had an incomparable personal trainer who not only led me around gym equipment like a puppy dog, but became (and predictably) a good friend and confidante. For years, I trained with him 3-4X a week. (Remember, friends, this was pre-recession!) I was addicted.
In retrospect, I'm not sure what I was addicted to. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I spent so many hours of my young life lifting in the gym instead of living in the world. Was it the athletic experience? (In high school, I played three sports and these were some of the best highs of my life). Was it the challenge? Was it the honest conversation with my trainer about life and law and love? Was it the setting? (The gym scene is ripe material for a budding writer). Was it the rabid hunger for control? The notion that if I controlled my body and made it strong, then my psyche would thicken too? Was it the fallacious belief that if I whittled myself down to a tiny size happiness would follow? Or, maybe it was just a place to go when I felt a little lost. Who knows.
What I do know is that in all those years of being a gym rat, I stayed approximately the same size. A size which I was fine with, but not thrilled about. The point is that there I was hour after hour, seeking something, some kind of inscrutable transformation that never occurred. And yet I went back again and again, persistently chasing something I couldn't identify. Treading water. Spinning wheels. Standing still.
One day, I stopped. Stopped training. Stopped torturing myself about my body. It was the day Toddler was born. Suddenly, everything was different. I had a life to sustain, a creature to nourish, a new life to build. I told myself I would go back to training once the time was right, once I had regained my physical and emotional strength. But I never did. And then something odd happened. Time inched by, and as Toddler grew, I shrank. Breastfeeding helped, it seems. As did the incessant lifting and rocking and bouncing and pushing. As did the fact that focusing on my little girl and her well-being meant not focusing on calorie and carbohydrate counts, on fad celebrity diets, on jean size.
I was still obsessed. But with something new. With something priceless.
With Baby, it happened again. Out she came and after a few weeks of cursing the scale, I surrendered a bit. I went on with my new life. A life of two beautiful girls with the same genes, but different needs. An existence of constant motion. An exquisite and impossible juggling act. A relentless race. And though I have full-time help, between my babies and my book and my blog, there is little time for me to obsess about what I am ingesting and what I am not ingesting. Yes, loyal ILI readers know I am a deeply insecure creature and I have my telltale obsessive moments where I put insane restrictions on myself -- (My 29-Hour Raw Food Diet, My Bread Boycott) but then, because of weakness or sanity, I usually come to my senses quickly and quit (Quitting is Delicious).
Today, I am fifteen pounds lighter than I was before Toddler was born when I used to spend upwards of 20 hours a week at the gym. Go figure. I am smaller, happier, full of good coffee-enhanced energy, ready to tackle whatever tantrum comes my way.
The point here? Not that I popped two babies out and BAM am suddenly the third Olsen twin (because then we'd be triplets. Hmmm.) The point is not that I am a size 0 and worry-free. Because I am neither. Patently, there must be some genuine body insecurity at the surface if I am devoting a blog post to this topic. The point is not that everyone should cancel their gym membership or fire that trainer. No. Of course not.
The point is that parenting is the most rewarding and effective cardiovascular exercise I've ever encountered. But more so, the point here is that maybe, just maybe, if we stop obsessing about certain things (the scale, the ticker, our happiness quotient), these things will perhaps work themselves out. Sometimes, if we fixate too fiercely on solving the puzzle, the pieces get lost and scattered. But if we step away for a bit, shift our focus to other things, good things, we might come back and find the puzzle has solved itself.
Parents: are you in better or worse shape than before you had kids? Have you guys found that when you fixate on a particular result or goal, it often eludes you and that good things tend to happen when you are not obsessively trying to make them happen? How are your pretty feathers holding up?