Backyard Bathing

IMAGE.JPG

Last year my husband and I moved into my childhood home. The house was becoming too much for my mom to take care of on her own, but it is such an exquisite piece of property and I knew we couldn’t let it go.

So my husband and I moved in and took over the maintenance and upkeep. The yard is large and reaches into a forested green belt. We have been working hard in the yard ~ digging, pulling, planting.

Whenever I am away, I daydream about coming home. When faced with a choice: Go out or play in the yard, my husband and I choose the yard nine times out of ten.

I lie in the grass. I watch the birds and the bunnies and the deer. I talk to the flowers. I feel the breath of the trees on my skin. “I love you trees,” I whisper. I dissolve into the green.

A Bicycle Makes It Better

Writer’s block? A bicycle makes it better.

Your fragile ego take a knock? A bicycle makes it better.

Patriarchy got you down? A bicycle makes it better.

Errands to run all over town? A bicycle makes it better.

Caught in a love triangle? A bicycle makes it better.

An evil boss you wanna strangle? A bicycle makes it better.

Hop on
Ride over
Look around 
Find a clover

Feel your struggles move right through
As you pedal magic beneath the blue.

Your worried heart it will unfetter
Cause a bicycle faithfully, always makes it better.


Reflections On Movement As Self-Care

It's much simpler than you think.

The only rule: Don't stop.

In other words: Keep moving.

Not in a frantic or obsessive or punishing way.

Move steadily. Move with patience and presence. Soft persistence.

Be at once invigorated and relaxed.

The golden ticket: Find the place where effort and ease meet. Live there often.

Play your edges from time to time, but mostly hold the center, find moderation. Learn to be comfortable in moderation. This is an act of rebellion in a culture addicted to extremes and novelties.

You must move every day. You must move a lot. You must make every shape you can make. How many shapes can you make today? How many times can you make all those shapes today?

Because bad ideas come from those who sit still, who stare at screens all day.

Affirm your life through movement. Refresh your brain. See things new. Breathe deeply. Move!

Do some squats. Do some push ups. Learn to climb a tree. Move to music. Take a long walk.

But don’t run a marathon.

Unless running a marathon is the deepest longing in your heart. In that case, do it.

But don't do it because you think you have to in order to prove yourself or in order to make yourself worthy or because you believe that this thing ~ this marathon or whatever it is ~ is the thing you must to to be healthy and vital.

There are so many ways to care for your body with movement, but the essential rule is that you must like what you are doing. If it does not bring you joy: Stop. Find another way.

Do the unglamourous thing. The thing that will not be hailed or recognized. Trade ambition for attention. How does light move, air taste, your sweet one’s smile start? Indulge in the places where meaning is made.

Because you know how your body feels when you tell a lie: Not right.

It’s May, sweet friends. Don’t forget you are alive.


I Am Here (A Mini-Manifesto)

I am not the smartest or the strongest or the most beautiful to look at. I have thin hair and spider veins and I will not be getting Botox. But I like me anyway and I will not shrink away. Instead I will show up every day with an open heart and a sense of humor to meet myself where I’m at and do my best with what I’ve got. I see all of life as art and rock at roller blading and yes I totally challenge you to a poetry slam rap battle dance off.


Open Letter To The Stylist Who Told My Client To Stop Lifting Because She Is Getting Bulky

Dear Stylist,

You and I have a friend in common. I’ll call her Bella.

Like she is with you, Bella is both my dear friend and my client. I help her with her health and fitness. You help her with her hair and clothing.

Bella and I have been working together for nearly 4 years. During that time I have seen her make tremendous progress in her physicality and her mindset. When we first started working together she struggled with regular bouts of severe pain, the remnants of old injuries and traumas. Bella and I have worked together with dedication and through many setbacks to strengthen her musculoskeletal system and balance her nervous system. I have spoken with her about the biopsychosocial model of pain and the ways in which stress, negative self-talk and poor nutrition affect her pain levels. She has taken it all to heart and made sincere efforts on several fronts toward greater wellness.

And she is succeeding! Over the past two years in particular she has spent far fewer days flattened by pain. I know this because it is my job as her coach to keep track of whether my programming is effective or not. Bella can now deadlift and squat like a champ, pushes hard during her workouts without having to stop due to pain, makes healthier food choices and talks way less shit about her own body in general. These are huge strides.

But…

But, but, but…

Yesterday Bella told me that you, Dear Stylist, told her that she needs to stop lifting weights because she is getting “beefy” or “bulky” or…I can’t remember what inane word you used, but I know it was not kind. You were mean-spirited and shallow and short-sighted and selfish when you told our mutual friend that you are “having trouble fitting her into clothes” because her back is getting broader.

Need I remind you that our friend has used strength training as a tool to get herself out of PHYSICAL PAIN?! Those big, broad back muscles that you disdain are her Latissimi Dorsi and they are big part of the reason Bella does not hurt as much as she used to. Not to mention the fact that those muscles are sexy as hell. Slip Bella into a backless dress and see how many heads she turns!

When I try a movement with a client and it doesn’t work for her ~ maybe it causes pain or is uncoordinated and inefficient ~ it is my job to choose a new exercise that suits her. It’s the exercise that is wrong for her body, not her body that is wrong for the exercise.

The same holds true for your work. It is not the woman’s job to shape her body to fit a dress. It is your job to find a dress that makes her look and feel beautiful.

Besides, anybody who knows anything about fashion knows that ready-to-wear clothing doesn’t fit anybody perfectly. Tim Gunn speaks about this often, and I was 17 years old when I learned this priceless lesson from Vogue magazine: Having your clothes altered to fit you correctly is one of the secrets to looking like a million bucks. Yep that’s right, even Vogue 20 years ago was acknowledging that every woman’s body is uniquely shaped.

If a meathead gymrat like me knows this fashion secret, I am certain that a sophisticated stylist like you knows it too.

I could tell that your comment hurt Bella. I could see her doubting her hard work, wondering if her body is in fact unattractive, undesirable. I wonder how your comments might negatively impact her eating habits and her self-talk. I wonder if she is fact considering giving up strength training.

It will be a shame if she does stop lifting and opts instead for an exercise modality that makes her body smaller in the places that you want her body to be smaller such as lots of cardio or barre classes or hot yoga or whatever silly craze is currently being marketed to women with the help of internalized misogyny and the myth that a woman’s worth is based solely on how dainty, quiet and small she can be.

If Bella were to stop lifting, she would lose both muscle and bone. This is a serious issue, especially for women as we can easily lose 1 - 2 % of our bone mineral density as we age. In the 5 to 10 years after menopause, we can lose as much as 4% of our bone mineral density. This is the path to osteoporosis.

I know it can be hard for a woman obsessed with preserving the superficial and fleeting beauty of youth to imagine a vibrant, sexy and fulfilling life after menopause, but for women who keep their bodies strong, their minds engaged, their spirits curious and their hearts open, life only deepens and expands with age. As we age, the quality of our lives is directly related to the robusticity of our tissues ~ strong muscles and bones mean more activity and less reliance on others for the daily tasks of life.

And I’ll tell you this for certain: There is nothing sexy about falling and breaking your hip, even if you do it while fitting perfectly into a ready-to-wear size 2.

I could go on, write at length about the how strength training improves mental health, cognitive function, sex drive and sleep, regulates insulin, growth hormone and cortisol, keeps your metabolism stoked and so much more.

Instead I’ll finish with a reminder that is so obvious I feel trite writing it: Being a woman in this time and place, in this world that overlooks us, sees us as second-rate, as property, as aesthetic fluff, is really REALLY hard. Women need to be a source of comfort and strength to one another. We need to reflect and remind each other of our innate value, not cut each other down.

I’m implore you, Dear Stylist, please stop with the shallow, stop with the hurtful, stop trying to make women smaller.

And women everywhere, can we please once and for all stop listening to and stop retelling these demeaning narratives? Can we please stop obsessing about body size and instead focus on building authentic, meaningful, loving lives Can we please get onto the work of living that actually matters?

As always,

Yours in bulkiness,

Amanda


Proper Mindset + Imperfect Action = Progress

Morning with my journal contemplating what I call The Magical Life Equation.

The Magical Life Equation is

Proper Mindset + Imperfect Action = Progress

A proper mindset is open, curious, flexible and light-hearted while keeping self-criticism and fear at bay. A proper mindset is not judgmental of people or circumstances and does not solidify the current state of affairs with ironclad stories that can never be changed.

Imperfect action is moving forward in small steps without overthinking or comparing your journey to the journey of somebody else. When you take imperfect action, you know that mistakes are necessary and also not a big deal at all, so they don't get you down. Imperfect action is doing your best with what you've got in this very moment.

Progress is movement that improves the circumstance of your soul as well as the souls of others. Progress does not exploit Mother Earth, other human beings or animals for the sake of one's own ego, celebrity or pocketbook.

Apply this equation to any area of life where you would like to make progress and watch magic happen.


Creative Responses > Destructive Reactions

When life throws you a challenge, do act in a creative way or a destructive way?

I try to choose creative as often as possible, because it benefits me, my family, friends and everybody around me and has ripple effects into the greater consciousness.

In order to this I have to know what my destructive behaviors are and what their creative counterparts are.

When I react to challenges in a destructive manner, I feverishly eat exorbitant amounts ice cream and potato chips, I ruminate, I talk shit, I stop exercising, I get grumpy with people I love, I pay my bills late.

On the other hand, when I respond creatively in the face of challenges, I notice my breath, I seek advice, I read and listen to great thinkers, I clean my house and work in the yard, I move my body, I get out of my own circumstance by doing something for someone else.

The goal is to have a toolbox filled with enough creative solutions to move through even the most challenging situations with grace.

May your creative responses be greater than your destructive reactions!


No Thinking While Tired (And Other Rules of Engagement For A Modern Mind)

My mind has a tendency to trespass into anxiety, depression and perseveration, spinning a broken record of worries and critiques.

Years ago I created these rules of engaging with my mind. This morning I wrote them again in my journal.

Whenever I find my mind circling in unproductive ways, I check in with myself on the following points, because sometimes mental health is added best by caring for ourselves on the most basic levels.

1) Have I showered? Have I brushed my teeth? Am I wearing clean clothes that are not sweaty gym shorts? If not, I tell myself no more thinking until I clean up.

2) Am I tired? Yes? Stop thinking! Go to bed! If it’s the middle of the day and I can’t take a nap, then I’m simply not allowed to think until I feel rested again, and if that means no thinking for the rest of the day, great!

3) Have I moved my body lately? No? Then I must stop thinking until after I have gone for a walk or yoga-ed or lifted something heavy.

4) Is my belly rumbling? Yes? Get food! Don’t think!

5) Am I feeling disconnected from others? If so, I find that the best way to get over my loneliness is to do something for someone else. I write a letter or cook soup for a friend. I also read books or listen to podcasts or talks given by people I admire.

If you’ve got a brain like mine, remember: No thinking about the purpose of life, no evaluating your worth as a human, no making big decisions until you are clean, rested, moved, satiated and feeling connected to the world around you and to the universe as a whole.