Activating Your Core
When I first started working with my trainer, he told me to do a certain exercise right, I needed to activate my core.
"I don't have a core."
"Everyone does. It's just buried."
Nice, I thought sarcastically. But I still came back for more.
Many moons later, I feel like I do have a core, even if it is a little buried, and I can do things I once thought were lost forever. Having a stronger core gives me a sense of power, but also a sense of balance.
When my mother died, it impacted my core. Not my physical core, but the core of who I am. There was a piece missing that couldn't grow back. I didn't notice it at first. It's like skipping the gym for a few days. The muscles are still working and there's no immediate physical ramification. But then you stay out for a week, then a month, and pretty soon, your core is a flabby mess.
So here I am, months after she died, and I'm emotionally flabby. I didn't notice the atrophy until, months into it, I was completely out of balance. I did the minimums in life. I got up, did school for my kids, wrote papers for my master's classes, and I even went to the gym; but that was all that I could do. I put a halt on my social life because I didn't feel the joy. I stopped dating because God-forbid someone see me as emotionally vulnerable. But perhaps the most distressing, I stopped writing.
"Who You Gonna Call?"
When my father died, I wrote poetry (I was thirteen). When I traveled a ridiculous amount with the Air Force, I spent my free time researching (for my writing). When my kids were babies, I stayed up until two in the morning to have my writing time (for my sanity). And when I went through divorce, I wrote voraciously. It was a time of creative rebirth and freedom that I hadn't felt the entire time I was married. But when my mother died, the well dried up.
Writing had been my go-to method for dealing with emotions my entire life, and now, that was in peril. Like the old Ghostbusters' line, who you gonna call?
I Am Who I Am
Part of the problem with losing my mother versus the other challenges in my life was that the other things were roles: wife, mother, student, employee, but my mother was more than a role. She was a foundational figure in my life, and with her passing, I lost a piece of my core. A part of who I was left with her. Now I have to rebuild myself. Without her.
One of the last things my mother said to me was "you be you." She meant, I think, that I should make my own mistakes and not live by anyone else's expectations. Which is great when you already know who you are, but I'm in the midst of a serious crisis of me-ness.
It's one of those times in life when I get to define who I am. And I don't know the answer.
I know what I "do." I'm a teacher and a student, a mother and a sister, but as much as these roles may shape me and my decisions, these roles do not define me. Rather, I am defined by my dreams, preferences and choices. And therein I begin to find my core.
For reasons that go back deeper than my personal memories, I abhor the word "can't." Tell me I "can't" do something, and I feel an inevitable need to say, "watch me." That's a choice I make, not to be limited by what someone else tells me I cannot do. My preferences are at times whimsical. I prefer fall to winter, cappuccino over black coffee, and late nights to early mornings. And as for my dreams, they are big and they always have been. I refuse to relinquish my dreams to fear, circumstances, or worldly cynicism. I won't take the word "can't," even from myself.
These are things that are a part of my core, but independent of my mother. Her passing did leave a hole in my foundation, but the building blocks of my me-ness are still intact, just a little shaky.
The Action Comes Before the Feeling
That's enough, for now, to get me started, rebuilding my emotional core. My writing core.
When I rebuilt my physical core, I learned what it takes. I combine weights and cardio and yoga. I do planks and pushups, downward dogs and pigeon, and some days, the treadmill is my best friend, but it wasn't always that way. Even after walking my way to a fifty pound weight loss, there were days I didn't want to see the treadmill, let alone run on it. If it weren't for the fact that my gym has a steam room and whirlpool, I'm certain I would have quit ages ago.
But in order to "earn" the steam room, I made myself get on the treadmill. Once there, I told myself I only had to go a mile, and then I could get off. In short, I lied. I knew once I got on, I'd want to go a mile and a half, then two, then three miles. I just needed to get started.
That's the way it is with my writing as well. I just have to lie to myself to get restarted. Once I do start, I'll want to write a page, and then a chapter, and then a novel. I just need to start. And I'm willing to lie to get myself going. Just look at this blog. I was "just" writing a blog post, but once I get started...