there always seems to be a lot out there about how much certain activities are good for us. good for the heart, lowering our risks for certain illnesses. some have been said to decrease the symptoms of depression. whatever activity the person is trying to promote, or maybe the activity that has helped them the most, or many times, it’s the activity that they are trying to promote and make money from. they always come in waves. through the years i’ve watched several things become in as the fitness craze: yoga, power walking, running, biking, cross-fit, , hiking (getting out in nature), with the popularity of the book wild, the ptc specific long distance trail, fishing, swimming, triathlon, ultra-everyting….
the list could keep going on and on i’m sure, but i just finished reading the latest collection of essays by elly blue publishing; cycletherapy: grief and healing on two wheels. its edited by elly blue and anika ledlow. i’ve enjoyed elly blue’s work for a while. her zines called taking the lane have been funny, inspiring, and moving. her focus is on women getting on bikes and moving through the world, so reading this new collection i was excited to see how two wheels have facilitated women healing various parts of themselves.
as i got towards the end of this collection, i was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is trying to find different ways of working with the parts of their life that are more challenging to them. as we talked, i mentioned some of the things that work for me i realized i actually have a lot of “tools in my toolbox” of coping mechanisms. i do love to ride my bike, go for urban/ocean-side/forested/river-side walks, i run, i do yoga, i do body-weight exercises, i occasionally push my body to its limits, i’m as gentle as i can be with my body nourishing it and soaking it in warm baths, i write, i chat with friends, i hide, i dance, i cry, i laugh, read, watch movies, have sex…. there are so many ways we can find for working with challenges and unpleasant aspects of being human, and movement is a big part of it for me.
in fact, working through some of the toughest and painful parts of my life is how i found some of the activities i love the most. i crave the woods when i am grieving the loss of a friend, family member (human or non-human). anger or deep pain makes me want to push hard, so running or long bike rides or strenuous hikes for days and days, dancing hard and fast till i’m drenched in sweat…. and maybe because these are the activities i choose during tough times, they are also activities i search out in days of celebration and joy… they just bring such peace of mind.
if i am searching out something more meditative, things i need to marinate in, i choose slower activities: yoga, sitting meditation, slower bike ride on a dedicated path, slower walks in the woods (especially by a river or the ocean), cooking good comforting foods, reading, playing music, a glass of wine, a hot bath…
i guess what i love about moving my body to different paces and rhythms is that it shakes the stuff out of me. i can force out the things i don’t want to see or feel about myself or a situation. i can get deeper and past the superficial aspect of something: what am i really pissed about or sad about or confused about? i’m not really depressed about getting old, but about not doing or being who i thought i would be by now. i’m not mad at that person for what they just did, i’m mad at what i didn’t do in the situation. or i not really mad i’m sad and i just want to cry, but i forgot how so if i push myself to my limits, maybe i can get past my own bullshit long enough to let go.
as i was thinking about all this, i got mad at the masculine nature of all the body movement sports magazines, books about the activities written by men that tell us how to do things properly. why do we trust men to tell us how to move our bodies? even erotica is often based in masculine movement and feminine sounds (thrusting/moaning). and one of the most healing aspects of of moving my body for me, is the confidence i get in moving my body. i learn what i am capable of in that moment, and if i can handle this activity, i can handle anything. and if i am struggling making it up this hill, its ok to stop, slow down, take a break/give myself a break. i can recognize that i am capable of different things on different days. some days that hill on my way home is much tougher, some days it’s a total breeze. the more i learn to trust my body, the more i learn to trust myself and my instincts, my emotions and feelings. i trust that this surge of emotions is a part of my body and part of me and all those things are ok even if its tough. and what ever is going on will come to an end, a finish line, shore line, time runs out, i walk away…best lesson in buddhism is that everything in impermanent. and reading stories written by men about conquests of mountains, trails, mileage, proper technique and style misses the point for me. and i don’t want men, white men at that, to tell me how to move my body!
so yea, sometimes i push my body so hard. i want to physically hurt as much as i emotionally hurt, and once i burst through that threshold i eventually push through those feeling or emotions. sometimes the only thing i trust to handle my grief and pain is nature. i know the trees can bare my pain and won’t try to solve it. the rivers and ocean can hold my tears and my fears and won’t try to wash them away. my bike, my legs, my arms will carry the things i’m struggling with and give it all space to spread out before me so that i can see it for what it is. i don’t want any of this to go away. i want to learn how to live with it and work through it. i will never miss the people no longer in my life, but the pain becomes something i can hold and smile at, be grateful for. my anger becomes a window to what is really happening or where i truly see an injustice in the world and how i can participate in making it less so. it’s the clarity that i am usually searching for, and movement is how i find it most often.
so reading cycletherapy was a happy, inspiring, and refreshing change of pace. there are many voices and reasons for riding bikes. we/i want to hear more female identified voices, more voices from the fringes (watch for when i find myself capable of taking about the book octavia’s brood) about how we move through this world. the more voices in more diverse and dynamic styles and types of media, the more we see ourselves reflected in this world, the more we can change it to actually look outwardly the way it does inwardly… and there is another piece of the revolution!