Activating Your Core

5 years ago

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...

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