4/100 of emotional badassery - In which we practice (self-)kindness

Photo by Jonas Vincent on Unsplash
It’s 9:30pm. All day, I wondered what I would write about. This was partly daunting, partly exciting. It’s Elizabeth Gilbert who helped me again with her tips on writing. Today, it was No.10 which was a big helper. 
 
“Let it be easy. You might be surprised”. I actually think it’s good life advice too.
This to me, evokes the idea of flow first, a perfect fit, since it’s my word of the year. It means listening to my guts rather than overthink, and let things come to me rather chasing them.
 
When it got daunting, I gently reminded myself “It’s okay. You can trust yourself. It will come in time”. 
And indeed, slowly but surely, what wanted to be talked about slowly made itself heard. 
 
This morning, I woke up late, sore and a bit restless. My mind wanted to use my phone. It was hard to let it besides me, and focus on my morning routine. Fortunately, I practiced it enough to know that this is a sign I need it more than ever. 
 
It was time for Mama Laetitia to take over. “Nope. No way. This is our time. We don’t HAVE to do it, we GET to do this. Time to meditate my Love. Social media will still be here when we come back”. I listened, even if slightly pissed off. 
Meditation grounded me and gave me some courage. But then my brain was rebelling about the next thing to do.
The rest of the day went by similarly. Part of me resisting and rebelling. Mama L gently but firmly taking over and redirect. Feeling some pleasure and calm, but also restlessness. Welcome to recovering brain.
 
The fact is I was NEVER disciplined about anything. I thought I didn’t have a disciplined bone in my body, that I was allergic to any structure. Until a few years ago. When I learnt two simple truths : discipline requires self-kindness. And (self-)kindness is a combo of firmness and gentleness. We can’t shame or scare ourselves into doing important things sustainably. And we can’t do anything meaningful without setting some firm boundaries with ourselves (and others).
 
And funnily enough, self-kindness was not only what *I* needed today. 
It was what my friend who wanted to do all thee things but wouldn’t admit it was overwhelming and too much was so relieved to read me say “Hey, take your time with all this, okay? Doing EVERYTHING is also self sabotage. You can do things one after another too, you deserve some space and rest.”. 
It was also the unique theme of all my sessions today. Wether they wanted to push through too hard, were afraid to dare to listen to themselves, or both. 
 
As if the theme imposed itself to me. I’m smiling right now, realizing I’m in the surprising part of that “Letting it be easy” thing. What a marvelous gift.
 
I really learnt self-kindness through a physical journey. I still remember the four times I tried actual physical activities that weren’t required from school. 
 
No one in my home had a regular physical activity, we barely were having digestive walks a couple of times a year, despite living in picturesque and peaceful French country side. I had a bicycle that I rode for fun, 15mn on it was already quite a while. My vision of a week-end or holidays at home usually implied being curled up in my room with books, later videos games or my computer too. Tanning by the pool and going in regularly to refresh or just hang out and floating in the cooling water in the summer. My idea of cardio was an afternoon of shopping in town.
 
Occasionally though, I was invited by the family next door, to tag along to one of their outdoorsy family activities, since I was good friends with their same-aged youngest daughter. They were the ones to introduce me to actual physical activities, until it was obvious it wasn’t a very good idea, for anyone. It ended up being some of the most awful times of my life. 
 
My first times hiking in forest (both on foot and on bicycle) and cross country skiing were with them and lasted hours. I had never been so tired and in so much pain my whole life. I was mortified by shame from my obvious incompetence, as they were trying to be nice and help, but also clearly annoyed by my mediocre performance and endurance. Once, I phoned my friend to see her on a Sunday and she told me they are having another outing, she put her hand on the phone to ask if I could tag along but I could hear instantly different screamed versions of “Oh God please no! You know how she gets!". Still in my top ten mortifying moments ever.
 
My fourth encounter with the physical world was when I learned how to ski. I was with my cousin and her family, her dad being very active and authoritative tennis teacher. For a week, I was trapped having for days on end similar intense physical activity, pain and shame, constantly falling and failing, while my oncle was finding this either hilarious or deeply annoying depending on the moment. There was a lot of crying involved. This and PE class at school, wondering why on Earth we had to run in circles while our teacher was having a chat with a colleague, were the only times I had physical activities until I turned sixteen. 
 
Do I need to say here that I learn how to avoid anything physical activity like the plague from there? That having to relearn how to walk for a year after a spinal fracture at 16, with more pain and shame involved, didn’t make the concept more appealing? 
 
Well, at least, almost a decade later, discovering New York and Paris by foot and hiking in Utah in two national parks to see some of the most beautiful vistas of my life helped linking the concepts of exercise and pleasure.
 
But, honestly, to me, it’s almost a miracle I am currently practicing yoga once to twice a day, and riding my bicycle or swimming twice a week on top of this. That I went back to it. I’m still not really sure how it happened.
 
It makes me want to write a letter to the younger Laetitias, the child silently crying in shame, and the young woman trying to force herself into going to the gym, hating it, and herself for hating it and failing at it.
 
My dearest Darlings, 
 
I am so sorry you had such awful experiences as your first encounters with physical activities. That you’ve been robbed of the innate pleasure of moving our body that exist in all humans. That it took decades for you to learn how to play with it outside of sex. That you had to be obligated to find a way to exercise to discover all this.
 
I so wish someone told you that it was violence to go from inactivity to those intense afternoons. That you weren’t incompetent, just inexperienced. That any physical activity or way of moving is a learnable skill. 
 
I’m so relieved that you got to learn that if you show up again and again, you can get more flexible, stronger and coordinate. That you finally had the pleasure to feel the innate joy move has to offer.
 
I so wish adults around you who have helped and encouraged you instead of mocking you. That they would have protected you, rather than scold you. 
 
You have no idea how happy I am that through all those terrible things that happened to your body, all that hardship, you finally found your way back through your body. That you finally get to have real fun, not needing to be drunk to dare move freely anymore. That our dear friend Pierre looked at us that day and asked “But Laetitia, how do you expect to go somewhere and exercise every week if you hate the place so much?” About that cold and moldy swimming pool, introducing for the first time the idea that pleasure couldn’t be separated from sustainable discipline (if you read me, I love you Dude ❤️). That we found out about Yoga with Adriene and her Find what feels good movement, that finally liberated our body from inactivity and fear. 
 
You deserve it. You deserve to feel good about being healthy and active. You always did. 
 
Don’t ever forget how it all started. Ten minutes at the time, sometimes just one position at the time. One day at the time. How it took 4 years for our practice to be a daily thing. How sometimes, it was all about pushing through resistance and not giving up on that tiny spark that wanted it. And sometimes, about making it easy for ourselves so it feels like love rather than violence. 
 
How it will most probably be harder at certain times in our life and that will be okay, we will find our way back. That’s all that matters. Perfection is nothing compared to reliability.
 
Self-love cannot be violent. It cannot be too self-indulgent either, but it can never ever be violent. Born in shame and the fear of not being enough. Nothing grows from that barren soil except more trauma. We’ll continue to give ourselves more and more love. And to be amazed by the mountains it allows us to move. 
 
You’ll see. We know now. We can trust our heart and our body. They know. Firm and gentle will be the words.
 
I love you.
 
See you tomorrow,
Laetitia
 
 

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