More Than Meets the Eye
One year for Christmas, I asked for and received Optimus Prime from Santa. I was obsessed with The Transformers cartoon show, although the same could be said for He-Man and She-Ra. Thanks to the modern-day movie franchise, I doubt there is any kid who doesn’t know Optimus Prime. He is the leader of the Autobots, a gentle giant among the evil and violence plaguing the world.
Optimus Prime was cool. In his truck form, he could hold all kinds of secret treasures in his trailer. As a robot, he could eject plastic missiles from his arms. As a toy, he allowed me to make a connection with the idea that “nothing is as it seems”. I had several other “traditionally” male toys throughout the years, including a Hot Wheels garage. It’s possible I was trying to connect with a half-brother nine years my senior, or the boy across the street who was sometimes the only kid who could play. I prefer to think that I was allowed to morph my interests from Barbie to robots depending on where my imagination wanted to venture that day.
The idea of transformation surrounded me this week. I did a transformation-themed yoga practice last Sunday and watched the playback of the time lapse, the clouds racing by as I moved through a flow. Exercise for me used to involve weights, the heavier the better. I think back to a time when I would join every new fitness challenge that came my way, convinced that ‘this’ one would be the turning point, the accountability I needed to finally solidify my dream body.
“By whose standards?”, I wonder now. If I had all the money back that I spent on weight loss challenges that never moved the needle or produced short-lived results, I could probably travel around the world.
Truth is, my all-or-nothing approach to these challenges meant that if I didn’t follow the plan to the letter in the first week, I usually gave up. I was afraid, knowing that I was already behind participants who were putting in the work from day one. Go a layer deeper and my weekend alcohol binges meant I’d have to starve myself to offset the liquid calories I’d consumed.
At some point, running seemed like the perfect answer to my dilemma. Running burned the most calories in the shortest amount of time. Once I committed to half-marathon training, it precluded me from drinking on Friday nights because long runs happened on Saturday mornings. After that race, there were plenty of 5K’s I ran with a hangover.
The other problem with this all-or-nothing approach was that I thrust myself into everything I did. The glory came from increasing weight week after week; there was no satisfaction in the half hour I should have spent stretching after each run or hike. My body paid the price. My mobility issues are partly genetic, but I have to think there were other methods I could have implemented to prevent some of the chronic pain I manage today. I just saw that a young friend had FAI surgery; I have this same hip condition so for me...
Transformation looks like slow, gentle movement and not constantly pushing the limits.
Football was a little easier to walk away from than bodybuilding. I spent years tailgating with fellow fans, more out of a sense of camaraderie than love of the sport. I even had Texans season tickets one year and again, TRUTH be told, it was to impress the jerk I was dating at the time. While I still find the sport exciting...
Transformation looks like following authentic pursuits instead of spending hours glued to the TV on Sundays.
I don’t regret any activities I was involved in through the years; I only regret that I pursued most of them in the interest of self-worth. Weightlifting, running and hiking probably went a long way to keep me fit at a time when I was otherwise wreaking havoc on my body. Football was a means for me to connect with new people when my first marriage ended and a friend in the fan club took me under her wing.
It was hard at first to shed the labels by which I defined myself, but it has only created space for new pursuits. I’m recently reiki-certified, I’ve started a new passion project in personal development, and can swing a spud bar on the homestead like a real farm girl. I honor the woman I have become in this new chapter of my life. I remind myself that change doesn’t have to mean changing who I am to others, only that I put forth the most authentic version of myself.
This song popped into my head while I thought about this blog. I don’t consider it an accident:
“He's an old hippie
And he don't know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new”