I have a personal trainer, someone who helps me grow stronger and more fit, who shows me things I might not have figured out (and pushes me harder than I might, otherwise). A few months ago, I did something that demonstrated my kinesthetic sense, my awareness of my body in space. On the basis of that moment, she said something to the effect that I must have been a good athlete when I was younger. I said no, I couldn’t have been further from that, that I have no athletic ability whatsoever.
That was the end of the conversation and I’d completely forgotten it until yesterday. Yesterday, when I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror in a pose that rang a bell for me. I looked like an athlete, like a coach, in my polo shirt and jeans. The image stuck with me, because of what seemed to be me to be contrast between it and what I know of myself. I’m not an athlete, I’m too clumsy, I live too far inside my head.
Then, tonight, I started to regret not being athletic when I was younger. I started to regret believing the story of my lack of skill. Of course I lacked skill — I didn’t work at it. What if I had worked at it when I was younger? What if I hadn’t had this idea of myself as physically hopeless?
Before I could go too far down the path of ‘what if?’, I remembered how, when I started therapy, I had no idea how all my horror stories felt. I was cut off from my own emotions and had been for years.
For me, emotion lives in the body; if you ask me how I feel, I will tell you where I feel it. Those two pieces of knowledge came together tonight. If I was cut off from my own emotions, I was cut off from awareness of my own body. It was what I wanted — I know that without question. So there was no way I was going to let myself become aware of my own body, which is what I would have needed to do to develop whatever athletic abilities I might have had.
This brings home to me that it’s a system, my mind and body, completelly intertwined, the experiences of one affecting the other. The things I think and feel in my mind are expressed in my body — how much stress-related illness have I suffered over the years? The things I do with my body impact my thoughts and feelings — how much calmer and relaxed have I felt after a good workout?
In considering what to do with knowledge, the only thing I can think of is to circle back to that idea of myself as unathletic. Maybe I need to start seeing myself in a different light, to allow myself to imagine I might have been good if I’d had the safety to explore that side of things, if I hadn’t had to shut off my emotions to survive. (Which sounds excessively dramatic, but isn’t.)
Because this is something else I know: It’s never too late. It’s never too late, as someone once said, to become what you might have been.