Own Your Space

Whoa, two posts about exercise? Weird. But while we’re on the topic, why not?

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started taking my exercise routine seriously. And part of this is attributed to me shrugging off the awkwardness that inevitably ensues when you’re flailing about your room, sweating buckets and panting heavily.

Rather, I had to shrug off the idea that I couldn’t comfortably exercise in my own house because other people would see me, or walk in on me, or generally be an inconvenience to me (and I to them).

I am learning how to own my own space.

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Stopping vs. Standing Still

Since about March of this year, I’ve been getting back into the habit of exercising. I like to exercise at night, not for any particular reason. I guess it makes me feel like I’m working for my bedtime.

The idea of willingly putting myself through so much torture was, at one time, unheard of. But now, I find myself looking forward to working out more and more. I still don’t entirely identify with people who work out all day every day, but I do set aside about a half-hour five days a week. And, while I don’t exercise a ton, I’m starting to understand how people can get addicted to the feeling.

Sometimes I push myself too hard and too far, resulting in many sore and strained muscles. When I feel pain – not just average “workout” discomfort, but genuine pain – I stop. I have to listen to my body and give it a rest. I don’t give up on exercising entirely, but I’ll allow myself a day or two to heal.

I find this is harder to do with other pursuits; grappling with the idea of stopping versus stopping “for now” can be a challenge. For example, when I’m trying to write something (such as this post), and I’m hit with writer’s block. There are some days where it feels like I should give up completely, but then I have to remind myself: I’m not stopping, I’m just standing still. Stopping implies an end.

It’s okay to take a break once in a while. It’s okay to breathe. There are times when stopping, full-stop, is necessary. There are other times when a pause is all you need.

Just stand still, catch your breath, and keep moving forward.

The Climb

I really, really hate high places. In fact, I’m such a wuss that I even get queasy going too high on the swings.

Once upon a time, when I was a wee child, I went on a field trip with my summer camp to a rock-climbing arena. We were all bouncing off the walls and waiting impatiently for our chance to climb. Soon, it was my turn and once I was strapped for safety, I began my ascent.

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Happiness is a Warm Jar

As each day unravels, it’s easy to slip into complacency. I find myself doing the same thing, day in and day out. Everything feels stagnant, and while each day is different in its own right, the days remain largely the same.

On top of that, it’s hard to find what’s good every day outside of “I woke up, all of my body parts are functioning as usual, I have food and a roof over my head.” Of course, these are not to be taken for granted (I learned the power of running water when during my Peace Corps service I was denied it for an extended period of time). And really, we should be more thankful of these privileges. I remember telling a friend or two about said waterless plight and how they shouldn’t take it for granted.

“I don’t!” they said.

But believe me, they do. I do. You do, too.

A few years ago circa 2012, I learned about something called a happiness jar. Starting on January 1st of the new year, you’re supposed to write something – anything – that made you happy every day. By the end of the year, on December 31st, your jar should have at least 365 reasons something or someone made you happy.

So on January 1st, 2013, I washed out a salsa jar and threw in my first piece of paper. Sadly, here in 2017, the jar isn’t even halfway full (to be fair it’s a massive jar). I even started one during my service, only for it to meet the same fate. It’s not that I’m devoid of emotion; it’s that I don’t find interest in writing the same reasons over and over again. So now, instead of forcing myself to drop a paper into my jar every day, I add one when I am genuinely happy.

It’s a great exercise in understanding gratitude. There are some days that are so bad, I have to actively remind myself of what good happened so that I don’t write off my day as a complete waste. Those entries to the jar are most important.

My jar stares at me from across the desk every day, and I stare back. Yes, it’s only barely halfway full, but I can still find reasons to add to its collection. One day, that jar will be full, and I can finally dump out its contents to read, to reflect, and to start again.

Wipe Your Feet Somewhere Else

Once upon a time, I was an insufferable doormat.

In some ways, I still am, but thanks to time and just a hint of pride, I’ve moved past my worst moments.

Even to this day, I struggle with acknowledging my own feelings because I care so much about others’ instead. A guilt settles in the pit of my belly when I have to say no to a person or a request. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking care of myself; in fact, I should do it more often.

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Ink-Stained Hands

I’ve tried journaling by hand in the past, with little effect. Blogging as an activity is easier for me if I’m typing. However, I know the healing power of a good handwritten work (even if it results in an eventual cramp).

There was a time about two years ago when I was at a really low point in my life. I was feeling hopeless and down, and I didn’t know how to approach that. I couldn’t get the angry buzz of negative thoughts out of my head. So, on a whim, I took out a pen and a sheet of paper from my notebook and began writing a letter. It was addressed to a specific person, but in reality I was focusing on myself. The best way I could figure out how I felt was if I pretended I was telling my woes to someone else. Next thing I knew, I had a stack of letters addressed to different people – letters I would never send.

Still, they served as catharsis.

I don’t know if it was a placebo effect and time did the work, but I genuinely believe writing it all out helped me heal faster. I could finally manage a slurry of conflicting emotions I couldn’t vocalize. Attempting to put them down on paper aided me in compartmentalizing those feelings and eventually, moving past them. There are even proven medical benefits to writing by hand versus typing on a screen.

Also, it’s just fun. Picking what color ink you want to use (markers, pen, or pencil?), deciding what type of paper to write on (lined or plain? colorful construction paper or thick oaktag?), or even leaving little doodles in the margins! The act of writing a letter brought me back to grade school in a way, when slipping notes across desks behind the teacher’s back was so exciting and taboo.

It made me feel better just on principle. However, I haven’t given a handwritten letter in a long, long time. I barely even scribble my name down anymore, thanks to technology.

Hmm. This blog is great and all, but maybe I should brush up on my letter writing skills…