Sit (and Spin) With the Discomfort

Last Monday I finally executed a beautiful spinning hook kick. It might not have been able to do much damage, but it was crisp, balanced, and graceful, making the “rainbow” arc with my leg that Grandmaster had asked for but usually got a falling tree stump in response. Spin kick has been the bane of my existence for a year. It holds a raw, scrubbed mirror up to the illusion I have of my athletic abilities. It contradicts everything my body has been telling me for years. How is it that in yoga I can boldly pop upside down into a standing half-moon but timidly hold my body upright (until I clumsily topple over) during that damn kick?
 
I approached the spin kick with a forgiving and positive attitude and a fresh perspective. A magical warm-up exercise from one of my instructors didn’t hurt either. I released the pressure on myself to get it right. Lo and behold it was the best I had ever done.
 
 “Your turning back kick has really improved,” one of the instructors said as I scurried back into line after a drill. I wanted to shake him and shriek, “But did you see my spin kick??” Sometimes the largest changes go unnoticed by everyone else but ourselves. Sometimes the improvements we make are shining bright to the rest of the world while we are focused internally on something else.
 
Meanwhile outside of the dojang I have awoken to find myself metamorphosized into a giant insect.
 
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Just kidding, but I haven’t quite gotten the balance right. I seem to have hit a plateau with the rest of my life. 
 
Inside there is something that is stuck like a black sticky blob of hair and accumulated cosmetic by-products in the bowels of the bathroom sink. It’s buried deep, and it refuses to disappear without being acknowledged. In my last entry I explored the idea of escewing goals (or in my case, high expectations) for enjoying the moment. Turns out that it’s REALLY hard to do. I can’t NOT have aspirations. I’m a linear forward thinker, and I get a little high off progress. My body, however, is telling me that for my mental and physical health’s sake, I need to turn down the dial.
 
My sleep problems came back. Last year I enjoyed a lovely bout of medication-induced insomnia. I kicked my dependance and eventually developed the opposite problem–falling asleep way too early, at least for having a decent social life. It had started to even out…almost. Lately I’ve become painfully sleepy right after lunch, so much so that I almost fell asleep driving home from lunch last Wednesday.  I feel like Grampa Simpson–involuntarily passing out mid-sentence. During the day or early in the evening I would be wracked with tremors, involuntarily clenching my jaw in a means to stay awake. My vision would blur to the point that I couldn’t see even while wearing my glasses. Cataplexy? Skyrocketing insulin? What’s going on?
 
Luckily I’ve been on vacation so the naps weren’t a big problem. I couldn’t get to sleep until late but woke up early so I’d pass out in the middle of the day. The naps aren’t enjoyable little snoozes. They are bullies shoving my head into a bowl of painful exhaustion, sucker-punching me into disorientation when they know full well I have stuff to do.  My uncle, an endocrinologist, suggested I may be in “sleep debt” and not even know it. And I thought the only debt I had was my mortgage.

After we returned from our vacation Sunday night I struggled to go to sleep, feeling both tired and not-tired. All the worries I didn’t know I had swirled to the surface as my brain and body fought itself. 

My spiritual life is all but non-existent. My relationship with God has faded so much that I don’t even know how to begin rebuilding it or if I even want to put forth the effort. All I could whisper was “I miss you” as the insomnia raged.
 
On top of that the ever present body-image storm cloud rumbled into sight as I hallucinated half-asleep Sunday night. I thought I had conquered this. I thought I had emotionally matured beyond the problems I had in my teens and early twenties. I thought–I really thought–that I truly viewed exercise as a pleasurable hobby that I did to be loving to myself and keep myself healthy, not a never-ending chase of the dangling carrot. Cranky and tired/not-tired I finally told myself, “I don’t give a sh*t about what I weigh anymore, I don’t give a sh*t about having a flat stomach because that will only happen with liposuction anyway–thanks, genetics–and I need a new water heater more than flat abs. I’m not going to berate myself for turning over to go back to sleep when the alarm for the gym rings early in the morning. At most I clock in at 120 pounds and I wear a size 2 for heaven’s sake.” No more Fitbit, no more logging my exercise in my calendar, no more calorie-counting apps. I’m done stressing out over my physical appearance. I’ve been doing it for the last 20 years and I’m exhausted. I’ll continue to make it to the gym and the dojang, but I’ll go because it’s fun and it’s something I genuinely enjoy doing, not as some sort of pursuit of unattainable perfection.
 
Watch me lose weight and tone up by not giving a sh*t anymore. Those law of attraction hippies are on to something.
 
Quarter Rest, Half Rest, Whole Rest
 
On the flip side I’m very chill at work, calmly completing my tasks and offering suggestions to my team on how to make our work more efficient. I enjoy my job and teammates very much, but at the end of the work day I neatly pack it up and leave it on the metaphorical shelf until the next workday. It’s my job, not my life or my master. When I let go of work stress I usually reap unexpected rewards. If only I could be that detached with other aspects of my life.
 
I pride myself on my “work-life balance,” which really means making my “life” the priority and “work” as the means to support it. But what about the “work” of managing my “life”? Housework, organizing, hobbies, relationships, health. I approach those aspects of my life with the fierce obsession of a workaholic CEO. After all, if I don’t have those ducks in a row what do I have? There are constantly places to go, things to accomplish, experiences to have. I may have rejected the rat race of work (I REFUSE to “lean in”) but I am spending all my time scurrying on the hamster wheel of my life. Maybe I need to hit a brick wall rather than a plateau.
 
The only place where those worries and self-imposed responsibilities don’t linger are in taekwondo. No amount of yoga, prayer, or mediation has ever made me feel as present and as worry-free as I do in the dojang.
 
Certain people in my life have suggested that I “sit with the discomfort,” rather than struggle against it. Perhaps that’s how I can view the plateaus (or sometimes the two steps backward) that I experience on my life wheel–taekwondo, fitness, spirituality, career, relationships. Just sit with it for a moment. A rest in music can be as profound as the most complex chord. 
I will continue with the struggle of “letting go,” but I have witnessed its power too many times to not give it another shot. Join me…or I’ll knock you out with a spin kick.
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