Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prologue: How Did I Even Get Here?

{Prologue, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4}
{Month 2, Month 3, Month 4, Month 5, Month 6, Month 7, Month 8, 2016 WSD, Month 11, Month 12, Month 18}

I am not the kind of person who does Kung Fu.

I’m thirty-five years old, for one thing, and at least that many pounds overweight. My two kids are just old enough to supervise themselves, and just young enough for that to potentially be a terrible idea. I’m lazy. My idea of a strenuous workout is a marathon cookie baking session, conducted in my tiny kitchen while standing hipshot in pajamas and binge-watching Star Trek. I’ve never thrown a punch in my life. Even as a kid, I was never very rough-and-tumble, relying on snark and bluster to get me out of the confrontations that they got me into in the first place.

If all of that basic me-ness wasn’t enough, there’s also my permanent get-out-of-gym pass: I have systemic lupus. My immune system is like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills all over my body instead of fighting off germs. What little energy I have each day is absolutely finite. More often than not, my joints ache and a fever hovers right around the hundred-degree mark. And it’ll be like this for the rest of my days.

So really, medically speaking, I have no business exerting myself, or touching other people, or going anywhere, at all, ever again. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

The first step, the hardest step, was actually deciding to start. See, I’ve spent my entire adult life viewing exercise as something incredibly boring and uncomfortable to be suffered through in order to fit into smaller jeans. It was something that my body had to be forced to do for an hour every day (okay, thirty minutes … okay, twice a week), while my brain got to do whatever fun stuff it wanted for the other twenty-three. You can see how there might be some resentment, there. My mind and body found each other repugnant and intrusive, like really bad roommates. The only way that either could get away from the other would be rather final and unfortunate for me. Something had to bridge the communication gap, find a common ground between mind and body. Some couples’ counseling was required.

I tried meditation, but I kept falling asleep. I tried yoga, but it was boring. I tried dancing, but I have all the left feet.

In a fit of frustration, I signed up for the Women’s Self Defense Class. Then I used my pride to blackmail myself into not flaking out by telling everybody I knew that I was going to take the class. I announced it on Facebook, so it was super mega official. The possible shame of having to admit that I had somehow failed to attend free lessons in how to protect myself turned out to be a pretty good motivator. I went to the class.

It was sweaty. Crowded. A room full of strangers getting physically confrontational with each other. So far outside my comfort zone that the warm, rosy light from my comfort zone would take years to reach it.

I loved every minute of it.

Here was a project that mind and body could work on together, something that required every ounce of concentration my mind could pour into guiding my body. Limbs had to be moved in certain ways, at speed, towards other peoples’ limbs, with a specific mix of power and restraint tempered by observation and reaction.

It was exhausting. And fascinating. Total brain-candy that worked muscles that I had completely forgotten existed. That hour-long class positively flew by, and this was just the freebie lesson tailored to the average lady staying safe on the street. As I practiced what I’d been taught in the week between classes, moving through basic forms in my kitchen while I waited for cookies to bake instead of just standing there, I started to wonder if maybe ...

… despite all the me-ness and the lupus, or possibly because of those things ...

… I am the kind of person who does Kung Fu.