I Turned My Ab Exercise into a Spiritual One.
Crunching my way to clarity.
I’ve never been a huge fan of working out my abs, despite loving exercise in general. I tend to do a lot of full-body workouts that handle my midsection to a reasonable degree. But more recently I started to feel like I could use a little more concentrated attention on certain areas. Of both my body and my soul.
The past couple of years have been rather transitionary. For much of my life, I had been caught in a comfortable cycle of attracting abusive types, getting hurt, and coping in my own toxic ways. It was all I knew for decades, despite having a sneaking suspicion that life didn’t have to be quite so dramatic and difficult. Not that I wasn’t trying to heal. I was…just very, very slowly.
There was almost a ten year period where I threw myself into meditation and spirituality, doing everything I could to get rid of whatever was making me hurt. But I wasn’t fully healed during that process, and I had really bad boundaries, so I remained a magnet for needy, damaged people. And let them in I did.
Naturally, this process was a bit of a push and pull. I’d make a growth leap and then be pulled back by someone who didn’t want me to leave them. An opportunity would ask me to show up in a bigger way and I’d self sabotage. I’d get into the flow and then veer very far out of it. You get the idea.
The point that I hit a wall with all that was when my constant state of stress and anxiety started to affect me on a physical level. My worries turned to panic attacks. I started having flashbacks, which obviously alerted me to the fact that there was deeper stuff I still hadn’t dealt with. I lost another family member to cancer. One of my exes committed suicide. I started to recognize some dysfunction hanging around that I didn’t know how to sustain.
There was a lot going on, and a lot of stuff just wasn’t working out. I ran out of steam. Felt like I was being used up and sucked dry. I felt like I was drowning, and therefore had a sink or swim decision to make. I ultimately just reached a point where I was ready to take full responsibility for my own life, regardless of what that would mean for anyone else. I needed to get out of the cage I was living in. Fight for my right. It didn’t feel like there was any other choice.
Reaching that point was pivotal. But instantaneously easy? Nope. In some ways, removing all of the toxic stuff from my life at once was jarring and shocking. Especially while I was in a state of grief.
During that period I stopped dating. I pulled back from the troubled. I went to bed early. Drank less alcohol. Took more vitamins. I read a shit ton of books about healing. I went about setting new boundaries. Saw a therapist.
Occasionally I raged on the floor and cried in yoga. I journaled more than ever, and I took jobs outside of my comfort zone in an attempt to better support myself financially. This was healing. It wasn’t pretty exactly, but I was going deeper than I’d ever gone before. I was making actual strides despite still feeling pretty rocky.
I could sum this period up as very hard-working but also a sad girl solitude. I was healing but hurting, and unfortunately, this started to show. While I was working more, I was working out less, and I lost a ton of muscle. I know it’s not becoming to complain about being a thin person, but I started to look and feel extra tiny. In a frail, unhot way. Then I got TMJ and treated it with Botox, which melted off my jaw muscles too. Normally I would try to hide that with my long mane, but adding to the mess, I had accidentally fried off half my hair while attempting to bleach it myself. While I did see a bit of humor in all of this happening at once, I also felt and looked like crap.
Oddly, it was smack dab in the middle of this absurd period of time that I met my boyfriend. Apparently, I had done an okay job of screaming my new life standards out to the universe because suddenly a good person arrived. I think this is an example of the vacuum effect. Clear something out, and something else comes in to fill the space. I felt like a numb, sheer, zombie version of myself, but this man still recognized me as cute, smart, and funny. I give him a lot of credit for that.
In the ten months that I’ve known him, I’ve hit a variety of growth edges even more deeply. A healthy relationship will do that to you. I’ve also reached points where I felt like I was melting, in a good way. Perhaps it was actually my shell that was doing the melting. I’ve been rebuilding and trying to get strong, inside and out. Finding forgiveness. Fixing the way I view my past. Rewriting my narrative. Trying to be happy, and present, and good. My hair is (slowly) growing. My jaw is a little better too. But I’ve also felt oddly soft. In my general nature and in my abs too.
Someone recently said I looked like a “sweet little angel” which was a bit alarming because my defenses and resting bitch face used to read closer on the scale to “Russian assassin.” People keep assuming that I’m about ten years younger than I am. I went out for once last week and everyone at the party kept using the space in front of me as their doorway. I must not have looked like I’d be likely to resist. I get it, I’m a little soft right now. I feel very gentle. I’m still healing.
Which brings us to my spiritual ab exercises. I’d love to retain the humble kindness I’ve developed over the past couple years. But I’d also like to get back my quit wit and hot bod. I figured that I could wrap all this work together by treating my core workouts like a stabilizer and a strengthener for my entire being. If I strengthen my abs it’ll be harder for people to cross my boundaries. If I strengthen my abs I’ll be able to see a physical manifestation of the internal work I’ve committed to. If I strengthen my abs I’ll feel a tighter bond and reverence for my body. Protected in the world. Cute for the summer. Strong for my life.
I’m crunching my way to clarity and planking my way to the best version of me. That’s the plan anyway.