It’s funny how long it can take to unlearn all the stuff you were taught as a kid that screwed you up. I was taught some pretty messed up stuff, such as “there’s no point in writing or dancing or learning to play the guitar, because when you grow up and have a family you won’t have time for those things anyway” (an almost-verbatim quote of my grandmother). Some lessons were subtler, like “if something doesn’t come easily, it’s a waste of time to work hard to learn it” and “if you’re not good at something, might as well not do it” (for instance, when I finally got interested in music for real and annoyed my parents by laboriously teaching myself Queen songs out of a songbook on our Yamaha home organ).
It took me a stupidly long time (and a lot of therapy) to even realize how wrong those notions are. It wasn’t until I was newly divorced and turning 30 that I really twigged the importance of learning new things. That was when I first took up weight training, a real departure for a nerd who was not picked dead last for teams in gym class only because I wasn’t “the fat kid”. It’s pretty clear I have no talent for strength training (even with the help of a trainer, I’m still in the “high intermediate” range for a woman my age) but I really like being in the gym, lifting weights, and training to be a tough old bird.
One cool thing about lifting is that on some level you’re always a newb. There are so many different factors to take into account. A lot depends on how well you’re eating and sleeping, what’s going on with your health and your mood, and maybe you think you’ve got it nailed down, but then you have to work around an injury, and you’re always getting older, and gradually you have to start taking wear-and-tear into account, and all the ways you’re physically changing. That’s good, though; keeps it interesting.
Something about getting older brings these things further to the front of your mind. As I approach 50, I’m giving more thought to how I want to age. Recently I was inspired by an interview that Stephen Colbert did with Jane Fonda on “The Late Show” in which she talked about feeling like a newbie. (Why CBS didn’t leave that bit in when they posted the video, I don’t know. They really should have left that and scrapped the emoji bit.) I love what she has to say about learning from failure and learning to do new things, even as she’s pushing 80. My takeaway is, do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to suck.
So if anyone’s still wondering why I’m doing this blog, that’s why. I’m no good at pretending to be “normal”, and it makes me unhappy to try. In that vein, I’m also getting back into juggling (sucking pretty hard each time I try to learn a new trick) and having another go at Twitter (which makes me feel old – all the more reason to try). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with my trainer at the gym, where hopefully I will suck a little less. Hm, that didn’t come out quite right, did it…?
Okay, I admit it, I have a number of different motives for rebooting my Jell-O blog. (I can hear you all now: “What? You’re not doing this just because you love Jell-O so much? Say it ain’t so!”)
During the time when I wasn’t blogging, I started following blogs about women’s fitness from a feminist angle. I’m actually fairly serious, or at least doggedly determined, about strength training, and it can be a lonely pursuit for anybody (a lot of men as well as women disdain or fear the weight room) and I was looking for a virtual community of strong women who enjoy slinging some iron. I figured that looking for feminist oriented blogs would get me away from the supplement marketing and fitspo and put me in touch with kindred spirits.
Gradually I began to notice that a lot of women have arrived at lifting, and fitness pursuits in general, through battling eating disorders and serious body image issues. The first time I got an inkling of this was in a yoga class in Boston where the instructor mentioned disordered eating and then said something along the lines of “…and we all know what that’s like, don’t we?” And I immediately thought, “Speak for yourself, lady!” I thought this was a peculiarity of that particular yoga studio, until I dove into the blogosphere of women’s fitness. These sites spend a lot of time on food and body issues, with what sounds to me like an underlying assumption that the vast majority of a female audience shares those issues. The thing is, I don’t.
Frankly, it’s starting to make me feel a little weird. I lucked out in the genetic lottery and have always been naturally trim (not slender or willowy or waifish, but trim) so I guess my mother, who was severely lacking in energy and motivation anyway, reckoned she was off the hook for indoctrinating me into the feminine pursuit of keeping slim. Besides, I think my family thought that a brainy and seriously nearsighted girl like me was unlikely to be attractive to boys no matter what, so my looks weren’t important — and then it turned out that contact lenses and college opened whole new vistas for me, boy-wise. As a result, I’ve never been wracked with anxiety about my appearance and have never dieted to lose weight.
(No, says Bryan when I express this idea to him, I just eat what Fitbit tells me to. Not true. I tell Fitbit what I eat; Fitbit only gets to count the calories, which I’m tracking to make sure I eat enough to get stronger.)
This is why I can also do a Jell-O blog, because overall my eating habits are good, and I don’t stress about what I eat. I gather from the blogs I’ve been following that this makes me a bit of a freak. I wish I could share my secret, whatever that is, with other people. There’s so much clickbait diet and fitness advice in the media now that makes staying healthy sound way more complicated than it has to be. Good foods, bad foods, staying hydrated… sitting is as bad for you as smoking… moderate levels of daily activity are good for you… moderate levels of daily activity aren’t enough… Calgon, take me away!
So, if you don’t mind, I think I’m just going to stay over here, making Jell-O.