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Slow Sanity - Input Junkie
February 16th, 2010
02:13 pm


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Slow Sanity
matociquala posted an excellent piece about doing various sports she loves (especially climbing) in spite of not having the sort of body which will enable her to ever be strikingly good at them.

My initial reaction was "what a mother-fucking piece of shit I am". This isn't her fault. This is some bad programming I've got. And if I don't watch it, I can go from ok, my body is what it is, but my consciousness is a blight.

I'm 4'11", about 175 pounds, 56, have some minor knee injuries, and am just beginning to learn to accommodate to physical exertion.

I was bad at running as a kid-- not just a matter of being short-- running felt bad, so I didn't do much of it. This is almost certainly a good thing, considering what I've needed to improve about my coordination. I'm pretty sure that not running (combined with enough luck to not have significant ailments or impact injuries) is a major contributor my not having major knee problems. It's only recently that I've been able to enjoy walking rather than tolerating it.

Unfortunately, I bought into the American idea that athletes are just intrinsically superior beings. I'm still working on defusing that one. It helped to read about rodent research that liking to move is at least partly genetic. It's bottom-up, rather than superiority granted by the gods.

I'm pretty sure that there are people hauling the same shit about not being intelligent that I've got about not being athletic.

I've put some 30 years into learning how to be somewhat aware of what I'm feeling kinesthetically. I'm pretty pleased with what I've accomplished, but both sad and angry that it's been necessary.

So anyway, after obsessing briefly, I realized I wanted to do the Five Tibetans, a yoga-calesthenic set which has been good for me, and which I'd been neglecting for a few weeks.

And I found that before I did that, I wanted to do some T'ai Chi. And I did enough forms to lose count-- probably four or five. This is quite something, considering that there have been times when I've been so caught up in perfectionism that I couldn't get past the beginning.

I realized two things-- one is to experiment to feel what's a satisfying way to extend my arms to the sides. I found that I've been forcing my shoulders too far back, and that's not just a matter for T'ai Chi-- I realize that I've been forcing them back even while I sit and type. I don't think this has been an effort at good posture exactly-- it was more like a feeling that things (including me) "ought" to be squared off. I'm thinking of it as a bad convergence between rectalinnear Western civ and a background sense that I need to be adjusted.

I'm definitely breathing easier now that I'm letting my shoulders roll forward a little.

It's entirely possible that at some time in the future, I'll have more relaxed chest muscles, and my shoulders will default more towards the sides, but forcing my shoulders back is not a solution for tight chest muscles.

The other thing I realized is that making a correction in T'ai Chi is about learning for the future. It isn't about correcting something I've already done so that it's right. Some of you may have noticed that when I talk about something you've done that I think could have been done better, I preface it with "for future reference". This is to make sure I'm not implying that you ought to make the past different-- an impossible and infuriating demand. I didn't realize I was doing the same thing to myself.

Anyway, doing some moving is a good reaction. I feel quite a bit better than I did when I first read that article. I was somewhat going back into self-hatred in order to write about it, but I'm not stuck there. I would rather not have the reflex of doing that to myself at all, and am interested in anything people have to say about changing such strong reflexes.

My subconscious was very much in favor of my writing and posting this-- maybe someone needs to read it, and I didn't realize the details of my shoulder stuff till I thought about it enough to write about it.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
I'm not a great athlete but I've always enjoyed sports. I played cricket when I was much younger and rugby on and off until I was 49. I've climbed, canoed, mountaineered and skied all over the place. I used to run a lot more than i do now. In my time I've been crap (enjoyably) at squash, badminton and tennis. I'm a sort of OK swimmer. I think the thing is to find something you enjoy and do it at a level that makes it fun for you. So as a rock climber I never led much harder than trad 5.5 but I enjoyed that more than pratting around on an artificial wall falling off harder stuff I really wasn't up to. I had mates who could lead 5.11 and I enjoyed watching them but I knew I didn't have the basic physical wherewithal to climb that hard, so I didn't try. (Well, not very often). The only drawback I can see is that most of us end up with injuries of one kind or another which get worse with age. Hello ankles! Hello shoulders! Hello neck!
[User Picture]
Date:February 16th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
What I'm up against is a self-hatred problem, not an insufficient athleticism problem.

I'm pretty sure that if I don't solve the self-hatred, I could win an Olympic gold medal, and then beat up on myself because Michael Phelps has a bunch of gold medals.

If you're interested in less risk of injury, I recommend Feldenkrais method or Scott Sonnon, who has a gung ho health-first approach to not getting injured and/or recovering quickly and thoroughly.
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