Yesterday in my voiceover class I had a lightbulb moment, or an "A-ha" moment, or whatever you want to call it. I made a BIG discovery about myself.
Despite the fact that I was a stage actor for so many years, took hundreds of dance and movement and stage combat classes, have been working out regularly since high school (thank you, Jane Fonda! Yes, we've already established that I'm old, shut up), do yoga on a regular basis and freakin' teach Pilates, I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, DISCONNECTED FROM MY BODY. Not as much as, say, a programmer at Apple (you have to wonder why those guys and gals don't have heads that are 3 times bigger than the rest of their bodies), but enough that is may well be one of the root causes of all my distress.
I went up to practice a voiceover at the mic. As usual, once I got out of my brain, released my death grip on the podium, and started moving around a bit (in this case, wiggling my hips around and, yes, it absolutely works), I started relaxing and HAVING FUN with the material!
And it made me realize that the times on stage when I enjoyed what I was doing were the times when I could just let go, be physical, and relax. The times when I DREADED going on stage were when I was stiff, unsure, self-conscious. And, not coincidentally, I also sucked eggs in those roles. ( Not literally.) For a long time I thought that I could only get really physical in roles that demanded it, usually comedic ones that had me sprinting all over the stage (and gulping down huge quantities of water backstage, which led to much having to pee during my offstage time, as well. But that's another post.) But what of the roles that required me to be still? To dig in and find the "quieter" emotions? I had trouble with those. But not always, as sometimes being still is the fastest route to accessing said emotions. And being connected physically DOESN'T necessarily mean running around like a maniac, climbing trees (yes, literally; the stage was outdoors), jumping up and down, enunciating to the back row. Sometimes you stand right in front of a microphone, feet planted, practically whispering. But you still need to be IN your body!
And it hit me like, as my friend Tom would say, a Cosmic "Duh!" Maybe all that discomfort wasn't just about being unsure onstage. Maybe-HELLO!- that discomfort came from the place deep inside that was constantly ashamed. Because, as I've written before, I can barely remember a time when I wasn't ashamed of my body. When I didn't have huge, crippling body issues. Maybe the reason I was drawn to drama and dance classes as a kid was because a part of me and/or someone, somewhere Up There was trying to help me tap into those insecurities and overcome them. But I never recognized it. Because when your a kid, especially a teen, and you have a less-than-perfect body (even if that's just your perception), there is even more shame and more self-consciousness. And being a woman in Hollywood?!?! FORGET IT!!!! Having a single extra ounce of fat on your body is cause for the kind of punishment and derision usually reserved for suntanned women in Iran. (Huh. No wonder there are so many earthquakes in southern California: It's all those scantily-clad women!) In fact, our entire culture ENCOURAGES us to be disconnected! We see the body, especially a woman's body, as a commodity, something that does not belong to her but to everyone else. Something to be used to sell all kinds of stuff, or to be picked apart and criticized or envied, to be used to attract a provider, etc. We also see bodies as the messengers of evil thoughts and feelings: Stomach growling? Ignore it! It wants you to EAT SOMETHING, and if you do, you'll get FAT and no man will ever want you! You'll die alone, in the gutter, surrounded by cats! Wait, you're full? But you still have food on your plate! Think of all the starving people in the world and finish up, you spoiled brat! Are you feeling aroused?!?! Shame on you! That's only for MEN! Are you feeling PROUD of yourself? You evil, conceited bitch!
Damned if we do, damned if we don't.
Even as teach my classes or, heck, TAKE classes, I find myself comparing my body to others'. Sometimes I wonder if people passing by as I teach cannot possibly believe that I'M the instructor. How could I be? I'm WAAAAY too fat! What could I know about fitness?
And then we wonder why so many fitness instructors have EDs and over-exercise. (Um, 'cause their jobs depend on it?)
Who was it who said "The unexamined life isn't worth living?" Was it Kierkegaard? No, sorry, Socrates. Well, he must be spinning in his grave these days, 'cause not only are we living unexamined lives, we're being REWARDED for it! The more unexamined, the better! (Yes, I'm talking to you, Real Housewives of wherever you live, folks in "The Hills," etc. etc. And no, self-involved is NOT the same as self-aware!)
Well, I choose to NOT be unaware and disconnected anymore. This morning I practiced mindful eating over a bowl of Cheerios. This is something I've avoided for YEARS. (Mindful eating, not Cheerios. As far as I know, I have no Cheerio-related issues. Well, except for the fact that Chocolate Cheerios look disgusting and I don't believe that they are actually healthy.) But it's something I realized last night, as I was reading one of my yoga books, that I NEED to do. Not just for my weight but for my sanity. After all, THIS is what Intuitive Eating, non-dieing, all of it boils down to; being at peace with MYSELF. I think Geneen Roth is ABSOLUTELY spot-on when she says that our food issues are NOT the actual issues, but can light a path to the REAL ones. So, after years of futile resistance, and with the help of a great therapist, I am finally ready to face them. (Sometimes literally: she has an exercise where I imagine I'm seated opposite one of my issues and we have a conversation. It's effective and kinda fun, too!)
And you know what? I don't think I would have had any of these insights if it weren't for the weight gain! That is what got me started on all of this to begin with. Some say there is a reason for everything; I don't know if I believe the EVERYTHING part, but there are definitely reasons for MUCH of what occurs in our lives, and now I actually think I'm grateful for the weight. Because it has opened my eyes to so much!!!!!!!
WOW! Talk about a light bulb! And an energy-saving, environmentally-friendly one at that!
And just to wrap up (finally!), What am I geeking out over? Well, the gym where I work has ordered Pilates jump boards and towers! I've been hoping for a long time to get the jump boards! You can add cardio to reformer classes, and it SO FUN!!!!!! It's like jumping on a trampoline while lying down! You can jump around, get your heart rate up, and do ZERO damage to your joints. And the tower just adds more variety. I'm SO EXCITED!!!!!!! I haven't been this psyched since the new season of "Doctor Who" started! (Although I miss David Tennant, Matt Smith Rocks!)
And, oh man, I'm even more of a geek that I realized.