feminism · fitness

Marching toward goals, outer and inner

On Saturday, women and supporters of women marched in cities and towns all over the world to protest against injustice, including misogyny, sexual assault, and discrimination. They sent a message to the incoming American presidential administration that people were watching and ready to act in response to injustice.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t march with them this weekend.

A month before the US presidential election, my friend Norah and I made plans to spend a weekend at the Kripalu yoga center in western Massachusetts.  My last trip there was transformative in helping me find the reset button for my eating practices. Since then I’ve maintained some of those changes—I’ve largely eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet (e.g. no nutrasweet in coffee or tea, and almost no diet coke), which is one of my goals, as it seems more healthy-to-me (yes, there’s also evidence for health benefits to this move, but, as Sam says, you do you).

I planned this trip in part for Norah, who has been attending to ailing parents and dealing with the effects of family deaths, all of which are physically and emotionally draining. She needed a break and a rest, and I found the perfect program for her: an entire weekend of yoga nidra, deep relaxation yoga. I’ll post about this kind of yoga practice another time, but suffice to say, she has unwound and de-stressed like nobody’s business in the past two days.

For me, I chose a weekend cooking course called “5 ingredients, no time”. Who could resist? The executive chef of Kripalu, Jeremy Rock Smith, taught knife skills, stovetop/oven techniques for cooking both vegetables and proteins, and menu planning. He also kept us in stitches, amusing us with his irreverent and hilarious commentary on everything from millet-as-bird-food to Kripalu itself (“welcome to Ohmville”). We cooked (and tasted) more than 20 recipes, all featuring interesting vegetables, spices, and a variety of proteins. I now feel recharged to face my kitchen with new ideas for healthy-to-me and tasty-to-me cooking.

But I kept feeling conflicted all weekend. I didn’t march with those women and friends-of-women. Their cause is my cause. I feel a civic responsibility to participate, to be active, to show up to protest when I see injustice. And of course there’s the FOMO: fear of missing out. It’s clear, just from the smidgen of Facebook posts I looked at (there’s deliberately limited internet access at Kripalu), that the experiences of women who attended were tremendously positive. And that’s great, and I’m moved and delighted by their pictures and stories. But I wasn’t there.

Let me say here that I am aware of the position of privilege from which I am approaching this dilemma. First, I am lucky and grateful that I have the resources of time and money to choose to come to a lovely place like Kripalu for a weekend. Second, I am aware of the benefits to me of others spending their time and money and other resources to march in protest against something I am also against. So I thank them here from the bottom of my heart.

All that said, spending time engaging in self-care around clearly identified personal issues (emotional exhaustion for Norah, and being stuck around healthy-to-me eating for me) feels like some steps in a long march of our own. It’s hard to set aside dedicated time for this. However, it’s already resulted in a bunch of benefits for Norah. She says that spending all this inward time has made her ready to get back out there. Good on you, Norah!

I’ve been dealing with feeling stuck about health behavior change over the past year. I’ve toyed with challenges, eating plans, new gym memberships (pro tip: don’t rush to join a gym when you’re feeling blobby and out of shape; it’s not the right time), etc. Yes, I’ve been riding some, walking some, doing some yoga, and the occasional other physical activity (e.g. cross country skiing the one time we got snow in Boston). But I don’t feel like I’m in charge of my eating and activity. I still feel buffeted about by my schedule, my emotions, the world, everything.

I want to march. I want to march for justice, peace, and truth. I want to march for inner peace, for calm resolve, for my life goals of health and happiness.

I used to march a lot. I mean actually march—I was in high school and college band. I was on the flag squad and loved it. I wore a white cavalier hat with a big red feather and carried a seven-foot long flag that I swooshed and slammed around (in accord with others, of course). It was so much fun, marching at half-time at football games and parades. I enjoyed being part of a large (and in this case musical) group, moving with a purpose.

Moving with a purpose. That’s what I missed most about missing out on this weekend’s march. Being at Kripalu felt like marching in place, which is not as fun as moving forward. But I remember from band that getting the lineup right is important, too. You don’t want to step off on the wrong foot.

Here’s hoping that Norah’s and my next steps will be toward all of our goals, inner and outer.

11 thoughts on “Marching toward goals, outer and inner

  1. “I want to march. I want to march for justice, peace, and truth. I want to march for inner peace, for calm resolve, for my life goals of health and happiness.”

    I share with you the conflicted feeling.

    Catherine, let it be known that I didn’t march either yesterday. Calgary had 4,000 people in Women’s March locally. I didn’t know about it until 1 hr. before it started.

    Instead I kept my haircut appointment which I booked a wk. ago and coincided with the march start. And the march was only 1 km. away.

    A protest march is 1 event…making change that helps others or making long term positive change is doing it for many months, years.

    Your protest effort, change to help is keeping this blog alive with new content and dialogue.

    For myself, it was 10 years of volunteer work in Toronto for national non-profit organizations for a magazine on Asian-Canadian social justice issues, literary expression that drew upon our own experiences/perceptions and then for 2nd org. on immigrant services, race relations on govn’t policy matters and programs (ie. legal aid for non-English speaking CAnadians) ,etc. In cycling it was being with Women on Wheels to organize rides, workshops for women in Toronto area for 5 years.

    I owe this blog highlighting this post I wrote a few years ago on feminism and cycling as an expression of freedom for personal independence and mobility without being chaperoned and being safe:
    https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/cycling-lifestyle-living-an-unconscious-feminist-life/ It was retweeted by Tracy or Sam, I believe.

    1. Jean,

      Your presence on this blog is such a source of wisdom, perspective, truth and support. Thanks so much for your posts and your comments; they mean a huge amount. And thanks for the perspective on playing the long game for freedom, independence, mobility and joy. We’re all in it for the long haul. And I’m glad for your company in it.

      1. I wish I could meet you, Tracy or Sam in one person. One day.. my entire extended birth family are in Metro Toronto.

  2. Catherine, I’m with you here. I made the decision by default in December not to book a flight with a colleague to Washington – I just stopped thinking about it, and then didn’t do it. I could see the term coming at me, knew I’d be tired, and… you know.

    Then on Saturday I rode my bike in the glorious, foggy warmth with friends rather than march with the group in our city. I made that decision on Thursday. I had the week from hell dealing with parental care issues, and other stuff at work, and knew I needed self-care more than marching.

    I felt conflicted like crazy. I wanted to take part. I wanted to have the ENERGY to take part. But I didn’t.

    I know this is partly a cop-out, and I own that. But I think it also speaks to how our lives have become so over-programmed, and so emotionally weighty, in the last little while – this is partly neoliberalism as usual (downloading lots of life shit onto a helpless population = recipe for fatigue and insularity), but also, I think, partly the wall of horror I see unfolding south of the border. Part of me wonders if I just couldn’t face it. Not that ignoring the situation to “do me” is a solution… but it was all I had in me on Saturday.

    More to be thought about here in the next four years. Thinking about how to recharge my batteries for the fights ahead. Unsure. Thinking.


  3. I didn’t march either and I felt guilty all weekend. I wasn’t courageous enough to go to Washington. I considered London or Toronto, but when the day rolled up, I was exhausted from caregiving, and decided to take a me-day. I’m justifying it with the heavy duty discussions we had in our family all weekend about the situation (18 year old daughter and 20 year old son). Sometimes I feel like I should be more out there and active with my beliefs and other times, I feel like I should just focus on my own little circle of the world. I’m thrilled that so many other women did attend the protests all over the world. It was breathtaking to see. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Catherine.

    1. Well, if you will allow me to say so, I don’t think you should feel the least bit guilty. As a caregiver you were where you needed to be doing what you needed to do. The real work to improve society is done every day in a hundred little ways, like in talking with your kids about what’s important to you. There will be other marches.

      1. Thanks very much for your kind words Jeff. I aspire to be a Radical Granny when all my other life responsibilities have been taken care of 😀

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