Bags full of books: making do

I wrote on Saturday about #coronavirustime, and my deep deep fatigue. Apparently anxiety and being with intense emotion take up a lot of energy. Who knew? Well, some people did. I just haven’t experienced this particular combination of weltschmertz and personal disruption before. I’ve been sad and upset and traumatized by things happening in the world, and I’ve had my life upended before, but never both at the same time. It’s a lot. And it turns out, my version of this kind of anxiety is for my body to shut down, like an old fashioned mantle clock that no one remembered to wind.

These retro metaphors keep coming up for me — that’s part of the time-out-of-time feeling. Is this 1918? The 30s? I keep making my own bread and thinking of new uses for beans, so is it the 1940s? Or some unwritten future where a teenage girl is going to have to save the world?

ANYWAY. Fitness. As I wrote on Saturday, I’m having a hard time feeling motivated to move my body, even with allllll the online options out there, and the sunshine beckoning. Several of you commented you are having the same experience — and feeling bad about not being able to adjust.

Well, this is an unprecedented time in our world. Most of my work disappeared overnight. I stood in line today to buy groceries at two different stores, with limits on the number of people able to go in to peer at the empty canned goods and toilet paper aisles. Things are… disorienting. It’s completely normal for our bodies to be mirroring our emotions. We need to take care of our mental health — with some good resources here. And for some of us — including me — that means reframing my physical fitness as being primarily right now about my mental and emotional wellbeing.

As I wrote the other day, I can’t seem to get motivated to… do.. much. But I do feel better — if still exhausted! — if I manage to do something. So what is making that possible? First, I’m better at moving my body if I have a timing around it — especially if I make a plan to meet someone for a walk or a hike or bike ride (observing all the protocols — don’t be dumb and get the parks closed for everyone, people!).

I am also doing much better with the actual “working out” by doing real-time small group classes with my regular (excellent) trainer by zoom. We are paying Alex a small fee for two weeks access to daily classes. I know there are free ones out there, but I believe in supporting small and fledgling businesses through this time — and a designed-for-us personal class is exactly what I need right now. Different every day, reflecting where we are right now, and supportive and encouraging.

The sense of community around this — all of us on isolation or social distancing in our homes, doing this together — is soothing. It’s a light and reassuring connection when so many conversations are intense right now. We laugh, we wave, we sweat. People’s kids and cats interrupt. Alex modifies for each of us as we need.

More than the community, though, there’s something about the resourcefulness of this that feels like it’s teaching me something I need right now. Like making homemade bread, I need to feel competent in unfamiliar ways. We need to mcgyver our lives — in new ways. Today — assuming no one has home gym equipment — Alex designed a workout, part of which included two lulu bags filled with books and wine bottles instead of dumbbells.

I couldn’t imagine trying to lift an actual barbell right now. Deadlifting or back squats seem to belong to another type of person altogether — “but that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead,” to retrieve a quote from my long ago undergrad in English. There’s something fitting about working out by moving a towel around on a slippery floor with our feet, doing step ups on a chair, lifting bags of books. It’s very RIGHT NOW. “If this is too much, take some things out of your bags,” enjoined Alex as we moved from curls to flies.

That’s how I feel right now. I’m lifting unfamiliar things, every minute, and I need to take some things out of my bags. Integrating this literal metaphor into my workouts is reassuring me that I can adjust. I’m not in it alone. We’re all looking for community. And we’ll all adjust.

The cats, meanwhile, are delighted that I’m home all the time.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is breathing with all of you.

3 thoughts on “Bags full of books: making do

  1. Gyms closed here today. I use sandbags a lot at mine. I am going to put textbooks in a bag, duct tape the bag so they don’t come apart, then wrap in a beach towel, apply more duct tape. Voila! 20kg round(ish) object for pressing and squatting and picking up and putting down.

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