Well here we are, another year, another arbitrary marking of time. I was enjoying my time off. For the first year in ages and ages, I did not have some administrative nightmare to attend to on my break. I had plans. They were mostly plans to be alone in a forest but they were plans nonetheless. The universe cycles without regard for any plans of ours of course and, like many of you, COVID came knocking on my door. I’ll not bore you with the details of how. When I think about it, I get angry, imagine that the people involved were not careful enough, “if only you had thought to use that test earlier in the day” etc. The truth is, if not that day, then the next day or the next. It was inevitable. Now I find myself cooped up in my house with my two adult kids and one kid’s girlfriend. I am presented with the question of what to do with this time and for some reason, in this little family lockdown, it feels more like a moral question in addition to a practical one.
I often struggle with what to write in my monthly contribution to this blog. I mean what is feminist fitness? I think of words like permission and empowerment. I think about overcoming. I think about coming out from underneath something. I think about the picture Sam often posts of a little girl riding her bike yelling “Wheeeeee!!!!” She is using her body and speeding gloriously free in her joy. She seems unencumbered, uninhibited and free of the layers of expectation that will later burden her. What if she was never burdened? Who could she be?
That feels important and I know it’s just a fraction of the story.
In my “Isolation”, I have committed to walking my dog at least 6k every day and doing one hour of yoga. Seems pretty reasonable. Seems like good advice for any lockdown. I’ve also been doing some other things. I have been reading the revised curriculum for the first year of the program I teach in. My colleagues have revamped it to address our commitment to training with an anti-racist and anti-colonial perspective. As we have welcomed a more representative student population into training in the profession, we have realized that they not only need to be welcomed but they need to be seen in our welcome. That means teaching with more stories present in the room. So I have read excerpts from Legacy by Suzanne Methot and How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi, amongst other things. My colleagues have interspersed these readings along with the usual psychotherapist stuff (Freud, Rogers, Kohut, Schore, Wallin). It’s eviscerating to go back and forth but the point is to stop presenting the psychoanalytic canon as neutral and insert more of the world’s reality. The point is also not to just teach the white people to be better but to see everyone in the room. We need to hold everyone’s story and give it room to exist and its full implication unfold. We need to start with the students, who are not separate from the clients. We need to be “accomplices” instead of “allies” (D. Squire 2019).
I have chosen to take this time to watch The Wire, a show I missed because I had babies and other drama when it was originally released. After the first episode, in which I was left with a feeling of WTAF is this, I started to understand why it was so important, why it remains so important. Watch that show in the context of George Floyd, of Donald Trump and insurrections and voter suppression and you will see how it holds up. Bonus points for treating queer people like humans in the core story.
In my dog walk yesterday, I listened to this podcast about the Wellness Culture’s link to COVID denialism. It was a very depressing dive into the way the hunks of wellness industry, and pointedly yoga, has aligned itself with an elitist, individualist magical thinking laden perversion of an understanding of health and collective responsibility. Gwyneth Paltrow and all her ilk, scrambling for clicks and views and followers, selling us enlightenment and vagina candles and vaccine conspiracies.
I’m coming ’round to my point. I was walking my dog, listening to that podcast in my still feeling well triple boosted body that loves yoga and lives in an affluent suburban town on Treaty 19 territory. I was trying to decide what to write for my last blog of 2021 to be published on the last day of 2021 and realized I had nothing to say of any use that had to do with any personal feminist fitness journey. I have everything. I have more than my share. I have more than is fair and most of it isn’t even mine. I say that in terms of both stolen land and also that the idea of having things, devoid of how having them impacts the collective, is a road to hell too many of us are walking.
The other thing I listened to on my walk was this podcast, an interview with theoretical physicist, Carlo Rovelli. He was talking about how time does not really exist as we know it. There was so much interesting stuff in that interview but the best part was at the end, where they talked about his notion that our existence is not about our stuff, it is about our relationships. We are the interactive, always fluid nexus of an ongoing web of relationships. He got there using theoretical physics, the Intersubjectivists got there through psychoanalytical observations, Carol Gillian created an entire moral philosophy out of it and the Indigenous people got there through lived experiences. When are we gonna get there?
I’m in isolation. It’s fine. I have everything, more than my share and I need to ask myself instead, who am I going to be? Who am I going to love? Who am I going to uplift and put before me? Who will find me a worthy accomplice? I won’t stop the walking or the yoga but it has to be a means to a better end. It’s not enough just to get to the mat anymore.
Happy arbitrary New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one.