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Room on the Road: On Crispy Knees and Comfort Zones

I’m trying new things. Well I’m trying to try new things. I’m finding that as rewarding as it can be, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Especially when my knees, which chirp like a bowl of Rice Krispies in milk, are so loud they drown out my good intentions.

New Thing: Aerial Yoga. Thanks to my friend Dawn for pushing me WAY out of my comfort zone. My knees were quiet but my core was screaming!

One of my priorities as I set out on my give-anything-a-go adventure, is to listen to my whispering cheerleader. The one that beckons me lovingly go ahead, try it. She’s much cooler than my loud inner critic who has no tact. You’re too old, you won’t be able to, you never, you can’t, blah, blah, freakin’ blah.

So I’ve been putting myself to the test lately when trying new things, quietly facing friends and strangers a like with my new internal guide - What’s stopping me? What’s stopping me from hanging upside down in a cocoon of silk, or wearing a tank top in public, or (insert scary new activity here)?

Actually, if I’m being honest, a more insightful question would be, who is stopping me? Me? You? Is this my ‘stuff’ or your ‘stuff’? Staying present in a moment when I simply want to cave takes commitment on my part, and I’m still learning the nuances of when to dig in and when to let go. Really, I enjoy walking right now. It’s really okay, you can run, and I’ll walk. Realizing that sometimes my comfortable makes others feel uncomfortable. That’s their stuff—and not my problem.

New Thing: Early morning track workouts. Unexpected inspiration and support. Friends that make a space for me, giving me room to feel comfortable and find my way. Bonus: Sunrise.

As the weeks go by, some days have brought a little pushing back, some forward motion, some confusion, some clarity and some chips. (As in chips and guac, or the chocolate variety, typically found in cookies…there are definitely some perks to being a work in progress.)

As I venture outside my comfort zone, I’ve realized a few things. I don’t feel my age. I feel younger, which causes me to have a warped sense of having more time than I might have. I’ve let too many days slip through my fingers, taking my age for granted, always banking on a body that can do what I want to do when I want to do it. Which leads me to overestimating what my 49-year-old body can do. Don’t be silly! Of course I can pull my body up off the floor and into this hanging silk cocoon. Until I couldn’t.

At first sight, the only vision I had was of me gracefully climbing into that silk pod, enlisting a strength I believed was simply in reserve, just waiting to be called upon. The reality was, that yes, I was strong(ish), but there was more moaning, groaning, laughing, and sweating than I had imagined. In fact, there was A LOT of sweating, and I couldn’t stand the heat. At that point I had two options, take off my shirt or pass out. Hanging there, in my silk pod, safely secluded from the rest of the class, I took my shirt off, revealing my tank top. Yay me.

Then I realized that I would have to come out of the cocoon. I couldn’t decide if I felt brave or sick to my stomach, and naked, I definitely felt naked. Funny how I thought hanging upside down would be the scariest thing I would do that day.

Here I am in my tank, which doesn’t look like much, but brave doesn’t always look the way it feels.

I’ve also realized I still have a lot of work to do on meeting myself where I am, and that is okay. Because as much as I don’t think I have enough time, I am also realizing that isn’t the truth. I have as much time as I want to take.

Last week, I allowed myself to stay longer on the trail than I had planned. My mind was racing with you have so much to do, you have work, you have this, you have that…so many urgent things to get done. I was so close to scuttling back to my car. Then I remembered I had to put on my try-new-things mentality. Which immediately forced me to change my inner conversation.  You deserve this time, and nothing is more urgent than your health. My thirty minutes of trail time transitioned into sixty minutes of me time. And you know what? Nothing in my scheduled suffered because of it.

I stayed and lingered on the shore a little longer than I normally would, and it was fantastic. I even sat on a piece of driftwood, closed my eyes, and soaked up the sun. (I know: sitting on a piece of driftwood is life changing, right? Turns out, it kinda is.)

As I made my way back to the trailhead, I noticed a woman ahead of me. Nothing out of the ordinary, she was strolling along with her two dogs in tow, enjoying the trail. What struck me was the way she owned her space on the trail. There was something so graceful and powerful about her strides. She seemed totally unconcerned with the urgency of life, at least on that day.

I stared a few minutes longer, totally engrossed by her presence and grateful that I was behind her; facing her with my gaze and curiosity would have been a little awkward.

I thought about my own strides. I was definitely in them but I wasn’t owning them the way I know I can.

I took one more look at the woman ahead of me on the trail, taking each stride as her own. From what I could tell, she was loving every minute of it. I want to feel like that. What’s stopping me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I zipped up my jacket like a big hug, and I took a step forward, feeling downright joyful. Here I am, all of me, my big hips, my big smile, my big heart, my not-so-strong core…the inner critic is quieter, but she’s not on mute yet.

Heading back to my car, I passed a man running on the trail and looked him in the eye with confidence. Usually my face wears an explanation or apology: I’m trying to lose weight. I’ll run soon. Don’t you worry. I’ll deserve to be on this trail.

My joyful steps and direct eye contact brought my inner cheerleader to top volume: I’ll deserve? Everyone deserves to be on this trail, Denise. Everyone, including you.

The runner didn’t hear that cheerleader, but I certainly did. And she told me what he saw: a strong woman, getting out of her comfort zone and owning her strides, her energy, and her time. Her knees might be a little loud, but that was the only flaw he could name.

12 responses to “Room on the Road: On Crispy Knees and Comfort Zones

  1. Denise- I can so relate to you. I just read this post and the one from 4/24 about swimming. Just like you want to have coffee with Patty Chang Anker, I want to have coffee with you! Keep writing, keep learning, keep moving and keep loving yourself. And I’ll try to do the same here in Baltimore. If you’re ever on the east coast I’d love to meet you.

  2. Again — another wonderful piece that I connect with!! Your friends and family look at you and see the brave, kind, loving, caring and strong woman you are. Let those voices drown out the one inside your head!! And I imagine all the other ladies were wrapped up () in their own hanging cloths in that class and too involved to notice you in your tank top! Keep on just doing what you want without reservation.

  3. I loved this. You are able to put into words what I feel but didn’t know how to say. Your columns are so meaningful. And I might actually try aerial yoga! 🙂

  4. You have a way with words…nicely written. I am almost 15 years ahead of you and pretty soon you will be here. Life is short and you only get one so yes continue to embrace every sunrise, trail run, ocean swim or whatever else you can fit in during this short time we have on earth. Love the aerial yoga- I had many ‘aha’ moments when in that cocoon.

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