A Gift That Keeps on Giving
Do you ever have the sense that something has shifted deep within you? It feels like a primal shift in how you live in your body and mind, and how you move in the world. It may not be something anyone else can see, it’s just a feeling that you are somehow different. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s menopause. Maybe it’s having a child grown to adult. Or maybe I’m just finally figuring some stuff out. Whatever it is – I like it. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. And I’d like to share it with you.
The last few years have brought some challenges – I’m not going to lie. Some physical, some emotional, and some generic life stuff that we all go through. Traditionally, my approach to challenge is “bring it on! I’ve got this!” I plan. I seek help. I strategize. I act. I get on it to get over it. There may be lists involved. When I’m in the thick of it – there is no detail left unattended. There isn’t much room left for anything else. But boy – I get stuff handled! Things get done, crises are averted or managed, and I have the knowledge that I haven’t dropped the ball.
But there are costs to this. Costs that I didn’t appreciate. Costs that accumulate over time. And as usual, my body shines the light on things that need to change. The shift I’m talking about came as I struggled with physical challenges that knocked me on my duff. With no accident or outward injury to which to attribute it, my body started misbehaving. My core support disappeared. My movement became more effortful, and my mobility declined dramatically. My nervous system was in a constant state of irritation that affected and was affected by almost every move I made! I sought different kinds of treatment, with varying degrees of relief, but with no lasting change. I was diligently doing all the “stuff” I was supposed to do, and more. For someone whose profession is movement, and whose physical and mental health has relied on moving well for a lifetime, this was not even a little bit ok. The worse things got – the more I forced myself to move – differently, perhaps, but move nonetheless. The problem was that at this point, movement actually made my symptoms worse.
Physical inactivity, weight gain, anxiety and a sense of foreboding hopelessness prompted me to drive harder. Still I pushed. More mindfulness, more physical discipline – I did my homework and more! When my body said “no way,” I said, “not good enough – find a way.” Looking back, I can see the mounting desperation. But at the time, it felt as though if I didn’t force myself to move forward, that my world would fall apart. And I wasn’t quite ready to let that happen. (I can hear all my women friends of a certain age chiming in, “yup.. menopause can be a monster.”) But the harder I fought, the more I pushed, the more disciplined I became, the worse things got. What a mess.
So what changed? A gift. A gift that keeps on giving.
I had reached a point where my body could give me no more. I had used up every millimetre of adaptive range. I had nothing left to give. There were no resources from which to draw. With that situation as a hard and unscalable wall in front of me, and with the support of dear friends and mentors, I somehow found a way back to ME again. Here’s what happened:
In the past, when presented with a problem, or a failure, or a challenge – I’ve dissected it, analyzed it, and then brought all my physical, mental and emotional energy to “fixing” it pronto. My timelines for getting it “right” were typically short, so my whole being would almost literally contract around the problem until I came out the other side.
With my body in a state of rebellion and with no further room to contract, my old strategy was no longer an option. I had to drop all that baggage to move forward. But how does one DO that? One morning, no too long ago, a small soul voice asked me quietly, “What if you were done with all this demanding and forcing? What if you didn’t need to punish yourself for not reaching high enough, or going hard enough or not getting it exactly perfect all the time? What if, instead of TAKING from your body all the time, you found a way to ask what it is willing to GIVE you?” And of course, the purposeful, driven part of me immediately replied, “With that approach, you’ll never get anything DONE!” But the idea was planted.
When we are well resourced, we are happy to give, aren’t we? It feels good! But when resources are thin, and people come with their hands out, giving is much harder to do. We might even feel resentful about it. So what if I flipped that switch in my own head? What if I attended to the resourcing phase of things better? These are often the little things, the self-care things that are so easy to dismiss as unnecessary when there is stuff to get done. What if I could forgive myself for not getting it right, (whatever “it” is), and pat myself on the back for making it this far?
So that’s where I am. I’ve (mostly) put that heavy stuff down. I am not crazy productive. I’m letting stuff happen and letting stuff go. I have TONS of questions. I don’t have very many answers. I’ve given up the overbearing self-discipline. I won’t judge my body for what it can’t do when I haven’t given it what it needs to thrive. What I will do, is attune to my own needs more intentionally so I feel resourced and strong. From there, I can move, I can feel and I can do what is mine to do. I am better resourced to support the people I love and the people I lead. And I can do my part to create an environment that feels more supportive for ALL of us.
This holiday season, I want to share this nugget of newfound personal wisdom with you. Look inside. Allow those elements that need your love and support to surface. Shower them with everything they need to thrive inside you. Banish the bullshit. And then feel how your body, your mind and your emotions begin to move and change with lightness and ease. There will still be work to do, and it might not all be unicorns and rainbows – but the journey seems to becomes a whole lot less onerous.
Give yourself this gift. It’s a beautiful loop of giving with an ever expanding field of influence.
About Susannah Steers
Susannah is a Pilates and Integrated Movement Specialist, and owner of Moving Spirit. Through movement teaching, speaking, and facilitating workshops, she supports people in creating movement practices that promote fitness from the inside out. She loves building community, and forging multi-disciplinary connections. Susannah co-hosts The Small Conversations for a Better World podcast – an interview based podcast dedicated to promoting the kind of conversations about health that can spar