I now understand completely how my models feel when they stand in front of me nude, waiting for me to photograph them, wondering if I'm judging them (I'm not), wondering how they'll look, how they'll feel, etc.
No, I didn't pose for anyone. I'm not sure that would have been as hard for me as what I did was.
So now you're probably wondering what this very difficult thing was that I took on.
It's something I've never been able to do. Whenever I tried, I failed. Miserably. I felt ridiculous, inadequate, stupid, out of shape, absurd.
Normally when I take on doing something new, it's usually something I feel I'll be able to do reasonably well. But not this. I am clear that my chances of being good at it (for now, at least) are zero. And I might make a fool out of myself. And I might not be able to become good at it. I can probably improve, but I don't think I'll ever become anywhere close to good at it.
So I felt exceedingly vulnerable each time I thought about doing this the past couple of weeks since I planned to begin. Butterflies in my stomach and all.
I told a lot of people I was planning to do it. Many didn't quite understand why it was such a big deal, but they were very nice about wishing me well with it. Even if they smiled bemusedly at my anxiety.
This morning I woke up at 5:50 (hours before my usual wake up time), crawled into my sweat pants and a T-shirt and an athletic bra and a jacket and a fleece and short socks and tennis shoes, brushed my teeth, then made my way to the car (after cleaning off the kitchen table and feeding the cats and thinking about gessoing a canvas - all by way of procrastinating) to meet my friend Lynn at Starbucks. No, this wasn't about deciding to start drinking coffee for the first time ever. (Though that might bring up a lot of feelings also, I don't think they'd be quite the same feelings.) She wasn't there yet so I sat in the car and listened to NPR until I saw her drive up in her perky red car. I got out of the car with some trepidation and knocked on her window, startling the heck out of her - sorry! She smiled broadly at me and jumped out of the car, ready and raring to go.
She asked what I was wearing and told me to take off my fleece - I wouldn't need it. I could decide about my hat. I decided to keep it on since I knitted it and it makes me feel good. OK. No more procrastinating. She told me we'd take off over the Huguenot Bridge then go around the curve to Riverside Drive and make our way to Pony Pasture. I told her I am a complete novice and am not sure how far I can make it. She reassured me that would be fine. We'd go 15 minutes out, 15 back.
And so we began.
For the first time in my life. Intentionally trying to move my body at a more rapid pace than walking for a longer distance than it takes to get from the car to the grocery store in the rain.
I made it about 300, maybe 400 yards before I had to slow down and walk. I became winded almost immediately. I have never had much endurance and, having not exercised much at all this last year, I have less than usual. Lynn was wonderful. She slowed down and walked until I told her I was ready to go again - about 3-400 yards. She told me I was doing great.
The bonus was that at 6:35 AM in Richmond at this time of year, the sun is just starting to come up over the river and it's beautiful. The sky had slender orange and pink streaks in it which were beginning to reflect in the rapidly rushing water of the overfull James River.
We continued across the bridge at a stop and go pace. My inner critic was actively telling me that Lynn must be rolling her eyes at me and wondering what she had gotten herself in to. I was berating myself for not being in better shape, for not having more endurance, for getting out of breath. And I was reminding myself to be gentle and to give myself a break. I was there. I was trying. I was there.
And so we made it down the hill and along Riverside Drive a ways, about 1.2 miles from where we started. That was 15 minutes. That's good for my first day. Then we turned around. And jogged then walked then jogged then walked some more. Lynn told me I made it further than she thought I might in one stretch. My legs decided they were tired too at the start of the bridge going back. I set a goal to make it to the next sign post jogging. She told me I was looking good. To slow down, to set a pace I was comfortable with, not to try to go fast. I walked a bit. Then decided to make it across the actual river. But stopped to look because now the sun was really rising and was gorgeous. To the left the full moon was setting over the trees, and to the right, the sky was streaked with orange and purple and blue and golden light, reflecting magnificently on the water. The trees were sparkling and quivering with new life of fresh Spring leaves. I jogged to the next sign post. Then walked. My face by this time was crimson from exertion (I am fair-skinned and get flushed very quickly when I exert myself - what an embarrassment that was in my youth!). Then jogged off the bridge. Then walked. Thought about the people in the 100's of cars driving by seeing me, figuring at least one good thing came from jogging in front of so many people - if I expired from exhaustion, someone would see it and stop to take me to the hospital.
What was amazing was that all along the way, Lynn would tell me I was doing great. She actually offered me encouragement! At one point I told her she reminded me of myself when I tutor and have a student who can't figure out what 3x3 is. I swallow, gulp, wonder how I can explain it, realize just how far the student has to go, then move on into the explanation of why 3 x 3 is 9. I may feel a passing judgment - thoughts are just thoughts - I let those pass - then I work to encourage my student and to accept exactly where they are and to help them see what their strengths are. Lynn did that with me.
Thinking about it now brings a lump to my throat. Chris commented, when I told him about it, that I like encouragement and having a coach. That's so true. And I don't really have that in my life otherwise. Her kindness touched me so deeply I felt my heart split open. I was feeling so vulnerable and broken in that spot, thinking about running, trying to jog. She was so kind and encouraging.
When we got to the end of our run, she gave me a running log and suggested I fill it out so I can keep track of how much I'm running. We're planning to job twice/week. Our first goal is for me to be able to run all the way across the bridge without stopping. That would be almost a mile. That would truly be an accomplishment for me. Then she has suggested I run a 5K in July. OK. She runs marathons and does half-Iron Men competitions. She is very very kind.
So this is a big deal for me. Others who are athletic and who grew up comfortable in their bodies might not understand that. Oh well. Hopefully I can be gentle with myself and can encourage myself and can accept Lynn's kindness. It's so bizarre, but it's difficult, actually, to accept loving kindness sometimes. I'm so tough on myself at times that it's painful to just be accepted where I am for exactly how I am. But I intend to learn how! It definitely feels better than the alternative.
This blog won't become my jogging log, but I felt it worth talking about here, because I have a feeling that I'm not the only person in the world to have some of these feelings, and perhaps people will feel less alone to realize that.
Happy Jogging! And please be kind to yourself.