Sunday, July 26, 2009
Tough It Up
When I was a kid, I was reckless with my body. I threw it around, tumbled off or over things, scraped my skin, stayed up too long without sleep and fell down from exhaustion. It made me feel alive and exorcised some of the pent-up energy within me that always threatened to combust. When I grew up, I became more conscious of the idea that I was supposed to 'look after myself'. Which really meant 'preserve my youth' or, rather, the youthful physical attributes others considered desirable. Bloodied scratches and scars were no longer trophies of risk or achievement but blemishes. They had to be covered up or 'treated'. Sport and exercise weren't about fun or endurance or exhilaration but whittling away fat deposits, toning the body. Then there were the admonitions that I 'shouldn't wear myself out'. I was urged – by friends, by TV advertising, by magazine columnists – to sleep more, not because I needed it but because it would reduce 'visible signs of aging'. We all have to work hard to achieve anything. And yet women are constantly told – and tell themselves – that they shouldn't. I'm happiest when going hell for leather. I feel strong and confident when I get up straight after a fall. I don't like being fussed over. I don't need time – physically or emotionally – to 'heal' or 'get myself together'. I like pushing myself and what I achieve when I do gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that nothing else does. I've trained my body to urge itself on, even when my mind is telling me I'm weak, I should rest or worse, retreat,. I don't want to live less just because I'm trying to preserve the vessel I live in.