Loud club music. Low lighting. Great people. A fantastic workout.
Orange Theory Fitness has become a regular part of my week. It’s 60 minutes of so-much-fun and oh-so-challenging, which makes me both grateful for and slightly bitter towards the two lady-loves that introduced me to it in the first place.
I have tried yoga, cross-fit, and spinning, but Orange Theory is the best fit for me. I spent 15 years of my life wearing tights and a leotard, standing in front of a mirror, executing movements at the command of a choreographer, and this feels gloriously similar. I love being told what to do. I love the high energy. I love the sound of the strides on the treads. I love the shimmer of the water swirling in the belly of the rowers. I love the community of people. And most of all, I love getting out of my head and into my body, if only for one measly hour of the week.
A few weeks ago, I was mid-workout during a mid-morning class, when Kelly, our trainer, an Energizer Bunny sort-of woman, spoke into her microphone, “Those of you rowing, make sure your back is up straight.”
Without hesitation, I pinched my shoulder blades together, sat up straight on the rower, and kept rowing my boat little ashore…Hallelujah! Actually, it was more to the tune of, “Here comes the hot stepper…Murderer!” A minor detail.
Almost as instantly, I felt a wave of emotion fill the space in my core that I had just created by improving my posture. I felt frustrated with myself. With each passing row, powering through my legs and pulling the bar to my chest, I became increasingly aware of how quickly her words had penetrated me. I didn’t falter. I didn’t filter. Instead, I let her be the master puppeteer to my obedient little puppet.
What if she wasn’t talking to me? What if my form had otherwise been fine, and my adjustment took me to the point of overextension? What if I had absorbed a comment that wasn’t meant for me? I hadn’t given myself the grace to consider these options. I had only reacted.
I kept rowing, my mind suddenly swirling faster than the water before me.
This is what I do.
My whole life, I’ve been told that I’m curious. I’m a learner. I listen. I absorb. On one hand, it’s been helpful. The drops of water that I’ve absorbed along the way in this thing called life have been my guides, my mile-markers, my thirst-quenchers, and my strength. But I’m reminded here that there’s always a reciprocal weakness. For me, it’s that I’ve absorbed too much: taken in drops of water when I didn’t need to, gathered comments into my soul when they should have been left alone, and failed to practice discernment, giving too much power to the strings attached.
I tend to believe that girls are taught and trained to be absorbers. Every day, we are on the receiving end of thousands of messages about who we ought to be, what we ought to look like, how we ought to sound, and what we ought to believe. The more we absorb, the better we’ll be, they say. I suppose this is true temporarily, as it earns us the instant gratification we all have come to be conditioned to crave. Ultimately, however, the more we absorb, the more we become just puppets rather than real girls.
If there’s one thing I want to be, it’s real. Therefore, I’m learning, sort-of haphazardly now, to be selective in my absorption these days. Rather than reacting immediately, just like a good puppet would, I’m practicing the pause where I ask myself two simple questions: Is this for me? Am I for this?
When I pass by the magazine in the check out line that says, lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks…Is this for me? Um, no. I know my body is at it’s preferred set-point, and losing weight would be miserable, unhealthy, and obsessive. Am I for it? Quick weight loss scams and disordered eating habits? Hell, no.
When I hear a worship song reference “losing my voice” for Christ…Is this for me? Well, due to my past struggle with an eating disorder, losing any part of myself is a dangerous posture. So, perhaps not. Am I for this? Generally speaking, I know the heart of the song is pure, and I can certainly support something that points people to Jesus.
When I overhear a conversation about how a leader needs to be more approachable and open-minded…Is this for me? I know my introversion can be perceived as unapproachable at times, so that I can absorb. But more open-minded? I’m not sure that feedback is meant for me, at least not right now. Am I for this? Yes; I think leaders need to have those qualities, especially in the space we’re in right now in our country.
When someone tells me I’m boring…Is this for me? No, it’s not. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a boring person. People are unique, interesting, created beings, and I’ll include myself in that definition. Am I for this? No, I’m not. I think telling someone they’re boring is unhelpful and perhaps offensive.
The point of these questions isn’t to reinforce my personal skepticism, nor is it to become hardened to the feedback and connection to the world around me. It is, however, to have a guard perched at the gate of my heart. This guard decides who and what gets in, knowing that it can and will dictate the direction of my life, hopefully towards the abundant life, the life specific to me and no one else.
Is that for me? Yes, yes, and all my yes. Am I for it? Absolutely.