Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living in Our Bodies and Other Summer Joys

I have been thinking about summer, both in general and in specifics, for a week or two.  I've been listening to tapes (cassette tapes in the last tape deck in a car I will likely ever have--insert nostalgic sigh here) that remind me of past summer concerts.  I've been swimming in a friend's pool.  I've been making variations of ice creams--well, sorbets, actually, out of mushed fruit that didn't quite juice properly.  I've been more physically active, which is more likely to happen in the summer than in the winter for me.

I read this great poem by Hannah Stephenson about Vacation Bible School, which brought back all sorts of summer memories.  I hadn't really thought about VBS very much until a few years ago when I helped out.

How VBS has changed!  Many churches now do it at night, whereas in the 1970's, when I actually attended VBS as a child, it was a morning event.

I was amazed at how much the children really enjoyed the VBS experience.  To my adult mind, it was too much like school.  Children went to class, which was punctuated by snack time, an arts and crafts class, and music rehearsal.  Surprisingly, even children who hated regular school seemed to love VBS.

It's made me think about my own adult life.  How common is it for us to like something which in a different context we would have hated?  How many of us go to a gym, maybe even take a class or two, when as young people, we hated P.E.?

I ask this because lately I've been going back and forth to the gym a lot.  I say it's a gym, but it's different than you're probably thinking when you hear that word.  The hospital near where I work has a Wellness Center that began as a small gym to help cardiac rehab patients.  Now, it's a larger gym, with classes of all kinds, along with all sorts of weight machines and devices.  But it has a different feel than a lot of commercial gyms since it still helps a lot of cardiac patients and all the hospital workers who have decided to turn their lives around.  So I don't feel so out of place with the physical body that I have.  Let us just say that I do not have a perfectly sculpted body, like so many people that you see in commercial gyms.

Last week, I was listening to A Chorus Line and thinking about my life in a physical body.  I love the first track, where everyone is rehearsing a dance sequence.  I love that the dancers can pick up the sequence with just a few terse commands.  I wish I could live in my body that way, hurling myself across a dance floor.

I tend to think of myself in medieval terms, thinking of my physical self one way, a way that's different from what I would tell you is my real self.   My real self sees the physical body as a thing that is in a state of wear and tear and breakdown.  My real self sees herself as constantly betrayed by her physical self.
Of course, my physical self would protest.  She would point out all the stresses and abuses that my real self subjects her to.  My physical self would point out all the times that she's fought back from weight gain and riotous living.

I've been going to the gym more frequently because I've been trying to get more fit and lean this summer.  I've been amused with myself because I once scoffed at gym rats--and yet, I'm liking the community.  I once would have told you that I didn't need a gym as long as I had my running shoes.  I would have pointed out that Chariots of Fire plays regularly in my CD player.

Now, I'm seeing that I can have both my running shoes and a gym.  I'm making more of an effort to go to yoga class, along with a vigorous circuit training class that both intimidates me and inspires me--and of course, I'm still going to spin class.  I probably won't ever be able to fully integrate my various selves, so that my physical self, my intellectual self, my real self (whoever she is!), my spiritual self, my artist self--so that they all speak with the same voice.  But maybe I can work on the three areas that sports medicine tells us that we need to focus upon:  strength, cardio, and flexibility. 

And in the process, maybe I can recapture some of that feeling that I associate with being an elementary school child in the summer time:  more unstructured time, as the day lingers and the adults relax, more sun-tinged skin (don't tell my dermatologist!), more treats (some of which are good for me:  watermelon!), once-a-year vacations, summer camp and VBS and summer concerts and all sorts of good things.

Now, if I could only have some evening fireflies, my summer of recapturing summer joys of past times would be closer to complete!


Hannah Stephenson said...

I was definitely a gym-hater when I was younger, but I sometimes go now---there is a pleasure to feeling grounded and connected to the physical.

I think it's hard for us poets to do this, sometimes...

I'm glad you liked the Vacation Bible School poem! As a young Jewish gal, I never went to that, but I fantasized about what it would be like. :)

Kathleen said...

Enjoyed your nostalgic and current meditations, Kristin, and Hannah's poem! Summer has also got me thinking about past summers...and other things...often while lap swimming!