Suit yourself

Do you feel like:

  • your physical self  is prepared for the activities you ask it to take part in?
  • your mental self is prepared for the tasks you ask it to accomplish?
  • your emotional self is prepared for the life you ask it to lead?

I was thinking about this the other day as I contemplated how well-suited my body is for, say, yoga, but how poorly suited it is for running a marathon. Or laying bricks. Or rock-climbing or riding motocross or house-painting. It’s not just that I lack the skills, which can be learned, it’s that I lack required physical attributes like cardiovascular endurance, sturdy hands, a low center of gravity, a strong shoulder girdle.

My brain does well at multi-tasking here on the computer (tabs open simultaneously for email, Facebook, Reader and other shiny things, as well as my work). But I’m not sure I would easily adapt to focusing on a classroom of second graders like I did at one time.

I’m quite effective at self-regulating my emotions at my work-at-home job. But I don’t know how I would do, emotionally, if I were thrown back into a highly political environment with lots of drama.

These points beg the question about cause and effect. Do I fit my life or does my life fit me? Do I have a yoga body because I practice yoga, or do I practice yoga because I have a yoga body?

I do not have brick-laying hands. For that and many other reasons I don’t lay bricks. But if I were, for some reason, called to lay bricks (sold into slavery in Egypt, perhaps?) I would probably develop bricklayer’s callouses and bricklayer’s muscles, my body adapting to what was asked of it. If I took up house painting, I would probably develop muscles that would enable me to raise my painting arm above my body for longer than I can now (which isn’t long).

And If I again entered a political environment, would I find ways to keep my adrenal glands from constantly squirting their fight-or-flight juice?

So I ask you a couple of questions.

  • If your answers above questions were Yes, what tips do you have for suiting your expectations for your selves with to abilities you have? How have you done that for your body, brain/mind and spirit?
  • If your answers above were No, what could you do within your power to bring together your expectations and your abilities? To better suit the life you ask your self to lead?

P.S. My husband wants me to take up golf and/or tennis with him. I’m a little scared and I’m trying to figure out why. I don’t see myself as a golfer or tennis player, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never played either game. Which can easily be remedied, right?

This is part of my Answer me this series where I just wonder and invite you to do so with me.

Image: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

11 thoughts on “Suit yourself”

  1. I’m starting to feel old…like I won’t be able to meet challenges. But I don’t really overthink it. On the other hand, my knees are still intact, and I don’t tend towards sprains. That might make a difference.

  2. I think that you have a yoga body because you practice yoga, and you practice yoga because you have a yoga soul.

    Mentally and emotionally I feel like I can adapt to almost any situation.

    Physically, I am not prepared for much, and whatever I have succeeded at has been to hard work rather than natural ability (except flexibility, at which I am naturally fantastic, which has been great all my life for skating, ballet, gymnastics, yoga, etc., but turns out to have a downside in propensity for injury in the adult body).

    For example, I have no natural ceramics talent (which is somewhat mental but mostly physical) and it takes me months to master what I see others mastering in a week. But I try hard.

    Even with some mental things, the physical sets limitations. I enjoy photography, and through sheer practice and studying things like aperture and exposure, plus lots of reps, I often take good photos, but I flat-out don’t have the eyesight to be great, even if I devoted my life to it. Even with glasses, I literally cannot see some of the things that my photo geek friends talk about.

    I don’t think I ever mentioned to you that I used to climb rocks (in the old days, before climbing walls, actual cliff faces and such). I am absolutely built horribly for rock climbing. But once upon a time I worked hard enough at training that I did some cool things, and I had the mental aspects pretty well under control — trusting the physics of the belay, being able to override survival instincts that scream, “This is a horrible idea! Save yourself!”, and pushing on even when it really hurts.

    The one time my physical skills were superior to my mental skills was in high school when the captain of the diving team asked me to join: because of my gymnastics/ballet/skating background, he felt that my grace and flexibility would make me a fantastic diver. I didn’t go for it, though, because I don’t like going underwater. I might have been able to psych myself into it if I’d had a compelling reason, but the diving varsity jackets weren’t cool enough.

  3. Interesting. I feel like to some extent I fit my life. My career wasn’t my first choice for a, so I’ve made myself fit it once I figured out I had found myself entrenched. It helps that I’m good at it too, so by that token maybe my life also fits me? Sport-wise, I totally get what you’re saying. I’m a good dancer/studio type. Hand eye coordination for volleyball or other team sports? Been there, wasn’t good, even after 4 years of playing. In that regard, I’d say go for golf before tennis. At least the ball isn’t potentially flying at your head (unless someone on another fairway is a really bad shot!).

  4. Interesting questions and dialogue here!

    Just recently I have been noticing that my body aches more than ever post-physical activity (whether its running, a group fitness class or yoga). I know much of that is normal and the older I get the more I may experience this.

    So to answer your questions… Overall I do feel that both my physical and mental selfs are prepared for most of what I ask them to take part in/accomplish. However, I also like a good challenge and do push my body and mind to try new things, even when I am unsure if they are things I will be able to do.

    As for whether my emotional self is prepared for the life I ask it to lead, I find that to be a more difficult question to answer. I tend to struggle more with my emotional reactions to things I experience in life, than I do with physical and mental barriers. Hmm… I need to chew on this one a bit more.

    As for the circular reasoning about if you have a yoga body because you practice yoga or vice versa… I think it is some of both. I do think some people are naturally more flexible and/or coordinated when it comes to certain physical or mental activities. But I also believe that most people can accomplish a lot of very challenging things (such as running a marathon) if they work hard, train and set their mind to it. I know that if I trained properly that I could run a marathon. I just don’t have the desire to do so at this time in my life and may never.

    One of my biggest stumbling blocks throughout my life has been dealing with expectations. I am always working on this… how to have realistic/appropriate expectations for people and events in my life. I try not to have very few, thus I am less likely to be disappointed, but this is still very hard for me to do.

    Lastly, I love playing both tennis and golf (I grew up doing both with my family), especially golf (I was on my high school’s golf team, but we weren’t very good). My husband and I really enjoy playing together and it is actually a hobby that I got him into soon after we met. So I encourage you to try both and see what you think!

    I have a head cold and am a little foggy, so not sure if I answered all of your questions or if what I said here makes sense. But appreciate you asking them and look forward to seeing what others have to say. I read this post on my phone earlier today and have been wanting to return to comment and see how the discussion was going. :)

  5. Really interesting post … I’ve had it up on my browser for a few days, because I’m STILL not sure what I think. I suspect that I’ve trained my body to be ready for what I ask it to do. I think I’ve always been athletic (not in the running way, or in the coordinated-sports way, but in the push-yourself way), and I enjoy feeling strong. Kickboxing, yoga, weightlifting, dancing … all of that feels like the same kind of physical skill to me … that is what my body does.

    Mentally, I know I can do a lot, but I also have a lot of negative self-talk going on. I was one of the valedictorians of my college class (the 4.0 lot). I was given full rides to grad school. But I have a self-esteem problem that I’ve been trying to kick since elementary school. Hmmm, therapy …

    Which ties in to the emotional, I guess. Emotionally I think I’m pretty strong, but I also feel like I break down easily … internally, not where people can see it.

    Not sure what to make of all of that, and how I can bring them into better alignment.

  6. Such an interesting question. I think we’re drawn towards physical, mental, and emotional pursuits that already fit us. For instance, my fear of crickets stops me from even considering the life of an exterminator. I think most of the options that don’t cross our mind to consider are because we’ve already eliminated them because they don’t fit the raw matter we have to work with. And until we’re forced to consider it (for instance, someone asks you if you want to run the marathon with them), we don’t even realize how much we’re limited.

    I also think that most of the time, our body and mind adapts in order to let us cross the threshold of doing something okay. We may never excel because we’re not naturally weighted in those areas, but we can get by. I think I could probably run a marathon if someone told me I had to run a marathon. But I’m not inclined to try it nor do I think I’d excel at marathon running the way some people can.

  7. I will think about your questions now that I have read them. A question that came to my mind for you, which may seem too obvious but I’ll ask it anyway. What sports or activities come to ‘your’ mind, that you might like to do with your husband? Maybe you can start from there and then lean gradually towards golf or tennis? Just a thought :-)

    1. Good question, Katherine. I’m not really athletic — I see myself more as a bookworm. My husband, on the other hand, loves trying any athletic activity and is good at many. I took up yoga about 5 years ago and finally found something I actually like. He does it with me sometimes. In recent years Ive tried skiing with him (and the kids) but it’s not something I actually like. Yet.

      Maybe ballroom dancing…thanks for making me think!

  8. This is interesting. I’m an auditor because that’s where my interests led me, but also because of the way my brain works. Now that I’ve gotten older, while I can still do the job, it doesn’t hold as much interest for me anymore, but I still do it. These questions are going to have me thinking for awhile.

  9. Hi there,
    Just BlogHopping by from the BloggersCommentClub. Really interesting questions, just some rambling thoughts:

    First thought I had was a vague recollection of reading somewhere long ago about a theory that there’s some sort of correlation between blood type and best exercise style. I think it was in a book titled something like “Eat Right for Your Blood Type” and I remember having one of those Zen-like, aha, moments – mine seemed to fit the description exactly.

    My exercise style was best suited to moderate-slower paced activities, not a long endurance fast intense sports. And although I tried, just was never anything that I was any good at, even when young, tall, and thin.

    I tried tennis, swimming, track & field, bicycle racing, & stuff. I was best at short sprint running rather than long marathon type running. Same for biking & swimming – I could keep up for 20 maybe 30 minutes of laps, but never could develop any long distance skill. Like, I’d be great at a relay race, but not the whole race.

    Golf was just too boring, that’s the only excuse I have for not liking or being any good at that one-LoL! Anyway, in my 20s – I loved things like aerobic dance class, step aerobics, but they lasted only half an hour in those days. When they extended classes to an hour, it’s just too long for me. Somewhere along the way at the gym, I got introduced to yoga & pilates as well as the weight machines. According to the book, those types of exercises were more suited to my blood type. Gymnastics too, but too old for that these days.

    It was a sort of a relief to read that because as a kid, teachers assumed long skinny legs meant super athletic & pushed for more than I could do (I’d cramp up after running or swimming or biking too long & stuff).

    So, I don’t know if there’s really anything to the theory, but if competitive sports doesn’t feel right or fun – maybe try the Wii tennis version (LoL) with your hubby first and see how it goes.

  10. I think we lack motivation for the areas that we are not suited for, but it can be completely overcome by enough training. Some people tend to challenge that and others use the crutch of “that’s just the way I am”.

    Oh and you should totally take up golf – it’s the only sport you can drink at while doing it! They even serve it to you!! And we would totally have an excuse to see each other :) I play too because my husband loves it and we enjoy that time together – we have so much fun!

What say you?