Or perhaps, more aptly titled...Not Strength.
I did it. I exercised every day, sun or snow, cold or warm, busy or idle, sick or healthy, for over 100 days in a row. I went to exercise classes, I worked out to dvd's at home, I stretched, did Pilates, danced...and still I walked on top of my exercising. And you know what? After 100+ days, I truthfully still did not experience being strong in the core of my being. My arms and legs were stronger. Even the split in my abdominal muscles was stronger, more knit together and cohered. Overall, I was more fit, and toned. Yet, still, at the core of my being, I still did not experience strength. Somehow, I still felt weak and not strong or powerful in my body.
How could I exercise every day for 100+ days and feel not strong in my body?
The visceral experience in my body is that the core or pelvic bowl of my body feels like a sieve. Energy and strength may come in, but it also somehow leaks out. It's as though I have a set point on how strong I can feel, and when I reach that limit, all additional strength and energy leaks out and I am left pretty much as I started.
More specifically, my body, and my pelvic bowl in particular, is like a sink that has no plug. Water cannot fill the sink that doesn't have a plug. Between the split in my abdominal muscles and no plug in my base, I am leaking and losing energy all the time. At times, the leakage is minimal and barely noticeable, and at other times, I hemorrhage massive amounts of energy and collapse. Sometimes, I just collapse.
I remember an experience in high school when girls got to invite boys to a "Sadie Hawkins" dance. I wanted to invite a boy from a different school whom I had recently met. I really liked him, so I had it all planned out how I would invite him in the hallway outside of the gym. He would often come to our school's basketball games, so at one game in particular, I saw him, and both nervously and courageously went up to him, reminded him that we had met at this function of our parents, and asked him to the dance. I'm not sure that he even remembered me, but he graciously said yes! I was so excited and overjoyed! When I went back over to my friends (who were of course waiting in a group nearby and wanted to know what happened), I collapsed in the center of them. It was the weirdest response. Even at the time, I was really shocked and perplexed by my reaction, and I actually felt ashamed and embarrassed. I didn't understand why I had collapsed when I had just received exactly what I wanted.
Many years later, I again experienced a similar energy collapse each time I birthed my children. After each baby was born, I would be elated, empowered, and so deeply grateful as I held my brand new baby in my arms. Then, within minutes, unable to effectively birth the placenta, I would hemorrhage blood and/or energy and deplete the surge of energy from birthing these beautiful babies. First time unexpected. Second time, expected but I adamantly refused drugs (silly me!) and my blood pressure plummeted to 50 over 0. The midwife was roughly pinching my feet to keep me in my body. (I did get lots of fluids via IV as well as acupuncture.) Third time, anticipated and prepared with an IV in my arm, I lost no blood, but the energy seeped from my body. Fourth time, prepared yet somehow still lost blood but this time, no energy loss.
It seems I have a very low set point for how much strength and energy I allow myself to have in my body. And with what I do have, I have learned how to masterfully use in a way that camouflages how little strength I actually have.
I compensate, and when that doesn't work, I avoid.
This is what I realized as I exercised in class this morning. I use my outer hip muscles, leg muscles, back muscles to the do the work of my core. Compensation is second nature to me. And if I can't do something using these other muscles, I don't do it.
Strategy: Compensate first. Make it look good and that I'm doing it right. If this doesn't work, avoid.
I am actually very loathe to use my core, and feeling the pain and challenge of not having any core strength. I feel so powerless, so useless, so ashamed. And so I avoid these feelings by compensating and avoiding.
I recently came across an old my blog post from the past five years and found one that spoke of my tendency to compensate. In "3-Tenths", I wrote:
Thinking about this idea of compensating. I have compensated for my belly split by using the outer muscles. I have used the big muscles in my legs, hips, butt, anything to not use the muscles in my belly. One, the belly muscles haven't worked they way that I have needed them to. I feel a lot of shame and not being good enough when I do use them, and then this only contributes to the split and makes it worse, at least energetically. A vicious cycle.
So I would have rather compensated and gotten by than feel shame, blame and self-loathing.
Makes a lot of sense - oooohhhh, there's that line again. But it didn't support or challenge me to deal with the cause of the shame or with the split itself. It just left me with 20 years later still having the split that affects every area of my life.
When we compensate, we get by...until we can't just get by anymore. What worked in our 20's and 30's, even our 40's, no longer works in our 50's. Our bodies change, we begin the process of menopause - which is a whole journey unto itself! We're not as strong, fast, slim as we used to be. And that's just the physical aspect of it all. What we want and what matters to us in our 50's is very different than when we're younger. And when we're younger, we just don't think that it's going to happen to us. I sure didn't!
To tie this back in to "walking our walk", I have avoided my walk out of my fear of being all alone and not being loved and accepted. I have compensated for this fear by staying out of my core - my core desires and dreams, and have supported others to live theirs, as a mother, wife, friend and coach. This is how I have felt loved, useful, wanted and needed. 7/10's of me is happy, fulfilled and not scared.
But the other 3/10's of me is no longer willing to be quiet and compensate. I am now 51 and this 3/10's of me - which must be the most close to the essential part of who I am - is getting loud, antsy, and ready for a good, long walk.
And I gotta listen. I gotta stop compensating, justifying, explaining, and wishing it would go away. 'Cause it's not. It's only getting louder and more insistent.
And yes, here I am, 5 years later, nearly 56 years old - still compensating. Still avoiding the shame and self-blame - for being not strong, for wanting what I want, for being who I am.
Still circling around the same old issues and challenges.
Still leaking energy, collapsing and hemorrhaging. I get started and then something comes along and takes me out of my own game. I've exercised for 100+ days. Nothing has changed. I have done "healing the split/diastisis" exercises for months. Nothing has really changed. I have taken different classes and workshops. I've read books. I have been in therapy. I have had coaches. I have dreams, visions, plans. I have even made promises and commitments to myself and others. Nothing.
People around me are losing their trust in me and my word. I am losing trust and faith in myself.
It's as though I have this initial burst of energy to create change and transformation, and then something happens. I go sideways. I forget. I justify. I get distracted. I compensate. I get busy. I disengage. Whoa. I just typed "I die" when I was trying to type "I disengage". Does a part of me die? My desire die? Do I just let it go - hemorrhage it out - when I am up against the wall, or my inner limit of how much power or strength I allow myself, and in doing so, a part of me dies to my dreams and purpose?
This deep experience and feeling of not strong has been the invisible wound that actually lies unseen at the core of my being and my life's experience. It has been so hidden and out of my awareness that I didn't even know it, couldn't even name that my being not strong was silently imprisoning me in my own shame, imposing limits, sabotaging my every intention and effort to be successful and create my magnificent dreams.
It's even different from being "weak" because I compensate for and avoid the places where I feel weak. So it's not weak per se. It's definitely a feeling of being "not strong". Perhaps splitting hairs, but the distinction lies in the associated feelings of shame and blame connected with feeling weak; not strong has been hiding in plain sight just beyond my awareness and consciousness, running the show to make sure I collapse or hemorrhage, or compensate and avoid whenever I may get too powerful, confident, successful or strong! Not strong has kept me just where I am - safe, secure, looking fine, taking care of everyone else, keeping my dreams and desires contained, my wildness tamed.