Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Stretched to a point

I woke up Tuesday morning and my first thought was that my body felt as if half a dozen men had beaten it with sticks. Then I remembered that half a dozen men HAD beaten it with sticks the other night at my martial arts training and I felt somewhat better about the whole thing. At least the pain wasn’t an indicator of old age or infirmity – it was just a memo from my limbs that went along the lines of:

__________

To: Monica White
From: The Body Corporate
Re: General Achiness

Dear Monica,

It has no doubt come to your attention that this morning brings with it a chorus of pain from several major muscles, one shoulder and your left ankle.

We felt it appropriate to indicate our general displeasure at your continued misuse of the facilities. Emergency repair work has been carried out overnight and crews will be completing the job over the next 24 hours.

We respectfully ask that you do not undertake such activities again. You weren’t designed to be repeatedly flung onto a mat by a brawny yet skilled young man. May we suggest some more appropriate activities for a young woman such as yourself? Namely:
 Organising morning tea (with crustless cucumber sandwiches).
 Basket weaving.
 Looking pretty in something floral and flouncy.

You know you don’t want to disagree with us.

Sincerely,

The Body Corporate

__________
__________

To: The Body Corporate
From: Monica White
Re: General Achiness

Dear Body Corporate,

With all respect due in this situation, may I cordially invite you to bite my (aching) gluteus maximus?

You are there to serve my needs, if you feel that you cannot perform to standards, I may have to consider an organisational restructure and far less Green & Black’s chocolate consumption.

I will be taking The Body for a run this afternoon and would appreciate your cooperation.

Yours in ‘ouchie’ sounds
Monica

__________
__________

To: Monica White
From: The Body Corporate
Re: General Achiness

Dear Monica,

It’ll all end in tears.

Regretfully,

The Body Corporate

__________
__________

To: The Body Corporate
From: Monica White
Re: General Achiness

Dear Body Corporate,

So be it. Lace up the runners.

M

__________

We were actually given far too much time to stretch at training, which gave me the luxury of going through everything twice and really pushing my flexibility.

I noticed a curious thing. Stretching to increase flexibility hurts (no revelation there), but it’s not the same kind of pain as that from an injury. It’s a curious pain, not at all pleasant but somehow tolerable because it’s an indicator that you are pushing yourself just past your current tolerance limits.

Twisting myself into yoga-inspired pretzels, I further ruminated that this analogy could be extended to other facets of one’s life.

If you extend the idea of ‘stretching’ to the activities in life undertaken to extend a skillset or a desired attribute – be it learning a new computer program, going to a dance class, taking a course, changing career, reading a non-fiction book or having a challenging discussion with someone more knowledgeable than you on a topic – then you can extend the analogy of the pain type along with it.

Stretching oneself isn’t always a particularly pleasant activity. The rose-tinted spectacles of hindsight tend to skim over the hours of frustration and make us think it wasn’t all that bad. If you want the reality of the learning process, recall a time when you couldn’t get a certain step right learning the salsa or a concept in a textbook maddeningly refused to gel with the rest of the knowledge in your brain. Recall a time when you were surrounded by a snowdrift of scrunched up paper because you couldn’t quite get the letter/essay/drawing right. That’s the essence of learning – getting one’s mind or body to a new level where it can overcome what is presently an obstacle. It’s damn hard.

The analogy hit me again today as I was wrestling with Adobe’s InDesign CS. I need to complete a layout on this (completely amazing, very powerful) piece of software and I’ve never touched the darned thing before. I barely knew what kerning was and suddenly I was plunged into a big bad world of terms and ideas that whizzed past my head like so many poorly fired bullets. I actually whimpered after a solid hour of trying to figure out what a help topic was trying to tell me.

Taking refuge in decaffeinated tea (if I had added caffeine to the mix, I think I would have destroyed the office), I drank so much that I felt as if my pores were leaking milk and sugar by late afternoon.

I stopped and realised that what I was experiencing was merely a very, very hard stretch. It was pain, but it was a good pain – the type that means I’m getting better at something. The bad pain would come if I didn’t endure and overcome this, if I couldn’t get this layout done, if I delayed the project any more.

A couple of deep breaths later, I was back to swearing at the help index, albeit in a slightly less panicky way.*

This, in short, is why I really admire anyone who achieves something of note. I can imagine the kind of pain and difficulty they have had to endure to get there. I am also in awe of their mental discipline at not just getting past the pain, but being in control of their mind & body whilst everything is screaming for them to give up and stop.

This is why I agree that 'All men are created equal' but not that all men remain equal throughout their lives. Some stretch themselves in many capacities, others just coast along at whatever level they happen to slot into. It's all a matter of daily, hourly, constant choice.



* Panicked swearing is in Russian. Annoyed swearing is in Polish. Casual, fun swearing is in English. I have a palette of the stuff – if this career falls through, I could always make it as a sailor.

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