By Krista White
“Allow your body to show you what it can do.” In other words, focus and have faith. These words of encouragement from my barre instructor have become a bit of an exercise mantra for me as of late. I repeat them to myself as I push through a difficult core workout, a half-grin, half-grimace plastered on my face. I repeat them to myself during a tough pose in hot yoga, when my hands can barely grip the mat and I fear I will collapse from heat stroke. (I have a propensity towards theatrics).
In my work life, I’ve adopted a modified version of that phrase: “Allow your mind to show you what it can do.” In other words, focus and have faith. As a writer and PR professional, I spend a lot of time in my own brain. As a result, I hardly ever feel like anything is quite done. This restlessness can at times be a satisfying source of ambition, propelling me towards excellence and growth. But as a recovering perfectionist, I also clasp fiercely to the idea of doing everything right all the time. It’s overwhelming, unattainable and endlessly frustrating. Though I know as a human I am inherently flawed, though I know I must be kind to myself in order to thrive, self-love still faces self-loathing at every turn.
I hold a lot of this self-directed anger in my body. It takes up residence next door to my banal annoyances and kitty-corner from my existential fury at the world’s injustice. This noxious and admittedly nebulous cloud of dark emotion is bottled tight inside of me, escaping in small vapors as headaches or tears. I fear what could happen if the lid is popped off altogether.
Last January, I discovered an unexpected respite from all this in a dark basement studio with flashing lights, stationary bikes and an ample selection of Flo Rida songs. I started working out more frequently in the past year, particularly falling in love with spin class. It’s not something I would have expected to enjoy, being a generally cardio-averse person, but the challenge of keeping up with the club beats was exhilarating. At first it was about becoming acquainted with the bike and reacquainted with my body. I spend a lot of time sitting, so I was somewhat astonished at how much endurance I was able to build in a short time. As I grew more comfortable with the movements and was able to make it through an entire class (well, almost) without stopping, I found myself relaxing into a focused mental space. When I am completely absorbed by the motion of my legs and the reliable thrum of my heart, I have no more emotional bandwidth to suppress my anger. The most curious thing happens. My anger, recognized, reconciled, released, feels an awful lot like power. I grin, sweat dripping down my face as we near the end of class.
I’m allowing my body to heal my spirit, slowly but surely. I’m biking my way to self-actualization.
Krista White recently returned to the Bay Area after graduating from Columbia University, and is more than happy to have a snow-less winter. She is deeply passionate about the issues faced by women of color and how their unique backgrounds interact with the arts and society. To the dismay of those who doubted the utility of her theatre degree, Krista works at performing arts PR firm in Silicon Valley. When she isn't busy sending emails or sitting in the Bay Area's hellish traffic, Krista spends her time writing short plays, reading long-form journalism and planning her next big trip. Krista loves musical theatre, Nora Ephron movies and binge-watching The X-Files. Her daily musings can be found on her blog, where she writes about theatre, travel and the most recent episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @kristanicki.