THE DEFEAT RETREAT
By: Lauren Anderson
I don’t know how else to to say it, but last week was rough.
I felt defeated. In every sense of the word. I felt lost, scared, numb, dejected, and I could feel certain oppression mounting in relation to my hope vanishing. Damn. Which if you’ve never experienced, is an absolutely terrible feeling. I do not recommend it. I know some of you reading this felt the same way. And others might be reading this thinking, “All over an election? Calm down white girl.”
I went from the great high of what I thought was going to be the beginning of tremendous change, to a deep dark low in a matter of hours, and it knocked me out. Worse still, I could feel my illusion about the country I live in shatter all around me. The liberal bubble that I was aware I was in, yet unaware just how entrenched I was, burst.
So I did what a lot of people would do, when they don’t know what to do— I got really drunk. Not the best solution, and not something I’m proud of. But hey, it’s what happened. I went to sleep, and dreamed of nothing for a while.
The next morning I woke up, my head was throbbing and my heart was heavy. My emotions felt as thick and unwelcome as the sweater that had grown on my tongue in the night.
I went online, and my liberal feed was filled with messages from people who were feeling the same way. Some people were just reaching out. Some people were trying to understand. I was in awe of people writing hopeful messages about fighting the good fight, and coming together, and all that good stuff. But I wasn’t there yet. Instead, I started to cry.
What was happening? I was so unsure. It only took moments, but I soon recognized the feeling. It was grief. Deep grief.
If you’ve ever done any reading about grief, you know about the stages and that there are different kinds. While grief can be easily defined as “the loss of something or someone we care about.” This felt different. This was Ambiguous Grief. Ambiguous grief is even more difficult because it is defined as “the loss of something or someone we care about, and not understanding why.”
I am no stranger to grief, after the untimely death of my brother this last year (see Week 31 blog post for the full story). And the election just happened to fall within a week of the one year anniversary of his passing. This whole month I’ve already been walking around at half-capacity. And now this. Now more. Then, the artist Leonard Cohen passed away. If you’ve been reading along, you know I am a fan of his music, and even more so, his poetry. (See week 12 blog post.) David Bowie, Prince, and now Cohen? I can’t. I just can’t.
Walking into my work with tears strolling down my face one day, I could hear myself mumble, “Enough. Enough already. Enough.”
So I did what I’ve been doing this whole year. I turned to my gym. That sounds so strange to say, but I have really started to rely on Solcana as a community of like-minded people, working together in good health for good health.
It’s no surprise that within hours of the final election results, Coach Hannah, Head Coach at Solcana posted this to their social media:
We support our LGBTQAI athletes
We support our Somali athletes
We support our Latinx athletes
We support our Black athletes
We support our Women athletes
We support our Native athletes
We support our Adaptive athletes
You are welcome here.
No matter where you come from or how you identify, we will make room for you.
It’s no surprise that the next day, Coach Hannah cancelled their regularly scheduled program and created a new partner workout called “Stronger Together”. Encouraging athletes to get to know a new person.
Just reading that comforted me. I’m reminded that I go to the right place. That Solcana is not just concerned about my physical health, but the whole me. Which includes the need to feel safe and welcome.
But as the universe would have it, this ill-fated week also happened on one of the most challenging work times in the year. Tech week. I’ve spoken about this before, but tech week in theatre is a 10 am to 10 pm, all hands on deck, mental and physical week-long marathon.
When you’re not rehearsing, you are trying to memorize lines, sleep, eat, make sure you have clean underwear… you get the drill. Now add grief to the mix. Now try doing it with intense Ambiguous Grief. And then keep yourself so busy, that you are physically unable to get to the one place that has brought you relief from stress like this in the past– the gym.
You can see why I was mumbling “Enough” to myself.
Luckily I still had something in my arsenal: The things I learned from the De-Stress Quest through Solcana’s Wellness Center. I find that sometimes when I’m feeling lost and uncertain, I find great comfort in the ritual and the habitual.
Sometimes the habits haven’t always served me, like binge eating, breaking brushes, or lashing out. But the DeStress Quest has taught me some good, tangible, proactive practices that I can apply easily. And boy, am I grateful.
I know myself enough to recognize that I was beginning to shut down. So I put myself on a defeat retreat. Or what I like to call, HARDCORE SELF CARE. Like a doctor applies a caste on a broken leg, I applied the things that I’ve learned through Solcana, and Solcana Wellness Center, and it acted as a life jacket in the waters of this last week.
First, I put myself to bed. Even though I had lines to learn, and dishes piling up, I knew sleep was the one thing that would sustain me. This is the thing that would keep me sane, and keep me together.
Second, I drank some water. Every time I could feel myself start to freak, or want to cry, or lose my temper, I would take big luxurious gulps of water. Not only did the water do all the good stuff that water does, but it acted like a kindergarten “count to 10”. And I found myself able to reset and re-focus.
Third, I watched my sugar. Did I mindlessly eat a few handfuls of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups along the way? Yes. Yes I did. But then I got back to it. Yes, I sought out some comfort food this week. But managing when I had my sugar, and how much, and what kind, was enough to keep headed in the right direction.
I found myself many times lately giving a three-fingered Hunger Games Mockingjay salute to all the knowledge I’ve gained from the Essential You program.
Fourth, I worked on my mobility. Every day, twice a day, I stretched for 15 minutes. Once in the morning, and usually again before our run-through of the show at night. I worked on the mobility portions from Back Pain Programming that Coach Hannah gave me. I found taking a few moments to do gentle work with my body everyday, kept me from retreating too far into myself.
Fifth, I did some meditation and magnesium. Lucia, (The Guru-trition at Solcana Wellness) has long been recommending magnesium as a way to relax, and restore. I’ve started taking supplements at night to aid my sleep and help with soreness. I also took a few baths this week with epsom salts, another great way to get some magnesium. And while I was in the bath, I shut my eyes and let my brain go quiet.
And in those silent moments, I could feel myself coming back together. Just when I was at risk of drowning in a tidal wave of grief and stress, these baths helped me remember to swim. And at risk of sounding hyperbolic, I began to feel myself survive.
* * *
I do comedy for a living, and to be honest, it’s been hard to laugh lately. And even though making someone laugh isn’t surgery or soup kitchens, I know humor is one of the most potent survival techniques available to humans. I have found great purpose in my small roll of mining levity and laughter out of people. That’s a lot to put on my job, but I know it’s one thing I can do to help.
Even though I was unable to be at the box in the physical space of the gym, I could feel the gym come to me. Coach Jenn even sent me some programming that I could do at home, while she was on an airplane. I have always loved the “whole package” aspect of working out at a place like Solcana, but it was never more apparent than this week.
Having Solcana in my corner to help buoy me, and strengthen me in trying times, helps me keep it together so I can continue to go out and make the funny. And maybe, just maybe, that laugh is just the thing that person needed in that moment to keep going too.
Solcana has taught me that self care is important. It’s taking care of the person, body, mind, and spirit. It’s almost as if they went out of their way to declare, “We don’t just tolerate you, but we SEE you. We WELCOME you. Not just your many bodies, and many backgrounds, but the whole you. The support and the tools to flourish are here. And it is our joy to share them with you.”
I know that’s a lot to put on a gym. But something tells me, they can handle it.