BICEPS AND BEER
By: Lauren Anderson
I struggled with celebrating the 4th of July last week like many Americans did.
How do you celebrate a country that keeps children locked in cages, away from their families, in terrible conditions? We’ve been taught that America stands for the home of the free– but our own government has imprisoned these youths unjustly.
How do you celebrate a country that gets so much wrong? How do you reconcile one part of the truth with the other? How do you carry on when there is nothing you can do?
How am I possibly trying to tackle these kind of questions that are frankly WAAAY above my pay grade, in a blog for a gym?
Well, I’m asking the questions, but I’m afraid I don’t have an answer. I don’t want to even attempt an answer. But I wanted to talk about it anyway, because that’s what’s been on my mind lately.
These ideas, and questions are what I carry with me to work and to the gym and to the grocery store.
These unsettling feelings about the state of the country are what I brought up to my friend’s cabin. While I drank summer shady and kayaked on a beautiful lake.
On the one hand, I knew I NEEDED this time away. I’ve been so fricking busy lately, I haven’t had any time to just well– BE. The quiet of the cabin life and being around open water was a type of comfort I didn’t know I was missing.
They say (Who are they exactly?) that time spent in nature is restorative for the soul. As an indoor kid growing up, I never really put much stock into this. Until the option of being outdoors got removed entirely due to the responsibility of adulthood. And let me say, never have I wanted to be outside more.
On the other hand, I couldn’t shake this gnawing feeling of guilt. I get to be up at this cabin, while those kids…
So off I went to “celebrate” the country’s inauspicious beginnings. But I didn’t feel like celebrating. But I went anyway. Because I needed and wanted to still. I needed to rest.
That’s it. I needed to rest.
And then it dawned on me. I don’t think that bodies and brains and spirits are meant to operate in survival mode for long stretches of time. I think that we need rest.
Just like I don’t think the government or it’s people can live in extremes for too long. It may feel like “end times” to a person like me right now… but I know that these feelings or circumstance cannot sustain.
Even great bits of joy must end. And I’m not saying that to be be bleak. I’m saying that because I think most Americans set themselves up for failure by believing it’s their “right” to be happy.
I don’t believe “happiness” is a state of being. It’s an emotion. And emotions are meant to change and ebb and flow with time and circumstance.
This is where lessons from nature are particularly potent. As I was out on the lake, kayaking around, I noticed that there were more weeds in a certain area.
This is different from the year before because of rain and fish population etc etc. The lake and what it’s like there always changes. One year you put the dock waaaaaaaay out. The next it’s closer in.
The pendulum of nature swings back and forth. But it’s always pulled toward the middle– NOT THE EXTREMES. Take the forest fire example. Forest fires are terrifying and brutal and destructive. They ruin homes and air quality and animal habitats.
And if the forest only burned– we would have no forests. But the rain eventually comes. Winds pick up and weather changes, and suddenly the fires are put out. In the coming years the forest finds a way to grow back greener and more dense and nutrient rich. The forest thrives, only after it’s been devastated.
This is similar to what little I’ve read about “cheat” days if you are strict with your personal food intake. Often if you give yourself a day to relax and eat “whatever”, it is helpful to your metabolism. Like a shock to the system. And helps your metabolism maintain better than if you were strict all the time. (Please do your own research on this, because most of what I know about this I’ve learned from The Rock’s Instagram.)
And as I looked out at nature, I noticed I was breaking a sweat from all the kayaking. I was grateful to my biceps for propelling me with such ease through the water. I worked hard to get these muscles, and now I was delighted these muscles were working hard for me.
But I was getting more of a workout than I thought.
And then I remembered, that kayaking is also about relaxing. So I stopped paddling and reached out for my watermelon-flavored beer (don’t knock it till you try it.) and thought, “This is what true moderation feels like.” A workout, then a beer. Almost happening simultaneously.
* * *
In other words, this kayak trip helped calm me down in more ways that I thought, because it reminded me that most things are on a pendulum.
And pendulums swing to the extremes- sure, of course. That’s what they do. But they don’t stay there. It always gravitates back towards the middle.
I think we as people do too. We seek levels of moderation. And yes, the overall “middle” can adjust over time, but I also believe that people are mostly good. And that good will win.
I have to believe that. Or I will perish.
But I also know from my own experience that sometimes the biggest trials are the biggest lessons. And that tremendous pain can lead to tremendous insight and growth. And I’m not saying that it’s right or okay or justified…
But maybe it takes putting innocent children in cages away from their families to show people just how EXTREME things have gotten. Maybe it takes something heinous enough to show that things need to be fixed. Or to remind us as a nation that this is NOT what “we the people” want.
I wish I could say I solved everything out on that kayak trip over the “holiday” weekend. But I solved nothing. I know by letting myself rest and recharge, I reminded myself of all the ways I can help and do help already. I let my personal pendulum swing back towards the middle, and I feel restored.
I am not helpless. I can be the morale. I am equipped with biceps and a strong sense right and wrong.
And I’m ready to fight for a country that is actually worth celebrating…
When that day comes, I’ll bring the beer.