J (10): I AM SO TERRIFIED RIGHT NOW. I CAN’T MOVE.
S (11): Why did you climb up here then?
J: I had to!
S: No you didn’t.
J: I had to prove I’m a man.
M (7): Well I climbed twice as high as you and I’m two years younger and I’m two times braver so that makes me (counts on fingers) ten times the man you are.
S: Actually that means you are only six times the man J is. Which is why I’m the smart one. I’ll still be alive long after you two kill each other off racing up mountains. I’m the real man here.
(This convo is 12 times funnier if you can hear it in their tinny prepubescent voices!)
Fear is omnipresent in my life. I put on a brave face but the truth is I’m a scaredy cat. I’ve learned to push through that fear most of the time but the feeling of it – the icy fingers around my heart – is still there. So I could totally relate to my terror-stricken second son this weekend when we took them camping at Arches National Park and he had a panic attack at the top of every mountain. His brothers do not share his cautiousness (indeed we nicknamed Son #3 “danger monkey” since he appears to have been born without a fear chip) and as he watched them race up and down narrow paths with precipitous drops, I could see that he envied them their carefree freedom. He forced himself to do it because he thought he had to but he didn’t enjoy it like they did. He was happiest once we were all safely back on the ground. (And where he got that misguided notion that he had to do it to “be a man” I have no idea – we certainly don’t say stuff like that!)
I can’t say I blame him. While I very much enjoyed the other-wordly views from the top (seriously, if you’ve never been, Arches is like going to Mars), I too was much happier once we were all safely back at the bottom.
Those little specks up there? My boys. I swear they had to climb every rock in the entire national park.
I feel like my fear has held me back a lot in life. While it’s true that I am afraid of falling off tall cliffs (and even more afraid of one of my kids falling off tall cliffs), what I’m most afraid of is failure. (Okay what I’m most afraid of is drowning in an underwater cave but thankfully that one is a pretty remote possibility. Although it’s why I’ll never take up scuba diving. And why I can’t watch submarine movies.)
We all made it safe and sound! You can’t tell from this pic but son #2 is hyperventilating and trying not to weep.
Here’s my confession: I kind of feel like a failure as a health writer. This is very uncomfortable for me to write (ironic, coming from the girl who will publicly talk for hours about her poops, her periods and accidentally eating barf) but the truth is that I know all these things – I read all the research, the books, the stories, the blogs – yet I’m still the girl who binges on jelly beans. And worries about losing ten pounds (and then worries about worrying because I should be evolved enough in my self image to not care about a little thigh chub). I mean if anyone should have this whole health/fitness thing figured out by now it should be me, right?? Why don’t I know the secret formula?!
In a recent interview I was asked, “How has your level of fitness changed from before the blog and to now – 7 years later?”
The question kind of threw me at first because ironically I’d say I’m probably at about the same level of fitness as I was when I started! I started this blog with the express purpose of finding out what my body needed to be its healthiest best self and instead I discovered that I’m… still me. Eventually I answered the interviewer, “I went through a phase for about four years where I was “super healthy” but it made me crazy trying to maintain that so now I just settle for happy and healthy.”
I’m not Super Woman after all. Does that make me a failure?
I know that in some people’s eyes it does. This was summed up in one man’s reaction when I told him what I do for a living. He looked me up and down and then said, “Well if you’re a fitness expert, how come you don’t have the perfect body?”
In hindsight I should have said, “Because there’s no such thing as the perfect body.” (Or maybe I should have spilled my drink on him and walked away.)
In reality what I said was, “I’m not an expert, I’m just a girl trying to figure it out like everyone else.”
We’re sold this idea that perfection is attainable and weakness is not to be tolerated. Yet the more I watch my children try things and fail (because what is childhood if not a series of trial and error?), the more I want them to learn to treasure their failures because they teach us. Not only do they teach us how not to do whatever we’re doing but they teach us humility, compassion, perseverance, gratitude, forgiveness and empathy. And I’ve learned all that and more in trying and “failing” at my fitness journey. So what if I’m physically right back about where I started? Mentally and spiritually I’ve come so so far! Plus I am happier – and that’s never a failure.
Like Jelly Bean’s first attempt to learn how to climb trees. She just couldn’t figure out why this method wasn’t working!
“Failing” is a funny thing. People like to say “failure is not an option” but the reality of the human experience is that not only is it always an option, it’s an inevitability. We will all fail eventually – which is probably a good thing. We learn nothing from perfection. But I think the trick is in remembering that we’re no more of a failure than anyone else. Our failings don’t make us worse, they just make us human.
My son’s little legs just dangling there – cracks me up! He looks like a Muppet. And look – Jelly Bean’s gotten a lot better at climbing trees in two years!