Picture if you will a racing skull moving swiftly through the water, and a lady like me pushing and pulling, slapping oars into the waves...maybe turning a subtle shade of purple in the face? I'm a rower, you see.
Years ago I got seduced into getting up before dawn, lifting a massive piece of fiberglass down to the docks, and cruising around a lake with muscle power. My cohort are a bunch of swaggering, cool-headed mooks who masquerade as normal people 22.5 hours a day. But deep down, that hour and a half rowing is as essential as food. The moments we spend on the water are a kind of magical, otherworldly interlude where we nothing else exists but the boat, the weather, and ourselves. It can get woo woo. But we never speak of that. We just put the boats away and sprint off to our busy day.
Because of proximity (sadly, not athletic prowess) I am coached by a legendary champion who has taken medal-earning rowers to Nationals and the Olympics. Her name is Eleanor McElvaine. Eleanor is good.
Since completing two books in two years, I have taken the blessed interlude of selling time to work out more. I always exercise, but there's an extra level of willingness to risk when I don't have my head in a writing project. I've recently discovered a hot yoga teacher I love. I'm 54 years old and have no history as a jock; I was the chubby book worm type. To find mentors I trust has never been easy, and it's taught me a lot about tolerating my own limitations. These days, I am okay with sometimes being the worst in the class. I am grateful to be there, full stop. I've come to love sweating, stretching, and letting go of stress.
But here's the punch line. This morning on the lake, with a stiff northerly wind and a light rain (not to speak of literal pink cherry blossoms floating in the air) Eleanor took one look at my stroke and said "Looks like someone has been doing yoga. That's good. Your spine is stacking up perfectly."
I told you, she's good. What she saw was better alignment. But I take more from her astute eye than just the crit. To me, it's evidence that my intentions show. If I keep positive commitments like physical movement, care in eating, and making time for fun, the effects are tangible, and not only to myself.
Why is that important? Because I'm a mother, a teacher, a coach, and someone who writes words I hope others will absorb. To the degree that I treat myself with care, I am a better leader/role model/writer. In other words, people can tell if I'm pretending to be engaged and passionate, and they won't buy it. Even without superior vision, other sense when we aren't aligned.
What about you? There are those who look to you, be they peers, family, or community. Asking this question with the maximum amount of compassion and love; when they watch you, what do they see? And is it what you want? What version of you would serve best?
On the water, we are constantly correcting course. We row backward, so we pretty much have to adjust constantly. If not, we'd crash into one another, take out a buoy, or wind up swimming. That's not the goal; we want speed and grace. We strive for alignment.
What are you striving for? What could you do to move with more power, and to be recognized as who you really are?