“Kate [Moss] is small but powerful.” – Naduah Rugley
Two summers ago, a man I was told was interested in me rejected me. The rejection marked a major turning point in my rehabilitation therapy. I decided to use the rejection as motivation to work hard on my body and make him regret his decision. I stepped up my regimen – swimming more, walking more, doing yoga more often – and was more intentional, focused, driven, and purposeful in all of my therapy. My pilates teachers could tell immediately that I had more ambition and that I was using my mind-body connection. I had a clear, focused, specific goal with a short time frame. I knew I would see him again in two months and I wanted him to pursue me. My goal made me more confident and more committed to my practice. It also marked a shift in my intentions behind my whole rehabilitation programme. I realized that I’d approached the work from the perspective of ‘fixing a problem in order to get better’ and I decided to approach the work with the intention of ‘improving on what I already have.’ This made the work more positive and life-affirming, and people around me noticed that I wasn’t as angry, resentful, or sad.
My plan didn’t work. We saw each other again in the fall and nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. This felt like a further rejection, and I had to find another reason to maintain the rigor of the regime I had developed. I had to find another way to stay self-motivated. It was when I took an ashtanga yoga class in November of that year that things shifted again. After I finished the class, I met a woman who told me she had been practicing yoga for fifteen years and she still found it challenging. As far as I could tell, she was a healthy woman who practiced yoga for the sake of her health and well-being. I realized that I’d been waiting for yoga to magically become easy. I’d thought that if I worked hard enough and was consistent and dedicated and intentional and mindful, the practice would somehow shift from brutally hard to manageably easy, but it doesn’t work that way and never will. The ease with which I can do something does not correlate with the benefit I derive from it. In fact, challenge benefits the body more than what is comfortable because it transforms you rather than keeping you safe within your comfort zone. I realized that I had to accept the ever-present challenge inherent in bikram yoga and to see my mission to cure myself as a lifelong practice and commitment to health rather than a comparatively short term cure with an endpoint.
Since that day in late 2011, I have tried to see all the work from both perspectives: being cured and having a life at the same time, working the effort to cure myself into a practice that I can manage and maintain no matter how cured I become (or if I ever succeed in curing myself completely). I acknowledged and accepted that I have to commit to a healthy lifestyle for the rest of my life, especially when I know that things like pregnancy and old age will be harder for me than for other people. The best part of incorporating the intent to cure myself into a healthy lifestyle is that it makes the work primarily for myself and not for someone else’s validation or approval. It also makes me more responsible for my own health – not just the presence of my disability – and gives me more autonomy and control over my body. It also helps me get out of an intense focus on myself as ‘just a body to work on’ and makes me consider myself more as a whole person, one with a mind and a heart and a spirit rather than purely weak feet, stiff legs, bent knees, and inflexible hips. It turns my focus more outward to the world rather than inward and problem-facing. There is more to life than physical therapy, and it took that turning point not only to see and believe it, but to begin living it too.