There was a time, about six or seven years ago, when I used to dance randomly and uninhibitedly. The conditions were perfect: I was just (finally) out of a particularly unhealthy on-again, off-again relationship, and I was living on my own for pretty much the first time in my life. I would wake up every day knowing that I could do whatever I wanted with my time. And it made me want to dance. So I would: I'd just turn on some music or other and flail around the room without rhythm or reason. Just spontaneously.
Of course, the impression that I could do whatever I wanted with my time was a bit misled. I wasn't doing what I wanted with my life. I wasn't writing. But I was dancing, nevertheless.
I haven't danced like that for years. The last time I thought about dancing, it was to harness my love of it in order to lose weight. I found some 'dance' workouts that took my spontaneity and arranged it into precise movements that I repeated day after day until I was bored. Over the years, I've done the same with a handful of other activities. Yoga, for instance. And I don't want to do that anymore.
There was this one time I decided to go back and read some of my old
diaries. I've kept diaries since I was seven
years old. And you know what I found? I've been on one type of fitness
and diet regiment or another since I was 14. Why the hell did I think I
had to exercise and/or diet when I was, at not quite yet my adult height
of 5'5", probably 110 lbs soaking wet? Looking back, it was probably a
mixture of cultural pressures (delivered handily to me by YM magazine --
remember that one?) and familial pressures (I was a book worm as a kid
and I hate hate hated gym class and team sports. So I "needed more
exercise" my mother would insist).
And I don't want to do that anymore. I have been, when it comes to health, obsessed with what Foucault called 'governmentality'. Or perhaps more precisely what I should refer to as 'self-governmentality'. At least, that's the way I think about it. It could argued that this way of conceptualizing governmentality is not exactly what Foucault had in mind -- but it helps me in my thinking about my life.
I am a creature of routine -- I like to think about how I'm going to spend my day and dividing my time into chunks: it helps me to be productive and it's one of my characteristics that makes me a good writer. But when applied to weight loss and health, the whole thing takes on a different form. I have to patrol the borders of my consciousness. My wants are all scrutinized, interrogated, and jailed if found to be of 'evil' nature. Anything determined 'good for me' or 'helpful in losing weight' is distorted: ritualized and routinized until those things I found tasty or joyful lose all flavour or joy.
And I don't want to do that anymore.
In other words, I can no longer do whatever I want. At this point in my life, I found made a decision to finally go after my chosen career. And I am meeting, slowly but steadily, with more success than I thought I ever would. So why do I feel the need to deny myself what I want to do, what I want to eat -- and instead force myself to do what I think I should do. Look, it comes down to this: to the realization that when I was at my thinnest as an adult: when I was at that weight that gained other people's approval, was the most miserable era of my life to date. Why would I be focusing on something that I need to be miserable to achieve? I am not an 'ideal' weight because I am unhappy, and I am not unhappy because I am not at my 'ideal' weight. If I am unsatisfied with my life, it has to do with more substantial issues related to my career. So why dumb it down? I don't want to look at women's magazines anymore. I don't want to look at clothing models. I don't want to think about the way I look. I don't want to count calories. I want to be healthy. I want to have a healthy relationship with my body and with my food and that begins, I think, with doing what I want. Or -- perhaps that is a bit simplistic. I want to do what makes me feel joyful. Eating an avocado for the pure joy of it, not because it is good for me. Dancing when the spirit moves me.
Taking all that energy wasted on someone else's version of an ideal and rolling it on back into being myself. Because I'm great. :)