I cried in yoga class today.
This is not a first. It’s not even new. In fact, since starting yoga and therapy simultaneously, I’ve cried at least every other time I’ve gone.
Feelings hide in our bones, our muscles, in our tissues and sinew.
You think just because you were able to swallow that pride, blink back your tears, bite back your anger that it just went away? Nope. It becomes a part of you.
Until you let it out.
So, I was in a bridge, and my instructor came around and adjusted me, and suddenly the bridge was a lot harder. And I felt angry tears welling up.
You suck at this. You can’t do this. Your body isn’t right for this. You should just give up and stop.
Wow. I know that refrain. I didn’t explore it too deeply because, hey, I’m still working on this whole feeling my feelings business and didn’t particularly feel like feeling them in front of the whole yoga class.
But when I got to the car, I let it all go. And it kept going…
…the whole drive home…
…while I took off my shoes and got ready to shower…
…and into the shower.
And as I was trying to let myself feel it, I finally landed on an image of why I was feeling what I was feeling: Elementary school PE class.
Spoiler alert: I hated PE class.
Twice a week for six years of my life, I went to Ms. Peavey’s gym to see what fresh hell awaited me. Group games and sports weren’t too bad. I didn’t hate dodgeball or deck tennis, but I didn’t love them. Anything that called for me to do something in front of the class? Major anxiety inducer.
But the worst were the physical fitness tests. Looking back on it, Ms. Peavey could have handled these things a lot better. I get that they were state (or possibly federal?) mandated tests, and I get that there were certain ranges we were supposed to fall into to pass.
But did we have to do the tests in front of the whole class? Did she have to weigh us and measure our body fat with the cruel, pinching caliper in front of two dozen scrutinizing peers?
What exactly was the point of the pull-up test when we never ever practiced pull-ups, or even regularly did any sort of arm-strengthening exercises? Just to test our natural arm strength? News flash: I have none.
And what — dear God someone please tell me — was the value in having us run the mile and then line up in order of our times?
I was dead last. For six years.
Forget the fact that I had asthma. Forget the fact that I was not naturally an athletic kid, and therefore did not participate in any sort of extracurricular sports.
I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought there was something wrong with my body that it didn’t perform up to the President’s standards. (It was called the Presidential Fitness Test.) I thought there was something wrong with me that all my classmates could pass the tests, but I couldn’t.
And for a smart girl, it was doubly jarring to not be good at something in school.
But here’s the real kicker: No one ever told me differently.
I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that I could practice these things and get stronger, and do better on the tests if I wanted to. I don’t remember anyone ever encouraging me. I remember thinking that was it; if I couldn’t do a pull-up, I would never be able to do a pull-up.
I remember thinking Ms. Peavey hated me. That she wanted me to fail. That she singled me out to shame me into doing better somehow. I remember, in fifth or sixth grade, deciding to walk the entire mile, not even jogging, and say screw it.
If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail on my terms.
Fourth through sixth grade, I was in the gifted and talented program, and every Thursday, they bussed us to a different school for special programming. I remember every single year hoping and praying that my class would have PE on Thursdays so I could miss out on at least one torture session a week.
Nope. I missed art (which we only got once a week) for three years straight. I wonder if they figured we were getting enough creative expression in the G&T program.
It baffles me that I am still angry about all of this 25 years later.
And yet it doesn’t.
The extra weight around my middle is anger. It’s anger and sadness and shame that I’ve tried to stuff down with food for 25 years. It’s the physical manifestation of being taught to believe my body was somehow not up to par, that I didn’t live up to what someone else thought I should be.
Well, fuck you, Ms. Peavey, wherever you are. Fuck you, Presidential Fitness Test. Fuck you, classmates who laughed and pointed fingers.
I am not broken. There is nothing wrong with my body. I am perfect and whole and almost miraculously capable.
And it only took me 25 years (and counting) to figure that out.