I’m trying to get back to exercising, in small bites. For months, each time I tried to get back on track after a particularly bad flare, I would return to my previous exercise routine: forty-five minutes on the recumbent bike, twenty minutes of physical therapy exercises for my neck and upper back, and ten minutes of yoga stretches. And then I’d be exhausted and wouldn’t even think of trying again for another week. And then, when I was recovering from oral surgery, and I knew I didn’t have the energy for any of those things, let alone all of them, I just stopped trying to exercise altogether. But that didn’t work for me either. I started to feel stiffness and pain returning to my neck and upper back in ways I’d thought I was done with, and, even more worrisome, I was often out of breath just from walking the dogs. It became especially obvious when I had to sing for hours at a time with the choir, during the High Holiday services at my synagogue, and I’d have to skip notes here and there just to breathe. I’d noticed the breathlessness months before, too, when I was still able to do my regular exercise routine three days a week, but at least back then I could tell myself that I was doing something to fix it.
So, I started with breathing exercises, two minutes a day, to gradually build back my breath capacity for singing. And then I went looking for some short exercise videos on YouTube, and I found a bunch of five and ten minute Yoga videos and re-found a five minute Tai Chi series I’d done a few years ago, and started with those.
The problem is, I get obsessive. I ended up spending hours searching for more videos, and thinking I should try all of them, instead of just sticking with one or two. And then I got overwhelmed by all of the videos that came up on YouTube, promising weight loss/tightened facial muscles/removal of all anxiety/release of all trauma, in minutes. I’m so vulnerable to those promises, because I hate how long it takes to make progress, and I hate how circuitous the route to healing has to be, and I hate how confused I get, and I hate how easily I can get off track until I can’t even remember which track I was on or why. But after watching a bunch of those videos I felt even worse about myself, because they were telling me that the effort I’ve put into healing has been wasted, and I could have done it all in a matter of weeks if I’d just bought into this or that program from the beginning.
And then I was watching an hour-long Yoga video and berating myself for not even trying to do all of the exercises and the noise in my head became extreme, and mean, and persistent, and exhausting.
And the reality is, I can’t do all of those things. And there is no magic cure for trauma or chronic illness. But I can do five minutes of Tai Chi, or five minutes of standing Yoga, and two minutes of breathing exercises, or even four. And I’m doing those things. And if I keep it up, I will be able to do a little bit more and a little bit more. And that is always how it has worked for me, and I know that, even if I hate it. So it’s back to small bites, for me, and one step at a time.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?