I've gone through lots of inner transformations around this issue, from being depressed, to frustrated, to focusing on other things than my body i.e., might as well have that beer and cake, and back to attempting to work with my body. While adjusting my diet has helped somewhat: eliminating sugar, gluten, caffeine and alcohol is often uncomfortable. It can trigger resentfulness in me -- honestly, I still break the rules, to my own detriment. I'm exploring the roots of this struggle.
But, something else beautiful has emerged: I've reunited with my totem animal, the otter. Ever since I was a tiny tot and unable to swim, I've loved water and would go in on any possible occasion. Much of my childhood experiences has been in creeks: catching crayfish and salamanders with my hands, building dams, swinging on vines over it, walking up long stretches barefoot, etc. Also, when I'm at the beach, I'm in the water for hours, boogie boarding and body surfing, until exhaustion and hunger force me out. At lakes and pools I would dive, twisting and spinning underwater, do handstands, you name it. I've never lost this drive to get in the water -- you can ask anyone whose been on vacations with me! So, when many of my favorite activities became painful, I embarked on a long-term study of lap swimming. I intend it to last the rest of my life.
No surprise, I love swimming! It's been fascinating and motivating to notice the improvements I've made in a couple of years. For example, when I began, I would crawl stroke for half a lap (from one end of the pool to the other) and have to rest a minute, letting my breathing slow down, before I could go back. Back stroke used to hurt my shoulders and crawl stroke used to hurt my neck, until I changed how I was doing them. Bending my elbows some in backstroke, I can distribute the effort, instead of it being pinpointed in my shoulders. During the underwater portion of crawl stroke, I now reach each arm across my body -- like taking a sword across me. This makes the opposite shoulder roll out of the water, so when I need to breathe, I don't have to wrench my neck. I'm now exploring butterfly stroke -- something I never thought I could do! While I'm not super fast, I'm now able to stay in pretty constant motion, mixing up several different strokes, lap after lap.
Swimming feels so good! It stretches my back, tones my whole body, strengthens around my pelvis, and challenges my cardiovascular system and coordination. More importantly, it's drawn me closer to my core self -- that self is very otter-like -- playful, strong, creative, bold, re-connecting with an integral part of my childhood. When I was little I had a stuffed otter named Otto. He was my favorite stuffed animal. Fairly soon after beginning my Shamanic training, I had purchased a gorgeous carved otter fetish made of turquoise. See the above picture. It's a permanent part of my Mesa (medicine tools).
When I realized all of this, I felt like celebrating with a tattoo, with the laurel flowers that are prevalent in the Mountains of Virginia, and North Carolina; favorite places I've hiked. While I'm not saying tattoos are for everyone -- they're a serious commitment, not terribly cheap and do hurt to get -- but, in my case, I'm loving it. It's fun, artistic and a statement. And the statement is, this is a big part of who I am.