While some of this post is excerpted from the archives, it seemed really appropriate right now for a lot of reasons. Most of you know that I’ve always found physical activity an ideal way to access my creativity. One of my personal tag line has always been that I walk my stories. But walking is the foundation of so much more.
And NO! This is not a testimonial. It’s just observations of my own experiences. A bit of a naval gaze, yes, but I hope you’ll indulge me.
A year ago this past November, I made the decision to take off the extra weight I’d been carrying around for longer than I care to think about. I decided that if I wanted to achieve my fitness goals, I needed to jettison the extra baggage, as it were. And yes, that is a metaphor for a lot of things going on in my life then and now. By the beginning of April last year, I’d lost thirty-five pounds, reduced body fat and gained lean muscle mass. But that was just the beginning. I knew that the challenge would be to maintain my new weight and the habits that got me there as a way of life.
So, this post is a celebration of my first anniversary. I’ve maintained my weight for a year, and during that year I’ve continued to grow stronger and more fit. So I guess you could say that this post is a celebration of my body and the journey it’s taken me on so far, as well as those connections to my creativity. Please remember that these are my thoughts and my experience of the journey. Everyone is different.
I was asked once to write a guest post explaining what I thought the appeal of BDSM is in erotica. It’s a subject I still think about often, and every time I do I find myself thinking about my workouts at the gym and drawing parallels.
I work out with a personal trainer once a week. In addition she also trains me in kettle bells and Pilates. While the woman looks sweet and gentle, to those who submit to her training, she is anything but. She pushes me hard, much harder than I would be able to push myself, and I have a reputation for pushing myself hard. But the truth is that I don’t trust myself completely. There are boundaries I’m afraid to push on my own. I’ve had too many injuries from pushing in the wrong way and overtraining. Though I love working out with my husband, and we have a great time together whether we’re practicing martial arts or whether we’re swinging kettle bells, or even on a long walk, he can’t really push me like my trainer does because he’s not a trainer and because I’m his wife and he’s careful with me. Also he doesn’t want to be around the bitch I can be if he tries to push me too hard. I love training on my own. I love the creative process of it, but that doesn’t eliminate my need to be pushed by someone who sees me better that I see myself.
Some days I hurt. Some days I even have a few bruises — mostly from mishandling kettle bells. I’m pretty proud of
those, actually, because they mean I’m learning new techniques, they mean she trusts that I can handle more difficult challenges and heavier weights. It doesn’t matter how badly my body hurts or how exhausted I am — I keep pushing, and I know that I can push because my trainer’s looking out for me; she’s in control.
What makes a situation that would appear to any outsider like torture something that I revel in is what happens inside my head. What I experience when I’m pushed to the edge of my endurance is somewhat similar, I imagine, to what practitioners of BDSM call subspace, which is the headspace in which submissives may find themselves when they’ve been pushed to their limits by their Doms.
I’ve been thinking about that training headspace a lot lately, about the place where I go during a hard workout, when I’ve moved beyond tired and beyond pain. Pushing myself to the limit changes much more than my body. It feels like I go through stages. First there’s determination, and when the pain sets in (I’ve learned the difference between good pain and bad pain) and my body starts to rebel, the emotions start to well up – sometimes anger at the intangible, at some nemesis I neither have a name for nor can define. Sometimes that anger morphs into a child-like state that brings me close to tears, a state in which I want to turn on my trainer and ask her why the hell she’s being so mean to me – even as I push myself harder, even as I respect her more for believing I’m worthy of this challenge. When I get past that ‘why are you hurting me’ stage, what happens next is the most amazing part of all. Somehow my body pushes the pain back. Endorphins, adrenaline, and all the chemical soup flooding into my brain and body take me to a place that feels far removed from what’s going on physically, and yet also feels right there at the very centre of my body, right there where the part that makes me ME resides.
The thing about the change that takes place when my trainer has pushed my boundaries and tested my skill level is that, even when the workout is over, the change remains. I’ve gone where I’ve not been before. The reservoir inside me that makes me who I am becomes deeper. I feel more real. I write this because I’m always seeking ways to understand what’s going on in the stories we writers tell. And when BDSM takes up such a large space under the erotica banner, why wouldn’t I seek parallels, why wouldn’t I search for ways to understand, ways to help my readers understand and identify. I do the same with all of the many components of erotica. Having said that, I hardly think it’s a surprise that gyms and physical fitness figure so prominently in erotic stories. Nor do I think it’s a surprise that for so many writers,
physical activity is closely linked to creativity.
If I could put the experience I share with my personal trainer into a phrase, that phrase would be ‘power under control’ — my power, her control. And that power is power I didn’t know I had, power I would have been afraid to access without her control. I think we can’t overestimate the body as a teaching tool for knowing ourselves. Nor can we overestimate it as a tool to guide us deeper into our creative selves. We’re all our own biggest mystery — power unaccessed, depths unexplored –and most of us tend toward the path of least resistance. Moving off that path into the Undiscovered Country, accessing our power, is often easier when someone else, someone we trust completely, is in control.