Embracing A Burning Building

By Sonya Rehman

What am I doing here? What have I gotten myself into? The gym is full on my first day of a personal training class. I am utterly terrified. There are women and men half and twice my age pumping iron and planking for over 30 seconds.

But I have to do this. I owe it to myself. Owe what? A life half lived for years. The referee. The mediator. The saviour. Make no mistake, I gave these archetypes to myself. As a child, I was desperate to grow up quickly to combat the world for my family. I conditioned myself to become their shield.

But when did I let my ‘self’ go? And why was it so easy to become so invisible to myself? How did it take ten years to finally awaken from this self-induced inertia? And where did the self-abasement stem from? My best friend recently told me I need to stop going from 0 – 60 and that I need to always find middle ground in every situation. I found that hilarious; 0 – 60, so true. But perhaps that’s how I’ve always been wired, it’s all or nothing; to live fiercely, or to check-out. Damn the grey zone. How can there be middle ground when life, this fleeting squeeze of a dream is all that we have in the now? I digress.

Towards the tail-end of week 2 at the gym, I met a woman my age in the changing room. She was waiting for her session to start and had 15 minutes to kill. But she was too self-conscious to step outside and onto the mats to warm up. I felt an immediate affinity towards her. What brought her here? She wanted her life back, she said. She told me how a woman on a plane fat-shamed her and how cut up she felt afterwards. I kissed her cheek and told her how brave it was of her to start a journey like this, the one both of us were undertaking. Change is unbelievably painful. Imagine divorcing yourself from your preconceived notions about yourself, your life, your relationships, your perceptions of the world. Imagine confronting your fears, your raw, suppressed trauma…excruciating. No wonder so many of us remain child-like in our cocoons, stone-walling the outside world, rejecting anything that makes us question our patterns. Imagine prying yourself out of your rut and the courage, the utter, unfiltered courage it takes to defeat the voice in your head telling you you’re not worth it, that your life is over and that there’s no way out. But wasn’t every hero once someone always filled with self-doubt?

After 3 weeks of training, my body feels leaner, smaller. I can see my jawline again. My physical being is blooming. I feel in synch. But it feels messy. This new-ness is clunky and foreign. Sometimes I catch my reflection in a mirror and think; who is this person? Who is it that’s emerging? The other day, during a 20-minute meditation session perched up on my bed, I saw a woman in a white chiton. She was radiant and breathtakingly beautiful. Her hair was loose and curly, down to her back. When she saw me, she leaned forward and embraced me in golden warmth. The woman was me.

I can’t be the victim again. I just can’t. I want to one day, look back at the trajectory of my life and know, in the depths of my being, that I took my life and made it my own. That I stepped into this pulsating orb of life, full, promising, magical…hopeful, and became it. I became it. I did it.

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