My social experiments in the gym
Things feel divided, more than divided, more than angry, they feel unsafe. In these past few years off and on there is a hesitation when I open the door. What will I be met with on the other side? The doorknob seems to swell and glow orange. On the other side of that door could be a tsunami of rage and judgment. What would meet me?
We are living in an angry space which leaves me feeling confused and small. Hang on, let me clarify, other people's anger makes me confused and small, mine makes me feel amazingly powerful. Maybe that's true for most people. Maybe they seem enraged because they are actually terrified and want to feel control. I can't get inside of other people's minds to comprehend them. I have spent years trying to do that with my own family, many wasted years. The years are moving fast now, my eyes are going, I need reading glasses and I have wrinkles in places where I didn't just last year. I don't want to feel terrified or consumed by anger anymore.
I went through most of my life angry but, in the past 7 or 8 years it has shrunk to the point where it's right sized. I am not scary anymore and folks dont cross the street when they see me (they actually used to do that). I get pissed off at things of course but, anger doesn't run my show. Unfortunately and fortunately that means that I am frequently undefended. I don't anticipate punches well, I rarely have a snappy comeback. I don't really argue much, except with my husband but he can be really annoying so it happens.
Fear started running my show some years back. My good friend anger was gone (ok, mostly gone), I was in this new weird and mushy space with massive political tension running really high people seemed to hate anyone who was different or opposed their views and my son had just come out as transgender. I felt constant terror that was ripping the air away from me. The ugliness in social media seemed to be growing and infecting my community more by the moment. People's energy seeps into the fibers of my being quite easily, always has, I am a spongy human. Rather than engage or respond, I started deleting, removing toxicity. I deleted anyone or any page that I perceived was intending to spread harm. I deleted anyone who was outwardly hateful or oppositional to kids like mine and I added cute animal pages and anything boho.
I changed my algorithm.
If I could do that on social media what was stopping me from doing it in my own life?
I decided to try and change the climate around me, my bubble.
How do I do this?
My current social experiment bubble is the gym. It’s the best space I can think of to try shit out. Ego, humility, vulnerability, fear, insecurity, it's all there. And the place is filled with mirrors to boot, gyms are actually really insane ego playgrounds. Feelings of fear and inferiority can manifest themselves in so many twisted ways and our minds work overtime trying to create narratives of what may be going on inside the minds of others.
I am generally looking for little opportunities to connect, find common threads and dissipate the division in some small capacity. I don't really engage in controversy but, I am a mom of 2 kids who live under the rainbow umbrella, LGBTQ+ issues reach deep into my house. Consequently, I am well versed and ready to answer questions and dispel misinformation. I try to do it from a platform of education rather than rage, I said try. Admittedly, over the years a few comments woke up my beast.
For the past few weeks I have been allowing my uncomfortability to dictate what little experiment I do. If I feel an inner resistance or hesitancy or internal bias, I walk towards it and do the thing I am afraid to do.
I say hi to people who I find intimidating or I feel are different from me.
I engage with people who I am intimidated by on social media.
I pay compliments.
I ask questions and I try to make them interesting.
I recently took a master class on writing with the amazing David Sedaris. I had no idea who this quirky human was before taking this class but I fell in love with his audacity. He does odd things seemingly without concern of how others may perceive him. This dude picks up trash for a few hours each day just to collect information. He makes observations and has interactions with people most of whom have no idea who he is. His lack of ego inspires and fascinates me. In the class he spoke about creating interesting conversations by asking different kinds of questions. Questions that are just awkward enough to generate a pause. I have decided to throw a little Sedaris vibe in my game and explore the world around me as I continue chopping away at my own ego.
How many social connections can I make?
Can I smile at people?
Can I talk to them?
Share space with them?
Can I try to make an impact?
We are whole people,emotional, mental, physical and social. It would be quite ridiculous to believe that we aren't impacted by our surroundings. Our feelings, our stress, our climate all impact our physical self. Looking through that lens we can't possibly believe that these past few years have not impacted our health. I feel so lame telling people to drink water or count macros when it’s clear that there are so many bigger obstacles screaming to be addressed.
Physical health cant be divorced from the happenings that surround us. After my father passed I was so consumed by grief that I got bronchitis and I developed sores on my face, I was sick for 2 straight months. My body reacted to my feelings and grief made me sick. Think about our collective stress as a society these past few years.
Are we making ourselves entirely sicker by contributing to it? Can we make ourselves better as a society by letting our swords fall and maybe doing a few little weird social experiments? I don't know but,I will keep practicing in the gym, a little world on its own with many bold personalities. A few months ago I started practicing being kinder and less judgy and now I am adding these weird little social experiments. I have met a few more kind people who smile or say good morning. Maybe we share a simple joke or exchange but it used to be a scowl. I am noticing that when you have 20-30 people who are smiling where they used to be scowling the energy changes. Now I get that it's just a gym but it's a bubble and that's the bubble I started with. Let’s see where this one takes me.
It really does help to shift my focus from everything that makes me feel like I can't breathe. In order to keep myself healthy I have to keep doing this consistently. It is as important as nutrition, meditation and exercise, it’s actually way more important but I didn't want to sound like a pollyanna.