Finding acceptance in what I do with my body and who I perceive myself to be has been a painful and rewarding journey. The work I do when I'm getting paid is rigorous, exhausting, and exhilarating. The work I do when I'm not getting paid is a different colored bag with the same contents. I ask a lot of my body, and as much as my demands make it physically hard to get out of the chair after dinner, they chop the kindling that keeps the fire bright in my heart. The strength I build outside of my work keeps the work more manageable and pleasant. It all begets itself. Is it the barbell before the boulder, or the boulder before the barbell?
I'm writing this because I need to come out. I'm a brute, and I'm proud of it. I'm going take a gander and say that physical work is often thought of as "the lesser". Everyone has a body and they can use it, but not everyone has the intelligence and charisma, right? I do not believe this now, but I grew up enmeshed in this idea, egged on by the insistence that financial wealth equals worth. I have accepted and embraced that getting dirt under my fingernails, sweat stains on the daily, and random cuts and bruises is far more fulfilling and rewarding than padding my bank account. I love what I do.
Using the body is a skill, the same as being a natural born academic, and not everyone embodies it. It takes a deep fortitude, a natural gift of stamina, grit, and athleticism that is special. Yeah, when I'm swinging a pick axe all day I'm not crunching numbers and creating the next billion dollar app, but I'm practicing a deep meditation that can move two plus tons in one day and build something beautiful and functional. A physical space is created that makes people feel good and commands respect of singular moments. This is how I can contribute.
This might read as self-aggrandizing, but I need to give myself credit for what I do. I too often play down the ability and drive that it takes to get this shit done, and rarely describe how bad and good it feels to start swinging a pick axe at 7:30AM. Well, I probably do talk about how bad it feels, but not enough about the positive energy I receive from it. The flow of blood, the quickness of breath, and the rhythm of repetitive physical exertion form an electrical current that plugs me into my spirit. It gives me a sense of being the animal that I am. That base level of human-ness/animal-ness is hard to uncover, but is so vital in staying strong and positive. The will to get done what I love builds a simple platform to jump sure-footedly into the rest of my life and be ready to give.
A year and a half ago I had surgery to repair a used up shoulder, and after a year of nursing a bad shoulder and then the year and a half I spent babying a new shoulder, I am back to full strength. During the recovery, I had to be incredibly still and watch my body get smaller and weaker. This registered just a few shades below unbearable torture. Most of my worth, mentally and financially, resides in my physical ability and in turn shapes my identity. If I don't feel strong in my body, the edge of depression sneaks up on my feet. I'm not sure how this will play out for longevity's sake, but I have started incorporating some intelligent decision making into my physical limits. For now, I am so grateful that I have been afforded a healthy(-ish) body to do the things that I love and to teach me such tremendous lessons about meditating in motion and letting physical moments create visceral presence. Thank you, physical labor.