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  • Lijing Cobb

Self-sabotage

No matter how much I don’t want to face it, I suspect that my right wrist is beginning to show signs of wear and tear from all the weight-bearing exercises I’d been doing over the last 9 years. If I circle my left fingers over the right wrist and squeeze, there are crunchy noises sometimes. When the crunchy noises come, I can only place my right wrist flat and lock it to use it. Otherwise, a heavy jug of water like the one I drink tea from daily would simply refuse to be picked up. Down dogs, planks, arm balances: all these exercises I love to do, lead to the pain in my wrist. All these exercises that make me stronger and feel good are crushing my wrist, literally. What is the right thing to do?


I don’t want to give up these exercises. I also don’t want to end up needing surgery on my wrist. It seems that I’ve been placed between two impossible choices. I gotta weigh them carefully and choose responsibly like a grownup.


My gut tells me that giving up these exercises is the right thing to do. My emotions don’t necessarily want to hear that. My ego says, I’m not one of those people that have wrist problems. I’m young and vibrant. I can do anything! Me! Me! Me!

Ah yes, my ego is having growing (older and wiser) pains!


Once upon a time (actually only about 6 months ago), I was deathly afraid of giving up exercising a million hours a week for fear that I would lose all my muscles and therefore my trademark sculptedness as a fitness expert (wow, the vanity of it all, like the desperation of a fading star… as soon as I put pen to paper, it all becomes so soberingly obvious), but I did stop and make peace with it, didn’t I? This morning I got up and suddenly the thought occurred to me that I’d been back pain free for a while now. That back pain that started right after the birth of my son 9 years ago, and accompanied me with an annoying steadiness ever since. At its height it took a good two hours after I got up in the morning before the idea of any type of movement became acceptable to my body. But just recently, quietly, this mature and established pain left without saying goodbye—disappeared into thin air. Finally, it did its duty and no longer needed to hang around to remind me daily that I was doing injustice to my own body for the sake of an image. I’d made the right choice to give up the things that added salt to the wound, insult to injury. I’d finally given my body enough rest it’d been crying for all these years, so the pain relented and in its place, there is now health.


The body never lies.


The other day, I took my son’s guitar to the guitar shop and got it fixed. As the store clerk handed me a receipt for the payment after the guitar had been restrung and was ready for practice again, I felt like he just handed me the admission ticket to parenthood. One of the strings on the guitar had snapped, and the guitar had been laying there useless for a couple of weeks. My son had a legitimate excuse to not practice his instrument daily, and the burden of having it fixed weighed heavily on me. I kept expecting a miracle that somehow, without me doing anything at all, somebody else would come to the rescue and restore the guitar to usable status again. I also thought about buying him another one with all the strings attached. I know, you are scoffing: “Come on, LJ, snap out of it. This is nothing at all!” Believe me you, I know how absurd it sounds. But somehow, at the time, the thought of driving over to the guitar shop and having the expert fix a simple problem presented itself as a huge and complicated problem that I could not conquer. So I waited, letting the guilt and unease cook me in an unparentlike sauce, until one afternoon, faced with the inevitability that my son would have to use his guitar that afternoon for a zoom lesson that we’d already paid money for, and the cold hard truth that my husband would have the right to kill me if I bought a new guitar instead of fixing the old one, I finally made a phone call and drove myself and the guitar to the store 20 minutes from my home. An hour later I was back with the fixed guitar, and without the guilt and unease that had been plaguing me for those two weeks.


It seems like doing the right thing, the grown up thing, the responsible thing, sometimes takes just an hour, and it is really a super good deal because it changes your status from a disabler to an enabler. But such an apparent, right, and good choice can nevertheless take a long time to be adopted. I suspect, at least as far as I’m concerned, that it was not just an hour of time that I was afraid to lose, but my own status as a helpless child, and my desire to self-sabotage. That successful drive to the guitar store demystified the process of doing the right thing as a parent for me, and I could no longer hold onto the cloak of ignorance and claim that I’d never done it before. I have done it before now. I will have to do it again in the future when the need arises. And damn it, it feels pretty good. It feels pretty empowering to say, yes I can.


So back to my wrist crunch issue at hand: Am I afraid of losing another status quo? Is it the LJ who can plank for an absurdly long time for no apparent reason and use (I mean, my kids cannot eat it for dinner and I cannot wear it to a fancy ball) and be rewarded by wrist pain long afterwards? Or the LJ who discovered the thrill of arm balances and is just now getting the hang of it and would like to show it off some day to you all when she gets really good at it so you can all ooh and aah? Or the LJ who is on the brink of launching another 9 year campaign of producing her own pain, and revising her course only after the pain becomes too much to bear? Or the LJ who only waits to think about and weigh her option (alas, you ran out!) when she is cornered and has no other way out?

The LJ who was not so kind to herself for such a long time? The LJ who was an old hand at self-sabotage?


Perhaps this wrist crunch business is an invitation for me to get creative and figure out ways to chase the thrill without paying for it with a wrist? Perhaps it is time to take another trip to the guitar store and get my own guitar fixed? Perhaps once initiated into responsible adulthood, we are to exercise these amazing powers of discernment, like the radar detecting the speed of the car before its arrival, so as to stay within our allowance and avoid crash and burn?


Change is always so hard, regardless of whether it is for the better or for the worse, ditching the habit of self-sabotage included. I remind myself of the 50 little steps analogy I offer to my son, and tell myself to take a deep breath, and then take the first little step. Not a giant leap that would surely take my breath away and make me fall, but sure little steps one after another that will get me from my house to the studio, success in hand.


The more often I take such trips into adulthood, the more ease I shall find. The more back pain, wrist crunch, and snapped guitar strings I let go of, the more peace, ease, and smiles I shall claim in return. I think I’m done with self-sabotaging. I think I want success and gentleness instead.


The body never lies, and so in such amazing simplicity it teaches me a truth to honor: let go of what hurts me, and turn to what becomes me. Aren’t we all looking to end our pain and suffering, and in their place, find kindness and happiness?


4 years ago in Cabo with my mom and kids. I loved this picture for my abs. But now I love it because my mom was with me. It also reminds me that I'd been so self-absorbed at that time that I had forgotten to check my oldest daughter's passport before the trip, and we only realized that it had expired at the airport, where she was transported by our kind taxi driver to her grandmother to wait for two weeks until our return. I would trade my abs for the two weeks in Cabo with her anytime.


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