Years ago, I read a book called “The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck” by Sarah Knight. A play on the Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. The premise of the book is to stop caring about things that don’t matter.
At the time, I was about 23 and I was interested, but not quite ready to fully commit to that train of thought. I was still under the impression that I could achieve the perfection that this author was obviously burdened by and eventually unable to maintain. I was deep into weightlifting, desperately wanting to be an awesome, admirable and cool athlete. I wanted to do all that sexy stuff that athletes do in the montages of movies and youtube videos.
There was a particular line in the book referring extremely briefly to athletes. In particular, olympians training for the long jump. I no longer remember word for word, but it went along the lines of “you could spend all of your energy for years and years, completely dedicated to training, in order to jump 1/8th of an inch further than your competitor”. I immediately related that to lifting 1kg heavier than your competitor in weightlifting, and snubbed this thought. She obviously don’t know what it’s like to be a dedicated athlete.
I stopped reading the book about half way through and continued on caring an immense amount about all of my athletic achievements. At that time, I had no period (hypothalamic amenorrhea) and I continued not to have a period for quite a while longer.
That statement stuck in my head, though. You don’t have instant, life altering changes of perspective many times in your life, but you do have a lot of slow dripped, long-time learned lessons accumulated.
Over time, especially on my journey to heal hypothalamic amenorrhea, I thought about that book every now and then. At first it irked me, but now, it is such a satisfying line to think about. It made me think: what am I really doing all of this hard work for? Why am I grinding so much to perfect the snatch and the clean and jerk?
When I was a kid, I was super creative. I drew a lot and played with dolls until I was far too old. In high school, I learned about HTML and PHP coding, building websites and blogs about my dog and stuff that kids care about. By 15 I’d learned photoshop and how to make graphics so I could better design those websites. I got into photography because of it and I let all of it become this big ecosystem of creativity that all fed each other and filled my world.
I did that for years and I was OBSESSED. It was such an amazing creative outlet. Somewhere around that 15 years old mark, some ~30 year old woman who was a PHP coder actually wrote a weird ass review about my website. She was super mean and it crushed me and forced me to quit because my vulnerability only and willingness to show up, try, fail and try again was turned into shame, defeat and an understanding of ‘the real world’. That was a formable moment in my life: I realized I needed to be perfect before I showed anything I did to the world.
I’ve since healed that wound and it’s fine now, but at the time it made me stop doing something that I really enjoyed. In that moment I decided I needed to spend more time gaining life experience and perfecting whatever it is I wanted to do before I dare show it to the world. I need that 10,000 hours before I would allow myself to step back into the creative sphere and build a shitty website.
So I moved on and mostly did nothing. I took photos for a while until I found fitness after seeing myself at a terrible angle in a change room at a department store in Sydney. Then I decided I needed to be the best at fitness or something like that. Eventually, it was my identity. And I was pretty rubbish at it too, which at the time I felt was good because, well, doing things that are hard and working to perfect them and become one of the best is what makes a great autobiography, right?
So, I did the noble thing and I spent years working hard at something that I liked, but wasn’t amazing at. I spent a lot of emotional energy pouring over how bad I was at it until I was finally okay at it.
Sometime last year, in the midst of my HA awakening, I backed off weightlifting. Many people that I had seeked help from to try and get my period back had encouraged creativity and relaxation. That’s pretty hard to do when you’ve spent your whole adult life feeling like creativity is a mammoth waste of time.
But, here I am podcasting to you imperfectly, making youtube videos terribly and drawing pictures and making money from them, acting like I’ve been doing this all my life but really I only started drawing in August 2019.
And here’s the thing: I have LOVED every second of not weightlifting and LOVED making stuff online because I’m better at that. Having Hypothalamic Amenorrhea has actually freed me of the chains of having to be so painstakingly athletic. It’s helped me be creative again, start a business and have real conversations with you.
And look, if being a high level athlete is what you’re meant to do, that will be there for you after you’ve recovered and all is said and done.
If it’s not there for you when you’re finished with HA because you’re too distracted by everything else that you discovered along the way, you actually won’t care when you realize it’s not there, waiting for you anymore. That was my experience.
I gained so much from that time in athletics, including the habit of moving my body regularly which is a great thing. I just don’t have to do it obsessively and for three hours a day anymore. I don’t have to fuel my body constantly to perform and I don’t have to spend my ‘off days’ on the couch because I’m so tired.
My question for you is, if you were able to stop being afraid of giving up your high intensity workouts or athletics, what might you gain from getting all of that time and energy back? What enjoyment are you actively not seeing, because you have your blinders on and are unable to see what’s right in front of you, calling you to do something bigger and better?
And again, if you’re meant to be an athlete, great, that will be there for you when you get back, so maybe, just maybe, you can take a break to get your period back.
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