Setbacks and refocusing

It has been 2 month since my last post, and a lot has changed during this time. In the process of moving and schedules changing, I put the heavy exercise practice on hold, and much of my prior good dietary choices were compromised due to scheduling and stress. Several health issues I had been keeping under control / ignoring came up and further pushed back my return to exercise. Although I am working to get everything under control, I suspect I will not go back to Crossfit in the near future (schedule and financial factors involved as well) – although I did enjoy it very much and would still recommend it to others.

As often happens during autumn, I have been undergoing a more internal refocusing. Working on my attitudes, values assessment, mental health, etc. Going back to a daily meditation practice is one of the things I have discovered is most helpful to me as a buffer to the stresses of life. Though I’ve been made painfully aware that no amount of meditation can correct a bad enough sleep deficit.

At the intersection of an internal focus with the role of the warrior is the Jedi path. I connect very easily with this role at this time. It also helps that the Force is something that fits in well with my own spiritual beliefs. So don’t be surprised if my language takes on this flavor in the coming posts. MTFBWY.

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My husband, friends, and I have been having a lot of discussions regarding the physical depictions of comic book characters in film, largely in response to the pictures that have come out of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. There have been many complaints about the film version of the character, from the fact that she has ridiculous high heels, to her strikingly Xena-inspired costume… but so much of the discussion has been about her body. And I have to admit, although I automatically have some strong feelings, I’m pretty torn myself.

I heart WW as a character – she’s damn strong and isn’t afraid to show it, fights for good, and minus some origin story issues, generally seems to be unquestioningly comfortable in her own skin. To reflect this very physical character, the better [physical] depictions of her in comics have not been afraid to show she has muscle. Sure, others have drawn her with less definition and mass, but that could potentially be chalked up to a stylistic wand that waves over many comics. Some of my favorite WW art found here shows her as solid, defined, and in some strips, facing many of the body image issues his culture lays upon us (Photoshop, problems with clothing sizes and shopping).

With that in mind, I was very disappointed when I saw the first promo pic of Gal Gadot as WW. The first glance impression is disappointing. She just doesn’t look muscular at all. The heels, which I’m guessing were there to add height and sex appeal (ha!), just elongate and narrow her form even further.

When she was chosen for the role, critics then called out that her body type wasn’t right for the role, but they were assured that she would work to bulk up and be a better fit. While she isn’t supermodel-thin (which she is capable of being), she hasn’t done what was promised. Her current form would probably be okay for other roles, ones that were less strength, more gymnastic (think Catwoman, or Black Widow). But this is Wonder Woman, and you have to be able to believe she could lift a car. And there are so damn many great actresses who can and do pull it off, all the time. See my Badass Ladies series for further proof. We as a culture don’t need more thin-appeal. We don’t have to be afraid of strong.

And yet… There’s a part of me that feels for Gal Gadot. I don’t know what her personal goals going into this were, and I don’t know what her training was like. I know I can only imagine how she is feeling right now. But if she really did do her very best, and wanted to do better… I GET that. This might be really hard for her. I’ve been there, just generally on the too-big rather than too-small end. Just the other day, I was feeling down on myself, because I wasn’t getting as muscular as fast as a part of myself envisioned (stupidly… I mean it’s only been a month of Crossfit, and two-ish of really consistent exercise / strength training). Thank goodness I’m not in film or theater, cuz I can only imagine the shreds of a body I’d be left with, with all the demands on appearance. And different bodies react differently to training, some getting definition really quickly, some a lot more slow-going. Some people’s metabolisms are more forgiving.

To address another question… Is the negative reaction against her appearance body-shaming? It’s not the shame that people live with on a daily basis for their baseline size/shape. This is something outside of her normal that she was working towards. But I guess in the strictest sense it could be, because this is the body she’s living in now.

So I’m torn between feeling betrayed by the depiction of a beloved character, and feeling for an actress who’s human. I have deep deep reservations for when I see it on screen because in the end I am hoping to see MY character, but I will give it a chance. Maybe, while not the ideal, her acting will really bring it to life. Maybe we’ll be blown away. I can only hope.

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Badass ladies #2

In the recent movie Edge of Tomorrow, a movie very strongly revolving around Tom Cruise’s character Lt. Col. Bill Cage, there is a secondary character who makes her presence so central that she feels like a lead. Emily Blunt’s character Sgt. Rita Vratowski is effortlessly badass throughout the whole movie.

Rita, also known as the Angel of Verdun because of her prior victory, is strong willed, practical, and a survivor. She has a good reason for it, as it is revealed in the trailer that she had the same repeat issue that Cage had, and further story goes a bit further into why she’s so closed off. Don’t get me wrong – as any video game geek will tell you, the more times you play through, the better you get. We don’t get to see where she started off as a person before this happened to her. But the great thing is that she starts this movie strong (one of her nicknames is the Full Metal Bitch), and stays strong.

She helps Cage because his ability could help her fulfill her own goals, and then because they ultimately wanted the same thing. But thankfully, nowhere along the line does she weaken herself for the sake of the hero. I would argue that Cage never surpasses her. He simply grows in character and ability to the point where they are equals.

Another refreshing element is that any romantic elements are thankfully downplayed by the very device of the story – though Cage knows her more and more as the story goes on, it’s always back to square one for her. No matter what potential chemistry there is, we don’t have to watch her fall for him. She remains her own person.

Emily Blunt brings a great physicality to the role. Through obvious work, she has put together both an impressive athletic form and the ability to actually move. Part of it was from the necessity to carry around the 85 lb suit they use in the movie. But in interviews the she also speaks about changing the genre expectations: “In these male-fueled genres, it’s usually the woman who’s holding the hand of the guy and he’s running through explosions leading her, and I wanted to be doing the leading,” Blunt said. “This was the extreme idea of what I ever thought I’d want to do.” (quote from sfgate)

Here’s hoping that more actresses will follow this example, and inspire more women in real life.

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Strong female badass #1: Sarah Connor

Happy 4th of July! I just came out of a film screening of the theatrical release of Terminator 2, and I have a badass lady to tell you about. Sarah Connor is someone easily identified as a strong female character given her growth between movie 1 and 2 and her self-reliance and tough-as-nails attitude in T2. She starts out as a waitress, a regular young woman, and needs quite a lot of saving when her world starts falling apart. However, motivated by the idea that her son will go on to save humanity, she forms the self discipline necessary to train hard and sacrifice comfort to make sure he is prepared. However, she is also a survivor, strong-willed, and makes sure that everyone, including her son, knows that she doesn’t need saving anymore.

The character is brought to life beautifully by an actress who had the dedication to do the physical training herself, and seeing her on screen you’d believe what she’s been through and what she’s capable of.

I’m keeping this super brief because it’s stupidly early in the morning and I have limited time on my way home from the movie. If your interest is piqued, check out the discussion over at the Sarah Connor Charm School – they have much more to say than I can in my limited time.

You’ll note that I’m not mentioning the TV show with (theoretically) the same character portrayed by a different actress. I cannot truly comment because I haven’t seen the show for myself. However, from what I’ve heard, the character feels very different because of the scripted changes in character as well as the very different physicality of the actress. For more discussion on that topic, again see the SCCS link above.

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Strong female characters

There are a lot of issues around women’s rights and feminism recently. Issues like access to birth control, freedom from sexual assault, and the female body in the media and advertising (and body issues in general) have all been keeping the news sites busy. It’s definitely concerning to think of the ideals we are painting for all the growing girls and young women. I have personally seen its repercussions on both sides of the spectrum. So what’s wrong here, and what do we do?

We are the stories we tell. A favorite writer/director Joss Whedon, upon being asked repeatedly why he writes strong female characters, eventually answered that he does so because people keep asking that. The typical goals and story arcs for female protagonists are pretty weak in comparison to those of the men. Romance / “true love” and popularity are often the big ones. Even in non-romantic settings, “proving” oneself for a female is often defined by her relationship to a male character. It’s pretty sad stuff.

So I’d like to give a hand to the bad-asses. The women who stand proud, don’t whine, and get things done. Do they have to be unshaven no-makeup militant etc and so forth? No, take your stereotypes and take a hike. That may be the case sometimes but it’s not necessary. Think of it this way, just as it’s okay for a guy to shave if it makes him feel like he looks good, makeup can be okay too.

In some of my free time I hope to highlight some of these as they come to mind. The first will be Sarah Connor, hopefully coming soon, in honor of the 4th of July midnight screening of T2 we’re going to. And if more is desired, I will definitely be linking back to the Sarah Connor Charm School which has more discussion and reviews than I could ever pull off. Coming soon.

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Several updates are in order. It’s been a busy time but it’s lightening up a bit. Basically I finished one work program, have the next one lined up but there’s a month off in between. Some of that month has been dedicated to getting all the proper paperwork in order, and also to finding the next apartment.

In between is an unprecedented amount of me-time. Time I’m at least in part dedicating toward pushing me to the next level of fitness. I’m doing a Crossfit foundations class with the nearest local box. I really want strength and agility that’s functional. If nothing else, I’d really like to better be able to lift and carry things for when we move. So far I’ve been learning new movements, practicing tabatas, and learning about soreness in places I didn’t even know I could be sore.

And for more radical action in terms of food, I’m trying to cut the junk and “eat clean” and cut down on the carbs. As an over-reach to help get habits set, I’ve been setting paleo/primal as my theoretical goal. In about two weeks, I’ve basically killed my craving for sweets and really kicked up the amount of veggies I’m eating. If once in a while there’s social pressure to eat something that I’m not “supposed” to have, I don’t sweat it. And if/when this is no longer convenient to follow, I’m not going to give myself any grief. I’m also not pushing it on my spouse.

My perception of my warrior activist role is adjusting to all the changes going on as well. I have been used to working for a public healthcare facility, but for this portion of training, I’m in a private one (in the nice side of town). This has required some mental reconciliation. My hope it that it’s less “working for” and more “training by,” and that I can pay it forward. Will just have to be mindful.

An old desire resurfacing now is to get a “warrior” tattoo. Something that reminds me of this choice, keeps me motivated, and makes a statement. I tried to embed that into my first tattoo, but when asked about its meaning I never said that, and over time it lost that meaning to me. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is something with a lightsaber, but I’d have to get it just right in order for it to work. Still a just a thought at this point.

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I’m recovering in all ways. The massive ick left pretty quickly, thankfully. I still have a lingering cough and am trying not to overdo it, but the majority of the time I feel back to normal.

I’m recovering my activity. I was able to start back on the 4 Minute Mornings, though I backtracked a little so as not to overdo it. I’ve been able to maintain it pretty much daily as part of my morning routine, even before work. The type of work this month has shifted so I’m also on my feet for a lot more of the day. I’m waiting a little bit longer before restarting running, but in the meantime I’m doing as much walking as I can, and trying to minimize taking elevators.

For strength training, I’m trying what was discussed in Sarah Connor Charm School article – I’m doing only one set per each exercise, and trying to give 48hrs off for each body part I work.

It might be that my current work is more engaging than working from home, or just that my metabolism is more active, but the past few days it’s been a little easier to eat healthy because I’m not craving food all the time. Eating more whole foods in general, though there are still a few snacks (a few gummy bears for example, or a small portion of ice cream), and drinking diet soda sometimes isn’t helping the sweet tooth go away. My focus on eating healthier rather than losing weight has made me not automatically hate it, and it takes away the bad feelings / guilt that can get tangled in.

I’m also working on non-fitness aspects of my warrior training and keeping my inspiration fueled. I finally watched the first two Terminator movies, of which I’d previously only ever seen pieces. I’ve been noticing (both actively and passively) when people shown in the media are muscular versus stick thin versus neither. I’m trying to observe my own reactions to these things. I got to do an advocacy workshop last week, and I’m actively pursuing a position that would allow me to work on advocacy behind the scenes.

Continuing goals:
-maintain a regular exercise practice (habit/discipline)
-work towards doing one pull-up
-comfortably do regular push-ups
-gain strength
-continue to find warrior inspiration
-engage in robust advocacy work
-join martial arts practice
And probably more that I’m not thinking about

More to come…

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