Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Workout Wars

Hello, readers!

It has been a busy month in my world. As a high school English teacher, I have been mired in marking and report cards - but that tunnel's light is getting bigger. And so - time for me to get back to my blog.

Lately, I've been having a recurring experience when I engage in (the dreaded!) small talk with coworkers: and everyone seems to be OBSESSED with working out and not eating anything that might possible have a calorie in it.

Of course, that last part might be slightly exaggerated - but truly, if I hear ONE MORE COWORKER telling me about getting up at 5am to go to the gym or to hit the treadmill, I will likely defenestrate them.

I too have been getting up at 5am for the past two months - but not to work out. Not even to make healthy lunches or meditate.

I have been - yep. MARKING.

As much as I love all the unsolicited mom advice about getting my children to bed by 7pm, it just does not work in our house. In fact, every time we decide to crack down and really get this bedtime thing sorted, it ends the same way: we fight with the kids for three hours, and they go to bed an hour LATER than the usual 9pm.

So all this means that the only time I have to complete my marking is in the morning before everyone gets up. Most days, I try to mark from 5am - 7am. It's a drag, but it's the only way I've found to manage the marking load since having two kids and returning to full-time teaching.

As I've gotten into a better schedule, I have been able to spend that time doing something I'm a bit more passionate about - sewing! It always frustrates me to try sewing in the evening or on a weekend. My kids have their play area in the same large rec room of our house, but they are adamant about inserting themselves into my activities. Stealing my scissors, turning the tension dials on my machines, unplugging my iron - you name it, they fuss with it.

Add to this that I am usually completely brain-weary after a day at work or on the weekends, and this had led to quite a few epic sewing mistakes.

So 5am has become this very strange yet peaceful, productive time for me to complete some sewing projects. It means I have the room to myself; it means my husband doesn't feel like I'm ignoring him; it means the kids don't distract me; it means that in those two hours, I accomplish more than I might in five hours of "distracted" sewing.

Last week I was sharing with a friend my annoyance at how many women complain to me that they "can't sew anything" (or bake pies, knit, quilt, preserve, etc.). My frustration laid in the fact that all it takes is TIME: we can only excel at activities we spend time perfecting.

And then it hit me - these women WERE perfect at something I wasn't: BEING BEAUTIFUL.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't a fishing-for-compliments expedition or a pity-party.

But truly: if the women I know who spend 1-2 hours A DAY working on their makeup, hair, clothing, meal planning, and exercise spent that time honing a skill or developing a hobby - they too could accomplish what I do. I'm not doing anything that hasn't been done by women in every culture around the world for thousands of years.

The problem is, as women, we've bought the Kool-Aid: we truly BELIEVE that we are only valuable for our appearance. In our efforts to develop careers, break the glass ceiling, and earn our place in a male-dominated world, we have somehow lost sight of those other tasks that are valuable, even if they are "traditional." We've quit cooking or sewing or canning fruit because that's domestic work - work to keep women "in the kitchen."

But for most women, they are not replacing this domestic work with meaningful career work. Instead, they slog away at somewhat interesting jobs, work too many hours, still carry most of the mental load of a household - but without the fulfilment of ACTUALLY accomplishing something of lasting value or substance.

Yes: being fit and healthy and beautiful is something I have worked at in my life. But honestly? I finally had to ask myself some important questions.

When I die, will people remember me for looking good in a miniskirt and having a 26" waist, or will they remember that I baked them a delicious pie? Will my daughters eulogize my role as the "hot mom," or will they remember that I made them matching dresses and dolls clothes? When my students leave my class, do they remember me as the "cool" teacher, or the one who helped them love Hamlet?

When we're eighty years old, will the women who spend hours on their outward appearance have fewer wrinkles or chin hairs than I do?


In a way - I feel sorry for the women who believe that their only value is in their appearance. Who don't develop passions outside of being beautiful or taking selfies. Who get career promotions or husbands or attention because of their appearance. I wonder if inside each of those women is a little girl who still hopes she can be "good enough" if everyone tells her how beautiful she is on the outside.

Beauty is fleeting, charm is deceptive, and we will all grow old.

But I can guarantee you this: when I'm 85 years old, I'll still know how to make the best pie you've ever eaten.

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