My body has seized up on me this week; I dragged myself to a kick boxing session on Friday, knowing full well that although the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. I had trained every night prior to that, some evenings attending more than one session. Bearing in mind that I only started this process 8 months ago, at the age of 60, and pretty out of condition, I have to concede that I pushed myself that bit too far… and learn from what turned out to be a very valuable lesson: not to allow my masculine side to run the show.
I should not have attended class on Friday, knowing full well that I was physically exhausted, and almost dreading what was coming up. No-one wants to work with a student who has a reluctant attitude and a long face, bringing the collective energy down; I was completely out of order (though in fairness to myself, I am usually keen, enthusiastic and hard-working). So… why did I choose to put myself through it, as if there was a gun pointing right at my head? Ego.
In hindsight, I recognise that I have been competing with students half my age, especially the males. Seeing others struggling with the fitness routines in ways that I’m not led me to feel good about myself… heightening my desire to keep on improving, and maintaining that one step ahead. When it came to sparring, some of the guys were easily able to land a punch on my face (usually my nose), and this bugged the hell out of me! However, fear of hearing and feeling the crunch of bone led me to work on my guard, which, I recognise, is a very good thing! However, I wasn’t taking into account that, as a woman of 5 foot 2 inches, with shortish arms and legs, I was at a disadvantage to younger, taller males… and that rather than working harder, I needed to work smarter! In fairness to the young female instructor, she always pushes us on and praises our improvements, whilst warning us against hurting ourselves and others. My problem has been that my masculine side has been taking over… a battle that is all my own.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with my masculine-self, and I certainly do not consider myself to be ‘butch’… but I have been pondering the idea that kick boxing is maybe bringing out the edgy, competitive side of me a little too much. I love motorbikes and Formula 1 racing, and thanks to two lazy, unmotivated ex husbands, I learned how to do everything from DIY to turfing gardens (stuff I no longer need to do, as my partner actually enjoys that stuff… as well as cleaning the car, inside and out!). But I recall, when learning to ride my motorbike, how hard I struggled to find the balance between the clutch and the accelerator, causing me to spend most of my time flying through the air, before thudding to a halt on the tarmac… which felt like a very girly thing to do, and frustrated the hell out of me! Men couldn’t understand why it was such a problem for me, either shaking their heads in bewilderment, or tutting in a patronising manner. My partner tried his best to help me, but it was a lost cause, and I fell into a pit of despair, imagining that I would never, ever be able to ride in a straight line that was more than 2 feet in length. In the end, I rode my little bike around and around the car park near my home, on my own, teaching myself to stay upright, slow down and manoeuvre around other vehicles, and change gear. The first time I headed up the main road to the roundabout and back, I almost pooped myself… but I was also ecstatic! I was soon to learn that that was only the beginning of a very long journey, and that many seasoned bikers had already forgotten what it was like to ride a 125 cc, talking as if they came out of the womb astride a two-wheeled beast, and that only women who could ‘ride like a man’ were taken seriously (dear God, I sound bitter… where did that come from?).
Having written all of this, it is kind of obvious to me that my man-self and my woman-self have been wrestling with one another for… well… all of my life, probably (though I have no idea why). I am perfectly happy being female, but I am uncomfortable with the all-girls-together thing, and I run a mile from the idea of ‘goddess’ energy! I know that this website is aimed primarily at women over 40, which seems to be a bit of a contradiction, given what I have just said. However, the clue lies in the word women, as opposed to girls (and it is possible to be a 40/50/60 year old girl, emotionally speaking, making age irrelevant). In my relationship, my partner plays more of what would be considered to be a feminine role, due to circumstances that include health issues, even though he is definitely very masculine in outlook and attitude. He can arrange furnishings with flair and style (whereas I don’t have a clue), and he notices what I wear. I think that maybe I unconsciously set it up this way, as it suits my masculine side, and maybe he did the same, as it plays to his feminine side. Maybe. But what I do know for sure is that I have burned myself out recently, from the inside out… and that the girly part of me is feeling swamped and neglected, causing me to be impatient and reactive… and wanting to pummel the bejeebers out of a young, tall, well-built man for not sparring ‘fairly’!
It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that we all have access to masculine and feminine thinking and behaviour. It is easy to see when a man is a seething pot of raging testosterone (I recognise that throughout my life I have exposed myself to this particular kind of energy over and over again). It is also easy to see when a woman is responding in an overtly feminine way, or appears to be driven by her primeval female needs. Maybe these two characters belong together, freeing the rest of us up to explore both sides of ourselves, dipping in and out as is necessary!
I have scrutinised my own tendencies, and analysed my habitual responses and behaviour, on and off for years… and I have concluded that, despite some pretty tough experiences at the hands of the masculine energy, I harbour an underlying distrust of the female energy, and that although I do feel feminine, and have a nurturing nature, I still lean towards the masculine. This could be because, as a child, both my mother and stepmother did very little to protect or care for me. In my mother’s case, she came and went, putting her dubious boyfriends first, finally clearing off when I was 11; in my stepmother’s case, she would throw me under the bus at every available opportunity, making sure everyone knew that I wasn’t her daughter, and that I knew that I wasn’t as good as her children – in subtle but often devastating ways (I wasn’t the only one who was affected by the events of my childhood, but I can only speak for myself).
Overall, I conclude that it is maybe easier for a woman to be able to move between her masculine and feminine side than it is for a man, especially given the current social climate… that it is deemed to be more acceptable. I could, of course, be completely wrong; it would be very interesting to hear what men have to say on the subject…