Kung Fu Mama

Before Charlie entered my life, I had achieved a black sash in kung fu. I practiced 2-3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I have never been a skinny person, or even an athletic person, and this was the most body well-being I’d ever had. I enjoyed it immensely, up until my body was too big for more than walking. And, then, of course, my newborn stole my sanity and my breath, as well as my time.

It has taken eight months for my new little family to develop a sort of schedule. In those wooly, frazzled months, exercise (not including walking, which we do daily, living in NYC) has gone the way of spontaneous Friday nights at the movie theater. I miss kung fu: the exercise, the stress relief, the intellectual stimulation, the breathing, the awareness of body movement. And in the new year, I hope to add movement back into my life, even if it is only in 15-minute increments.

But kung fu gave me more than just exercise. It honed my discipline and gave me a different mindset, one I was thankful for during labor. (I was a stellar breather, the nurse said, though don’t let anyone convince you that breathing reduces the pain of unmedicated childbirth in any way.) And I am thankful for my kung fu mindset when I must call on super-stamina to keep up with (and succeed in) a daily life full of parenting, marriage, working, family, friends, and . . . the holidays.

We arrived in Georgia a few days ago, after taking the Crescent Amtrak line (no wait, no traffic, no taking off of clothes and shoes–unless you want to–nice views, and we got to sleep through most of it.) But before our Christmas vacation began, I was heavily pressed for time: shopping; washing clothes to pack, then packing them; cooking CW’s food so he wouldn’t starve on the ride; wrapping gifts; schlepping; finishing up projects at work; and beginning some freelance projects necessary to our well-being in the new year. Through it all, I got very little sleep. The only way I made it through was to follow one task after another, one piece at a time, focusing only on that item. No past, no future, just the present. No focusing on the tiredness, the pain, the frustration–it was the discipline of kung fu applied to parenting.

It didn’t reduce my stress, however. (I did say I was out of practice, didn’t I?) Now, I just need to rediscover the skill of breathing and relaxing, too.

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