As I get older I am into what has turned out to be a wonderful phase of my life. That is (drum roll)...being comfortable being within my own limitations.
Most of my life has been spent trying to live up to some virtually unattainable "other" side of myself that I thought was what people wanted to see.
Like a lot of middle class English kids, I grew up being told that certain clothes were for "best". That meant virtually no pleasure could be derived from wearing them as I had to stand still and try not to let air touch my "best" trousers or my "special" coat. I vividly recall the genocidcal rage my mother flew into when my younger brother came into the house in his bestest trousers....splattered with mud after being knocked down by a friend as a joke. This wasn't done with any malice but as my old dear had to have someone to blame, in order to vent her spleen, she blamed my bro' as he had "allowed it to happen".
But I digress.
I always used to envy the very few people I'd see, who appeared comfortable in their own skins. People who appeared happy with their lot and wore everything they put on with ease and a sense of feeling OK with the world. Not concerned with pettiness or shallow praise, they were "normal" in the most extreme sense of the word. Able to enjoy the gift of being alive and move through life treating emotions like the tides of the sea; natural and part of living.
I've spent most of my life trying to always get one better on myself. No matter what I did there was always that nagging belief that I should still try just one more notch higher at the very least.
In Krav Maga gradings I have summoned energy from rations I never knew I had hidden within me. For someone who is only reasonably fit, doing a 3.5 hour technique based exam, followed by 30 minutes of sparring, followed by whatever evil shit the examiners make you do at the very end (usually push ups, sit ups and burpees)...will sap your energy like bloatware on a smart phone. As if I was some Antarctic explorer, finding his way back to the food parcel I'd left two weeks before on the frozen ice drifts, rocked by blizzards I would struggle to carry on but carry on I would. The energy was found but anyone who's graded higher than a P2 in Krav will know the pure pain of this experience.***
Yet, even though I gave my all, as I struggled out of my soaking wet, torn T-shirt and guzzled Lucozade there was that whiny voice in my head telling me that just maybe I could have done more. Either in the weeks beforehand at the gym, in order to boost my cardio, or on the day itself with some indefinable extra "stuff".
Photo by Bartosz, Krav Maga Midlands
Recently I have started talking to a lady friend of mine. It turns out we have similar feelings towards each other and have had for a long time, but neither let the other know until recently. Once we got past the astonished "I just wondered, did you ever? All the time?!!" stage we began chatting a lot about our lives and for once I decided to do an utterly unheard of and radical thing and simply not beef up or embellish anything.
I stated how much I thought about her and how much I wanted to see her every day but I didn't lie about my sexual proclivity or prowess. I contradicted her statement that I'd have "girls all over me" when on holiday with the news that because I'm usually drinking heavily, I'm not interested in banging everything that has a vagina and a passport saying "Female".
For once I wanted to actually be "real" about myself and not try and hit some higher note in the hope of making a better impression.
I also figured out why I bite my nails so badly. A dirty habit that I have been unable to stop...until recently. At school I did it due to the constant bullying and fear of abuse. Decades later...well, I was at a loss. The reality was that like many people I wasn't satisfied with who I was and was constantly trying to chip away at the "not quite good enough" version of me to find a shiny, better one underneath. Akin to a stonemason with a hammer and chisel, I was waiting for something better to emerge from the ugly, raw rock that stood facing the world.
The gates over my true facets and traits have been there for a very long time. There was the one that barred the way to my insecurities. Another that hid my fears over fighting (although I dismantled it a few years ago and then rebuilt it with a freshly oiled hinge and no lock). There was yet another that wondered if my fashion sense was just a bit shy of being cool enough to hang out in public.
Overall the gates existed for very good reasons. We are all to some extent, afraid of being hurt. By peers, by friends, by enemies, by those we love or admire. We move through life trying to avoid as much pain as possible while taking in the pleasures that we can.
What I have found over the last year or so is that to fully be immersed in pleasure, you have to leave the gates open. If you do then you will become happy with your life but may chance upon pain if it slips through the opening. The alternative is that you bar everything from entering your life, experiencing neither pleasure nor pain.
Live like someone left the gate open.
*** Although this seems to fade the higher up you go. I saw the G4 and G5 candidates sparring a while back at G camp. Fitness levels well within endurable parameters (although one guy did have about 15 treacly flapjacks in a box by the side).