exercise

Why Working Out to P!nk is F*ckin’ Perfect

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Screw Britney. Screw Rihanna, and Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga, and (gasp) Beyoncé. When it comes to female pop workout music, P!nk rules.* No matter what mood you’re in, the petite acrobatic vocalist will get you moving.

I was reminded of this yesterday at my Peloton cycling class in Chelsea. Before I even hopped on my bike, I was in a funk. And not the groovy kind, the smelly kind.

You see, I’d found myself stuck recently, afraid to wipe off the dust on my keyboard and commit words to Word. What if my blog post sucks? What if it’s boring and unfunny and pointless? What if it’s not book worthy? I hadn’t posted in months, and now I was terrified to do so.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all, I just finished writing a book for a publisher based on my other blog, 40 Dates & 40 Nights. Shouldn’t I feel like a major f*cking badass, ready to take on the Internet by storm? I mean, c’mon, I’d finally achieved that holy grail every actor dreams of: VALIDATION!

And yet, every time I sat down with my laptop, I couldn’t bring myself to type a single sentence. I’d click on Firefox, and pretty soon I’d be down a rabbit hole, reading short stories by Clarice Lispector, researching apocalyptic earthquakes, trying to understand why people are religious. Suddenly three hours would pass and it’d be time for my barre class and then I’d be out in Manhattan and how could I possibly think about silly meaningless blog posts with all this crazy life swirling around me? (And cocktails swirling in me.)

But every morning I woke up with the same nagging feeling: WRITE. (also: hangover.) Once again, I’d pull out my lap top, crack my knuckles over it,* and not get to work. Let the cycle of self-admonishment begin.

My spin class rolled around yesterday with yet another blank document on my desktop. As I adjusted the seat in the dark room, a weariness overtook me. Why am I here? Do I even enjoy this anymore? Throughout my unstructured life as an artist, exercise has been pretty much my only constant, an almost sacred space of meditation, discipline, and endrophin-induced joy encouraging creative flow. But lately my workouts had felt more like doing laundry or washing dishes than a blessed communion of mind, body, and spirit.

The lights dimmed and the instructor hopped on her bike enthusiastically.

“In case you guys didn’t know, this is a P!nk ride, so yeah,” she announced unapologetically, then turned on the music.

A pink ride? Does this mean it’ll be supporting breast cancer? Or only include songs that have to do with every five-year-old girl’s favorite color? I wondered. Perhaps it was being sponsored by Vicki’s Secret and we’d all get matching thongs at the end. That would be fun!

I began pedaling to the beat, humming along to the song. Who is this? The vocals weren’t gravelly enough to be Amy Winehouse, and were much too pop-y to be Mary J. Blige, although the lyrics were dealing with family drama. Can we work it out? Can we be a family? I knew the voice, but I didn’t.

Until I did. Within three notes of the second song it hit me — Ohhhhh, it’s P!nk!! (Duh.) I smiled at my obvious oversight, then picked up the speed of my legs. This should be.. cool I guess? I was still in my funk.

My initial thoughts on the ride echoed my early feelings on P!nk’s music – meh. Back when she’d first debuted on the radio waves, I’d been somewhere between milquetoast and irritated by her party anthems.*** When I moved to LA in 2004 she was one of my first Hollywood encounters at a sushi restaurant, and as we threw back sake bombs I remember wishing she was Christina Aguilera.

However, over the past decade I had grown to respect P!nk and her vocal and physical acrobatics, even kinda sorta love her. And with each song of the ride I understood why. On one sprint I’d be ready to kick someone’s a$$ because so what, I’m still a rockstar, and the next I’d be nodding my head on a climb, knowing I needed to keep going. You gotta get up and try

By the time we’d finished arms, I felt like myself again – back in my body, excited to get to work. The honesty in P!nk’s lyrics moved me. Raw, simple, real, unafraid. Was her music poetry on the level of Leonard Cohen? Did it possess the originality of a Dylan, or the depth of a Joni Mitchell? No. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t good, or relatable, or inspiring.

The second to the last song came on: pretty pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel, like you’re less than f*ckin’ perfect I started to cry, realizing that that’s what had been keeping me from blogging these past couple of months: fear of not being perfect. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Perfectionism. It was the cause of my eating disorder, my anxiety, my writer’s block. Why do we do that? Why do I do that?

As I pedaled through the finish line, I decided right then that I would start posting on my blog again the next day, no excuses. It didn’t matter if what I wrote sucked or was boring or pointless, because at the end of the day, that’s not what it’s about. Every song isn’t going platinum. Every blog isn’t getting turned into a book.

But it is about living fearlessly. About owning your truth, and honing your craft, and taking risks, and being willing to fail. So what if you make a wrong turn or a bad decision, release an annoying song about partying or write a dumb essay about a spin class? Get up and try again. And again and again. It obviously worked for P!nk. It can work for the rest of us.

Damn, it feels good to be back! 🙂

*Okay, fine, all of these awesome ladies kick my ass on the treadmill.

** I didn’t actually do this, but I’ve seen it in so many movies I thought I should add it.

*** 2000, WTF?! We’re getting so old.

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What I Talk about when I Talk about Pole Dancing

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Exercise has always held an important place in my life. The reasons for its necessity continually change over time (health, meditation, weight loss, enjoyment), but it has been a constant for as long as I can remember. When I think of my childhood, I think of practicing handsprings in the grass of our front yard, doing back flips off of my best friend Mikie’s couch, running up and down Willamette Blvd, biking around the lush campus of the University of Portland. When I recount favorite moments in my life to friends, inevitably they involve some sort of physical activity – the time I ran 18 miles in Paris one morning because I couldn’t stop, the exchange I had with a wild dog in a Costa Rican rainforest during a mid-day jog, the joy of making that winning basket or home run.

Until last year, my favorite form of exercise was, without a doubt, running. Growing up it had been gymnastics, but anyone who has ever watched the Olympics or tried to do a cartwheel beyond their teens knows the career-expectancy of that particular sport. Running, on the other hand, can be practiced well into old age, as many an elderly marathoner can testify. Not only is it sustainable over one’s lifetime, it’s one of the simplest things you can do. One foot in front of the other. Repeat. Not much to it, beyond a good pair of running shoes and a sports bra (and those aren’t even actually required!)

In many ways, running has been one of the most essential things in my life. It has gotten me through breakups, writer’s block, finals weeks, anger, sadness, holidays, family vacations. It’s like a medicine for me, a shot of endorphins to ease the pain, lift my spirit, pump my blood, keep me alive. Some of my most creative thoughts have come on mile 5 of a morning jog, moments in which the clutter in my brain gets sorted and the heart of the matter just seems to burst forth – AHA! Now I understand what Bergman was getting at in Persona, now I see the missing piece in my screenplay. It’s incredible the way running can set up a routine for your life, one that teaches you how to function better in the world. It’s what Murakami talked about in “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.”

Which brings me to pole dancing. I encountered pole (and Murakami’s semi-memoir) last summer, when I’d been cast in a play as an ex-stripper. As coquettish of a person as I was (I once got fired from a restaurant for flirting), I felt compelled to take my sexuality a step further, and enrolled in classes at S-Factor. I’d heard of pole fitness from my ex-boyfriend’s ex-lover, but it had never occurred to me to actually try it until attempting to tap into my inner “Billie.” Little did I know it was going to rock my physical, sexual, and emotional world.

My first class I cried. Not from the inevitable bruising of slamming one’s body against a metal pole, but from the sudden awareness of the damage done by over a decade of body dysmorphia. “Let your hands run over your curves, sending love and adoration into them,” the teacher cooed. What?! Caress my body and enjoy it?! Years of living in Los Angeles had taught me I was too fat, too flat, too not Victoria Secret enough. It felt strange, borderline criminal, to worship my body for what it was – feminine, beautiful, sexy, mine. As the class continued, I found other emotions welling up inside of me. This part of me had been caged for so long, trapped by societal conventions, possessed by other people’s ideals, restricted by my own self-image, reinforced by casual (un)sexual encounters, ripped and shredded over and over again by this perfect body, that perfect body, never my perfect body. And now it was being summoned forth, beckoned to come out, to play, to explore, to let go.

And it did. That part of me, that deep femininity, that innate sensuality, that natural womanly sexuality, just burst out. I tore at my clothes, touched my breasts, felt the curve of my back and the way my hair brushed over my shoulders. Every inch of my skin felt alive, more alive then it had ever been, like that moment right after an orgasm, when the slightest touch sends shivers down your spine. How could I have neglected myself for so long? How could I not have recognized who I was? I remembered a novel I studied in high school – Gabriella, Clove, and Cinnamon. Gabriella. The caged bird. The juxtaposition of her sexuality and society. Intellectual concepts now fully realized. I let it sweep over me. Relax, left brain, just FEEL.

I walked out of my first class and signed up for a year. I had never spent money on fitness (my mom covered my $50 a year 24 hour fitness membership), but I didn’t even flinch as I lay down my credit card for $200 a month. How could you put a price tag on finding yourself? Money didn’t matter. This mattered. My body mattered. I mattered.

From the outside, I know it looks crass. Learning to strip, giving lap dances, grinding my center into a long, hard pole. And sometimes I do feel dirty. Really dirty. But I love it. Because it’s mine, and it’s for me, and it’s what I want. Forget the male gaze. It has nothing to do with men. It’s about women. Our bodies. Our erotic creatures. Our sex.

Almost a year after joining S Factor, I feel better than I ever have in my life. I don’t attribute all of it to pole dancing – other things have opened up for me creatively, intellectually, socially – but I know it’s been integral in my development in the same way as running. If I walk into a class feeling down, anxious, upset, I inevitably come out joyful, calm, and ready to conquer.  Plus, my arms have never looked better.