Love to hate

By on September 10, 2014

On a weekly basis I am heard to say, “I hate you!” and then we both laugh. She has deep brown eyes and shining long black hair that she can wear in a ponytail or curled into a fancy “do” for a night on the town. She can wear stiletto heals and look glamorous or a stretchy exercise outfit and look fit. She loves wearing long dangly earrings. She loves exercise, all kinds. She is constantly moving, talking, exploring, discovering, changing, and trying something new. She tells me she hated school and found it boring even though she enjoys learning anything new. She loves large crowds and a lot of people. She is very different from who I am.

I say this rude phrase to Bonnie, my personal physical trainer. It shocks me because I am usually polite. I met her a few years ago after a couple of rounds of physical therapy for a weak muscle injury and knew I would never sustain the therapeutic exercises without a lot of encouragement. I really try to avoid the word “never” but I can safely say she gets me to do things I would “never” do and I am stronger because she does.

My physiology prefers to not take risks. That was very clear the first time she had me do a deep lunge and I heard my right inner thigh scream with fear and I stated emphatically, “no way! I can’t do that!” I tend to be cautious, prefer to wait at the sidelines until I know I am competent at a task. I don’t very much like it when I can’t do something perfectly.

How on earth could we be so different? Bonnie has told me some stories about her childhood so I have some clues about how she developed her amazing endless energy. She had to develop ways to be noticed, valued and connected in her family.

In my family a child was “to be seen and not heard.” I know I was a very shy child right from the start and was encouraged into social interactions and activities by parents who must have worried how I would make it in the world. I would probably have been described as obedient, reluctant, cautious, careful, and able to plan ahead. I was most likely a dependable and conscientious friend and student.

As I write, a memory pops into my head. It is a warm spring day. I can smell that wonderful sweetness of freshly mowed grass and feel the wonder of green shoots poking up from the snow melt soil. My first grade class has trouble sitting quietly and our usual routine is disrupted and rearranged for our grade school version of The Olympics. I am standing in a vast mowed soccer field, wondering what will happen next. I can feel the other students’ excitement and energy and am not yet sure what will be expected of me. I can see my familiar teachers arranging wooden structures neatly in rows across the field. Our first race for the day will be the hurdle event.

Did I say I have short legs? I close my eyes and feel deep in my being that moment standing in front of the impossibly high wooden hurdle. My body cannot fathom a command of “jump” when I have so dutifully learned how to sit and stand quietly. There is absolutely no hope of going over. I drop to my knees. Cut, wet grass makes quick passage through the structure cumbersome and cloyingly sticks to my hands and fingers. The wooden beast grabs at my gym shirt and shorts, teetering on the edge as if to alert all to my lack of competence. My ears hear the chants of exuberant classmates cheering the leaders on. My whole body screams with the pain of being overwhelmed and defeated. I burst into tears.

I open my eyes and delight in finding it is today.

I dreaded this event for the next five years of grade school and I did everything in my power to avoid it. This included developing a fever the day before and trying to convince my parents that I was too sick to go to school. They didn’t believe me.

This might have been the end of the story except that I met Bonnie. Today I love to hate Bonnie. It means she is getting me to do something I didn’t think possible. This is the same week she taught me to run for the sake of loving running. Not because it is good for me, or to run a 5K, but to really run! She teaches me to run and laugh with all my heart and strength, not worry about what the neighbors will think as we tear down the street, and to keep running for no other reason than to run. This is the same week I learned my first grandchild is on the way. Bonnie says I try to cheat, and has to watch me very carefully when I do those deep lunges. We giggle, and I practice doing it again. I can’t wait to run with my grandchildren.

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Katherine Calvert Counseling is a private practice led by Katherine Calvert, LCSW. Katherine Calvert has built her practice from decades of education and applied experience working as a direct service provider in schools, hospitals, and counseling clinics. She holds a Masters in Social Work, is trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Imago Therapy, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Her practice is a warm, safe and inviting space in the Portland, Oregon area.