Tag Archives: culture

Thoughts on Camping, Crossfit and Culture: A Post in Which I Alienate Everyone

 

Camping

The kids and I have been in a tent in the Swiss Alps for five days, and this is the first day we’ve seen rain.

I feel thankful.

Last year was warmer, but we had the kind of dampness that crept into your soul, making you regret you put the words ‘Camping’ and ‘Switzerland’ in the same sentence, to the point where you contemplate trading months of marathon training for your own cozy bed.

This year is better.

While my nose freezes solid when the sun goes down, I learned that if I wrap my down jacket around my feet inside my sleeping bag, I will actually sleep the whole night through.

Crossfit

I am nervous about the race because I haven’t done as much long distance running as usual. I have been in the Crossfit Kettlebell program, training 5 days a week, so I’m interested (and anxious) to see how the kettelbell training translates into running 42.2 kilometers up 2320 meters.

I have more muscle this year, which while good, means I’m bulkier than the Nike-clad willow-trees jogging around camp. I’m hoping that my muscle and endurance will give me the edge once we hit the switchbacks.

Culture

Our first night in camp coincided with the American holiday weekend, which meant I could understand everything our neighbors were saying. It was strange, and honestly, kind of annoying. Sometimes it’s better when you don’t know what people are saying.

Little kids were running around screaming. Not simply using outdoor voices, which I totally support. Not simply calling to each other in play. But rather, the type of shrieking that should only be reserved for wounds requiring stitches, broken bones or abduction.

The shrieking lasted 3 hours.

Yes, I timed it.

But I couldn’t be too upset with them, because earlier in the day, I heard the father declare: “I don’t know why I had fucking kids anyway!”

He was serious.

In front of his wife.

In front of their friends.

In front of the entire camp.

In front of the kids.

*cringe

It gave me a little empathy for the shriekers.

On Monday, the Americans cleared out, and another family moved in. One man, two women draped in black, only their eyes showing, two little girls and three boys, who, when they weren’t playing soccer, were dutifully saying their prayers at the appropriate times.

I was curious about their family.

I automatically feel sorry for anyone involved in a strict religion–it doesn’t matter whether you’re covered head to toe in cloth or you’re a county clerk in Kentucky. I have come to feel that most religions damage more people than they help.

But I had the feeling as these women watched me camping alone with my kids in the mountains, they were sorry for me, with no man to look out for me.

Maybe I’m alienating every culture with this post–I don’t mean to. I respect the right of people to choose how they want to live, and sometimes I bruise myself trying to figure out my own way through life.

I just wonder how many people, whether they’re from the east or the west, are trapped in their lives, simply because they were born in a particular locale.

How hard is it to break from your culture, if you want to? How much of a choice does a person have? And how are we–any of us–brainwashed, rather than taught to view facts, experience life and think for ourselves.

How is the woman in the veil different from (or the same as) the cheerleader who marries the quarterback and brings Snickerdoodles to the church bake sale? Maybe she’s happy doing it, but maybe she’s simply playing a role that was written for her by someone else.

I know I have the typical Western mindset, but I think everyone should have the right to adopt a certain lifestyle/religion/culture or step away and question it.

I have the right to be myself.

And so many others don’t.

Or they don’t want to see that they can, because it seems impossible.

Because change, when you want it, is a lot of hard work, and sadly for many, it is dangerous.

For me, change means (among other things):

  • filling out paperwork in triplicate, three separate times, because you didn’t understand a phrase
  • thinking someone is angry at you, when they’re making a joke
  • telling people you’re warm and comfortable in your backpack, when you meant to say sleeping bag

Mostly, change means being uncomfortable at times, and yet feeling more at home than I ever have before.

The Marathon

Sometimes my life feels like a marathon. And maybe that’s why I run them. To free myself from negativity. To become attentive to the nature around me. To meet my real self along the trail.

The Ziel of the marathon is a high: someone puts a medal around your neck, a beer in your hand and everyone cheers; but it is not a finish.

It is a start.

The accomplishment is simply a mile-marker along the path of your life.

The life you want.

A happy life.

I wish that for every person.

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The Naked Truth: Culture, Crossfit and Perception of the Human Body

push up

If I stare at you during a WOD, I’m not checking you out; I’m watching your mechanics.

I am a visual learner.

I can’t speak for every Crossfitter, but during a WOD, there’s no time for fantasy. If I do have a moment to ogle my friends, it’s to analyze their form, not their junk.

I have lived in Europe for nearly eight years, and I suppose I’ve been a little desensitized to the human body, because around any corner, something unexpected can pop out at you. My youngest daughter was still in her car seat when she first chimed out, “What’s Dolly Buster?” I had to explain it wasn’t a place where they sold children’s toys.

The body takes on a certain kind of practicality here. It can be beautiful or ugly, but it is natural, and many Europeans let it all hang out. It’s not a big deal–and it’s not always sexual. It seems more hypocritical to me for a culture to constantly sexualize the body, and then be shocked or offended by actual nakedness.

There’s nothing wrong with modesty–in fact, it’s something I like to instill in my daughters, but the body is nothing to be ashamed of either. It is a body. And everyone has one.

Sometimes our American perception of the body creates problems. For example, we don’t want to take physical care of our elderly because it might include dealing with someone’s nakedness. So, we hire nurses, or stow away the elderly in nursing homes rather than get over our shock at an old, wrinkled body and do the dirty work ourselves.

One thing that Crossfit in Germany has taught me is that the body is just a body. It can do incredible things if you put the time and effort into maintaining it. But there is also an extremely practical side to Crossfit–it enables me to do things like help lift my mom (in her wheelchair) up some stairs so she can enjoy a movie with us; or even place her safely into bed if she’s feeling weak that night.

The strength I gain at Crossfit not only enhances my life, but it improves her quality of life as well.

I’m not entirely angelic here. I DO like the way my body is shaping up; and I DO like feeling more attractive. But the real satisfaction is in being strong enough to help other people.

I may be odd, but I’m not attracted to a person’s body any more than I’m bowled over by flowery words. I’m a writer, so I know how cheap good rhetoric can be. Action is the evidence for one’s beliefs. In a similar way, I’m not attracted to bodies, though I am a sucker for a good set of eyes–the windows of the soul–and a great smile–but mostly, to actions & behaviors.

Having a ‘hot’ body is not the sole purpose for Crossfit: the purpose of Crossfit is to improve your body and mind so that you can not only enjoy this life to the fullest, but to help others do the same. 

There’s more I’d like to say on this subject, but it’s time for me to sign off–I have some people to uplift.