Mothering my inner child with help from my mommies at The Class
Burpee-ing my way to self-love.
It’s been a week. Brett (my husband) has been traveling for most of it, my oldest kid is apparently a professional baseball player if his practice/game schedule is any indication, my toddler is kinda potty-training and kinda not which means lots of clean-up and even more laundry, and my middle kid likes to reveal the innermost depths of her soul right before bedtime.
I’ve also been sort of struggling lately with not being able to turn my brain off. I should say, this has been a lifelong struggle, but especially recently, I find myself constantly writing. In my head. Constantly mining the internet for potential content. Constantly experiencing a funny IRL comment as a potential tweet almost immediately after the IRL interaction so the humor or sweetness or curiosity of the IRL interaction is nearly instantly erased in the service of performance. Constantly aware of how often I’m sharing and whether or not what I’m sharing is proving to be impactful or effective even if I haven’t entirely defined what “impactful” or “effective” means for me yet.
My internal buzzing is likely also due to me finding my rhythm with this very newsletter. I’m still being pretty new to the newsletter game, and when I was solely freelancing for external media outlets, I was, of course, engaged in some of the same practices outlined above, but I also knew I could let me my brain be fallow for a week and it would be fine. And of course, I know that I can take a break from this newsletter for a week and everything will also be fine, but I really like writing this newsletter! It’s fun, engaging, and I love connecting with you all (beloved readers) so, so, so much. It’s been gratifying in a way that I didn’t expect and I’ve been so heartened and inspired by some of your messages and DMs. Thank you!
I’m the type of person that needs to clearly demarcate the various puzzle pieces that make up my life so they don’t bleed together into one inchoate mess, and maybe I just haven’t figured out where to situate the newsletter puzzle piece. It could also be that I’m not yet used to playing with so many puzzle pieces. Or it could be that I’ve never been good at arranging the puzzle pieces in the first place.
So lately, for whatever reason, I’ve been struggling to keep my low-simmering anxiety about creating good enough, smart enough, interesting enough content from bleeding into my low-simmering anxiety about the state of the world. I’ve been struggling to not add my low-simmering anxiety about how my tone came across in an email last Tuesday to the stew of my low-simmering anxiety about being an adequately present, empathetic parent and partner. I’ve been struggling to not marry my low-simmering anxiety about being 14 minutes late to a kid’s piano practice to my low-simmering anxiety about whether or not my book will sell well or whether or not I’ll have another idea for a second book or whether or not my baseline need for a certain number of quiet hours in a given week is somehow indicative that I lack grit or stamina or gumption or work ethic or WHATEVER.
See what I mean about not being able to turn my brain off?
This is where this essay turns into an ode to turning my brain off with a little help from some fitness instructors I’ve never met.
It annoys me not a little that the simplest things we can do for our mental health are usually the most effective. Mindful breathing. Getting outside in the fresh air. Playing with dirt and feeling our skin against the earth. Water. Food. Friends.
I’m a stone-cold bitch if I don’t move my body, ideally first thing in the morning. If our mornings unravel because of life and I find myself snapping at Brett or the kids, Brett almost immediately asks if I’ve gone for a run yet. Or “done a workout.” And chances are, if I’m in a tizzy about Kid A not clearing his breakfast plate or seeing red because Kid B is taking too long to brush her hair or boiling with rage because Brett had the misfortune of simply looking at me wrong, I probably have not moved yet.
On weekdays, I either jog or do a workout video. On weekends, I like to garden.
I love slow ambling jogs for two reasons. They take place outside (I love being outside). And I use the time to listen to my beloved podcasts.
I love gardening for all the same reasons other people love gardening.
But this is not an ode to running/jogging/walking. Nor is it an ode to gardening. Although maybe those are odes for another day!
This is an ode to my workout videos, which for me, are workout videos produced by The Class. And more specifically, it’s an ode to how I mother my inner child via The Class.
Taryn Toomey is a mother in her 40s who, with her dusty-hued outfits and crossbow-ready physique, calls to mind Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting.
Lauren’s piece examines the wider trend of women of a certain age pursuing exercise as legit self-care NOT bubble bath self-care (there’s nothing wrong with baths but you know what I mean). Exercise as a mode of cathartic release in a world that works so hard to make people (especially marginalized genders) bottle everything up nice and tight.
In a world that seems to be spiraling out of control, the only recourse may be to get in fighting form and let loose. For the women who find themselves drowning in work and dirty dishes and family members who are never not at close range, at-home exercise has become the new primal scream.
The physical workout at the center of The Class basically combines cardio, stretching, yoga, and strength training into one very woo-woo workout focused on charting what’s happening for you internally as much (if not more) than what’s happening externally. In a piece for The Cut, Maggie Lange sums it up like this:
Physically, the Class is a mixtape of cardio leaping, deep breaths, pilates, and dancing like nobody’s watching. It’s also known for spontaneous releases: noises, shaking, flailing, crying. The instruction does not disappoint. We pound our limbs upon the ground, and I’m told to “get your body prepared for your inquiry, excavation, receiving, and releasing.”
The Class instructors will remind you to pay attention to your reactions and separate your individual responses (whether they be physical or emotional) to a series of mountain climbers, for example, from your self, your being, your intrinsic spirit. Instructors emphasize that the half hour, 45 minutes, or hour you spend doing The Class is for you and never anybody else. They instruct you to feel the vibrations you’ve created within yourself by placing one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. They talk about the “Big I” versus the “little me.”
The Class is 100% probably practiced by Goop devotees (Goopies?) and 100% can be situated in the context of white wellness culture.
But I love it.
I love it for the obvious reason that endorphins paired with music are guaranteed to elicit a general sense of well being and increased energy. But I also love it (and crave it) because of the instructors themselves and the way they talk to me, the way their words pierce through the noise in my head and make me feel held, make me feel like I can put down my worries for just a second because my mommies in The Class are the best kind of mommies in that they are ever-knowing, ever-wise, and utterly infallible. My mommies in The Class tell me everything will be ok and for a half hour, 45 minutes, or an hour, their voices are the only ones I hear and so I have no choice but to believe them.
Natalie smiles at me and calls me honey and simultaneously laughs about our asses being on fire while also firmly reminding me that I am not my on-fire ass. My being, my self, is “far more beautiful and whole and bright than whatever story I’m telling myself about my ass being on fire.” Natalie leads me through cat and cow and tells me to let it feel goooooood and I know she knows how badly I just wanna feel goooooood because she is my mommy and loves me very much. Natalie tells me to let my “breath buoy my heart” and I feel cradled. Before the camera stops recording she assures me she’ll “see me all the time.”
Soeuraya gets real with me. She knows all about how I’m telling myself I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy, I’m not this, I’m not that. She rattles off the “I’m not” statements with disdain because she knows that these statements are not who I am. She asks me how choosing to listen to the voices that tell me “I’m not ___” is working out. Hopping about as though her legs were actual springs, she shrugs theatrically before looking directly at me (through my computer). She lets loose a guttural shout and asks me again, “how’s that working out for you?” before launching into a series of jacks and suddenly I feel like I’m flying and I’m 100% confident that I am not my story and fuck that shit.
Taryn’s voice is like maple syrup and she typically “gets right to it” without much preamble because at the end of the day life can be as simple as we want it to be if we’re only aware. If we’re only conscious. She sometimes chortles in this low, delicious way and acknowledges the little girl inside her which makes me aware of the little girl inside me and I listen when she tells me calmly not to fidget. I listen when she tells me not to “make a fuss” about transitioning from a burpee to an army crawl. She tells me to simply pay attention to what I’m feeling, what I’m noticing, what I’m experiencing. With soft assurance, she says, “It’s just information.”
When she instructs me to lie still on the floor following bicycles and just let it go, she exhales deeply and says, “theeeerrrreee you go. there you go. there you are.” She’s one step away from whispering hush and her hand isn’t stroking my back but it might as well be.
Because of timing, I sometimes get to do Karla’s classes live which means I get to see all of my other classmates (they’re doing The Class IRL in New York wearing matching activewear sets in shades of mustard, rust, and petal while I’m doing The Class in my toddler’s bedroom wearing underwear and the t-shirt I slept in the night before but we’re all united just the same). Karla grins and her no-nonsense air of confidence makes me feel like all of my swirling whirling anxieties are silly and not to be wasted attention or energy on. “It’s a choice,” she says lightly. “Life is a series of choices. What do you choose? What do you want to choose?” By the end of class we’re all screaming or shouting or shrieking or yelping as we “jack and clear” and it feels like all of my cacophonous thoughts are being incinerated in a brush fire brought to a sudden hot roar by a great gust of wind. Karla apologizes for running 5 minutes over, but she looks around and says with a little laugh, “It was necessary.” And I know she’s right because she’s always right and the best part of leaning on my mommies in The Class is not having to figure out what’s right because someone else is doing it for me.
Sophia repeats over and over again that to be with me is one of the greatest honors of her life. She lets out upbeat little “yeahs!” during high-knees that make me smile like an absolute asshole in my three-year-old’s bedroom and she tells me she can feel my energy even though I’m not physically with her. She tells me I am never alone.
Jaycee might be my favorite mommy of all simply because she tells me I’m doing a great job. She repeats it in case I didn’t hear it the first time.
You’re doing a great job.
And I know how badly I need to hear those words because I start to weep in my downward dog.
You’re doing a great job.
A bit of housekeeping! If you’ve been on the fence about upgrading to a paid subscription (which will give you access to the weekly Let’s Discuss round-ups), I’ve got another perk for you: Starting today, commenting privileges will be for paid subscribers only. I’m doing this to create a safe space where we can share our stories and rants about momfluencer culture together. And/or wax poetic about relatively niche workout programs which help us grant ourselves grace when we can’t quite get there on our own.
Thank you so much for being here and I hope you find time this weekend to take care of your inner child in whatever way feels best for you.
In the words of Jaycee, you’re doing a great job.