My mother, in her wisdom, would intone:
“Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow.”
Give me a bathing suit and point me towards ocean surf. No boards please. That was, still is, my idea of being “active.” But in my mid-twenties, living in Vermont, there was no ocean nearby. I started jogging, and found my land-based equivalent of active joy.
My running never grew into a desire to compete. Rather, running connected me to the natural world – put me back into it and became, frankly, one of my first spiritual practices. It is totally ironic that this practice spawned my financial success and exposure to the grit of the business world.
The deeper irony is that for me to start running at all was out of character, at least historically speaking. While I remember enjoying recess and dodge ball in elementary grades, by the middle grades at the girls’ school I attended I was self-conscious and uncomfortable in gym classes. Perhaps many girls were; my best friend was. But then there were those “jock” girls who relished gym and understood the rules of field hockey and were eager to get out on the tennis courts. They intimidated me. It seemed to me I was somehow less for not getting the whole sporty thing. When possible, I opted for Beginning Bowling as my gym class choice.
I didn’t like to glow.
So avoiding gym classes, playing around in the summertime ocean, doing some body surfing, and climbing the occasional tree was my idea of “sports.”
Until I discovered the meditation of running. Then my world did change. My body and I became more intimate. We glowed, we sweated, we gloried. When I started running I tried to jog around an indoor track – a whole quarter mile. And it was tough! The day I actually made it all the way around I felt like I’d won an Olympic medal! I was so proud of myself! When I eventually settled into a 30 mile a week routine over Vermont trails and back roads, well, I’d found not my sport, but my practice.
Fast forward a few years and many logged miles to my invention of the sports bra and creation of a business around it. Because I was clear that the Jogbra was athleltic equipment, not lingerie, we were selling it in sporting goods stores around the nation.
Sporting goods stores!?
Before taking my bra into such places to sell it, I had never been in one ’til I had to buy running shoes. And then I didn’t hang around. Heck, all I needed to do my thing was shoes and, yes, a comfortable bra. The sporting goods industry was as foreign and intimidating to the woman I had become as those long ago gym classes were to my girlhood self. But even more so. To me sporting goods stores were rank with the culture of competition; everytime I went into one I felt I was in a totally alien environment. Yet I smiled and played the part. And I sold sports bras.
One day, back in 1988 or so, I found myself at a very large national sporting goods show. My little company was quite successful by then. I recall walking around the noisy, people-filled convention center. The aisles were lined with booths aggressively selling everything from athletic clothing to fishing rods, from dart boards to health drinks. Every athletic shoe manufacturer was there. The place was a bustling mosaic of color, people and commerce.
And I wondered: How the hell had I ended up here? I felt a complete fraud, with little in common with all these enthusiastic jocks and jock-ettes. The choices that brought me here mostly made sense at the time, and in many ways still stood the test of time. But…?
The ironies were not lost on me. They are not lost on me still. One of the most authentic aspects of my self, the meditative runner, had spawned this persona of sporting goods queen. Bra Lady. And it follows me to this day.
The further irony is that I can no longer be that runner. Both my knees blew out. I’ve found no activity – not bowling or body surfing – that fulfills me as running did. I miss it to this day.
But I no longer feel a fraud. Years ago I read an article, in Psychology Today I think, that purported that many who gain rapid success feel “like a fraud;” that somehow they are pulling off an illusion that could be “found out” by others. I know I felt that way – I wasn’t a jock! Then, after a bit I wasn’t even a runner anymore! Egad!
The article made sense to me, explained and alleviated my secret guilt. Eventually I left the sporting goods industry; having launched the sports bra I was done. The altruistic young entrepreneur evolved. I am still learning how to accept and integrate all the disparate bits of my ever-evolving self: artist, businesswoman, spiritual seeker, and bumbling, glowing journeyer.