Tantrums Get You Nothing…or Do They?

I cannot count how many times I have told kids, be it my own or my students, that tantrums accomplish nothing and will get them nowhere. Something I failed to recognize until yesterday was the inaccuracy of that statement. Tantrums do accomplish something. Whether that something is getting energy out, expressing a feeling, or learning a lesson about self or life, ultimately something is gained. What is gained may not always be positive but it is still something.

So how did this change in understanding occur for me? What prophetic moment sparked and brought this topic to mind? I wish I could say that it was just something that popped into my head, or that it came up in conversation, but both of those things would be a lie. The truth is, it came about because I, yes me, a grown ass adult, threw a tantrum yesterday.

Okay, so what was this tantrum over?

Well, it was over my workout at the gym. Yes, that is correct, I threw a tantrum at the gym.

What seems like forever ago, but in reality was just 12 short weeks ago, I had major surgery. A hysterectomy at 26 where not only my uterus was removed but pounds, yes pounds (12 to be precise) of scar tissue was removed. This scar tissue had attached itself to my uterus as well as my bladder, causing my stomach to expand as my bladder was slowly ripped in half as it was being stretched across my body.

During the time prior to my surgery I had been working out through my pain and hoping to keep energy and momentum in order to get healthier. I was proud at my progress and found determination in hitting awesome benchmarks. The one I had found myself most proud of was being able to complete a 3 minute and 9 second plank.

Cleared and feeling good at 8 weeks post surgery I went back to working out. Frustrated at a huge amount of weight gain my body experienced post surgery I was ready to get back at it. I had gained over 30lbs. For me that type of gain was unheard of. To be fair any gain was unheard of. Prior to my surgery I had to actively focus in order to not LOSE rapid amounts of weight, gaining weight for me was impossible. Post surgery that is definitely not the case.

So back to that tantrum.

Here I was at the gym. 12 weeks post surgery. I came in ready to push myself and feeling confident. It was AB day. Push-ups, planks, bicycle crunches, planks, burpees, planks, leg lifts, planks. That was my workout. For an hour. 90 seconds a piece. 2x.  And there I was unable to even make a plank for 30 seconds. I found myself comparing myself to pre-surgery me. I could do over 3 MINUTES before surgery and now I couldn’t even make 30 seconds. I felt defeated. I felt sad. I felt ultimately like I was failing because post surgery me couldn’t plank like pre surgery me could. And no matter how much prior I had heard, “you just had major surgery, you’ll get there” I couldn’t get that to make me feel any better. I felt as though if I wasn’t making that then I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The 2nd plank hit in round one and I dropped to my knees about 20 seconds in. I felt the tears coming. They weren’t sad tears. They were angry tears. I was getting angry. By the end of the first set I was pissed. The 2nd plank was worse than the first and I decided that if I couldn’t do those than I would put everything I was feeling into my other exercises and so I did. I hit my burpees with anger, with determination, and I think in the hopes of somehow telling myself it was me making up for something I felt like I was failing – my planks. I slammed my feet into the ground hard with each burpee I hit just trying to work out the extreme amount of pissed off I was feeling and when that 3rd set of planks came around my trainer called me aside, and called me out on what ultimately had been a bit of a tantrum.

He reminded me again that the body takes time to heal, it had only been 12 weeks, and that I can only do so much right now. And I hated those words because I knew it wasn’t what I could do. I had planked for 3 minutes before I could do more than 20 stupid seconds. I felt fine so why couldn’t I work like I was fine? Why wasn’t it showing? That is when I said that I was feeling defeated but bottom line I was feeling like a failure. Like I wasn’t pushing hard enough because I wasn’t meeting previous work expectation. And to me that meant I was failing. Failing myself and failing him. That it meant I wasn’t working hard enough because I wasn’t back to where I knew I could be. He reminded me that I needed to work to my CURRENT level to avoid injury whether I liked it or not and I finished my workout with that in mind.

So what did my tantrum get me?

My tantrum gave me some clarity and a whole lot of emotions. I am a still really frustrated at my inabilities right now. I hate feeling as though I am behind where I know I can be. And I hate feeling like I am not ever going to get back to what little strength I had had. I hate feeling like my goals are so out of reach because it makes me feeling like I will never succeed to my end hope. But I am recognizing now that failing is a choice but it’s also a perspective. I am at the gym and I work every moment to the best of my current, sucky ability. I push hard and I always feel my workouts in the morning. That means I have to be doing something right. If I was failing I wouldn’t be there at all. My scale backed up this budding thought process as I hit another 3 lbs down. This is leaving me at only 15 lbs from my pre-surgery weight and 20lbs from my goal weight. That’s progress. That’s progress even though I can’t plank for 3 minutes anymore. And progress is my goal.

The reality is, I may never get back to that 3 minutes ever. And I need to learn to be okay with that. Just like my mind is different today than it was even a year ago so is my body. A body that has been through a whole hell of a lot in its life and has a lot of healing to do. And I need to stop comparing who my body used to be to who it is now. My tantrum helped to remind me that even when I felt weak I wasn’t. It helped to remind me that when I feel like I am failing I am surrounded by people who remind me that I am maybe being a bit unreasonable with myself. It helped to remind me that I’ve been through so much, but there is progress being made inside and out that is positive and that I have to keep fighting for that.

In this I learned that tantrums, they do get you something. Sometimes good and sometimes bad there is always a lesson, always a reason, and always something to be gained. Now that doesn’t mean I recommend them, but it does me that I now respect what they have to tell me. Not just in myself but from my kids, from my students, from my friends, and from my family, because in them is always something more than just those hard landings during burpees, in them is some of the biggest fears, challenges, and struggles people hold in and don’t know how to express.

Thank you to my amazing trainer for never giving up on me. For always pushing me not just to be fierce in the gym but to be fierce in my soul and to recognize the connection between what’s manifesting outside as a result of what is happening inside. For smiling through my tantrum and taking that time to remind me again no matter how many times he has before, that I am not in competition with myself or others in this journey to health and that I am not a failure to anyone including myself. I can’t promise I will always have good days, but I can promise I will always work my absolute hardest, whatever that level may be in order to become a better and healthier me inside and out. Thank you for not giving up on me even when I wanted to give up on me.

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