This morning I did a different workout than I have been for the past week or so, mainly because the workout partner didn't show. I could brag that I'm now leg-pressing well over triple my body weight, but that's easier than it sounds. But when I'm on a treadmill I spend a lot more time thinking, and this treadmill also had a heartbeat measuring whatsit. And that was where I had my first real revelation of the morning.
When I concentrate on my pulse, it lowers. Even if I look away for five seconds or so, it can jump back up by five beats a minute or more. I knew that was true when I was trying to relax. I'm me, so I relax by putting effort into it :-) I didn't realize it was true so often, though. Basically, when I'm concentrating on my body, I take about five beats a minute off the total. This is during vigorous exercise, so it's probably lower when I'm near my resting heart rate.
I spent my childhood being pretty high-strung. There are any number of things I could blame that on so I won't bother. These days if I apply the adjective high-strung to myself in conversation, the person I'm talking to will probably laugh. I used to think that the people who were less likely to laugh were girlfriends and coworkers -- people who've seen me around something I'm not apathetic about. Turns out I'm wrong. They may call me excitable, but they tend to treat that as something unusual or unnatural, just a way I respond to unusual stimulus.
But while I realized there was a significant amount of self-suppressing happening (Hell, this is civilization, that's the name of the game), I didn't realize how moment-to-moment it was. I knew I was holding back a lot, and more lately, but I didn't realize how ingrained that already was into a lot of my behavior.
I should have. Every so often I'll really project. The most recent time I remember doing it was at a party, and there was enough random people-talk going on that I had to raise my voice to a nice loud, clear level to be properly heard above it. There was some good reason I needed to do that, I forget. And I managed to thoroughly surprise whoever I was talking to. Not only because I'm usually kinda soft-voiced, but because just generally, really projecting tends to bug people unless you're on a stage.
I took a class in voice dynamics awhile back. It was a pretty good class, and I learned a few useful things for reading, singing, and (if I ever decide to do it) acting. Some of it was pretty content-neutral, but mostly it involved speaking very slowly and loudly. I did that pretty well, though speaking at half my normal speed apparently wasn't nearly slowly enough for the teacher. I pointed out that people would interrupt me if I tried that in normal situations. She said to try it and see. I tried it at lunch during a random conversation. I was interrupted after less than five seconds. I told her so when we got back and she asked. She sounded upset about that. Anyway.
People were really surprised that I could do slow and loud and clear. And booming, but it was a small room. On the other hand, trying that in a small room of the unsuspecting is usually a bad idea in my experience. So there's one more way I'm holding back. Like, constantly.
But holding back and suppressing myself has been a pretty necessary thing.
Heart rate lasts for awhile, normal stress sticks around for some quite some time -- I can keep up 140 beats/minute pretty easily while walking very slowly, for several minutes. And that's nearly serious cardio exercise for me, claim the trainers. Then again, they also don't think I should work out nearly as hard as I do, heart-rate-wise. Anyway.
A problem I have is that after stress, I tend to continue to have elevated heart rate and blood pressure. That'd be fine if I had been recently attacked and I needed to keep my body ready to defend against another random attack. It'd be desirable, even. For better or for worse, though, I live in a society where I'm unlikely to be physically attacked at random, at least if I stay out of the back alleys of major cities. And elevated heart rate and blood pressure just aren't very useful for most of my responses to stress situations.
So I'm looking at situations where I'm happiest, or at least where I feel most at home. That's been on my mind a lot lately. And I'm finding that a lot of them are situations where I'm really challenged. Sometimes, physically challenged, though that's not enough by itself. But places where I can take my thumb off my abilities, where holding back is genuinely a bad idea... Many of those really draw me.
Now I just need to see if I can use this in actual practice. If I can find things that I genuinely enjoy by finding things that match that. I think that's more than slightly optimistic, but I can use the change of pace. At worst I find out that something's *not* true, and I can deal with that.