The Art of Imperfection

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Once upon a time, I was a competitive gymnast…

These days my inner gymnast is disguised as a mom of four, author, narrator, and all round good person. I can still perform cartwheels, handstands, round offs, flips on trampoline, and the splits, which make the guys at the training gym groan. (Mostly because I think they have to learn something they find difficult that I learned a long time ago. Or perhaps they’re thinking that whoever the man sleeping in my bed is—he’s a lucky bastard. And really, most nights it’s my youngest son whom has woken from a nightmare, so no hanky panky there. But I digress…)

During a conversation with a friend, I told him that I wasn’t interested in achieving physical perfection. He said I balked at the very idea because of the experiences I had as a gymnast. And you know what? He was right.

While I never developed an eating disorder as some of my comrades did, I had experiences that shaped the way I negatively saw my body, and exercise in general. When I was thirteen, a coach told me and my parents that I needed to grow my hair long and get contact lenses so I would look “pretty” and this would help boost my career as a gymnast. Notice how none of this had anything to do with my physical abilities or gymnastic talent. I received the message that in order to be successful, I had to be beautiful, and clearly, according to others, I did not measure up. I judged myself by the standards of others, and found myself lacking.

At the age of thirteen – well see picture above.  In the span of a year, I transformed myself by growing my hair long, and getting rid of the glasses. And it worked. Suddenly, I had all sorts of validation from friends, to fellow gymnasts, coaches, and boys at school. I was beautiful, therefore, I would be successful. Right?

Fast forward a few years to when my career ended. I didn’t make the Olympic team as most thought I might, even though I worked hard. Plagued with injuries, I wondered if I’d even aspired to that.  So many wanted me to “make it”, I lost sight of what I wanted. At that point, I felt I’d let down everyone in my life who had tried to make that dream a reality. Talk about carrying guilt.

In university, most of my gymnast friends became fitness competitors, and some girls joined our ranks because they wanted to be like the “beautiful gymnastics girls.” I kind of feel sorry for the image we portrayed, as if by being “one of us” you were automatically cool. An image is just that—a fantasy we portray to the world because our inner world doesn’t measure up. And that’s how I felt for many years.

Upon graduation, you’d think that with my physical education and kinesiology background, and my overachieving ways, I would once again strive to be the epitome of physical perfection. The fact now I have cover models and fitness industry professionals for friends, perhaps I should strive to achieve the outward appearance of physical fitness I feel modern society is obsessed with. To be honest, I used to. After the birth of my first and second children, I did manage to get back to a good weight for me. I worked out hard and ate right. When I found out I was pregnant with our third, while elated at the news, a part of me was upset that I would have to go through this all again, only to achieve my goal weight afterward. Talk about pressure, guilt, and anxiety all rolled into what should have been a beautiful experience. (This is covered in another article.)

After being diagnosed with post-partum depression at the same time as being told I was pregnant with my fourth child, I decided to give up the quest for physical perfection. After a life time of seeking validation outside of myself, I chose to go inward and love myself exactly the way I was.

After the birth of my son, I stopped exercising as if I was exorcising the Devil himself from my body. I chose to start loving every inch of me just the way it was, even though according to my doctor, I was thirty pounds overweight. I carried that weight for a reason. I was insecure, I wanted people to love me, I was anxious, and most importantly—I didn’t love myself.

Over time and with emotional healing, I learned to love me—every stretch-marked inch, both lopsided small breasts, my great calves and muscular shoulders, my soft belly my youngest calls my “squishy”, the roll of skin left over from the C-section, the near-sightedness of my green-hazel eyes, my smile, cute feet, jiggly thighs, curvy hips, and flat butt.

This isn’t to say I didn’t exercise at all. Over the past few years, instead of being obsessed with physical perfection, I learned to listen to myself. I found exercises that were gentle yet effective, I took up martial arts, I stretch every day, and I cut out all sugar from my diet for a few months. I learned that I didn’t have to kill myself through exercise to be healthy, and that physical perfection doesn’t mean you’re healthy in mind, body or spirit. And if loving myself means that I eat better, exercise more, and I happen to achieve what the outside world deems as a “nice body”, then so be it. A “perfect body” isn’t something I’m striving for. Being healthy is.

Once I stopped seeking validation for myself from other people, I learned to love ME. In fact, I like that my body is not “perfect”. From time to time, I put on a bit of weight, but this is usually at a time in my life when I’m feeling insecure or anxious about something. I know that with time, and when I go inside to discover the source of my insecurity, the weight will drop when I no longer need my “squishy armor” of protection.

Earlier this year, I was asked to “play up the pretty” in order to sell my books. I had mixed feelings on this because I want readers to read my material because they like it, not because of the way I look. I realize that a “package” sells a product, which is obvious from companies who mass market products from supplements, exercise equipment, teeth whitening agents, to romance books. Sexy to me is a state of mind, not necessarily what I−or anyone else−look like on the outside. Sexy is an attitude. While I choose to post nice pictures of myself for covers and social media, I also portray the real “me” as much as possible in my articles, and through what I post in public forums.

I told this story to my oldest daughter who is now sixteen. I want her to love herself for who she is, not for what others think she does or doesn’t look like. I want the world to love her as she is, and that will only happen if she loves herself first. Society in general likes to tell us that if only we did this, or used that, we too could be successful and loved and beautiful! And I’m here to tell you that you already are. Every inch of you. But don’t take my word for it—discover it for yourself, and reach what I call a healthy state of imperfection.

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Time to Tumble with M. J. Segar!

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Today I welcome Mike Arsuaga writing as M.J. Segar to the gym! All right  Time to let out your inner gymnast – if you could, what is the one gymnastics trick you’ve always wanted to learn?

The floor exercises to help with coordination in the long jump.

Have you ever performed gymnastics before? As a kid what kinds of sports did you participate in?

I was terribly clumsy and small as a kid, but I was fast. Track became my sport. In 1962 I set a Louisiana state record in the long jump. It paid my way through college at Tulane.

Excellent! In gymnastics we have to keep in top physical condition. Writing is such a sedentary job. What do you do to keep in shape when you’re not typing out your next story?

I work out on a treadmill and do yard work.

When you decided to write to be published?

As early as the fifth grade I dreamed of getting published. Several times in the intervening forty odd years I started and stopped. After I fully retired in September 2007, I found the fall TV season to be a disappointment. With an unexpected surfeit of time on my hands I took up writing. My first acceptance arrived on July 3, 2010 – my 66th birthday.

That’s great! Care to take a swing on the bars?

I prefer to keep my feet on the ground.

To be good at gymnastics it takes perseverance and determination not unlike that of being a writer. Tell me how you get through those times when you feel like giving up.

As a young naval officer, I survived being left on the bridge of a submerging submarine. The experience put into perspective what’s important. In the case of writing, I know it’s in my blood and will emerge in its own good time. I wait out the slumps by doing other things. The Muse, she eventually returns.

Exactly. Time to test your tumbling skills. What should we start with – a cartwheel or a roll?

A roll. Stay close to the ground, remember?

Fantastic! Let’s take a break – time to tell us about your newest book release.

JENNY-LEIGH 8 is a sci-fi romantic adventure. I wrote it under the pen name M.J. SegarJenny_Leigh_8_Front_Cover

TAGLINE

Jenny Leigh 8 represents the gold standard of the recreational android line. During a national crisis, the diminutive automaton shows she’s more than just another pretty face.

PITCH

Reston Turner works for a top secret black ops outfit called The Agency. A head injury turns his wife, Stephy, into little more than a walking coma, and his life spins out of control. Not even the android rebellion can get his head back in the game.

After a disastrous beginning to a reconnaissance mission, Reston escapes with the help of Jenny Leigh 8. Mysteriously, she’s immune to the cyber-virus turning the other androids into dispassionate killers. Reston’s father-in-law, the General, orders him to secure her aid by whatever means possible which includes becoming her love master. Guilt arises when he’s torn between the flawless beauty of Leigh, the Eight, and loyalty to his beloved Stephy.

As the conflict widens, Reston and Leigh are sent to broker a truce with the rogue androids while the search for the secret of her immunity continues at The Agency. Behind enemy lines, Reston develops a grudging admiration for Experimental Six, the leader of the revolt and at the same time finds the strength to rebuff his companion’s sexual advances. When a chance to return home emerges, Leigh insists Reston leave while she stays. “Our relationship has changed,” she curtly explains.

Will Leigh remain loyal to the human cause? Is there hope for Stephy? And what to make of the growing android rights movement? These questions collide at the speed of light in a romantic adventure of love, war, and loyalty based on a futuristic retelling of the Spartacus slave revolt.

Check out the Book Trailer at:

http://youtu.be/OmcCtA5TtCk

 Learn More at:

http://www.iheartbookpublishing.com/jenny-leigh-8.html

Here’s a short excerpt:

Setup:

Senior Agent Reston Turner was called off leave because a large robotics assembly plant inexplicably dropped off line.

The scene unfolds:

Andy led me to a conference room. The General acknowledged my arrival. The hair stood out against a freshly acquired deep suntan.

I tried small talk. “Up from the Bahamas?”

“No. Stateside. The Florida Keys. And Jocelyn sends regards.”

I thought of my mother-in-law, stopping the recollection short of the recent painful parts shared among the three of us regarding Stephy their daughter.

The General continued. “Sorry to pull you off leave but there’s good reason.”

“What do you mean?”

He fiddled with a remote built into his chair handle. A map of Florida appeared on the wall screen. After another touch, the display zoomed in on an area midway between Orlando and Ocala. “This is the Quintana installation of Simetrics Robotics. They make the best recreational androids in the world.”

Andy interrupted. “Porndroids is the popular term.”

With a flicker of irritation at the interruption, the General resumed. “The Jenny-Leigh line is the industry’s gold standard.”

“The male counterpart is the Scotty,” Andy said.

“Enough, Andy.” I followed that with the shutdown command.

The automaton immediately sat. Bending its head forward, the life-like glitter in the eyes faded to the barest of sustaining glow. The face assumed the standard expression of quiet optimism or, as some saw it, of vague regret.

An image of the most expensive, complex sex toy in the world came to mind. The factory customized each to the owner’s preferences. They came in a wide variety of physical types, often duplicates of celebrities past or present, all drop dead gorgeous, well beyond the means of a mid-grade government agent. The mass market made do with the three variations of Donnas or Johnnies, none of which you’d be embarrassed to be caught out in public with.

“I can’t imagine what business we’d have with a manufacturer of cybernetic pussy.”

A brief smile crossed the face of my otherwise straight-laced boss. “Quintana’s been working on some sensitive projects for the government.”

“Like what?” I couldn’t see a connection.

“They’ve adapted a Jenny-Leigh for military uses.”

I thought about the most logical possibility. “We’re not talking about servicing the troops are we?”

Sounds like an interesting read! Gymnastics was my first passion. Then I found writing. What are your passions other than writing?

My family, yard work, volunteer work at my granddaughter’s school.

Since our time in the gym is almost up – what is one thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet?

Set foot on Mars, but that’ll have to be vicariously through my characters.

Thanks for visiting the gym! All the best with your books

Look inside for a long excerpt and Purchase at:

http://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Leigh-8-M-J-Segar-ebook/dp/B00M8PKYOW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1406722509&sr=1-1&keywords=Jenny-Leigh+8OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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