by Tony Steenson, Bricklayer, Goonellabah, Australia
I use a lot of cement in my work as a bricklayer, but it isn’t just the cement that goes hard – I noticed I was turning into a lump of concrete too as I realised I had been creating a very hard body. For a long time it had all been about getting the job done, it didn’t matter what price my body paid.
WORK HARD + PLAY HARD = HARD BODY
The hard body I had wasn’t necessarily a physical description of my body, it was also how it felt from the inside out. It was like your hand when it makes a fist – it goes all tight and hard and feels very constrictive. That’s how my body felt, very tight and constricting, all locked in, my shoulders and chest especially so, but also my internal organs were like they wanted to be a fist as well.
Of course I was going to have a hard body because I treated myself very hard: I worked hard, I played hard and I became hard.
Whilst growing up, sometimes when I hurt myself my father would say to me “Is it bleeding?”. If I replied “no“, then he would say that it didn’t hurt.
But it did.
As I grew up I took on dad’s sayings more and more, to the point where I wouldn’t even stop when I hurt myself at work… or if it was bleeding a lot I would just wrap it up with my old friend, Mr. gaffa tape.
I am in no way blaming dad for the lack of care I gave myself. I was under the impression that to be a man I couldn’t show pain or emotion; to do so would be considered weak and feminine and I so didn’t want that because I was a man. From a young age boys are given all sorts of lines to try to make them stop showing their emotions or sharing their feelings – this is not ok. Boys are just as fragile and caring as girls, but society is crushing that.
I was ignoring how my body was physically feeling. I didn’t see the point in taking the time to tend to myself properly and I saw myself as fairly tough that I was able to work on despite an injury or not feeling well.
REBUILDING MY MACHINE, AKA MY BODY
I put my job before me.
I basically turned myself into a machine, one that could work at the same pace day in day out, sunshine or no shine. Hard and fast was how I lived and worked.
But what I forgot was that a machine needs regular maintenance or eventually it will need to be re-built. And that’s what I have been doing of late… re-building myself back to that original, pristine condition that we all first came here in.
What has been of importance is why did I choose to spend most of my life neglecting how my body was functioning?
I can honestly say that I thought I was indestructible, that my body would just keep going and going until I was older and then I would die, and if it did happen to stop along the way then a doctor would fix me up so I could keep going.
Real men were tough and only felt pain if they lost an arm or something, so I thought (isn’t it bizarre what we consider to be manly traits?).
I also thought that I wasn’t that important – that I was just a bricklayer, but that has changed. I am a son of God just as you are and we deserve to take care in everything regarding our bodies.
These days I take great care of myself and my body is showing it and feeling it. I am quite toned physically but I don’t have the hard body I used to have, or feel hard inside. Because I am taking care of my outside in a loving way, it is allowing me to be more tender and loving, and my inside feels exquisite.