The Prodigal Returns

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Not to mention sore in several places.

I returned to the gym after a four-month hiatus. My body is screaming at me, but my spirit is smiling indulgently.

My intention was to sever all connection with the gym. Any gym. Ever. The older I get, the more definitive I am about not trying to be perfect. Isn’t 35 years of working out enough? Do I have squat, lunge, push-up and crunch until I’m 80?

No. Besides, due to gravity and the inevitable effects of aging, firm muscle tone is an improbability on the south side of sixty. Which I am not, yet; but it is definitely looming.

So I thought I’d give myself a little slack in the pursuit of noteworthy abs, non-flabby arms and enviably thin thighs.

During the hiatus, I was all about power walking, working in the yard, picking up my 12-lb. weights (conveniently located under my flatscreen) with the hope that I’d knock off a quick set or two while watching Rizzoli and Isles.

Ha! Ha! Lonely, lonely weights.

I feel guilty just looking at them. Even weights need a little attention now and then. Otherwise, I should hide them.

I put my membership on “hold” instead of severing connection because a bright and chirpy sales representative for Brick Bodies would not let me cancel it. She was completely convinced I would want to come back after a few months. She said I would regret giving up the membership because when I decided to come back I would have to pay hundreds of dollars in introductory fees a second time, and go back to an annual commitment instead of month-to-month, which is automatic after completing a year’s membership.

Made sense to me. Also, I realized that everything in the world has a contract and all of us are trapped one way or another. Think about it. DirecTV, Comcast, T-Mobile, AT&T…you name it. Gotta commit to a year, maybe two or pay a huge penalty if you don’t fulfill the contract. Such a scam.

But I digress. Continue reading

Walkie-Talkies Go For The Gold

A woman’s mouth can move faster than any other part of her body.

I discovered this last Saturday when I was invited to speed-walk with a group of women.

I showed up in Nikes, hastily applied make-up (the days are long gone where I can zing out of the house without make-up – it would scare people) and an energetic attitude.

I really needed the attitude.

I arrived a little late, a passive-aggressive response to my niggling resentment about a 9 a.m. appointment on a Saturday.

I approached the track at the YMCA and head-swiveled, locating them easily after a few seconds of squinting. They were the ones whose mouths, arms, and legs were pumping like mad, leaving a trail of conversational fumes in their wake.

I waited for them to whoosh by, took aim, and leaped into the group. They all smiled, briskly introduced themselves, and resumed their discussions, never missing a beat.

I felt like I had stumbled into a human whisk, and I was the omelet.

Since my two-year sabbatical from full-time employment, I have become much more relaxed in my approach to life. Conversation is filled with thoughtful pauses, meaningful sharing and phrases like “finding my purpose,” and “focusing on priorities.”

In fact, my whole season of life at this point is a thoughtful pause. On purpose. I will re-enter the hyper-productive and myopically-focused workaday world soon enough, but for now, my tempo is set to “somewhat slow.”

These women were serious about their tempo, and it was set to “presto.” (You musical buffs, know exactly what this means. For you non-musical buffs, “presto” is the Italian equivalent of the American word “presto,” which means really, really fast.)

I was delighted to find that I rather enjoyed the mental exercise.

For every three words out of my mouth, my companion countered with 25. By lap four, I was matching her word for word.

We were so deeply enmeshed in speed-talking, that we began to fall behind in the speed-walking part. At one point, the rest of our group paused and turned toward us with question marks on their faces.

“What’s keeping you?” they asked, as we caught up and they energetically resumed leg and arm pumping.

My companion explained we were talking about ex-husbands. I explained they needed to stop us because it was getting depressing. They looked at each other and responded that they had no experience with ex-husbands.

My walk-mate and I glanced at each other with expressions similar to those that have endured the horrors of war and emerged triumphant, but scarred, on the other side; shrugged, and acknowledged the fact that speed-talking is not a level playing field.

To have maximum impact, a common life experience may be an important consideration.

We let the group whoosh on ahead, content that our mouths might outpace our legs, but at least one part of our body was getting a really, really good workout.

Afterward, the women asked me to join them for coffee at a local deli. I was a bit torn about this idea, because typically on a workout day, I do not use my facial muscles at all. I had tentatively planned to spend 20 minutes in the weight room, pumping other things besides my mouth.

The group stared at me expectantly, waiting for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to the coffee. I said yes, figuring speed-talking is an important exercise, too.

The weights could…well, wait.

We talked about everything, nothing, and in between. On this sunny, energetic Saturday morning, my mouth, jaw and brain muscles were fully pumped. If speed-talking was a team sport, we would have won the gold that day.

It was difficult to part ways, but we each had things to do, husbands to see, and laundry to avoid.

I smiled all the way home. Women need other women like plants need water. I had just treated myself to a long, satisfying blast from the hose.

The next day, I kept conversation to a minimum. My jaw muscles needed a recovery period

Article first published in The Capital Journal, “The Lighter Side,” Pierre, SD, March 2010