Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dodging The Curves and Other Sports Metaphors

Wednesday nights I go to an aqua-jogging class at my gym. I’ve been going to this same class, with the same instructor, with mostly the same people, with mostly the same bathing suits and mostly the same moves for the last couple of years. I love it. My muscles love the weightless movement after a day of sitting at the computer. My spirit loves the community of women, the “3D” camaraderie I don’t get working at home in my writing room. My soul loves floating in the moment, my troubles – at least for a while – shoved aside in favor of listening to the symphony of ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones, splashes and the laughter of women.

Today I was in a rush to get out of the house, and a bit angry. Husband was digging up the last bit of info so I could complete our tax forms, with me nagging (um…consulting) over his shoulder. I saw the time on his computer screen and froze. “Gotta go to swim class,” I said, and ducked out.

Because I know that I’m sometimes…shall we say…chronologically challenged, especially when it comes to dragging myself away from work, I prepare my gym bag far in advance of when I need to leave for class. Bathing suit, cover-up, towel, little zipped bag with miscellaneous little grooming supplies. Sometimes I even leave the bag in the car the night before. Today I’d left it on top of the sofa. And I’d run out so fast I didn’t notice until I pulled into the gym parking lot that that’s where I’d left it.

I had no bathing suit. No cover-up. No towel. No little zipped bag with miscellaneous little grooming supplies. Just my ID card, the clothes on my back and the sneakers on my feet.

Wait a minute, I thought. They’re pretty decent sneakers. And underneath my fleece jacket, I was wearing workout clothes—my usual yoga pants and cotton top. So I signed in, pinned my car keys to the waistband of my pants, and hit the “Wellness Center.” This is actually a giant room filled with enough cardio equipment to satisfy, well, anybody with a penchant to sweat. Especially anyone with a penchant to sweat while watching television, as each little cardio pod – rowing machine, bicycle, elliptical trainer and treadmill – came with a screen atop it. Grab a pair of earphones, plug yourself in and go. We become a room full of regenerating Borgs, except we’re moving and sweating instead of standing still.

I found a treadmill near the window, and the early evening sun streamed across my face, showing my reflection on the bottom half of my TV screen. I clicked around until I found one of my favorite sitcoms, and off I went, power-walking to nowhere.

Three thoughts crossed my mind in succession. One. It’s a beautiful evening; what am I doing walking inside on a machine? Two. What am I doing here when I could be home, sweating on my own treadmill and watching the lovely view out my back window? Three. Hey, I’m really sweating. I looked at my status board. It claimed I was walking at 3.4 miles per hour. Holy Christmas. This was faster than I’d been able to walk in almost a year. I’d barely noticed, and I’d been cranking away for a good fifteen minutes. A quick inventory and posture check told me that everything was doing fine.

So I kept going. I felt great. I felt fast, and smooth, and strong.

And who knows? If I’d remembered my gym bag, maybe I would have had a stellar aqua-jogging class, kicking ass on my sprints and cross-country combos. If I’d walked outside, maybe I would have powered up hills and taken the sidewalks by storm. If I’d stayed home on my own treadmill, maybe I would have topped off at 3.2 for 40 minutes and felt satisfied. But trying something new – even if it’s just somebody else’s treadmill and someone else’s TV – gave me the confidence to try something else: challenging my body to kick it up a notch. Just a small notch. But that’s still progress.

A half-hour later, I unplugged from the machine. I toweled off, deposited my pre-sanitized washcloth into the designated bucket, returned my earphones to the designated sanitizing station, and retired to the designated stretching room, where shoes are not allowed.

I lay on my mat, still sweating, and stretched in rhythm with my breath, with the satisfied affirmation that I could dodge those curveballs of life, could roll with the punches, could take on all of those sports metaphors and still come out on top.

All because I forgot a bathing suit. Perhaps I should do it more often.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Waiting For The Rain

With another pass of my manuscript off for editing, and my major freelance client reviewing the latest work I sent, I figured I would take this lovely chunk of free time and write a bit…something I’ve been missing for a while.


I wouldn’t call it a block, exactly. The words are there, I feel them. And I’ve been in this situation often enough to know that this dry well will once again fill and even overflow. Then I’ll put on my purple boots and stamp in the puddles with joy.

Now, I’m just waiting for the rain. I’m waiting for a character to pop up and tell me his or her story. I’m waiting for an overpowering emotion or news item to overpower me and force my hand.


I’m trying to be patient. I take long walks and watch Spring spring. I clean out cupboards and dresser drawers and pantries.


Yet while I’ve been waiting for something miraculous to happen, other miraculous things have been happening.

The sun comes out. A daffodil blooms. Baseball season officially starts. The bag of clothes for Goodwill grows fuller. I can actually close my closet doors. My spice cabinet is clean, updated, and stands ready for battle.

Yes, a filled jar of turmeric is a minor miracle, but in this house, inhabited by two creative professionals who’d rather be at their computers than pushing a dustrag, just finding a clean bowl can be a challenge.

I’m just waiting for the rain.

Because it does no good to curse down the empty well’s well, listening to my own impatience echo back. It does no good to shake my fist at the sky.

The best thing to do is occupy myself with Other Things. These Other Things, ideally, will take on such a magnitude that I’ll get to the end of another wordless day and say to myself, “I haven’t thought about that well in sixteen hours, thirteen minutes and seventeen seconds.”

This is when I take up knitting. Learn ballroom dancing, conversational Hindi, how to make a perfect vegan flourless chocolate cake. Play online chess with a guy from Pakistan. I tell myself that one day, I can use this information in a novel. But deep down I know it’s only a distraction.

I’m just waiting for the rain.