Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Life In Exercise

* I started swimming lessons when I was 5.  I loved swimming. My parents took us wonderful places for long swimming picnic days and when it was time to leave I would hide underwater and hope that my mom would give up looking for me and leave me there to live.

* Dance classes began when I was 7. Tap, jazz and ballet, culminating in snazzy satiny recitals in June. I begged my mom to move the car out of the garage so I could spend hours in the stink and dust practicing my steps and choreographing my own dances.

*  Swim team from 9 until I aged out at 14, which included getting to practice at 7 in the mornings all summer long. I never missed a practice but I was still the slowest girl at all the meets. I had endurance. I killed the mile swim fundraisers because people didn't believe someone as short and slow as me could do it so they always pledged per lap. 

* Throughout college: swimming, hiking, going to the gym, biking along the sea cliff road, running, dancing.

* Early twenties: Triathlons. Road races.  I was always came in second to the last but I did not care. I felt invincible.

* Pregnancies: Gyms. Long walks.  Afterwards, lots of jump roping, cross-country skiing, Nordic track, African dance.

* Gyms: Muscle gyms, family gyms, neighborhood gyms, co-ed gyms, women-only gyms.

Then, for nearly three years. . . almost nothing. Once a week dance classes, a few walks here and there.  A neglected gym membership. Or two.

I never thought I could be someone who goes a whole month without exercising. It used to be not even a rainstorm kept me from my morning run. Lately I've skipped it more days a week than not. Work took over because I let it.  I stopped fighting for time for my health and so the rest of my life flooded in like a rogue wave. I got too stressed out so all I wanted to do was sleep and rest which made me stressed out. I burst the seams of my clothes and had to buy new ones but that wasn't what bothered me.  What bothered me was how not alive I felt. 

This summer I'm really back for the first time in about three years. It astonishes me that my body waited for me that long, but it faithfully did.  I began a yoga practice a year and a half ago, and the more I did that, the more I remembered what it felt like to be alive again.

Today I ran for an hour and then did an hour and a half yoga class. Tomorrow morning, the gym. 

Always, the neighborhood pool with my little girl where we swim until the pool closes.

When the lifeguards blow the whistle and call out closing time, I'm tempted to hide underwater in hopes that they will leave me there to live. Because for the first time in the longest, that's what it feels like I'm finally doing.

Me in the middle with some of my favorite hiking pals.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mistaken Identity

Today in the middle of a five mile walk I stopped in at the Rite Aid to take a break and look at make up.  I didn't want to buy anything.  I just felt like looking at the little pans of powdered hope before I hit the road again.

I was feeling pretty cute if you want to know the truth. I’ve been exercising all summer and I’m tan from swimming with my kid. I was wearing a tank top that in my mind showed off my glorious biceps, and a ball cap through which my swishy ponytail swished. 

Then this man I don’t know came up to me and said, “Is that Phyllis?”

“No,” I said. As soon as I turned he jumped back a little and looked sheepish.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I thought you were Phyllis.”

“I hope she’s a nice person,” I said.

“She is.  She’s—my neighbor,” the man said. And looked even more sheepish before he hustled away.

That’s when I realized that his neighbor Phyllis is an old woman. He had mistaken me for an old-aged woman and once he saw I was a medium-aged woman he became embarrassed.  How do I know this?  Because it’s happened before.  I never get mistaken for women named, say, Brandy or Kesha.  People come up when they can only see my hair and behind and call me names like Elsie and Phyllis. There I was feeling saucy and awesome, and this guy was thinking, oh look there goes my little old neighbor.  I should go up and say hello.  Maybe see if she needs some help crossing the street.

I'm never going back to dying my hair.  I'm not even tempted.  I love my hair long and grey. It's thicker than it was when I dyed it.  Regular dye jobs were not working out for me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that every box of hair color was an environmental nightmare. I'm not reconsidering the decision I made three and a half years ago to let my hair grow out in its natural white and grey.

My kid is brushing my hair as I write this.  She's applying oils and unctions and it smells great.  She just looked over my shoulder at what I'm writing. "I love your hair," she says.  "I don't think you look like an old lady."

Okay.  But still. Phyllis?  Damn.  

A former student and me.