It’s occurred to me that I can’t keep making 3 egg omelets with soft cheeses and mushrooms for breakfast and not start seriously exercising. It’s a little crazy. I may have to look for that yoga mat and make peace with sweat. I might even teach the kids that my jump rope is more than a weapon to subdue a younger brother.
I used to exercise. I had an old dance teacher who taught out of her home. I learned ballet, tap dance, jazz, and even a few Hawaiian dances from her. I loved her wrinkled and gnarled arthritic hands that would hold graceful poses as she waltzed around the studio with us. She had a cat that loved to mark my jean jacket every single class session.
I ran around the neighborhood with the boys where we’d throw a football around in a game of Pickle, or we played kickball in the church parking lot where more than once I had to climb onto the church roof to retrieve a ball. I tried being a skater and stopped shortly after mastering an ollie, because I realized I didn’t love the fear of my horrible balance. I rode bikes around the block and we found the steepest hills to challenge death. An elderly neighbor gave me an old bike out of his garage with U-Shaped handlebars and a banana boat seat. His wife used to make us rhubarb pies. My Dad replaced that bike with a 10 speed when I wanted a stunt bike.
I was in gymnastics with a coach that told me I was too tall and my girl hips were too large. I tried so hard to continue working with bloodied and torn blisters on my hands that looked like eyes when I matched the lines on my palms into a smile. I loved the uneven bars, but they didn’t like me.
My 8th grade year I was in regular P.E.classes and frequently had (uninvited) teen boy hands slap my butt. I had an inept electricity teacher who showed me how to use a drill press, but couldn’t keep his male students from touching my body. Assault in the early 1990’s looked a lot like boys being boys according to faculty and administration. I would eventually write “Jane Doe’s Butt” (using my actual, but currently redacted name) on my P.E. t-shirt over my rear in an attempt to own the daily assault. Shortly after that it stopped, and now I can see it was just an act of aggression.
I was on a swim team at the beginning of puberty. It was a mixed team and I was bear crawling around the pool in a bathing suit with pubescent teen boys right behind me. It pushed me out of the pool in a way that makes me still avoid chlorinated waters.
I was in drill team and running a mile daily. My knees suffer from practicing knee drops from a standing position, whether or not I remembered to bring my knee pads to school. Being able to drop into the splits and jumping into Russian splits in the air was one of my many selling points, I’m sure.
After my one year of drill team I fell back into general physical education where I did the stretches everyone else did, which did nothing for me. I ended up pulling a muscle running laps without stretching enough.
In karate, I did 300 crunches a day. I would spar with a tall blonde god who is now covered in ink with a bald head and working to protect celebrities all over the world. Trust me, he’s great at guarding a body. I didn’t mind when he would take me down, but it’s okay that we were only ever friends. Memories of crushes without heartbreaks are my favorite memories.
There is something about the evolving body of motherhood that is miraculous and disgusting. My firstborn was slightly underdone. His first days as a preemie in the NICU meant I spent his first 4 months trying to get him to latch on. I was determined to breastfeed, and my badassery wouldn’t accept his wailing rejection as my final answer. Nursing meant sweat, and leaking milk, and smells that I hope to one day forget because my body shouldn’t smell like that. Childbirth, in all its wonder is a leaky endeavor and it’s those memories that make me hate sweating, though I love fresh sweat on a healthy man. Clean sweat is such an aphrodisiac. Try it. You’ll like it. Everybody’s doing it.
My current exercise isn’t exercise to sweat and be healthy. I like to pull weeds after rainfall. Tap roots pull out with satisfaction. I will build and destroy and rebuild in projects around the house. I enjoy long walks that push past a stitch in my side and give my feet blisters. Some might call that hiking. I was planning a beach trip this weekend so I can duke it out with ocean waves, but it might be a bit cool for that. I need the point of exercise to be doing something or going somewhere, and it has to be gentle on my knees that are short on cartilage. I was 5’6″ in my teens. I may have already started shrinking. I just can’t see myself working a machine while watching television. It feels pointless and depressing.
It’s amazing how much I love my cooking when I spent years making breakfast for my family, skipping most meals myself. My husband hated boxed meals and his mother’s cupboard surprise, so I was always challenging myself in the kitchen. Tonight we’re having shepherd’s pie and this is a meal where I sneak in rutabaga and turnips, parsnips and carrots and they all look like potato cubes, except the carrots and I feel like it’s a mom win. They might be catching on because those bits don’t taste like potatoes. I would stay up late and nosh on junky processed foods while reading a book or watching something on television. In laziness, I would doctor a can of some sort of chunky Campbell’s soup with shredded sharp cheddar and french fried onions. It was the hours when my family slept that my respite began and I couldn’t indulge in that respite if I was asleep, so I stayed up and consumed foods that disguised the feelings I chose to chew down. Right now I’m often not hungry, so when I am, I make it special. It’s like being a teenager again, except I’m excited about fending for myself.
My current eating habits are different. I don’t think I’m eating in depression as much as having an epicurean indulgence. I’m very much into whatever feels good right now. At the same time, I love it that I’m about the size I was around the year 2000. The idea of exercise keeps playing with me and I’m not sure if or when it will happen, but I keep having thoughts of visiting a friend at the Crossfit in Eagle Rock because he makes it look so inviting. But realistically, as was just pointed out to me, a crossfitter will always love their body more than me. I’m okay with that too.