Sunday, January 3, 2016

before i write

Actually, if you want to know, my alarm goes off at an hour much earlier than is needed to allow for just the morning pages and the morning walk, at an hour I used to consider a night waking when my kids were babies. My alarm goes off and I shuffle out of bed and into the bathroom, shove my contacts into my bleary eyes and grab the pile of clothing I set out the night before. I use my phone’s home screen like a flashlight to find my way down the hallway, locate my water bottle on the kitchen counter, and head down into the basement, where I flip on the lights full strength. The brightness makes me squint for several blinks. I’m not fully awake.

This is a good thing because I’m going through the motions of routine, not quite capable of analyzing earliness of the hour or the effort the scheduled workout will require. My body is tricking my mind into this. I change out of my cozy, warm pajamas into exercise clothes, pull my dumbbells out of the corner, and load up the DVD. Then I’m doing squats and lunges, or maybe today its hammer curls and pushups. It could be sets of mountain climbers and burpees, or plank variations and crunches. It depends on the day, but you get the idea: I’m sweating.

And then it’s over and I cool down and change into my walking clothes and head back upstairs for my coffee and notebook to write before I head outside to walk the dog.

Why do I do this? I’d say because I’m making time for myself, but that’s not totally it – the writing and the walking fill this category pretty well, so this alone can't be motivation enough to pull me out of bed. And the Lord knows I don’t need to lose weight. I’ve always been that skinny girl, skinny Minnie, the you-should-eat-more, I-wish-I-could-be-that-thin girl. But with all my angles and edges, parts that jut when rounded and curved is more standard, I’ve always been self-conscious about my body.

It’s true that I’m all grown up now, but I will never forget how I felt in 9th grade when a kid I didn’t even know by name stopped in the hallway in front of my locker and asked if I was anorexic. His eyes were lined with disdain, not concern. Or the time I was changing out of my racing flats at a track meet and a girl from another team commented, “Your legs are SO skinny?!?” She did not speak with admiration. My responses were feeble in these situations. Inaudible.  I was never (and still am not) good at dealing with conflict of any kind, but it offended me deeply when someone insinuated that I was unwell or could somehow control my hyperactive metabolism.  I was born skinny. That's it.

I’m still skinny even after having four kids.

I don’t attract mean comments anymore – thank God the world is not a high school – but sometimes people still think it’s okay to comment about my thin stature. This doesn’t bother me like it used to, but for the record I’d like to state that it might be better to consider whether a comment about someone’s body is truly a compliment before it’s spoken. Being thin does not mean I am in love with my body, nor does it indicate that I possess a measurable amount of self-confidence.

But there’s something about doing these workouts that is shaking something awake in me. Does it sound cheesy if I say that getting stronger again is strengthening something in my head, too? That doing something I thought I couldn’t (it would be too boring, I know I don’t have the time, I’ll never stick with it, I’ll get too tired, I’ll be too sore, it’ll be annoying, I’m not a fitness person, etc, etc) is breaking up some really old inner shadows?

I’m starting to be able to see my abs again and my biceps have some substance. I can do ten consecutive pushups (this is progress!) and I can get lower in sumo squats. I’m thinking about buying some new running shoes so I can give that a go again. I might sign up for a race.

I’m still the same skinny girl but I feel bolder, more awake under my skin, full of potential energy. This is not at all dissimilar to how writing makes me feel, actually, and this is why I get up so early in order to do both. It’s like this:

Under every skin is so much
Unshown territory.
Alive on its own no matter
If you lie about it or look for it.
Lamp on skin,
Beads of “Yes, That” wander the web
Of possibility.
My mask is my skin.
How can I be without it?
Out of it?