Weighty Matters

September 22, 2013

In a world where everything is becoming open for discussion, there are still a few topics that make most people uncomfortable. The first three that come to mind are death, lice, and weight.

Of course, there are the brief conversations about who died when and how bad everyone feels. And whose kid came home with lice (and how glad we are it wasn’t ours.) And weight? I’m are always comparing notes on the latest diets, and what I ate or didn’t eat on any given day. But these tend to be brief forays that lead into the serious stuff- “adolescence, doesn’t it suck having teenagers”, “I wanted to kill my husband when…” and “what the hell should we do about Syria,” (I am not a total idiot, and neither are my friends. Between us, we have actually come up with a solution to most of the worlds problems. That’s another post.)

And when it comes to weight? I read the magazines. I watch the talk shows. Our weight is a subject that consumes a lot of us. I know that I can wear a smile for an hour after hopping on the scale and discovering I’ve lost a pound. I might kick a kitten if the reading is a few pounds heavier than the day before. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever had a real conversation with anyone about the actual number.(And doctors offices and health clubs don’t count. Though there is’t really a conversation. Just a statement.”You weigh —.” “oh.”)

I weigh 162 pounds. When I was pregnant I reached what I think was my all time high- but I don’t know because when I’m really heavy I don’t weigh myself- of 220 pounds. I would like to weigh 145 pounds, which according to those statistics in the fitness magazines, is kind of high. But I work out. And I like lunch.

Ok, it’s 168.

When I look in the mirror I see a pretty woman. I like my face. I have a waist line. My breasts are small, so there isn’t much gravity can do with them. I’ve got field hockey player thighs, but they could be defensive line football player thighs. And my belly is just a tiny heart shaped curve, it actually looks kind of cute.

And then, I’m walking in the mall. I catch a glimpse in a mirror. Staring back at me, is a chunky, middle aged women who really should hire a personal shopper to help her buy blue jeans because the ones I’m wearing make my rear end look the size of the Kardashian’s garage.

Maybe the mirrors in the mall are trick mirrors designed to make shoppers head screeching into the local department stores in search of Spanx.

Weight matters, but not nearly as much as we think it does. My life isn’t going to magically improve when I weigh 142 pounds. Shopping will be nicer. But I don’t think my friends are going to like me more, my kids aren’t going to start cleaning their rooms without 97 gentle reminders when I weigh a little less.

Lice doesn’t really matter at all, and death matters a lot. I use it as a cattle prod when I am tempted to spend the day at home eating chocolate instead taking my dogs out for a long walk. Not because I’m afraid of the damn calories. Because life is short, and I’d like to spend as much of it as I can walking in the woods with Sophie the Magnificent Wonderpup.

At the end of the day, I guess it’s not what we talk about or don’t talk about with the people we love. It’s how we live our lives when we aren’t busy comparing notes with our neighbors.

Last week I wrote a piece about the places in my life that make me happy, that make me feel at home, and let me move thru them without stropping to try to remember where the bathroom is.

Right after I click publish, there is a brief period of post-post afterglow, (sometimes I think that brief period after I’ve put something out there for the “public”, when I’m just thrilled with the simple fact that once more- I found something to say- it’s bliss, it’s relief, and there’s a dash of excitement in the mix… What if nobody reads what I so carefully offered to them, what if there are better things out there on the interweb, and all of my readers finally found out about them! Oh sorry, that causes a mild blip of terror, the excitement sings when I think about what if someone new finds my words, and they work in publishing, or run the New Yorker, or are a big time Broadway producer who thinks so far out of the box she can imagine my musings as having the potential to make a wonderful musical. Off off Broadway. (As long as I got rid of my son, the snakes and the turtle, and at the beginning of the second act lose my husband for a while to a crack whore, later saved by my 9 year old daughter, who put on a show so Daddy could go to rehab.) You never know, I suppose, but for the record, I wouldn’t get rid of my son or the snakes, but the turtle, well, I would be open to a discussion.

Right after the brief period of post-post afterglow, I remembered what I forgot. Nowhere in musings did I mention one place that I have had a love affair with for years. So intense was this relationship, I went back to school so I could get a job to work at this place. It is the Quincy Y,a local branch of the South Shore Y.

We first joined when my daughter started attending preschool at their Early Childhood Education Center. We moved up to next level when she signed up for swim team, and I began to work out while she was at practice. I’ve never been a mom that could happily sit by any pool, even to watch her youngest swim laps for an hour. Pool sides are for when you are in St.Croix and I have a thick book and a really hot waiter that wants to bring me martinis. I am a kind person, if someone wants to bring me martinis, I accept them, with grace. Pool sides at the Quincy Y are places where I put my stuff before I go swimming. My daughter didn’t think it was a terrific idea for me to do laps with the team. And so…

I ventured to the world of strength training and cardio. Soon I flirted with the classes, found out I loved Zumba, and Body Pump and Definitions.

Katy left preschool, and I signed her up for a cheaper swim team in Dorchester, but I found myself spending more a time there.

Long story short, and I could essentially turn my slow journey into the world of the workout into a very, very long story, I decided to go to school to study Exercise Science, in hopes of one day working at this place that had become such an integral part of my life. I took the classes and got the job, and am proud to say I am an Ace Certified Personal Trainer working at the Quincy Y.

I’ve only been there about six months, but in that short span of time, I’ve made many friends. When I walk in that door, and glance at the woman at the front desk, I know her name. I know where the lost and found is, and that a pair of headphones wouldn’t be found there. They go in the drawer behind the desk. I know what to say to the six teenage boys sitting in a corner on Nautilus equipment, texting their friends and showing off their sneakers, I show them how to get to basketball court. In case they forgot since the last time I showed them yesterday.

But I hadn’t gone all the way, and it wasn’t that the Y didn’t make me feel welcome. So many of the trainers have become really good friends. And the members remember my name, even my name tag on order.

It’s this. I am a exercise science major. I passed my Ace exam and am a real, certified by the great people at Ace to train people.

And I’m not in amazing shape.

I work out every day. But this summer, I became a little obsessed with swimming and hiking. It has been… um… two months since I’ve lifted anything, other than my daughter off a wall. I thought about doing a plank when I was looking for my car keys under the sofa, but then I found them so I had to drive someone somewhere. But by the first week in September I knew it was time to get to the business of building the muscles, and I really do want muscles, I have wanted muscles long before Michelle Obama started wearing short sleeve shirts. So when fall came, I was happy. I knew that cold weather would soon send me inside to the elliptical, onto the sweet seat of the chest press and the assisted chin, and others.

And I would, with the help of my fellow trainers, build and lift and wave ropes around in the air until I finally got a body that looked like it belonged on a personal trainer. Since I am a personal trainer, this is probably a good idea. Swimming and hiking all the time count for something, but mostly they give you really bad hair, and an excellent cardiovascular system.

I knew once I had some muscles, the Y would be right up there with church,kids, woods and water as one of my homes away from home. And it would have to stay that way iif I wanted to keep all those muscles.

But two weeks ago, the Quincy Y succumbed to time, a water pipe exploded and the building shut for good. They are hoping to reopen the new facility the end of October, the beginning of November.

And so I’ve been missing it. I miss my friends, the seventy two difficult teenagers, and that feeling I’d get when Kim, my boss, 6’2″, told me she had something to talk to me about. I miss hearing Dani talk about Crossfit, and Angela telling enthusiastically showing off the bruises she’d gotten in kick boxing class with Mickey.

So tonight, I realized I have some work to do. I need to squat those squats and curl those hammers, I need to conquer the world of free weights, and work on my push
ups. I am going to ready when the new Y opens. I will be ripped, and taut, and strong. People will look at the new Y, and look at me, in my tank top, and they will wonder if I built it all by myself.

On opening day, when I walk in to our new state of the art facility, I will be worthy. And if I’m not quite there yet, I know I can count on a little help from my friends.

Places I Have Been To

September 10, 2013

I went to church last Sunday. It was the first Sunday of the church year. Everyone came early for a pancake breakfast hosted by the youth group. I’d actually been at the church since Saturday night since I had been one of the chaperones for the pre-pancake breakfast youth sleepover.  (I am either a very brave or a very stupid woman.) As I moved around the halls, directed guests to the bathroom, and found a sugar bowl for somebody in the kitchen, it occurred to me- I feel at home here. I am a member of the club.

You know the feeling I’m talking about? When all the sudden you look around whatever space you are in and realize- you know where stuff is. You know the names of people around you, you even know if they are people worth knowing, and you move thru hallways and rooms with ease.

The church is the latest in a long series of places I made my own.  I’m sure for many, school is the first thing that comes to mind.  Not for me. As a matter of fact, for all the time I spent in school, my memories are mostly of feeling lost. Literally. I have a lousy sense of direction, every year classrooms are different, they were usually located on different floors. Kids in classes changed, and every few years, buildings changed. To make matters really difficult, when I was 12 my family moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

I suppose, on a much smaller level, I got a sense of it over at friends houses. Going over to Leslie’s and being able to drink from the water jug in the fridge reserved for family members. Over at my first boyfriend’s house, I was entrusted with the location of spare key, and knew the names of all of his cousins. He only had three cousins, but I’m not that good with names. And of course, the Stanfields. Their home became the back up home to many teenagers in Mountain Lakes. I knew where to find the corn nuts, and what bedroom was likely to be unoccupied, or mostly unoccupied. Of course, so did about seventy five other kids between the ages of 15 and 18. But it was nice, knowing my home wasn’t my only home. Especially since things weren’t always so easy in my home growing up.

Skip forward quite a few years. My first true sense of belonging to a group, and knowing where I fit in, was when I settled in Boston, and discovered the club scene. And the bands. (And the members of bands. Whole nother story.) And the drugs, and the right ratio of drugs and alcohol for just the right buzz. I remember how it felt to saunter up to the front a line, nod at the bouncer and walk in a front door. How I felt so damn special to be granted entrance into a dark, crowded smoky room, with minimal bathrooms, insane lines- to buy a drink, pee, even to grab a seat. I became familiar with the bartenders, did my research and sought out the johns no one else knew about, and became particularly skilled at lurking behind someone getting ready to leave, then swooping in for their spot at the bar before they’d even picked up their keys. I knew where the stairs were, where the elevators were, where the back doors were, who bartended on which night, and who might be willing to pay for my drinks.

And the best part… Everybody knew me. By name. After years of feeling pretty damn anonymous, I had circles and circles of friends. I had friends to go out to dinner with, friends to sleep with, friends to stay up all night with, friends to play scrabble with… I had lots and lots and lots of friends. I spent piles of money, had, from what I remember a damn good time, and woke up from it all when I was pregnant with my first child.

Then I went back to feeling like I had in school, a little bit lost.

When I sat down to write this, I was going to list all of the places in my life that weren’t my home, but that felt like home.

And this is what I found out- there were the clubs in Boston and Cambridge in the 90’s, there is the space between my two kids anywhere in the whole world, and there is my church. My church is a place that practices something called “radical hospitality”, and I guess they really, truly do. At least in my case. My church is a place where we have twenty minute conversations about which class will work for a nine year old who is more mature than most, but needs to make more friends in his grade. It is a place where there is always coffee, though I often have to make it, or find the filters. Where the minister is my friend, and I swim with the Youth Advisor most mornings, (not at the church, it’s not that nice.) And where when the conversation turns to Social Justice, and it often does, it is not in the abstract.

I’m glad I finally found my way there.