By Nina Gaby
Before we start, the trainer asks me if I can get up and down off the floor. We are standing in front of a contraption known as PF360. As I am devoted to the idea of changing my life right now and keeping the dark shadows of my mood on the periphery, I force a good-natured laugh. “Now why are you asking me that? Do I look like someone who can’t get off the floor?”
Well yes I probably do. My white hair flies out from its clip, my left arm trembles a bit from the exertion of the Matrix machine that I’ve just done again for the first time in a year, and my numb right hand can be pretty worthless as evidenced by having just dropped my iPhone again. I’m pale from insomnia and worry and disappointment. And then there’s the belly, an appendage with a life of its own. I’ve already been called “hon” and “dear” by staff twice today. No one ever called me “hon” or “dear” until I hit sixty-five and now I rue every condescending sweetness I ever bestowed on any old person in my life. It’s a micro-aggression, I want to tell them, but off course I don’t. At least they are trying to sprinkle a little kindness in an inhospitable world.
Dexterity and stamina suspect, I surprise the trainer by holding plank for 45 seconds and being able to synchronize “dead bug” and move on to the ropes and pulleys without incident. “I do yoga” I tell her. “Not well,” I add. “I used to exercise all the time…” I trail off. She is glancing out over the football field sized Planet Fitness and worries that if anyone else shows up for the training she won’t make it out in time to pick up her kids from day care. She is a working mom who doesn’t have time for my reminiscing. We move on to the kettle bells.
How did I let it go, that “exercising all the time?” How have I let my A1C circle the diabetes diagnosis? What about the inactivity that worsens my kooky cardiac thing that’s been going on for two years? Yeah yeah, depression, but how is it that I can tell my patients how exercise has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to often be as effective as medication for depression and aging and anxiety and addiction while I hang out in bed on Facebook? Thirty-nine years ago I joined a gym, conquered the Stairmaster, added weights every day to the Nautilus machine, and another lap every day until I could swim a mile, and got–and stayed–sober. I need to not overthink this. I need to “just do it.”
Yoga once a week is a start, as is taking a break from Facebook. The alternative is unacceptable. “I’m changing my life!” I call out to my husband as I post X’s and O’s to Facebook and slap the laptop shut.
I prepare my playlist with care. James Brown. Chaka Khan. Queen. Stones. Music from the old days. Boom! “Show ‘em how funky you are!” Boom! “Tell me something good!” Boom again!
During my first thirty minute circuit I watch a young woman on the Stairmaster. She is golden like Beyoncé, poufy pigtails above each ear. As she climbs she makes dance moves, air punches, little waves with graceful hands, singing along with whatever she is listening to. Joyful and radiant, reminding me of me once upon a time. I want to ask her about her playlist. I want to tell her to never stop. I want to hug my old self through her. Instead I come back the next day. I sign up for the PF360. And a Saturday night Journey Dance. Is it okay that as an old white lady I get teary during “Rise Up?” That the soles of my feet are grimy with happiness?
It still takes me a bit to get up off the mat in yoga the next day but as I breathe into “om” and start to judge myself for being “too sinusey,” I remember the radiant young woman and identify with her instead. A bit of glow returns to the periphery.
Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner living in central Vermont. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and periodicals, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as prose poetry and articles. Most recently her creative nonfiction is a New Millennium Writings Monthly winner, has appeared in Quarter-After-Eight, on the Brevity blog, ROAR, Manifest-Station, The Diagram, Proximity, Entropy, Mslexia, Rock&Sling, Kevin MD, Intima, and in the collections “Second Blooming” (Mercer University Press), “How Does That Make You Feel?” (Seal Press), “Mothering Through Darkness” (She Writes Press) and “I Wasn’t Always Strong Like This” (In Fact Books). Her first book, “Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women,” was published in 2015 by She Writes Press. Her sculptural porcelain is in the National Collection of the Renwick at the Smithsonian, and Arizona State University permanent collections. Gaby’s three dimensional memoir vessels explore transparency/translucency/ and opacity in mixed media including the written word and are exhibited regularly in regional exhibits. She appears infrequently on www.ninagaby.com.
Jen’s book ON BEING HUMAN is available for pre-order here.