Sunday, February 10, 2013

unrecognizable and completely aloof

When I entered the realm of single again just before Halloween, I was hit with that flash of determination that often follows in the wake of a break up. Do you know what I'm talking about? It's the voice in your head that says, "Okay, no problem, I'm just going to get better than everyone at everything. I'm going to become a brand new person, totally unrecognizable and completely aloof." I was going to throw myself into climbing and become incredibly strong and make it all look effortless. Easy.

We all get the post break-up flash in some way or another, and it usually resolves itself in about a week. Some people, if they're really feeling it and have some extra miles to burn, make a trip to Europe or South America to transform themselves. Other just get a haircut. Once I got my hair cut in Europe, just to make it double count.

Maybe it's because I'm old now, but the most recent post-split inspiration didn't have the spark of divine fire it's had in the past. The whole routine just felt tired. After all, I've been reinventing myself after every significant life change for the past ten years, and I've always looked exactly the same. The flight attendants still ask me if I'm old enough to sit in the exit rows, that's how little I've changed.

I did do one thing, however, before the inspiration evaporated. I got a gym membership, because I knew if I didn't I'd be in big trouble. The clouds and darkness had settled in over the city for the winter. I was feeling less and less enthusiastic about running and I've never felt enthusiastic about running in the first place. So I signed up at the gym down the street, the nice one in an old hotel. The hallways are narrow and it's constantly under construction. It's easy to get lost in there.

This was (relatively) monumental (for me) because I've never belonged to a gym in my life. I've only ever worked out at climbing gyms- there are five around Seattle, each one more hip than the last. There was even a climbing gym in my tiny rural Vermont town, although it's gone now and the building abandoned. Rock gyms are excellent places. I used to work at one. They're very social, very loud, and there's a passive aggressive competitive vibe that makes you actually work hard and invest hundreds in Lulu lemon clothing.

But I haven't been able to stomach any of them since Drew and I broke up. They were our old haunts. The determination to become a pro climber got me about as far as the door. Mostly I needed a break from the whole scene; it can be kind of an intense scene. Plus, I'd run into him all the time and have to play it totally cool while secretly analyzing his every movement and wondering about every girl he came into contact with. I don't know if that sounds like fun to you, but I'd rather get my feet run over by a semi.

So to the normal gym it was, and thus began the most half hearted exercise regiment in the history of the world. I would plod along on the elliptical for hours, barely breaking a sweat, pulse ticking along, glued to the television. I tried to time it so that Long Island Medium would be on. When the episode was over I'd feel extremely disappointed, then I'd take a shower and walk home. It was grim, but it was very safe and I didn't know anyone. It was the physical equivalent of eating wonder bread, but I was resigned to it. Now that I'd lost my favorite climbing partner and obviously I'd never find another one, this was my life now. The elliptical. The television.

Then I met Ren. She's a personal trainer and she's very smart, with a hundred or so different trainings and certificates behind her. And she's hot. Like smoking hot. Jaw-dropping, head turning, lay on the horn when you drive past her kind of hot. Her body looks like mine does in all my 'after' fantasies. Her hair changes color a lot.

At first I was skeptical- I certainly didn't need the luxury of a personal trainer. But, ya know what, I did. I was swimming in circles. Someone had to rescue me from the purgatory of treadmills and the teen mom marathons that run all week day long, and if that person looked like Ren, all the better.

I met her at a downtown gym that looked like a big indoor playground. There were straps and ariel fabrics and bouncy balls. She was wearing a skin tight David Bowie shirt and smiling. She does not stop smiling.
In fact, Ren is the kind of person who is so encouraging and so friendly that you find yourself spilling everything the moment she asks how your week went. Trainer qua therapist. For our first meeting, I threw myself on the couch and buried my head into the cushion."I've stopped climbing for now," I said into the fabric, "and I don't know what to do."

"How do you feel about that?"

"Unbelievably sad. Also lonely, because that was my social scene. But mostly I'm just frustrated at myself. I'm almost 28 and I don't know how to work out. I know how to follow people, I know how to maintain what I already got, and I'm pretty good at wasting time." I fiddled with my coffee cup, feeling like a total loser. I felt like I was finally admitting that I was a fake, even though that's not true. I've been climbing since I was eleven. I went to climbing high school. How do I not feel real yet? "I want to be able to work out just me, alone, and I want to mean it." Ren nodded, taking the occasional note. "I don't know why I've always been so dependent on other people for exercise, for adventures, I mean it's my fucking body."
at sixteen in portero chico, mexico, which is arguably too dangerous to visit today.
"And one more thing," I said, really on a roll. "I'd love to get fit, and really strong. But I already love my body, and I don't want to whittle away at my boobs or my ass because I love them. I don't want to look all scary. And I won't workout till I throw up. Some of the girls would throw up when we were training for ultimate and seemed like the most awful thing." Ren wrote down: more boobs, less vomit.

We got started. Ren put me through a series of warm ups and watched me very closely. She took measurements, photos, videos. She told me to stand against a wall with the center of my spine touching the wall and raise my arms up. It seemed simple. I couldn't do it. To begin with, I had no idea where the middle of my spine was. It was as if I had no core, no center of myself. I had all these muscles that refused to work as a coherent unit.

For another hour, she taught me some movements that were excruciating, painful, and very graceful. They were surprisingly fun. I could do them, but not for long. My movements were jerky, hesitant.

"Well," I said, afterwards. "What do you think?" I'm a praise monger. Even after my not too impressive display, I was still hoping she'd tell me I was the strongest girl she'd ever seen and that I had the potential to be a complete miracle in all ways.

"You're very strong. You have excellent posture." I beamed. "And you're completely in pieces."

Oh right. That. I shrugged. "That's sort of how it feels," I said. "That's how everything feels."

She grinned. "Let's work on that."
This was only three months ago. It's unbelievable how far this woman has taken me since then.


Anonymous said...

Love the new post! And just FYI...the climbing gym in Woodstock (er, quechee?) is back and open for business!

Lee Timmons said...

I want Ren. And you, Lina. Please come to Hood River. Now.

Lee Timmons said...

I want Ren. And you. Please come to Hood River. ASAP!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you for writing out here where I can read it and be inspired (Writer in me dies from the Trite of that). You're awesome, and you make me want more of myself (which went completely unrecognizable and aloof in the last decade).


Catherine said...

This is awesome, Lina. Sounds like just the right person for the job! The exact person you needed on your path at this very moment.

Brandi Shope said...

More boobs, less vomit!!!! EPIC!
I want a Ren! ;)
I'm jealous/proud of you! :)

Rachel @ Existation said...

I want a Ren! But first I need some moolah...

Emily said...

I'm jealous.

Stephanie Gallman said...

I love this -- It's the voice in your head that says, "Okay, no problem, I'm just going to get better than everyone at everything. -- I think I tell myself that at least once a week, break up or not.

Just found your blog - love your adventurous life.

Stephanie Gallman said...

I love this -- It's the voice in your head that says, "Okay, no problem, I'm just going to get better than everyone at everything. -- I think I tell myself that at least once a week, break up or not.

Just found your blog - love your adventurous life.