Monday, November 14, 2011

A look in the mirror

          My phone's alarm buzzed. 5:45 am. What nutjob set the alarm for the ungodly....oh yeah, that would be me.  This morning I am going to force myself to get out of bed and go to the 6:00 class Step and Pump at Newport Sports Club.  "A combination of barbells, free weights and aerobic step form a complete body workout". It sounded a lot better last night when I had set the alarm, this morning it just sounds...bleh.  How easy would it be to turn off the alarm and stay under the warm covers? No one would know, no one would care and I would get an extra hour's sleep that I really think I deserved. But alas, I would know. I had committed to go and by golly I was strong enough to drag my butt out of this cozy bed... in 5 more minutes.
           Braving the freezing temperatures, I got in my car and drove the 1 1/2 miles to the gym. Aside from the instructor, Becky, I was the first one to arrive.  Apparently everyone else has trouble getting up this early too.  The other ladies straggled in a few minutes after the class had started. Some of them I recognized from other fitness classes and some of them professed to be new at this whole exercise thing. Been there, done that.

        We started with a brief warmup to get blood flowing and muscles loose. Ok, I could do this, nothing too hard. Then Becky decided that we must not need our legs today, because she went into a never ending torturous squat and lunge set on the right side. I hate squats  The only thing I hate more than squats are lunges.  3 hours passed, ok so maybe not.  But it honestly felt like it.  My right leg was cooking from inside.  They aren't joking when they say "Feel the burn".  I really REALLY did not want to do the rest of this set, let alone the left side.  What were my options? Like all fitness classes there are modifications you can do if a move is too difficult.  I could lower the weight. I saw one or two ladies switching from 20 lbs down to 15. I could take a rest and march in place. Or I could go home. But did I really need to?  I had to take an honest look at my body and how I was feeling. Was I injured? No, just sore. Was I having trouble breathing? No more than anyone else during exercise. So why did I want to quit? Because it was hard, that's why. It felt uncomfortable and I just didn't want to do it.  I wanted to leave early and go back to bed.  That wasn't a good enough reason to quit anymore.  If I left I would be saying that not only do I hate squats, but that I didn't believe I could finish the hour long class. That I wasn't strong enough. No way. I had hiked for 11 hours on Lone Peak, so I knew I could do 1 measly little hour.

          With the decision to finish made, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.  And not just because  we had put the barbell down. I knew with a certainty that I would find a way to fight through and finish this class, even if I had to go a little slower than everyone else. I was feeling pretty darned proud of myself as I picked up the weights for the next set when in the mirror I caught a flash of movement.  It was one of the newbies, packing up her step and putting away her weights. I don't know if it was exhaustion or pure emotion, but she looked utterly dejected.  I'm sure she had planned on slipping out of class without calling attention to herself. The instructor had other plans.
            "Hey where are you going? It's too early to have someplace else to be" Becky joked into the sound system headset mic.
            "This is just way too hard for me."
            "That's okay, just go a little slower, take a break and then try again." Becky encouraged.
            "No, I think I just need to work up to this on my own for awhile before I come back."
           I think everyone in the room knew she would not be back. Becky protested again but the woman just raised a hand and walked out of the classroom, out of the gym, got in her car, and drove away.  I wanted to run after her and shake her. To tell her all about how important it was to finish what you start. To tell her what I'd learned, what I tell myself everyday, You don't have to be perfect, you don't even have to do it well at first, just finish. Because when you quit something you are saying "I'm not good enough". But when you finish you build a sense of accomplishment and trust in yourself that you can hold on to when things get hard.

          But I didn't say any of those things. I finished my workout and went home and wrote this post because I could not get that woman out of my head. She probably went home and beat herself up about how she wasn't good enough. Then she probably started beating herself up about all the things that she isn't good enough, smart enough, or thin enough for.

        How arrogant of me to suppose what she is thinking, right? Maybe. I only venture a guess because I was her.  For years and years I would get stuck in that cycle of quitting and shame spirals and ice cream binge eating.  That's why I write this blog, why I have a goal to write a book. Why I face the wrath of Caleb Warnock at American Fork Art Council Writing Workshop every week. Because I know what it's like to pray that God has an exchange policy. To wish you could send yourself in for warranty work and come back better, thinner, smarter, stronger. To look in the mirror and hate what you see, not only on the outside, but everything about you.
         But I don't anymore, well most of the time. And so I'm trying to figure out a way to help others find their way back to the mirror without cringing. Hopefully I can find a way to do that without sounding like Tony  Robbins or a new Church member on a mission to convert the world, lost in their zealousy. So I write one blog, one page, one story at a time. It's hard, and sometimes I want to quit. I tell myself that nobody gives a hoot about what I've done, that nobody would want to read anything I write. Then I say, shhhh. It doesn't matter. I can only control what I put out into the world and make it my best. Makes no difference whether it's New York Times bestseller material, or something only my family will ever read. Only thing that matters is that I finish.

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