Thursday, January 23, 2014

Losing my gym membership virginity

          If you are wondering about my progress and adventures at my newly-joined gym, I can report that I have been back to the gym— more than once even! And no, it was not just to use the spa or to get a massage, although I did that once too. I had my complimentary personal training sessions and the very nice man who was assigned to train me told me that I was the first person who really didn’t feel a need to know her BMI stats.

“But what if I refuse to hear those numbers?”

“Uh… really? No one’s ever done that before…”

          He summed up their overall impressions for me though and the results pointed to just a general flabby sloth which in no way surprised me. I really didn’t hate the training sessions either, (although I could barely sit on the toilet for two days after so many squats). I just don’t see myself shelling out a bunch of money for them. What I have been doing is getting on the elliptical and when you can space out to a sitcom for a half hour, it’s really not bad at all. Ideally this would happen two or three times a week, but let’s not get crazy here. If I make it to the elliptical once a week and then to an exercise class once, I’m extraordinarily proud of myself. As for the rest of the week? That’s what mall-walking is for. I try to convince myself that this all falls under the category of "me time", when I devote a moment to the care of myself, but that line of logic is hard when "me-time" could also mean taking some time away from the gym to say, shop or buy a hot chocolate. "Me time" can just be interpreted in so many different ways.

          In an effort to keep my mind open and try new things, I decided to try Zumba! I had been meaning to try it for a long time, but again, that registered trademark exclamation point really turned me off. Finally, a friend said she would go with me to my first class. Much of my Zumba! experience with friends so far is composed of my making incredulous faces into the mirror at them as I stumble through the choreography. It turns out several years of “Movement for Singers” classes have still left me with a surprisingly poor ability to follow and remember sequences, so I flail about enthusiastically until I can get back into the swing of things. Our smiley instructor seems to think any manner of ills can be made up for with enthusiasm, and if that gets my heart rate up, so be it.

          Now, I had heard up until this point that Zumba is quite fun in a sexy way, but I’ve discovered it’s sort of the 50 Shades of Grey of exercise classes. This is to say that it seems like Zumba is sexy if you’re a 50 year old housewife. It’s all about white people looking dorky as they wiggle their hips to a track of Latin remixes. And I’m certainly not above 50 year old housewives— most of them are probably in way better shape than I am anyway. (I will admit to being above reading poorly written smut though.) I’m sure there are instructors out there who can channel Patrick Swayze and make Zumba fiery, but there would still be people like me following along, trying in vain to channel their inner Latinas.

          Now, as for gym clothes, I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who warned to distrust any institution which requires the purchase of new clothes. And in this case, I agree with him. I just really hate the idea that I have to buy special ankle socks to go to the gym, which are not useful for any other purpose in our chilly New England climate. My organic leggings with the holes in them and my pajama tops however, were not going to cut it any longer. I had to suck it up and go to Marshalls for some inexpensive gym threads. It is amazing how I really believed that this wardrobe update might be the key to my confidence in those full-length mirrors, but I assure you, I look just as ridiculous in my coordinated top and pants as I do in anything else.

          Perhaps in a few months, when I know what I’m doing a bit more, I can stop laughing at my own dance moves… but I doubt it. What keeps me going on a party dance floor is my unabashed confidence in my ability to shake it to late 90’s hip hop, dim lights, and not a lot else. I still remember the day when our movement teacher paused with trepidation before telling me that for my second year in grad school, she was placing me in the beginning class again. Someone else might have been shocked or deflated but not I. No hard feelings— I always had fun just the same.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Delayed New Year Thoughts

Since it's another snow day for some people in Boston, here is something I started on January 2nd:

          It's the second day of a new year today. It's a snow day. My office, which really is supervised by a highly empathetic group of people, is closed since we are expecting a 14 inch accumulation by tomorrow. The school where B teaches on Thursday is closed. It's the kind of day where you celebrate in the morning, full of nostalgia for childhood snow days. But it's the kind of day that can sometimes make the husband feel restless, and it's the kind of day that by February usually has me lamenting the "oppressiveness of winter". But today I'm sitting by a very brown Christmas tree- this one, while very beautiful at first, really didn't hold up well. I usually like to leave them up until Ukrainian Christmas, (January 6th-Epiphany), but I think we will have to ditch this one very soon.

         It still smells like Christmas in here though. It is warm. Even with the steady stream of snow falling, our landlord replaced our windows in this 1920's era build and they successfully keep the draft out. I made bacon and eggs and drank kefir for breakfast because despite my self-identification as sacrificing artist, we can afford things like expensive probiotic smoothies for my not-so-hot digestion. One of our big problems in this beloved charming apartment that we rent is that we have so many people in our lives who love us and want to shower us with representations of love, that we have too many things. This hasn't stopped since our wedding registry. I'm looking at the floor surrounding our tree and wondering where we will put all of our Christmas gifts. We've received some beautiful and useful gifts, including this ipad I am typing on. We also received a few bizarre ones, like a musical tie for B, several tons of coffee, and more black socks, (from my mother of course), than I have storage for. It seems absurd that just two people will need more space than this eventually, but that is where things are headed I suppose, and I don't yet know if that will take us to the suburbs or not. I guess that's ok.

          In my lap is a blanket that my aunt knitted for my grandma, which she made sure I received after my grandmother passed away five years ago. My grandmother's chairs, which I had recovered, sit in each corner of my living room.

          B shoveled the sidewalk this morning and is making a parsnip curry soup and the warm spice smell is amazing. I slept until 11:00 today. I know I won't always have this luxury, never mind this ability.

          These are the kinds of reflections I'm trying to make on this New Year. This past year, my musical and writing aspirations may not have gone as well as I would have liked. The health of my in-laws and my family has been on my mind a lot and I wonder if some of the problems of my having older parents in particular are going to show up earlier for me than my peer group. The frustrating politics of our nation currently have myself and many feeling quite helpless.

          Every night as we are going to sleep, B and I recap the day and play "Roses and Thorns". I had heard somewhere that this is a game the Obamas' play at the dinner table to talk about the day's pros and cons and since B and I both have always been drawn to the more poetic in life, we adopted it as well. The tiny amendment we made to it is that we only bring up one thorn for every three roses. Most of the time, our regrets as we finish the day have to do with the artistic work we did not complete. I want to sing more yes, but more and more I want to write and create more. B always feels he could have practiced singing more, or at least more efficiently. He has become more serious about pursuing his doctorate in the last year and I am very proud of the work he has done toward that end, but it almost never seems enough for him.

          Last night we watched a replay of Tina Fey's Mark Twain award ceremony where they talk about her years at SNL staying up until 2am, and carrying her sketches around with her for tweaking at a moment's notice. B and I felt immediately uncomfortable sitting on the couch like a bunch of laze-abouts. I am reading a biography of Joni Mitchell's creative journey. I have been obsessed lately with an interview she did for Canadian television, in which she outlines her constant desire to be an innovator and discoverer. I recognize this desire in myself as an artist who has always admired composers and writers who tread new ground above all others, but the lack of this in my own life's work is startling and frustrating. Both of these examples, as well as many other inspirational people have made me wonder what I've been doing with my time. To quote Tom Leher in concert: "I mean, by the time Mozart was my age, he was dead." Creation and art involve hard work, despite our current culture's idea that a talent-filled phenom is just born that way. Writing a significant body of something I can be proud of involves a regimented routine of just what I am doing right now- sitting, reflecting, and writing. It also involves seeking new venues for writing, which I have been meaning to do for some time.

          At the same time, while the husband and I make donations every year to organizations that support the homeless and helpless in our society, what have I done in the past year, aside from voting, to really advocate for the oppressed and needy? We, who really have been lucky our whole lives often forget that the ability to create and pursue our goals is in itself a luxury and it seems callous to watch the gap widen between the rich and poor and not do anything about it. I have also always admired Joan Baez, not just because my parents listened to her in the car all the time, and not because she was an innovator but because she used and still uses her voice for social advocacy. Even if it means volunteering money and/or time for a political organization making contributions toward change or singing for a retirement community every once in a while, aren't those at least meaningful in some way?

          So this year, I want to create more and help more. Let me channel my southern ancestry and say that y’all can help. If you like something I write this year, post a comment here and let me know if a post is slam dunk, (sports lingo- I get it sometimes!). Also, let me know if you think something is a dud. In my efforts to be more prolific, I expect more posts to be failures, and I will be embracing that. Hold me accountable. If you don’t hear from me for a while, give me a nudge toward a more creative 2014! This is a start toward one less thorn for me today.