Growing up I loved the idea of a journal and often tried to work my feelings out on paper, but it never came naturally. Even as I was peppered with gentle, chiding from my maternal grandmother, “Write it down, Amanda. Carry a pen and a little notebook and just jot things down. Nothing fancy, just words in a book that is always with you.” Living up to her advice, she always kept them near. Several of them sit in a little cabinet in our house, it’s hard to tell now if it’s her handwriting or the smell that stays blessedly trapped within the pages that helps me remember.
I started blogging in 2004 and I do revel in this space and what it has given me. I like thinking about what my grandmother would have thought of these words I’ve been putting down. Looking back I know that it’s offered catharsis but, it doesn’t stop me from grinding my teeth at night. Or during the day. A sweet friend asked on twitter the other night, “how do I learn to let go of things I can not control? tell me, please.” I don’t think a single one of us has hold on that answer all the time. Maybe time and patience, and then more time, more patience and, perhaps hypnosis can get you there. The thing that works for me, that brings true oblivion, is muscle fatigue. Motion.
I used to resent hearing that I should go for a run or hit the gym, but it’s true. Saturday I went to the gym around noon. I set myself up on the incline bench and looked up at the bar. I loosened my shoulders and stared at the ceiling. My mind can play tricks on me, “There are too many meat heads,” or “my shirt is riding up, I can’t do this.” I wiggle on the bench as if to shake off the doubt and distraction. These arms have carried plaster, cradled babies and protected memories. They can do so much. I can. The din of the gym fades away and it is just me. The pattern on the bar presses against my palms, my chest rises and I lift the bar into the air.
Up. Down. Breathe.
Up. Down. Breathe.
The burn is slow and steady, my arms begin to tremble and still I lift. All the worry and untold hurts are forced from my mind as I work to keep the bar from slamming into my face. My increasing fatigue tickles at something. I stare through the bar and up to the ceiling, pressing to keep the bar even through each repetition.
Eleven is a struggle. As my elbows bend and I bring the bar down to my chest, I take in a deep breath of air and push toward twelve. Every centimeter is a battle that I win and as I fully extend my arms the ceiling lights up and I smile. Ear-to-ear, meat heads be damned. I replace the bar and rack my weights. Walking across the room I am proud of myself. Each step is more purposeful and full of gratitude. I am at peace as I move toward the door.
These times at the gym are almost always revelatory, why I fall out of the routine defies logic. Do you stick to what keeps you sane? Happy? Where is your serenity?