i don’t really like to “workout.” what i like is toughness and being sore and getting strong. i like that i can run plural miles and win at arm wrestling and move motorcycle engines around my apartment on my own and not just touch my toes but get my forearms on the ground too.
but i hate the elliptical and fear the treadmill. i hate making time for it. i hate that my day is just simply not active enough. that i don’t do any work, so i have to make work.
i will go running because i wake up feeling springy, and i will ride my bike to work because it makes me feel adventurous. yoga class brings me a clarity and gratitude i can not even write about, though i’m 4 months in. i will do those things. i will spend my day off driving to a trail and hike it and go home. i will wake up aching from working on a truck all day with my brother.
but getting off work at 6 and thinking i have to workout is i feel like one of the stranger parts of being a human being in such an easy world. i’m eager to be in a life where my work and activity is my day. where the feeling i find rewarding is built into the job.
today i attended a pilates class that i was repeatedly warned about as being intense and difficult, even for someone with experience. i look like some kind of shitty misplace in all of my classes— me with the scabbing skull tattoo on my forearm, greasy hair, grey sweatpants cut into capris and t-shirts i made sleeveless— sitting in a room with so many slender middle aged women in black spandex and kids in the daycare center. the instructor shook my hand before class, asked about my fitness level and pilates knowledge. i’d never been, but i felt so determined to do it right. i held my own with them all, completing all the sets and left that room fucking trembling inside. i sat in child’s pose in my living room for two whole willie nelson songs before george asked if i was okay. to hell if i can not walk tomorrow because the proving i did today is really the thing about working out that keeps me coming back.
“Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.”—
-Kurt Vonnegut, on telling his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope
this quote has been following me around for days, hanging around the edge of all my thoughts and plans. this is really just it as far as i’m concerned. i’m gonna tell y’all about it on a computer and everything!
“It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”—
Wild Cheryl Strayed
what could i need to hear more than this? what could resonate more in the coming weeks?
we weren’t raised with much in the way of religion, but we did have johnny cash, shower beer and friday the thirteenth. my mom who won’t have a thing to do with church will go out of her way to avoid people on a full moon or friday the thirteenth. as far as i can tell, they are the only things she fears, so when i woke up today, and it was already strange as shit, i kind of knew what i was in for.
today i paid my last month’s rent at this apartment, which in and of itself was kind of surreal. on my way into walmart to buy a money order, i saw a man at a booth in the rain, asking for money for charity. i don’t know whether to blame it on the man being alone or the rain or the booth of what, but i stopped and asked what he was raising money for. i could not just keep walking when he asked for help. it’s so bizarre and foreign to me, this afternoon, how i’ve walked by hundreds of these booths and said no to cashiers asking for a dollar for children’s hospitals, but i could not tell this man asking for care packages for soldiers overseas the familiar “no” i have told so many others.
i gave him all of the money in my wallet. it could have been boy scouts or cancer or anything, and i would have given all i had. i doled out my $25 like it was nothing, like it was pennies and receipts and cigarette cellophane lining the bottom of my purse. i gave that man all my weekend money, the drunk and the food of the next two days. he asked if i needed a tax deductible receipt, and i said “no?” like are you fucking stupid, what would i do that for?
it took me buying my money order and getting back in my truck to realize that i had given away more money than i am willing to spend on almost anything. this afternoon, when i counted my tips, i was so glad! it was more than i thought and enough for the whole weekend, and in some surreal, blurred state, i gave it all away. in my inability to walk away, to say no, to go do what i came for, i gave all of my money to charity. i’ve done worse. outloud, counting my money at work, i said, “this will get me drunk” and instead it’s sending a care package, which i can’t be mad about, and it’s a funny story, really, but how? how did it end up like that? just this trance of giving away.
on my drive home, i saw a man in a cadillac shoving chinese noodles into his mouth with a fork off of a real dinner plate he was holding with one hand, gobbling down noodles at the stop light, and i could not stop laughing. then i saw the mas amigos food truck next to the snow cone place, and i almost cried for how much i miss austin and my brother and how great texas is and my memories of it. this morning i woke up at 8am sharp to a strange sound, and despite my probably still drunk state, i thought “that sounds like someone starting a motorcycle without choke.” i texted george about it later, how weird it is, how dumb i am, how distinct i felt the sound was, and he said “you’re right. i turned over the bike this morning.” seriously, you guys, what in the world?
it is the 14th now, and i am in the clear. i will sleep deeply and well, wake up late tomorrow and be okay. but the 13th felt out of my control, a momentum and force all its own. the giving away of money and seeing of things and happenings. the warm night air and the people and the current of it all.
in the same way that the class being cancelled twice made me wanna keep trying it, falling off the bike makes me just want to perfect it.
a lot of my life so far has been spent feeling like i don’t deserve things if they don’t come easily, or that i’m just not cut out for or good at or worthy of. it occurred to recently how absurd that is, but also, it’s just what i have been told. i’ve grown up in a family with little faith in me outside of my mind, outside of school and “smart.” i’m done with that, though, and 20 hours into something is not a point to give up.
i’m a slow but thorough learner, i have learned. doing the thing wrong and seeing why it is wrong is just as important to me as why right is right.
what i want is to be thorough and determined and courageous, and i am getting there one time i fall off a motorcycle and get back on after another. my skinned knees and elbows will be testament to the giving up i am giving up.
i desperately need to sleep. i need to be up at 6! to ride motorcycles again! but instead, i just want to read gear reviews, find the toughest boot that won’t take my toenails off, decide whether i should go internal or external frame backpack, find a tent for less than two hundred dollars. but motorcycles!
what i’m feeling here is that at some point in the last few months, my life got seriously, incredibly cool.
i have tried twice to take the motorcycle rider safety course only to have the class cancelled. the instructor stood at the front of the classroom in disbelief, in his years of teaching the class has been cancelled 5 times. i was present for two of them within six months of each other.
the first time it was cancelled i thought it was probably good because maybe i was acting out of ego. newly single and looking to do the most badass thing i could think of, become a motorcycle fanatic. it was a show, maybe, and my heart wasn’t entirely in the right place. except that six months later, i still want to learn.
the second time it was cancelled, last monday, i freaked out thinking i’m not cut out for this, i’m gonna scatter my limbs along an interstate somewhere because i failed to see some gravel or took a turn too hard. or maybe i’ll never figure a clutch out? like i’m somehow less equipped to ride a motorcycle than others.
when i was in texas, my big brother wrecked his bike. it was really weird and surreal, and this is the first i’ve been able to talk about it because we were keeping it a secret from mom (!!!), but i got drunk yesterday and told her because i’m probably a better daughter than i am a sister.
coming home from luckenbach, taking an uphill curve, he hit a patch of unseen gravel, sending his bike up and over a guard rail and leaving him sliding on the road until his head bounced off the same guard rail his bike was on the opposite side of.
we were following him in his car, and i didn’t realize i wasn’t wearing shoes until i was running out of the car before it was stopped. he stood up. he came out of the slide across the road and just stood up, took his helmet off, kissed it and made me promise not to tell mom.
the cracked helmet made it pretty clear he would have been dead without it. it was totally shattered where his head hit. his jacket was shredded, saving his arms and legs. a broken toe, some bad bruising and a totaled bike, but he lived and is fine and got the week off work for it. we were able to make jokes.
but only because some spitting rain changed the days bare armed, no helmet ride into a protected one. spitting rain. he was sliding across the gravel, the second day of the trip, and i kept thinking to myself stop, stop fucking sliding, this isn’t fair, i’m just getting to know my brother. and i am getting to know my brother, still, even though that was one of the scariest things i’ve ever had to witness. i had nightmares and called my younger brother three times to talk about it.
the class is offered again tomorrow, and i spent all week battling over whether i show up or not, if those other two times were a sign, but really i think they were more of a test. i’m going to go to class tomorrow and learn how to ride a motorcycle. i’m going to take it slow and not act too cool and learn something totally exciting and scary in the most boring, methodical way possible. a 20 hour class.
i’ve battled with ego, and i’ve battled with fear. i think maybe it’s time i remember why i like motorcycles so much again.