16 June 2009

I am lazy

I have been lazy my entire life. I have never liked to do anything physical. I'm not comfortable in my body. It's like I'm wearing a stranger's heavy, ill-fitting coat. My life has been one big fight to get done what I need to get done and still do as little as possible. And everything I enjoy doing - with the possible exception of listening to books on tape - involves sitting on my butt.

When I was a child, Mom would make rules about where I could take a book or pen and paper. Never into the bathroom. I wouldn't be seen again until Thanksgiving. Not into the yard. Go outside and get some fresh air, she'd say. You're not going to spend the weekend lying on your bed. Surely she didn't think she was going to look out the kitchen window and see me frolicing on the big lawn. She knew me by then. I would climb up the buckeye tree, from which I could see three blocks in several directions, and sit. Sometimes I would skate, which was effortless and made you feel like a movie star, as long as you knew where the sidewalk was cracked. I also enjoyed scribbling bitterly in my secret journal about the conspiracy unfolding all around me.

When I say that I'm not willing to do something physical, I'm not going to change my mind. I know my limitations. My mother learned this, but my teachers couldn't accept it. I didn't bend. I had teachers make me run laps around the cinder track for weeks, and around the gym when the weather was bad, because I wouldn't jump over a string of hurdles. That was a reasonable deal to me. Punishment would have been for them to continue to badger and bully me, call attention to me, tire me out before I even got started running. The same teacher made me wear a sign that said I was an idiot. I had asked her when in the world I was going to need the ability to jump off a vaulting box and over a pommel horse. I refused to do it.

I was like Bartleby the scrivener. I preferred not to. Anything. My freshman year in high school there was this program called the Presidential Challenge or some such thing. You had to do a certain number of sit-ups and push-ups and run the 50-yard dash in a certain number of seconds and climb a certain number of feet up a rope. The teacher carried around a clipboard and verified our abilities. I declined to climb a rope. I didn't like how it looked when girls got stuck halfway up, their arms shaking, their feet clamped on top of each other on top of a knot, not knowing whether to give up or go on. For no real reason. There was no reason to climb up a rope. My parents didn't even like Richard Nixon.

In high school, being lazy was difficult. Someone was always inviting me to go somewhere, and my mother was all in favor of it. She'd push me to go to a dance with some boy whose mother impressed her. Or to a picnic with some family she considered high class. Or the worst: Stay over night at someone's house. I wanted to stay home and read Edgar Allen Poe and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and memorize poems by e.e. cummings and T.S. Elliot. I wanted to watch Monty Python reruns on the educational channel and lie in bed with my transitor radio under my pillow, tuned to WLS, which wasn't all talk back then.

Swimming doesn't work for me either. I have taken lessons since I was a child and the last time I did so I was 45 years old. As a child, I sat on a bench safely far off of the tiled lip of the public pool and waited for lessons to be over. My mother paid 50 cents a week for me to ride the bus to the class on Saturday mornings, but I never once got wet. Not even tempted. The teacher quickly gave up trying to talk me into trying. Well-meaning adults would push or toss me into a body of water, believing that I would automatically swim by some instinct to save myself. Not so. I was fished out several times.

As an adult, I decided that swimming was just too hard. I was missing some vital piece of information, some technique that would make it feel effortless and fishy. Exley would swim, slow and steady, up and down the pool, caring not one bit if the water was four feet or fifteen feet deep. I'd see kids swimming in the deep end like it was fun. The best I could do was put a boogie board under my chest and flap my legs and arms like hell, hardly moving through the water at all. Not worth the effort to paddle that hard for nothing.

I never liked riding a bicycle either. I become very tired imagining and avoiding calamity. I begged my mom to give me $10 for my fifteenth birthday so that I could buy a used bike. Our little town had brick-paved streets. I was afraid of traffic, even on foot, and couldn't judge speed and distance all that well. (I have no idea how I missed learning these things, but even now I'm challenged.) I rode the bicycle about three blocks, started to wobble, fell over into the gutter, and skinned my palms and knees. See how my treacherous body is involved in my laziness? After that I was willing only to ride on the handlebars of my friends' bikes; all I had to do was hold on and keep my feet out of the spokes.

I'm so lazy that I am even a terrible traveler. It's too much trouble to go to another country. Too much trouble to run for a plane. Much too much trouble to arrange for the travel and buy the tickets and make the decisions required. I did it once, and I was so tired by the time I arrived that I fell asleep on top of a motel bedspread in Amsterdam and missed the last total eclipse of the sun for that century. The amount of energy it takes just to get somewhere else is triple the amount it would take me to read sixteen books during a week off work. And that I'd enjoy doing.

Why can't I just stay in my house and live the simple life of Kwai Chang Caine? I like to drive - or rather I like to be driven - slowly through the country. I like to walk on country roads and I like to look at things, especially in forests, nurseries, and old structures. I like to shut all the lights off and watch a good HD movie on the big-screen TV. I like to go to antique shops and read all the tags and guess what things are and ask a lot of questions and try on hats when no one is looking. I like museums and forts and farms and state parks. I like to make things of paper and cloth.

Well, lazy goes along with fat, I guess. I don't like exercise, even though I claim I'm interested in losing weight. But yesterday I asked myself to do something about it. I flapped my arms and marched and ran in place and did push-ups and toe-touches for 30 minutes, following Kirstie Alley's (a nut) instructions on Twitter. I could do this every day; I didn't even feel close to a heart attack. I started to sweat, which I usually take as a signal to stop immediately, but I worked through it. It is supposed to be good for you. Pores or something.

Here's the dirty rotten secret: It wasn't nearly as hard as I had imagined it would be. Nobody's making me, so I have only myself to blame for getting physical. I feel silly reporting that after the workout I felt very good for probably a full hour or more. When I walked to my car after work, I sped up and learned this: If I'd stop taking these little bitty steps like you do when you wear nice heels and started taking big old man steps, it can be a bit of a workout over to the parking structure. I had a few nice tingles in my legs and got home five minutes earlier than usual.

I have this funny body shape, created by childbirth and gaining a hundred pounds more than I need and my serious commitment to laziness. I look like a pregnant old lady. I believe I'm described as an apple shape. My figure reminds me a lot of a Rubens model. I can't find clothes or even sewing patterns to fit correctly. I would like to achieve the semblance of a waist, so I made that my goal for this exercise adventure. A waist - even just one inch smaller than my hips. Is it possible? I don't know. I'll have to see if I can keep myself moving.

Thanks for riding along with me. I'll pick you up tomorrow.

So do you hate exercise? If you do it, what keeps you going? If you don't do it, do you ignore all the advice and studies and experts? How often? What kind? Why? Have you ever felt as though your body is an awkward stranger you don't like very much? Help.


powdergirl said...

Sorry Lady, can't really relate. I love to work out, love. it.
But I think that the life of the mind is just as important and obviously, yours is a rich one.
Can't believe that teacher made you wear an idiot sign.
What a b22ch!

Hey, good luck with it, and that part where you talk about taking big old man steps?

Absolutely the right attitude!

SugarCain said...

Give me more advice as you think of it, powdergirl. I think I can do it.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I'm proud of you for taking the initiative. Keep up the good work!

Tamis said...

I am with you. I have a hard time getting started. Once I get going I feel good it is just hard to remember that feeling. I also feel like this is not the body I have. I know if I look at a picture of me it looks one way, the way I see is another. The picture in real life needs some work...

I bought a wii fit. We will see if that helps.

Your honesty and openness was a nice read today, thanks!

powdergirl said...

Since you asked, haha.
Sorry, one of my favorite topics, fitness.

When you're striding out, walking like a man(or a purposeful woman) try thinking about the food you'll eat next. Think about it as fuel only. Fuel can delicious,
but it has to feed your muscles and mind, else it's just a traitor.

Really, all you have to is walk and eat smart food most of the time. There is no better way to lose weight, and it really is that simple.

Um, simple carbs are not smart food, they are an occasional dessert ; )

The Gossamer Woman said...

I get all my exercise quite by accident. I ride my bike everywhere I have to go and walk the dog three times a day. That's it for me, I hate exercising and am a slowpoke. I don't like physical exertion. I take many breaks when I do something. I will never be a Jane Fonda work out nut.