Exactly one year ago, I went to a party where I stood around a cocktail table and listed my ailments. My foot hurts. (you know, especially in the mornings) My knee hurts. (sharp-ish pains) My shoulder’s starting to bug me. (which I demonstrated by twirling it around, see!, ouch!) I can’t play tennis, can’t jog, can hardly walk the dogs because dammit, my foot really does hurt, and on and on. I sounded like my grandmother who, when you would ring her up, wouldn’t even bother with hello. “Is that you, Teri Lynn? My inner ear is making me so dizzy, and I haven’t moved my bowels since Tuesday!”
A woman at the table suggested I try Pilates.
Was she not listening? Didn’t she just see my twirling, aching arm? Was she crazy?! Her sister had recently opened a studio; she could get me a discount; her sister made it fun, etc… She went on, but all I could see in my head were my injuries and the torture-chamber-like Pilates equipment pictured in a book I once bought.
In a book I once bought. I’m all about the book cure. I’m the kind of person who will read a book of writing exercises and never actually do any of the writing. I’m the kind of person who will watch a program about diet and exercise while sitting on the couch with a bag of potato chips in my lap. I’ve got instruction manuals on everything from 100 Key Yoga Poses to Running for Life to The Inner Game of Tennis, and to what end? I used to do the same thing with self-help books, certain that if I learned more about personalities and tendencies I could morph myself into a more balanced person.
I still buy books on how to write a book (really, how ironic is that?). I buy them, I tote them around, I kinda-sorta read them or totally buy in, then I put them on the shelf and move on to the next book, the next thing, the next instruction manual that’s going to fix me.
That’s going to fix in me whatever must be broken.
Exactly one year ago, still afraid of the images in the book, I took my sore foot and my sore knee and my aching shoulder to my first Pilates class. The instructor put me on the reformer and I moved that carriage in and I moved that carriage out. Voila! So easy. So easy, until she said, “No no no. You have to fight the springs. If you let it, the machine will do all the work. Don’t let those springs pull you in! You control the springs.”
Which is exactly what I tend to forget when I’m reading all those manuals. On the page, it all looks simple, straightforward, within my grasp: the lifestyle transformation, the expertly crafted story, the shiny new mirage of the fixed me.
But at some point I have to figure out how to do what I am capable of doing. I can’t count on the next instruction manual or the machine to do it for me.
A year later, I’m still going to Pilates. That’s not me in the photo — ahem, it will never be — but I go 3 times a week whether I want to or not. Some days I dread the very idea of going. Some days every body part aches. Some days I feel like I’m not going to make it through the first 10 minutes, much less the hour. And some days, I absolutely can’t wait to get there, to getting stronger.
By committing to a full year, by committing to the routine, there came a point where I stopped sitting on the sidelines, wishing a new me into existence. I haven’t looked at the number on the scale in a year. The number is a number, and I’m never going to be the number I was at 25. I’m not 25. Shocking, right? But you know how sometimes (always??) obsessing over the number just makes you feel worse?
Here’s the real deal ….. Complaining about my lack of fitness doesn’t make me any stronger; complaining about my aches and pains doesn’t cure them. Reading about weight loss strategies doesn’t change the number on my scale; reading about how to write a book won’t transform my sentences into a story; reading about a healthier diet never has kept the potato chip bag out of my hands.
I control the springs.