I Cheated On My Gym

Download-2I cheated on my old gym. I fell for a younger, shinier gym that opened very near my house.  It's spanking new, with lockers that lock, beautiful exercise rooms, mountains of equipment, flowers in the entrance and a person who swiped my membership card and said, "Have a great workout, Kate!"

I was also lulled by the robust class schedule - so many options at so many times.

Because breaking up is hard to do - and I had a longterm relationship with my old gym -  I just put my membership on hold. This new gym cost twice as much as my old one. But it was so close! And so beautiful!

Well, it's been two months and I've returned to my old gym with my tail between my legs. Gyms, it turns out, are about a good fit. The classes at Gym Shiny were filled with young mothers who look like the women in that yoga picture. The instructors shouted things like, "Come on, Ladies. It's almost bikini season!" or "You know you want your butt to look good in those booty shorts."

Uh, no. I do not work out so I can have a rocking body to display (thank God). Sure, I want to be fit, but it's to be able to take the long hikes I enjoy, lug around heavy things, and accrue all the other benefits of exercise, like better cardiovascular health, stronger bones, more flexibility, etc. You know - to live my life.

On top of that, the robust-looking class schedule at Club Shiny was misleading. Many of them required you to pay extra. Say what? I'm already paying a hefty monthly fee.

My first day back at Gym Old Faithful, I took a class with my favorite instructor. As we were setting up, she said, "Before we begin, great news! Pam is a grandmother for the second time!" We all applauded. Pam is a doctor who takes the same strength class I do. Then when we were doing a leg exercise, our instructor said, "Let's really work this, because summer is coming. And we want to be able to be able to take long walks to enjoy it!"

Ah, I'm back with my peeps. I am sorry I strayed and I've learned my lesson.

Oh, one more thing: the classes at Gym Old Faithful are actually far more challenging than the ones at Gym Shiny. Even if the goal is not bikini-ready bodies. 


Maddy (2005-2019)

Maddy   
    Fourteen years ago, a tiny stray kitten wandered into a jewelry store in Annapolis, Maryland. And in one of those weird twists of life, she ended up in our New York home.

    The basics: our daughter's college boyfriend's little sister had a part-time job in that store. She brought the little stray home, but her Mom was allergic to cats. Overnight, that cat somehow became our responsibility. My daughter argued that the kitten was likely to go to a kill shelter unless we took it. "Her death will be on your hands," she told me darkly. (My daughter has a flare for the dramatic.)

    Anyway, we ended up with Maddy.  She was tiny, four months old, very vocal (every hop up and down any surface was accentuated with a quizzical "Meww?" almost as if she wondered what had just happened. Our vet  looked at her and described her as "riding the short bus," a very politically incorrect way of describing what she saw as Maddy's vacuity. 

    It's true that it took Maddy a few years to master her name. And she still struggled to understand that both sliding doors led into the house. But oh, what a sweet girl she was! Full of affection and love. For such a small  cat (she never exceeded 8 lbs at her heaviest) she had a mighty purr, and she wasn't scared of anything or anyone.

    Maddy adored my husband, and followed him around like a puppy. She stretched when he stretched, meditated when he meditated, curled up and watched hockey games with him and slept on his side of the bed.

    Last night our vet (not the one who dissed Maddy but a different and lovely one) came to our house to put Maddy down. The kitty had cancer and it was spreading. Maddy was really sick and had no chance of recovering. She was suffering.

    Maddy curled up in Mike's lap while the vet gave her a sedative. After she was very sleepy, the vet gave her a second shot to put her down. The whole time we were petting Maddy and telling her how much we loved her. It was a peaceful end, and she was carried away in the little blue kitty bed she loved.

    We thanked Maddy repeatedly for all the love she brought into our lives. 

    Who knows how long I will keep waiting for her to round the corner, making her little mewing sound and jump into my lap?


Comfort

ImagesThe second anniversary of my Dad's death is coming up. The deep mourning - that feeling that your heart is actually sinking inside your body - has passed. But I miss him all the time. Some days are harder than others.

When my Dad was in his final days, I got some good advice. Ask for something of his - a sweater, a shirt - just something tangible of his to have and to hold. Now I have several pieces of his clothing, though inevitably they've had to be washed and have gradually lost his smell. But still they give me comfort.

Just last night I felt a sharp need to be with him. I slept in one of his old t-shirts, and thought of it as my Dad giving me a long hug. 

 


Is "Closure" real?

Download-1Last week, we (my co-teacher and I) wrapped up our memoir writing class at the-place-that-can't-be-named. 

It has been an emotionally tough month. We were very worried about one class member's mental health.  Another class member had graphically shared so much about his past that we were worried about our mental health. The writing prompts stimulated memories and feelings that were sometimes overwhelming for students and teachers alike.

The program that sponsors our class asked us to provide "closure" at the final class. We all spent time discussing what worked and didn't work in the course. I confessed that I sometimes felt like a surgeon who opened up their chests and then left them, hearts exposed, on the operating table.

"Yeah, it sometimes feels like that," one class member told me, while others nodded in agreement.

But in the end,  it was a lovely last class. The guys surprised us by writing pieces about what they had gotten out of the course. And we surprised them by writing about what we had gotten got out of the course.  This experience was definitely a two-way street. 

Closure? I'm not so sure we achieved that. But I'm also not convinced it's that important. Or even possible.

 


Neverland, Never more....

Download-4I finally forced myself to watch "Neverland" - the two-part HBO documentary on Michael Jackson's alleged child molestation. 

Now, I need to calm down. 

I'd been a fan of Michael Jackson since he was a little kid -  from his Jackson 5 days to nearly the end. So many amazing danceable songs, from "I Want You Back" to "PTY (Pretty Young Thing)." And the performances - mind blowing!

I didn't want to watch that documentary. But I had to watch that documentary. 

It was painful. I found myself talking out loud to the screen. First to the young men who were recounting the sexual abuse, I kept saying, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you went through this." And to their mothers, who I tried not to judge to harshly, but in the end couldn't help it: "What the hell were you thinking?"

It's actually made depressingly clear what the families were thinking. Michael Jackson was a classic predator. He befriended the families of the young boys he was interested in. Soon, the family was swept up into a world of limousines and backstage passes. Jackson promised to make their sons "stars." Lavish gifts were bestowed. Gradually Jackson would isolate the boy from his family, until yup- why not let a seven-year-old sleep in the bed of a grown man?

Yeah, yeah, I know, Michael Jackson didn't have a childhood, he was a mess, he was lonely, he was massively talented. But he was a pedophile.

So other than sorrow and anger (and no little amount of disgust) I don't know how I feel about all those great songs. Download-3 It feels similar to the way I can't watch Woody Allen movies anymore -especially the appalling "Manhattan" in which he depicts it as perfectly normal for an adult man (himself of course) to be sleeping with a high school student. 

On the on hand, that's crazy. So many great artists were personally twisted but create such beauty. If we dismissed all painters, musicians and writers based on judgement of their personal lives, what would be left? 

But this feels different. 


Say what? Part 2 - the legal version.

Download-2Awhile back, I wrote a post about using an online transcription service to convert my mp3 interview recordings into text.  That was for this story about opioids, which involved many interviews with police. 

The technology is not yet perfected, and my transcript was full amusing goofs, like translating "some narcotics" into "summer cottage."

Today, I present the legal version. I'm profiling a famous lawyer, and went to hear him speak last week. He referenced some major cases and talked about his practice. Here are a few of my favorite transcription gaffs:

"Bush v Gore": Grocery Store

"It's now constitutionally required to enable anybody to get married, regardless of sex." : "It's now constitutionally required to enable anybody to get at the better car for us, sex."

"There was too much ferment out there." : There was too much for men out there.

"As it might have been." : A vitamin

"Posterity" : "Pasta Veggie."

Despite its limitations, I still am grateful that I no longer have to transcribe a recording word for word. Your honor, ladies and gentleman of the jury, I rest my case.

 

 


A Small Thing

DownloadThis week, I was visiting my daughter. She has "Alexa" - that personal-assistant thing from Amazon. (Yes, I know. I'm ancient.)

Anyway, we were in her apartment making dinner and she asked, "Mom, do you want to listen to some music?" "Sure," I replied. "What do you want to listen to?"  "Whatever you've got," I said. She paused. "How about the Beatles?" "Great!"

After which she simply said, "Alexa, please play the Beatles."

What got me? Not the technology. It was that my daughter has such lovely manners that she says "please" to a machine. A small thing. But sweet. Like my daughter.

 

 


Come Back....

Download-3My dreams are populated with my Dad, my beloved friend Missy, and my little brother, all of whom died in the last two years. 

Dad comes and checks on me as I lay in my childhood bed. He kisses my forehead and listens to my childhood evening prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."

Billy, my brother, is often morphed with my son Paul in my dreams.  He is always young - maybe six - and he's in trouble. I'm trying to help him but I can't.

Missy has been alive all along, her death a prank. I am torn between fury and relief.

In my waking life, I'm reading "The Unwinding of the Miracle" by Julie Yip-Williams, a cancer memoir. The author is dead now, but I just listened to a podcast featuring her husband, sister and best friend. They all believe she has sent them signs from the other world. 

But I don't see any signs. I just long for them.


Language Abuse!


Download-4Last night, my new supervisor came to observe the writing class I co-teach at The-Place-That-Can't-Be-Named. We discussed putting together a chapbook (kind of an enhanced pamphlet) of the men's work. 

"Of course you two will curate the collection," he told us.

NO! NO! NO! We will EDIT this collection. Please can we retire the word "curate" or at least keep it for those who arrange art shows at the Met?  The photo illustrating this piece is labeled as a "curated salad." As you can see, you can curate your closet. Honest to God, I went grocery shopping at Shoprite today, and the sign over the deli department read "Curated Sandwiches."  Pah-leez. Download-5

And don't get me going on "artisanal." Artisanal cheese, artisanal coffee, artisanal beer, artisanal perfume. I guess my tooth implant is "artisanal" because it was specially crafted for my mouth. UGH.

Meanwhile, the men in class wrote some particularly heartbreaking and beautiful memoir. On the way home from teaching, a news alert popped up on my phone: Paul Manafort's less than 4-year-prison sentence. The racial injustice in this country is sickening.


Meditation on Meditation

Download-2Generally, I'm about 20 years behind trends, so I only just started a meditation practice this winter. Much of my adult life, I've been told by well-meaning people - or passive aggressive people, or both - that I needed to meditate. This Anxiety Girl is high strung, of course, and it shows.

In my book, telling an anxious person to relax is akin to telling a depressed person to cheer up. Do they think I enjoy anxiety? Do they believe I don't aspire to a less frightened, worrisome, thoughts racing, disaster-imagining mind? See? I'm getting worked up again.

Anyway, what finally inspired me to meditate was my doctor. I was worried about becoming forgetful, (okay, Anxiety Girl thought she was losing her mind) and the doc had two main suggestions. One - stop taking Tylenol PM to sleep. The "PM" is basically antihistamine, and can screw up your memory over time. Two - try meditation. Because she is a physician I respect, I did not roll my eyes in front of her.

I tend to be a compliant little thing, so I dutifully downloaded a meditation app. (I also weaned myself Download-3off the Tylenol PM but that's another story.) Much to my shock, I am really, really enjoying the practice. I've done some basic series, a series on balance, a series on anxiety and just finished a series on appreciation. It really does calm me and make me feel better and more clear-headed.

Of course, I'm the opposite of a natural. There's a point during each session when the kind voice on the app says to let your mind just do what it wants for a minute - don't worry about focusing on the breath or the subject. By that point, chances are that my mind was no longer focused on the breath anyway. But each time, I get this image of my brain neurons suddenly getting permission to  party and race around, squealing and jumping up and down. Then the mellow voice tells me to gently bring my attention back to the breath.

In out. In out. In out. 

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Can't Write This Post

Download...Because I'm not supposed to post anything on social media about the memoir class I co-teach. I'm not naming names. But I do believe I've previously posted that to get to our classroom, we need multiple security clearances, and the men that we are teaching are not going anywhere for a very long time.

The men's writing continues to amaze me. There are two worlds 45 minutes from where I live, about which I've been completely ignorant. About 40 minutes - okay may an hour - south, and I'm in the neighborhood where  many of these guys grew up. About 45 minutes to the north west, and I'm at the place they currently reside. Both places are rich with despair. 

Painstakingly and with courage, every week these men chronicle their lives, digging deep into their experiences. I don't romanticize what they've done. But I'm so grateful to be able to help them  get their fear, anger, regret, shame, hope, longing and love from out of their heads and on to paper.