Monday, August 15, 2011

Y'all, I went to a real gym and sweated real sweat.

When Dad asked me if I wanted to go to the Wellness Center with him, I knew I had to make a decision. It's not that I hate exercising, or sweating, or being tired. But being out of breath sets my body into panic mode; it's the same reason I don't take hot baths.
On the other hand, my parents are trying to stay healthy and I knew that if I accompanied my father, he'd have one more reason to go. So I bucked up and took the plunge.
"That sounds great, Dad. Give me a minute to get ready," I called down the stairs.
Then the real crisis began: crisis of mind. I had never been to a gym to work out. I've exercised in my own home or outdoors, but this gym territory was foreign to me. I racked my brain. How could I make myself look the least like an outsider?
Clothing. This was a particular challenge since I usually just do abs in my pajamas. I dug to the bottom of my drawers and this is what I came up with:
A dry fit shirt, purchased two years ago for a wilderness trek I endured as a mandatory event for a class. Worn maybe twice.
A pair of sofee shorts, which appeared in my drawer after some sleepover and have been collecting dust ever since.
A pair of socks with a Nike swoosh on them, which I scavenged from the trashcan this past year on dorm moveout day.
My tennishoes, lightly used after five years of ownership.

My costume donned, I pulled my hair back in a ponytail that was higher than I've worn in years and silently wished for one of those elastic headbands that cool soccer girls wear. Or a sweatband at least. People wear those, right?
I walked downstairs and looked down at the snack I had set out earlier for myself. Two graham crackers. Better eat just one, I thought, since I haven't yet built up an immunity to stomach cramps.
I decided to bring my iPod, because from my observation, people who listen to music during workouts look much more intense. But I couldn't find my earbuds anywhere. My usual headphones, huge padded Sony's, would be a dead giveaway to my outsider status, so I snagged a pair of airline earbuds, straightening out the curves in the cord from where it had been shrinkwrapped, hoping no one would notice.
On the car ride over, I made a mental layout of the gym. (Before I was old enough to stay home alone, I used to go with my parents when they played racquetball, but I would just read in the Children's center. I intentionally left my book at home this time to eliminate the temptation.) I called to memory the location of the elliptical machines and my mind created the quickest mapquest route through the weights and the bowflexes, hoping my knowledge of the floor would make me look like a regular pro.

As soon as I stepped into the gym, I realized how silly I had been. Most of the constituents of the Wellness Center are 45-and-older New Year's Resolution members who are in too much agony over their own workout to be worried about anyone else's.
We only had about half an hour before closing, so I ran about 3 miles on the machine and did some abs. Totally fine. No one cared.

On the ride home, I contemplated what my own actions had said about me. There's the obvious: I care too much about what people think when most people are too worried about themselves to worry about me.
But I came to another conclusion as well.
Sometimes, I spend more time trying to give the semblance of proficiency than actually working to become proficient. Take the mornings where I debate with myself over whether or not to shower. I spend five minutes in front of the mirror trying to see if I will need a shower. I spend five more minutes washing my armpits and face, because they must be cleaned no matter what. I spend ten minutes trying to do my hair in a way that will not betray the grease. I spend five more minutes examining my reflection to see if I succeeded. I could've taken two showers in this amount of time.
If it's worth enough to me to try to look like I'm doing something, it's follows logically that the thing must be important to me, so shouldn't I spend my time actually accomplishing it?
After ruminating on these thoughts during the ride home, I'm ashamed to say...I still planned a trip to the grocery store just so I could be seen in public in my workout garb. I guess I'm a work in progress.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Still under the effects of Nitrous Oxide.

I am mostly curious to see if this post is coherent when I check back in later. But I also want to blog about getting my wisdom teeth out.
I was scheduled for 2 Pm today. I probably went into the OR around 2:30. It is now 4:30 PM, and the surgery lasted around an hour, so I am approximately 1 hour out.
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas as it is colloquially known, was my pain assistant of choice. I could've gone under general anesthesia, but something about being totally knocked out didn't appeal to me.
When they put the chamber over my nose, I must admit to feeling like I was being executed. I did not die, though, as evidenced by this post. Instead, it felt like everything around me was a dream. The surgeon asked me if it was starting to feel right, if I was starting to get the buzz. "I don't know," I told him. "I've never been high before."
Regina, my bubbly blonde Southern belle of a nurse who granted me a warm blanket beforehand and patted my shoe every once in a while for reassurance, told me that people often say they feel light, or they feel heavy. I could identify with both of those, feeling my body become tingly but feeling nearly incapable of movement (although I could move just fine when I wanted to).
My expectations: feel silly, think everything is funny, laugh at everything, be embarrassed later on.
In actuality, I retained almost full mental capacity. The closest thing I can compare it to is the feeling you get when you are about to fall asleep. My eyes couldn't focus, and as the laughing gas had essentially numbed my body and the Novacaine had taken care of my mouth, it felt like a dream world where nothing has real physical repercussions. My reactions to any questions or commands were delayed, if they came at all. I stared at my empty reflection in the surgeon's glasses. "Who is this shell?" I wondered to myself, my mind racing but my eyes staring blankly ahead.
Determined to remain in control, I laughed only once, I think, when the surgeon asked what neighborhood I lived in. Rivoli Downs, I tried to say, but it came out "Illy ow" because the Novacaine had rendered my tongue and bottom lip completely useless. This struck me as funny, not because my words were silly (although they were) but because I had never had something to say and been physically unable to say it.
Really, most of the things that could be counted as silly that I did were things that I did in full knowledge of my actions. I was enthralled by my teeth in the little envelope they handed to me, and I showed them off to every passing driver on the way home, but I think I would've done that anyways. I watched myself eat in the mirror just for kicks, with my tongue rolling around, using my teeth to guide things to a place where I could swallow them. I called a friend just to share with someone how ridiculous I sounded with the gauze in my mouth. I even tried to tell a joke: the doctor told me beforehand that if I didn't have the usual 1/8 inch of bone between my tooth and my nerve, my lower lip could get nerve damage and feel numb for the rest of my life (I'll let you know once the allotted time period is up whether this is the case and if I am doomed to this embarrassing chin dribbling for eternity). When he finished the surgery, he told me I would probably be numb for about 6 hours. "Or forever," I tried to kid. But the words came out, "uh furilla" which did not have the comedic effect I wanted. By the time I got the right words across, the timing was all wrong. How frustrating.
The more time I spent on the gas, the more I became more intensely aware of the fact that this must be very similar to what it is like to live with a disability that only slightly impairs mental faculties but devastates physical abilities. Like my sweet Miguel, who can nod or shake his head to any question you ask but can barely squeak out what he's doing this weekend, not because he doesn't understand but because he can't form the sentences. It reminds me of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I appreciated the good will behind the childish tones they were using with me, but wanted to assure them that I could understand sophisticated vocabulary just as well. The jokes that were told were not that funny, the compliments about my teeth sounded only mildly sincere, the pitying looks seemed unmerited, and the repetition got old after a while. "You told me that five minutes ago" I wanted to say. But I only smiled and nodded, because I knew they just wanted to make sure it got through, and because I can't even say, "Thank you," much less a full sentence.
I think of how many people make themselves this way recreationally. Then I think of Lisa, copying those definitions out of the back of her genetics textbook because at age 35, she just wants to go to college and live in a dorm. I think I am going to be sick. But it might be the pain medication.