Just Call Me Ruby

>> Thursday, February 11, 2010

Despite recent evidence to the contrary, it's no secret -- I don't like to exercise. Especially exercise for the sake of exercise... pushups in order to do more and better pushups, etc.

To inspire me properly, everything must have purpose. It must be practical. This is why I stopped taking kung fu a few years ago (well, that and it's not easy to execute a perfect roundhouse kick when you're pregnant.) After 2-3 years of working hard to become a great fighter (not that I ever became one), I asked myself, What am I fighting against? I'm not going to join the Army. I don't live in a bad neighborhood. Yet, I'm spending hours and hours of my time learning how to poke some phantom menace in the ojos (that's eyes for those of you who aren't vicariously learning Spanish through your 1st grader). Enough was enough. It just wasn't practical anymore.

And thus began the steady process of me falling out of shape.

I knew I was in physical decline. That's what happens when you work 40 hours a week at a desk in front of a computer. It's inevitable. So, inspired by a friend's recent foray into the fitness world, I joined her and we took a weekly boot camp class. It was good. Our butts were sufficiently kicked.

However, as is my way, I began to question its practicality. Sure, I can inch-worm-push-up my way across the gym floor, but I've yet to find a compelling reason to do that in my daily life. I needed a way to justify my exercise. If only I could apply my exercising towards developing a practical skill of some kind.

And that's when I discovered three little words: Adult Beginning Gymnastics.

Of course! That's it! Instead of exercising to exercise, I could exercise to gain awesome gymnastic skills. I could learn how to perform a backwards straddle roll, hold a handstand, and even perfect my cartwheel. I mean, what could be more practical than that?! (Hold it right there -- let me remind you that these little illusions are keeping me in shape.)

So, I signed up...and proceeded to feel nauseous.

The nervousness seeped in slowly. I wasn't sure why at first. Doubts echoed through my mind. What have I done? I'm 39! As a kid, I dropped gymnastics after a few lessons because I was afraid of the balance beam, for God's sake!

Doubt... nausea...

What's to worry about? I reasoned. I'm an adult. It's a class for adults. I'm sure the teacher is a professional who will work with me and my level of ability. Right?

As is often the case, a dream exposed the truth of my deepest fears. I dreamt it was the first day of gymnastics class. I walked through the door of the gymnasium to a room full of college cheerleaders, enthusiastically waiting to perfect their tumbling and gymnastics skills. They wore their cheerleading outfits. Their legs were firm and their bare midriffs lacked the excess flab that comes with producing two babies. They giggled. They kicked and landed in splits. They were nineteen. Crap. I thought this was an adult gymnastics class!

The instructor walked in (a man, maybe 23, probably named "Scott") and everyone seemed to know everyone else. Hi! Are you ready? This'll be GRRREEEAT! Then I heard the words that every outcast hates to hear. "OK, everybody, let's partner up." D'oh!

"Scott" walked over when he saw me standing on the side, partnerless. That's when she walked in. Ruby. Ruby shuffled across the floor, her white hair in tight, short ringlets, her shoulders hunched in the way that comes with advanced age. "I'm here for Adult Beginning Gymnastics," she announced. "Great!" Scott said, "You and Melissa can be partners!"

Of course. That's right. Because clearly Ruby and I are natural partners. We're both old. And ridiculous. And we have no business taking Beginning Gymnastics!

I awoke. Well, now, I thought. At least I finally know where I stand with myself. It's pretty simple, actually, and painfully common for some women my age. I had just hoped I wouldn't be one of them. I proudly announce my increasing age if anyone asks (and sometimes when they don't). I want to be the kind of woman who redefines 40, 50, 60...90, who shrugs off wrinkles, and who finds inner strength through vast life experience. But when it comes right down to it, I'm afraid of getting old, of becoming irrelevant, and then dying. Sorry, Ruby, no offense intended, but there you have it. My deepest fears revealed.

It was one of many recent awakenings. Clearly, with all the potential risks involved (the inevitable fractures of my weakening bones, the laughter of vivacious college coeds at my awkward flailing), there was only one thing for me to do. With the knowledge of my irrelevance and inevitable demise packed tightly in a ball at the pit of my stomach, I donned my gym clothes, ate an early lunch one day, and walked into my first Adult Beginning Gymnastics class.

After all, the "inner strength through vast life experience" isn't going to happen if I just sit at my desk all day eating Girl Scout cookies.

See you in class, Ruby!


Dawn February 11, 2010 at 7:10 PM  

I need to exercise as well but have the same hang ups as you do. I do better in the warm weather (IL Sucks) when we can walk the dogs, ride bikes, etc. It's FUN! Egads, however, I really don't like all the flab and drooping I've got going on.

Artbygem February 12, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

I loved your post! Just think of the inspiration you are to your girls. If they see you challenging yourself and enjoying life no matter what your age they will remember and do the same. BTW--I just signed up for a Macromedia Flash refresher course. Now how many people my age would do that??? Gotta keep the old brain active. Good for you, Melissa! I love your spunk.

Melissa February 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM  

Well, Mom, whenever I doubt myself, I just imagine you peddling down the Old Mississippi. Then I forge ahead! :)

Rima February 12, 2010 at 1:12 PM  

I love that you're doing this. In fact, I wish they had a class like that around here, because I would sign up in a heartbeat. I used to LOVE gymnastics when I was a kid. And I have to say, I always found it to be a really fun form of exercise. It's hard, but by no means boring. If I lived closer, I would sign up and be your gymnastics partner. Please keep us updated!

Ali,  February 12, 2010 at 3:47 PM  

As usual, you impress me --- even if you don't impress yourself! I expect some sort of performance or DVD will be made when you are ready?

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