A few years ago, Lee and I joined a gym. At the time, I was a project lead for a major system implementation at work. A 10 hour workday was a vacation, and a 12-hour stint was the norm. I’ll be honest – just thinking back on that time makes me shudder. I hated my life then.
Because of my crazy work schedule, we hauled our asses out of bed at 3:30 or 4 am to drink some coffee, have a decent breakfast, and get to the gym when it opened at 5. We did this at least 3 days during the workweek. On the weekends, we went at a more leisurely time but worked out just as hard.
The extra padding I’d carried around for years melted away. I went from chubby to average to – dare I say it – FIT. I loved the way I looked in my clothes, and the way my body felt when I moved.
The only problem was my writing. Or lack thereof. I was an exercise machine, and slimmer than I’d ever thought I could be. I was also a systems implementation robot, working like a fiend. When I finally crashed at night, I slept like a vampire in a coffin – dead to the world. At least until that 3:30 am alarm sounded.
Over time, we moved from weight loss to maintenance mode, and eased up a little on the workouts. The system I’d been slaving over at work went live. Although I still always have more work to do than a standard week allows, it is nothing like it was during the implementation phase.
So gradually, I started having a life outside of work and working out. When my head had time to clear, I realized how much I missed writing, and started to dabble a bit. Lee got a very physical job, and was basically getting a 6-8 hour workout every day while earning a paycheck. I started doing weights at home and outdoor walking for my fitness maintenance, to cut out the crazy commute to the gym. Life went on.
Then, around the time of my 40th birthday, the writing bug hit me like a truck. I became super-conscious of the passage of time and how desperately I wanted to meet my goals before 50.
Since then, I’ve been getting up at 4 am often again. This time, it is to write. I write, or do work related to writing (research, exploring writer’s blogs and publishing opportunities, participating in writer’s forums) in the morning and for large chunks of the weekends. I often steal more time at night or during lunch. I treat writing like a second and almost-full-time job.
I’m back in implementation mode again. Only this time, what I’m implementing is MY dream.
The problem? Well, it is pretty much the opposite of what it was during my work-frenzied, workout queen days. Back then, the writer in me was locked in a cage, screaming to get out. But I ignored her, because I didn’t have time to deal with her. I knew damn well how all-consuming she is when I let her out.
Now, she’s got the reigns. I have to shove her back in the closet when I need to focus on my job, but she knows she’ll be free again soon. She monopolizes my life.
It is my ass that is starting to scream. Or at least the jeans I try to shove it in.
Yes, since getting serious about writing, I’ve let my exercise regimen dwindle to almost nothing. I’ll get up, do some stretching, and think about putting on my tennis shoes for a walk. But like a magnet, my computer draws me in, and before I know it my slowly expanding ass is glued to my chair.
Most of my new-me clothes still fit, but they are tighter than they were. When you know your body, you can tell the difference. That tummy area that was muscle is now soft flab. Those pants that fit like a perfect second skin before now make you look like a sausage.
It is the beginning of ass-creep, the dreaded thing your body does when you ignore it. It starts to expand on you in a desperate attempt to get your attention.
I want to be a writer. But I don’t want to be a writer with a butt the size of Texas. I don’t want to write a horror story about an author who finished her book only because her fat ass couldn’t get up out of her chair.
Ok, so I’m exaggerating. My ass isn’t THAT absurd. Yet. But for me, after all the effort I put into losing it before, the thought of having to go buy larger clothes is just as much of a horror story. That’s not the main character I want to be.
For a while, I’ve been in denial about this. The dryer is the reason I have to suck in my stomach to zip those pants. It has nothing to do with the fact that I keep a roof over my head by sitting at a computer 8-10 hours a day in my office, and then come home and plop my numb ass into another chair to sit for another 3-4 hours of writing work.
Then I went through a whiny phase. “But. But. But. I’m making so much progress with my writing goals! It isn’t MY fault I have to work so hard. If I could only afford to live on a lower salary, I could get a job that wasn’t so demanding or required more movement. It isn’t fair. Waaaahhhh!”
It is time to admit that I’m not special. There’s no hoodoo magic that will let me have the body I had when I was working out if I sit in front of a computer all day. And as much as I’d like it to be the case, I can’t give up working, and I won’t give up writing. So it seems like what’s gonna have to give is sleeping. Currently, I give shuteye about 6 hours a night. By cutting that back to 4-5 most nights, and giving in for a crash-night when I need to, I can do this without cutting out any writing time, and maybe even still have something like a social life.
Fate has tossed me a bone, though. Two of the things I hated most about the gym were the commute and the locker room. Traffic makes me anxious to the point of queasiness. I’ve always been a freak that way. And the ladies at my old gym were prone to striking up chats while I scrambled to get ready for work after exercising. I’d be standing there putting on makeup, and they’d chatter away like magpies.
Hey, I’m all about being comfortable in your own skin. But that doesn’t mean I want to have your cooch or your floppy boobs staring back at me in the mirror while I’m putting my face on.
A few months ago, the gym we belong to announced that it is opening a new branch, right around the corner from my house. I could literally walk there in five minutes. This means no more excuses. There is no commute. And if I want to, I can work out and then run home to fix myself up for whatever comes next in my day in the comfort of my own bathroom. The only cooch and boobs I’ll see in the mirror are my own. I can fit exercise in almost anytime, around my writing and my job, with very little effort.
If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Writing strange stories of absurd situations makes you superstitious. I have convinced myself that if I don’t take the lifeline that’s being tossed to me so generously, I WILL try to rise from my computer chair one day and realize that my ass has gotten permanently glued there. While that may make for fun fiction, it isn’t who I want to be.
The new gym opens July 1, and I’m getting back in the game. So is Lee, since he’s no longer at that uber-physical job.
I will still write on. But it will be my compilation of finished works that grows larger. Not my bum.
After all, what writer doesn’t want to be hot at her first book signing?