Monday, January 20, 2014

Nightmare on Gym Street

I love awkward moments.  I feel that there is nothing more human than foot-in-mouth statements, terrible-timing conversations, and pregnant pauses that make the heat rise up in your cheeks and at the top of your ears.  We've all experienced these moments where we want to just crawl up in a ball and die...or, in my case, giggle uncontrollably.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've come home and said to the husband "Oh man - you should've been there", as if I were talking about a recent promotion or a powerful homily, when really I'm talking about an instance that would make any person question every choice that they made leading up to that moment in time. 

But, my avid readers, the unthinkable has happened.  I have finally found an awkward moment that made me flee.  That made me run into my car, slam the door shut, bury my face into my hands, and mutter "Oh God, please don't let this ever, EVER happen again." 

My hubby and I recently started going to a gym down the street.  I don't mind working out, but I really, really don't like gyms.  The sad reality, though, is in Michigan, you have to have a gym membership if you have any hope of getting into shape in January.  So, we opened our wallets, forked over a ridiculous amount of cash, and started to trade off nights to hit the treadmill. 

Yesterday happened to be my workout day.  As I walked into the gym, the "odor" was a bit more pungent than usual.  Every gym I've ever been in has this distinct smell of sweat, testosterone, self-consciousness, and shattered dreams that slaps you in the face the moment you walk in the door.  But yesterday was a whole new experience for my nostrils, and not a pleasant one.  The writing on the wall clearly stated that this was not going to be the best experience in the world. 

Once I stepped in the door, I looked around and realized that the gym was full of muscle men, all of whom were staring at me with glazed over eyes.  Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am not a sight to behold when I go to work out.  Unless these guys were into the "old-ratty-t-shirt-sweatpants-no-makeup" type, I can guarantee you that I was nothing more than a change of scenery for them in the midst of their sausage fest.  I sighed heavily, made my way around the gym bags that the "bros" chose to leave on the only bench in the place (as opposed to leaving them in one of the twenty empty cubbies), changed into my running shoes, and hopped onto the treadmill.

While I was warming up and flicking through my iPod to find something to listen to, I began to hear these...sounds.  I quickly realized the guttural, demonic, half-panting noises were coming from the muscle men.  I've been trying for the past twenty-four hours to figure out how to describe this sound.  All I can come up with is a mental image of a honey badger bowing up on a mountain lion.  I looked over and saw one of the muscle men barking at his set of weights.  The other was stretching his arms, and apparently felt the need to vocalize something terrifying while loosening up.  Again, I sighed heavily, and turned on the first round of music my finger landed upon.

While I was jogging, a few other women walked into the gym (thank the Good Lord).  Two out of the three women were like me - sweat pants, t-shirt, walking in with the mindset to get something done and then get out.  We all exchanged quick smiles and nothing more.

But the third woman...

In walks the Kim Kar-trash-ian of Howell, flaunting her ebony boy short underwear and skin tight white tank top, complete with hot pink sports bra.  She wore no coat, so it was a good thing she didn't have an ass, otherwise she would have froze it off in these post-Polar Vortex days of Michigan in January. 

I admit, I can be the jealous type, but this has nothing to do with jealousy.  I wasn't enthusiastically vying for the attention of the grunting aardvarks at the far end of the building.  I'm just pointing out the obvious fact that this woman came to the gym with no intention of sweating and ruining her meticulous makeup. 

To further prove my point, I had finished my workout, cleaned up, changed into some normal winter clothes, and stood at the before-mentioned bench with my boots in hand while Mrs. Peacock was still preening her feathers.  She was looking out into the parking lot, shifting from side to side while sticking her barely-covered buttocks out for the gym-world to gaze upon - as if that qualified as stretching.  She put her hair into a tight pony-tail, but left enough of her hair out in the front so she could continuously (and sensuously) sweep it away from her eyes every five seconds.  While she was playing on her iPhone, still swaying from side to side, I stood there, boots still in hand, waiting to sit down within the two feet of space that the "bros" had left available after plopping down their gym bags.  I let out my third (and final) heavy sigh of the day, and only then did she notice me.  She rolled her eyes and moved away from the bench, only to continue her "stretching" in front of the stationary bikes.  "Thanks," I muttered. 

I plopped down, slipped my boots on, and began to lace them up.  My elbow slightly brushed one of the gym bags, which loudly crashed down on top of the outdoor shoe rack.  I scooped it up and put it back onto the bench, realizing then that the bag had been left unzipped and that some of its contents had spilled out on top of everyone's shoes.  "What idiot would leave their gym bag open on the corner of the damn -"

My thought process instantly stopped.  My face flushed crimson, and my ears began to burn.  My eyes widened as I realized what EXACTLY spilled all over the shoes.

Condoms.  Lots, and lots of condoms.  All different colored foil wrapping with the tell-tale ring raised in the center. 

Oh dear Lord, they were EVERYWHERE. 

Each pair of boots had at least one condom inside of it, with another one or two scattered on top of the lacings.  Oprah's voice began shouting in my head "You get a condom!  You get a condom!  EVERYONE GETS CONDOMS!" 

I started to breathe heavily as the debacle played out in my head.  "Do I quickly pick them up and put them back in the bag?  Then the bro might think I'm going through his stuff, and he might direct his weight-barking at me!  Ok, wait, if I do it fast enough, he won't notice...but then what if someone walks in and sees me holding all of these wrappers like I'm the Safe Sex Fairy?!"

I couldn't take it.  It was too much awkward in an incredibly short amount of time. 

I looked around - all eyes were on Mrs. Peacock who was still "stretching" and sweeping her hair from side to side Baywatch-style. 

It was the perfect moment...for me to run. 

I scooped up my purse and freaking BOLTED out the door.  I got in my Focus, blasted the radio, breathed a silent plea to the Lord that he never put something that awful into the Roadmap of My Life ever again, and left the parking lot.

On the plus side, between the sprint to my car and the overall anxiety of the situation that lasted a solid hour or two afterwards, I'm pretty sure I tripled my caloric burn for the day

...But realistically, that's the only positive I can take away from this situation.  I'm still - STILL - mortified. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lessons Learned

This past year was a persistent test on my limits:  The third trimester of pregnancy; childbirth; colicky baby; stay-at-home mama for five months; transition to working mama; hubby at home to help me out; hubby working on base (and away from home) for a week or two at a time - this list could be endless.  I have never known another point in my life where there was so much change in such a short period of time, and there were many moments where I had to quit thinking, pick up the extra coffee, and sprint the last half of the"marathon". 

I can't remember a year so complex and overwhelming.

I know there's probably a negative connotation to that, but I don't necessarily mean it that way.

Was it stressful and taxing?  Absolutely.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that these bags under my eyes are a permanent thing now, and I may or may not have already plucked a gray hair from my scalp.  

But everything about this year was inexplicably beautiful.  


I learned how to find true joy in the moments where you feel the most overwhelmed.
Baptizing my daughter was such an important moment for me - something that I, truthfully, thought about from the moment I realized I was pregnant.  The first half of the Mass went well, with our Curious Georgette enjoying the music and reading books with her daddy.  And then...the moment where the priest walked down the aisle towards the baptismal font.  As the congregation began to profess the faith, my daughter began to protest.  No, she began to howl, as if to say "Wait, you want me to believe what?!  And you're telling me I get no say in this?!!"  At the point where we reject Satan in the creed, her screeches became so overwhelmingly loud that the priest paused and asked the congregation to speak up so he could hear them all over the baby.

My heart started to flutter.  I began to panic.  I could feel the heat in my face as tears started to well up in my eyes...

And then I looked at my husband, who was holding what could only be described as a thrashing ostrich in a precious white gown...and we just started laughing.  We laughed from the moment that the priest poured the warm water over our daughter's head (which she vehemently told us she was against), to the point where her forehead was annointed with oil (well, somewhat annointed - she was tossing her head from side to side so vigorously to avoid any kind of priestly blessing that I don't really know how much she received).  

I mean, truthfully, what can you do?  You laugh, you shake your head, and you move on.  My daughter has an incredibly strong personality, and all I could do at that moment was thank God for giving me the opportunity to raise this vocal baby into a strong, smart, independent woman.  I find myself doing that an awful lot.  Prayers from me come moreso from the glider in my daughter's room than from a church pew...

I learned how to breakdown and rebuild in a matter of minutes.
A good friend of mine once told me that her car was her chapel, and I never fully understood it until this year.  My car became my sanctuary, and quick runs to Meijer would allow me the opportunity to jump-start my spirit in a baby-free zone.  I could allow myself to sob for no reason other than I was exhausted and simply didn't understand how I was still functioning.  I could scream at my steering wheel, not because I was mad at a particular person, or angry with my situation in life, but because I didn't know how else to vocalize the pure, unadulterated frustration that comes from not being able to soothe your colicky baby.  The steady hum of a Focus at 50 miles an hour allowed me to breathe, to not-so-patiently ask God to cut us just the tiniest bit of slack so we could feel like ourselves again, and to pick up my phone and call a friend.  All in all, I would find that a twenty minute trip could make me into a new-ish woman, and I would be ready to come back into my home and start fresh.

I learned to prioritize.  
I used to truthfully hate when people told me that I would "never understand exhaustion until I had kids."  (Might I add, I don't use the word "hate" lightly.)  Whenever individuals would utter that phrase, regardless of how good or bad their intentions were, it would make my ears burn with anger.  The honest to God fact is the physical exhaustion that I felt as a graduate student working three jobs is no different than what I feel when I plop down on the couch after I get my daughter to bed.  I still don't move for a half hour, I still watch something mindless on TV until I can feel my toes again, and I still have a bottle of "emergency wine" in my fridge at all times.
Now, the emotional exhaustion - that's different.  I will grant that to all of those people who tried to put me in my "young and naive" place, because there is a gargantuan difference between the life practice of prioritization for efficiency and mommy-hood prioritization.  At the end of the day two to three years ago, I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold - and I had to bribe myself to get up and keep moving for just another hour more.  Nowadays, though, I sometimes feel like if I have to wash one more bottle, I may throw-up.

The only difference is the complete lack of "me time".  Before, I could sneak in a moment here and there to go outside and read a book, or drive around for an extra fifteen minutes to listen to the radio before I went into my next job.  It was a few moments to recharge my batteries.  Now, the batteries have to be recharged at night.

So, I re-learned how to prioritize - again.  I'm not as efficient as I used to be.  I leave the house later than I want to, and there is always (always) something that can be cleaned in my house.  I have taught myself to understand that no one really cares if there are dishes in the sink and if there are toys on the floor (and if they do, well, fudge 'em).  I have no desire to be Martha Stewart.  I would much rather play peekaboo for hours, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar a couple more times, and steal a few sips of my husband's beer when he's not looking at the end of the night.  I'll keep my house a bit more cluttered if it means I can find more reasons to laugh and be truly ready for the next day.

-----

"A year of transition" is clearly an understatement.  I'm truly ready to see what this next year holds for me and my little family.

So, 2014 - I've got coffee in my mug, make-up on my tired eyelids, and a sweater draped over my shoulders in a superhero cape-like fashion.

Bring it.