I always park at the northwest corner of the lot. My car faces an expanse of sky over the mall parking lot. One tall, silvery lamp post tickles at my view, still more often than not I snap a photo with my camera—clouds swirling, charcoal overlaps the palest pinks and blues. If the girls were calm when I left I might post the photo on Instagram. Then I stow my phone and wallet somewhere in the car.
Walking with my water bottle in one hand and keys in the other, I take long deliberate steps across the parking lot. Scanning ahead toward the doors of the gym I choose my path to avoid interactions. I don’t want to force a smile or falter into a nervous stutter step dance if I cross into someone else’s walk. As my eagerness to dive into the oblivion of exertion and sweat builds, I have one last obstacle to overcome—the front desk. There is the scanning of the membership card and the awkward chit chat. I imagine being able to go straight from the threshold of the entry to the machine.
“Hey,” she takes my card. I try not to flinch. I keep my gaze up as she scans it, not wanting to look outwardly as nervous as I really am. After a moment she looks back up at me, “You’re all set.” I nod and quietly say thanks. I spend my days using my mind and words to make things happen. This is my place to grunt, wince and pant until I can’t go anymore, effectively erasing my mind and allowing my body to take the weight of the day. Walking away from the counter I exhale and hang my keys on the wall. The moment I turn from that wall it all clicks. My body and heart settle into complete alignment.
My shoulders lower and I move to the machine. Gripping the frame as I step into the pedals, I am reminded of the way a masseuse always keeps one hand on your body as they move from side to the other. The touch is reassuring and it whispers, “I am still taking care of you, still completely focused on you.” Touching the machines is that way for me. Each rotation of the pedals and every repetition of lifting the weights gives me a sensation of being cared for.
I try not to look at the clock much, it’s better when the first time I look up I realize that I have been going for about 45 minutes. I use my effort to draw myself more firmly into a cocoon of being unaware, I don’t see the other people working out, I don’t pay attention to anything beyond how good it feels to push without hesitation. I don’t have to wonder what anyone will think, don’t have to measure my words or consider the 15 different ways how I say something could impact other things.
Like Cinderella’s coach, my gym time has a stroke of midnight element to it. I slip quickly to the door before the clock strikes. I race to beat the farewell from the staff, well-intentioned though I know they are, I don’t want the spell broken just yet. When the Robin Thicke looking staff member calls out his cool farewell, I deflect it with a thanks, hoping that I can take the walk back to my car still enveloped in the buzz of my workout. I run to the car, feeling each stride and giving thanks that I can be here. Grateful for my legs, my arms, my core, and grateful for a partner who helps me get here and for daughters who breathlessly ask what I did.
*This post is inspired by the Just Write prompt from Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary. It’s a way to open a channel for writing about anything from the ordinary to the extraordinary.