Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Day I Left the Driveway

It was a good day. A hot one, (we had a really hot, dry summer here in Central MI), and according to the Weather Channel app on my Droid, it was currently 92 degrees at 3PM.

"Sports bra and shorts," I muttered to myself, rifling through the basket of clean laundry that hadn't been folded in over a week. "Maybe I should just take the day off and fold," I reasoned with myself, using the rationale that I had worked the last 3 nights and was due to go in that night. "I'm sure taking 20 minutes to fold would be time well-spent," I continued, dialoguing with myself in my head as I paused long enough to really savor my central air and loose cotton sweats. But taking a deep breath as I leaned against the unfinished archway, (we have  a few little home improvements to do), I took a big yawn, and quickly shucked my beloved Liberty Mutual tee and 3-sizes-too-big Hanes drawstrings into the clean laundry pile. (I'll put them right back on when I come home from work in 16 hours)! Once the delicious chill of my air conditioned house hit my skin, I immediately burst into my aqua bra and purple running shorts before the goose-flesh could form microscopic speed-bumps across my frame.

"Well, 3 o'clock," I said to myself, (I was the only one home, and you know you talk to yourself, too!), "Guess I could check Facebook one last time before I head out."

Plopping down at the kitchen table one last time was easy; unfortunately, I have the CUTEST nephew in the world 200 miles away, and that devil Facebook allows me a little window into his life between trips to visit. Making the excuse to take "another 5 minutes" is always something I struggle with.

After 15 minutes ticks by, Judgement Hour arrives. "Now or never," I sigh to myself, staring woefully at my watch. I feel the sleep deprivation tickling like a little fog in my brain; nightshift as an RN is secretly great, (less peeps, less stress-for the most part-, more time with patients and education), but not-so-secretly great because we are CONSTANTLY playing cock-fight with our Circadian Rhythms.

At the end of the day, (or night!), it just depends what you value more. Hanging with your patients being all chill and relaxed, or sleeping like a normal human being.

I took one last swig of my Diet Pepsi Max, (love that stuff!), and pushed off from the table. Walking over to the currently-quiet pellet stove, I pulled on my I-Pod touch, and shoved my Asics 2170's on. 

Outside the damp heat hit me like a warm pizza stone fresh out of the oven, and as the unseasonable warmth pushed its suffocating weight upon me, I flirted with the thought of going back inside and checking Facebook again. And folding laundry. "I could fold laundry. In the air conditioning" I told myself, squinting into the sun.

But the reality that I had a form-fitting wedding dress wrapped nicely in a garment bag, sitting on my guest bed upstairs hit me hard, and with begrudgement suitable for election year campaign commercials and movie stars that "lost all the baby in two weeks just by breast-feeding and eating everything I wanted," I hit "play" on the 'Pod, and began my warm-up jog up and down the driveway.

Listening to the Black-Eyed Peas sing praises about my "humps, lady-lumps, and bumps" improved my mood slightly, until I saw the bright blue of my  best friend's fiance's pick-up turning the corner. I tried my best to make it look like it wasn't what it was; I waved big and heaved out a wheezy, "Hi, Jason!", and put a little extra kick in my step (that I totally did NOT feel!), to make it appear like I was just...oh, hell, it was what it looked like. Here I was, 28 years old, running back and forth in my driveway, throwing around 10# dumbbells and lying to myself about it being a "work-out."

I looked, (and was), quite pathetic.

And when things looked quite sad enough, then my future in-laws drove by, waving happily from their air-conditioned Jetta.

"F&#% this!" I gasped, approaching my now-ridiculous-looking dumbbells waiting for me by our walk-out basement door. The black neoprene was probably 150 degrees to the touch by now, sitting out in the sun, and my purple yoga mat looked positively wilted, a far cry from their original, full-of-toning-promise state when I had first set them out earlier in the day.

I paused at this decrepit station of depression, feeling at my lowest point, totally starting to doubt if I could really keep up this whole Utopian idea of "at-home, on the cheap fitness". Surely an air-conditioned gym with all sorts of bright, shiny new toys and fun colors would be much more inspiring, (if not less degrading), than killing myself outside in this heat while the whole neighborhood drives by watching me like a gorilla at the zoo.

As I stared down the driveway, wondering about the meaning of life, Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead" came through my earbuds, and after entertaining a brief daydream of ceremoniously throwing my dumbbells through my living room window as a proverbial "f%&# you" to my crack-pot theory of "at-home fitness", I began to feel the music, and my mood lifted considerably. And while I wish I could sit here at my kitchen table, and wax poetic about how "the music carried my now-joyful body and spirit gracefully down the driveway with my blond ponytail bobbing happily in my wake", reality would have it such that I decided then with controlled resolve, (and the security that if my plan didn't work out, I could always turn back around like I had been for 3 months and run back down the driveway and right into my usual safe and trusty exercise routine), that I would...


So I took off. With Miranda by my side and in my head, I put one foot in front of the other at pace quicker than a fast walk, until I made it to end of the 0.08 mile driveway, and then...


After God didn't smite me, the world didn't end, and the Earth didn't drop off into some vast wilderness of unknown, I began to become more rhythmic with my gait.

In other words, I started out way too fast, and had to slow down or die.

And my world opened up. 92 degrees of straight, relentless, breeze-less sunny humidity became 92 degrees of heat, but I created my own breeze. And sweat. Sweat does lend quite the helping-hand in maintaining body temperature when you're moving in one direction quickly.

As I plodded along my gravel road, I learned what "hills" truly are. (We have several sections of decent rollers in our area). I hollered, (well, wheezed), brief words of greeting to the beef cattle pastured by our house, and took some enjoyment as some of the calves allowed their curiosity to take the better of them and approach the fence to get a better look at this sweating, wheezing stranger who is smiling like a kid on Christmas as she runs downhill...

...and swears like a sailor as she gets smacked in the face by the uphill.

But as my best friend's house came into view, and I realized I had just run a half-mile ON THE ROAD, OUTSIDE THE DRIVEWAY, I became elated. "Good girl!" I hollered to my in-laws little black mutt Alicia, (who happens to my second best friend), who ran up next to me, tail wagging. Slowing down a little as I approached Sara and Jason's house, I let Alicia find a happy trot and we paced on up the road, soon passing my neighbor's house, ready to take on the next set of rollers. And it was then that I realized that all my time with the "pathetic 10# weights" truly came in handy as I wondered what the fire in my ass going uphill is going to do for the overall shape of my booty in a couple of weeks. In other words, uphill requires some hard-ass work!

And about 45 seconds later, going downhill, did I realize what the noun "quadriceps" truly means. Oh, and "gravel road", as I twisted my foot in my vain first attempt at "running". 

But we trekked on, me and the dog, with the world suddenly at our feet, (literally), and our little eyes opened much wider than we ever thought possible. And when we hit the final uphill, (and I was convinced my ass was about to give out),  we met the intersection of the next road and I realized with sudden ecstasy, "Alicia-Jo...we RAN A MILE!" So to finish our journey, we turned around, and with joy in our hearts, started the downhill leg back home, learning quickly that when going for that first run while relying on an aerobic base laid solid through cycling is noble, it's not always the best plan...

Alicia and I moved forward with the fast-slow pace of beginning runners, (well, her excuse was there was stuff in the weeds, and in the woods alongside the road that she had to go and explore), tackling the backside of the rolling hills we just battled coming up the road. The second time around? I relied more and more on my music and Alicia's bobbing little trot to keep pushing me along. Every step became harder and harder, and I could've SWORN the hills were steeper, longer, and the gravel looser on the way back! God really WAS trying to smite me!

So I battled on, using the beat of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" to keep me moving, as the sun seemed like it was getting hotter, and I began an inner argumentative dialogue with God. Just when I was cresting yet another killer mf-er of a hill and about to give my closing argument with the Man Upstairs, my house came into view, nestled coolly into the arms of a downhill.

"C'mon, 'Licia-dog!" I wheezed, the heat and sun making me a little dizzy. "Let's get this!"

And got it, we did. Alicia knew we were close, and even though she happens to be an almost all-black short-hair mutt, she kicked it up a notch and picked up her dainty little feet, making the whole journey look effortless, inspiring me to pick up the pace as my quads burned on the downhill. As we tore into the damnable driveway, both of us panting, drooling, tongues hanging out, fleshing slapping wetly against itself, I suddenly understood what inspires women to have more than one child. After the pain, the pooring of sweat, the agony, the ripping of muscles, the pain in my lungs, the fact still remained:


The horror was soon forgotten; all the discomfort was (almost!), a distant memory by the time we climbed the stairs back into the air-conditioning to enjoy a drink of water in a cool, climate-controlled environment. And like women with more than one child, these two girls right here quickly replaced with suffering with the joyful memories of knowing that today, we tackled those two miles together, and like women with more than one child...

...we couldn't wait to do it again.

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