I didn’t go to the gym today. My gym shoes lie dormant in the shoe closet, festering in dark silence. My yoga mat sits neatly rolled up in the corner. The pad of my index finger did not sit on a screen to check me into the gym. My dog did not pant gratefully, then flop onto the cool tile after a run. My speedy green road bike hangs on it’s hook, its odometer stuck on the same number from my last ride a few days ago. Still and peaceful in my drawer, my heart rate monitor awaits it’s next challenge. But my brain? Ah, my brain. That’s been going a thousand miles an hour.
The clock now reads 7:47 pm, and I am still thinking about where I could have squeezed in a workout. (Okay, dammit! Not “thinking.” Obsessing.) In the 45 minutes I had before I picked up the kids? Could I have gotten up early? I should have gotten up early. The mental space taken up negotiating, fact checking, brow beating and ass kicking has been a workout in and of itself. I mean, seriously. What a waste of time.
Now, I grew up Catholic and my husband is Jewish so we are no strangers to guilt around here. But my fellow suburbanites also carry around a fair bit of guilt themselves. They work too much. They don’t exercise enough. They don’t make enough money. They should be more crafty, more creative. More interesting. Less critical. More kind. More productive. They should take more classes, go back to work. (I swear to you all overheard in one happy hour). There are multiple structures in your brain which are responsible for how you perceive and process guilt. What motivates one person is different than what motivates another, but we are all profoundly and universally influenced by community. This means that if your friends and community didn’t exercise, it would be a hell of a lot easier to hit the snooze button rather than get up and go to the gym. Conversely, this is often why groups like Crossfit and for me, my yoga community, are intrinsic motivators. You think about who you will see and who will miss you if you don’t show up.
In suburbia, if you see other people making good money, working out/looking fit, having good marriages and managing their time wisely, you want to do it too. It’s a testament to my social network and neighborhood that there are some pretty hot 40 somethings (with great lives to boot). So that’s probably why I feel bad when I miss a workout.
Personal blame, like when you are a lazy ass and don’t work out and beat yourself up for it, is mitigated in the subgenual cingulate cortex by the limbic (primitive and emotional) region of the brain. These layers of emotion, blame and guilt make for some very busy collaborations. It also makes sense to me, given all the stuff your cranium is processing, that you would be exhausted. At this point, you should do yourself a favor. You should, as my grandma used to say, shit or get off the pot. For me, I should either not work out and chalk it up as a rest day or I should just go work out and be done with it. Today, I am choosing to call it a night. And I’ll tell you why.
First of all, it was a great day. Beginning with a fun field trip with my 8 year old daughter, followed by getting some errands done, doing some writing, talking with a friend and ending with some real magic, it’s okay that my day didn’t include breaking a sweat. Also, rest days help the following day to be stronger and better. Maybe it will help that nagging knee pain I’ve been experiencing. Maybe I’ll tackle an 8 or 10 miler tomorrow with my pup. And you know what else? There is SO MUCH more time in the day when you don’t work out! I got my paperwork organized for work tomorrow, got my daughter to swim lessons on time, grudgingly mailed the taxes my hubby thoughtfully prepared, wrote a note to my sister-in-law and did some yard work.
As for the magic, the picture below was a rainbow we saw right out my front window tonight. We would never have even known it was there if my neighbor hadn’t called to tell us to look out our window. Thank you, neighbor.
Thank you, community.
No more guilt for me.
Thanks again to Barbara Paulsen for the image at the top of this post. She continues to inspire me with her creativity.