The time is 11:10 PM. I’m typing at the dining room table with Exile on Main Street pumping out my I-Tunes through these cool cheap Altec Lansing speakers I have. I’ve got a glass of water next to me and a pack of Camel Lights on the front porch. And I’m stoked with glee. I did it.
I did it. I cannot contain my glee. The voice spoke. The voice in my head. Do it. DO it!! And I did it.
Mark David Chapman said he heard such a voice before he shot John Lennon and what’s scary is that I can empathize with that rotgut son of a bitch, because truth is I know what he’s getting at because I heard the voice too, finally, loud enough, loud enough to ACT. And I ACTED. I did it! Just today. Earlier this evening.
Unlike Mr. Chapman’s head voice, mine was cadging me on to do something positive; so dead-dogginestly positive, so IRRITATINGLY positive, that it had been impossible to put into place for years.
DO it! The voice shouted. And I did.
Earlier this evening. At 6:41 PM, I entered the master bedroom of our family home. I took off my shoes, pulled off my blue Eddie Bauer slacks, specked and smeared with my tobacco ash and snot, and slung them across the bed. DO IT, the voice commanded. DON’T TAKE TIME TO PUSSY OUT! DO IT!!! I pulled open the dresser drawer where I knew was the one pair of short sweat pants I own. I pulled them out and pulled them on. Without taking any time to daydream, or lose focus, or talk myself out of anything, I put my shoes back on. They’re Nikes. Just Do It!
Honey? Do we have a bandana anywhere? Oh, here’s one. Thanks dear.
I looped the bandana around my head.
I never stopped moving.
I never took my eye off the ball.
I went into the living room. I didn’t take any time to stop and think about a god-dammed whipper-snappered thing!
DO IT!!! DO IT!!!
Before I could pass another millisecond of this existence, I was on the living room floor, pushing myself up from the floor with my arms, performing a callisthenic exercise called “the push-up”.
I managed 6 or 7 push-ups without much difficulty, and then began to flag. I felt protests raising from the dangling, slack ropes and hammocks I have for muscles. By ten push-ups, I was moving slow. Eleven was hard. Twelve was harder. I hadn’t been aiming for any number when I hit the floor, but now I wasn’t seeing twenty anymore. Thirteen was harder than any that had come before it, fourteen was worse that that, and then I pushed one more. I got to fifteen, a nice round number.
I push-uped one more time. A sixteenth push-up. Then I waveringly sat back on my haunches, a bit flushed in the head, a feeling of assault creeping through my arms, shoulders, chest and even my belly.
I shook it off.
DO IT! DON’T STOP YOU SON OF A BITCH!
I pulled out the mat to lay on and I did a good dozen, maybe even fifteen serious crunches. I couldn’t count. The pain was too immense. To do a dozen or even more crunches after two years of no such business is I would advance as close as a man can come to the pain of childbirth.
I lay on the mat, spent. I was ready for the mortician. But I made myself shoot for four more pushups so I could say I did twenty push-ups so long as nobody’s picky about whether I did them all at the same time or not.
Without stopping to do more than catch my breath quickly, I leaned against the wall and scooted down until I was sitting on an imaginary chair and my upper thighs were basically holding my body upright against the wall. I sat like that, with my desiccated shreds for muscles in my legs quivering like snake flesh, for what felt like three or four minutes but was probably more like 45 seconds.
Immediately I leaned against the entertainment center and stuck one leg far behind me, and stretched from the ankle. I knew the drill. I remembered how this was done now. I was going into deep water. I took my time when it came to the stretching. I stretched out both legs from the ankles up very thoroughly and then bent from the waist down, until, until, finally, finally, finally, I could touch my toes.
My bandana was on my head. I’d ritually purified myself with calisthenics and stretching. Before I could turn away I was heading out the door. And that’s when Beth caught me.
She passed by the living room on the way to somewhere like the kitchen and she saw me leaving the house through the front door. She saw how I was dressed. “You’re not going to …. Run! Are you?!”
After all, it was only a cozy 101 degrees outside. Serious. 101 degrees. Hottest day all year.
I answered her thusly, “If I’m not back in fifteen minutes, come looking for me.” And with that I was out the front door. I wasn’t joshing. I was deadly serious and she knew it. I’ve lived the rock and roll hedonist lifestyle, friend – I’ve come awake in the back of an ambulance before. She’s had to contend with that. And here I was listening to the voice, the DO IT!, on an inconveniently hot day of the year. Sod it; what must be done must be done.
I did not wait to get off the porch before I began my tentative trot. And I tentatively trotted down the sidewalk, feet barely coming off the ground, trying not to tense up as much as possible, trying to take it as easily as I possibly could. I tentatively trotted down the driveway and into the street, to the intersection of Abbay and Inwood, where I hung a left and tentatively trotted west into the setting sun. I was doing it. I WAS DOING IT! GOD BE PRAISED, I’M…. TROTTING! I’M DOING IT!
I was doing it!
I tentatively trotted all the way to the intersection of Inwood and Danby, 2-odd tenths of a mile before I felt much anxiety from my muscles and my lungs began reaching for air like hungry chicks opening their beaks for their mother’s and father’s worms and regurgitated whatever. I paused for Danby traffic and carried on traversing Inwood. First it slopes a bit downward, and then it starts to ascend, and then it starts to REALLY ascend, it becomes a full-fledged hill, and now it is my Normandy. The crest of that hill is the end of Inwood as it T’s into Vicar Drive. It’s slightly more than half a mile from my house. I put my head down and set my sights on taking Vicar Hill with the valor my ancestors showed taking hills in Anzio and Iwo Jima. And I made it. But then I stopped and began to walk. It didn’t matter anymore. I was exhultant. I had listened to the good voice, the DO IT voice. I was doing it. I couldn’t expect any better than this, than to have sustained a tentative trot non-stop from my house to Vicar Hill, just over half a mile. I slowed to a walk, and hung a left all the way down the block to where Vicar itself T’s in Elaine, and then I hung another left, walking, surprisingly not sweating very much – probably dehydrated – but heaving, gasping for air, my body wondering what the hell was going on. After the longest stretch in my entire lifetime with out even the barest soupcon of exercise, I had done this much! I had DONE THIS MUCH! I had done push-ups, the crunches, the stretches, I’d conquered Vicar Hill. Even if I’d done it by way off a geriatric crawl version of jogging, I’d conquered it nevertheless.
I turned left on Elaine and headed home. I saw her about a hundred yards off – the crazy lady. She’s eighty-something years old with a brown wig, a stoop, always carrying a stick and as nutty as a box of Pay-Day bars. She takes conversational prisoners. I summoned up the strength to break into a tentative trot as I got near her. As luck would have it, she was into some piece of garbage in a ditch, picking it up I suppose, and didn’t notice me as I tentatively trotted past her and tried, tried, with all my might, to make it all the way back to the Danby intersection before I gave out again, but I didn’t make it that far. I walked some more, my chest heaving, my legs wobbling, my hands on my hips. I crossed Danby and then broke into one more trot for maybe thirty yards or so before I was spent. I went in the house and took a shower.
I did it.
The longest ever continuous, unbroken streak of complete and utter non-exercise in my life has been broken. I’ve been waiting, praying, begging for the day when I wouldn’t pussy out, when I’d DO IT. And it finally came. The day was today. I “worked out”. I “exercised”. I did it.
It’s been… quite possibly… could it be two years? Yes. Yes, It actually could be two years since I’ve done any exercise. Is it any wonder I feel like shit all the time? Of course not. And I’m a grown man; I know that – but until this past evening I had never acted on it. Getting me back into any sort of physical activity, as emaciated and weak as I am, has been like getting a big mining truck with three-foot tires moving by pulling it from a chain in your teeth. Day after day, I would just never have the energy. But this time, I did it. I DID IT!
Please don’t write to congratulate me. That would be over-praise. A man shouldn’t be congratulated for simply doing what he should do for his own body in the first place. But I would relish your prayers and encouragement on my breaking the inertia and actually trotting the circuit in my neighborhood, which is, incidentally, exactly 1.1 miles. I appreciate your well-wishes for me someday in the near future making it to the top of Vicar Hill and keeping on going. I used to could do it. So I could do it again. Let us fervently pray this is not a one-time thing but a true turning of a corner.
I mean, it’s all good and well to cultivate this image in a charming youtube film about my caffeine tobacco-wrap breakfast and being skinny and small and such, but I’m tired of feeling like shit all the time. Physically, which contributes to mentally. Think about it. As well as I’ve already been doing career-wise lately, think what I could accomplish if I was physically healthy?!?
Exile on Main Street just ended. It’s 12:12 AM on August 8th and I feel like I’ve taken some speed. My whole body and brain doesn’t know what hit it, and I have a feeling I’ll be feeling sore tomorrow or the next day. But my God, my God in heaven I DID IT!
For the first time in probably over two years! In ALL seriousness! I exercised.
The streak is broken.
I’m going to refill my water glass and go out on the porch for a cigarette in the moonlight. I’ll think of us all, you who read this, under that same moon.