I went to spin yesterday. I hate spinning. There is not a moment– from the time I start pedaling until the last stretch on that godforsaken bike– that I am not miserable and angry. It’s just one of those things. I’ve tried the FlyWheels and the SoulCycles, the local places, and the classes at fancy gyms and shitty gyms. It’s not a class issue, it’s a sitting on a bike issue. It uses all the parts of my body that I try to keep still. I hate it so much. Just talking about it makes me more hateful. But I go. (Occasionally.) I went yesterday.
For a couple of weeks now, maybe bleeding into months, I’ve been… unsettled. I’ve been impatient and frustrated. I feel angry and constricted by simple things. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve gone from taking a Xanax once a month to taking one just to get into the car and make the drive to work. Traffic makes me insane. I keep thinking I need to do something, but I don’t know what. Maybe my medication needs to be looked at, maybe the weather needs to start behaving, maybe I need to change my diet– I’ve gone through all the possibilities in my head, and I keep coming back to the same thing. This is life. This is what it’s like (for me) to be 32, a mother, a full-time employee, a wife, a person who recently really hates cooking dinner. The older I get, the more knowledge I have and instead of being set free by all the knowledge, I’m crippled by it. I know too much about savings and retirement, interest rates, education, natural disasters (NEVER MOVING TO OREGON), job security, the vague possibility that my child will be killed by 100,000,000 random and statistically insignificant incidences. I spend so much time trying to look breezy and carefree when what I want to do is crawl in bed and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of the box. (Because THAT is a fucking life plan.)
Don’t even get me started on getting old. I see the writing on the wall. Our society does not care about old people. We are scared and burdened by old people. Unless you have a private– fully paid for– private island or a couple million dollars in the bank, good luck getting old. I could stay in bed for six weeks just obsessing about how terrible it is going to be to be 65-years-old and still working full time because there is no way I can ever retire. EVER. (Cue screaming.) I could depend on my son to care for me in my old age, except for two things. 1. I don’t believe in burdening your children with your winter years 2. There’s just no guarantee I’m going to want to spend my last good years in the basement of my son’s house. What if he lives in a hovel and I hate his wife? (Or husband.)
But what now? How do you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tell all your knowledge-based anxiety to fuck off? How do you live in the moment and not allow the creeping weight of death and responsibility to give you a panic attack in the shower? Being present is so fucking hard. It’s scary. But it’s also the only thing there actually is. Aut is only 2.75. He is not 3 or 7 or 35. He is only 2.75. And that will pass, but it will pass as quickly and as slowly as everything else. Because time only has one pace. Time is a bitch, but she’s fair. Almost to a fault.
So we’re back at spin. I forgot my shoes and there was a sub and because I’ve turned into an anxious time bomb, those things were enough to put me into a tailspin. The teacher was talking about beach bodies and pedaling so we can eat whatever we want and I’m getting angrier and angrier. I’m anxious and angry and annoyed and my shoes are wrong and this woman will not stop talking about bikini bodies, which is so far from my reality that I want to throw my $4 Starbucks bottled water at her face. But I keep pedaling. And I try to “find the happy.” (I’m actually on my bike, my body vibrating because the music is SO LOUD, and saying aloud “find the happy, Caroline. Find the fucking happy.”) And then it hit a boiling point. I looked at the clock and it wasn’t even halfway through class. I was going to die and explode and I hadn’t even made it halfway through class.
I slowed my pedaling and took a deep breath and asked myself (again, outloud), “what, Caroline? What is the big problem?” And the tiny voice in my head was sad and scared and she said “I don’t know. That’s the problem. I don’t know.” And then I started to cry. And cry. And cry.
I pedaled and cried and pedaled and cried. I climbed the hills and cried a little harder (because it was both self pity crying and just general crying). I cried because I felt so relieved and so silly and so annoyed and free. And then class ended.
If this story were about a different person, I’d be like “and then I walked outside and the sun was shining and I took a deep breath and felt completely renewed.” But it’s not. And when I walked outside it was raining and the barista at Starbucks fucked up my tea. So there was that reality. (Which I realize is nothing like, say, a third world or Syrian refugee reality.)
Here’s what did happen, though. I went to spin. And I finished. And I cried. And then I drove home and I started dinner. (I even cared enough to text a friend about how to cook my fish properly.) I still wanted to go to bed at 8PM, but I didn’t. (I waited until like 10:30.) I got out of my own way and my own head for a few hours and tried to enjoy myself. I made an effort. It wasn’t an overwhelming success, but, like spin class, it was an effort. Which is a start.
And nothing can begin that was never begun. Or something to that effect.