#1 “Last Chance Saloon”
It shouldn’t be such a thrill – all kids grow up. But one morning my son walks into the kitchen and he’s visibly taller than when I tucked him in the night before. It sends a jolt through my body and although the morning is rushed as usual, I turn off the stove and stand him against the doorframe with the ruler and pencil atop his head. Then I stand back and marvel as if it’s something I did.
I do not spend much time, if any, in front of the mirror. But every so often the mirror, or what’s in it, grabs me and I stop. What I see, increasingly lately, is akin to those moments when I witness fantastic growth in my kids – except in reverse. I step back and marvel, glumly, at this thing that evidently I did.
My muscles, such as they are, are becoming smaller and less taut. My body is adding fat everywhere, especially around my middle. Overall, I weigh about 20 percent more than when I was 20, which is to say an increase of 35 pounds in 35 years. My pants are uncomfortably tight and I’ve let my belt out another notch. These changes obviously aren’t sudden, but even compared with the recent past my body looks droopy and sluggish. For the first time, when I sit down my stomach pushes my shirt upward and my gut protrudes into view. It is no longer appropriate for me to wear a fitted t-shirt; I’ve got boobs.
I don’t say these things for the sake of whining, rather, for the sake of noticing. I’m trying to answer the wakeup call, or at least hear it. I want to put away the rationalizations and step out of the shadow of denial. I feel like I’m running out of time.
I don’t mean to overstate the case. I’m in good health and grateful for it. I’m not a candidate for “The Biggest Loser.” Behind my back people don’t refer to me as, “the fat guy,” I don’t think. I have fat but it’s not yet to the point where I am fat. In a country where one in three adults is obese (and one out of six kids), there are plenty of men in their 50’s who would change bodies with me in a heartbeat.
That said, according to the National Centers for Disease Control, at 225 pounds on a 73-inch frame, I’m at the top of the “overweight” scale and on the cusp of “obesity.” Over a period of decades I’ve built a pattern of ingesting more calories than I expend. Throw another few years on the heap and I’ll be there. I’ll be fat, officially obese. I don’t need to get into the public health statistics about the consequences of that (shortened life expectancy, increased risk of disease). I don’t want any part of it. It looks like a harder way to live and that’s all I need to know.
But I have another motivation and it might be stronger than fear.
I want to get in shape.
Although I don’t have the body for it, I’m a runner. At times in my life I’ve been in decent running shape, that is to say, I’ve run 10-kilometer races. When I was in my 20’s I ran two marathons. But I have nowhere near that kind of fitness today.
While I’ve sometimes had endurance, I’ve never been in great shape. There is something about this phrase, “the best shape of my life,” that haunts me. I have a mental picture of it and it includes not just endurance, but strength, flexibility and agility too. It’s an awesomely fit version of myself that I’ve felt, that I still feel, is out there for me to achieve. It’s a vision of myself I’ve been carrying for decades but have never realized. it’s like a promise to myself I’ve always felt someday I would fulfill.
I still feel like I can get there. Like I need to get there – to get in the best shape of my life before the idea that it’s possible slips too far away, like an astronaut who’s come untethered from his ship, and I’m left with the sense that it’s too late and I will never do it.
Welcome to my Last Chance Saloon.
more to come…