Daddy, I love you, but dude, Kojak? Turned up to deaf?
Ahh those were the days. Unemployed and back with the folks after 18 years, I was not the happiest camper at camp. So I chased a few highs (and a few job leads). First Oreos, then some retail therapy, and then something I’d discovered a few years before: physical activity.
I joined a small local gym and scheduled my days around my morning (and when the ‘rents weren’t looking, evening) workouts. The endorphin high didn’t sustain the many hours in a day I had to kill between once-a-month dead-end job interviews and RLTV episodes of Kojak.
I added running to the mix when the ledge got painfully close to the tips of my toes—that danged Kojak soundtrack ringing in my ears like a death knoll.
One day, a couple of months into my new hobby, I found myself unable to make it home from my morning jaunt. Dizzy, stomach cramping, I sipped a Propel fitness water that a little old lady gave me while she called my sister to retrieve me. I wasn’t a whole block away from the track—the farthest I could make it before I practically collapsed on the curb, trying not to look as obviously in distress as I was. When my dad came in from work later that afternoon I was a mass of hot then cold on my bedroom floor; in and out of a nap interrupted by agonizing contractions.
The afternoon was a much more comfortable denouement of saltines, ginger ale, and church lady peppermints. Me and Mommy watched Dr. Oz, the No-News as my grandmother called our local newscast, and chatted before Daddy called us to dinner: fried fish, fried potatoes, corn on the cob.
Eat some of this.
Mommy and I looked at the spread in horror.
Daddy, Please don’t—you can’t—make me!
We explained to him that my stomach was in a fragile state; that the delicious smelling spread was on the verge of turning me back into the mass he’d found on the bedroom floor when he got home from work. He retreated. But not before the lovingly declared pronouncement:
You’re gonna have to stop all this running and exercising; it’s just too much. And I want you to start eating some meat.
Translation: Me and your mother are worried about you; we know you’re not doing all this to stay in shape.
My ears heard, but my heart understood. In many ways, Kojak had made me deaf to what was happening to me. My weight was dropping; I meticulously maintained records of my job search, potential employers that “wronged” me; and I showed up to my spin and kickboxing classes like I was getting paid to be there—passing all of it off as evidence of being in control.
Control is a funny thing. I thought I had control of this post—was planning to write about writing as I began it—how we writers become technically adept and risk losing the soul in our work. How I’ve discovered that similarly in running I get too bogged down in the technical proficiencies—pr’s, miles, form—that I forget to enjoy it the way I did when I first started. When I wasn’t exactly in control not so much because I didn’t want to be, actually, but because with my limited experience I didn’t know how to be.
And look what happened.