I have a secret.

I think I may want to do a triathlon.

There.  It’s not a secret anymore. (How scary.)  I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m firmly committed though.  Don’t go getting all supportive.  I can’t just come out and boldly state I’M GOING TO DO A TRIATHLON yet, because the only-slightly-open-to-the-idea part of me who’s standing there perusing the brochure would startle, slide to the back of the crowd, and head straight home.  No.  I have to sneak up on her.  I have to peek over her shoulder and nonchalantly say Hey, a triathlon eh?  Interesting idea.  Think you’ll do it? No pressure.  No energy on it.  Just detached interest and vague agreement.  I have to enroll her in this and it may not be easy.

To be honest, even just thinking about it as a remote possibility is surprisingly emotional.  It’s strange.  It’s like how I imagine a woman might feel who long since gave up trying to have a baby, but then suddenly considered trying to conceive again.  The idea is fraught with the possibility of a lot of renewed pain, so I have to approach it carefully.

I’ve been pretty lost where my body is concerned for about a decade now.  Long, long ago and far, far away, in a mythic land of youth and pre-depression, I was a finely-tuned athlete.  At various times in my life I swam competitively, played tennis and championship field hockey, and as a gymnast was once invited to a training camp for the Olympics.  (I chickened out.  I’m athletic but not terribly competitive which was always hard on my coaches.)  I used to run for miles every morning for the joy of it, do twelve hour day-hikes through mountainous terrain alone, and if the tiny college I attended had only had a dance department I would have graduated with a useless degree in Tap and Modern instead of the useless degree in Literature I have today.

But then the depression came along, and for the next nineteen years or so it relentlessly ate away at my natural energy and drive.  Then perimenopause jumped onto the pile, too.  For a while I still had the advantage of strength and sheer momentum to keep me staggering ahead but, with the other two double-teaming me, eventually my body gave in and collapsed to the mat.  The weight kept increasing, the fatigue took over, my joints started to hurt, and it finally just seemed easier to give up and put it all behind me.  The old activities became distant memories.  All that remained were my daily jaunts back in the hills with our gradual succession of dogs.

(I think anyone who’s ever been willing to quit on themselves completely, but didn’t for the simple reason that their dog…leash in mouth…wouldn’t take no for an answer, will understand when I say just how much I owe them and why I loved them all so deeply.)

Over the years I’ve tried to school myself to forget the natural athlete I was, (like I schooled myself to forget so many of the other things that I lost through the worst of the depression,) and I thought I was doing okay.  But now, all of a sudden, out of the blue, I’m thinking Hey, maybe I can do a triathlon and it’s stirring up a whole lot of buried stuff.

For instance, I mentioned it to the woman at the YMCA (I just joined) who was showing me how to use the weight machines and, as soon as the words came out of my mouth, to my horror I started crying and couldn’t stop.  I was aghast.  At first I tried to explain but it was too hard to talk coherently with my face beet red and my heart pounding and my stomach sinking the way they were.  She seemed to understand anyway.  She waited until I pulled myself back together again, then offered to help me create a beginning training schedule, which we did.

It calmed me.  It was a step.

So here I am today, ready to openly admit that I’m secretly contemplating trying to consider to see if maybe I might want to try and train for a triathlon, just in case I actually decide to do one at some point in the undetermined future.  We’ll see if it happens.  Frankly, right now it feels like declaring for the summit of Mt. Everest.  But then again, you never know.

This kind of secret, insidious desire…the type that comes out of nowhere and challenges all the low expectations one has settled for over time…can sometimes surprise to the upside.  I just need to be careful not to crush it.  It’s like a teeny tiny flicker of flame.  I can’t just drop a log on it, that would snuff it out.  I need to feed this little, precarious dream with tinder and twigs in small handfuls first, until it gets big enough to put on a branch or two.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll wind up with a full blown bonfire at some point.  Stranger things have happened.

In the meantime, I now have to go buy a pair of tennis shoes.  And then tomorrow I have to go back to the Y to work on the weights and swim laps for half an hour.  I seem to be able to commit to that much.  The rest…well…the rest will just take as long as it takes.  And that’s okay.  Whoever the tenacious, secret person is down inside me wanting this, she seems to be nothing if not patient.

image from Wikipedia

copyright 2011 Dia Osborn

5 responses

  1. Good morning Dia,
    For years on my men’s team, I thought I knew the “right” way to help a man with his committments and needless to say, would have been all over the timid approach you are taking towards your goal. Over the years, I have learned for me there are more than “one right way” to life…and when I read the ‘building the fire’ analogy…it was really powerful. My apologies for all the men I beat the shit out of over the years.
    Knowing you, you are bold and courageous in each step…just learning about “baby steps”…and eventually that the journey is the real reward, not the goal you annouced at the trail head.
    You mentioned your literary degree as “worthless” and I could not help but reel. I know and trust you were being sarcastic and a few other contexts…but just for the record, everyone who reads your thoughts…thanks God you got that degree and not the tap-dancing diploma.
    And finally, I cried with you, when you exposed you secret wish to the trainer. Thanks for speaking to the part of me who still wants to climb ‘Everest’ and afraid to tell anyone…most of all my self.
    Great post…thanks for a great start to my day.

  2. Dia, first let me verify Cal’s comments about the degree. Whoa, baby, I’m sure you were a decent writer before the degree, but I know that the pursuit of that pigskin honed your skills to the level that lures me to each of your new posts with a cup of coffee in hand and joy in heart.

    Wow. The secret. This is one of those things that makes me ponder and appreciate the stunning variety of skills, interests, desires, talents, and energies that we humans possess.

    I’ve never been much of an athlete, tho some of my friends seem to assume that I am simply because I’m a speed freak and more active than some people my age. But that push-beyond-the-pain athleticism, the perfectionism, the runner’s high…they have all eluded me. I am always in awe of friends who challenge themselves like this. My idea of a great day is waking up before the sun rises, sipping my cup of Joe and writing/reading at the computer till it’s light enough to read a book.

    My best friend, however, is a runner. She celebrated her 60’s birthday by completing the Portland Marathon with her kids,kids-in-law, and husband gasping in a relaying trail behind her.

    Another friend whom I met at BSU has become an ultra-marathoner. While in school, she used to run laps around her block between 11PM and 1AM while her children slept and her husband peeked out the window to check on her safety. (I should send you a link to her blog)

    Their drive amazes me. I can imagine that the simple one-step-at-a-time approach you might bring to this endeavor will work to your advantage. It’s much the way I got through 8 years of school and 34 years of Postal work. One day at a time, one step at a time, living in the moment and letting each accomplishment build a mountain behind you rather than standing in front of Everest and contemplating how high it is.

    I wonder if the increased excercise will also work to “reset” the depression that has plagued you. I know that excercise is critical to some of my friends who fight the “fog.”

    I wish you well on your journey and hope I won’t be too fat, too slow, and too out of shape for our eventual hiking & snowshoing excursions.

    • Not to worry about that yet. You should have NO trouble keeping up with me!
      And I’d love to see that blog of your friend, the ultra marathoner. I have this weird, limited mental image of what middle-agers should be capable of and I need some real life models to re-wire it. If you want to post the link in here that would be great!
      And I, too, am wondering if the increased exercise will help reset the depression. (Great term. “Reset.” I like it.) A lot of it has already lifted in the last couple of years but there’s a general lethargy left in its wake. I suspect that regular hard exercise may eventually shake at least some of that off. (I hope I hope!)

  3. Pingback: When Not Quitting Is The Miracle « The Odd and Unmentionable

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