Today, I went to the gym.
I set my alarm for 6am last night, because I am a masochist. I woke at 5:14am, because I am easily stressed and have difficulty following plans.
Thankfully, Yesterday-Me had the forethought to pack two bags -- one filled with work clothes; the other, work materials -- and to set out a pair of gym clothes, designed for discomfort. This little act of prescience carried me through the Five Stages of Acceptance, the grief of morning:
ii. Stupid heat stupid air conditioning stupid bed stupid sleep cycles stupid world stupid f-
iii. I can just go back to sleep, it’s not like the alarm is off. Yeah, just 45 minutes extra. What could that hurt...
iv. Maybe not. Sigh. Is this what living is? You try to make a plan and then watch as the world dismantles them? What’s the point?
v. Eh. Well… Worse things than waking up early. I’ll just be groggy if I stay longer. M’kay. Yep. Here we go.
Thus, having accepted my change of plans, I pull on my gym clothes and plod through the dark towards my toothbrush.
I’ve made a point of walking to the gym: it’s only a few blocks from my apartment, it’s easier on my wallet than driving, and I promised the Plan I would. So, after brushing my teeth, I walked out of my apartment with my laptop, journal, and other work materials placed delicately in my backpack and all my work clothes stuffed into their little drawstring bag that I wear in front, because I’ve always harbored a secret desire to be a kangaroo.
Also, it's the only comfortable way to wear two backpacks.
The world is different at 5:30am. At dawn, it’s easy to forget that I’m in Los Angeles, that I’m walking through Hollywood. It might be the relative lack of cars failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign, or the settling quiet that emerges when no one is honking at each other, or just the simple thought that, when alone, one could be anywhere and they would still be alone.
It’s a short walk. I look at my phone just once on the way, checking the Plan for what I’ve pledged to do this morning. I use my little key-chain key-card to check in when I arrive, give a reverent Good morning to the saints that sentinel the welcome desk this early, and make my way -- as instructed -- to the inclined bench in the free weight room.
And I begin.
The first set is a warm-up; the weights are light, but my shoulders are weak and the motion foreign. There’s some sort of clicking action with every repetition, and a little voice has the audacity to squeak, This is uncomfortable, you should stop, during the first few reps. The offer is tantalizing, but I don’t have time to respond to it: my set is done and the Plan demands I keep moving (squats, step-ups, hopping -- whatever) for the minute I am prescribed as “rest.”
The second set is, still, a warm-up; the weights are a little heavier, closer to a working set, but my shoulders are still weak, the work less than pleasant, and the clicking is genuinely concerning. I finish the set, set my minute timer, and set to hopping in place.
Jumping there, looking like a lunatic, I'm sure, I find myself in a mirror and think of how fitting it would be to have my kangaroo pouch.
The third set is work and gets me sweating; the weights are heavy -- maybe not for the budget Terminator grunting near me, I think, but heavier than what I was lifting last week. My arms are shaking by the end of it. Heavier than last week, I repeat to myself. Stronger than yesterday. I set my timer and sweat some more.
The final three sets (the Plan is a brutal god) have me quivering, soaked, and stronger; also, my shoulder stopped clicking. The rest of the workout is relentless, but I’m fully warm and have a liter of water to go through. I know to drink water. I had been here before, drenched and dripping, and learned the difficulty of dying without water.
Somewhere along the journey a kind of peculiar delirium sets in, and I begin to pray to myself and the Plan: I plead, Oh god oh god oh god - three more seconds - oh god, why? and am answered with the pinging finality of my timer; I ask, Why, god, why one more set? Have these arms not shook enough? to face the silence of a Plan that demands much and promises more; I raise offerings measured by the union of steel and sweat to a deity that responds, Finish.
And I finish.
I go to the locker room, find a discreet cubby to tuck my bags in, and shower. My shoulders groan when I towel myself dry, protest when I lift my arms to struggle a clean shirt on, the simple act itself an exercise.
Dressed, I gather my things. I pull out my phone, checking the time and scheduling a Lyft to work. 7:02. I'm smiling. 7am.
I may have forgotten to make my bed this morning, but it’s 7am and I have, guided by the Plan’s stoic wisdom, conquered myself.
My phone buzzes: ride's here. I give an energetic Good morning! to Shae, my driver, and head to work, still smiling.
Today, I think, I trusted the Plan. Today, the Plan worked. Today, I am stronger than yesterday.
Today I have made progress, and tomorrow I will make more.
Tomorrow, I decide, I will go to the gym.