When I was a kid I was such a comedian. My mom will tell you, too, “She used to be so funny, I don’t know what happened.” She’ll sigh and look at me, as though superimposed in memory is that high-spirited fat kid using a vacuum cleaner as a microphone. I’d lean into it with the cord wrapped around my hand and croon Love Me Tender, though my favorite song to sing was my own interpretation of Hound Dog. I’d really get raucous with that one. Everyone in the livingroom would howl with laughter even as I wheeled my high power suction microphone out after the finale.
The restaurant at which I work has a lot of church groups come in for all the unlimited things we offer, good cheer not being a refillable option. We try to keep it light. The other night at work I’m carrying a tray heavy with four large dinner plates. My bicep is crunched up near my ear; a bicep, I might add, that is no less strong and capable than it was when it made more of an outward appearance four or so years ago. I pass one of my co-workers who is returning to the kitchen from the fray, no doubt to refill a refillable option.
“Hey!” I holler, ”The next time my table asks if I believe in hell, I’m gonna say, ‘yeah, I do, and we’re taking applications.” We both laugh at the absurdity of telling someone we serve how we really feel about them, though as I walk through the dining room with this tray of food I consider that mom might be proud of my moment of comedic wit.
When I return to the kitchen with the same tray, this time now heavy with all manner of discarded plates, cutlery and linen, I hoist the entire beast into the dish-pit where I unload the soiled wares to be cleaned by faceless minions who do the dirtiest deed in the restaurant for the least pay. I feel that previously crunched bicep unwrinkle and suck up oxygen. Possibly I was once physically stronger, but things change when a person isn’t able to devote hours a day several days a week to training. After dropping so many trays into the dish-pit, one isn’t prone to feelings of physical ferocity.
The joke isn’t on me, though, it’s on everyone who liked the way I looked when I was positively skeletal and over-trained.
I got acupuncture several years ago. It was a good series of treatments that I would do again. I did, in fact, go back for another series of acupuncture with the same doctor of Chinese medicine two or so years after my initial visits. I first met the good doctor at the back-end of my martial arts career, if one could call it that. Imagine a female body builder who doesn’t give a f___ about anything. That’s how I looked, with vascular arms and thighs that might crush a walnut if one was brave enough to get that high up between my legs. Of course, my abdomen was taught and screaming for a sandwich, but when men admire such things they don’t care how hungry a person is.
When I visit the same doctor those couple of years later, my body softened minimally, though given the contrast, I almost looked like a normal girl. There will always be ridges across my collar bones, given my natural anatomy and proclivity for musculature. But the truth is that I wasn’t as hard as I used to be and my medicine man had no qualms with telling me so.
“Gosh, your arms sure aren’t as muscular as they used to be.” He gapes at my sleeveless limbs. “You sure used to be cut, what have you been doing?”
“Obviously not training.” I respond with diminished humor.
He eyes me still, almost solicitously, “You were in such good shape.”
“Well, let’s write a g__ damned eulogy for the fucking things and get on with it, shall we?” I consider saying, but instead sheepishly explain that it’s hard to keep that sort of training up, you know?
That was my last visit for acupuncture. I have no less faith in the practice of Chinese medicine though there is an ever waning faith in the compassion of humans. I won’t go into detail about my former physician’s lack of hair or the fact that his head is shaped like an angry egg. It doesn’t matter that I could beat him at arm wrestling even today, though probably my yoga has given my grip something the likes of which his stodgy little pecker could only dream. I won’t say any of that. I’ll just carry on with my blog.
It was a journal rant that made me think about Easter past. That Easter Sunday that I took my little sister to the beach, only to end up in a bikini contest while her fourteen year-old self watched my drink at the bar. We went home and ate a Sunday ham. There was an Easter where I got to sit on my great-grandmother’s lap and finger her delicate wrist corsage. I considered the Easter I did a kung fu demonstration and didn’t have time to eat anything at all. I remembered that Sunday years ago that I rolled out the Hoover for a special one woman musical. And then I thought that I am the sum of all my days, and that none of them matter at all. I wondered at what time in the past that I began to let my tone apologize for my presence.
I am no more or less bitter or tired or humorous or strong than I was when I shot out into this cruel and entertaining world thirty-one years ago. It is the images of myself I see reflected in the eyes of others that makes me long for more than what is. And perhaps it’s just my perception that skews how I feel in a given moment, and it is far easier to blame the person looking back at me in a given moment than realize that I am not who I once was.
I would love to have muscles carved from the mountains of hell, biceps belched from the underworld for battle. Of course, I’d also like to have a constantly comedic disposition and compassionate nature. I’d love to look an asshole in the eye at work and think, they must be having a bad day, and then say to them, “Sir, we have some fresh coffee. Why don’t you take your angry wife’s hand tenderly in yours and I’ll bring you a nice cup to share and a piece of black tie mouse cake, because I read in Reader’s Digest once that chocolate releases happy hormones. While you enjoy your dessert, I’ll roll out the vacuum and give you a lovely dinner show.”
I would also like to have a greater understanding of humans. What forges our expectations and why do we mutilate each others’ feelings given the opportunity? Why is who we were important at all? Why do we use comparisons from the past to inflict damage on the current moment? Why do we do this to ourselves only to allow this practice to bleed out into relationships?
I can say that if I held myself to the same standards of kung fu, not a one of my yoga teachers would be able to do a thing with me. If I was still such a comedian, my own family wouldn’t have me, because let’s face it, that shit gets old. I am not the same person who wrote letters to the past. I realize that for what it’s worth, journal writing is for the present, and any reading in the future will only dampen the present moment, when I think about that time I was pissed off or tired or heaven forbid having a really really good day. I will not always be fortunate and I will not always have a clue as to what I’m gonna do with my life, even when I think I got a really clear message from the universe just yesterday saying that I’m going to teach yoga and write blogs about it.
Once I finish writing this blog I’m finished with it. Now it’s for you. And whenever you read it, you and I are together now, where everything is perfect and you are no more the sum of your parts, but perfect in your own flawed and fearless present.