I popped a Xanax before spin class today.
Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
Christmas stress, making all those deviled eggs (and eating them), the dog puking on gingerbread, oh, and that Dead Husband.
Let’s toss in a Dead Mother for good measure.
I think a lot about my mom around the holidays. Did we have a deep, loving bond? No.
Despite my mother’s lack of affection and general kindness, she always made Christmas feel like Christmas. Sure, she yelled at my sister-in-law and broke my dad’s arm with a frozen chicken one year, but I digress. Mother of the Year or not, she knew how to create a celebration.
Multiple types of stuffing, 20 or so desserts, honeycomb tissue decorative bells taped to the walls, fake snow on a K-mart tree, and a cigarette in her hand, my mother delivered. It may have also been the only time of the year my father and I could overlook her green-eyed anger.
She tracked Santa on the news - morning, noon, evening and late night announcements – and as the weatherman recited coordinates, I charted them on our magnetic hurricane tracker. My mother penned the coordinates next to the winning lottery numbers and I went to town.
“He’s over Mexico!” I’d exclaim.
“Well, you’d better get your butt to bed!” she’d warn; and I did – every year.
Now that I’ve got kids of my own, I realize I don’t offer the same magic production. I’m tired.
Mentally and physically fatigued from a pandemic, political chaos, and just life in general. Toys are expensive and kids these days are clueless on enjoying the pure fun of making mud pies with grass clipping garnish. Tasty.
They want Nintendo garb. They want multicolored, overpriced Legos that end up in the washing machine, the vacuum, the floorboard of my car. They want kinetic sand that ends up in my bed, my hair, my teeth. They want, they want, they want.
I wanted, too – don’t get the misconception that I was more interested in a glorious North Star and mystical baby Jesus at Christmas time than a new Care Bear. I wanted all of it – well not the Jesus part - the Alf doll, the leather boots with fringe, a purple bike with a banana seat. The difference is my parents were not financially able to buy it all, or even some of it, but my mother was able to create a magical holiday without me having a clue.
And today, as I spin around and around to a medley of Justin Bieber, the instructor shouts,
GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!
Justin sings on and I stare at the instructor’s legs going round and round her machine like a ceiling fan. My legs look more like a Kitchen Aid mixer kneading a thick chunk of dough.
I push. Push. Push.
My chest is burning. Sweat is dripping into my eyes. The nightclub atmosphere bumps. Thump. Thump.
She shouts again,
Don’t hang that head! Head UP! Chest UP! GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD! YOUR BODY CAN DO AMAZING THINGS IF YOU LET IT!
A few regulars cheer on, raise an arm of success, yet here I slowly spin – in my head.
And isn’t that always our problem when you get right down to it? That we are always in our head?
Breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, she shouts over the mic.
I breathe in, breathe out, watching the instructor’s legs spin round and round. She is beautiful – long hair and tan, carved shoulders, and thin ankles. She is breathing. She is working. She is needed.
I breathe accordingly, spin faster, close my eyes.
I think about my body, a physical creation so ordinarily tiny in this infinite space. With each inhale, I imagine oxygen bubbles drifting inside my veins. I imagine the bubbles happy to be needed. They are light. They are focused.
YOU CAN DO THIS! GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND FORGET ABOUT THE PAIN! she shouts again.
I consider her tiny molecules, those tiny cells her mother once stared at on a monitor. I consider her once tiny heart, the beat of a beginning. I think about my own cells, the tiny bubbles of oxygen, and how they once created life over and over.
I remember a tiny beating heart finally on a monitor in a dark room and the feeling of being happy to be needed. I was focused on life itself, not makeup or fashion, and certainly not the size of my waist. I was focused on some sort of magic – some sort of creation inside of me that, despite all of my doubt, had not failed.
I like to think my body is thick and out of shape because my mind is not strong enough to push my body to do amazing things. These excuses are so simple to create, and they provide an easy out when you want to sleep in instead of going to a torture chamber (a gym of literally any kind).
The fact of the matter is that my body is not an extension of my depressed mind, it is a prisoner.
I’ve told myself for years that I was ugly, not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough; but as Justin Bieber blared on about how Holy, Holy, Holy he is or whatever the fuck that song is about, I realized I had finally gotten out of my head, even if it was only for a few minutes, and even if I took the long way around to get there – or maybe it was just the Xanax.