Saturday, 29 March 2008

The land of the free

Fed up with fighting triplets and a sulky Dig, Grit goes to the gym.

I love the gym. I am in love with the gym. Before children, I was a gym tart. I would be there four times a week, two-hour blocks, cardios and weights, maintaining toned thighs suitable for mini skirts. Now I can barely heave my lumpen carcass on the paddle thingy. Worse, I think I may stuff bags of potatoes down the legs of my jeans in place of thighs.

And of course the three times a week has turned into three times a year. Yet still I pay. Because, and this is where bank managers and independent financial advisers can get stuffed, each one of those rare visits to the gym is worth the cost, ten times over.

As I sit there, staring at daytime TV, peddling a bike that doesn't move, I wonder what drives this need to return, periodically, to old haunts. I may be addicted to the memory of a life; a life where I might leap up and announce, I'm going to the gym. Back in a couple of hours! And not, Can I have your attention? I have a year planner and erasable marker. What are you doing in March?

Now, after negotiations the size of a UN peace treaty, I might grab a couple of hours here. Alone. Dig will look after the kids. I won't suggest he does anything active, of course. More, Can you please not allow Tiger to kill herself by accident. Neglect I expect, so I'll feed and water everyone before I go, and console myself with the knowledge that they can rip open the cereal packet.

And I sit there, peddling not very fast but miles away from Shark, Squirrel, Tiger, and Dig.

And everyone ignores me. This is wonderful.

I don't have to talk to anyone. I don't have to negotiate, argue, explain in words of one syllable three times over, feel the need to teach mathematics or refer to Henry VIII.

In fact, I've been here 32 minutes and no-one is competing for my attention. Even better, no-one gives a damn whether I'm here or not. No-one is threatening that if they do not get a response, and now, they will hit someone, throw things or beat me. No-one calls me names, or pushes me. I can peddle off, not going anywhere, and it doesn't matter. No one treats me like I'm in the way. Like I'm an irritating obstacle to their great life plan. No-one at all makes me feel feeble, pointless, and a yattering nuisance who goes on and on about boring pointless topics like what should we eat for dinner because the children didn't have vegetables yesterday.

Yippee. Is this what freedom feels like? I can walk up a hill on a conveyor belt that never ends. I no longer feel guilty. It used to be that if I am enjoying myself, something bad will happen. The oven will explode. Squirrel will be knocked out. Tiger will fall downstairs. A sense of risk is actually quite thrilling. I walk to nowhere a bit faster. Dig might actually have to do something domestic if the oven exploded.

What of the many positive advantages? I climb some never ending stairs. I don't have to keep bending down following small people discarding dinosaurs, clothing, books, crayons and wiggly eyes that glue themselves to the floor. I can climb stairs without my hands full of stuff they just brought down from their bedrooms and threw all over the kitchen floor.

And I can go rowing! Without water! And when I make that decision I can just get going. I don't need to book a water sports course three months in advance suitable for children, feed everyone potatoes and worry about whether we will survive the car journey there and back because we are late and I need to stop for petrol and emergency shop for dinner on the way home, pop by the post office to pay for the ballet lessons and then send the email about the art workshop.

None of that. I am in the land of liberation. I am free. No-one needs me. I can row till my tummy hurts.

And when I return home I find the children didn't even know that I'd gone.


Brad said...

I'm growing to rely on you old girl. You make me smile every day.

the mother of this lot said...

The land of liberation...I went there once. Bit like the land of the free but with better beaches.