Here Lies Susie, Rest in Peace. Cause of Death: Pure Barre.

You’ve heard of Pure Barre.

I feel I can safely assume that, because I’ve heard of Pure Barre, and I’m usually the last person to hear about things.

But for those of you still in the dark, Pure Barre is an exercise program created by masochists to torture women under the facade of being a distant cousin of ballet.

…Or something. I don’t know. Look it up.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get in shape ever since my doctor called me a fat lard a few weeks ago… and I’ve been hearing a lot about Pure Barre lately.

And since I pretty much do whatever I want these days, I went ahead and signed myself up.

I’ll be honest, I went into this thing all cocky. My limited exposure to the program had informed me that it wouldn’t be cardio, there would be no jumping or bouncing, and they I would only be using 2-pound weights. Pshaw. I spent like two weeks working out this year, and I did dance… oh, a decade or so ago, so I GOT THIS, right? Should be a piece of cake, a la mode.

But it was not a piece of cake a la mode. It wasn’t even cake a la no mode. It was… slabs of concrete on a plate.

My first impression walking in is, damn. These girls look GOOD.

I don’t mean runway model skinny, I mean FIT. I’m talking, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fit. These girls look like they’d be right at home with loincloths around their waist, traipsing through jungles with a machete. The movie Avatar comes to mind, only these girls aren’t blue.

And hawt. Oh my god. Easily a room full of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen. I suddenly feel overwhelmingly self-conscious in my sweats and oversized T-shirt. They make me jealous of turtles, how they can just hide inside themselves at whim.

Boys, I’ve uncovered the secret. If you want a hottie, hang out outside a Pure Barre studio and thank me later.

Then it occurs to me: there’s no way all these girls are this fit, and this hot. This is fake, this is part of the gig. They pay these girls to come to these classes the same way beer commercials use subliminal advertising with big busty blondes – to make men think, in caveman-style logic: “Me drink beer. Me get pretty girls.”

Me go to Pure Barre studio, me become pretty Avatar-fit girl.

Luckily, all the fellow-attendees-slash-possibly-paid-actors are really nice. They twirl around me as I stretch awkwardly on the floor, and give me enthusiastic encouragement for my first day.

The instructor pulls me aside to give me a basic overview of what to expect – and she says, two or three times, “Don’t worry. All these girls in here – every one of them had a first day, too.”

Translation: You will suck at this.

The class begins, and we go to the bar to perform a series of leg strengthening exercises.

Did I say “leg strengthening exercises?” No no, that’s the wrong name for it. You’re probably picturing squats or burpees or some nonsense.

Nope, what I mean is – we just stood there. Just stood there, with one leg down and one straight out. Or on our tip toes with knees bent. Or with flexed feet, turned out feet, pointed feet. We barely even moved. The most tiny, miniscule movements – tighten and hold, tighten and hold.

From outside, it probably looked like we were doing barbie doll impressions, twisting the leg socket by a half an inch and then just standing there like a statue.

Which made it all the more infuriating how unbelievably, indescribably HARD it was.

At Pure Barre, they have an expression called “embrace the shake.” What they mean by this is, by the end of the class you’ll have exerted your muscles to the absolute breaking point – and your muscles’ way of expressing this to you will be to shake uncontrollably.

We’re meant to embrace this.

I am embracing the shake within the first eight minutes of class. Not just slight twitching, mind you, but absolute violent spasms. I look like a frightened cartoon character, my knees knocking together. “Way to go, Susie! Embrace the shake!” the instructor tells me.

I don’t know what this means. The shake isn’t something I can control. I’m not embracing anything, I’m just trying to stay alive. If I could send the shake away with some cab fare, I’d do it. I want to spit in the shake’s face.

After days and days at the bar, when I’ve given up all hope of my legs ever returning to normal function and I’m starting to forget my name, we retreat to the mats.

I’m no anatomy expert, but I truly did not even know there was this much sweat inside my body. Where does it all come from? And how is it produced by doing nothing but standing?

On the floor, we do more teeny tiny movements – this time working itty bitty muscles in my abs I didn’t even know existed. Sweat is dripping off the tip of my nose like a leaky faucet.

After weeks of impossibly miniscule gestures involving a ball and a resistance band, mercifully, the class comes to a close.

I practically collapse on the floor. I am dying I died I’m dead.

The same girls frolic up to me cheerfully, asking me how I enjoyed it. Gathering my remaining pride, I can only muster a single syllable: “Tough.”

They laugh conspiratorially. “It gets easier, we promise!” Then they skip tra-la-la back into their Avatar forest while I lay helpless on the ground.

Exiting into the crisp Portland night air is nothing short of heavenly. The icy wind laps my pink face like a loyal dog, and any remaining drips of sweat are stopped dead in their tracks.

It’s wonderful… until I realize home is 17 blocks away.

And I suddenly realize I can’t walk. I can’t even remember what it’s like to walk. I’m like an infant re-learning my first steps. Even swinging my arms hurts.

I somehow stumble awkwardly home, and climb into the shower practically on all fours. As I type this, I’ve been sitting in the same position for the last 2.5 hours because getting up sounds so unbearably painful.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into here. This has been horrifyingly intense, and completely overwhelming. I’m exhausted, weak, and I ache all over.

…And, truthfully, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

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What it’s like to be alone

What is there to say?

What is there ever to say?

It’s been so long since I dipped my toe in the murky waters of chronicling my life that I can scarcely remember how to do it.

But since time is a weighty currency not one of us can spare, I’ll get to the point:

Due to a set of circumstances I am nowhere near ready to disclose on this blog… I am single. And now living alone in a city apartment in Portland.

Having been in my most recent relationship for just shy of three years, and the one preceding it for four, and the one preceding that for one… I’ve been somebody’s girlfriend for eight of the last nine years, and my entire adult life.

In other words, being single is entirely unfamiliar territory.

And, let me tell you: it’s hard.

It’s hard not having an automatic recipient to your random thoughts throughout the day. It’s hard not having a witness to your life, a sounding board who knows all the right backstories to every character in your story. It’s hard not having someone to wonder about, to care for.

Being alone – which I count as a separate entity – is also hard. Even surrounded by people, the world can be a lonely place. What if I told you that you had to spend the rest of your life, every single moment until the end of time, with the same person? More time than even your best friend. More than your significant other. More than any member of your family combined.

And the weird thing is, that person is you. YOU are the person you’re going to have to spend eternity with, forever, regardless of the presence of others. And, consider this carefully… do you even like yourself? If you were someone else, would you want to spend eternity with you? Or do you even know yourself to begin with? What kind of person are you? What do you like to do?

That’s what being alone is like, and it’s terrifying.

…But, okay, it’s also awesome.

Being alone – as far as I can figure (having had about two weeks under my belt) – is also an awfully exhilarating adventure.

I feel thoroughly unqualified to adequately express my experience thus far… so by way of explanation, let me just describe my day today:

I woke up by my own accord.

I don’t mean to say that I didn’t set an alarm, because that’s been true of most weekend days in my life.

I mean that when I got out of bed, it wasn’t because I knew someone else was up and puttering around in the kitchen. It wasn’t because waking up was the polite, considerate thing to do. It wasn’t because on some unconscious level I knew it would be improper to sleep any later, and that it was “time” to start the day.

I woke up for the luxuriously simple reason that I was done sleeping.

Once awake, I asked myself a deliriously wonderful question: “What would you like to do today, Susie?”

And as bad at I am at decisions, I knew the answer right away. Gosh darnit, I want some eggs benedict.

And here’s the crazy part; are you paying attention? I got some eggs benedict. I walked to a locally acclaimed breakfast joint just a few blocks from my apartment, and asked for a table for one.

Because I wanted to watch the Charger game (no, I don’t want to talk about it), I was situated in the far back of the restaurant with my very own dedicated TV.

I was in heaven.

eggs benny

This restaurant (not that I’m in the business of promoting random restaurants) offers bottomless mimosas for $9.

mimosaThe secret to bottomless mimosas is to make sure you get your money’s worth. $9 is a pretty penny, UNLESS you have a fair few of them to balance it out. #lifetips

Also, while most boring places will offer you breadsticks or some nonsense while you’re waiting… this place serves complimentary homemade doughnuts. So, no big deal or anything.

doughnuts

Gee whiz, I sure hope nobody’s paying too close attention to me photographing all this food.

After swallowing my last bite of eggs benny and watching the Chiefs return a Chargers punt 50 yards, I made my way back into the misty sidewalk and headed home.

Before reaching my building, I stopped off at the local supermarket and treated myself to a some fresh veggies and (because I won’t be kissing anyone anytime soon) cheese curds entitled “Garlic Cheddar – Vampire Slayer.”

I munched on them while watching (who am I kidding?) crying over Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

After I was all cried out, I started to get sleepy, and (because there was no one around to suggest otherwise) I went ahead and took a two-hour nap.

When I woke, I dolled myself up, grabbed a book, and walked down to my favorite vietnamese restaurant. I reveled in every last nanosecond of slurping my pho (because why hurry?) as I devoured Truman Capote.

bat

The pho place is the hokiest hole in the wall you’ve ever seen, and their source of music is YouTube playlists. I made it through two of them (I know, because the proprietor had to yell at her son to change it twice) before pushing my bowl away, thoroughly satisfied.

When I left, the owner gave me a bright, genuine smile and shouted, “Happy holiday! Happy holiday to you!” as I walked out the door.

On my way home, I passed a bar and – what the hell? – grabbed a glass of wine. I met a girl named Jennifer, Asian and gorgeous with dark-rimmed glasses, who spent the evening convincing me that I should care more about the Blazers than the Chargers. (I am absolutely not convinced, but A+ for effort.)

When I arrived in my over-budget, outdated, turn-of-the-century brick apartment, I cranked on my noisy radiator and plopped on my horribly uncomfortable couch to write a blog post.

And you know what? I absolutely adored it. Because it’s mine, all mine, and this day is mine, and this life is mine, and every decision I made or will make in the future will be mine.

This isn’t a novel idea. I’m sure there are people all over the world – in the most remote African villages, even – who wake up in the morning and decide what they want and then go get it for themselves. This is probably very simple for some people. You might be reading this right now and think, “What? You had to double your rent and move into the throbbing heart of a new city to learn this? This is Adulthood 101, you idiot.” And you’d be right.

But the thing is, when you lasso your life with someone else’s, you forget how to want something and go get it. Your life becomes this multi-colored mishmash of desires, and everything becomes gray after awhile. “Do I want this? Or does he want it, and I only want it because it’s what he wants?” You truly can’t tell the difference. Because there is no difference. You are one being, a single floating amoeba.

But now, I’m forced to press the question, over and over again, “What do I want? What is important to me?” And I keep surprising myself with the answer.

So as terrifying as it’s been so far, it’s also like some part of my subconscious – the adventurous, spunky, ‘why-the-hell-not’ part – has been locked in a closet for the better part of the last decade, and has finally been let out to start stretching her legs.

And boy, is she ready to run.