If I could change one thing about myself to be whatever I wanted it to be – laws of nature be darned – I’d make it so I could make that *blink blink* noise that cartoon characters do when they blink their eyes in surprise or disbelief or heartbreak (probably over the fact that their mouths only form one syllable: waaaoooohhhhh).
“Mom? Why can’t I have a BB gun? I promise not to shoot anyone… above the knees.” *blink blink*
“Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t use the kettlebells without a personal trainer. You might accidentally let it fly through the window.” *blink blink*
“Why are these screws left over? Ah well, the table stands fine without ’em.” *blink blink*
See? How awesome would that be?! I’d never have to say anything of import ever again!
I’ve been thinking of upgrades I’d like a lot lately. One of the best things about moving is the opportunity to reinvent yourself. Just like you get to toss out a bunch of junk you’ve been holding onto for years (because everyone needs 17 power cords for a cell phone you haven’t owned since “flips” were cool and you had to text by repeatedly pressing the number pad amirite?) because there’s no room for it on the moving truck nor in your new life, now you get to toss out the pieces of yourself that you don’t like. Back before the Wild West of the Internet, I think you could do a full about-face and pull a Jean Valjean-like transformation – although even he couldn’t escape who he really was in the end – but these days we’re a little more limited by our electronic trail. Especially, ahem, me. The girl who’s known for oversharing. Truth is I’m never quite sure how much to tell new acquaintances about myself because I’m not sure how much they already know. (Not that I think I’m A Thing or whatever, just that I include my website in my e-mail signature and post a lot of stuff on Facebook.)
At first, when I found out we were moving to Denver I was excited at this prospect of reinvention. Minnesota saw my worst years as an exercise addict and way more of my anxieties than I would have liked. But Colorado hadn’t seen me at my worst. And maybe it would never have to! Denver offered the prospect of not being “that girl” at the gym anymore. I would be able to walk into a new place and not have the manager immediately roll into a ball of porcupine quills because he/she knew I was going to ask for crazy things. Like kettlebells. Or chin-up bars. Or kettlebells on chinup bars. In the pool. Just that. Plus I wouldn’t have a slew of well-meaning people questioning my every activity. “Were you here twice today? Are you sure you’re not exercising too much?” And I could have conversations about BodyPump without making people feel immediately defensive. I could be normal! I could be… anything!
Or, unchecked, I could go off the rails. You know, whatever.
As I thought more about this phoenix-like opportunity being offered me – and how often, really, are you afforded this type of chance in life? – I made a longer list of Old Charlotte things that would no longer be a part of New Charlotte. For instance, I used to be known for being a terrible secret keeper and ruining surprises. Usually it came from a place of happiness or over-excitement (“You’re having a BABY?!?! I’m so excited… to blurt your good news in front of 75 strangers waiting to go into TurboKick! Oops.) but every once in a while it came from a place of, well, subterfuge. Female friendships are tricky and one of the fastest ways to bond with someone is to tell them something they’re not supposed to know (but you do!). It shows you trust them more than most people. It shows you think they’re cool. It also shows you don’t think very far ahead because rare is the person who loves a spilled secret without spilling one herself.
All of which can be okay, or at least limited in scope, until the secret you share is not about yourself but about someone else. This type of gossip – which I’m trying desperately not to rationalize even though I want to white-wash it under the guise of “I’m only saying this because I caaarrre!” – can really come back to bite you in the butt. Which it did me. More than once. I can honestly say I have NEVER felt so ashamed in all my life. The drama it caused, the people it hurt, the petty rivalries it perpetuated… all sadness. That is definitely a trait I hope stays with Old Charlotte. I want to be trustworthy. I want to not just be mostly kind but to be always kind. I want to love people unconditionally. I want to be worthy of their love and respect.
But eating disorders and gossip – those are big things. What about all the smaller personality traits? As I looked over my list of “things Charlotte needs fixed” it occurred to me that many of the things I couldn’t actually tell if they were a flaw or a feature. My love of knowledge and learning can come across as being a bossy know-it-all or it can mean I’m an interesting conversationalist. My love of other people’s lives and stories can either appear as being prying and nosy or it can come across as genuine interest in what makes other people who they are. My tendency toward self reflection can either be seen as narcissistic navel-gazing or as being self aware. But how was I to know which one I was? How would I know which Charlotte others were seeing??
I felt lost. *blink blink* I feel lost. What if New Charlotte doesn’t feel like being the Great Fitness Experiment anymore? What if I can’t do it without the Gym Buddies? (And would it even be any fun if I could?) What if I don’t want to work out anymore? Like, ever? I’ve been good about self-motivating through park- and hotel- workouts over the past month but even I could feel the inertia pulling me. The real question: Would I still want to exercise if I wasn’t driven to it by an unhealthy compulsion or pulled to it by my need for my friends? Do I really love exercise for the sake of exercise or did I just love it for all the extra stuff it gave me?
My list anxiety came to a head today as I went out again to look at gyms. Every time I walked into a new one, my chest tightened a little more and the tears got a little more aggressive with my contacts. *blink blink* At first I thought it was simply because the thought of walking onto a weight floor or into a cardio studio without all my wonderful Gym Buddies was making me depressed. (And that’s true). But as I sat in the parking lot of yet another failed option I realized that I was looking for the wrong things. What I was looking for – and not finding – was a gym that would make me into the person I wish I was. I was looking for people who would accept me for who I am but see me as something better. I wanted a gym where I could be the successful and respected fitness writer with insight and flair – oh, and a slammin’ body. I wanted a gym where I could have magically skinny thighs and still squat 300 pounds. I wanted a gym where I could be funny and sassy but never offend anyone. I wanted a gym where I could wear tutus and snort water out my nose from laughing too hard and fart during happy baby pose in yoga and eat endless chocolate without gaining weight and… *blink blink* Apparently I wanted a gym where I could be in a Cameron Diaz movie. But none of that is really me. And so of course I wasn’t satisfied.
Each time I went over my ever lengthening Not Charlotte list, I felt more desperate. I wanted to run into the street and beg people to just give me the benefit of the doubt! Please don’t assume the worst about me! And then I realized that maybe I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there is no Old Charlotte and New Charlotte. Maybe there is now (and always has been) just fallible Charlotte. Normal, flawed, loving, annoying and quirky Charlotte. Maybe I need to stop trying to fix her. Maybe I’m not broken.
So I signed up with a gym today. It’s a good gym. It has everything I need. They’ll even let me use the kettlebells without supervision. (And the TRX and the wall balls and the VIPRs and all the other goodies!) It has fun classes and child care and all the free weights a girl could desire. It’s not fancy but it’s clean. It’s reasonably priced. As I walked around I realized that I’d missed all this. And I was glad to be back in it, even if I didn’t have any friends there. Yet.
But none of that was what sold me on the gym. In the end it was the friendliness. It’s a small-ish family owned gym and by golly the whole family came out to meet me! Three generations! Everyone shook my hand and admired my kids and asked me questions. Sure, I was about to sign a contract that would fork over a lot of money to them over the next 12 months so I’m sure that helped too but it still felt genuine. Everyone there was chatting with each other. And they all seemed to like me. Not the the me I wish I was – all they know was what they got on the intake form – but just the mom of four kids who likes to workout sometimes and laugh all the time. I can be that me. *blink blink*
Have you ever reinvented yourself? What superpower would you give yourself? If you could change just one thing about yourself what would it be?? (And no, I will not accept abs, boobs or thighs as an answer.)