Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, The Irony of It All

When I lived in Bratislava, I was a lean, mean, perimenopausal machine.

I went to the gym twice a week and had a personal trainer who alternately flirted with and coached me.

I swam at least once a week at my friend's house (she has a pool). Or, if she wasn't available, I went to an indoor pool and swam laps.

I had 90 minutes of tennis every Friday morning, and this was outdoors, on red clay courts, under brilliant blue skies in the spring and fall. It never rained. In the winter, I played on a bubble-covered court.

Pilates class was Wednesday morning.

The Spouse turned me on to bicycling. I used to do a two-hour ride down the Danube and back at least once a week, weather permitting. And my wonderful, crazy expat friend, MH used to cheerfully drag me up the hill to an area called Kamzik/Koliba, all the while saying, "Oh, this is the hardest part. Really."

She lied, of course. It was a brutal ride. But I felt I was keeping death at bay for doing it. I remember gasping for oxygen and thinking how, when I was in my 30s, I was fat and lazy and immortal. Now that I'm kicking 50 in the ass, my mid-life crisis has become a quest to outrun the inevitable.

I had it in my head that it was Emily Dickinson who wrote these lines, but, thanks to the miracle of Google, I am shamefully reminded that it was Andrew Marvel, "To His Coy Mistress." So much for that Master's Degree when your mind starts to unravel, eh? Am I violating copyright by reproducing my favorite part here?

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Tick-tock, this says. Life is short. Tell me again, why aren't we in bed?

After all our belongings (including my bathroom scale) were packed up by the movers, but before we left Slovakia, someone gave me a pair of blue jeans, size 28. Italian 28. I don't know what I weighed then, seeing as my scale had been loaded into a container. But I know I was stressing about the move and skipping meals. I also know I fit in those jeans.

They were jeans I never would have purchased for myself: that low-cut, well-below the navel, make-sure-you-show-no-ass-cleavage style.

And for two weeks, they fit me.

Then I arrived in Moscow, washed the jeans, and they either shrank or I inflated. Well, I know I got bigger. Maybe the jeans shrank, too. In any case, I haven't fit in them since.

I am currently reading a book called The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Place in the World, by Eric Weiner. It's a funny book. I'm on the chapter where he goes to Iceland and tries to ascertain what it is that keeps the Icelanders from putting their heads in their Icelandic ovens. Seems Icelanders, in spite of their short, dark days and their long winters (sound familiar?) are not particularly gloomy people. I haven't finished the chapter, so I cannot share what Weiner learns about Iceland yet, but he does talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

"Caused by a lack of sunlight, SAD leads to symptoms such as despair, listlessness, and a craving for carbohydrates," Weiner writes.


He goes on to say that SAD is relatively unheard of in Iceland, and, in fact, more common in the northeastern US. Coincidentally, I have a classmate from high school who lives in New England and mentioned she suffers from SAD. She takes something for it which, tragically to my mind, does not combine well with alcohol.

I thought alcohol is what one takes to treat SAD. Here in Moscow, anyhow.

Note to self: Ya think maybe it isn't just the carbohydrates that keep me out of those jeans? Nyah.

The Spouse and I both struggle to keep fit. And in spite of the nose-curlingly high prices of Moscow gym memberships, we have each purchased one.

The idea, aside from having access to a larger portion of our respective wardrobes (because gyms aren't the only exorbitantly priced things in Moscow), was to improve our respective self-images. And this, we theorized, might jazz up our . . . conjugal life.

Not that there's anything wrong with it. We haven't digressed to hallway sex yet. We just thought it wouldn't hurt to feel a little better while naked.

There's a great cosmic joke at work here, however. The problem, it seems, and perhaps this is a function of our over-40-ness, is that while we both have newly rediscovered our biceps, triceps, and, dare I say it, even some abs, this gym stuff really takes it out of both of us.

Now we're no doubt better looking. But we're also too damned tired.


The Flip Side. . .Or Maybe Not said...

Unfortunately, I don't have the lack of sunshine as an excuse since I currently live in the tropics. Interestingly enough, may be relocating to moscow due to hubby's work. Before I start to ramble,can old jeans shrink? for real?

The Expatresse said...

They were brand new . . . I mean, I wore them for a few days (no washing machine at the time) and then I washed them and that was the end. But I also gained at least 5 kg since we moved here, too.

Tina in CT said...

The long gloomy winter leads to eating comfort food. Hence, 5 kg.

valentina said...

I have a friend who has the reverse of SAD. He has depression in the summer. It is pretty weird but is apparently a real disorder.

In Norway the gov't pays for 2 weeks vacation to warmer sunnier climates for each of its citizens...But with those very long winter nights and penetrating cold I don't see how 2 weeks would suffice.

I think a large part of aging is acceptance...

But as Marvell said (love that Marvell!) in his carpe diem poem which you cite, especially written during times when life was much shorter, that for all of us youth is short...

As this still remains a I would counter this with the wise adage of Baba Ram Dass who said "Be here now" and embrace the you you have.

Toss the jeans and keep trying to stay fit but relax or else your life will be prolonged dissatisfaction and where's that at??? xov

Frédérique said...

I had a wee bit of the SAD when living in Montreal, probably due to arriving at university before the sun rose (at 8ish) and leaving after it set (4:30ish).

In one of the Student Association-run cafés, a number of SAD lights were available to listless students - sip your coffee and chat with friends for 15-20 minutes in front of a very bright light recreating the effects of sunlight. So we'd have to close our eyes, but that's just a bonus relaxation moment...

I hear it works just as well with a glass of wine (or vodka) than a cup of coffee ;)

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