Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Timely Reminder of Life's Fragility

I knew my muscles and joints would scream at me this morning, regardless of how much stretching I did last night (a lot).  This out of shape body can't go as long as it did without a really intense workout, and not feel horribly inadequate the next day.  Although the initial workout yesterday lasted a scant 11 minutes, my body reacted as though I'd huffed and puffed for a solid hour or more. Specifically, my quads and hamstrings had turned into sheepshanks overnight.  Once I put weight on them, I knew that I would need twice as much time to travel half the distance (to the bathroom, where else?).

Unfortunately, putting weight on my feet and legs first had to overcome the inert mess of tired sinew that my upper abdominals had become.  I struggled just to sit up.  This from just 30 sit-ups?  Fuck...

I rolled onto my side and swung my legs over the side of the bed and pushed myself up with my arms (note to self: I need to do an arm and shoulder workout soon to balance out the chorus of growls emanating from my legs).  Looked at the clock.  Quarter past seven.  I had about 90 minutes before I needed to drive the kids to Sunday school.  Stood up, took care of business, and got on my shorts, T-shirt and cross-trainers.  Found my Galaxy S4 and earphones and headed outside by 7:30.  Today, I was going to push a little farther.  A power walk around the 'hood, uphill, downhill, over about 45 minutes, with Dream Theater, Chick Corea, Rush, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Jeff Buckley as my travelling companions. I kept up a really good pace and walked 3.2 miles (a 5k) in 46 minutes.  That equated to a little more than a 14-minute mile.  I know some who can't run that fast, so that felt pretty damn good!

After a great breakfast, I got the boys in the car, drove them to Sunday school and walked them inside Temple Akiba for their first day of the 2014/15 school year.  Seeing the faces of the other parents reassured me, and seeing my boys' classmates, a little older after the summer break, gave me a warm feeling of watching this community grow.  Somehow, being nearly 52 didn't bother me today.

A buddy of mine stood at the back of the room as his kids ran off to find their friends.  After small talk, he asked me if I'd spoken to one of our common friends, a former co-worker of mine, over the past month or so.  Turns out he had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his prostate removed.  This man is six years my junior and is one of the most physically fit men I've ever known. A man who works out seven days a week, watches what he eats, and doesn't party if it meant he'd miss his workout the next day.

I wasn't really close to this man since we'd stopped working together, but we had a relationship.  For a man like him, who took such excellent care of himself throughout his entire life, to be struck with prostate cancer (and the lifetime after-effects of the surgery), this news put me in a funk.  Combined with thigh muscles that were stiff and sore,  it came out in the way I talked to my wife the entire morning.

As I took my dog for a walk, constantly reminded with every step that I was walking uphill (figuratively) over the next eight weeks, I couldn't help but wonder if all the punishment I was going to give myself was worth it.  Cancer doesn't care if I'm fat and flabby or lean and ripped.  It'd get me either way.  Of course, the exercise and better eating were worth it, but I could see that I had to make the most of the time I had, and fuck the cancers and the diabetes, the hardening arteries and the strokes.  As Sting wrote, "For all those born beneath an angry star/Lest we forget how fragile we are."

My sore muscles are nothing.  The cheese, the bread, the beer, the sweets that I won't be enjoying for the next two months are nothing.  My life, my health, my beautiful wife and sons -- they are everything.


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