Saturday, August 20, 2011

The worst kinds of transitions…

Here’s a scenario for you. Person A says to Person B: “Hey, you should come hiking with me some time!” Person B smiles, ducks their head, and modestly responds, “Oh, I would love to, but really, I am so out of shape!” then gives a cute little self-deprecating giggle. When the time to hike comes, Person B dons their hiking boots (which they of course purchased at the REI garage sale), their designer sweatpants, and sportily carries along a Nalgene waterbottle. Then, to the astonishment of (self-proclaimed “in-shape”) Person A, who fully expected them to be hiking at a slow and laborious rate, Person B goes trotting up the side of a mountain, smiling, talking, and barely getting out of breath. Person A is astonished that they didn’t even have to adjust their normal rapid pace to accommodate Person B.
I am not Person B.
Meet Person C, who didn’t make their way into the previous scenario. Person C hears about hiking, and thinks to herself, “Oh, wow, I would LOVE to do that, as long as there is a view at the top.” Person C vaguely wonders what it would be like to be in shape. She then gets invited by Person A to go hiking, on an “easy hike”, and says, “Oh, I would love to, but really, I am SOOOOO out of shape!” However, since Person C is a trooper, she decides to give this getting-in-shape thing a try. After all, how hard can it be? Surely your muscles can keep working as long as you can breathe. When the time to hike comes, Person C digs around to find her old broken down tennishoes, any available pair of sweatpants, and, if she’s lucky, some socks that won’t slip down into the shoes halfway through the hike. Person A is thrilled to get Person C to come, and firmly believes that Person C can’t be as out of shape as she claims.
I am Person C.
Yes, that was me you saw, falling up the side of a mountain the other day. Why yes, I was the one leaning against the car for more than fifteen minutes after all the other intrepid hikers had energetically pulled away. That girl who was gasping as if it were her last breath, only two minutes into the hike? Me. That chick who barely pushed out monosyllabic answers in between ragged steps? Me.
And yes, it was me who stopped everyone halfway through, gasping out enthusiastically “Look at this VIEW!” Then, after everyone stopped, realized that there is no view from here; there were only thick forests surrounding us. I shrugged, and said, “Well, it’s all so green and pretty,” and stalled long enough to barely catch a breath. After my heart stopped beating in my eardrums, I closed my eyes tightly and started to take another painful step.
If you wondered why I didn’t start stretching immediately afterward, it’s because it was all I could do to merely stay upright. And you know how I wasn’t making eye contact with you? It wasn’t because I hate you for dragging me up the mountain at an unhealthy speed, it’s because my ears are buzzing and my sight is getting fuzzy so I can’t even really see your eyes. I didn’t answer your question, because all I know is that you were talking; it was physically impossible for me to focus on actual words, let alone comprehend a full sentence. Your joke was hilarious, and you thought I only gave a courtesy laugh and grimace… In reality, that weird sounding laugh was genuine, and the grimace was the closest I could come to a beautiful smile. You may have glanced down the trail and thought I was glaring daggers at your back, but really… Oh wait. I was. Getting caught up in agony and gasping and a pounding heart and aching muscles was just enough to lead me to indulge in a moment of anger. Anyone ahead of me on the trail is usually the focus of that irrational ire, especially if they have the gall to be both “in shape” and cheerful.
But actually, I did enjoy the hike. Well, I liked taking a cool shower later, anyway. And I enjoyed the company… for a few cognizant moments. In all seriousness, though, I DO want to do it again. If you are ever one of the unfortunate people who I finagle into hiking with me, you should know that while you are hiking competently, I will be stumbling up the trail behind you, wondering what you would do if I just fell over the edge and didn’t get up again. If you ask me to go hiking, on an easy hike, I might hem and haw. The cause of this? I am severely embarrassed by my lack of athletic prowess, and sincerely regret the inconvenience that experienced hikers are put to when I come along. Those two things are the sole causes of my hesitation.
If you have ever been where I am right now (i.e., very much out of shape), you understand everything I wrote perfectly, and have sympathy for me. You understand all my sentiments, and know what it’s like to struggle towards a goal at the top of a mountain. If not, and you are one of those paragons of atheticism that I so resent, then you are astonished at all these paragraphs of absolute gibberish, and are thinking “What? Hiking is FUN! Going up a steep trail is GREAT! Running down the mountain afterward makes me feel like the picture on an REI ad!”  Hopefully, you are somewhere in between, and have both a deep appreciation for the transitional pain I’m going through, and the triumph I may someday achieve.
I am excited at the idea of getting in shape— it remains to be seen if I enjoy the reality. Someday, you will get on my blog and see a post called “The joys to be found in the outdoors,” (or some such ridiculous title) and it will be full of oozing happiness at the latest hike I went on. Hopefully I survive to see that day...