“You know you like a jock.” I look at her like she’s crazy. I don’t “like” him, he’s my best friend after all. Besides, what does that have to do with the fact that I don’t like PE? I stammer, “I don’t like him…that way.” and try to escape the rising heat in my face. I know I like him…and I know he’s a jock…and a cute one at that. Just not ready to admit *THAT* to my teacher…and his mother.
The husband was indeed a jock. After I turned 18 he offered to pay for my monthly gym membership and train me. I was excited to fit into his life and naively mentioned it to my foster family. You would think I announced I was going to strip down naked and dance for my boyfriend. Basically, no working out at the gym with the boyfriend or any other male on the planet. If I wanted to work out, then it would have to be a female-only gym and of course I’d have to wear a skirt. Suffering the embarrassment of exercising in a skirt was enough to make me NOT pursue exercise beyond the walk around the campus.
As soon as I became his wife, the husband took me shopping and we bought a pair of cross trainers, spandex shorts, sports bra and a BIG t-shirt. I tried to act like it was no big deal I was going to wear things that I’d been told only “whores” wear. The first time I walked out of the locker room I was nervous. Walking across the gym to where the husband was stretching was excruciating for someone who spent her life hiding. But then I saw him…and he looked adorable…and then I was a puppy dog following him all over the gym.
I would like to say that we lived happily ever after as a power couple…but that would be a lie. Eventually we quit working out together because of our schedules and I never was consistent enough to make it a habit. The husband’s job became so demanding he quit working out and 20 years later we were both out of shape.
I started working out again in 2014 and quickly developed a routine that was bringing results. The more I worked out, the more the weight came off and the more confident I became. I kept trying to get the husband to join me but he always didn’t have time or didn’t want to work out in front of people or had a myriad of excuses. I decided to “gift” him a membership for Christmas last year. He agreed and I was excited to see what changes it would bring him. But again work has consumed all our time and we’ve not been to the gym much. Which has not been the best for me. So I’m determined once again to work out. And we went on Sunday. And after one set of exercises the husband was ready to go home.
As we were leaving I retorted, “You used to drag my ass to the gym and now I’m dragging yours.” I meant it to be funny…to make him laugh…but he suddenly lost his sense of humor. “No. You were more interested in sitting in a room by yourself doing crosswords then spend time with me.” Um. OUCH. What started as innocence jab turned into a serious conversation.
“Well, I hated working out because it reminded me just one more way I wasn’t enough of a woman.” He stopped and looked at me, “I know. I did a really sh**y job of making you feel the way you should feel.” Um. So now our therapy sessions happen at the gym too?
It’s hard to not say, “I told you so…” It’s hard to not blame him for everything. But…I can’t do those things. They only divide me from the one my soul loves. So I took his hand and whispered, “You make up for it now.”
I cringe remembering the girl I was back then. So scared of the world around her. Every attempt at coming out of hiding met with criticism from her husband, her family, her church and the loud voices inside her head. Every spark of confidence extinguished before it could grow into a flame. She was hidden beneath layers of legalistic rules, clothing and shame. I remind myself that I’m getting healthier and stronger because she motivates me to get better.
There are days the ache of what we lost hurts more than I can stand. I’m learning to let go when that happens. We both have made huge mistakes. Yes, the husband could have made things differently had he only just been a little more patient. If he would have counteracted all the voices instead of joining his own voice. If he would have made me feel like I was worth fighting for perhaps I would have been willing to fight for me a little sooner.
But that’s the thing about healing. It’s not about rewriting the past. It’s about speaking the truth, learning from mistakes and writing a better ending to the story.
In the car. At the beach. Even in the gym. Together we are writing a better ending to our story.