Darkness surrounded her. If it had been a warmer climate, Spanish moss would have been dripping down to brush unseen against her vulnerable neck – but this landscape was colder. More rocky. The only tendrils to curl around earlobe and bare palm were the fingers of icy breezes. Leached of light and joy, no color caught the eye. The only scent was the alkali of bare, wet stone. The only sound, the hollow fall of her feet on a snaking path that did not end, where roots and hollows waited to trip the unwary foot.

I was depressed, okay? I had lead in my soul.

I don’t usually get depressed, and sure don’t stay there, but I ran into a combination of unfortunate. My husband has been dead for about 11 months now, and my anger about that is wearing out, leaving me with the far less appealing emotions of sorrow, pity, and self-pity.

My brain is oddly cloudy. Might be a peri-menopausal state, might be the stress of delayed mourning, but I’m forgetting things. I missed a meeting yesterday – the very first one with a new client. They don’t know how much they love me yet; how can they forgive me for just outright forgetting that we had our inaugural call scheduled? This relationship may not be salvageable.

And I’m trapped by a surprising dip into low blood pressure. Exercise exhausts me. I get dizzy. My heart pounds. I mentioned to Barbara (my guru at Body Dynamics in Falls Church) that I thought my blood pressure was low and she sat me down immediately and got a blood pressure cuff. Sure enough, even though I’d just done ten minutes of interval training on the elliptical, my BP was 102/84.

“That’s low, right?”

“Yeah. That’s low.”

We talked about both addressing the physical aspects (Chip the Body Dynamics nutritionist thinks I’m low on electrolytes and gave me a healthier form of Gatorade for before, during, and after exercising; so far it seems to be helping a lot) as well as how to handle dizziness and feeling crappy.

So I have this trifecta of reasons why my nice, buoyant cork of a spirit was suddenly feeling like it was made of lead.

When I got up this morning (after a night of interrupted sleep; I just can’t stay under these days), I was depressed and tired and felt bad. I didn’t want to go to Balance Class. But I’d eaten poorly the night before, and I don’t want to give in without a fight, so off I went…

…and when I got to Balance Class, a magical alchemy happened: Lead turned to sunlight.

I didn’t mean to be happy; I was pretty committed to being sad. But Balance Class was packed today, which meant that as we did the warm-up exercises (which might as well be a Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit), we had to weave back and forth around each other. I was getting in the way of Robbie, Steve, and Karen – all of whom I like to work out with – and we were “oops”ing and “pardon me”ing left and right, and pretty soon a few unwilling chuckles came out of me.

And then a giggle.

And then I was the one who made a joke, instead of only reluctantly laughing at someone else’s.

Barbara told me that the newest member of our sisteren – Lynn – was trying Balance Class because she read my blog, and that’s just the most flattering thing ever, so that was like a helium balloon on a string, tugging my leaden soul a little farther upward.

Barbara put us through our paces today, quite literally. We were doing squats and touching balls to the ground and passing a ball to a partner we were back-to-back with (“No hips – all twisting from the waist only!”) and tapping one foot and then the other on the ball, turning in a circle.

Steve had DJ’ed a great playlist – a lot of country rock that Barbara couldn’t identify, which delighted me. “Who’s this singing?”

“GLEN CAMPBELL,” the entire class called back, with a “SHEESH!” attitude that is very entertaining when addressed to the woman who demos exercises like they were as easy as hitting the button on the recliner… You mean you can squat like that and still look graceful but you don’t know Linda Ronstadt?! I get to stand in your Balance Class and feel like I know something you don’t?? Awesome!

Pretty soon I was singing. Teasing Barbara. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was smiling. Sweating and panting, but smiling.

And I felt better.

That’s some magic alchemy.

PS: Callie and I were wearing identical shoes; a photographer was taking photos. Maybe I’ll be able to post one. Marusha, last week’s “new girl,” DID come back to Balance Class this week – new girl no longer!  And Lynn said she liked the class and that we were fun. She had NO idea I was only a few squats past an existential crisis. Isn’t that great?

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2 thoughts on “Alchemy

  1. Hello. I am a friend of Pat Webster’s and knew Jonathan at LSC. I LOVE this piece. I am now exercising with a trainer, doing yoga, etc. It does something to my dopamine I think. Makes me happy. And I am working thru low blood pressure issues where I once had high bp. Only change is amount of exercise. That is a good thing if contr9lled. Good luck with that. Don’t envy the peri menopause phase but had a convo with Pat at lunch today about how at 71 I can no longer mentally manage a packed schedule day. I get goofed up on where, when I am supposed to be. Is it the dentist or the ear doc? I once went to the eye doc only to learn I was supposed to be at my GP doc. Your writing is so wonderful, hitting the mark all over the place!
    Cheers, Laurel Stanley


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