I’ve passed another birthday and there are lyrics in my head:
“…another day older and deeper in debt…” Tennessee Ernie Ford
“What a drag it is getting old” – Rolling Stones
“Old man, look at my life, I’m a lot like you were…” – Neil Young
“Hope I die before I get old” – The Who
“Too old to rock n’ roll, too young to die” – Jethro Tull
And don’t those artists just scream AARP?
I’ve decided it’s my last chance to put a choke-hold on youth. I’ve got a bit of a paunch and some high blood pressure and a cholesterol issue and why the fuck does it take so long to pee and I’m certainly not the guy I thought I’d be when I was looking forward at age sixteen. In high school I lifted weights. I did a few body-building competitions, but was never serious enough to shave my chest and arms. Or work my legs, for that matter. Too much effort. I looked great down to the hips and then you saw a pair of Big Bird legs. That hasn’t changed. Fortunately, sweats cost about $14.99.
Our author brother Brett Battles proved it could be done. He lost all his weight in just a few months and now he’s the Marlboro Man. Thank you, Brett, for the inspiration.
It helps that I just got a gym membership for the entire family. Now I don’t have to choose between spending time with the wife and kids and spending time alone with the dumbbells. I’ve worked out twice now, with my older son, Ben. It’s a bonding experience, like what I had with my dad when we went to the racquetball courts when I was twelve. He was a pediatrician and a kind and gentle soul until he lifted that racquet and I witnessed the kind of competitive nature that gets a guy through medical school.
I didn’t realize how my body has been starved for pumping iron. Last night I found that familiar rack of pulleys and push-yous that form the lat and triceps arena. Lats and triceps – two of my favorite muscle groups. You work the lats and you get that nice “V” shape and since the triceps are a large muscle they grow fast and make the arms look twice their size in a very short time. I need visual incentive – I don’t really get hooked until about eight work-outs in, when my body begins to show me the money.
It was great walking my son through the exercises, teaching him how to isolate the muscle using lighter weights, focusing on form and technique, seeing him “get it.” So many lifters go for the heavy weights because they look good, then end up hurting themselves from trying to heft all the weight using the wrong sets of muscles.
Mind you, I haven’t worked out seriously for over twenty years. I’ve been going to pot daily, one Kit-Kat at a time.
But God, it feels good. That ripping sensation in the back of the arms, that tearing of the pecs. I look from one machine to the next – “Oh, I remember that! I gotta get over to that machine NOW!” I have to be careful to pace myself or I’ll find my next set of machines in the ER.
It ain’t easy, this path I’m taking. The belly’s a real challenge. I’ve grown accustomed to my diet of daily pasta. And desserts are a magnificent invention. I’m their greatest admirer.
I’ve been blessed with youthful hair and the ability to stand erect. It seems a shame not to give it a go, to try to capture my youth in a bottle, if only for a moment, before the thyroid and ulcers and enlarging prostate have their way with me. When I go I want to go like Jack Lalanne, pulling twenty boats across the English Channel with my teeth. Or maybe it’s the River Styx I’ll be crossing.
I was actually rather relieved when I stopped the body-building some many years ago. In case you haven’t heard, I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality, and weightlifting can get addictive. It ruled my life for a time and it felt nice to finally break free. Now that I’ve had a chance to let other addictions rule my life I don’t mind turning things over to a little obsessive exercise again.
You know, we writers sit on our cans a lot. We give ourselves the big guilt trip about what it takes to be a professional. Our communal motto is “Put Butt in Chair.” In other words, no excuses, sit down and write. I’ve taken that to heart, and my heart just won’t take it anymore.
The truth is I’m starting to resent the writing. Just a bit. You see, I gave up so much to get those books written. Every day after the day job, I’d arrive at the cafe at 6:00 pm, stay until it closed at 10:00. Or I’d go to the all-night cafes and push on. Every weekend, another ten, twelve hours a day. Every sick day. Every holiday. All my vacation time. I did this for years. Disconnected from the family. Drifted away from my friends. Writing was all-consuming, there wasn’t room for anything else.
I pushed hard and produced two novels, all while I had the day job. So I took a year off just to write. I wrote a screenplay on assignment and most of novel number three. More time sitting on my butt. Watching that waist-line expand. And the money didn’t come and I’m back to having a day job while I write.
I don’t want to be a slave to my writing. I want to spend my vacation time doing vacation things. I want to go dancing with the wife. I want to help educate my kids. I don’t want to be remembered as the dad with his nose in the laptop, seen only in the moments before he goes to work and when he returns late at night. Unfortunately, my writing often takes me away from the OTHER things I love.
It’s odd when people ask me about my hobbies and all I can say is “writing.” I write, I read. I write more. I’m compulsive about writing. Most authors are. We are fanatic in our discipline. We write eight thousand words a day and raise our fists to the Gods.
I’m tired of sprinting. I’ll do the long-distance marathon for a while. So, I won’t be a one book-a-year kind-of guy. The books will come when I finish them.
I’m seeking balance.
I’ll start the normal lifestyle by getting back in shape.
I remember this kid in high school. A power-lifter and body-builder. He had an incredible body. He died suddenly our junior year. I heard he had some kind of condition, a ticking bomb in his head and he knew it. I remember the rest of us saying he’d left a beautiful corpse behind.
We admired what he’d accomplished.
I hope this doesn’t come off as a vapid, superficial post about physical beauty trumping the virtuous human mind. Then again, I am the guy who turned an alter-ego sex-addict into a franchise hero. Can’t do that without objectifying the mortal coil.
And that ends the thought of the day.