ANNA BELFRAGE

Step inside and steal some moments in another place, another time

Here comes the sun…except it didn’t

There was not much sun. That would, one assumes, be a major disappointment when the purpose of our little trip was to lie flat on our backs and absorb sunlight, now and then making the effort to go splashing in the surf instead. Duh! Of course it was a disappointment!

However, there are some things us little humans can’t do very much about, the weather being one of them. That is probably a good thing, come to think of it, as imagine just how haphazard the weather would be if all of us tried/could control it. Some want rain, some want sun, some want a white Christmas, others most definitely don’t… we’d have a patchwork of various weather types in relatively small areas making it very, very difficult to do the daily wardrobe selection.

Anyway: we chose our destination because “it only rains in August”, the rest of the year being a sequence of warm, sunny days. Turns out it rains in January as well. That, as per middle son, is probably our collective fault – we are spewing so much stuff into the air we are having an impact on the climate – an uncontrollable impact that may result in some very nasty consequences. He wasn’t talking about our sunless holiday…

In the absence of sun, we concentrated on other things. Like getting a cold. Well, that happened all by itself, and not until several days into our stay, which meant I had no excuse when my dear children – have I said I love them? I do, but I don’t always like them – decided time we should have spent in the sun could instead be spent in the hotel gym. Whoopee.

I don’t like gyms. In my world, exercise is something you get naturally, like taking a walk or something. My children point out that all that talking a walk or something is very nice – if one actually does take it. Otherwise, eldest son said rather sternly, it doesn’t count. I guess he has a point, which is why I obediently slouched my way down to the gym. My dear husband came too, mostly as a motivating factor (and I’m going to leave it up to you to consider just what that might mean).

Thing is, gyms have mirrors all over the place. And healthy, well-muscled people in sports bras and tight running pants running like the wind on the treadmills. And women in neon pink bouncing up and down on the cross trainer. And concentrated svelte twenty somethings doing biceps curls. And then me. I don’t run like the wind. I couldn’t bounce on a cross trainer if my life depended on it. And I am neither svelte or twenty something. Fortunately, I am very strong. Or so I thought. The problem is one of tense, as that should be “I was very strong”. Some years ago. Not so much now.

Being self-delusional can at times be dangerous. Which is probably why I almost dislocated my shoulder when attempting a lats pull. And why I managed to bruise my forehead with the dumb-bell while doing triceps thingies (don’t ask. Looked ridiculous – I saw it in the dratted mirror). Or why I almost crushed my toes when my biceps said “nope, can’t do that”. Somewhat of an eye-opener all in all. I mean, this is a question of IDENTITY.

It used to be, I defined myself as an intellectual. In my head, I saw myself in a Paris café, leaning back while blowing smoke rings and discussing the meaning of life with Sartre at a point in time when Sartre was already dead. But you get the picture, don’t you? Earnest men in glasses, turtlenecks and pipes, edgy, angular women in black and white, discussing Plato and Aristoteles, von Wright and Kafka. I did read Plato and Kafka, but found other books more invigorating. Like “Forever Amber” and “The Far Pavilions”. At some point, I had to face up to the fact that I wasn’t one of those intellectuals. Difficult to accept, even for non-angular girls.

Then there was this thing of “I will never end up in the rat race”. Very closely related to my self image as an intellectual, to be sure.After all, those intellectuals seemed mostly to sit in cafés and drink and discuss, now and then retiring to a garret to write something very deep and thought-provoking, if nothing else to stave off starvation. Free spirits, who woke when it pleased them, gladly eschewed material comforts in the search of purity of thought. People who snickered at the oh so mundane world of mortgages and nine-to-five existences. Turns out I was more of a material girl than i expected. Turns out there was this huge mortgage to pay, a consequence of not really wanting to live in a garret – after all, there could be spiders and rats up there. Turns out I ended up swimming as madly as everyone else in the rat’s race. Boy, is it difficult to accept one is not all that original after all…

So: No intellectual, no free spirit, definitely in the rat’s race. Not very angular – or edgy. Never had hair long enough to do the sports car thing through Paris. But I was, at least, very strong. Strong enough to beat most of my male colleagues at arm wrestling. Strong enough to push a car from standstill while uphill. Strong enough to move one and a half ton of floor tiles all on my own (or so my husband thought, ordering them so that they arrived when he, conveniently, was out of town).

After my recent gym experiences, it seems I must revise this final pillar of my self-image. I am still stronger than average. But I am not STRONG. Not like I once was, not like Samson or Popeye. In fact, once again, I am no more, no less than what can be expected. I hate being what can be expected. Which is why, dear people, it is time to invest in a sports bra and some new trainers. Or maybe not. After all, everyone seems to be doing the gym thing these days, right? So why not be truly original and skip all that. I can take a walk instead. Tomorrow. When the sun is out.

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