Wednesday, January 6, 2016


A dozen small voices in my head are trying to persuade me not to go to the gym this morning. It’s Sunday, they say. Your back already hurts! You’re so out of shape, you’ll embarrass yourself. It’s cold outside and warm in the house. You’re old. You’re gonna die. What’s the point of it? That sweatshirt is really tattered and the new shoes don’t fit. The car might break down on the way there, or on the way back.

I defy them, all the while wondering why they exist in the first place. Why are my body and brain conspiring to discourage me? Shouldn’t all of us—body, brain, spirit—be working in concert rather than fighting each other like Middle Eastern Islamic sects?

Is this part of the good versus bad conscience, the little angel and devil battling for supremacy in the comic pages or Saturday morning cartoons?

I’m really curious about this phenomenon because it seems to be part and parcel of my daily life. There’s a constant struggle against doing what’s right and good for me, a battle fought against a sly, inner nemesis who knows exactly what arguments I’ll answer to.

It’s grey and raining. There’s traffic. One missed session won’t make a difference. You can go tomorrow.

I’ve learned the best way to wage this battle is to ignore the enemy. This is not necessarily easy to do, but neither is it too complex. Going into automatic mode works: Put on my sweat pants, my socks and shoes, my hoodie. Don’t think, just do it. Get into the car. It’s a mile to the gym and if I can get there, the battle will be won for the day.  

Well no, not quite.

The secondary skirmish begins about halfway through the workout. The voices—there are only three or four left now; the others got bored and went to sleep—are now congratulatory. Well done, they say. We knew you’d do it! You’ve earned a treat! Yes, you have! Maybe stop at Panera’s and get an espresso and a bagel! No, two bagels! You deserve TWO bagels after all this work, all this pushing and pulling and lifting and squatting. One small voice, barely heard, still sings a litany of don’ts: You shouldn’t have, I told you so; now your back is gonna hurt even more. If you listened to me you could be home in bed watching Seinfeld reruns and laughing. Laughing is as good as exercise. Better, even, and it doesn’t hurt your back.

The voices will stay with me as I drive past Panera and go home. One will persevere even as I pull into my garage. It’s not too late! Think of how good you’ll feel! Okay, just ONE bagel. One!

I enter my house. The same voice says, , Okay, skip Panera, I’m pretty sure there’s a piece of cake in the fridge. You should look. And even if there isn’t, there’s got to be something sugary you can eat. Or cookies. Maybe there are cookies in the cabinet. Aren’t there? Did you forget to buy cookies again?

And so I wonder:   Am I the only one whose inner voice is self-defeating, who hosts a daily gathering for guests that don’t have my best interest at heart?

This is a flaw I don’t quite understand and I wonder if others in the mammalian order have it. I’m reminded of lemmings diving of a cliff, then remember that this particular behavior is a myth first staged by Disney for the 1958 film, White Wilderness.

This duality appears to exist in every facet of my life. Go write! No, read. Clean the house! It can wait; the dust balls are not fully grown yet. Cook something! No, open a can; it’s easier and just as good, and you’re not that great a cook, anyway. Nowhere as good as Mrs. Smith and her fish sticks.

Worse is the fact that I appear to give the ‘don’t do it’ side a lot more thought and consideration than ever before. Is that a function of aging? Am I going to do less and less the older I get?

Crap. Too many questions, not enough answers.  Life should be getting simpler, but isn’t.

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