As you grow older, you realize there are a great many things you can’t get back: your childhood home, your size two body, your mother’s moonstone pendant you lost in the front yard and never found no matter how many times you raked through the grass. In this era of ever-facing forward, you may think some decisions are irreversible.
Like how you exercise.
I never did a stroke of exercise unless forced at knife-point. Then I turned 40 and realized that whenever I walked upstairs parts of me were still moving even after I reached the top. I crept into a neighborhood Jazzercise class in 1992 and stayed (although in a different town and studio) for 18 years. And then I quit. I was teaching and gone all summer. My work seemed to take all my time. I didn’t like the music any more. I would walk instead. I’d take up running!
And I did, but only if it wasn’t too hot, too cold, too windy, raining, or a squirrel hadn’t looked crossways at me. I’m the Goldilocks of outdoor activities. I joined Curves and dropped out. Tried Zumba, but it wasn’t like Jazzercise.
When my husband had open-heart surgery, we joined a nearby gym and I discovered that even if the gym was next door, even if it was in my house, I would only climb on the leg press machine if it blocked access to the bathroom.
I spend my days in my office, or hovering around the goody drawer. At 64, I look great on paper as far as sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI. While my weight isn’t terrible, I’m nobody’s tiny thing, as my mother would say. Then there are my moods.
Depression is insidious. One of my first symptoms is a sense of disappearing. I stop looking in mirrors. I don’t feel present when I’m out in public. I am nobody. I don’t count. Meds help, but only so much. My days lose shape. It happens almost every fall, but two weeks ago I decided to reverse a decision I’d made.
I went back to Jazzercise. I was very nervous. I was six years older and more things hurt. Would I remember the moves? Would I pass out from exhaustion? More important, would I be welcomed?
And then there’s the stamp of fuddy-duddyness associated with Jazzercise. Once, in my summer graduate class, I mentioned Jazzercise. My younger students snickered. When I asked them what was so funny, they said, “My mother did Jazzercise!” “My grandmother did Jazzercise!” I checked my pulse to make sure I was still alive and then I told those girls that if they walked into a Jazzercise class right now, the “old ladies” would mop the floor with them.
Jazzercise has always changed with the times. No more leg warmers or Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Yes, the morning class I attend is largely made up of retired people. The woman I dance next to is 80. She’s in better shape than many women half her age.
What inspires such loyalty? Sense of family. Was I welcomed back? You bet I was. I’d forgotten names, but not faces, and no one, it seems, had forgotten me. Going to the gym, or walking or running by myself offered no sense of community. People come to class week after week, year after year to work out and work through loss, problems, and illness. Jazzercise gives shape to our days.
The first four classes were rough. I had four different instructors who never repeated a number. I concentrated so hard to learn routines smoke poured out of my ears. Yet I left with a feeling of pride as I breezed through after-class chatter and out into the sunshine.
I was back.