At the gym, I’m mostly sitting and staring into space.
It’s been about two years since I invested in a personal trainer. Lindsey gave me exactly what I asked for: a refreshed 4-day a week workout that drew upon a wide variety of equipment. Since the summer of 2018, I’ve been mostly faithful to the workout. I rarely took more than a week reprieve from it, and occasionally added additional cardio exercise to my day (swimming laps, or jogging with the kids to/from school).
It’s been three months since I’ve been onstage. Three months since I felt like a professional entertainer.
I’m not totally sure why I’m at the gym now. Conventional wisdom suggests that attractive, fit people have more successful performing careers. Confidence in my performing abilities has usually matched my confidence in my body, and that congruence has worked for in my favor for as long as I can remember. As I age, I wonder back to how much my youth, charm, and white privilege compensated from any shortcomings I displayed. There’s always a day that I could have worked harder, practiced more. More focus. More discipline. I’ll never get that time back, but would I trade my adventures and friendships for better piano technique?
Having children radically scrambled the equation. Comparing my weight or BMI to professional models and actors is an unhealthy practice. Maintaining that physique is a full-time job, and I could never rationalize that amount of exercise at the expense of my parenting duties.
So since being a parent, my simple fitness goals have been “don’t look out of shape.” My wife, a brilliant health counselor, routinely asked me “But how do you feel?” I know that choices that I make that will disrupt my energy and disrupt the flow of my week. I frequently stay up too late, browsing the internet. While my tolerance to alcohol has increased in the last decade, my resiliency has decreased. A big night of drinking will wreck me for the following morning, and my family has no patience for my hangover. Nor should they.
In the midst of the pandemic, choices like these are verifiably unhealthy, but I still occasionally do them because they make me feel like a grown up. I spend sun-up to sun-down with my children. Sun-down usually meant I was released into the music scene of Kansas City. That’s gone.
So I’m back at the gym, sitting on the floor, staring. Do I need to hit it hard? Is that what my body needs? Do I need to maintain an aesthetic that goes beyond pleasing my love? My children really don’t care what I look like; they just want me to keep up. I keep up with them on bikes and hikes, jogs and log rolls. I’m tan from being outside with them so often, and why concern myself with an even tan? Who cares?
People aren’t really thinking about me that much. That’s among the great ironies of life; some of the people whose opinion we value the most aren’t actually pondering us at all. Nobody really cares what I look like. What currency does it have? Who am I trying to impress?
I’d rather be reading a book. I don’t need intensity, although I do enjoy the feeling of resting sore muscles. I sleep better when I exercise more, but I already feel physically and psychologically drained from the pandemic. Every. Day.
I know that at some point, I’ll be onstage again, performing songs for strangers. Being fit and attractive (with a mask on?) will give me a shred of subconscious credit that I don’t deserve. I know this because it’s a mistake I make over and over. I mistake someone’s attractiveness for value.