Writing is hard. I want to run away. It’s an absolute confrontation with the self, though, so you can’t run away. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to metaphors: they screen; I can hide for a minute, catch my breath.
Strength training is the same kind of hard: there’s nowhere to hide. I always show up on time, I’m always warmed up, ready to go. My trainer’s always there, always ready; he shows up too, every time.
I have trouble with shoulder movements. I tend to hike my shoulder blades up towards my ears, caving in on myself, compressing my neck. When this happens, I can’t breathe properly, my posture breaks down, I hunch. When this happens, he stands behind me and touches his fingers across the top of my trapezius muscle, gently pressing down, to keep me in place. To remind me of the proper form. “Remember to stabilize the scapula,” he says.
But I hear it as scapular, and I remember necklace I wore as a Catholic schoolgirl, the two squares of brown felt, stitched to a narrow satin band. I think of how it promised me salvation. “Whoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire,” it read.
“You want to keep your shoulder blades in position so you activate your lats,” he tells me. “You want to use the strength of your back for this movement.” I try to focus on my lats, on keeping my shoulders down, try to breathe into the movement.
But I run away again, remembering the moment in The Awakening where Edna Pontellier recounts an odd conversation with Madamoiselle Reisz, the artist.Edna remarks, “when I left her to-day, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.’”
“Lift your chest up,” he reminds me. “That will help you breathe. OK, ready? Let’s try it again.”