I don’t know the characters in “Lost”. I haven’t got a clue what “Swag” means. I don’t know who Katniss and Peeta are. I can’t tell Jack White from Jack Black. Please excuse my total lack of contact with modern culture: my brain is heads-down sweaty, too busy working out to know what is going on in the outside world. Imagine the comic-strip image of a bubble-gum-pink, bumpy mass floating inside its traditional corporeal tank of cranial fluid. Now imagine it pumping iron, curling free weights, doing burpees on the mat, cleaning and jerking double its own weight like an Olympic weightlifter, doing upside down sit-ups from the chin-up bar. That has been my brain for the past 4 months.
My week begins with a grueling one-hour set of focused meditation and guided imagery. Then it’s off to my paid job for 40 hours, followed by various daily doubles designed to build strength, flexibility and tone. Monday nights are choir practice. Tuesdays are Advanced Conversational Spanish. Wednesdays bring core-strengthening imagery, positive reinforcing statements, and sometimes a little yoga to exercise the fine mental skills. Thursdays are more Spanish. Fridays I catch up on all of my homework in my online “Mathematical Thinking” class. Saturday and Sunday and in between structured activities, I try to squeeze in touchy-feely time with my family – spa time for my tired noggin. Oh, and I write every day.
My brain isn’t terribly scrawny or shrimpy. It isn’t the 98 pound weakling on the brain playground. In fact, my brain has been my first-string quarterback for 42 years, performing admirably under duress and sometimes pulling off feats of agility so daring and muscular that it was able to come from behind to score surprising upsets over worthy adversaries. Like when it convinced my husband that we should take our family to Peru for 7 months. Or when it got us out of paying for a car we had rented and subsequently damaged while on vacation in Los Angeles. With these significant title victories and others equally as impressive, why do I insist on the punishing regimen of constant, pre-occupied mental gymnastics that denies my brain the everyday pleasures of watching on-demand “Leverage” in its jammies and chowing down on beer and nachos while listening to Nicki Minja with the rest of the conscious world?
It’s hard to break the news. But lately, I have noticed my brain falling behind during warm-ups and taking extra trips to the bathroom right when the action on the field gets hot and heavy. It isn’t putting in the effort this coach expects from the star of the team. Its midsection, as it were, is spilling out in classic dough-boy style, muffin-topping over the uniform that we are all proud of. But looking ‘over the hill’ is the least of its troubles. Its speed, efficiency and accuracy have all taken hits. The stats aren’t good. Unfortunately, my brain is showing the classic signs of early retirement. But I am having none of that! I am making every effort to whip it back into shape so it will continue to do its part, providing essential support to this team as we go into our 43rd season. Just look at the sacrifices my liver has made, especially during college. And the lungs, breathing nothing but thin air up in the Andes. My eyes have lost some of their keen, youthful talent, but more than make up for it in their unabashed determination to out-sparkle the competition.
“Do it for the team! Do it for the team!” my organs all chant in time as my brain pants out 20 more squat thrusts.
Because, well, if my brain really does decide to retire, to grow fat on a beach in the Bahamas with a Mai Tai in its hand, to give up this dream job as top scorer on the winningest team I have ever had the pleasure of managing, that means the end of a good run for all of us. We depend on it. Without our star player, this team is kaput.
So I will continue to look for ways to beef up my reluctant brain until it shines as a crushingly brawny, sturdy, reliable version of its current self. Be it philosophy, print-making or statistics, I will continue searching for the perfect workout that inspires my brain to fall in love again with this game called life. Joy, determination, gusto and verve can be found face-down on the mat. Yes, I am a hard-ass. Drop and give me ten, brain – in Japanese!