This past week has been so crazy…and no, I’m not going to take the Methotrexate.  I have gone almost a week on four hours or less of sleep at night.  I began the 6:30 a.m. lifting sessions with all two – yes, TWO – of the boys interested in my pre-season tennis training.  I’m impressed that they showed up, but I’m disappointed that I don’t have more.  Nonetheless, I provided them with the workout cards and handouts I had prepared last week.  I then did a demo of the various lifts that I want them to do.  Once they were on their way I hopped on a treadmill and was witness to the sad reality that is the decline of my physical self.

Since I am also watching my parents’ pets while they are on vacation, my week has included a lot of running around.  I realized that I am not mad that I have to do this extra driving at the beginning and end of my day.  I am not mad that I have to wake up earlier than I am already waking up.  What – no, who I am really mad at is me; all of those un-checked choices to eat crap rather than something nutritious; to hit snooze rather than go work out; to think so small rather than volunteer…and so on and so on.  The whole quantum of my life vibrating throughout me as I planted one foot and the other on a friggin’ treadmill.  I was going at a snail’s pace and my heart rate was 195.  I could not believe the backslide.

Today I attended a training session required for teachers.  I was sitting in little chairs designed for Elementary school kids.  It must have looked like my ass had sprouted four metal poles, the chair’s legs.  We sat there for five hours.  The first steps I took to get out the door at 2:00 p.m. were excrutiating.  I was driving a route that I had not taken in nearly five years.  I decided to go ahead and drive all the way back to the beautiful apartment I left on January 2nd, 2005.  As if by devine intervention, the radio station suddenly featured a block of U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” among others.  The sudden warm snap called for driving with the windows down, the tunes kickin’, and me happily singing along.  I saw the old place and almost thought to turn in a check it out via a tour from a rental agent.  I decided against it.  The area all around my former abode has grown so much.  Then I went up the road to my former tennis club.  It is now a baseball/basketball center.

I have not driven there since I was force transferred in February 2001.  So much has changed.  I remember the little bend in the roadway and the lake.  Now it is all built up with very expensive townhomes and pristine landscaping.  I circled the building twice to find a parking spot.  The interior was nearly unrecognizable, save for the floor to ceiling tempered glass windows.  The remodeling is impressive.  I suddenly felt so small and invisible.  I was overcome with memories that I hadn’t remembered in nearly a decade.  I thought of the kids who had passed through the classes I once taught there.  Some of those players now married and lifetimes away from the world of my current recollection.

After I left, I had to head back to my parents’ house.  I took the expressways as I would have done back then.  It was like I was driving those roads on autopilot, which is a strange thing considering that so much of the scenery has changed all along the roadside.  Shiny, new, mega structures now hug I-88 from Lisle to Warrenville.  Then there was the crazy Farnsworth exit traffic jam from the Premium Outlet Mall.  Taking Farnsworth north, I encountered the new construction at the Route 56 intersection, complete with the new WalMart.  I can’t believe how old I suddenly felt.  I am nothing like who I once dreamt my future self would be. 

Two voices spoke clearly to me today (and no, I don’t “hear” voices as in breaks from reality).  The first incident was when I was taking the very long, winding ramp from I-355 to I-88.  It said, “you definately need to move (as in leave Illinois) and go live the life you imagined” – the later part attributed to a quote magnet I have on my fridge.  The other voice occured even earlier than that.  “Oh my god!  It is ____ _____!”  The name omitted is that of a total blast from the past calling me out of nowhere. 

I always thought that one of my biggest “guy regrets” was from when I was a snotty 8th grader.  This super nice, super smart, super talented, and super shy boy who was a year older than me really, really liked me.  He even bought me a little freshwater pearl bracelet for my 14th birthday.  I blew him off and years later came to realize the error of my ways.  He blossomed into a wonderful, fascinating, and brillant man.  However, the more recent realization of yesterday was even more profound.

Friday night I had a dream about The University of Illinois, my alma mater.  I dreamt that I was back at the College of Art and Design and walking through a completely remodeled Art Building.  I was who I am now, but also there on a mission to defend the firing of a professor.  I can’t remember her name now, but it was clear as a bell in my dream.  She was being fired because she had some dibilitating disease that she had kept secret.  Once her sickness had been discovered, she was fired, since the school thought that she couldn’t do her job to the level it required.  Now, keeping in mind that this is a dream, there are several things to consider.

I was once told that all the characters in our dreams reflect various “parts” of ourselves.  If so, that is certainly significant…as well as obvious.  When I think of all the hope, idealism, and energy I possessed as an undergrad it is no wonder that I come back to that place.  So how strange is it that after I have a dream about U of I and the artistic aspect of my persona, which has been largly ignorred for far too long, that I would hear from a spectre of that past so completely out of the blue?  We have had yet to actually talk.

So this brings me full circle.  Even though this blog is about R.A., I am not R.A.  I am that poet-dreamer reeling in some vortex of struggle and paradox.  Yes, I am having a mid-life crisis and will probably get my period any day.  Yes, R.A. is a part of that.  But, no…no, no, no I can not be idle now.  I need to remember the promises I made to myself all those years ago.  I would always carve out a path of adventure, passion, and creativity in anything I may one-day do. 

So I’ll continue with the early wake-ups, the demanding pressure of my job, and the pain.  I’ll manage those daily set-backs that are a part of this condition, but I will not allow them to become scapegoats for laziness and self-pity.  It does suck to attempt fitness in the face of such frustration.  But face it I must.  So, early to bed, early to rise.  Tennis tomorrow and one step after another.

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