Discover more from words from eliza
walking & women
& my inner jillian michaels
i’ve been prescribed to walk.
one to two hours a day, according to my new chiropractor. between twelve and three, in direct sunlight, no sunglasses - “to reset your circadian rhythm.” he might be favorably referred to as a holistic practitioner and unfavorably referred to as a quack.
i decided on the silverlake reservoir for today. when i tell myself i’m going to go for a walk, it usually ends up being a hike because most every pleasant place to walk in LA is not actually in the city but looking out over it. but when the time comes to put on my shoes and stupid little leggings, i sit on my floor like a child resisting soccer practice. i know what lies ahead. i can already see the barefoot grandmother in a sunhat, assisted by a walking stick, absolutely lapping me up the observatory trail. sometimes my ego cannot handle that experience.
i’ve tried nobly walking along sunset like a local, but all there is to see are stores and garbage and more stores. this puts me in a spiritual deficit.
before i lost my debit card, i went to gold’s gym and did some sort of influencer treadmill routine where you put the incline up to an unholy degree. but then i left my debit card on a flight, and gold’s gym started calling me to say that they were going to put my failed payments into collections. i don’t really know what collections is, but i know my debt is in there now. and i’m getting emails advising that i look at section 8 housing. i can’t show my face at gold’s gym anymore.
so i decided to walk the reservoir. it’s flat. that’s my criteria these days.
walking is, ideally, the supreme form of exercise for a lady in late stage capitalism. atomized at every turn by incessant social, economic, and political declines, walking reminds you that other people actually exist. admittedly, in my own early 20’s narcissism and residual childhood coping technique of dissociation, i forget this.
so i’ll set the scene for you: me, clearly post-breakup in lackluster target yoga pants and a black long sleeve tee, walking the perimeter of the reservoir trying to focus on my posture. but i quickly run into a problem. my problem is that there are too many other women on the trail.
in a remnant of my eating disorder brain, trained well by every known media source and also my mother, i simply cannot focus on my exercise if there are other women exercising around me.
in the past, this would fuel me. i’d go to workout classes, join jogging groups, and run highly populated trails for the sole purpose of silently competing with the other women there. i’d stare down the woman doing the splits in yoga and siphon my jealousy into a stretch of my own that would leave me sore for days. i believe that many people are not as maladjusted as i am, and do not have these feelings, but i also believe that many people do.
today however, my fixation at the reservoir - perhaps a testament to my 2 years in recovery - was not in comparison but in psychoanalysis. you’ll see i’ve moved on from juvenile mind games against myself in favor of juvenile mind games against others.
i became fascinated with the potential reason that every woman might be there. it falls into cliché pretty quickly. i guess that the incredibly toned woman running in the matching set must be an influencer or a model or a cursed hybrid of both. i guess that the concerningly thin mid-50’s woman jogging ferociously up the hill must face incessant criticism from her husband, and likely has a daughter who is heavier than her. i guess that the mid-sized woman walking with headphones is doing so because she wants to “move her body” and probably has a healthy relationship to carbs. i’m here because i want to fix my back. but also maybe i’m not.
once again, it is hard for me to discern to what degree i’m still fucked in the mind about food and exercise, but i find it nearly impossible to believe that most women can work out with no notion that it may affect them aesthetically. i picture all of those women on the trail with varying volumes of jillian michaels in the back of their minds yelling “move it, you fat fuck!” the influencer woman is probably using it as a soundtrack, while the mid-sized woman might have it turned down to 0.5. but surely it must be there. i’d like to put my personal jillian michaels in a tupperware container and ship her down the nile, but alas, she’s with me too - although to a far lesser degree than, say, 5 years ago.
i entertain myself with my armchair psychologist conclusions until i round the corner. a woman is sprinting viciously up the hill, towards me, looking neither pained nor joyful. her legs look powerful - it seems like she’s running to something, or perhaps away. but all that’s ahead of her is more road, and all that’s behind her is what she’s already traveled.
i want to believe that she is experiencing a sort of catharsis, in the way that i did when running used to be like that for me. i had a brief lapse of successful recovery around my freshman year of high school when i joined the cross-country team. i started passing out at practice, so i started eating more. and then i started being able to run more. and then running became the most beautiful thing in the world for me.
i look at her face and remember when that was my face, tearing through the trails behind my school, exhilarated by the pure feeling of all of my muscles moving through space. i want it for her, so badly that i have to speed up my pace, our paths crossing before she can see a tear welling up behind my eye.
but then, of course, she is gone. i have no idea how she was feeling. if she was competing with me. if, when i sped up, she began to see me as a threat. or if perhaps, she didn’t see me at all.