This is gonna sound weird, but sometimes, I think a lot about the pilgrims.
I imagine the lives they must have lived, so different from ours, especially when I’m doing something ridiculous (which is often, sadly)—or when I’m wrapped up in an activity I suspect might have had them scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Like, for example, dancing. (MASHPIT, HELLO?) I wonder, did the pilgrims dance? Because let’s face it, for the most part, dancing serves no real lifesaving purpose. (And the pilgrims in my head were all about sustenance.) It’s just a silly exercise that has grown humans flailing their arms and legs to the beat of some noise for no good reason.
The pilgrims had reasons.
Or skipping. Did the pilgrims skip? Perhaps, but it just seems out of character. Although maybe their youngins did. I have no idea why I just used the word “youngins”. (And just as a sidenote: I love to skip. It’s impossible to feel anything but joyful when you’re skipping.)
Here’s another example of something I think the pilgrims would find puzzling: Kettle bells. Last week, my trainer Ellen had me work out with them—weights shaped like kettles, replete with heavy little handles. Theirs is a high-concept approach to exercise. One that, according to Ellen, has you forget everything you’ve ever learned about doing, say, a bicep curl with free weights or the Nautilus leg press. No bending slightly at the joints. No taking it slow or easy or gently. No feeling the burn.
Instead, the kettle bells have you lock out, thrust, and shove at a frantic pace. It’s like going into a full-body convulse on purpose. At least that’s how I understand it, especially given the one move my trainer had me do with them.
I had to first grip the bell’s handle with both hands, as if I were trying to wrestle my purse away from an angry robber. And then—like a five-year-old crouched and readying to push a bowling ball down a long alley—bend and drop the kettle bell between my legs and up towards my donkster. Once there, I had to hold (two, three, four) and then drag it back down through my legs and hoist it up into the air (without knocking myself out, of course) like it was riding some imaginary roller coaster. All the while thrusting my pelvis hard, as if I were auditioning for a recurring part on the Spice Channel.
And then, there was the simultaneous breathing—VERY IMPORTANT, says Ellen—the kind that involves a maniacal sort of hissing as the result of my blowing air through my clenched teeth. Think the “he he he” you’d overhear in a Lamaze class, with a long sssssssssssssssssssssss at the end. (Not that I would know firsthand, since the only things I’ve given birth to include this blog, a few giant neuroses, and some outstanding credit card balances.)
Now, try to picture it: Short, chubby, middle-aged me and my big hair-on-fire red head, swinging a weighted pocketbook through my legs, chanting like a contracting pregnant woman, undulating my pelvis, and letting out an occasional nose whistle in an errant attempt to tooth hiss, all while struggling to stay upright.
You got it?
It’s in that moment—in that “why am I doing this?” moment and others like it—my mind moseys over to the pilgrims. And what they would think.
Would they congratulate me for being such a good and fearless trooper, so dedicated to preserving my own anatomy that I’m willing to do anything? Would they admire my fancy moves? My ability to embrace humiliation? The “interesting” way I’m able to maneuver my mid-section? Or would they laugh at the way modern-day abundance and extreme convenience has turned me into a kettle-bell flinging idiot?
After all, I suspect their approach for staying in shape was quite practical—tilling the fields in an attempt to generate food and shelter, and create a better life for their families.
All I’m trying to do is tighten up a muffin top and diminish the appearance of cellulite.
Oh how they judge me.
The irony is, I don’t even know that much about the pilgrims. I mean, I can see them in the Amish-like outfits I picture them wearing in my head. But really, I have no idea if that image is accurate. (I could check Wikipedia or try to retrieve some memory from grade school [which might require hypnosis], but then again, maybe later.)
And yet, going forward with the little information I do have, I continue to wonder how they’d view our obsession with work, our need to be connected always, the whacky rituals we’re willing to embrace to stay in shape and the oh-so-shallow reasons we have for doing them.
What would they have to say about the zoom zoom zoom of our 21st-century culture, so different than I imagine theirs. It’s a pace not only reserved for fitness, but that poisons almost every aspect of every day –sometimes swallowing us up whole, leaving little else for tilling a lone pot of daisies, let alone an entire field.
Sometimes I wish for more pilgrims in our midst because I think they’d bring us the perspective that I so often think we’ve lost. And that we (okay, me) crave.
And that’s why I think about pilgrims, on some days, too much. Not that you asked, but there it is.
Until next time…