I wrote this three years ago and it has been resonating in my head this week. In this holiday season, food is a huge topic of discussion — for all it’s enjoyment, all that accompanies its ritual, and all the collateral damage it does. Fitness bloggers and pundits in particular have very strong opinions here. I’m not one of them.
Yes, in life we should strive to be healthy and work to be fit. At the end of the day, it’s all about moments — and relationships.
Who Is The Fit One
My daughter was 9 years old. Chelsea had swimming pool hair, golden skin, and she had a best friend named Holly. We lived down the street from Holly, on a greenbelt loaded with greenbelt things; swings, slides, those rocky-horse things on thick springs, tennis courts and more. Chelsea loved the green belt, and often asked when I walked her home from school, if we could stop and play there. I don’t ever recall saying “no”, because I loved the greenbelt too.
On occasion, we would walk home from school with her friend Holly, and Holly’s father Derek. Holly was like Chelsea, young, full of energy, and always ready to play. Derek – not as much. He was perhaps 100 lbs. overweight, and though he was a few years younger than me, he was doing well just to walk his daughter home from school without sweating excessively.
One afternoon while Derek and I navigated the girls through the greenbelt, amidst the sea of red ceramic roof tops, we decided to stop and let the girls play at the playground for a while – and they did. Derek and I sat on a bench beside the jungle gym and watched while Chelsea and Holly participated in a kids’ life. Eventually, I was called upon to participate as a swing pusher. Pushing swings soon merged into playing on the jungle gym and I thought nothing of it. I was willing, I was able, and I was having fun.
Eventually, even a guy in good shape has to concede to the exceptional fitness level of 9-year old girls, and I did that also, exhaustedly rejoining Derek on the park bench. As I approached him, I saw a small tear run from one of his eyes, and heard a sniffle accompany the tear. That’s when I recognized the impact of what I had just done – that I could do with Derek’s daughter what he could not do; physically play.
No words were spoke between Derek and I when I sat back down beside him, nothing could really be said. I had it, and he wanted what I had; physical ability. For me, the moment was humbling and gratifying – simultaneously. Humbling that my friend was not fit enough to slide down a slide with his own daughter. Gratifying, that I was. How does one reconcile such a moment? Internally.
If the story ended there it would be a great example of the value of exercise and living a fit life – a testament to the virtues of discipline in regular exercise and healthy eating. A man cries because he’s unable to play with his own child, but an older man is fit enough for the job. Hooray, fitness wins!!!
But the story does not end there. Later that evening, Chelsea and I settled in to our evening routine together – she doing her homework, me exercising in our garage gym. When I came in from the workout, she asked me why Derek had been crying on the park bench that afternoon.
Pretentiously, I explained to her that Derek had been saddened by seeing me playing and enjoying moments on the jungle gym with his daughter – something he could not do, though his heart clearly desired to participate. I told her that seeing this made me sad too, but also made me feel good about my ability to be a participant dad.
Astute to a fault even at the age of 9, Chelsea immediately asked me if I ever cried – when she’s with Holly and Derek at Baskin Robins or Hometown Buffet, enjoying wonderful treats and the laughter and the moments that go with them, Moments, she reminded me, that I was never willing to participate in. She knew that in my heart I wanted to share such moments, but I regularly chose not to participate in them due to my fitness values.
And that is where this story really ends; at the point where I was reminded by a 9-year old that there are two sides to every story – even the story of fitness. I have not been able to wholly embrace the concept, nor even the term fitness since that moment.
Fitness is my livelihood. I regularly attempt to make the case that living fit, and eating healthy are important for every man, woman, and child in America. Still, I reflect on that moment daily – and the moment still haunts me; the day fitness was exposed to me as just another sacrifice in the name of non-sacrifice. It’s been 12 years since Chelsea asked me that question, and I still wonder what fitness is or, if it even is.
I might die tomorrow. If I do, what moments will I have missed of sharing ice cream and cake with a side order of smiles? What flavors and accompanying moments might I have I passed upon, in favor of a cardio-session or a plate of broccoli in the name of living well and looking good? Like questions of politics, philosophy, and faith, there are no clear answers here. But there should be some thought, a bit of discourse, some compromise and some understanding – in my case anyway.
In hind-sight I reflect that on that day, Derek had shed tears for his inability to play with his daughter on the jungle gym. In further exploration, I reflect that I had never shed a tear for my unwillingness to enjoy a cake or a buffet with my daughter. For that, I am ashamed. So now tell me, who the fit one is…? Be well. rc
That’s it. I’m out till next year. Enjoy the holidays. It matters much more what you eat between New Years and Thanksgiving, than what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Years. Peace to you all.
Oh, and there is this little nugget from Puddle Of Mudd. Enjoy…