Week 25: Taking up space

“To Heather, Be Difficult – Roxane Gay”**

Through sobriety, this blog and therapy, it’s become painfully clean that I need to start dealing with my constant desire to please everyone around me if I want a shot at happiness. I’ve been trying to say no to others more and make myself and my wants a priority, and it seems to be working. I have a slight boost in confidence, and I’m feeling better about the world than I was a month ago. But when you think you’ve figured it out, the universe likes to send you a little test to see if you really have improved or not.

My hip is not 100 percent and I’m still unsure if I will be at the start line of the Chicago Marathon come October, but I’ve started running again. My physical therapist is allowing me to run/walk a couple times a week to gage the pain, and while sometimes I am confident that it’s a tear and I will never run again, there are days that I do think I am getting better and notice the pain is not as sharp. Saturday, after a really productive writing session, I went to the gym to run/walk for 21 minutes and see how the hip felt after not running for three days.

I am nervous every time I run now. I am scared that it will hurt, both in my hip but also in the way that running can hurt when you haven’t done it in a while. I am scared that 21 minutes will creep and I won’t be able to make it. I am scared that it’s been so long since I last ran that it won’t feel the same. So, I prepared by downloading a couple of hour-long podcasts (I know, this makes no sense) and then picked the treadmill that was closest to the TV that had the most interesting show on. The gym has a row of machines that face the window and three flat-screen TVs. Most of the machines only have a side view of the TVs, except one that is head on, which was playing some kind of cooking show. The two other TVs had golf and some CSI drama, so I picked the cooking show. That way, if my podcast can’t entertain me and the minutes feel like hours, I had the TV as a back up to distract me.

Only one of the treadmills was occupied, by a woman wearing a red tank top who was running so vigorously that her face was turning the same color. The treadmill I wanted, right below the TV with the cooking show, was next to her machine. Normally, I would leave an empty treadmill between us – like you do in public bathrooms – but I really wanted the insurance of the TV. Apparently, the women did not my like choice. As soon as I got on the machine, she said ‘no’ loud enough for me to hear it and then mumbled something about chewing gum (I was chewing gum, another distractor). She slowed down until her machine was off and then moved three away. She did NOT want to be next to me.

Red Tank Top’s passive aggressiveness bothered me and I felt guilty for encroaching on her space. I am actually still thinking about it, and it’s been more than a couple of hours. Why did I have to bother her so much? I should have just stuck to the unwritten rules of the gym and chosen a machine a few away from her. I was so inconsiderate.

This is a big fear of mine. To annoy, to inconvenience, to hassle someone else. I try to take up little space in the world because I don’t want to be in anyone’s way.

But, I wasn’t wrong here. I wanted to be near the TV and if she didn’t want to be next to me than that was her problem. There was no way I could have known that before I got on the treadmill. This was 100 percent about her and not me. I was taking up space, the space I earned by paying the same amount for a gym membership that Red Tank Top had.

It’s in these moments that I measure my progress. Do I, following her lead, say something passive aggressive to her under the heat of my breath (which I have done more than once)? Or do I continue on with my run and smile through the entire thing because my hip doesn’t hurt, the podcast is funny and it feels so darn good to be running again? I chose option two.

There were times when I would have believed that Red Tank Top was right, I hadn’t deserved to be there. But, I am slowly learning that as along as I am not hurting anyone or breaking laws, opinions of women at the gym really don’t matter. She can huff and puff and I will smile.

Best part of being sober this week: It was 70 degrees in Chicago on Friday and nearly half of the city wanted to have a drink on the River Walk. There was a line 40-people deep outside one bar. Instead, I read a book and people watched. Maybe I won’t need alcohol to enjoy the warm weather after all.

Hardest par of being sober this week: I still really miss having a beer after a long day at the office.

**I originally started this post linking something Roxane Gay said during a talk of her’s that I attended a few weeks ago. However, I later realized that discussing her struggles as an obese black woman within the context of my own, even if thin veiled and I acknowledge the fact that they are not all comparable, is a form of white privilege. So, I deleted the first several paragraphs and encourage you to go read anything you can by Roxane Gay because she is an incredible writer and better human. 

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