I was the girl who hid in the last row in Physical Training class. The one who half half-heartedly did the push ups and was always off with the jumping jacks.
My disciplined teacher would not dismiss the class until I got the particular exercise assigned for the day perfectly right. I earned scathing glares from the other students until I finished.
I hated exercise.
When I grow up, I am not going to do any of this, I told myself and I kept to my word.
I was in my 40s when I failed my annual physical. I was tired and out of breath. I wasn't fat but I wasn't healthy and I needed to lose weight. Fast.
Join a gym, the doctor said. Do it for your health. Do it for 40 minutes a day.
I threw myself into the new project with enthusiasm. I went shopping for gym clothes, got a water bottle and downloaded a whole bunch of songs. Like "Gonna Make You Sweat" and "On The Floor".
Daily, I walked on the treadmill for an hour. But the number on the weighing scale never budged.
Months later, I had lost no weight. My clothes fit differently but I still felt like a failure.
"One woman in the group made a snide comment. 'She can hang out with us but she will never look like us.'"
So, I went back to the doctor.
"You do a lot of cardio and while it's good, it's not enough, you have to lift weights," he said.
Ever the dutiful, obedient patient, I went back to the gym and asked for a private training session. It was backbreaking work.
Muscles I never knew existed ached. I could not sit down without pain.
Ultimately, I summoned up the courage to go back. The eager gym trainer ran up to me when I entered the premises. He made promises of everlasting youth, enhanced energy and ultimate slimness if I followed his training regime.
But I balked at the outrageous price he quoted for exclusive training session. And decided to go at it solo.
Then I went like Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky. I even played "Eye of The Tiger" on full blast.
I was energetically lifting up weights when I saw a group of these amazing women -- sponsored athletes and competitive body builders -- look at me.
I was rather pleased until one of the pros walked up to me and told me, "You are lifting the weights up wrong. You might pull a muscle and hurt yourself badly."
My face fell and she must have noticed because she quickly said, "I can show you." I must have been a quick study because she invited me to join her group.
So I worked out for a few days with the awesome girls with their killer bodies, designer workout apparel and matching gym bags. One of them was a Nike-sponsored athlete.
I felt like it made up for the high school days when I wasn't part of the cool kids' group.
News of my hanging out with the group spread around the gym faster than the flu virus.
Not everyone was happy though. One woman in the group made a snide comment. "She can hang out with us but she will never look like us."
It got back to me. I was hurt and I made it a point to ignore her.
This prompted her to follow me to the ladies locker room where she proceeded to ask for my forgiveness.
"Sometimes I think of that lady's remark about how those I unintentionally hurt would forgive me, if I forgave her."
"I can't do that," I told her frankly.
"Why?" she demanded. "Haven't you ever said or done anything to hurt anyone?"
I was taken aback. I looked at her thoughtfully, not wanting to recall my past mistakes.
"If you forgive me, someone you have hurt in the past will forgive you too," she said.
Interpreting my silence for rejection, she walked away.
I sat down on the bench and thought hard: Everyday in our lives, we are asked for forgiveness, for compassion and for understanding.
Drivers in traffic mouth "I'm sorry," to us. Pedestrians who bump into us say "Pardon me."
We nod automatically. We give out forgiveness unquestioningly, unconditionally and almost always willingly.
But what is forgiveness? It weighs nothing and we cannot see it. But it's so powerful that it's a cornerstone of all religions.
When you forgive, you purge yourself of negativity, anger and resentment.
Those heavy emotions weigh you down.
I did forgive that woman, truly.
But I didn't work out with that group again. I wish I could tell you that I went on to complete ever-more-intense workouts and got rock-hard abs, but that just wouldn't be true.
Nonetheless, I did get better at exercise even though I may never have a perfect body. I can lift weights and work machines correctly now.
And I have to add this: Sometimes I think of that lady's remark about how those I unintentionally hurt would forgive me, if I forgave her.
I wonder though, if it's that simple. I wish it works through the magic of the universe.
But if it doesn't, I am not ashamed of asking those in my past: "Forgive me. I am sorry."
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