There have been times in my life when things have worked in my favor with no effort on my part. Such has been the case over the last few weeks, and I lay this good fortune squarely at the feet of my muse, Freya. My writing has been on hold lately because she’s been on vacation—at least that’s the story she told me. I’m pretty sure she was actually cheating on me, a suspicion I find very upsetting. Relationships in my experience are based on three things: trust, common interest, and mutual attraction.
Until now my relationship with her has engendered all three, although I’m starting to rethink that first and most important item because of her absence lately. However, I still find her stunningly attractive, so I’m not ready to break up with her just yet.
You, of course, know nothing about my muse, because inspiration, like making love, is a very personal thing and you don’t know me. I’m just a writer—someone you will probably never meet and my life to you is nothing. But what I will tell you is that she’s tall, Scandinavian, athletic, and boisterous. In fact, rather than greeting me with a kiss, she just goes straight for the full body check—and these are all very attractive qualities to me.
She and I have several things in common.
First, she’s very fond of alcohol. I know this to be an undeniable fact because she only shows up when I’ve been drinking. There are countless times I’ve been enjoying a cold brew when, from out of nowhere, she shows up and announces her presence by playfully knocking me off my bar stool.
Then of course there’s the writing, the very reason you’re reading this piece today. I listen carefully as she whispers soft words of encouragement to share my secrets with you—the good, the bad, and the ugly. All the things I try so desperately to hide but that inevitably find their way to the surface under her commanding, yet gentle direction.
Finally, my wife is the muse of my muse. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that at least half of my writing is conceived by something my wife has said or done—and my muse invariably whispers “That would make a great story. Follow me.” And, of course, I always do.
And here is the path to which she led me today.
In the last two months my wife, Heidi, has entertained several suitors—among them a former boyfriend and an ex-fiancée. Now the cultural definition of a suitor is someone who courts a woman in the romantic sense. A suitor, however, can also be someone who is simply petitioning or vying for something from another individual or collective. In this case these men seem to simply want her attention for one reason or another. Now here I must add that I am, in fact, the jealous type—and this sudden popularity of my wife among these men got annoyingly under my skin.
Trust being a necessary component of marriage, though, I’ve adjusted to this current state of affairs and am convinced there’s no reason for concern. That said it’s also true that I’m a self-doubting, self-loathing, drunk who believes deep down inside that I don’t deserve what I have and that somehow life’s been unjustifiably good to me. I actually believe in these moments that it was just dumb luck that I somehow convinced the best woman living on the planet to marry me.
So when I see these guys posting notes on her FaceBook page, my first thought is “I’m totally screwed;” that I don’t stand a chance in Hell of hanging onto her. But then this other guy surfaces from a hidden crevasse deep within my soul, and my eyes involuntarily narrow and a growl spontaneously erupts. I am then inspired (no-doubt by Freya herself) to post a passive aggressive reply, have a drink, and chuckle because in that moment I think I’m clever. This bravado then produces a feeling of euphoria in which I convince myself that I also happen to be the most charming and devastatingly good looking guy alive.
Such was the case on a Monday, four weeks ago.
Freya knowingly looked on.
It was the morning after said event and I was ruminating about my clever FaceBook reply to one of these gentlemen the evening before. I was just out of the shower and stepped up to the mirror to shave when I heard the familiar voice of inspiration from behind me:
“You’re fat.” She whispered. I instinctively began scanning my reflection from the neck down. I’ll spare you the image that confronted me, and instead offer the fact that I actually winced.
“Dear God.” I whispered. “I’ve become Kool-Aid.”
My thoughts immediately returned to the guys courting my wife for her attention; panic ensued and only one thought came to mind. At the top of my lungs I bellowed: “Heidi! Can you come in here please?”
Opening the bathroom door my wife shushed me. “Quiet! Cindy and grandma are still sleeping.” I looked at her for a moment. She was holding a pillow with a half-donned pillow case and morning hair, wearing a tee-shirt that read “Got Sleep?” and a pair of flannel pants adorned with kittens. Funny; she never really looked as pretty to me before as she did right then.
“What do you want?” she inquired in a hushed tone.
“I uh—I want to join a gym.”
“You do?” she replied in a cheery tone while sporting a toothy grin. “Yeah. I’m fat. I need to join a gym.”
Laughing she simply replied “Who are you?”
Fast forward to last Wednesday. I was three weeks into a low-carb diet and exercise program. No beer, no pasta, no pizza—and I’m in the gym three times a week. It’s a total 180 situation.
Enter my personal trainer, Michel. A young, good-looking, muscular kid who has been kicking my ass on Mondays and Wednesdays over the course of this awakening. I have to admit I’m kind of getting into it—but this cross-training crap is BS. I hate cardio.
Now these sessions are only 30 minutes so when I go in I’m a total clock-watcher. I’m just counting down the minutes until I can go back to the office and scarf some tuna and collapse at my desk. On this particular day, though, I was late, a fact which my trainer did not appreciate. And he made that fact crystal clear after I suited up. I approached him and he just kind of stared at me and said “You’re late.”
“Yeah man; sorry. I just had some things going on at work and I forgot my gym bag.”
Suddenly I was back in boot camp. Annoyed, he barked at me with a scolding tone: “When you first got here you said you wanted a change; you said that you had let yourself go, and you admitted you were fat. I can’t help you if you don’t take this seriously. Now let’s go.”
For the next 20 minutes he tore me to pieces. At the top of the hour, I attempted to disarm him with humor:
“OK, so this has been good. Great job.” I puffed while attempting to initiate a fist bump.
“You were late.” He replied again sternly.
“Yeah; I know man. You know; life gets in the way.”
“Outside.” His stoic and commanding demeanor reminded me of when I’m in trouble with Heidi.
“What now?” I inquired.
An expletive crossed my mind.
Here’s the thing: you can’t negotiate with your trainer. You’re paying him for results—but the thing is I got out of the damned service more than 30 years ago and now here I am taking orders from this kid half my age.
He led me to the parking lot and barked “Let’s go.” I limped along exhausted and he continued: “Get ahead of me.” Another expletive.
75 yards around the facility later and I slowed to a pause, which inspired his repeated command: “Move it!”
I obediently picked up the pace and pathetically “ran” the next 25 yards to the designated finish line. I bent over with my head between my legs and he barked another order: “Stand up; hands over your head!”
“Dude! You’re killin’ me here.”
“No growth without pain man. Now let’s finish it; turn around and run backwards.”
“Who are you, freaking Nietzsche?” I exclaimed.
“Friedrich Nietzsche. You know; ‘that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”
“Hit it!” came the stern reply.
I somehow made it to the second finish line—pathetic though my performance was. And it was in that moment I began to suspect that all of this was somehow divinely orchestrated. That I was on a path set by forces beyond me. As I stumbled back into the facility I realized that as a grandfather, I owed it to my kids and to their kids to take my health seriously. I suddenly understood the importance of ensuring the longevity of my life so that my kids won’t have to tell their kids about me in my absence while pointing to a tombstone. That I need to live a long and healthy life—not just for me–but for them as well.
Do you see how she did that. First she made me jealous, then she called me fat, and then she assigned me a cross-trainer—“all for my own good.”