Saturday, February 6, 2010

Time to Hit the Gym

I believe it's time to start hitting the gym. It's a thought that has been floating around my head for quite some time now. For years I loved working out. I loved eating well. It all made me feel good about myself, good about aging, and helped me maintain a positive mood. When Michael got sick a couple of years ago it all came to a screeching halt. I was suddenly using all of my extra time to research treatments, or using my time being with Michael as much as possible. Now that he is gone, I have just been too depressed to care about myself.

When I think about getting back into the gym, I can think of many positive outcomes. Those positive outcomes are also things that I'm not quite sure I am ready for. As a gay man, going to the gym is often equated with going to church. Everyone is there. Everyone is very focused, and everyone is generally friendly. It can be a bit cruisey, meaning there is some flirting and checking each other out. I suppose it is only human nature.

I suppose that cruising is part of the draw. Who doesn't appreciate a bit of eye candy. Who doesn't enjoy the ego boost when someones lingering eye is fixated on you. In all, it is really nothing too overt, just plain healthy exercise of the body and the libido I like to think.

One aspect of life that I do need to begin working on is meeting new friends. Not that I plan to replace my old friends, it's just that I need to meet some single people. Everyone I know is in a relationship. Everyone that I used to socialize with was primarily as a couple. This has become painfully clear to me each weekend. Aside from the kids, I don't see or hear from anybody all weekend. People are busy with their lives. I have come to realize that for everyone else, Michael's death was something that created a loss back in September. They may think of him from time to time, but their lives go on. They go back to their husband, or wives, or partners, and get back into their daily routines. For me, life changed dramatically.

I don't begrudge anybody. I know that the loss that I am experiencing is because I am the one who was widowed. If he hadn't died, Michael would be sitting right here beside me. I wouldn't be writing this post. Maybe we would be getting ready to go out for a night on the town. Maybe a quiet dinner at a favorite restaurant. Maybe we would be having friends over for dinner. Maybe we would be lying in bed watching a movie. Maybe we would have locked the door, lit some candles, put on some soft music, and enjoyed massages by each other. Maybe we would be having sex! Okay, with the kids running around the house? Maybe not.

The point is that I need to start socializing a bit. I need to have single friends that I can call up to go out and do something with at the last minute. I need to have friends who might decide to gather for drinks at a neighborhood bar, and call to invite me. I'm not sure that I would accept any invitations quite yet, but I know that I can't just stay home forever. My best friend cannot be this slim, light weight Dell laptop.

I know that putting myself back in the gym environment will definitely help me to socialize a bit. It will put me in a place where I can meet other guys who might want to socialize. It will also put me in a place where other guys might pay me some notice, and I don't know how I want to respond to that. I know that if I am there wearing my wedding ring, they will assume I am married, and will be less likely to approach me. I am not the most outgoing person. I am actually a shy and somewhat reserved kind of guy. It helps me when the other guys are more outgoing. I'm not really talking about romantic or sexual opportunities. I'm talking about platonic friendships. It all seems very overwhelming, and I suppose that is why I choose to sit at home. Doing nothing is much easier than doing something new.

I don't particularly enjoy the newness of my life. In fact, I hate it. I want my life back. I want Michael's life back, but I know that I cant have it. I don't want to be a single person, and yet I am. I loved being married to Michael. I loved being part of a couple, yet short of becoming "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," I have to accept that this is my life now. What do I want to make of it?

What am I waiting for? Nothing is going to change.

The only thing that can change is me.

Am I wanting change? Am I ready for change?


  1. Dan, what a powerful post. I'm in tears after reading this. You touch on the raw parts of grief so openly and honestly. The love you have for Michael is so easy and evident in your writing. Thank you for sharing your love and your ache.


  2. amen. i didnt know cruising happened! i just know tht sometimes i like the look of someone and shyly look away. i wear a ring on the wedding band finger and i forget it half the time but i dnt care. im nowhere thin enough to be in a relationship again, yet. PUMP class for me!

  3. I just read this morning a quote in a widow book which said "The person who wants change is the person who needs to make it happen." Damn. I've been used to change just happening during these past almost 11 months. Maybe it's the negative changes which happen without us having a say but the positive ones need us to be actively involved and to work hard. Damn. But like you, I'm reaching the point where I'm needing some positive changes in my life.

    As usual, I connect so much to what you are feeling and writing about. The more I travel on this journey and the more people I meet who are also on this road with me (and I count getting to know each other through our blogs as "meeting"!), the more I realize that we are more similar than we are different. Needing to find new, single friends because our friends from "before" are mostly married and moving on, needing to get back to taking care of ourselves because it's easy to forget to do that when we are in the throws of grief, having to make the decision about wearing our wedding rings..... All things I'm feeling too.

    I hope you make it to the gym this week and that it is a positive experience for you. I'm going to attempt yoga this week. Here's to positive changes in our lives!

  4. Going to the gym sounds like an excellent plan. Just "getting out" and doing something physically demanding should be helpful for the stress- and depression-busting benefits. Many months of being almost totally confined indoors was one of the hardest things for both Don and I during the later stages of his illness. Like you, I spent all of that "indoor time" caring for Don, keeping him company, and researching info on cancer treatments. My world became increasingly small during that time. That can be so hard on both the mind and body - especially for people who are accustomed to getting out a lot (we hiked and canoed almost non-stop before Don became ill). After his death, when I took my dog and went on the road, I made an all-out effort to do as much hiking as possible each day. That seemed to help me to feel better - physically and mentally, if only for an hour or two at a time. I have not done much socializing since Don died, but then I've always been intensely reclusive - Don and I could best be described as two lone wolves running together - and now I am a lone wolf - running with my little "pack" - my two collies who travel everywhere I go. Of course, living like a hermit has its disadvantages now that Don is no longer with me. I'm not quite sure if I can (or will) do anything about that. The only times I go out are to dinners with couples - I think I mentioned that in a recent comment. I'm always #7 or #9 at dinners. Last week, someone accidentally said, "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" in reference to something very unrelated - meant entirely as a joke and I took it that way, but there were gasps and silence at the table after. It can be very awkward when you're a widow who is moving only in the circle of happy couples - which seem to be the only kind of people in my general age group here in this town where I'm spending winter. For me, spending time alone, doing outdoor stuff with my dogs, seems easier. I have a feeling that won't change as I definitely have that common fear shared by many widowed people -- of getting involved with someone, only to have something terrible happen to them too. I feel as though I can't face another "intimate death" after caring for both my dad and Don (and 3 wonderful dogs) through end-stage cancers. That said, I don't recommend my way of life for others, especially those who tend to enjoy socializing. The way I am living is best suited for confirmed hermits. (-:
    The interaction with people at the gym sounds like a fine way to gradually get back into the "outside world" - a safe way of being around people without having to get too involved unless you feel inclined.

  5. Hi Dan, Boy, you've really hit the nail on the head this time. Who among us widows/widowers hasn't dreaded this so-called "milestone" of re-emerging into socializing? Ironically, I've been thinking about this very topic, rather heavily lately.

    Just try to remember what it was like meeting people "before"... there were things going on in your life then too, maybe not as serious, or devastating as now, but the issues were there, and you met Michael!

    I think you'll find whoever you meet now, will have "normal" life issues of their own, and maybe they're just as eager to share their life as you are.

    If you think you're ready, then you simply are ready, and you will do fine. In my case, I tend to raise expectations too much, which leads to disappointment, so that's my typical challenge. Just learning to let situations unfold in their own way, and at their own pace works for me now.

    If a new friendship is right for us, and meant to be, it will flourish naturally.
    As always, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful post.
    With Love, Bill in NH