Muscle Memory

After all of the darkness and sadness, soon comes happiness. – Survivor, Destiny’s Child

I started going to my early morning boot camp again in December. Before you assume this is a post about physical exercise, healthy living, or failed New Year’s resolutions, let me assure you it’s not. Stick with me, here.

Several years ago, I worked out with my trainer Susan in a 5:15 a.m. class two days a week and at home with videos five days a week. By the end of six months, I was in great shape. I ran my first 5k (turns out, it was my ONLY 5k, but who’s keeping score?). I had definition in muscles I wasn’t aware existed. I could complete a hardcore workout and not even be sore. It rocked.

This time around, I feel every minute of my 45 years. My muscles protest loudly as I stretch them and push them to do things they haven’t done in ages. But here’s the thing: my muscles remember what they’re supposed to do.

During my first class, I was amazed I could still do push ups and full sit ups. Not very many, but I did them. As Susan called out exercises, my mind kept telling my muscles, “Oh, there’s no way you can do that one. Seriously. Don’t even try.” But muscle memory took over. My muscles gave my brain the finger and kept going.

The workouts are excruciating at times. My muscles often scream in protest. But for the most part, when I’m in class, I’m giving it all I’ve got. If I’m lucky, my muscles will remember exercise is supposed to make them more firm, less flabby. We’ll see.

All this pushing, pulling and stretching isn’t confined to my abs, glutes and biceps, though. My heart muscle is also getting quite a workout these days.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post exploring the capacity to love. Riffing on a video featuring Oprah and Bishop T. D. Jakes, I maintained that I have a pint-sized capacity for love versus a 10-gallon capacity. It made sense at the time, but I’m not sure I believe that anymore.

Looking back, I think my poor little heart was simply worn out. It had been through a lot, after all. It had contracted in self-defense, self-loathing and sadness. It had one purpose at that point: just keep beating.

If you’d asked me this time last year if I thought I’d find love again, I would have laughed. And yet, here I am. My little heart is stretching, pulling and pushing in ways it hasn’t in years.

Some days, it’s painful. It’s too hard to balance kids, work and our relationship. It’s frustrating we don’t get enough time together. My brain often tells my heart, “What on EARTH are you doing? Stop that! You’re not healthy enough. Don’t even try.”

Thankfully, my heart muscle is perfectly capable of telling my brain to go to hell, and it stretches a little more every day to make room for this amazing person. Just like it did during boot camp, muscle memory is taking over. My heart is remembering what it feels like to be happy, to be alive. It’s remembering it’s healthy and strong. It’s remembering how to love someone and accept love in return. It rocks.

To borrow the incomparable lyrics of Destiny’s Child, my heart’s a survivor. It’s not gonna give up. It’s not gonna stop. It’s gonna work harder. No matter what my brain says. It’s a workout. But it’s worth it.


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