There have been many signs and indicators that I have stumbled upon the best therapist for me in the years I have been seeing her. But this week when Jules referenced a Friends clip, I was reminded once again of how perfect a match she is for me. If you haven’t seen Chandler’s desperate attempt to quit the gym, you need to watch it here before you read on.
All poor defeated Chandler wants to do is quit the gym. He never uses it. It doesn’t add any value to his life. And he’s actually paying for something he doesn’t care about in the slightest! And yet when he summons all of his courage and bravery and marches down to tell the gym manager face to face that he is done, he is forced to come face to face with all the reasons the gym is the absolute best place for him to be…and ultimately a beautiful gym rat.
This week I realized I needed to quit the gym. Not the real gym. The real gym and I have not laid eyes on one another in years and I am mostly, kind of, sort of ok with that. Even more so now that I don’t have to be in a bathing suit 24/7 anymore. (Hello, Fall!) But I had another gym in my life that I got myself stuck in. And the hardest thing about this gym as that everything about it looked perfect for me! This gym was designed to be life giving and soul affirming and hit just about all of my “must haves” in a gym. The problem is my schedule just doesn’t allow for regular gym time these days.
This week I realized, well, Jules realized and then asked all the right questions that lead me to realize, that I needed to quit the gym. I was telling her how overwhelmed I felt all the time and how my brain wouldn’t allow me to sleep at night because it was a constant buzz of to do lists and appointments and promises I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep. It had been weeks since I had slept well. In an attempt to get some peace one night I started writing out all of the thoughts trapped in my head. And I started looking to see if there was anything I could cut out. But as I listed them all out, I realized how much joy and life they all bring me…until I got to the gym. And there was no joy and no life. It was only obligation and stubbornness keeping me there. And of course, the gym rats I would have to face if I admitted I wanted to quit. And while some of these beautiful gym rats were people I feared I might disappoint, the worst of all the gym rats was not beautiful or enticing at all, but instead as intimidating as hell. She was me. Or at least, a very scary, graceless, mean version of me.
She came at me in three parts. At first she was the 10 year old me learning the hard lesson that we don’t ever quit things we have committed to! If she had to endure piano lessons for that entire year than I certainly had to keep going to the gym!
When I looked past her I saw the 24 year old me, so worn out and burnt out from years of working in the non-profit sector. And also so desperate and pleading for someone, anyone, to commit as hard as she did to a cause she believed was so worthy! She looked at me with eyes filled with betrayal and dared me to become that typical 20 something who can’t ever commit to or finish anything in life.
And then I saw me, right now, as I stumble through parenting and attempt to teach Levi that discipline and commitment is something to be valued and cherished. I heard myself telling him that yes, he had to go to soccer practice because we always follow through on our commitments! And yes, he had to go to church because we value its place in our lives and have committed to go together as a family. And yes, you have to go to school because…well, because the law says so and I really need a break! But still! Commit, Levi! Finish what you have started! And present day Reagan couldn’t believe she was was actually thinking about quitting the gym and risking losing the opportunity of teaching Levi to persevere through tough times.
All three of these versions of myself were staring at me from the other side of the cancellation desk, challenging me to defy them and break my word, to go back on my promise.
As I wrestled with them, Jules gave me this advice from the sidelines. Because she knows I like to cook she asked me what would happen if the next sudden food craze is eating fiddle leaf fig leaves. And I decided I wanted to try it. (This is gross. Don’t do that, people. Just do what normal people do and buy them from Home Depot so you can watch them slowly die in your not properly lit living room.) Nevertheless, in her scenario foodies are into eating them and she asked me how I would feel if I bought a fiddle leaf with the purpose of eating it and then discovered that it is, in fact, a disgusting dish. Would I keep eating the whole plant simply because I had wanted to try it? Ugh. No. Absolutely not. Gag.
So then, why couldn’t I admit that I tried the gym and it just didn’t work for me? It didn’t work for my schedule. It didn’t work for my family. It might work for some but for me, I didn’t like it. Why wasn’t I ever allowed to simply try something out?
And then she said something that stopped me in my tracks and turned on all the lightbulbs in my head. She said, “If we don’t have the option to simply try new things out, if we are forced to always stick with commitments we hate or hobbies we end up despising simply because we said we do them, we will eventually stop trying new things altogether.”
And life is found in the “trying out”. New hobbies are discovered in the trying out of many new activities. New passions are found in the trying out. New friendships are forged in the trying out. Trying it out is important!
But so is knowing when to quit the gym. I walked out of Jules’ office knowing I needed to quit the gym and feeling confident enough to walk up to the mean girl Reagans and saying, “I want to quit the gym.”
And I did! And you know what happened that night? I slept.
There is a time for perseverance. There is a time for sticking it out in the hard times. There is a time for being committed, dedicated and disciplined. But there is also a time to quit the gym. And knowing the difference between the two is a difficult but necessary lesson to learn. Because if you don’t quit the gym, you ultimately end up having to try to quit the bank and that is just a terrible place to be, right? Poor Chandler. All he wanted was to quit the gym.