Iíve been slowly easing myself back into the exercise routine. A week before Japan, I was sick, then I was in Japan, and then I was sick the week after I returned. That meant a solid month of no real physical activity.

Iím afraid that if I jump right back into karate Iíll be putting myself at risk of injury, and I also despise soreness these days. When I was younger, Iíd recover faster, I could even sprain an ankle or something and Iíd shake it off and get right back into it.

I donít see anything cool about being tough, anymore. At one point I thought it was cool, I know that sounds immature and uncharacteristically macho, but we are talking about a martial artist here.

The other day, when I was driving to karate, I was reminded of a woman I met years ago, when I was still fairly new to karate. She was a middle-aged Russian lady. I believe she was a third dan.

She was shockingly strong and agile. Iíd heard stories about how she was one of the very, very few who actually skipped ranks as a colored belt (as a matter of fact, outside of her case, IĎve never heard of that happening before or since).

Iíd walk into the karate studio before class, and sheíd be there beating a heavy bag in such a way that made me hope that there would never be any situation in which I would be on the receiving end of anything that even remotely resembled what she was doing to that bag.

The men were afraid of her. Not just the wimpy ones either. All of them.

You can always tell, you can smell it on them, see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. There is something that they find deeply disturbing about believing fully and completely that they are in the presence of a woman that would most likely wipe the floor with their asses in a physical fight.

She wasnít just skilled, but she had that toughness, that ruthlessness, that lack of hesitation that most men have socialized into them and most women have socialized out of them.

Right before she quit practicing, her attendance became spotty, and it was clear that she was losing interest. She was tired. Sheíd had enough. One of the last times I saw her, our instructor at the time told her that she needs to train more. She looked at him as if he was crazy and simply said, ďWhy?Ē

It was clear that whatever had driven her before had gone.

As I drove to class last Thursday, I was feeling like I had imagined she was feeling towards the end.

A lot of my closer friends have told me that I am one of the toughest people they know. Itís one of those things that grows out of necessity. I donít think I am as tough as the woman I was just describing, and I sincerely hope Iím not. I donít even want to know what kind of circumstances would drive a woman to learn how to beat a heavy bag like that.

My circumstances have changed, as well. While still more paranoid than average, staying up all night worrying about being caught off guard is a thing of the past. It does come back when Iím feeling especially weak or sick, though. That is really the worst time to be struggling with paranoia, too.

Well, anyway, I tried meditating earlier this evening and 20 minutes in, I was nodding off.

We went to a surprise birthday/engagement party last night and we were out late. I have trouble sleeping late into the morning, so I didnít get a lot of sleep last night.

Last night was lovely. It was her birthday. He took her to fancy restaurant for dinner and surprised her with the proposal (when he got down on one knee, a waiter tripped over him, they were laughing about it all evening).

He had her friends and family hidden away, stuffed into a bar around the corner from their house. Before going home, he suggested that they go in for a drink. We jumped out and surprised her. Trembling and with tears streaming down her face, she went around and hugged every single person in the room, flashed the ring, got her congratulations and happy birthdays. Then we headed to their house, where some family members had decorated and set up for the party while they were at dinner.

Iím glad she was happy with it and she was very, very happy with it.

Iím not sure how I would feel about being surprised by 100 people after such an emotional event (and it was a huge surprise to her).

Iím glad that he proposed in the restaurant and not in front of everyone. Iíve always thought of public proposals as being sort of poor taste, but believed myself to be alone in that opinion.

However, I actually ran into my reiki teacher and friend at their party (I had no idea they even knew each other), she came late. She asked me if he proposed in front of everyone, and I told her that it was at the restaurant. She breathed a huge sigh of relief and said, ďIím so glad, I was worried that he might do it in front of everyone. I donít know how comfortable Iíd be with being proposed to in front of 100 people, you know?Ē

So Iím not alone!

Of course, I havenít spoken to a lot of women about it. Thinking back, I mostly chatted with men that evening. Their only reservations about public proposals were centered around the possibility of getting a ďno,Ē resulting in public humiliation for the man. In my mind, this leaves a huge vacuum for some consideration towards publicly humiliating the woman, who gets no say in whether or not the event would be public.

I brought up the possibility of getting a false ďyesĒ to spare the man public humiliation, which later turns into a ďno.Ē I can that see happening.

They acknowledged it as a possibility but didnít seem entirely convinced. Maybe they lack the ability to conceptualize the repugnance of taking something thatís usually a very intimate moment and making it a public event.

Sometimes I think thereís something wrong with that whole gender.

As for engagements and marrying and all of that, ironically enough, it wasnít that long ago that a friend of mine called me and during our chat asked me about when I planned to get married. I laughed it off, but I really should have said, ďWhat are you? My mother?Ē

For those of us who are not burdened financially or in need of health insurance, I donít understand why people are in such a hurry to get married. Itís a high-risk endeavor. Being legally bound to someone can really, really, really suck under certain circumstances.

I am still happy for people who choose to get married, but I have very little desire for it, myself. I think the thing is, when I was recently divorced, I had no desire to get remarried, but then, it seemed understandable. Most people arenít in a huge hurry to get married after a divorce. But I believed that it was only a matter of time. Some years would pass, Iíd fall in love, and Iíd want to get married again.

So, itís been about 7 years since my divorce (yowzers, Iím old) and I still donít really have much desire to get married. I wonder if Iím scarred for life. That image of a blissful marriage that weíre all sold as little girls is faded to me. When I think about it, it was never really there to begin with. We have millions of stories and images to tell us all about finding that person, but once that person is found, thereís almost nothing that tells us about what happens for the rest of that relationship.

In every relationship story, thereís usually a dramatic change ahead for the involved parties. There wouldnĎt be much drama in the ďgetting togetherď part of the story if it was easy and feasible in the first place.

Habits must change, people have to move, routines will inevitably be different; yet, weíre supposed to believe that the transition goes perfectly smoothly in every story.

Itís funny, earlier tonight, I was wondering why it is that people in modern society seem so unhappy. And less than an hour later, here I am talking about one of the many, many inconsistencies that exist between what weíre taught to believe and the reality that we actually experience. Weíre stuck trying to reconcile these contradictions in our every day life, but we canít. Itís a recipe for misery.

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That was last night. Itís now Sunday night. I just got out of a hot bath. Adam and I went for a short hike this afternoon. It was pretty, but so cold. I needed that bath to warm me up again.

Iím turning into a bath addict, though. At work, I daydream about going home and filling up the tub. When Iím out and about, I think about where my next bathing fix is going to come from.

Iíve been doing it a lot immediately after exercising and I think thatís helping me a lot with soreness.

Tomorrow evening Iím going to a dance studio where Nicole has been taking classes, lately. Itís not salsa, itís a modern/jazz class. I had a choice between doing that or going to beginner ballet today. Adam and I had plans to hike today, so Iíll go tomorrow. Besides, I donít own ballet shoes.

Nicole and I talked briefly about buying dance shoes and she remarked to me, ďIn the world of dance, your feet might be a little bit on the large side.Ē I cocked my head to one side and looked at her like she had lobsters crawling out of her ears. Then I said, ďIf my feet are considered big, where did you get shoes?Ē

She waved her hand at me and said, ďOh, well, me they just see as a giant freak.Ē That didnít answer the question, but I guess implies that hers are special order.

Since I have a touch of that macho competitiveness in me that I often wish would just completely die and go away because itís self-destructive and not helpful at all, I am mentally preparing myself for tomorrow.

The big challenge here is that in the physical realm, for many years, I was always at the top of the class, the cream of the crop, the person they want in front. This was true until I became friends with Nicole. Now I always have to settle for being second best.

Iím lucky, I wouldnít still have this issue at my age if I didnít have the luxury of not having to face it earlier in life.

Itís like aging. Well, maybe aging is worse because itís inevitable. I could always just not be friends with Nicole (haha).

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 at 5:37 PM