Today, I faced my neurosis. I had a secret, and not a very juicy one. My office mate and I belong to the same gym. For months, I’ve known this fact, while she did not. I intended to keep my foolish secret forever.
Long ago, I gave myself the title of introvert in order to sound less…weird? Antisocial? Sociopathic? I’ve heard Barack Obama described as an introvert, and if it works for the President, it works for me. Although he’s probably never rearranged his schedule to avoid Joe Biden at the White house gym.
I often prefer my own company to that of others. Some people can’t stand spending time alone; I crave it. People simply exhaust me, especially when I am enclosed in a small office with them five days a week. Listening to others chatter about their every whim and the most private details of their lives is too much. I could not bear to continue the torture at the gym as well.
So, I chose to keep my gym membership top secret. When my office mate flaunted her new gym shoes and crowed to others that they should find the type of will power she had and join her for a workout sometime, I busied myself with my work and said nothing.
Because I rarely talk about my personal life, this simple lie of omission was easy. It also helped that I heard my coworker admit she had not been to the gym for months, because her friend was unable to go. With this revelation came a sense of relief at being able to work out whenever I wanted, without a chance of bumping into her. It also brought a new sense of pressure to keep my secret. If she learned I was going to the gym, I worried, she might ask me to take her friend’s place at the elliptical machine right next to her. The horror!
And with the new year, suddenly, she seemed to be going again. I saw the gym bag. I heard her talk about dropping her friend off after their workout. My phobia reached a whole new level of crazy, as I started tracking her schedule, so as never to go at the same time.
Last week, I hit rock bottom. Fully intending to go there directly from work, I heard her say that she was going to the gym after work and I felt my heart sink. So, I did what any lunatic would do. I skipped the gym, and I became depressed. I was disappointed in myself. How had I gotten to this point, where I was depriving myself of something that was good for me and that I actually enjoyed, for the sake of some idiotic secret? It no longer made sense.
I hung around the house that evening, watching the clock. After sufficient time had passed that I knew she must done with her workout and nowhere near the facility, I went back. Hey, no one ever said being neurotic would be easy.
But today, when I heard her say that she had forgotten her gym bag and would have to go home and get it, I decided to take my chances. My mental and physical well-being were at stake. I realized there was a strong possibility she would arrive at the gym while I was still there, but I was ready to face my fears. I would no longer be a prisoner of my own madness. Nevertheless, I sped faster than ever to the gym, hoping to increase my chances of finishing before her arrival. My face was hot and my heart was racing.
I thought going to the gym was supposed to help lower blood pressure, not raise it.
About twenty minutes into my workout, I felt so good, I nearly forgot about her. I did cast a few furtive glances around, to satisfy myself she was not bobbing along on a treadmill somewhere. I did not cut my exercise short, though. I did my full routine, and scanned the gym as I made my way to the door. Crisis averted!
Then, it happened. Just as I approached the glass doors, I saw her walking toward the building. What could I do? Head held high, I walked straight toward her. I smiled and greeted her at the front door. I wished her a good workout and walked to my car.
Hours later, I feel a burden has been lifted. And yet, I think about that moment when I saw her, right before she saw me. I wonder if I would have had time to run to the bathroom and hide in a stall until the coast was clear.