The beauty of burning up old papers, small limbs of trees, kindling, ads from Discover Card, report cards from your 12-year-old's first year of elementary school and old medical bills is that they catch fire, blacken and curl and ultimately just disappear.
It's this transformation from the visible and tangible to the invisible and intangible that renders the process of burning through trash so ultimately satisfying.
Lately I've come to think of exercise in much the same way. The tension of raising a family and working full time, especially since my work is difficult and my children and husband and animals are all male and therefore very strange to me much of the time, is often so overbearing that I just need to find an escape that is both healthy and productive.
I don't drink, smoke or play cards. I don't have "girls night out" at the casino. I have very few girls' nights out at all since so many of these involve copious quantities of alcohol and spending lots of money which I also don't have. Instead, working out at the gym or with my DVD discs has become something of a religious experience for me. I still dread it--don't get me wrong. But once I'm going and the music in my head phones or on the DVD is playing, and the rhythm of my body syncs up with the anger, despair, hopelessness and pure exhaustion that I wrestle with on a daily basis, I feel the purpose of working out, sweating it out, and burning up those calories is really just a way of burning through the trash of my psyche and my energy field. This is not unlike the Romans, the Russians, the Native People and now the ladies who lunch who know the power heat and sweat can have, and who pay homage to regularly sweating in baths or steam rooms. The endorphins course through my brain and the perspiration drips down my chest and back, my breath is heaving and heavy or sweetly sustaining me, I wait for a new energy cycle or an amazing song and feel the surge of fire bite larger chunks of emotional and psychological detritus, causing them to blacken, curl and finally, disappear.