February 2011

Obsession

By Suzanne Strazza

I am obsessed. Completely.

And no, it’s not about a man.

It’s skiing. Cross-country skiing to be specific. Classical cross-country skiing to be exact.

I am a plodder. I don’t go fast. I don’t fly up hills. I don’t race around corners with the wind whipping through my hair.

I plod. I place my skis in unwavering parallel lines and slide one foot forward, then the other. I go only where the tracks go. I don’t think for myself.

I am a sheep.

An able-bodied sheep – I can do this for hours – if the tracks went from here to New Mexico I would be in Silver City by now.

Like a sheep, I keep my head down, eyes on the terrain in front of me. I don’t look up for fear that I might actually catch someone’s eye and have to say hello.

This break in rhythm most often lands me on my ass.

Then I am an embarrassed sheep.

A sheepish sheep.

Yet, even though I am just an unthinking ungulate, I am consumed by the activity.

I begin my week by planning out the days on which I have a good chance of skiing. I am shooting for at least 5 days a week – anything less will lead to a complete mental breakdown. Friday, Saturdays and Sundays are completely devoted to the pursuit of plodding. I think about it when I brush my teeth, cook dinner and stare at my computer screen at work. I talk about it, giving the impression that I am an athlete.

To see me in action, I am really more of an asslete.

I find myself lying to friends, family and coworkers, telling them that I “have an appointment,” when really I am going to Chicken Creek.

It has become that-around-which-my-world-revolves.

One unfortunate side effect of this is that my personal hygiene has gone to hell in a hand basket. I have turned into a total dirtbag, wearing the same clothes day in and day out. I wear my long underwear under my work clothes just to make it faster to get dressed to ski. I change my clothes while I drive so that when I get to the parking lot I can jump out of the car and go. Better to not be on the road when I am swerving my way up the hill pulling my socks on.

I blow off a showering because I think, “Well, I am going skiing this afternoon so I will do it after.” Then afterwards I think, “Well, I am just going to go tomorrow so why shower now?”

Next thing I know a week has gone by and I am still in my stinky sweaty skivvies and I haven’t taken my beanie off in days and my head itches.

Fortunately my best friend is equally obsessed and stinky so I don’t feel too bad about myself.

I look like a plodder. I see these skate skiers up there in their fancy bright-colored and often tight shiny clothing and look down at my faded, stained grinch-ass pants and 15 layers of worn-out, never hip (not even 20 years ago) jackets. Worst of all are my prissy white boots. Even when I try to find a pair of pants that fit and gloves that match (each other, not the pants) and I think I might look passable, I put on those god-awful boots and I know it’s hopeless.

This is the one activity in my life that is not all about the clothes.

Part of my obsession is the exercise. Part is the fresh air. The biggest part is the alone time. I do my best thinking while I am out there. It’s where most of my writing happens.

Some of the thoughts that spin through my brain while I am plodding are: “I hope I don’t see anyone – I stink” “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?”

“Really, he wasn’t that good. I just told him he was.”

“If that big cat pounces on me, I’ll call Kate with my last dying breath so she’ll know where to find my body. Then she can make dinner for my kids.”

Round and round, my brain goes. I tried taking paper and a pen with me so that I could record my most profound thoughts, but my grace and forward momentum are so tenuous that when I stop to write, I can’t manage to start up again.

I then tried to ski with my iPod and that was a disaster – any outside stimulation just throws me. And back on my ass I go.

I plan my routes around specific factors such as where I am likely to run into other people (these routes I avoid), where I am likely to get eaten (of course these are the routes where I am not likely to find other people) and where I am least likely to fall down (nowhere, really). Every day is an adventure in avoidance, unfriendliness and spastic-ness.

Thing is, I could care less. I don’t care that my clothes make me look like a bag lady. Don’t care that my poles are sticking out to the side as I slide uncontrollably downhill. Don’t care that I when I sing out loud to scare off the mountain lion I am completely off-key. Don’t care that my co-workers are handing me bars of soap.

So if you see me and I seem more checked-out than usual, I am mentally plodding away.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo. Her blog entries may be enjoyed at suzannestrazza.wordpress.com.