Exercise Jones

People are pretty depressed lately. I know that the Bears are going to be in the SuperBowl tomorrow, and for many Chicagoans there is just that, nothing more. Chicago Bears fans, at least, are happy, and as we speak they're getting ready for SuperBowl parties.

I understand that chili is a very big thing for this, which makes sense.

So for those of you who are are high on football, this post may not apply.

But if you are seriously cold, very tired of an obvious LACK of greenery or any plant life outside,

If your house plants are dying because of the dryness of home heat,

If you keep asking whatever happened to Global Warming, anyway,

And you're waiting a VERY LONG time for your car to warm up, in fact you find you've reached your destination before the heat even kicks in,

then maybe this post will apply.

Maybe you'll be inspired. Someone inspired me.

Let me preface this by saying, I don't drive on Saturday. It's a religious thing, ala Joe Lieberman.

And you might have guessed by some of my earlier posts that I'm a regular shul-going Jew. (shul = synagogue)

I used to go all the time as a little kid, probably until I was 14, then skipped it altogether for a few years except for High Holidays. Got back into it again in young adulthood, but didn't make it regular habit until my 30's.

People go to the church and synagogue for different reasons, I know. My reason is a little psychotic, but maybe it's not all that different for all people who have a spirituality program running now and again in their heads.

I'm a regular shul go-er because once I learned that it is a nice thing for a Yid to re-accept the Torah every week during the formal reading on Shabbas.

We believe it was Moses who gave the original acceptance speech during that biblical episode of The Ten Commandments. Moses accepted the Torah for everyone else during that huge fire and lightning storm on the mountain. Some people believe that the Old Mighty picked up the mountain and held it over the heads of the Jewish people and said, You do want to accept this, right? Are we talking deal, or what? An offer we couldn't refuse.

We were ALL there tradition has it. You've seen the movie, the one with Charlton Heston. Every Jew was there.

Anyway, probably most people have less weird reasons to go to a house of worship and I can respect them. It's kind of amazed and annoyed me at the same time that my shul attendance is so compulsive. It's like there's a magnet, that's all I can say.

Observant Jews, the ones I admire, don't make anything big out of their spirituality or their synagogue attendance. To them it's about being a part of a community, following the letter and spirit of the law, the job that's been assigned. They understand that it is the good things they do in life that count.

Judaism is not a religion of meditators or kabbalists (mystics). Only certain stars think so.

But I can see a place for meditation and spirituality, anything that calms people down. And I don't tease anyone for being too absorbed relating to their Higher Power.

I'm very against teasing anyone unless I know that person will accept it good-naturedly.
Like my mother LOVES it when we tease her. "Are you making fun of me?" she'll ask, flashing this enormous smile that says, Please, please, just have a good time at my expense, I'm so good with it.

I feel this is the height of maturity in a personality.

Anyway, even though I compulsively go to shul to stand, inhale, and accept the Torah, if I'm sick and need to sleep I'll stay home.

And if it's really cold in Chicago and I'm just a little sick? I'll stay home with no guilt at all. Who needs the cold?

So last Friday night I said to F.D.,

"Honey. There is no way I'm going to shul tomorrow."

And he nodded, since we go to different services anyway, why should he care?

"'Course not. Too cold. Stay home."

I got up on Shabbas morning, threw a sweatshirt and robe over my flanell pajamas, mumbled a few things to the Old Mighty (Him, or do you prefer Her) and headed for the hot water, instant coffee, and the Wall Street Journal.

My mother-in-law had slept over. I've learned a million things from her over our many years together, and she knows me pretty well. We exchanged perfunctory greetings, how'd you sleeps, and retreated to our own thoughts. She hardly ever sleeps over but it seemed crazy for her to walk home in the cold the night before.

Minutes, hours passed. I dozed in and out, transcended the boundaries of early morning time. At some point I looked up and she was all dressed. She was going to the Sephardic synagogue (not ours) because they were going to have this fabulous Tu B'Shvat luncheon.

Tu B'Shvat is a day of celebrating the fruits on the trees in Israel. What it means in Chicago is that Jewish people buy out all the kosher dates, figs and nuts in the city. If you forget about the holiday until the day before, you'll probably have to settle for grapefruit.

I actually found some pretty lame dates at about 3:30 p.m. on Friday in one of the kosher stores. I've got a great recipe and will make this really nice bar someday before those dates are totally inedible.

So my m-i-l was dressed and bundled up and off to face the cold. As she opened the screen door she shouted, "OH! IT'S SO BLUSTERY!"

Well, uh, duh. I hadn't intended to leave the house anyway.

But I have to tell you. I've pretty much languished the past few weeks. You can't ride a bike in the throes of a Chicago winter, well, most don't. And my SDV (Some D-word Virus) zapped me from working out in the basement.

In my defense, I did try to use the treadmill once last week. But I ended up watching T.V. while standing still on the treadmill, leaning on the treadmill, stretching on the treadmill, everything but walking on the treadmill, eventually abandoning the treadmill, going upstairs to watch on our ancient family room set like normal couch potatoes do.

Watching my energetic octogenarian mother-in-law skip off to shul in the cold made me feel pretty wimpy. I got those funny feelings you get when you're going to seed. Your muscles feel slack, you have no pep, you stare into space a lot. At some point you know there's only yourself to blame.

Mine, as you know, is a sedentary, 5-6 day a week job. I have to MAKE myself exercise or it's not going to happen. Oh, you, too?

So I said to myself as m-i-l skipped off to the Sephardic shul, You boob. Get dressed.

But what to wear? It's not like anyone cares what you wear in my shul. Truthfully, you could wear purple and orange, fuchsia and green, all black, or all white. NO ONE CARES. We love this about one another.

So I put on a red thermal long-sleeved tee-shirt (purchased from Target for 4 bucks, still get complements like it's a Tommy Hilfiger) under a white crew-neck sweater. Threw on a warm skirt and boots.

Long coat, multiple scarves, multiple hats, ear muffs, mittens. Cough drops in my pocket.

I did it, left the house.

Wow was she right. It WAS blustery. A block into the walk, almost turned back. But instead did what I did as a kid--walked backwards to block the wind.

When that bone-chilling north wind finds a space you haven't covered, say between your sleeve and your glove, or your forehead, just above the eyes? It's like Voldemorte sucking the life-force out of Harry Potter.

But it was GREAT. Seriously. I survived and a few of my friends even showed up which is always remarkable, since they don't usually attend in good weather.

No, it didn't dent the need for a good work out. But as soon as I post this? I'm going to practice what I preach.

What's on on Saturday nights, anyway?

I seem to remember a song, a satirical spoof called Basketball Jones, jones meaning craving. Am I making this up? Does anyone else remember this song?

Copyright 2007, TherapyDoc


Anonymous said…
Dang all those people from the Great Depression and the World Wars...they make the rest of us look bad.

It always amazes me to consider what a sheltered life I lead.
therapydoc said…
Oh, I know. The stories they tell. They should keep on talking.
Familydoc said…
Garrison Keillor's best rants are those describing the dead of winter in Minnesota.

But your story-telling was even better.
therapydoc said…
Somehow I doubt that, famlydoc.
macengr said…
"Observant Jews, the ones I admire, don't make anything big out of their spirituality or their synagogue attendance. To them it's about being a part of a community, following the letter and spirit of the law, the job that's been assigned. They understand that it is the good things they do in life that count."

Wow. That's awesome.

I'm a Christian, and that's what I'm aspiring to!


therapydoc said…
I'm pretty sure all the major religions ultimately are about good deeds and being a good person.
Anonymous said…
"Baskeball Jones" to which you refer was a Cheech and Chong" song and cartoon. Funny the stuff that lie in the recesses of our minds.
therapydoc said…
Well done, Mark. I KNEW I wasn't making this up.
JHS said…
Wish you could hear me singing "Basketball Jones" while reading your post. Yup, it's real.

Great post!

You might be interested in "Detoxing from Church" at http://recoveringlutehrans.blogspot.com

The Carnival of Family Life will be posted shortly. Hope you stop by and read some of the many other wonderful posts.

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