© 2019 by Julie Fingersh. Designed by Aptsites

  • Julie Fingersh

My Abs or Yours? A Mid-Life Crisis




I’m lying on a table like a slab of meat, and Amy is telling me to knit my abs.


“Knit my abs?”


I don’t knit. I’m just trying to understand.


“See, your abs go from here,” and she presses her fingertips under the bottom of my rib cage, “to all the way down here,” she emphasizes, as her other hand burrows underneath a giant layer of blubber.


“Sure you can find them under there?” I squeak out, trying to pretend that a complete stranger isn’t handling my pot belly.


Amy is sure, and she wants me to get in touch. She wants me to get in touch with my core.


“Okay, Julie, focus now. Close your eyes and follow my hand. Now, buckle your rib cage and knit.


I don’t know what she’s talking about, so I just pretend I have to go to the bathroom.


“There you go! Feel that?”


“Yeah!” (Editor's note: No.)


Remember when a core just meant the part of an apple you threw away?


Well, as most of my family and friends have been attending to their cores over the last decade through their Pilates, their trainers, their 10,000 crunches, I have….not.


But then one morning, when I bent down three inches to scoop dog food out of the bin for Scarlett and Scotch, I was seized with spasms of pain so intense that for the first time in my life, I fainted.


My eyes opened to the sensation of giving birth to a baby in my back. Also, two black, wet dog noses were poking my cheeks, wondering what happened to breakfast. Diagnosis: Herniated disc. Weak core.


So now I’m suddenly one of those people who goes to physical therapy. And now it’s Amy and I, my physical therapist, trying to find my abs.


I want to feel good about myself and my new maturity in tackling my weak core, but it’s hard. It’s hard because these exercises seem really stupid. I was raised on the Bible of “No Pain, No Gain.” Every movement I’m being asked to make is smaller than the tiniest movement, like as tiny as an ant passing gas. What’s the point?


“Now we’re going to do a pelvic march,” Amy says. “You can do it in bed.”


I can do it in bed?


Yep, turns out I can and maybe even while I’m asleep, because a pelvic march means you lie on your back with your knees bent and then lift your legs about three inches off the bed one at a time in a sad little bed march, like you’re almost dead.


“Seriously? This is an exercise?”


I can feel Amy trying to be patient. “Yes. It’s like a sit up.”


“You mean, like a sit up that you do in bed when you’re 110 years old?”


“Well, your core is kind of like you are 110 years old. See if you can do this eight times twice a day.”


Suddenly, I flash back to my grandfather, who I believe was at least 110 years old when we used to visit he and my grandmother in Tamarac, Florida, the land of shuffleboard and hanging laundry on a clothesline and the neighborhood pool where the old people yelled at you to put on a bathing cap or get out already.


Every morning, my grandfather would disappear to the bedroom, where he’d lie on the peach carpet and do his exercises.


“Estie?” I asked my Hungarian grandmother.“Those exercises look kind of dumb. Why doesn’t Grandpa just exercise? Why does he have to do exercises?”


“Because when you get old like Rome, you need to do exercises to take care of yourself.”


Take care of yourself? Whatever. I was young and free, which meant there was no time wasted thinking about your back. You just had one. You just ran around, having a back without being sidelined by the hazards of feeding your dog.


But that was then. Because now, forty years later, I’m twelve sessions in to my fifteen prescribed sessions and it’s showtime.


“This time,” Amy says, hopefully. “I want you to find your lower abs all by yourself.”


I dig around for a respectable amount of time.


“I think maybe I found them. They were underneath the pound of Hot Tamales I ate last night.”


Amy puts her hands on my stomach like we’re married.


“Oh! Julie! Feel that? You just turned them on. Feel it?”


And gosh darn it, I did. My brain finally connected, and I did. And so after living without any conscious contact with my core for 52 years, I found it. It was stuck to my lower abs, which had apparently been waiting around for me to notice them my whole life.


I thought of my grandfather lying on the peach carpet, his wrinkly face squinting in concentration. I thought of my dogs, standing over me lying on the floor, waiting for me to get up and feed them already. I thought of Estie’s words.


And that’s when it came to me. If you’re lucky enough, you get to an age. You get to age.


It was time to grow up.



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