Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Friend, Another Blog

I think the only mention of my friend Amanda in this blog so far is in my "More Thoughts on Training" entry.  And it's pretty oblique, in a sense - I just say that the main body of the entry is an e-mail to a friend.  In another sense, though, I suspect that she has a pretty strong presence in that blog.  The e-mail was, after all, to her.  She's probably better at saying who she is in her own words.

Amanda occupies kind of an unusual position in my life.  From when I started getting serious about dance onwards, my life has been populated mainly by people who were in excellent physical shape, with a fair number of athletic interests.  I allowed myself to look through people who didn't fit that mold, unless I had pretty compelling reasons otherwise.  I actually met Amanda, sort of, for the first time last July, when I was visiting Seattle.  I was on my way out on a ride with some friends who already knew her, and we bumped into her on the Burke.  I didn't say anything at the time, but my thoughts were, why are we stopping to talk to these fat people?  I'm sure that I'd have accepted the interruption more readily if she and her husband had been out for a run, and looked like runners.

So if I'm so intolerant of people who don't look like me, act like me and weigh what I do, why am I friends with this woman?  I've always maintained to myself, somewhat defensively, that I'm not interested in people for what they look like but for what they think and feel and what they do.  Since people who dance or do sports typically look like athletes, at least somewhat, I've been able to slip into a lazy way of thinking in which only people who look like athletes do sports and dance.  One key problem with this way of thinking is that I'm also interested in talking about art and theatre, but somehow I've gotten by.  For the moment, at least, Amanda is interested in, and actively pursuing, cycling, and has side interests in hiking, running, and probably other things.  But she doesn't look like a cyclist or a runner or Washington's breed of mountain-charging hiker.

Amanda has been lifting weights and riding bikes pretty consistently for several months now and while the weight's coming off, there's a limit to how quickly the human body can safely change.  So while Amanda is still pretty far from her target weight and has a pretty fair distance to go in terms of her endurance, cardiovascular fitness, etc. in order to achieve her goals, she also fits my sanitized definition of the kinds of people I associate with.  I'm the first to admit that that's pretty unimportant.  However, definitions aside, I'm finding that I truly enjoy spending time with her.  While our rides together are very slow, she maintains a steady pace and doesn't complain.  It's amazing how high a bar that turns out to be.  She also turns out to be an excellent dance partner.  Having a regular partner is unusual for me in either activity, and I'm really enjoying it that I get to share these interests with someone.  I think fate may be telling me something by having it be someone who has recently weighed over 100 pounds more than me.

The other thing about Amanda is that I think her project is really cool.  One of the things I love about people is that we have the capacity to grow, change and remake ourselves throughout our lives.  I hope to grow and change until the day I die, which I hope not to do for another seventy or eight years.  A lot of people seem either content with where they are at the moment or powerless, for whatever reason, to change themselves or their circumstances.  Amanda is different from that.  She's already been with this project a lot longer than most people's new diet and exercise plans ever last, and I truly believe that between her commitment to her project and the dividends it's already starting to give her, she's going to succeed.  The opportunity to be part of another person's successful recreation of herself is pretty awesome.

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