Friday, August 13, 2010

Being Bourne


I am on a spiritual quest; it has lasted 46 years (and counting). I have been on (what I consider to be) a somewhat aggressive evolutionary path for the last few years. I’ve been trying to unpack my emotional baggage and put it away, trying to find some sense of spirituality, grace, peace of mind, deep inner strength – in short, I seek the truth. I spent three decades looking through the lens of a camera; I have learned to see the truth about the world and about people. It is the truth about life and about myself that I seek. It is a daily quest.

This last year, I took a cruise to the Caribbean. I returned from that cruise, having spent seven days at sea with the time to meditate on the question of who I am and what my purpose is, with an important piece of knowledge. I came home and I told my husband that I knew the truth about myself. He asked, so I told.

“Who I am and what I do is: I am the nice guy and I help out.”

A few months ago, while helping a stranger in a store, the lady asked what I do and I told her “I help people; anyone who asks for help or appears to help, I help.” She called me an angel. I liked that.

Yesterday I was stopped while leaving the gym with Hunter. A friend of mine who is a trainer there, and who I spend time talking to, told me that the other trainers had complained to the Fitness Manager that I am training people in the gym. Nobody came to me and asked me; they just complained to the Fitness Manager. My friend wanted to give me a heads up, in case the Fitness Manager came to have words with me about it. I had, previously, spoken to my friend and two of the administrative staff about this. I told them, all, in these words “I am not training people in this gym.”

I work out with my friends. It is acknowledged in my circles that I am a health and fitness fanatic. I love going to the gym and I love working out. I love helping people and sharing my expertise. I neither need nor require payment for my help. I even post workout tips and dietary advice on my blog and Facebook page. I just want to help people. When a friend asks me for help, I give it to them. When I was at the 19th Street Gym, I bought memberships for Jennifer, Jason and Mitchell so that I could help them get in shape. Allan bought he and I memberships to the Dolphin Gym so I could teach him some work out routines and be there to spot him and show the way. I have trained Michael in the park and Josh in two different gyms. I have worked with people in my home and in the gyms in their buildings. I have cooked food for friends who should be eating healthily but haven’t the time or the correct cookware to cook healthily. I have done all of this without pay (though I have been flattered and honoured to be acknowledged by the insistences of one or two of my friends that I accept a twenty or a couple of twenties, by way of saying thank you – these tips have been appreciated and well used but completely unnecessary.) Again, I say this: I just want to help my loved ones be healthier.
I had to stop going to the Dolphin Gym with Allan because the trainers there complained to the management that I, a non employee of the gym, was training. They did not care that I was not being paid, that I was just helping my friend – as far as they were concerned, I was taking business away from them.

I took heat at the 19th Street Gym (which was my home away from home for 8 years) for working out with my friends there – my family, really. Eventually, I had to stop working out with my friends because the stress of being treated with open hostility from the trainers was getting to me.

I have been training with Pat and Hunter at New York Sports Club for over a year. Sometimes the three of us train together. Sometimes Hunter and I go at 7 am and Pat and I go at 2pm (at which time I show him the workout Hunter and I did that morning). For awhile now, I have been being workout buddy to Josh, who joined this gym so I could help him out. For two weeks I have been doing the same for Jamie, who is getting in shape for his next show. So, daily, I do my own cardio workout at 6am and 7pm, I train with my best friend at 7am, workout with Josh at 8 and Jamie and Pat at 2. Three of those people joined the gym to be with me. Now I have been told that I have incurred the ire of the trainers because they think I am taking jobs away from them. I’m not. I just know that none of my friends would hire them, anyway – so why shouldn’t they work out with me? Nevertheless, I have been commanded to knock it off. Josh is heartsick about it and is dropping his membership. Jamie will be leaving town in two weeks, so that situation will resolve itself. And they can’t stop me from working out with my best friend or my husband.

Still, it got me down yesterday; and it got me to thinking…

I’m tired of being the nice guy. I’m tired of helping people. All it does it blow up in your face and make you unhappy. At the end of the day, all you feel is like people have taken chunks out of you until you feel like an empty vessel. So why bother?

People tease me (that’s another thing I don’t get – why do people who say they love you insist on teasing you? Why do the people who love us hurt us?) because my personal heroes are all fictional characters. Jason Bourne, James Bond, Charlie Baltimore, Evelyn Salt (I can’t get into Bobby Morrow, Brian Kinney or Jane Jones right now). I choose to make these people my heroes because they are strong, they are fortresses of power and knowledge; they are all the things I have spent my life wishing I could be but was not. I choose to make these people my heroes because there are so few heroes in the world today. I don’t find real humans to be very inspirational; all they do is get you to believe in them and then lower the boom of their flawed humanity, leaving you holding the other end of the rope – the end that leaves you dangling, looking for someone, something in which to believe. Throughout my life I’ve had people I love walk out on me, hurt me, disappoint me. My fictional heroes never change. They do nothing but set an example for who and what I want to be: strong, implacable. They don’t hurt me. People, be it strangers or family, always find a way to hurt you.

An extremely close friend was visiting me the other day. I was bent over, doing something and he came up behind me, bent over me and hugged me around the waist. Then he put his hands inside my shirt, grabbed the layer of fat I gained during the two months I couldn’t work out due to injury, squeezed it with his hands and jiggled it. There are few people who know me who don’t know that this is not something you should do. My closest friends know this about me, hell, strangers who read this blog know that about me. A former fatty, I have extremely bad body image and dysmorphia. When I look in the mirror I cannot really see what I look like – I see what I used to look like. I usually think of myself as fat, overweight, out of shape. That’s why I spend so much time at the gym – I’m trying to catch up with a youth that is gone and not coming back by making my middle age a better era. Anyone who loves me, likes me or even cares about me, marginally, would have known that that was a mistake. I can take some light teasing from my loved ones – and I do. And I dish out some light teasing too, until someone tells me that that particular brand of teasing doesn’t set well with them, at which time I drop it like a shot, never to return again to that kind of talk. My body related self esteem issues are not a new subject and my friend is aware of them. He did it anyway; and I responded by asking him to leave my home.



“I don’t trust people who can hurt me…not anymore.”

That’s one of my favourite lines from the movie NUTS. It says a lot about the lessons I’ve learned about people in my life.

My friends and I have keys to each others’ homes. There is always an emergency. There is always a lost set of keys, a dog to be walked, plants to be watered, mail to be collected…there is always a need to have your loved ones carry keys to your home. In the 17 years that I have lived in New York, I have done them all. Come over with chicken soup and medicine, let people into their apartment when they are locked out, picked up things and taken them to work.. you name it, I have done it. When my friends go out of town, I do their mail, water their plants and make sure there is fresh food in the fridge on the day they return. Marci and Hunter love it. When Mike was out of town and the ceiling fell in, I dealt with the super. When Maureen was away and needed the fridge cleaned because the subletor was arriving, I did it – and happily, without complaint. This is what I do.

I remember two occasions, though.. two really distasteful occasions, when these random acts of kindness did not pay off… A few years ago, I went to a friend’s apartment to stock his fridge for his return home. Finding the place a mess, I thought it would be a lovely welcome home for him if I tidied up. I did the kitchen, the laundry, made the bed, emptied the ashtrays – I was so pleased and proud, so excited by how happy he would be to come home late on a Sunday and be able to go right to bed so he could be well rested on Monday morning. Instead he yelled at me. He yelled at me for making him feel bad for being a bad housekeeper. Years later (this year, in fact) I went into the home of a friend, a home I go into three or four times a week when he needs me to; I went to empty his mailbox and fill his fridge. Finding something out of place, I sent him a text message to alert him that maybe someone had been in his home. He yelled at me. He said I was invading his privacy. We have remained close but I have not entered his home without him, since; and probably won’t again.






No good deed goes unpunished.

Boy, those words ring inside my head like the chime of midnight from a country church on the outskirts of London.

So. I don’t want to be the nice guy anymore. I don’t want to help people. I don’t want to have people hurt me, be they strangers, family or friends. I just want to be cold, immovable, stoic. I want to be impenetrable. Implacable.
I want to be Bourne again. This time, as Jason.

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