How to Know When It’s Time to Put Your Dog Down

by Andy Wood on January 8, 2009

in Esteem, Life Currency, Time, Turning Points, Words

(And other lessons learned from The Senior Ladies Exercise Club)

I couldn’t help but overhear.

The way I figure it, the whole block could have overheard.

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but I did make a lifestyle change (hey, I’ve done it three days in a row – that ought to count for something).  Yes, friends, I’m back in the gym.

I’m still trying to figure out the best time of day to work out.  I think people like my associate, who works out at 4:30 every morning, need to work on a different kind of health, if you know what I’m sayin’.  So yesterday, I show up about mid-morning, to find the parking lot completely full.

Not a good sign.

Well, maybe they’re all in a class or something, I hoped to myself, as I headed to the cardio room to resume my Couch-to-5k training schedule.  To my chagrin, the place was packed.  Every treadmill taken.  And it was only when one became available and I nabbed it that I realized – I’d been sucked into the vortex of the Senior Ladies Exercise Club.  They probably have their own name for it; that’s just my name for the Twilight Zone I was in.

The last time I was this surrounded was when I was asked to speak to a room full of women-only about Things Husbands Wished Their Wives Understood.  They were a great group, really sweet and highly motivated.  Didn’t matter – I was scared to death.

Anyway, there were three ladies on treadmills to the left, and what seemed like 93 to the right.

I’ve always observed this code in gyms:  Do your stuff, leave everybody else alone, and get out.  Be polite and say the occasional hello when prompted.  If you’re working with a partner, talk about what you’re doing in the moment… quietly. Apparently the SLEC girls didn’t get that memo.  So while the treadmill was torturing my legs and lungs, they were giving my ears a workout.

At first, I just wished they would all finish up and go about their day.  Then I began to listen (as if I could help it).  In between my own huffs, I started paying attention to what they talked about.  And I learned some things – some important things.  So I guess the true title of this should be, Things Older Women Talk about When They Work Out Together.

1.  Talking
They talk about talking.  This makes absolutely no sense to most men.  But most women I know anything about make sense out of the world by talking.  And then by talking about talking.  Every snippet of conversation I heard yesterday that went beyond simple Q and A had at least one description of a previous conversation.

“And I told him…”
“And he said…”

That just confirmed a lesson I learned long ago from my wife.  When she asks about my day, she doesn’t want to know what I typed or what I did, in particular.  She wants to know who I saw today and what we talked about.  It’s her language of intimacy and meaning.

Us guys, we tend to describe the world in terms of action, accomplishment, pontifications, and sound effects.  Any mention of previous conversations is only subplot.

2.  Their husbands.
Randy Travis nailed it in his classic:

I’m gonna love you forever,
Forever and ever, Amen.
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,
As long as old women sit and talk about old men…

3.  Where they are getting together for lunch tomorrow (with husbands, apparently).
As this went up and down the line repeatedly, it occurred to me – these women would probably be together on this day, even if it wasn’t in a gym.  The exercise was secondary to the community.

4.  The latest doctor visit.
Either theirs or their husband’s.

5.  The issues related to their own aging parents in assisted care facilities
These were active seniors themselves, but some had living parents in assisted care facilities.  They talked about the struggles their parents had in making the transition, or in feeling safe.

6.  Preachers
Two days in a row I’ve heard mention of a preacher, mostly in passing.

7.  Volunteer work at church or at school
Specifically how one lady discovered her best place of service.

8.  Dealing with health insurance companies and drug bills
…and what to do when you think you’ve been under-covered or over-charged.

9.  When it’s time to put a dog down
How do you know?  If, over the course of a waking hour, the dog never wags his tail or does anything that’s fun to him, then he’s probably in a state of constant pain.

10.  How different family members deal with grief
…including the decision to put a dog down.

Also interesting to me was what they didn’t talk about.  They didn’t get into politics or “the economy” as an abstract term.  There was no mention of sports of any kind (can’t imagine why).  No theology, either.  Most interesting of all, they didn’t talk about working out!  Odd, since that’s what they were supposed to be doing.

This was a group of people whose lives and relationships transcended tasks, deadlines, and even treadmills.  They were doing life together.  Oh, and taking care of their physical needs while they were at it.

Somewhere, in your task-oriented, get-it-done world of vision casting and problem solving, I hope you have an answer to this question:  Who beyond the walls of your house are you doing life with? These ladies get it.  Loudly.  And yesterday they gave some of it to me.

So today I’m watching two dogs playing, tails wagging.  I’m thinking I probably need a different workout time.  I don’t know, though.  I can’t wait to hear how the lunch meeting and the MRI turned out.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cassie January 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Ha! Today I also overheard a conversation between two older ladies. It definitely included talk of their husbands, doctors visits, health care expenses, lunch appointments, the preacher AND church work.

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