Saturday, March 01, 2014

God Bless You, Old Lion

There's a slogan I've been seeing a lot on Facebook lately. "The lion does not trouble himself about the opinions of sheep," or words to that effect. I find it arrogant and disrespectful. I have pretty low self-esteem, but even I can't imagine how badly you have to feel about yourself before you find comfort in the thought that you are the lone, brave, strong creature surrounded by flocks of cowards and followers. And the Lion deserves better.

I was born under constellation of the Lion at the end of a hot July in Pittsburgh. I've always been inspired by the fire of the Lion. The sharp eyes. The rippling shoulders. The sandy color. The strength. Devotion to the Pride. I've always wished I could be more like the Lion of Summer.

But today is March 1, and there is another Lion on my mind. Ferocious. Powerful. Deadly. And dying. Whenever I picture March coming "in like a lion," I never see the mighty hunter, leader of the Pride, dreadful and courageous, standing on a rise roaring out his claim on everything he surveys. The Lion of March is an old lion. A few weeks ago, he could freeze the world with a low rumble from his mighty chest or a puff from his nostrils. Not long ago, a swipe of his giant paw brought whole cities to a standstill. Today, he is still dangerous. There is still power in those broad shoulders, but there is grey under the chin. His vision is still sharp, but he has to squint a little to see into the distance. There is still power in his stride, but he rises stiffly. He is still the King. But no longer the King he once was.

Last night, I was feeling pretty agitated. I had left the house early that day with an ambitious list of tasks... things that I had chosen and that mattered to me... and seemed to hit roadblocks at every turn. Procedures. Attitudes. The things I wanted were so simple. The people I needed to help me were so unwilling. Finally, I went home, too angry and frustrated to trust myself in public. I know when my temper is close to boiling. I start swearing to myself. I've learned that if I don't get away from people pretty quickly once that starts, I end up saying things that are stupid and cruel.... sort of along the lines of "the lion does not trouble himself..."

So I went home. Locked the door. Grabbed the ice cream. Screw it. I'll get drunk in a minute. Right now, I'm going to eat. Whatever the hell I want. As much as I want. I don't care.

I was angry. I wanted to hurt someone... so I decided to hurt myself.

I really don't know what changed my mind. I've been working on a new habit. I've been keeping a food diary. So without really thinking about it, I took the open half gallon of Mint Chocolate Chip and the spoon and walked to my computer to log them. Curious, I entered the value that would add the calories, fat, sugar, from half a gallon - 8 cups - of ice cream. And I stared at the number. Just under 3000 calories. Just about what I burned during my last Marathon. Was I really that angry? Did I hate myself that much? Enough to erase a Marathon's worth of progress in a 20 minute binge of self destruction?

It wasn't the sheep's opinion I had to worry about, you see. It was the lion's. It was my own opinion.

I put the carton back in the freezer. Chopped some peppers and onions. Cooked some beans and rice. Printed the workout I had decided to put off till the weekend.

After supper, I went to the gym. Treadmill. Weight room. Stationary bike. Almost two hours worth. Around 1600 calories burned. As I walked out into the corridor, drenched, with my clipboard in one hand and my empty water bottle in the other, my soaked towel draped over my head, a woman said something to me that I didn't hear. Headphones. I pulled them out and said, "Sorry? What?"

"I don't know how you do it." She looked like she might be around thirty five. Very pretty. Very heavy. Was she somebody's mom? Was she here on a Friday night to watch her kids play basketball, or to try to keep her New Year's resolution, or just to be someplace besides home alone? I didn't ask.

"I don't have any choice. I can either do this, or die a fat old man."

I didn't add, "like my father." But that's what I was thinking. I may be an old lion. And I may be so filled with anger and hate sometimes that I have to go hide before I bust... but I am not ready to die.

Not yet.

So, roar on, you old Lion of Winter. The weather prophets say you have a few more good fights in you before March goes out like a lamb. Bring 'em on. Don't give up, you old Lion.

Because every time you find the strength for one more hunt, one more fight, one more shout over the frozen ground that tells the world that you aren't dead yet... you give this old lion hope.

Roar on, Old Lion.

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