Thursday, April 5, 2012

Deprivation School of Thought: Part I (Exercise)

Being a single mother by choice means being worried about finances.

It doesn't matter whether the woman is a low-paying social worker or a rake-in-the-big-bucks investment banker. She still expends mental energy -- granted, some more than others -- concerned with the condition of her family's coffers. She could get fired, laid off, or fall victim to an incapacitating illness or injury that would jeopardize her job standing for any period of time. Certainly, these predicaments can befall any working mother. But they are particularly troublesome for the SMC because she does not have another adult in (or out, in the case of an ex-husband) the house to provide a second, backup income toward raising the children. She, alone, is responsible.

The SMC must tighten her belt any way she can. Personally, I follow what I call "Deprivation School of Thought," sometimes more successfully than other times. DSOT means sacrificing a nonessential aspect of one's life for the good of the checkbook. For the SMC, it can mean survival, i.e. keeping one's head above water financially. But it comes with a warning label, too. It can cause crankiness, depression, anger, celibacy, distance from friends, feelings of isolation and resentment, and stress eating (or any other manifestation of unhappiness). In other words, it's a lot like PMS. It is best administered in doses, if possible, or for finite periods of time with breaks in between.

I practice DSOT in regard to exercise and my social life. Today I will examine the former, i.e. my fickle relationship with my health club. When I discovered this amazing club, I said to myself: No, you need to finish your book first. That's DSOT talking -- holding off on something you want until you've achieved something else. I knew if I joined the club I would have trouble getting my money's worth because I was flat-out with my manuscript. I couldn't see myself putting it down long enough often enough to pay off the monthly fee. DSOT would act as incentive for me to finish.

Only problem: I couldn't finish! It dragged on and on and, finally, I stopped writing. Then there was the matter of editing the blasted thing. I plodded through the entire 344-page manuscript making change after addition after deletion after change. Mind you, copy-editing my way through took nearly a year. At last I said, Done. So I picked up the paper doorstop, nestled into a comfortable couch, draped myself with a cozy blanket, and attempted to read it from start to finish with no tinkering whatsoever. Couldn't do it. I found something (okay, many things) I didn't like in Chapter 1. Just a teeny tiny tweak here with the black pen . . . oh, and over there and over there and over there. No biggie. Same thing happened in Chapter 2 and then Chapter 3 and, before I knew it, I had hit The Wall (or I wanted to hit a wall) -- the realization that I was incapable of doing a read-through without making changes. So there went another year and, oops, another year. Has Britney Spears written this song? Already angry from DSOT, I became doubly angry because I could not put my damn pen down.

Sometimes it really sucks to be a Virgo.

So I threw in the towel or, rather, picked up my gym towel: I joined the club. Happiness! DSOT can be implemented just so long before it makes you want to crack . . . or turn to crack.

Unfortunately, my original fear that I wouldn't use the club enough panned out almost immediately. The Pilates, yoga, and Zumba classes I wanted to take conflicted with my boys' school-dropoff and -pickup schedule. What's more, they weren't offered in the late morning or early afternoon when I was available to take them. Paying the hefty monthly fee made me cringe. Yet I still wanted the opportunity to hang out at the small outdoor pool in the summer, and I wishfully though unrealistically vowed to somehow make membership viable. But like a bad, co-dependent romantic relationship, I hung on far too long before eventually coming to my senses. Back to DSOT.

My sons attended the club's summer camp a few years ago. It cost an exhorbitant amount of money, exacerbated by the fact that the boys (and I) were not members at the time. After two summers forking over the dough for one or two mornings of camp for one or both boys, I discovered my town's program at the elementary school. For roughly the same number of days attended, the town's camp was about nine times cheaper . . . and that didn't even take into consideration the fact that the program held sessions in the a.m. AND p.m. while the club offered my sons just one per day, making the value more like EIGHTEEN TIMES as great!

Yowza!

As a New England-ranked tennis player before becoming pregnant with my first son, I was interested to see how he would do if given the chance to take one of the club's renowned clinics. Charlie, of course, had to tag along and was quite obnoxious, really, with his fixation on the club's cafe food case. (Is it my imagination, or is this becoming a running theme of the blog posts?!) He was SO obnoxious, in fact, that I decided to sign him up for his own club membership. DSOT bit the dust. That enabled him to go to the club's child-care center for the one-hour duration of the tennis clinic. I would have him out of my hair, I would not be spending extra money on snacks, and I would be able to concentrate on my first grader's playing. (Incidentally, Christopher was not a member, so I got no break on the cost of the clinic.)

Alas, after two twelve-week sessions, Christopher bid tennis adieu. He observed that he was the worst player in the clinic -- I hate to admit it, but he was: poor footwork, lack of control, too many sky balls -- and, understandably, wasn't happy about it. Poor fella'. So the whole experiment, which cost $552 plus Charlie's membership fee of $39 per month, backfired big time! Here I had tried to turn Christopher on to my best sport and one of my favorites and, instead, he hates tennis still to this day.

It's frustrating when your greatest efforts turn out to be royal failures.

Jumping ahead a few months, I decided to put my and Charlie's memberships on hold for the summer. Nearing DSOT. Once again I had been unsuccessful at regularly incorporating club time into my crazy schedule. On the other hand, I was not quite ready to drop out altogether. Unfortunately, even being on hold for three months (the maximum allowed per year) cost me money. Wish I was kidding.

Come fall I couldn't justify maintaining a membership at all. So I resigned again. Hurray for DSOT! But my on-off relationship with the club was back on by winter. Like the middle-aged woman who mistakes a hip hop music mogul's car for her own on a humorous Straight Talk! commercial, I was still experiencing a smidgen of the false "I'm feeling richer effect" from having received a hearty check from my insurance company for my indoor flood last May. Three months later, the feeling has dissipated. I pulled the plug for what seems like the umpteenth time at the end of last month. Practicing DSOT once again.

With the outdoor season upon us, I can't see myself choosing to go inside to work out on machines. (I've despised exercising this way since rehabbing my bum knee following reconstructive surgery nearly fifteen years ago.) I can't see myself suddenly finding the time to take classes. Or, for that matter, swimming laps in the indoor pool or playing tennis, though I certainly would like to do both.

Minus the club, I will be engaging in exercise that costs me nothing, and that I truly enjoy: hiking, riding my bike, swimming in the ocean and any other body of water I can get to, playing tennis on public courts, and taking out my small flat-water kayak.

If not taken to the extreme, Deprivation School of Thought doesn't have to make you miserable. It just requires a little ingenuity to stave off its negative effects.

Do you practice DSOT? What have you given up to save money?

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