Once we received our “Green” designation, the gym I belong to was free to open. There would of course be the changes we notice everywhere – space, masks, distance, etc. One big change was the hours of operation. Instead of 24 hours, my Planet Fitness now opens in the morning and closes at night. This was the one that caused me an unhealthy level of concern.

You see, I transferred to PF because the old gym had a morning employee problem. None of them could be counted upon to open on time. There were 4am’s (too many to count) where we would sit in our cars or on the sidewalks and wait…and wait…and wait, until we could wait no longer, and abandon our workouts.

The great thing about a 24 hour gym is no one ever opens so on one ever doesn’t.

(Before I get too far, I am still aware that we are in a global pandemic and the problems of hours of operation and irresponsible employees at a local fitness center are not what any of us would call too important. But we have been in an intense time of anxiety and upheaval – maybe a sense of normalcy is exactly what we need. In a time where things are wildly coming undone, maybe a sense that there is something at all that we can affect holds some allure. Maybe in that sense is the key to regaining our mental as well as physical health. Maybe not – just know I know how trivial this 1st part is.)

So, a week into our re-opening, the gym doesn’t open. While I’m sitting in the parking lot, with nothing to do, I post on the Planet Fitness members page on Facebook. Not because I’m particularly angry or looking for retribution (after all, these things do happen), but because I understand the power of a “Me too.” Someone else saying, “yeah, I understand” and that being the truth is undeniably healing. Especially now, I just want to feel like someone else is there, like someone understands.

My post was taken down in minutes by the Admin, but not before I would receive 5 surprisingly nasty comments. Instead of presence and understanding, I was mocked and berated.

I don’t know why they were so mean. Of course, everybody can be mean online in ways they would never to my face, but where does that impulse come from? In the Fight Club film, after mercilessly pounding another, the narrator says, “I just wanted to destroy something beautiful.” Is that it? When we feel stripped of all power (whether ecologically, biologically, or politically), is any exercise of force enough to regain the illusion of control?

Is that why the discourse online has devolved into a battle royale, where the best insult shouted the loudest with the harshest 4-letter words “wins?” Where our most devastating hurts must be passed along to another immediately, safely behind a screen of anonymity?

I know this gym nonsense is trivial, but this condition sure as hell isn’t and if we intend to move forward, as a nation, as human beings, I think we’re probably going to have to acknowledge all of this powerlessness and isolation that is causing so much suffering. We’re going to have to acknowledge that we’re not just names and avatars and the sum of our emojis. We’re going to have to acknowledge that we’re all just people who are in this mess together.