True stories with a twist!

WORKOUT

images-5She seemed uncomfortable about the interview. Yet she had volunteered to do it. I tried to be gentle, ask open ended questions and listen carefully to her answers without interrupting.

“It was during world War 11. I was one of six children living on the farm with our parents. Times were harsh. The people of Italy were poor and struggled to survive through those times of food rationing, gas rationing, and life rationing.

I was the youngest child and was taken out of school after second grade because my parents needed me to help work the farm. I was the one to fetch groceries from town. That meant walking two hours into the village to buy bread for the family. I had to fetch water from the stream and carry it back to the house. We had no electricity and no running water.”

Calabria was a destitute farming town located on Italy’s southern “tip of the boot”.

As Nella described her deprived childhood during the war years on a farm in Italy, I had to think about how strange life is and how strange we humans are.

Now that we no longer have to walk two hours to fetch bread in the village we have invented gyms so we can walk on treadmills and simulate Nella’s experience of her childhood chores. Now that we no longer have to carry heavy buckets of water from the stream to the house we lift weights at the gym to build those same muscles she was forced to develop. We no longer have to hang clothes on clothes lines or carry rugs outside to beat them clean, so we invented machines to perpetuate those motions and practice them dutifully at the gym.

We had the fortune to have more schooling than she, but the dumbing down of society has limited our brain power to gossiping about the goings on of pretend people on TV shows.

It seemed so strange to me to listen to her story and recognize how we have carefully imitated the jobs she had to do. We do them in a more modern, but unproductive manner.

We may work out and exercise but we have no bread to bring home after the work out at the gym.

Comments on: "WORKOUT" (33)

  1. There always seem to be tradeoffs with each generation. They may have had more natural exercise because they worked so physically hard just to provide the essentials and survive, but we have a deeper connection to each other as husband/wives, parents/children, friends/friends. How many times have you heard a person from the older generation say, “we just didn’t talk about those things back then” and it usually was in the context of abuse coming to light that had happened years and years ago, or mental illness, or hurts of the heart. A classic example is the duet from Fiddler when the older couple take a moment to assess their relationship in the light of an impending pogrom, their children getting married, and not enough food to eat, the husband asks (spurred on my the younger generation who want to marry for love and not by a matchmaker): “Do you love me,” and the wife says, “for 25 years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, Given you children, milked the cow, after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?” I may need to walk like a damn gerbil for 2 hours on the treadmill because of my chubby little butt needs exercise, but I sure love it when I ask my man of 34 years, “do you love me,” and the resounding answer is, “YES!” as we sit down for a glass of wine to talk about our plans together, rather than having to work until we drop. Yeah, I like today better :)! Great thought-provoking and touching blog.

    • Eleanor, thank you for your wonderful comment (which you managed to write without the help of any four letter words, except ‘love.’).

      You’re right about tradeoffs with each generation, but the irony struck me so strongly when I spoke with the Italian woman and realized that the necessities in her life no longer exist. To make up for their loss is our own need to recreate the same tasks for healthful reasons.

  2. Sorry, I missed commenting on this one as well–you know, your posts are a must-read for me. Okay…

    I think there a couple of things we do (unconsciously) nowadays that aren’t necessarily helpful to us in any way. But I can’t blame development itself.

  3. Very interesting perspective! I never really thought about it that way… but then again I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to do a lot of that walking, lifting, and carrying without having to set foot in a gym. We’re definitely a society that as a whole no longer wants to do physical labor to get the things we need, though, and that’s a horrible reflection on modern times…

    • …but it’s also a reflection of the knowledge that exercising and getting the body moving is valuable to health. So what we no longer HAVE to do we make up ways to do anyway. We humans are a strange lot…squirrels don’t have those kinds of problems, do they?

  4. zinal bhadra said:

    Wonderful post., every generation has seen its own set of merits n demerits

  5. An insightful post. Well done!

  6. life changes, but doesn’t get that much easier. New challenges and difficulties. Back then seems more pure but I could be biased.

  7. That post resonates so strongly with my views of current society. By living out here in the French countryside, some of that old world remains, but the tide is coming in fast.

  8. So true! Society is not static! Time changes everything. Technology equally makes a lot of difference.
    We can now run miles without leaving a room and do some basic routines by the aid of machines.
    Nice post! 🙂

  9. I remember how surprised I was by the film 84 Charing Cross Road and the hardships/shortages in England even during the recovery period after the war… You should take a look at that sometime if you haven’t seen it.

  10. harvey hammer said:

    Your memo is so insightful. we have lived from an age where physical survival was often based on hard physical work, to an age, where exercising those same hard strained muscles of a previous generation, still determines in part the longevity of our survival
    excellent post!

  11. Lovely interview… and in many ways those days were hard, … But I still hang out my washing on washing lines out doors! lol.. and you should have seen me in the allotment helping hubby tip the manure.. ( posted about ) lol.. But Its not always true though Ronnie that saying.. ‘Where’s theres Muck there is Money..” LOL… well not at the bottom of our garden. But there is lots of laughter, and Fun… and that is what life should contain…

    The labour saving gadgets were supposed to free up leisure time.. instead those gadgets have enslaved us more and more to working long hours to pay on plastic for things people can never hope to pay for.. so they work harder and have to exercise the Food habits of faster foods with addictive additives in busy schedules..

    I think there is a lot to be said for those by gone days…… even though I wouldnt relish going back to washing by hand and using the mangle … 🙂

    Wishing you a great relaxing week.. Keep Fit and healthy working out what ever you are doing my friend
    Hugs Sue xox

    • “Where there’s Muck there’s Money!” That’s a new one to me, but it has a certain ring to to it.

      I fondly remember not ever hearing of credit cards. They exist until the 60s, and the worst thing people did was overdraw their checking account. But I doubt if the banks allowed people to go into the kind of debt they carry now. I’ll bet the things they bought don’t even give as much pleasure as debt gives pain.

  12. As I read your story, it reminded me of how things have changed since my Mom grew up in The Great Depression. I often chuckle at the high prices some restaurants charge for bread pudding. That dessert – minus the fancy toppings – was sometimes the only meal my Mom’s family had.

    The stories you’re recording will give a sense of time and place. Hopefully, people will appreciate their lives more today when they know the hardships that previous generations experienced.

  13. We do try to reinvent the exercise motions of real work. I know I welcome spring when I can get out and dig and come home with sore muscles I never had before. But what would possess me to walk 2 miles for bread in today’s motorized techno world? And are we better off now really? Thanks for this very thought provoking post Ronnie.

  14. The problems people faced in the War years were in a different league. They couldn’t have foreseen the manner of problems facing us now.
    I am interviewing people from a group I belong to in hopes of writing a book about the confluence of personalities and backgrounds that a shared involvement bring together.

  15. Snoring Dog Studio said:

    My ancestors are from Calabria. Lately, I’ve been listening to my mom reminisce about her difficult and very poor childhood. Everyone should have this kind of experience to help us put our own lives into perspective. We have it pretty darn easy now, most of us.

    • You are so right! We shouldn’t let the history of the past be forgotten by the younger generation, because they have no clue about how easy their lives really are. I cannot even imagine, in my worst nightmare, living without indoor plumbing.

  16. mysending said:

    I keep reminding myself of the value of real work as I keep shoveling and shoveling and shoveling more snow! We have lost a lot by being connected to the workout that we do.

  17. Great story— who are you interviewing?
    Yes, life is much easier.. not necessarily better.

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