I took a boxing for fitness class last fall and dropped a fair amount of flab. Still the same weight, more or less and oddly enough, but back to a 32" inch waist. Also a lot of the piss and vinegar that made up my 20s and the nightly 3 am wake-ups that went with it.
I wonder if, beyond the notion of muscle memory itself, there isn't some more general body memory, a recollection of emotional states and stresses that attach to how we have kept our physical selves. As I've been working out more lately, and reaching a state I call realization -- what most people I think call 'endorphin release' -- I've been reaching the subtleties of any number of memories back. Not just the event, say, by which I remind myself why a given relationship fell apart, but also some number of uncharitable thoughts I cultivated to get me to the end of it. And the charitable thoughts I let die to get me to the end of it.
It's difficult to avoid generalizing on this condition before it becomes little more than a word vapor. But somewhere between the subconscious ether of not-knowing-but-knowing, and the plain field of ideas one can try to talk out, is where these recollections reside. What I want to get at is this palette of emotion, idea and instinct that leads any one person to select or reject what they can tolerably imagine in order to reach some decision. And while I am jacking my cardio, listening to Lithium, watching furled women hoist buckets at a water truck in Haiti, scanning some utterly age-inappropriate pony-tails bobbing on the ellipticals and making oh-so-critical phone calls, I also reflect on moments I did know but didn't want to: when I wasn't ready for what I wanted -- roles and responsibilities, mostly -- but drove straight at them anyway; when my marriage was over but I kept at it for another 10 years; when I hurt someone without ever caring about what happened next, and cared for someone without any fathomable reason whatsoever, much less noble intention...I wonder where in my body these things were stored, in what revived muscle I have now peeled back. And why, of all things, a sweat-soaked, strawberry-faced man, quite relieved of the harness of religion, begins confession with himself at 168 beats a minute in an overcrowded 24-hour Fitness.