Authenticity and accountability

It’s Monday, so training day with J. An early one this time, since his 6:15 and 7:15 appointment had to reschedule today, so I got to move into the 6:15 appointment slot; a win for both of us. I look forward to our sessions because I learn something new, correct something previously learned, or just get affirmation that I am doing it right. I suppose the progress is slow, but as long as I am not regressing or not regressing too much I feel satisfied and motivated to keep trying.

I was thinking this morning personal training is a lot cheaper than psychotherapy and almost as effective for me. The exercise helps jog loose a lot of thinking and processing that gets stalled with work and daily life. Plus it juices my blog creativity.

Last week J and I had a conversation about authenticity. I am teaching and training afternoons this week, and it reminds me that I can teach and train in a lot of areas, but characteristics like common sense and authenticity are virtually impossible to train in another chronological adult. If you are now to the point of performing an adult job by being disingenuous or insincere in dealings with others, I am not going to be able to train or teach you how to be otherwise. In life but especially here on the blog, I strive to be straightforward and honest about what I am thinking and feeling. It’s not always nice, flattering, or pleasant, but hey, being human cannot always be rainbows and unicorns.

The Facebook dust-up over the weekend has been particularly hard on M. I feel for him, because while that thoughtless, classless woman’s words mean absolutely nothing to me, the fallout among M’s group has been pretty widespread. I have been watching him struggle with the social anxiety of meeting his friends for a run today. As he was mentoring and helping her prepare for winter training, this would typically be something she would be attending. M truly does not want to see or interact with her again, yet he does not want to abstain from being with friends he genuinely enjoys or insist she be banished from the group. The politics of these large, diverse groups, and those who deeply love spectating and speculating on the drama unfolding before their very eyes tends to turn his stomach. As I remarked in yesterday’s post, I could care less what she thinks, says, or feels about me, and while her treachery does not surprise me, it was a real punch in the gut for M.

We have had numerous conversations on the subject this weekend. I have never blacklisted anyone unless they do something grossly offensive to me, and even that has happened on only one occasion in all these years. She was fake and insincere to me, but so many of the runners he has met and introduced me to through the years have had the same or similar initial reactions. M is an old dinosaur in ultra circles and has done some amazing things, yet he is married to an adamant non-runner who is … ummm … not skinny? Many have such severe tunnel vision and focus at first they do not know how to take that. Did I “make” him quit racing? Did I “make” him stop running for lots of years? What sort of weird brainwashing characteristics must I possess that makes that much of a competitor abandon his sport immediately after winning a coveted title?

Then they get to know us better and learn I am not the bad seed or bad idea bear they suspect. What made M a great competitive racer would have turned him into a terrible, awful husband or even steady boyfriend for me. I cannot imagine wanting to date much less marry that guy, the one who lived and breathed running nights, weekends, holidays – any and all non-working hours.

In my own non-running right I am a pretty swell human being. I am supportive and encouraging, happy to help and actually pretty good for crewing in small doses. Sometimes I am even fun to attempt intelligent conversation with, on anything and everything short of politics or religion unless we know each other pretty well or I am feeling particularly reckless, because those all too often turn into raging debates instead of spirited discussions and exchange of ideas.

M felt he had a genuine friendship with this woman – far more than my relationship with her – and now he does not. Her drunken and vile comments cut him deeply, because he actually liked her and believed her to be someone worthy of investing time and energy to get her on track with her ultra training. Unfortunately he was off-base and is now left grieving for the person he thought she was.

This too shall pass. But it’s damned uncomfortable while we are waiting. And I apologize in advance for dragging out the saga and its accompanying thoughts and feelings.

On the things I value, relationships are high. Family and friend relationships. Professional and business relationships. General good personhood relationships with the public at large. And as I was thinking this morning as I was enjoying a nice, uneventful training session with J, I am starting to really value my relationship with exercise. Maybe diet someday, too, if I ever get around to tracking my food intake to help diagnose my latest mishaps with low blood sugar episodes.

Part of the enjoyment factor is my confidence and growing more at ease in the gym at large. Admittedly I am still scared shitless really intimidated by what I think of as the big boy’s gym room, where all those mysterious machines with plates attached reside. But my spaces in the group exercise room are familiar and feel safe. I can set up my stuff in a corner without impacting anyone else and get lost in feeling invisible the majority of my time there. I seem to have mostly gotten over my anxiety about walking dead lifts or walking lunges across the floor and just does it anyway. The next big challenge is the “wall ball” on my cardio list, but that could be just my present generalized distaste for the activity. Maybe it will grow on me. (And maybe pigs will be sprouting wings and flying across the countryside by Christmas. Hey, it could happen.)

Frequently my judgment in this realm seems faulty, as if I cannot really be reaching for that 25 lb. dumbbell. But I am reaching for it and I am capable of wielding it with surprising authority. So take that, wimpy girl living inside my head, she who wants to whine that it is too much or too heavy or too hard. I do not want to listen to you or give in to your demands and are working those mental shields to keep you confined to your box.

I see a lot of familiar faces now from arriving and leaving the gym at the same times day after day. Part of me wonders what motivates them to come there and move the big heavy weights or attend that 5 a.m. class or run and walk and bike and climb on the various cardio machines upstairs. I imagine what their individual journeys are like, and I silently cheer them forward as they move along at their pace. I wonder if they are as frightened as I am much of time, if they too have to arrive and spend at least 10 minutes calming their nerves before embarking on their routines with only accountability to dog-eared pieces of paper making them stay and perform their tasks.

I keep reminding myself that I am managing my gym anxiety and fear, that after this many months of I am that much better about it. The cold weather gives me ideas about excuses to bail, but going and doing my practice also gives me reasons to buy warmer clothes in smaller sizes. My desire to plan ahead is presently more powerful than my fear of the club and reminds me there is balance in all things, even my ability to overthink everything.

Today I spent an afternoon with a war vet desperately eager to be “normal” again in this civilian world where gunfire is not that common and explosions and blood and gore happen primarily in his dreams each night. I have never been big on comparing fears, anxieties, neurosis with other people, because our individual experiences are unique and the pain from past trauma should never be minimized or devalued because someone else’s suffering is in a different class or realm. Each of us has our own capacity for surviving the bad things that happen to good people. Comparing my life’s history to his is like examining apples and oranges and expecting them to be identical beneath the skin.

I spent most of today teaching him how to use the software and familiarizing him with the client’s transactions and routines. During that time we talked about a range of topics, but being a former Marine, he was and still seems to be in very good physical shape despite losing part of his leg, having his other leg broken in several places as well as a myriad of other injuries. He returned from Afghanistan in 2012 and has spent the better part of the last few years healing, retraining, and learning to be a typical citizen again, a challenge if there ever was one. But he’s smart, he’s determined, and he’s quite a quick study, something I suspected from our interview and today’s interaction. He asks good questions, requests clarification when he’s not sure, and is a very pleasant fellow to be around. After sharing a desk for 5 hours today going over the basics, I expect tomorrow will pass quickly once he is installed at his own desk in my client’s office.

He was very kind about my exercise efforts and says I will be surprised how much things change in a short period of time. I must have given my polite smile, because he playfully challenged me about my dubious expression – again with my lack of a poker face! It’s not that I don’t believe him, or M, or J, or anyone else who encourages me on this launch toward better health. I merely have doubts about my own persistence and ability to get out of my own way to make it happen. What everyone else might see as consistency and persistence I perceive as blind terror of letting go of my fragile gains and sliding backwards into some unhealthy abyss. Whatever; it seems to be working and getting my sorry ass out of bed every morning and down to the gym.

I was deeply moved and touched by his tales of physical and rehabilitative therapy and how difficult it has been to get from there to here. He too makes light of that journey, but listening to his careful words and observing his mannerisms, I know it has been everything but a light and fluffy adventure. My inner bullshit meter did not detect deception from him, merely a glossing over the harder stuff because it’s uncomfortable for him to talk about or he fears it might be difficult for me to hear and for him to gauge my reaction.

Maybe that sense of perspective from someone with different challenges is what I need to continue my gym anxiety battle. Certain days it just seems like this big daunting elephant sitting on my chest and not letting me breathe.

But probably not tomorrow. I know someone with different demons to slay will ask me at some point how it went and will be genuinely interested in my response. I already know I don’t want to have to say I bailed or I failed, so I won’t. For at least tomorrow, I got this.

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