Choices, stressors, negative vibes

Today, I had only one positive thing to say to anyone thus far. Meeting my friend K at the gym tonight, so that will change. She is doing really well with her barbell training and it’s inspiring and exciting to witness. But for now, I’m a squatter in the negative neighborhood and feeling justified in my wallowing.

Okay, maybe not justified, but having reasonable expectations of allowed humanity. My job has gone from being a huge source of satisfaction and pride to this dismal sinkhole of profanities strung together inside my head while my expression seems to say “what now?” every time someone walks into my office or my email pings.

This is so not me. My friend J, who has been a stalwart work-related supporter, mentor, friend for years and years, is starting to think I need to pull the pin now for my own sanity. He says when Pollyanna goes into hiding it is time to get out. He could potentially be correct.

Okay, work itself is gearing up and going well for the most part. For 90% of the staff, acceptance of the changes coming is starting to sink in and everyone is settling down and looking ahead to whatever comes next. Unfortunately, the other 10% are creating a lot of headaches and drama. For a couple of them, I can completely understand the palatable anxiety. They are non-attorney staff, more extreme on the head-down introvert scale, and were not treated like special snowflakes by the incoming firm members thus far. That’s a given; no one here is a special snowflake. But they have been here awhile – one 7 years, the other closer to 9 – and feel a little slighted. The types of personalities, they need a lot more hand-holding than the average professional. I am only capable of some much compassion and propping up before my expectations that they suck it up and deal kicks in.

Surprisingly to me, before today they were the biggest of my staff-related issues regarding the ownership change. My own stuff is my own stuff, and I have a pretty capable Plan B and Plan C to fall back upon. Then I came in this morning and was presented with a thornier problem that blew up my week.

So back embroiled in an HR-related issue for a firm expiring as an entity in a few weeks.

For the most part, I’m hugely disappointed in the staff members involved. It creates an unnecessary negative dynamic in an already tense work environment. But for tonight, I’m outta here on time. The problems and issues will be waiting for me here in the morning.

I get that we all have choices in our lives – what we do, how we react to events in our lives. Today, I am reminding myself of this throughout much of my workday. Thankfully I’m 20 minutes away of another being in the books.

Sometime soon I hope to be back to my regular level of positive motion blogging. The way things are going – it could be July 1 before it happens.

This, that, the other thing(s)

Kind of mish-mash post of things I have been meaning to write about and just have not had time to write and publish.

Decluttering Efforts Continue

Time just slips right by me these days. I have had a glorious 3 days working on my house, the various storage spaces, and yard, yet it seems like this never-ending battle with crap. Or as I console myself, 25+ years of crap. But still – it’s a lot of stuff, much of which has not seen light of day in years. So many years that I doubt we would miss it or think about it further if it ended up in the landfill or dropped off at Goodwill. M disagrees. M also disagrees with me on a lot of crap I have tossed, but he’s more sentimental than I am. He also did not grow up with my parents, have my childhood, and is not triggered by seemingly innocent or charming objects. It’s hard impossible to have a rational discussion with an emotionally irrational me. M expresses himself and his opinions, but knows that when it comes to that pile of stuff, I am the final and only decider on its fate.

I did keep a few things from the piles I thought sure were destined for the dump pile. My mother’s high school yearbooks. A couple of old scrapbooks that belonged to my mother’s sister who died young and before I was born. A senior portrait that has hardly faded in almost 70 years. When I was little I always thought my mother was so beautiful, far prettier than the other mothers I knew, and so tiny and petite. For as abusive of her body as she was (long-time smoker) as she was, mom aged really well. I can only hope the good genes I got work in my favor as well.

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5/30/2017 – Mom’s senior photo

For the most part, the last of the stuff remaining from my parents house has been dealt with and whittled down to an envelope of photographs and a few photo albums. It can stay in storage awhile longer until the next need to purge overwhelms and I can see how I feel about it then.

Otherwise, things are going really well in this effort. M and I are working together toward the common goal, versus bickering and growing impatient with each other about the decision-making process. He has his stuff – his racing career memorabilia and childhood mementos – and I have my stuff to deal, make decisions, organic into defined spaces. Part of our issues, and likely the source of our bickering and impatience with each other, has been the way this stuff has been stored. M has endless numbers of little boxes of things, whereas all my crap is boxed and bundled in bulk, because I knew it would be dealt with and (likely) discarded at some point, after which it would be boxed, labeled, tucked away. We now have the time and sorting space on our pool deck and RV driveway to spread out and figure it out. Our progress is far smoother and more efficient this time.

We were in the garage yesterday moving some of the building supplies out of there and into storage when M caught me staring at the wall of shelving overflowing with crap and suggested I stop staring or I would have an anxiety attack over it. The stuff will be dealt with, but we need to stick with our plan and focus on the pieces and parts in the order and stages. He is absolutely correct; I wander into trouble when I get overwhelmed.

So today he’s dealing with the last of the what we have on site and making a run to the dump with what we’ve agreed it trash. I have the back of his Highlander filled up with donation stuff for Goodwill. After the dump M will be bringing another load of boxes to be viewed and sorted from storage, including everything that is not the box of Christmas lights or Christmas tree. I have at least 6 boxes of Christmas to go through and decide what to keep, what to offer up to the kids, what to donate. My goal is to whittle it all down to just 2 storage boxes, because if we put up our tree, I enjoy it just as much when it’s just the tree with the lights and very minimal to no baubles. I can also easily see a time when we revert to no Christmas tree once more.

Dinner with G

Sunday night we hand an impromptu dinner with my son. K was out of town camping with the pup-pups and a friend, so when I decided to invite them to join us for dinner at a new-to-us local restaurant, it was just G.

I love my kids, all 4 of them, and I love spending time with them as a group and individually. K and I had hung out last week – so much fun – and having dinner with just G was interesting as well. The dynamic is a little different when it’s just one half an established couple, neither good nor bad, just different. Hearing his perspective on their life events and his particular slant on work and their activities is always refreshing and good.

Mostly, I am really glad that they are a thriving, happy couple as well as thriving, happy individuals. Unfortunately the story when hanging out with one half of a couple is not always the happy face united front they present when together. It’s good to hear from them as individuals, to hear the genuine affection and care they have for their absent partner, to listen as they describe their own struggles and triumphs. I’m very fortunate, I know; I probably spend more time chatting with K than I do with my son, particularly lately. But it’s all good. I have always wanted and worked hard to have close relationships with my kids. I’m lucky they chose people that fit well within out tiny family dynamic.

K’s Job Search Success

For about 2 months, K has been seeking a new job. Her former supervisor had left the firm last October and K was promised a promotion and salary adjustment after the first of the year. That came and went without any communication about the promised promotion and salary increase, so finally mid-March she requested a meeting with her supervisor to discuss it. She prepared well, making list of all the additional responsibilities she has assumed, the projects she has shepherded to successful completion, the many accomplishments in the 6 months between her former supervisor’s departure and her increased workload. There was plenty of praise and agreement that she’s done a stellar job, but there was also regret that there was no money in the budget to increase her salary.

We had discussed this extensively before the actual meeting, and privately I hoped she would be successful in getting the recognition, managerial status, and salary bump, but I was not especially hopeful. When they failed to fulfill their promise, I applauded while K refreshed her resume and went to work applying for jobs.

Multiple interviews and 3 offers later, K landed a terrific opportunity in a travel-related non-profit at a 40% increase in salary, shorter commute, and higher quality healthcare and benefits. Trade-off is that the job is likely different type of stress and potentially longer hours, but also offers exposure and networking opportunities unmatched by any of the other firms that sought to hire her.

I am so proud of K for her pursuit and patience through this trying ordeal of dealing with multiple firms, interviews, and offers. Her efforts paid off.

To and fro in Tampa

My other son, A, will be coming home for a brief visit in August. Because of vacation time accrued and their multiple pets, C will not be accompanying him this trip. He has a large family and they are very close-knit, so being clear across the country has been hard on him and he has been terribly homesick since they moved 6 months ago. We will for sure see him for a meal (or 2) while he’s here, but we also understand that realistically he only has a few days with the travel time from Tampa and we will have to share.

M and I are tentatively planning a trip to see C and A in early December, and hopefully G and K will be able to go at the same time as well. With K’s new job, and G’s job in general, it’s a challenge to get all of us together and away for more than a few days. But going clear across the country – I’m hoping for at least a week. C and A will have to work during some of the time we’re there, but that will be okay. We are all grown-up and self-sufficient and can amuse ourselves.

Planning will start in earnest later this summer. But for now, I’m excited about the idea of going east to see my Florida kids. And Disneyworld, too. But really, I’m excited to see my Florida kids. Probably at Disneyworld.

And Finally, Work

Since parting company with a few private clients a couple of week ago, my life has been irrevocably changed. I am getting more sleep – good, solid, high-quality sleep – and my self-employment workload seems lightened by at least 50%. Funny how I barely realized the impact it was having on the whole of the rest of my life.

At the office, we are actively recruiting a new administrative person and another couple of attorneys. There are days when it seems I spend much of my workday reading resumes, scheduling interview, following-up with candidates, writing “thanks but not quite the right fit” letters and emails, or doing some sort of new employee orientation. Comes with my job description, and I do love my job, so I cannot and will not complain about it. The people are probably 89% of my satisfaction with the job; bosses and associates and even clients make even the drudge days more pleasant than other places I have been.

Unfortunately, the work is not always pleasant for me to be around, even if I am only inhabiting the same office space. There are presently a few truly contentious matters going on, the type of thing where voices are raised in conferences and in phone calls to opposing counsels. It is par for the course, even normal, but it jangles my nerves and adds a thin layer of negative stress to my day. To the partners and staff involved, though, it’s like a jolt of fresh energy that lights up their days. They LOVE the fight. Which probably explains whey they do what they do and I do what I do. I don’t know that I will ever get completely used to this side of the lawyering business.

Life continues in a largely positive manner. No (new) complaints here.

 

Fatigue

Fatigue has been a recurring theme in my life of late. By unintentional design, character flaw (inability to say no when necessary), and frequently by choice, I have become overwhelmed and overloaded with work. The inability, or more accurate: stubborn unwillingness, to admit there is a problem and that I am not superwoman who can function optimally on less than 30 hours of sleep per week exacerbates the issues. Until I am finally staring down the barrel of complete chaos and falling apart dysfunctionality.

My saving grace is astute bosses and coworkers at my full-time job and a solid core of good people for clients in my self employment business as well. M has been watching from the sidelines, helping out where he can and only offering the mildest of suggestions when my whining gets to be too much or my fatigue too obvious to ignore. Things are changing, improving. Finally I am taking some steps to care for myself a little more practically.

At my full-time job, I have promoted my receptionist and am training him to assist me directly on many of my day-to-day routine tasks that are appropriate for him. The job I hired into is very far removed from the job I have grown this position into, and it is appropriate that this very capable young man take on more responsibility. Just a week into the new arrangement and I can already feel the relief of not stressing about small details and dealing with vendors and office-related matters that he is capable and delighted to manage.

We are hiring a new receptionist to assume more of those responsibilities, and I am do using my former assistant to help me with the screening and interviewing and recruiting process. It’s good training for both of us, in that I get to assess his judgment as far as hiring and training skills. His insights and screening methodology has been curious to me and not only reflects the differences in our experience but also our personalities and tolerances. Ultimately the decision on who we hire is mine to make, but I appreciate honest feedback, because he will be training and working closely with this person as well and his opinions matter.

Those changes have made me a far happier happy camper at the office. I am always so awed and so grateful to have a close and supportive work environment. My bosses are rock stars when it comes to ensuring the firm runs efficiently and staff have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.

With my private clients and self-employment pursuits, I raised rates and dropped a few of my more demanding clients. It just gotten to be too much to try and meet their needs and short timeframes when I am working primarily after regular business hours and on weekends. I was succeeding, but the drama trauma reached the point of no longer worth the fees I was earning. I am relieved to be free of those hours, frankly, and it opens up time to thoughtfully evaluate the needs of the rest of my client stable to see how I can be more effective for them.

I already feel lighter knowing June will be less demanding and have more room to contemplate what I actually want to do versus what is lying on the table and has to be done. In certain circumstances having more choices is better.

Next on my agenda is examining and overhauling our budget. Nothing freakishly scary going on with that, but when I’m so stressed in other areas my mindless online shopping tends to take over and become a problem. Not just from a spending standpoint, although it is a consideration as well, but from a mere consumption standpoint it impacts me greatly. The volume of stuff in my closets and drawers – this is why the decluttering process is a lifetime appointment apparently. M is more nickle-and-dime little pieces and parts of pointless crap all over the garage as well as creeping into the house, but for me it’s shoes, clothes, accessories. Unless I suddenly gained or dropped 20+ pounds, I have plenty of clothes, shoes, etc. to last a good long while. Especially gym clothes – OMG, how many pairs of black capris do I really believe that I need to own?

Other than all that, I’m marching forward with a plan to get back to regular sleep patterns so I am getting adequate rest. It’s an ongoing concern of mine, because it is one of the first boundaries to fall when I am busy and distracted with the rest of my life.

For now, it’s memorial day weekend, an extra day off to be outside and get a few more at-home tasks crossed off my list.

Happy weekending everyone!

Welcome 2017

When discussing the weather, everything is relative to what you know, what you are accustomed to enjoying or enduring. Growing up in northern California, anything below 50 degrees feels wintery to me. Today was particularly wintery, as there was quite a bit of moisture in the air, the wind was blowing, and I was outside much of the morning standing around handing out drinks and such to runner people. The annual new year’s day fun run that bunches of M’s friends do – I helped out a bit this year and about froze off the better butt I am in the process of building. Despite being bundled up, it was still very cold out there. I regretted not going for the hot yoga class instead for the warm, sweaty and grossness of it all.

Been a pretty quiet, uneventful day around here. With the front lawn remodel M has been doing a lot of laborer type work, and he has a back spasm going on right now that is truly ugly to watch when it happens. Because of that, he’s been lying on a heating pad much of the afternoon (we met G and K for brunch food after the fun run) and I have been doing a freezers and pantry inventory and purge. Oh my, 11.5 months of discipline out the door the last couple of weeks. I know I ate more junk, more sugar, more awful crap food the last 2 weeks than I have all year. Detox officially begins tomorrow, but I was tossing crap left and right this afternoon. I do not even feel guilty for the food waste.

Other than a final short at-the-office work week, things are going to get a bit hairy this month. I’m returning a full-time 36-hour base schedule at the firm (versus my present 30 hours week). How I get my hours done is actually irrelevant to my bosses; I am in and out so much of the time during my work-from-home days and on the weekends they know I typically work more than 40 hours per week as it is. Big difference when I am feeling on the hook for a 9 hour day versus have a lot of play and flex for 30 hours in 4 days, but that’s all in my head. Most likely little will change, other than my hyper-responsible self wanting tracking my schedule and hours more carefully at first.

I have a busy month for self-employment clients as well and a lot of work on my plate. But oh well – at least January and its particular set of deadlines and headaches only occurs once a year.

This sounds mildly terrible, but I’m really glad the holidays are over. I don’t know that I have another holiday day until May, but that’s okay. I am actually looking forward to getting back on track with a regular, predictable schedule of work and such and not having so much socializing and go-go-go on deck and on my mind all the time.

Normal life. I look forward to its return every January.

Puddle jumping all over the place

It’s cold and raining and blustery here today. Not nearly as cold and miserable as other parts of the country, but for we wimpy Cali folk, it’s plenty cold and wet and windy enough.

Despite that, I love the rain … when I am mostly indoors and warm and dry and away from it. For the times I actually have to be out and in it, I love when I get to don my rain boots and run through puddles with absolute impunity. As it is with most things, when I have the boots on, there is not a puddle to be found anywhere I wander. If I am wearing street shoes of any sort, there is not a just wet pavement spot in sight.

Partly why I remain miffed about my gym bag theft. While I had removed my gym-related inner bag with my mini bands and fluffy cuffies and current Lists, my extra socks and sneakers were in there as were other must-haves like hair brush and extra pony holders. Nothing worse than having a pony holder break just before beginning a practice. But now I have to decide which other pair of sneakers becomes my back-up shoes for the gym. It’s early in the season; I have yet to step into a big puddle on the way into the club, but the longer they are absent from my gym bag the more probably it becomes that I will need the dry shoes and socks at some point. I feel as if I have been tempting fate running around without spares these last several days.

While I am actually not working at the office today, it has been quite a busy, hectic day for me. Gym this morning, then last-minute scheduled a coffee/breakfast meeting with a client, then had lunch with RD this afternoon. He looks great, despite gaining 12 lbs. with a broken ankle. Now without cast or boot, back in regular shoes and starting to hit the gym once more, he will bounce back and recover quickly. I was so happy to see him again and sorry he has to leave on Monday for the long drive back to Santa Barbara.

Tonight M and I went to a Christmas party with old friends of mine from high school. We hosted this gathering for several years, but this year an old friend’s parents really wanted us to gather at their home one last time. They are selling their home and moving into assisted living in January and while still vibrant and fairly active, they are in their 80s and frail. My friend, their only surviving child, lives a few states away and worries about their well being. Being in a senior community will ease his mind.

This was in its way a wonderful evening, but there was an edge to it I was both anticipating and hoping to avoid. At least I handled myself and the situation much better this year.

I am now about 18 months into training with J, and almost 15 months of near daily time in the gym. But you all know this; I talk about it constantly. However much I have reshaped my shape, the scale remains somewhere in the 10 to 15 lbs. down range. I think. It has been at least 2 months since I climbed on the scale. My point being, I am not notably skinnier even while being notably fitter. Sometimes that does not show in the way clothes hang.

Anyway, this gathering is of friends I have known since elementary school. Some of us still live nearby, but many moved away and return for the holidays to see family members or old friends. We try to get together one night around the holidays at someone’s home.

My friend whose parents were hosting has been married to his second wife for about 15 years. First wife and mother of his grown sons was beloved by all of us and died in a boating accident. Present wife is at best okay, but mostly tolerated because she’s a snarky bitch. I cannot fathom what my friend saw in her – not especially intelligent or pretty or known for her kind and gentle disposition. She tends to be very direct in a manipulative and cruel way.

I avoid her whenever possible. Truthfully, I cannot stand to be around her and she challenges and pushes the boundaries of my tendency toward good manners and politeness.

Anyway, back to the training and exercise timeline. Last year, I cut ties with a long-time friend over her bitchiness about my Incredible Hulkette apprenticeship, and it was a very tough transition and situation for me to endure. I was still in the embryonic stages of developing my confidence and finding my way with the exercise. The thoughts and opinions of my friends mattered a great deal to me and this former friend’s thoughtlessness caused me a great deal of anxiety and anguish. I tried hard to not let it bother me, I tried harder to brush it off, but in the end, the only way I could cope was to terminate a life-long friendship. Because my arms were too big and my weight loss inadequate. The former friend is a bit crazy with her own vanity, and I was still battling my own gym and other types of insecurity crazy. She and her husband were there tonight, and other than a very cool hello and holiday wishes directed toward the group I was chatting with, she barely looked at me much less spoke to me directly.

Fast forward 12 months and boy howdy things are different now. With all that backstory and dramatic scene setting, here’s what actually happened tonight.

I’m standing there with M and other friends talking, laughing, catching up on hilarious stories from the year. The people I’m chatting with I/we have known for years and year and usually only get to have face-to-face interactions during the holidays. We do stay in touch in other ways, but our holiday party time is something I look forward to every single year.

Into this comes our hostess to both greet us and chide us for not paying for more attention to her in-laws seated across the room. As we stood there, her in-laws were 3 and 4 couples deep saying hello and catching up, just as we all had before moving out of the way so they could spend time with their other guests. My friend S smiled brightly as her almost invisible fangs elongated at the thinly-veiled rebuke that we were having too good of a time without paying homage to her. S suggested the should have had stickers printed – “I greeted N and M” instead of “I voted” – so she could tell who has good manners in the group. The rest of the group laughed, but snarky bitch (SB) did not even crack a smile. If anything, her lips and faced closed inward into that disapproving pucker she gets.

She then turns her gaze toward me, and I could actually feel M tense beside me. With that really sickeningly sweet fake smile she tells me so brightly that I am looking well, and how is that diet and exercise working out for me? I smile back, very blandly, and say it’s going very well, thank you. Then she proceeds to tell me (1) she thought the pictures of G and K’s wedding were lovely and I was “very brave” to wear that dress, and (2) if I am still working with a gym trainer, did I think I was getting full benefit for my money?

I was very calm about this, and said yes, I was still working with trainer J and he was worth every single penny I pay and then some. If she were a smarter woman, she would know better than to push it further from my tone. But no, she believes herself so clever and nods knowingly and says J must be a one-trick pony training women to be big muscled body builders.

Okay, bitch, it is ON.

Why do you say that? Because I’m not rail thin? Well, she demurs, if she was in the gym as much as I am in the gym, she would have lost half her body weight, but of course, she’s a much smaller woman than I am.

I physically step in front of M to keep him from opening his mouth. I smile and say yes, because while you are smaller than I am, I will bet you dollars to donuts that I have less batwing fat under my arms and more muscle mass on my legs than you do. Plus, I’m off blood sugar medications and far more capable, more confident than I was. With those types of wins, who the fuck cares if my ass is bigger – yet more shapely – or if my arms are fucking huge? Yes, I have a  discernible bicep. Get over it.

She was wearing a sleeveless dress. I was wearing a sleeveless sweater with a cardigan over it. And yes, i whipped that cardigan off and flexed my pretty damn admirable bicep. And the people near us who overheard this exchange? They are looking at my flexed arm and its barely there (anymore) batwing, versus her arms at her sides and its smaller physical size but obviously higher percentage of batwing to muscle.

Needless to say she was suddenly needed elsewhere at the party. And I was neither embarrassed or upset at the throw down. For 15 years I have either been avoiding her completely or ignoring her snarky to be polite and keep the peace. Tonight I had simply had enough. She can say what she wants about me, but please, never insult my family or my tribe.

The rest of our evening was really pleasant and really fun. Most of these people have known me since grade school, and I have grown up significantly since I was the chameleon girl who was camouflaged completely by her surroundings. I am typically extremely pleasant and easy going; I still was tonight, only unspooled a bit when pushed. Cest la vie!

Thinking about the month past, particularly the last 10 days, I really need some me time to recharge my batteries. Poor M has been dragged hither and yon to various client dinners and events this month, but he has all day to be at home alone pursuing solo projects. I’m at the office, where I love the people but my time is not my own. Or I am at home working or attending client wing-dings, going to yoga too much, and not sleeping deeply enough to feel refreshed when I should. Late last week M’s bestie began working on our front yard remodel, so there have been rocks and materials to be chosen, designs to be discussed and approved, and while I love M’s bestie, it is one more person I am interacting with when I really just want to crawl into bed with my kindle and read in peace awhile. Essentially, I have not only been burning the candle at both ends I have been setting bonfires on the candle mass in between.

I think a break may be in order. Yes, Christmas is Sunday, we’ll likely be hanging out at home with few to no visitors. It will be amazing. But tomorrow we’ve been invited to M’s bestie’s holiday open house, which is a big thing for M because the volume of runner friends. I asked him on the way home tonight if he minded I bailed this year, for the simple reason that I am absolutely exhausted. While he really wants me to attend, he understands. He also understands that I have far less in common with the runner friends he enjoys so much and will likely enjoy himself far more if we either take 2 cars or he goes alone. Reality of our long marriage is that we have different hobbies and interests and the 2 do not always mesh seamlessly.

It has been a long week, long month. I need the “me” time. I need to write, to read, to relax without a lot of distraction or the pressure of the clock. Maybe tomorrow will be the start of a long weekend of that … after the gym, of course.

Which today did not go so well. I had a client text and then call last night to get an urgent appointment with me, which was the coffee/breakfast today. It was a pretty good problem to have – unexpected windfall – but it was also stressing him out to the point of not wanting to wait until after the first of the year to meet with me about it. I am tired already, battling something attacking my sinuses, and then feeling the pressure of an appointment when I anticipated a more leisurely morning. Result was a unfocused, distracted effort.

I follow Scott Abel on Facebook, because he is a very smart fitness coach who also seems very sensible in his approaches. Several of his posts the last few days have resonated with me, while at the same time make me feel a lot like a miserably bad client in that maybe I am not listening, trying hard enough, want it (whatever “it” is for me) badly enough, have an inadequate work ethic, am to dependent on outside validations.

None of that is true, and I know it. But I am just worn down enough to be vulnerable to shredding myself over my potential to be and do all those things.

Ugh.

At the end of it all, been a very long day with a lot of good and great things. Holiday celebrations are cresting this weekend, whether I like it or not, whether I feel ready for it or not.

Sleep is the great equalizer. No alarm for me tomorrow morning, and hopefully my internal body clock will let me get all the rest I genuinely need.

Training #96 – What a wonderful world

Monday morning, training with J, and the doomsday clock of 2016 continues its toll.

Okay, not really. Thursday, next Monday, and then J is leaving for vacation for a week. He is visiting family in a much colder place, and I know he will be returning all revitalized and happy to be back at work with the tribe.

But doomsday clock sounds kind of cool, like I will notice his absence and being reveling in 2 extra days to practice on my own. It is elevating training days to a whole new plateaus of importance. The cloud got nothing on me and my training sessions.

I potentially could have had way too much caffeine and sugar this morning, having forgotten to order a half-caf, sugar free peppermint mocha-flavored coffee drink. But oh well. It’s the holiday season, I cannot bear to go into our breakroom kitchen for fear of the things-that-shall-not-be-named residing therein. There is no polite way to tell the staff to get in there and eat faster, that I need that stuff purged ASAP, and for goodness sakes do not let more through the front doors! We tend to frown upon barring the doors against clients bearing gifts this time of year, too, so I’m having to suck it up and deal. January with its return to normalcy cannot get here quickly enough.

What We Did

With J’s vacation and the end of the year looming, we are in the midst of reviewing upper/lower body splits. Today was such a technically deep review it feels like a whole new set of exercises. Our List today:

A1  Bent over dumbbell rows (25 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-12 reps)
A2  Incline dumbbell chest press (20 lb. DBs, 4 sets, 8-12 reps)

B1  Cross bench dumbbell pullover (20 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)
B2  Dumbbell chest flyes (10 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

C1  1-arm split stance dumbbell overhead press (12 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12/side)
C2  Bent over dumbbell reverse flyes (5 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-12 reps)

D1  Lying down triceps dumbbell extensions (12 lb. DBs, 3 sets, 8-15 reps)
D2  Dumbbell concentration curls (12 lb. DB, 3 sets, 8-12/side)

How It Felt

Right out of the box, we had the bent over dumbbell rows with a pair of 25 lb. dumbbells. While I believe there is some basic competency with these, there is always, Always, ALWAYS room for improvement. I started out okay and was doing much better by the end of the fourth set pulling with my shoulders rather than with my arms and not doing the little arm flex that happens at the end. Working on the cadence, Romanian deadlift stance with long arms at the bottom of the movement, pulling up through the shoulders. Feeling the pinch between the shoulder blades as well as my glutes and hamstrings from the holding tight to keep my low back still and out of the movement and emphasizing the thoracic arch (my first new anatomy term of the day). Yep, I’m an exercise geek. You should see me trying to mimic J as he demonstrates without any weights in my hands just to ensure I understand the movements and what I should be feeling.

The incline dumbbell press was like a whole new exercise today. I have the basics down pretty well after this much time – incline bench, press weights up, lower weights to chest stretch, press weight back up. However, today J really emphasized the arch. While I know it has come up before, we really got down in the weeds with this today and went over the various ways the back and shoulders should be positioned throughout the movement. I must say that it made the 20 lb. dumbbells in my hands seems light.

There are so many tricky things about the cross bench dumbbell pullover. From the set-up of elevating/supporting shoulders on the bench and then holding hips/lower body still while getting the dumbbell situated in my hand and overhead, it is a lot to think about and get myself situated. But not too much, it’s not too hard. It is simply several steps that I think about and process to make this happen, make it work. What I learned about this as well, there arch in the back matters and those lats should be locked down tight to pull that weight slowly overhead. And my definition of “slow” is still too fast in reality to fully engage the lats. Learning, I’m learning.

There are dumbbell chest flyes are kind of hard and apparently routinely top the list of exercises that should never be done. Again, there is that arch up and off the bench and the shoulder tuck (kind of like shoulders down and back only on an incline bench versus standing upright) and the ways it felt different lowering versus raising the weights, but not too low, and then tightening the chest muscles while pressing upward. Mind is chewing on this even as I type this post, and I caught myself tucking shoulders down and back driving home to not forget how that felt.

Today’s version of the 1-arm split stance dumbbell overhead press emphasized arm placement and the scapular plane (second new anatomy term of the day). J even put a little diagram on my updated List so I would not forget. I can feel the difference, but my real new bite of information was the keep the abs and the glute on the back leg side tight to prevent lower back from arching and wiggling around. It does make quite a bit of difference for me, although I was as swaying with the movement as I have been in past excursions. I have picked up some good habits along the way.

I have been improving with the bent over dumbbell reverse flyes with the additional practice emphasis of late via the dumbbell matrix. There have been a couple of days of doing a couple sets of 10 in a very slow manner to ensure I get the “shape” of the exercise correct before trying to pick up the pace, and I believe it is much better now. If only my elbows would learn to stay bent rather than fighting me about the locked-out elbow position they seem to want to pursue.

It has been a couple/few weeks since I have done lying down triceps dumbbell extensions. Cadence on this was slow and controlled, and boy howdy, feeling it in my triceps this many hours later. I do not recall any new cues that stand out, except the usual slow and controlled manner of lowering and raising the weights.

My favorite dumbbell concentration curls today, and these have been good for me. I have figured out the shape, I remember to not let my elbow go completely straight at the bottom. It is kind of soothing to do these particular curls; maybe this is what everyone else gets out of them? Finally I have been enlightened by the allure of bicep curls?

Key Takeaways

I worked really hard today on my upper body parts and was listening intently and trying to absorb all the new cues and stuff to be more productive with each item on my List. Frankly, I was simply amazing, and I have the achey-breaky (in the nicest possible ways) body parts to show for it. While this List is an older one with exercises we have done many times before, I always learn something new each time we have a review day. Today was like superset technical review day, and as I said, it was like learning a whole new way of doing each of these movements.

Training days are not like other days. Practice days are never the same either. Even warm-ups anymore are a little different, with the addition of the dumbbell matrix. While that is not technically something that needs to be done every practice, I am trying hard to gain some mastery over all the exercises and find working at it a lot more frequently is the only way I see much improvement.

Between the yoga classes I am trying to pursue and the 6-day schedule I keep at the gym, I am enjoying the best holiday season. Not really in the traditionally festive place, but I also think the traditionally festive place is a product of the marketing machine.

While I jokingly refer to the these last few sessions before J leaves for his holiday vacation as the doomsday clock, our training session these last couple of weeks have been very light-hearted, hard-working review events. I always leave the gym on training days with a head full of information and new things to process and try to remember and I feel amazingly energized. There are all these little technical details that may or may not be recalled immediately next I pursue this List.

Strange as this may sound, the training and learning to do this stuff safely and sanely makes me feel smarter somehow. Having gone through this much of my life, gotten this far as a self-sufficient and independent adult, and so strongly identified as not an athlete, not good at sports, more a clumsy woman who would more likely trip over a dumbbell than use it effectively, my confidence in the gym comes as a pleasant surprise.

I was remarking to J this morning that at one point, months ago, I would have watched him demonstrate the dumbbell overhead pullover and despair that my shoulders did not have the range of motion that his enjoy and felt like a loser. Today, I get that everyone has a different body and each of us have our quirks and limitations. My shoulders may not move in the same ways his do, but they do well enough.

If that is not progress, someone else needs a better dictionary.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I confess – I typically start these posts with this section, because they are the most transitory and fragile of thoughts and feelings from each session and must be captured and contained quickly. But oh well; it all reads the same.

My little club – I do love spending time there. Seeing the same faces day after day makes it familiar and comfortable place to be, whereas the larger clubs – it is so easy to get lost and feel isolated and out-of-place. My attire is not on-trend and matchy-matchy, it is not the “it” brand, I never wear make-up, and my hair is a sweaty mess much of the time – these are the gym crazy thoughts that may not ever leave me when I’m in the big, fancy smancy jewel of the club’s chain. Probably 99.9% of that is my stuff, but I am so happy and grateful to have found footing and blooming where I have been planted.

I have worked very hard to feel this comfortable and like I know what it is I am supposed to be doing, and while I am still struggling with a few things, for the most part it feels like balance and timing more than not knowing what I should be doing or where I should be feeling the muscles work. The soundtrack in my head seems to drown out even the music in my ears, and when J is coaching, cueing, correcting, I am trying to listen so intently to him that I block out everything else.

In yoga yesterday I realized again how far I have come in this better health quest. There are a lot of poses I still cannot get into, and somewhere along the line it stopped bothering me. Just like today, with some of the new cues and ways I have to really work at getting shoulders back and tucked down, it does not bother me that I have been doing this without the various new emphasis for several months.

It finally occurred to me today that prior starts and stops with exercise have less to do with my willingness to try and fail than with lack of real understanding that body takes time to learn new things. Patience with myself is not one of my strengths, and I perceived my frustrations with lack of progress as me not trying hard enough and giving up too soon.

In life there has been success from my own efforts and work toward that success. Giving up was not really an option, when I have had work I enjoy and a family to support. In some ways that aspect of my life has been easier that teaching my body to move its muscles and joints for the health-enhancing benefits of exercise.

While I should probably not mention this yet – there are at least 2 and probably 3 sessions left in 2016 – in the past year I cannot recall a single training session reschedule due to illness, work commitments, or just not feeling like it, and vacation does not count. J has had to move our appointments a couple of times due to his schedule or gym-related conflicts, but that doesn’t matter to me at all. The one close call was a few weeks ago, when I had a terrible allergy attack and not sure if I would be feeling up to our Thursday appointment.

Well beyond my hyper-responsible nature, I have prioritized my training and practices and stuck to my exercise schedule. I am hugely proud of myself for that.

Now I am back into yoga classes a couple of time per week, and I can tell the resistance training has had an impact on my ability in the studio. My mornings in the gym will always be my higher priority and calling, but the yoga benefits me as well in ways I do not even recognize yet.

But it seems to me I think more clearly and without the fogginess of second guessing or doubting myself. I have always been pretty good about work, but my personal life would get fuzzy and muddied. I have handled my daughter’s decision to move across the country with aplomb and one of my closest friends very serious illness with more restraint and less emotion that I might have once upon a time.

Being off diabetes medication, the reshaping of my shape, the stronger limbs, the increased confidence – all great things, all exceptional reasons to not let myself too far off the leash of my still new (to me) exercise habits.

During this time of year everyone is talking about goals and what they want to accomplish in 2017. It is a temptation – new year and new goals – one I shall not be yielding to anytime soon or probably ever.

I think about it, though, and I smile. I am so much farther on my better health journey than I ever expected to reach, so I just need to stay the course and continue training with J and my practice consistency.

The habit has been established, and I just need to stay the course. And I am feeling certain – I got this.