Aggravated, crazy, sick to my stomach – TGIF

Probably the title should read “Ms. Crankypants has taken over the blog.” But that might be more negative than is actually necessary? Maybe, maybe not. It’s just been a very long week and some irritation must be vented and bled off.

Aggravated

Tuesday brought acquiring firm people into the office to kick-off the transition with introductions and reassurance all around about how thrilled and excited they are to assimilate us into the collective. Lots and meetings as a firm, in groups, and individually over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday. The administrative partner – she was a corporate suit with a resting bitch face that never seemed to fade even when she smiled and spoke. Had she been nicer, less dismissive and condescending I would not be so harsh in my assessment, but reality bites.

In truth, I am a hopeful person; I want a positive spin on everything, particularly work when such big and upsetting changes are in the works. This woman, though, was my worst corporate nightmare in very expensive shoes. She heads up human resources and is an employment law partner, so I suppose her credentials are impressive. However, her people skills, for those of us without a Juris Doctor degree, are horrendous. Going forward, I will simply refer to her as Hellbeast. The rest of the non-attorney staff in my office have far worse monikers for her, but I am trying to strike a balance here. Yes, I get that I am biased and failing miserably. But oh well.

The way she spoke at me, I thought at first she was just not good with women, or not good with people in general. Then I observed her talking to my bosses and the rest of the attorneys, and while her tone and demeanor changed depending on the staff level, she was still essentially civil and somewhat engaging. Professional snob, yes, but I have worked with worse.

Dismissive, condescending, and even mean – she is probably demanding of service staff and tips poorly. And I have a really hard time with that. Poor service, sure. But to brush off and actually speak sharply to my receptionist for doing his job – inexcusable. My receptionist is the lowest paid staffer among us and will gladly, happily do just about anything we ask him to do. One of the partners had sent an email that he was expecting a high priority phone call and to find and interrupt him no matter what he was doing, which is what my receptionist did in a respectful way, knocking at the open door, waiting until she finished speaking, and then starting to tell the boss about his call – only to be barked at by Hellbeast that he was interrupting when she was not finished talking. My receptionist immediately apologized, but she got up and closed the door in his face.

Hellbeast. I think I am being kind.

My receptionist was understandably upset. He’s young, this is his first position in a professional office setting, and he’s done a terrific job for us. My horror at her actions was written all over my face, and if there was any doubt it was erased when I stood up, excused myself, and left the very informal meeting we were in, ostensibly so my boss could take his call in private, but really so I could (1) regain my composure and diffuse my own flash of anger, and (2) check in with my receptionist to ensure he knew he’d done nothing wrong. He can be a little sensitive about making mistakes.

Things went downhill from there.

When it was my turn to have a one-on-one with her, we went over the things that needed to be done in the transition and how my accounting functions would be moving to the centralized headquarters office and all my office/business management responsibilities for contracts, leases, and purchasing as well. Reporting relationships would be changing – attorneys assuming more of an administrative and supervisory load. Essentially, everything I expected to happen would be happening.

We went over my employment letter for the balance of 2017 because of the firm change, and where our present document is 3.5 pages long, the new one runs 12 pages. There was also the temporary portal to view their employee handbook and office policies, of which I was expect to read and document having reviewed these documents. None of this was a surprise; new firm, we are essentially being absorbed as new employees and have to get set-up in their systems.

I told her I needed a few days to review all those documents, but would likely have it back to her next week. She pressed, wanted to have as much of this done this week, preferably before she left on Tuesday. I pushed back, pointing out that as an attorney, she should not want me signing anything I had not read and understood thoroughly. Did not stop her from asking again before she left the office later that day.

When it was my turn to voice questions or concerns, I asked very directly what my role in the firm would be for the next 6 months? Essentially, my day-to-day workload was being transferred to corporate. I am not a paralegal, and I would be the most well-paid office clerk if that was what they envisioned. She hemmed, hawed, gave me the canned “we are still figuring out your skills and how to put them to use” type answer, but in such a way that was vague and about as clear as mud. So I reframed and asked again, and she finally admitted she was not sure how they could use me. She also pointed out with her creepy smile that my base salary was higher than their highest ranking non-attorney staffer, and I responded that was likely because I have superior skills and experiences and am paid a competitive wage to manage a firm professionally and efficiently. She did not like that, at all.

But oh well. In her words, we are here to do a job, not necessarily make friends.

Before meeting her and knowing most firms do not allow their employees to moonlight or have other forms of paid employment, I already knew I would be having my personal attorney review any employment agreements and the documents referenced therein. To protect myself and my self-employment clients, I have a waiver from my present bosses on file, and every time I acquire a new client that may present a conflict with the firm, I let them know and they sign off. My doing accounting work for other firms, including 2 other sole practitioner attorneys, has never been an issue. But we are a small firm. I have daily, direct contact and interaction with the principals. They know me, I know them. The new situation is big law firm, and I did not imagine them being so flexible about this typical clause in employment agreements. Hence the review by my personal lawyer. I wanted no unpleasant surprises.

Hellbeast is not amused or happy that I took this step. Wednesday we had occasion to talk about a couple of things by phone, and both times she asked me about my documents. On the second call, I said that the acquisition was effective July 1, so she would have my documents on or before June 30. That was “unacceptable” to her, because they need to get me and everyone else set-up in their system. Having done payroll and knowing the time and billing system both firms use inside and out, it does not take up to 3 weeks to get 25 people set-up. Maybe a day, if they are working at a leisurely pace. But I refused to back down or budge. What I didn’t say – you’re not my boss, yet, and if my existing bosses tell me I need to get this done this week, then I might be inclined to try harder. But my existing bosses? Take my time, read and review the documents, ask questions, let’s just shoot for June 25 to be courteous to the new firm. Done.

My attorney said not to sign anything without getting a solid waiver on my self-employment. He wrote an email to Hellbeast, the BLF partner moving in to our offices July 1, and my bosses as well outlining his concerns and changes he wanted before he would allow me to sign the document. That was Wednesday evening. My bosses here are fine with it, even applaud me for being proactive and protecting my interests, said the changes requested are actually quite minor and other than the waiver for my business, they did not see it as a big deal.

Crickets from Hellbeast and BLF. Which is fine. I can wait.

This morning I come in to 6 different emails from her about various documents I submitted, letters I wrote to various vendors and holders of office equipment leases with our firm – all at the direction of my partners here and with their review and approval of the missives prior to release. Her “dressing down” tone was in my view quite inappropriate, but I admit my bias. I replied, with cc’s to my bosses (who along with the rest of the attorneys are out of the office today) and consider the matter closed until they return on Monday.

Crazy

Crazy is my catch-all term for anxiety and apprehension about things inside and outside my sphere of influence and control. The decision about the merger is reality and I believe I am doing my best to take care of business and serve both our clients and the partners and staff through the transition. I am also doing my best to take care of myself, and in truth that is the primary source of my present job crazy.

I have a plan B, because I have little stomach or desire for a role in a large corporate organization. Been there, done that, learned it does not make me a happier, better, or even more balanced a human being. Now that I have this much time invested in my ability to help, influence, steer a business to success, I am reluctant to become another tiny worker bee in the a corporate hive. That’s my personal preference.

However, I also have a good understanding of the parachute and severance package negotiated as terms of the merger. I will protect my rights to that and not allow anyone to try and remove it from my grasp. If I have to spend the next 6 months counting paperclips because that’s my new role, I will be the best damn paperclip counter anyone has ever met and continue to collect my salary and have my health insurance paid. However, I am unwilling to relinquish my self-employment clients. It was not a problem for my existing bosses and does not seem like it should be an issue for the new firm, particularly since all aspects of my employment agreement now in place should transfer to the new firm. How far they want to push it remains to be seen.

I dislike conflict. I am open to discussion of divergent points of view and trying to find an acceptable compromise. But I’m not feeling anything by contentious conflict from the Hellbeast and it’s stressing me out. I dislike being bullied myself, but professionally, I have enough self-confidence (and self-control) to manage the situation. However, when it comes to bullying someone who lacks standing or experience, I tend to get very angry very quickly. Concerns about my receptionist and the paralegals in my firm are genuine. The paralegals are professionals and will land well whatever happens – they are good at their jobs and will find another position if it comes to that – but my receptionist is a good kid and still quite green when it comes to big corporate politics. Perhaps I will be around to help, perhaps not. But whatever happens, I will be around outside the office if he needs help or resources to find something else.

I feel sucked into the type of toxic environment once more that I left years and years ago and allowing it to make me crazy. Which upsets me even more; I am allowing it to get to me. On the one hand it has been really great for my gym workouts and daily 300 kettlebell swings; the emotional aggravation tends to get drilled down to massive focus on whatever it is I am doing with the weights or form with the swings. On the other hand, gym and kettlebell swing takes up only about 2 hours per day. The rest of the time I have this “oh shit” sense of dealing with merger-related matters.

I hate that “oh shit” sense of anything, especially when it stretches out in front of me for at least the rest of the month, possibly the rest of the year.

Sick to my Stomach

This morning, woke up with a mild stomach ache and feeling not quite right. I thought it might simply be hunger – small dinner last night. Drank my protein shake and did not feel better. Went to the gym for my practice and found my stomach starting to roil, so I finished the slo-mo huffy-puffy and called it a day.

Now, I blame Hellbeast, just because I can. My temporary stomach ailment has nothing to do with the questionable lettuce I ate for dinner last night and everything to do with my aggravation with Hellbeast and her bullshit. I so rarely have any sort of upset stomach that is irritates me more that just about every other sort of sickness. Especially since we’re going out to lunch today and I will have to limit myself to even blander food than usual. We’re doing Japanese, and I figure plain white rice and miso soup should be fine. I can box up the rest for dinner or tomorrow.

But oh well. It’s the company that counts, and my peeps – the company is excellent.

TGIF

Glad it’s Friday. Busy weekend ahead with client events tomorrow night and Sunday, plus lunch and furniture shopping/browsing with K tomorrow.

Happy weekending everyone!

Sadness

While I do not want my return to semi-regular blogging here to be all about work and it’s changes, for the moment I have to accept that it is for this weekend at least all about work and it’s changes. This too is temporary and will pass.

Thanks for all the kind and supportive comments. I very much appreciate you reading and taking a moment to share your thoughts.

An email announcement went out yesterday after the papers were signed and originals shipped out via FedEx. Typically I am consulted on communications of such weight with staff, but as in the way things are moving forward, I am now part of the staff. It is appropriate and as it should be; the partners are the owners and shareholders of the firm and made this decision after much discussion and thoughtful consideration. It is like we are children of divorce: definitely a consideration of the parents’ decisions, but not a party to the actual decision-making process. I’ll be honest – I feel hurt by that. The decision-making is 100% theirs, but the communication afterwards? I am the one whose telephone and text began blowing up immediately after staff received the news. It would have been nice to be forwarned, as I am probably the only person in the firm who does not have her work email pinging on her iPhone. But this is my choice to not stay in touch with work 24/7; I suppose this is one of those minor consequences of that choice.

To their credit, it was an incredibly nice, sensitive, thoughtful and caring email. Or it was the best example of those attributes when such life-altering news is delivered to the unsuspecting. It outlines the primary reasons and motivating factors behind the decision and describes next steps with regard to the transition, the severance that will be offered to anyone who is not offered a position with the new organization. It reinforces all the reasons I like and respect my bosses to such a high degree, yet at then same time and to a lesser degree demonstrates a key weakness in their ability to relate to the long-term, far-reaching impact this has upon their employees.

While they built this firm themselves and have poured countless amounts energy and sweat equity into building it into something so viable and successful, I know that I done a lot of work to breathe community into the staff who grew it into something really special. That’s hard for me to release my territorial protectiveness of them right now. My anxiety over the impacts on the rest of the staff is real. If the partners are the originators and rainmakers, I infused the heart, soul, and got-your-back team spirit of those who work so hard most days of the week to make it happen. As a firm, we are not all about billable hours 24/7, although yes, we all recognize the importance of staying profitable. The dog-eat-dog culture of most professional services firms is a distant echo in our hallways, and I know it is a direct result of my influence on the human policies governing salaries, bonuses, promotions, office space, even taking time off.

I suppose if I am freaked out over anything, it’s how to help the staff manage their own emotions in this tumultuous time. I have known about this outcome was a possibility for more than 6 months, yet even I was blindsided by it actually coming to fruition under cloak of secrecy and cover of darkness. While I understand business is business and family is family, the attorneys, paralegals, and my receptionist/admin – I genuinely care about their long-term well being. And accepting things will change so dramatically in less than a month is difficult. I console myself it has been less than 24 hours, and tomorrow there will be an office full of people waiting for more information and hoping for some reassurance about the future. I am presently scheduled on my work-from-home day, because Tuesday we have several things going on that require my presence.

My own codependency is starting to bubble, in that I feel the need to go in and get started taking care of everyone. Today was a struggle to manage my emotions as the realization that the job I love is fading away and my role in this firm is already being eradicated. The phase out began yesterday with the blanket announcement to the staff and continued with small group meeting invitations/announcement for the various hierarchies, something I would have once sat in on as well and now only know about because the associates are telling me and asking if I will be present. No, apparently not.

Much of the Saturday I anticipated being spent working on self-employment matters was instead devoted to text and phone conversations with the staff about what it all means and list-making for things I need to attend to in the next 20 days before we officially merge. There are many questions to ask, plans to be made, training to commence, hand-off of responsibilities. My sense is the merger of systems and administrative tasks will happen quickly. Fortunately for me I have good practices in place and can efficiently hand them off when the time arrives. The way announcement and shutdown of the firm is being handled also leads me to the conclusion that I will be made redundant from day 1, so this could be my final month of having to report for duty with this firm in this office. I am a good and loyal employee, though, and I will do as I am asked to for as long as they need me to continue. I am prepared for that to not extend beyond June 30.

The thought should scare me, yet it doesn’t, not at all. As I said, mostly it hurts my feelings. I want to help with the transition, but instead it feels like I am already just part of the furniture to be transferred to the new entity.

I stopped in the office today to complete a few things minor tasks and bring home some personal files and records I might forget when the time comes to clean out my desk. While I was there a couple of the bosses came in and of course stopped in to talk with me.

There are rare moments when I wish I were not quite so honest about what I think and how I feel. It’s barely been 24 hours and I have already got a bad case of the sads. Staff are blowing up my text and my phone with question for which I have no answers and that’s hard. I feel as if my hours are numbered and not sure how I feel about any of it. And I am mad at them for doing what is in their best interests as owners and shareholders of the firm. While intellectually I understand it, emotionally I know they are ending a job I love. It’s just business, it’s not personal – and I know that, but admit I am still taking it personally because I care, probably too much. I know I will get over it, put on my business manager clothes and game face and push through this. As I said to my bosses, I am just a little heartbroken that it is ending before I am ready to let go.

Which is a big, defining difference between me and them, I think. I may be capable of being professional and fulfilling my responsibilities with autonomous precision, but I am not able to completely compartmentalize in the purest business is business type of ways. I see the human beings behind the job titles and social security numbers in ways a large corporation will never replicate. I don’t know that I want to separate myself so completely that it doesn’t sting when change of this magnitude happens, even when I know the changes are the best things possible for the decision makers.

Knowing I will get over it, that this emotional storm is transitory and come Tuesday (I am off tomorrow doing a Monday self-employment work from day) I will have my business manager cape on and efficiently carrying out the directives to make the transition a smooth one, right now I am sad and unhappy about the direction of my career. I barely slept last night thinking about things. In the gym this morning I found myself blindly pushing forward to burn off some of this fierce emotion, to the point that my shoulder started a slow to furious blink of ouch, Ouch!, OUCH!!!!! before I realized that I was pushing hard and doing something wrong and ignoring it. Thankfully no permanent damage done, but it’s been awhile since my inner angry/hurt girl got loose with 20 lb. dumbbells in her hands.

Perhaps it is better we had the honest conversation today, rather than next week. They know this is particularly hard on me, because of my unique standing in our little firm and likely not even a position to be had after the merger. They were frank with me that my role may possibly be shrinking even during the transition. While they tried to tell me that my exclusion from group staff meetings was because I would not be in the office, the disbelief on my face made them come clean that yeah, it was a decision they made because I am unlikely to be around for the the staff into the future. Weak, but okay.

This is all still brand new and very raw. I have an extra day to pull myself together emotionally and get my game face on. Right now I’m just not sure what that looks like at this point in my career.

Anxiety

We’re packing up and preparing for the drive home, because I have to go to the office and cope with a client with a looming issue that is not easily resolved.

I know it is not my problem. I know I am not the cause of this problem. I know what I advised my client over the course of several months and warned him about this problem coming to pass. I also know that is nothing I can do to “make” a client heed my guidance and even less I can do now that the problem has come to fruition. Yet despite knowing all that, I am the one who tossed and turned and woke up with feelings of anxiety and dread about talking to him this morning.

This is me and my stuff, I know. It’s a near constant battle, one for which I have yet to find an appropriate long-term solution. I disconnect and remain as emotionally impassive as I can, but this is a real person, with real employees, and now with real problems of his own making. There is a codependent inside me that really wants to solve this for him, to make it better, to not let he and his workers suffer.

The healthier, realistic part of me knows and understands the limits of my influence. As a business owner myself, I also understand this is a hard and painful lesson that must be learned.

Except it probably will not be learned. Or accepted. Or embraced.

And it is why I now understand that distancing myself or completely severing ties and communications with some people and entities is sometimes the only healthy solution for me. While I understand and accept I cannot save anyone else, I am also starting to accept that I need not stand by and watch the self-destruction people bring upon themselves. Or that setting a strong boundary that separates me from an emotional vampire is probably appropriate.

I am feeling the need for a TM tune-up. Work life, personal life, boundary life are all starting to converge and to get a little blurred. I am not yet strong enough or healthy enough to be anyone’s role model, guide, or leader. My experiences are my own, and my expectations of personal responsibility seem to be too overwhelming for many. I do not see them as weak so much as needing a lot more hand-holding and coddling that I am willing or able to provide.

Having expectations, for myself and for others, has always seemed like a harsh and judgmental line, something to be ashamed of or never openly revealed. I have failed myself and my own aspirations seemingly more times than I have succeeded, and the standards I set for myself are much harder than those I have for others in my realm. But I am not a professional or even an amature life coach; I have a whole village to help me figure out what I am doing and how I can be better at doing it to move forward toward my objectives. And I also know it’s a huge luxury for me, one that I work hard at my jobs to earn and enjoy.

Yet I’m feeling cramped and crowded by responsibilities and expectations, both real and imagined. I blog because it’s a way to keep me focused and accountable and on track with my personal “be better” quest in life. Better health. Better career professional. Better friend. Better family and tribe member. If my efforts and journey are helpful to others, that’s a huge win for me. If not, there are literally thousands of other blogs out there, probably something for everyone; my feelings will not be hurt if you go elsewhere seeking what you want to enhance your own life’s journey.

Mine is a very small, very ordinary life. M and I are probably among the more boring people in our vicinity, and we’re okay with that. Our is not a life lived with a lot of drama and salacious events that make for titillating blog reading. I had been contemplating a new, separate blog for my health and wellness pursuits, but since I am so not in this for monetary benefit or blog fame and glory, I think having the whole enchilada of my experiences and musings contained in one space works for me.

I dislike feeling the way I do right now, about work, about the telephone conversation I will soon be having with my client on the drive home. But it’s part of being a grown up and a business owner, to have to deliver an “I told you so” without coming out and saying it in those words. This is his problem to resolve; my role today is simply as a sounding board and advisor to try and minimize the long-term damage. But it will be unpleasant. I so dislike unpleasant.

And to top that off – I was feeling a little jealous this morning at 6 a.m., wondering if some other member was in my usual training time slot. How silly is that? Mostly I am sure the feeling comes from the discomfort and anxiety of this work-related problem and longing to return to my standard, day-to-day routines and not that I have bunny-boiler tendencies toward my usual training appointments. Vacation was nice, relaxing, and good to get away, if only because it makes me really appreciate all I have in my regular life.

M is FINALLY ready. Off to hit the road home.

Giant step forward, tiny steps backward

When I dared to imagine being off the insulin, I thought life would be better, that I would feel so much better. And for the most part, like 99%, I do feel better, more accomplished, even proud of myself for working hard, trying hard to learn and to adopt new ways to manage my eating and physical activities.

As for the oral meds, I imagined a long, frustrating slog waiting for the medical team to examine my test results and slow strip them away, one by one. Instead my doctor did something akin to ripping the bandaid off and set me free to pursue my life without oral or other medications.

I really never even dared to imagine what this might feel or be like for me.

And guess what? It feels f**king GREAT!

The elation continues, because I have woken up the last few mornings and realize that I do not have to take anything today. I still take a vitamin D capsule, because apparently everyone is deficient, but anything I can buy anywhere is not really the same as prescription medication for a chronic condition.

However, and as I remarked yesterday, there always seems to be a “however” or a “but” or another shoe out there waiting to drop, it feels like my joy and elation over something so wonderful is leaving me vulnerable to negative girl and the anxiety, the doubt, the insecurity, and the fear she generates. Instead of looking forward and planning my meals for the week ahead and thinking about the exercise and how I could potentially add some cardio to my days, I am sort of cowering and afraid of my own shadow. Again. All day today. *sigh*

GIANT step forward, and a few tiny steps backward. It’s the dance of my life, only this time I am not losing the same type of ground that finds me behind the initial starting line.

And I feel like I need to give myself a good shaking and turn down the volume on negative girl’s megaphone.

Today I had a meeting with my long-time client; it is becoming a Saturday habit for us. He was very pleased and highly complimentary about last weekend’s efforts and reports. This weekend it was normal quarterly stuff for us, but he also floated an idea of my working for him in a more official capacity. Right now, I handle his personal books and as well as other things that crop up each month and throughout the year; it is primarily very much a part-time gig, maybe 15 hours per month most of the time on regular responsibilities. If I were to consider working for him in a corporate capacity, it would mean a lot more hours per month and some pretty good coin in compensation.

I am not especially worried about it, even if I turn him down. But as we were talking about it, I recognize the old paralyzing fear that absolutely does not want to find myself in any sort of corporate organization ever again. The politics, the games, the back-stabbing, the negativity – all that stuff I am so ill-equipped to cope with on a day-to-day basis.

But I told him I would give it some thought. It was weak and sounds and feels diluted, but then again, everything I say and do right now sounds to my ears as if it is stated in the same weakened tones.

My confidence in work is sort of fluid and can be impacted by other factors in my life. Yesterday’s asshattery wounded me more than I like to admit. Not because the guy was an asshat – not a thing I can do to cure anyone of that – but because I lack the spine to shake it off or shrug it off or crush it into a ball and toss it back at him with all my might. I was at the gym this morning and torn between looking at all the faces I passed to not looking at anyone at any time. I did my stuff and left with enough time to shower, dress, and make my appointment. And this many hours later I still feel this growing anxiety and fear.

Sorry to be repetitive, but sometimes I have to word-vomit the poison to get it out of my system.

The good stuff is happening for me because I worked hard to overcome what holds me back. Like my gym crazy, with its anxiety and its fears and its avoidance tactics and its excuse making. Seriously, all day long I have been thinking about what plausible excuse I could or would come up with for J that would let me off the hook on Monday morning. Dishonesty does not work for me; I cannot lie believably to strangers, much less someone who gets and has come to understand the full force of my gym crazy. It is also against my moral code to try to lie to someone I hold in such high esteem. Plus I would feel terribly guilty and end up regretting the decision later, which would leave me vulnerable to cancelling again on Thursday. It is a vicious cycle I am all too familiar with. Even telling the truth only makes it worse, makes it easier to backslide into not training, not practicing, not eating right, not staying off the meds for long. It would be so easy to bail tomorrow – rest day and all that, no break since this time last month – but Monday is trickier and has required a boatload of battle with negative girl to get to this point of rationality. I have not cancelled an appointment with J since we restarted after my jury duty last summer. We have both gone on vacation and we have both had to reschedule because something came up for one or the other, but in all these months I have not missed an appointment or a session.

And for the first time in several months I feel the urge to cancel just because I feel … inferior. Or defective. Maybe both. Because of one truly ignorant person believing himself right and benevolent to share his ignorance with me, and I seem to lack the backbone to empower myself to shake it off and Let. It. Go.

Bottom line: I am absolutely determined not to let myself slink on down that particular bunny hatch. I am gritting my teeth and will not give in to the voices in my head and cancel something so critical to my ongoing success. I also will not let myself bail on the gym tomorrow. Unicorns and rainbows were nowhere in sight today; I feel like the forces of darkness had gathered and were following me around all day long. It is hard right now, in the moment, and I am glad my blog exists to download and sort out all my untidy mental and emotional laundry.

Many may pronounce my ongoing thinking and obsessing about yesterday’s incident as overreaction on my part, and I can readily accept that judgment. I can probably even agree with them saying it to me directly (because believe me, they have throughout today’s wobbly, waffling texts and emails), and because I hear the same things inside my own head as I do battle with negative girl. Negative girl whispers about my weakness, tries to generate doubts about my success, suggests I will be falling off the diet and fitness wagon within a matter of days because I am so frail.

Nope, nope, nope. I am at least strong enough to stand up and battle back from that kind of negative crap.

Life is difficult sometimes, and sometimes I make life more difficult for myself. While I am absolutely right in what I was doing yesterday, I still hear that man’s voice telling me I was doing it wrong. And it sounds and echoes just like everyone else in my life who has left scars on my heart and my mind. It’s a quality that makes me careful with what I say and how I say it to other people, why I choose to remain silent rather than express an opinion that serves no real purpose except to create pain for someone else. I tend to be pretty frank in my assessments when I offer them, and I always strive to think carefully and speak thoughtfully.

And for goodness sakes I would NEVER approach a stranger in a public place to express any opinion on their exercise form. It is just wrong on so many levels.

Even commenting on other blogs, I try very hard to be careful and thoughtful in my responses. My peek into what is going on it their lives is very narrow, very in-the-moment, and I want to stay on point and not project my bias into whatever they might be going through right now.

All that said, I am very appreciative of the positive, supportive comments on this situation. I wish I could honestly say, dear friends, that I am the better, stronger person who is no longer bothered, has been able to mentally tell the jerk to f**k himself, and just let my anger burn through and turn the situation around. Unfortunately I’m not quite there yet. I am still mired in the mud, although less so than earlier today.

Because I feel afraid of it happening again. I felt apprehension in the gym this morning that has not stricken me for months. It will pass, because it does. But if I ever see that man again, I wish I had the courage to tell him to his face how his thoughtless words affected me. Probably it would not make a difference. Probably he would think that I am a lightweight, don’t belong in a gym, and need to toughen up and stop giving 2 shits what others say or do or think. (Thank negative girl for her most helpful perspective.)

But I know better. I KNOW it, just presently buried under a blanket of insecurity. I have real success. I am off diabetes medications, which is something so few people achieve. I eat more protein, and I overcame this morning and made myself go to the gym, through the doors, and to get my practice done. I nearly made myself sick over it, and I am almost ashamed for not being further along in this process, on this journey, that one stupid POS scum sends me diving down the rabbit hole of doubt and fear and nauseating stomachaches. There is a big wide chasm between almost ashamed and ashamed, though. Qualified progress, but progress nonetheless, and I will gratefully accept it.

But I have the courage to seek help, to hire a professional team of hand-holders to get me around that next lap on this circle. Monday J will likely torture me with new a new mini band routine. Tuesday I will have to ask TM to help me build a stronger teflon shield. M has given me some suggestions should that asshat or any other ever try to give me advice on exercise, besides hiding behind J’s red shirt.

Last night I was using my mini bands here at home, walking up and down the hallway, thinking of all the reasons I do not have to go back to the gym this morning. It was as if I was starting all over again. I recognize the signs of me contemplating a serious backslide, and I resolved to not let myself go there now. I see how I am letting one stupid ass guy ruin days of my days; I cannot allow another’s thoughtlessness undo my great progress.

I wish I had the magic, the confidence that makes it fade. I am getting stronger, enjoying really amazing victories. I need to keep those in front of my eyes, always, and fight back hard and not be even budged backwards by the ignorant, thoughtless minions.

Ugh. Today I’m not sure who I am more upset with – thoughtless guy who ruined my day or me for allowing it to continue into my weekend.

Tomorrow will be better. I have a plan to improve my mindset, and having a plan in place this time will get through my practice and not let me be distracted or derailed by the voices in my head, spreading anxiety and doubt. I got this. Yep, writing this on my mental whiteboard at least a hundred times between now and tomorrow morning (and thank trainer J for the gist of this sentiment):

I will not let some ignorant, thoughtless cad ruin my practices ever again; he can go f**k himself 1000x over. 

Yep, I got this. Good thing my mental whiteboard has unlimited markers in rainbows of colors.

 

Training #16 – Just give me a reason

Thursday – really this time – and training with J. Today we ventured outside the little room where we typically work and into the main floor of the gym and a cable machine. We have used similar machines in the past, and I have been preparing myself for this new step in training. Honestly, it has been a transformative journey with J, and possibly I am among his the more neurotic in his stable of clients. From getting myself through the front doors of the gym for our sessions to becoming consistent about practice in body fit training room and now today out onto the main floor, it has been a bit of a weird journey. Previous outings with the cable machines have been okay, but not really my favorites. Today I was ready to move ahead and step outside my comfortable box, and I will be testing my resolve with practicing out there on my own tomorrow and maybe this weekend. I can do this.

And it is a good transition for me. We did nothing especially new today – just about everything is stuff done previously with bands or dumbbells or TRX or some combination of all that equipment. The people coming to and fro, using the other half of the cable machine or the machines around me did not bother me in the slightest. Because I did not have to actually move machine to machine to machine and could stay rooted using the same half, I felt a lot more secure in not displacing or inconveniencing anyone else. Progress.

What we did today (there are likely better names for them):

Straight arm pulldown
Row
Single arm chest press
Tricep pushdown
Facepull
Side-to-side shoulder thing
Curl

Overall, a really good session on upper body stuff. As I said, I will test drive this program again tomorrow and add the lower body sequence to make a complete program. Part of that will also be doing a gut-check on my nervous system and ability to work in the larger areas of the gym with the bigger pieces of equipment. While I feel pretty confident, I am unlikely to know for sure until I actually get out there and try it on my own.

I really don’t measure my progress with the exercise and eating except when it comes to health markers like medications and blood tests. However, I know my progress from training with J is evident in a myriad of unexpected ways since we began last summer. As the sessions and weeks have passed I have emerged from my cocoon of insecurity and fear into a stronger, more confident place. I am less likely to freak out about new stuff, although the clanging of weight plates still tends to startle me and perhaps always will. And at first I wondered if it was because we review and practice and reorder and review, and of course that is part of it. However, I am reluctant not going to minimize the amount of simple growth as a person I have achieved in these months of training and practicing on my own.

Looking back on prior cable experiences, I was coming off my first ever plantar fascia event and the cable machines alleviated the foot loading. Then we went to sleep on cable machines for several months until we explored the FreeMotion machine upstairs for the first time. Sometimes I fear J is actually reading my mind, because earlier this week I was contemplating taking a run through that routine again. I sort of cooled on that machine because there is only one in the gym and every time I happened to be upstairs it was in use, but that was also right after the first of the year and the influx of new memberships. And then last night he asks me how I would feel about revisiting cable machines. Why I feel SWELL about the idea (said without the slightest trace of sarcasm).

So I recognize, again, that my experiences are different as the weeks pass. I still find the heavier equipment room a lot intimidating, but less so than when I first started. Doing time in the gym itself has worn a comfortable groove in my nervous system and I feel more and more personally productive on my better health quest.

There is that, the physical getting stronger and more confident of moving weights to and frot. It’s real and I am very pleased to have stuck with it and kept my eye on a future of doing more with my daily practices. Doing tricep presses this morning J pointed out that I have this little crease in my upper arm. When did that happen? Like M’s comment about my hamstrings starting to pop, I was surprised. There is definitely a little crease there and significantly less jiggly batwing stuff going on with my arms. I am not yet ready to declare victory over batwing fat, because I can still feel some when I press my fingers against the inside of my arm, but I am closer and closer every day to eliminating that.

But more than the shape shifting of my muscles and growing more comfortable being in the gym, the impacts of working on quieting negative girl and rebuilding myself with TM is beginning to take shape as well.

Mentally, emotionally, I am not sure I would have been ready to broach the self-esteem topic with TM at this time if I had not done some ground preparation with the exercise. I do not know that I would have had the wherewithal or the ability to cope. For me, it has always been an exercise in not taking the work so personally, to not dive down the rabbit hole and cower at the bottom with the voices in my head playing at highest volume possible. I would start out feeling personally attacked and criticized before we even got started trying to unearth and heal the ick that makes me feel lower than toxic waste about myself.

Yet here I am, going in and talking, thinking about things and working it out, in as tiny little spoonfuls as it takes to get stuff done. Every week has been challenging in its own ways, but this week felt like the worst to date. Yet I feel fine, maybe better than fine. I feel like I am in a good headspace to absorb today’s new lessons and not be wigging about working somewhere new and less familiar within the gym. I enjoyed the session time, enjoyed the cable machine, and am really looking forward to trying again on my own tomorrow. I recognize my own habitual tendencies, of course, and may have to either move to another part of the gym or bide my time until that particular cable machine becomes available to me. Or not.

But I do not feel at all sad, depressed, angry, or even approaching a funk from the tougher day with TM this week. Work is still insanely busy. I am wrestling with a new eating plan, and I feel pretty calm and open-minded about the process. If I stick to just counting and tracking the protein and non-plant based carbs consumed, my tendency to become overwhelmed with minutia can stay unengaged. I prepared food last night, figured out a rough idea of what I would eat through Sunday, and barring any major process failures (i.e., new pork tenderloin recipe I tried last night is terrible and entire roast must be snuck out and fed to the neighbor’s dog), this should not be that bad. It just seems like A LOT of food to eat right now, but maybe it’s just the appearance spread out across the containers and when all mixed together it won’t look quite so voluminous. The food tracking app I used (myfitnesspal) to figure out the protein counts indicate it’s not bad for calories. For the record, it was not like this big gigantic salad once all the moving parts were assembled and I was able to comfortably finish it.

In other words, new things that typically freak me out are not raising much of a ripple. Maybe it’s because I have had a few months to get to this point about food. Maybe there is happy air still being piped into the gym. Or maybe I am just in an overall healthier state.

In our free-range conversation this morning J and I got onto the topic of depression, anxiety, and the medications prescribed to handle such situations. I have not taken antidepressants in a number of years, and I am glad to be fortunate enough to not have the type of serious anxiety and depression symptoms that require that kind of therapy. That said, I have had my share of funk throughout the course of any given year. My ups would be good, my downs would make me feel as if the world should truly be ending for me. Since I began sharpening my focus with daily exercise and getting adequate amounts of regular sleep, my funks have been fewer and less awful for me. The Very Bad Incident notwithstanding, emotional moodiness has improved dramatically. I just feel like a more balanced, happier, positive person. Previously, I was a pretty positive person about most everyone else but me; not I can usually include me in the equation of what I have to be happy and feeling good and positive about.

Work/life balance and stress is ongoing, and I am starting to recognize that I may have to moderate my give-a-shit settings about certain aspects to succeed in doing better in this area. Our contractor got back to me this morning about start dates for the deck, and some tension will leave once that project is concluded. Same with C’s courthouse wedding in April and the bbq at her future in-law’s home. Between now and then, I am quite sure my household reorganization and decluttering need not be first and foremost in my mind. I have prioritized my exercise and now my eating for non-working schedule, but the rest of my stuff on the lists in my head can wait and be ordered and reordered in priority as work and better health goals change.

Without really planning to think about it, I am lately contemplating a future with weights and cardio and all things fitness and exercise. Nothing concrete, no particular plans to pursue something more specific, but my core group of uber supportive cheerleader friends have some influence over my thinking and what else I might want to explore and they all have their own ideas and biases. For the purposes of at least the first half of 2016, though, I will likely confine my ponderings to  simply staying consistent with gym visits for exercise and figuring out how to eat more protein.

A good day, a good session. We stepped outside where I am most comfortable and until just now, when I realized I have not thought once about the “I did this and did not feel like I was going to die” I have not had a single anxious thought about any of it. Tiny little baby steps of progress, but I’ll take it. Happily.

Recovery road – feeling blessed, lucky, and intensely sick

It feels as if this Very Bad Incident will never leave me, and yes, I know it has not even been a week and I should be patient. Poor M about got his head handed to him this morning (in the police department’s visitor parking lot no less) for very kindly and gently suggesting I try to cut myself some slack on putting this behind me. My relief at knowing the bad men were jailed on another offense has turned to horror today.

Today I had an appointment downtown to see if I could identify the men who accosted me. Having never before had a reason to visit the local police department, I was not sure what to expect and was rather relieved to find it was nothing like what you see in the movies and TV. The police department seems very much like any other government office with uniforms everywhere. From the security staff on everyone we met was very courteous and kind to us, although I did wonder if my fidgeting made me look guilty of something. M had to finally hold onto both my hands to keep me from shredding my cuticles in my fit of nervous anxiety.

The officers who spoke with us were very nice, explaining that my description of the men matched another report of 2 men arrested this weekend in the same general area. They showed me arrangements of photographs and I while I was pretty sure the ones my eye was immediately drawn to were correct, I looked at all of the photos carefully to be sure before making my final selection.

It was not until I correctly identified the 2 men in custody that they told me what they had done to warrant arrest. My description of the knife I was threatened with matched one found in the one man’s possession. That knife was also used in a rape and attempted murder of another woman on Saturday. She is still hospitalized because of her injuries, but she is expected to live.

The rest of what was said is kind of a blur and I am quite sure I was listening intently to what was said, but right now I cannot recall much of it. I know I read through the paperwork they presented, signed and dated where indicated, and thanked them for their time and the good work they do. Next I remember is passing a woman’s bathroom and bolting inside to vomit.

Sorry, TMI again.

Here I am, a couple of hours later, and I still do not know how I feel. Relieved? Lucky? Blessed? Laden with guilt? The last, definitely yes, and it is a type of survivor’s guilt. I have no idea what to do with it or how to deal with it. I am soldiering on, about to meet a client for lunch and act as if my mind is 100% focused on the business at hand.

No one deserves what that woman is enduring, and I truly hope she comes through this horrific experience okay. I know nothing about her and can find no reports in the local newspapers about what happened. What I was told about her injuries was very general, yet it is enough for my mind to fill in the blanks.

This experience is so horrid, and I feel … simply awful. And fortunate, lucky, blessed. I am grateful and thankful to be unharmed. If I truly believed in them, I definitely say I had some sort of guardian angel watching out for me. But then that opens the whole quagmire of why me? Why was I spared and another not? What makes me more deserving than someone else?

I do not want to go there, further open the confetti cannon of emotions that are now flying all over inside my heart and mind. Both feel like they are about to explode from overload.

No one ever says life is fair. I just happened to land on the side of good fortune this time. And the complexities of my thoughts and emotions are like a philosophical debate that could spiral on into infinity.

I was lucky, she was not. I need to just leave it at that right now. And breathe … just keep breathing.

So glad to be meeting with therapist TM in a few hours. Hopefully he has some wisdom or practical advice to help me sort out and make sense of what seems to be the unsortable.

The recovery road

I woke up this morning and about had a panic attack. My phone said 4:45, and I in my half-tablet valium drugged sleep I had either turned off my 4:30 alarm or simply forgot to set it and I have a 6:15 appointment with J and was now off to a late start. Shooting out of bed, my thoughts racing, my head full of recrimination and worry that I would not get through my warm-up before our session start time and all that meant to me, I was fully dressed, testing my blood sugar when I looked at my meter and realized …

It’s only Sunday.

Checking my phone, my alarms are set and are fine. Sunday it does not go off until 6, and even then there’s no big rush because there are no classes on Sundays in the area where I typically use.

I am an idiot. But apparently an idiot whose head and emotions are on the road to recovery, because my hyper-responsible self is kicking in and taking over, even if she apparently is unaware of how to read or utilize a calendar.

Last night, a police officer called to notify me the bad men who had threatened and tried to hurt me had been arrested on another, similar crime, which chilled me to the bone. They are presently tucked away in jail. I do not have the details of their new crime, what that means to me, or why it made me feel scared all over again, but it did. Hence the valium to calm my thoughts enough to sleep. Today, after my false alarm panic about being late for my training appointment, I am still scared yet less so. My anxiety about the unknown, what happens next, what my role will have to be, is familiar to me and understandable. I can mostly cope with that.

I will be heading to the gym soon. Sadly, I have barely touched the Lists from last Thursday. I improve when I practice, but my head is such a mess that I do not want to have to work at trying to master the new exercises or refine my technique at the older ones. I am returning to recent Lists that offer feelings of competency and that make me feel better and stronger. My head is such a mess and become this excuse manufacturing plant as to why I should cancel sessions next week. Slippery slope, that. Cancel once because of anxiety it becomes all too easy to stop going completely.

Crazy brain is waging a hard battle for complete control.

Truth is I feel so weakened and I cannot even rationally explain why. The scene replays in my head and leaves me feeling … guilty. And ashamed. Like I should have handled it better. M reminds me that anything like that where I am physically unharmed is absolute proof that I handled the situation correctly. The battle between the rational and the irrational is normal for me, and the voices whisper that I should not have put myself in such a position in the first place and deserved the threat of if not the actual act of bad things befalling me.

I hate those voices. I have long wondered if there is some surgical way to physically remove that slice of my brain that broadcasts along with its volume control. Or maybe just install a permanent mute button.

Time passes so slowly when trying to repack emotional baggage. Or so it seems. It is accurate to say that I am not having fun in dealing with this situation and its aftereffects. And I am also not helping myself by obsessively reading everything that I can lay hands on regarding crime victims, fear, anxiety, and coping; it just makes me even more anxious, fearful, and wondering why I ever need to leave the safety of home again.

But I do leave the house alone and go about living my life, even if I sometimes have to grit my teeth and force myself to do it. While I have yet to yield to the temptation, knowing Baskin Robbins does not deliver forces me to evaluate the consequences of becoming a hermit. Plus I feel better about me resisting the allure of that particular temptation.

Progress.