It’s been a week

This week, this WEEK. It’s been up, down, all around. I am not coping in the most stellar manner, and it leaks out in the weirdest ways.

I have touched upon it in the past, but I had a horror-filled childhood with significant trauma from sexual abuse. I rarely write about it and never in a lot of detail, because I simply cannot go there. If I let go of the safety net that keeps me on this safe side of my mind and memories, I have paralyzing fear of what will happen to me. I foresee a kind of madness for which there is no recovery.

So I do not really talk about it. Periodically, if I am disturbed and on edge and feel that creeping into my consciousness, I have to book some time with TM to talk me away from the edge of the cliff so I do not start staring into the dark abyss and contemplate jumping into it. I would be lost. Once upon a time, in the darkest times of our marriage, M unskillfully pushed me to try and talk about it. It was nearly the undoing of our marriage and pushed me to a point of hatred for him that I did not even consider myself of feeling. Recovery from that is part of what makes our marriage better and stronger. Neither of us ever forget how awful those months working through it.

It occurs to me fairly routinely that I’m fortunate to be here, still standing, and pretty well insulated and safe. From myself. From my past. From a history that should never have been written. I have no illusions about how unpriviledged my upbringing or how broken and incapable my family of origin, and I completely feel the limitations of my own emotional range. My life works as well as it does because I work at it. Every single day I have to make choices and do some level of work to strike the right balance between two extremes. Honestly, I do not see myself as unusual in this characterization of life and living, but I do feel handicapped in some areas other people take for granted.

My bias against those with entitlement or similar inclinations is pretty strong. The princess complex, as I think of the female of the species who are spoiled and want what they want and typically get it because of their physical beauty, is a huge blindspot for me, one I have to consciously battle to restrain assumptions based on facts not in evidence.

I may have a similar chip on my shoulder about those crying “poor me” about the state of their lives and blaming their upbringing for their lack of success or unwillingness to make the sacrifices and do the work to improve their circumstances. The cycle of poverty is a symptom of a malaise in our society and there are no easy answers or solutions to overcoming it. However, not excusing ourselves from taking more responsibility for our lives is a start and a step in the right direction.

Sometimes I wonder if it is simply my generation that leads me to such impatience with those who spend most of their time weeping and wailing rather than trying to make small changes that will improve their lives. This is where I know my feelings are not completely functional, because I know how crummy I felt inside for too much of my life and yet still managed to take care of myself and my family. I look at my upbringing, I look at how destroyed I was and wrecked I remain from the weight of those emotional scars and wonder why I am a productive member of society and others are sitting around wringing their hands in angst and distress and making excuses about how awful their lives. I want to react with sympathy, I want to be compassionate, yet much of the time inside I am screaming “shut the f**k up and get some professional help to grow up.”

I guess I wonder how far we should reach out with sympathy and compassion. Depression and anxiety are real afflictions for many people, and I do not want to be a jerk about accommodations for such conditions. But there has to be balance, a tipping point.

Except I feel too strung out with my own history to be a rational judge.

It comes up this week in particular, with a child committing suicide and wrestling with an emotional distress issue in an employee and trying to oversee our current recruiting campaign. Thus far this week I have met with three candidates with strong resumes and yet seem to be suffering from some sort of personality disorder in face-to-face meetings.

Like so many posts, I am simply trying to sort out my own thoughts. Mostly, I think I am frustrated with those who have expectations of obtaining something unearned. Natural talent is rare and most of has have to work hard to earn whatever it is we are seeking, and sometimes that involves swallowing our pride and sense of self and just doing what is necessary to remove or dismantle the obstacles in our way, whether it is bad things befalling us in childhood or the shit work in our jobs to get to the next raise or the general education to get a college degree or having a conversation with firm administrator – not an attorney peer – when seeing an attorney position in a law firm.

Days like today, weeks like this one, I am weary of being underestimated or my conscientious efforts to do better, be better minimized in the face of someone else’s ambitions.

I also recognize this … stuff … comes from no one I care much about and whose thoughts and opinions should not impact me. Unfortunately they are still people I have to deal with on some level or another and their clones are everywhere. It is just tiresome.

At the same time, I am grateful for the bland normality of my life and times. Living the dream? Oh my yes. From where I started, I never anticipated, nor did anyone else in my family of origin, ever imagine me achieving this or any other level of success in life.

I wonder if that chip, and the lingering resentment it instills when faced with similar attitudes and projections, can be surgically removed? Today I might seriously consider it.

Training #95 – Best day of my life

Thursday morning, training with J. And I confess – I have this doomsday clock countdown going on in my head realizing that his well-deserved holiday break is 2 weeks away and we are down to 4 sessions remaining in 2016. Okay, so maybe doomsday clock is a bit (okay, maybe way over-the-top) melodramatic, but I am cognizant of another year concluding. Thinking about it, there is no sadness, doom, or gloom about it; the calendar is winding down on 2016 and the new year will begin. This is also no hurry-rush-push to end the year and start fresh with a new calendar. If anything, 2016 has been a deeply satisfying year for me; I got a lot of shit done.

But here we are, at training session 95, and honestly, I am amazed that I have stuck with the weekly recaps this whole year. Granted, there are still 4 left to call this year a complete success, but I am engaged and in enough of a well-worn groove to be confident that I will not falter and fall off the recap wagon now.

What We Did

Lower body review day today, and anyone who has read even a couple of these entries knows I love review days. Okay, being fair, I love all training days, but review days do not bore me or feel like anything other than lots of opportunities to ask questions, discuss techniques less traveled, or just learn more about the why of it all. After almost 18 months of training with J, the method behind the master plan is still shrouded in misty cloud. And I’m okay with that. We talk about a lot of stuff, much of it even training and exercise related, and retaining everything is just not happening for me. Hence my love of review day. Here’s our List today, although we skipped the D block due to time constraints:

A1  1-legged Leg Press

B1  1-legged RDL (DB, KB, or Cable)
B2  1-legged Machine Hamstring Curl
B3  Stability Ball Glute Bridge
B4  SB Hamstring Curls

C1  Quad Extensions
C2  DB Power Squats
C3  Bodyweight Bulgarians

D1  Adductor Machine (skipped today)
D2  Abductor Machine (skipped today)

How It Felt

I was mostly engrossed in our conversation and trying hard to stay present with the exercise and hopefully within the ballpark of rep counts and was not paying much attention to the weights used. On top of which, I am learning in my travels to and from the cable machines that they all feel different. Setting one on 30 does not necessarily mean the one around the corner set at 30 is going to feel the same way. Then there the fancy smancy (and much loved) Freemotion machines upstairs – I don’t even know what their weight plates mean. My point here, there is no apples to apples comparison. And in truth, it barely registers to me. As long as I feel in the ballpark of some work in the muscles that should be working I call it good.

The leg press machine, I wonder why I do not do more 1-leg presses. Or even 2-leg presses; that machine quite literally kicks me in the ass, and I still feeling it hours later. On the list, set/rep range is 5 to 10 sets of 10 reps/side, which gets to be a lot. I lost count of sets after about 5 or 6, so I know it was well within the 5 to 10 sets range. And it felt amazing. Which could be indicative of the need to use weightier weights – I typically use 150 lbs., but today started at 130 (set myself so I do remember that one) because I haven’t been on this one in what seems like a very long time. It’s very hypnotic to sit there alternating between watching your foot press the plate and the keeping an eye on the weight stack to ensure it drops not quite to the bottom and complete rest.

Former arch nemesis, 1-legged Romanian deadlift with the cable, is improving. Every time we do these, I learn a little more about the “shape” of the exercise that helps with balance and feeling the muscles work harder and more productively. I know to keep my shoulders and spine straight, but knowing and doing while trying to stay balanced on one leg can be a tall order for me. But we went over it again today, and I must say the new cue about the stationary/grounded foot hip pressing forward while elevating the torso helps. While we have had this cue previously, I always think about the leg descending at that hip pressing forward. Yes, that makes some sense as well, but from a balance/working muscles perspective the new clue cue today focuses me more clearly on my objectives.

While I really like it, the 1-legged machine hamstring curl is hard. It just is not natural for me to try and lift a cable weighed down with 30 lbs. (I think) by bending my knee. Plus, this machine is tricky on the set-up, and when I am on my own, if it takes me 5 (or more) tries to get it right then that’s what it takes. Today was not bad – only had to adjust the kick pad. But I always have to adjust it, then climb in and get situated with the weight before starting. But anyway, it is more complicated to set-up, but once there it goes pretty well. Except it’s not natural behavior and I have to really focus, dig deep to make my rep count. I’m trying very hard not to rest mid-set, but sometimes there is no other way to get it done. I will get over it.

Oh me and the stability ball have this long and checkered history. From my days of referring to it as an “instability” ball to now when we are mostly friends, I still have my reservations about it. Into this comes the stability ball glute bridges, which are not terrible, not horrible, and should not be all that challenging. The glute bridge was on the very first PT Basics A or B Lists this time last year, yet it feels as if I have not made that much progress in a year. Key word here: feels. Truth is I am sure I have, but maybe I just do not like them all that much. I watch J demonstrate and think my hips are not as flexible or elevate that way. With my current obsession with exercise shapes, I understand where this feeling emanates. Still hard to shake, even if I understand its root cause. Only thing I can do is practice them more, do my best when they appear on Lists. I will get better; my shape in this exercise will improve.

Into this mixed feelings about the stability ball in general comes the stability ball hamstring curls, and again, my shapes need some work toward improvement, even if could be primarily in my own head. I do dislike these things – they are a huge challenge – while at the same time they are effective as well. More than anything, I will continue to pursue regular, consistent practice at these to improve my technique. Maybe then they will become less of a genuine pain in my ass. Okay, not really … but I associate them that way because they appear on lower body glute-focused Lists that usually do result in tight and aching sit muscles.

The quad extensions machine is another one of those complicated machines with little adjustments necessary besides just setting the weight. While intellectually I understand what is necessary and should be done, there is something in lizard brain that rebels and freaks out with the idea of it. Still, I will persevere and not let the lizard brain win this round. Once I get past the brain meltdown over the complications of this machine, I go along just fine. It’s not the easiest or most natural feeling exercise, but I know what needs to be done, how it should feel (quads – burn -check). I just have to overcome the initial intimidation and make it work for me.

The dumbbell power squats are a staple. I realized awhile back that I now know a few ways to do squats, but these power squats are still a bit unique with the weightier weights we utilize. Today’s big reminder was not slow-slow-slow on the descent, up like a poptart in the toaster, and keep those shoulders back and the spine tall. Seems so much easier and nicer to roll the shoulders forward. So I mostly got this – slow-Slow-SLOW on the descent, pause 2 seconds, pop up, shoulders back, spine straight. Yep, along with the “butt back” on the slow-Slow-SLOW descent portion, this is pretty much the sound track in my head. Unless my palms and hands get tired of holding 30 lbs. of dumbbell and want to just let them fall, at which time we mind starts projecting “grip tighter, grip tighter” alerts as part of the soundtrack.

Once upon a time, I did the bodyweight Bulgarian split squats daily as part of my warm-up. They they became less of a thing in favor of other warm-up activities. I think it may be time to bring them back a few days per week. Not that I am faltering failing, but just because I feel sort of stiffly awkward with these, especially when using the quad extension machine as the foot elevating holder. I know how these work, how they are supposed to feel, but I felt a little out of practice after months of doing at least 10 to 15 per side just about every day. For the last set J added the offset weight, just an 8 lb. dumbbell, and boy howdy does that make a difference in how much I felt them. All good, but I feel I could do better. I will do better. I did not work so hard on these for so many months to feel as if I have given up some hard-fought ground only to have to learn the balance and how painful these bad boys can be when sitting idle for too long.

Key Takeaways

Occurred to me this morning that review days are not that involved or exciting for J, but not every session can be amazing and exciting glitter-bombs of discovery and new beginnings. Still, it’s so much fun just running along through a List I am familiar with and always coaxing some new kernel of information from it. Whether it’s shoulders behind the ears on the power squats or what the grounded side hip should be doing on the Romanian deadlift, I learn something new or remember something I have somehow forgotten with each and every review day.

I have come a long way since this List first became a thing in October, yet I still feel there is a lot more practice to be done with it, a lot more to learn. Then again, and this has been a gradual process and realization for me, that perfection is an impossible bar that remains comfortably out of reach, just like the average unicorn. But sticking with practice and staying consistent with the gym and the Lists means I stay closer to the good enough standard I have set for myself. And while that may sound sort of pedant and mundane, it is important to me to stay the course with regard to practice.

Funny thing about regular practice: I rarely get frustrated with exercise anymore. Being bored, distracted, or tired is common enough and I have developed my own skills in overcoming each. But frustrated rarely happens. I find that my exercise knowledge has expanded and my abilities increased to a point where I am stronger and can substitute if something is just not working on a particular day or List.

Part of the reason I genuinely enjoy review day is that it helps me remember where I have had issues, why I may set aside a List in favor of another that I feel more confident about and competent with. Another part is its an opportunity for me to explore and appreciate my own progress, however great or small. Thing is, I do make progress. I am getting better and stronger, and equally important, I feel so superior than I did even a year ago. Depression? Funks? Reflective states? Of course they still happen. However, the regular exercise and my elevated level of fitness has done so much to improve my overall mental health. Granted I start from a baseline neutral, where I do not suffer from any sort of medical issues that cause depression or anxiety or other mental/emotional health conditions, but being overweight, being insulin-dependent diabetic, the ways that being less fit and healthy drag me to edge of sadness is not to be discounted. I now know enough people who have stepped away from their own emotional ailments by working at improving their overall health through diet and exercise to recognize that it is a real thing.

The holidays are hard for so many folks, and even M and I are not immune. My daughter and son-in-law are on the road for their new home and next chapter in their life clear across the country, and it has it’s own emotional challenges for me even as I am happy for them. Change is not always easy to accept. One of my very dearest friends has struggled with a serious health condition that continues to plague him and concern me, even though I believe he will overcome and be better. Home for Christmas? Maybe not, and it saddens me. However, sacrificing one holiday now for many, many into the future is well worth it. But I’m selfish enough to admit I wish he were for sure able to come home for even a brief visit, if only to reassure myself that he is improving and will soon be completely well again.

But my issues are small ball issues, and I think them through, work them out every morning in practice. Or in the evenings during yoga class. I write my pal a note every day, filled with boring and mundane details of our life. M sends regular texts and missives as well. It makes little sense to anyone else, but for me it’s hugely comforting to write down the minutia and share it. Every Monday, every Thursday I train with J I send a text from my car in the parking lot of the gym, giving a quick and happy response to whatever we happened to do that day. To anyone else it is weird and maybe even a little (or a lot) off-beat, but beside M, he is such a huge cheerleader for my fitness efforts. I like reminding him how much he matters to me and to others, to keep his sometimes flagging spirits from leaning toward permanent deflation.

My point here is – the regular exercise has changed my life in so many big and little ways. I am still not a morning person; if not having to get to the gym at my preferred time I would happily sleep until 7 a.m. every day and even later on weekends. As it was this morning, I felt less perky than usual in our session this morning for lack of my usual caffeine boost. Every morning I drink a protein shake boosted with amino energy powder, which is kind of fancy smancy caffeine infusion, only I allowed myself to run out. The horror! I know, I know – me and my first world problems. Thank goodness for Amazon prime and the very fast shipping.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I love success stories. I love when other tribe and gym members make big or small strides toward goals or just improvements in their technique and exercise mastery. Even on days like today, where I feel kind of tired in the nicest possible way and feel no new wowy-zowy breakthroughs, I am delighted others are doing well.

And in truth, I am equally delighted that I am doing this well as well. Once upon a time, I would be feeling depressed and anxious that I did not have some success to write about. Anymore, I can appreciate the simplicity of having a good week. I am making tiny step progress toward my focused List – of late it has been the dumbbell matrix that is more cardio intensive. Some of the movements seem to require more coordination that my brain can process gracefully, so what does not come naturally must be practiced until it feels like an accurate mimic of gracefulness. And again, every day i get up and get myself into the gym is a good day, one more thing crossed off my to-do.

When J demonstrates or I see others in the club doing exercise I struggle or have struggled with, I no longer wonder what is wrong with me that I struggling. Anymore, my admiration for their efforts has taken over any inward negativity, and I am relieved that I can be a big enough, grown-up enough to accept the different waypoints on individual journeys. My pathway is my own, and its got piles of glitter along the way from prior wins and steps up, steps forward.

More than the little lines and creases I celebrate and ask my husband repeatedly if he notices (he does … at this point how could he not? *laugh*), I genuinely appreciate my mental and emotional gains from the routine. While I think about the long game, what I will be like at 60 or 70, I do not imagine myself sitting around waiting to die. This was not the way I felt 2 years ago before I started, but I was sort of resigned to never being an athletic sort or someone with health-minded hobbies. Now it seems that’s a lot of what I discuss with friends and associates at work, partly because they are all young and active when not strapped in behind their desks, and partly because it is where life and its focus seems to find us right now. The ladies I work with and walk with regularly – we are always discussing the diet trends, the newest books, cookbooks, recipes, eating plans and programs. I learn a lot from them, even if I do not follow the same guidelines or like the same types of food. Same with the fitness reading and listening I do; it expands my horizons.

I am plowing my way through a list of business and marketing-related books clients and peers have or are reading, because it intrigues me on some level. I feel so far behind the times, working with young, hipper, scary smart folks, yet it is good to be excited and invigorated to follow along and see the world from their perspective. I like being able to relate … eventually … with what they are doing, thinking, talking about. I am not their peer nor would I ever want to be again. Just like with my kids, though, I like to have a general grasp on what their interests and things they follow in their own realm.

To have a good attitude – I never truly realized how poor my inward attitude was until it improved. I have all sorts of reasons, all kind of backstory that supports my flawed reasoning and skewed self-image, and healing those breaches will be an ongoing effort that will span my lifetime. Thing is, what I was accepting as adequate and enough was neither. A little (okay – a LOT) of hard work and I could have more, and I do have more. But strangely, the work does not seem so much effort anymore. New stuff, sure – lots of energy expended in the learning, adapting, mastering, perfecting. And then you set that aside for a little while and start a little farther up the learning curve when you return to it. This is where my improving outlook has gotten me – to understanding that the learning curve is not so steep the second, third, or twentieth go-round with something I learned a year ago.

I continue writing my own success story – one line, one paragraph, one post, one chapter at a time. And there will be no epilogue or final credits rolling anytime soon.

 

 

Calorie massacre

September is a mess with eating. Just eating – not much “healthy” in the personal fuel consumption. I did a quick estimate of my consumption (then added at least 10% per day, because estimates are typically low) and found it was very unpleasant. Which is why I have this love/hate relationship with MyFitnessPal and other calorie and nutrient counting apps.

But I knew that. The Wedding and its socializing. Stress, work, time off – these things tend to derail the predictability of my daily habits. We leave tonight for vacation, and since we will be at an outdoor event for 5 days, there is a little “healthy eating” food to be found at the food trucks and standard vendors. Lots of things like burgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza, chinese food, funnel cake, beer, etc., but no salads I would eat. My best bet is a burger stand run by an aviation boosters group, sun tea, and bottled water.

And to be honest, I can barely bring myself to care. My blood sugar during my daily checks has been within the normal ranges. However, it has been running higher because of the amount or crap, processed food I have been consuming.

It is not that I have fallen so far off the wagon or wandered off the reservation with my better health quest. In a way this is planned detour, in that I am not beating the crap out of myself for not doing a better job of controlling my food intake during these celebratory and relaxing times. Instead I understand that I am doing these things and feeling okay about it. I have no plans to eat this way forever and ever, and loaded in my kindle are more books on diet and exercise.

Better health and better habits are intertwined – I cannot have one without the other. This time last year, I worried a lot about returning to the gym. And at that time, during those vacations, I was doing little other than meeting with J once a week for our training sessions. This year, I am thinking about getting back home next week and getting back on track with normality. Where I get up and go to the gym, eat my usual breakfast, pack one of my normal lunches, eat the same meals for dinner for days at a stretch.

I am looking forward to returning to a boring creature of habit.

Maybe, probably I will kinda/sorta miss all the extra carby delights I have been consuming. Likely there will be some addictive withdrawal symptoms. But oh well.

We are now here and officially ensconced in our home away from home for the next 6 days. It’s fine, if you like hotels. While I have theorized in the past that there is some emporium that sells nothing but ugly bedspreads and drapes to hotel chains, there are not as horrible as many. The carpet is another matter entirely – ugly, ugly, ugly. We are at the end of a very long hallway, and I think if I am feeling energetic I could do the entirety of multiple sets of walking lunges down it and then collapse at the junction to the elevator. Mini band forward, backward, sideways walking – I have plenty of room to do all in a single out and back.

The fitness center – one of those resort perks I am required to pay $20.08 per day for – is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Being the early morning exerciser that I am, I am supporting the rest of the guests by paying my daily fees. Fuckers. Damn capitalist scum. My comment card is full of my strongly-worded opinions that they are damn capitalist scum. My online review will probably be even worse.

I am in quite the feisty mood at this start of a relaxing vacation, because I am typically the very nice one in the family. Must be the Nevada air, or being away from home, or being on vacation and leaving my pollyanna self at home. Who knows? Most probably I am just irritated by paying a fee that does not benefit me at all.

Between the walking to and from our room, climbing the stairs to reach our seats at Stead, and just all the walking around we do on this junket, I fully anticipate getting a good heavy hit of cardio these 5 days. So that’s something.

Hope you all are having a wonderful Tuesday. Not sure how much blogging I’ll get done while we’re here, but probably some minor missive dispatches each day. And relaxing. What is it about people telling you to relax and have a good time that immediately makes me feel tense and images of root canals floating through my head? Negative girl may not be a sealed off as I wish.

Clearer head, positive thinking

The last week has been okay to good. Nothing so stellar that I’m happy prancing in the streets, but a nice, steady drumbeat of life and living.

There is part of me that now feels like a slacker. The prior several weeks  have been so busy, hectic, crazy that to slow down to normal pacing makes me feel like I am not doing enough, going fast enough, trying hard enough. I am somehow not enough enough.

It is an illusion, my not doing, going, or trying. I am enough on all fronts.

But … and isn’t there ALWAYS a “but” in these type of posts? But I can and should will do better. The things the are first to slip away from me are frequently the most troubling – like watching my eating. Or getting enough sleep. Or not falling into a spin cycle over things I cannot control.

Despite working most of the day today, I took some time to refine my meal plans for the week, create a pretty detailed grocery list, and get the majority of my shopping done. Tonight I am primarily relaxing, but also waiting for laundry to finish so it can be moved from washer to dryer and I have a stack still to be folded and readied to put away.

The domestic chores never seem to end around here. But I’m sure that’s true of everywhere.

I have been pondering the unfriending of long-time friends. It’s so much harder than I ever realized, probably because it has never really occurred to me that I would have to manually take this step. Sure I’ve had friends I stop seeing or speaking to regularly throughout my life, and sometimes there is a specific reason for it but often it is just because priorities change and people drift away. This is the first time I have ever deliberately discontinued a friendship because of actions they have taken against me or behaviors I simply no longer tolerate.

It’s unsettling, to say the least.

Yet in the cold light of a Saturday, I don’t feel badly about it. Since I am not someone who throws old friends out of my life for minimal reasons, this choice was not made lightly. Looking back over other things the past few weeks, I now see the signs of stress.

While I have been going to the gym, practicing, and working hard. But I have been distracted as well, and not working hard enough. I don’t even know what I mean by that. I know my judgmental heart rate monitor is reporting my misadventures, yet I do not put much stock in its daily readings. I do, however, know how I feel, how internally and outwardly distracted I have been. The non-egregious falling off the good eating plan wagon. The practices that could be better. The workload pressures, the life stressors. I see it all and understand there is a lot on my plate; it’s pile so high stuff is falling down and littering the place mat beneath it.

Contrast the pre-2016 handling life’s ups and downs with present day, and I see such intriguing changes.

First and foremost, there is minimal amounts of freaking out going on over here. Today was jammed with work commitments, home commitments, blogging commitments. I understand the reasons for my stress and the breakdown of my focus and thinking, and I recognize it may take a few more days for things to settle down and back into my normal, stable routines. This very minor backslide is part of life; the sky remains firmly anchored when I looked earlier today.

Work is settling back into normal peaks and valleys. Tomorrow is back to pilates … maybe. Not sure yet. I may go to the gym instead, because I was just at pilates on Thursday. Eating – I have a plan. I do well on breakfasts, but rest of the day is hit and miss, usually miss. Convenience food, that carb-heavy easy to come by stuff, is terrible for me. Terrible! Makes me feel crappy and utterly gross. But it does not make me feel like a failure, a loser, or a really bad client. Mostly it makes me feel very human.

Negative girl is never going to be completely eliminated, and I accept that. However, mitigating her influence and keeping her confined to the tiny (and shrinking) corner of my head is an ongoing goal. Incrementally and as my life continues its ups and downs, I am managing better. I am not viewing my life in the same black-and-white terms anymore, including the friends I keep and those I have to let go. I will be back to my exercise in one form or another tomorrow, and I am doing the harder work to get my healthy eating back on track.

I am not the same woman I was last year. I have changed, and in so many ways I have had to make myself the priority and make it all about me. And I’m glad I finally had the courage and found the strength to take the tiny steps forward, to hire my village, to ask for help. It’s brought closer to some in my personal tribe, introduced me to so many new avenues of interest and hope within and beyond the training tribe.

And I’m grateful, not regretful. I choose my direction, my hopes, my peace. My life works well and I am surrounded by the best, highest quality people in all walks of life. These are very good things, for which I remain infinitely grateful.

Work related musings

My little self-employment business is nearing its first anniversary and thriving. However, because of my part-time job for the law firm, I am more of an almost-full-time entrepreneur. If I wanted to indulge my inner workaholic, I could be part-time employee and full-time-plus entrepreneur. But what would I cut? Time with M? Hanging out with friends? Family dinners? Gym? Reading? Blogging? Any other hobbies I may wish to pursue?

Money is not everything. I want to work to live, not live to work. I have done both and this work/life balance when it is done right is worth every single penny I am not earning. And I understand I can say that because I am comfortably compensated and meet my financial obligations and objectives. Not everyone is so fortunate.

The arrangement as it stands actually suits me very well, because I enjoy the interaction with my associates at the firm as well as the benefit structure and reduced costs for health insurance for M and I. While I am extraordinarily disappointed with my Kaiser experiences, it is/was good for me to go through the experiment and find that no, mass production medical care does not work out that well for special-snowflake-in-this-regard me. Being a diabetic is unfortunately a far too common problem, and I think for 90% of the diabetic patients out there Kaiser probably does as good a job or better as any medical bureaucracy as any other. For a diabetic who is trying valiantly to stay in good control of the condition and more wisely manage her overall health, Kaiser kind of sucks.

But I am grateful that the firm offers me very affordable health insurance, and when open enrollment comes around I will simply switch to a more expensive high-deductible HSA plan that allows me to see the private practice physicians I trust. When I went away from meeting my new doc yesterday, I was thinking it must suck these days to be a physician, especially a Kaiser physician. And I actually prefer to have my village staffed by starters who actually think about me, individual person, not be second string, check-box-that-seems-appropriate-for-this-situation type people.

Spoiled, I know. But at least I am honest about my expectations.

So for a part-time gig, I have terrific benefits from the firm. But while that was a big part of my decision to join them, it was not the only factor. I like the way the partners manage their business, the manner in which they do strive to offer their employers an intellectually stimulating and productive work environment with superior benefits and compensation. I really felt as if I were a good fit for their philosophy and the type of environment they wanted to craft, a place where people are encouraged to work hard and put in the hours as necessary to make the firm a success with a bonus structure to make the periodic work/life balance inequity tolerable.

For the most part, like 90% of the employees, I think the bosses are largely successful in their approach and management. However, there always seems to be some small minority of holdouts who want to bitch, moan, complain, or simply not participate in the culture of the firm. I find it peculiar, because from my experience and observations with other firms, requests and demands upon time are straightforward and fair. Yet always there is someone who will not participate because it is not mandatory – which is fine – and if it is mandatory then they whine because it makes for a long day or infringes upon their personal time or they just don’t want to and therefore should not have to.

To them I say … suck it up, buttercup. I mean, seriously – I do not particularly want to have an administrative meeting every month either, but it’s part of our firm’s culture that we come together and talk about all those pesky administrative and operational details. Because we all know how we suffer through these things, we bring food and drink. Granted it’s not the adult beverage variety, but we do what we can to make it tolerable.

For a small firm like ours, coping with the 10% minority is a fairly straightforward process – someone in management talks to them. Those who tend to complain, who wish to be outliers and only work as part of the team effort when it is convenient for them or under some sort of threat or other coercion, tend to either clam up, put forth a realistic complaint that can be addressed, or not last very long around here. My former receptionist is a terrific example of what I mean.

At least a portion of my office days are spent listening to someone talk about problems and issues with their jobs, relationships, lives, work/life balance, or all of the above. Big problems, little problems, issues of all shapes and sizes. Some of them are within my realm to resolve, some would need to be elevated for discussion, a lot are just people venting or blowing off some steam. I get it; I just happen to have a blog where I do the majority of my weenie-whining about my first world problems.

Earlier today I was reading a blog about a woman getting laid off from her job, yet immediately before that she was writing about expectations from the team she has been assigned to for the last 6 months and wanting to fly under the radar for a few more years until retirement. A lot of the first post was complaints about her large-scale corporate employer – meetings in other cities, long days with no compensation for an overnight stay instead of 3 hour drives on either end of a day of meetings, working remotely from the rest of the team and making little effort to participate in opportunities to meet with and integrate with them, etc. And the layoff was a surprise? In my opinion flying under the radar like that at a large organization makes you a primary target when cuts must be made. After all, unless your work product is uniquely spectacular and valuable to the organization, tolerance is limited for prima donnas.

I recognize my own bias and tolerance of what I consider penny-ante bullshit, and that particular brand of mindset is a big part of why I hope to not ever have to return to a larger corporate environment for the balance of my career. I like feeling as if my input makes a difference to my firm and directly to my clients in my self-employment gigs. I really do not want to be another nameless, faceless worker bee cog in a big giant corporate machine. Been there, done that, retired the t-shirt long ago.

As I am getting older and becoming more and more aware of the limitations and opportunities for someone in my realm of experience and maturity, I understand the frustration of my boomer peers when coping with the competition of millennials and their fresher, hipper, current outlook and experience. They feel undervalued, their experience now worthless. At the same time, I can see and feel the hubris when faced with a modern employment market. Quite frankly I am not certain I could compete these days, and the idea of it kind of terrifies me. I cannot deny thinking these sorts of thoughts, facing up the reality of these kinds of fears factored into my better health quest. It is bad enough being an older worker, but being a heavy, unfit older worker? Seems like the kiss of death for acquiring another position that I might enjoy.

I do consider myself quite lucky to have landed on my feet as I have. My law firm bosses are smart and thoughtful people, the associates – even those given to more frequent bouts of whining and complaining – are professional and seem to be very focused and into the work they are doing and their chosen career paths. As for my little business, it is about as big as I want it to be right now, yet it is still so hard to turn away new opportunities. My current strategy is to simply ask top dollar when it’s a small engagement that does not particularly excite me or for which subcontracting or referring to someone else is resisted by the prospective client. I have thought long and hard about hiring some help, but for the moment, I prefer the absolute control and perspective of being a solo operation. Essentially, I really do not want to supervise someone; reviewing the work done by the couple of subcontractors I use is more than enough.

But it is so hard not to just say yes to every little task. And turning away work is not because it feels too small or somehow beneath my skills and qualifications, but because I am seeking my own life/work balance and feel just slightly over capacity most of the time anyway and really pushing hard to stay ahead of the overwhelmed curve when a special project arrives in my inbox. While I enjoy the challenge of staying busy and the adrenaline rush that comes with a short-fuse deadline, it is truly no way to live 24/7. Pacing and balance are important in all things and not just my Lists of the day at the gym each morning.

I am actually in a bit of a cranky mood tonight, as M is miserable with some sort of ongoing back ache, will not reduce his high mileage days much less take a day off (and if you ever wonder why I am as persistent as I am about my own practice, this is the attitude I live with and yes, it influences me very directly). When M is miserable and hurting, I tend to be just miserable to some degree as well. He is not a good patient. He is short with a tendency toward biting (which I think of as the male form of bitchy). And while I am sympathetic and tolerant to a greater degree than usual, when I have had enough, I have had ENOUGH.

And that’s the phase of this that we are at right now. So reading stuff about getting laid off, how shocking it is, yet in the previous post complaining about the demands her employer was putting upon her … it is a huge challenge for me to muster sympathy and compassion.

I will be out of my snit with M soon, because I cannot stay irritated about this kind of small-ball stuff and just need a little room to bleed it off. But the rest of the world? I suppose I am pretty old fashioned in my belief in that if you are engaged and being paid to do a job, you do it, and if you really want or need to retain that job, you do it well AND you play nice with the rest of your team and the firm at large. Or you find another job, a situation this woman was forced into. Having had shitty jobs with awful bosses and coworkers, I understand not wanting to be there, do more than is absolutely necessary and clinging to her job description as support for that attitude. As someone who has hired and fired people throughout the course of her career – and has been fired myself from a job for not being quite grown-up enough to understand these basic requirements for paid employment – I know when it comes down to having to make cuts, it is not the minimalists I tend to retain.

Mind reminds me we have an extra early practice tomorrow, so time to power down. While I do not envision myself walking through the gym doors just after they open at 4:30, I am going to try to get there by 4:45. While it’s only about 15 minutes earlier than my lately usual start time, it sounds ghastly early.

 

 

 

Exercise love affair

Wednesday I had conversations with 2 different friends about diet, exercise, and my better health quest in general. You know, the stuff I post about ad nauseam here. Friend Elyse, who recently underwent weight loss surgery is having a difficult time motivating herself off the couch and doing the walking her surgeon and obesity doctor mandate as part of the process (and that she knew about well before the surgery). However much physical stomach shrinking goes on with the surgery, the mental and emotional battles with diet and exercise cannot be surgically altered. Thursday morning she sent me an email with this plaintive paragraph:

The 30 minutes of walking is depressing and hard to do on my own. How did you make yourself change your attitude and habits toward exercise? I can’t afford personal training.

I rarely offer any sort of advice here on the blog or in real life, merely relate my experiences and what is working (or not) for me. There are literally millions of blogs, articles, books, videos, television shows, and apps that offer all sorts of plans and ideas and suggestions. But her question got me thinking, and rather than include it with my latest epic training recap, I chose to put it into its own post.

When I began blogging, I went to great pains to reassure anyone reading this that I am not an expert on anything except my own head (and even that has required professional help getting here). And from my many posts on the village I employ, it should be clear that I utilized professional guidance to get here, luxuries out of reach to Elyse and others.

But thinking about her question, I believe that not having access to the professional village I have utilized is simply another excuse we allow ourselves to avoid the hard work that comes with change. I came up with what seems to be the short versions that catapulted me into getting started with exercise and maintaining my consistency.

  1. I made my health and controlling my diabetes a top priority.
  2. I accepted that exercise is a critical component of controlling my diabetes.
  3. I stopped making excuses and started making better choices.
  4. I make choices every single day about what is most important to me today.
  5. I do the work to implement my choices.

That sounds really simple, kind of harsh, and very much in line with the tough love approach I had to take with myself. And even still, it does not always work, hence my emphasis on what is my priority today. Self-sabotage, my old friend, is not part of my conscious decision-making process, yet I am still keenly aware of when I do it and can typically pinpoint why.

What I hear myself saying, over and over and over again, it boils down to personal responsibility. As compassionate as I am, as much as I might want to help others, I know what I can do for anyone is limited. Whether it is our weight or our strength or improving our health, we each have to do the work ourselves to make changes happen.

And this was my message to my friend Elyse: you have the resources available to you through the clinic that did your surgery and should be utilizing them. However, no amount of coaching and support from friends can do the walking or the exercise for you. Same is true of attitude. There are resources available to help you improve your outlook, but it is up to each of us as individuals to put forth the effort to help ourselves.

Yes, I have the luxury of support from trainer J, therapist TM, and dietician RD. Yes, I also have M, a founding member of my personal fan club, supportive family members, and a lot of other friends who have been where I was and are now where I may aspire to be someday. But at the beginning of every day, I still have to get myself up and into the gym or the yoga studio or out into the world and focused on getting some exercise. I am the one who decides if this effort will be a personal challenge to be conquered and celebrated or a slog to be endured until it finally, mercifully ends.

I am a pretty simple, direct person. I know there are a lot of other factors for many people – depression, anxiety, other physical/mental/emotional limitations. But if you are asking me how I got from point A (exercise-hating person filled with fear and negative emotions toward it) to point B (regular exerciser who looks forward to the time spent in the gym), this is what worked for me; your mileage may vary.

From personal and recent experience with this stuff, I know there is this big giant chasm of disconnect between deciding to make my health a priority and actually implementing that choice. There was a lot of dilly-dallying at first – for various reasons a month passed between our rejoining the gym and actually sitting down with trainer J to get started with training. From there, a few more months of dilly-dallying. We met each week, and I would either try to practice at home (hit and miss) or I would just not. Because exercise is hard, especially at first. It was pleasant learning new things, because J is a great teacher and coach, but it was not fun. The actual doing was difficult, especially on my own, and my resistance and fear inflated the negativity attached to the experience of trying.

Then there is the reality of a whole industry devoted to selling the idea that we can become fit and healthy with minimal sweat equity investment. And it will be EASY! We so desperately want to believe that, and when our personal results do not match the promised optimums, we try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. Anything and everything to avoid having to actually do the work involved with changing our lifestyles.

We are bombarded with the quick and easy solutions constantly, and when faced with our reality of walking 30 minutes daily or slogging through at the gym a few times per week, it is easy to become discouraged, disheartened, and depressed about our actual results from this tremendous effort. At first, I think I secretly wanted more kudos for my valiant effort and hard work, because I certainly did not feel like I was getting actual results from it. And the kind words of encouragement from my family and friends was like a drop in the ocean of endless insecurity and need. My negative mindset and attitude made it so easy to justify not practicing between sessions, even though my rational head knew that I needed to be in the gym more often to make change happen.

When I finally started making regular exercise a priority, I am never ever going to lie about how hard it was and how every single day I wanted to quit. There were buckets of sweat – from anxiety, from fear, and even some from actually exercising. There was blood – fell down and scraped myself up too many times to count. And the tears … oh yes, plenty. In frustration, embarrassment, and sheer upset about having to do this and feeling completely stupid and worthless because it was not easy or fun and I was hopeless at it. My litany of self-loathing was the bottomless pit of despair that would never be filled.

The daily choice became my reality check, the rubber meeting the road on the person I wanted to believe myself to be and the person who showed up in reality. Just because I faltered and fell flat today, tomorrow was a new day, a new opportunity to try again. I had to make this not be an all-or-nothing equation, or I would allow myself to fail. Again. So every day became a chance to restart the clock and try again. It became a battle with myself to not be a person of poor character who quit.

And I have stuck with it . For every time I shed frustrated tears, for every time I wanted to give up, for every time I thought about quitting because my freshest ouchie gave me a reasonable excuse, I have forced myself to keep going. Not because I am so courageous or so tough or even that I am trying to inspire/impress myself or others. I have kept going because that I did not want the alternative – staying on lots of medications because I am too lazy to fight the diabetes and for my better health while that opportunity still exists. Framed that way, I would be deeply ashamed of myself and my level of personal integrity and character if I stopped without medically necessary reasons.

When I had my first little taste of success, it was such a shock of pure joy and amazement that good results were happening for me. It made me determined to stay the course, to keep doing what I could to improve my health. Because it was possible. Finally, I had proof of the things my doctors had been telling me for years. I suddenly felt like someone who could impact her health; I was no longer just a helpless victim to the eventual ravages of diabetes. My desire to be proactive in improving my own health became far stronger than my yearning to return my ass to its easy, well-worn place on the couch.

Success, I have found, is more intoxicating than anything else I could imagine. Maybe it’s the first pound lost, or the first time you can walk the same distance and feel as if you could go a little further. Or when your endocrinologist reduces your insulin dosage for the first time since he initially prescribed it. Whatever your objectives, the first milestone is huge.

Success, big or small, is/was the great motivator to improve my attitude and try harder to banish the negativity toward my efforts. It has made me less tolerant of abuse and sabotage, real or imagined, from outside sources and those inside my own head. When I started really listening to and believing the encouragement and compliments from my own tribe of cheerleaders and supporters I began to believe in my own success. And there is not a thing wrong with feeling good about your efforts, even if you walk away frustrated with things that vex and challenge. Tomorrow is another day; take a time out and try again.

From where I am right now, staying off the diabetes drugs is the primary motivator for me, but I have also allowed my curiosity about exercise and fitness to blossom and grow. I have become fascinated with the how and why of things J teaches me or that other friends talk about, and from that my desire to know more has expanded and grown. Maybe I presently have zero desire to become a weightlifter, but the way they conduct themselves, the discipline and commitment required for their gains is intriguing. I genuinely enjoy training sessions with J – they are highlights of my weeks – and majority of the time I look forward to getting to the gym and going through my List of the day in practice. My competency has reached a level that I am confident in my ability to work at this stuff on my own now, although I promise there will be major kicking and screaming tantrums happening if anything disrupted my ongoing training sessions.

But for me, the truth behind my regular, consistent exercise habit is that I have no desire to tempt fate or test my body’s chemistry by slowing down my efforts and then waiting to see if my blood sugar can tolerate such a change.

While my diabetes control success has done more to keep me determined to continue to improve my lifestyle, I have had a lot of tiny little successes with the exercise itself that make me feel so much better. At first just easier to bear, because quite naturally as I grew stronger I became more competent with the movements. Then the allure of the next challenge captured me. I still have many, many days where I lose count and am happy to stop when I think I am close enough for government work, and it seems so perfectly normal and natural to me I had to establish new rules with myself to ensure I put forth appropriate and adequate effort. But honestly, when I started feeling competent and confident in my ability with the exercise, I began to enjoy doing them. Because finally, I actually could do them. Never underestimate the gratification that comes with showing improvement after many multiples of tries.

I did get tire of my own negativity and fear. Never mind what everyone else had to put up with from me; I had to find ways to turn shut off that negative noise. Yes, I had a therapist for that as well. But again, there are zillions of self-help articles, books, pod casts, youtube videos. And again, it takes deliberate and determined effort. Not quite the same as trying to exercise daily, but you have to decide that you want and are ready to commit to changes in your outlook. At first, I found complimenting myself competed with the earliest days of exercise on a toughness scale. Like everything else, it became easier and more natural and normal with practice. And it did wonders to break me of my self-depreciation habit. I no longer have to depend upon validation from others to make me feel good about my efforts, although I am always touched and thrilled when someone says nice things to or about me. When negative girl was in the wheelhouse, there are not enough compliments or kind words in the whole world to inflate my ego to normal size.

There is likely to be a different answer from every person who has transformed from a sedentary person with a negative attitude toward exercise to a regular exerciser who has fallen in love with movement for health and happiness. My friend Elyse was disappointed in mine, but I knew in advance I do not have answers for her. I believe she hoped I would have some simple mantra or platitude and a pair of ruby slippers I could share so she merely had to click her heels together to make her exercise depression dissipate. Of all the shoes I own – and it is a lot of pairs – I have no ruby slippers in my closets. Perhaps there is a Disney princess out there who has some magic to share?

 

 

Attitude, aptitude, altitude

Practice (as in gym, just for clarification) went really, really well today. I returned to upper/lower body sequences, using an older lower one (we refer to it as “Abel 30”) and a combination of 2 of the more recent advanced sequences for upper.

For perspective, the last time I did Abel 30 (at least a month ago), it completely kicked my ass. At that time after the third set I was lying on the floor sweating and breathing hard and thinking longingly of a shower and a nap, and not necessarily in that order. I recall doing 2 sets of upper body with the lightest weights possible afterwards without much enthusiasm and feeling so very tired when it was over.

Today, not so much. Today, I felt more like a student at Wonder Woman training school. A first year, first month student, but still – quite a change from the last time I went through this List. I was sweating and breathing hard, but after going through the 3 sets of lower body at a pretty brisk cadence, I was able to move through my 3 sets each of 2 different upper body sequences without any issues except for running out of available time. Frosting on the cake of that little victory, I felt fantastic. Energetic. Happy. Ridiculously excited for being so sweaty and gross. Finally I am getting what other people meant when they would say they felt great and energized after working out. For so long I wondered how they could say that when all I felt was (1) relief it was over, (2) that it was f**king hard, stressful, and exhausting, and (3) dear Lord, just kill me now. (The last was not every time, but frequently enough to be memorable.)

From there and in my meandering wanderings through blogville have me wondering – does my healthier attitude toward the exercise have a positive impact on my aptitude and abilities for it?

I have admittedly falling in love with exercise. What I did a few months ago, what I’m doing now – I am making incremental forward progress in so many surprising ways. Which I have discussed extensively on the blog. But it is growing more difficult to read certain blogs I loosely follow because of the near constant level of judgment, complaining, and overall whining. I understand venting – plenty of that going on around here. But when it’s several times per week, without any particular resolution or glimmer of an idea for change, it starts to bother me. Between that and the constant discussion of frugality, cutting expenses, saving money, and blame-shame about the spendthrift ways of others who may not be particularly frugal folks (present company included in that classification), I am nearing the point of swearing off personal finance blogs again.

Is there a better way to frame it? Can we bitch, moan, complain about traffic and other inconveniences of modern life without sounding so petulant and whiney? I know lots of people who waste money; M and I do as well from time to time. If it’s not your money, if I and others like me are happy with our level of spending and savings, if personal finance is just that – personal, why be so judgment and throw shade?

The healthier I become on all fronts, the more I step away from the negative girl mindset, the less patience and interest I have in things that used to hold meaningful dialog for me to some degree. I do not need constant influxes of insincere happy-happy-joy-joy, but I also believe that staying stuck in the mud of judgment, misery, impatience, and unhappiness is also a choice, occasionally an involuntary one at that.

I cannot change anyone except myself, and if I what I am reading and following gets on my nerves enough to write a post about it, must be time to vote with my touch pad and stop reading those particular blogs. Having gotten my blog start in personal finance, it feels like they are part of my reading roots and it has been difficult to completely break away.

Please don’t get me wrong – I love reading about someone scoring a great deal or having the good luck of finding a fabulous something in their travels through shopping for the wants and needs of life. I am just weary of reading about the lengths people go through to be frugal in all aspects of life, pay down their mortgage, increase their retirement contributions, and essentially feel superior about their financial stability and choices. Others are struggling, and I get that and understand the need to budget and be careful with their income. But it is rarely the lower income bloggers who annoy the living daylights out of me.

I strongly hope that I do not become that girl in the exercise realm as I move along. I feel so much better about this process, and I have worked hard to achieve this degree of competency. Just as I no longer compare myself to those exercising around me, I also do not judge them in their abilities or consistency practices. Because it’s not my place, or my style, and we who live in glass houses should never throw stones.

It brings me back to the original query for this post. Is my attitude better because my competency is increasing, or is my competency increasing because my attitude is better? I have no innate aptitude for exercise and movement; it has taken quite a bit of work to get to this level with so much yet to learn and master. Probably it’s one of those chicken-and-egg queries, and likely it does not matter much in the great big picture. It is true I am very engaged with my better health quest, particularly the exercise aspect of it. However, I am grateful that my practice now pays real dividends even I can see and feel and not pooh-pooh or minimize my own performance, and my attitude has improved in that I can recognize, accept, embrace, and celebrate those improvements. While it is really, Really, REALLY nice not to have J correcting me continuously or have the cues reworded and reworked to get the movement pattern set in my head, it is equally nice not to be fretting and worried about the List of the day every time I step through the gym doors.

I believe they call that confidence.

This week outside the gym there has been increasing frustration with poor behaviors and choices around me, that end up impacting me. Those things are impossible to ignore, yet not letting it drag me back to the depths or to negative girl’s doorstep has been surprisingly easy. I talk about it, sort out my thoughts about it, but I am not feeling overwhelmed or even emotionally engaged with the drama. It’s merely them, doing what they do, and me, doing what I must. I have some distaste and irritation about being put into such a position, but other than that, it does not engage my feelings. I like that. A lot. I will save my emotions and reactive impulses for things that matter to me, that make a difference or hold some value for me personally. Significant things that matter are fewer, and I am better in my ability to sort life’s wheat from its chaff.

And I really like that.