Choosing life – observations and takeaways from funeral services

Recently there were two deaths in client families: one lost his mom, the other lost his sister. I attended both services this week. How very different the contrasts in families and how life is celebrated and death is mourned.

First the sister, it was a life needlessly cut short. Her services were religious and somber, and while no one openly spoke about it, I have to believe her obesity had a hand in her death. For such a young woman (late 30s), a heart attack and then a stroke are not particularly normal circumstances or a natural cause of death. The very vague “she has health problems” explanation was essentially politically correct speak for preventable death. In my experience, when a person dies of cancer or waiting for replacement organ or genetic conditions, people are open that it was cancer or liver/heart/kidney disease/failure or something else for which there is only treatment, no cure. It saddens me, because it did not need to happen. And it’s difficult for me to equalize my sadness with my discomfort of my anger that what has happened happened. It hits far too close to home for me and my attitudes to be okay with passing my own sense of harsh judgment on this poor woman, even if it is 99% in my own mind. I have a pretty expressive face; I’m sure my thoughts were written plainly if anyone bothered to look closely.

The reception afterward was full of wonderful comfort foods and an entire table of homemade sugary goodness. I had a glass of water and escaped as quickly as I possibly could. That was Monday. I was back at work with them Wednesday and Thursday for a few hours each day, and their break room sweets are back in action. Ugh. The mom’s need to continue comfort herself by non-stop baking continues. I understand the poor woman’s grief – I am a mother who had to bury a child who died unexpectedly and way too young – but I foresee more preventable tragedy and health conditions in their future.

I find the whole experience disturbing, and I have reaffirmed my commitment that such a demise is not going to happen to me. Which chronologically impossible, as I  am already 20 years older than this young woman at her death, I still feel like I am too young to die of preventable causes right now at 56. If I have to do massive overdoses of sets of sit-ups, planks, push-ups, walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, dead tread pushes – essentially everything in my nemesis stable that I  have dislike-but-good-for-me relationship with – to remind myself what fitness costs and how sugar derails my efforts, that is what I am prepared to do. The dissonance in my own world from this event and the ongoing sugary fat foods being presented and softly pushed my way is at this moment far too much for me. My mind is so overwhelmed by the disconnect that I will fulfill my contracted commitments for this year (hopefully only another week) and then notify them by mail at the end of the year that they should plan on hiring another consultant next year.

If I am going to have my negative judgment gene engaged continuously, I am going to do my best to voluntarily separate myself from circumstances where I have no hope of influencing changes in behaviors.

Contrast that with Tuesday’s almost 3-ring circus memorial for another client’s hard-partying mother – it was stark. First, no religious ceremony or overtones. The celebration of her life included good food, better booze, music, laughter, funny and sad stories, and people being themselves and acting naturally. There was a buffet meal-like food line with a many healthier options. There was a pretty amazing caesar salad and skinless, boneless teriyaki that was quite good. While In life the departed was a foodie as well as other vices like alcohol, recreational drugs, lots of sexual partners and treatments for the associated afflictions that can come from unprotected sex before the onset of AIDS, her son is a pretty upstanding citizen with many positive lifestyle habits.

Despite her being a terrible, terrible mother (a standard by which I unabashedly judge other parents as indicators of them as people), I liked her almost in spite of myself. She happily signed over custody and care of her only child after cheating on and being divorced by his father, and only stayed in touch with him as an adult because of what he was willing to do for her. She was uniquely self-possessed and owned her many shortcomings while somehow charmingly explaining them away as character defects. In the years we were acquainted I do not believe I ever saw her completely sober, and she angered, frustrated, aggravated me on numerous occasions in my own right in addition to my anger, frustration, and aggravation from her behaviors and attitudes toward her son.

Still, at the end of it all, I can almost admire the way she lived her life on her own reckless, destructive, hurtful ways. Her son – my client as well as my friend – is well-respected and powerful in his own rights. He chose to accept care and responsibility for her as part of his lot in life, and he did so in ways that were compassionate, yet at arms length and very expensive. He told me once caring for her was less about his mother as much as about his own self-respect and the type of man he is and aspires to be, which is someone who does what he can to protect his family, even if it is mostly from themselves. I still do not agree with him on that completely, but as people we are all different about what is minimum standard requirements for being a good and decent human being. At the end of her life, he had no reason for regret or guilt. He did not exactly love her, but she was his mom, and his respect for that biological role in his life caused him to protect himself in the ways he chose while she lived.

The services were very nice, with so many of her friends present who were quite charming characters in their own right. The remembrances were touching, many quite funny, too many heartbreakingly sad due to her own choices and personality disorder. I choose to think of the flawed woman in the best light possible. I know there is evil in this world; I have been exposed to and experienced it firsthand. She was not evil as I define it, but she was self-centered, selfish, and horrible in ways that absolutely disgust me. I won’t really miss her. I won’t miss our interactions. But I won’t say I’m glad she’s gone either. I mostly wish for peace of mind for those closest to her throughout her life.

We met again today, one of our regular face-to-face meetings at his home. His obvious relief at not having to think about or worry about what his mom is doing, what havoc she is wreaking or tantrums she may be throwing looks good on him. And I don’t judge him at all for feeling that way. In life he went above and beyond for her, far more than I would have ever been capable of emotionally or financially with my own parents. He has earned the right to be happy that burden has been lifted.

I identify with the people in both events, because it seems the circumstances of the deaths have touched my own life in real ways. My life and lifestyle choices through the years have not always worked out in the ways I intended, and in painful times I have lashed out and been destructive. Whether I was lucky, smart, just due a better break, or some combination of all the forces of positivity in the world, I survived and came out okay.

But life is changing. Mostly good and great changes.

For most of my life I have bent over backwards not to be judgmental about the choices other people make. It is an impossible standard I have pursued, though, and I know the closer I get to balance and ongoing overall better health, the harder it is to watch in silence while others around me continue to make less desirable choices. I am not one to offer unsolicited advice or opinions, but I am always honest about topics under discussion. I believe exercising my own value systems and evolving positive lifestyle mindset may extend the limits of interactions with others in my social circle. Those who are not so restrained in expressing their (usually negative) opinions are being squeezed out by others who share my enthusiasm for different and more positive and uplifting aging experiences.

I am choosing life. Our individual choices are going to be different, and I completely understand that. But I vastly prefer being around people who are making positive choices and staying active in the journey to graceful aging. It did not take a week of back-to-back funeral services to get me to that realization, but it is helpful to reaffirm that I am making much better lifestyle choices these days.  

When bad food happens to good people

It is a measure of my emerging better mental health that I think of and refer to myself as good people. This was not always the case, for most of my life I have thought myself as just okay people on my best days and not so good the rest of the time. Negative girl, when she was in a conciliatory mood, would toss out that such judgments of self worth left ample room for improvement and insulation against the perils of conceit setting up shop in my brain.

Me wandering the streets with an over-inflated ego and sense of self. Pigs growing wings and flying would be only a slightly less wondrous sight.

Despite such fanciful musing, I have reach the Goldilocks tipping point of Just Right in my assessment of me, the person, and how I am doing in progressing through life. It is my assessment that there will always be room for improvement, and being good and content with where I am right now is not the equivalent of unpinning the unobstructed by clouds blue sky overhead today.

Until a random stop at the grocery happened today after practice and in a moment of genuine weakness, the bottle of Mexican coke slipped into my cart AND made it through the check stand and home to my refrigerator.

Where it sits like a ticking time bomb.

I have all sorts of excuses as to why this demon has entered my realm. The long series of unstructured days. The traditional peppermint mocha black Friday weekend. The sense of deprivation. The pumpkin pie and mini tiramisu cupcake on Thanksgiving. The mashed potatoes and bread from Thanksgiving. The feeling of deserving a treat. The lie that I got it for M as a treat. The negative girl effect of slacking on practice.

All such complete and total bullshit.

The demon is in my realm because I wanted it. A moment of weakness? Perhaps. More likely just one of those impulses I have mostly learned to suppress or distract myself from indulging. At worst I will consume it and savor the sugary goodness as much as the caffeine hit it will provide. At best I will hand it over to M to remove temptation from my grasp. Most likely, though, is we will split it before or after dinner tonight. The world will continue, my A1c will not be orbiting Mars with January’s lab work, and my new meal planning discipline will keep me on the straighter and narrower pathway.

This time of year is always a challenge for me, with the uptick in socializing and the onslaught of goodies being delivered left and right. Our office move is scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week, the end game of a very long, hectic, stressful several months. Surprisingly everything is coming together; my obsessive list-making, phone call/email/text badgering communication with vendors and the property management firms paying off with this last week of moving Hell. For someone who abhors moving, I have discovered that I am surprisingly pretty good at working through the logistics and problems and wielding an invisible cattle prod to get everyone moving at the proper pacing to make it happen. By Wednesday night all offices will be packed on the moving carts and ready to moved onto the trucks big burly men will be loading for us. Desks and other furnishings will be taken apart as needed by said big burly men, loaded on the big truck, and delivered to the new space. When we arrive at our new digs on Friday morning, desks, office furnishings, and carts loaded with office stuff will be waiting to get unpacked.

Whether telephones, computer network, and internet will be up and running is one of those mysterious wait-and-see efforts, although my computer folk tell me it will go swimmingly. That we are getting a new network server and telephone system in conjunction with the new space should make the actual set-up, troubleshooting, and debugging happen with fewer issues than moving and reconnecting the former server and telephone system. I am simply going forward with faith and confidence it will happen without any hair-tearing or screaming from me to make it happen.

Essentially, 7 months of work comes together this week. Being a stress eater, my single splurge this morning is really the only bad food in the house I will actually eat. M has a stash of gummie butterflies, which smell really good yet I cannot abide the texture or taste on my tongue. Skinny pop popcorn is not that bad, and I will only eat so much of it in a sitting. The box of oranges, the bags of grapes – good substitutes for the snacking I’d be doing if I allow myself the luxury of stress eating. I have worked very hard to get to this point; I am not going to let my resolve dissolve right now when the clutch finally happens.

I did indulge myself in some retail therapy: new yoga mat towel and mat bag. I have been doing yoga very casually a couple days per week, and chatting with trainer J about yoga last night made me yearn for an additional mat towel so I don’t have to launder the one mat towel I have after each class. At least it was on sale. Not my first choice of color, but for the $10 difference in price I can enjoy a pastel blue-green colored one.

The week ahead will take care of itself, without any additional fretting on my part. In this regard I’m glad to have found my niche at the gym, in the yoga studio. I’m glad to have found some focus on healthier food choices that tend to restrain me from activity other than mindless consumption and search for more sugar, more fat, more junk in times of stress.

For now, I am putting work aside and getting busy reorganizing my gym bag. My Lists have gotten to be quite a mess, with several copies outdated copies and Lists I have not pursued in several months and want to revisit, and others that I feel I have mostly outgrown or that have been replaced by other things.

There is also some work-work, some study on our bigger camera – I am wondering what it might be like to add pictures to the blog more routinely – and some additional work to be done on my fitness-focused blog that has been languishing and needs some attention.

Then there is the usual weekend domestic choring to be completed. How could I be home this much this week and still have to run the vacuum and run a couple more loads of laundry? But oh well. Add to this list a few emails to write and phone calls to make, and I should be busy the balance of the day. And I’d really love to get back to listening to my Scott Abel podcast series and read a further in my book.

Obviously I have plenty to keep me busy and not trying to implement anarchy in the streets.

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend.

 

Boozey-schmoozey summertime

A couple of my private clients run very social organizations. Over the traditional holiday season and in the summer there are multiple parties for different tiers of their organizations with lots of really great food and booze. The raffle and door prizes are pretty stellar, too – everything from bottles of good booze and cases of wine to gift cards, weekend trips, expensive electronics. The food is always amazing even if not stuff I personally enjoy, and the people are mostly interesting and happy in a social environment.

So summer is also very busy season as well for celebrations, only without having to dress up and wear heels so much. Last couple of weeks there were bbq events with lots of beer and wine and amazing bbq chicken and even more amazing potato salad. (I love a good potato salad, but I admit to be hugely fussy about it.) It was fabulous! And I ate way too much, but worth every single calorie I have been sweating off in the gym the past weeks.

Being the owner of my own little firm, I have a certain level of obligation to attend such events when invited. M gets a pass for a lot of the summer invites because of his running schedule and his own social calendar, plus a lot of these things are after work and going solo is not looked upon with any sort of raised eyebrow. Thankfully I get a pass on most of the golfing, being a non-golfer, non-tennis player, but the happy hour and bbq events are kind of tough to dodge.

Last Christmas it felt as if I could open my own small liquor store with the amount of booze I won or was gifted by clients and vendors. There was also some really good cheese and Godiva chocolate and a basket of assorted cheesecake and baked goods, but the cheese M and I enjoyed with friends and the Godiva and goodie baskets were shared with my various offices. The booze – being non-drinkers – we gave to our friends who enjoy the occasional cocktail or spirits, the kids, my trainer, my hairdresser, my nail ladies, the associates, etc. The bounty was almost embarrassing.

Now we are into the summer social season and I have my first bottles of rum and scotch, and last weekend a couple of bottles of wine. Thankfully we have friends who are not so set in their booze ways they are willing to experiment and figure out if they enjoy different spirits.

I almost feel guilty asking others if they might enjoy this bottle of liquor, that 6 pack of beer, what about this wine, but I would probably feel worse pouring it down the sink.

On Saturday M and I attended a boating cruise adventure that had a riverboat gambling theme. We came home with a couple of bottles of wine and bunch of restaurant gift cards. M, big winner at cards without having much interest in cards, exchanged his chips for mystery gift card packages, including a few places we like on occasion. We are pretty far from restaurant snobs, but with me being a picky eater and M’s present dietary guidelines, we tend to stick with the same local haunts. So again, our kids, our friends are beneficiaries of my work-related social swag.

My clients, and my law firm bosses, are fantastic, social people. The lawyers annual golf/promotion day is coming up with dinner afterwards. While the booze is flowing during the event, I do not think they are giving bottles away. Thankfully. However, the partners do the gift and award choosing, and they are very secretive about the process. From what I hear from the associates the gifts are always a wearable of some sort and then something fun – gift card or some sort of desirable object. That’s not until August, though, so I will have to bide my time and manage my curiosity.

But my friends love me more summer and holiday time, with my boozey-schmoozey summer and holiday hauls of wine and spirits and such. It is kind of gratifying to I have come up with oddball things to share that actually taste good to them, unlike the frozen green beans in protein shakes that one of my friends tried this morning on my recommendation. Apparently she now think I may be trying to kill them off by hoping she and her husband could choke it down. Made me laugh, because it’s not THAT bad, especially since I cannot even taste them buried under the fruit I toss in with it. Makes me wonder if she cooked them first.

Ah well. Me and my first world problems, you know.

If only

There are certain words and terms I want to exorcise from my vocabulary and use. Words like “fail” or “should” and terms like “if only.” Context is absolutely critical here, though, because it remains glaringly obvious to me that I cannot completely extricate myself from using these words and terms in all situations and in all contexts.

Context, context, context. I am kind of obsessed about it this morning because of recent incidents that have me on a spin cycle about diffusing the destructive context of “if only” as a verbal weapon.

On 2 memorable occasions (think “a date that will live in infamy” sort of events), my mother told me that I would be better “if only ….” I was 13 the first time, kind of a chubby girl suddenly a couple of inches taller and trying desperately to be more invisible and less gawky and coming off some of the other shit that had gone on in our prior neighborhood and home. Per my mom, “if only you lose a little weight you would not look so ill proportioned.” Take yet another one for the team, self esteem. The second was when I was 29, newly divorced single mom with 3 young children, and I invited her to meet me in therapy so I could tell her about my childhood sexual abuse in a safe environment. This was my first attempt to talk about it outside the confines of therapy, and it was the sort of huge, life-altering event my therapist at the time had been patiently coaching me toward. So after haltingly, tearfully coughing up the admission and the details of the who, how long, and the highlights of the various events and ways I had been assaulted, my mother turned and with that angry, stone-faced expression looked me right in the eye and said “your life would be better if only you would stop lying about things that never happened.” If she had stabbed me in the heart it would have hurt less.

So yeah, I get that the term in these sorts of contexts is a big giant trigger of an emotionally loaded gun. Honestly, I make allowances because I know my own history and how affected I am by the term in a negative context.

This morning, while going through my List I was playing a game inside my head sort of centered around this and other negative trigger terms. If only I could finish 3 sets of this list I could be completely happy and fulfilled. If only I do not think in with f-bomb loaded epithets while doing those f–king walking lunges I might feel differently about them. If only I could return to ignorance and bliss and accept my lot as an insulin-dependent diabetic I would not be here, dripping in sweat, swearing inside my head.

It was a silly little game, something that made me smile while performing the less desirable aspects of today’s List. So much so that I completely lost track of time and suddenly woke up to the fact that it was nearly 7 and I was only halfway through my sets in the B block. It is apparently true – time does fly when you’re having fun. Or distracting yourself when you’re not having that much fun.

We have been interviewing for an additional associate, possibly 2, and a couple of interns for the summer. So much of my time the last couple of weeks has been spent talking to candidates about compensation, benefits, general policies, our hiring process, and answering questions on these and other topics. After my most recent HR experiences, it was difficult to resist the urge to ask each and every one of them about his/her relationship with the parental units. Fortunately I am a professional; I avoided asking about their family and probing for signs of helicopter parenting.

Today I met with the senior associates and partners regarding candidates, interviews, and who we would like to meet with a second time. I hear a lot of “if only” qualifiers regarding experience, attitude, compensation, and personality and potential fit within the office. In this context it is not negative so much as part of the reality of good, if imperfect candidates. The way the term kept coming up in the context of our evaluations made me smile inside.

Yesterday I met with RD to talk about my latest dietary sins and omissions. Actually, I am not sinning terribly, but I have been trying to expand the list of vegetables and foods I will consume and not doing such a swell job with it. RD did the equivalent of a professional eye roll – if I don’t like something, then there is no need to eat it. With his encouragement, I am good to go on with whatever proteins and vegetables and grains I enjoy as I wish. The important thing is eating more protein, of course, but not at the expense of eating food that tastes like crap to me and then turning around and eating crap food just because. Am I self-sabotaging? Probably not. Probably I am just trying to be more adventurous without a backup plan. If only I liked a broader variety of foods I would not be a picky eater. But I am, so I should just suck it up and make the best of the palate I possess right now. May e it expands, or maybe I am stuck with the tastebuds of your average 4 year old. All is well.

My head tends to get into more trouble with the rigidity of concepts like “should” and “if only” and their negative connotations. TM has suggested reframing negative girl’s bleating into positive thoughts and experiences, hence my going through practice this morning with my little mental game to keep pushing along with fatigue and through things I enjoy less than others. Thus far, with negative girl safely ensconced in her box, I can continue working and get through. While life would be so much simpler, easier if only I could silence or at least keep negative girl contained, she has been a constant staple in my head and my life. Exorcising her is unlikely to ever happen completely; containing her is the best I can hope for right now.

Containment is good, though. There was a time when I would feel poorly, badly, guilty, a failure for thinking that I could not ever exorcise her completely from my psyche. I am learning to be whole and accepting of all parts of my mind and my thinking. Like my memories of horrible experiences that shaped the person I am today, those events are not the sum total of who and what I am now; those memories and experiences no longer define me. Nor does the crippling fear and anxiety they inspired. Same is true of my thoughts and how they direct my choices. Negativity, fear, anxiety still occur, and I expect it always will to some greater or lesser degree. However, I can contain it, and I can control and direct it for my benefit. That makes me powerful. That makes me worthy. That makes me so much more than any should or if only scenario I can imagine or manifest.

And just for today, I am princess of the forward lunges. Supersets including those bad boys? Conquered this morning. Go me!

Training #36 – Start me up

Thursday morning, training with J. Today was a late session at 8:30 a.m. (versus our recent early starts at 6 a.m.) and it is rather fitting with the rest of the unusual week. Yesterday I slept in until 5:30 and got to the gym at 8, this morning I got up at 4, realized that it was 4 hours before I needed to be at the gym, and went back to sleep for another couple of hours. It was glorious.

This week has been a little unusual because of taking the day off yesterday, but it is a great week thus far. I feel like my whole cadence with work, blogging, practices, life is a little off compared to the usual rhythm of the weeks, but I am not not rigid that I’m freaked out over it. If my various jobs have taught me nothing else it is every day is different and things can change quickly.

I thought there would be little to talk about today other than training, but as usual, I surprise even myself with the volume of thoughts ping-ponging in my brain. We could lay this at trainer J’s feet, because our work and conversations tend to inspire all sorts of accelerated perking thoughts, but truth is I have been so busy with work  that my ability to slow down or put on the brakes on racing thoughts and tumbling to-do lists to download in detail has been limited.

Today was some new, some review, adding new layers to existing sequences. The List for today:

A1 – Bent over DB row
A2 – Walking lunges
A3 – DB 30 degree incline chest press
A4 – Walking lunges
A5 – Shoulder fly series – seated DB lateral raises, standing alternating DB raises, bent over criss-cross rear fly

B1 – Single leg Romanian dead lift – right leg
B2 – Hammer curls
B3 – Single leg Romanian dead lift – left leg
B4 – Tricep extensions
B5 – Alternating side lateral lunge and reach

Every training session, there is something significant that stands out. Sometimes several somethings, and I’m simply crushing like a schoolgirl on the whole hour of training. But today it was mostly just the one thing: walking lunges.

Now, when I started so many moons ago, I had serious lunge anxiety. Probably to be more accurate I had serious everything exercise anxiety, but by the time we got around to lunges it had been narrowed to focus on lunges. I mean, I felt as if I could barely step forward and stay upright much less drop the back knee and straighten up again. Thought the months we have gone through reverse lunges, step-up to reverse lunges, lateral lunges, traverse lunges, walking lunges across the room, walking lunges across the room multiple times. Today I had some choices. J indicated he felt the forward lunges were more effective and the step-up reverse ones could be sent to the exercise retirement home, so we went with those. The reverse lunges are now retired from current lists.

I have been doing more walking lunges lately, yet not quite as much in this last week. I anticipated some issues because of the lack of attention, and yet they were fine. Better than fine, actually. I felt wonderful and focused and really into the moments of going back and forth across the room. There were a few stops and starts, a minor weeble-wobble here and there, but nothing frustrating or significant. I am starting to tell when I am not keeping lats tight, because the weights sway and swing more, a tell that I can feel and see. But I did a lot better than I had imagined, and I feel extra terrific about the effort. Especially since the last outing was the superset version and I was using a set of 10 lb. dumb bells. Today I picked up the 15 lb. set without giving it a second thought. Until I went back and checked my notes, I had not realized I had automatically upped my weight usage. Go me!

There are some new little epiphanies happening in my diet and exercise world right now.

I am gaining some skill with the exercises and staying focused on my form and striving to maintain it throughout however many reps and sets I can attain in a practice. I remarked to J this morning that these things we are doing feel so much like foundational basics, things I will need to know to move forward to somewhere else. The journey is so important to me, of course, and as I move along and evolve the next destinations and waypoints along the way will evolve with it. Sometime in the last week J had made a comment on another tribe member’s FB post that has summed everything up for me:

Process focused > goals focused

Sometimes I need reminders of what I am doing and why. It’s not that I lose focus so much as that part of my brain goes to sleep and my brain starts to get lazy. If I have any goals, it’s pretty much trying to keep going, keep moving forward. I am still unsure what “moving forward” actually means to me, and I am fine with that. When I started this quest, I worried about it constantly. I worried about goals, about progress, about comparisons to the average or the typical gym member training client. What occasionally concerns  me and makes me have a moment (or 3 dozen) of concern about the future and where I may wander next is that maybe I am unwilling to venture outside this foundational basics bubble and continue going forward.

Then again, I don’t think so. I don’t feel as if I am going to be resistant to stepping up and outside where I am right now. When the time comes, if the time comes, I’ll be ready.

That said, this is not something I obsess about, at least not anymore. I have occasional concerns. I think about direction and idly wonder about myself and marvel that I am still practicing, still training, still focused and excited about what I am doing, the good things I am doing for myself. Thinking about this post throughout the day I recognized that I have developed some greater measure of faith that when the time comes that I want or need to do move in a different or new direction, I will proceed as appropriate. Fear and anxiety are less and less enduring qualities of my exercise and fitness and gym experiences; fear and anxiety are less and less enduring qualities of my life in general experiences.

The last couple of days the idle imaginings of not going to the gym for several consecutive days flittered through my mind. Mostly, for now, I have dismissed them. Because I recognize the signs of brain fatigue or distraction well enough (work has been crazy busy). Today, yesterday, I have been in the gym at unusual times, off my now regular schedule for training sessions and for practices. And for me, it’s different enough that I can actually feel the ripple through my world of tidy routine and order.

As I said, today we did new things and reviewed other exercises I know already. It is actually not the new exercises and reviews that reboot my enthusiasm or excitement, although of course any new challenge breathes a different sort of energy into my psyche. J tends to weave in additional layers into my exercise library and turns exercises I know into a different kind of challenge and experience. It is more the tiny changes, the little victories that rev up my excitement.

Things I tend to dislike are things I feel I suck at – right now. What I am really liking about my thinking is that I know now I will not suck at them forever, and I may still not love them at the end of achieving competency. I don’t think it is realistic or genuine to think I can or will love everything. Those push-ups? Still not feeling oodles of affection for them. But they are on the mini List of things to do for proficiency and I like to believe I am slowly improving on my form and technique.

I recognized awhile back that my need for twice weekly training sessions is about controlling my brain, keeping it from spinning out of control and my exercise form faltering in its wake. Orderly schedules and habits – RUTS even – are apparently my thing. Every so often I need to step up and get off my hamster wheel and take a break from the gym and do so without guilt or recrimination. Or do something different and switch up my schedule of practices just to step outside my comfort bubble. It seems to be working. In just over a week I will surpass the 7 month mark of very consistent practices.

Single leg anything continues to be a challenge, but I am improving there as well. Every day I try to sneak in a mini set of single leg RDL or anterior reaches, because I fear losing my hard-won proficiency. I will keep working at it until I feel more competent.

J was checking in and asked me if I was working hard during our training this morning. I replied that of course I was working hard, and that I could not imagine me or any other member of the training tribe goldbricking much on his watch. Majority of my brothers and sisters in J training sweating and looking as if they are working when I pass them in their sessions or when our paths cross during practices.

But it brought up a discussion where one of the coaches J admires has stated that most people do not exercise with as much as intensity as they believe they are actually utilizing. I would tend to agree with that statement, if only because I again feel like an outlier who does not ever put forth 100% effort in practices. Typed out in black and white like that it sounds kind of bad, but at the same time, if pressed I could probably muster up something more and push myself to actual failure.

Thinking this over throughout the day, I consider my reasons for not going all gung-ho and for the closer to the max intensity effort. While I might be inherently lazy, it seems a lot more complicated that that very superficial reasoning.

Since day 1, J has always stressed form over everything else. Safety, avoiding injury is more important than making my minimum rep counts. As the months have passed I have taken that to heart and am continuing to learn to listen to my body and what it tells me (besides “we want sugar!”). Sometimes I am just getting fatigued and it’s uncomfortable and makes me want to cease what I am doing so the discomfort ends. Other times my head is just not in it (and yes, friend J, I got the memo with your admonishment on that topic) and I don’t want to be there and have to push through. Most of the time, though, I think I do my best to be present in the moment and try my best to feel the muscles I’m trying to work actually working.

My mental game is as much a learning curve with exercise and fitness as training my muscles to support and balance me standing on a single leg. Once upon a time negative girl would be burying me with her shit and filling me with guilt and anguish about not trying hard enough or measuring up to everyone else and be so far behind all those anonymous, nameless, faceless, everyone elses out there.

So yeah, I get that I am not pushing and working at something close to maximum intensity. Or maybe I am, and my level of intensity is just a lot lighter than someone else?

Which leads me to our conversation about moderation and the context in which it means to me.

Practice, moderation for me means being at the gym every single day most weeks. Driving home tonight I was thinking about tomorrow, what I will do, how I plan to time my arrival time because of the class in the room where I wish to work tomorrow. There is no doubt in my mind I will get up and go to the gym at my usual time tomorrow, probably Saturday and Sunday as well. Because exercise is a huge priority for me, and by that it means I go every day for most weeks. Maybe my intensity is not the same as someone who only goes to the gym 2 times a week; I think that is okay, because I am me and hypothetical other person is hypothetical other person. We are different people, and our processes are going to be different as well.

Geez, it’s taken me long enough to get that pounded through my intensely hard head.

And the moderation conversation leads me back to food and RD.

RD made me this wonderful little columnar list of foods he knows I will eat. There’s a column for vegetables available for every meal, every day, with a subset of more starchy vegetables that are maybe one meal a day, 4 or 5 days per week. There’s a column with fruit. There’s a column for proteins to eat with 3 meals every day. There’s a column for grains and carbs that I should eat more mindfully and sparingly, may 2 or 3 times per week. Then there is a column for fats and condiments that I eat that should be careful with, things like salad dressings, butter, mayonnaise, even ketchup (which I only use on french fries and steak). It is a simple list, but he suggested that I could adapt it into a simple kind of a mix-and-match check box system so I can keep track of what I am eating daily. He borrowed the idea from J’s sequence Lists, where I pick one set of upper body and one set of lower body and do those for a practice.

I totally love this idea and will be making this into my basic meal planning system.

But as J and I were talking about this morning, “moderation” for me is evolving into eating a salad whenever we eat out and then enjoying a portion of whatever I want to order. Last night M and I both had caesar salads (a favorite of mine), and this personal pizza that was truly about twice as big as I expected. But it was fine; I ate my salad and had a couple of squares (they cut the round pizza into the equivalent of 2″ squares) of pizza and felt completely satisfied. Most of the time we eat our meals at home, and I tend to bring my lunch when I am at the office. There’s nothing extravagant or calorie crazy going on at our house; most of the time it is a salad and/or vegetable and some chicken. Lunches are mostly salads with chicken or a cup of soup or half a sandwich. So if I eat 3 meals per day and out 2 times per week (a lunch during the week and dinner with M on the weekends), that’s 19 healthy meals prepared at home, or eating pretty protein/vegetable-heavy meals 90% of the time and everything else 10% of the time. As long as I can stay firm with myself on the mindless snacking I should be in a very good place with food.

RD tells me I am doing great, that I am too hard on myself and allowing it to impact my attitude. He may have a good point. But overcoming my ingrained thinking is as much a process as adopting new habits. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

Meals at home or lunches I bring in to the office, I have significantly more control over calories and fats and proteins and carb counts. I have been experimenting with home prepared salad dressings. Ranch made from the powder tastes a lot fresher and better than what I buy in the bottle and I can use the reduced fat mayo and skim milk I prefer. I have yet to find a vinaigrette recipe I absolutely love, but I have been experimenting with balsamic vinegar and find that a lot of the time I like the plain vinegar just as well as some of the dressing recipes I have tried. A secondary benefit to my better health quest is that I have been forced out of my picky eater comfort zone and to try new foods, new tastes and textures to see if there’s more for me out there. Probably 85% of my experiments have resulted in something I will never, ever make again, but the 15% success rate has me reading recipes and thinking about other news things to try when I have time.

For someone who does not especially like cooking or preparing food, I am doing pretty well with it. And I only make the smallest possible portions of everything I try, so I am not wasting too much food.

This week has been a good one, and today’s training was a fun adventure and reminders of half-formed thoughts and ideas that needed to be captured and archived here on the blog. My little 2 day vacay from normal reality has been good to breakaway from the distraction of too work overload, but tomorrow I return to normal wake up and gym times. I am ready for return to my normal reality and habits.

I be loving my streak of good weeks.

Training #32 – Crazy for you

Thursday morning and training with J, and it was review day! I love review day. Review day for me means doing things I already know I know and learning to do them better. And so it was today.

What we did:

Bench supported single-arm row
Bulgarian split squat – right leg
DB chest press
Bulgarian split squat – left leg
DB pullover

Sitting shoulder press
Sumo squats
Sitting bicep curls
Romanian deadlift
Tricep extension

What started this was a stiff-feeling neck and right shoulder on Tuesday. I thought perhaps I had slept wrong, but it got stiffer and more awkward as the day progressed, which I then attributed to being in a car for a long commute to and from San Francisco. Wednesday it was better, and then it was kind of worse, and I began to wonder if I was shrugging or worse with the rows or other shrug-temptation exercises.

Then while composing a text to J about my shoulder/neck stiffness and possible wrong-doings on my part that could be causing it, my office phone rang and I scrunched the receiver on my ear between my shoulder and boom! Epiphany alert! Yep, I was on the phone considerably more than usual on Monday with various vendors and property management personnel about a larger office space we are pursuing. That it had not even occurred to me before that moment my phone habits are the likely culprit makes me a bit of a dumbass. But oh well – changed ears for the balance of the day and shoulder/neck pain decreased significantly.

I did slightly revise and send the text to J, reporting that yes, I am a dumbass about this stuff. But it was enough for him to decree that a row review is in order, which expanded to review day. Again, I love review day.

But then today, neck still stiff, feeling as if I now have an ice pick in my left ear and something trapped and pounding to get inside the left side of my head as well as the stiffening neck and shoulder, my throat starts feeling ticklish on the same left side, and I wonder if maybe my allergy/sinuses are acting up. Final straw was one of the associates said my neck (left side) looked kind of swollen. That was the final straw. Phone consultations with non-Kaiser primary doc and I have a z-pack for the almost certain sinus infection I have brewing. Within a couple of hours after taking the 2 tablets for today I am feeling significantly (like 80%) better.

Maybe I’m a dumber dumbass than I even realized. In my defense, I’m new to this “listen to your body” experience and I am rarely sick. And other than the neck and shoulder ache, which are likely still aggravated by the telephone, I have no fever or other signs of illness. Allergies are common for me this time of year, but so is a head cold if I am going to catch one. Hopefully I get to bypass it this year with this treatment.

Anyway, review day also discloses I was committing form fraud by using the wrong arm to row with in comparison to where the anchored-on-the-floor foot – they are supposed to be on the same side. So much easier when doing them correctly. I have had some confusion with them the past few occasions they have been on the List of the day, but I think I have casually observed someone else doing them that way and thought it was appropriate. Oh well – reeling me back in when I wander so far off the reservation is a big part of why I engaged a trainer in the first place.

And J had me using a 35 lb. dumbbell. I thought it a big deal last week when we graduated to 30 lbs. (mostly I have been using 20 or 25 DBs), but I feel incredibly proud of myself for coping with the bigger DB. While 15 reps remains a pipe dream for a future practice, I did manage 10 once J demonstrated proper form and got me back into appropriate alignment.

Bonus is I did not feel badly, guilty, or even stupid about my faulty form. Mostly I am thankful for review day and getting back on track. My lack of negative girl kickback is a MAJOR big deal. I might be dumbass about some things, including the bench rows, but I do learn once corrected. And it is just one of those things – no harm, no foul, nothing broken or terminally injured. Let us move along and savor the heavier weight I am capable of yielding. I might not use it every time I do this List, but it is nice to know I could if I wanted to do so.

So yeah, I’m starting to realize that there is no need for me to feel especially intimidated about the bump into heavier weights and I have absolutely zero shame or regret when I drop back into something lighter. Going forward into my own practices, my focus is going to be on form (of course) and then ensuring I make my rep counts. Sometimes J doesn’t specify, but when it is a new thing, either weight or a new and challenging exercise, his rep spans are either 6 to 8, 8 to 12, 10 to 15, or 15 to 20, and a few that are 20 to 30. Things like Sumo squats are in the 15 to 20 range right now – that 45 lb. KB we are using adds some challenge – and I would like to get to the higher end of that without my brain kicking up a fuss. I have been feeling a bit like a low-energy slacker this week (gee, I wonder why), only not really feeling much guilt about it, so that’s new for me, too. But right now I feel completely energized and hopeful and happy about my evolving capabilities. For the next few days, striving toward maximum rep counts for 3 sets will be my focus, but I will be listening to my body carefully and going with those impulses rather than being driven by my ego or my irrational fear of not following directions. All with good form, of course. And if I truly only can make minimums, it’s all I can do right now and I will not feel guilty or let myself get upset and obsessive over it.

The fine hand of TM plucking strings in my psyche is evident today. And I am so glad.

But all in all, it was another sweat-drenched session and I characterized it as “super duper fun” in a text to J. Really illustrative of how far I have come in these months of training and practice.

As the months pass I have become less and less interested in goals for the sake of goals. My overall objective has been to improve my health. Now that I am completely off diabetes controlling medications, it has become supremely important to me to stay that way if at all possible. I understand that things could change in spite of my best efforts, but if I ever have to go back on medication, it will not be because I failed to try hard to modify my lifestyle. Food and exercise seem to rank up there with work as big-ticket agenda items in my world right now. Since M is also running high miles, mentoring a couple of other runners, and hawkish about his diet, our values continue to align. In reality it seems my stepping up and doing more has benefitted our relationship; our diet and exercise habits are different, but our individual value and reasons for the pursuit are the same.

And I finally feel like I get his obsession and addictive behaviors with running. I thought I did when I barely exercised, but I have a much deeper understanding now.

The HRT medications are in the mail and I am impatiently awaiting them to arrive. I have high hopes of feeling less fatigued and stronger when things start to get back into a range of normal balance. Now that that little carrot has been dangled in front of me, I am impatient to get going and see what, if any, differences are discernible. Mostly I am hopeful. Before hysterectomy, I was so anemic there was much talk of blood transfusions on a couple of occasions when I could barely sit at my desk and work. By comparison, my current level of fatigue is not bad at all and has actually improved since I began the regular exercise routine. The idea that there is an even better standard out there … well, it’s hard to really imagine right now, but before my surgery where I am right now was impossible as well. That maybe I could feel more energized and stronger? Like a dream I dare not dream just yet.

RD has waved a white flag on my food tracking, says he sees enough patterns in my eating and knows me well enough to know that I am pretty much sticking with a baseline routine. I have done a lot of cutting from my diet, and other than poor planning on my part while out and about, I am doing very well on eating more protein as well as fruits, vegetables, plant-based carbs.

I actually feel pretty good about the food I am eating and drinks I am drinking. My body might want coke and sugar, but I mostly stick with water or sparking water. There were bagels and cream cheese in the break room this morning and I managed to pass by without partaking. It was not even that difficult, being quite satisfied with my own regular post-workout breakfast and the cup of decaf fortified with chocolate protein powder in my hand.

More than 12 hours later after today’s session ended, I still feel lingering euphoria of a super fun and satisfying training session. What List I choose to do (or not – practice is absolutely predicated on how I feel for the next few days) through the weekend has all sorts of little nuggets of excitement and cues to pursue attached to each. The thing I like most about training with J twice a week is even on review days there is always a new layer or nuance to something he initially taught me months ago.

Every now and again I have a wish for more time between sessions to practice something, but then I realize that there is lots and lots of practice days ahead of me and I can pursue whatever List I want whenever the mood strikes. And honestly, I need the second session to keep my mind from diving off the deep end and spiraling out of control left alone with too many choices for too long. Yes, I recognize that 6 days is not really too long, but I’m acclimated to the 2 practices, training, 3 practices, training schedule. I will be fine when I go on vacation or J goes on vacation or we have a sick day, but my creature-of-habit nature has found a nice pattern.

Things are good, and great, this evening. The z-pack is doing its work and I already feel much better and can breathe again. Progress.

 

Day 5 – In the City

I spent the day in San Francisco and between the drive, the meeting, the schmoozing, and the animosity I feel toward my former boss, it was a very long day that has pretty much killed my appetite.

My day in food pictorial is light, I know:

Protein shake before gym this morning, usual oatmeal for breakfast, no lunch picture (caesar salad with bay shrimp – was not to my liking), zero appetite when I got home so soup and pear for dinner. The last – the guacamole M eats a lot of nights per week – I tasted it with a single chip, so it gets a gratuitous photo credit. Not a big avocado fan, and obviously even less of a guac lover.

The MFP estimates give me an estimate of approximately 1750 calories, and I have no idea about the accuracy of that number. Tomorrow I return to my regular programming, and honestly, I cannot wait.

Day 5! I’m in single digits of days left to torture myself (and anyone else reading about my very boring eating habits) with these daily entries.