The Princess bone

It has been a long day at the office, and for the second night this week, I found myself hanging out with the bosses while they enjoyed a beer (or 3). We started out in an actual meeting discussing our upcoming recruiting efforts and how the rest of the staff are holding up under yesterday’s events. In truth, I got very little actual work accomplished today, outside of attending a couple of meetings with clients. The rest of my time was spent reassuring staff and helping with reorganizing workloads and office spaces.None of this was unexpected.

My bosses are very good guys. They are extremely disciplined professionals with high standards and expectations for themselves as well as the staff they employ. However, they are also good guys, close friends as well as business partners, and I have falling into the fold nicely. So in many ways, I am conversationally one of the guys.

Since all 4 are in some stage of single and dating, the topic comes up fairly routinely. While I am not quite old enough to be their mothers (and I have met all their parents – lovely people), I am pretty far removed from the women they tend to gravitate toward in social circumstances. The joke is if there is a second or third date, I start wondering if I need to invite them to a office lunch so I can size them up for myself. Hopefully they continue to be secure, confident men who are highly unlikely to ask me what I think about their squeezes;  my honesty could go to war with my sense of employment self-preservation.

Just last week one of them told me my “Build a Better Butt” project (as I refer to my ongoing training with J and exercise pursuits) was working out well for me. I jokingly reminded him that he should be careful what he says to a female subordinate, that sort of trash talk could find him on the wrong end of a harassment complaint. He gives me the puzzled face – am I insulted? Should he not compliment me? Is the workplace hostile because he thinks I am looking fitter? Because I know he’s teasing in his defense, and genuine in his compliments, and not a slap-and-tickle disrespecting mysogenist, I do not take it seriously and have to laugh with him. Plus I take it as a huge compliment that he and the other bosses feel comfortable enough with me to know that I am not going to take their kindness in a wrong, litigious sort of way.

So today we somehow got on the topic of breast implants. One of their sisters is in her mid-30s, getting married later this year, shopping for a wedding gown, and considering breast enhancement surgery. The boss is very upset about this, feels his sister is absolutely beautiful just the way she is and immediately suspected this was coming from the fiance. Since we were just shooting the breeze anyway, he brought it up and asked me what I thought about it and what else he might say to try and get her to embrace her unaltered shape.

The whole conversation made me vaguely uncomfortable. Not because I was talking boobs with men I work with, because that part was perfectly fine. No, I was vaguely uncomfortable because I find the topic of plastic surgery of any sort makes me uncomfortable. And I am not precisely sure why, although I did try to articulate my general thought that while it seems like a bad idea she may come to regret, I was sort of stumped as to why it is I feel that way. But thinking about it driving home, chatting with M about it, I think I have a better and more complete reasoning on the subject.

Essentially, I lack the princess bone. Or gene. Or whatever it is that makes people have more vanity than I seem to possess.

When it comes to bugs, vermin, snakes, and frogs, I got a big giant body of skin in the princess game. I want someone to take care of the bug, vermin, snake, and frog post haste, while I cower on a high surface where the evil creepy things cannot get me.

But when it comes to issues like plastic surgery, it all seems rather pointless to me. And for someone who has felt like being invisible is preferable to being recognized for my basic average (at best) appearance, my logical mind says my insecurity about my appearance would make me a prime candidate for anything that would make me appear more mainstream pretty. Except my mind does not work that way. If it did, I would probably have a drawer full of cosmetics that I paint on daily. Instead, I have an new tube of chapstick waiting to be deployed when I lose the one in my purse right now, a rarely used tube of mascara, and I think maybe a lipstick that might have escaped my most recent decluttering mania. I could write whole blogs on my anxiety about cosmetics and fears of being viewed as a clown school candidate reject for my efforts in using them effectively.

With any type of elective surgery, my mind says it is dangerous, painful, not covered by insurance and therefore ridiculously expenses. And for me personally, really kind of pointless at this waypoint in my life. Many of my friends have had some work done, or are desiring to have some work done, and frankly my understanding does not seem expansive enough to be able to successfully empathize with them on the subject. Everyone ages. Everyone has some piece or part of their body they wish to change, and I am not sure doing so that way is ever going to be a good idea. Then again, I am not the one who has to be convinced or encouraged to embrace their new look. If you are my friend, you with less wrinkles and perkier butt or boobs or flatter stomach is not going to do much anything to alter that.

I think my discomfort comes from someone else’s level of dissatisfaction with their own body. Believe me, I have plenty of body issues myself and if elective surgery did not have risks and was not painful I might be tempted to consider that route to altering body as well. But it does have risks and surgery is painful, so I shall continue my build a better butt project within the confines of the gym, thank you very much.

I also think know there are reasons well beyond vanity that people undertake such drastic measures, and somehow it’s easier for me to understand breast reduction than breast augmentation. Removing patches of skin cancer and maybe having some nipping and tucking done at the same time seems reasonable. Having noses reshaped while having some sort of sinus problem repaired seems perfectly understandable. Essentially, if there is some medically necessary reason to go under the knife and you a couple of upgrades, it does not seem like such an extravagant decision.

Obviously, at my core, I am a practical person.

But for a young woman to consider breast implants before getting married just seems extreme and wrong. I would rather see her invest the money she would spend with a good therapist talking about why she wants to do such a thing and seeing if improving self-esteem without surgical body modification.

Sometimes it seems many of my male friends do not know any regular, down-to-earth women they can have candid conversations with, or I am just naive enough to be perfectly honest about what I think and how I feel. I was telling M about this exchange tonight and he says it’s probably because of their current relationship status. Maybe. Divorce does skew your perspective for awhile, as does ending of long-term relationships.

At the end of our conversation, I simply told my boss to continue to remind his sister that she’s a beautiful young woman and perfect just as she is right now. Because maybe that’s what she needs most of all: encouragement to be comfortable in her own skin and to be both supportive and specific about why she is beautiful, inside and out. With family and family dynamics, I am kind of fuzzy about whether or not such statements make a difference. In my own family of origin, it was not normal or natural for my sibling or my parents to compliment me ever. With M and my children, though, I am unwavering in my support and encouragement of the development and good people qualities, including physical appearance when appropriate. My theory is that sincerity of affection is more meaningful than being told not to do something because big brother does not like or is terrified of the consequences of such action.

 

 

 

 

 

Closing doors, opening windows, emptying spaces

Last night I received a nice email from a former friend. It was an apology for things that have disrupted and eventually ended our long friendship. I read it last night, again this morning, and am now organizing my thoughts here before composing my reply.

I had the pleasure and privilege of lunching with trainer J and new tribe friend C yesterday. While J and I have had many, many free-roaming and far-reaching conversations over the months of working together, this was my first real opportunity to have an extended conversation and get to know C. I am not kidding when I say her charm, kindness, and wisdom have turned me into a huge fan-girl. Funny that a 3-hour lunch with people of such a varied age range – J is 28, I am 55, and C is 67 – could be so lively and entertaining.

One of the things C stressed as topics arose throughout our lunch, life is all about our choices and the ripple effect of the consequences. I wholeheartedly agree, even as I am not always so assured or as confident in my own, particularly when it comes to relationships.

This old friend made her own choices about our long 50+ year friendship and through the years has said many hurtful, stupid things. To be fair, I am quite certain we both have, because we are both very human. Looking back on the final series of events in my mind, I recognize that the choice to cease all communication and to terminate our friendship was more mine than hers and was my defense from what I viewed as relentless and ridiculous personal attacks.

I have zero regrets about that decision. At the time, it was among the hardest things I have done in recent years, yet it was important for my own emotional health and growth.

Now she has apologized for her words and her behaviors, and I believe the apology to be genuine and her regret for the cruel words and harsh judgments between us is real. She expressed the desire to close this chapter, reconnect and renew our long friendship. I now that is what I find myself mulling over today.

Forgive her? Of course; it would have been far more harmful to me to withhold that or to remain hurt and angry. Throughout the time since our friendship ended we have crossed paths at least half dozen times. While it was awkward at best to outright frosty hostile the rest of the time, I do not think or speak poorly of her. We had a falling out, but I wish her every happiness and success. The shortcomings in each of our personalities are well known to all who know both of us, and I have bent over backwards in my pleas that mutual friends not take sides in this dispute. There are so many things about her that overcome the qualities of her personality that I dislike and I seek to enhance the positives I found within her. For my own peace of mind, it is always better to focus and remember that she was my friend for most of my life and through some of the best and worst of events any person should have to endure.

That said, I am not sure our shared values are now enough to overcome the empty spaces that continue to exist. Many of my closest friends will refer to me as a Pollyanna or my generation’s rendition of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. I take no offense at such characterizations; I really want to be someone who sees the good in people and merely be aware of the extent of the less desirable aspects. I have had enough issues overcoming my own negative girl; I did not then and certainly do not now need the embodiment of her message in someone in the friendship realm of my life.

With the conversation with C and trainer J ringing in my ears and both their thoughts on choices, I recognize that the woman I am today is an enhanced model of the one who struggled mightily to let go of a harmful friendship. I am not immune to the weight of the years, shared memories and experiences. I will never cease begin grateful for her support and encouragement during some really impossibly painful periods in my life, nor will I ever stop caring for and about her and her welfare. In the fair and balanced backward view, I have to acknowledge that her methods and her thinking, her overall negative outward voice are in contrast with the person I am and what I truly value in those in my realm. As my confidence and my own sense of self have evolved, I recognize that I do have choices in who I invite to be part of my life and how we spend our time. I am not so dreadful that I have no choices in the matter, that I should be grateful for anyone who is capable of tolerating being around me.

I cringe inwardly realizing how much of my adult life has been spent feeling inadequate and inferior to others in my personal life. Sometimes even in my choice of employment, I have undervalued myself and my contributions and sought acceptance and validation from peers and superiors, a few of whom had questionable values or quality of character.

After thinking about this off and on throughout this day, I recognize that my old friend and I will always be connected, that I value our shared history. However, as adults, at the places we are in our lives now, trying to rekindle the closeness we once enjoyed is not a task I want to pursue. Trust once broken is hard to rebuild, and while there is no specific instance that could be labeled betrayal, sometimes the harshness of our judgments and that ways we hurt those we profess to care so deeply alienates affection to an irreparable state. When our paths cross, I will be courteous and genuine in my interest in her life and times. But I have little desire to pursue anything that involves direct sharing of my successes and disappointments or leaving myself vulnerable to the impact of her thoughts and judgments. Where once I was completely transparent and unguarded in sharing my thoughts and feelings, I have finally matured a bit and learned to be more guarded with sharing my personal treasures with those who have wounded me with carelessness or casual cruelty.

In the perfect world people are not careless or cruel to others, yet I know I myself have been guilty of both on occasion. I have been stricken with regret when I realized my error, and I deserved the consequences of those actions. But I learned, and I try very hard to not let my temper or impatience or insecurity overwhelm my values and code of good personhood. Being human, though, means the only thing I am perfect at is my own imperfect actions.

But as I remind myself, life is long and there are many more opportunities to make good and better choices.

For today, I will acknowledge the apology and graciously accept it. As for the rest, I have no idea what may happen between us and what the future may hold. I will retain an open mind on the topic, yet with a very guarded heart.

Sleepwalking on the darker side

The past week has been rough on me with sleep. It is an unusual occurrence, because I rarely have issues falling asleep or staying asleep. Disruptions happen, though, and some are even depressingly predictable. Like when the trees in my neighborhood start blooming and I am popping allergy medications every 4 to 6 hours. Sudafed, while effective on my congestion and sneezing, will keep me up all night if taken too late in the day. March remains an emotionally challenging 31 days, with my oldest child’s birthday and death day occurring in the same week. Even after 21 years (this year), it’s still sad and it’s still hard.

But the allergy meds that get me through the day make for a very rough night of sleeping. This year is the first I am truly cognizant of the differences and impact regular exercise makes, and I begrudge every second of crankiness that even minor sleep deprivation brings me. If that were not bad enough, the combination of allergy-medication induced lighter sleep and March, for whatever reason it opens up the can of worms of night terrors. That makes life so much darker and seemingly more dismal.

For the most part, I am relishing the go-go-go busy and overload of work this month has brought. I love my family and my friends old and new who make me smile and laugh throughout my days. Darkness happens, and I remind myself that the reality of darkness is only as long and as permanent as I allow it to be and how to leave it in its place. Having been in such awful, terrifying places in my life, I have an almost fanatical appreciation for the joy and great aspects of my day-to-day life. Still, when the horrors of my childhood visits me in sleep, it’s upsetting all on its own, without the additional disruption of the losing sleep over things I cannot change, thoughts and feelings I wish I could ignore if I cannot forget.

Which tends to make me even crankier that I am losing sleep over shit I want to not contemplate any further.

In such a dark mood, dark place I ventured into the gym and for practice this morning. All went well, but I find myself supremely annoyed by the remodel and how my routines have been upturned. Regular folks I used to see pursuing their own Lists nearby most mornings I barely pass in the hallways now, to the point that one such regular remarked today that she never sees me anymore. How true. We both spend a fair amount of time on the stairs, seeking out spaces and equipment that used to be fully contained on one floor or the other.

At least I am not of the grumpy old person camp who snaps at members who may be in the way.

Tonight I got to spend some time with my tribe sister, doing a light routine and yakking and catching up with life and times. We had so much to talk about that my funk-spike did not even occur to me to bring up for discussion. I am happy about that.

The sun is supposed to shine this weekend and temperatures being a warm 70-something degrees. I can’t wait! While others will be outside enjoying it, I am simply looking forward to having no meetings, lighter workload, and just time to pursue my own projects. G – my youngest child – turns 30 on Sunday. Funny but it does not make me feel old so much as marvel that our lives have advanced to this point, that he is healthy, happy, newly married and moving on with a fulfilling and happy life.

It is just a weird dichotomy month for me. Every year in advance I resolve to be less bothered and burdened by the grief that lingers, and every year I am learning how to be kinder to myself when it creeps in and taints my days.

I will say the habits acquired in the last couple of years – regular exercise, healthier eating, blogging and writing routinely, the discipline of managing my own small business and working at a full-time job – have done wonders to keep me out of the emotional cesspool of my own making. While it feels like I am sleepwalking on the darker sides of my life, I am on firm footing with a clear path and a retainer wall that will not let me slide off the edge and down the slippery slope.

There is an edge to the life I have led and the events that have befallen me. I cannot imagine a day where I state with any form of sincerity that I am grateful to be a sexual abuse survivor and the mother of a deceased child, but the day when I am grateful for the beauty and sense the infuses my life is here and its now. My oldest child – I think of her every single day and it makes me smile. My childhood – no getting around that I would be a very different person as an adult. And while I am very, very far removed from perfect, I am better than many and completely good enough.

Sometimes I let myself believe I have all I need, but on the heels of that thought comes acknowledgement that needs change every day. Wanting something badly enough tends to elevate it to need status, or the item becomes less realistically available or emotionally desirable and need for it fades to the whimsy of a want. Understanding the difference and the subtleties of the feelings has been a lifelong task, one that probably ends when the mind regresses or life ceases.

My life is full with lots and lots of good fortune and amazing souls who include me as part of their personal realm. During this month when the sads strike, it seems there is always someone or something that sprawls directly in my path and makes me recognize how truly rich my whole life.

Allow me to be thankful. And grateful. And neurotically repetitive. I have not been as present in this space, but my deep and abiding affection for it, and all of you, remains. I shall endeavor to ponder here more frequently.

Rocks, cars, year-end brain dump

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I actually feel on the verge of feeling crappy. I know that sounds sort of vague and mysterious, but I have felt “off” since last night with a stomach ache that is not going away yet not getting worse. Bad food was my first choice, because M and I ate a quick fast-food-like dinner last night (Noodles and Company) while out doing a zoom-zoom-zoom through landscape places. Landscape designer (and M’s best friend) REALLY wants us to consider at least a tree in the front yard, despite M telling him repeatedly that he’s doubtful I will go for such an idea (yep, still resisting it). However, when M brought it up, I did thaw ever so slightly on the idea and suggested maybe the lace leaf maple M is so fond of? Except (1) it will likely die because of our black thumbs and general negligence, and (2) lace leaf maples would not occur naturally in the simulated granite forest we are created. My good natured “So? Who the f–k cares? This is our rendition completely not based in reality,” was agreeable to M, but he/we are sensitive to our friend’s talent and business. We don’t want to be THAT friend and client.

So we went to the landscape superstore to examine tree possibilities. Hated all of them. No way do I want something in my yard that has to be groomed to look like cake pops or columnar swirls – as if either of those things occurred naturally in the wild. In the end I caved and agreed on some pretty ground cover that occurs naturally in our mountains and will not spread and overtake the entire front space, grow too tall and need to be trimmed every 3 weeks, and not require sprinklers or drip system to keep alive. We shall see what landscape bestie says on Monday.

Anyway, something is not agreeable with my virtually cast-iron stomach. Mildly nauseated, low energy, sort of yuck. But I thought the gym might make me feel better, and for the most part it did. I say it that way because for as empty as it was, every single machine was occupied and no fluffy cuffies were deployed. Frustrating, and I was not in the mood to negotiate or wait them out. So abandoned the rest of my lower body List and finished up with my dumbbell matrix. Now just feeling general malaise and like I’m trying to become ill. Yuck. So not the way I want to end 2016 or start 2017.

Yesterday, the rocks in my head became the rocks in my yard.

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12/30/2016 – We have rocks! Granite boulders delivered and placed.

Yep the granite boulders were delivered. Took them 2 hours to place them just-so, as the rock place owner is an artist and has an artist’s temperament with rock placement. Still, the yard is truly starting to take shape.

 

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12/30/2016 – Retaining wall. One more row of stones and capstone to add.

Monday the rest of the retaining wall stones will be delivered, and M and I are going to a couple of landscape places to check out their decomposed granite and such today. I know, I know – such an enthralling life I am leading today. Honestly, I don’t much care if the decomposed granite is light gray or reddish gray, but M wants what he wants (lightest gray possible) and would like to know in advance so as to adjust his expectations.

I will mostly be happy when the dirt is no longer being tracked everywhere the way it is right this minute.

But after 2 years of waiting, our front yard will finally look like we have done something to make it attractive. I am delighted with the way things are progressing, and even if I do relent and we get the tree, I will insist upon nice decorative rock at its base. Our expensive tastes already have it selected for this application if it comes to that, because it will be a small enough area to justify the cost.

I was putting fuel into my car this morning and contemplating the filthbomb it inside right now when a brand new version pulled up on the other side of the pump. I drive a 2013 Rav4, and after 3+ years it has just over 30K on the odometer. This is essentially less than 10K mile per year, and M and I have tentatively agreed that we keep it at least another 3 or 4 years before deciding whether or not to upgrade or get something else.

Temptation is everywhere, though, and while admiring it’s 2017 twin, I was idly thinking maybe we should advance our timetable, upgrade sooner. This is the terrible accountant in me coming to the surface, because my car is practically brand new, extremely reliable, and the present level of filth bomb interior will be restored to its usual clean and tidy state with a vacuum (yard dirt is everywhere even though Rav lives in the garage) and a dust rag. M’s car is approaching 200K on the odometer and is our primary go vehicle, so our dollars are better spent ensuring it continues to enjoy its present level of robust good order. I don’t know what it is about a brand new car; perhaps I am influenced by the new car smell? A good interior scrub, having M hand wash and detail the exterior and I’ll be over the moon again abut my car. But for a few moments I was dreaming of bright and shiny objects I do not really want. I am far more comforted by the replacement car cash building and driving our paid-for vehicles.

And in all fairness, I’m not 100% sure I want another SUV when the time comes. M will always have an AWD/4WD SUV because of his hobbies and places he goes. Me, my next car could be a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Or a Rav with a bigger, more powerful engine. Things may change with environmental regulations under the Trump administration, so probably best to wait and see what happens with cars on our present planned trajectory.

M and I have been discussing our plans and projects for 2017, and this may be the year when we do not have a big home improvement. The deck last spring and the front landscaping now pretty much leave us wanting to let things settle a bit before we decide on what to do next. This year was so busy, hectic, crazy with both kids getting married and then C moving to Florida, so we may need to revisit our plans and priorities for the new year. Definitely we will want to go to Florida to visit C and A, but when is in question right now. Summer does not appeal to me in the slightest, G and K would also like to go, but they have a destination wedding in Mexico in March, so it does seem more prudent to let some time pas and savings build for them to join us. I like the idea of October, but M kind of wants to go to Portland and visit our friends up north and support them in an ultra race. He may also go to Colorado to support his bestie at Leadville, and while he would love for me to go as well, I’m not that excited about the idea. The primary reason I like the Portland event is that a lot of our runner friends up in that group have non-running spouses that I genuinely enjoy hanging with. We shall see.

Work continues to be an evolving adventure. While a bunch of my tiny self-employment clients have found other accountants to help them, I did pick up 2 new regular clients that I could not turn away. When one of my existing long-term private clients refers someone to me I always say yes, no matter what. I doubt I will regret these addition, although I feel mildly intimidated by the volume of catch-up that must be done and the challenges of working and educating them to avoid such mishaps into the future.

Sometimes it seems the biggest disconnect that M and I suffer is the fact that he is essentially retired and I feel as if I am only just now cresting my peak working years. While I have zero resentment about being the breadwinner in our relationship, he feels some hesitation to pursue his hobbies and interests when larger cash outlaws are involved. I’m grateful for our baseline communication, where we can talk about things honestly and openly and figure out whether or not we can make things happen. That he might travel without me is of no consequence; if I really wanted to go I would make it happen. Fact is I truly love the work I do and it satisfying the little slave-driver within that keeps pushing to do more, more more, as well as the organizer who wants to find balance and manage the time I have available.

My hope for the new year that the quest for balance continues to evolve into a life that satisfies my needs as well as fulfills more of my wants. In 2016 I came face to face with the idea that success in personal development is not just a fluke or something that happens to the gifted and the blessed. Persistence, hard work, discipline have their place, and surprisingly, I am capable to stepping up when it matters. Perhaps I always have been capable, yet not quite ready to embrace and accept that it happens even when not gifted or blessed with any special talents.

The desire to learn and challenge myself in new ways sparks joy in unique and exciting ways, and pursuing the various tendrils of new and evolving interests is invigorating. Either commingling that with my jobs or finding time to prioritize my pursuit is part of what makes my life interesting. I am, at heart, a very simple soul.

I do love the beginning of a new year. If I view every month as a chapter in my personal book, I see a year as a volume in my book of life. I am always excited about new beginnings, fresh starts, resets. For me, 2016 was an absolutely amazing and wonderful year. The plan is to continue to build on that, and with the zeal of the born again, I plan to make it happen.

Happy new year, everyone! Please be safe tonight.

 

Corollary to my final 2016 training recap

Last year, trainer J introduced Scott Abel into our training routines. Whether he had been reading and following Coach Abel for awhile or I just start paying more attention when he was discussing technique and theory seems irrelevant at this point, although I do believe it was the former. Or maybe I was just finally in the headspace to hear what Coach Abel has to say about exercise, diet, physique transformation.

Under most prior circumstances, I would discount Coach Abel almost immediately because of his history as a physique competitor and trainer/coach. His message would not apply to me, unfit and hapless/hopeless middle aged woman. Negative girl was starting to pump up the volume during this period, and I would be slowly backing away muttering about not being in that realm of exercise and never, ever being capable of and therefore not interested in that aspect of gym life, all the while thinking “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.” Fortunately by that time I was already moving away from setting specific goals, counting calories, learning about macros, and seeing food, body, exercise as my enemy. Fortunately by that time I had enjoyed some surprising success with managing my diabetes and having medications cut and numbers dramatically improving. Fortunately by then I was more focused on improving my overall health than on what the scale read or how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin.

I am a success story in this regard, and as hard as it is to write that down and publish it publicly (lest you all judge me some ginormous egomaniac), I am standing by it.

Abel writes a lot about the inside-outside transformation. From a Facebook post today:

After this many years and decades Coaching people to physique transformations, it still amazes me how people tend to overlook the elements of lifestyle that will make or break being able to accomplish and sustain a physique transformation. 

So many people form a goal to take better care of themselves and to transform themselves from the outside-in, and then get all caught up in incidental elements of this transformation process. They start focusing on counting calories and number-crunching macros and searching for the “magic training program” and all the rest. But they miss and overlook the most fundamental aspects that make sustainable physique transformation possible – and that is lifestyle considerations. 

Lifestyle is the FOUNDATION that supports all these other things. It is not the other way around. That is the illusion. 

And lifestyle is also one of the hardest life habits to change. But make no mistake; things like time-management, mindset and attitude, sleep patterns, meal times, stress-management – these things together ALL fundamentally matter more than does the right workout program or the right diet-strategy. If you don’t have the right lifestyle and the right mindset to fit these things into – then it is never going to work for long.

Such sentiments resonate deeply within me. I have worked very hard at transforming my mindset, at locking away my negative girl and shutting down the voices that whisper that I can’t exercise, that I’m fat, gross, out of shape, never going improve. Nothing I do every day in the gym or the yoga studio even compares to the difficulty of transforming that part of my life and lifestyle.

The timing is just right for me at this point in my life. My jobs are flexible enough that I can spend up to 2 hours at the gym every day and be in bed by 9 or 9:30 so I can get up and 4 a.m. to get my exercise done and crossed off my daily to-do before I even consider doing anything else. I simplified my eating down to a few basic meals and I eat those over and over and over again. Since I am not much of a foodie or a cook, it’s easy enough for me to drink a protein shake or eat a bowl or oatmeal every day for breakfast and have the same turkey and cheese sandwich almost daily. Weight loss when it occurs will be a nice perk, but these less I thought as an earned consequence of my actions the happier, calmer, and more enjoyable life became.

I have worked hard and deserve the success I am presently enjoying; I have earned it. However, in my reading and trying to learn more about the science behind physiology and human body systems, I recognize and accept more and more that decades of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits and food choices are not reversed overnight or even over the course of the year. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not. That said, I have no basis for complaint. None at all. Everyone ages and maybe complete recovery and some shadow of socially approved slender, svelte figure is not possible for me at this stage of my life. Oh well. I have a fabulous husband who loved me when I was fatter and loves me more now not because I am this much fitter but because he loves that I am happier and more comfortable and confident in my own skin. My health is excellent and I am rarely sick, allergies aside. I have been careful and cautious in my exercise pursuits and avoided injuries thus far, a trend I hope continues. As long as I can continue to manage my vanity and my ego, I can continue to dwell in my present level of happy, mostly balanced headspace.

In my own mind, I am Jane Average – normal level of intelligence, common sense, and ability to get through life and learn from my experiences. This was me comparing myself to others, and over the course of the last year I have learned just how dangerous that behavior can be, because I will always find reasons for fault with me. Stopping myself from comparing me to others has freed me to pursue my own thoughts and make better choices and exercise more realistic judgment about what is possible, what is not. I am far less susceptible to the endless drone of marketing that tells me I can be more than I can in 10 minutes per day. It also gives me a lot more room to be completely genuine in my support and enthusiasm for other people’s successes. Envy is an ugly emotion; self-flagellation for not having the same level or type of success is far worse.

The resulting overall physical improvement from my exercise efforts is wonderful, but the ways it has impacted all aspects of the way I conduct myself and live my life is unexpected. My mindset and interest in continuing the process is such a huge boon and benefit. I don’t know that Scott Abel is 100% right in his theories and opinions 100% of the time, but I do know his approach generally makes sense to me and has impacted me far beyond any tiny expectations or hopes I might have harbored this time last year.

Self improvement gets talked about an awful lot, and I have read far too many articles, books, even blogs on the subject. A lot of it was simply gobbledygoop. These days, I’m more capable of reading their words and making realistic judgments about whether it is something worthwhile for me in my life or simply a empty platitude that looks pretty in print. When I saw TM a couple of weeks ago he remarked upon how well I look and seem overall, and how our tune-up appointment next month might just be a one-and-done type year. My village – they don’t blow smoke in my direction much less up my skirt. His comment meant the world to me.

As I slowly close out 2016, anyone reading this or having followed my journey this last year and relating to my struggles as well as my successes, I leave you with the following though from Coach Scott Abel, also posted today on Facebook:

You will be amazed how much you change from the outside-in, when you focus first and foremost on change from the inside-out!

I am living, breathing, happy proof of this concept. Happy new year, everyone!

Training #99 – Nothing’s gonna stop us now

Thursday morning, J is back from his holiday vacation, and it was our last training session for 2016. Going forward and starting on Monday, these and other exercise-related posts will begin appearing in my new endeavor – MakingProgressGettingFitter.com – going live on Saturday, December 31.

Today was our final review day, appropriate since he is just returning from vacation and we can begin anew with different Lists in the new year.

Funny story from this week – I met a couple of old friends for dessert one evening. My one friend C I haven’t seen in almost 2 years, although we keep in touch regularly through email and other electronic channels. I walked into the restaurant where she and her husband were waiting, took off my coat, hugged her, and she says, really LOUDLY, “Oh. My. GOD. Where did you get that butt? D, look at Nel’s butt!” It makes me laugh even now, because her husband was kind of mortified that his wife is commanding him to look at her long-time friend’s ass. I jokingly told her that booty building was part of J’s career mission in life to build his middle age female tribe clients better, rounder, more attractive derrieres with not only lots of variations squats, lunges, and glute-strengthening exercises, but high reps and lots of sets of squats, lunges, and glute-strengthening exercises several times per week.

I laughingly referred to it as the “build a better butt” project and told her I would go home and rename all my lower body Lists the “build a better butt” List numbers 1 through infinity. We just laughed and laughed over that. In high school, C and I both had unremarkable, even flat posteriors.

Not anymore. And as friend C said to me, now that I have it, I should flaunt it. I seriously doubt I will ever have enough confidence or feel irritated enough to go that far, but who knows? I never thought I’d be whipping off a sweater to show off my bicep either, but provoke me enough, shit happens.

What We Did

As I said, review day, except J changed the order and made a few adjustments as well. The List:

1-legged Glute Pushdown

Squat Machine (Frog Stance)
Stability Ball Reverse Hyperextension

Cable Glute Kickback
Cable Side Hip Abductions
Cable Adductions

Cable Glute Donkey Kick
Cable 1-leg RDL

How It Felt

Still crushing on the 1-legged glute pushdown. Today was a bit of refinement, on trying to get some extra contraction out of the leg by leaning into it and lifting it an extra little bit at the very top of the exercise. This required some readjustment of the resting foot, which when J was saying this used the term “right foot back further on the platform” which my brain interpreted at the left foot on the moving part and the exact opposite of what he meant. A little embarrassing, because having been one of those kids who had their left-handedness corrected in kindergarten, to this day I still have to think what is left, what is right when directions come into play. But mostly amusing, because I am someone who has to think left is left, right is right and not let big words like “platform” short circuit my thinking. Anyway, pressing down I got, lifting up I got as well, but that last little lifting up an extra half inch – that was a little challenging. Doable, manageable, but note to self: never underestimate the effectiveness of the last little bit of work on this and other exercises like it.

From there we were back to the squat machine “frog stance,” the current bane of my existence and the sore glutes I have been sitting upon off and on throughout the day. Not from the regular squats, or even the squat as low as possible in the machine cradle per J’s instructions, but that last set of 1.5 squats (down low, rise half way up, down low again, rise all the way to the top … lather rinse repeat), now that was like the fast-track on the build a better butt circuit. It has been awhile since he tossed that curve into the mix, and I remember now why I have allowed myself to go to sleep on that particular twist on these types of exercise. It is most definitely effective, and I found myself breathing had and sweating hard trying to get through the 10 reps in this grouping.

Coupled with the squat machine squats was the stability ball reverse hyperextensions. These are still lurking on the favorites List, although I am not crushing quite as hard on these as I am the glute pushdown machine. These are part of the rotation in hot yoga from the floor, so it’s actually easier and far more pleasant from the stability ball. I have been experimenting with feet together, feet slightly apart, feet slightly wider apart. Because of the yoga feet tend to be closer together, but not always, not each and every rep. J’s gentle direction to try and hold the shape at the top of the movement was primary focus today, and as I continue with these I will strive to hold the extension at the top.

The fluffy cuffies go on for the rest of this List. We began with the glute kickbacks, which are probably the easiest to master in the fluffy cuffy series. While I think and find these to be easiest of the series to master, they are effective and not easy-peasy exercises. But really, is there any exercise on any List that is easy-peasy for long? In my experience, if something becomes easy-peasy it’s time to add weightier weights or wait for J to notice that I’m barely breathing or sweating and moving along as if I am without a care in the world. I can most definitely still feel these in my glutes, a very good feeling.

We have done cable side hip abductions in prior reviews and Lists. The shape and movement of the exercise is not complicated or even that difficult; it’s getting the angle just right and finding an anchoring place to hold onto that brings the biggest challenge. These seem to be extremely effective on the side hips and do require some focused concentration, but are not unmanageable, no matter what I am thinking at the time I am doing them. Worst case scenario, and I may try this on another cable machine, is that I get a bar to help with the balance instead of trying to find an anchoring point on the machine.

New for the List today was the cable adductions versus the adductor machine, and I am kind of winging it on the name because J has not had opportunity to update the List. Rather than swinging the leg out to the side as one does with the cable abductions, the cable adductions have the leg swinging forward, in front of the stabilizing leg. (This is the test kitchen kind of stuff J dreams up when he goes on vacation.) These are effective, and I can most definitely feel it 12+ hours later.

Cable donkey kick I had to ask J about form. I knew the basic knee up, kick back, but I got confused on whether the knee stayed in 90 degree position or kind of stretched out in back once kicked (leg does unbend, but not to completely straight). These are not bad, but they require some practice. Another staple on the build a better butt circuit.

The cable 1-legged RDL is no longer the arch nemesis it once was, but it lingers on the nemesis list. Yep, still really tough. Since these were at the end of the List today, legs and hips were fatigued, balance was essentially shit. J, being fabulous trainer/coach, tells me and demonstrates slowing down and being very focused on keeping upper body tight and bending slowly and deliberately to stay focused on the balance portion of the movement. Despite the fatigue, I did pretty well with these after that. Did I make it to the full 12 reps? Ummm … no. But I did not do too badly all things considered. These are no longer arch nemesis material, because I have improved through the many months of pursing them in training as well as in practice on my own.

On the fluffy cuffy series, we through each exercise for all sets on one side before switching. It made a difference, even if I cannot tell you right now how or why.

Key Takeaways

I love training days, and I love review days. But you know that; I say it almost every week.

Monday I was struggling with an upper body List, in that I was experiencing pain in some of my chest pressing exercises. Ultimately I reviewed form without any weights and then used lighter weights and finished the List without further incident. Texted with J about it (from his vacation), mostly to reassure myself that I was doing the right things and looking for issues in the right areas, and came away feeling pretty good about the experience. Yesterday I did a repeat of that List, but I had done some extra warm-up on shoulders with the dumbbell matrix J has adapted for me. It made such a difference. I typically start out a List using a lighter weight for the first set of each exercise, what in my mind is a preparatory set, but J refers to that as part of the warm-up process. Whatever we want to call it, I have been underestimating the value of the warm-up process. I do it, because it’s important and a rule, but I think if I am low on either time or energy, cutting back on warm-up is not the place to start shaving.

With all that in mind, today J made it a point to ensure I did a light set first before we got down to business with the actual work. And it made a difference. While I cannot say I feel how much work we are doing in the moment, I definitely feel the impact of the work after I get home, shower, and dress for the day. When I was getting into my car to drive to the office, all I could think of was burn, baby, BURN! with my glutes and hamstrings. Oh my goodness – what the heck have I not been doing all week? A lot, only working different muscles in different ways.

I don’t have to walk away from the gym every day feeling it in my whole body, but sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. When we change things up or when I put forth a lot more effort to try really hard to ensure I understand what and where I should be feeling it, there is some expectation that I will wander away feeling the training session. No right or wrong answer, just reality of the way life and exercise works with me. There are always new lessons to learn and relearn no matter what day of the week or year.

This year – it’s been uplifting and productive. A new year is about to start, and along with it I expect there will be quite few new faces. Last January, I was so busy and so focused on donning my invisibility cloak and staying out of the way of anyone and everyone else I did not notice much. This year, I am practically a fixture, like the benches and the dumbbells. While I do not expect to see much difference in the early morning hours when I typically practice and train with J, it will be interesting to see what I notice as far as new faces.

Surfing through Pinterest as I do most nights winding down for sleep, I read a lot of quotes about loving yourself and undertaking change for yourself. For the most part, I think I have done that and done well at it. J, M, my personal tribe as well as the extended training tribe all inspire this sense of wanting to keep going, to stick with it, to do better.

I still have no specific goals, and for me, it works. Wandering through various blogs I randomly crossed paths with today I read a lot of 2017 goals and resolutions, most of which include some aspect of diet and exercise. One gal, on a financial blog, had a stated goal of squatting 150 lbs. and benching 100 lbs. That sounds super impressive to me, and it started me thinking – if I were to set some sort of goal in line with that, what would I set? The more I pondered it, just idly imagined what it would be like, the more my stomach churned and I thought I might actually make myself physically ill.

No, that sort of goal setting is not for me. My objectives for 2017 are similar to what they were in 2016 – continue training with J twice a week and practice what I am learning on my own consistently each week. And even that is not a goal, more just continuation with the lifestyle I have adopted and adapted myself to living.

I can certainly comfortably live with that.

Kitchen Sink Thoughts

I am struck by the fact that I hung in, hung on, and actually wrote and posted 99 training recap posts. My attention span has rarely been this focused or lasted this long, and it is testament to how committed and involved I am in my training journey. If I ever suggested I would have gotten this far without J, it would be my biggest understatements of 2016. Every training I learn something, or a lot of somethings, and I have so much more life in my life now. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him these last 18 months, and I am looking forward to the all the interesting new things I will learn in 2017.

Looking back over the past year, reading some of my recaps, I am so very proud of my progress and the strides I have made. Nothing is perfect – we are human, after all, so even the tiniest of expectations of perfection is a flawed premise – but I am so much improved in many tangible ways. Everything from my 1-arm rows to my now former arch nemesis, the 1-legged cable Romanian deadlift are better, improved, not vexing or frustrating me to the point of angry tears. Even more than that, though, is how much better my head – the thoughts, the ideas, the ways I think of and speak to myself. Negative girl still dwells, but she’s mostly quiet or her taunts and smack-talk muted by the her cage.

In all aspect of my life, I am a calmer, happier, more balanced person.

There is still room for improvement. There is still so much for me to learn about and ideas to pursue and to ponder. I am never going to be happy standing still; peace for me in the ebb and flow of thinking and ideas and immersion in knowledge. I want to be continually reading, writing, and yes, working on my better health quest, building that better butt and maybe even a leaner, meaner bicep. I know I will not live forever, but for whatever time I get, I do not want to be stricken by some preventable or manageable condition. Diabetes is not curable; it is merely controlled. Right now, I’m doing a very good job with control. A lot of people ask me if it’s hard, and anymore, I’m not sure it’s hard to do so much as being more disciplined about staying the course with good habits. I get up, I go to the gym, and I do something there 6 days per week. On the other day, I go to pilates or to yoga most of the time. But even if I slept late and did not do anything exercise-like at all, I am no longer wracked with guilt or beating myself up for it. Rest days are allowed, even encouraged. Mostly I choose an active rest day, but I am allowed to choose a less active rest day. Or maybe even 2 or 3 in a row. Occasionally. Very, very occasionally. Like long into the distant future type occasionally.

Nearly every Thursday I pass a couple walking their 2 elderly golden retrievers in our neighborhood. This same couple must run a retirement home for elderly goldens, because when we first moved here 5 years ago, there was another older one that every day walked by the house with his toy in his mouth. Sometimes there would be others, fosters just passing through, but typically they are older dogs looking for their final homes.

Since I am leaving the house a bit later on Thursdays, this is the only day I for sure see them out for the daily walk. And every single time, it makes me smile. These mature pups lope along at a gentle pace and seem undisturbed the hyper yorkies that lose their tiny minds over anything, man or beast, that crosses their paths. The golden wag their tails when they meet other walkers who stop to chat for a moment and pet them.

The couple walking them are both type 2 diabetics and these 3 or 4 mile walks daily are for them as much for the dogs. Used to be I would feel discouraged that I did not do at least that much for myself to manage my diabetes, made me feel like a failure for being paralyzed on the couch rather than out in the world. How much confidence I have gained from just sticking with my daily program of getting myself up out of bed and into the gym every day. I got this. I can fall off the wagon, maybe take a day off or week off completely, and return the next day or week and get back to it. Or if I don’t work quite as hard, do quite as much as I feel it warranted or that the List calls for, it is one day out of many days. And I have zero desire to compete in any sort of contest ever. My health, the overall good feeling buzz I am enjoying is the motivation that keeps me trying and moving forward.

J is my trainer and my coach; motivating me should not be part of his job description. Doing his job well, teaching me what I need to know to get pursue practice on my own is what I need most from him. We talk about anything and everything, but my desire to help myself, improve my health is the motivation that brought me to the gym in the first place. As I see it, J’s primary job is to help me build a bigger, badder, multi-layered toolbox so I can get the job done.

While I have no specific goals, SMART or otherwise, the objective is tangible: keep going, keep working. Better health is not a goal; it is a process.

Keep going, keep working at the exercise – same is true of diet. Oh my, the holidays were harsh on the eating front. I did very well, considering the mass quantities of sugar, socializing, food and drink everywhere I went and that followed us home. At some point, though, I decided that the company of family and close friends I only see a few times per year was worth a few thousand extra calories and sugar. I do not regret it, not a single bit. However, I knew then and recognize now that I will likely spend much of January detoxing from these 10 days of feasting on sugar and crap. I have gotten most comfortable and confident about my blood sugar’s stability, and watching those numbers peak out over 240 and be approaching my limit of 140 fasting in the morning is enough wake-up call to seriously curb my behaviors. It was never as bad as it was when I was on medication, but it is bad enough to make me know that the blockade on sugar and gratuitous carb consumption must stop in January.

No doubt in my mind it’s going to be hard; the cravings are back with a vengeance. But I can and will rein myself back in and get my restraint back. I do eat sugar; I am just very judicious and sparing about it. For my birthday I nearly always have a slice of key lime cheesecake, but I cut it in half and either share it with M or someone else or eat the other half one bite daily for a week until its gone (to M’s infinite dismay – who leaves a single bite of cheesecake in the refrigerator?). This holiday season – I ate the equivalent of a whole slice of cheesecake for about 10 straight days. It gives me the willies to imagine my A1c in a few weeks. but if it’s higher than it has been I will already be battening down the sugar hatches and on my way to good and better control. I cannot imagine my endocrinologist writing me a new scrip until a second, non-holiday quarter and elevated readings.

As I told J, I am not going to crucify myself for 10 days of less desirable choices after another 355 of better choices. Perhaps next year I will be better able to resist the temptations for all of December, or at least show a little more restraint than I did this year. That said, compared to 2015, 2016 was a pretty remarkable improvement, and 2015 and was an improvement over 2014. I am getting better at this stuff. I have reasonable expectations and am an improving work in progress managing both the expectations and my behaviors. I consider that good progress.

And dang – I am so very proud of myself for my improved habits and much healthier life and lifestyle.

So this wraps my year of training recaps. It has been a genuinely amazing and awesome year. Thanks for reading along and following my journey thus far. Because as the title says – nothing’s gonna stop us now.

 

The weight of expectations

Christmas 2016 is now past, and the beginning of a brand year begins in less than a week. While it is an exciting time to me, so many I know struggle up to and through until the middle of January. The holidays are difficult.

My theory is that the heavy marketing of Christmas and the holidays to drive sales leaves people with this impression of what the holiday season “should” be like. Like so many, I grew up in a dysfunctional family and had no particular holiday traditions. There were presents, lots of presents, and stockings overflowing with candy and such, but we did not have anything even close to traditional family rituals. As an adult and with my own family, I really, Really, REALLY wanted to establish family traditions that of our own. And when I did, I found myself getting more and more stressed trying to get everything done just so and then depressed when Christmas day passed. The decorations, the traditions, the symbols of the holiday did not make me happy or feel more connected to my family. If anything, it made things so much worse.

Letting go of the expectations of a “perfect” holiday or having some traditional ritual we performed every season was among the smarter, wiser choices in my life. As a divorced mom I had to share my young children with their father. At first I wanted them Christmas morning; their dad could have them Christmas eve if he wished, then bring them home, then we’d do Christmas at my house and with my parents and then drop them with him and his parents on Christmas day. When they were young, we had presents, stockings, all the traditional stuff of a commercial Christmas holiday. As they got older, if the kids were with us we might go to the snow and then to a buffet in Tahoe or in Reno. Sometimes I’d put up a tree and decorations, but just as often I would not.

And guess what? It works for us. Being together to celebrate is the most important thing for us, either before, during, or after the actual Christmas holiday. And I still sometimes put up the tree and decorate the house, or not.

This year M and I celebrated quietly home alone. We grilled steaks, made salads, baked potatoes, and had a nice dinner together. We dropped a card and gift off at a friends home, drove until we found some snow, got out and stomped around a bit, then got back in the car and drove home. We talked with friends by phone or email or text. My daughter and son-in-law in Florida both worked, my son and daughter-in-law chose to spend the day at home alone and then have dinner with G’s paternal grandparents. Not seeing them on Christmas because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean much to us; we will have dinner on New Year’s day and celebrate new beginnings.

I’m not unhappy with the way things went this year. The past few years we have had guests for the holiday and a lot of fun and special times. This year it didn’t happen as we had all hoped, but we will be together again soon and celebrate then. For our family celebrations and occasions, what the calendar says doesn’t matter.

And so it goes for us. Perhaps it comes from being unsentimental, but growing up in a pretty cold home makes me feel like every day I spend with those who love and accept me is an unexpected gift. I strive not to take it for granted, yet have the hope that the good feelings, the warmth, the love continue for a long time to come.

Because we have no set traditions, there is no sense of boredom or obligation associated with doing the same things, year after year. I love that M and I are happy just being together, chatting with our family and friends, making and consuming a simple dinner.

I like to believe the spirit of Christmas is with us all through the year. I always hope to have a heart open to giving and receiving from the nearest and dearest as well as others that may cross my pathway.

I feel no sense of disappointment. M and I have not exchanged gifts in years, and even in our earliest days of romance, we both tended to pursue practical needs rather than wants or uniquely personal things. Of course, there was not a lot of spare cash lying around, but we were happy then, are still happy now.

And now that the silly season has mostly passed, we breath a sigh of relief that we made it through another year without the Christmas crazy touching us enough to bring forth angst and disappointment. Perhaps this is the best gift we could provide for one another.