Parenting is hard

It’s St. Patrick’s day. In 1984, my oldest child was born. I remember checking into the hospital and the nurse saying I would be having a  St. Patrick’s day baby and in honor of that, they would be tattooing a shamrock on the baby’s butt. Whether my serious expression was primarily fear of this whole birthing process or I was so tired I looked as if I were taking her seriously, she quickly assured me she was only joking.

B was probably 6 before she realized that the St. Patrick’s day parade we took her to each year was not actually held in honor of her birthday.

It’s 21 years this month since she left us, and I miss her still.


3/17/2017 – B, Jan-1985; about 10 months.

And her final school picture, taken not long before she passed away.


B – Jan-1996; not quite 12 yet.

March is a challenge every year. Not a day in the last 21 years passes that I do not think about her, and I would not have it any other way. Mostly I smile. Occasionally, I tear up and feel the weight of loss. Mostly, though, I really do smile. So much life and memories packed into 12 years and 5 days. In my heart I cherish all she was to those who knew her and turn away any and all thoughts of what might have been. Our time together was limited. I am glad to be someone who was present with my children, so my regrets about that time are so tiny and insignificant relatively to the balance of my life.

But parenting young adults is still hard.

C called early this morning after a major fight with her husband. Unfortunately this is not the heartbreak drama of teenage angst, but the seriousness of a grown-up married people. Trying to be fair and balanced – out the window. My kid is crying, having a panic attack over the telephone. Forget fair and balanced. A said cruel things and there is blood in my eyes.

Okay, not quite that bad.

Being her mother’s daughter, I cringe at some of C’s decisions and mannerisms that come directly from me. I know that when this kind of dust-up happens, it’s not just because A came home and decided to be a prick that day. Having been in Florida only a few months, there are a billion details that one takes for granted growing and becoming an adult in your own hometown. Finding doctors and dentists and making new friends – it is a process. And when shit hits, the gap between what you had before you moved crossed the country becomes the grand canyon.

I talked her down off the ledge, called and checked in on her more than I have in 20 years, since that first summer that she and her brother stayed home alone while M and I were both working. By the end of the day, she’d calmed down and made significant progress finding healthcare providers and making appropriate appointments … in a few weeks. But she found stop-gap help with a local clinic – a referral from an assistant manager at their apartment complex. And with a little guidance from me, began the outline of The Plan for what she would do if this type of thing should come up again.

As for me, it was a busy day at work with a lot of gratuitous meetings that did little other than frustrate me with stranger’s ability to demonstrate their cluelessness. I am a master at compartmentalizing, though, and chugged along and got through it. By the end of the day, though, I was unrepentantly swigging sugary soda.

Parenting is hard sometimes, something no one really stresses before you take on that role, and I am honest enough, selfish enough, to say I do not really love the responsibility and the job itself. But I love the kids involved, all of them, and my hopes for them hinge on their overall happiness. Even when things are not going so well and they do stupid shit that frustrates and/or irritates me, I have to believe they will learn from the experiences.

Another St. Patrick’s day, another of B’s birthdays in the history books.

I miss her.



Competitive, compartive, or some other spirit

A few occurrences this week  have me thinking about competition. When it is healthy, when it is less so, when it becomes something destructive to our systems.

I do not think of myself as especially competitive. If pressed, I feel more likely to fold like a house of cards and forfeit. Unless I am having fun or feel more confident about my abilities, at which time I might try harder and finish gracefully. Better than that, though, I simply prefer not to be involved in competitive events. I like it much better when things are friendly and just for fun. Obviously it does not work that way at work – for jobs, promotions, project assignments, etc. But that’s also partly why I work for myself and am the only one who does my particular job with its myriad of functions for the last decade and a half for small firms.

My not confident and therefore not competitive nature is also part of why I do not pursue sports, other than my lack of natural ability or strong interest in learning necessary skills. The tomes on my exercise progress should demonstrate that despite being in the gym daily for the last 9 months I’m pretty far from some sort of brilliant specimen to parade out as an example of a success story. Gains and improvements are inside, not because my physical appearance has altered. I’m okay with these things. Not competing with others has allowed me to avoid getting depressed about my lack of conventional progress.

But despite not feeling competitive, I do frequently find myself avoiding the trappings of it in all aspects of my life. Parenting, and now grandparenting. I mean, seriously, being a grandparent is not something I can or should be concerned about or consider that within my realm of control. And I resent the Hell out of friends who try to frame it as a sad event in my life or worse – that there is something defective about my kids because they believe a child-free life is the correct course for them. Like so many things people are pushy about with their own agendas, I simply don’t get it. I try really hard to have an open mind about people and their choices in life. Why do I seem to be associated with so many who are hung up on their own ways being the only correct ways?

Maybe it’s not a competitive trap so much as it is a comparative trap. There are life and lifestyle choices and it should not be one size fits most. M and I have this discussion from time to time, because he is far more conservative than I am and periodically I grow weary of his narrow Judeo-Christian point of view and beliefs as being the one and only true way. Of course, I did not grow up with the same fundamentalist Christian upbringing and have my own sort of anger toward the hypocrisy of organized religion. But that is truly discussion for another day, perhaps another blog altogether.

This comes up today because of recent work-related challenges and stressors. Seriously, I am about done with the sense of entitlement and “deserve” type flack of late. I do not expect everyone to be cheerful, happy, effusive about how great it is to work at their jobs, but I do have really basic expectations of professional demeanor and behavior on the job. Pouting does not count as professional demeanor.

Tuesdays I do not typically go into the office, because it’s my one sure day dedicated to my business and clients. However, I’m reachable by phone, text, and email, so it’s not like I go into deep freeze and ignore them completely.

My troubled receptionist returned yesterday, with a doctor’s note per our policy. We had a short meeting that was long on specifics regarding duties and office behaviors. She is pouting – and I loathe pouting – but I am trying to make this work for me until I have opportunity to screen and secure a replacement. Since I am in the midst of negotiating for new office space and planning a move this year, it is kind of a crazy time for me at work. Selfishly, I am deciding what is more of a priority in my busy work world – dealing with her bullshit or finding and training someone else. I am leaning toward the latter.

There is part of me that feels personally challenged by her behavior and attitude, like I am a poor manager for not firing her ass right this minute. What spirit camp does that come from – comparative, competitive, or rightfully annoyed by childish behaviors? I knew I would be out today, we have brand new staff interns that started yesterday and there needed to be some semblance of stability in my absence today.

Tomorrow is a completely different ball game.

I have a summer solution, in someone I know is home from college for the summer who would love a job of any sort. I’m brining her in on Thursday to meet with me, talk about the job. With her in place, I have some time to screen and recruit a permanent staffing solution. Either way, I am done with such an immature brat that values herself and her performance far above reality.

So I feel a lot better about the work situation. I also got a lot done with my self-employment client workload today as well as my administrative tasks and May invoicing. We have guests this week, so juggling work and practice and everything else such is more hectic than usual. But I’m hanging in, hanging on, getting my crap done. And enjoying spending time with our friends.

Saturday addendum, Sunday continuation

This post is partly an addendum to yesterday’s post (Gym discouragement? Not anymore). I do not do this often – usually my posts are like epic novels about nothing in particular in the blog worldview – but sometimes I am caught up in other stuff and forget something I want to remember later.

So anyway …

M and I were doing our weekly grocery shopping and errands on Saturday, chattering about the day as we typically do on these excursions. I was talking about my morning at the gym, how hard I felt I worked, dripping sweat on the floor (and being mildly horrified as well as kind of proud), and how the hormone replacement therapy is boosting my energy in the day and my restful sleep at night. But mostly about how I wondered if the sides of my butt cheeks are ever going to cease feeling like I’m stabbing them with ice picks.

My husband is encouraging without being overly rah-rah enthusiastic. During the course of that conversation he reminded me that setting goals does not work out well for most people, at least in his opinion. When I got started the only goal he said I should pursue is to get to the gym and do everything I can do that day with the parameters of my time and ability, and then wash/rinse/repeat for all the days thereafter. He, J, others in my world promised me the consistency would lead to changes and improvements.

I’m glad he/they were right, and I’m really glad M leads by example. As much bitching, moaning, weenie-whining he might do about his daily runs, he gets out there, every single day for years now, and runs or runs/walks or sometimes even just walks for at least a couple of miles. The last couple of months he’s been clocking north of 100 miles per week every week and very happy about his training and having a lot of fun with his buddies, so life is very good for both of us as individuals as well as us the couple. I am trying to imagine how life might look and feel if he were still racing, but if he ever chooses to go that route again, we will adjust.


Today’s conversation, as we ran all over the place chasing down loose end items we needed to acquire and nail down for the week, we were talking about how difficult the commitment to regular exercise and healthier lifestyle can be. Or not. We do not really see it that way, but that’s just us and our simple, mostly uncomplicated, mostly drama-free lives. Our days begin early (4 a.m. for me, 3 a.m. for M), so our electronic notifications go off by 9 and we are both typically sleeping by 10 most nights. Weekends I have more latitude – my alarm goes off at 6 – but still, I try to stick to my regular sleeping schedule. Most people we know are unwilling to get up so early, and I completely understand their point of view. However, what I have learned is that my better health quest required some sacrifices that seemed so hard at first yet have made me so much happier to date.

Anymore, I don’t see the time I spend at the gym as such a supreme sacrifice. It’s an addiction, for sure, yet one I could likely quit without too much difficulty if I applied myself. It seems to me only bad habits are difficult to let go of – my battles with soda and sugar are defining moments in this line of conversation. The old “I am so busy” excuse could also be applied very easily, because there is always more work to do, to chase, to market. And I have superior skills in the art of dawdling and wasting time.

But a sacrifice? Not hardly. In considering this process and the choices I make every day about exercising and eating better, I recognize again and again it is a simple matter of priorities. My desire to take better care of myself pushed me out of being comfortable with existing habits and into the big scary world of the gym. When I could not do this by myself, I hired professional help with J. When I stopped making excuses, and stopped allowing myself to accept the excuses as reality-based reasons to not do what was necessary, I got better at the exercise. When my anxiety, insecurity, fear threatened my progress, I went back to TM for more professional help improving my self-esteem. My outlook and confidence have both soared dramatically in all aspects of my life. While I am safely on the healthy side of diabetes, food remains a struggle. It seems as if I have given up so much, I am unwilling to completely commit to going a lot farther and cut even more. That said, the marvelously patient and talented RD continues to work with me to suggest and bully encourage me to implement tiny changes that will add up to significant differences overall. He has not given up and therefore I have not given up either. It will happen.

I have gained so much confidence and simple joy from the experiences, even the less pleasant ones. The challenges before me are not so daunting anymore, although when in the thick of them I have some doubts and feel as if my gym crazy has morphed into another kind of insanity … what most everyone else refers to as self-confidence. Having never really had any in fitness or athletic pursuits, it is as if a whole new world has opened and the black and white monochrome landscape suddenly has a kaleidoscope of colors leaking into the small, fine details. Sure, there has been sweat, tears, even occasional bleeding involved in the process. At the same time, I am more capable. My balance continues to improve. My strength and the shape of my limbs has altered. I pick up and actually use kettle bells and dumbbells with double digit weight ranges and think nothing of it anymore, and when I do stop and realize I am pushing a 25 lb. dumbbell or pulling a 45 lb. kettle bell I am a little in awe of me. J has been working overtime on a new set of upper body sequences, and I am very excited to see what the test kitchen has prepared this week.

Months and months ago J planted a tiny little idea seed that this week, this weekend has been nourished and coaxed into a little more growth – I could be on the road to badass-ery in the gym.

The thought makes me smile and makes my heart happy.

Training #13 – Girls just wanna have fun

Monday morning, training day with J. While it sounds sort of repetitive (read: boring) to say it, sessions continue to be great. Even when we have to review dreadful core exercises. While my head understands they are necessary, that a strong core is necessary, my heart and the rest of me hates their bloody guts. Not just our current blast of 3, all of them. All core, all the time – I have some serious hate on for it.

But no matter. We did them today, they are done until tomorrow. And then tomorrow I will again be thankful for another 24 core exercise-free hours. Review and repetition are my friends, though; someday my dislike of core stuff will fade … at which time J will have something new to bring on the suck.

I am not sure why I find them so awful. Perhaps they remind me too much of high school PE where we we did endless sit-ups and then planky-like stuff that did not feel good anywhere. Flashbacks to awkward beyond belief teenage years is unpleasant any way you try to frame it.

What else we did in review today besides the dreaded and dreadful core exercises:

DB elevated reverse lunge (maybe was supposed to alternate but did not?)
DB alternate side lunge and “reach”
DB alternate single leg Romanian dead lift (forgot to alternate, though)
Supine hip bridge march with mini band
DB anterior lean split squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians)
90/90 curl up crunch
Two up, 1 down lowers
High tension plank

I love review days. As much as I really enjoy training days where J is teaching me new things and/or changing and/or reordering other exercises, I just love review day because there are corrections and adjustments and cueing that make the exercises in current rotation better for me. Not necessarily easier, but better in that mastery feels closer to within my grasp. There are always moments in practice when I feel like I might be getting lazy because a series feels so familiar, almost too easy type familiar. Anything seeming to be too easy for me sets off this big flashing neon sign in my head that says I must be doing something wrong, which can and has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I start doing stupid things and have to break myself of newly acquired undesirable form habits.

Lunges are on my need-to-reframe-more-positively list, but they remain not my finest moments or most beloved of exercises. However, I am determined to improve and will be working at this this week. If I had a spotlight exercise every week (which I do not, and maybe will not ever, but I am toying with the idea) this week it would be lunges. I really have no idea what my problem with them continues to be, but they are eternally aggravating. I am not scared of them anymore, which is a huge something, but there still is no “gee, it’s lunge day!” going on in my mind. Truthfully, there is very little “gee, it’s [insert exercise here] day!” going on very often, but it does happen from time to time.

Some sequences and routines I do like better than others, which J happened to ask me about before we began the dreaded core review. (I recognize the need to reframe that into something other than “dreadful” to get to my happier place about them, but that’s on another, in-the-future to-do list.) But of the dumbbell, stretchy band, and TRX sequences, I had to say it’s dumbbells first, then stretchy bands, then TRX. Which surprises me, because I thought I would really love the TRX more than anything else. But that was way back when we first started, this is now this many months into the future. Things change, and who knows, they may change again and TRX will float to the top spot. I am referring to exercise as “fun” routinely now; anything is possible.

I get why I like the dumbbells – they feel somehow more technical (but no, not really in comparison to other things) and dangerous because I am holding onto something heavy that would be painful if dropped on or accidentally whacked against me or someone else. The bands are similar, because there is a measure of control is required to wrangle with those things or I will find myself suddenly snapped into a different, unexpected place the second I lose focus. The TRX is challenging, for sure, but it seems like fewer Very Bad Things can happen if I do not stay completely immersed in what I am doing. While fewer Very Bad Things can happen, the possibility of making mistakes, being sloppy with form, or just allowing myself to become bored with whatever I am trying has also been cropping up in recent experiences. Thankfully the gym is a lot bigger than just the TRX rack and its straps.

But I also still love the TRX lower body stuff. The skater squats and single leg Romanian deadlifts remain an improving challenge, and those TRX hamstring curls still vex me every time they come up on a List. After what we did today, anything hamstring related is going to give me pause. I am recognizing that I need to do more than just sit on that part of my legs, because my oh my am I feeling every single one of those Bulgarian Romanians today. Happy feelings in spite of the “big muscles working” lingering moan every time I stand up or walk or do just about anything, though. I think the coin just dropped into its slot about correct form and what is supposed to be working, where those hammies are supposed to be screaming out and quaking as they fatigue, and no backaches from doing them less correctly. Progress.

I confess to not going to the gym yesterday – I blew it off in favor of a day at home alone. Plus I made the mistake of starting on work-work and next I knew 3+ hours had passed and I was no longer interested in the idea of getting into my car and driving to the gym to practice. Plus it had been 29 straight days (and a few double workout days tossed in for good measure) since my last absence from the gym. (I had to check my gym account to see how long it had been since my prior no-check-in day.) It was also Valentine’s day and our wedding anniversary. Essentially, I had lots and lots of excellent ways to justify taking a day off, even if the only person who demands any sort of excuse is me.

That whole “listen to your body” thing is mostly working out for me, except I need it to stop pleading for chocolate and soda and potato chips. With the exercise, though, I am starting to recognize the signs of fatigue, both physically and mentally. Weekends are usually my time to enjoy the ability to stay and continue as long as I wish and do as much as I want without limits to my time, but Saturday I had an appointment with a client at 10 and needed to head out by 8:45 or so. However, I had been feeling the fatigue weighing pretty routinely in practices all week. On Saturday had been toying with the idea of making a break for the exit long before my phone reminded me that I needed to leave. So really, the seed of a day off had already been planted and growing inside my head.

I marvel at my most recent 29 day streak of gym check-ins. I no longer plan these things, as I had to when I first began my quest for consistent practice. Mostly I am more habituated to getting up and going to the gym every day. Like Monday and Thursday are training days with J, the rest of the week has its own rhyme and reason as well, but the primary theme is get up when the alarm goes off and get to the gym, after which everything falls into place with regard to Lists and sequences.

Chatting with another lady on Saturday she was expressing how much better she feels after her workouts and it got me thinking about how I feel after practices. At first I really noticed that I had been exercising, but now it seems I have gotten to a new plateau where I just expect to feel this way, this level of good everyday. Maybe it’s not the hamstrings reminding me that I was doing something before the workday, but I have a sense of my musculature now that was missing before. I find myself going through my day and some movement will remind me of something on the Lists, whether it is bending over to pick something up or reaching for something in an overhead cabinet. If I ever choose to stop exercise completely, it would likely be easy to forget what my new normal feels like and how much more physically resilient my body feels right now, something I hope will continue as we mosey along the health and fitness trail. But since I have absolutely no desire to return to my former normal, I am motivated to stay plugged into training and practice.

J also asked me this morning about my comfort level in our little room, and I am better than fine in there. My gym anxiety has mostly dissipated with the habit of going as frequently as I do these days. Seeing many of the same people, same faces morning after morning, doing the periodic evening practice to increase my gym tolerance and strengthen my mental/emotional fortitude. Walking to the ladies locker room I pass a series of the big machines with plates and stacks and people using them and I idly wonder what they are doing and why. The variations I see of the same/similar exercises make me curious – are they doing it correctly or is there a greater possibility of someday hurting themselves in their efforts than the last person I saw doing something similar? I has been weeks since I have been upstairs in cardio-land, so I have no clue as to what new and intriguing things may be going on up there or if they have rearranged the equipment yet again.

The rest of the gym does remain a bit of a mysterious place to me, and I see no real reason to rush into exploring on my own things that have grand opportunities to hurt me, possibly a lot. My imaginings of Very Bad Things befalling me while testing these ideas on my own without J’s guidance and tutelage looms large as a protective cautionary measure. I am inclined to venture out there with J, to learn new things with the bigger tools when it seems appropriate. Until then, though, I have lots and lots to keep me fully occupied with my dumbbells and bands and TRX.

Which brings me back to my head and my attitude about gym stuff, food stuff, health stuff.

As much time and effort as I am putting into my physical practices, I am devoting almost as much time working to upgrade my mental game. Because I utilize a commercial gym, my mind tends to pay attention to their marketing. Their advertisements online, on TV, on the radio, and the various messages being played in the gym as I am working on my practice or just wandering to and fro down the hallways all seem so seductive – all those pretty, fit people doing things and making it look easy. I get that seeing some supersized person trying to huff and puff through a BodyFit session is not really going to sell many (if any) memberships, even if that is their target market.

Even J has been hitting his own workouts pretty hard and building lots more bulky, pretty muscle. It is difficult to recall precisely what he looked like when we first met, but I know he is bulkier now. The hard work and time he has been devoting to himself is paying dividends. While I know this is J pursuing his own hobby and interests while walking the walk he teaches to clients, it cannot really hurt his “brand” to be in a transformative period. I am trying to imagine if his appearance would have made a difference when I started with him last summer. I think not, because it would be very unusual for me to be influenced to the point of immediate go/no go by physical appearance alone. His teaching and coaching methods and style are what make our trainer/trainee partnership work, not the size of his biceps. Now if he smelled bad or was really sloppy to the point of unprofessional in uniform it would have mattered a great deal; I suppose I do have some physical appearance standards.

The gym sells hope and change, hope that me, ordinary person, can with membership evolve and change into the equivalent of the amazing, fit, pretty person on the screen. Never mind that my bone structure or DNA may making achieving svelteness of that level of perfect shape and size impossible. Marketing does tend to be a precise science after all, and I am sure they have professionals advising them as to what works and methods to measure the actual results of each campaign to get bodies into the gym and signing on the dotted line. Consumers looking to join a gym do not really want to hear or to know the raw truth about how excruciatingly hard that transformative journey may be; mileage may vary, after all.

But I find the droning messages tiresome. We can help you lose weight, get stronger, lose weight, gain muscle, lose weight, increase your cardiovascular stamina, lose weight, bulk up, lose weight, fly to the moon under your own power, lose weight … etc., etc., etc. Turning off my mind is not working out for me, so instead I am trying to dissect the noise, break each message down into bite-size pieces that I can throw away as unimportant.

As I have talked about in many of my prior posts, the focus on goals has been detrimental to me, my head, my positive progress, yet I am bombarded with it everywhere I go in the real world as well as online. I cannot expect they or the health and fitness industry to stop for little ole me, so I am obviously the one who has to adjust. I still find myself becoming frustrated or upset with attacks of the “shoulds” from the goal-setting, results-oriented messages being beamed out at me from everywhere, and I can tell in my practice when I have been reading or listening to an overload of such crap.

Before training this morning I was reading blogs and realizing that I am taking in a lot of sad and/or negative stories and information that impacts my emotions and outlook. (This is part of the reason why I shy away from Facebook; the drama is infinite.) I have a lot more control over the blogs I choose to read and to follow, but even that … lately here I seem to be caught up in so much overwhelming sadness and what feels like hopeless situations. And of course that is not always true; sometimes “hopeless” means unwilling to make the tougher decision and enduring the consequences of harder choices. Plus we are gearing up for the next presidential election and all that is filtering in and out and has an effect on me.

My mental and emotional toughness are apparently not where I wish them to be as yet, and I will have to be doing some pruning on the stuff coming into my reader until I can regain some deeper sense of mastery over my mind and emotions. The me I aspire to be is not so swayed by the negativity and negative emotions of others, and until I have more or better control I need to limit my exposure to it. I just finished another J-loaned book on the topic, so it’s been looming large in my consciousness. Review and download of my thoughts and impressions of that is coming soon.

The negative voices in my head are not droning today, maybe drowned out by the happy buzz of success this morning or the still moaning hamstrings? It makes me smile, all of it. I am looking forward to tomorrow, to whatever upper body sequence I choose, but feeling some excitement at the idea of testing more Bulgarian Romanian’s and lunges with new tricks and cues. This idea of focus lingers after this morning’s modest successes, and I am eager to get back and try again and do more of them. It’s not even tempered by the thought of the dreadful core work, because it’s now a thing on the Lists and I may as well suck it up and deal.

Plus yesterday was my last day of the 5 day food tracking. I have never been so happy to be done with food as I was last night. Tonight or tomorrow I need to type it up and get it off to the dietician before our meeting next week, and hopefully he will have some amazing insights to share with me. Fingers and toes crossed my distaste for tracking brings something new and intriguing.

But I must be doing something right. My blood sugar has been steadily dropping, being below 100 every pre-meal test for the last several days. I have not been eating anything new or unusual, although I admit to obsessing about food because of the need to remember to write it down or photograph it and so I could recall later what I had consumed. A really sucky process for me and I am greatly relieved it is now officially behind me.

But today is turning into a fun and great day. Because I really love review sessions, and I feel as if I am having way too much fun with our latest work, even if whatever I am pursuing is difficult to master and frustrating some of the time. I will get there; I have plenty of time.

Progress is being eager to get back to the gym and try again. I am so happy and so glad to be becoming someone who can appreciate this type and level of personal challenges.

Training #12 – Breathing in the happy gas

It’s Thursday, so training with J this morning. While I fear jinxing my training sessions, it continues to get better and better, and for various reasons I think this was the best yet.

Boy, that’s kind of frightening, like the bar has been raised and expectations are high and maybe Monday falls short somehow. Yet I have no anxiety or worries about it. This method of just pursuing the process and letting it be the goal is working out really, really well for me. If I am not actively pursuing pounds dropped or sizes down or inches lost I am free to simply learn to make my joints and limbs and muscles learn their present limitations and expand upon them wherever possible and build their strength with time and with practice.

Inside out, I feel healthier.

Also, to the best of my knowledge there is no happy gas in the gym. There’s stinky sweat smell sometimes, the medicine-like scent from the sauna, and I always smell the chlorine from the pool and spa, but near as I can tell they are not pumping in any sort of nefarious or artificial happiness-inducing air.

I believe all that happiness-inducing is coming from me and the work I am doing on several fronts. But it’s nice to imagine there might be some tangible albeit completely invisible to the senses phenom occurring to fallback on when life dumps a big stinky load of poo in my positivity pathway.

Things are changing in my life. Today I was kind of excited to get to the gym and get started warming up. No idea what J had in mind. No thought about if we might review and work at those vexing single legged everything and hamstring curls. No clue if it might be new stuff or escalating the suck factor on present rotation exercises. And truth be told I did not really care much one way or the other. I arrived with expectations that it was going to be a good session no matter what. I was feeling well rested and energetic and excited to be learning something new or working at old stuff that I am still struggling to master.

Attitude, while not everything, makes a difference. I was going to be here anyway, because my hyper-responsible self says I made the appointment and I had better keep it, but the rest of me finds new joy and satisfaction in this pursuit. I was not-so-secretly thrilled about the doing. I get a lot more done and feel better about the effort if I can simply relax and give whatever is on the agenda an honest effort.

If I had a whiteboard or even a chalkboard, I would be writing “I am going to have a great day” every single morning this week. No white board, no chalkboard … yet … so I think it while brushing my teeth. Thus far, I have not disappointed myself either – I have enjoyed a couple really great days.

It’s my TM assignment this week. And while I feel a little silly thinking it, like his other simple exercises it makes me examine my feelings and my attitude and improve them – no “if I can” or other disclaimers allowed. Like the Nike saying, Just Do It.

And today I did. And I feel rather fierce right now.

On the list today:

Supine Hip Bridge March w/ mini band
DB Step Up to Reverse Lunge
DB Anterior Lean Split Squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians)

DB Alt. Bent Over Batwing Rows
DB Alt. Pullover
DB Alt. Chest Press
DB Alt. Side Laterals
DB Alt. Seated Hammer Curls
DB 1-arm Triceps Kickback

90/90 Curl Up Crunch
Two Up, 1 Down Lowers
High Tension! Plank

The upper body DB stuff is slightly expanded, so I can do them as 2 separate mini sets or a single super set. I like the options within the option, because my attention span feels short sometimes and a burst of 3 exercises for a few sets and then moving along to the next seems preferable to what feels like an endless series of exercises. Not always, but the choices appeal to me.

J does not typically prescribe a lot of core work, but he has new people training with him and I suppose they are bewildered why they are not spending entire hours doing nothing but variations of crunches and planks. So we have some additional core finishers in the rotation. They are dreadful, simply dreadful, because truthfully core work is so difficult. But I understand why he is including them, and it will be good to perform these and improve my ab strength. I still hate them, but maybe they too can be rehabilitated with practice. Plus there are some really thick and plushy-feeling new mats at the gym that make lying on the floor slogging through ab work not as terrible. Sometimes the little things make all the difference.

But truly, it was the lower body stuff where J has outdone himself in bringing on the suck.

My imagination does not yet expand far enough to imagine the universe where step-up reverse lunges are a favorite, but I am getting better at them. Progress.

The supine hip bridge march with mini band sounds really grand and complicated and hard, and it does not disappoint. That said, I liked it. Imaging lying on your back, heels supported on the bench with legs 90 degree bend at knee and 90 degree bend at hips. Mini band is wrapped around the feet on the bench.From here, hips lift off the floor (bridge) by pressing heels into the bench, which on any day is not exactly a picnic. From there one leg with knee still bent 90 degrees lifts in a “march” while stretching out the mini band and pressing hard against the heel remaining on the bench. Then elevated/marched leg returns to its place on the bench and hips return to the floor. Rinse, repeat, alternating legs.

Yeah, it sucked, big time. But at the same time, I realized I know how to do this. It’s a variation of something we have not done in awhile, but I completely understand the concept behind it and know what I am supposed to be doing. That made it exciting. Actually doing it for 8 to 12 reps, not so much. Yet … I have become some sort of exercise geek because I am very eagerly anticipating the day that with practice I can just do the march without dropping hips back to the mat between reps and with a stronger band. There is a lot of room for progression.

The DB anterior lean split squat (aka Bulgarian Romanians) is another one from J’s training test kitchen. Like the Bulgarian split squat, standing on one foot with the rear foot elevated behind on a bench, but rather than bending lead leg and dropping the knee of the rear/elevated leg in a split squat, you instead bend forward at the waist as if performing a Romanian deadlift. We went through this twice today without the DBs, because believe me I was having issues just learning the basic form and maintaining balance. What I came away with is that my left side is truly weaker than my right and my body does all sorts of interesting things to try and compensate. But I am more onto body’s tricks right now and will be trying to correct some of its inclinations and habits.

This one also sucked, big time, but I have high hopes for getting better with the balance and performance with time and practice. But they are effective; I can still feel those bad boys, both of them, in all of my lower half. And I cannot wait to try them again on my own and see if I can make some progress on my issues. Even that is all good; at least I know where body is compensating and needs to learn the proper routing.

I am getting such a kick out of being part of the training test kitchen.

So today we were going through this new stuff with this sense of building excitement. It is challenging, yet I enjoy that. If it were easy I probably would have been doing this my whole life along with everyone else. J is teaching and demonstrating, and we are talking, correcting, learning which muscles are supposed to be burning like … ummm … wildfire. Then learning that when said muscle is not burning so fiercely it is because body is taking shortcuts. Which let me just say – the corrections, even as gently and kindly as J does it, used to send me on a spin cycle complete with internal thrashing and shredding because I was not getting it immediately. My head is better. Now, it is a “just is” experience. My mind finally accepts new things take time to master and that does not mean I’m a complete and utter failure. Progress.

I was not a gifted student, probably ever. I was the student banging my head against the wall in “I don’t get it” frustration until the epiphany finally kicked in and I just got past the roadblock and everything on top of the frustrating concept fell into place. And truly, it was like that with just about everything. But once I learn something, I rarely completely forget it. I might go to sleep if I fail to use the information for awhile, but most of the time I can recall all the details when reintroduced.

The need to have exercise concepts built from the ground up is why I thought hiring a trainer in the first place was my best shot at success in the exercise realm. I have and would likely again wither and flounder and back away slowly from group exercise classes (because running away screaming only draws more attention to yourself). J just happens to be an excellent match for me in that he recognizes the need to break it down, all of it, into simple movements and then build and layer as we move along.

This morning he told me about a quote he read from another trainer about the trainer/trainee relationship. It was something like “the more you care about the client, the more the client cares about himself.” I get what he’s talking about and where he’s coming from, but I am not entirely sure I agree from where I am sitting right now.

For one, I have never ever felt like I was part of the cha-ching in J’s paycheck. As wiggy and self-critical as I am, I have actually learned to trust my instincts and intuition about people. From my hours of random observation in the gym I do not believe he sees other clients as dollar signs either. But the reality of any service-oriented business is that there are some clients you like to work with more than others. The feedback and return on investment of time and energy is different in rewards and satisfaction terms with every client I have, and I have no reason to believe I am unique in this perspective despite the differences in industry.

For another, our first meeting he told me to “text him anytime” with questions or concerns. I sensed then that he meant it, that it was not just a sales toss-off to make me feel special and important to him as a client. Because we had just met, I did not know him at all and I had no reason yet to feel special or important as a client. However, the potential existed. Since this is something I also do for my clients, I felt like it was reasonable and realistic. We are in service businesses, and anymore, that means being flexible about availability to our clients.

All that said, sometimes I think you can care for all your worth and it is not going to inspire or make someone take their life and their health more seriously until they themselves are ready. And I know he gets that, too.

What encourages me about the concept is that it keeps you honest about trying. I do care about every client I have and every employer I have worked for through the years, but I also acknowledge that I care to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances and state of the relationship. In my case sometimes clients really listen, take my advice and ideas seriously, and are willing to let me work with them to make improvements and/or changes. Sometimes measurable results happen, sometimes not. I appreciate being respected and trusted enough to be able to try another way to achieve objectives, measurable or not.

Other clients and employers truly could care less and are completely uninterested in growing their business or being more efficient in how they utilize their financial resources. Or they just hate change, period. And I am okay with that, but it disincentive effect is a real thing and sometimes disheartens me about the work.

J and I have a very positive feedback loop, and it works really well. It feels powerful enough, resilient enough to endure my periodically mercurial emotional bellwether and is something I want to endure throughout our training relationship. I am committed to improving my training abilities, and that inspires J to want to do more to help me increase and build upon my success. The things I am learning, the time we spend training has become a fun perk to my weeks; the hours I spend practicing incite a sense of anticipation about what comes next. I recognize that the relationship itself is part of that, because if I did not like and respect him I would not continue to train, period. No training, no practice, no focus on improving, and no ongoing success and sense of satisfaction.

Harshing my happy and upbeat vibe just thinking about it. Thankfully that is not our reality. Yuck.

Ours is an instant gratification age, and let’s be real – exercise is HARD when you have a sedentary job and first get started. And most people have specific goals they are chasing – weight loss, muscle gain or definition. Add diet into that prescription and life suddenly becomes a cycle of denial and struggle – hard to be happy and hopeful when embarking on that type of journey. My progress from an insides perspective has been stellar, and for me it is infinitely more motivating than any 5 lb. or even 50 lb. weight loss. While it unexpectedly took only a few months, I can clearly recall feeling hopeless and disappointed about the process when the scale did not move or inched upward instead. Between the blog and conversations with M, with J, and with other trusted sources, I would have given up long ago if I pinned my hopes on the damn scale.

As anyone who has been reading my blog this past year knows, though, it has not always been like this. The first few months I was showing up every week and going through the motions, but not really making much progress and definitely not practicing much on my own. Looking back, it was not because J could care less if I showed up and practiced as long as I was there for our weekly sessions. Believe me, I could feel his reserve toward me building as those first weeks passed, and in my mind I started imagining him looking forward to exhausting my sessions. If I didn’t care, why should he? was the feedback loop in MY head.

When J finally found the magic words that reached me, it was like he had the biggest cattle prod available in hand and zapped me in the stomach with it. While I do not recall his exact phrasing, I do know what my brain heard was “I want to see you in the gym at least twice before next week or I will be disappointed in your ongoing lack of effort.” By nature I want people around me to be happy, and of course I do not want people around me to be unhappy because of my behaviors. I really understood then that he cared about my progress, and since I cared about his opinions, I got my sorry butt out of bed early the next morning and into the damn gym. And I have not looked back since.

So maybe it’s not the caring about the trainee itself but more the expression of that investment in them that matters. Only the trigger for each client is going to be unique to them and not a one-size-fits-most situation.

A simple quote and my navel gazing goes wild! And maybe that’s what this other coach is trying to address – not letting up on having hope for clients when they are struggling or have lost hope for themselves. Perhaps it is just another of those messages we all need to hear to remind us to keep pushing, keep trying when life gets difficult.

And finally, in this whole positivity journey …

At a session several weeks ago we were talking about my improving outlook and attitude toward the gym using the glass being half empty or half full as our measurement standard. J said he looks at that glass and wonders why not use a smaller glass in the first place? I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment, and I have not looked at drinking glasses in the same way since.

Yep, breathing the happy gas in and out today. Vaporous progress.

Screenshot 2016-02-12 08.19.03

Edited to add this little snippet of our text exchange yesterday. Still makes me smile.


From Thursday night ….

I’m not sure what has come over me today, but I am ridiculously cheerful. A strange day with jobs – at my part-time job much of the day, helping out another client at his office for a few hours, dealing with weird occurrences at both – yet I remain curiously unfazed by it. Maybe it’s because it’s work and I am very good at what I do to earn a buck?

But the rest of my day has been … simply wonderful. Whether it is a choice, the exercise, the eating, the kava I ingested last night, the day has been good. Really good news from one friend, really icky adventures from another on her job, and those spoiled fluff bucket cats we adopted actually act like they notice that I haven’t been around much to interact with them the last few days.

Obviously it’s not that difficult to make me happy.

But for an uneven week I feel as if the tide is turning. Tomorrow is training day, so something else to look forward to and whatever that brings with it.

And now it’s Friday morning, and the simply wonderful day streak continues. Despite all the mental temper tantrums (accompanied by all the swearing that may or may not have been vocalized) I was having last night trying to complete and file our taxes (and yes, I am an accountant by trade), my mental and emotional balance is being restored. Maybe it’s the kava I had on Tuesday. Maybe it’s TM working his magic on my head. Maybe I was just due to bounce back. Whatever “it” is, I will accept it graciously and be happy.

I heard Pink’s “F**king Perfect” last night driving home and have adopted it as my most current theme. It fits where I am right now. Enjoy! I will be back later with my training update post – lots and lots to share today, but surely that’s no surprise? They do tend to run long. *smile* (this is the cleaner version of the son)



The California sun and the kava bar

Sleep is a glorious thing. I love my sleep. I especially love my sleep when I go to bed at a reasonable hour and have a deep and dreamless night.

The Very Bad Incident is now a few weeks past, and I am settling down once more. I am still bothered by moments of survivor’s guilt, but mostly I am selfishly thankful to be the one who escaped without harm.

Meeting with TM yesterday was emotionally explosive, with this torrential rush of angry, upset, teary, angsty, guilty words pouring out of me. It was probably for the best. While I would never characterize myself as one who bottles up feelings anymore, I suppose a lifetime of habits are difficult to break completely.

While I do not necessarily see myself changing dramatically, it is truly the subtle stuff that is apparently tripping me up. I am growing more confident, and in that I am more assertive about pushing back when standing up for myself and honoring my feelings. I have to say I hate that expression – honoring my feelings. It sounds so cliche and kitschy. But perhaps terms become cliches and kitschy for good reason, in that they are an accurate description of what does or should happen for all of us.

I also do not see myself as pushing back. There are times when I have felt inappropriately angry or upset when considering the circumstances and expressing that as calmly as possible, yet talking about it yesterday makes it clear that my reactions are entirely within the realm of normal for me. More importantly: “normal for me” is within or at least not far out of the range of emotionally healthy individuals. I was angry and upset, and I had good reasons for those feelings. However, while I did not want to pile on with the most recent offender, I did as calmly and rationally as possible explain to her that I am THIS upset and that the consequences, while truly unknown at this moment in time, could conceivably be dire. Whereas even 6 months ago I would have been a lot more squishy on the subject. I would have forgiven and pushed it down and continued as if it had never happened.

Which is precisely what people are accustomed to receiving from me. I express my discontent, I forgive and then I compartmentalize and forget about it, until it happens again, then it’s rinse and repeat into infinity. Now, maybe not so much. I want to give myself room to be okay with the most recent offense, that was a thoughtless mistake that hopefully does not repeat, but to be prepared with harsher consequences if it should. But as TM (and every other voice of reason in my realm) also points out to me, if does not make me a horrible human being if I cannot rebuild trust after it has been broken. Someone who knows more of my history now should be more careful of they say to me, and while mistakes do happen, it would be understandable if I cannot grow back to what we once had.

That makes sense to me. Finally.

Years ago when M and I had this terrible marriage breakdown, I truly had to give him a big giant pass for some of his behaviors because he did not know who I was and what I had experienced as a kid. He had absolutely no idea because at that time I never talked about it. Ever. Except in a therapeutic environment where the other party was sworn to not share with anyone. And I was not yet to the point where I was having these annual check-in, tune-up my mental health appointments. When I told M, finally, he was understandably angry with me, and I had a really hard time with that. It took months of marriage counseling appointments where I felt as if I were under attack to drag the whole story out of me, but it was stuff that needed to be said for M to truly understand and for me to heal and to forgive and for us to heal our broken marriage. I think TM and the other professionals we consulted and worked with at that time earned every dollar we and our insurance company paid them, because it certainly was not a simple or easy marital reconciliation. But I learned a lot, grew up a lot, during that transitional period, and the end result is a happy life with M. Nothing is perfect, but we remain in love and in a stable, solid marriage.

I believe the same sort of life-altering transition could be true for me now. The exercise is part of it, sure. But along with my incremental improvements in my physical abilities comes a correlating confidence and strengthening of my mental and emotional health. It is somewhat unexpected, but it is a real thing for me. Maybe everyone who decides to learn how to exercise or undertakes the steps necessary to increase their fitness and improve their health goes through this, or maybe one comes before the other. Or I could be extending my normal range of navel gazing beyond the typical to feel like my stuff is within the spectrum of normality. No matter. It’s a thing for me. I am dealing with it.

Vast majority of my/our friends are hugely supportive. They chide me about being so rebellious with my dietician, because really, it is far more typical of someone suggesting I do something to help myself and I will automatically try to make it happen. Poor guy – he got assigned me just when I decide to be a petulant child about calorie counting and food tracking. But my anxiety about it is real – just ask J or even M about all my crap every time lunges or one leg anything came up in training for the longest time (and I still retain the right to periodic meltdowns over one leg anything into the future). I am learning to be more gracious and less doubtful about compliments and praise for my efforts, any positive efforts, setting aside any self-depreciating comments before they are expressed. Of course, I have this wide-eyed “I didn’t say [insert self-depreciating reply to compliment here]!” conversation after the fact, but hey, progress is progress.

The recent incidents are blips on the larger radar, but when it happens I am so baffled by the reactions I simply do not know what to say or how to cope. I certainly do not expect high praise or an atta-girl every time I master some exercise that vexes me for extended periods or manage a day when I eat right or fit into something else that has not fit over my hips in years, yet to have a close friend act like as if I am doing something wrong for the tiny steps forward is confusing to my uncomplicated mind. The equation for me works like this –

friend doing good things (exercise) and feeling better =
me being happy and proud of friend for taking positive steps.

What I have been getting from some surprising corners –

me doing good things (exercise, diet) and getting notably healthier =
friend(s) expressing concern about my behavior, one even going so far as to use analogy
that I have fallen into a cult and am experimenting with recreational drugs.

M rolls his eyes and suggested when it has happened that I tell them kindly, nicely, politely to f–k off and not express such ignorant and dumbass opinions. While I do truly appreciate his unwavering support and practical advice on the subject, I have yet to successfully envision myself saying that to someone in a kind, nice, polite manner and have it be received as such.

And all too often feel as if I am the crazy one.

But this too shall pass. Everyone has their own stuff going on behind the scenes and influencing their attitudes and behaviors, and I certainly cannot pretend to know every detail or every single thing going on in their lives. I do know that my creating and enforcing stronger boundaries is an issue for a select few, but we will either work it out or we will not. TM helped me to recognize that the problem is not me or anything new I am doing, so much as it is with them being unable to accept the new, positive challenges I am undertaking. Relationships do change as we grow, and sometimes they run their course because we grow.

After my appointment with TM yesterday, I met K at the kava bar where we proceeded to have one of those bonding future cool mother-in-law/daughter-in-law conversations about life, work, therapy, and family issues. The kava drinks certainly do not hinder such free-flowing exchanges, but really, it’s just us letting our hair down and talking like normal women. I did not have this kind of close bond with my mothers-in-law, either of them, although I do love and adore my kids’ maternal grandmother. But I really value the relationships with my kids, all of them, and I am glad my future daughter-in-law wants to hang out with me as frequently as we do. By the time we left the shop I was pleasantly relaxed; the effects of those kava drinks should not be underestimated.

From there I came home, extra cups in hand for M and for J, since I had previously decided to go to the gym to try and burn off some of my negativity as well as further process my session with TM. M had already left for his Tuesday night with the guys, so J got the benefit of 2 cups of tea and a bag of kava that I picked up for him while I was in the shop. I have to say – the gym on a busy Tuesday with kava in my system was really, really good and the abundance of people everywhere did not bother me at all. I burned through my upper body sets and felt great about my efforts. Even the lower body stuff, with a couple of presently vexing items on it, was kind of a zen experience. I am remembering now why K likes kava for nights when she cannot get her brain to shutdown so she can get some rest.

The only disturbing thing was right at the end, when another member donned these hard plastic ankle cuff things and proceeded to hang upside down from the TRX rack right in front of me. My imaginings of Very Bad Things that could happen was simply too much, overwhelming my kava-assisted relaxed feeling and kicking up my anxiety. M has an inversion table; I have watched him hang upside down on it dozens of times. But there was something about those ankle bootie cuff things and hanging from he TRX rack that truly disturbed me; brain refused to obey my commands and bannish visions of that man falling on his head and breaking his neck. I finished my set and got the heck out of Dodge.

The weather here in northern California has been lovely this week, like spring already here with the sun and pleasant temperatures. It suits my mood today, this sunshine and tulips (as seen in the grocery store where I acquired a sandwich for lunch). I woke up this morning and my first thought was about how great of a day it is going to be today. I had a rare before 8 a.m.. meeting, so I had to keep my workout compact and efficient. Having endured enjoyed a double workout day yesterday, it felt like going shorter than usual in my efforts was okay this morning – no guilt required. Still, I felt really good when I was done. I kind of regret not having time to do my usual round/set counts, but regret is definitely a different feeling than guilt. And I find myself marveling at that statement: regret that I did not have more time to spend at the gym doing more of my selected sequences from the current List? Who are you and what have you done with the real me?

My oh my how things have changed.

Today restarts the 5 days on my food tracking for the long-suffering dietician. I have figured out my plan and am uploading my food pictures and naming them with day and time consumed, so I can tell them apart. I eat so much of the same things, day after day after day, it could get hard to distinguish one day from the next. But I got this; it’s only 5 days and I can do it. Maybe I don’t really WANT to, but I can do it.

I am just wondering how to photograph and describe the kava drinks tomorrow. My crew from my former firm is meeting over there after work and invited me, so I am looking forward to hanging out and catching up with them. I wonder if the dietician is familiar with this place? It was funny last night, because I have not been over there in awhile, and the guy manning the counter noted that it has been awhile since he’s seen me, while greeting K by name (she and G visit fairly regularly).

Despite the emotional volatility of this week thus far, I feel pretty well braced and as if I have weathered fairly well. I did nothing stupid. In a text exchange yesterday J advised me to “listen to my body” and do whatever it wanted/needed to regain balance. I replied that throwing things seemed childish, so I had to say no. Eating junky food (and OMG those caramel brownies were nearly my undoing) was a bad idea, so I had to say no. The kava he suggested was actually a great idea, so I went with that and then some exercise. Both good-for-me choices for which I have no regrets.

It is a truly great and sunny day in my neighborhood. Positive progress and good choices are very good things, worthy of minor celebration. If I could just purge my mind of the idea of cheeseburgers … well, I suppose there is no such thing as a perfect day.

Happy Wednesday everyone! And so sorry about all the recent theme changes in case anyone noticed – I did something stupid (still no idea precisely what, but oh well) yesterday and could not find my former theme. But this should be it for awhile to come.