Choices, stressors, negative vibes

Today, I had only one positive thing to say to anyone thus far. Meeting my friend K at the gym tonight, so that will change. She is doing really well with her barbell training and it’s inspiring and exciting to witness. But for now, I’m a squatter in the negative neighborhood and feeling justified in my wallowing.

Okay, maybe not justified, but having reasonable expectations of allowed humanity. My job has gone from being a huge source of satisfaction and pride to this dismal sinkhole of profanities strung together inside my head while my expression seems to say “what now?” every time someone walks into my office or my email pings.

This is so not me. My friend J, who has been a stalwart work-related supporter, mentor, friend for years and years, is starting to think I need to pull the pin now for my own sanity. He says when Pollyanna goes into hiding it is time to get out. He could potentially be correct.

Okay, work itself is gearing up and going well for the most part. For 90% of the staff, acceptance of the changes coming is starting to sink in and everyone is settling down and looking ahead to whatever comes next. Unfortunately, the other 10% are creating a lot of headaches and drama. For a couple of them, I can completely understand the palatable anxiety. They are non-attorney staff, more extreme on the head-down introvert scale, and were not treated like special snowflakes by the incoming firm members thus far. That’s a given; no one here is a special snowflake. But they have been here awhile – one 7 years, the other closer to 9 – and feel a little slighted. The types of personalities, they need a lot more hand-holding than the average professional. I am only capable of some much compassion and propping up before my expectations that they suck it up and deal kicks in.

Surprisingly to me, before today they were the biggest of my staff-related issues regarding the ownership change. My own stuff is my own stuff, and I have a pretty capable Plan B and Plan C to fall back upon. Then I came in this morning and was presented with a thornier problem that blew up my week.

So back embroiled in an HR-related issue for a firm expiring as an entity in a few weeks.

For the most part, I’m hugely disappointed in the staff members involved. It creates an unnecessary negative dynamic in an already tense work environment. But for tonight, I’m outta here on time. The problems and issues will be waiting for me here in the morning.

I get that we all have choices in our lives – what we do, how we react to events in our lives. Today, I am reminding myself of this throughout much of my workday. Thankfully I’m 20 minutes away of another being in the books.

Sometime soon I hope to be back to my regular level of positive motion blogging. The way things are going – it could be July 1 before it happens.

Peaks and valleys

This is a first for me – blogging from a local Starbuck’s. Everything is fine at home, wifi is fully functional and working perfectly. But I wanted/needed caffeine this morning and felt a strong desire for a change of scenery for this post.

Because honestly, I’m having the good, the great, the really shitty this weekend with the whole mom thing. Even better, more in balance with the way my life runs, the really shitty is but a spare slice in the overall cake. Unfortunately it’s too large a fissure to be concealed with frosting.

I am honoring a standing promise to my children to never express fury at their father in this forum. He and his spouse are the source of my extreme dismay on what should be a relaxing and delightful Sunday. I am so angry I had to leave my own house to write this post. That sounds illogical, I know; perhaps I fear my home zen will be tainted if I stay there and stew.

Anyway, I’m back on caffeine with a vengeance. Unfortunately it always happens this time of year – air race week is coming up and I’ll be slamming coffee in the morning (we take the first shuttle at 7 a.m.) and iced tea throughout the day. I will detox as usual when we return.

Work on work-work yesterday, a couple of my clients gave me lovely gift baskets and congratulatory cards for my son and his bride, just as they did when my daughter and A married back in April. I have the best clients. They have only met my kids a couple of times, and they are both very kind and very generous to remember them and buy them a gift.

The good and the great in my being a mom weekend – my kids are fabulous. They love each other fiercely. They take care of each other. I love, Love, LOVE that about them. Having never been close to my sister or my family of origin, I am beyond grateful for the relationships I have with them. It matters to me.

I was listening to M was watching on TV last night and there was a line that stuck with me: some people are not meant to stay in your life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stay with you. Is that actual wisdom or just a good sound-bite of entertainment for the masses? If my head were in a little more positive, uplifted, less angry place would I even remember hearing it and picking it out of the white noise of background? I suppose it doesn’t matter. I am where I am and it’s running through my head and making me ponder it and all the implications it brings. Even the junk food sources of food for thought are still food.

This weekend, I have a few of those, ghosts of people past who meant so much to me or taught me something important before they exited. While I am angry and upset about things well beyond my control, I cannot and will not hold a grudge or let my anger taint the rest of what was a milestone in our lives. We hung out yesterday with dear friends who remind me that my dignity and my self-respect are far more meaningful now that the self-destructive emotions I might want to indulge. I have a bigger toolbox and better, badder tools to help me cope and stay focused on what’s real, what’s important in my life.

While I woke up late this morning and did not make it to the pilates class I typically attend and did not feel like the gym either, I do not feel guilty or even badly about it. Rational mind says I needed the sleep, and I tend to agree. Instead I went on a long walk, the same route my neighbor and I would pursue on weekends before she died. Rather than wallowing in my fury, I walked it off, mostly. Then I came here for a rare (anymore) cup of coffee and to write it all out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And that was this morning … and I wanted to give myself a buffer of time before posting. Anger is good fuel for getting through a few thousand steps of cardio and slamming down a cup of coffee.

It has crossed my mind more than once today I am so glad to be back in the gym and training with J tomorrow morning, because being off the work clock for 2.5 days (out of 4) makes me feel disconnected. In my distraction, it feels like I have been away from the gym when I have not been away from the gym for any unusual amount of time. It does feel as if I have been slacking, even if I haven’t really been slacking. Basically, I have been thrown off my routines and am feeling the impact. Not a terrible thing, just another reminder that I a creature of habit and require my routines to feel normal and safe and in control of my life in its own little groove.

I return to work tomorrow for 2 days, then off on vacation. I know I have a lot to do, but it’s work – it will still be there when I get back. My self-employment clients are pretty well squared away for the week, although I will be available by phone or email if something comes up.

Mostly I feel almost back on track. I knew these couple of weeks would be messed up, and I am looking forward to the next dimension of being back to normal life and on track. Probably, possibly everyone I deal with regularly will be relieved I’m on vacation and out of their hair for a week. But for me it feels like this big chunk of time where I am without direction or focus while I am still at home and struggling with my routines.

I do know a couple of my friends are feeling the heat from my out-of-step-ness this weekend. Not to worry – the email deluge should be winding down to a trickle. I have been on Facebook more in the last 48 hours than I have in the last 2 years I have had a profile.

Winding down this Sunday night, the unevenness of the weekend ends on high notes. The jarring lows are behind me and in my rearview. And I am intentional about leaving them right where they lay.

Good week ahead, everyone!














The slow exorcism of the negativity habit

Walking out of the gym this morning, the thought of never doing my current arch nemesis exercise, the cable single-leg Romanian deadlift, flittered through my mind. Partly, mostly in jest, because in truth it went better this morning than it has been to date. My balance is better, my overall strength is improving, and I went slow and controlled. I did not get frustrated or give up before hitting minimum good reps per set, and I went through maximum sets for the entire List. That alone is a quiet victory.

After at least a week, maybe 2 away from this particular List, I returned to it either stronger than I was before or more willing to add more plates to the cable and other machines I was using. Perhaps J’s bold 250 lbs. on the leg press woke me up to the fact that I am stronger than I realize. I have been bumping up my dumbbell weights over the course of the last month, so it would only be logical that the weights I am using on the cable machine would tick up as well.

But driving from the gym’s parking lot and home, I realize again how ingrained negative girl’s legacy is throughout all aspects of my life. It has been only a few months (that seem more like dog years), yet my impatience with myself for not being more perfect in my new and improved behaviors more of the time continues. Words like “never” or “can’t” sneak in to my thoughts or even my conversations without my even realizing it. While I recognize that it would be impossible for me to completely revamp my entire vocabulary to leave out a few highly sensitive trigger words, I want to be more conscious of how I am using them in my daily interactions and communications.

I also had quick, unexpected coffee meeting with TM this morning, a pleasant surprise to bump into him at a local Starbucks. Since we both had a few minutes, we sat and had a nice chat and caught up. He is a regular blog reader, so he is well versed in my ups, downs, all arounds, and says I look great, my contentment with the way life is progressing shines through. In my village, heck, in my tribe, people do not tend to be beacons of fake sunshine and light. If they say something nice to me, they are being genuine and sincere, and I am quite sure (now) that it has been mildly to wildly aggravating to have me smile and say thank you automatically without actually fully believing them. But unless it is some sort of constructive or corrective type mandatory criticism (think hair on fire, or food stuck in teeth, or shirt on backwards), they would tend to not say anything at all if it was not positive and complimentary.

With TM, though, now we can just have a cup of coffee together without me going into analysis paralysis mode. We can chat about his vacation plans for summer, his significant other, M and our life, without it having big, loaded, therapy meaning. Off the clock we are just friends having coffee. But because of what he does and who he is to me professionally, and because this post was on my mind, I did ask him if he thought my negative vocabulary habit was detrimental to my continuing improvement. There was no desire or expectation that he would go all shrinky on me and suggest I need to make an appointment to discuss and explore this concern in greater detail; it was a simple, idle query and he treated it thoughtfully as such. The quality of my thoughts was the same pattern for a long time, and changing that pattern, breaking those habits takes time. But from what he sees and feels from our meeting this morning? I seem to be in a very good, happy, robust place with my life right now; the negative trigger words will fade with time.

I am reassured. But that does not mean that I do not recognize that I could maybe be more active in trying to reshape my less desirable habits.

Practice, as I have learned first in training and now sort of bumbling along in eating, is absolutely mandatory to create new habits and make them stick. By nature I am not much of a worrier, because it seems to be an energy-draining, life-sucking experience with zero upside. There are things that tend to engage my OCD-like characteristics, but worrying about things beyond my control is not really me. Because of that, I do not tend to really understand it. I understand anger, upset, unhappy, sad, even generally being a miserable, negative human being. I do not under the concept of going on a spin cycle of worry about problems and issues over which I have zero control and ability to impact. I used to think this is the way people express concern, but now I think worry is way beyond simple concern and reflective of something deeper and more troubling. Concern seems positive, healthy; worry seems negative, unhealthy for all involved.

So most definitely I am not worried about my pattern of thinking, but I am mildly concerned today. For the most part I recognize how far I have come, how much I have improved in this particular area. I simply do not want to backslide and lose gains I had to fight long and hard to achieve.

I am encouraged, though. I did better with my arch nemesis. I used higher weight ranges. I was finished with maximum sets and reps of my List of the day and was actually preparing to leave the gym when my watch alarm went off at 7 a.m. The feeling of being satisfied with what I am doing, how I am progressing in this realm is priceless to me. To walk out of the gym with a genuine smile on my face and to cheerfully wish the front desk guy a good day (as I do every morning) makes me feel good about being me.

When I relax my guard, when I do not stay in the moment and aware of what I am thinking and feeling, I leave a tiny crack open to negative girl and her whispers of doubt, anxiety, fear. The good news here is that that staying relaxed and in the moment is becoming more and more my normal state of being, and that crack is getting tinier and tinier as the days pass.

Last night I was reviewing my planned Lists for today and Saturday and realized there were a few exercises I did not clearly recall. In these situations I typically do a quick search to see pictures of what they are supposed to look like, which generally resets and refreshes my memory and I am all good without having to text J and ask the question. Only this time there were pictures that looked like nothing I had ever seen before, so without thinking it through I sent J a text with the question. Then I realized – I have other Lists that I can do instead, and we can have a real conversation about this new-ish items on Monday or Thursday. So I followed the question text with a “never mind” text. And I felt fine about it, rather than eaten up with guilt or remorse for bothering him.

And I love that. I love being confident enough to ask a simple question and then change my mind and realize I can wrangle with an arch nemesis List instead. Or do another go-round with walking lunges (except my lower half was kind of stiff this morning when I woke up and any and all thoughts of walking lunges were tabled until at least Saturday). I have lots of possibilities now, my library of exercises and Lists past and present makes finding something to do at the gym a simple task. As I have said and meant every time, so many Lists, so few practice days.

So for a light-hearted moment of thinking “never” I have a whole head full of other positive, powerful words and thoughts that drown out the negative trigger.

I find that words like “never” and “can’t” make me feel weak, helpless, hopeless. And I am so over and done with feeling that way with regard to the ways I live and conduct myself within my own life. When I was first dealing with childhood traumas, I wanted to reclaim some power over my life, because it was the only way I could learn to live and function like a real person in a normal world. So I donned my invisibility cloak and went on about my life. That worked for me for a really long time, until I was ready to try something new and advance upward.

Feeling powerful and in control of myself and my own future is different. Exciting and heady. Maybe this is what people mean when they say they “found themselves.” I have long known I was at least a little lost all the time, not as emotionally grounded or reactive within the span of normal human behavior. For the most part that has served me well, but whatever made me nervous or fearful quickly escalated into a big giant something that rendered me paralyzed and powerless. I do not want to relinquish that to any emotion or another person ever again. Hence my having my own little business to fall back upon if the lawyers turn into the stereotype of control freak lawyers and I have to suddenly quit. It seems really unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

For all that, I really hope to retain at least a base level sense of kindness toward others. When you have very little self-esteem and kinda/sorta/definitely hate yourself, all the kindness and self-care you wish you were deserving of is given away to others. Sometimes disportionately, sometimes to others with different issues who are cruel or unkind in return and describe it as honesty. I certainly do not want to morph into some variation of that sort of person. I am not going to be concerned about that happening, though. My focus at the moment is continuing my quest to exorcise more of negative girl’s influence from my day to day life. It is an ongoing battle, one I am winning in slow and steady fashion.

Happy Friday everyone!

Exercise love affair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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