Insomnia and The Snooze Button

Button by Sean McGrathLast week I had a rotten case of insomnia. I did everything I could think of – I had my favorite sheets on the bed, my favorite comfy pjs, I went to bed at reasonable times… all for naught. Each night the same thing would happen: my head would hit the pillow, I’d fall fast asleep beautifully, and then at 1:00AM BING! I’d wake up. And not just a quick “need to pee” wake up – I was wide awake for the rest of the night. Since I am regularly getting up at 5:00AM to work out, that meant I was getting roughly 3 hours of sleep a night. I’ve written before that I’m one of those people who needs at least 8 hours of sleep, so it was a bad situation. Fortunately, I was able to function pretty well, considering, but I was getting to the end of my rope.

My best gal Cee suggested taking an allergy med at night. My boyfriend Julian suggested getting away up to my cabin for the weekend, and a coworker suggested lavender oil. I took all three of them up on their advice.

Cee noticed that I was getting a sore throat and suggested that since we are having a particularly wet autumn (and I am very allergic to leaf pollen and mold) that my allergies might be kicking in at night and keeping me awake without my really knowing it. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try taking my allergy med at night, and sure enough, the next night I did get better sleep. Whether that was from the allergy med or my insomnia just finally letting up, I don’t know, but either way I appreciated the sleep.

Julian knows that the cabin is my place to rest and rejuvenate, and by the end of a week with very little sleep, he thought I could use some time away. The cabin is also awesome for naps. (What is it about cabins and couches and naps? They just go together.) Anyway, I think he was right. I went “up North” and pretty much spent the whole weekend relaxing, reading books, taking long walks and longer naps. It was perfect! Just what I needed.

I also have a coworker who is getting into using essential oils. She suggested rubbing a little lavender oil between my palms and then inhaling it before bed. I figured it couldn’t hurt – and I already owned lavender oil – so I gave it a shot. I have to say, I did find it soothing. I felt like the night I used it my sleep was very peaceful. I liked it.

So, I’ve started getting my sleep again. Then yesterday I read this article over on fitisafeministissue.com: Snoozing the snooze button, that’s my resolution for this week. It’s a great post about the perils of using the snooze button, with links to other anti-snooze button articles. This is the part that got me: (From Why Your Snooze Button is Evil)

Research into the science of willpower finds that we wake up with a robust supply of self-discipline that is then depleted by decision-making during the day (see my related post, Can You Learn Willpower?). The snooze button turns the simple act of getting out of bed into a willpower-sapping episode of trench warfare. I’ll give you 9 minutes if you promise not to take so long in the shower. I’ll give you 9 more minutes if you don’t eat breakfast. Eventually, your ability to invest that willpower in meaningful tasks later on is shot.

Here’s something I noticed – when I first started getting up early, I was pretty energetic about it. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to leave a nice warm bed, but still, I was able to get up fairly easily. Lately though, it’s been a real struggle. I thought it was a combination of the novelty of 5:30AM boxing classes starting to wear off and my insomnia. (Even though I was wide awake, I still hit the snooze, trying to get a just a few minutes of sleep.) But reading that bit about willpower… something in that really rang true to me. I decided to join the author of the post in making a resolution not to use the snooze.

Today was my first day, and as weird as it sounds, it actually was easier to get out of bed. It’s so counterintuitive, but it worked. (At least this morning, I’ll let you know how the rest of the week goes.) I set my alarm later – closer to the time I actually get up when using the snooze and when the alarm went off, I laid there for a minute to wake up, then got out of bed. No hitting the snooze. I was able to get my stuff together and was out the door in no time – and I felt a lot less groggy. Maybe it is just because I’m mostly caught up on sleep, but whatever it is – anything to make a morning easier – I’ll take it!

 

Photo credit: Sean McGrath via flickr

Belly of the Beast – Boxing

Like this, but a little leaner and with less hair.

Like this, but a little leaner and with less hair.

Last night I had a fantastic experience at boxing. To explain it, I’m going to have to give you a little backstory, so bear with me. First, my regular boxing instructor (who I call TI on this blog) is on vacation this week. I’ll call the fill-in instructor “Kurt”, because he reminds me of Kurt Sutter of “Sons of Anarchy,” minus the ponytail. It’s been an interesting change. TI favors rap music for our work-outs, Kurt likes classic heavy rock (Motley Crüe, Guns and Roses), both are tough, and both work us hard. Their work outs are fundamentally the same, but with slight variations – variations which have been leaving me a whole new set of sore muscles the next day.

The class is set up in circuits. You pick a partner and then one person works combinations on the heavy bag and the other does floor work, after a one minute or two minute round, you switch. The heavy bags are set up in an “L” shape around the room. All of the boxing regulars, of which I am proud to be a new member of, have their preferred bags. The bags do have slight variations, but I think it is more about habit. You just get used to working out in a certain area. My spot of choice is along the long side of the L near the corner. Last night I got in as usual, headed for my regular corner, picked a partner and started warming up.

As we moved into the full workout, Kurt asked me if I would be willing to switch. We had a full class that night and he thought the class had split unevenly. He asked me to move me to another bag over on the short side of the L. I, of course, agreed. On that side of the studio, there are three heavy bags close together. I had the center bag. On either side were two gentlemen I’ll call Adam and Jim. I see them both at class a lot. They are both big guys – they tower over me. They are obviously good friends, and for some reason I think they were (or are) roommates. They both work out hard – especially Jim; Adam has a back injury so he is taking it a little slower these day, but both are powerhouses.

The first combination was an easy warm up – Jab, Cross, Uppercut, Uppercut. Jim, Adam and I quickly fell into the same rhythm. They throw harder hits than I normally do, but the sound of us all hitting the bags at the exact same time made me hit harder – and faster. You know how a low bass can make your sternum jump? The sound of us hitting in sync did that to me… but at the same time, I was part of what was making the noise. It was so powerful! I couldn’t stop grinning.

It didn’t happen every round, but a lot of times it did. When we got into the harder combinations, there were times that it sounded like being inside a cannon. The bags are so close together that when we were doing hooks, our gloves would brush one another’s. Jim kept having to step to the right and Adam to the left and I had to keep my shoulders a bit tighter to keep from hitting each other. At one point, Kurt, the instructor, came over behind us and yelled “It sounds like thunder over here!” It did. He was obviously delighted – so was I.

Kurt also likes to jump behind the bag and hold it while giving you tips on form or shouting encouragement. (Think of any coach in any boxing movie… like that.) He came over and said, “I want to get back there and encourage you guys, but I am pretty sure I would get hit!” That was a compliment – and it’s true, he might have. When we were synced up, it was awesome.

I worked so hard last night. For most of the combinations, they were pushing me to hit harder, faster and to keep going, even when I was tired. On the other hand, I am smaller and lighter and I know during some of the speed rounds, I was pushing them. At one point I laughed and said “Shoooooot that is fun!!) (Yes, I actually said, “shoot.” I was being dainty while boxing my guts out. ha!)

The guys laughed at me. They probably didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They work out on those bags all the time, and I have to think that anyone between them would fall into their rhythm, I don’t see how you could avoid it. But I am not used to working out with other people. It was like a team sport – something I have absolutely no experience with. For the first time, I understood the appeal a bit. When everything is flowing right, everyone wins.

After the class, Kurt came up to me and said, “Way to sweat! Good job over there!” I was pleased as punch. As a person who grew up hating sports and not understanding the appeal of a gym, I have to say, I never thought I would view “Way to sweat” as a compliment, but it was and I took it as such!

And I’ll tell you what, if I get the chance to get that bag again, you better believe I will!

Body Esteem Struggles

I just read a great article over on jillfit.com about body esteem issues. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Do Only Certain People Have the Right to Body Esteem Struggles?
by Jill Coleman

one thing I was not ready for were the handful of comments telling me to “stop complaining” about my love handles … in the post, I said, “Could I get my love handles down a bit? Sure. But the mental and physical output it would take it just not worth it anymore.” This, part of a long post about how content and happy I was with my body — just to give you context.

Out of the entire post, what several people clung to was the comment about the love handles. Many took is personally, like, how could I, looking like I do, ever even have a single negative thing to say about my body? They felt I wasn’t justified in my assessment, even though the comment was actually not negative at all — in fact it was 100% about body acceptance — and some even lamented that they could never show my post to their children because it sets a bad example

The rest of the article is fantastic. If you are interested in this like I am, I encourage you to click over and read it.

Fear and Planning

frozen lakeMy dad had a volcanic temper. By volcanic I mean that it was powerful, unpredictable, and it hurt everything in its way. I’m not a doctor, so I hesitate to make an armchair diagnosis, but I suspect a history of untreated mental illness. He had long mood swings with big highs and big lows. He had an addictive personality – he drank copiously and his heavy smoking is ultimately what killed him at age 59. And then, of course, there was the temper.

I loved my dad. Despite what I said above, he was also smart, funny and could fix absolutely anything. He and I liked the same kind of books and movies. We liked to fish, cook and work on projects together. I still miss him.

However, when you grow up with someone with an explosive temper, life becomes tricky. The thing with my dad was that he was absolutely great when it came to big things. My sister and I both have smashed a few cars in our days, and every time, he came to our rescue and was nothing but supportive. However, if something small happened that offended him in someway, well, Lord help you. Here’s a quick example: I was in high school and my mother had bought me a beautiful pale grey mohair sweater. I loved that sweater and wore it as often as I could. I got home from school one day and was just lounging around watching tv. My dad, who happened to have the day off, was working on a woodworking project in the basement. He came up and asked if I could give him a hand and hold some boards while he cut them. I told him I would – but I had to first change my sweater. I didn’t want a bunch of sawdust on it. My dad threw a fit – went nuts. Accused me of being lazy and said things along the line of, “See if I ever help you out with anything again.” After the tantrum? He didn’t speak to me for over a week. I was fourteen.

This is what I grew up with. One of my first childhood memories is walking up and down the block in front of my house with my mother. I was less than 4 years old. It was a cloudy, cold spring day. Neither of us had coats. She held my hand as we circled our street over and over. Why? Because my parents had gotten in an argument. Mom took me out of the house so I didn’t hear dad yell. When she left, he nailed the front door shut.

Yes, you read that right – he not only locked the door – he nailed the front door shut so his young wife and 4 year old daughter couldn’t come back in the house.

Growing up the way I did, I quickly realized that I couldn’t trust anyone. When you are a kid and you have no idea what will set dad off this time, and your mom doesn’t know how to stop it – or defend you – you just learn to rely on yourself. That’s what I did. My mother claims I came out of the womb independent, and that is roughly true. I think it was a combination of genetics and good old fashioned fear that made me learn how to take care of myself.

I don’t blame my mom. Maybe when I was a kid she tried to stop him – I don’t know. Stopping him when he was on a roll though was like trying to stop a freight train. If she got in his way, he’d just flatten her too. I should say – he never raised a fist to me. His abuse was purely emotional. I don’t actually like the word abuse – at the time it didn’t exactly feel that way, it just “was what it was,” but I know now as an adult, it was no way to treat a child. The worst part of his temper was that he knew exactly what to say to you to get you in the guts. It wasn’t just yelling or name calling, it was saying the one thing or two that he knew would make you cry. And he could do it every time.

My mother’s coping mechanism was just to stop talking. She’d leave the room and just not say anything. It wasn’t particularly effective when the anger was directed at her – and it wasn’t at all effective if the anger was directed at me or my sister. Nonetheless, that seemed to be all she knew how to do.

So, what does this mean for me? He’s been gone for over 12 years, why write about this now? This off-kilter childhood of mine is part of what made me into the woman I am. One result is that I don’t trust easily. Relationships, friendships, they are like giant frozen lakes. I move across them slowly, always testing for weak ice. It takes a long time before I truly trust a friend. Honestly, I don’t mind if there is weak ice – I just want to know where it is. For example, I have a friend who is never on time. If I didn’t know that about her – and that it had nothing to do with me – I could be really hurt when she doesn’t show when she says she will. It could seem personal and unreliable, but because I do know it, I can still have faith in her… just not in her punctuality.

My friendships are all with people who are self sufficient. It makes me nervous to be needed too much. I’m not the type that will call regularly, or email, or even set up coffee dates. I may go months without seeing my friends. It isn’t personal. It’s just that I have so much to take care of, but only so much time, energy and willpower. They understand that about me. The also know I don’t do surprises well, I don’t like unexpected company and I sometimes have a hard time with unexpected changes in plans. I like my scheduled plans, my routines, my lists and systems. Since I am responsible for everything in my life, I need those systems to keep everything going.

I don’t ask for help easily, but when I do, I don’t actually expect that I will get it. On the other hand, I feel my own responsibilities very strongly. I take care of the people I love and I hate letting them down. I am loyal and I do my best to balance my time with others with my much needed time alone. I love long talks with friends and loved ones, but I need time alone just to breathe.

I feel very strongly that every responsibility in my life – my career, my homes, my health, my dog, my relationships, they are all on me to maintain. I cannot expect to lean on anyone. It can be a lonely place sometimes, but at least I never pull the rug out from under my own feet.

This is the first time in my life that I have looked at this stuff objectively. It’s how I’ve looked at life as long as I can remember, but now I’m seeing why – and how this is a perfectly logical reaction to what I faced as a kid. There are thousands of ways I could have handled it, (I’m sure each person who has had experiences like mine has dealt with it in their own way,) but this is it for me. Since I’ve been spending time examining my life, I’m seeing connections that I had only guessed at before. How this all fits in with my health and fitness, my plans for the future and this blog that I write… I have no idea, but it does, somehow. I’m going to keep exploring it and let you know what I find out.

 

Photo credit: bjaglin via flickr

 

My Gloves Are Getting a Beating

oh dear...

oh dear…

This is a photo of my boxing gloves. See that tear? Yep, I am pretty much wearing these through. I’ve had them only since, what? June, I think.

I’m going to just tape them up a bit and keep going. Maybe I’ll ask for a new pair for Christmas. :)

I am not sure why boxing makes me ridiculously giddy but the idea of a kickboxing class leaves me cold. Maybe because I can learn to throw a pretty good punch, but I can’t seem to kick my leg more than 8″ off the ground? That might have something to do with it! In fact, even in boxing we have rotations that occasionally involve doing switch kicks. I love that there are a couple of theatre/dancer types in my class who manage to throw in a few jazz hands now and again. Me? I just curse my way through ‘em.

I am getting better at other things, though. I’m getting better at remembering combinations at the bag, (although I still chant to myself “straight, jab, jab, hook, up, hook, hook, hook, hook” and so forth.) and I am definitely getting better at the ab floor exercises. So who knows? I am determined to be open to anything, maybe I’ll stop into the kickboxing class one of these nights. (You know, if there isn’t a boxing class scheduled instead!)

The Call of the Gym

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Recently my boyfriend Julian and I were spending the day running some errands. We were having a nice day, but somewhere in the middle of Costco, I lost my good mood. I’m not really sure what happened. I’m not a huge fan of crowds. I don’t mind speaking in public in front of people, but large groups of people milling about can get under my skin, and Costco can be crazy. Or it might have just been a little “shopper’s fatigue.” In any case, I started feeling grumpy, and my good mood disappeared. (I do hope whoever found it, dusted it off and enjoyed a very pleasant rest of their day!)

Julian saw I wasn’t quite myself and asked me what was up. I said something I never thought I would say in my lifetime. “I need to go to the gym.” In that moment, I wanted to feel better and the only thing I could think of that would give me immediate results was working out. Fortunately I had signed up for a class later that day.

Before I started losing weight, I thought gyms were stupid. In my mind they were expensive, embarrassing, sweaty levels of hell that only the super athletic dared to tread. I have a friend who loves the fitness classes at her gym and would often talk about how great they were. Frankly, I thought she was nuts. About the only thing that sounded more hellish than working out in a gym… was working out with other people. Double yuck.

…and now for my birthday I bought myself an unlimited membership to a fitness studio, where all they offer is classes… and I love it.

I was thinking about this the other night. Just why do I love going to my studio so much? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Okay, the first and most obvious thing is that working out releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce feelings of pain and improve positive feelings. So basically, it changes your body chemistry. All I know is that when I am done, I am sweaty and happy. My voice lifts, my eyes are brighter and I’m tired but feeling great. But you know, I heard about all this happiness before I started working out and it in no way motivated to try it for myself. What I didn’t know was…
  • The atmosphere in the studio is great. I was always worried about people who were better than me judging me or just feeling stupid because I didn’t know what I was doing. What I have found is the opposite. If anyone judges me, I haven’t seen it. Instead, everyone I have met, from the instructors to my fellow classmates have been nothing but supportive, helpful, and fun to be around. Some of my instructors are tough, but they also take the time to come over and show me how to improve my technique. My classmates laugh with me and are great about offering a high five or a boxing glove fist bump after a particularly hard round. There are people at all levels, from the classic blonde who works out like a machine to the older guy who dutifully huffs and puffs his way through. All sizes, sexes, colors and fitness levels seem to be there. It’s great.
  • At the studio, I am responsible for no one but myself. In my day to day life, my job and my former volunteer work, I’m a manager of people. I am responsible for their happiness, their work, their problems, and so on. I enjoy being a leader, but it is also really nice to go somewhere where the only person I need to worry about is me.
  • The zen-like state of exercising is awesome. The classes I like the most are so hard that I don’t have time to think about anything but what I am doing at that exact moment in time. There is something really freeing in that.
  • I am feeling more self confident every time I go. The joy of being a beginner is that it doesn’t take much to see an improvement! :) But seriously, every class is an opportunity to improve and I can feel that. Each time I leave, I feel a little stronger and a little better. It’s not just brawn – it is also brains. I love school and love learning, and this is a version of that.
  • I’m meeting some new people. Like most people over 20, my social circles are pretty developed. I don’t meet a lot of new folks. There are people at this studio that I already knew slightly and a lot more I haven’t met yet. We don’t have time for long conversations or anything, usually it’s no more than a few minutes between classes, but it’s nice. I have an amazing circle of friends, I am not looking to expand that, but getting these new acquaintances is fun.
  • I can work out regardless of the weather. I love biking, kayaking, hiking and walks, but last year I felt like my blog became a constant weather report because unless the weather was good, I couldn’t work out. Now it doesn’t matter. But I am frequently biking to the classes which is fun!
  • I don’t have to run. I still haven’t found the love for running. I do it, but I haven’t discovered the runner’s bliss that so many of my fellow bloggers have. That’s okay – I can get a great work out that I enjoy. I am determined to keep the weight off and get stronger, but I can only do it if I find things I enjoy. For me, this is it right now.
  • Working out keeps the thunderclouds at bay. Whether it is a short term case of grumpiness or helping with my depression and anxiety, exercise is a healthy way to keep all that to a more manageable level. I’ve mentioned before that one of the side effects of depression and anxiety is body aches. They also really undermine your motivation and make you feel tired. Recently I was under a big cloud and ended up canceling two of my classes. After actually making it to a third class, I realized that canceling the other two had been a mistake. I felt so much better afterwards, I wish I had done it sooner. That’s when I made a vow that it is okay to cancel if a special event comes up or if I am just plain out sore and exhausted, but if that soreness and tiredness is from mental stuff rather than physical, I have to get up and go to the gym. It’s just worth it to feel better.

 

 

Photo credit: Dean Jarvey from flickr

Depression and Me

Rain washed fenceI’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I planned to write it shortly after the one on anxiety, but just about that time I learned of the death of Robin Williams. Not wanting to look like I was comparing myself to Mr. Williams, or add to the already numerous articles about depression, I decided to wait a bit. I want to be very, very clear, what I am describing is my personal experience with depression. I am not in anyway comparing myself to anyone. Nor should you take my experiences as gospel for what other people feel. It’s very much an individual thing. Here’s what it feels like to me:

  • My blood feels like it was replaced with cement. It’s hard to move, hard to even get up out of a chair. Activities that I do every day suddenly seem overwhelming.
  • Likewise, my brain feels like it is coated in molasses. The synapses feel like they just aren’t firing like they should – like everything has to pass through goo to work. My thoughts are slowed down. It’s an effort to think. I even talk slower.

Here is something important – I don’t feel sad. Because the symptoms mimic sadness, I think it is something that is misunderstood about depression. Mostly, I’m apathetic. Sadness and emotions? They take too much work. When I am depressed, I don’t have the energy for emotions.

You see, I think “Depression” needs a new definition. Thinking about depression as sadness is the wrong way to look at it. Here’s a better way: imagine there is a pipeline that pumps happiness, joie de vivre, energy and motivation into you. Everything you do during the day uses a bit of that energy, but it is okay, there is more coming in all the time. Now, imagine that someone has “depressed” a button or a plunger that stoppers that pipeline. All you are left with is a tiny, tiny pool of energy at the pit of your stomach. Your instinct is to protect that pool since every single thing that you need to do draws from that pool: from getting out of bed, to getting dressed to eating food. It all sucks that energy away. It feels like if enough energy is sucked away, you won’t have enough to breathe, or even keep your heart beating. To make things worse, you have absolutely no idea when the depression will go away and the energy will return.

The thing about sadness is that it eventually goes away. The body can only sustain true grief for so long before it turns into other things – anger, frustration, even gallows humor. Depression is different, there is no way of knowing when it will end. It feels like it is coming from the outside – as though someone else is inflicting this – and you don’t know why. It’s heartbreaking. It is also so frustrating to know that something that was so easy a few days ago, suddenly seems so hard.

I’ll give you an example – I’m sort of a foodie. I love great food and I enjoy eating. I’m also a planner, so I have preplanned out what meals I have available for the week. It’s not so strict as to be a daily plan, but it’s a list of what’s ready to make in the fridge. Recently I had a morning where I woke up depressed. I won’t go through what it took to get up and get going, but when I got to the kitchen I realized I didn’t have the energy to make breakfast. I thought I’d have yogurt instead. And I found myself standing there, looking at the silverware drawer, completely drained by the very idea of how much energy it would take to get out a spoon. A spoon! It isn’t like my silverware drawer is in a safe! This thought actually ran through my head, “Why bother? And I am just going to have to eat again later.” It all seemed so pointless. And believe me, eating has never seemed pointless before! In fact, I am convinced that that is why most “comfort food” are things that are easily chewed and don’t require many utensils. Think about it. Comfort food used to mean the casseroles and foods of our childhood, but it’s grown to mean things like fast food. I swear that’s because no one who is depressed has the energy to make a roast or their mother’s apple pie – they barely have enough to pull through the drive through. (I don’t actually eat fast food, even when depressed, but I get it. Boy, do I get it.)

Here’s one more example – I drive a stick shift car. I don’t usually think anything about it. If I do, it’s that I love my little rocket ship of a car, but when I am depressed, the idea of having to go from second to third and back again, just seems ridiculous. It’s so draining!

I have a lot of things to be grateful for, however. For me, depression is a fairly recent thing. It is not something I have suffered with my whole life. I also have a wonderful group of people in my life who are incredibly supportive, including my boyfriend who has been awesome. I’m getting help, I am privileged enough to have a job that affords me good health insurance and I’m seeing a therapist. My truly bleak days have become fewer and fewer.

There is one other thing I am grateful for – my love of fitness classes. They help tremendously. I’ll write about it more later, (I have a whole post planned on this subject,) but I’m finding that regular exercise is helping me keep the thunderclouds at bay. I’m glad I discovered that while I am still all new and excited about it, rather than when things had become routine. I’m not sure it would have been quite as effective.

If you know someone who is depressed, give them a hug, bring them a meal, and give them a ton of credit. They are probably doing the very, very best they can.

Photo credit: Priyambada Nath via flickr

What We See in the Mirror – Thoughts on Identity

Make_yourselfI’ve been reading Madeline L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet. For those of you who are readers out there, you might know her as the author of A Wrinkle in Time. A Circle of Quiet is not like her youth fiction, it’s her reflections on writing and life. I’m enjoying it immensely. In fact, it is the first book in a long time that has made me stop, get out a pencil and some sticky notes, and start underlining and marking passages.

One of the things she talks about is our mirrors. She points out that when it comes to our homes, we are careful about the mirrors we choose to do our hair or brush our teeth in front of. We don’t choose darkened mirrors or funhouse mirrors, we choose true clear mirrors that let us see our image. She says that people are also our mirrors – the mirrors of our soul. She says she takes care who she uses as her mirrors – her husband, her children and her close friends. When she uses other people as mirrors, she stops being true to herself.

I know what she is talking about. Let’s call it the What Will The Neighbors Think syndrome (WWTNT?). It doesn’t have to be neighbors, of course, it could be coworkers, family members, whoever – it’s when you let other people’s opinions dictate your choices, instead of your own. The thing is, it isn’t even always What the Neighbors Actually Think – it is more frequently what we think the neighbors think. Reality might be that the neighbors are too dang busy with their own lives to have an opinion on yours, but we think that they do.

For some of us, WWTNT? can drive a lot of our choices – what house to buy, what career to go into, what to wear, where to shop and so on. It seems a little silly, but really, it is a very powerful force. And there is some validity in it. After all, social structures exist for a reason. Simply following the social conventions can make life easier, (why recreate the wheel?) and create more social bonding, (people that look alike and do the same things tend to group together.) However, it can also cause inner conflict. For L’Engle, she talks about her struggles with being a writer first and a mother and housekeeper second. How terribly guilty she would feel because she didn’t feel like she was keeping up with her neighbor’s standards of what a housewife should be. I would guess that a lot of us have gone through something similar – a internal struggle when we realized our passions and dreams differed from what other people thought we should do.

As I have mentioned, I‘ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. My identity has changed a lot in the past couple of years. Many of the words I would have used to describe myself a couple of years ago, aren’t true anymore. And, many of the words I would use now to describe myself, would have been unimaginable then. I’m not done, either. I am just getting to know this new woman who I have become. When I look in the mirror now, (both the actual physical mirror and the reflections of those closest to me,) I see someone completely different. Someone who I am just getting to know. I find myself saying, “When did I become this woman?” a lot. I usually mean it as a joke, when I am getting up at 4:50AM to go to a morning Boxing class, when I’m choosing nonfiction over a novel, when I’m tying on my running shoes… things I wouldn’t have ever thought of doing not that long ago.

I’m also saying “no” to things I would have never turned down. I’ve been active in our community theatre organizations in various ways since 1989. It’s been my lifeblood. All of my friends I met through theatre. But, for now, it doesn’t interest me. I still love my friends, I just don’t have any interest in being at the theatre. It could be just a pendulum, I was very, very busy with theatre the past four years or so, and maybe I am just burned out. In time the pendulum will swing back again. Or maybe not – I honestly don’t know. That’s what I mean – I’m still getting know this “new” me.

Without a doubt I have let other people’s opinions of me effect my choices. I can’t honestly complain, either. I’ve had a good life. I might have had a very different one if I had just listened to my own heart, but the one I have is good. However, I feel like I have the opportunity right now to examine it. I also have the wisdom and experience to start cutting out the parts that don’t work for me, and start adding more that does.

Yoga Expectations – BLOWN!

Yoga in the Mountains By Tomas Sobek

This is what I would like to think I look like… (note: I don’t… yet)

A little while ago I wrote about the Yoga classes offered at the fitness studio I attend and how it hadn’t been the experience I had been looking for. However, there had been a fill-in instructor that night and a few other wonky things, so it wasn’t really a fair trial. I decided to go back and give it one more try. I wasn’t expecting much though. In fact, I was so sure that it wasn’t going to be class I would enjoy, that I was already composing a blog post in my head about not liking it – on the way to the studio!

See, I like the idea of Yoga – particularly learning to be more flexible. As I have mentioned before, flexibility is not my strong suit, so this is an area I’d like to work on. However, there are some aspects of modern Yoga culture that just don’t sit well with me.* I’m not going to go into details because I know a lot of people are passionate about their Yoga, but essentially, when I walk out of a class I want to be smiling and excited to go back. So far, none of the Yoga classes I’ve taken have done that for me. That isn’t to say that I was ready to write off all Yoga entirely, I know there are many different kinds and flavors – and instructors – and that can completely change your experience. But I was completely prepared to write off the classes at my Studio as more that just “weren’t for me.” More than prepared – I was planning on it!

I am so, so glad I gave it a second try though. I went last night and had a blast. That’s right – I had fun at Yoga. The regular instructor is a hilarious pixie who keeps the class moving, but keeps things light. She cracked little jokes as she lead us through the traditional Yoga poses I am used to, but also a mix of positions I’ve been learning in Pilates and a few things that seemed more like Dance moves. The music was a mix of regular songs (some I knew) and a lot of what we did was roughly choreographed, without being rigid. I don’t have any problem with the ambient new age style music that I usually hear during Yoga, I listen to it a lot at work. It is great for eliminating distractions, but there was something about doing Yoga to Tom Petty that really drove home that this class was a little different. I’m sure some people would hate it, but for me, it was a perfect fit. Sure enough, when I walked out of class that night, I was grinning ear to ear.

* Yep, I totally went for that pun.

Photo credit: Tomas Sobek via flickr

Hermes Escapes! Thoughts on Chases and Dog Wrangling

See how cute I am? Now take off the leash and watch me go!

See how cute I am? Now take off the leash and watch me go!

Hermes escaped last weekend. Julian and I were up at his parents’ place canning tomatoes. Julian, his daughter and myself were slaving over a hot stove while his niece and son were on “tomato duty” – running out to the garage to bring in more tomatoes. The first time they went out, Hermes joined them. He sniffed around the closed garage a bit and came back in when they did. The next time they went to go out, they called him to come along. What they didn’t realize that someone had opened the garage door. Hermes saw the bright light and sunshine and took off like a shot.

Hermes has no recall. He will not come when called. When I got him from the shelter they warned me that I could never let him off leash, his little hound dog brain would be hellbent for smells – not for obeying. When we heard what happened Julian reassured me that his niece, who has two dogs of her own, is well versed in dog wrangling. I gave them some time, but after a few minutes when they hadn’t reappeared I threw on some shoes, grabbed Hermes’ leash and went out to help.

Julian’s folks have a huge piece of property. The front half is suburban house but “the back forty” is wild meadow and scrub. It’s so large that sometimes I just walk around the perimeter with Hermes for his nightly walk. He loves it – it’s hound dog heaven, full of bunnies and other critters, long grasses and weeds. I figured that’s where he’d head.

Sure enough, as I rounded the corner I spotted him trotting through the grass, the kids trailing behind. I shouted to Julian’s son to cut around and cut Hermes off, but he said “I can’t go that way – we don’t have shoes!” It turned out that they hadn’t been wearing shoes in the garage and when Hermes took off, they just followed him barefoot! Of course there are prickers and sharp sticks out there, so I sent them in to get their shoes and headed after Hermes alone.

This is us on a hike. This dog can run fast when he's on the scent of something!

This is us on a hike. This dog can run fast when he’s on the scent of something!

I nearly caught him twice. I had my hands on his little furry hips, but the snaky little SOB shot out of my hands. Now that he knew the game was on, he ran over to the edge of the property. The neighbors have a similar size lot, except their back half is a Christmas tree farm. In between the two lots is a kind of botanical no-man’s land of scrub oak, thorns and evergreens. Being low to the ground, Hermes zipped back forth. I had to jump over, climb under and sometimes just run through the vegetation just to keep site of him. Then it happened – he ducked under some vines and I lost sight of him. My heart dropped in my chest.

Fortunately a second later he caught the scent of… something. He started baying his little hound heart out. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. I ran towards him. Then I caught a glimpse of white tip of his tail – I was suddenly glad hunters had bred that into hunting dogs, because it helped a lot. I followed him over to the farm.

Out of the brush and into the Christmas trees, I could see him a lot better, but there were two problems: the long open rows meant he could actually run faster and he could easily run between the rows, well under the low branches. I, however, had to look for breaks I could jump through.

I finally had the presence of mind to back off. I stayed close, kept him in sight, but didn’t try to grab him. I kept thinking about people who hunt with dogs and tried my best to make Hermes think I was running with him after whatever critter he was tracking – not after him. It worked. He stopped for a second to take an extra sniff, and that was the opening I was looking for. I swooped down and grabbed his collar! Dog retrieved!

At one more than one point during this ridiculous chase, I found myself (still wearing a blue and white checked apron mind you) running full tilt after that dog. I was running as fast as I could. I couldn’t help but think that a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I couldn’t have kept up with him. This time, even though I felt like I had just completed an obstacle course, I wasn’t even breathing all that hard. I was more scared than winded. Truthfully, probably nothing would have happened to him if I hadn’t caught him – he was far enough from the roads, but that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time. I just really appreciated what this new body can do.

He’s home safe, and back on his leash, but now that I know how fast that little guy can move, I think I need to train him to go running with me!