Anxiety and Me

Here’s what my anxiety looks like:

  • It’s the hyped up, heart racing jittery rush of being over caffeinated. It’s as if I consumed a half dozen expressos, a couple of candy bars and few handfuls of PopRocks. My breath feels short, I’m sweating and I have a stress headache.

    I'm so disappointed...

    I’m so disappointed…

  • There is a nagging feeling I have forgotten something, something really important. It’s a “I’ve left the oven on in Patrick Stewart’s condo and it’s going to burn down if I don’t turn it off soon.” kind of feeling. (You can pick any celebrity here, or anyone from whom it would be devastating to hear the words “I’m not angry, I’m just really disappointed in you.”) The problem is, I don’t actually know what it is I have forgotten. Truth is, I haven’t forgotten anything, but that reality doesn’t change how I feel.
  • I’m distracted, irritable and frustrated. I react too quickly. I want to punch the coworker who stands to close, sneer at the woman wearing that obnoxious shade of purple and scream at basically everyone on the road at the same time I am. While this is happening, I am perfectly aware that it is all me, so I try to be nice, I try to be calm. (It isn’t easy.)
  • At the exact same time, I am fragile. I am afraid of offending or hurting someone – particularly the people I care about.
  • I have a hard time settling down. I’m thinking about everything… and nothing all at once. My brain latches onto a thought and I run it around and around in circles in my brain, gnawing at it, until the thought becomes completely abstract. It loses meaning. Then another thought pops in.
  • I rush through things I should enjoy. I can’t relax in the garden, I have to hurry through it… though I don’t know why. I go for a walk on a beautiful morning, but I don’t enjoy it. All I can think about is getting back home, even though there is no reason to hurry.

The good news is that my anxiety isn’t debilitating. I can go to work and function just fine. At most, my coworkers might notice that I am a bit more quiet and considerate. I am aware of when anxiety is getting to me, so I take special care not to say, or do, anything I will regret. However fortunate I am that I can still work and take care of what I need to, it’s still hard.

The last couple of days I have been struggling with this. I went to boxing class last night hoping that I could work some of it off. Boxing is so intense that I was hoping I could release some of this uncomfortable energy. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

To start with, there is a reason why boxing is called “the sweet science.” It isn’t about just flailing away at something as hard as you can. There is a level of concentration required in how you hit. If you aren’t being deliberate, the bag will start to spin. As my instructor said, “Now you are hitting him in the back of the head… that isn’t so bad for street fighting, but it’s not allowed in boxing.” The class was a good distraction, (it’s hard to think about anything but the class,) but it didn’t give me quite what I was looking for.

The other problem was that I tired. My whole body was exhausted. I think the SUP class I took earlier in the week was harder on me than I realized. I didn’t feel as strong in the class as I usually do, and at the end I was completely exhausted – but not in that giddy “I left it all on the floor” kind of way that I usually do.

In fact, the best moment of the evening was when I was riding my bike back home from class. I was tired, but it was a beautiful night and the ride felt great. As I neared home, I decided to go an extra block and take the long way around, just for fun. I found out that the street leading to mine is one long, slow downward hill. I had this beautiful moment of sailing down the road at my top speed – wheeeee! Plus I knew that my house was at the bottom and I didn’t have to go back up! (Which is what I’m usually thinking about when I am coasting down a hill!)

So, I am just going to take care of myself this weekend and try to relax and remind myself of this quote by TS Elliot:

quote-T.-S.-Eliot

 

 

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Life Changing Thoughts

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to write a post on therapy and how that is going. It’s hard though, really hard. Talking about my physical fitness adventures is a lot more fun! It also seems a lot less private. But let’s give it a go again and see if I can get one out of the draft box and into the published space, shall we?

Bravery

I’m going to start with a revelation I had while biking. That might be easier – I like writing about biking! I wrote about taking my bike up to the cottage a couple of weekend ago. While riding, I figured out something very important. It’s completely changed how I look at my life.

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that's a pun!)

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that’s a pun!)

A Little Background:

The week before I went to the cottage I had read a blog post by a woman who competes in triathlons. She was struggling with the bike portion – she wasn’t enjoying riding with certain groups, but at the same time, said she was afraid to ride alone. We’re talking about serious racing and long distances, not just little neighborhood jaunts or rides in the park like I do. I empathized with her dilemma.

Fast forward to the weekend at the cottage:

I’m tooling around on my one speed cruiser and meandered my way to the ice cream parlor. I thought it was going to be a fairly decent ride, but had grossly underestimated the distance. It took me… eight minutes. I had my ice cream, but the plan had been to take a nice long ride and then get ice cream. I felt a little cheated, and not quite ready to pedal home, so instead I went over to the nearby rail trail. It was nice. It was gorgeous going through the woods, wildflowers were in bloom everywhere. At first, I saw other people pretty regularly, but the further I got, the fewer I saw. Then I heard it –

The unmistakeable sound of a gun being fired.

This rail trail goes through some pretty rural country. You are on the backsides of farms and pretty rustic homes. A gun going off isn’t really that surprising. There are hunting ranges nearby and undoubtably a fair amount of target practice going on. I was dressed brightly and I was mostly sure that no one would fire a gun towards the trail, but still, it gave me pause. If I got into a jam, there is really no one I can call. It’s not like I can call my dog and have him come pick me up, (he’s a terrible driver and I don’t let him have a cell phone.) I have the phone number of one neighbor by the cottage, but how could she even get to me? I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Let’s put aside the shot for a moment, what happened if I got a flat tire or hit a root and fell off my bike? What do I do?

And that is when I remembered the blog about why the triathlete doesn’t like riding alone. I thought about it as I rode. I didn’t feel particularly scared, just a little cautious, and suddenly this thought floated across my brain….

You are brave.

This is something I have been struggling with. If you have been following this blog at all you know that I am really excited about all this fitness stuff that I’ve been doing, and one of the great things about it is that it makes me feel brave. I do things now that I never would have done a few years ago. Part of the reason this has been so important to me is because I haven’t been feeling very brave. But in that moment, with that one thought, everything changed.

I thought about it all the way back to my cabin, and then was so caught up in the idea that grabbed an old notebook and went to sit on the picnic table to write and think about it some more. There are a couple of big things that happened in the last 15 years or so that really kicked the snot out of my concept of bravery. They’ve stuck with me and made me feel out of control and sad, but as I sat writing at the picnic table that night, brave things started popping up. There are things I’ve done that are brave. 

  • I flew cross the country to meet my father’s long lost cousins, on my own, barely knowing anyone. I had met one of the cousins once, for about an hour, but when she invited me to come out and stay a week with her and her family, I just got up and went.
  • I own my house (which is a rental unit, so I am a landlord,) and my cabin. I take care of both these somewhat complicated properties on my own.
  • I got married.
  • I got divorced. (Both were acts of bravery.)
  • I regularly give seminars in front of large groups of people. I fly all over the country, by myself, to teach.
  • I stepped out of the familiar and decided to lose weight for the first time ever.
  • I started lifting weights.
  • and so on…

As I wrote, more and more acts of bravery started pouring out of my head. Even things I had earlier classified as decisions made on fear, I was able to turn around and see the brave acts within them. It completely changed my perspective on my life – in particular those parts that hurt.

I also realized that I have been struggling to regain my sense of bravery, and that a lot of my work over the last year has been trying to get back into my old groove – to feel like myself again. These rail trail bike thoughts helped enormously. I’ve got some decisions to make coming up, and it is hard to choose the right path when you are hamstrung with anxiety. Recovering my sense of strength is a step on the right path.

Flooded Heart trail

Biking Adventures

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

My little hound dog is on the mend. The meds the vet gave him help and he is a much perkier pooch. He’s still on restrictions though, so no walks for a couple weeks. I took him up to the cabin last weekend. There, I have a big open lot where I can put him out on a tie-out and he can get fresh air without a walk. It also has the advantage of not having any stairs to climb, so it was a good spot for recuperation.

In fact, it was good for both of us. The cabin is the perfect place to relax, but there are also a ton of options for outdoor activities. Maybe I can’t walk my dog on the trails, I can still bike them! I went out on the kayak several times a day and even went for a run one morning. Cabins aren’t all R&R though, they are still another house that needs maintaining. I spent a couple hours each day raking, picking up sticks and cleaning out the gutters. It might not be pretty, but it is definitely a work out!

Being able to take my bike up was glorious! It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that. There is a rail trail near the cabin, which is perfect for me. It’s fairly flat, which suits my one speed cruiser to a t, and as the photo suggests… it wasn’t all about fitness! There was plenty of “life by the lake” downtime as well.

I stayed through Monday, (an early morning kayak ride is the perfect way to start a week, by the way, so much better than meetings.) With some newly acquired bike time under my belt, I decided to try something else new on Tuesday – I biked to the studio! Now, the boxing studio is not that far away, I knew I could ride there. What was holding me back was traffic. I just got my bike last summer and I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was 16. I’m still getting my feet under me. There are bike lanes part of the way, which are super nice, but still, it is a little intimidating.

That is why I did my practice run at 7:00 in the morning. There was some traffic, of course, but it was early enough that it wasn’t crazy. The ride went fine. There was only one spot that I was a little unsure about – one large intersection where the bike lanes get really confusing. Fortunately, a woman many years my senior smoked passed me and flew through it ahead of me. I got to see how she handled it. Yay for older gals on fast bikes teaching this gal on her slow bike how to ride! (In retrospect it was perfectly obvious, but for a newbie like me, it was a little intimidating. That woman passed me at the perfect time, I am very grateful to her, and I am sure she has no idea.)

Now that I have done it once, I know I could ride to the studio for a class. I’d have to pack my water bottle and boxing gloves in a backpack (I don’t have a basket for the bike yet) but it seems fairly easy. It would be nice on weekends or if I decide to swing in for the 5:30AM Monday morning class (yeah, I know) to be able to peddle over. I’m looking forward to it.

Making it Work – Roof Rack Love

Guess who bought herself a new present?roof rack

This is my new roof rack. It can hold a bike and a kayak! I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Last summer a friend gave me a bike, and while I loved riding it, it was difficult to take places without a rack. I could put it in my hatchback and leave the back open, but that just didn’t seem very safe. On top of that, there are some great riding trails up by my cabin, but if I took my bike, I couldn’t take my dog. (I am not going to attempt to transport my dog in a car with an open hatch. He’d probably be fine, but I am not taking that risk.)

Likewise, I have a kayak at my cabin. However, it’s 10 feet long – it definitely won’t fit inside my car. And while I enjoy paddling around the lake by my cabin, I’ve been itching to take it elsewhere – even just down the road a half a mile to a pretty woodland inland lake.

So, I had a bike at the house I wanted to bring to the cabin and a kayak at the cabin I wanted to bring home occasionally, and this week, I made it all possible! Hooray!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fitness goals. I’m doing a lot of things that at first glance seem pretty different: yoga, strength training, boxing, walking, running, biking, kayaking… and so on. Really, anything that catches my eye is fair game. So, what am I trying to do?

1) I’m looking to find fitness that is fun for me. I was at boxing class the other night and chatting with an older fella that always seems to be there. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Oh, you know… I’m unmotivated. I always feel that way before class. But, (siiiighhhhh,) I make myself get out and do it…” He was the Eeyore of boxing. I thought, “What the heck? Someone actually dreads this class? This class is awesome!” Of course I realize it isn’t for everyone, but then why come? Why not do something else?

If I am going to stay active for the next 40 – 50 years, I am going to do it by finding things that are fun for me. Even running, (which is probably my least favorite of all the stuff I do,) has benefits I love. I make it even better by running in parks and beautiful places. It may not be my forte’, but I never dread it.

2) I want to be a superhero. That is the best way I have of describing it. I want a whole bag of tricks at my disposal. I want to be strong, but also able to run. I want to be able to throw a punch, and also twirl a hoop. Actually, Steve at Nerd Fitness wrote a great post that totally fits in with how I feel: Becoming AntiFragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos.

3) I’m still figuring stuff out. Up until one year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that I’d be running or working out at fitness studio. I’m still figuring out what this new life is all about. The more things I try and say “Yes” to, the more I learn about myself. It’s a good place to be.

Putting it all Together

spokes by ben alfordTonight I am fasting so I can get some blood work done. It’s nothing serious; when I saw my physician the other day she noticed I was overdue for a full physical. She wants to get the blood work done in anticipation for that. I spoke to one of the nurse practitioners about when I should stop in to get the blood drawn – she said I could do it any time of the day, but since it is a “first come, first served” situation, the earlier the better. She suggested getting there right at 7:00AM since the lines are lowest then. So, I’ll have a meal around 6:30 and fast for the rest of the night.

I’m not particularly worried about it, I don’t eat much at night anyway. Actually, I am glad I am having it done. It will be good to see what my health looks like now. It seems like I am focusing a lot on health right now – two different doctors this week and three fitness classes, (two boxing classes and Hot Yoga is Saturday morning.) I’m hoping I can also get in a run or a bike ride too.

Speaking of which – I stopped in at the fancy schmancy sporting goods store yesterday and inquired about a bike/kayak rack for my car. Since I have an older model car (I bought it 10 years ago this month!), they had to special order in some of the parts. It will cost far more than the cost of the kayak and the bike combined, in fact, it will be pretty much double. I’m a little freaked out about spending that much money, but it will let me take the bike up to the cabin and bring the kayak back here, giving me so much more flexibility. Since I drive a Honda, I expect I’ll have this car for another ten years, so it’s a good investment. (And most of the parts I can take to a new car when I get one, so I won’t lose that way either.) It looks like it will be a couple of weeks, but once that is done, I’ll have a lot more options. I like that.

 

Photo credit: Ben Alford on flickr

I Want to Ride My Bicycle… Bicycle… Bicycle

Safety first!

Safety first!

One of my birthday presents this year was a (new to me) bicycle. I don’t think the person who gave it to me meant it as a present, it was just an old Cruiser her folks had laying around, but that’s how I see it! I’ve been wanting a bike all summer, but with Hermes’ medical bills and some unexpected home repairs, I really depleted my funds. With some sadness I had decided to wait on a bike until spring. Then, I was gifted a bike!

I took it over to the local bike repair shop. I had debated on which one to go to, but in the end I am happy I picked the one I did. Bicycling is quite the thing now, and the fancy shops with their super intense Bike People intimidate me a little. This place was great. It was started in 1978, and most of the guys there looked like they had started working there about then. These were the kind of men who wore shop aprons and work shirts, and I didn’t see a speck of neon on any of them.

When it comes to fitness trainers, I’ve heard it said to always go for crusty old guy. (He’s the one who probably knows the most.) Applying that theory to bicycle repair, I had found a whole shop of knowledge! The bike needed new tubes… and I needed a helmet. The gentleman who helped me was awesome. I think it took him awhile to understand exactly how green I really was. He kept asking me questions that I didn’t know how to answer… like you know, what kind of bike I had. I helpfully pointed it out in the repair shop and said, “Ummm… a black one?” (He’s the one who told me it was a Cruiser.)

He walked me through what I’ll to need for my bike – not a sales pitch, more “as you get more experience, here are things to think about,” which was really helpful. He also helped me pick out a helmet and get it fitted to my noggin. Once I had what I needed, both for the bike and my skull, I was set to go riding!

My first ride was awesome! Being on a bike is almost as fun as being on a kayak (and I dream about being back on the kayak.) I rode at a park where I normally run and I went so fast I felt like I was flying! It probably wasn’t that fast really, but when you are used to plodding along, it felt like the wind!

We’ll just have to see how much riding I can get in before it gets too cold. I planning on doing as much as I can. It’s so much fun!

At the park after a great first ride. She may not be fancy, but she's all mine.

At the park after a great first ride. She may not be fancy, but she’s all mine. Note the bell – the guys at the shop put it on as a 40th birthday present for me. How great is that?!?