Things That Are a Workout

Going to the gym is really, really hard for me.

Not because of the workout, although that part is sucky too. In fact, just squeezing into yoga pants and tying my shoes feels like a workout most days, but lifting weights and numbing my brain on cardio equipment isn't the worst part.

I don't mind the gym when it's empty, which is why 2 AM workouts might be ideal for me, especially on nights I can't sleep anyway, but we've been going lately in the mid-afternoon, and I don't know if it's the furloughed federal employees, millennials that crawled out of their mom's basements, or a running start class at the community college, but there are always so many youngish people at the gym in the middle of the day. And I hate it.

I am digging deep into my twisted psyche to understand why I hate it, because it's ridiculous. I've been closing my eyes, and doing that mental exercise where you take the thing that is bothering you and don't try to ignore it, or kill it, but you examine it lovingly to find out why it's bothering you, but I just find myself swirling farther into anxiety and gym-loathing.

It's a weird mixture of "all those people are looking at me, judging me" and "all those people take themselves so seriously and actually look ridiculous," which is me judging them and probably the reason that I assume they are judging me. I can't touch a weight or pedal a bike without this sense of panic that the people who seem to be hovering around me like a cloud of condescension are evaluating my leg positioning and grip style, ready with a thousand helpful "pointers" about how I am doing it wrong. I have no idea what right looks like, so I know I am not judging them on how they're doing their shit, I just can't figure out why nobody is laughing at themselves when they try not to fart on the incline sit-up board.

They're all so busy making huffing sounds and looking in mirrors and it makes me feel so... something really awful that I can't even identify, as though I had endured some gym-centric trauma in my past that I can't seem to recall.

Every cell in my body wants to retreat to a corner where there are no mirrors and face away from everyone, but then I am worried they will be judging my butt in yoga pants, even with my shirt pulled down to my knees.

It's a real-live anxiety thing for me. I should be getting cardio credits for my elevated heart rate the minute I walk into a crowded (in Colville that's 5 people) gym. I want to die. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?

The crazy part is I have yet to run into a single person at the gym that I know or care about impressing, but I am completely self-conscious about being watched or noticed at all. I try to turn my headphones up loud and drown out all of the panting, grunting people around me but it doesn't seem to help. All the girls are hotter than me and all the guys are watching the hotter girls and I feel like the whole thing is a like a flock of peacocks strutting around making obnoxious mating sounds and I am like an out-of-place prairie dog feeling like I came to the wrong party. 

It has been pointed out to me that I had a similar mental resistance to financial issues but have more or less pushed through and (pretend) to feel more comfortable with the decisions I am making about my money. It has been suggested that I will have a similar break through at the gym, and I hope to God so because it's getting worse.

I know I am frustrated that in the almost two months of fairly regular short workouts and yoga, mixed with a lot of walking on my trip and some time on the ski hill falling down since we got home, I have only gotten progressively more sore and tired and yes, even gained weight. I am trusting that I will have a break through there as well, but I'll admit my faith is shaky right now.

I also know I have a long history with narcissistic males "teaching" me how I needed to workout, telling me what I was doing wrong and going into great detail about their extensive knowledge of physical fitness and how clear it was that I had no idea what I was doing, which might have been true, but didn't feel great coming from the same men who lamented not knowing me back when I was "really hot" and thin, but were committed to helping me get there again, for the sake of our relationship and with the hope they could be more attracted to me (PSA: Don't marry guys like that. You're welcome). So sweet.

So I have some beef with the gym. And very limited knowledge and exposure, save some quick-and-dirty lessons that I was given in order to teach weight class for P.E. as a highschool substitute. I know I have SO much to learn, but I also know I am super resistant to most benevolent teachers.

I want to go to the gym with somebody who can also make fun of themselves in the mirror and laugh when they get really bad vertigo getting off the treadmill. I want to go with somebody who doesn't take it so seriously and knows they're as ridiculous as I am. I want to get healthy and strong but I don't want to have panic attacks doing it. I want to figure out how to enjoy it.

I am open to suggestions here, or psychological evaluations, hypnosis, lobotomy...  sign me up. I want to get into it like normal people. Maybe a personal trainer? I tried a few cross-fit type classes and it wasn't much better - even more personal attention and forced interactions. But maybe I should try it again.

Right now, I am forcing myself to go out of sheer discipline and commitment, and some times when it's emptier aren't so bad. But sometimes are really bad. Tonight I am going to a Zumba class with some friends and I am looking forward to being able to be ridiculous with them. Because there's no other way to do Zumba - it's impossible to take yourself seriously at Zumba unless you're Beyonce.

100% me at the gym.

Things to Sleep On


Here we go into the third week of January and so far, of all the new habits that I am supposed to be forming, the only one that is sticking is the gym, and only because a Certain Individual challenged me (by accidentally pushing a button on his Apple Watch) to a fitness competition which I CAN NOT lose. But hey, one habit forming is better than none. I have been doing more reading... and a titch more writing, maybe this week will be the trendsetter for one of those. I will work on it.

I spent a lot of time last week that would have been well used reading some of my six-foot shelf of unread books or writing the next bestselling novel,  researching mattresses instead. I have decided that after 6 years of blaming poor fitness habits, being overweight, bad genes and a variety of other innocent scapegoats for my chronic back pain, that it's actually the relatively expensive mattress that I bought on an ill-informed whim 6 years ago to help with, you guessed it, chronic back pain. My bed is nice, but there are two things wrong with it: 1) It is as soft as a sea of marshmallows and 2) it's a queen size.

What could possibly be wrong with a sea of marshmallows, you ask? Nothing, unless it is a queen-sized sea of marshmallows which you are trying to share with a Certain Individual who finds his sense of self dead center in a bed, either for fear of falling out or relinquishing space to Anyone Else (namely me). He says it's about cuddling. I say it's about a space-scarcity mentality, and spend my nights gripping the uber-squishy edge of my 1/8th of the mattress, all muscles clenched in an effort to not fall onto to floor. So my back hurts. Or maybe the mattress and the Individual are just more innocent scapegoats, but either way, I need something bigger and harder. AAAnd that's what she said.

ANYWAY,  I've been looking/shopping/researching/testing mattresses for a couple of weeks, and the only thing I decided for sure was that there are far too many options. Even after ruling out a foam bed of any type and knowing I wanted innerspring, there were still too many possibilities. I ran into a serious case of decision paralysis after spending hours combing through online reviews, consumer reports, Facebook polls and reading the mattress propaganda shopped heavily to me on Instagram ads the second the slightest thought of a mattress flitted through my brain. I heard a lot of good feedback about SleepNumber, but I don't like the idea of one more electronically controlled thing in my room, and my current bed is a Tempurpedic (also popular, but expensive), which is wonderful, but this model is too soft. I filtered all of the input down to a handful of major brands based on overall reviews/price combinations: Avocado Green, Saatva and Simmons Beautyrest. Hard core Insta marketing and the hipster-esque image of Avocado Green spoke to me, moreso than the matronly tradition of a Beautyrest, but as far as price point, long term durability, and the best broad-spectrum comfort for a side sleeper with back issues and a bedhog partner, I kept coming back to the Saatva.

Lucky for me, my sister in law just bought a new bed from Saatva, which started the whole thought process, since I got to sleep on her old bed (a Beautyrest, which I liked) when I stayed at their house in D.C., and I also got to help usher in the new mattress via the company's free "white glove delivery," where two nice young men carefully squished the king-sized masterpiece up her barely queen-sized stairway, into the bedroom, unwrapped it and vanished along with all of the trappings of mattress delivery, the whole while a small dog with certain paranoid tendencies told them loudly that they weren't allowed in her mom's bedroom.

So after numbing my brain with 600,000 mattress options and at least as many opinions, I hit the SIL up for her three-week report on the new bed. She told me that my brother insists it's just like the old bed, only bigger, which sounds exactly like something my brother would say, but for her part, she was happy with it. Being one of the only first-hand, recent-experience testimonials, and because it was impossible to find any bad reviews on the mattress that she had purchased, and because a Certain Individual was absolutely done giving input on the matter, I decided to follow suit and ordered from the same company.

I will report back in few weeks about whether A) the back pain is any better B) the whole bed-switching process results in any new drama and C) whether the mattress and/or company is really as good as they sound. I mean, the pictures look amazing, and if you know me, you'll know that it's irrationally important to me that the mattress no one will ever see looks as good as it feels. In the meantime, if you are mattress shopping, I have all the latest info.

Things About Being an Influencer

I'm learning a lot lately about gratitude. What it is, once you get all up into the ugliness and the light of gratefulness shows you the silver linings. I'm learning that gratitude doesn't mean no pain, and it doesn't mean perfection. It just means being able to have faith that there's something good in everything that happens.

We live in a world of competition and comparison. Never has this been more of a cultural force than with the advent of social media and the instantaneous flaunting of airbrushed, filtered and doctored beauty and strength. We are bombarded with images of what life should be, making us critical of our own pathway and the complicated beauty that surrounds us. 

There's an entire industry built around these so-called "social media influencers," beautiful people living their "best lives" surrounded by products and places that are paying for the exposure. What a great gig. I'd like to get beautiful and have a job like that, get paid to just be awesome and do awesome things, but when I think about how and what and who those people are "influencing," I am not so sure they're as big as they think they are, no matter what their follower count looks like. 

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, and the fact that a lot of my work revolves around Facebook and Instagram audiences sometimes makes me feel a little panicky inside, like there's no escape, especially when I measure myself against the perceived success of a lot of people I have never met. The hate side is compounded by the holier-than-thou sneer I feel from a lot of people who "aren't on Facebook" or some other such aloofness to the shallow happenings in cyberspace. I am not always there because I want to be, and to be honest, some days it's a lot more vulnerability than I care for, but I know two things: I need to keep building and I need to keep being real - vulnerability is my gig, and I am grateful. 

Some comments and scorn from people, even ones close to me, have caused me to shut down for periods of time, hiding in my darkened place of shame because my flaws are to glaring to be exposed. The funny part is, the largest part of that scorn doesn't happen online. Most of my biggest critics are live and in the flesh and too good for social media, judging me for daring to publish my inadequacies for the whole world. But the best social media influencers don't get hung up on their flaws, and that's what I am aspiring toward.

Recently, our community lost a great man. Tim wasn't the Sexiest Man Alive and he didn't live on a yacht in Trinidad, but as far as social media influencers go, I can't think of a better role model. Tim retired a couple of years ago from a lifetime of community service as a law enforcement officer, only to find out shortly after his last shift that he had terminal cancer. Tim used his last couple of years in the best way possible, and if anybody lived their "best life," Tim and Barb beat all those pseudo-celebrities to the punch, hands down. 

These are the last couple of posts that Tim was able to share. I miss his morning greetings. 💔

Tim became a presence on Facebook, in his last few months, every day that he could find the energy and strength he would send out a message of hope and joy, and most of all, gratitude, to the community. To us, the rag-tag band of Facebook followers that were lucky enough to know him, Tim delivered warmth and love and in his final days, we watched an outpouring back onto his Facebook page from all the people that he had touched that was overwhelming. Tim is maybe one of the few people who really understood the power that social media can have when used the right way. Or maybe he didn't understand, he just found a good way to spill some love around the community. But if there was every a good reason, or a good way, to be on Facebook, Tim figured it out. 

Tim was a guy who spent his whole life using his brains and brawn to help other people, and as he felt his strength slowly slipping away, he found another way to give to the people around him. Never a complaint, while he endured what was probably overwhelming pain, Tim only had light to give. He modeled gratitude that wasn't hindered by the pain he was in. Far too young to leave this world, he faced his end with only encouragement for the rest of us. This is how social media should influence us. Not the bikini bodies and the gourmet meals and the polished fake perfection that we've bought into. 

Tim and his Facebook world are one of the reasons I will remain a staunch defender of social media, in spite of its downfalls. The connections that I have built that I otherwise never would have are some of the most powerful in my life. I knew Tim from my work on the ambulance, but I grew to know who he really was in his last few months on Facebook. Tim encouraged me to keep sharing my pictures and posts, saying he was living vicariously through me, while perfectly healthy, active people were mocking my posts, Tim was getting a kick out of all of my imperfect adventures. Cousins that I now count as friends never shared a meaningful conversation with me until we stumbled across each other and our mutual struggles through Facebook messenger. Friends I have made on social media from around the world have opened up professional and personal opportunities for me ... Say what you will about it, but there is community in the cyber world. It's no substitute for the real deal, maybe, but in our jet-setting age, how precious to have a community you carry with you as you globetrot. 

We don't live in rural pastoral villages with generations of the same families intermarrying like it used to be - well, most of us don't (ahem, Stevens County...). We live in constantly shifting and changing family structures and geographic locations and professional scenes, it's the nature of our world now, and it calls for a new kind of connection. 

I am grateful for social media, and I am grateful for the opportunity to develop my own niche of influencing and enjoy the value, however flawed that I might bring to one person in my vulnerability. I am grateful for Tim and the role model he was, and I intend to mirror his gratitude and positivity in my own online world. There's no need for anything else, really. People complain about how fake or flawed social media is, but it's only as fake as we let it be. Tim made Facebook a real and beautiful neighborhood to live in. I want to be like Tim. 

Things That are Good For Me


I have a question for the universe: Why are bad habits so hard to break, and good habits so hard to form? Also, why does healthiness cost a fortune?

Like seriously. Is it not enough that all healthy food has to taste like crap and all exercise is pure suffering... can it not be just a little bit easy and/or cheap to do something to improve my long term well-being on a regular basis? Ugh.

We traveled to Colombia last month, and part of our quest was to create some new habits of exercise and better eating in a warm, sunny place with more options than Colville. Sorry Tony's and Mr. Sub, it's nothing personal. While we succeeded in walking a lot and going to the gym (under protest, for some of us with the initials of ME) on a semi-regular basis, doing the work to find not-deep-fried food was a little trickier. Still, with the price tag of about $5-7 on a good, Argentinian Parilla Steak  in Colombia, we did ok some days and I actually lost a few pounds and improved my stamina and endurance.

I got all my pounds back with interest and quickly lost my stamina and endurance as soon as we got back to the States, where a good, clean steak costs upwards of $20 and macaroni & cheese whispers seductive sweetness from every menu for a fraction of the price of a salad. Even gym prices in place like Florida and Washington D.C. were outrageous. It cost me $25 for one yoga class in D.C., and while it was (honestly) totally worth in my post-Christmas blobbery, we paid that same amount for four classes in Medellin. Being healthy in the U.S. is hard and expensive.

Which makes me think that the conspiracy theorists actually have it figured out. If we can only afford to eat chemical-laden garbage here, then we will inevitably fall sick with (COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE) illnesses that require medical interventions that we can't afford so we have to have insurance (which we also can't afford, but it's cheaper than health care) and all of the big chemical/pharmaceutical companies and their political/commercial cronies are the ones that are making out like bandits while we're just getting more fat and miserable by the day, voting for all kinds of random band-aid solutions that just line the aforementioned pockets even more. IT'S A TRAP! Which is why conspiracy theorists quit their day jobs, grow enough beans and peaches to live on and stockpile guns. Or move to Colombia and live on good, clean Argentinian steak.

I think I will join the latter camp, because I just spent $35 on eggs and milk and cheese at Safeway here which was consumed completely 36 hours later and now all we have left to eat are saltine crackers and top ramen. And I wonder why I am 35lbs overweight. Real food costs too much, and so does exercise.

OK, there are other solutions, I know. Like I can (and do) do Yoga with Adriene (I just started her 30-day Dedicate Journey if you want in!) on YouTube for free. it's just frustrating because I can't stretch my arms into a Texas T for a supine twist because one hand goes under a chair and the other hand hits the coffee table, and then Dagny puts her slimy ball under my buns when I am in bridge pose and also my floor is cold. I still do it, and I am determined to make a habit of it, but it's hard to really Savasana well when the dog is furiously humping her boyfriend 14 inches from my head. Seriously. No amount of essential oil fixes that.

I say again... UGH. We're doing the gym membership thing here which violates all of my sensibilities because I feel like it's a crime to pay someone to make you suffer, but it's the only answer in this sedentary life we life. So I am finding ways to enjoy the Machines of Torture and the abject humiliation of mismatched leggings and athletic shoes and walls and walls of mirrors reminding me why I am there as I stand frumpily next to that One Girl who looks amazing doing incline sit ups - the move that is more an exercise in trying not to express unintentional flatulence than strengthening my core.

So. Frustrating. HAPPY NEW YEAR. My low-carb, mostly soup diet isn't going so well. The offspring hates soup and that One Guy isn't a fan of most things that are carbless. But I will keep trying. There's a way to do this. I am open to suggestions.

I just read this Mark Manson article about habits vs. goals and it was a good reminder/inspiration, put into the succinct, manageable terms that Manson is so good at enumerating, where he listed of 6 habits to focus on instead of making goals for the new year. Some of them I am already working on dialing in... like the EXERCISE every day thing. Having an Apple Watch makes this fun for me because it is my new Life Aspiration to close All the Circles before this Certain Guy every day. Sometimes I think he has his watch set to cheat because he gets more calorie/exercise credits than I do for the same workout. But whatever.

Manson's other 5 recommended habits include COOKING (which is something I determined a couple months ago was an imperative skill/habit to re-form after my eating out budget was higher than my mortgage payment), MEDITATION (which I SUCK at but am determined to work into my daily yoga practice with lots of discipline), READING (which I used to love but have let go, apparent in the 6-foot shelf of to-read books), and WRITING (which is why I am here today).

These six habits are exactly what I know I need to establish to keep me on track - I have gotten lazy and written off the failure to practice of these things as self-exploration or self-care, blah, blah, blah (insert psychobabble justification here), and I have found myself floating adrift, without a sense of direction or even why I am opening my eyes every morning.

Writing is the biggest one for me. Since I was a kid, journaling has been my saving grace. The thing that kept me from (worse) insanity and maybe even saved my actual life. I have quit writing anything personal lately not from fear of who might read it, but more fear of who might NOT read it, and it's terrifying for me to think that NOBODY CARES. But the reality is, that nobody might care, and THAT'S OK. Because it's about me. It's about getting the words and the thoughts and the feelings out there and if somebody hates it or if nobody reads it or if it's all senseless babble, that's still ok, because it's my thing, and to be who I am and get where I am going, I need to use my words without self-censorship or fear.

So I've got my work cut out for me in the next few months, forming habits and finding creative ways to afford (and enjoy) getting healthy and whole - body, soul, mind, and wardrobe. I'll be looking for workout buddies and healthy recipes, so hit me up! And once I get my six-foot shelf done I will be looking for books too.

My mantra a few years ago was this: It doesn't matter, nobody cares. My new mantra has a lot more power to it: Nobody Cares, Work Harder. My only goal for 2019 is to set aside fear and pain and replace them with love and gratitude. Tony Robbins says that fear and hurt can't co-exist with gratitude, and while I thought I was pretty good at being grateful, judging by the fear I've been living in lately, my gratitude needs some gym time as much as my body. Robbins says to replace expectation with appreciation, so one thought at a time, I will learn the habit of swapping those thoughts. And for me, writing that shit down makes it real, so here's the first step of a journey to a bigger, better, brighter me.

Thanks for listening, if you did, to my ramble. And if you didn't, that's ok too. ❤️

Search This Blog