February 2017


I married a golfer. I thought I knew what that meant, but I didn’t – really. He loves to golf. He loves it so much, he wanted to share the experience with me. He took me golfing. I am Irish and German and I get a sunburn in about 3.7 nanoseconds. He is part Cherokee and has to be in the sun for days before getting slightly pink. It should have stunned no one to find out I was burned after wandering around like the Jews in the desert for forty years, occasionally hitting a small white ball while all the while preferring the option of hitting the guy who brought me.

But true love is a wondrous thing and he brought me golfing a second time on a very cloudy day. After it had rained. The course was muddy. I ruined my shoes. I prefer shoes to golf by a margin of a bazillion to one. I tried one more time. I got stung by a bee. I was done with golf.

He has golfed the entire time I have known him. He isn’t a scratch golfer by any means but he enjoys his time out there. He has gotten a couple witnessed holes in one. He is out on the course three times a week and still plans special weeks where he goes even more often. He loves golf. Not as much as me. I think.

About 37 years ago, his cousin introduced him to racquetball. This is inside so no chance of sunburn or bee stings. That’s a plus. He talked me into trying this out as well. I did. I didn’t do very well that first time, but I eventually learned to read the walls and could place my shots. I was a woman’s A player and won a substantial portion of my games.

I got to play often and he didn’t. Every time we played together, I won. I could have just served and counted and won that way, but I would hit shots he could return and then he would get mad because I was letting him hit the ball. So I would smack the ball in ways he couldn’t return and then he would get mad because he wasn’t able to hit the ball. We stopped playing together.

Both of us are rather competitive. Both of us like to win. So it is much better if we don’t play at the same thing. He could win his golf match and I could win my racquetball match and we could both be happy. That worked for some time. But even the best of times, according to Charles Dickens, don’t last forever.

I have no explanation for why I love CrossFit so much. I suck at it by various measurements. I excel at it by other measurements. I show up, routinely. That’s my greatest strength. I am coachable. When I’m told “chest up” or “elbows in” I do what I’m told to the best of my abilities. I’m not going to be a competitive athlete. I have no great skill or strength other than doggedness.

I have a list of PRs that has slowing been inching upwards. And while I don’t move tons of weight at a time, I’ve moved more tons of weight than I ever would have imagined possible. I go. I try. I survive. Sometimes I cry in here. But I go back.

Our son’s gym functions quite a bit differently than mine does. I can work out in Hilton Head and be comfortable and I can do the same at home. But the culture for each box is unique. Dick has seen, repeatedly, after all the events we have volunteered at, how Conviction Training Facility works. But he has never, ever participated in a workout.

I asked him to come with me to CrossFit Summerville. He did. I warned the coach/owner that I would be bringing him. I told her what he found to be intimidating. I picked a day without weights. Mostly.

Our skill was weighted good mornings and he used a PVC pipe and then a sand filled pipe. That was fine. He could manage. Then the WOD was rowing, burpees, and double unders. We could both row without issue. We both did plank burpees. I did single unders and he jumped an imaginary rope since this was really bothering him. Two minutes for each move with a minute rest and then do that again for three rounds.

He never quit. He managed to do a 20 minute WOD and never quit. I was so proud of him. On the way home I mentioned that he owed me two more times at the box because I golfed three times. He said he did it once and that was enough.

I think it may be best this way. He has golf. I have CrossFit. We are too competitive. From experience, I know that people start out and quickly zoom past me as I struggle with heart rate and age and general suckiness. We don’t do well “enjoying” the same thing as we compete to see who is better at it.

We each need our own domain. I should let this one go and enjoy my space, my time, my success at CrossFit.

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How do we measure success for ourselves? It really isn’t all that important if others see us as successful or not. If we are content with our current situation, is that success?

I’m reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. I was going along, reading contentedly until, wham! I got to Chapter 11: The Playing Field of Grit. And then I was so struck by the irony, I’m having trouble getting it past it.

I believe I possess the quality of perseverance. Unless of course, I have the less stellar quality of stubbornness. Either good or bad, I tend to stick with things. Here are some cases in point:

I graduated from my nursing school with an associate’s degree and a 13 week old baby who was born slightly premature. This was in spite of a postpartum infection and babysitting problems. I did not get my usual A that quarter, but I did manage to graduate despite everything.

I’ve been married to my starter husband for almost 44 years now. This is in spite of the fact that I was just 20 when we married and young brides aren’t supposed to know what they hell they are doing. That part was completely correct. But we are still married and relatively happy. At least I am.

I am in my seventh year of writing history essays for Little Bits of History with only one of those years actually paying anything (and even then it was a pittance). I have enjoyed learning about so many little items from the vast history of the world and I like to write. So this endeavor isn’t difficult, but the daily grind can become not quite over, but whelming. I took one year off and then came back to my hobby.

And then there is CrossFit. There is no reason under the sun I should be doing this. I sucked so bad on my first stab at it, I should clearly have just walked away. I didn’t. The first time I wanted to quit, I stayed. The hundredth time I wanted to quit, I stayed.

I believe I’m pretty gritty. The rule for the kids when they were in my charge was if you signed up for a team, you finished the season. This is one of the rules of grit and for me it was instinctual.

Now, the part of the book that set me so far on edge that I’m actually writing this.

In chapter 11, Dr. Duckworth claims having grit in high school will help predict later success in life. This sounds reasonable to me, as well. Then she wanted to do a longitudinal study and needed funding. She went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and received a grant. Filling in her Grit Grid allowed high school students to list their extracurricular activities and how long they participated.

So, in high school, I was in the band (played clarinet for eight years total, flute for three, and carried a tuba for one although I don’t even know how to read base clef) so that got me a point for being there three years in high school. I was in one school play which got me no points. I had a job from the time I was 16 until shortly after I turned 18, when I quit the job in order to take evening college classes while still in high school. That did get me one point.

You got points if you were a stellar achiever in your extracurricular activities. There was no stellar anything for band. I didn’t become CEO of the store where I worked as a cashier. No extra points there. So I got two points which is a pretty crappy score. I’m okay with that part.

Then she went on to study the people who were gritty in high school to see if they were successful after graduation. Success was measured in large part by them graduating from college. I do not have a college degree. I have two associate degrees, which lets me check off the “some college” line on questionnaires. This would seem to indicate that I’m not successful, at least by the good doctor’s metric.

To be fair, in other parts of the book, a college degree isn’t a requirement of success, but in this particular chapter it is.

I’ve always been opposed to this belief. My two-year degree didn’t keep me from working critical care. I worked alongside four-year grads who were less adept at patient care. I passed the same state board licensing exam. All without a college degree.

But here is the part that really griped my ass. Dr. Duckworth begged for money from the college dropout who was at one point the richest man in the world and who has built a global company in order for her to prove that he was not successful. She doesn’t seem to have noticed the irony.

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I posted a picture of me doing a head stand on Facebook. I got some comments from people who simply “couldn’t” do that. These are accomplished people who do many amazing things. One of them has recently taken up deep sea diving. That would freak me out. Literally. I would panic.

I used to be an OR nurse. Before that I was an ICU/CCU nurse and I began my career as a Med/Surg nurse, the normal floor of hospitals. I’ve had many people, including other nurses, tell me they couldn’t work where I worked. ICU was too chaotic. CCU was too many codes. OR was just too much on many levels. That was my favorite job which is why I stayed with it the longest.

No matter the arena, each of us has a preference and an area where we are willing to work for mastery. Something within that niche speaks to us. For Michelle it is diving; for me it is CrossFit. My friend worked ER all her life and I couldn’t have stood that. I don’t mind crisis nursing, but I need a few minutes to prepare for my crisis, so critical care gave me a chance to get ready and OR meant not only me, but the entire team had time to prepare. Mim loved ER.

Over the years I have come to appreciate that we each can shine in our own place. Don’t throw me into the place meant for someone else and expect me to radiate. I will succeed best when I’m in the spot that speaks to my talents and my tastes. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it is my tastes that dictate my talents. I got really good at running codes because I practiced them way too often. But I had to have the inner strength and belief in my ability to get through the first one.

And so, in my long life I’ve had many successes. And as is my usual routine, I whiz past that shit without more than a passing nod and set up a new goal which is out of reach – at least in the moment.

That’s a problem. I’ve refused to sit still and savor my successes. Sure I saved lives and conquered disease, but there were still sick and injured people galore and so there was more to do.

I’ve successfully written and published things and even gotten paid for it. I have stories in anthologies. I have contributed to many different venues. I first wrote publicly many years ago when my stuff was placed in the Landen Living Magazine because I was the contributing editor for Montgomery Hills. I’ve done a lot of writing since.

I know how to sew and made many of my own clothes as well as clothes for the kids. I know how to crochet and my knitting isn’t as good, but it is passable. I am able to create things out of raw materials.

And I lift weights. Today’s WOD was a bazillion cleans in ten minutes with increasing load. Ready, set, go … how many can you get?

I did it. I began with my original deadlift weight and did 30 cleans with that weight. I added more to the bar and got 30 more cleans at that weight. I added more to the bar as the clock ran down and got a few more.

I was cleaning more than I could originally deadlift. Yesterday was a bunch of deadlifts. I remember when I started thinking that someday I might be able to lift 100#. I zoomed past that long ago. I don’t remember taking time to celebrate my success. All I remember is wanting more. Yesterday, my lighter and more rep count weight was 133# which would have seemed impossibly ludicrous when I started. Today, my goal for a deadlift is 175# and I would really like to get past 200#.

But will I remember to celebrate when I hit that mark? My 80% strict press today was 42# (my original deadlift weight). I should savor that sweet success. I earned it. Instead, I mostly tell myself I “should” have more on the bar.

I’ve succeeded my way through a fabulous life. And with each success, I’ve zoomed right past the moment and only looked towards the next obstacle to clear. I need to savor the moment of sweet, sweet success. I’ve earned it.

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I went yesterday. The 16 part of Sweet 16 was not rounds, so there is that to be thankful for. What it was instead, was a variation of all five the CrossFit Open Games WODs from 2016. That meant there was lots of everything.

I’m very hesitant to pick a partner. I usually wait for everyone to be paired up and the dimwit that didn’t pick anyone fast enough gets stuck with me. Yesterday, that turned out to be Eli. He is 24. He was a high school and college competitive swimmer. He’s awesome with an aerobic engine like you wouldn’t believe. He was stuck with me, the oldest person there with heart rate issues and her own cardiologist. What a match.

He told me to just do what I could and he would do the rest. Still, I was hoping to be able to do better. I got through Opens 16.1 through 16.4 sorta, kinda carrying my own weight. Not really, but not horribly lopsided. And then came 16.5 and I was lost. I was tired and spent and old and feeble and we had been working for a very long time. The task at hand was 32 heavy deadlifts, 32 wall balls, 32 calorie row, 16 HSPU with a hand release push-up as a sub.

I was able to get my half of the deadlifts. Eli did 16 wall balls, I did five and couldn’t move. My heart rate was 172 and climbing. He did the other 11 and then said he would do the entire row, which was really smart. He probably got two calories for every three pulls where I need three pulls for one calorie. I managed 12 push-ups and then, because I didn’t really know what I was talking about, I couldn’t go on. I thought we had to do that last round again (since most of the sections were to be done twice) and the thought of more heavy deadlifts just left me drained. Eli finished for us and we were done in 30.10. We didn’t have to do it twice and I usually push through at the end, knowing it is the end and what the hell, just get done.

And then I was awake most of the night castigating myself for not pulling my weight. Intellectually I know I’m not a 24 year old male in good physical condition. I got 40 years on this guy and I’m a wreck. He can and does outstrip every WOD I do. Keeping up was never really an option. And yet, I only did five wall balls.

And the spiral began. Instead of noting that I did five back to back WODs, as a partner, without knowing what was coming, bravely showed up, gave it my best shot, worked my ass off, and survived – I kept telling myself I only did five wall balls.

I have no idea how to talk kindly to myself. I only know how to point out all my flaws.

I don’t remember who the lady was who stood in the center of the contestants and said mean things, culminating in, “You are the weakest link” just before kicking them off the show. But that phrase is inside my head, over and over and over.

How do I tell myself that I’m doing amazingly awesome and my deadlifts today looked good? How do I tell myself when it is a day of chest to bar, HSPU, and pistols that I’ve improved when I can do none of those moves? I scaled/subbed each one and did crap anyway even though I knew I was going to the gym without a license to carry, unable to kick my ass up to the wall, and without even a pull-up let alone a chest to bar.

Today, just because I wanted to try, I did put three mats on the floor and did a head stand – kicking my fat ass up there without any help – and attempted to push myself up from there. I didn’t make it, but I did get inverted, so there is that.

I showed up yesterday and worked to capacity. I showed up again today and worked hard and even though I was exhausted, I put in my best effort.

I need to talk nicer to me. I don’t know how, because all I see is what’s not there and I’m unable to appreciate what is.

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At CrossFit Summerville there is a chance to have an extra bonus day on some weekends. Scott devises a partner WOD and we can come in and work together if we choose.

I hate partner WODs. I hate being the poopiest partner there and I feel sorry for anyone stuck with me. I wouldn’t choose me as a partner if I could help it. But I’m always on my team. I feel like we play “pass around the Patti” and some poor schmuck gets stuck with me as we rotate through.

I also hate not knowing what’s coming. I don’t know how other people workout. I look at the WOD. I have my panic attack. I look at the WOD again. I begin to figure out how to scale it, or as my head tells me, how to game the system. I know everything is scalable. I scale everything. It must be fantastic to be able to RX things and not have to worry about how to rewrite the WOD. I rewrite every single WOD.

So each time there is a weekend WOD, I’m faced with two very scary, frightening, paralyzing issues. I have to be a partner and I have no idea what is coming.

I didn’t do this for a long time. I go to the box four times a week and I’m old and I don’t really need an extra bonus workout and they scare the ever living shit out of me.

Then I began to show up. I don’t know if people groan when I walk in the door. I’m always sorry for whoever it is that gets stuck with me. The last time we had one of these, Scott made me a team captain and I had to choose the poor people who were stuck with me. I was overwhelmed by the number of reps expected of me as it stood and then selecting the people for my team had me nearly in tears.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I hate partner WODs. And I hate not knowing far enough in advance to come up with some strategy whereby I can actually manage a WOD.

I also workout first thing in the morning before my brain is entirely awake. An awake brain says things to me like, “What in the hell are you thinking?” and then might add “stay home”. It would be so comfortable to just stay home. I could skip this. I don’t have to show up. It isn’t mandatory. It isn’t part of my “routine” work. It’s a bonus.

I hate partner WODs. They scare me. I’m a detriment. I can’t do this. I am scared. I have no idea what’s coming. It’s called Sweet 16 today. There is going to be something in there with the number 16 and I sure as hell hope it isn’t rounds.

It takes tremendous courage to show up for this. It’s not “normal” for old women to do this stuff. I know because all my non-CrossFit friends tell me so.

I needed to eat before this event and I never eat before a workout because I go first thing in the morning. Then, as a reward, I come home and have bacon and eggs and mostly I just really care about the bacon. But today, because the warm-up starts at 10.30 and the WOD starts at 11, I had to eat something or I would run out of steam. So I had my reward before I actually did the task.

So, now I’m doubly committed. I don’t just get to eat bacon for no good reason. I have to earn it. I have to burn enough calories to make it possible to consume that much fat. I also need to stoke the engine to burn that kind of fuel.

I’m going to go again. Even though it scares me. Maybe precisely because it scares me. I’m very sorry for my partner, whomever that may be. But I’ve got my big girl pants on and I’m ready to try anything – scaled, of course.

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I am a perfectionist. I don’t live up to my own standards, but I’m still a perfectionist. I would love to be able to do what I expect of myself.

I wish I could do more or better at CrossFit. I’ve wished this the entire time I’ve struggled to improve micrometer by micrometer. I’m pretty freaking awesome now, but even so, I would like more. Always, there is more and always I am not in possession of it.

I know one of the things I don’t do is mobilization. When I get sore enough, I work on getting rid of the soreness. I know, I absolutely know, that mobilizing for just ten minutes a day, regardless of how I feel, would improve my overall well being. I don’t. I did when someone gave me a point or two for it. But after the points went away, so did the behavior.

I’ve tried rewarding myself, but that didn’t work at all. First of all, I have no real way to do that. When I want something, I just go out and buy it. I don’t have a way to make it rewarding, other than just feeling better and apparently that isn’t enough.

I get a massage every three weeks. That is helpful. If I was a Powerball winner, I would get a massage once a week. I don’t even play the lottery, so this seems like not much of a chance.

What would be beneficial for me is doing yoga. I’ve tried. Honestly, I’ve tried.

Like CrossFit where everyone is welcome and it’s all scalable, yoga is a judgment free zone. Except in my own head, where it has never (even for one nanosecond) been a judgment free zone. Inside my head, I’m judging. I judge myself harshly, more so than any outside person does.

CrossFit has a scoreboard. Some boxes don’t insist on writing your raw score on the board. Mine does. My old lady score goes right up there with the 20 something male athlete’s score. Two numbers, no explanation, no anything. Just raw scores. Mine is worse.

In yoga, another place to safely practice well being, there is a correct way to breathe. It is not the way I’ve been breathing for 64 years. So, I don’t even breathe correctly.

I don’t know the terminology. I don’t know the basics. I don’t know shit. I’m not expected to and no one, other than me, is finding it offensive or passing judgment.

I struggle with the problem of wishing I could do things and the knowledge that beginners always suck at stuff. Inside my head, I’m supposed to already be expert. I’m supposed to be flexible, know the jargon, do the poses without problems.

In actuality, I’m not that flexible, know next to none of the jargon, and my only good pose is holding a coffee cup and contemplating what sort of snack I’m interested in.

The way for me to get stronger, is to show up for a CrossFit WOD and do that thing, whatever it is and no matter how scared I am. I know this. And even after more than four years, I struggle to keep plugging along.

Starting something new is frightening. I can’t even breathe right.

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I only speak English. I do it quite well and have a larger than normal vocabulary, according to my sister the Kindergarten Teacher who might not be the best judge of normal adult vocabulary. Regardless, I speak English. I speak only English. I would like to learn a second language just for the sake of it, but I have no one to practice with, meaning it would just be an exercise in futility.

I was watching – really I was just listening – to a TEDx Talk and the speaker was doing a very good job in delivering his speech even though it was obvious that English was not his Mother Tongue. What he was talking about was authenticity of self and how to interact with others in a more authentic manner.

It was his opinion ego gets in the way of our connectability and we remain separate and often at a distance due to our own egos getting in the way. He was listing steps to connect with others in a better fashion.

The first rule was to know your own self better. He had a five-point list for learning more about yourself and I don’t remember the first three because I was so struck by the last two. Not that they were anything actually unique to the world of self-knowledge, but because he was a non-native English speaker.

Here are his two final points in knowing more about yourself.

4. What do you can?

5. What do you can’t?

This is not the way a native English speaker would say this. We often hear about what can you do and what can’t you do. But it sounds so much better to me this way. What do I “can” and what do I “can’t” because often these are just messages I give myself without benefit of trial and error.

Most of us know what it is we can do. Except for the people who believe they can do something that in actuality mostly sucks. I belong to a writing forum and people come and believe they can write because they are putting words down on the screen. This isn’t really what “writing” as a profession is about. There are many rules and regulations to writing and although they can be broken, one must know about them before they can be flaunted correctly. So these people come in and tell us they can write, post something awful, get a critique which they argue with, and often take their crayons and move on to a different place. The select few will listen, often with hurt feelings, and then work toward making their writing a more professional product.

Many of us believe we know what we can’t do. But the thing is, many of the things we can’t do are simply things we can’t do yet. We aren’t genetically unable to do them, we just haven’t yet mastered the task at hand. Many preschoolers can’t read. This doesn’t mean they will never read, but only that they can’t read – yet.

Many of us set out to try something new and quit before we have given ourselves a chance to see if we might turn the can’t into a can. I could delineate my time with CrossFit as a case in point. I couldn’t right up until I could. It took work and practice, but many of our can’t do that items are really part of this list.

“I can’t touch type.” “I can’t work a computer.” “I can’t …” fill in the blank. Some of our can’ts are simply due to lack of practice, some due to lack of motivation, some are due to that genetic limitation. I can’t fly. I might be able to learn to fly a plane, but I will never simply fly because humans aren’t built for that.

Many of the things on my “What do you can’t?” list are simply things I can’t do yet. Many are things I have no intention of ever doing because they don’t interest me. Learning to differentiate between the nuances of your list seems to be a lifelong issue with the list changing with time. Sometimes it changes because what was once on “can’t” has moved to your “can” list. That’s kind of cool.

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