July 2017


Many years ago, I had a dear friend who was nothing at all like me. She was a Jewish liberal working toward her PhD. I was a Catholic conservative and proud owner of an associate degree. But we were friends anyway. Mostly because although on the surface we were very different, at our core we were very similar. We both cared. A lot.

We discussed everything and we often were at polar ends of the issue. However, we were both able to listen to the other person and consider her point of view. We learned a great deal from each other, neither totally abandoning her perspective on the world, but both modifying her approach.

When you listen only to people who agree with your already preconceived notions, you don’t learn a damn thing. It’s like listening to yourself talk. When you listen, really listen, to those who don’t agree with you, you have a chance to learn something new.

I am far more liberal today for having known Nancy. I owe her a debt of gratitude. Without her perspective, I might be even more rigid than I am. This would not be a good thing. Even saying this, I did not abandon my hopes and dreams for myself or the world around me, but slightly modified the approach when her perspective made more sense.

With algorithms sorting the internet to offer you what you might already like, you could be missing out on your Nancy. By only listening to the news from the source you already agree with, you might be missing out on important non confirmation bias items. The world is conspiring to make us more polarized by hiding different perspectives.

Go out of your way to find your own Nancy. Someone who will thoughtfully and lovingly offer up a different way to see the problem and offer completely different solutions. Offer your own counterpoints as a way of clarification, because presenting a cogent argument means you have to really understand what you are proposing. Reach out to see all the different ways to view a problem and all the different possible solutions.

Abraham Maslow said, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If all you have is your own narrow perspective, you might miss some of the best answers to whatever questions you have. It is a bit scary to challenge yourself and allow other ideas to enter into your sphere. But it is well worth getting more tools in your toolbox. Listen kindly and openly. Listen to understand rather than to respond. Listen with your heart. Learn something new.

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In my last post, I was in an existential crisis with the white board. Thursday is my rest day and I did nothing, unless you count moving lots of heavy furniture from upstairs to downstairs and then all around the downstairs and then moving the no longer needed piece out to the garage. If that counts, then that’s what I did. I believe that is where the new bruise came from.

I also did my yoga practice last night even though I considered not doing it. If I’m going to do yoga every single day, then I sorta have to do yoga each and every day. Otherwise, I didn’t meet my goal. It’s very easy to talk myself out of doing the things that are difficult or simply not as fun as sitting around and coloring or playing video games. It especially difficult if the only person keeping track of me is me.

Then it was back to the gym today and I was faced with more work than I had anticipated. There was a 10 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) of 1 clean and 2 hang power cleans. I was ready for power cleans all over and instead, the first pull from the floor was a full clean. I’m on my fourth day this week on my first full week back after nearly four weeks off. This was daunting.

Before I went on vacation, I would have done this with 52#, so I spoke with Coach Kim and decided I would use that weight and see how things went. If necessary, I could cut back to one and one or else take the full clean out and do the first move as a power clean. But by keeping the weight, I would work more towards my own goals of moving more weight at some point.

So I did that and I managed to maintain the moves until round 7. My heart rate was getting too high and another one of my goals is to not die. So I managed a scaled version for rounds 7, 8 , and 9 and then did the full squat again because my goal is that I get better some time in the future.

The WOD was three RFT of pistols, pull-ups, and double unders. I used a green band to assist with the pistols and I believe I am the first person, at least at this gym, to fall off the band. Luckily I was ass to grass on my squat so I wasn’t far from the ground when I rolled backwards off the band. It was shocking but not at all hurtful. Stunning, in fact. The problem was my foot was back to far and I corrected for that and managed the rest of the pistols without harm.

This whole exercise just made my heart rate climb and stay up and I could barely get back down to 153 before starting anything again and then ending up in the 170 to 175 range within just ten moves. It was horrifically hot and humid and stifling and uncomfortable. I wanted to quit but that wouldn’t have been the way to achieve my goal of getting better at this. So, even though it took me for damn ever, I finished in 13.58. I was exhausted, dizzy, thirsty, hot enough to melt, and too tired to even be proud of myself for not quitting – but I am now.

I want to be a strong old lady. I want to open my own jars and walk with spine straight and pace quick. I want to be able to move the furniture from upstairs to downstairs or the other way. I want to have muscles. Since these are things I want, I have to put in the very hard work to get them. #NanaCan.

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I keep trying to let go, but the reality just keeps dragging me back. I hate the white board. I’m the dumb kid in this class and when we have to post our scores, it sucks all the joy out of my hard work because when reduced to nothing more than a score, it simply sucks.

I try to remind myself I get a great workout when I show up and work hard. I’ve been trying to tell myself this week that it’s my first full week back and one workout in four weeks doesn’t keep you in any kind of shape. My legs hurt. I’ve been saying this since Monday.

I said it Tuesday at CrossFit and again at Yoga. That’s because my legs hurt. I’ve been trying to mobilize here at home. I’ve done my own private You Tube Yoga practice crap, but despite all this, my legs hurt.

And today, I was again faced with my heart rate issues that hold me back no matter how hard I work or how often I work or how much I wish it didn’t. I can’t just keep moving no matter what CrossFit thinks I should be able to do. Short breaks or quick rests aren’t enough unless I pause after each and every movement and since I’ve never tried that, I’m not really sure even that would work.

All I know is that I’m stronger than I used to be. I’m even faster and have more stamina than before. I just ask more of myself and so I basically still suck.

Putting the score on the white board doesn’t do anything for those of us at the bottom of the heap. It might, if your workout buddy can’t show up at the same time as you, be fun for the two of you to compare your scores. But no one is comparing their scores to me and if they are they should stop. I’m not in their league. I’m the old fart.

And so, again today, after working hard, I’m defeated. I cut the reps back to a master’s level in order to get a score comparable to the ones already up on the board. I’m proud of what I could manage. I just hate the whole score thing.

This is unfair to me and to anyone who coaches me because I tend to get a bit less charitable when I’m angry. That may be a bit of an understatement. I just want to be a regular CrossFit person. Instead, I’m the old person. I do amazing crap, but I can’t do all the crap expected of me by some nameless, faceless somebody out there.

I worked hard today. I cut reps to make sure I didn’t look horrible on the white board and I feel like a cheat because of it. I have no idea what to do about this. I’ve been told for years now I shouldn’t worry about the scores, but that I HAVE to put it up there. I hope by Friday I have my equilibrium back because I really hate this feeling.

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The world of service is filled with many wonderful people. They live their lives in order to make the world a better place not only for themselves, but for others. This is true of first responders. It’s also true for many others but today, I want to address some of the issues an unseasoned first responder might encounter.

You can’t save them all. That’s the toughest lesson to learn. I know this because I was a nurse for over twenty years, most of them in intensive care settings. No matter how good you are, no matter how hard you work, you simply can’t save them all. Sometimes the boo-boo is too great. You never know who is going to have the reserves to fight the good fight and recover and who will succumb, so you treat everyone like they can win the battle. But they can’t.

It hurts when you can’t save them all. We live in a world that expects miracles at every turn. Television has taught us anything can be solved in under an hour. The crisis is met head on and the hero manages to pull it off. But it doesn’t happen that way in real life and when you lose some, it’s horrible. We aren’t supposed to lose some.

But we have to lose some. There is an ebb and flow to life and it would be great if everyone could live a healthy life right up until they died suddenly and pain free on their hundredth birthday. But that’s not the way it is, nor is it the way it ever has been. There are accidents and there is always stupidity and then there is just bad luck.

In order to survive all this stuff, it is important to remember the good stories that accumulate with the years. The bad ones are going to haunt you anyway, so take the time to remember and tell yourself the good ones over and over so you can remember the ones that worked. We pass those over because we seriously always expect it to work so no big deal when it does. Except it is a big deal and you should remember you had a hand in it.

You have to protect yourself from the bad stories. Not because you are callous or shallow, but because over time, if you don’t protect yourself, you shatter into a million pieces. So there is a trick you have to learn. You have to build a shell around your heart – but just hard enough to keep it from breaking. There is room to care and still protect yourself and it is a very fine line indeed, but worth finding. If your shell becomes too thick, you can’t be effective because this line of work demands you remember each and every “victim” wasn’t a victim a few minutes earlier. They were a person, a fully functional person with all the hopes and dreams we all carry. You must treat them as people and not just as victim or patient or some distancing name. But you still have to protect your own heart.

This is probably one of the toughest things you will have to learn as you forge your way through these early days. But it is not only worth the effort, it is essential to your continued ability to serve.

Some of the stories I carry can still ruin even the best of days if I let them. I can still cry over the ones that most touched my heart thirty to forty years ago. It’s okay. I also remember there are uncounted people who are alive and well because of my efforts, too. I don’t believe I ever got too hard-hearted to actually care about each and every person who came under my care. And I also believe that although I may be a bit cynical and have some “get over it” attitude at times, I managed the balancing act.

I wish you, too, might find the tightrope that can carry you across any chasm.

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Dictionary.com defines happy as:
adjective, happier, happiest.

  1. delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing:
  2. characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy:
  3. favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky:

Being happy is a choice, or at least, being miserable is. The key to happiness is satisfaction with yourself or your situation. Some of the most miserable people are those who insist on “should” events. They are certain that something should happen and when it doesn’t, they are put into a tailspin. The only things that should happen are those you actually make happen. Perhaps I should be a writer, but if I choose to not write, it isn’t going to happen.

The world is full of stress and anxiety. This has a lot to do with “should” as well. We should be able to drive from here to there with nothing getting in our way. We actually think things like this even during rush hour. There is no reality that supports this. There are hundred, thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of people also trying to get from here to there and they are using the same roads and there is going to be a crush of traffic. Traffic signals make it easier but also make it more frustrating to those who believe it should be smooth sailing.

Don’t be the jackass in the car all mad because other jackasses are in their cars and everyone is just trying to get home because they are tired and cranky and why the hell doesn’t that fool just hang up and drive!

We are told we “deserve a break today” in the hopes that we will actually believe that lie. You don’t. You especially don’t deserve cheap, crappy food today. You deserve to drag yourself through the grocery store, select healthy food, bring it home, and turn it into a meal. That way you can live longer. Unless you get run over by one of the jackass drivers above.

We deserve from life exactly what we put into it. My time at the gym right now is not what it was even a month ago. That’s because I’ve been on vacation and not at the gym. I don’t deserve to have the same weights, same stamina, same mobility as when I was showing up 4-5 times a week. I haven’t been putting in the work and so I don’t get the results.

Hopefully, the people at the gym are happy to see me back at it. And hopefully, I can be happy with the re-acclimating process. To expect to get what I didn’t earn is only going to make me sad. Instead, I can be grateful for the time I had with my sisters, my sons and their families, and all the memories I created. And I am. So that makes me happy.

I wish you happiness. Spreading it around is wonderful, but I wish mostly you grab some for yourself.

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I wish you smartness and hope you know many things. I hope you listened while in school and absorbed all the knowledge presented to you. I hope you read interesting things now and internalize the information. I hope you live life with an attitude of competency based on your vast repository of fun facts.

Regardless of how many facts you know (or think you know) or how quick you are with a Google search, there are simply things you do not know. And there are over seven billion people on the planet and they might know many of the things you don’t. Learn to access the brilliance of others not because it is a way to increase your own store of facts, but because it is delightful to learn what and how other people think.

Even the most brilliant person in the whole wide world doesn’t know what I had for breakfast today, but I do. And that genius out there doesn’t know why I chose that particular meal, but I do. The smartest person in the world knows many things I don’t know, but conversely, I know many things that person doesn’t or couldn’t.

I’ve had a variety of careers/jobs in my lifetime and I know the intricacies involved in those areas. Reading about intensive care or surgery is far different than actually working in those places. The same is true of teaching or with office work. Being retired brings its own areas of undiscovered wonderment.

My long life has given me opportunities to pick up a variety of information sets. Other people, both young and old, have had totally different experiences. I have no idea what it is like to live in Asia since I’ve never even visited the continent let alone resided there. Billions of people know things I can’t even guess at.

I’ve never lived in 48 of the 50 states, although I have visited several others. Each time I journey outward, I learn new things. Some of the things which are brand new to me are old hat to the people of the region I’m visiting. We know our own local stories, but there is a vast world out there full of interesting, fascinating, enthralling stories we’ve never heard or even dreamed of.

Everyone knows things you don’t know. Listen to them and you will learn a great deal. Be patient and let them speak fully. Give them the gift of your attention and you will receive a far greater gift – their stories.

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If you could be anything, what would you be? Why aren’t you?

There is a saying about making the time for the things you really want and making excuses for the things you really don’t want.

If you say you really want something, the first step to getting there is making yourself a “map” or “to do list” plotting out your path to getting there. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t know if you are heading in the right direction or just mindlessly wandering – lost in the desert.

While that part may be daunting, the next step is even more so. Because now, you have to start following the map or checking off the items on your to do list.

I have been saying I was going to lose five to ten pounds for over a year now. I really know how to do that. But instead, I bought a huge marked down on the clearance rack container of Moose Munch from Harry & David. This will not, guaranteed, help me to lose weight. It will be delicious.

What I really want is some miracle which allows me to eat like a crazy person and still lose weight. This does not exist. Although it would be really wonderful if it did. I apparently don’t really want to lose weight, but I really do not want to gain any more. That means the container will take me a long time to consume.

I want to be a weightlifter. And to that end, I go the gym on a routine basis. Some days are better than others. Sometimes I can do the real work involved in turning an old woman into a weightlifter and some days I just whine because I’m old and weak and have a heart rate that escalates like a NASA rocket launch.

I can lift weights and I have gotten amazingly better. There are still a lot of plates sitting there waiting for me to add them to my bar so I know there is room to grow.

While it is important to know where you want to go and what you need to do to get there, there is another item on the list. Enjoy getting there.

I have never, not even once, actually enjoyed doing a burpee. I’ve been really happy with being done doing burpees and understand they are just part of the way for me to build strength and endurance. I do them, sometimes with no whining – sometimes not. But I’m always happy with having done them. While they aren’t nearly as fun as a heavy deadlift or as crazy as flipping a huge tire around, they are part of what makes me a CrossFitter. And so I tolerate them in an odd sort of love/hate relationship.

I enjoy writing. And so – I write. Every day a new history essay goes up on Little Bits of History. I write here when I can without as much urgency for a daily post. Over time and with lots of practice, my writing has improved. I like it and it makes me happy. So I do it. It’s not ever perfect because I’m human and we aren’t perfect, but it is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick and seems to be getting better with time.

Make a list of things you like. Do more of that shit.

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