March 2018


I know a lot of world class worriers. I am, possibly, a gold medalist in the arena myself. Worry is one of my strong suits. I excel at it. Unfortunately, it does me no good at all. It just is part of the whole “I want to control everything” aspect of my life.

You see, I want to control everything and I don’t. I am often unable to even control myself, the one thing I actually do have some control over. So all the stuff that is beyond my control is really beyond me. And yet, I worry about it.

I worry that the past should have gone differently. I said something wrong or did something wrong or think I might have said or done something wrong. Especially at three AM. That is the very best time to worry because there is literally nothing else to do. It’s free range worry time.

I worry that the future will hold unwanted events. I actually know that the future will hold unwanted events and I don’t want them. So I worry about that.

I also can worry about a scheduled event and play out in my head exactly how it will go. It never goes exactly how I think it might and all my brilliant repartee of the night before is lost to the world. I had it so planned out and then reality came along and ruined it.

I worry about important things, of course. And if there aren’t enough of those, I worry about unimportant things. I worry about how much I worry.

Worry has never done a single thing for me. Well, a single positive thing. It has kept me awake half the night and made me tired and cranky and less able to deal with reality the next day. That is something worry is really good at.

Worry is the fear that life will not turn out perfectly. Spoiler alert: life doesn’t turn out perfectly because there is no “perfectly” to life. Life is a mess. It is chaotic and random and no matter how good the plans, they go to shit as soon as reality starts. Because our plans don’t include just us and the other people in the events had their own stories all set up. They did not, do not, cannot match our stories.

The best way to counteract an attack of the worries is to clear one’s mind. The practice of meditation can help. It helps more if you practice not at three AM, but in a meditation session during the day. Learning to release the thoughts, to just observe them and not interact with them, is a key part to learning the process of meditation.

And then you have to practice it. Not just at three AM, but routinely. Set a time to meditate, even if only for a few minutes a day. The practice of practicing to empty your mind and let the thoughts drift away will help with the panic of three AM worries.

It probably won’t make them completely go away. We love to worry. It feels like we are doing something to solve our problems. We aren’t; but it feels like we might be.

The best way to face a new day is rested and with a clear mind. This is not the result of endless worry loops in the middle of the night. Learning to calm yourself, follow your breath, disengage from the worry, and let it all go is the best recourse to an attack.

But if you can’t manage it right away, don’t worry. With practice, it gets easier. I promise.

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Day 1: This is a trial. I’m just experimenting to see if the possibility even exists. I fail. Miserably. I cry. I’m not going to be a CrossFitter. I can’t do the things. I ask Ryan if there is any hope at all. He says that if I’m willing to work, he’s willing to help.

Day 2: I’m in a weeklong personal training session with Attila the Hun who expects me to be able to do the things. I can’t do the things. Not even with a PVC pipe. This should be obvious. I can’t squat with a PVC pipe if I can’t squat. I dip with the damn PVC pipe; it’s the best I can do. I cry. Again.

Day 3: I’m sore as hell and I did nothing at all. I mean, really, I can’t even squat. I need to use the PVC pipe as a cane to “lunge down the mat” which is such an offhand comment, no one even blinks an eye. Me? I fall over trying to balance. I’m not a CrossFitter.

Day 30: I continue to show up and can do some of the things. I’m still wobbly and my squats aren’t really low enough, but I’m getting better. I cry less often. Maybe I will someday be a CrossFitter.

Four months in: I had weights on my weights for a back squat. This means I did a 27# back squat to a box so not really breaking parallel, but I did it. I managed to meet my goal of doing this wonderful feat of magic before I turned 60. I might make it to CrossFitter.

One year in: I do the things. I can do a full squat. I lunge down the mat without a cane. I have mastered the form of all the Olympic lifts. I know what a hook grip is and when to use it. All my weights are low, but I have PRs for all the lifts. I cannot do a pull-up or climb a rope or a HSPU, but perhaps I can call myself a CrossFitter.

Five years in: I’ve competed in the Masters Garage Games and sucked at it. I’ve competed in the CrossFit Open and sucked less at it. My weights have increased incredibly over the years. I’ve mastered the lifts but still struggle with even basic moves. Still no pull-up or HSPU. I’ve determined that I never want to do a rope climb and will resist them.

Today: I am a CrossFitter and I have been since Day 1. Not because I can do the things. It has no bearing on whether or not the things are done. It is the persistence, the perseverance, the continual showing up. I’m a CrossFitter because I do CrossFit and do it to the best of my ability. My form is more important to me than any score on the white board. I’m thrilled each time I master a new technique. There are still more things I want from myself.

I have faced my fears and beat them. I was petrified. I sucked at this over and over and over again. And yet, I continued to show up and do my version of the things until I could do a better version of the things. My cleans yesterday were smooth. A side video would have shown the bar coming straight up, the little curl at the top and me “floating” under the bar, catching it in a five point grip, then standing back up leading with my elbows. This is not a natural state of affairs for anyone let alone a 65 year old woman. But I did it.

And that is what makes me a CrossFitter. No matter how scared, no matter how weak or sucky or incapable I have been, I have tried to improve by small increments day after day.

I am determined to give it my best shot and not die in the process. Someday, I might get that pull-up or I might have to acknowledge that it is beyond me. But for now, I will work on the process. Hell, if I can string some double unders together, there is really no stopping me. And there never was.

Ryan was right. If I was willing to work for it, I could be a CrossFitter. It is the only requirement. No matter how frightened I’ve been, I kept showing up. It is amazing to realize how fucking brave I really am. I’m brave not because I can do the things. Anyone can be brave when they are in control. I’m brave because I can’t do the things (or do them at low weight or low volume) and I get into the arena and go after it anyway.

I am a CrossFitter. I am scared four times a week. Unless it is five. And I show up anyway. They say the first day is the hardest, but I truly believe it is the second. That was the point at which I committed to being a new version of myself. I turned out pretty awesome.

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I do this often. I’m thrilled with how far I got in 18.5 of the CrossFit Open. I managed to sneak in extra reps by working diligently and as hard as I could manage. I was thrilled.

And then I was embarrassed. I didn’t get all that far. I didn’t finish a full Fran or anything. I didn’t even come close. I should be better than this by now. I have been doing CrossFit for over five years. Why can’t I get better scores. I was chagrined.

But really, I’m an old fart and work really hard and I can’t help that my heart rate goes higher than the cardiologist said I should push things. I just wanted to finish the set and so my heart rate skyrocketed and then I had to sit around and box breathe until it wouldn’t kill me. How many Little Old Ladies are out there even doing this stuff? I should be proud.

Of what? I didn’t manage to get a “respectable” score. I don’t even know what one of those would look like. I didn’t manage as much as those people over there. The younger one, the fitter ones, they got more reps.

What the hell are you thinking? They are younger and fitter. How much more could you have done? Your heart rate was higher than it was “supposed” to be.

Yeah, but I didn’t have any chest pain.

Do you really want to put a bar over your head while you wait to have a heart attack?

Really, why can’t I be happy with what I have managed to do?

Well, I am. And then I’m embarrassed about being happy because I don’t do all that much. And then I’m embarrassed by that because I know that most old fart women can’t or don’t do what I willingly accept as a way of life. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get here. Yeah? Well “here” isn’t all that far up the mountain, now is it?

And this goes on and on and on inside my head. I had a goal set in my mind about how far I would get in 18.5. I know my issues better than anyone. I know that both thrusters and jumping pull-ups spike my heart rate and that was going to be my limiting factor. Even knowing that, I got nine more reps than I dared hope for. I should be proud.

And I am. But I’m not. But I am, sorta. Really.

I do this often with CrossFit. I have crappy scores always. But I also have scores four to five times a week. CrossFit scores. Up on that damn white board I hate so much. I do the things. Incredible things. Things I never thought I would do, but here we are with me dripping sweat and doing burpees and tossing iron around and being sore for days.

I know what a hook grip is and when to use it. I understand the mechanics of a snatch or clean and jerk. I know the difference between a strict press, push press, and a jerk. I know all these things I never really thought I would learn. I not only know the mechanics, but I have the muscle memory to just execute the moves.

Why can’t I be happy with how far I’ve come? I am happy right up until I realize the numbers are small and the mountain before me remains. And then I’m embarrassed to be happy with such meager results, results that were totally beyond me when I first began. I’ve learned many things in the last five years. Why can’t I learn to be happy with my slow and plodding progress? I get my ass off the couch routinely. I go and work as hard as I can. I do some really amazing things, not just considering my age but in and of themselves.

Then I get all happy when I talk to myself like that. And then the doubt creeps back in and I’m embarrassed to be happy about this. I need to stop thinking.

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What’s going right in your world?

We used to have a dinnertime ritual. Each person at the table had to tell of at least one good thing that happened to them during the day. If you couldn’t decide what was the best thing, you could have two items on your list. And you got to share the worst thing that happened to you – if there was one.

This had a few benefits. First of all, everyone at the table got to share things about their day. They also got to shine in the success of being alive. Another benefit was looking for the good throughout the day because you knew the question was coming and you wanted to have a ready answer. And if needed, they could share their sadness and get sympathy and understanding (usually). Guests were thrilled to play this game with us and got to have their stories heard, too.

Even on the worst of days, there is good. Sometimes the good comes in the negative. And it is this I would like to look at now.

How many times have you been a victim of violence or involved in a motor vehicle accident? How many times have you been hospitalized? How many terrible, awful, horrible Alexander’s Bad Days have you had?

And how many days have you been alive? How many days have you blissfully walked through the world and not been attacked, by other people or cars? How often do you park your car somewhere and come back to find it in the same condition as when you left? How many times do you have a pleasant if superficial exchange with others, just because life is really good?

We usually are not the victims of crimes and most of us make it through our entire lives without ever having the yellow crime scene tape encircling our house. We take it for granted that life will continue being a pleasant experience and our lives will be filled with nothing but goodness.

And, essentially, it is. We are sharing the world with mostly good people who behave courteously (or at least without animosity) and have good day after good day.

We aren’t attacked. We drive safely only because all the other drivers are obeying the rules as well. We stop at red lights and stop signs even though we would all like to never downshift the car once we start. We live in community and live together in peace.

But there are bad things happening as well. It is so rare, these bad things make the news. And there is the crux of the problem. We watch the news repeatedly telling us about the horrific acts of violence and mishap. The bigger the accident, the closer to the lead it comes.

And we start to believe that this is the way the world is. There is nothing but violence and crime and accident and death and dying and harm and horror.

But in fact, if you look at your own life, you will see that year after year you are not a victim of violence (even if you once were violated) and you don’t wreck your car each time you drive and probably not once a year or even once a decade.

We go through our lives living with all these blessings and we ignore it. We focus on that time when [fill in some horrible day] happened. We fail to notice the good believing it is simply what we deserve. But in truth, the universe was all chaos until some meager order was placed on it and it is trying like hell to return to chaos. The fact that our lives are filled with good day after good is remarkable.

So remark on it. Tell your family or friends what good things happened to you today. And offer them the kindness of listening to whatever small catastrophe also befell them. And then revel in how lovely life is because you made it through another day alive and as well as possible.

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How long do you wait until you know it is time to quit?

Some things you might think you want are so much more difficult to acquire, you find the work/effort to achieve it is not worth the arrival at the end goal. But how do you know if quitting is the right thing or if working harder is the right thing?

This past week, I got more double unders than I had ever dreamed of. I got three in a row (if you let me count a double under, a single under, a double under, a single under, and a double under without stopping as “in a row”). I did try a fourth one and missed, but I got three – twice.

A few years ago, I decided I would just not worry about this part of the CrossFit world. I don’t really HAVE to do double unders. They aren’t necessary for my continued life and they were making me cranky.

So I quit trying. I didn’t quit CrossFit, but I did give up on this particular skill. And I carried on with my other challenges and did single unders and was happy.

Then my CrossFit closed and I joined a new gym and the coach at this place thinks I can do double unders. And I tried – again. I’m more agile. I have more core strength. I still have a crappy heart rate issue. But rather than start out here as a complete whiner, I chose to show her how I couldn’t do double unders. And I did them.

Then I did them two at a time. And then, this week – sick and having been away for nearly a month – I got three strung together.

It’s not like I woke up one morning and decided that getting double unders was important to me. But now that I’ve gotten a bit better at them, I wouldn’t mind getting more.

That doesn’t mean I have given up on my total commitment to NOT doing other things. I will not climb a rope. I don’t trust myself to be 15 feet in the air and have my arms give out. If I fall from that height and break my hip, I’m done with CrossFit forever. I don’t want to risk that for something that I’ve lived 65 years without doing and see no reason to start now.

I also have to contend with my age-induced limitations. I’m not as young as I used to be and can say with a straight face “my cardiologist says” which is something I would never have dreamed would come out of my mouth. But here we are; me old and with a cardiologist.

This means I will not be running any great distances because my cardiologist says I’m not to get my heart rate over mid-160s and I never really go over mid-170s (and the charts say I should be stopping somewhere around mid-140s). And when I run even 400 meters or a quarter mile, my heart rate is too high. So even a half mile is out of the question. Not because I don’t want to run, but because it might literally kill me.

Knowing when to back away is key to continued happiness. Knowing when to give it a break and when to give it one more try is a skill. Knowing what isn’t important to you, what you can completely let go of, is what makes happiness possible.

And so, double unders are a go while rope climbs aren’t going to happen. I won’t even try for the sake of not being whiney. It is just not going to happen. I’m okay with that. I do many awesome things, especially for an old fart. I don’t have to do the things I’m completely against doing. In fact, it would be a waste of my time and energies. It doesn’t meet any lifelong goal. It isn’t going to ever make a difference. It has the possibility of harming me all while not giving any benefit at all.

So, without meeting any of my goals – long or short term – it is unnecessary for me to try to climb that particular mountain. I need to save myself for the other ones out there, the ones that are possible and have my interest.

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If you want something, you have to earn it. You have to go out and get the things you want. There is no fairy godmother or genie in a bottle granting your every wish. Only you can grant your wishes. And you have to earn it.

I am a gym rat. I have been for over five years. I knew I was taking time off to go and visit my sister. It came at an auspicious time. My right knee was bothering me something fierce and my IT band was super tight. Taking a couple weeks off was going to be my time to heal and recover.

My knee continued to hurt throughout most of my time in Arizona. It was still catching if I left it bent too long even after I got home, although it was no longer painful and didn’t try to crumple when I walked.

I got home just before midnight on Thursday. I could have gone to the gym the next morning but I had a list of excuses a mile long. I was still two hours early from my travels, I was exhausted from my travels, my knee was still bothersome. I simply couldn’t make myself go and do an Open workout after being off for two weeks.

And then on Saturday, I got sick. I couldn’t even get out of bed on Monday. By Thursday I thought of going to the gym but was so lightheaded that it was really stupid and self defeating. Friday, another Open workout on the menu (maybe – I really don’t know if this gym does that or not). I was barely able to take a ten minute walk the day before so 800 jump ropes might be a bit excessive. I stayed home.

I increased my walk each day, going both longer distances and at a faster pace. I was ready to start over again today.

Last night I went to sign up for my class time. The app wouldn’t let me. I can go from normal person to victim of catastrophe in 0.76 nanoseconds and this was no different. I immediately came up with catastrophic events. The most common one was that the place closed down. I know they are struggling financially. I shouldn’t know that as a customer, but I do. And all I could think was they had to close.

I’ve been doing sport stuff on and off since I was 27 (38 years ago) and in all that time, I’ve never prepaid for a long term membership. I paid monthly, month after month. Right up until this time. I purchased a 15 month membership and am paid in full until the end of March 2019. And all I could think of was all that money gone and what would I do and where would I go and how was I going to continue working out.

Amazingly enough, this did not lead up to a good night’s sleep. Already sleep deprived from the daylight time switch, and tired from worrying about nothing, I got up when the alarm went off and got ready to find out what the hell had happened. (There was a problem with the app and they are supposed to update my credentials and fix this some time today.)

There were cars in the parking lot so that was a great thing. I went in and tried to sign up for my class (I have a special membership which costs more so that I can do the CrossFit type workouts with a coach) and was unable to do so. I went back to the dark little room where we work out and the coach and one other person were in there. They were happy to see me and asked how vacation was.

When I told them it was fine but I had been sick since returning, they were concerned about the flu. I assured them it was more respiratory and they seemed delighted. That made no sense. The flu isn’t killing people, it’s the respiratory stuff, but since they were happy, I just tried not to cough on anyone.

Luckily, the strength portion was light back squats and I could manage the 5 x 5 at 55-60% without any problems. I did wear my extra knee support and even now my knee is fine.

Then it was four different Tabatas. Each four minutes/eight rounds was a different move. Wall balls made me really dizzy so I took out the full squat and just did a dip. The planks were tiring but what the hell. The burpees sent me spinning and I actually missed two rounds to try to recover. The inverted hollow body rolls were new to me and I was tired and spent and barely managed some.

My goal for the day was to survive. I was scared to return because I had been gone for 3.5 weeks and old people lose so much so quickly and regain things so slowly. And I didn’t even know if they were really still there. All in all, getting back at it has been wonderful. I’m blissfully tired. Nothing hurts too much. I feel like I actually accomplished something. It wasn’t nearly as hard as starting the first time, but unlike the first time, I sorta knew what I was getting into. And that’s exactly why I went.

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You can’t miss what you still have and when it’s missing, it’s gone. I’m usually healthy as a horse. I’m drug free in America and at age 65, this is pretty remarkable. I eat a relatively healthy diet, although I’m partial to bacon, chocolate, and coffee. My bacon intake is as a reward for working out and my coffee consumption is high but lower than it used to be. I can make a serving of chocolate last for days, but I have a small bit of chocolate every day. Balance. At least that’s what I call it.

Even before I began CrossFit, I didn’t sit all day. I’ve done a variety of other things. For years I played racquetball and I’ve done water aerobics and tried Curves. I walked miles and miles through my neighborhood. I had some fairly active jobs in my lifetime as well.

For the last five years, I’ve been doing CrossFit three to five times a week. I’ve gained a lot of balance, core strength, and confidence along with a certain amount of self deprecating awareness. I would love to have heavier lifts of everything and maybe a pull-up or more stamina. I know how far I’ve come and I know how high away the mountaintop still is. I’m not even talking about CrossFit Open winner mountaintops, but my own – the things I can still accomplish with dedication and persistence.

I’m in pretty good shape for an old fart. Actually, I’m in pretty good shape. Full stop. I can do many things amazingly well. For instance, I was walking and didn’t realize I should be climbing down a stair. I didn’t fall over. I planted and held my balance, barely even missing a beat as I kept talking. I open my own jars. I carry in all the groceries at one time. I move furniture by myself.

It isn’t always easy. It is always worth it. I have worked hard for years to get to this place and I have no intention of quitting any time soon.

Now, all I need to do is get over this current illness so I can be healthy again. An acute illness is a terrible inconvenience. I’ve come to terms with the chronic nature of aging and all that means. But the indignity of being taken out by a virus … well, it’s crushing.

I will never be twenty again. I won’t even be forty or fifty again. I’m just an old fart raging against the night, refusing to go quietly. I will be back at the gym soon. I don’t know if they will be grateful for that, but I will.

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