Just blogging


Lessons I learned from trying – CrossFit, yoga, parsnips …

  1. You can do more than you think you can. No matter what you are seeing as limitations, there is room beyond them to grow.
  2. Only by actually trying something and failing can you see your actual limitations.
  3. By repetition, practice, and dedication you can stretch your old limitations and achieve new things.
  4. Life is scary and that makes it thrilling. Going to the edges gives you a wider view and opens new possibilities.
  5. Failing keeps you humble and is not the same as defeat. Failure means you try again. Defeat is quitting.
  6. Your time here is limited and making the most of it lets you look back with less regret and more amazement. “I can’t believe I did that” is one of the coolest phrases to utter.
  7. Everything isn’t for everybody, but you will never find out if you do or don’t like turnips unless you try them. Try stuff. You might like it. And if you don’t you now know that part, too.
  8. Doing is far more satisfying than wishing. No one starts out doing anything well. If you doubt me, watch a baby learn to walk and realize that was once you. You walk now without giving it a thought. That is what practice does for you. Go ahead and try. The world isn’t really hoping you will fail. And you might surprise yourself and succeed.
  9. You accrue stories to tell. We all love telling the stories of our life and no one is entertained by your tales of sitting in front of a TV eating potato chips.
  10. You can. You really, truly can. You can do so much more than you think. All you have to do is try. You might fail and you might not like it. But then again, you may succeed. Nothing in the world tastes as good as unexpected success.

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I’ve ignored this blog for a while not because I’m not writing, but because I really couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say here. I have this space and I can use it for whatever I want. I can talk about my obsession with CrossFit and my desperation to not “fail” at the Open. I am not sure how one would actually go about failing the Open, but I was fairly certain I would be that person.

I did not fail, but I think I got a D- or maybe … I did fail. I was in the bottom third of any category I could sort by – worldwide, region, state, my own box. But that speaks to something else. Something I have tried to tell myself over and over about the Masters Garage Games. While I came in last in the world for that, I did get off my fat ass and participate, which is more than most women my age managed. Still, I was last. In the world. That sucked and I desperately didn’t want to do that again.

I didn’t come in last in any listing – worldwide, region, state, or my own box. Part of the reason for that is simply I didn’t quit. I did all five WODs and no matter how scared I was or how much it sucked, I gave it my best shot. Whether or not I thought it was equitable or even fair, I was stuck with it and I complained my way through it.

And I suppose there is some saving grace in that. I did not give up. I wanted to. I was so frightened by the entire prospect of failure, it would have been so much easier to not even have tried. But instead, I did try and I made it through to the other side.

But that part is over and done and there isn’t really anything else to do with the entire mess. I learned some things and I remembered some more things I had learned before. And I struggled and overcame. And now I have to find something else.

I would like to write about uplifting ideas. I have tried several times to write something like that and I almost had to get the insulin out and inject myself. I’m not really a sweet person and when I try, it sounds so damn sugary and sickenly sweet that I just can’t stand it. I get about half a page written and then erase the whole thing.

It’s not that I don’t think we all need to be better people. I do. I don’t care how good you are right this second, we are all pretty much just a bag of disgusting animalistic needs with a thin coating of civilization. It’s that thin coating that makes our lives possible, but it’s all the other stuff that makes it hard. And I don’t really know how to write about that.

There are seven deadly sins and I practice all of them to some degree way too often. My favorite is sloth. I love that sin. I can sit and do nothing worthwhile for damn ever. Love that shit. But, I’m supposed to make my life matter and you can’t do that while playing solitaire or even while scrolling on Facebook. So I have to eschew my love affair with sloth and get something done.

But I’m retired and there isn’t much I have to do. I have given myself the task of writing a daily essay about history and there are days when I find this burdensome to contemplate but fun to actually do. It’s that problem with sloth. I love sloth.

I have been crocheting, but no more scarves. At least not right now. And of course, I color. I love to color while listening to a podcast or glancing up every once in a while as the TV plays in front of me. I’ve been reading some and doing a few crossword puzzles and trying to make healthy meals and running the household crap which must be done. But really, it’s all sloth stuff.

How can I write an inspiring post when all I want to do is settle into my slothful ways and enjoy the ennui of nothingness? It is a conundrum. That’s why I haven’t been posting.

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I like to win. I don’t know if that makes me a bad sport or not, but it is the truth. Winning is better than losing. I like to win.

So how does one define winning? I belong to a writers’ forum and we have a thread entitled “the last person to post here wins” and I have won it probably at least a thousand times. And then I lose the win and someone else holds the title and we banter back and forth and each takes our turn on the podium, waving the blue/red ribbon and holding our trophy. Until the next person strips it all away.

That’s a fun place to win and I love the wit and abilities of many of those who play the game with me. But in reality, I’m talking about something a bit more substantial. How do we win life?

There is a saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins” and that seems to be how the Western or First World looks at success and/or winning. But I believe it is in error.

Kim Jong-un seems like an entirely unhappy and paranoid idiot. He seems to not only own a country and their military machine, but had taken to nuking the Pacific Ocean with pent up rage for years now. He doesn’t seem to be a winner to me, just a sad little man who would like to be praised, loved, accepted. He is not any of those things, even under pain of death.

Maybe winning isn’t in possessions but in moments. And we each have access to so many moments. They are zipping past us all the time and all we need do is pluck one and win.

Maybe it is the moment you open your eyes in the morning and realize you are alive in an amazing world. Or maybe it is when the coffee is done brewing and includes the first sip.

Maybe winning is noticing a butterfly, perfect rose, or sunset. These moments are often cited as something special not because they are rare, but because we so often fail to notice them. Life is full of abundance. The wonder of nature, the mystery of the universe, the creativity of mankind.

We live in such a world, filled with so many precious things, we forget to take notice. When was the last time you were thankful for cool, refreshing water? We walk into the kitchen and grab a clean glass, go to the sink, turn the tap, and voila – fresh water. This isn’t true everywhere. This basic need is a problem in many parts of the world. Some people are literally dying for clean water.

Maybe winning is meeting life head on. Taking chances and either getting a hit or a miss, but learning in the process and going forward to either try again or having learned it isn’t something you need to experience ever again. This would be like meeting an alligator. I am willing to never do that again, but since I did and survived, there is a frission of thrill involved in the thought.

Maybe winning isn’t getting the scholarship, the award, coming in first. Maybe it is stopping along the way to help those less fortunate. Maybe it is being rich enough to be able to give of your time or talents to help others. Maybe, just maybe, winning is simply making the world a better place and leaving behind a trail of kindness.

As my mother used to say, over and over again, “Be nice” and that may have been the best advice I’ve ever been given. I believe that is truly how to win.

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I live in suburban Charleston, South Carolina. I live in a development with an annoying HOA telling me what I can and cannot do at all times. It’s supposed to be a civilized place. There are houses built close to more houses. All this is situated around a 27-hole golf course. Since it was partly protected lands or something, there are a lot of trees and wetlands preserved.

Last week, and I don’t remember which day but it might have been Saturday, I was driving to the box. As I was winding my way through the curved streets built to make me drive slower (doesn’t really work, but it does limit my vision around curves) I had to almost stop the car in order to not hit what must have been a wild turkey crossing the road. Like the chicken before it, it did not give a reason. It was remarkably large. Hitting it would probably have dented the car and deployed the airbags.

But I blinked a couple times and watched the massive bird run into the trees on the other side of the road. (Addendum: I also stop to miss squirrels and they wouldn’t dent my car or anything, I just don’t like running over animals. I did run over a snake here a few years ago and even though I don’t think they are cute or anything, it did make me feel bad.)

Saturday, I did CrossFit Open 17.4 and that meant that Sunday, my legs hurt. Not so bad I couldn’t move, but I could tell I worked out the day before.

I spent the morning writing history essays which meant that I spent the morning sitting in my chair at my desk. This did not in any way, shape, or form help my legs.

We had winter last week with temperatures falling below freezing, something that happens in January and isn’t supposed to here in March. It was cold, especially for a Yankee Southern belle. But winter gave way to spring and Sunday was beautiful. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining. The wind was still a bit chilly, but I opted to get out of my chair and even more importantly to this story, out of the house.

There are three ways to walk around the block here. None of them are blocks, but they make a circular route. There is the small block which takes between ten and twelve minutes to navigate. There is the big block which is a 5k walk give or take a hundred meters or so. And then there is the medium block which takes around a half hour to complete.

I really didn’t know how far I was going to walk when I left the house, but as I continued on my way, I opted for the middle path, not too short and not too long. It felt just right. I walk at a fairly brisk pace, back straight, head high, talking to myself and solving my version of the world’s problems. I will notice something spectacular on my path at times, but I’m mostly oblivious and just letting my mind wander as my feet move me forward.

And so it was. I was being fairly oblivious to my surroundings. I was nearly home. The pool area is up the street from my house, about 250 meters from my yard. There is a sloping driveway down into the parking lot with the pool (now locked up) and the playground (available year round) and soccer fields. There are a lot of landscaping things around the edge of the Recreation Center and then some wetlands abutting that.

I was still there in the landscaped area when I caught movement off to my right. I looked and there, about 2-3 feet away from me was another of these damn woodland creatures. Except here, the woodlands are wetlands and the creatures include alligators. This teenager was about 5-6 feet long and resting among the shrubbery. He/she/it noticed me coming and had moved his/her/its head to get a better look. I, now aware of it, was seeing far more gator than I had ever hoped for. I had never been this close to one of them. I would be willing to wait forever to be this close again.

Here we were, two 5.5 feet tall/long beings both frightened half to death with the presence of the other. The gator stood up, I backed up. I inched toward the street, but there was a car coming. I had to choose between a car with hopefully an alert driver, and a beast that had grown into a possible serial killer in front of my eyes. I chose the street and yet, I had to get past the gator to get to my house.

I watched the gator as I inched around. The gator began to turn as I began to squirm. Finally, the killer gator turned back towards the trees/wetlands/Recreation Center and I got past the point where he/she/it had been lazily sunning. I think my heart rate was at about 25 wall balls pace.

I looked and the car had stopped to make sure I was okay. I don’t know if the driver or a passenger had seen the alligator or if I was just behaving so strangely, but I was okay, except for the adrenaline rush, the flushed feeling, the racing heart.

I hurried past my brush with death and remembered when Becky and I met the dog on one of our walks. We had frightened ourselves into a near panic before we got away from Cujo and were around the corner before we noticed the dog had been wagging its tail, happy to see us.

I’m pretty sure this gator was just as frightened by me as I was by the gator. This did not stop me from warning a man walking with his dog (and a tennis ball) toward the park. He needed to know there was a gator there and although the dog was big, the gator might not be as afraid of the dog as it was of me.

I know there are lots of deer here, as well. And so for my trifecta of wildlife encounters within my neighborhood, I’m hoping for a herbivore.

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Sometimes I forget how much I have accomplished. It seems to just be part of who I am today. It’s like it just magically appeared and so, of course, that’s what it is now. But that’s not really how life works.

The sleepless nights of motherhood are replaced by the next phase and watching your “kids” turn into parents themselves. The fears and worries seem so long ago and of course, they are just part of parenting and who doesn’t have this stuff to deal with? So, it just seems like one day carries into the next and we inch our way through life.

We don’t remember when we could neither walk nor talk but there was a time when we could do neither. And we fearlessly worked to get around the coffee table and then, bravely, let go only to plop down on the ground. But that didn’t stop us. We let go and fell down until we could let go, take a step or two, and then fall down. And we did that until we could walk around the room and then we ran and now we move without giving it a second thought. But each and every one of us had to learn this skill. And we failed miserably many times before we mastered it.

Learning to talk wasn’t any easier. Even now, in adulthood, at least if Facebook is any indication, there are people who struggle with the language. They have no idea what the words really are or how to spell them. And proofreading seems unimportant even when working hard to make a cute little saying emblazoned across some adorable picture. Just slap it together seems to be the way. But for those of us who worry about such things, we had to learn spelling and grammar and vocabulary and proper usage. And it took many failings before we got it right.

Years ago, I finally got a deadlift of 42# up off the ground. I was beaming in the picture and so proud of all my hard work. Then I immediately set off on new goals. I’ve improved that number by a bit now. And I am pleased and I have a newer, higher goal already in mind.

Today’s skill was 3 x 5 at 90% of one rep max strict press. That meant my weight was 47#. A strict press is the lightest lift we do. There is no extra help. Your skinny little arms have to press the weight from shoulders to locked out overhead. No boost with your legs or hips allowed. Just power that sucker up there. So it is the lightest lift we do.

Deadlifts are the heaviest lifts we do. All you have to do is pull it up off the ground until you are standing straight up. No moving it higher than that required. And so, it is heavy.

And my two numbers were 42# for a deadlift and 47# for repeated strict press. To be fair, I only managed four,  four, and three today. But years ago, I managed one deadlift at 42# and was thrilled. Like the adult walking around, I tend to forget how much work it took to get to the skills I have at my command today. I forget to be proud of the things I can do.

I’m pretty sure this is universal. For those of us who have been walking around for decades and decades, we don’t usually stop to think about how hard it was to master this skill when we were one. We simply walk, unless we run or skip or hop or any other form of moving around. For those who have had this skill stripped from them and had to relearn, there is an appreciation for walking that those of us who simply walk around do not have.

We are mindful of our new abilities, our new achievements. But life is so glorious, we probably need to take the time to appreciate the whole shebang.

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I have been working at improving my life for as long as I can remember. First I wanted to improve my career path. Then I wanted to be a perfect wife/mother. Then I wanted to be … well, thing after thing after thing. I wanted more.

But, and the word ‘but’ negates everything that has gone before, but why can’t I be happy where I am? I’ve been working at self-improvement and self-awareness and continuously more and more so when do I stop and look around and notice, hell, things aren’t so bad right here?

Because, you see, things aren’t so bad right here. I’m old and that’s a bummer because inside my head I’m not. But outside my head, the part that deals with the rest of the world, that part is old. Not ancient, but no spring chicken if you get my drift. Even in spite of that, I’m healthy which is not a given even for the young.

I’m able to write well enough that people might read some of it at least some of the time. I have been doing so, with what I feel is gradual improvement over time. Some of my early histories are not quite cringe-worthy, but not exactly how I would write them today. My process for selecting topics has also improved which makes me happier in the moment.

My children turned out – well, not perfect, but well above average. At least I think so. They are responsible adults in a world where adulting is so difficult memes appear across my Facebook page on a daily basis. And both adult well. They are contributing members of society and great fathers. Really, I couldn’t ask for more.

I’m still on my starter husband but that’s really far more due to the luck of having chosen well in the first place. I had no idea what I was doing when I was 18 but that doesn’t seem to have mattered in the long run.

I’ve been obsessing about CrossFit of late because I’m so far outside my comfort zone. I hate publishing my scores because they aren’t really all that good when looked at as raw scores. But I like to look at them as grading on the curve. I know how much lower everything was when I first started and I couldn’t do any of this crap. But now I can crap all over the place, as it were.

My CrossFit experience isn’t just the Open. Today, I saw something in the WOD I had never seen before. I’m used to doing some percentage of my one rep max for the skills. But I’ve never had that be more than my actual one rep max. Today, I was to lift 102.5% of my max lift. In other words, I had to get a new one rep max and then lift it twice. I thought it was impossible. But I was willing to try because the most I could do was not lift it. But I did. Twice.

I then got a bit smartypants and tried a little bit more weight. I got my 168# lifts with what felt like a little more in the tank. The 170# number looked better to me. I tried it and got it off the ground, but couldn’t complete the lift. It was still awesome. I will get it eventually. I will even get to my goal of 175#.

And when I get to that place, I’m going to rejoice. In fact, I’m rejoicing today. I got a new max and I earned every damn pound of it. <Insert happy dance here>

But wait, there’s more. The WOD was a descending ladder 10-1 box jumps with an ascending ladder 1-10 HSPU and a single rope climb after each set because why the hell not. Dorothy Parker would be pleased.

That’s 120 reps and there was a 10 minute time cap. Any reps left uncompleted would be added to the time, one second for each rep left. I considered my options. I don’t jump onto boxes, so I did step-ups. I don’t have a HSPU so I did them off a box with some extra height added. I don’t have a rope climb so I had a sub.

I mentioned to the coach that my limiting factor is almost always my heart rate and not muscle fatigue but if I should get to the seven HSPU subs I would probably have to break them into two sets because that’s usually too many for me. But, I didn’t really have to worry about it because I probably wouldn’t get that far.

Right. I’m just getting better and better at this shit because there I was. Thirty seconds left on the clock and on the round that needed 7 HSPUs and so I did them all at once and got over to the rope for my sub and finished that, too, with a good two seconds left. Happiness is not in the future. We, or at least I, tend to look towards the next big step. I did much better than I had any reason to believe today. I am happy about that.

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I finally have my line included in the CrossFit Open database and it finally has two numbers included. I feel like a winner already.

I’ve been consumed by this problem. I’ve been so focused on it, I forgot I have another “real” blog where I post historical on-this-day essays for each and every day of the year. Yesterday, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen a post there. After a whole week of March, there were no March posts.

I’m currently working on the June histories. April is ready, May is done but not edited, and I’m in the middle of writing June. There was no particular reason, other than obsession with a different problem, that I couldn’t have gotten March up there.

So, I have now gotten caught up and all of March’s essays are ready to appear on a daily basis at a scheduled time.

I don’t think I’ve ever pulled this stunt before. Writing for me is easy. Well, I guess it is. Other writers mention how difficult it is to put words to paper (something none of us do anymore but the image remains). I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone. Walked up the 100 steps, hung backwards over the parapet, and gotten my “gift of gab”. I’m pretty sure I’ve always had it, but now it is official.

The tedium of maintaining a website is often overlooked in the wonder of content. But it is a process. I know this. I know how much it takes to get my content up there day after day for years on end. I know I need to make it possible for readers to find something in particular. Enjoying a single essay is wonderful and I hope I can teach in the process. But finding something else is another matter completely.

I still have to update the February topic page. It is tedious bit of work and seems to be unimportant, although I really know it isn’t. It is something I used myself year after year. I learned this when I wrote about the same thing for a second time. Whoops. Well, it is free. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be worthwhile. We each only have so much time in the day and it is my job, as content provider or writer or author or whatever, to provide value for the minutes spent.

And this brings me back to CrossFit Open’s issues with the website. I realize the cost of putting on an event is much more than many people may imagine. I’ve been there for Conviction Training Facility’s events and know the time and money put into getting ready. While CrossFit doesn’t have much skin in the game at this point, they are going to be renting space for the Regionals and then the Games themselves. This costs money.

I’m more than willing to add my portion of the fee to that pot so the Games may go on. I understand there can be problems with websites. I have a second little degree in computer networking and have actually managed websites and not just blogging sites. I’m willing to tolerate some of the problems arising out of an ephemeral world we have created together.

I’m happy this was finally resolved – both CrossFit Open and my own Little Bits of History site. I’m hoping the internet will behave for the next while until I can recover from Greg’s and my own mistakes.

LBoH

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