Just blogging


Life can be cruel. Storms come through and create havoc. Accidents happen. Things can go awry in the blink of an eye. Regardless of how good you are or how well you have planned, things can just go wrong.

The world is cruel enough on its own. Don’t add to the misery. There is already enough to go around. Instead, try spreading a bit of joy, peace, calm, happiness, or tranquility. It not only makes the world a better place, it makes you a better person.

Each time you practice kindness, it gets closer to being a habit. Each time you are nice in the face of meanness, it gets more routine to be nice the next time. Cultivating your better self and practicing at being nice makes it more likely you will become the person you dreamed you could be.

We all have our dark sides, our doubts, our fears, and our discouragements. Everyone has enough of their own to deal with. Instead of spreading more of these unsavory items into the world, spread the opposite.

Each interaction with the world is filled with opportunities to be nice. Be polite to everyone. Hold doors open. Take a moment to smile. Offer encouragement. Thank those who make your life a little easier, even – maybe especially – if that is their job.

You can’t save the world, it’s far too big. But you can make your small corner of it a bit more pleasant. Not just for those who inhabit it with you, but for yourself as well. Being nice is free. You should pass that shit out to everyone.

You don’t need a reason to be nice. You just need a chance. Take as many as you need. We’ll make more.

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I terrify myself on a regular basis. Not that I mean to, it just happens. I’ve decided I want to be a CrossFit gym rat athlete person. Unfortunately, I’m not athletic. But I want to be. I want to lift the weights and do the moves and dear God, I want to get a pull-up. I’ve tried; I’ve really tried. And cried. I still can’t do a pull-up.

Switching gyms has been both a blessing and a curse. I’m there with a larger class and there is different equipment available. All in all, that’s a blessing. But I’m there with a larger class. A bunch of strangers whose names I can’t keep straight. And they are all, of course, better at this crap than I am. Some due to sheer talent, others to work, and some just because youth is a blessing in the arena.

I am terrified I will either hurt myself or as a more logical outcome, embarrass myself. I’m pretty sure no one else cares what I’m doing. They aren’t looking around and wondering why I’m sitting on something or the floor and box breathing. Every time I have to stop, I’m embarrassed by my aging and my frailty.

Coach is being careful with me. I’m taking advantage of it. I really can push myself harder. There are a few times when I only do half the WOD. But usually, I can do more than that. On a regular basis, I’m used to doing 75 – 80% of the reps. I may modify the movement, but I don’t really need to cut back as much as I’ve been doing. But right now I’m so sure I will make a fool of myself although I don’t even know how.

I need a hero and there is no one coming to save me. I’m going to have to do this on my own. I need to step up and take the bull by the horns. I need to stop being a weenie and get in there and do better at pushing myself.

I can do better than this. I’m going to have to because I feel like a failure for not doing more today. Not that I was really getting any great number of double unders, but I was getting some and I chose too low of a number for attempts. I didn’t push myself and I could have done more. I need to be strong enough to make myself do more than just show up.

It is the voices in my head that are holding me back. Not my heart rate or my age, but the self-defeating talks I have with myself. Part of this is the lack of time to strategize and get myself talked into doing more. Walking in and seeing the WODs without enough time to talk myself down from the cliff edge is hampering my ability to focus on what I truly can do. And so I back off.

Perhaps I should bring a cape with me on Monday. I need a hero. I’m probably going to have to do it myself.

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What possible difference could it make? It’s not like the world is watching. Maybe I do the things and maybe I don’t. Who cares?

Well, first of all – me. I care. I didn’t set these goals up just to say I had some goals. I set them up because they affect parts of my life that remain important. I’m not setting the world on fire, but I’m living my own dreams.

I was at the gym again today because I go to the gym on Thursdays. I do have an audience for that. People can see if I am there or if I stay home. I was there. Burpees to a target. What fun. I was there and I did the thing, to the best of my crappy ass ability.

I also talked to my gym rat friends and encouraged them to go big, be brave, and sign up for the Open. I explained why it was important and why they should take the risk. I was, I hope, an inspiration. Although I am new there and they don’t know me well, they all know that I’m not an elite caliber athlete or anything. And yet. I’ve done the Open and lived. They can, too.

So I was in a public place and did the thing I said I would do. I could have not shown up. But I would be noticeable in my absence.

I also belong to a writing forum. Well, more than one really but I spend most of my writing forum time in this one place. We decided it would be good idea to have a January challenge. We would write at least 250 every day. The words do NOT have to be shared with anyone. It is an honor system. In theory, I could lie about it.

But I’ve written at least 250 words every day so far. I’ve actually written more than that. I’ve posted most days here and I’ve posted most days there in a group storyline, racking up way more than the required number of words, some fictional and some not. I think the practice does me good.

I could not do the things I’ve said I wanted to do. The yoga and meditation are done strictly in private right now. I could pretend to do the work and slack off. But I haven’t. Not because I’m any great balls of fire at yoga or meditation, but because I never will be if I don’t put in the work to improve.

It matters. We get this one life and what we do with it matters. Even when no one is looking, it matters. Maybe even especially when no one is looking. It is important for me to be able to trust myself, honor myself. I may fail and often do. But I cannot tell myself a lie and get away with it. I know.

So, even when no one cares, no one is watching, no one would know – I do the things. It matters to me. I want to be able to know that I’m honest. And maybe, even if I’m not aware of it, someone else is watching and is inspired to do whatever things they have promised to do. Maybe they can be honest with themselves, too.

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I’m not getting any younger. Being old is hard work. You have to fight to keep whatever it is you already have. And trying to get more is far more difficult than when younger.

My goals include working out with CrossFit type WODs four times a week. I do a yin yoga practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and meditate on the days I don’t do yoga. This stuff is helping keep me flexible, strong, safe, clear, focused, etc.

I’ve been doing CrossFit longer than yoga and there are days when I just CrossFit the shit out of my yoga practice. I catch myself in the act and alter my behavior so I can yoga during yoga. I have found that after so much yoga, there are times when I yoga my CrossFit WODs, too. I then have to remind myself that CrossFit is CrossFit and yoga is yoga and when they meet, I must adjust my sails.

I want, above all, to be perfect. All the time. I realize this is both ridiculous and impossible, but there it is. I cringe with each mistake. I cringe when I don’t keep the bar in close on a lift. I cringe when my body doesn’t fold in a pose. I cringe when I find a typo. I cringe when dinner doesn’t turn out the way I planned. I cringe and cringe and cringe and then wonder why I have a stiff neck.

Meditation is extremely difficult for me. I’m busy thinking about being perfect and the whole point of meditation is to not think, especially about being perfect and then I get caught in this loop of wanting to be perfect at a time when perfection is not even a pretend goal.

Using a guided meditation helps some, but my mind still wanders into the path of oncoming traffic and I wish desperately to be perfect at this. I would like to be perfect at something. Okay. I want to be perfect at everything.

My quest for perfection has oftentimes negated the sheer joy in living. This is most clear for me now at the gym when I should be so grateful to be able to do all the things I’ve worked so hard to attain. Instead, I want more and miss the joy of getting this far up an eternal mountain. There is no top to this journey.

Stop and smell the roses. At least notice there are roses and they are beautiful. I love the smell of lily of the valley, maybe I should stop and smell that.

I’ve been keeping a journal of things for which I’m grateful. It helps to keep me focused on the here and now and realize how precious it is. It is perfectly imperfect. I should allow myself to cherish it, mistakes and all. Noticing how often I’ve chosen wisely and done good. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to give me something to be thankful for.

I’ve risked enough to make the mistakes, be imperfect, learned new things. Gratitude makes even the imperfect better.

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Anyone who has followed my CrossFit journey knows I lack confidence and can get myself into a tailspin in a matter of nanoseconds. It hasn’t changed with a new gym and this past weekend I was again a mess. I’m still doing CrossFit things, just not under the CrossFit banner. And I’m still woefully lacking in confidence.

In fact, it’s worse than normal right now. I have to appear in front of a bunch of new people and be inept and inadequate even after five years of trying. In the last month, I’ve not suddenly turned younger and more powerful. I’m still just as old (and getting older by the minute) and just as feeble (and losing ability in all facets as I age).

This is terrifying. My old friends who worked out with me on a regular basis all knew the things I needed to modify. I didn’t have to advertise my special needs. My gym IEP was already on the books. (If you don’t know what an IEP is, it’s an Individual Education Plan written and on file for special need students.)

So here I am. Old and feeble and scared half to death when walking into any old place. Even my old home used to scare the living crap out of me and they knew me there. I was like Norm walking into Cheers. I didn’t have to explain myself. But now, I still don’t explain myself, I just wish I could.

The thing is, after five years of doing this crap, I actually look pretty damn good. I know about hook grips, when and how to pull, violent hip extension is part of my vocabulary, I know the mechanics of the lifts. What I don’t have is the power. I also, due to the aging process, lack a fair amount of balance. And then there is simple ineptitude. I never was really athletic. I grew up a bookworm.

I avoided partner WODs for a very long time because I wasn’t brave enough to inflict myself on anyone else. But in the last year, after a bunch of cajoling and nearly losing my mind a few times and some tears and wishing I could disappear right away, I finally got to where I was showing up regularly. I can’t make myself do that right now.

It is taking every ounce of my courage to take my old fat ass to the new gym. I don’t think I really look my age, although that may be vanity. But I want to advertise that I was not like this when I was the age my kids are, the age my gym mates are. I was able to run and play with the kids and not get winded just thinking about it. I am embarrassed and ashamed to be this old. I never really intended this to happen.

But I would regret not showing up (see yesterday’s blog). And so I strap on the pretend courage, act like I’m not quaking and shaking and fearful and near tears. And I drive myself to the gym. And like every other time over the last five plus years, I do something. Not very much, but more than I used to and more than if I had stayed home. I really deserve a medal of some sort. Probably tin.

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My life as a CrossFitter and now as a gym rat has been one disappointing failure after another. I am not supposed to utter the phrase “I can’t” but there are so many things I still can’t do. Some of them are things I don’t wish to do. I’m not climbing a rope. I’ve lived 65 years without this ever being a functional movement I needed to master. All I need to do is be 15 feet up and my arms give out and fall. At my age, broken bones are serious business.

I also can’t do a hand stand push-up mostly because I can’t even do the hand stand. I mean, the arms again. I’m weak and if I lose the strength to hold myself up, I can break my neck. History has shown this is a really bad idea. It is again, one of the things that has not limited my life in the past. I’ve never really needed this as a functional skill.

I can’t clean my bodyweight. I can’t even back squat my body weight. I can’t do a pull-up. I can’t and can’t and can’t. And yet, I keep showing up.

That’s how I win. I started CrossFit when I was 59. I had a few months before I would turn 60 and I so wanted to have weights on my weight for a back squat. All I needed was to 1. Learn to squat,  2. Acquire some balance, and 3. Get strong enough to actually do it. I really could not squat when I started. I dipped in a forward accordion fold. But with lots of practice and buckets of tears, I got a 27# back squat a few days before I turned 60.

The guy next to me was squatting 225# and yet, I was thrilled with getting my goal. Today, I can back squat over 100# and when I asked Chris, he had not kept pace, not being able to still do nearly ten times my weight. So there.

It isn’t because I’m really good at this stuff. I’m obviously not. But regardless of how crappy I am, and I’m crappy when compared to other CrossFitters but absolutely fabulous when compared to the general population, I keep going.

I have cried. I have questioned my sanity. I have hurt myself. What I haven’t done is quit. Every time I really consider the possibility of quitting, I think of how bad I will feel in a couple months. I will regret not trying. I don’t ever expect to clean my body weight. In all honesty, I don’t ever expect to get a pull-up (although God knows I’ve tried). I refuse to even try or care about climbing a rope.

My failures are spectacular when compared with all the other highly successful gym rats out there. But my successes are my own and cherished. I have weights on my weights for all the stuff. And I keep showing up. Without regrets. Tears maybe, but no regrets.

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Whoops. That didn’t go as planned. Damn, that’s not what I was hoping for. What a mess.

We all have those times when a mistake was made – by us. We can’t distance ourselves from them because there they are right in front of our eyes. A big mistake. Shouldn’t have done that. What was I thinking? Maybe I wasn’t thinking.

Some mistakes are much bigger than others. Some take a lot longer to make. But if there is something you wish wasn’t so, even or especially of your own making, you don’t have to hang on to it for dear life. Dear life is far too precious.

If, say, you majored in journalism in college and have college debt up to your eyeballs and now you have finally landed a journalism job and you find you hate it, well … why punish the next forty years of your dear life? It may be a far larger mistake than when, for example, I purchased an elliptical, but still …

Just for clarification, I donated the elliptical to Habitat for Humanity. It was an expensive lesson, but not as expensive as a college degree. So I console myself with that. I try not to think of all the other things I could have purchased with the expensive dust collector. It was a sunk cost by the time I figured out I hated the damn thing and so I got rid of it. And I have never purchased another similar object.

The sunk cost has already been paid, whether it is the money spent on exercise equipment or the time and money spent on a non-useful college degree. Or any of the many mistakes we all make as we travel through life. Those costs are gone. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep paying for it in the future. Clear your space of the extraneous equipment, take a few more credit hours in something useful which allows you to move into the field of your choice. Do what it takes now to get yourself unstuck.

Don’t also spend the opportunity costs by not seeking out the things to make your life better, complete, satisfactory, fulfilling. You lose all the “what if” things if you stay rooted in what you now know is a mistake. This will only make the mistake cost you even more.

This is your one chance to be here. Make the most of it. Learn from your mistakes and then correct them becoming a smarter you in the process. Be one of the people who live and learn, not one of the people who just bemoan their fate. Blaze your new trail. You are not a tree. If you don’t like where you are, move.

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