Just blogging


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 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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What sort of life goals can a retired person have? This has bothered me ever since I gave up my real adult job almost twenty years ago. I’ve done other adult jobs over the years and some of them were even really worth the effort. But my real job, my real calling, was saving lives and conquering disease. It’s what I did and who I was and what I was meant to do.

But now, I’m completely retired and not even doing the menial task of paperwork for the benefit of others. So what sorts of goals can I pursue?

I suppose I want to live healthily as long as possible. But that’s such a stupid underlying thing that all of us want. I wanted that when I had a real goal in life to save other lives, etc. Absent being alive, all other goals are meaningless. I can’t think of a single thing to do with all my time that is beneficial to the real world outside my curtained windows.

I write my histories. I like that. I didn’t like it when I took last year off. It gives me at least a bit of structure to my days. I have a task to complete, something to check off my to do list. Something tangible. I don’t know if it really benefits the world at large. Knowing more stuff is always good. Knowing the problems we face today are not unique to our time may be of some benefit.

I could create of goal of publishing me work for remuneration. I’ve actually thought about it many, many times. But it would be more work than I’m willing to put into it. And right now, I am happy to write with the occasional typo remaining and not feel bad about it. My OCD would be exacerbated by publishing for money. Essentially, this is not a goal I have. It might be a goal I should have, but I don’t think should is part of goal setting.

I know I could set some goals for projects around the house. These are not goals, however, they are to do lists. We have talked about repainting the inside of the house. That’s as far as that particular item has gotten. It might even be a really good idea to repaint. But that’s a not a goal item.

I don’t have a five or ten year plan. It seems entirely pointless. I’m not yet to the point where I won’t buy green bananas, but to plan out something that long term is incredibly ludicrous. I don’t even know what I want to do this weekend and it really doesn’t matter what I choose.

I’m not sure how other retired people manage all their time. I can remember my mother saying how one day, we would look back and wish we had some of the busy stuff to do. She was bored, too. Not all the time and not every single day, but when she was called with a “Do you want to” question she always said yes before the doing part was mentioned. She always had time to do or go or help.

There are myriad books written for the young and middle aged to help them get their lives focused and their chance for happiness increased. I don’t even know if there is any wisdom out there for retired folks. We tell younger people to plan for retirement. What we don’t say is that most of what you have to plan for is boredom.

I’ve been told many negative things about boredom. These are repeated by people who have their days so overscheduled they have to check their calendar for a time to go to the bathroom. When days stretch out endlessly, there is really only whatever it is you can think of to do with yourself. And the less you have to do, the harder it is to find any motivation to do it.

Every motivational book, every motivational talk, tells you to focus on your goals. Determine where you are going and then build a map to get there. I’ve already been there. I’m going home and I know the way. And there is nothing to do when I get there. Just not a real exciting goal.

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I made no resolutions. Yesterday wasn’t a demarcation line, but rather one more day in a lifetime of days. If I was going to put a mark in the sand, it would probably have been two days earlier when it was my birth date, a true beginning. But I didn’t make any resolutions then, either.

About six months ago I decided – I did not resolve or wish or hope or dream – I decided that CrossFit had to change. I was killing myself with negativity. I was an old fart doing awesome stuff and all I saw was the failure and disappointment. I have no idea who I was failing or disappointing, but it clouded my every moment.

And so I decided to have fun instead. Just like that. I have slipped once or twice in the last half year, but overall, I just go and work hard and have as much fun as I can. It only took me years to learn the very basic lesson of CrossFit, it’s for everyone and we can all succeed.

Today, my light back squats were more than one-and-a-half times my first deadlift weight. They were low weight and high reps and I managed without any problems at all. And it was fun. And it was alarming when I thought about how easy it was and how much I have grown and changed and progressed and then I thought how sad it was that other people I know have just gotten older in the last four years.

I would beseech all my friends to do something. It doesn’t have to be CrossFit although it is awesome and you get to learn incredible things and do stuff you never even imagined you could do. But if it isn’t for you – and it isn’t for everybody and I get that – then please do something else. Do something to push yourself away from the American dream of fast crappy food and immobility while watching the television selling fast crappy food.

I beg you to get out of your comfort zone. Walk. Run. Skip. Jump rope. Dance. Squat. Lunge. Do push-ups or sit-ups or anything at all. Buy some equipment for the house – dumbbells or a kettle bell or some bands or anything. Please. This is your only chance to be here and I would wish you a long and healthy life. Our sedentary American dream is killing us all. Even I sit too much after I’m done with the gym for the day.

Our bodies were meant to move. We are built to be mobile. So be mobile. Get out of the chair or off the sofa. Please try some of the daring things out there. There are You Tube videos showing you how to manage certain moves. You can go online and find yoga videos. You can find CrossFit how to videos. You can simply get up and walk. There is an actual proper technique to running and you can find that online and improve your runs by falling forward into your gait.

Whatever it is you think might be able to manage – manage it. Dare it. Live your life better. You aren’t getting any younger, but you can trick your body into thinking it is. I know because I have done it and I want this gift for you. I can walk easier and with greater stability. I can manage my daily activities without the stresses because my body works like it used to back when I was younger.

I don’t take the stairs two at a time anymore. I can’t run as fast or as far. I can’t be thirty because even my kids are older than that. But I can do so many things I couldn’t manage four years ago. It hasn’t been easy and because of my own mindset, it wasn’t always fun. But after I decided to make it fun – it’s been wonderful. Fun times; good times. I’ve gotten stronger and more confident.

Whatever it is you can manage, please go do it. Not because it is a new year, but because this is your only life and you should get to live it to the fullest. Enjoy the journey. This is done by conquering your fears and overcoming obstacles. Don’t let the biggest obstacle in your one precious life be you.

Carpe diem. You deserve it.

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