I want to be successful in life and in order to do that, I need a definition of a successful life. I believe it is one in which the world is a bit better because you (me, anyone) was in it.

I was a nurse for over twenty years. I saved lives and conquered disease. I mean, it was with a lot of help and I didn’t do this stuff alone, but I was part of the process. I met lots and lots of people who were having one of the worst days of their lives and I sincerely hope I made a bad day a bit better. I took care of the issue at hand, but I also took care of the person with the issue.

I knew the job was worthwhile and I did it to the best of my ability. Then I got sick. Not contagious kind of sick, but the lights in the OR were giving me constant migraines. The surgeons refused to work in the dark for some reason. I quit or maybe a kinder way to say that is I retired.

I went back to school and learned about computers and then I taught people. I began with high school and picked up some adult education classes and then eventually I taught grade school kids. The adult education classes were in medical, business, and technical things, but the kids were all computer stuff. Again, it was important stuff and it matters and I was spreading truth and goodwill.

Then I moved away and ended up in secretarial jobs which used lots of my technical skills and certainly many of my organizational skills. I can perhaps note that the arts and money are both important aspects of our everyday lives, but these jobs didn’t seem to be as worthwhile to me. Necessary, perhaps, but not as worthwhile.

Then I really retired. This is supposed to be the time when we get to reap the benefits of a well lived life. But it is really just trying to create meaning out of chaos. Or worse, meaning out of nothing.

I would like to still be a person of worth. I would like to be worthy of the air and space I take up in the world. I would like to be, if this isn’t too much to ask, a beacon or inspiration to others.

Yesterday the workout was difficult – at least for me. They are all difficult for me if the truth be known. But I keep showing up and am able to do more crap than when I started so that’s sorta cool. I’m never going to be blowing the doors off or anything, but I plod along and hope for the best.

After 37 minutes and 39 seconds, my partner and I were finally done with all the stuff that had been on the white board. I was pooped. It was a lot of stuff and I did my share of the stuff with full ROM and all that nonsense.

I sat on the curb, panting and said, “I’m too old for this shit.” Kelly was sitting next to me. She is a powerhouse. She can do all the things and she is talented and skilled and wonderful to watch on Saturdays. During the school year (she is a teacher) she comes at 5 AM and so I don’t get to play with her then. Summers she is in the same classes as me.

She said, “I say that some days too, and then I know you are coming later and you are going to do it and so I know I have to do it, too.”

Holy shit, Batman. I inspire someone to do things I can’t even do!

I wrote about how wonderful that felt in my writing forum and another friend from way back in AOL days mentioned that it was my encouragement that got her to post some of her first work in the forum where she got lots of help and great feedback. She said that I had changed her life. She has published a book and everything!

Apparently, I’m successful. Who knew?

And to all those who have encouraged me and held me up when I was crumbling, I thank you. Your successful life has let me have a crack at mine.

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What do I want for my heath and fitness goals? Well, first of all, I want to have all my toes when I die. In order to do that, I need to keep my diet under control, especially my carb intake. Even if my next A1C is normal, I’ve been warned that my body is not able to process as many carbs as I would love to consume, so I’m stuck with a choice between full blown diabetes and unlimited chocolate.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for over six years now. I really thought I would be better at this by now. I’m not. Actually, I’m much better than when I started, I’m just not as better as I want to be. I would like to be Kylie or Liz or Wendy but I’m old enough to be their mother and so that is probably not ever going to happen. I guess I should pick something else. But what? I have no idea what is a reasonable fitness goal for me.

My stated goals for the year are to get rid of the stutter jump in my double unders and to get the courage to kick up to the wall. For the first, I have to practice and so that’s entirely up to me. For the second, I can hold my weight upside down at least for a short time. Kicking up to the wall is terrifying for me and I can’t even tell you why. But I’m brave enough. I think.

My unstated goal, or not written on the goal board, is to get to 50% of the double unders the aforementioned whiz kids accumulate. If I can get to half the number as that written on the board, I will be happy with myself. It will always take me forever, especially since I have to have that extra single under in there between each double under. If I can get rid of that, I should be able to get a few more in a row before my heart rate is too high.

But … all those Olympic lifts are dreams. There is always more weight regardless of what I do and there is always way more weight on all the other bars in the gym. And yet … there was a time when I could only dream of what I can do today. I could go back and look to see when the first time I got 35# overhead was, but I’m not that curious. I know it took me a long time to get there. I also don’t really know how long it took me to break parallel on my squat, but it was quite a bit of time.

Today’s WOD was a repeat of 15.5 or 27-21-15-9 of calorie row and thrusters. My Open weight for thrusters is 35# so that is what I did. I hate thrusters. My heart rate spikes and I have to rest. Even with that light weight. I actually had a time for 15.5 from 2015. It was 24.23. Today, I wanted to cut the reps. I actually wanted to cut the class. I really hate thrusters. But there I was and I knew I could do this piece of crap because I’d done it before. So I did 72 calorie row and 72 thrusters. I finished in 22.42.

So, after four years, I cut about 90 seconds off my time. That’s rather pitiful. While trying to make myself feel a bit better about it, I remembered that we had kilo bars or I was doing 33# before instead of the 35# today and so I actually put an extra 144# over my head. That didn’t really help me. I used to think I would just improve and work hard and improve some more. But I just work hard and don’t die which is really helpful. But it’s not an improvement.

So what should I expect? I’m now 66 instead of 62. Lots of people my age are already dead, which as I’ve pointed out, I’m not. So I should be grateful if not amazed that I’m still moving at all. And I know that as we age, we get slower and weaker but I’m not sure when this descent into feebleness actually starts and if I’m just going to fizzle out at some point. I don’t know if I should hope to maintain my lift weights or hope that they decrease by just small margins.

I have no idea what I’m doing. This isn’t new. I can learn the vocabulary. I can learn the movement. What I can’t learn is what is the correct thing for me to actually aspire to. This is true in and out of the gym.

I’ve been steadily losing weight since October. I can’t keep this up. I have gone back to counting everything not for the carbs, but for the calories. I’m not eating enough even though I’m never hungry. I’m not roller coastering my blood sugar and starving as a result. So I don’t eat enough and this affecting my gym performance.

I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. And I really don’t know how to find out exactly what that should be. I’m this old and still just winging it. I really thought that eventually, I would know something. Not yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do you know if you are achieving greatly or falling flat on your face without some point of reference? When do you cut yourself some slack and when do you pour gas on the fire? What is good or bad?

My son has been doing a podcast with his friend for quite some time now. They are getting better with each new episode. His latest podcast is How to Handle Criticism. One of his favorite quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt who delivered a speech in Paris in 1910 at the Sorbonne.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Then there is the whole “comparison is the thief of joy” thing.

We worry a lot about what other people think or do or have or say. We worry that we will be mocked or criticized. Everyone, it seems, is now bullied if they aren’t eternally praised or if their bizarre behavior is in any way questioned.

But there are standards of behavior we all have to agree upon in order to live in society. We all have to at least believe that stopping at red lights is a must. There are a number of people who aren’t paying good enough attention to their driving and run either a stoplight or a stop sign. They know immediately they were in the wrong. This is a communally accepted necessity.

But what about wearing your pajamas to shop at Walmart? Does it matter if it is just Walmart? Can you wear your jammies to the opera?

Daring to step outside the boxes society has built for us means we can achieve more (or sometimes far less) than those who stay inside the proscribed area. It is the people who challenge convention who create the new and different.

But new and different is not necessarily new and improved. I’m reminded of this every time Facebook tries some new crap that makes my experience less. I’m still trying to figure out how to make that box stop appearing when someone replies to a post. I’m scrolling and I will get to that in my own good time. And when I do read and even respond to the damn thing, it’s still active in my notification area. Just stop. Make sure the new is an improvement and not just some flash crap you want to try.

[sorry, rant over]

Living outside the norm is sometimes the best place to live. However, if you start running all the red lights, you not only will get hurt, but you will take some other poor sod with you.

Listening to the critics, real or imagined, external or internal, can rob you of the joy of your pursuits. Looking around and comparing yourself to the masses of other people out there is enough to make us all weep. We simply aren’t able to be all the things all the other people are, that’s why there are so many of us.

Being true to your own goals, being a genuinely nice person, being kind … these are things that matter. Others will always have an opinion about everything.

You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. Stop trying. Concentrate on being the best version of yourself with all your qualities and limitations and hopes and fears and idiosyncrasies and foibles. But stop at all the red lights.

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I wish I knew. I wish there was someone to just tell me. There isn’t. I have to figure it out on my own. What the hell are my goals?

I write Little Bits of History and publish daily. I took a year off and missed it so I started again. It is a creative outlet and it is a learning experience – at least for me as I write them. I have always been a repository of Mom’s Fast FactsTM and amused or maybe annoyed my kids by spouting off esoteric crap at the slightest provocation. Writing these essays for close to a decade has increased my store of trivia no one will ever ask me about.

I still can’t remember where I put my coffee cup, but I can spout completely inconsequential factoids without warning.

I like writing. It gives me a chance to see what I’m thinking and what appears on the screen before me is often quite surprising. I had no idea I was thinking that stuff until it shows up right there in black and white.

But that is just a small corner of my life. I don’t write all day long. I have other things to do. Most of them equally inconsequential but I’m old and retired and not expected to be of any consequence anymore. I fulfill that ideal.

But then, four to five times a week I step into the expanse of The Box. I don’t know what I want out of that portion of my life. I’ve gained strength and stability. I’ve gained stamina, which is scary when one considers how little I have now and then realizes how much more there is now than when I began.

Each and every time I look at a WOD, I panic. It’s been nearly five years and every single one of them scares me. No one programs for a Little Old Lady and yet, that’s who shows up when I walk in the gym. The young people can do the things so much quicker than me, sitting there box breathing and trying to not have a heart attack and die. I’ve had to promise I won’t have a heart attack and die. So I’m responsible for keeping my heart rate in the “viable” zone.

And then I get cranky. I could have scaled the reps on Monday. I was given the option. I did scale the weight. I stopped working when I was too light headed to do another set up box jumps which aren’t jumped, but still, they make me dizzy especially when my heart rate is high. Rather than die, I quit. But then I was up half the night wishing I hadn’t. I could have sat still for longer and gotten my head straight and my heart rate down and then done the last round. I not only could have, I should have. And then I got all mad at myself for quitting. I was too worried about the time. I’m getting older by the second regardless of the time, so why do I keep selling myself short?

If my goals were clearer, would I stop stopping myself? I don’t honestly know. I do know that I can do many things and I would like to do more and my progress is slower than a herd of turtles moving through peanut butter. But I still progress.

I’m tempted to not listen to the cardiologist and just go for it and see what happens but I’m afraid that could include one of those pesky heart attacks and die things, so I don’t.

I’m so amazed at the people who come to the gym with the goal of getting better and then work on getting better. I’m so waylaid by that damn white board. I need to let the board go.

Maybe my goal should be to improve incrementally. Or maybe just improve mentally.

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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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