Risk – is so risky. What if I fail? What if I make a fool of myself and still fail? What if I succeed? How will I top this success and find a new risk?

What a life! If I live it safely, it is too one-dimensional and quite frankly, boring. If I take risks, I run the chance of flopping miserably and being embarrassed. Not only that, but maybe I will bring shame to myself and those who believed in me.

How much of this self-talk limits me or anyone else? No way to really know. Perhaps adrenaline junkies love this stuff. I’m not sure how weenies are supposed to manage. I am a weenie. Do we talk ourselves out of things that are too risky and so avoid falling on our faces? Or do we miss the chance to be awesome because we never took that fateful step outside our comfort zone?

I’m pretty much afraid of everything. Fear is constantly whispering to me, telling me what could go wrong. Perfectionism is my excuse. I want to be perfect; I am human; humans are not perfect, ever. Hence, I never ever meet the goal. Why try?

The first time I stepped into a racquetball court, I was playing with Dick and Cousin Bill. Bill would helpfully tell me “You should have been over there” every time I missed a shot because I was nowhere near the ball. I hadn’t yet learned to read the walls and know where the ricocheted ball would be located for a good hit. I learned it. I eventually challenged Dick and Bill to a game of cutthroat. Bill is left handed and I served to both their forehands. I won. That was my intention. Every time Bill missed a shot because he was in the wrong place I helpfully said, “You should have been over there.” I’m a bitch, too.

I turned out to be a pretty good racquetball player. I played often, practiced my “trick” shots which were just perfectly placing the ball for a Z-shot ricochet ending in the front wall corner about two inches from the floor. I even did it backhand.

But then we moved and I worked full time and the racquetball club didn’t really work well with my new schedule. I stopped. I stopped playing and I stopped most exercise of any type. That’s because I loathe exercise. I love playing a game and having the chance to win. But to just exercise is mind-numbingly awful. Hate it. Abhor, detest, despise, abominate it.

I got old. My son says I’m fearless because I have switched careers a few times. I thought I was just responding to new circumstances. When I couldn’t work in OR because of migraines, I went back to get a second degree and taught computer classes to anyone aged 5 and over. Really. I taught kindergarten through high school and did adult classes. Then we moved. Now I’m doing administrative work which used to be called secretarial work but the bigger word (rather than bigger pay) is supposed to make me feel better.

Nothing about my life is particularly challenging. I learned the new programs and systems the first year I was underemployed and can whiz through that without much challenge. Life without challenge is not all that wonderful. That’s the whole problem with retirement. There is no more challenge unless you make it up yourself. That leads some of us into strange choices.

My choice was CrossFit and for some reason, I don’t see it as exercise. I have no idea why I picked something so onerous. I have no idea why I’ve stuck with it. Except that it scares me. Almost daily. I look at the WOD and try to figure out how in the world an old coot like me is supposed to manage this shit. And that’s after working so hard for so long. There is no earthly reason for me to not have quit after the first month. I could do exactly nothing. I would say I could do jack squat, but I couldn’t even properly squat.

I whined. I complained. I whined some more. I went back and tried again. Do or do not, there is no try – said Yoda. But all I could do was try. I couldn’t really DO, but I didn’t exactly NOT DO, either. I couldn’t do a pull-up so I did ring rows. I couldn’t do a real pushup. I fell over when trying to lunge so a weighted lunge was out of the question. But I tried. Again and again.

I risked myself into various injuries. I’ve been to chiropractors and massage therapists. So far, no ER visits have been needed (unlike racquetball where I actually had a couple broken bones and uncounted bruises and other injuries).

Am I awesome yet? I hear CrossFit makes you awesome. I want to be awesome. It’s been a long time since I felt awesome so maybe, CrossFit can do something for me even at this late date.

I know what I am now that I’m challenging myself four times a week. Well, besides sleep deprived. I’m stronger, fitter, more flexible, more resilient. I can do banded pull-ups instead of ring rows and real wormy pushups. I can lunge down the mat without falling over. I can clean, jerk, deadlift, squat with or without weight – front and back. I have calluses on my hands and bruises on my shin – still. I have muscles where old people usually don’t. I have a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

And four times a week, I’m scared. I’m taking a huge risk. I could fail. I could make a fool of myself. I could hurt myself. Or perhaps, maybe, I could prove myself to me. I’m not old and feeble. I’m just old. And powerful. And … awesome?

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I work in a small office. Two bosses, two staff (both part time). I’m half of the staff. One boss is out on family leave with a brand new baby daughter. The other boss is out on family leave with an adult son who had to have emergency surgery out of state and was alone there and needs to be brought back home to recover. We, the staff, have been holding down the fort without much in the line of work to do.

My office is the one with all the copy machines and files and a pile of detritus that needs to be recycled but just stacks up and gets larger and larger and larger. The other office is where the tiny fridge and the microwave are. So we wander around this spacious environment during the day.

I was on a trip to the fridge to retrieve my salad for lunch when I saw my coworker with a bowl of something indefinable. I asked what it was. Her husband is from a more rural background than either of us and he was accustomed to eating rutabagas. This was her first rutabaga and she was eating some of the leftovers for her lunch. We discussed food for a while and then I had to look the vegetable up online. I found that what I was picturing in my head was kohlrabi and not rutabagas.

Mandi said they tasted like a cross between potatoes and squash and didn’t quite have the consistency of a potato. The pictures I found showed many different whole rutabagas but also French fries and hash browns and mashed rutabagas were shown. According to Wikipedia, they are a cross between a turnip and cabbage.

I had to stop for pistachios, bananas, and unsweetened almond milk on the way home from work so I picked up a rutabaga (and some parsnips) along with them. I knew Dick had a pork roast in the Crockpot and I figured we could try the rutabaga with it. He also cooked an acorn squash, making a wonderful meal – if we liked the rutabaga.

Herb roasted rutabaga

Herb roasted rutabaga

Now get this – we did. It’s not like the “bird seed” he tolerated for me. We actually liked it. One rutabaga was huge and it has to be peeled using a real sharp knife and then chopped up and boiled, just like potatoes. It could have stood to be cooked a little longer, but it wasn’t bad. There was a huge dish of this stuff if we didn’t like it. But we did!

Rutabaga fries

Rutabaga fries

Tonight, we will have leftover pork roast and I’m taking leftover rutabaga and making hash browns out of it. It tasted like a regular dinner without the starch and glycemic peaking afterward last night. I’m looking forward to the same tonight.

Rutabaga hash browns

Rutabaga hash browns

I would never have tried such a thing without the WLC. I’m not an adventurous eater. I’m picky. I’m probably more than picky. I’m very, very picky. I don’t like many things and I hate taking the time and making the effort and then not liking what I have in front of me. When we go out to eat, I usually get the same old stuff because I don’t want to waste the money on food I can’t or won’t eat.

Today’s blog post at the Whole Life Challenge is about spices. You need to spice up your food so it doesn’t get boring. Almost all the spices listed were for hotness stuff. I have never tried a curry because even the smell makes me retch. I don’t like hot; I don’t like jalapenos and pick them off my nachos; I’m not all about making it so hot that I can’t tell it is boring crap underneath the hot.

I’m not even adventurous with my spices! I know I like sugar and sweetness in all its forms. I’m also partial to salt. Salt is good. I need food to have the correct consistency or I can’t eat it – the whole problem with mashed potatoes that I’ve been spitting out since I was an infant (or so I was told).

I think one of the most amazing things about this journey is that I’ve been hungry enough and outside my comfort zone far enough and for long enough that I am actually trying new foods.

Thirteen months ago I started something new and different. Something I was sure I couldn’t do and would be a failure at, CrossFit. When I started, it was nothing short of pitiful. The warm-ups were kicking my ass and WODs were simply beyond me in every respect. But I kept at it. Each day was a victory not because I did anything – but because I didn’t quit.

And then a miracle happened. Some of the days became a victory because I did something. It wasn’t just about not quitting, it was about actually achieving something.

I stepped outside my comfort zone. I tried something totally different. I had never lifted a weight (other than sacks of groceries) in my life. I’m not anything to really write home about now, except when you look at where I was just 13 months ago. I have incrementally improved and continue to do so.

These forays into the unknown are a challenge. They are scary. They are daunting. They are a really frightening way to see if you are still alive or merely living. At my age, there is a lot of merely living. We old coots are stuck in our routines. We’ve been doing stuff this way for fifty years or more. This is how we’ve always done it, whatever it is. To take that chance and risk failing and embarrassment and shame is so fear-inducing that it is easier to just pick up the remote and change the channel. Instead, I’ve changed my life.

Risk. Risk it all. Take a chance. You might find a rutabaga.

The lowly, lovely rutabaga

The lowly, lovely rutabaga