As anyone who knows me, I’m not a big believer in neatness. This whole Marie Kondo fad of only keeping stuff that you’re in love with? I read the book, but couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to undertake that huge of a task when a little bit of mess just makes life more comfortable, in my humble opinion.

I have no idea how I turned out this way; I come from a family of neatniks. My sister used to yell at me because I’d leave water spots on the bathroom faucet — “It takes TWO SECONDS to wipe it off! Why can’t you just do that ?!?” — and my Mom spent a lot of time disappointedly shaking her head at me as I left a trail of stuff in my wake. I’d like to say I had more important things on my mind, but I think I was (am) just lazy. It’s easier to leave stuff out — I might need it again soon! — than put it away.

These days I’ve been spending a lot of time getting my desk and writing area put together exactly the way I want it. I wanted a space that was welcoming and inspiring and efficient and productive, all in one. I bought a few monitors, wrangled all the different cables, got everything set up. The last piece of the puzzle was a desk lamp — and finally found the perfect light. The space is complete. Serene and peaceful, I sit down and almost audibly sigh with contentment.

img_20160924_091034If you zoom in on the picture, everything’s in its place. It’s not sterile, but it’s not really messy.

Then you zoom out and look at the space surrounding the desk and it looks like a bomb went off. Empty boxes, cables everywhere, papers and extra equipment scattered with no thought.

 

And you know what? That works for me. It’s like I don’t even see it (which confounds the rest of my family). “img_20160924_113722How can you sit at the desk and not notice the rest of the mess?” Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s my superpower? Maybe there’s some sort of force field that’s coming into play? I know that when I walk up the stairs and the room comes into view, I have a passing thought about needing to clean everything up, but it’s like I don’t even mean it. Like, my brain is paying lip service to a voice in my head that I know I’m not really listening to.

In all this, I realized that even though most people would consider me messy, I do spend time and energy nurturing and organizing the spaces where I truly live: my desk space, my computers (mostly making sure my data is organized and backed up), even my workout room. I work daily on keeping my headspace nurtured and organized, funny as that sounds. And the rest? Details that barely make it into my consciousness.

The take away from all this? Understand where you sacred spaces are located. Maybe, like me, your desk is the most important place. Perhaps it’s your entire house. Whatever your sacred space is, keep it warm, inviting and absolutely peaceful. And then let go of the guilt of trying to make the rest fit to what you think social norms require. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone.

 

The other day I went for a run.

Well, a run(ish), as I like to call it.

I worked hard to push through 3 miles of intervals — 2 minutes of running alternated with a minute of walking. I decided on 3 minute intervals because I knew I could run for 2 minutes at a time and — perhaps more importantly — my math skills can handle adding by 3’s without too much effort, seeing as how most of the cells in my body were concentrating on keeping me upright and moving forward.

Well, forward(ish).

I finished up, sweaty and depleted, and my trusty Garmin buzzed at me one more time than it usually would. I looked down to investigate and it was congratulating me on a PR: “YOU RAN YOUR FASTEST MILE YET!!!” it proclaimed in all caps. Now, I’ve only had the Garmin since Labor Day (what can I say, I’m incapable of resisting a good REI holiday sale), so this isn’t tracking over a long period of time, but I do believe that I puffed my chest out just a touch when I read that.

[Side note: I find it hilarious and ironic that my nephew, who I paced through his first 5k’s a few years ago, can now do two miles in thimg_20160916_194222e time it takes me to do one … he’s awesome … and doesn’t let me forget it… teenagers…]

So, my run(ish) and moving forward(ish) were enough to make a difference. Perhaps there might be a lot of power in the “ish”?

Starting back up with all this stuff, I qualify the things I do because I want people to know that I understand that I’m a long way from not only where I was but where I want to be. I’m not running, I “kind of ” run. I’m not training, I’m “doing a little something”. I side-eye running, feeling like I’m almost doing it, but not quite. Not doing it the right way, maybe that’s what I think. And from there was born the “run(ish)”.

But the ish seems like it might be enough, at least for now. It’s like finding this weird middle ground where I don’t have to feel the (self-imposed) pressure of “real” running, but I’m still out there doing it in a way that pushes me to progress on my own terms.

Perhaps I’ll just keep on ish-ing and see what happens. So far, my Garmin seems to be pretty happy with the ISH.

 

The older I get, the more I find that the list of things that I couldn’t care less about grows faster than I can keep track of it:

1. How I look when I’m working out. Yes, I’m sweaty. Okay, yes, I’m literally dripping all over the place and there isn’t a dry spot on me. I used to worry about what people would think, now I worry only about how I’m going to keep the sweat from blinding me and turning me into a 46-year old crybaby because “waaaaa, my eyes burn…”.

2. Whether or not I’m wearing makeup when I go out. I’ve never worn a lot of makeup, but back in the day I wouldn’t leave the house without a little something on. And then, I had Lasik corrective surgery. For a few weeks I wasn’t allowed to wear eye makeup. And afterwards, I found that my eyes were ridiculously sensitive to putting on makeup. It was an easy slide from doing a little bit to doing nothing, aided by getting up so damn early for work that a few more minutes in bed were more important to me than how I looked.

3. Okay, okay, I suppose I could probably just throw “how I look, in general” out there. While I try to look presentable most of the time, I’ve found that a trip to the store or dropping off the dog at doggie day care don’t require anything more than an old pair of shorts and a baggy t-shirt.

4. How often I go to bed before most 7th graders are in bed. Dammit, I’m proud of the fact that during the week I’m headed to bed by around 8:15 with the sole intention of snoring (metaphorically, people, I don’t actually snore) by 8:45pm, 9pm by the latest. I love sleep. Deeply. Truly. Unequivocally. Make fun of me all you want, but as long as I’m getting my 8 hours of sleep a night, it won’t bother me one bit (and if I’m not? you might want to watch it with the teasing…).

5. What kind of car I drive. Well, that’s not entirely true — I’m intensely in love with my Mazda3 — but what I mean is that while the little expensive luxury sports cars always turn my head, I’ve never gotten too close to purchasing one. I don’t need the status and if anyone thinks better or worse of me simply because of my favored form of transportation, well, they probably aren’t my friend anyway. Or they can buy me the sporty expensive luxury car to shut me up on the subject.

6. I’ve got questionable taste in music. Just to set the record straight, I can appreciate good music, but prefer to listen to what I call popcorn music: music that’s light and fluffy, doesn’t have much weight to it and is straightforward and easy to understand. Yes, I like country and pop music. Sue me. I’m sure I’m not far off from listening to whatever will be the “adult lite contemporary” music that kids make fun of adults for listening to. We can’t all be hip.

7. I like, no, love Pop-Tarts. I know that they are nothing but a vehicle for sugar and empty calories, but unless I’m going out for breakfast, they are my favorite breakfast food. And lunch food. And dinner in a pinch. Good cold or heated up, versatile enough to be packed along on a trip, quick energy wrapped in silver cellophane – there isn’t much that beats them. So, go ahead and eat your organic homemade greek yogurt with fresh berries that you helped to grow by chanting Buddhist sayings at them, I’ll be happy with my highly-processed sugar, thank you very much.

8. My house is a far cry from something you’d see in a magazine. And when I say “far cry” what I really mean is that my house exists in a completely separate universe from those magazines, with asteroids and aliens waiting to shoot you up if you dare to breech the gap between them. I like to call my house “comfortable” (my family probably has other words they would use). It’s a little messy, the curtains were leftover from a senior citizen-age couple who probably put them up 20 years ago and the furniture doesn’t really match, but I can assure you that the non-matching furniture is bury-yourself-in-it comfortable. And I’ve got no problem if you decide to put your feet on the coffee table (even with your shoes on!). Also, I won’t follow you around the house with a coaster to put underneath your drink. You’re welcome. Oh, and if you complain about the dog hair? You’re be kicked off the couch before the dog is.

9. I don’t like coffee. I know I should, but I don’t. I’ve tried to like it, really tried, but the habit didn’t stick for more than a year. Anyway, my version of coffee was a very sugary, vaguely mocha-flavored drink. Frankly, I’ll take my sugar in the form of a Pop-Tart. #sorrynotsorry

10. What people think of me. Okay, so this one is maybe 50% true and 50% wishful thinking, but I’m working on it. I like to tell myself that my ability to go out looking like a schlub without make-up isn’t just borne out of just laziness and convenience, but rather as part of my work of not worrying about what others’ opinions of me might be. Makes sense, right? I’ve got a tight circle of important people who I will always listen to, but outside of that, teaching myself to not concern myself with things I cannot control (which certainly includes what other people think about me) is a healthy habit that I’m continually working on.

It’s funny how age has the ability to make a person immune to some of the daily bullshit that crosses our paths regularly. What are some of the things that you find yourself letting go of?

I didn’t intend to take a little summer hiatus, but I guess that’s what happened, regardless of intentions. If I’m being truthful, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be here, but rather my words failed me. I sat down, waggled my fingers in an authorly manner to warm them up, hovered over the keyboard and … nothing.

I had no words.

(don’t look so shocked)

And, I’m still kind of muddling around here — writing about not being able to write — but I’m determined to make another start.

So, what’s been wrong?

This summer has been a little like an incubator for my brain and I’ve been noodling around thoughts and plans of the future. Things as close as the Utah trip that’s coming up in less than a month (yay! ack!) and as far out as doing a through-hike of the Colorado Trail once I retire — not to mention all the fun adventures in between the two. And as I start thinking about these trips that stoke my passion, I can’t help but think about the practical stuff, too (it’s how I’m built (thanks Mom and Dad)).

On that practical note, I’ll say that very few of the items on my list involve sitting in front of a computer (except for writing, of course — don’t worry, I’m not leaving y’all) and instead involve gallivanting of one sort or another, mostly in the mountains. Which means this girl has to get in shape (because in case you didn’t know, gallivanting is a high-cardio activity, when done right)!

And here’s where my frustration level starts to betray me: for the past few months, I’ve been busting my butt to work out regularly. Am I training as much as I did when I was heavy into triathlons and running? No, but frankly, I couldn’t do that right now even if I wanted to (you might not believe it, but I’m not the spring chicken I used to be). But I am doing something most every day — strength training three times a week, stairs twice a week, other cardio the other days. Since May when I started tracking, there have only been 13 days when I haven’t done something active.

I’ve even brought calorie counting back into the mix, understanding that weight isn’t lost by exercise alone. And you know what? Even MyFitnessPal high-fives my consistent calorie deficit and remarks about how much weight I should be losing based on my numbers. MyFitnessPal is encouraging like that.

Does this have any impact when I step on the scale or pull out the tape measure? Nope. I have been gaining and losing the same damn 3 pounds for almost a year now. And just so you know it isn’t all about the number on the scale, I’m also not losing inches, nor do my workouts seem to be getting noticeably easier.

The voice in my brain tells me: “you’re too old, you can’t lose weight anymore, much less get in shape.” Or sometimes it’s, “you’re not trying hard enough” or “you can’t even do this right”. Those voices? They’re kind of mean and pissy and I usually know that they are less than honest, but there are days when it’s tough not to listen. I’m looking for something to blame and those voices have ready answers, whether or not those answers are truths.

I just want a reason why I can’t seem to make this work. Something rational so that I can grab it with both hands, study it and fix it. Because this situation? I just don’t get it. I’m doing the work and getting no results. My toddler brain is screaming, “NOT FAIR!!!!” and the rest of me is starting to feel like it really is just me not doing it right.

And maybe this is why I’ve been so mute this summer: I haven’t wanted to talk about this (who wants to hear someone complain about being fat?). The problem is that it’s kind of taken over most of my brain space, looking at all sorts of number (miles, calories, grams of protein and carbs and fat, pounds, inches) and tweaking everything tweakable in an attempt to make some progress. And what exactly has this brought me? A nice heaping portion of shame because I seem unable to get this done.

See, for about 9 months, I tried-not-tried to lose weight. I was mindful of my eating habits, I tried to get out walking most days and felt like I was doing at least okay. And there was a comfort in the not-really-trying because then there was no failure. And because my weight remained absolutely stable for those 9 months, I figured I needed just a touch more mindfulness to start seeing real results.

So, about 3 months ago, with the Utah hiking trip on the horizon, I decided to actively try to lose weight — going into this trip, I knew I was the weak link, so to speak — the one in the group that would hold up the rest of the stellar athletes that I was going with (not that they would ever say or think anything like this — I understand this is all me just overthinking the situation) — and I wanted to mitigate that as much as possible. I knew that my trying-not-trying method was close, but not quite enough, so I’d just buckle down, work my butt off and calorie count and that would be the answer. Hard work and nutrition tracking had never failed me.

Except this time.

Here I am in much the same situation as I was 3 months ago. And the voices — the shame — how can I claim to want to do audacious stuff like through-hike the Colorado Trail when I can’t make it up a flight of stairs without my heart racing? Putting my heart into trying to get in shape and lose weight and failing to do so gave those inner voices the material they needed to rip me apart and bring on the shame monsters.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Brene Brown, says this about shame:

“Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives:  secrecy, silence and judgment.”

So, I’m hoping to thrust all of shame monsters into the withering light of day so they can die a horrible death.

And I’ll be happy to see them die, despite being the peace-loving person I am.

I’m here. I’m working hard. I make small changes here and there, hoping to spark progress. I’m working mentally as hard as I am physically, doing what I can to banish the shame and own my story. I’m doing everything within my power to get in shape without succumbing to quick weight loss schemes that will do nothing but cause me to gain the weight back at a later date. I want sustainable weight loss because I want this to be the last time I have to go through this. I want — no, I NEED — a lifetime of health and fitness. And I’m not yet done trying.

20130324-sss-brene-brown-quotes-14-600x411Without having to carry the shame around, I’m hoping to be kinder to myself. I know that I’m not lying when I say I’m doing my best, and my best is all I have to offer. I can try different methods, sort through some other ideas, but without shame, I can look at them all with curiosity, as experiments that either work or don’t, without any judgment. And I’ll do well to remind myself of what my mantra used to be at the tail-end of tough races, when all I wanted to do was slow down because pushing forward was painful:  “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Same applies here — life isn’t easy and sometimes it takes awhile to make sense of it and move towards what you want. Persistence, an openness towards failure and my best effort is what I’ll put out there — and that will be enough.

2016-07-02 10.10.01

New stairs on the left, old stairs on the right. 168 vs. 125 stairs, but somehow the old stairs still seem more difficult.

As I attempt to literally work my ass off at the Swallow Cliff stairs, the scene is always ripe with juicy conversations to overhear and interesting things to see. Note that anything in quotes is verbatim according to my memory (which, to be honest, might be slightly suspect) and everything might be taken out of context, especially if it increases the humor quotient.

Here’s a sampling:

“Oh, that was her friend with her in that Facebook picture? I thought it was her daughter and figured that maybe she had decided to start being a good Mom. I guess not.”

I spent three flights of stairs hustling to keep up with a pair of women who were talking about one of the women’s relationships — turns out she was having an affair with a married man. Her kids did not approve, but she thought they were old enough and out of the house enough that their opinion didn’t count. She raved about how thoughtful he was, always texting and calling and making sure that she was doing okay, but was unhappy that they didn’t get to spend a lot of time together. Turns out that this man’s wife? Yea, she has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair. The woman having an affair assured her friend, “I don’t expect him to leave her, of course. In fact, I think it makes him more attractive knowing how he takes care of her even though he’s in love with me. I know – I’m like a saint, aren’t I?” Whaaaaa…..?

On an average day, I’ll hear at least 4 different languages. Six, if you count Teenage-Girl-Speak and Mansplainin’ as languages.

“She drinks for attention because she’s weak, and he sleeps with her because he’s a dirty, dirty bastard.”

During the last few flights of my workout, I was very slowly going by a woman who was taking a quick rest break. She was muttering to herself, “Why do I do this to myself?” I answered her in a gasp, “I ask myself the same damn thing every time up these stairs…” Shared misery, it’s what we do.

“Rock your choo-choo, rock your choo-choo, rock your choo-choo….” said the woman who was singing along to something obviously transportation-related on her headphones.

As I walked on the hiking path, attempting to get my legs back under me after a tough stair workout, I listened to two birds call and answer each other; I felt like I was eavesdropping on their conversation just as much as anyone else’s that day.

Two well-muscled dudes having a heart-to-heart: “I’ve tried being the Bro Dude, doing my own thing and letting her do hers. I’ve been Romantic Dude, with flowers and everything. I’ve been Thoughtful Dude and Rude Dude. I’ve even been Cuddle After Sex Dude and she still can’t figure out whether she wants to stay or go. Dude, I don’t know what dude to be to please this chick.”

A woman wearing a weight vest boasted to her friend, “This was just getting way too easy so I had to go out and buy a weight vest so it would be worth doing.” Lady, I’ve got my own weight vest, made entirely of cookies, pizza and ice cream. Beat that.

My favorite, the one that made my day: a group of women in a circle at the bottom of the stairs, already done with their workouts. “How many did you do, Sharon?” “10!” <high-fives and whoops> “I did 8!” “I got 10!” “7 for me!” <more high-fives and celebrating> “I did my best ever – I did 5! I’m so happy! And TIRED!!” “You go, girl!” “That’s awesome!!” <high-fives all around>

Pretty cool, eh?

I see her in the girl that effortlessly breezes past me on the bike path as I painfully slog through my training run. She’s in the pictures on my wall. She’s in the stashed tubs of running clothes that are too small to be even close to respectable, much less comfortable. She’s the ghost of Laura past. The ghost whose last act was to race a marathon exactly as she wanted and then fall of the face of the planet, never to be seen again.

We all have these ghosts hanging around, often haunting us long after we’re done with them. I think about the person I used to be — 5, 10, 25 years ago — and even though I can see the evolution from then until now, it’s clear that there existed aspects of myself that are long gone. And like anything else, some I breathe a huge sigh of relief to be rid of and others I’d welcome back with a warm hug and a cold beer.

IMAG0152

The morning of the 2011 Chicago Marathon, ready to rock ‘n’ roll. This girl is gone (though the accomplishment lives on).

But of all my past selves, I think an inordinate amount about my fairly recent, formerly in-shape, runner/triathlete self. Just below the surface, my brain berates me for letting her “get away”, for allowing myself to become so out of shape. Thing is, that girl — that marathon running, triathlon racing girl — she’s not me anymore. And it’s not that I let her get away, it’s that I made a series of decisions to change my life and marathon running and triathlons weren’t part of the new picture. I was using training to avoid facing other problems; in the end, that strategy wasn’t doing me any good.

Spending energy trying to get her back is moving in the wrong direction. I’ve talked about this before; it seems to be a challenge that I recognize but haven’t yet conquered. It’s getting easier, but there’s still this whiny toddler in me stomping her feet and just wanting to go back to how it used it be.

Some of the difficulty while forging this new identity is that it closely resembles what I used to be — no matter what changes life brings, being active is a part of it. And therein lies the problem:

I go to Swallow Cliff to do stairs and I’m reminded that this wouldn’t have been so hard just 4 years ago.

I get emails about fun half marathons and remind myself that I can’t just sign up because I can no longer roll out of bed and run 13 miles like I used to.

I’m in my basement doing strength training and look at the wall where I have my lift PR’s listed with weights that are ridiculously beyond what I could do right now.

It’s something that I constantly fight against — the almost compulsive need to compare Laura Now against Laura Then.

Life keeps circling around, bringing us back to the same sorts of things, over and over again. Rooted in the fact that we all have certain in-the-bone desires and joys, we are always moving both towards and away from something familiar. But, that something is not the same familiar thing. No, it’s kinda sorta like the old thing, but not quite the old thing. Every life has recurring themes, though I would argue they are variations on the theme rather than simply recurring themes. And it’s up to us to notice these themes, make sure they bring us joy and figure out how to change them to fit our current selves.

For me, I keep coming back to the theme that being active is not just important, but part of what makes me who I am. But that activity? That part, I think, needs to change. Take softball, for example — not only my first love, it was something I was good at and played at every single opportunity. There was a time when I was playing adult recreation league games almost 5 days a week and wanted nothing different. But then, it started getting more difficult … injuries cropped up, recovery time after games stretched longer than 24 hours and an early work schedule made late games untenable. I scaled down to two days a week, then one and then finally gave it up.

It was a rather bittersweet decision, but I knew I needed to move onward. Soon after, mountain biking entered my life. See — kinda sorta the same … rough and tumble activity that makes my heart sing. Same, but different. Familiar, but new.

In this vein, I’ve been thinking about what my new thing might be. I’ve been saying for a long while that I want to run again, that I miss being a runner. And yes, that’s true, but I’m starting to come to the conclusion that running might be me moving backwards rather than forwards.

I loved the feeling I would get while running — the working hard and sweating and moving — but I think I loved even more the fact that it was so damn quantifiable. Ask anyone — my competitiveness is legendary. The ability to track times and pace and rack up personal bests was like crack to me. Being able to get on a racecourse and measure myself not only against past times but against all the other people out there? It was a high like being the best kind of drunk, you know, where you really are funnier than you would be sober and aren’t yet falling down, spilling your drink or convinced that your karaoke singing is good enough for you to Make It Big.

And right now there isn’t much that I do that falls into the same sort of category. Yes, I continue to challenge myself with my workouts, always striving to achieve more than I did before, but that isn’t quite the same.

I know that I miss that. And I think that I need to figure out some way to incorporate that into this new identity, but I don’t think running is it. I love the racing venues and the community of people, but it’s been frustrating to be so slow and whenever I try to ramp up my training, I injure myself. This body doesn’t appreciate me lugging around 40 extra pounds while trying to run, apparently.

Right now I’ll be happy with pushing myself up the stairs at Swallow Cliff — more and faster, please — but I’m keeping an eye out for something else to compete in. I don’t know what it is right now, but I’m looking for it and letting the universe know that it can send something my way anytime it would like.

 

 

 

Lawdy, folks. Where does the time go? It’s like the world has spun off its axis: both the Sox and the Cubs are atop their respective divisions. What’s next? Actual Spring weather in May (i.e. perhaps a temperature warmer than 40 degrees and cooler than 85)? Belle ceding control of the house back to me? Me posting something on my blog? I’m tellin’ ya, anything seems possible.

So, climbing this monster is on my agenda:

Angels Landing

The hike to the top of Angel’s Landing. Yes, it’s just as scary as you think it is.

If you remember, in February on my way to Vegas for a family reunion I took a very short side trip to Zion National Park and absolutely fell in love (because while Vegas is awesome, just look at this scenery … beats watching drunk people any day). And I declared my love with a non-negotiable edict:  I’ll be back.

(just like Arnold Schwartzenegger but without the accent)

And I wasn’t lying — I have officially planned my Fall trip back to the park. And it turns out that I’m not the only one who is completely entranced with this idea, so I’ve got a posse coming along with (because a climb with near-death experiences is always more fun with friends!). With that comes another non-negotiable edict: get into good enough hiking shape that my heart doesn’t burst out from my chest while attempting any of these climbs. Because that would be messy. And I’m guessing my posse wouldn’t be too keen to clean up after me.

A plan is needed. While there are expressway overpasses that can be “climbed”, the one place in the Chicago area that might be able to help me out is Swallow Cliff, home of what used to be legendary toboggan runs. While the tobogganing was closed in 2004, the stairs up to the top of the run remain and have been a favorite of gluttons for punishment for years. There are 125 stairs to the top (supposedly it’s about 100ft of “elevation gain”), which sounds much easier than I find it to be. Of course, the folks who are bounding up the stairs two at a time might disagree, but I find it a literal breath-taking challenge.

Here’s what I’m subjecting myself to, at least twice a week:

swallow cliffs

Swallow Cliffs stairs. My biggest fear is tripping on the way down and taking out a dozen people with me. While that YouTube video would definitely go viral, I’m not looking for that kind of fame.

Not quite as terrifying as Angel’s Landing, but let me tell you, by about the 5th round of these, standing at the bottom and looking up elicits almost the same reaction. I know that this will eventually get easier (it HAS to get easier at some point…), but right now I trudge upwards, trying to keep my heart rate at a non-heart attack level. I’m attacking it with a plan — I time the workout and once the workout is about 10% faster than it started out being, I add two more flights of stairs. I’m finding that taking the “how many flights to do” decision out of my hands and putting it into an algorithm gets better results. I mean, who can argue with math, right?

I’m still at the beginning stages of this; I recently graduated to 10 flights of stairs, but other factors conspire against me as well. The seemingly light-switch speed change from late winter to summer has suddenly reminded me how much hot and humid can really suck the life right out of you. Still – I’m there getting it done. No promises on what Utah weather will be like, so no sense being a wuss about it now. Character building, right?

Here’s my entire plan for being able to conquer Angel’s Landing in October:  doing stairs at least twice a week, shooting for three times a week, and upping the number of flights as prescribed (also, sandbagging to avoid upping the number of flights is explicitly not allowed… baaaaad Laura…). Progressing through the 5×5 Stronglifts lifting program, hitting that Mon/Wed/Fri to build some muscle and make me stronger. And trying to get out for a long hike at least once a month.

All I can ask of myself is to do the work. I can’t control results, but I certainly can control what I put into it. Some might say, no pain no gain. I’d rather think of it as sweating now for more fun later on, like saving for retirement except shorter term and more scenic. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited about a trip in a long time; between the park and my awesome posse, it’ll be a blast as long as keep my heart inside my chest.

 

 

 

 

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Ice Picks

I sit on the couch, eyes barely opened, the TV just white noise in the background. There’s an ice pick stabbing me over my right eye and another one stabbing me up through the base of my neck, also on the right side. The migraine isn’t literally killing me, but it does make me wonder if there’s an ax among the ice picks so I can cleave off the right side of my head because I’m sure that would hurt less.

Instead, I wait. Not patiently, not gracefully, but a tortured “when will this end” wait. I sit still, every few minutes reminding myself to take a deep breath and relax, sometimes rocking a little bit because the motion is soothing.

As the drugs finally start taking effect, I can feel the ice picks loosing their hold. As though someone is carelessly pulling the ice picks out of my head, I still get shocks of pain, but overall the agony is slowly ebbing and I know that relief isn’t too far away.

Afterwards, I lay slumped on the couch, TV still murmuring in the background, tired from my fight even though I barely moved a muscle. I take a deep breath, relishing having my body back and grateful that it didn’t take all night.

Chemistry

As bad as the episode this week was, as I always say — better living through chemistry. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even have a 50/50 chance of stopping a headache from turning into a migraine, but then my doctor and I finally found the migraine drug that almost always stops the situation above from happening; it cuts the headache down in its tracks. And the quality of life boost from this has been enormous since I typically will deal with headaches for about 9 days out of every month — starting 2 days before my period and ending two days afterwards. Predictable, yes, but welcome? Not at all.

The last time I tried to get my prescription refilled, I unexpectedly found out that my doctor had left for California and hadn’t left me a referral to another doctor, which meant that I needed to find a new doctor ASAP — there’s nothing like the idea of going without my migraine medicine to make me not procrastinate on a task that I would normally ignore for months or years. Without any other guidance, I did what many do: I spun the doctor roulette wheel and blindly picked one of the names that came up. I went to see her this past week and unlike my luck when I’m at the casino, this pick turned out pretty good.

A Doctor’s Intervention

Imagine this: a doctor who not only listens, but talks with you instead of at you. I knew she probably had patients stacked up behind me, but I never felt like she was rushing me out of her office and she took the time to explain her expert opinions rather than leaving me with with questions. I was able to bring up all of my concerns — from whether my thyroid was a problem (possibly, but not bad enough to want to treat with medication), to a blood test that indicated a high risk of heart disease (best thing to do is treat with diet and exercise), and even the best way to deal with my hormonal migraines and inevitable monthly weight gain.

My doctor also brought up concerns of her own: my previous doctor had not mentioned that one of my blood tests showed that I was pre-diabetic. Well, so barely pre-diabetic that it’s like pre-pre-diabetic. But still — even being close to that line gave me a scare. It’s one of those things that other people have, not me. I’ve always been an athlete, always been relatively healthy, but apparently that was far enough in my past that this disease that was always an “other people” disease was now something I have to call my own. Luckily, as with the heart disease risk factors, this is something that is totally within my ability to control through diet, exercise and losing some weight. Of course – this falls into the simple, but not easy category. The Oreos in my cupboard back me up on this.

So, between my doctor and me, we came up with a strategy. One of the challenges I’ve been facing with weight loss is that I keep bouncing around the same 4-5 pounds. I lose it over the course of 2-3 weeks and then gain it all back again when I have my period. Part of it is the normal bloating (sorry, TMI!), but a lot of it is constantly having a headache and that pushes me to eat bland, carby, sugary stuff. And not only that, but the headaches make working out miserable, so I’m effectively sitting on a couch eating bon-bon’s for 9 days a month. Not a very effective weight loss method, now, is it?

How to get around this? Well, since menopause doesn’t seem to be in my near future, the next step is birth control pills to stop me from getting a period at all. The theory is that without the monthly headaches and weight gain, I can bounce myself out of this cycle and really start making some headway. A little bit of sustained progress is good for the soul. And the belly, in this case. And the idea of being able to avoid probably 90% of my headaches? I’d give the right side of my head for that.

And An Opportunity

But as you all know, the weight — that number on the scale — isn’t really what I’m focused on. What I really want is to be healthy and fit and in shape. I want my athletic life back. No surprise there, I know; I’ve been talking about this for awhile now, though progress has been a lot of one step forward, one step back. It’s like a going nowhere tango.

And as you ALSO know, I love numbers and tracking and data and spreadsheets. It’s why calorie counting is always effective for me — if I can track it, I’m a superstar at making those numbers look good. Of course, my downfall is that I always eventually tire of the part where I have to log everything — that part I’m bad at — if the numbers could appear magically (someone needs to invent a way to track the calories we eat automatically) then I’d be golden.

And here’s where an opportunity comes in that I’m cautiously excited about. When I got home from the doctor, I was wiling away time online (because that’s how I react to being told to eat well and exercise more — I sit on the couch and play on my computer) and one of my tech magazines had an article about a new 3-D body scanner that was going to be coming out. I know! How cool, right?

A company called Naked is taking pre-orders for their in-home body scanner. You stand in front of a mirror, a disk (that doubles as a scale) spins you around and you get a 3-D model of your body with measurements and body fat analysis done automatically. Over time you can compare your 3-D models to see progress you’re making. How awesome does that sound?

I’ve emailed them to see if I can be a beta tester (I wouldn’t get to keep the unit, but I’d get my hands on it much sooner than everyone else!) and it sounds like they might be interested. This makes my data-tracking, weight-loss seeking, techy heart all warm and fuzzy. I’ve already put in my pre-order (I’m impulsive like that) and if you’re impulsive like that too, here’s my referral code if you want to use it. I get $50 if you use it, but feel free not to use it — that’s fine by me.

(And oh, aside from the referral code, I don’t have any stake in the company, have never used any of their products and am just excited about what looks to be a cool new toy to play with)

 

 


For the month of April, I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s #AprilLove2016 and writing a love letter to a different someone/thing every day. Today’s love letter is to Books.

 

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Just a few of my favorite books.

Dear Books,

You were the original troublemaker, my partner in crime. You were the reason that Mom yelled at me so often for catching me reading under the covers well after bedtime. Then there were the down-the-nose stares of the one mean librarian who would chastise me for taking more books than I could carry (though my adult self would have caught the twinkle in her eye when she said those words). Not to mention the times that I would try to surreptitiously read, with the book half inside my desk, all while trying my best to look like I was still paying attention in class — yea, that didn’t really work. And my first job when I was 16 was as a library page — and that same librarian would give me mean looks when she would catch me between the stacks reading the books I was supposed to be reshelving (there was a little less eye twinkling during these encounters).

I have some friends who aren’t readers and I always wonder: how can you not be a reader? And how are we friends, anyway?? It becomes a personal challenge for me — it’s not that you don’t like reading, it’s that you just haven’t met the right book yet! It’s my own version of a twisted, geeky Dating Game (that I never seem to win, by the way).

These days you don’t get me into as much trouble — except on the nights when you keep me up well past my bedtime even though work will come much too early in the morning — but you’re still my favorite partner in crime. There’s still little I like more than curling up on the couch with a good book, especially when the day is rainy or chilly (sunny days will sometimes compete for my attention from you), and utterly losing myself and all sense of time. It’s so easy to be transported to another world entirely, whether it be a fiction landscape dreamed up by a talented writer or like a virtual lecture hall where I get to listen to some of the most interesting people share their passion.

As Randy Travis would croon, I’m gonna love you, forever and ever, forever and ever, Amen.

Laura.

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