Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Quagmires of Quarantine (-Lite)

 Something landed in me today that made me laugh out loud. Thankfully, I was sitting by myself so no one heard me and could worry about me. 😉

As I was considering my daily routine, becoming increasingly predictable and mundane amidst increasing anxiety & urgency of our tumultuous times, I found myself wondering why CrossFit felt so different, so freeing, so energizing, so active. Then it dawned on me with a laugh: “CrossFit is the one place in my day, each day, where I don’t have to make any (or many) decisions for myself, nor feel like I ought to be doing more.” It is a beautifully structured and daily-varying routine of physical warm-up, movements, strength-training, workouts, clean-up. The movements and weights are fairly determined for you, by experience or by coaching-staff. You can spice up the moment by disputing or negotiating parts of the workout, but even that is just for kicks. It’s comforting to have another “who is always right” and charms you into a good challenge for the day. 


CrossFit is an anchor in my life these days because it’s the one place where I don’t feel the Angsts and Apathies of Quarantine-Lite.**  I don’t feel like I have to do more, or be more. It’s become my ‘Just Right’ space. Now isn’t that something worth noting aloud? And is there wisdom here for me to bring into my otherwise rather listless and unfocused days? 


For context: I wouldn’t call myself depressed, per se, but I am also not my usual self. At least the self I’ve known these last several years. I have a lot more time on my hands, for one thing, given I no longer drive all over southwestern and central Ohio every week for circle-gatherings. I’ve also made some ‘transitional decisions’ these last months that have vastly altered my weekly rhythms. I am no longer holding circle twice a week, every week, so I am also no longer preparing agendas and planning circle-way gatherings. I’m no longer in as much phone-chat conversation with a dear friend, Lisa, because we don’t have to plan for circles each week. We are still delightfully connected, but the rhythm and need of our connections has changed for us both. With more time on my hands, I can be about much more for my own soul—creative explorations, handcrafts, cooking/baking, writing and more—though I struggle to know quite how to begin, enter in. Brian and I have been really enjoying the more extensive time together, which has already shown some beautiful fruit in unexpected ways (home, his congregational setting, my own writing musings for work). So there is an undercurrent of contentment in this Quarantine-Lite time, even as its limitations and confinement are stressful and deadening.


These limitations and confinement sneak up on both Brian and me, though we ‘act out’ in them in different ways. He’s exploring rums from all over the Caribbean and deeply investing time and energy in his Ancestry.com family tree; I’m returning to some non-work/non-administrative things like knitting, reading novels, walking/running, gardening. Yet my days are listless and unfocused, when I don’t have obvious work meetings or performance-products to show for the day. Normally, I’d use ‘interim times’ and ‘spacious days’ for reading, writing, work-product of an academic and a woman coming into ‘her own.’ But now I am easily overwhelmed, wearied, and distracted, seeking connection ‘out there’ more often on Facebook or Instagram than I ever used to do. Which doesn’t remotely feed the hunger within me, of course. May even increase it, heightening my anxieties and urgency. This can goad me to get involved for social change, which hasn’t been all bad. But more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself staring off into space for long periods of time, feeling like I ought to be doing something more. But then I hear my friend’s wisdom to me: If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. I don’t know what to do. So I sit, breathe, pray, listen, wonder...panic, obsess, worry...then sit some more, breathe some more...


[For those with kids on top of already full time jobs, I bow to the overwhelm of this time for you… Brian’s and my choices were different and so our paths in this pandemic time are different. Que cera, cera :)]


So it delighted me this morning, when I laughed aloud. It was energizing to realize that the CrossFit ‘hour’ is the place where life is all laid out for me for the next hour. I am free from my urgencies to do more—workouts are usually quite sufficient for my capacities. I am unburdened with the anxieties in extended stillness. No wonder it’s so non-negotiable these days. I get one hour a day “away from” my own version of Quarantine quagmires. 


Then, of course, I wondered if there were other CF wisdom that might leak into the rest of my day…?


I remember when I needed to get my summer course grading done, well aware that as soon as I did get it done, I could have a ‘summer’ like some people were having. I also had to clean the kitchen floor, complete that month’s finances, a couple other task-y kinds of things. None of these things did I want to do. I wanted to take a nap, maybe sip some iced tea on the porch with a friend (socially distanced, of course). I found myself thinking of the Tabata clock, and voila! I set myself a series of intervals, with my ‘whiteboard’ on the fridge. And wouldn’t you know—I got it ALL done, within less time than if I had tried to do each task “as a chipper.” I giggled and texted a friend. I couldn’t believe I actually got all the papers graded, and the kitchen floor was spic and span clean. Very different tasks, so of course they lent themselves well to intervals, with proper resting of the faculties of each while doing ‘the other.’


What is the CF invitation for listless days, then, beyond ‘more movement’, an increased pace of which my body probably would resist and complain about…?  I like the holistic rotation of things that comes with a week’s CF rhythms, so perhaps my days need a bit more structure, with greater diversity of ‘tasks’ or ‘intentions.’ I’ve moved my ‘work office’ downstairs, for the most part, with the intention that United work happens there. This frees upstairs spaces for writing and circle work. My pull-up bar and even an electronic piano (with weighted keys) are now in ‘my work office,’ which would mean I could take breaks from all the Zoom stuff with pull-up hangs/releases like I used to do, pre-Quarantine, or fiddling around on the piano (with my headphones on, so as not to disturb Brian’s workaday Zooms).


Hmmm… I think the second ‘gift’ is seeing this time in a bit more gentleness, even as what Gerald May might call “The Slowing.” I love the structure and order of the CF hour, not having to be in my head or energies except to move, to pace myself, to ‘just get better.’ Perhaps my life is getting that same structure and order now, except it is simply a slowing, an intuitive-inside order instead of an outer-driven order, measured by enrollments or writings or events held. Perhaps I can relinquish the head-driven experience of this time, moving into my heart and belly a bit more. Trusting that when I know what I am to do, I will know it and do it. Because I am reaching outside of myself, outside of my comfort zones. I am moving into the change I yearn to see in the world, baby steps at a time. So trust the hidden order. Just show up.


Move at the pace of guidance, as another friend wrote in her book, The Seven Whispers. There we are—that’s the felt connection between my CF hour and my listless life. CF hours are movement at the pace of guidance, in the physical-fitness world. Sometimes you move as fast as you can, but other times, like today, you simply keep moving. Just keep moving.


The world is burning, yes. The suffering and fear do seem all around us. Yet the best I can bring is my most grounded, open-hearted, curious self who is willing to show up. At a pace being decided by other human beings, by the universe, by the Great Mystery we can feel in the Hum, I can move just a little bit, each day. Move at the pace of guidance. I can wait for the new order, knowing it will let me know from the inside, and I will respond.


Just show up. Each day. In heart and belly, leaning into kindness always, asking myself, "Am I showing up here?" Yes. Just show up.





**[We have taken to calling this time Quarantine-Lite because I/we now go out of my home for necessaries, which include regular CrossFit classes, but we are continuing to make Quarantine-driven decisions about the rest of our lives: food-sources, social visits (with others outside their homes or others here in our home-porch spaces), work/teaching/meetings, restaurants (occasional take-out, but rarely; not dining-in) and travel, even as low-key as ‘rambles’ to retail or natural spaces like parks, trails].


Friday, August 7, 2020

I have had to redefine success...

...a friend said this week in the Dedication Health gathering “What I have learned…” I always enjoy this particular session of DH, because of the camaraderie of the whole thing, the sense of being a part of this for the long haul with companions along the way. There is also the usual MIAR bemusement—Melissa Is Always Right. Mostly, I am reminded of different parts of this journey for me, some that remain the same, others that are changing, which is all part of it. I need to redefine… Here I want to focus on ‘success,’ what I continue to learn about ‘sugar’, and balance/rhythm. Relationally driven life-at-home currents & choices during ‘quarantine lite’ days may come in…or not.

 

One of the a-ha’s that arose unexpectedly as I shared…I’m good at climbing mountains, but maintenance is a whole other thing for me. I’m not very good at maintenance. So true, yet I’d not really named it for myself. I know most who I am when I am facing a challenge of creation, of healing, of leadership. The liveliness that comes from pushing an edge, finding new horizons, growing deeply with a friend—I love that vibrancy, that sense of thriving in the challenge and not being alone in it. Now that I’ve largely met my fitness goals, however, I’m faced with maintenance…which is much less eventful, one could even say it’s boring or imperceivable…? Besides, how do you do maintenance with any sense of achievement or accomplishment?

 

I am as fit as I’ve ever been. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my own skin, in this respect. My energy is high and I’m not driven by cravings. (Or at least as driven as I used to be, let’s be honest. The source or drive of the cravings has changed drastically from sugar and carbohydrate highs/lows to primarily relational things like cocktail hour with my husband (or not) or compromises on cooking ventures at home (or not)). All of which means my body energies and experience are much steadier inside me. I am enjoying movement and community regularly, in the variety that CrossFit provides. I think all this makes me easier to live with, have fun with, and more… Well, maybe not for my husband… JK. I think he’d actually say life is easier...but the best days are when we laugh at how differently we do this thing called life and health.

 

I still need to redefine success, at least if I’m going to focus on ‘success’ as a driving force. Success here becomes regularity, accountability, showing up, listening in…all cleverly clothed terms that also mean maintenance. Hmmm… Boring. The only change could become ‘getting worse’ when there’s no ‘better’ to aim for.

 

I’ve toyed with setting myself new goals, of course. Do I want to run a race (virtually registering and receiving the t-shirt in the mail)? Do I focus on strength-training, increasing weights at the gym? Do I challenge myself with pull-up practices toward actual pull-ups? These are some of the things I’ve mused on, none of which has particular energy for me. I’m 51, aware that aging will streamline and narrow my endurance and ‘achievement’ of quantifiable distance-weight goals. I don’t have a particular need to attain some number or distance. Moving up, a little at a time, I enjoy…and that is enough for now. Enjoy the movement. Listen to my body. Don’t push or strain to the point of injury… So success becomes staying-with, finding the new in what I’m already doing, finding ways to celebrate maintenance that are Plan-oriented…or letting the word success recede in importance/focus. Not disappear, of course, but recede.

 

As the journey has steadied, continued over these 14 months, I’m noticing that I am playing more with some lines in the choices and this seems a natural rhythm or reality for a lifestyle choice/habit that is extending over longer and longer times. I’ve reflected before on the cocktail-hour/living choices in the home I live in. My husband got a Cocktail Codex book for his birthday, basically an encyclopedia with recipes, so he has been creating and exploring…which has been fun and challenging for me to navigate.

 

The sugar line always remains before me, because his sugar intake is huge compared to my own anymore. Still, this one is easier for me than the cocktail hour ones, most days. When I choose to have half a slice of banana bread, I can feel the difference pretty quickly. I’m reminded why I don’t eat sugar regularly anymore. And I remember the 2-3 days of recovery space afterwards. The sweet-factor will stay in my taste-awareness, and it can make staying off sugar more difficult for the next day or two. So one choice is a 2-3 days effect. I often feel most free not choosing the banana bread.

 

Mostly, I’m recognizing that I negotiate inside myself more these days, which is both a result of living closely with my husband during quarantine and keeping as conscious as I can about my own food choices, on Plan or not, for months on end. For the most part, I’m pleased with how I’m steadying, learning…

 

We will use some store-bought curries or sauces, if I have checked for the sugar content first. I would not choose this if I were living on my own, but I’m blessed to be living with the man I do. I found a Bolthouse yogurt salad dressing brand that I was willing to try, for variety. Not on plan, but some of the least-bad I could find, and no sugar (1 g/serving from fruit concentrate), available in the refrigerated produce section. I am drinking more than I used to, pre-quarantine, always finding and recreating the balance during the week between seltzer-rehydrating evenings and artisan craft cocktails, lower-to-no sugar for me, on the porch. I’m beginning to explore some paleo-keto baking brands, for variety in the rotation of what I/we enjoy. Paleo-Bakehouse makes a grain-free, refined sugar-free toaster pastry (cinnamon), which I decided to try for fun. And it was pretty good, with responsible macros. The experience of ‘sweet’, 6 g/pastry, is a splurge and can reset sugar cravings. Balance, balance, balance…

 

It was good to be in the text-strand of a group of us aiming for 100% days in July. It made a difference for me, with many more 100% Plan days than I’d begun to negotiate within myself. Now, if I have two-three 100% days, with two-three 95% days a week, I’m pleased and honoring a liveable balance. It seems to be working toward maintenance, with still a sense of food freedom—freedom from cravings etc. and freedom for higher intensity workouts. In the end, I’m leaning more consciously into enjoying the life we have amidst a pretty stressful, COVID-19 time.

 

Success, in other words.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Returning to 'Fitness' Again...What does it mean Now?

I find myself returning to the question of what the word fitness means for me, invites for me, as a 51 year old Midwestern white woman with a serious condition of late-onset athletics-CrossFit-ism.**  Did my InBody scan this past weekend, a practice I hope to do about twice a year, simply to track my own journeying. End result? I am quite fit as a 51-year-old woman, having gained weight—two lbs muscle, some lbs fat too—but remaining at the top 0.2% of my peergroup, 0.1% of all women. 

But I sit here befuddled, because I’ve never been here before and I don’t quite know how to BE in all I have learned over the years. 

What does fitness-maintenance look like for me? 
Who is a woman who is happy with her own body, just as it is? 
Do I have any specific goals for myself now, here?

I have been in the flow of CrossFit for two years this August, Dedication Health almost exactly one year. The notions I have had of ‘fitness’ changed over the last decade, as I allowed my presumptions and long-ingrained habits to encounter the norms and practices of a personal-trainer for many years, then CrossFit Dedication, a circle-community gathered around fitness.***  A lot has changed in my own mind and well-being over the 2-3 decades I’ve been on this journey ‘back to my body’ as a recovering-academic and egghead writer and circle-way-leadership woman. 

I have wrestled some demons to the mat, pinning specific themes or focus points needing to be overcome—beauty, for one, and whether I roll with any of my culture’s toxicity’s with that; shame for another, in women’s (and men’s) body experiences and self-evaluations. Both of these words have much less hold over me than they used to. I’ve also learned to slow my life down enough to actually listen to my body’s sensations and intuitions amidst so much busy-ness. Listening to my body for wisdom has changed my life, my work, and how I play. Then there is the pursuit of basic health, how to live a healthy life to the Full in a culture and corporate-mire such as ours. I know an awful lot more than I did just two years ago, and yet I do find myself dancing with new partners, fitness and happiness. Not wrestling. Not overcoming. Dancing... I am actually quite fit, and I am happy in my own skin.

Of course, me being me, I had a pretty predictable internalized response to the InBody scan. I felt sad and surprised that I had gained weight. Even though I know now that total weight does not measure fitness, nor happiness. Believe it or not, I discovered I could be happy with my body when I was at my heaviest weight I’d ever been, well over two years ago. I’m pleased with that awareness and sensation, which freed me to simply enjoy being in my body and enjoying its movement. Not to control it. Not to force it into some preconditioned appearance or number. Delight in my own body. Then, at my heaviest; now, at my most-fit. So I know fitness remains, even being heavier in total pounds. Two pounds of the gain was muscle, about double that was in fat. Then I had a deferred delight with the more summary numbers—top 0.2% of my peer-group, 0.1% of women. So by such records, I am an incredibly fit 51-year-old woman…

...who is now a bit at a loss with being delighted with where she is in her own body. How does a woman live in a confidence and delight in her own body, no matter how it looks or moves? When do we reach 'fit-enough'? What does fitness-maintenance look like, for me?

I think I wanted to name all this aloud, because I can feel the seductiveness of the ‘training-for’ intensity now, especially as my capacity has increased. I’m not sure how or why it rose in me this year, but I prepared myself and then entered into the full Murph Memorial Day practice, DB version with bent-over-rows instead of pull-ups. My athlete self reveled in the challenges of it. My achievement-oriented self cherished the challenge and the accomplishment. My whole-self did NOT enjoy the three days of completely spent triceps and weary shoulder mobility, wondering how badly I had overdone it. But I can feel myself searching for the thing I’m now training for…because my body can do a lot more now than it used to, if I wanted to...

A good friend reminded me back into myself here, for which I'm grateful. Staying with my learning, even my mantra: enjoy the movement. Even when something is tender or sore, there is always some movement I can enjoy, surrounded by encouraging friends and coaches. And my movements are strengthening and lengthening, which is satisfying and is enough. I’m enjoying running more. I am feeling enjoyment as I move with the barbel again. Lunging feels easier and I’m not worried about torquing my right knee with usually tight-IT bands. I jumped-rope backwards yesterday, for Pete’s sake. Enjoy the movement

Enjoy the camaraderie. I had wondered what driving back to the gym would add into my felt-sense of days, given many of us had learned how to do Zoom workouts together as a ‘pandemic stand-in’ for the months of #StayAtHome. There was a part of me that resisted getting back in my car to drive to the gym each weekday. Yet the ineffable, inarticulate, unnameable reality of being back in the gym simply energizes my body and my soul. Bodysoul I usually say. I do get to see the ones who chose not to Zoom into workout spaces, as well as the ones who did. The physical-distancing practices are wisely in place, and the camaraderie is well-nourished by all of us. Enjoy the camaraderie. It is easier and better when sharing physical space...at least six feet apart. 

Enjoy good food, mostly protein and plants, and live into Life’s Fullness too. I remain free in food choices, feeling desire and preference for food that actually nourishes my movement, my self. I noticed the stress habits that returned last month, with some work developments amidst quarantine requirements. But even then...a good balance of healthy eating and conscious enjoyments of a Life that is Full (i.e. a good cocktail from time to time, or a piece of challah on a Shabbat Eve...if you’re gonna have bread, have the best, I say…). Life is meant to be lived to its fullness, after all...and I am a woman with an easy 'overdrive' personality. Hmmmm....

I’ve climbed mountains all my life, metaphorically speaking… The forward drive to achievement met my needs to be seen in my family, to keep my balance amidst some difficult emotional challenges… Professional drive earned me credentials and standing in establishment communities and institutions. Spiritual drive (yes, there is such a thing) has kept me seeking, always seeking the More, much to the exhaustion of those around me, those I love and who love me. So perhaps...perhaps the next invitation for me to lean into is to rest actively on my laurels and enjoy my body, enjoy the movement, enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy what has been given and earned in this particular Now. 

How do I understand fitness now? Being able to move freely and well, then eating food that nourishes my love of movement. I am becoming my own benchmark here, methinks. Just get better can mean a slightly longer run one day, a slightly lighter barbel the next, as I love my body as she is. Or a slightly heavier barbel one day, and a row instead of run. Fitness-maintenance means showing up, reveling in what we get to do each day—distinctly and together, being 8 o'clockers with different 'plans' most days—and tracking from time to time, to notice any changes in season and sensation. Enjoy. Challenge and play. Listen.

Then....Let fitness and happiness dance together, I say, led by the movement. Delight comes that way, after all...an expressive delight able to companion the suffering of self and others breathing in future horizons, pregnant right here.


** Thanks, Susan Brasier, for that witty phrase...
*** I experience CrossFit as a circle-esque community identified for its commitment to fitness, health, holistic well-being. I know not all CrossFit gyms emphasize this as much as mine does. Many prefer to draw in ambitious athletic folks training for...the Games? Local competitions? Themselves? I find all of that entertaining, even enjoying lurking on a couple FB CrossFit groups to ‘watch', but that is not what engages me or keeps me so involved...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Murph and Honor

Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy of Patchogue, NY was killed in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005, age 29. He was leading a team of Navy Seals, seeking the commander of a Taliban group called the Mountain Tigers, when they were discovered by 3 goat herders. After discussion of the rules of engagement, they released the herders, one of whom was about 14 years old, about the age of Murph’s brother. Shortly afterward, the team was attacked by one hundred Taliban fighters with AK-47s and grenade launchers. Murph realized re-enforcements were needed, so exposed himself to enemy fire in order to make the satélite phone-call to Bagram Airfield. He concluded the call with his courteous “Roger that. Thank you.” Shortly before or after that—records differ—he was shot in the stomach. His best friend, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell of Huntsville, Texas, was the lone survivor of Murph’s SEAL team. Sixteen rescuers — 8 additional SEALS and eight members of the elite Night Stalkers — were also killed when their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. It was the largest single-day loss in naval special-warfare history.


How in the world does a peace-church girl, a poet and theological scholar from southwest Ohio, begin her Memorial Day holiday learning the story of Lieutenant Michael Murphy of Patchogue, New York? A journey to fitness, “just get better,” a rascally-scrappy community that encourages and challenges her, and of course, CrossFit itself in all its layers.

Today is about honor—Memorial Day 2020–and one of the multiple ways I participate in honoring is writing. I’ve learned some things I’m glad to have learned this weekend, so I write to learn and weave them more fully into my own life, sharing with others who may (or may not) be interested for themselves. On a mundane but sacred-ordinary level: I learned I have deeper core muscles than I knew I had. I can do more push-ups than I knew I could do. I learned I am a tenacious soul, and fitter than I used to be. But I also learned some inarticulate things, as of yet...something about this intersection of physical fitness, community, health and more...more of what I am seeing our world may need today.

I believe there are infinite ways human beings can enter into the practices of honoring, which seems a fitting topic for such a day. I’ve been touched by the chatter about the Murph WOD on the CrossFit WOD Facebook group (in which I mostly lurk, from time to time). “Don’t call it Murph if you don’t do it as written.” “Scale Murph so you can enter into the exertion, the efforts, in honor of his sacrifice.” “Enter in as you can for a good workout, as your CF community participates in the commemoration of Memorial Day.” So many ways, expressions…

Specifically...one of the streams I read names the way honor Murph is to only call your workout a Murph when you wear the 20-lb vest and do it as a chipper, start to finish. I bow to that impulse. These folks call a spade a spade with a bear-like tenacity, as they see it. Another way to participate in honoring is to let the wko stand but complete the work in a team of 2-4 members. I bow to the wisdom in that honoring. These folks live into a communal memory together, building a sense of local community yet connected to broader webs of belonging in CrossFit. Yet another way to practice honoring is to let the wko challenge your own capacity, scaling as you need so to finish with health and well-being. Honoring is about living fully and advocating for life, after all, and freedom for all. I bow to this impulse too, as there really are one hundred ways for a human being to honor the gifts and graces of another. As Carrie Newcomer sings a line from Rumi: “There are one hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” The oneness I cherish, that I see here, is in the shared desire to honor, even as I also recognize the fairly predictable fissures that arise in what diverse human beings think that ought to look like, be, in practice. Bowing to all of that then...

Yesterday morning, for the first time ‘solo,’ I completed the StayAtHome DB-version of the Murph WOD, which I have learned about through CrossFit Dedication these last 21 months I’ve been a part of the community. My 52 year old body did not wear the 20-lb vest, though I ran the full miles to start and finish. I don’t have pull-ups (yet?) but I did see a way for me to enter in more fully with the StayAtHome dumbbell variation I saw posted online. And it was arguably time, timely, for my own fitness journey. I am down nearly 40 pounds from my heaviest post-menopausal weight, surprised to find myself the fittest and freest I have ever known I could be. I’m not sure even when I decided I would enter into this Hero WOD solo and 'in full,' but I felt anticipation that one of the weekend mornings of Memorial Day Weekend would be devoted to it.

On this afterward-side of things, one could say I ‘trained’ for the workout this weekend, though I had no such conscious awareness of that motivation. Quarantine had begun to weigh heavily on my mental health, so I had entered back into a seven-day intention for 100% dedication-health Plan eating-choices, a full week of the most-conscious eating choices I could muster. And it felt good to be in that structure of good-intention for myself. I have stayed connected to my CF peeps during our weeks of quarantine days—especially those peeps who were willing to enter into the Zoom platform our box offered. It made a difference, having a communal time and virtual location to do the workouts together. I will always enter in more deeply and push myself further when I am surrounded by a coach and community that encourages me. I know my own psychology well enough now to simply prioritize this need. As an earlier blog-post has named it in detail, I know I am more fit than when we entered into quarantine because of the wisdom streams of CrossFit. While I wasn’t aware of any training motive, I did feel the difference in my body as I worked out. I was the most nourished, hydrated, and energized for the work as I probably could have been. “About an hour,” I said to my husband who was leaving for work. Almost exactly an hour it was.

It was a beautiful morning for a run, and it was good to be beginning early. I could already feel the heat coming. The rounds of bent-over rows, push-ups, and air squats beckoned in an easy and discernedly-slow pace. I forgot the box fan, so ran downstairs to get that. Entered back in. Focus points—keep elbows close to my chest for the push-ups; core steadiness; push from the heels for the squats. About ¾ of the way through, I could feel some weariness in my lower back. Dig deeper into core steadiness. I discovered core-muscles I didn’t know I had, particularly in my lower abdomen—a space of conflicted emotions for me. (As it is for many women, for that matter). Lower back weariness eased and I felt stronger inside somehow. I learned that the 10 push-ups worked best in a 4-3-3 rhythm. (I’m still stunned that I finished the 200 of them, though my arms are quite aware of it today). Squats began in 3 sets of 3, preparing for the higher rep counts than usual. I can get bogged down in squats, with long legs and a left-side posterior chain that is not as strong as perhaps it will be to come. But midway, the rep scheme moved to 10 and 5. The last two rounds were an unbroken 15. I shook my legs out as I began the final run, aware of some tightness in my right leg, IT band. Mid-step landings for the run, shortened steps for protection of knees and hips. It was still a beautiful morning for a run. 1:00:34 as I crossed the shadow-line of the final mile, ending on a steep incline.

What I notice today—beside a body well aware of an intensive WOD yesterday—is a deeper appreciation of this usually unspoken or wordless honoring practice in so many Crossfit boxes, on Memorial Day but also throughout the year. I love the communal one-ing of it all, the devotion that brings diverse human beings to some shared endeavor. I love the free-speech of it all too—those whose devotion leans toward purity of practice, and those whose devotion leans toward welcoming others in, opening doors for human beings new to the fitness journey to feel welcome. 

Did I wonder about Murph? I did, actually. I got curious about the person behind the name. Notable for a peace-church girl like me. Was there a clear sense of devotion for honoring our fallen, as Memorial Day commemorates? Yes, I became aware of that in a way I would not have otherwise—in my body, in the exertion of the movements, the physicality of a human being’s life facing adversity. I have always respected the choices of those who enter into the armed-forces lines of duty and I often cannot stomach and will always argue against the war-machine that requires (and feeds on) soldiers. Often young men (and now women) from lower-economic branches of our society who bear a heavier burden for safety, freedom and the American Way than do our politicians and elite-class society members. I do support our soldiers for their choices and all they offer in unseen/unknown ways to all of us...and...I lament that soldiers are necessary in our complex military complex. 

Coming back to a personal level then...Does my physical exertion honor the gifts and graces of others’ lives and sacrifices, even deaths? I learned this weekend that it can, in powerful ways. There was something unspoken and inarticulate (even now) I received by entering in, by learning in the doing of it, all. I also have a deeper appreciation for Murph purists and for the opportunity to enter in, knowing I’ll never need to do the Murph WOD with a 20 lb vest and as a chipper to participate in honoring.

In the end, I bow to the gifts of this day, and to the beautiful and complicated CrossFit athlete community that does what it does, for the sake of the fallen, for the sake of the free.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Pen-Ultimate Ponderings ... Preparing to Leave Zoom Spaces ... Thankful

Return, return, return, return… Part of a lyric arose in my mind/heart as I finished up the penultimate Zoom CrossFit ‘class’ today. The energy is palpable in the group to return to the gym, even as we have stayed with whatever the movements of the day are. Perhaps it’s just to get away from the dumbbells we’ve had to rely on so fully, for at-home workouts that everyone could have equipment for? But I caught myself taking a picture of my newer Zoom space, ‘my side’ of the now-cleaned garage, and soon, my previous ‘in-door’ Zoom space where CrossFit has continued to be a fitness practice and community for me, global pandemic be damned.


I have some anxieties about returning to the gym, of course, given how differently we will all need to interact with one another—social distancing, cleaning equipment before and after, remaining in our taped-boxes instead of hanging out on the couch for coffee with Matt before Friday morning workouts. (Yep, an 8 o’clocker luxury and smile). And yet the anxieties are only slight for me, given the work coaches do and the fierce attention to health and safety that is being demonstrated, has been demonstrated, for weeks now. I am eager to see again some CF peeps who just could not stomach the Zoom platform, which I totally respect and ‘get’ at some level, even as I missed bantering with them, hearing their own lives of the moment. I’m readying for the return and aware that it will feel different and similar, all at once.

I’m also into Day Five of my “one-week-100%-on-DH-Plan” intention, which has been re-grounding and steadying of my internal and external dynamics this week. A lot of change is happening in my work life, as it is with so many of us. The last 3-4 weeks saw a stress-return, of sorts, though not utter abandonment of The Wagon. I could feel the shift in my own mental states, challenges, and the reliance on more ‘external’ indulgences that ultimately leave me feeling poorer and poorer inside. Yet I would choose them anyway. One of the bright conscious moments was choosing to enter into a pizza night with my husband, as we’d never tried Old Scratch Pizza before. YUM-MMMY, just sayin. Worth every carb digested. And… And...beginning the return to 100% Plan intentions re-grounded and lightened me inside again this week. So strange, this subtle shift of intention—shared on the DH page to invite others in, if they wanted, which no one responded to explicitly. But the shared intention, on a closed FB page, has kept my resolve more than being on the solitary path of intention for myself. 

So...penultimate pandemic observations? What have been the gifts of this time, even as I’m ready for a shift into “Quarantine-Light,” better known as “workout at the gym but stay at home otherwise, as much as possible”? 

I know I am fitter than I was 8 weeks ago, even with my fluctuations and stress-responses with cocktail hours with B. I have begun to enjoy a new pair of Hokas running shoes, recommended by a CF peep, and discovered the running track is open close to my home. A level running surface, which is nice to enjoy alongside the huge hill I get to run down, and back up, everytime I run otherwise. I have relaxed inside with my capacity and ease to listen to my body while pushing into longer workouts, more cardio, higher-rep weight workouts. I have missed the rig, which offers more stability for kip-pull-ups, though I have warmed up my lats and grip with the Power Tower I got for myself several years ago. I could have done more with pull-up projects, but I did not want to, apparently! 

I continued to weave in and out with CF peeps’ intentions and invitations, regardless of isolation—30-day push-up challenge (which I did for 16 days, but bagged for the rest), and now the 30-day sit-up challenge, which is going GREAT….at Day FOUR. I have enjoyed the daily text-exchanges with the coach ‘assigned’ to me for the duration. It’s been nice to get to know her and banter, like we do. 


And honestly, it’s been incredibly convenient to prepare for class 10 minutes before, and be home upon conclusion of class, not needing to worry about the drive there and back. A huge learning for me has been how thoroughly I lived in my car in my pre-pandemic life. It was my sanctuary, in some ways, my solitary hermit-chair where I could tend to my own experiences of things. The 20 minute drive for me to the gym, usually more in school-and-work traffic nearby, was nothing to me, really. Now, it feels like a distance... [I suppose this route won’t be traffic-y in this next season, come to think of it.] I should be able to leave my house later in the morning to arrive at the gym, able to enter in only 10 minutes before class anyway… When the shut-down started, I remember missing the quiet ‘drive time’ on the way to the gym, whether it would be a meditative space for me, or musical, or conversational with a spirit-friend on the phone. So that may be a return that grounds me again, even though it is a reliance upon my car each day…

So we welcome whatever arises for the day… Pema Chodron’s wisdom—each new arising is fresh, is to be encountered with open heart and curiosity for what abundance it will bring… Final Friday Zoom to enjoy and be thankful for. We’ve all done well, methinks, tending to what we’ve needed to tend. New openings, new arisings...welcome.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

We are who we are...

At some elemental level, we always remain who we are, right?

Life changes around us, we change in our response to life, yes, but some core of me remains waiting for me to discover her immutability, her tenacity, this ‘Lisa-ness’ that offers me (and others) what I came into the world with, hopefully what I’ll leave the world with more of. There’s a scary thought for some people I love—MORE Lisaness. But…We humans try to name it, of course—spirit, soul, spark, heart, etc. Angels on pinheads, those names. Each of us has some ‘coreness’ that we share as one or being a part of others. Everyone has this spark or spirit or soul or heart, but is a unique expression of it, seeking unity (or not), spaciousness (or not), a chance to freakin’ return to the gym, (or not, yet)… Well, a funny thing happened to me today which demonstrates how the life around you can change you AND how some parts of you will always remain YOU.

I took over two minutes off my DB Fran time today!

CrossFit Math makes me shake my head, begrudgingly participating AND poking at it all the same. The gift of quantifying, yes; the curse of quantifying, yes.

The difference the times show pokes an awareness in me, which is what I love best. I think I actually remember doing this a month ago. It was week one of Quarantine Lockdown. The #Stayathome had actually begun, on Friday March 14th, getting grocery supplies and preparations set. My birthday was Monday the 16th, first weekday of the lockdown, and while it was a great birthday, it was also not as ideal as what we had had planned. [Ramble down to Cincy for a long hike, some foodie shopping, a nice dinner out at a new restaurant there…we did none of that.] CFD was beginning to move into Zoom possibilities, or maybe we were still FB Live that week…am not sure. But I remember feeling disoriented, sad, fearful, yearning for my CF peeps around me and our bantering rhythms. When I saw Dumbbell Fran, I just felt a bit of dread in my stomach. Okay…we do what we do, but there was such a weightedness about me that had little to do with my physicality or movement. It was energetic. Or lack of energetic.

Contrast that with today. Last night, one of our sarcastic two (3? 5? 10?) goaded me into using an emoji I have never used before, ever.  Yep, flipping the bird. Always sure I have my glasses on specifically to make sure I do NOT by accident use that one. Then I enjoyed the general hilarity in the FB responses. I Zoomed into 8 a.m. circle, logging in almost after Lori did! The question of the circle became ‘Name your most used emoji, first on your list.’ Smiling shyly, mine was the red heart, but I added the ‘geek glasses’ emoji, which was next. Another’s most used one was a swearing unicorn. I didn’t even know unicorns could swear, let alone there being an emoji of one.

We moved into the warm-up, and then the coach insisted on the 3 minute max pushups bit before Dumbbell Fran. My eyebrows went up at that, at first, but it was a sure way to insure it actually happened. I entered in, in trust, because that’s what I do with CFD peeps.

Then into the WKO, with strong encouragement to use the same weights you had used before. I had had the idea of using my heavies—23 lb DB—but by the time we got there, I knew I would use the weight I did before—12 lb DBs. Particularly when I saw RX was 15s? Even the 18s I have (next ones up) felt ‘too much’ amidst the progress of the workout.

So…same weight as before, with some curiosity of what a sprint might feel like today. [I tend to ignore or neglect the ‘sprint’ WKO’s, the unbroken ones too. I don’t like the stress on my body and I do have fear of being out of breath to the point of serious discomfort. I’m an endurance, long-distance girl, an EMOM that lasts forever? Heaven for me.] What a sprint might feel like today. That’s my way of bearing down on ‘Try to beat your time.’   We are who we are, right? Some part of us always remains, though things within and beyond change beyond expectation.

It was a banner WKO today, in the end. A sprint felt do-able. I am more fit than I was a month ago. I took serious time off a time. And yet all the elements of a CF community play into these things. I got goaded and then amused myself. The energy of the circle did have its general hilarity this morning. I think the emoji journey and bemusement distracted my own quarantine sad self enough to try the sprint. Really. So it’s all of a piece for me. CrossFit math will rarely motivate me, but getting to flip the bird and laugh about it? Learning about a swearing unicorn? Apparently these things will.

We are who we are, after all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Yes, Ma'am, I AM

Are you more healthy than you were a month ago?  

This question met me this morning, as I stood awaiting the water to heat for the pourover I enjoy most mornings. (My nod to ‘going half-caf,’though I sip it most of the day, so probably still a good cup each day.) I DO believe I AM healthier these 30 days later, but in what ways am I noticing? I felt the question arise again, finishing a gauntlet of ropeless double-unders and Fran burpees, I decided to re-install my Wholly Grounds coffee shop ‘gift to myself’ after my workout. Here at my dining room table, with my re-heated half-caf coffee then… (gently inviting, if still not the same as the Wholly Grounds shop I hope survives this time…)

I know I am more fit than I was a month ago, though I don’t have the InBody numbers to confirm what I know. I am staying close to my 8 a.m. WKO practice with CrossFit peeps, while listening more fully to my own body too. I rarely take note of anyone on the screen—too busy tending to my own movement and out-of-breath-ness—but it helps me anyway, knowing they are there, doing the wko too. I leave my downstairs workout space feeling anchored, grounded, for the day. 

Some "additions" to my fitness routines suggest to me “more fit”: some additional short runs for me, and walking to the Preserve most days with Brian and Nala—down a huge hill, into the paved loop (usually), then back up the huge hill. I’ll guess it’s a little over two miles/day. 

We don’t have a scale anymore—or at least we can’t find where I stashed the one we had, which I don’t remember throwing away. 😬 But my jeans are fitting differently, more loosely. Even the smallest size I have. I finally put the larger sizes into storage, with the future idea of donating to GoodWill. Perhaps not wise in the Era of the Virus, or EotV, as I’ll say. It is on my list to purge my closet today, placing into storage clothes I simply don’t wear anymore, whether for bodyshape or simply professional-need-decline. I’m feeling the need to clear out the energies of the old, methinks.

My eating rhythms have changed a little, but even that set of intentions seems refined and healthier for the era. My appetite waxes and wanes more than I was aware of before. Not sure if that is the change in appetite or simply my own awareness of it, with less automobile-mobility and distraction than I am accustomed to. I’m enjoying food less, but my diet hasn’t changed a LOT in the stress of the quarantine. Brian and I had already differentiated in my DH journey, really by late fall, so that hasn’t felt too hard. Blessedly. He is the grocery shopper (we actually think he’s already had COVID-19, mid-February), and I know he gets frustrated with my fresh vegetables and high protein preferences. I tend the ‘stockpile’ to make sure we eat all we buy, in time, before it spoils. I am sure to express my own gratitude for the efforts he makes on behalf of my body’s best path.

I do know I’m drinking more alcohol than I did in the workaday life I used to have. Work meetings at least twice a week, more like 3-4 nights, prevented being home or tempted into cocktail hour (which I often lay at Brian’s feet, in some blame, but I do enjoy it too :)). Being in quarantine has forced me—or shall we say 'invited me'?—to define more consciously, in communication, what my rhythms need to be for me. I’ve set up an intention, in the home, with Brian’s awareness for me but not him: an every third day option for enjoying cocktail hour, low-carb versions preferred. That means about twice a week if I take the option, three times when the days fall on Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday. Sometimes I actually do refuse the 'option,’ as my body just seems happier with seltzer even though it doesn't relax my mind the same way. And then there are the days when a bit of rye over ice is nice to sip. Or pear-infused vodka in a seltzer, over ice. Tasty. 

Easter feasting was a bit out of the normal, but it was Easter and I love feasting in moderation. Lemon bread is simply yummy goodness that I take delight in baking and eating. All of it. Following up with a high protein-veggie breakfast, an afternoon of hot-lemon water and an evening of fasting allows my body to recover in some feeling-good ways. To be expected, my body’s appetite was HUGE yesterday, after the evening of fasting. Today is back to normal. I’m reminded how I dislike the ups and downs of the sugar crave patterns, and the sweet-tooth ‘recovery time’ after a feast weekend is easily met with herbal tea. Decaf chai is even too sweet, but helps reset that pattern/expectation for me. I can allow whatever I’m feeling to land in my body, apart from most emotional-food-eating I know all too well. 

I am also healthier than a month ago, internally, in my capacities to be-with, to receive and allow discomfort, dis-ease, sadness and more. My relationship to loss and grief is changing. Even anxiety and fear. What am I grieving today? has become a question I sit with a couple times a day, regardless of what I'm aware of feeling. I used to assess my feelings and try to respond/allow them. But grief simply accompanies me/us today. Of course, as I become aware of a particular loss—contact with friends, the feel of my life 'out there’ or seeing the countryside as I travel between Columbus and Dayton and Cincinnati, being at a coffee shop for some quiet writing time—I bow to it and honor it as part of this day. Underneath each grief is a beautiful thing about this life, after all. This morning, I felt the absence of a couple CF peeps particularly, so I honored that. Reached out a bit. It’s not the same, but I feel the grief because the connection is so important to me, cherished. I get to experience more connection than many get to...and I love that. We lost the first member of our congregational family two days ago, COVID-19. I learned a colleague’s mother died yesterday, same symptoms though untested. Each hits a deep belly sadness and an honoring of loss. Life would be less rich if I didn’t feel the sadness so deeply. So I welcome Ms. Grief in her stiff formal clothing and prim-and-proper funeral attire. I ask her to sit at my dining room table with me. I smile at her and befriend what she brings. I still wish I had a different companion, of course, but...she’s not as foreboding or impolite as I once feared.

Am I healthier than I was a month ago? Yes. In many ways… For me, my physical health is a boon for this time of quarantine--it is my best 'defense' and I am pleased with how I'm tending it. But health also means for me...being more attuned to the deep belly fears of those dear to me—to quote a friend—and simply being-with, feeling powerless except for the one thing in front of me to do. And, of course, staying with the physical activity, staying-conscious choices, and intentional actions of celebration and delight. 

A walk in the Preserve is coming, even with the chill, and a bit of a toast to this journey inward...beverage yet to be determined. 😜