Thursday, December 17, 2020

Failing Well at Encouragement

I’m learning a lot about encouragement in my CrossFit journey these days. Some of it comes in a daily way, with CF peeps cheering one another on during a workout or giving a “Good job today!” shout as we walk out the door. Some of it is more precise, with particular observations shared on a particular skill-development or PR (personal record) success. There’s also the one-step removed invitation to inspiration, offered by members’ Facebook page feeds and posts. Sometimes those are about the day’s workout, but oftentimes, they are ‘food for thought’ from professional and personal lives. For me, a lot of it comes down to consistent presence and companionship, being with a community fiercely intent upon fitness. And fun. Can’t forget the silliness that crops up, like creating a ‘fake PR photo’ of one coach to goad the success of a friend. Encouragement is the fruit of all of this, in different ways.

What struck me the other day is that I myself struggle to be a good encourager in words or precise observations mirrored back to another. For a woman who can be incredibly wordy--case in point--I honestly become speechless in how to encourage precisely, with attention to specific movements or workouts. I don't know what to say, nor how to reach out genuinely like some can and do. A couple of folks in our Box are really good at it, in different ways of going about it, which is what made me notice.

One offers encouragement often, but rarely in a generic way. You know she’s been paying attention and has developed an eye for form and technique. She’s precise in naming the good she observes. Another offers encouragement in his consistent team-spirit, shared with everyone. He’ll offer feedback on a technique, if asked, and will encourage with a bit of his own story with that movement. When I receive the gifts of encouragement in this way, I find myself a bit speechless, but appreciative. So I wish I had that gift too. Until I began to feel my way into this topic, that is. It’s actually a huge celebration in my own CF journey to not be good at this, this way, believe it or not!

To be really good at encouragement like this, you have to observe others with a precision and attention to detail. For a very long time, from earliest memory, I did learn how to observe others in this way. A constant attention to the other first, even before becoming aware of my own experience. It eased things in my own home, for one. Developing a perceptiveness, even intuition, about the feeling states of my parents allowed me to feel safe, protect myself from surprise or harm. I got kudos for caring for others in this way, sometimes sensing things in their experience before they were aware of them. I learned how to hold the energy of a room full of people, heightening awareness of mood-states and potential challenges (as a professor-teacher, for instance).

The downside of this honed perception, over a lifetime, is that you can lose track of your own experience, even your own feeling life. You get so good at sensing outwardly that your muscles of inward awareness atrophy. Another binding habit is the comparative one, hoping to build your own sense of self up by achieving more than another, or doing something better than another. This is actually quite unsteadying, as your own sense of things depends upon another rather than being grounded in your own body, your own journey. 

My CrossFit journey has pretty much mirrored and healed this dynamic in me, I'm so very thankful to observe aloud. The last several years in my midlife journey have been about re-centering and re-accessing my own experience first, awakening to what I might feel about something before tending to others’ desires or wants. So much religious formation can shame this inward honoring as selfishness, but it’s not remotely selfish. One, if you lose enough of your center, you have no self to be selfish about. Surprising or not, I’ve been there, myself. But mostly, particularly for women, it’s not selfish to take up space and know your own body, mind, sense of things. In my CF journey, I’ve learned to really hone my energies and awareness in my own body in a workout, attending solely to my own movements, process, feelings. I am finally completely unaware of what another CF friend is doing, how many reps, what round s/he may be on. When I log my wko and learn how others have progressed in the workout, the numbers don’t have much meaning for me internally. There’s no comparative-shame-competitiveness in me anymore.

So while it may sound rather odd, or counter-intuitive as something to celebrate, it’s an amazing victory for me to be so bad at this, at precise encouragement. The kind of observation required to be really good at it is there in me, but I’ve had to re-learn other skills necessary for balance inside. It means that I’m not aware of others’ processes or movements while I’m tending to my own, and that I can really cheer CF peeps on without any sense of connection to my own. Given my own path in life, this is a remarkable accomplishment for me. Strange to celebrate being bad at precise encouragement, but ironically, it allows me to be encouraging of everyone without any ties, caveats, or personal motives.

Victory is a sweet sweet thing...

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving, Food Freedom, and a Giggle

Thanksgiving Day, 2020...what an altered and opportunistic kind of day this year. I rest with a cup of coffee, newly showered (me, not the coffee), lots of energy but also a beautiful and now familiar weariness from a partner workout with (socially-distanced) CrossFit peeps this morning. Push Jerks, med-ball cleans, V-ups, and up-downs-over-the-bar. It’s a quiet day of gratitude in my small bubble of two-and-a-half (Brian and our dog, Nala, who tolerates the ½ designation)...some writing, jigsaw puzzling, knitting, finishing Season Four of the Crown, a festive meal of lamb, brussel sprouts with bacon, mashed potatoes...preceded surely by cocktail hour and concluded with maple-walnut pie from Betty’s Pies, off of Lake Superior! (Thanks, Kate, for lead into! Brian loved the surprise of it all!) It’s a gentle day of gratitude.

I am thankful for so very much, not least of which is good health, even a high level of fitness in these pandemic days. For the CDC-guidelined-ways to stay active and strengthen in body and mind. And, the hidden intention of this post...I’m thankful for food freedom, which is a phrase I’ve used to try to name my experiences these days with foods of all kinds. It seems a good day to describe a bit of what I mean…

At root, food freedom means I no longer live in a driven, sub-conscious or conscious dance with food choices anymore. There’s an old folk-tale called the Red Shoes, a story warning against vanity and judgment in a young woman with a fancy pair of red shoes. Without going into too much detail, the shoes become a curse--shoes that never come off of her feet, shoes that will never stop dancing her. No matter how weary she gets, or remorseful she gets, these shoes dance her. Eventually, a woodsman amputates her feet and the shoes go dancing off with her feet still in them. (Charming, eh? Hans Christian Anderson getting back at his troublesome and vain sister, so the story goes…). 

Food used to be red-shoes for me, in many ways… I grew up with a ready fear about food, for one thing. Would there be enough? a fear inherited from my mother, whose childhood was pretty rough. Don’t eat too much! a shaming fear inherited from a beauty-obsessed/ thin-obsessed culture with power-over my often-hyperglycemic body experiences from a diet high in carbs, sugar, fat and salt. Food was also the favored response to stress in my family of origin. Nervous? Something salty and high in fat. Celebrating? Something high in sugar and carbs. Bored? How about a pizza, after a long day of work? Slim Chance in a Fat World--the title of the book that began the Weight Watchers movement--described it well. There are so many external ‘triggers’ for food-cravings--billboards or sides-of-semis with larger-than-life pictures of processed/fast-food food-stuffs--which would then “dance me” to focus on food to ease my subconscious fears or respond to whatever emotional weather was raging inside (and out). The food-marketers know this in spades, of course, and so food danced me for decades of my life.

The ways that I experience my body and the need for fueling it today are nearly completely free of ALL of that. I no longer get my mind hooked on some “temptation.” I rarely stuff myself to avoid feeling something anymore. I’m therefore more in touch with whatever emotions or felt-senses that might arise, in response to outside events. Cutting out sugar has meant I experience cravings so infrequently that they are now a noteworthy signal I can pay attention to with curiosity and wonder. Instead of being a nearly constant daily experience driving my next infusion of sweet/sugar, the sensations are slow, curious, can be tended to from within a different sense of wisdom, experience. I know from the outside, this choice looks like one about “being on a diet” or “deprivation” for the sake of “good health.” That suggests a confinement or an unfreedom... which does not match the steady wholeness I now know in my body. The experience of no-sugar is freeing, which has increasingly worn away any sense of drive-for...or fear of any kind. The low-carbs bit is intricately involved in this too, with the same basic result. 

None of this would have worked if the food that fuels me so well weren’t tasty for me, of course. My husband cannot stand nut-butters, for instance, which I enjoy every day. I love the foods I get to eat, and the practice of food-prepping meets my own love of ‘kitchen activity,’ which used to be baking. I still get to work with my hands to create tasty things, in other words. I still get to share the fruits of my efforts (now only with Brian, of course, but eventually, sharing with others (Mike Weaver :)) will return…). 

But all of it now courses through a fearless ease, a steadiness of energy and drive that no longer dances me. I get to dance when I choose to--like on a day of Thanksgiving, with a celebratory meal--then I get to rest when I need to. The celebratory meals are even more tasty, special...because of this freedom from foods driving me. 

It has consequences for my overall level of fitness, I know, but for me, it’s an emotional and spiritual thing. I’m a better human being with all the human and sentient beings in my life because I’m free, steadied, at ease, and curious. Much gratitude. So very much to be thankful for...even in this Thanksgiving Day 2020. Love the feel of a giggle in my stomach with all I GET to enjoy in this life. Blessed be, and blessings to all of you and yours...

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I Wish We Had Been BodyWise, not BodySmart

I felt a rush and an ache this week that wasn’t a mind-muscle ache as much as a heart-muscle ache and invitation. Basic gist: I come from a dearly beloved bodysmart family, and I have a felt-sense of grief (so, anger and sadness) that we were not more bodywise in all I/we have finally learned and am/are learning... CrossFit has a remarkable bodywise methodology and framework within which a steadiness and calm abiding can root, grow, strengthen. I'm thinking it has remarkable contributions to make to our civic ills, to be honest.

The first thing for me to honor and name is the sense of grief or loss about it for me, without blame or shame on anyone. I wish I had landed in CrossFit 15 years ago, but of course, I wasn't ready until I was ready. I wish I had known… is the phrase that comes, even though I come from a long line of beloved, wickedly smart and funny people. We are family that takes pride in what we know. I mean, serious pride. To know and to be articulate is family capital, spent in conversation and correspondence to build connection and a sense of belonging, resonance. I love this about my family, probably more than I should because for years, I’ve been really good at it. But I really wish we had lived a whole lot more into a body wisdom… We really are the best versions of ourselves AND doing a lot of work that needs doing for each of us. Yet this rush and ache have wisdom for me, I know it...even as I'm a bit pissy it took me so long to get here.

The easiest place to begin is simply about the food my body thrives on, which I did not learn until the last 18 months. Over fifty years of food struggles and weight struggles and body-image struggles (that persist, of course, because I’m me, after all)...which lessened to a ghost of themselves simply by cutting out sugar and lowering my carbs intake. The usual ‘location’ for this observation is in diet and fitness, which makes sense, but I want to talk about the emotional and spiritual impact of that body-decision, for me. I wish I had known...

The bulk of my feeling life, for most of these decades, was immersed in food-choices. I was choosing food to make me feel inside my body. Thankfully, I’ve had enough emotional support and body-smarts to curb the worst excesses of such things. I don’t have an all-out food addiction to speak of. But I would be driving home from a tough meeting at work, looking at the various restaurants or billboards, deciding what food choice would salve my tender soul about whatever just happened at work. Or I would leave the house in an angry burst, heading for whatever food-joint would calm my emotional weather with some ‘solitary time’ in anonymous space, with a beverage (wine or coffee, usually) that would soothe. The social times would vary depending upon the community. At a church potluck, food (and alcohol, sometimes) would become the buffer against all the unwanted assumptions or emotional interactions I didn’t want to have as a preacher’s wife. With friends, it would become the things to share together, splurging for the emotional festivities of it all. Food was intimately intertwined with feeling, to almost know I had a body.

The steadiness and calm abiding that I know now (to use a Buddhist meditation term, perhaps inappropriately ;)) are direct results of being invited into a bodywisdom path I had never known. A path no one in my family really knew, even though we were plenty bodysmart. My father is a physician, after all, and so created the healthy practices he knew at the time. I didn’t grow up on sugar-cereal (unless we could get Mom to buy it on the sly when Dad wasn’t around!). Dad baked homemade bread every week, so we had nutritiously-grained bread (probably protecting our guts from a lot of the GF needs in so many today). Both parents encouraged exercise, whether it was playing on the first ever girls’ soccer team (it WAS the 70’s after all) or going running. I remember going running with my mother, who would begrudgingly run her 1-2 miles because her "body needed exercise." She never has learned to love her body, but I think she wearied of feeling less-than alongside my father’s overly-active life. He’s always had more energy than she has, and I seem to have inherited his genes in this respect. But it was begrudging, an obligation, and boring. Even so, I was fortunate to grow up in a family with bodysmarts, to be sure.

Yet we were not bodywise, as so few of us my age might have been had we grown up in different decades of American market-economy advertising and nutrition-science, guided by lobby-corporate interests. Our food choices declined unconsciously from healthy-habits or what would make a body thrive. The nutrition pyramid got swiped by the sugar industry and the heart-attack scare’s focus on fat. High salt, high sugar is what I grew up on, landing in the cycles of cravings and hungry-shakes when the crash would come. Exercise was largely a repetitive-motion, achievement-focused thing on distance and/or duration. We were introverted bodysmart people, so learned exercise habits that were mostly solitary.

Still today, my father tracks his fitness by the number of miles on his bike, the total number of miles on his bike for a season. Can he top 2000 for this year? First, he was an avid runner, until he torqued his knee tendon. I’d ride my bike alongside while he ran, which was a great way for a daughter to be with her father, btw. Loved it. Then it became bike-riding, long-distances in Miami County. Some of my most treasured memories are from these rides--stealing pears from a farmer’s tree (not unlike St. Augustine, I might add), having to stop pedaling because I was laughing so hard over “an Alaskan robin’s” tweet/call (imitated by my father...long-story not worth trying to share). Each exercise option was a mountain to climb, a thing to be tracked and stretched, focusing on the end-goal much more than the movement or process. Injuries were more frequent, as a result, and increasing boredom that focuses on the shoulds of being in one’s body.

All this contrasts with what I’ve been learning over a period of years now, CrossFit methodology and bodywisdom. Dedication Health offers what I have called the “nutrition re-education” invitation, for those who are curious about learning food’s impact on their own body sensations, experience, steadiness. It’s still easy to think of it as a diet-program, but it’s not (in my experience). It’s an invitation to sensitize your own body to its messages and ultimately, its slower-paced and subtle needs amidst an industry honed to distract and confuse you/us. Bodywisdom here means walking a counter-cultural path, companioned by a community of practitioners, learning to stay in their own body experience, less and less distracted by the social and marketing needs of others, businesses, corporations. Counter-cultural means it’s easy to ‘fall off the wagon,’ but it’s also distinct enough that you get wise to your own negotiations and slippery slopes. You develop a bodywisdom that is yours alone, supported by fellow travelers.

Enjoy the movement is the mantra I say either to myself or quietly to those around me as the clock gives the 10 second countdown to a WOD (workout of the day). Just get better, as you decide ‘better,’ is another mantra in the community. Any WOD can be scaled, so to maximize challenge level and intensity of effort within a reasonable (decided usually by the coach) amount of time. Each WOD has a best “window of time” expected, by wise coaches, so that we all finish within shouting distance of one another, in terms of time. Reasonable is the key. I’ve come to trust the coaches in my ‘box’, even though their sense of reasonable sometimes makes my eyebrows rise a bit. More often than not, I’m the one who underestimates what will challenge me. And not all CrossFit coaches are wise. I read about CF beginners who are still trying an Rx version of a WOD, finishing twenty minutes after seasoned athletes in their own gym, struggling to get better but succumbing to injuries and shame...all because their coaches are not wise, or are unwilling to scale the WOD appropriately. When scaled well, every WOD becomes an event on a playground, a fun experiment with how your own body moves and loves movement, getting fitter and fitter.

CrossFit’s bodywisdom also centers on intervals and diversified planes of motion over several days of workouts. Not only is the body movement continually varying, it is set in short-spurts of focus with short rest-periods in between. Warm-up is probably the biggest gift to myself that I never could receive when I was a solitary runner. I learn that my body can and does love to do a wide variety of things when she’s warmed up!! Seems obvious to me now, but it’s not obvious to a cognitive-oriented woman like me. I could never ‘take the time’ to truly, properly, warm up by myself. “Good enough,” I’d say, trusting I’d get warmed up in the first mile.

The wide variety of ‘planes of motion’ also protect my body over sequential days, moving in ways I love to move. It’s a remarkable gift in my own box that one of the coaches is a doctor in physical therapy. I joke with friends, as I used to say about a personal trainer I worked with for nearly a decade, “She helps me not injure myself!” Which is true. Thinking about body movements is vastly different (for me) than moving my body in healthy ways as those movements are intended, with joints and muscles in proper alignment for the movement.

I live in my head most of the time--though less so than I used to--and would attempt movements at the fitness center that I thought I was doing ‘as specified.’ I’d then come home with a strain in my wrist/arm/shoulder muscles or a knee-tendon or some such...learning
after the fact that I had not been in alignment in the movements my body could do well, healthily. I would get disheartened and sometimes even afraid. I easily injured myself again and again, whether it was planes of motion or choosing the same exercise over and over again, landing with a repetitive motion injury--plantar’s fasciitis or pulled hamstrings or inflamed IT bands or whatever… I've been CrossFitting for over two years now and have had maybe two slightly strained muscles or discomfort. I've learned more about my own core-muscles and how to protect my lower back. I've learned all about the QL muscle(s), though I could not teach anyone else 'about it.' I can tend to my body's need for care and healing of such slight things...all without having to formally pursue 'physical therapy.' Deepening bodywisdom means less dependence on others for bodycare, body-listening.

So I’m much more sensitized to my body’s messages now, knowing how to listen and how to tend sooner to a discomfort, rather than later. The biggest thing for me here is that I’m not afraid when I feel some discomfort or a slight twinge in arm or leg, hip-joint or shoulder. I used to land in a body-sweats-fear that I should stop all movement, period. Now? I listen. I pull back to let that muscle or area of my body rest. I trust that there will always be something else I can do to stay lively in my body, unafraid and well-companioned by those who are bodywise

This week spurred all these reflections because we had a “fun-Friday” workout that was largely “active recovery” and sociable while being bodywise and “just right” for physical activity in a full week of CrossFit WODs. The invitation to scale and listen was guided by the coaches, with humor and option to disregard… The movements eased muscles and strengthened form, i.e. doing overhead squats with PVC pipes after a lot of air squats. The movement remained, but the form became conscious and intentional again. Given there were a huge number of squats my particular hour class did, we were advised to do three minutes on the assault bike, “to get the oxygen back into your quads” and lessen soreness. Someone bodywise knew to invite us to become more bodywise.

The bikes were socially distanced, but we got chatty while taking good care of our legs, easing the soreness. One fellow has lost well over 50 (100?) pounds in his months of CrossFit bodywisdom, and we got to talking about how utterly cool it’s been to see his journey unfold here. I realized my own reaction was one of delight for him, and then a wave of anger, a wave of sadness...

...that so many of us fall down the hole of unconscious/misdirected nutrition and defeatist-macho-driven-athletics, that we never know there can be another way out of the hole. I wasn't conscious of the rush or the ache that I came to know, and now to write. But my body was angry and sad inside!!

So I got a bit pissy and over-active on the bike. A friend laughed at me, as I pretty immediately slowed way down, realizing I’d been attacking the bike...never a good idea. “You began like a maniac!” Kate said to me, laughing. 

Yes... I did. Most of us in American cultures today are maniacs because we don’t know and even resist knowing there is a better way to just get better. Or if we see it, and imagine it, we cannot invest enough in ourselves and our body to live into it for a long haul, to really feel that there is a better way to be human in this body we have. I’m realizing I love my body, just as she is, and I want to live in her for as long as she’ll keep me. That means continuing to grow in bodywisdom more than what I read-to-know or hear-from-the-experts-to-know. Listening to my own bodywisdom, surrounding myself with bodywise people. Bodywisdom is much more intimate and fun than being bodysmart...which, ultimately, is not that smart.

Let the years of adult recess and lovin the movement grow...

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Rest Day? Or Steady?

So today is a rest day

I have been in the CrossFit stream for over two years now, and often read the ‘long-term-ers’ speak of the wisdom of ‘the rest day.’ recommends a 3-days on, 1-day-off rhythm, qualified by “listen to your body.” Another quick internet search gives a thorough (and amusing) overview with more detail, nod to CrossFitImpulse here. There are two ‘charts’ of four examples each, noting training routines aimed at different human-body experiences. The final sampling, with names that signal each pattern, made me laugh aloud: Overweight Orville (1-on, 1-off), Average Alvin (3-on, 1-off, 2-on, 1-off), Fire-breathing Frank (3-on, 1-off), and Insomniac Irene (2-on, 2-off). The descriptions are entertaining, so I invite you to look and laugh. It’s good to have a giggle in these pandemic days…

I do listen to my body, and yet my rhythm does not match the recommendations here. I’m a Monday-Friday kind of girl, especially now in pandemic patterns, with a usual-but-not-always intention for Saturday morning as well. A different kind of workout, often, with sometimes smaller movements, focused muscle groups, etc. (Well, not when Joanna gives crazy reminders like ‘clusters’, but usually…). So my experience doesn’t really fit into the categories offered above, nor the ‘acceptable guidelines’ at I do value a ‘rest day’—usually Sunday—but I also recognize the holistic Steady my life has when CF is a near daily choice.

One of the most striking shifts into Steady is that I more often organize my life around CF workouts and community-fun in “adult recess” as I call it. The pandemic, working from home, makes this easier in many ways. In sum, I’m no longer ‘fitting in’ my physical exercise between the work-family-life commitments, but vice-versa. Physical activity has become a near-daily, if not all daily thing my body simply loves to do. There’s hardly any thought about the choice. I don’t spend any time or effort deciding what I might do for a workout, unless I can get to Open Gym for some playing-around. I don’t check the weather to see about a run, or try to get to the Kettering Rec Center at a time when it’s not so busy. It’s now become my established routine that I arise early, enjoy my cup of coffee in a quiet hour or two, then get on my way over to the gym. There’s a LOT less mental effort spent negotiating for the health and fitness of my own body. It is now presumed and a habit.

With this level of activity, another shift into Steady is how I experience the industrial food industry, whether fast-food, billboards, tv or magazines. I used to get subconsciously ‘sucked in’ with the various ‘suggestions’ or images I would encounter. Whatever emotional thing was going on with me could be soothed with some kind of food-sensation, I would begin to find myself cycling inside with a craving. Now, I hardly notice the billboards or marketing at all; they are no longer a draw of any kind. And indulgence-decisions really do get filtered through a more conscious choice of how it will impact my body’s experience of the next day’s WOD. It doesn’t mean I always choose against the slice of challah on Friday nights—what a wonderful way to welcome in the Sabbath, after all—but it does mean that when I enjoy the challah, I know I’m willing to weather some potential shakiness or midday cravings the next day. I’m emotionally steadier than I’ve ever been, both because I have a good outlet to burn off steam inside and I’m no longer hijacked by food-industry seductions.

The regularity of camaraderie is a huge shift into Steady for me too. I get to josh with folks I probably wouldn’t see otherwise, and I get into unexpected, sometimes really significant chats about things I/we care about. Spending so much time in higher education as I have, I’m constantly startled by how body-centric conversations can be with CF peeps. I love it. Folks who engage CrossFit regularly become much more sensitized to their own body’s capabilities and movement. Academics don’t talk anything about the body without blushing or avoidance, denial. I’m much more attuned to my own athleticism and my ‘growing edges’ or limitations as I move, challenge myself, and then yes, rest. The community is a regular huge part of my own accountability.

I suspect part of what the coaches (and guidance) want to protect with this wisdom about the rest day, besides the human body of course, is intensity. Intensity and interval seem to be two central terms within the CrossFit method-culture that ground its wisdom in the world. Both are necessary, in rhythm, to challenge and then recover, stretch muscles and endurance, then allow the body to rest and heal, strengthen. I get it. I’ve never had an issue with intensity, except for being ‘too much’ for many around me, at various times. What I mean is that I’ve never had an issue of not enough intensity. Here in CF circles, I don’t come close to what would be considered too much intensity. I’m beautifully moderate, right here in the middle, listening to my body and loving what I get to do each day. Even “pretend fun” like Fran. Besides, the rhythm I’m living in these streams of CrossFit feeds me healthily and grounds me in a way I’m finding really necessary.

If I weren't so attentive, I know much of what the research and guidance would say is coming. I recognize the possibilities of ‘over-training’ and ‘over-use’ injuries that could result in my over-50-year-old body. I’m keeping an eye and ear, an inside sense, on my left elbow tendon, for instance, which doesn’t hurt but I notice from time to time. Or the QL muscle, left side of my back. I recognize I’m gentle entering into warm-up, some days being more stiff than other days. I always smile with how I love to move once I’m warmed up. I smile at getting stronger and trying different things each week. 

Do I keep the intensity of my workouts at high level each WOD, like a more rhythmic workout-rest schedule of 3-on/1-off might provide? No. It’s more important for me to be there in my near-daily anchoring-rhythm than for any PR’s I’m aiming for. Some days, I go light and just enjoy the movement. Other days, like the most recent Filthy Fifties, I do decide to push myself and see how far I can get. "Active recovery" is a phrase that I've heard here too...movement, but gentle and low-intensity. I think I choose those days more consciously as I listen.

I wonder if ‘rest day’ for me simply means ‘two days - higher intensity’ and ‘one day - lower intensity’? It is restful to lounge about here at home today, without even an intention for a run...but I’m already antsy to move in the morning. Being in my rhythm keeps me in the Steady, which, trust me, everyone will much prefer.😆

So today is a rest day. Otherwise known as an ‘Eve of Movement’, leading into the Steady. 

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 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.