Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Little Earthquakes

Today is the five-year anniversary of the DC earthquake.  Five years ago today, I was lying in bed recovering from surgery.  After over a year of recurring bouts of diverticulitis, I’d had a section of my intestines removed and then spent ten miserable days in the hospital with a post-surgical infection.  My dad was in the living room when the contents of my apartment started to rattle.  He’d come to DC to take care of me while I recovered from surgery.  Five years later, I’m in Maine helping him.

My life was very different five years ago.  I hadn’t yet become a DC Rollergirl.  In fact, I’d missed tryouts that year because I was in the hospital with yet another case of diverticulitis, the last straw that made me decide to have surgery.  I’d never even thought about powerlifting.   In fact, I couldn’t lift more than thirty pounds after having my abdominal wall cut for surgery.  In mid-September I would start the Couch to 5K back at square one, the start of a very long, slow upward trend in fitness that led to getting drafted by DC, eventually making the travel team, starting powerlifting and doing my first competition.  Later would come a period of overtraining and undereating, followed by burnout, my injury a year ago this month and a whole year of inconsistency and disappointment in the fitness realm.  It seems 2016 is the new 2011.

It makes me feel better to know that I am in far better shape today than I was on this day five years ago.  On the other hand, I know how much hard work it took to get me into the kind of shape that would allow me to do a powerlifting competition and a roller derby bout in the same weekend.  It’s daunting.  I’m also not sure I want it as badly as I wanted it five years ago having lived the supposedly glamorous life of a roller girl and learned first-hand it’s not all fishnets and glitter.  But I’m also pretty sure I’m not done with derby or lifting, so I’m going to have to keep thinking about what I want out of these sports and what the right balance is with the rest of my life.

I don’t have to figure it out right now.  All I have to figure out right now is how to start.  I don’t want to jump back into everything at once.  I know I have some emotional recovery to do after this summer.  I need some time and space to rest my heart and mind.  I want to reconnect with my support system in DC—a stronger support system than I had five years ago.  This summer has reminded me how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life, and I want to spend more time with them.  And I don’t want another strong start that fizzles out, a recurring theme this past year, so I’ll take a moderate approach to getting back to fitness, just like I did five years ago.

I’ve sketched out a preliminary plan for the fall.  It’s conservative, but I’ve always been more of a tortoise than a hare.  I’ll get where I want to go, once I figure out exactly where that is, and I’ll take care of myself along the way.

The plan:

Start slow in September.
Cardio:  Run three times a week. 
Strength:  Physical therapy, foundation training and light strength training at home three times a week.

Add intensity in October.
Cardio: Run twice a week and spin (or something else with high intensity intervals) once a week.
Strength:  Boot camp twice a week and pilates once a week to rebuild a solid strength base for lifting.

Return to Powerlifting in November and December.
Cardio: Same as October.
Strength: Twice a week powerlifting program.  Maintain boot camp once a week and pilates once a week for assistance work.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I'm Still Here

I haven't abandoned the blog.  I've just been busy and exhausted.  It has been 69 days since I arrived in Maine, and I have had exactly five days in that time when I wasn't working, cleaning, or handling other family business.  Since you know I love data, here are some outputs from my summer of cleaning:

  • 10 rooms, 1 barn and 1 attic cleaned
  • 1.88 tons of trash hauled away in a construction dumpster
  • 2 yard sales
  • 5 rooms painted (and two more left to paint)
In addition to these numbers, I estimate I made at least 15 trips to Goodwill and put at least 100 bags of trash out for curbside pickup. 

My fitness plan gradually fell apart as I grew more and more tired, both physically and emotionally.  For the last few weeks, all I've managed to do is run once a week, and even that has been a struggle.  I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to be more consistent, but I also think I have done the best I could given the circumstances.  

Even though the summer has been hard, it's been worth it.  By the time I return to DC, I will have gotten to spend three whole months with my dad, which was an unexpected gift despite the circumstances that made it possible.  I feel so lucky to have gotten to be here with him this summer.  I'd clean ten more houses for him if I had to.  (But I'm glad I don't have to.)

In the next three weeks I'll be finishing up the painting and finishing up some other odds and ends that need to be taken care of.  I'm hoping I can at least step up the running frequency as well.  I realized today that is has been just about a year since I hurt myself weight lifting.  A whole year that I have not been able to follow a solid, consistent fitness program.  I will spend some time in these next few weeks making a plan for the fall.  

I have a lot to think about when I get back to DC.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do about roller derby.  It wasn't much fun this past year, and I'm not sure what it would take to make it fun again.  So I'll need to think about that.  I'm sure there will also be many feelings and learnings and new perspectives to process from this summer.  I'll share them all on the blog.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

This is Not Your Baggage

After I wrote this post, I felt a little vulnerable.  It was pretty raw, even for me.  Even so, I left it up.  What I have learned from writing this blog is that if it makes me feel nervous, it probably needed to be said, it will help me to have said it, and it will probably help someone else to hear it.  What I mean when I say it will help me is that anytime you speak about fear or shame, those feelings lose some of their power.

This time another kind of help came in the form of an email from a friend who reads the blog.  And this email was kind of a revelation--it really helped me understand these feelings that I have in a new way.  So I'm going to share some pieces of the email.

My friend wrote:

You have always been "enough."  It's your mother who fell short.  It's your mother who was so broken that she could not accept your unconditional love.  That's very sad for her.

It's even sadder that you internalized her dysfunction as your own because you're actually completely innocent in this regard....You have ALWAYS deserved to be loved and that continues to be true TODAY.

This is actually your mother's baggage and issues.  This dysfunction is not yours.  You've picked her baggage up and have been carrying it around...Maybe your mother's issues have caused you to do or think things that are outside of your true character (like believing you're not good enough).  But the source for that is still your mother.  It's still her baggage and you can choose to put it down at any time.

In other words, it's not my fault.

Holy crap.  It's not my fault.

It's like he was speaking directly to that little girl holding her tinsel wreath.  How powerful is that!

And I've honestly never thought of it like that before--as her baggage and not my own inadequacy.  My mother didn't treat me the way she did because there was something wrong with me that made me not good enough, not worthy of love.  She was the broken one, not me.  It's her baggage, and I can choose not to keep carrying it around.

Of course it's not that simple.  I bet I'll need a lot of therapy to figure out how to put down that suitcase.  My friend suggested writing a letter to my mother to give her back her baggage, which I am not quite ready to do just yet, but it seems like that could be cathartic at some point.

It's not my fault.  It's not my baggage.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Coming to Terms with My Sedate Summer Strength Training Plan

It took a couple weeks of working with the personal trainer at the gym in my hometown to come up with a personal training plan for the summer.  At one point she told me she's not used to training people who are in such good shape, and I am not even in good shape for me right now.  Between that and her concern about my back injury, which I keep explaining is all better now, I've ended up with the most sedate strength training plan I have had since I started strength training.

In the beginning I was frustrated.   To her credit, she was responsive to some of my concerns, adding more dynamic movements, for example, after I explained the kind of movement that is required in roller derby.  Here are the basics of my workout: I start with a long, dynamic warmup.  This is actually a class that the trainer teaches called "stretch and move" or something like that.  There's a lot of marching and coordinated arm and foot movements.  Like jazzercise or something, I guess.  There's also quite a bit of core work, which is good.  After the class is over, I do some basic free weight exercises, low weight/high rep.  Some stepping up and down onto a box, dead lifts and squats, things like that.  Then I do some upper body exercises on the machines.  There's this thing called a graviton.  I leave feeling like I've done some moderate physical activity, which is not how I'm used to feeling after a workout.

Overall, it's a better plan than I thought I'd end up with after our first meeting, but it's not at all what I have in mind when I think of personal training. Even so, I've slowly been coming to the realization that it's probably exactly the right plan for me right now given how physically and mentally exhausted I am from everything else going on this summer.  By the time gym time rolls around, I usually don't want to go.  But knowing that my trainer will be there waiting for me, and that my workout won't require the kind of mental energy it takes to train really hard make it easier for me to get there.  Meanwhile, I'm getting my share of heavier lifting carrying boxes and bags and furniture out of the hoarder house, and I'm doing my running for cardio.  I might not get back to my post-injury fitness level before the summer is over, but I can still feel like I'm at least making some slow, steady progress.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Miss Independence

Yesterday while cleaning out the pantry, I found this wreath in a drawer.  I made it in kindergarten and gave it to my parents for Christmas that year.  I think I remember being excited and proud to give it to them, but my mother also wrote that in my baby book, so maybe her words are what make me think I remember.

Either way, the idea of me as a child taking so much pride in such a simple gift brought me to tears.  (And the only thing that sucks worse than cleaning a hoarder house, in case you were wondering, is cleaning it while crying.)  I imagined all the innocent, childish love that would have gone into a gift like that, and the equally innocent and na├»ve belief that our gifts, however simple, will be accepted, will be enough, when offered with love.

This weekend, I cleaned for four days straight.  Today was Independence Day.  When I consider that I spent the last two Independence Days crying over men who broke my heart—the Oyster Farmer and the Summer Romance—I suppose crying over a relic from my distant past is better.  Except that tinsel wreath speaks so much to what I am feeling these days.  I think about everything I am doing this summer, and sometimes it starts to feel like some kind of cosmic penance.  If I can just prove to my family, my friends and the universe that I can do everything that’s asked of me, even if it’s hard, will it be enough?  Will I be enough?  Finally?

Independence Day, indeed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 2: Fitness

I've only been here eleven days, but I am working hard to establish a healthy routine.  Sleep is a constant struggle in my life, which I have written about from time to time.  In DC, my schedule is so unpredictable--out very late some nights, up very early some days.  For the last several months I have been taking antihistamines to help me sleep, which I know is not the best idea.  I vowed when I got to Maine I would get on a better sleep schedule.  I know from experience that, despite not being a morning person at all, if I force myself to get up early every day, and get some movement in, I'll be able to sleep at night.  That has been the case so far, and I have been working very hard to establish a schedule that has me up at 6:00 am and in bed by 11:00.

My plan for the summer is to run in the mornings three times a week.  I started that last week, and it feels good to have some physical activity out of the way before I do anything else.  On the days I'm not running, I am working on getting in the habit of taking a walk right after work.  It gives me the chance for a little quiet time outdoors and provides an energy boost that carries me into my evening chores of cooking and cleaning.

I also joined a gym last week and met with a personal trainer.  I’m planning to do strength training twice a week in addition to the workout I’m getting cleaning out the house.  To give you some idea of the physical demands of the cleanup, on Saturday I worked on cleaning out the second floor of the barn.  This involved throwing trash out the window and onto the roof of a one story addition on the back of the barn, then climbing up a ladder and throwing the trash off the roof into a construction dumpster.  I also made many trips down the stairs carrying out boxes for Goodwill.  It’s basically Crossfit, only dirtier.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part I: Feelings

It's not actually a vacation, this summer in Vacationland. In fact, it's basically two full-time jobs: My actual job, which I am doing every day via telework, and cleaning out my mother's hoard on nights and weekends.  Today and tomorrow, I'll share some of the things I'm learning, feeling and doing as I begin to get settled in.  Today's topic: Feelings.

Reaching Out
This is a very isolating and lonely experience.  I have found myself wishing, multiple times a day, that I had someone to talk to about it.  As a single woman, I have thought about how different this experience would be if I were still married and had that kind of emotional support.  That has been an interesting and challenging thing to think about.  In one way, it's empowering to know that I can do really hard things by myself.  On the other hand, it makes you think hard about your life choices and what you want out of the future.

One day it occurred to me that I'm not completely alone.  There are other people in my life who love me.  They are far away, but there's this thing called the internet.  So I started a little social media group with a handful of my dearest friends.  I can post stories about the crazy and emotionally wrenching things I am encountering every day, and they can tell me that they love me and everything is going to be ok.  I was a little afraid to do it at first--it's hard for me to ask for help, and I worried that people might not want to be in my summer support group, but one thing I am learning is that people who care about you are generally happy to help if you ask them.  It's just the asking that's hard.

Managing Introversion
Country people always talk about how loud the city is.  Maybe.  I guess I am used to traffic noise and the quietude of my apartment.  There are a lot of intrusions in the country.  In the house, there's the tv turned up loud for background noise, which I do not have back in DC.  There are family members stopping by to help while I am trying to work.  (Not that I'm not grateful for the help.)  There is a land line telephone, which seems to ring constantly.  Often it's scam robocalls targeting senior citizens, which is kind of appalling.  Sometimes it's family members checking in, which is perfectly lovely, but when the land line rings three times while you're trying to cook dinner after you've spent eight hours cleaning, you really just want to be left alone.  Last night I went to the beach, and I realized it was the first time since I arrived here that I just went off by myself to be an introvert and do something that didn't involve cleaning or running errands or something else that needed to be done.  I am going to try and do a little bit more of that in the coming weeks.  I have to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.  I mean, it has to be a fast marathon because I don't have unlimited time to spend in Maine.  Nevertheless, in hoard cleanup as in fitness, I can meet my goals by doing a little bit every day and more some other days.  I can afford to take some downtime.

Ever since I got here, everywhere I go, I am hearing condolences from people who have no idea how complicated my relationship with my mother was.  I appreciate them, and I know they are well-intentioned, but the truth is, all I feel right now is anger.  When someone has treated you like dirt for most of your life and then left you with an unfathomable amount of actual dirt, which you have to put your life on hold to clean up, it is hard to feel much of anything else.  I can hear my mother whispering from beyond the grave--or, actually, from the table in the living room where her ashes currently reside until somebody (probably me) has time to plan the memorial service.  She's saying what I always knew, "I never cared about you or your life"  and "All this trash was more important to me than you were."  Condolences, indeed.

I remind myself I'm not doing this for my mother.  My father needs my help.  Sometimes I think about the year he was so sick, and how worried I was, and how hard I worked to help him get better.  One of the hardest parts of moving to DC was leaving him behind, and I am grateful to be here with him this summer.  When I see him playing guitar or working in his woodshop or talking to my nephew over Skype, I think to myself...these are all the things you lived for, Dad.  And it makes me happy.

Change is Hard
Sometimes you change your life, and sometimes life changes you.  This blog is all about how I changed my life, and how I work every day to shape it into the best life for me.  But this summer is about dealing with things that are mostly beyond my control and making the best of a challenging situation that I didn't create.  I know that living and processing this experience is going to change me. I'm not sure how, and I'm not sure who I'll be at the end of this summer.  But I do know I will have made it through one of the more challenging experiences of my life, and that will be something to be proud of.