:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COFFEE Project Post Thirteen: Watermelon-Mint Martinis and My Muse (Tawni)

Hey, guess what gets even harder to find when your five-year-old boy child is no longer in school? If you guessed: “Time for writing,” you are correct. There is no prize for your correct guess beyond a knowing nod from the trenches of parenthood, so I now nod in your general direction. Knowingly.

I am scurrying to write this like a little animal racing to store nuts for the winter. Or maybe some other animal-themed analogy that doesn’t involve nuts, because that word always makes my inner fourteen-year-old boy giggle. But you know what I mean, right?

My son is playing in his sandbox as I type, and I am staring out the window into the backyard at him. I don’t have one of those easy kids that you can send out into the backyard to play and not worry about, I have the kind that must be watched like a hawk, lest they create a bomb from found items, blow up the fence, and escape. We chose a house with big windows in the living room that look out into the backyard on purpose.

I just re-read my last post to sum up any progress I’ve made and see where I left off on the journey to become a better version of myself. One of the things I’d hoped to accomplish was a new “picture of the day” sort of project, since I didn’t quite manage the seven days of self-portraits mission. I thought about it, and decided that I don’t want my personal blog to take over my life in a daily way, because I want to focus most of my energy on the book I’m writing. So I did something a bit different: a series of photos from my yard and local (natural) world.

Nature Seen is what I’m calling it, because get it? It will involve pictures, or scenes, from nature. That I’ve seen. Get it? Huh? Do you? Ahem. Okay, so it’s a pretty cheesy name, but too bad, because that’s what I’m going with.

I put up the first one yesterday, featuring my purple irises. If you’d like, you can see the first post from my Nature Seen series here:


So… speaking of having a hard time writing, I had to stop in the middle of typing this because my son came to the back door covered with sand and water, yelling, “Mom! I’m done in the backyard!” which is code for: “I’m filthy and I know you will freak out if I step one foot in your clean house, so come get my clothes, please.” Or something like that. So I had to go strip my child naked, and then march him straight to the bath. And then he was hungry. And then the tornado watches appeared on every channel of my television. And then my husband got home from work and started clearing out the hall closet because the meteorologists said we had chances for violent tornadoes headed our way. So I spent the next hour documenting everything we have of value with the camera for the insurance adjusters, because I’m practical as well as paranoid. (And because I’ve lost everything I owned to a house fire before. The stuff-documenting paperwork was the worst part, after the loss of my cats.) And then we sat in the hallway listening to weather reports and tornado sirens for hours before collapsing in bed completely adrenaline crashed and exhausted. Such is the life of an Oklahoma mother, I guess. Whew.

Annnnnd… that’s why I am posting this a day later than I was supposed to post it. The end.

Except not the end. Just kidding.

Let’s see. In my last post I vowed to write an hour a day, and I’m definitely doing that. I also came to the realization that I’m a binge writer who needs to work on being more disciplined, but I can’t honestly say I’ve worked on reaching that goal. So I’m going to continue trying to be more disciplined about it, rather than just writing when the urge hits. I don’t know how people summon the muse when she’s sleeping, but I am determined to get my inner creative chick to start performing on my schedule rather than her own.

Another thing I wanted to achieve was less time devoted to social networking/internet tomfoolery, and I really haven’t cut down on that very much either. I noticed when I had an abdominal surgery that kept me from being on the computer for nearly two weeks, I didn’t die. It was amazing. I didn’t finger-babble away hours of every day on the internet, and somehow, some way, the world kept turning. So I would really like to see if I can make that happen again.

To help further this goal, I am going to Costa Rica for the first week of June, and will not be checking Facebook or getting on the internet even once while I’m there, despite the fact that I’m taking my laptop, and the resort offers free Wi-Fi. Nope. Not gonna check the Facebook. Not gonna do it. I will be terrifically out-of-touch. For a whole week. And I will write. And eat fruit. And walk on the beach with the sun on my shoulders. And drink at the swim-up bar so I can finally realize my lifelong dream of chugging booze and peeing at the same time. It's going to be magnificent.

What I am also going to do in Costa Rica is work on my novel during the four days my husband will be golfing. Yes, you heard me right. Four days alone in a hotel room in Costa Rica. I am a wee bit excited about that, as you can probably imagine. (The boy child will be staying behind in Oklahoma for a fabulous week of grandparent spoiling and all-day swim camps, so he’s excited about his own little vacation.) I’m planning to write my guts out during my four glorious days of Me Time. I might raid the mini-fridge too. We’ll see. Last summer, on vacation on an Alaskan cruise, I discovered my alcoholic Holy Grail, the watermelon-mint martini, so if I can find someone at this Costa Rica resort to make those for me, my book may well be fueled by vodka. It could happen.

En route to Costa Rica, I will need to distract myself from the unnerving feeling that the airplane might drop out of the sky at any moment, so I bought a book called The Happiness Project that sounds exactly like what we're trying to do here. I freaked out a little when I found it because it reminded me so much of this project. I will review it here in my next post and let you know.

I’m also going to post my monthly piece up at The Nervous Breakdown this week, so be on the lookout for that here:


I hope you’re having a beautiful month, my friends


Update: I edited and added to an older piece I wrote about a former bandmate, and put it up on The Nervous Breakdown, if you'd like to read it. It's under 750 words, so I would describe it as flash nonfiction. It's short, but not very sweet.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raptureless Days Ahead (John)

Well.  No Rapture yesterday.   Shoot.  I was hoping it would happen.

No seriously.

Life these days is crazy.  Kiddos need tending, teaching and loving.  Scheduling time with the Wife is next to impossible.  Our collective parents are spread across the health spectrum from "pretty healthy" right on over to near the "so long, thanks for all the fish" area. Employers are kind, but hardly ready to let us self schedule around our lives.  My business is on hold until further notice, so no shop time for me.  Finding time to breathe has seemed unreachable.  Which leaves me cranky and tired and wishing, wishing, wishing for a vacation.  Or the Rapture.

Because one way or the other, I'd be OK with that.  If God decided I had done well enough on the planet and met all the benchmarks for getting swept up, up and away, then I'd be in heaven with my family, friends and pets, and all would be fine with the Universe.  But if my scorecard was still in the red and I got left behind... well, I'm certain that the Wife and Kiddos are in the black and would be gone, so I wouldn't have to worry about them.  And I could survive pretty well in an Armageddon world.  I'd go all Mad Max and get me an unSaved dog or two, and we'd build ourselves a nice little fortress farm to live out the rest of the days.

And either of those sounds so much more relaxing than what life is throwing at me these days.  Even a zombie apocalypse sounds less stressful than my life right now.

I went to see Mom in the hospital Thursday, and while I was in town I went to a concert at my old high school.  It was the first time I'd been back since the early 1990's.  Some things are the same but much has changed.  The Choir director that started when I was a senior is retiring after 22 years of teaching and directing.  He has had a whole career there since I left.  It left me reflecting on just what I had done with the last 22 years of my life.  As I drove the three hours home that night I was thinking about what I would have done differently if I were back in high school again.  My biggest trouble, for my whole life really, is that I have no real direction.  There are so many things that I want to do, and so many things I want to experience, that to focus on just one and make a career out of it... well... it obviously didn't work out that way, so I can't imagine that it would sort itself out if I had a second time around.

The thing is, is that it is tiring trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, especially since I am well past the "growing up" phase.  I ran into a couple of people from the "old days" at the concert who asked me what I was doing these days.  "I'm a paramedic" was the easy answer.  Because I am a sometimes paramedic, and I do enjoy that job.  But I'm also an artist, a writer, a father, a husband, a son, a small business owner, a cook, a gardener, a triathlete in training, a philosopher, a photographer, a pilot, a carpenter, a blacksmith, a repairman, a contractor, a designer, and a dog trainer that wants to go back to school to become an astronomer, a biologist, a chef, or maybe a circus clown.  I want to spend the summer studying the varieties of dragonflies in my front yard.  I want to develop my own line of grilling tools that actually make sense for grilling, then test them out by developing my culinary chops while I grill tasty food.  I want my parents to be healthy again so they can enjoy these days with me, instead of taking up dual citizenship in their house and the hospital.  I want time to do everything.  I want to figure out how to do everything I want and still accomplish the things that I need to do.  And that is a very elusive goal.

So... no rapture.  I guess I'll continue the march on the Seven Days project.  My goal is to have the Sandwiches up by the end of the month.  Or maybe by my birthday in August.  Time marches on, and so will I.  Doggedly and determinedly.  I'll continue to set goals.  Some I will reach.  Some I will not.  But isn't that what life is all about?  You just can't count on a Rapture for a break from it all.

I can't have everything I want.  This much is clear.  But like the song says, I might just get what I need.  I'd like very much for advice on how to be OK with that.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let there be light... (Angie)

"I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and all the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour."
- Dar Williams

Being that my heritage is one-half Czech farmers and one-half Irish immigrants, I can safely say I hail from a long line of extremely tough people. My ancestors cultivated the land by breaking rocks and plowing fields on foot. They birthed their own babies, pulled their own teeth, set their own broken bones, and got on with it. When I imagine my strong Iowan forbears doing various earthy things, talk therapy is not among them.

Where I come from, you work hard, you help your neighbors, and you're grateful to wake up on the right side of the sod every day. When something goes wrong in your life, there is always someone who has it harder than you, and you suck it up and soldier on without dwelling on it. Which is why, despite the fact that I spent several years of my adult life ruled by the whims of early coping mechanisms gone diabolically awry, I was in my early 30's and on the verge of a total stress breakdown before I thought to myself, "You know, it might not be a bad idea to TALK to someone about all this..."

Fortunately, at that point in time, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people don't believe in an unexamined breakfast, let alone an unexamined life. I started seeing a no-nonsense therapist named Mina Skoutelakis (say that five times fast) who steered me away from the crash course I was on, then handed over the wheel several months later when I had learned how to better navigate my psyche. I walked away from therapy a happier person, healed in many ways, with a bunch of great tools for dealing with life in a productive and positive manner.

Now, I am about to embark on another trip down therapy lane, with a new therapist (whose name isn't nearly as fun to say). I am not in crisis, I am not spiraling out of control - in fact, I really like my life. But I have decided, after much deliberation, that my psyche needs a little fine-tuning. I want to take some polish and rags and detail that sucker.

I am currently bound to a specific situation that challenges me beyond the limits of my own good sense, and this is the main reason I decided to talk to someone again after all this time. But while we're at it, I'd like to tackle the little voice that, amidst all the blessings and richness of my life, persistently whispers that I don't deserve to be happy, and that someday soon the other shoe will drop and it will all go to hell. That voice seriously needs something new to say.

This time around, I know what to expect out of therapy, and I know what a relief it is to shine that good light into the dark corners. But no matter how well you think you know yourself, or how rational you fancy yourself to be, therapy shows you stuff you aren't expecting to see. It's like a jack-in-the-box. Turn the crank, enjoy the happy little tune, and then - WHAMMO!

So, I am a little bit excited and a little bit nervous about my first appointment Thursday evening. I know that no matter what, I am in for an interesting ride.

And now, because I can appropriately work one of my favorite quotes about therapy into this post without too much stretching, I am going to close with someone else's words of wisdom (so much easier than coming up with my own).

This is from Cary Tennis, the awesome advice columnist at Salon.com:

"I know I recommend therapists a lot. It's because the right therapist can truly provide priceless service. Our relationship with ourselves is the one thing we cannot escape. We have to live with ourselves all the time. So anything that makes living with ourselves better and less painful is money well spent, if you ask me."

PB: It’s Not Just for Sandwiches Anymore (Jenna)

Sunday I ran my first half-marathon. People ask, “So, you must be so happy!” You bet I’m happy; happy that I’m finished. My quads, on the other hand, are not happy today and I fear their response will be even worse tomorrow. Oh, quads. Get over it.

I ran the race with a couple friends of mine (Laura from Scotland and David from Michigan). Laura, like myself, had never run a half marathon before so our lofty goal was merely to finish. As we discussed prior runs thought we could get under 2:15 and that became our new goal. Dave, on the other hand, has run many a races and is what I’d like to call a “Type A runner”. He had consumed an exact breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, attached six small water bottles around his waist to be drunk at 12 minute intervals, applied lubricant to all the right places, brought a package of specially created sport Jelly Bellies to be consumed shortly after the 10K mark, and a strategically placed sweat band to make sure not drop got into his eyes. He also is a chatterbox and he entertained us with all kinds of conversation for the first hour. After getting a burst from his beans, he blasted off so he could “negative split” for the end. Prior to running with him, I thought PB was only an acronym for peanut butter.

As we moved at our regular pace, we noticed that we were catching up and passing various pace setters. The race had a variety of people along the route with brightly colored shirts and balloons tied to them boldly displaying the time that they would finish. If you ran with that person, you’d get the time you desired. This I found was a brilliant idea. Laura and I passed the 2:15, 2:10, 2:05 and 2:00. Now the goal had changed. Keep ahead of them and we could finish before two hours. We both jumped on board with the new game plan.

For the first hour and half I was fine (besides the stupid idea of wearing a new sports bra and having to literally shove a sponge down my shirt to stop the chaffing!). I’m an avid wearer of my heart monitor and I know that if I keep my rate below 180, I can go forever. But then it was 181, then 183, 185 and I still had three more kilometers to go. Normally 3K is no big deal but I did the math: I had about 18 more minutes to go. That seemed like an eternity away and I turned to see the 2:00 pace setters only a few steps behind me.

This is when I had to recall every motivational story and speaker into my head. “It’s mind over matter. You can do it. Just take another step,” I kept repeating to myself. I thought about Terry Fox. I thought about my friend Heather who ran a marathon for five hours. I recalled the blog of a guy who ran a marathon with no training. I thought about all those poor bastards that still had a second loop ahead of them. I thought about how disappointed I’d be if I started walking at kilometer 18. I thought about all of the people I’d told about this race and how it would suck to report that I’d quit. I thought about multiple people who couldn’t run either by injury, age, illness or disability. I thought about each flippin’ step, “Keep going, just keep going.”

Then, at the 19km mark I turned a corner and suddenly the path was full of people on either side, held back by barricades. People were clapping, singing and playing in bands. Even if I wanted to quit I physically couldn’t get out of the road. Plus, again, I am highly driven by not wanting to look like a wimp or a quitter and I looked at all these people looking at me! I then heard my friends yelling, “GO JENNA!” and I took a few more steps and saw a couple more. In needing every cheer, I looked around for other faces of recognition and saw a student of mine yelling my name. I smiled. Then, in fearing my legs would give out, I looked up and saw the finish line and made my way across it.

1:59:02. I did it. This certainly was my Personal Best. So when people ask me about my PB for the half, I’ve got digits to tell them. :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

whole foods dancers are odd, but i bet they're no slackers. (amy)

Before I begin my official post, let me say: Happy Mother's Day (and as I type this: Happy Mother's Evening)! I hope all moms (to small humans and growing humans, dogs and/or cats and/or other pets who totally count, too), daughters of mothers, sisters and brothers of mothers, husbands of mothers, sons of mothers, and everyone in between either got to be honored or do some honoring today. Moms are so good. They can really bring out the neuroses in you (I know I like to do this, particularly during bath/bedtime), but they are so vital to the world. Ditto dads (you're up next).

On to my post:

I am late! I am late. With this post, among other things. My life, starting with the CRCT (Georgia's version of end-of-year high stakes testing), just kind of went: KABOOM. Here's how bad it's been (you are going to laugh and LAUGH--I did): remember that April 30th 5K, the run for water one? The one I've been semi-training for (in a very wax on/wax off kind of non-committal way) since beginning my COFFEE project nigh these 6 months ago? The one that, about 3 months ago, I went on and on about, proclaiming things like: "This is IT! This is the ONE, everybody. I'm in! I'm committed and there's no going back now. Booyah!"

Yes, that one.

That race was to begin at, like, 7:30 AM or something on Saturday, April 30. Guess where I was at 7:30 AM on Saturday, April 30? In bed, totally asleep. Blissfully unaware it was April 30 and I was supposed to be in Johns Creek, GA at that moment speed walking my behind off (to an honorable placement of #150 or something not too ambitious). I think I only realized it was THE April 30 around 4:30 that afternoon, in fact.

I would like to officially blame the creators (and passers) of NCLB, the test makers of CRCT, Spring Fever, my inherent laziness, adult onset ADD, and a really poor sleep schedule for this catastrophe. Oh, and the end of April and beginning of May. They deserve honorable mentions as well.

And then? Today, I realized it was THE May 8. This is my COFFEE posting day! And I got nothing! Nothing but news that makes me look like a lazy, shiftless goof-off committment shirker. It's 9:11 PM and I almost forgot to swing by here and let everybody know what a lazy, shiftless goof-off committment shirker I've been.

On the other hand, I was successful at controlling my expletive-laden mouth-offs to other drivers...until this past Friday evening when I was turning into the parking lot to the annual Relay for Life festival, got confused at which lane I was to turn into, and the man in the very large, white pick up truck next to me laid on his horn for a full 5 minutes while proceeding to drive all angry and speeding through the parking lot (nearly mowing down one pedestrian who didn't have her own huge white pick up truck horn to blare).

That person got called a buckin' moe boe, and Melissa heard me call him that and I did not even care. No, not one bit. I guess even cancer survivors and/or their caretakers and/or their supporters are not immune to being buckin' moe boes. And then? After that? I started noticing all the rude people around me on the roadways--the aggressive and angry driving, the laying on of the horns (I think it's fine to toot a polite: "Hey, go--it's your turn, slick" or a surprised: "What the hecking heck are you doing, freakapotamus??" but there is simply no need, no need whatsoever, to lay on your horn for 5 minutes straight because in that moment you're absolutely convinced you're the best driver ever in all the history of drivers...I think that, unless you've never, ever made a stupid move (like picking the wrong lane to turn into) and are just THE exemplary example of how to be a fabulous driver, just can it, Jack. The rest of us don't care to see you and your inflated, angry ego on display all over the roadways--we're all perfectly content at blasting our fellow drivers with our profane, passive agressive epithets, and we think you should be, too.)

So! That's that. On that goal.

Back to April 30. What I DID do: I went to Whole Foods Market for some experimental shopping at Whole Foods. Spent $101.82 on the following:

  • 5 organic apples

  • a bag of mandarin oranges

  • 2 mangoes

  • 1 gallon of organic milk

  • 1 dozen organic eggs

  • 2 boxes of cereal

  • 5 Amy's organic burritos

  • 1 package of vanilla animal crackers

  • 1 cup of organic mozzarella cheese

  • 1 package of organic unsalted butter

  • a bag of organic chocolate granola.

I decided that--in addition to being unsure my checking account could handle the shock of future Whole Food trips--I just wasn't a big fan of the darker color scheme and narrow aisles that Whole Food seems to love. And also, I like to take my time and read labels, really ponder if I actually want to plunk down that much cash for what's in my hand. The crowd I was shopping with on April 30 didn't really seem to like to do that, and I could tell many of them were really laying on their inner automotive horns so I'd move on. And then, Melissa, overly tired and not really aware of the importance of buying and eating organic, had a 2 1/2 year old meltdown. And then I could really hear other people's horns starting to blare.

On the upside: In the cereal aisle--and I promise I am NOT making this up--I got to watch a man singing in some type of Slavic language do several grandiose ballet jumps at various intervals. To no one in particular, for no real reason. That alone was worth $101.82, and I would love to go back some day (minus a tired 2 year old) just to look for this grocery aisle dancer man again. That type of zany just isn't something I get to see out here regularly in the suburbs.

Still, the Slavic grocery ballet dancer just wasn't quite enough for me to come back and spend hundreds of dollars on a week's worth of food again, so I decided I'd try Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart next. I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart (unless it's 2 AM and I need a Jerry Springer fix), but I've read good things about Wal-Mart and organics in my sustainable food research (and also, way back when, I remember Tawni also pointed them out as being a surprisingly good source of organic foods). I will report back my experiences with those 2 stores next time (and will take copious, copious notes on all the interesting human specimens I encounter in my shopping adventures).

The writing hasn't happened. Again. Let's talk about something else. Look! There's a tall man behind you! Perfecting plies!

I will let everyone in on my new blog: What the Gac? I seem to like to set up blogs, but not actually write in them. Though I do think I clearly outline in my first (and only current) post to passersby and other potential readers that blog is merely a summer experiment.

So, my goals for next time:

1-Visit Trader Joe's & Wal-Mart. Be on the look out for grocery store dancers.

2-Continue whisper-cussing out other drivers so Melissa can't here me. Unless they're acting like big jerks. And then I think it's okay for children to know: some people are big jerks. And it's okay for us to cuss out big jerks.

3-Try not to be a slacker.

The End.

Oh, and in keeping with my dancer theme (and I apologize for acting like a stage mom--those of you who've been exposed to this on facebook), here's a video of Melissa getting down with a belly dancer at an art festival we went to this weekend (I would like to note: after watching this show, I seriously (but briefly) considered making belly dancing my next COFFEE challenge...I may still try it. I cannot think of anything more challenging and terrifying than wearing a belly-baring outfit and shaking my hips in front of hundreds of onlookers. My new heroines are the belly dancers in this video) (which clearly may include my child as well, one day) (and I also highly recommend this festival if you are in the Duluth, GA area next year the first weekend in May: Barefoot in the Park. It's not too crowded, but full of artsy types and THIS kind of good stuff:

Friday, May 6, 2011

I wont be a turd if I can help it..... (Tanya)

I have had a wild busy few months. That will be my excuse for a short and hopefully sweet post (really, turds are rarely mentioned). I've had incredibly wonderful things going on professionally and most especially personally. I've also had some challenging zingers that have taken me to the mat, rolled me over, and nearly pinned me me flat with complications of wrestler's ear.

I went back and looked at some of my initial goals. I really had no idea what to write about so I thought, hey, check out those goals.... what were those again?? I have A LOT (I mean A ---- LOT) of work to do, but my goal #5 is what I'm going to ruminate on with the COFFEEs right now. Goal #5 is "I am going to put myself in more time-outs before I speak when I'm mad, terse, or believe that I was just insulted or slighted, and I will take this time to GENUINELY (yes, genuinely was all caps) consider if that person has a point and if I am the above turd." ["Turd" was cited from Goal #4 fyi.]

So Goal #5 has really come in handy in moments I've encountered recently when my initial gut feeling and seeing red moment had me wanting to lash out in some wild haired Donald Trump-esque one liner rip on a person. But... I have not done any of that. I have held my tongue (the same tongue that really only had the want of a fascinating and genius comeback but really, no substance behind the want), and instead I've taken heed to my Goal #5, taken some very deep reaching breaths, and held true to the mission of COFFEE growth. Of course, along the way, some of my dear friends have had to hear me vent, which I cannot promise I will ever stop doing (SUCKERS! Ha Friends!), but I have at least delivered a true college effort not to go overboard with any of it. I am trying hard to find meaning to these moments and to find ways to move forward with more dignity despite the absurdity of any situation.

So, there you have it. I am still growing, and growing hurts a ---- lot sometimes. I will, however, continue to grow, foster some good COFFEE beans, and really make me proud of me. Just maybe I will be more successful than not in turning my bad reactive thoughts someplace closer to reasonable. When I encounter absurd moments (or maybe even absurd people), I will try my best to avoid tripping into the pit and continue to breathe... a lot. I will also drink some red wine. That is never a bad plan too. ;) (Sorry, Patresa, I meant "drunk juice.")

Cheers COFFEEs. Happy Cinco de Mayo and all the other wonderful May holidays and special events! On May 6th (when I post this), Happy International No Diet Day, and of course on May 19th (my birthday), Happy Circus Day! Woo!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

COFFEE Post 14: Out of sorts… (Stephany)

Check the title of this post. It describes me well right now. OUT. OF. SORTS. I dislike this state of mind. It’s uncomfortable, annoying, and unsettling. Life is crazy here right now, just like it is for everyone everywhere. That just never seems to change. It’s more than that Life is crazy, though. I don’t know for sure exactly what it is that’s tipped the scales (aside from the fact that I’m still eating like I’m running 20+ miles a week… but that’s another kind of scale and another story ENTIRELY), but I have the sneaking suspicion that my body is literally rebelling.

When I wrenched my knee, I went from 20-25 miles/week and weight lifting at least twice a week to ZERO miles running, maybe a couple limping if you count just getting around everyday, and having to be so careful in the weight room it’s hardly worth it. Physical therapy has provided me with some physical activity, but it’s so focused on a specific purpose and has been so painful and mentally exhausting, it just doesn’t count.

I’ve written before about how my workouts and runs are therapeutic and necessary for coping and stress reduction. I knew it was important. I knew I needed the activity, and I knew it helped. What I didn’t know was just how much I needed it and how beneficial overall it really was for me. I can say, without hesitation, that since I haven’t been working out, I really don’t feel like myself. I don’t feel like myself, think like myself, OR look like myself. (The pants I can no longer wear will attest to this, too. UGGA-BUGGA!) I am just OUT OF SORTS. And, as I have come to realize, it has solely to do with the fact that my body’s not getting what it wants and needs.

I suppose I’m whining and complaining about something I can’t do much about right now. It IS a temporary state that will soon be remedied. After Friday’s knee surgery, light will be visible at the end of the tunnel again. (That’s the plan, anyway!) I’m not going to be able to go run for some time, but I’ll at least be back on the road to running. Doc says that by the end of June, I ought to be tying up the New Balance and getting back to the streets or, at the very least, a slowly moving treadmill. I can live with that. And in the meantime, I’ll have more physical therapy AND a brace that will support my knee enough that I can confidently venture back into the weight room. I’m extremely excited about this prospect! EXTREMELY EXCITED!!!! Not just because I get to go back to doing what I really love to do, but also because I’m looking forward to being able to RELAX and NOT feel so out of sorts. I wanna be ME again, and it can’t happen soon enough!

Given that I’ve felt out of sorts for so long and that I’m uber-hopeful that the out-of-sorts stuff will go out the door soon, I’m going to focus on only a couple COFFEE goals for this month.

1. Physical training – I’m going to obliterate my inner-pansy and chew on leather if I must. I will not wimp out after this surgery. I’m going to get in the weight room at least 3 times a week, and I’m going to maintain my best efforts in physical therapy. Period. No highway option. I will also begin to eat appropriately again based on the amount of work I’m doing, not like I’m still running all those miles each week.

2. Focus on OTHERS – My clothes don’t fit. I can’t work out. I’m a total grouch. I’m out of sorts… Wah, wah, wah… I’m going to make my kids, my parents, and my students the focus in the next month. If I can keep things about OTHER PEOPLE and really put my heart there, I won’t have the time to fuss and whine about what’s up (or NOT UP) with ME.

3. Parenting – Mostly because I’ve been so crabby lately, I am going to refocus on giving my kids the best of what I have. I know. Sounds awful, like I don’t usually try to do this. I do try, but I’m honest. The kids have dealt with way more poop from me and because of me than they should. The grumpier I am, the less careful I am about what I “share” with them. I’m less patient and less considerate and less loving when I’m out of sorts, and those kids deserve better – much, MUCH better! And that’s what they’re gonna get. Sweet kiddos…

4. Seven Days – I’m jumping on this bandwagon. Don’t know what I’m documenting those 7 days, but I will choose. And I will document. And I will share.

I didn’t intend for this to sound like some goofy infomercial or the makings of some poorly-acted after-school special. It just has to be said, though. If you aren’t physically active and don’t give yourself that outlet, you are MISSING OUT – big time! Try it. You’ll like it. You will. (Okay, maybe you won’t. You WILL, however, like the way you feel in the end. That much I can promise you.) And if you’re someone who has an established work-out routine, I challenge you to mix it up some, keep it interesting and intense, and to really appreciate the burn. I know I didn’t when I was able. I’m ready to be thankful for the opportunity to work hard (and the ability to do so) again. READY. READ-Y Freddy, in fact.

Life’s not going to be less busy or complicated just because I’m going to be taking it a little easier physically post-op. Wouldn’t that be just dandy, though? Ah, wistful sigh…. Ahem. All better. Sorry. Life’s going to continue chugging along, and I must, as well. The out-of-sorts stuff will hopefully run screaming into the streets as soon as I scan my gym membership card again and feel the burn. It will, and I will, and I can’t wait!

Monday, May 2, 2011

the girl on my front steps (Patresa)

It's been a strange three weeks. Or rather, *I* have been strange. Strange-er. I will blame it on pregnancy, because that is convenient. Although, really, I think pregnancy is only to blame for rattling my screen until all this latent weird junk materialized on my front porch. Literally (sort of).

I think it's because my body is so out of balance right now. Food, exercise, sleep, altered. As soon as my body goes lopsided, everything else does, too--the mind body soul braid, you know. In this case, raging teenage insecurity surfaced. Why this insecurity would be the thing to pop up, I don't know. Maybe it popped up graciously as a reminder, "Hey, you need to fix this before you have a kid. It screws around with you even when you don't see it."

Originally, I called it--this insecurity--a demon. We all have demons, don't we? But then I had a dream two weeks ago, in which I opened the front door of our house and found my teenage self sitting on the front steps. "What are you doing here?" I said to her, annoyed. I don't remember what she said, if she said anything. I woke up immediately.

It was important. I laid in bed a while thinking about that girl on my steps. I've talked before about the thing I say to myself "Get on off the porch, now," from one of my favorite books, Beloved, by Toni Morrison. The ghost of Sethe's daughter, Beloved, whom she had killed in order to save (in a complicated way), had come back to haunt her. Sethe is finally evicting Beloved when she tells her to get on off the porch. I thought of the girl on my steps--was she a ghost? A demon? I would exorcise her. I would slay her. Eject her. How dare she come back now.

But she was no ghost or demon. She wasn't Beloved. She was a good kid who didn't believe her worth. I recognized her then as a muddled soul needing compassion and clarification. Not exorcism.

I imagined a conversation with her. I explained to her the real reasons behind each of her perceived rejections--she was a lovely girl who didn't believe she was lovely, so she hid; she was a talented girl who didn't believe in her own talent, so she trembled until it was unrecognizable; she was a likable girl who feared she'd be abandoned if she wasn't, so she acquiesced and avoided. It was all brand new information to her, which was enlightening for me. Why had I never done this before--ticked through each of those little hurts and fixed my understanding of them? I hadn't, because I thought they were foolish and too petty to devote any time to. Get over it and move on, pansy. The girl on my porch convinced me that is not the case. Although such hurts are microscopic and meaningless from an adult perspective, they were huge and profound at the time they were experienced. Impressions follow even if the logic behind them loses weight. I'm sure there's not one among us who couldn't recount an adolescent rejection and still feel the cut of it.

I mention this sad sorry tale of woe here [sarcasm] only because it's been needling with my COFFEE goals to write songs and books. I don't remember specifically what my goals for the last 3 weeks were, because I deleted my last post hours after posting it. Why? Because I later learned that through some clumsy writing, it looked like I was saying I wanted to write songs for a living. (That is not what I meant, for the record. I meant I wanted to continue to write songs as a creative outlet. Period. A hobbyist who plays at local coffee shops.) At the point of this realization, the girl on my porch hollered through the door, "You're not good and everybody knows it. They're rolling their eyes at you and think you're a naive little prissy pants! You big fake phony baloney! Go back to your room and sing into your hairbrush!" Delete.

That was a Monday. Thursday it was time for another open mic. I dragged myself there and performed sheepishly. If I could have played my guitar with my hands in my pockets, I would have. But I did it, so at least I'm aware of my own irrationality enough to counteract it. Success.

At any rate, I don't mean to sound like a big poor-me-apalooza. I really don't mean that at all. When I reveal and over-explain crap like this, I honestly just do it because I assume it's universal, I enjoy examining strange phenomena, and I enjoy providing the connection. It's all erroneous thinking. I don't need anyone to tell me I'm amazing and magical. Competent, yes. Jesus Christ incarnate, no. I recognize my insecurities as my own skewed thinking and not reality. I'm fixing it. I actually feel quite a lot better after my talk with the girl on the front steps.

Progress has been made:

1. I signed up for a songwriting workshop for May 7. Next Saturday. It doesn't matter if the girl on the porch calls me a fake phony baloney. If I go as myself, then it will be impossible to be fake about it. Can't fake yourself, Puddin'. So my goal for the next month is… well, to go to that, even if a confused voice in my head calls me a fake phony baloney.

2. I bought a portable digital piano, because it will double my "play-out" set. I'm better on the piano. Now I can haul my own piano around. So my goal for the next month is to write at least 1 more original and 1 more cover on the piano.

3. I have a full set put together for Happy Fest on May 13. Excited and nervous. Optimistic. My goal for the next month is to tell myself at least 5 things that were great about it afterward, and forgive myself immediately for imperfections.

4. I've settled on the novel I'm going to finish and revise. It was the first one I started 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the most recent version is on my old, crashed laptop. The only back-up discs I have are incomplete. My goal for the next month is to take that laptop to the repair shop to get uncrashed and all documents recovered.

5. I do remember that I was going to create a vision board over the last 3 weeks. I didn't do that. So my goal for the next month is to create a vision board.