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Back In the World (Sort of.) November 23, 2013

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

Little by little. I’m venturing out. I’m doing small things, both in and out of the house.

Everything feels huge. HUGE. The first time I drove the car last week, I felt like a sixteen year old with a new permit, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, waiting long minutes before pulling into traffic. Testing out my neck, my reflexes, my attention, my ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. (the radio, other cars, my husband’s voice) I drove about 5 miles to drop my mother off at her volunteering gig.

I am humbled and amused that my 90 year old mother has about 100x more stamina and energy than I do. She can spend a day stuffing envelopes, come home and walk the dog, then go out to a Golden State Warriors basketball game, cheering and stomping until 10:00pm. All of which would probably kill me at this point.

People are happy to see me out in the world. They tell me I’m looking great! The teeny tiny bandaid at the the back of my neck doesn’t really represent anything. I say, the incision is small but deep. But it’s not just the incision that cut through the tough white fascia in my spine, the muscles and the drilling into my vertebrae. It’s the six weeks of unfathomable pain, of lying in bed trying to find a position, or walking around in ballet position, of counting the minutes before I surrendered and had to just get horizontal again (15 minutes on a really good day, 2 minutes on an average day).

Meanwhile I was forever experimenting with the pharmacy that was multiplying in my bathroom, trying to test the drugs to see which would bring relief without vomiting or psychosis or some other unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile my muscles, so long the pride of my body, have thinned down into thread. I have to be careful with what I lift. Even some plates are still too heavy. I’m better with saucers, single utensils, the little mugs and glasses, not the big ones. Pots and pans are out of the question. I won’t be hauling the turkey next week.

This week I stopped in at the Weight Watchers center to check in with Julie, the fabulous leader who has been filling for me since September. I told her I didn’t think I’d be back this week. Just sitting in a chair listening to her speak tired me out. I couldn’t imagine summoning the energy to stand up in  front of the meeting room. Not yet.

Last night I went back to the Writers Grotto because my beloved office mate was having a pre-nuptial party and I wanted to celebrate with her and the writers I’ve missed for so many months. I wanted to see my little space that I’d missed.

My succulent plants were long dead.

is this a metaphor for something?

is this a metaphor for something?

After a couple of hours of merriment (during which time I mostly slouched in the corner of a sofa, kind of dazed) I felt like I was melting. Unable to speak or hold up my head. I got home around 7:30 and went directly to bed.

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

This is how it is now. Better, so much better, but so far from where I was. I’ve taken a few walks this week, no more than a mile at a time. I slow-walk, always with a friend, whose arm I can grab if I start to wobble, half a mile to the “It’s Nice To Be Nice” bench. Then I rest. Then walk a half mile back to the car and again, directly to bed. It wipes me.

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Still, I’m managing to get some things done. I’m checking things off my to-do list. Phone calls and getting stuff done that I never had time to do before. Small things.

I’m reading. And writing. Thinking about new directions for the new year.

I’ve started reading Roxana Robinson’s stunning novel, Sparta, and reading about the Marine returning home from Iraq, and how returning from his experience is so surreal and terrifying, how his loved ones want to welcome him back just as he was before.  I know that two months of a herniated disc is not really comparable to four years of war, but it’s been like a little war in my body. It was a shocking kind of attack like I’d never experienced before. Where everything I believed and knew about myself was called into question.

I’m putting my life back together but it’s so much slower and in smaller increments than I ever could have imagined.

 

 

 

Headed Off to Camp…. July 14, 2011

Filed under: Team in Training,triathlon,work — Susan @ 6:09 pm

Tomorrow morning I will be taking off for the weeklong family camp that I have directed for the past 7 years. This is such an enormous undertaking I can barely even describe it. It is overwhelming, exciting, thrilling, exhausting, emotional, fun, fulfilling, moving, stressful. It is the culmination of a year’s work. I am both excited and nervous (as usual).

One year (before 2009!), I gained ten pounds during the week of camp. It was high stress, and I was just snarfing down the Sloppy Joes and cookies like there was no tomorrow. I’ve now had two summers of “healthy mindful camp” and I just want to keep that up this year. I know that when I get back I will begin my triathlon training and I am excited about that. I don’t want to stress too much. I’m bringing handweights and some workout DVDs and my running shoes of course, but my DirectLife monitor told me that I was expending well over 100% of my daily target just running around.

I doubt I’ll have the chance to blog much while I’m gone. I haven’t even had the chance to line up any guest posts. Don’t go away on me people, I’ll be back and blogging like a madwoman when I return on July 23rd and go to my Team in Training Kick-Off Day! Woot!!!

P.S. See if you can “find Foodie” in the picture above from last year’s camp. Click to enlarge!

 

If It’s Physical, It’s Therapy December 12, 2010

This is the shirt that we physical therapy students wore back when I was an undergraduate. It was sort of meant to elicit snickers like, heh heh, physical, heh heh. Back in the Olivia Newton-John “let’s get physical” days. But I’ve been thinking about this shirt, and that saying, and my long-abandoned career that I only recently dusted off and removed from the mothballs.

I graduated with a physical therapy degree in 1982. When I had my first child in 1990, I turned to other things, mostly nonprofit work, then writing, then teaching writing. And even though I renewed my license every few years, I pretty much thought of it as something I had done once but never would again.

I went back to doing PT work this past April. It’s been tough – the learning curve of learning brand new skills as well as dredging up information I’d packed away in the deepest recesses of my brain has tested me like nothing else. It’s been a very hard road, but I have not wanted to give up because I have been hoping, that with time, it would get easier.

After six months, I think I can say that going to work is not the intense stress that it was during the first couple of months. I am more relaxed now, although with moments of anxiety that I don’t know enough, or can’t do it right. It’s beginning to feel smoother. I’m going to be attending a professional course in February that I am actually looking forward to.

But it occurred to me recently, like a bolt of lightning, that another (of many factors) reason that I stayed away from this profession for 18 years (!!) was that I felt unworthy of it, physically. If I was overweight and inactive, who was I to help or counsel others regarding their physical issues?

Maybe it’s no coincidence that even when I was practicing, decades ago, I most often worked with the most severely disabled or the very oldest (or youngest) people around. I helped people who needed to learn how to hold up their heads, or sit for 10 seconds at the side of a bed, or take ONE STEP. I remember feeling a sort of disdain for athletic trainers (and their patients) and thinking that that was a stupid use of professional skills and that athletes did not need or deserve any help, when there were so many people who couldn’t walk or stand up without help.

Ah, the arrogance of youth. But I also think there was something else going on. I was intimidated by athletes and athletic trainers. They made me feel lumpy and inadequate.

I realize now that for the first time in decades, I feel worthy of practicing as a physical therapist again, and as I am beefing up my brain-skills, the same is true for my physical skills. This week I was doing something called a POET evaluation – a post-offer employment test, which is something that employers are now requiring of some heavy duty physical jobs. These people are offered employment, but they are dependent on passing a set of physical tests to see that they can physically DO the jobs without getting injured. I have been trained to administer these tests using this ginormous machine and computer system. One of the tests involves lifting a crate up to a shelf with 10 to 60 pound weights. After every 10 lb crate is lifted, I have to add another 10 or 20 lbs to it. I also have to lift this 45-lb steel bar on and off the Big Machine and add attachments to it for various pushing and pulling tests.

On Friday, I noticed that my shoulders and upper back were aching like I’d done a serious workout. Then I remembered I’d done this POET test. It HAD been a serious workout! I do not think I could have easily done this 20 years ago.

This whole thing is such a big deal for me. I ran away from this profession for so many years because I never felt good enough, intellectually OR physically. But I’m learning now that maybe it’s not too late.

 

Comfort vs Comfort Food August 17, 2010

spreading the love

This event from yesterday impacted me so much that I am double-posting part of it from the food blog. Here’s what happened:

the problem was, I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I went to bed really late and got up unrested and so that was the wrong foot. It’s a Monday after a nice celebratory weekend. I went to work and the poor guy I had to work with was just a miserable soul in a lot of pain. I felt for him, and his pain leeched into me.

So by 11:30am I was just feeling terrible. Exhausted, cold (SO cold!), sad, lonely, (this is my not-so-social work place, as opposed to my super buddy workplace) and just DOWN. I began plotting all the ways I could comfort myself at lunchtime. I would take myself to this restaurant across the street that has ginormous portions of comfort food. I told myself I’d “forget” to bring my camera. YIKES.

But I was trying to be mindful. I was trying to recognize the fact that I was actively planning to use food for non-food distress. (even though hunger was part of the mix too) I teased it out in my head. I told myself, I could go to a soup place instead, and that way I could take care of cold, hunger and comfort all at once. That was a really good first step. Then I felt willing to bring my camera.

THEN I had a REAL stroke of genius. (ha!) I remembered that it was Monday, the only day of the week when Mr. McBody and I work about 2 blocks apart from each other. I texted him. “Lunch?” He had already eaten, but he said he’d come meet me. I waited on the street corner and man, I was never so happy to see someone. I really felt like he was literally saving me from a binge.

And it was like: OMG. I wanted comfort. And I got REAL LIVE human comfort. How fantastic was that!! He gave me the biggest hug. And all of a sudden I didn’t even need the soup. I was warm! I was loved!

We went to my favorite salad bar place and he sat with me while I ate my salad and listened to my woes and then gave me another big hug. And then I felt like I could make it through the afternoon.

I actually can’t stop thinking about this and I credit the reading of Savor (which I love) – about slowing that moment down, being mindful, and saying, what do I REALLY need?

I was hungry. I needed food. But what KIND of food?
I was cold. I put on my jacket.
I was lonely and needed comfort. I called out for my dear spouse, who luckily was close by.
I was tired. I had a cup of coffee because I couldn’t really go for a nap at the moment. But it taught me that going to bed early is key.

I was so ready to go and get some plate of SOMETHING to deal with all those things when in fact it would have helped none of them, not even the hunger, because it would have most likely been something regretful that I would then feel physically and emotionally bad about.

I’m learning! I’m really learning.

 

Night Owl at the Break of Dawn April 13, 2010


Sleepy Eastern Screech Owl

Originally uploaded by nickgatens

Oh boy. So I did it this morning, something I really swore I would never do: I got up at 5:30am so that I could go to the gym. Wow, it was an experience. Mister McBody has been doing this since forever, and I always thought he was just kind of fanatical. Well, I’ve crossed that line now, I guess. Or just: the idea of losing my fitness level after I’ve come this far is probably something I fear more than my fear of losing sleep.

So the alarm went off. First his alarm (5:05?). So I was actually treated to the “luxury” of “sleeping in” until 5:30 when mine went. The nice thing about having a partner who wakes up even earlier than you, is that there is always nice hot coffee ready!

I got up. I threw a bunch of clothes in a bag. I had my cup of coffee. (mmm hot) And drove off in the dark. That was an experience. I was amazed to see at least half-dozen people RUNNING in the dark with reflective clothing on. Wow, I said to myself. That’s pretty hardcore.

Got to gym. Shocked to see that the parking lot was PACKED. Even more shocked to see that the exercise-machine room also packed. Who are these people? I could not believe that probably 1/3 of them were in their 60′s and older (70s for sure) – I mean they looked like retired people. I did not think they needed to do this in order to zip off to a job. I’ve heard that as people age they lose the need to sleep so much. Did they have insomnia? This was interesting to me.

I did 30 minutes on the elliptical. Started out slow but by the end I felt very good and the sun was coming up and I could’ve kept going BUT I had this plan to jump in the pool to see how that felt. I’ve been making small noises about some triathlon in September and I figured I better start seeing how the other two legs of my stool are holding up.

It was COOOLD OUTSIDE. I noted that people smarter than me had brought nice slippers and big thick robes and towels from home. I had a skimpy little gym towel the size of a washcloth, and no shoes and certainly no robe. Note to self.

I jumped in the water. It was fine. (the air was freezing) I started swimming. Which sort of shocked me since the last time I swam laps I was pregnant with my almost-16 yr old kid. But it did sort of come back. I experimented with breathing every 1, 2 and 3 strokes. It was okay. Which actually means that it was FABULOUS since anything more than drowning after 3 strokes felt like a major victory.

I swam 4 lengths. Which I think = about 200 meters, or 220 yards. Which is about half the distance of the swim distance of the triathlon. I think i can do that. (by September)

It was shocking how tired I got though, and so fast. It made think, is there a couch-to-5k equivalent for swimming?? Swim half a length, float one minute?? Hmm.

After I felt like I couldn’t swim anymore, I got in the outdoor hot tub. For like two minutes. That felt really good. But then I had to bust out of there, shower and run home to pick up my kid for school.

Did that. I got to my work place about 45 minutes early. I had not really prepared my food for the day, and I didn’t want to go home again in between the school carpool and work. So I have to work on that piece of things. I went to a little cafe on the corner. They didn’t have any protein. I had some sourdough toast and a cappuccino. Not exactly breakfast of champions. I can work on that.

Work was more hands-on than yesterday. I could go more into detail about that and maybe I will at some point. But now I need a POWER NAP because I’m going to a concert tonight with Mr. McB.

I’m exhausted. Now of course I understand why HE naps every evening. I feel like my biorhythms have gone through a blender.

Anyway, what I learned today:
1. It’s pretty out at dawn.
2. It’s annoying that the gym is so crowded. I thought it would be kinda peaceful. But no.
3. I think I need to save swimming for the weekends when I am not so rushed.
4. The endorphins felt great but they had kinda dwindled down by 8:30am.
5. OH forgot to mention: got out and walked 20 minutes at lunch. That felt FANTASTIC – to be out in the sun, and to move around. That felt great. More of that.
6. I need to plan ahead more for food.

7. I’m really really sleepy. But I feel like this might be do-able.

8. I need a “performance” bathing suit, not a “lie around the beach in Costa Rica” bathing suit. LOL

 

The World of Work and Working Out April 12, 2010

This is the first week in, oh, I don’t know, my MEMORY that I’m working a more-than-full time week. I’m working 3 days at my new job, 2 days at my previous job, and 2 evenings at Weight Watchers. And all of a sudden, today, I had this enormous hit-by-a-truck feeling of deep empathy for people who struggle with this all time. “This” being namely trying to find time to exercise when working full time and having a family.

It’s TOUGH, people. So let me take a moment of silence and awe to honor everyone who has managed to do this. Now it’s time for ME to figure it out for myself. Wow.

Today is pretty much shot. I think. I woke up super early. Took kid to school. Had breakfast in coffee shop next to train station but couldn’t take train because the parking lot was full-up. Duh. So I drove. (hello $10/day parking lot fee! Goodbye paycheck!) I reported in at 9am and clocked out at 5. In the middle, I learned all sorts of stuff about my new duties. Which still remain somewhat mysterious, but oh well. Tomorrrow I think it will begin to gel and get a bit more real. (don’t even ask me to describe it. please. because I can’t! I mean I’m incapable!)

My new boss/who is actually an old friend invited me to lunch. I was not about to say no. We had a nice lunch. Afterward we went back to the office and I almost re-enacted a scene from my solo performance piece in which I fall asleep at my desk. I think I was super tired from not much sleep last night, getting up early, getting super adrenalized from the New Situation and then lunch. Zzzzzzzz. I managed to deal with it. But I felt like a sack of bricks. I soldiered on through the afternoon and at 5pm went to pick up my kid. There was no way on EARTH I could think of cooking. We stopped and got some Indian food takeout. Came home and ate it. And now I am lying on my bed.

This is going to be a fast path to gaining about 35 lbs back, let me tell you!

I have got to strategize. I’ve got to strategize NOW. First thing I gotta do is start bringing my own lunch to work. That will help. Second thing is I think I am going to try and walk or run during my lunch break. Probably walk (better than nothing?). If I run I am going to be a stinky frizzy mess. There is no shower at work. OK, what else? I am going to have to figure out some sort of dinner plan wayyyyy ahead of time. Crockpot? What? OMG. I’m also going to have to figure out when I can work out. (walking does not count, that’s just staying sane and alive during the day)

I guess my choices are:

1. Before work

2. After work

Oh my GOD. It might have to be before. Because after…… I just can’t face it. I don’t think I can do it. I am so NOT a morning person but I think I am going to have to join Mr. McBody (who has been doing this for YEARS) at O Dark Hundred and bite the bullet and do it.

I’m going to get up early tomorrow and give it a go. Which should not be a problem since it is 7:30pm and I am ready for bed NOW.

Again. One more moment of silence for people who manage to do this 52 weeks out of the year, make it a priority and make it work.

I feel like one of those people who don’t have kids and then they babysit their friend’s baby for like 3 hours and then they go collapse or have a nervous breakdown.

 

 
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