Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Learning Acceptance

I went to my yoga class again on Monday, and again I left there both elated and calm. I think I am hooked.

We practiced outside on Monday, in the middle of the main quad on campus. I surprised myself by not being too embarrassed to be fumbling around in public, even with my wide butt in the air in the Downward Facing Dog. Halfway through the hour, though, I did get a bit nervous. It had been raining lightly on us for most of the session, but then lightening and thunder moved over us halfway through. I have a hard enough time holding the poses without a wet mat, so I was really concentrating on not splitting my body in half or tipping over and snapping my neck. It wasn't as meditative as I would have liked. Although, it cleared up by the end of the session in time for the calming wrap up, and it was delightful to lay still in Corpse Pose, watching the clouds drift by overhead, in no hurry at all.

There were a couple of women in class the other night that were not there last week. Apparently they are regulars. I found them to be friendly, but a bit off-putting. I wish I hadn't let them irritate me, and I wish I wasn't still irritated to the point that I need to write about it here.

When our instructor paused to see if we wanted to stay outside when the lightening moved in, I mentioned if the lightening came much closer I'd prefer to move inside. (We were surrounded by five-story tall pines and outdoor light posts.) One of the women then sort of lectured me -- not the group or the instructor -- on how we are outside, communing with nature and it was a beautiful thing. I appreciate the nature bullshit, I do. but I didn't appreciate being spoken too like I was some kind of asshole. I mean, I wasn't freaking out because OH MY GOD MY MAT IS TOUCHING [carefully manicured, pesticide- and herbicide-laden] GRASS AND SOMETIMES MY TOES DO, TOO! No, I simply didn't want lightening shot up my ass while in the Downward-Facing Dog.

Earlier, before class started, the other woman mentioned no less than three times, how she and the first woman went skiing (cross country) "one last time" that morning (there is still crappy snow in the mountains 30 miles from here) and some of the things she saw on her "afternoon run." I get it. You are awesome, your treasure yourself and take care of yourself, are nature-loving and progressive and I am not. Obviously. I suppose I would have admired the tale of your day if you'd mentioned all of this once. The second time I was a bit annoyed. By the third round you convinced me you are a jackass or radically insecure. Neither is very flattering.

Thankfully, my irritation at my new classmates floated away without my even being aware of its leaving as soon as we started the session. I sound so cliche, I know, but this stuff is awesome. By the end of class I felt content with myself and much more forgiving of the ladies. I decided to give them a few more meetings before I formed my opinion of them.

I am not feeling too forgiving, I suppose, as I felt the need to write about them here. (In my defense, I have a raging case of PMS right now.) I feel a little bad relaying how these women were acting here. So, why am I publishing it? Why don't I just hit delete? I am sure they are lovely women; they were both very friendly with me when they saw me for the first time. Very smiley and happy.

I guess I want to ask you: Do you run into similar attitudes, appearances when you workout or attend a class? Or rather - have you ever interpreted what is most likely neutral enough incidents into something snarky? (Also, I suppose I am just feeling a little bitchy today and I am going to embrace that emotion as my freakin' nature and just run with it.)

It looks like I not only need to learn flexibility and balance through my yoga practice, but patience, (lasting, genuine) forgiveness and acceptance, too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Five

1. There is a little locally-owned candy counter in the union on campus. A young fella was leaning over the counter, listening intently to the young woman behind the counter telling a story. Immediately, I started to sing in my head, "He loooves her, he thinks she's preeetty..." in the melody and voice of Sandra Bullock from Miss Congeniality. I must be in a pretty good mood.

2. A. and I are going fly-fishing and camping this weekend. VERY. EXCITING. I got very little fly-fishing in last summer because A. was traveling so much with his job. I am very, very happy to be fishing more this summer.

3. In fact, we went (bait) fishing at a reservoir about 60 miles south of us last weekend. We both caught our first small mouth bass. Since mine was bigger, I get to post my photo.

4. I spent 10 minutes talking myself out of eating the remaining half of an uber-delicious, dense, dark, frosted brownie for breakfast this morning. I am glad I did. Besides, it will make a lovely, ready-to-eat dessert tonight!

5. These file folders have me re-thinking the "household documents in annual 3-ring binders" approach to home management. Clearly, files and a file cabinet would be so much better. Especially if I could file everything away in these folders. And paint the file cabinet in some fantastic pattern, maybe something inspired by features on Design*Sponge. I want these folders sooooooo badly. Seriously. Be sure to click on the thumbnails of all the different patterns.

Organizational materials + Fantastic Patterns + Delicious Colors = ABSOLUTE DIVINITY.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mindful Aches and Pains

The in-betweens of my fingers have never been sore before. They are today.

They are sore because I was doing so many Downward-Facing Dogs yesterday. I took my first yoga class -- ever -- last night!!!!! It was awesome. I've done yoga videos and some stuff from books, but I've never had either 1) the money for yoga classes; or 2) the nerve to get my inflexible, wobbly little self to a class.

My iPod was dead but I really wanted to get a workout in, (that alone is awesome, no?) so I finally worked up the courage to go the the yoga class I'd signed up for that started three weeks ago. Part of my courage came from Alice's many enthusiastic recommendations and gentle prodding to give yoga a try. Thanks, Alice!

It is a drop-in class, not a progressive class, so I was only kind of worried about starting partway through. Mostly, I was nervous it was full of yogi-masters or something who would have no patience with my fumbling around. (Which is silly, since so much of yoga is about acceptance.) There were three other young ladies there (I am sure I was at least 10 years older than the students and the instructor, but oh, well.) and the instructor was very welcoming and didn't make too big a deal out of it being my first class. Afterward, she did ask me how it went and I proclaimed, "It was fantastic!" while beaming. She came up to me later and said I had done very well for my first class, and that she was really impressed at how well I handled the sequences without her narration. (We'd do three sequences together, then do two more without her talking us through.) I was really tickled.

Most of the time I had to concentrate like hell to keep from falling over. I had to come out of a couple of poses to rest for a few seconds, but for the most part I stuck it out. There were a few moments, however, when I'd finally get a handle on balancing on one foot and I found myself sort of meditating on a spot on the floor, just breathing. It was really cool.

I was also surprised to learn that I can balance much better on my left foot than my right. This is especially surprising because my left ankle is a big ol- pile-o-crap. I broke my leg and ankle 15 years ago and have a plate, five screws and a pin in there. (I am the Bionic Woman!) I still can't fully extend that ankle (making the Hero Pose kind of difficult) but oddly, I can balance on that foot like nobody's business.

I am still surprised that the class was so strenuous. It was beginner/intermediate-beginner level. There were a couple of poses I couldn't get into, so I just modified them. I am way, way!WAY!inflexible. Holy. Cow. But - that is kind of cool as I'll be able to really watch my progress as I am able to get deeper and deeper into the poses. (Hmm, do you 'spose that last sentence will bring in unsolicited google traffic?) My entire body feels like it has been worked over. I am a tad sore pretty much all over. Last night I fell asleep with that warm, tingly feeling in my muscles that comes from a good workout. It was thrilling. It took me about 20 minutes to settle down and fall asleep; I just kept reveling in how my body felt. Also: my lower back and neck didn't give me any pain as I fell asleep. Those areas almost always cause me grief.

I had foolishly thought the days of my yoga classes would be "light" workout days. Um, NO. I am working on revising my weekly workout schedule. I'll bore you all with a post about it in a bit.

I am so, so happy. Last evening was a great experience. As my aching muscles quietly remind me of their presence, I grow more and more excited for classes next week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hablas Ingles?

While crashed out on the couch, watching Will and Grace:

Mathew (Patrick Dempsey), a gay man on a date with Will (Eric McCormack):I love sports. I always wanted to be a sports caster. I used to take my mom's curling iron and talk into it, pretending to be Howard Cosell."

Will: "That's funny. I used to sing into my mom's curing iron pretending to be Eartha Kitt."

[laugh track]

Me, tapping A. on the knee: Oh! I've seen Eartha Kitt live in the Roger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella musical.

A.: I have no idea what you just said.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One Stubborn SOB

It is snowing.

You can't see it too well here, oustide my office window, but those are snowflakes. BAH. There have been reports of six inches on the ground north of us. I don't think we will have anything like that, but still.

We have had five days above 60 degrees here. Winter is a stubborn motherf*cker.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where (Not Quite Spot On, but Trying) Feminist Theory and Free Weights Collide

The faces at the gym are starting to look familiar.

I've managed to workout at least three times a week, sometimes four, over the past month or so. The experience has proven to be richer than I expected. I am thrilled at the good I am doing for my body, how much better I've started to feel in such a short time. But subtle voices -- not my own but that have influenced my own -- are insisting on whispering to me, just loud enough for me to hear them over my iPod.

I haven't started running again since the shin splints. I still really want to become an established runner but I think I need to train for that once I've improved my overall fitness.

So! I've been developing a workout that involves 20 to 30 minutes of cardio and then a workout with weights. I think the combo of moderate cardio and weights will serve my body well. As I am approaching the ripe age of 35, the more concerned I am about building bone density. Now is the time for weight-bearing exercise, ladies! (Men, too. Get to it.) And to be honest, I really like how I feel after a bit of cardio and lifting. I like the sweat on my brow and the ache in my muscles. I feel like my body is working, like I am becoming better acquainted with it. Does that make sense?

A. has been helping me learn how to use the free weights and machines properly. I am so clueless in the weight room; I literally can't figure out how to mount half the machines. (Eh, mount.) If left to my own imagination, I am usually on the damn things backwards. I feel intimidated by all the giant, muscly men in the room, the particular smell of sweat. Hell - I feel intimidated because the machines, themselves, really do require mounting. Lordy. I don't like that this is how I respond to that room at all.

Why do I feel so inferior in this room? It is not just that I am out of shape (that contributes, sure). My uneasiness stems from the dominating, inculcating messages of what it means to be a woman, to be feminine that have been unceasingly directed at me -- and to every other woman. (Also to men. They have to be told what to expect and desire, after all.) I struggle with this, partly because I have also been told I am strong and capable because I am a woman (and not in spite of it) by my parents, my family and friends. The weight room has suddenly become the site of a schizophrenic shouting match. I try to confidently straddle the machines while screaming against the voice -- one of my own voices -- in my head that says: "Oh, my. That position is hardly flattering/lady-like/attractive. You look like an animal, not a woman."


But, there are things around me that reassure me, encourage me to get over it already. The mean, limiting, destructive voices of Supposed Femininity shall not prevail, dammit. There are always two or three other women using the weights and weight machines and that makes me happy. It also makes me oddly proud even though I don't know these women. A. always puts more weight on the machines that I think I can handle and then I move through my reps with strength and grace. Fuck you, Supposed Femininity.

What I am trying to say is this: While I am physically trying to get through my third set of reps, mentally I am fighting a difficult and trying battle against Heteronormative Bullshit. Bah.

As a friend says, COURAGE.

On top of my trying to deal with The Incessant Voice of (Supposed) Femininity in my head, I am also battling my reaction to The Unfortunate Run-in. I can't seem to shake it. And I fear, that it, too, stems from some fucked up idea I hold somewhere deep inside about femininity. (This, truly, is what freaks me out the most.) As I was doing some sideways sit-up thingies on the thing you bend forward on and then do a backwards sit-up with your back (do you know what I am talking about? Do you know what this contraption is called? Good grief.), looking awkward as all hell and concentrating on not falling out of the Backwards Sit-Up Thingie, my Former Thesis Advisor approached the machine next to me. I truly could not have appeared more awkward.

I immediately felt weak, frightened, and imposterish and wanted nothing more than to RUN AWAY.

I didn't finish my last round of reps. I didn't acknowledge that I'd seen him. I left the room and walked for 45 minutes on the track instead.

I haven't been back to the weight room since.

Just as I am plagued with what it means to be a Female Body, I struggle with what it means to be a Female Mind. The overarching patriarchal nature of Academia leaves me frightened and intimidated. I am still in a muddle here, and I don't know how to further explain where I am. I am sure I'll write about it more, but for now, it is enough that I acknowledge this.

I hate that this is how I feel, how I think.

But, I am determined to push on. You can't kick the ass of something you can't see, right? I will go to the gym tonight and I will climb on to those machines. I will watch myself in the mirror as I lift free weights, watching and correcting my form. I will not look away. I will try to recognize when the Bad Voices are taking over my mind and I will tell them to shut up. And then I will free my mind. I will say hello to Former Thesis Advisor, and I will look him in the eye. I will not look away.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I am working on another post, one that I want to get right. In the meantime, I really need from you:

a) some great chick lit recommendations;

b) some recommendations for gym music; and

c) your latest movie recommendations (this is the most important!!).