2011 in review

Every year, WordPress sends me a report of my blog’s activity in the preceding year. I know I haven’t written much in the last half of 2011, but the numbers are still impressive.

When I started the blog, I wanted to chronicle my move from Boston, MA to Asheville, NC. Part of my motivation was to keep everyone up to date on my activities and mental state, so I wouldn’t have to explain everything 9,000 times. But I also knew I’d be lonely, and that writing would be a creative outlet for me. It would help me feel more connected.

As 2011 barreled along, my life shifted. I started a Health Coaching business. I became an aunt. The daily challenges and inspirations of my life are still informed by the fact that I just relocated, but relocation is never what I want to write about anymore. That, a busy schedule and a multitude of personal challenges kept me from a regular blogging practice.

These stats are so encouraging. Scroll down to the map, where it shows you the location of my readers. Africa?? Maybe it was only one person, but still. If sporadic posts and months-long silence can get to one African, imagine what regular writing can do.

Look for a renamed, redesigned blog coming your way this month. Happy new year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Hills

No, not those Hills.

I’m talking about real hills – steep hills. Long hills. Unscripted hills.

Lately, hills have ruled my life. I think about them all day long, envision them while I’m lying in bed at night, and generally fret about them 24/7.

Why this sudden obsession with hills, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m currently training for the Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon – to be held on September 17, 2011. It is notoriously hilly — check out the elevation map.

Seriously?

When I moved here, I thought running was hard. And I was right – running in Asheville is hard. It’s hilly, no matter where you go. There are sidewalks – sometimes, and sometimes not. Sometimes the sidewalk just stops and picks up on the other side of the street. Why? I don’t know.  But as time passed, I got used to it. The difference in air quality worked its magic. Running on trails and through cool old neighborhoods is delightful. I noticed more power and stamina in my runs – from the ever-present hills. I can’t get away from them. I dread them until they sprout up in my path. And yet, I want to run them. I need to run them. I might even be starting to like them.

Some of them even have names:

The Wall – in the heart of downtown is a beastly hill that looks like one of those fake cartoon backdrops of a city street. Straight up. This hill happens to dwell in the last 1/2 mile of the race. It’s short, but it’s really steep.

The Bitch – the longest, steepest, most root-covered hill known to man, this hill resides on a trail at Warren Wilson college. I’ve never been able to run the whole thing, or even half of it for that matter. I once flailed through the air and belly-flopped while running down it. I have given it this name not because it is a bitch (which it is), but because one day it will be my bitch.

Sucker Hill – this bad boy leads into downtown from the South. It occurs on a busy, ugly street with zero shoulder and 4 lanes of cars – so even though there is a continuous sidewalk on the same side of the street (for like a mile!), the cars are so close you could touch them as they zoom past. This hill is also a liar – just when you gratefully reach what appears to be the summit, the rest of it comes into view. It’s steep, long, full of pavement and car exhaust. And about halfway up is a traffic light, which is never green for you. So, once you cross the street and start running the (steeper) second half, you realize that this sucker has sucked the wind right out of you. Hence the name.

There are others, of course. Infinitely more. They may be nameless today, but what they lack in nicknames, they make up for in length (some are miles long), steepness and sheer quantity. Running up them is, in a word, hard.

But I do it nonetheless. Not out of fear or a sense of duty – no one is making me run this race, and if I don’t feel ready for it, or change my mind, I can just not run it. Nor is it a George Mallory-esque mission. The mere existence of a hill is not an implicit challenge to me; I am quite happy to let them just be there.

I run these hills because I have to. Because conquering my weaknesses is the order of the day. Because when my legs are churning and burning underneath me, and my heart threatens to bust out of my rib cage like the Kool-Aid man, I can look up and say, “f@#k you, Hill,” and keep going anyway. And when I’ve made it to the top, and my heart beats even faster as oxygen floods my brain, I feel like Rocky at the end of a montage.

Do I sense a clichéd, running/life metaphor coming on?

Oh snap! I guess I do. You see – my dear, loyal, patient readers who are still reading this blog despite my months-long absence – I conquer weakness and rise to meet challenges every day, even when I’m wearing my fancy pants at some business networking lunch. As a burgeoning entrepreneur, I struggle daily with discouragement, lack of faith and potential financial ruin.

In the face of all this, I could stop and give up. I could suck air into my oxygen-deprived lungs and stare up at the rest of the hill, doubled over and wheezing. I could turn around and head back down, find a boss and a steady paycheck.

Or I could look up and say, “f@#k you, Hill,” and just keep right on going.

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The Force is Strong with This One.

If you don’t already know, I am currently studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It’s a year-long, distance learning program, and when I graduate I will be a Certified Holistic Health Coach. I’m learning a great deal of dietary theory, but I’m also studying business and practical coaching skills.

The school is pretty well-known in the wellness community, and one reason for that is the speakers. When they want to teach you about Raw Food, they get David Wolfe. If we cover Atkins, we get the Vice-President of Education and Research.

Last week, I listened to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, speak about rediscovering your creativity. She closed with this exercise:

I’m going to ask you six questions, and I want you to answer them in the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. (In other words, from a higher being).

Everyone chuckled, but when she asked the questions, I was surprised by my own answers. I figured I’d share them with you, because the exercise was pretty useful (after all, it wasn’t really Obi-Wan Kenobi answering the questions, if you catch my drift). And because I haven’t posted in a long time, and this seemed like a good place to start. I couldn’t help but picture a frustrated, over-acted Luke Skywalker rolling his eyes at the esoteric answers of his master. But anyway, here is what my inner Obi-Wan has to say:

1. What do I need to know? You already know all you need to know.

2. What to I need to accept? Accept that life is always changing, that you are connected with all living things. Accept the swirls of time. To resist these things is against your nature.

3. What do I need to try? Try everything.

4. What do I need to do? You only need to be. When the time comes for action, you will know what to do.

5. What do I need to grieve? Grieve for those you have lost through distance or death. Grieve for the plight of your fellow humans and for the destruction of the Earth. But do not dwell in grief. Feel your sadness and let it wash over you; it is only by being in it that you are able to move through it.

What do I need to celebrate? Life. Every moment. Every leaf, every breeze, every breath. Full moons. Quiet mornings. Teaching. Learning. Music. Celebrate your “you”-ness, and the freedom to create the life of your dreams.

What does your inner Obi-Wan say?

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On Time

Hey, remember back in January when I promised to publish two posts a week in 2011?

Yeah, not so much.

It’s the same old story of lost bloggers everywhere. I got busier, school started to pick up, there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Hogwash.

If there were any more hours in the day, I’d probably spend them sleeping. Don’t lie, you probably would too. Or drinking.

Gandalf + Grim Reaper = Father Time

Time. That old, man-made system we use to let us know when class is over. Or how many minutes ’till we close. Or how many push-ups my late client has to do (yeah, that’s right).

Our daily lives are ruled by the tick-tock, tick-tock of minutes slipping away. We’re either running out of time or counting it down. You rush to get to work on time, change into your uniform and punch the clock….and spend the rest of your day dying a slow death because quitting time seems so far away. Death by impatience.

Ever have one of those lazy mornings, where you lounge around and suddenly realize it’s four o’clock and you’re not even dressed yet? You might say something like, “Where did the time go?” But that same exact amount of time spent at work, the day before you leave for vacation, will drag on for every. excruciating. minute.

So, time is relative. It changes based on our relationship to it at any given moment. But 60 seconds is 60 seconds, and it is true that the sun rises and sets at certain intervals, and all living things undergo a certain life cycle. So time is definitely real, and measurable at that. Only us humans seem to have such a complicated relationship with it.

I’m pretty sure my cat has never hunkered down for the night and thought, “Whew/meow! What a long ass day.” Or, “I have been lying here on this chair for FOUR HOURS, I’ve gotta get up and make something of this day!”  I often express how much I would love to know what she’s thinking, but I’m willing to bet it’s usually nothing. She’s not sitting on that cushion thinking about how cold it is, how long she must wait for lunch, or how she can thwart the humans from going about their daily business (okay, that part is debatable). She’s just sitting there, being a cat. She’s a Zen master. In the moment, every moment.

Humans have spent lifetimes working to achieve this level of simplicity in their lives. This moment-to-moment, complete connection between mind, body and Universe. It is often taught that at our core, we are already one with the Universe and each other, but that the obstacle course of earthly desires, intricate thought patterns and negative feelings make us forget. (Please excuse my paraphrasing of several ancient and intricate religious teachings). So….human nature makes us forget our true nature? Bummer. Many of us spend a great deal of Time trying to get back to that simple, harmonious core, where Time doesn’t matter. Whoa. I’m gonna stop while I’m ahead.

Here’s another, much more recent concept that seems a little funny (not funny ha-ha, funny weird). Time management. Oh, we ALL know about this one. Anyone who’s ever been to college has probably heard about it. Certainly anyone starting a business knows about it. Everyone thinks about it. How to get the most done in the least amount of Time. How to use your Time effectively. You could hit snooze a couple times, goof off for a while with coffee and Vanity Fair, and get to work when you get there. Or you could get up promptly, take your coffee with you, and arrive at work an hour early. “Good” time management versus “bad.” But let me ask you – which one of those mornings would you rather have? Call me Slow-mantha, but I’ll take the former. I will never forsake the unique beauty of morning stillness in the name of “time management.”

Here’s my point: time doesn’t change no matter how you spend it. Unlike money, every day we wake up with a fresh supply. And at least you have to be awake to spend money. Time just marches on, day and night, with no regard for us. As I said before, 60 seconds is 60 seconds. Isn’t it so human to want to manage that? It’s not an unruly child, or the six Great Danes on your dog-walking route. You would never try to manage a chair, right? It’s an inanimate object, it’s just there. But at least you can see it and touch it. Time isn’t even that; it’s a concept. It’s like trying to manage air.

Now, that isn’t to say that we often choose to make very poor use of our time. But I think what we’re really trying to manage is ourselves. At every moment, you are choosing to do a certain thing, even when that thing is nothing. So from now on, I’m going to replace the overused, insufficient concept of “time management” with something new. Self management. I’m copywriting that – don’t steal it.

Finally, have you ever wondered where the term “deadline” came from? I have a theory:  cavemen. Think about it, cavemen had to spend every single day working to ensure their survival. Some days this might have entailed staying around the cave, making weapons and fixing leaks or whatever. But other days, they had to kill a freaking Wooly Mammoth and not die. They had to finish before dark so they could (a) see, and (b) not get eaten by bears. They must have had a really stressful relationship with time. Like, they had to get all their food stores and warm stuff ready before the onset of winter, or they might not make it till spring. If they failed to accomplish these tasks in the appropriate amount of time, they’d die. They’d be dead. Get it?

And you think YOUR job is stressful.

For me, time is a lovely mystery. Seven months ago today, I packed up a moving truck and left for North Carolina. That’s the past. I know now that I am living a new kind of life, one I never imagined, and this new life is overflowing with wonder and possibility. That’s the present. And the future. I’ve started to think of them as the same.

So, how is your relationship with time? Are you counting down to something? Sweating an imminent deadline? Is time flying or standing still? Are you having the time of your life? Is time on your side? Does time keep on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’…….okay I think that’ll do.

Here’s my final thought. Whenever you’re stressed about time, try to find a cat and observe its behavior. Let the calm intensity of the cat become your own, and spend a little more Time just being.

Be like kitty.

Farewell, loyal readers. Until next Time.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

I can't hear you, Bert. I have a banana in my ear.

So far, this blog has been exclusively about my personal journey as a Bostonian of 14 years relocating to North Cackalacky. In the past six months it’s expanded to include my experiences as an entrepreneur, my opinions about music and sexist restaurant owners, and Marilyn Monroe.

One thing I haven’t discussed, however, is my relationship. The reason I came to Asheville in the first place, really. Oh, I’ve mentioned him here and there, but I haven’t devoted any real blog space to this subject. And I don’t really want to, mostly because I love what this blog is about and want to keep it that way. Also, I don’t think sharing the details of your love life is ever really that interesting (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?).

But this week, Matthew and I shared an experience that is worth writing about……

Surgery.

Matthew got anesthetized and cut open. I spent the better part of 48 hours in a hospital, talking to doctors and nurses and moms. People called and texted all day for updates. I had to learn to spell anesthetize.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you who don’t know, Matthew is hearing impaired. His right ear (the “bad” one) has about a 50% loss of hearing and his left has around 65%. He normally wears a hearing aid in the right ear, but that ear is chronically infected so he doesn’t always wear it.

Let me tell you a little bit about living with the hearing impaired.

You know when you’re at home, and you’re in one room but you need something that’s in another room but you don’t feel like getting up to retrieve it? You tilt your head in your partner’s general direction and yell, “Hey, (insert name)! Could you bring me that (insert out-of-reach object)?”

When your partner is deaf, this is an exercise in futility. Hasn’t stopped me from trying though.

If I’m not on his left side, he probably can’t hear me, so I’m always repositioning myself when we walk down the sidewalk or sit down to dinner. Also, I have a naturally low, mellow voice and speak in a very even tone. Many find this calming. To Matthew, it’s exhausting. He can’t tell when I’m really mad because I don’t yell and scream – he can’t use tone and inflection to infer my feelings. Which means that sometimes, we reach an impasse, where I feel misunderstood and he feels frustrated and confused. I’ve really had to work to change my speech patterns, to enunciate and speak clearly (how now, brown cow?). Advice my grandmother has been doling out since I was a kid.

Communication, which is the foundation of a healthy relationship (all of them, not just the romantic ones), is even more vital when one person is hearing impaired. On the one hand, I always have to be sure he hears me and is following the discussion. On the other hand, he doesn’t always tell me when his hearing is especially bad. I can only speculate, but I think this is because he (a) doesn’t want to worry me and (b) doesn’t want to deal with the prospect of his hearing getting worse. He is studying to become a Clinical Counselor – his job will be to listen to people. And how can you listen if you can’t hear? In one way, he’s perfect for the job, since he’s been working so hard at it his whole life. But if his hearing gets worse and worse, how will he ever be able to do it? I can understand his not wanting to face that, even though it drives me crazy when he tries to keep it from me (like I can’t tell, when I’m downstairs going, “”Babe, can you bring me my water? Babe? Matthew? MATTHEW?!”)

Which brings me back to the surgery. We’ve always known that Matthew’s “good” ear (the left one) was going to need an eardrum patch. But when we finally got in to see the surgeon, he took one look inside Matthew’s ears and told us that the right ear (the “bad” one) was badly infected and needed major surgery ASAP. Basically, there was so much bone growth and infected tissue clogging up the ear canal that he couldn’t even see the eardrum. And the ear canal is like a millimeter away from your brain, so if you leave the infection untreated, your brain can start leaking! Anyway, this type of infected cystic tissue is called cholesteatoma. It’s seeping and oozing and it prevents air from moving through the ear canal, and it needed to be removed pronto.

Gross.

So what we thought was going to be a simple, superficial procedure turned into a much more involved, invasive surgery with an overnight hospital stay. If you asked him, Matthew would say he was feeling okay about it. He knew it was for the best and was grateful to have scheduled it over his spring break. His biggest concern was missing school. If you asked me, I’d tell you I was fine, a little nonplussed at having to take time off from my fledgling business, but confident that I could take good care of my patient and understand everything the doctor said. I was eager to show off my Florence Nightingale skills.

Fast forward to the day before surgery. Matthew – calm, focused, deep breathing, ready to get it over with. Me – complete basket case. In tears for the majority of the day, including the two-hour car ride to Winston-Salem. I kept thinking of what could go wrong and what I would ever do if the worst happened. I was SO scared, and so surprised by how scared I was. I was stunned. But I eventually calmed down enough to eat some dinner and appreciate the coolness of staying in a hotel. Cable! King size bed!

It doesn’t take much.

If I had to sum up the whole day of surgery in one word, it would be surreal. We barely slept due to the 6:30 check-in time, but once there we made our way to the waiting room, they whisked him in, sent me back out, and two hours later, it was all done. The doctor came out and told us that everything went even better than expected. AND, that he was able to clear a lot of bone growth from around Matthew’s little hearing bones — he should be able to hear much better now. Did I mention this doctor is like the best ear guy south of the Mason-Dixon? He is.

And now, recovery. For both of us. For Matthew, it’s mainly physical and somewhat emotional. His head was opened up, for crying out loud. He was anesthetized (sorry, I had to). But he’s also finally embracing the possibility of actually hearing for the rest of his life, and that’s going to take some getting used to. For me, it’s largely emotional and somewhat existential. I had to face just how much this man means to me, how lost I would be without him. I struggled with that, and I fought myself hard, trying to push ahead with work and exercise and schoolwork, when what I really needed was to stay home, take care of my man, languish in the relief of it all being over and okay. It takes a lot of energy to resist what is. And I don’t even get to share the Vicodin.

In our first year together, we have taken on more than most people do in five. Long distance, relocation, living together, starting a business/grad school, a “money pit” move-in situation (we don’t own this house though, thankfully), and now this. But with every challenge, we seem to emerge stronger and wiser than before. And now, we are stronger, wiser and less deaf.

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The Monroe Doctrine

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, courtesy of Google

As you may or may not know, an archive was recently released containing never-before-seen excerpts from Marilyn Monroe’s private writings. Some of it is poetry, but most of it was an important element of her psychotherapy (and damn, she had a lot of that).

As far as I can tell, the legend and mystery of Monroe is a sort of  cultural given — everyone knows who she was, that she had an affair with JFK, wore that white dress over the subway vent, and that she died mysteriously. Some people are what I’ll call Marilyn-o-files. They know every little detail of her life, have conspiracy theories about her death and hungrily await all these “newly released archives.” I do not consider myself one of these folks; my knowledge about and interest in Marilyn is….medium. I am something of a movie buff and have a reasonable interest in cultural history, and in that sense I’ve always recognized her as an important part of the Twentieth century. One of the first and most tragic examples of how fame can destroy.

I am also an avid reader of Vanity Fair, which means that if there IS any news about Marilyn (or the Kennedys, or Goldman Sachs, or some foreign millionaires), I’ll probably know about it. This past November (I’m a little behind in VF), a book was released containing “poems, letters, notes, recipes, and diary entries….that delves deep into her [Monroe’s] psyche and private life.”

I read the article. I read Marilyn’s journal entries. I delved deep into her psyche. I looked at photographs of the actual pages, with her actual handwriting. I learned that Marilyn was a bookworm. And a deep, dark, visceral writer.

And suddenly I felt something surprising — I identified with Marilyn Monroe.

I have private writings. I curl up with books on a regular basis. I have dark moods and feelings I don’t always understand. I think and analyze and write about the complications of intimacy, the danger of trust, the loneliness of loneliness. Looking over these pages, I felt a twinge of sisterhood with the blonde bombshell. I felt sorry for her, being so alone. I mentally admonished those who should have taken better care of her, treated her like the intelligent and sensitive woman she was (instead of locking her up in the psych ward for being exhausted).

But once the generic thrill of learning something you never knew wore off, I felt one thing – guilt. I just read someone’s diary! Who cares if it was Marilyn Monroe or my little sister? You just don’t do that.

This sparked an interesting debate in my mind (and household) – now that she’s gone, is it okay for the general public to look through those things? If they illuminate her mental state and prove that she was not suicidal, if they relieve her reputation of that possibility?

I think….yes, when you put it that way. If it were me, I wouldn’t care. If my loved ones want to know my mind after I’m gone, I guess it won’t matter to me….being dead and all. Matthew seemed a little less certain. He has volumes and volumes of writing…..chicken-scratch pencil strokes in tattered leaflets. He thought awhile and said, “I guess you could read them….”

And I get it. Because here’s the thing – journals are not meant for other people. (That’s what blogs are for.) My journal is the most private conversation in the world. I write when I’m confused or upset about something, when I need to get it out of my head but am not yet ready to talk. I write when I’m on vacation, because being away from home promotes a certain pensive mood that is conducive to sorting things out. I write when I’m very very angry, pressing hard onto the page in huge, angular letters, sometimes tearing a hole right through the paper. I write when I see something beautiful or have an epiphany, to document that time and place in my life. I write about my dreams, because they are too twisted to explain but too extraordinary to let go. I write about the profoundly stupid things I do sometimes, because they are too profoundly stupid to tell anyone else. I write about being alone, being in love, being a daughter, a partner, a sister, a friend. But no matter what I write about, my journal is unfiltered, unapologetic and unabashedly ME.

A journal is therapy. But it’s also a personal history, written by, for and (usually) about me.

But I bet if you were to read it, you would identify with a lot of the things I go through. Just like I identified with Marilyn.

It’s too bad Marilyn’s journal wasn’t as funny as mine. So serious!

Writing is personal. So many achingly talented writers keep their work to themselves. My mom is one example. Matthew is another, although he just started sharing again. And actually, his latest blog post is also about writing.

In the end, I’m glad I got to read some of her work. It was dark and disturbing, but it also showed great depth and knowledge of self that would surprise most people. A secret, private Marilyn. And I’m glad she got to experience that, even if she didn’t realize what a gift it was at the time.

It’s been almost 50 years since she died, and if we’re going to look through her diary, we should at least acknowledge what a rare privilege it is. We should tread lightly and respect her privacy, once and for all. We should recognize what a precious gift it is to be able to express ourselves, and honor that when reading the words of others.

If you want to read the full VF article (from November 2010), click here.

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I Feel a Little Like Jerry Maguire.

It’s a mission statement. I’ve been trying to craft it for the past two weeks, and despite the encouragement and support of several people, I’ve been stuck. Clogged up like a hair-filled drain. I just haven’t felt the flow, the creative spirit that infuses my blog posts and journal writing. I know I am an expressive and powerful writer, and I know that I am passionate and confident about what I do and why I do it. But for some reason, I haven’t been able to get it on paper. Everything up to this point has been forced, boring and lifeless…..

Until today.

Today I ran through a sun-speckeld forest, in a balmy 45 degrees. It was an out-and-back course, and the “out” was 2 miles uphill (ouch). Right about the time I turned around, I noticed that my body felt fantastic, grateful for the fresh air and hard work. The air started to warm and felt a little less dry. Next thing I knew I was cruising downhill, and my mind was finally free to wander (it’s hard to wander when you’re slogging up a hill).

My thoughts drifted toward the mission statement. Why was I having so much trouble? I thought about the advice I’d been given – have fun. Describe your passion, be personal. Say what you think you can’t say. I thought, why do I do what I do? What about it fires me up?

Well, I’ll tell you.

My Mission Statement

It is essential to my well-being that the work I do means something. I need to spend my days helping others. There are infinite ways to accomplish this – the Red Cross, environmental and charitable non-profits – but these pursuits have never appealed to me as much as the difference I can make for one person, just by helping him/her to get healthy.

There is a great deal of misery and conflict in the world. Far too many people are unhappy with themselves, their lives, their families and their jobs. People are unkind to themselves and each other, and compassion is in short supply. Consumerism has reached a fever pitch, and our society is plagued with a constant desire for the things we can’t afford. “Getting healthy” seems like an unattainable goal, an endless journey through a jungle of misinformation and marketing ploys.

This is some heavy stuff, and it’s easy to become despondent. But consider this – instead of looking outward, what do you see when you look within? If you could gain control over your own body, what things would change for you? When you turn your attention inward, you learn body awareness. You notice what makes you feel good and what makes you feel lousy. It might take some practice, and it might be incredibly frustrating. But eventually you’ll get stronger, start putting thought into how you move and what you eat, and ultimately, you will feel better than you ever have before. You will change, from the inside out. And suddenly, you will see the world through different eyes. Now, you know exactly what you’re capable of. Your health is in your own hands. You have an unshakable confidence. You are happier.

That is my mission. I take one person, show them the way from negative to positive, and I have eliminated one miserable person from the world. I do this ten times, and now there are ten more happy people than there used to be. And let’s say just one of these people makes such a dramatic change that they are inspired to share their experience with others. So now that person affects ten other people, and so on, and so forth.

I’m changing the world, one push-up at a time.

When I left all my clients in Boston, I was deeply moved by an unexpected outpouring of support. I was showered with gifts and engaged in several difficult goodbyes. Until I left, I had no idea just how great an impact I had on their lives. Now I know: what I do is invaluable. I teach people how to move better, how to be active without injury, how to live like a human being and set reasonable expectations for themselves. I show them their limit physically, then get them to push past it. Do you have any idea how empowering that is? You say, “I’ve never been a runner.” Three months later, you can run for 30 minutes without stopping.  You have now made the impossible possible.

What else do you think is impossible?

Here’s news: nothing is impossible, aside from living forever (for now, anyway).

Showing this to people is why I get up in the morning. Being present for that moment when you really get it – when you finally show me a perfect push up (and then do two more), when you tell me excitedly that you had oatmeal for breakfast instead of donuts (and it was so easy!)- that is a gift. It is an electric feeling of love and pride, and it is worth every single second of work it took to get you there.

Knowledge is power, and by imparting my knowledge to you, I give you the power to navigate supermarkets and restaurants, confident that you are making the right choices. The power to let fitness gimmicks and fad diets become meaningless, like so many snowflakes that vanish as soon as they hit the ground. The innate knowledge that you are the one who knows what to do, not some magazine, not a TV trainer with no credentials, not the impossible bodies of Hollywood.

See, you are already in possession of a treasure chest that contains all the knowledge and ability needed to live a healthy, joyous life. It’s always been there, and it always will be. I’m just the one who happens to have the key.

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So, there you have it. It will certainly endure a few rewrites, there will be some things added and others taken away. But I knew that making it a blog post was the way to go. Plus – I’m sneaking in my second entry for the week, so my New Year’s Resolution is still intact. Multi-tasking rules.

Now…..show me the money!

 

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Snow Days

My snowy neighborhood

The way I see it, there is one major disadvantage of growing up in a warm climate: no snow days. You never get to experience that rare treat of waking up and finding out you don’t have to go to school. Of listening to the school closings on the morning news with fingers crossed, waiting for them to get through the whole alphabet, cursing those lucky ducks at Orange Christian Academy, because they never had school.

I lived in Boston for a very long time. I saw a lot of snow there, but was only witness to one true Snow Day, and it was in 1997. That day, I actually flew into Boston and made it home right before the storm hit. I remember walking down a narrow, shoveled path on Comm. Ave with a chest-high wall of snow on either side. Mostly, though not owning a car + working in a restaurant meant that I had to work, no matter what the conditions. I once opened my front door to two feet of snow, and had to walk a mile to the T in a full-on blizzard, so I could spend the day sitting in a booth at Maggiano’s, coloring.

During the four years I spent at the gym, the storms never hit quite right for me to have a snow day. I left early once or twice, and got to sleep in ’till 7 a couple of times (woo hoo!), but I never really got snowed in. I never stayed home due to weather.

Bostonians are tough. The city-dwelling, non-drivers at least.

But I don’t live in Boston anymore. I live in Asheville, in the mountains, and when it snows in the mountains, things get kinda dicey.

I went outside at 6 this morning to shovel out the car and check the conditions, my Ohio-born, Bostonian self ready to brave anything. I shoveled my way to the car, which looked like our car, wearing a Pillsbury Dough Boy costume. I took a breath of cold, clean air and surveyed my neighborhood. Everything was bathed in that eerie grey light of dawn in a snowstorm. Early mornings already possess a special kind of silence, but today, even that silence was muffled by the snow.

The neighborhood was untouched save for the lone tracks of some brave kitty. No human or vehicle had been out yet (plowing is not so much a priority, I guess). My driveway lay before me, pristine and inviting. I paused a moment, then took off running, ruining the smooth surface with my boot tracks. My mom calls that making “pioneer tracks,” and it’s just as much fun at 33 as it was when I was a kid.

I stood in the middle of the road, showered in flakes, trying to determine whether or not one could/should drive. Everything in Asheville is closed today, even the colleges. My client, however, works at the hospital, so I knew he was already in town. I want my clients to count on me, to know that I will never let a little snow get in the way of their fitness goals. I want to build a reputation for reliability and tenacity.

But I’m also kind of stubborn. I have this tough-girl, macho thing about being from Boston, proving to whomever that some little flurry will not hold me back. It’s really rather unreasonable. If I cancel the session, am I just wimping out because I want to stay home? Am I foolish to think this is drivable? What if I get stuck?

These are the things I considered while standing in the middle of the street with my shovel at 6 AM.

Finally, as the snowfall increased around me and I considered our little two-wheel drive Dough Boy, I decided to call it. Maybe – maybe – I could get to the gym, but getting home would be a different story. The worst of the snow is yet to come, according to the morning news, and then it’s supposed to freeze.

I called my client and told him we’d have to postpone our first session until Wednesday. He said, “Oh, you think so?” For a minute I felt sheepish, and started explaining how snowy it is, how I’m not sure about the roads, and so forth. At which point he jovially informed me that he had already called the gym, and someone told him they were closed. Even if I were tough/stupid enough to drive, there isn’t anywhere to go. I got all bundled up and spent twenty minutes listening to the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, for no reason at all.

But the best part is….

I called the gym too, before I went outside. I called just to see if someone would answer, and he did, so I hung up on him. I don’t like talking in the morning.

Anyway, for the first time since the 90’s, I have a bona fide Snow Day.

!!!

Most people would have gone straight back to bed. Well, most people would have actually spoken to the nice man at the gym, called their client, not gotten all bundled up to shovel out the car, and then gone back to bed.

I am clearly not most people. Besides, why let a perfectly good pot of coffee go to waste?

In the time I’ve spent writing this post, the path that I shoveled outside is already buried again.

Today, I will write and work and make hot cocoa and chili. I will probably take a nap. But I will also get all bundled up again and make pioneer tracks all over my front yard. I will take Matthew outside and throw snowballs at him. I will revel in every moment of this unexpected gift, this snowed-in, surprise day off. This, my first real taste of winter in Asheville, my first Snow Day.


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Snow Day Photos 1/10/11

My street

The backyard. You can kind of see the path I shoveled earlier.

Dining al fresco today?

 

View from the front porch

 

Who needs a snow plow?

 

One of the main roads out of town.

Sledding party!

When your sled is a snowboard, there's only one way to stop.....

Matthew and me, ready to take off.

 

 

 

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Resolution, Schmes-olution

Helping people to achieve their goals is my business. So, it stands to reason that I also teach people how to set goals they can truly achieve. If I allow a client to pursue an unattainable goal and she fails, that’s not her fault. It’s my job to make sure she is set up for success.

We humans are so hard on ourselves. I guess the desire to constantly improve is one of the qualities that make us human, but the flipside of that virtue is like (new reference) the Black Swan…..obsessively driven, to the point of self-destruction. Oftentimes our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions morph into another excuse to beat ourselves up. Like we need more.

Every January, there are a plethora of articles and blog entries floating around, spouting “New Year, New You!” and “How to Set Realistic Goals.” They all say the same thing and seem to repeat every year, don’t they? I used to think this was annoying and unoriginal, but this year it occurred to me that maybe they are necessary. Maybe we humans don’t pick up on a good message the first ten times around. I know I am constantly re-learning the same lessons, conking myself on the head like I could’ve had a V-8 (old reference).

This is why I decided it was okay to write my own Resolution blog. But I’m going to forego the typical “goal setting” guidelines in favor of a more heady approach. Please use the comment box to add anything you think I left out.

1. Never underestimate the power of language.

Your mind is hyper-sensitive and incredibly powerful. It will take the tiniest kernel of an idea and spin it into a sticky web of negativity that rules your every action. If you set a goal like “This year I resolve not to eat so much damn ice cream,” you are making two major mistakes:

First of all, you have left your mind way too much room to rationalize, to define and re-define (what exactly is too much?), and ultimately convince yourself you didn’t do a good enough job. Try to be more specific, but more importantly, try to use language that is positive and doesn’t imply something negative about yourself.

Secondly, when you set a goal not to do something, you create a void. What will you do instead of eating ice cream? Try rephrasing that same goal like this: “This year, I resolve to discover three new, healthier dessert options that I really enjoy.” Or maybe, “This year, I will designate one day per month as the day when I can eat ice cream, and on that day, I will eat a whole frickin’ pint of that shit.”

See, now you’ve incorporated all those other goal-setting techniques (make it measurable, make it specific), but the bigger message here is that you’re setting a positive goal. A goal for what you will do instead of what you will not do. Only give your brain affirmative, positive nuggets to chew on. You’ll find that adherence to a clearly defined, positive goal is much easier than striving for some vague idea of perfection.

2. Be honest with yourself.

Every year, before I write down my resolutions, I review the previous year’s goals and evaluate how I did. One in particular stood out from 2010:  “Go to Europe.” This has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I was fully planning on doing it last year until I met Matthew and everything changed. But that was in October 2009. In January 2010, I already knew that I would be moving to Asheville. “Change your entire life, relocate, learn to live in a whole new way….” not one of my resolutions. Yet that is the big accomplishment of 2010, is it not? Why would I set a large travel goal when I knew that all my savings would be put toward the move? And why would I think it would be healthy to leave the country for an extended period of time while still trying to settle in and adjust to my new home?

Okay, hindsight’s 20/20, but the point is that if I had taken a moment to honestly consider the year ahead, I would have made a very different resolution. One that I could look back on and say, “Yup, did that one.”

3. Make a fun one.

In 2009 I decided to see every Oscar-worthy movie before the Oscars. It was the year of Heath Ledger’s Joker, No Country for Old Men, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire, so I picked a good one. This had all the markings of a “good” goal – specific, measurable, time-sensitive – but it was also really enjoyable, and it allowed me to do something I’ve never been able to do before: watch the Oscars and actually be engaged. It also had absolutely nothing to do with improving myself as a person.

I advise everyone to include one goal that is completely frivolous. “Save up for and buy that pair of boots I’ve been eyeing,” or “Finish reading my Vanity Fair before the next one arrives.” You will still benefit from the feeling of accomplishment that comes when you achieve your goals, and this is a healthy thing. Success is addictive, and you’ll want to see what else you can achieve.

4. Be kind to yourself.

Negative self-talk is running rampant these days. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it, but we are definitely our own worst critics. This year, when setting your resolutions, take a moment to listen to the thoughts in your head. Are you thinking, “Awesome! I’m totally going to do this and it’s going to be great,” or “Yeah, whatever. Only eating ice cream once a month? I’ll never be able to do that because I have no willpower and am a fat-ass?”

If it’s the latter, try imagining if you overheard someone talking to your best friend that way. Or better yet, imagine what you would do if someone in real life spoke to you that way.

Why so serious?

Your thoughts are just thoughts. There are good ones and bad ones and they mostly repeat themselves over and over again until you cut them off. They are not reality. Reality is the puddle you just stepped in because you were listening so intently to the voices in your head.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life is not supposed to be miserable.

5. Tell somebody.

If you make your resolutions public, you are more likely to follow through. (You are also more likely to set some reasonable goals, because a good friend will tell you if you’re being ridiculous). You will be motivated not to let your friends and family down, and this can be very powerful. Share your plans for the year with those close to you, and encourage them to do the same. Maybe you can even make a resolution to help your friend stick to their resolutions. It’s always easier to do things when you have help.

To that end, I will share one of my resolutions with you. I intend to post two blog entries per week, and now that you all know that, I will be extra motivated to make that happen.

Good luck everyone, and Happy New Year!

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