Thursday, June 27, 2013

Yoga Tipping Point

Back when I lived in Boston I set the rather arbitrary goal for myself of getting "good" at yoga.  Retrospectively, being far more into yoga then I ever was living there I don't quite know what that means.  I know I envisioned myself leaping into headstands and contortions easily-without even mussing my hair-but really, what the heck does "get good" even mean?  In the past year or so I went to yoga to be left alone and stretch out my body that was surrendering to fatigue, arthritis, and give my brain a break from a pretty monotonous stream of "to-do's" and I liked it.  I liked the teachers-even when they attached themselves to my back in a lemur like fashion to push me into a pose that I resisted, I liked the light/bright studio, I liked the quiet, and I liked the idea of being in a "fitness" practice that pretty much had no peak-there would always be a new challenge.    

Of course I say that and it makes it all sound very glowy and happy-there were many classes I dragged myself too and spent the bulk of the class counting down the minutes and feeling annoyed about the sing song wood nymph like voice the instructor was using in an attempt to seem all transcendent and superior.  And don't even get me going over my growing hatred of the heat and mass pile of sweat soaked towels taking over my laundry area.  

One day though I was in a class with a teacher I love/hate.  I love her energy and how she'll segway while forcing us to hold a pose for what feels like an excruciating amount of time on some tidbit of yoga philosophy.  She went into a rather long explanation about chakras while I was holding Warrior 2, describing how the ego (green) is located around our mid back and its where we store things like jealousy/expectations, etc-and if thats something you struggle with you'll have fears and difficulties with backbends.  As she went through the chakras and the poses meant to challenge them or release the negativity I was floored by how issues I didn't have (like supporting myself) and the relationship with the ease I could move into those poses versus my obvious struggles and how they correlated to poses I loathed.  

I approached the instructor after class to tell her enthusiastically how much the dialogue had been in my wheelhouse.  After discussing mind body connection for awhile she suggested I go to teacher training.  I scoffed it off stating I was too new, and she scoffed right back saying my energy and heart were in the right place and that she would be teaching the next round.

I considered it, and thought, "No, too busy with Corporate America."

Then I was lying by the pool and I looked over to see an abandoned book lying next to me-all about chakras.  I glared up at the universe, then spent about 3 hours reading the book cover to cover because I was fascinated.

I thought a bit more about it wondering if the high cost was a money grubbing scam.

While I was doing that internet search I flipped on the television to see an interview with a yoga master on how yoga helped him in his search for spirituality.  

I caught myself complaining about how bored I was and how much I wanted to learn something new that could actually impact other people.

And then I thought, whats the harm?  Worst case is I spend a lot of money to take a 200 hour course and am bored but learn a lot. Best case is I become a teaching guru-even if I wind up somewhere in the middle I'm ahead.

I signed up. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Farewell to Moderation

Awhile ago I went on a "clean" eating purge that lasted about 60 days.  No alcohol, no caffeine, pretty regimented meal times, and minimal processed food.  I ate an obscene amount of greek yogurt in an effort to hit a protein quota.  I felt amazing!  I didn't loose any weight, but I dropped 2 jean sizes, had insane amounts of energy, was sleeping better and had upper arms that even Jillian Michaels wouldn't criticize.  

In order to do this though, I became something of a social pariah.  I went to work, I went to yoga, I went to Pilates, I hung out with myself and Ari-and I had no real issues sticking to my cleanse. In the midst of my body high I felt a little lonely and decided that as my cleanse ended I was going to recommit to my social circle, meet new people, and by god I was going to date.  Do you know what happens when you're socializing with people in their late twenties and early thirties?  You stay up late, you end up having lots of drinks ordered for you-which you drink so as not to be a lame ass, and you find indulgences smothered in cheese become the norm and the sexy jeans you were parading around in smugly that helped you meet new people no longer fit.  

My sister and common sense parroted that I needed to be more moderate.

You know what?  I suck at moderation.  SUCK.  I'm too much of a perfectionist to quite literally work "cheats" into a plan, and to be honest once I have a cheat I usually can't stop until its gone (says the empty quart of ice cream in the bottom of my trash can).  I want things to be "right" and I will work my ass off to get them there.  When I was unhappy at work I sulked for awhile (albeit epically), then got off my ass and lobbied hard for a new role and a new manager.  After about a year of not dating anyone in Austin, I acquiesced to several requests and got on a dating site with an open mind telling myself the worse that would happen is I would say "No thanks."  I don't do things half way-I do full stops, consider the situation for awhile, and then go all in.  

Its how I work.  

I read an article on Gretchen Rubin's (author of the Happiness Project) website commenting that for her abstinence is easier than moderation-and it struck a chord.  Yes!  Abstinence vs. Moderation-there are tons of us out there preferring to go all in rather then gently inching into the cold water.

That said, I elected to sign up for a Teacher Training Immersion at CorePower Yoga, the reasoning in a post to follow.  I am about to find out that the opposite of moderation is.  12 hours of classroom time and 5-7 hours of practice (actual yoga classes) for the next 8 weeks coupled with a cleanse.  That's almost 20 hours of yoga a week for 2 months.  Even as someone who loves going all in-I'm completely daunted and also completely accepting that for me, this is how I lean and learn into my passions.  

Fare thee well moderation, I'll see you on the other sid

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts from a Runner on Boston

Around 2 o'clock this afternoon my phone started to buzz with text messages asking if I was okay.  

Then my sister texted me "2 bombs detonated at marathon finish" and that was how I heard about the tragedy in Boston.

This morning some of my closest girlfriends, girls I had talked to only a couple days ago were out there-bibs on an ready to run-posting on Facebook "I run this town", "En route to the start!!", and "preparing to be inspired!!"  

Having run a marathon there is nothing like the elation of finishing, the experience of pushing your body to its limit, the roar of the crowd, and the sheer camaraderie of fellow runners surrounding you. Boston is "the" marathon.  One of the toughest in the world to qualify for, and known to anyone who runs as the best of the best.

The coverage throughout the morning, tracking the elites, made me miss my walk to work though Commonwealth Avenue and down Boylston street in front of the public library where I used to stop 2 or 3 times a week, the Marathon Sports store whose running group I was a part of for 3 years and where I was fitted for dozens of shoes, and the Finish line where for 2 years I had joined in the revelry that is Patriot's Day in Boston.  I was monitoring my friends' times and feeling proud…and jealous.  

And then around 2 o'clock this afternoon my phone started to buzz.

I saw the smoke in a place I am more familiar with than most places in Austin.  I saw the my old office window in the photographs at the scene and my apartment in the aerial footage.  I saw so many runners just collapsing and crying and running. I worried about my friends frantically refreshing all my social media and responded to other friends who worried that I was there.  I thanked god that my sister had missed qualifying by 4 minutes, and hated myself for thanking god for that.

I am 3000 miles away, and I am sick with sadness because I can so perfectly picture every minute of it.  I know what it is to finish, to be completely depleted-but I can't imagine what it is to run 20+ miles and have a bomb go off and be unable to run any faster than you have the previous 20.  To have no place to run to.  To worry about all the people who loved you enough to support you at the race and not know where they were or if they were okay.  To know that the runner who passed you and gave you a pep talk for no other reason than runners take care of each other could be dead.  That a place as familiar to you as the back your hand, a place where you knew the divits in the sidewalk was soaked in blood and screams.  

I am a runner, so I can imagine the terror and depletion, and the annoyance of the runners as they were slowed to a stop before they knew what was going on.  I am a runner so I know what "Boston" means-years of tradition, pride, athleticism, inspiration, and excellence and I hate that in an instant someone could change that connotation.  

I am a nomad.  No place has ever felt quite like home to me, but the streets of Back Bay and the Charles River where I ran almost daily and slipped into moments of quiet consciousness  are some of the places that I've felt most at home.  

Boston is where I learned to love to run.  And maybe that, more than any other reason is why I feel guilty for not being there-my community was attacked, and I'm not sure if it hurts more because it was a place I called home or to a group of people that as a collective always make me feel like I'm home.  

Pray for Boston.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Cracks

Before the holidays began my manager left the company and it was decided that given that the holidays are the busiest time of the year it wasn't the best time to bring someone aboard.  So my colleague and I picked up the slack.  I was amply rewarded for this promotion in duties with a 10% raise, stock, and a small bonus.  I was thrilled with the challenge, laying down process as law, dividing product across hundreds of accounts, rolling my eyes in meetings with high level people and generally being bad ass at my job.  

The problem:  being bad-ass at my job and performing at the level I was translated into working when I was home, desecrating my social life to be online and responding to emails, answering calls from frantic sales guys at 11 o'clock at night, accepting more and more responsibility in order to get the work done, even my slumber was surrendered as I would dream I was at the office when I was lucky enough to fall asleep-most nights I was in a ball mentally working through the to-do list. 

I was okay with it, because I knew the commitment I had made through the holidays.  In mid-January though, I was sitting in my cubicle, on my headset in front of a 27" display, giving a presentation to senior leadership, and I bombed my presentation.  Bombed it.  Epic failure.  The slide deck wasn't done, and the work was clearly not up to par.  

I got off the call and set my head on my desk, not even bothering to remove my headset.  So this is what failure felt like?  As I sat there ruminating in what had transpired I recalled a conversation with my management from the week before when they'd asked how I was holding up and I had answered, "I'm beyond my limit, I'm keeping everything together by doing the minimum required for everything, and I'm not sure when but something is going to fall through the cracks."  Hello cracks.  

My phone started to ring.  I got on another call and listened to storming and raging by another team about why my team was out to jeopardize everything they had worked for.

All I could think was, what am I doing here?  

I got up and grabbed my manager and pulled him into a team room for a chat.  In the next 30 seconds I made a bad female employee mistake.  I got angry, I got emotional, I got teary eyed.  My (male) manager didn't know what to do.  Obviously crying girl makes any man uncomfortable, but when one of the rock solid performers on your team is having a crying breakdown in front of you thats obviously hard to handle.  I regained my composure, looked him square in the eye, and told him, "I can't do this anymore.  And I have no choice but to look for another job because if I have to be berated by anymore people I interact with about how I am not doing enough when I've sacrificed my personal life, my family and a relationship to be here I am going to snap."

Then I walked to my desk, grabbed my purse and my keys-and left the office.  At 10 in the morning.

I went home and slept for 20 straight hours.  

I woke up to 18 messages from sales rep desperate for my help.  One of them had called me 8 times.  In a 2 hour span of time.  

I didn't give a rip.  I had fallen through the cracks, and was enjoying the free fall of not giving a damn.  

Reaching my limit was a blessing, because once I got there I remembered that it was just a job, a job I had done well-and far beyond the original expectation that had been outlined months before.  I remembered my priorities: and one of my priorities  is being excellent at my job and respecting the people in my life and having them respect me-and I was being set up to fail.  

And once I realized that, I could remind other people as well.  And draw the line about what was acceptable to me, those cracks made that line extremely easy to see.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Soon you will see..."

Does anyone else have those friends on their Facebook feed who sappily post lyrics to pop songs in an effort to thinly veil their emotional duress behind the words of Katie Perry or the annoying Goteye?  For awhile on my wall a girl I vaguely know worked her way through the entire Top 40 in the 2 month duration of her relationship.  Its a little disturbing when songs I hear on my commute home remind me of a guy I never met because of this girl's regularity of high school girl style posting.  She didn't moderate herself at all.

Anyway, its something I swore that I would personally never do when I had an ex post ALL OF THE lyrics of Jewel's "You were meant for me" directly on my wall in case I overlooked it on my newsfeed or something.  My sister made fun of me for months, crooning "soon you will see you were meant for me" whenever I regaled her with his latest attempt to win me back.  In retrospect its just as hilarious as it was then, but really really sad in a pathetic "Dude pull yourself together" kind of way.  

I adhered for 4 years.

And then, today, I had an emotion that was best summed up with a Top 40 lyric.  I posted and quickly removed it.  Damn my inner high school girl who feels the only one who understands her in the whole world is Lady Gaga.  Of course maybe one song lyric in 4 years is moderation?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Flashback: NYE

As a concept I like the idea of New Year's Eve being a goal loving junkie, but in practice I loathe it.  

Not the resolutions portion, the celebration that mandates this be the best day of the previous year and set the standard of what is to come.  It never does.  Its always a mammoth let down. 

I spent most of my morning answering enraged emails and trying to locate product curled up in the fetal position in front of my work computer.   Around 8 o'clock I wiggled into a petite brown strapless dress that demanded attention for my legs and wandered to my friend's house party…and en route got a note from an ex wishing me a happy NYE, an instant downer and prelude of what was coming.  

I walked into the party and was immediately confronted at the door with a voice that made me stiffen.  The voice of someone I violently hate who a few months before I had been relentlessly pursued by until I wasn't, I swallowed down my rage plastered a smile onto my face and marched in… and he eyed my legs like a fox about to pounce.  Luckily my friend Jon swooped in and provided a social barrier.  About five minutes later another cast of thousands arrived and with it yet another of my Austin mistakes.  I felt awful and exposed,  I wanted to disappear.  

In the elevator on the way to another party one of the former contenders for my affection was loudly parroting on about wanting to get 'nailed' that night, Jon noticed I was going white knuckled and quickly handed me a bag of M&M's.  We crossed in front of my building and I resisted the urge to barrel home to Ari.  Once we arrived at the bar we got into the line, and yet another guy I had gone on 3 or 4 dates with jumped in behind me.  At this point I looked up at the stars and stated, "Are you fucking kidding me?"  I decided then and there that God was clearly trying to tell me something so I turned and chatted to the guy behind me and caught up on his life's happenings.  

Once in the bar I got a deathstare by some guy who had tried to pick me up at the bar the week before.  I was not surprised and prepared myself to assume that there was a real possibility that everyone I had locked lips with in the 3 years I've lived here was going to make an appearance.  I decided to be grateful I looked hot and that I was in the immediate vicinity of strong social lubricants.  

I saw some girlfriends across the bar and made my way over.  Once a beer went down I relaxed, and as the night wore on I talked to my assorted and failed dalliances.  And they were boring, kind of dumb, a little lame, or just plain old scuzzy man whores.  Out of no where I went from feeling awkward, to feeling grateful that these guys weren't a part of my life anymore.  I stopped feeling unloveable and focused on my friends.  

I danced and gabbed, and got a surprising kiss, with tongue, from one of my best girlfriends.  How's that for unloveable?  My savior of the night Jon kept me company with all manner of sarcastic commentary and at midnight spared me the awkwardness of staring at my glass by giving me a bear hug and a smooch.  After midnight he and I went to a diner and grabbed a late night snack with some friends who had also had the same idea.  We chuckled and laughed, and all around had a banner evening.  I was glad my night had ended far from where it started with someone I consider a real friend-the extra company was gone literally and figuratively.  

NYE is a time to spend reflecting on the year ahead and to spend some time with friends.  For my NYE my reflection was brought to the front and center of my space.  I faced my fear, and ended the night in a totally new place.  

I felt beautiful and lovable and completely free, and thats a great way to begin a new year.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sans Vino: Moderation Extreme Challenge

About 4 weeks ago I woke up on the floor of my apartment with all the lights on.  Shoes littered along with my bra in the path I navigated the night before from my doorway to my bedroom.  My phone denoted calls that I had little recollection of.  

This is never a good way to begin your day.

I crawled to my bathroom, and promptly vomited.  Did I mention it was a Monday morning?  I had gotten shit ripped on a Sunday evening…with my parents who were in town visiting.  Somewhere on the other side of Austin my Mother was making her own pilgrimage to the bathroom.  I had had a fabulous time with Mama and Papa Gray the night before, such a good time that we had all giggled when I was tossed into the back of the truck they were driving and I tried to guide them the wrong way down one way streets to get me home.  

As I sat in my cubicle at work an hour or so later feeling like garbage, I winced at the light and the annoying chipperness of my colleague I share a cubicle wall with, I cringed at the memory of my mother telling hilarious sex jokes, I felt nothing but embarrassed every time I glanced at my call log.  And dear god the text messages.  But mostly I felt squeamish by the idea of losing control.  On a Sunday.  On a school-errr-work night.  

I spent my lunch eating out in my car reading the latest Jillian Michaels book, alone with the silence trying to will my head to a non-pounding state.  Jillian went into great detail about why drinking to excess was bad for you. In my sorry state I was willing and eager apostle for her gospel, and decided then and there to go cold turkey on alcohol for 30 days.  No beer, no cocktails, and no wine.  Not even after a stressful workday, not even out with all my boozy friends.  For the first time since I was 19 I was going to abstain.  

Out the gate I was nervous, I have friends that can't go two days sans wine without getting the shakes.  But I was fine, didn't miss it at all.  I was sleeping better, getting in significantly better work outs and even waking up easily in the morning.  On Sunday mornings I would bounce out of bed by 9 in a blaze of productivity in time usually reserved for my moderate hangovers.   Do you know what its like to have gotten in a 2 hour work out, have cleaned your apartment, and done all your grocery shopping before 1 PM on a Sunday?  Neither did I before this little endeavor of mine,  let me assure you, It was awesome.  

Also, do you know what happens when you cut out drinking?  Say adios to your pouch.  In all my 27 years I have always stored anything excess in my body in my boobs and in my tummy…well…all of the excess in my stomach disappeared!  I have muscles that I can see, and they are cute ones!  I did a victory dance in my shower whenI noted the change.  

After 20 days I was ready to commit to a life without booze forever, I was on a high.

But then, I had a really shitty day at work.  Really shitty, like panic attack-tear inducing shitty day at work.  At home my wine winked at me from the bottom level of my fridge.  "Drink me!!!"  Unwind!!  Relaxing reds!  Kill the memories of today!"  I went to yoga instead.  It did not produce a satisfying buzz.  And I spent most of the class glaring at my mat, mentally at the office thinking about how badly I wanted wine.  

I went to a friend's birthday dinner and was that awkward one who wasn't drinking.  It was weird when people kept asking me why I wasn't drinking.  One colleague even asked me if I was abstaining because I was pregnant, which as he put it, "would explain me not drinking and being so moody at work."  I had no idea it was going to be such a thing.  

Out another night I faced questioning about whether or not I was on some weird medication, there could be no other reason for me to me alcoholless.

I went out with other friends, and once again I was heckled by all sides for not drinking.  Which was annoying, and so are drunk people when you are sober.  

I had never pictured not drinking alcohol to drive a social stigma, but it does.  Particularly when you are young, single, with a reputation for being fun.  I felt like a Debbie Downer-which was weird because I was all but levitating when I wasn't in social settings-my energy was through the roof, my skin was clear, and need I remind you, I had abs to keep me company.  

My 30 days are up today and I'm trying to figure out how to be moderate about alcohol now that my extreme is off the table.  Truth be told, I'm glad I did it, but I feel oddly lonely as I complete the journey.  The not drinking thing made me so uncomfortable around my friends I spent a lot of nights in.  On the flip side, I love how I feel after a cleanse from it.  

I'm am sure I will go back to having a glass or two of wine, and it will be nice to not to feel like a pariah when I'm out with friends-but its nice to feel like my body is powering on all cylinders. I just need to add some moderation to my plan to get the best of both worlds.  

Fare thee well abs, it was fun while it lasted.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Listening and Limits

I've been grappling with some issues lately, worsened by my irritating habit of believing that will is a skill and by god I'll push it until I achieve whatever it happens to be that I set out to achieve.  After spending a few Saturdays in bed quite literally curled into the fetal position frustrated by my inability to manifest change while Ari stood guard I decided I needed to stop moping and get outside and run.  

I settled into the soothing sounds of Jay-Z and took off.  Ever since my hip surgery a year ago I can feel when I'm not running "right".  Also, when a storm is coming.  I'm a human barometer, or like an old arthritic lady.  This run was no exception, almost immediately into my jog a dull ache decided to join the party.

This did not please me, and I pushed through.  Then a thought quite literally bubbled up into my head, "Jenna, what did that injury teach you?'

I ignored the condescending "teacher" attitude my inner voice had decided to utilize, and considered, "When I need to stop."  

The smug voice bubbled up, just as omnipotent, "And did you?"


"And what happened?"

"I really f-ing hurt myself.  I did real damage by ignoring the pain and not stopping."

"Sounds familiar…doesn't seem like you learned anything.  Have fun continuing to inflict damage on yourself."

My mind returned to its normal chatter.  But I couldn't shake the feeling that "the" voice was right and feeling a little disconcerted by the fact that I just got bitch-slapped with obviousness by my inner self.  

In some spiritual practices its thought that life throws out "tests" to see how you respond and the same test will keep coming up until you "pass".  People will date the people with the same destructive personality type over and over.  People will solicit partners or friends that imitate people from your past.  Until the issue is resolved it keeps coming back, life keeps giving you a chance to pass.  Around and around until you clear the hurtle and transcend to the next lesson you are meant to learn.

At the end of my run I had settled into a walk.  I couldn't let my internal conversation go.  

It had nothing to do with running through hip pain and everything to do with a self-destructive pattern.  My hip was just a literal physical manifestation of failing the lesson, but I was failing the same lesson in my personal life again and again.  All the issues I have-work troubles and social frustrations, all of it was driven by pushing through and not acknowledging the hurt that was being inflicted both by myself and others.  And by not knowing when to stop and respect my own limit.  

When I got home, I returned to bed, not to mope…strangely I didn't feel like moping anymore, but I was tired.

As I dozed off, all I could think was, "Thank you".

When I woke up on Sunday morning I was completely calm, almost devoid of any emotion whatsoever, I knew that "I" had finally "heard" the message.

But can I listen?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Yoga "Bliss": A Drowned Dolphin

I'm a pretty avid exerciser.  With a marathon under my belt, I deviated in the past couple years from a run-centric regimen to trying my hand with weight circuits and Pilates reformer classes.  Given my problems with moderation, when I commit to a fitness style I commit to mastery, abandon everything else, and plateau.

I decided this year to try several new fitness classes to "mix it up"-and destress.  My friend volunteered to take me to her hot yoga class.

I hate extreme temperatures, I spend Texas summers in some semblance of seasonal induced misery by being forced to stay indoors so I did not expect to enjoy being locked in a 105 degree room.

I arrived with my mat-but no towel.  Rookie mistake.

I slipped and slid out of poses that I should be able to hold no problem-it was work to hold the pose.  I was disturbed by the instructor who didn't sweat.  I looked like a drowned dolphin on the other hand by the end of class.  Sopping wet.

I stayed away for a month.  I was not into being hot.

Then I had a meltdown at work.  Not sweat running down my back, but a full on crying/stress panic attack breakdown.  As I drove home from work, I noticed a yoga studio a block from my apartment with a sign offering a free week.

This time I arrived with a towel, water, and I knew what I was getting into.

The instructor of this class did sweat, which I found reassuring.  He also told us to focus on "smiling", that between holding the pose and holding a smile we would push the other thoughts out of our heads.

He was right, and in the past 3 weeks I've been back 15 times.  To sweat the stress out.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Butcher on 5th Continued

After coming to following my oral surgery I was vaguely aware that it felt like my body was levitating, that I hadn't eaten in 24 hours, and that I was still enraged at Dr Beefcake over on 5th Street for sentencing me to this still not yet over ordeal.  I grouchily allowed myself to be rolled out of the office by a staff that was thrilled to see my crying hysterical self go and only warned me to "make sure I kept taking the pain medication every 4 hours as opposed to every 6"-presumably to prevent me from reigning down with my hysteria and going after the Beefcake with a set of pliers.

I sulked the entire way home while I checked work email on my phone and rued my swollen jaw and enormous chipmunk like cheeks that had swallowed any remnants of cheekbones I'd had that morning.  

Amanda aided my walk into the apartment and was a little surprised about my barren cupboards-a depressing bi-product of 6 months of pedal to the medal with my job.  She ran to the grocery store and returned with jello, ice cream, tortillas, guacamole to join the lone jar of apple sauce in my fridge.  She patted me on the head before leaving me to my own devices and the company of the cat.

I sat on my sofa scowling for another 20 minutes or so while drinking some Gatorade and eating a pudding cup-stroking my cat like a Bond villain while I directed bad juju towards the Beefcake until I passed out on my rug.

I got up dutifully throughout the night chomping down on codeine and anti-nausea medication and ate guacamole by the spoonful, turning to ice cream after listening to the Beefcake's "check-in" voicemail.

The following day I tried to work from home and after addressing several ridiculous requests, my parents called me to warn me of the dangers of pain killer addictions.  

As I sat in my pajamas from the night before, I succumbed to a pity party.  Being Type-A, I needed a scale to properly communicate my misery.  After considering for awhile I dubbed it the 4th worst experience of my life (not including deaths or romantic breakups)

1.) Lay-off/coupled with minor medical crisis circa 2009
2.) Finding out the person I loved was a filthy rotten cheater 
3.) Getting pants'd in gym class in High School while being taunted by a pack of cliquey she-devils circa 2002
4.) Tooth Extraction nightmare, circa 2013
5.) Running the marathon, miles 19-22, circa 2011

With the scale in place, I didn't feel quite so bad about still being in my jammies nor the fact that I consumed an entire pint of ice cream in a day.  That was the prescription for recovery for all of the Top 5.  

With that settled, I settled in for 3 days of sleeping, DVR watching, and not washing my hair for 3 days.  I wasn't allowed to work out, and the medication had some awful side affects that rendered me in a fetal position for much of the weekend and left Ari guarding me from a distance as he was afraid to go near me.  

It was a banner time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Weight Loss is Boring, Health is Not

Over the years my personal pinnacle of unattainable perfection was my size.  

When I was young I wanted to dance, and my curves put me on the outs of a passion and made me feel foreign in a family that possessed women who were sinewy thin in their youth.  My curves were sexy, something I didn't feel belonged to me--a nerd who was passionate about straight A's and reading.  I dressed for my body, all v-necks and form fitting cotton, but I was playing a part.  It didn't feel like me.  

When I began to fail in college for the first time at my carefully constructed identity I didn't cope well.  I drank and put on weight like a bear preparing for hibernation, and after gaining 25 pounds in a 3 month period-I suddenly found purpose and accomplishment in fitness.  I thrilled in weight loss.  A concrete, measurable, attainable goal.  My element.  Moderation not being my strong suit I became obsessed.  Obsessed.  After I lost my last 5 vanity pounds, I went after the next 5 and so it went in pursuit of that sinewy thinness that to me suggested belonging, until I found myself glaring at a Dietician who dared to suggest to me that I might have a problem.  

Over the course of the past 6 years, from that couch in an office in East Lansing to the one where I sit typing this in a tank and skivvies I've come a long way.  From seeing health and fitness as a means to an end of some unattainable perfection to seeing it as a lifestyle that makes me feel energized and connected to the world around me.  Slowly learning about myself along the way, and with that learning came first an appreciation, then a love.  But I didn't realize how far I'd come until I found myself out one night with a friend.  A friend who had recently been on a weight loss bender-and she was thin to begin with.  It was all quinoa/spinach all the time.
I was proud she wanted to get healthier, but when she went on a 20 minute diatribe in front of some friends about the final 3 pounds she couldn't get off I realized something-vanity weight loss is boring-and for years this is what I had sounded like.

Weight loss for the sake of your health is exciting, it implies that you are moving to a healthier and more positive future.  Fitness to achieve a goal is admirable and fun.  Weight loss for vanities sake, for conversation's sake to draw attention to yourself, pounds no one notices but you-those actually demonstrate that you want to shrink away from the world.  And if you want to shrink away from yourself, won't others as well?

I could feel my eyes glazing over as the conversation went on and on, a veritable odyssey of the 7 pound journey.  

Was this what I have sounded like over the years?  How in God's name did I delude myself into thinking my goal was about health and not about attention?  Was going cold turkey on all forms of fat while consuming vodka drink after vodka drink really someone who wanted to get healthy?   

I think that conversation, and seeing the extreme in someone else, an extreme I was personally familiar with reminded me of how important moderation is, and why its something I am consciously bringing into my life.  

Because moving from an extreme obsession with size to an appreciation of my body and a desire to be healthy is really when my life and my perception of it began to change.  

So what do you think about weight loss? Moderation?  Fitness is there such a thing as fitness for attention instead of fitness for health?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Progress: Accepting my best

I love to run.

At one point I hated it, the whole being unable to breathe thing wasn't high on my list of favorable feelings, and my competitive self loathed being passed by everyone including a Mom pushing a stroller and a morbidly obese man who was quite literally smoking as he passed me by.  But as I was home for the summer with my parents at the time (almost 8 years ago) it got me out of the house, I didn't have anything better to do and I was becoming a little concerned about the fact that none of my pants fit after a 5 month drinking bender overseas (Ahhh, to be 20 again).  

Over the next few years, running became my solace.  My time with me, time away everyday I didn't feel guilty about taking.  Running kept me company when I lost my job, when I lived in Boston and knew no one, when I felt lost in bad relationships, when I moved to Austin and didn't have a space, when I celebrated my everyday victories.  Running is my place.  It's a place where I can process things, where my mind can mull things over or go blissfully blank to everything but the sound of my breath.  

I lost that after my marathon and my surgery.  Moving hurt.  So I leaned into my injury and the excuses.

15 pounds later, I found myself in a remarkably similar position as I had been in 8 years before.  Except, thank God, I wasn't living at home.  I had to reacquaint myself with my pace.  With the discomfort of being passed.  With that wretched out of breath feeling.

I hated running.  I hated feeling foreign in what was supposed to be my goddamn element.  

Then one strangely cool day in Austin, I laced up and began a 3 mile stretch of trail, and I remembered.  I remembered my pace.  I remembered my space.  I ran 9 miles, and I didn't do it for the accolades, or to push myself, I ran because it felt like coming home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rewarding the boldness of others. Or ending up murdered, whichever.

My sister routinely accuses me not nurturing my "Bitch Face".  She gets a little uncomfortable when people in elevators offer me fruit, come in from the street to try to hold my hand, and when gypsy women barrage into coffee shops to tell me that my aura (purple and green) can be seen from the street.  According to Amanda, if I had a bitch face people would keep their weird to themselves.  

I don't know about that, but I'm starting to wonder if she is right.

I was running on the trail to the Austin Trail of Lights.  My hair was slicked back under a baseball cap, my tank was emblazoned with my running bib, and I was wearing my headphones so as to avoid any interaction with the outside world.  I was in a happy zone, and by all accounts about as undone as it is possible for me to look.

When in front of me a lanky looking blonde guy began jumping up and down and waving at me.

I paused mid-jog, pulled off my headphones, and looked at him ready to tell him what time it was or provide directions and looked at him expectantly.

"Do you want to get coffee with me sometime?"

I stared at him blankly, not quite getting that he flagged me down from 10 feet away to ask me out.

"I would like to go out with you-for coffee, tomorrow?"

My confusion continued, "I'm sorry.  I'm confused.  I'm Jenna, you are?"

"Adam, and I want to take you out for coffee."

"Ok.  Umm, do you do this all the time?"

"What pick up girls on the trail?"


"No, you're the first."

I kept looking at him like I expected a candid camera to jump out of nowhere.  When none did, I agreed to get coffee.

What the hell, right?  and since I pledged to be bold this year, shouldn't I reward others endeavors at boldness as well?

I don't know.  I just hope I don't get turned into a lamp shade and murdered.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shut Up Self: Hoo doo Voodoo and Hypnosis

My first foray into hypnosis was at a Senior All Night party in high school where my Dad was chaperoning.  A hypnotist was called upon for the evening's entertainment and I was selected as one of several to "Go to the beyond".  Alledgedly I climbed into a male classmate's lap and pretended quite convincingly that I was Jane of Jungle.  My Dad to this day chuckles at a memory I have no recollection off.  As such I've spent the past 10 years being suspicious of hypnotists and magicians.  

Over drinks one day, a friend mentioned that his Mom was seeing a hypnotist about quitting smoking.  

I was fascinated by the idea of addressing a detrimental habit consciously and with the subconscious-a dual attack that could drive results.

I decided that in addition to the reading and meditation I was doing to become acquainted with my inner critic/meanie I was curious if hypnosis could motivate some changes.

You guys, hypnosis is real.  

Without getting too much into my personal business, I met with the hypnotist/meditation expert for 2 hours.  The first hour was spent discussing my history and what I hoped to accomplish (shutting up my near constant inner critique) and when/where/how this criticism gets worse.  We spent some time discussing the conscious versus unconscious brain and meditation.  Then she talked me through hypnosis.

That shiz be cray.  A veritable bliss seizure.  I cannot remember the last time I was that relaxed, seriously, my sister saw me two days later and asked if I'd gotten laid before lunch (Nope.)

And it wasn't just immediately after either, for the next month I could very easily calm myself down, didn't really give a flying F*ck about stupid stuff at work, and fell asleep right away nightly, and my critic-well she chilled the hell out too.  It balanced me out.

Of course the problem is that now I want to go back for another hit of relaxation and self affirmations.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Butcher on 5th Street Incident: Moderate Medical Procedure be Damned

Its rare that the terror I can build up in my head exceeds my imaginations expectations.  Rare, but not impossible as I discovered last Thursday.

As a child of a family friend had his wisdom teeth removed, and choked on his blood while on the pain medication and died.  You read that correctly, died.  My mother mentioned it on many a dental visit and the memory was ingrained on my brain = wisdom teeth removal means certain and inevitable death.  For the past decade I have successfully thwarted every dental professional attempts to get them out. Then one of them popped out of my gums a month ago and with it came pressure induced headaches and restless sleep.  

After one hideous headache I called my Mom to complain, and I confessed that I was afraid to get them out because of her friend's son.  At which point I was updated that the son had in fact committed suicide with the pain killers-not choked to death.  It was decided at the time that suicide was too dark a tale for a 6 year old.  Darker than choking to death on your own blood?!!

Cranky, sleep deprived, and with the source of my fear proven unfounded I admitted defeat and scheduled the appointment for Thursday morning after being assured by my dentist I would be out of there in an hour and at the bar for happy hour by that night.


My Dentist in Austin is one of the flush fancy chain Dental offices with a cutsey name and televisions at every torture station to watch daytime soaps while getting your cleaning.  While I was prepped for my procedure I glanced at the television.  Do you know what was on?  I shit you not one of those horrible ASPCA informercials featuring an an emaciated Momma mutt that had been abused and thrown in front of a car but still managed to drag her babies to safety.  WTF.  

When my handsome dentist sauntered in I informed him that the station selection completed my Torture Chamber impression.  He tried to change it, but it was too late, the tone had been set.

For the next ten minutes, I was poked, prodded, and filled with a numbing agent that had a side affect of making my heart race.  In case I wasn't nervous enough my entire body was literally shaking, whether from fear or from the side affect is unclear.  And then Dr Beefcake tells me my back tooth, affectionately called "little 17" was going to be a challenge.

Challenge?  What do you mean a challenge?

The next hour was Hell.  Minute by minute ticked by with cracks and and alarming amount of muscle use by Dr. Beefcake.  To his credit he tried to calm me down as though I was a frightened Labrador Retriever, there was a lot of "Now, thats a good girl!  It'll be okay!"   He spent something like 25 minutes on "little 17" before announcing, "We'll come back to that one!"  I hated his chipperness and I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being addressed the same way as the near death mutt on the informercial an hour before.  

After another half hour or so of extraction, Beefcake announced that he couldn't get "little 17" out.

I stared at him confused.  I mean for the love of God what had he been doing in there?  

"Well, you don't expect me to just leave with half a tooth, what happens when I can feel again?"

"No, it has to come out.  We are just going to walk you around the corner to an oral surgeon."

Wait, I was leaving?  Where were they taking me!!??  The farm?  

I sat in my little cell while Beefcake and his staff conferred. At which point I was informed, like a 5 year old, that the nice receptionist David was going to drive me across town and that they had contacted my "in case of emergency".

I couldn't help but imagine my sister's eye roll when she got that message.  Typical Jenna.

David ushered me into his la petite hoopty mobile and he reminded me that we had met socially one night at happy hour.

I was torn between my desire to be charming and likable and that fact that I couldn't feel my face and I was borderline hysterical.  Once we got to the building David dropped me off at the curb with, "Just go in and go to the 5th floor.  I'm sure its easy to find."


I stumbled up to the 5th floor like a war refuge.  Blood was literally dripping onto my shirt.

The receptionists found my entrance a little shocking and suggested I got to the bathroom to wipe myself off.

I looked like a Zombie fresh from a blood sucking buffet.  How could my buddy David let me go out in public like this?  Dr Beefcake?  Was there no end to this Hell?!

At this point I was doubting the Dream Team's skill and sense of decency, feared ever being pretty again, and skipped down the road to full blown hysteria.  

The oral surgeon was a kindly older man who inspected my mouth, promised he could get the rest of the tooth out, and offered me a local anethestic.  

At which point I begged to be put under.  Begged.

The OS patted me on the head and sent me back into the waiting area.  Where I sat until my sister kicked in the door, intent on rescuing me.  

She and I chatted a bit, and then the numbing agents wore off.  

The pain was unreal.  I curled into the fetal position and sobbed, terrifying the other patients.

Amanda let this go on for a few minutes before she went and raised Hell with the receptionist's, who, by all accounts, were immune to my heaving dramatic sobs and only were only incited to any sort of action when she threw my credit card at them.

When the mask finally went over my head I made peace with the end.  At least it would finally be over.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Consuming Feelings

I decided fairly early on in life that I needed a career that would support the affluent lifestyle I had in mind.  For whatever reason I decidedly arbitrarily at 22 that by the time I was 30 I, on my own, would be contributing 100K to my household.  

I did not grow up in an affluent household, but I am privileged in that I had a stay at home Mom, an insanely fiscally responsible father, a car throughout my schooling, and my education provided for me.  I win the parent lottery.  My Dad was always adamant though that I have a job, which I did from the time I was 14, and that half of my income go into my savings account.  I am proud to say that since graduating in 2008 I haven't borrowed a dime from my Parents because in my first year at IBM I managed to squirrel away more than a third of the income I made while living in Boston.  

My upbringing has made me a bit of a personal finance nerd.  My friends call me to celebrate a good FICO score (Woohoo 830 Jo-Jo!!), ask me my opinion about 401K's, and tease me about a not very subtle obsession with Suze Orman.  So, it shocked me when I sat one Sunday morning, happily going through 4 years of bank statements when I realized I had almost tripled my income in a 3 year period and my savings was exactly where it was when I got laid off from IBM.  WTF was happening with my money?

I realized after chronicling some of my bigger purchases (laid off/unemployed time, professional Certification from Boston University, 2 trips to Europe, dozens of domestic trips, a car, a cross country move, and a sizable chunk of money into a Roth IRA) that the more money I made the more mindless I was, not about the big things, but about the little things:  movies, eating out, my God the clothes, eating out, drinking, did I mention eating out?

Yes, I had some big expenses, and yes I did do some responsible things with it (pay off a car, contribute 20% of income to 401K) but something did not feel right.   For as hard as I work at my profession it feels as though I soften the blow of what that job takes from me (time/relaxation) with stuff.  Consuming to fill the void.  

This year I spent 5000 dollars on clothes.  5000.  On clothes.  This is outrageous.  Outrageous.  I don't care how stressed I am at work, jeans should not be the thing that lowers my blood pressure, and how many skirts does one girl need?  5000 is the opposite of moderation, its just excess.  

I wish I knew how to break this shopping habit, but sadly I think the only way to end up enjoying moderate surprises from time to time is going to be to go cold turkey on shopping for a few months and see if I can instill some new habits.  

Let's see shall we?  What do you spend on that disgusts you? How did you level it out?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Solid State: In which moderation is abandoned and I get to be obsessive

Back when I ran my marathon (almost 2 years ago so I'm rapidly approaching the point where I can't brag about it) you would have thought I was in peak physical condition.  

Instead I badly damaged my hip, my left knee, and aggravated the arthritis in my left ankle.  A girl can deal with all that, then I got my blood tested at work and was informed that for all extensive purposes I was a solid.  My cholesterol was through the roof.  At 25, 138 pounds, fresh off a marathon I had the cholesterol of an obese 45 year old.  Thanks, genetics, I'm looking at you Grandpa Geno.  

Granted my HDL (the cholesterol that cleans up after the LDL that is lying around in your arteries) was high and my LDL relatively low (the crud that collects in your arteries waiting on the HDL to take care of it), but thats like saying I wasn't gonna graduate because I was passing Math and failing PE-good to have the one but on the whole I wasn't graduating so the entire thing is null.

I have a lot of healthy habits.  I periodically exercise religiously.  I'm in a healthy weight range.  I like my fruits and veggies-and indulge in them and don't over indulge in sweets.  But still, I wasn't in the type of health inside that one would assume from the outside.  

What to do, what to do?

What I always do, seek help from someone who knows better than me.  I saw a Dietician and learned about the impact that eating out was having on me (1200 calorie pizza anyone?), that I needed more FIBER, that I drank far more than is socially acceptable in Church circles, and that more likely than not my anxiety was driving up my cholesterol levels.  

I became a model eater for about 2 days, the duration of my enthusiasm, and promptly fell off the bandwagon into a vat of queso.  

Healthy choices take a long time to become habit, and I had been blessed with a fast metabolism that let me skate by for most of my life on some poor ones.  My main conspirators were alcohol, diet soda, and meals that defy the laws of portion sizes (I will eat the entire jar of SALSA and GUACAMOLE!!!!! NOM NOM NOM).

When I was tested again, there were small improvements but on the whole I hadn't made the type of progress that this Test junkie lives for.  

What to do?  My dietician suggested that my moderation definition might be too lax and that I needed to hold myself to a higher level of expectation on a few key things.

So I did.  I stopped buying crap altogether, my snacks became fruit or greek yogurt, and I began to eat at least 3 super foods a day without fail-and that in turn helps me not crave diet soda all the time (which I still jones for).  I haven't endeavored to cut back on my drinking and my portions are still pretty big, but I feel progress is being made.  And progress forward is better than stagnant perfection any day.  Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.  But what do you guys think, is moderation always the way?  Or is being militant the way to go?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Remembering what I loved as a Kid: Painting

A friend was in my apartment and complimented me on this charcoal sketch I have in my room.  Rather nonchalantley I answered, "Oh that, I did it back in high school."

I could have told him that I had had a third nipple that I had gotten removed to see the look on his face.  "No way, since when are you at all artistic?" was the response I got.

I guess being all businessy all the time gives off a vibe that outside of math I have no passions.  

His surprise grated on me.  I went out and bought pencils and sketched away alone one Saturday, and threw all my efforts away at the end of the day.  They were nowhere near the level of skill that was on my bedroom wall.  My moderate scorning self practically spat on my efforts.

I was annoyed that I had let 5 years of hard practice dwindle into five years away from even a doodle.  

I needed instruction so after thinking about it for yet another 3 months, I convinced some friends to take a painting class with me one Sunday evening.  

The instructor stood up in front of us, and gave us a few rudimentary places to start.  And then I picked up my brush, and forgot where I was-and remembered where I belong. 

It was the same feeling I have on a really good run, the place where my brain goes on auto-pilot, just knowing what to do. Silent.  

When I was done, it was not a work of art, but it was a good start after a five year hiatus,  

I signed up for a semester of paint classes at the college.  And I don't even care about the grade.  Well, maybe a little.

What did you love as a kid that you've forgotten?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Being Bold: The Handsome Man

Wednesday nights are residence to the sheer awesomeness that is the 80's Rock band the Spazmatics in Austin TX.  My friend Jo and I had planned to go and spend one of her final nights in town getting our dance on.  

Then Girls' Night was hijacked by a guy I had introduced her to a few days before, and I suddenly found myself a third wheel on what would have been a pretty great date if I hadn't been there.  Not one to be fazed I serenaded the pair of them with my rendition of Young MC's Bust a Move and slipped off more times than necessity dictated to the ladies room.  I was totally A-Okay with my role as chaperone and third wheel until I saw this guy I had gone out on approximately 3 dates with at the bar.  A guy who I made a total jackass of myself in front of, a guy who I liked until it became clear he was a bit of a player.  I mean the guy at one point announced that he like to hit it and quit it.  Who the hell says that outside of rap video?  Anyway, the sight of him ruined my calm collected self and for all extensive purposes I had a mini-self confidence melt down in my head.  

Then I remembered that not five minutes before I had been complimented on my legs, and I chose vodka over discomfort.

It was on my second drink, which could have gone one of two ways-embracing moderation or get shit-ripped.  I decided to embrace moderation and not to feel bad about myself because some notorious flirt and I didn't work out.  I marched over to my friend Jo and her date and made polite conversation until this guy standing in front of us caught my eye.  

This guy was Handsome with a capital H.  No, Dude was beyond handsome.  Dude was hot, and dude turned and looked at me…and I winked.  

I winked, like some 40's maven in a Russian Spy Thriller.  In that moment I loved myself, a self that could wink and be confident and pretty and not care about some guy who didn't value me-and I walked right up to the Handsome Man and introduced myself.

Handsome Man was incredibly nice, in town on business, a marathoner, a PhD, and funny.  We talked until the band stopped playing, at which point Jo came over and siphoned me away-but before she could grab me away I looked at him and thanked him for his conversation--and told him he was crazy handsome.  

He laughed, leaned in and told me that he couldn't believe he had had such a good conversation with a pretty girl in a bar-that he was floored by how smart and funny I was-but more importantly what a kind person I seemed to be.  He showed up later in the evening at the bar I wound up at, and walked me home where we spent another hour on my stoop talking about medical trials he was working on (Yep, I'm cool-I know how to go in for the kill) before he asked me on a date for the next day before his flight.

Nothing will ever come of it, but that night something as simple as making a real connection and having a real conversation my faith was restored.  Whether it was in myself or in random men at the bar, I can't say.  But either way-I felt bold, excited about leaving my comfort zone, and thrilled that I let myself shine through without going over the top-the real goal of moderation.