Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Tentative Path Forward

As I fumbled my way around the kitchen yesterday morning, grabbing my things for work (I forgot my phone), I accidentally met the eyes of the oldest of my boyfriend's kids, his ten-year-old daughter. For that brief moment, everything I felt the need to tell her, but could not, came boiling up to the surface. All the panic and fear and sadness and rage and confusion. I physically choked and turned away. I couldn't say anything. "You look tired," she said, probably because my face was swollen from all the crying I had done before I finally went to bed at about 1:30 the night before. "I was up late," I told her. The rest of what I need to say will have to wait until tonight, when we sit down with them to talk about what this election might mean.

While I think most people are handling the results of the election a little better than I have, the general sentiment seems to be similar: devastation, heart-ache, fear, confusion, anger, courage and comfort. I scrolled down facebook yesterday and read one post after another, all with these similar themes. It was almost like a mantra, a drum beat:

I'm scared
I'm sad
I'm furious
We'll protect the vulnerable. Don't give up hope.

I'm scared
I'm sad
I'm furious
We love our country. Don't give up hope.

I'm scared
I'm sad
I'm furious
We'll find a path forward. Don't give up hope.

Part of me wants to focus on those first three lines, and that first line in particular. God, I am so scared. Maybe, for my own therapy, I'll write down my fears. Maybe if I give those monsters in my head some existence as words on a page, they'll be easier for me to manage. But that's not an exercise that will help anyone else. What may help, though, is focusing on that fourth line, the sentiment of those brave, kind souls who are looking at this horrible situation and already working to solve it. They're warriors, and they've given me tremendous comfort as I try to process this. They're right.

We'll find a path forward. Don't give up hope.

One of the things I'm struggling most with is a sense powerlessness. Whenever we've complained about problems plaguing our nation or our world, the response was always "get out and vote." While I agree that every vote counts, I think we've fallen into this sense of complacency: all we have to do is vote, and those we elect will solve the problems of the world themselves. We've lost that sense of empowerment that, in our every day lives, we too can make a difference. Already, the rhetoric has begun that he can't be THAT bad, that he probably just said those awful things to get elected, that actually, he might make a decent President. But this is a man whose campaign promises include targeting gays, Hispanics, Blacks, Muslims, and immigrants. He is held in check only by a group who have spoken against him in the past but may easily be swayed to support him when they see the power of his followers. We can't rely on this man to become a good leader. We HAVE to rely on our own power to change our communities.  Peace begins at home, and now more than ever, we need to foster it.

We'll find a path forward. Don't give up hope.

I want to help this belief the best I can, even if I'm doubting myself. So I've written down a few ideas I'm going to try out that, in some small way, might make things better. It's an attempt at self-empowerment, and it might amount to nothing if we start seeing a worst case scenario, but right now, I'm trying to maintain some faith in America, and I also have to have faith in myself.  
 Hilariously, I started this before reading a very similar Huffington Post article (Volunteer was #1 for both of us), so if you don't feel like reading this, read that instead!

1. Volunteer
I want to have a positive impact on my community. I want to protect it. I want to heal it. The best way to do that, I guess, is to actually get involved in it. So I went to, a website that lists volunteer opportunities as well as jobs for, well, idealists. There weren't THAT many volunteer opportunities listed in my area, but I did see that Girls on the Run is looking for volunteers for their annual 5k next week. In the midst of this terrible situation, the opportunity to support an organization dedicated to helping girls improve their health and self-esteem felt like a miracle. I signed up immediately. After this, I'm hoping to continue looking for opportunities and maybe eventually find something I can support on a regular basis.

2. Buy Local, Buy Ethical
Let's face it, we are not going to see an increase in minimum wage any time soon. And with the tax changes Trump has proposed, it's highly likely that even more of our dollars will end up in the pockets of billionaire executives when we buy from large businesses. So I'm going to make a concerted effort to buy anything I can from small businesses and ethical businesses. Before I turn to Amazon, I'm going to pound the pavement of old town Manassas and maybe Occoquan to find Christmas gifts. Before I head to Home Depot for home supplies, I'm going to see if I can find them at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  For things where you almost need to go with a big business, like groceries, I'm going to try to stick with businesses like Costco and Whole Foods which are known for their good business practices and fair wages.
Yesterday I needed a cheeseburger and fries. I don't know why, but the concept of stuffing my face with greasy comfort food from my childhood just seemed like the only way to keep going. I could have gone to a lot different places, but I decided to try this little hole-in-wall family-owned restaurant down the road from my office. It was good and it was cheap, and the lady who rang me up was really sweet. I don't know how big a difference it makes to buy from a privately owned business rather than a chain, but it made me feel good. 

3. Be Nice to Yourself
Completely ignore the cheeseburger thing. I've been trying to focus on my health more lately, and now more than ever I think it's important to continue that. I'm afraid of how this presidency will affect my mental health. "Grab a woman by the pussy" was not actually a campaign promise, it was something Trump said years ago, and it was part of a pattern of misogynistic rhetoric which we have no reason to believe will suddenly stop now. I know that if I allow it to, his commentary on women's bodies will hurt me. His mockery of mental health issues will hurt even more. And when those vicious thoughts become more socially accepted, and repeated at work and on the radio and on the web, it's going to be so hard for me to keep my thoughts positive and healthy. But I have to, not just for me, but for the three girls living in my house who might start to hear comments about how a woman's menstruation cycle is a weakness. I'm going to continue to prioritize my health by exercising and eating well (allowing for comfort cheeseburgers) as well as generally being kind to myself and reminding myself that I'm a good, strong person and I really am as good as a man.

4. Be Nice to Others, Including Trump Supporters
Maybe the hardest one for me. I'm so angry right now. I want to grab my Trump-voting coworkers by the collars of their shirts, push them against the wall, and scream, "DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO MY FAMILY? DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO MY FRIENDS?" But of course they don't, and they probably never will. As anti-LGBT legislature is rolled out and racial tensions rise in the first months of Trump's presidency, as a generation of young girls sees their worth valued by their appearance, no one is going to say, "Man guys, I'm really sorry. That was a bad idea." As much as I wish screaming will change that, it won't. It will only make things worse. So instead, I'm going to try my best to be nicer to my coworkers, to strangers at the store, even to that guy in an '87 Ford with a Trump sticker and aggressive driving tendencies. I can't let myself fall into an Us vs. Them mentality. If I dismiss half this nation as a bunch of racist monsters, I will never be able to foster peace and healing in my community. I have to believe that most of the people who voted for Trump are good people, capable of helping to restore this country alongside those of us who opposed him (they are). 
I'm also going to try to be nicer and more friendly in general. I tend to walk with my head down and avoid conversation. I'm going to do my best to make eye contact and smile at strangers, ask people how their day is going, dish out compliments, stop for passers by in the parking lot, etc. I think if we all do this, we can defy Trump's culture of bullying and foster a sense that we are a United nation, ready to protect and support all our members, whatever their race, religion, gender, orientation, or ability.

The fact is, no matter what I do, I won't make as big of impact on this world as Trump will. But I can do my best to fight his hate and care for the people around me. It's time to foster love and peace. It's time for forgiveness, for friendship, for action.

We'll find a path forward. Don't give up hope.

Monday, November 7, 2016

These "Intelligent People Are Messy" Memes Make Me Feel Stupid

My recently departed grandmother has sent a message from her grave letting me know that my intelligence is, at best, mediocre.

Until I moved into my new house, I didn't really think all that much about my relationship with cleaning. When I lived in a 400 square foot apartment, cleaning was a necessity ( a few items out of place and my floor was covered), but it wasn't really a big deal. I could pick the place up and have everything tucked away in an hour or so. I could scrub and disinfect it in less than a day. An entire house is different. The bathrooms alone are an exhausting afternoon's worth of work (and they still don't look good). Vacuuming three levels of floors is best split over two days. The kitchen and dining room are a constant battle of Clorox wipes, crumbs, ants, emptying and reloading a dishwasher, sweeping, asking why there is a plastic unicorn sitting in a pile of cereal under the chair, etc. As my boyfriend and I struggle to stay on top of it all (sometimes failing: the main bathroom is in need of some bleach and the cobwebs on the stairs are atrocious), I'm realizing how important cleaning is for my mental health.

In my old apartment, it wasn't the residue of old sauces built up on the stove or my clothes forming a second carpet on the floor or a terrifying collection of hair gathering in the bathtub that told me it was time to clean; it was my anxiety. Whenever I reached a point where I was having trouble breathing and unsure if I could walk out the door to go to work, I would take a deep breath and start cleaning. Sometimes it was a quick job of clearing up clutter; sometimes it was a purge of scalding water and asphyxiating chemicals. Sometimes I was singing to music as I worked. Sometimes I was trying not to cry. Whatever the process, the results were the same: when the room was clean, my anxiety was better. Even if everything that was wrong before I started cleaning was still wrong after, having a vacuumed floor without a trace of plastic food wrappers made it all feel manageable. It's the same now. Whenever I see a cleared floor space or a scrubbed counter surface, I feel more in control of my situation. I'm better able to handle what's happening in my world. Clutter and messes trigger my anxiety. Cleaning helps me manage it.

Recently, I've been noticing a lot more memes regarding how intelligent people are statically more messy and therefore messiness is a sign of intelligence. I realize that most of the people sharing them are innocently passing this along as a joke, usually with a facebook status of "I must be a genius, lol" or something along those lines. Others, I suppose, are justifying their perfectly reasonable choice to focus on other things in their life besides cleaning. No one is purposefully sending a message that my need to keep things in order is an indication that I'm less intelligent than they are. But for me, that's the message all the same. I'm trying to set a good example for the children I'm living with, and I'm trying to keep myself mentally and physically healthy, and I see these memes and wonder how much intelligence and creativity I'm wasting when I choose to scrub a toilet rather than start a new creative project or read a book. It's something I've been struggling with a lot for the past few weeks. Am I a bad role model for coping with my anxiety by putting things away? Am I less intelligent and less creative than my friends who aren't inhibited by a mental illness-induced fear of clutter? Last night as we were saying good night to my boyfriend's oldest, I saw paperweight on her desk with the engraving, "A Cluttered Desk is a Sign of Genius." Apparently she grabbed it last weekend from a collection of items being given away from my deceased grandmother's estate. Grandma has let me know her thoughts on the matter; she thinks my decision to keep things clean is a sign that I'm an idiot.


For right now, I'm going to ignore Grandma's ghost and keep cleaning. Tonight, if I can get home quickly, and get dinner on the table in a reasonable time, I'm hoping to finally vacuum the cobwebs off the stairs. It's annoying and it's not as fun as starting a new project, but when I'm finished I'll look at those stairs and think about how I really do have a handle on my life. Maybe that feeling of empowerment and happiness isn't as good as feeling smart, but it's good enough for me.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Recognizing the Foolishness of My Resentment of My Weight

Last Thursday night, I found myself dragging two filthy garbage cans down to the curb in complete darkness, a chore which fell between cleaning the dishes and putting the kids to bed. As the plastic wheels of the two cans rattled against the gravel, I thought to myself, "My god, my life is beautiful." I was filled with a sense of contentment.

This is not normal for me, or at least it hasn't been normal for the last several months. Well, years, maybe. As recently as a few weeks ago, I was blogging about my struggle with my depression. I have learned, through years of therapy, to compartmentalize a deep-set sense of self-loathing and utter despair that pervades my thinking. I am able to find moments where I have a sense of a joy, and I can go to work, smile, socialize, keep my space and myself clean, laugh, have fun. But in the moments when my world is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts, I hate myself. I recite all my failures; I think of everything I'll never be able to do; I hate my behavior, my appearance, and my world. It's been, admittedly, a little worse lately. Between getting home from work and cooking dinner for the kids, I've had more than one night where I've momentarily collapsed on the floor crying, hating everything about myself. I'll give myself five minutes of self-loathing, and then climb back to my feet to turn the oven on and cut up vegetables. Again, this isn't new. Before I began this adventure in home-ownership with a family of five, I would get home from the gym at night, microwave my dinner, and lay on the couch thinking of how god-awful my world was.I've had times where I couldn't stop crying. I've had times where I've been hospitalized.

So believe me when I say that having a moment where I actually relished in how happy I am feels a little weird. And it wasn't an isolated incident. for the past couple weeks, more and more often I've found myself filled with a sense of joy, contentment, satisfaction, and even, most alien of all, self-love. I still have times when I struggle with a sense of depression and anxiety, but lately it's felt more like something I can work around, an exception rather than the rule. I'm really not sure what's caused this shift in my mood, but if I ever figure it out I will certainly share.

For now, I'm just going to talk about something that I have never wanted to talk about before: my perception of my weight. Whenever I hate myself, I hate how much I weigh. It's not only a part of my mantra, it's the very focus of my self-loathing. when I'm berating myself, I am a fat, lazy, ugly, worthless, shitty, fucking failure. There are moments in my life where I will say, "Well, you did well at work, but you're still fat." or "Yeah you've been good to kids, and that's great, because you're nothing but a fat ugly waste and taking care of those kids is the only good thing you have going for you." There are never moments when I think to myself, "You look attractive, but you still suck." The night before our housewarming party a few months ago, I told my boyfriend, almost in tears, that I wished we could just cancel the whole thing because I had gained 5 pounds over the summer, and I didn't want anyone to see me because they'd think I was a failure. After that party, I put myself on a diet where, for three weeks, I ate less than 1,200 Calories per day. I literally did not lose an ounce of weight the entire time, but my depression sky-rocketed. Sadly, in my broken depressed brain, there is only one thing that gives me value, and that is my appearance. All of my other achievements mean nothing to my depression. The only thing that matters is my body, which I perceive as being unattractive due to the fact that I am overweight. If I had to break it down, here is how my depression ranks priorities:
Obviously this is inaccurate. The saddest thing is that I know this is inaccurate. If I had a friend tell me that her brain was telling her she sucked because she was overweight, I would probably flood her with sincere compliments about her appearance and tell her that her brain was wrong. I know that my brain is wrong, too. But it torments me. It bangs on the door when I try to make it go away. It screams for me to let it in.

A few weeks ago, after my disaster of a diet, I finally made a very radical decision, one that has been very difficult and very painful. I decided to be my own friend, and tell myself that my brain is wrong, and that the graph above is total myth. At the end of the day, my weight is not important at all. Literally not at all. My physical health is important, which is why I strive to eat a healthy diet every day (with the occasional cheat) while performing a mix of cardiovascular and strength-based activities throughout the week, but my actual weight is such a small aspect of my health that it's dangerous for me to even consider it. Last spring I took a health class which explored every possible way to determine whether someone's weight was in the normal, overweight, or obese zones, and then in conclusion it noted that overweight individuals statistically live longer than those in the normal range. So, depression brain, let me tell you, my weight barely matters at all. It does not even reflect on my longevity. This is what matters:

At the beginning of the month, I decided that I am not going near my scale. I am not going to measure my waist. I am not going to place any value on my weight. I am going to be a good friend to myself and know that I am so much more than that. I'm healthy, mentally and physically. I'm taking care of the wonderful family that lives with me, and I'm taking care of myself. That's what counts. My life is beautiful.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Syria Is Giving Me an Existential Crisis

Ok, at some point I'm going to call this what it is and make a new blog, just not today.

To put it out there, in all honesty, I have not been doing that well lately. I was hoping that as things at my job calmed down and I returned to a regular 40-hour work week, I could focus more on my mental and physical health - eating better, working out more, socializing with friends and family. I was quite sure that without the stress of work, my life would be better. Unfortunately, it seems that in actuality, without the stress work, I have nothing to distract myself from my, maybe not "crippling," but certainly "problematic" hatred for my entire existence and desire to curl up into a weeping ball of dejected sadness on the floor and never go outside or speak to anyone ever again. I could blame this thing (which I believe some people call Clinical Depression) on a number of things, such as (in order of likelihood)
  1. A chemical imbalance in my brain which has been repeatedly diagnosed as requiring therapeutic and medical treatment
  2. A struggle with the loss of two family members within 15 days of each other and failure to take the adequate time to cope with those losses
  3. Changes in temperature, reduced exposure sunlight, excessive allergens, etc
  4. Uncertainty in the midst of a major of election which may or may not have a direct impact on my life and which will certainly have an impact on the nation and the world
  5. Fucking Syria.
If you're not following what's happening in Syria, don't worry, AJ Willingham of CNN has everything you need to feel guilty as shit about that. If you're not a fan of following links, the short version is that a lot of innocent people are dying, and they've been dying for 5 years now, and the situation is truly deplorable.

For whatever reason, I have always loved Syria. Ten years ago, I had it on my bucket list to visit one day; it just seemed like a cool place. I remember when the Syrian conflict started. Every day at work, I would finish my morning routine, get all my deliverables out, and then google "Syria" and binge read the articles that popped up. I was filled with hope as I read about the protests. I was horrified when the death toll began to rise, but eagerly read the reports of world leaders coming together, agreeing that the situation must end. I signed petitions. I donated money. I sat there at my desk, my eyes glued to the monitor, just waiting for the moment when the world would stand up and affirm that never has there been a more clear-cut case of need for international intervention. We had made mistakes in the past, but this is where we would do things right, and the brave men and women of Syria would wake up to a new dawn of freedom and justice, and the world would be a better place. And then I would get to go play tourist in Damascus. I read as one international group after another decided they could not intervene. I read as the acts of war became more heinous, as the death toll rose higher and higher. I looked at the bloodied corpses of the children.

And at some point I finally gave up. One morning, I finished my work and I opened up Google, and I just couldn't bring myself to read any more articles. I think the death toll was somewhere around 4,000 at the time. It seemed so high. I just couldn't face it any more. I let Syria fade from my life, and focused on other things. Over the years I would come back to it, briefly  re-energizing my obsession, but at the end of the day, the story is always the same: innocent people are dying; no one is able to save them. Assad has an ugly, weak-chin face that makes me want to hurt and publicly humiliate him. 

With this new election season and Russian's decision to assist Assad in bombing his own people back to the stone age, it looks like Syria is once again taking up some news space, so last week I started googling "Syria" to see what comes up these days. It's been a great time to catch up on the latest Syria gossip. On top of murder of almost hundred innocent children in one night and the destruction of aid convoys, the other big news this week was that U.S. cancelled peace talks with Russia, I believe essentially because Secretary of State John Kerry realized that the "talks" would consist of him speaking of the need for cooperation while his Russian counterpart Sergey V. Lavrov flew a little replica airplane over his paperwork making little sound effects such as the buzz of the engine, the whistling of a armament dropping through the air, and of course the "Begh-WERGGGHHHH" of the explosive impact on the home of another innocent Syrian family.

The cancellation of the peace talks has led to... "not-peace talks" (my phrase) as Kerry told a group of Syrians he lost the argument for use force against Assad, and Russia, taking a page from Donald Trump's book of political engagement, posted a tweet that more-than-hinted but less-than-overtly-stated they will bomb US planes should we elect to use force as Kerry recommended. Meanwhile the U.N. has declared Aleppo to be under siege and has issued multiple statements condemning the bombings, accusing Russia of killing aid workers, and calling Assad names. It isn't fair to say no one is actually doing anything. The UN and several other organizations are attempting to get food, water, and medical care into the city of Aleppo while getting the critically wounded out; they're just having a lot of trouble because of the continued bombings and obliterated infrastructure. International leaders are attempting to utilize diplomacy to find some sort of resolution to the conflict; they're just having a lot of trouble getting Syria and Russia to stop murdering people long enough to talk. Military, state, and intelligence officials within the U.S. are attempting to convince Obama that small scale war is a good idea, they're just having trouble predicting the future in order to guarantee that military action against Assad will not result in World War III. Oh, and Assad is trying to boost tourism in Aleppo with a rip-off of the Game of Thrones music.

And when you consider all these things - the State Department, the UN, the US president, the anti-aircraft weaponry, the blood-thirsty dictator who watches HBO, the superpower with one finger on the nuclear codes and the other on a twitter account, it's very easy to forget that each of the 470,000 people who have a died was, in fact, a person. That right now, at this very moment, there is a woman in Syria lying on the floor, sobbing over the loss of her child. She doesn't know how she's going to move on. She doesn't know what kind of god would do this, would give her such beautiful treasure and then rip it away from her. She remembers holding him in her arms  for the first time, she remembers the smell of his hair, she remembers hugging him good-bye before he left for school. It's easy to fall under the illusion that the people of Syria are so shell-shocked that they cannot mourn; it's easy to ignore the fact that the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the Hell that is Aleppo, the millions trapped in Syria, once had lives very similar to our own; it's easy to pretend that Syria was always war-torn, and that the people somehow are not suffering nearly as much as you or I would in the same circumstances. We delude ourselves into the thinking that while we might be devastated by the loss of our homes, our jobs, our safety, or our children, over there, that sort of thing happens all the time. They must be used to it by now.

But as we conclude another week of international leaders wringing their hands over a difficult moral conundrum, and one superpower begging another to fucking quit it already, I'm left feeling empty and depressed. Because all I can do is read about it in the news. There's nothing I can do for the millions suffering in Syria.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Here's the Thing About #BlackLivesMatter that I Think You Missed

First of all, I fully acknowledge that the following has nothing to do with fitness or health or nerd culture and does not belong anywhere near this blog. But until I bother to make a new blog specifically for political commentary (not gonna happen), this is my soapbox. There's a little "X" icon somewhere at the top of your screen if you're done now.

Today, as I scrolled through facebook (my only real connection to other human beings or world events), I saw the following:

I'm going to operate under the assumption, given the context, that in this circumstance BLM does not reference Bureau of Land Management. I'd love to tell you the story of how I gently or forcefully educated the strange who posted this comment on the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter and implications of the movement, but being a privileged white person, I just rolled my eyes and scrolled on (not my proudest moment*.) Unfortunately, I didn't get too far before discovering yet another story about police shooting an unarmed black person, this time in El Cajon, CA. Like every story we've read or heard (or watched), it has its idiosyncrasies for those looking for the "whole picture." Like every story, it boiled down to an innocent person shot to death. Yesterday I told myself that the next time I heard about one of these shootings, I would say something. I didn't think it would happen in less than 24 hours.

When the tragedy in Ferguson took place, and the fatalities of innocent blacks which were reported thereafter, I was able to say to myself that the man (or woman) who pulled that trigger was not actually a police officer. Police officers are sworn to protect and serve (it turns out not every police force has adopted this language, so that is ignorance on my part). Someone who willfully kills an innocent person obviously isn't protecting and serving us. Therefore that man is not a police officer, he is an impostor, a bully who happened to lie his way into a uniform, a threat to our safety, a murderer.

But as the fatalities continue to be reported on a more and more frequent basis, I'm beginning to fear that I am wrong. I think these men and women (do I call them police officers or not?) are firing their weapons with the belief that they are protecting and serving civilians in accordance with their oath. They are eliminating a threat and thereby ensuring the safety of those they serve. The question becomes, "Who are they serving?" Read the article linked above. The victim's sister called 911 because he was not acting like himself, and she feared for his safety. When he was shot, she was heard crying, "I just called for help, and you came and killed him." Can the officer who pulled the trigger honestly say that he served and protected the victim and his sister? What about the officer who shot a man in Tulsa, OK, as he walked away from her? What about the officer who shot a man in Charlotte, NC, (who may or may not have had a weapon) as the victim backed away? Was it protecting and serving the family, the bystanders, or the community to pull the trigger?

It takes courage to put on a police uniform. Officers are killed during routine traffic stops and when serving warrants. A few months ago, I called the police to report a domestic disturbance in a neighboring apartment and was surprised when three officers in body armor arrived at my door. It seemed like overkill to me. Only a few weeks later, not ten miles from my apartment, an officer was shot to death responding to a similar domestic disturbance call. In retrospect, the body armor made sense. I strongly believe that Blue lives matter. I would like this nation to reach a point where police officers do not have to fear for their lives when they respond to calls, where police deaths are unheard of, or close thereto.

I would especially like to reach a point where police officers do not have to fear every civilian they encounter. Because right now, I'm beginning to wonder how safe I am from those who are sworn to protect and serve me. After all, they were sworn to protect the innocent civilians they killed in El Cajon, Tulsa, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Ferguson (etc. etc.) If I say the wrong thing at a traffic stop, will I be the next victim? Do I need to fear for my life if I commit the slightest infringement of the law? If the answer is yes, then we are living in a Police State. If the answer is no, that is because the only difference between me and the weekly victims of this problematic system is skin color. That, Stranger on Facebook, is the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter. It is not a belief that blacks are somehow better than whites. It is a plea, from whites and people of color alike,  that blacks receive the same treatment, the same protection, the same service from police that whites do. We are all citizens of the United States. We pay the same taxes. We follow the same laws. We deserve the same right not to be shot by the police.

*I'm going to reply to that comment on facebook with a link to this post.

Monday, September 12, 2016

It Turns Out My Grandmother was a Total Badass

I feel like you don't really know a person until they die. Before then, the only view you have of them is your own. Maybe you hear stories of them from one or two others, but it's not until they're gone that we make an effort to collect all the memories from all the people who saw all the various aspects of their life and create a complete picture of who this person actually was. It's not fair.

There are things I want to say to Grandma now, having learned so much more about her after her passing. Things that I will never have a chance to tell her. Things like, "Holy Shit, Grandma, you were total fox. Like, Bond Girl levels of smoking hot. Jesus." But she's gone, and so I'm left writing a blog post with a vague sense of disappointment in myself for having spent the entirety of my life related to this amazing person without ever having asked her how she managed to be such a badass.

So much of my childhood can be summed up in the gleeful screeches of the grandchildren, the smell of chlorine, and the woman who never chose to drown us.

As a child, I knew her as the woman who would hold me in the pool and sing, "Ba-dumpty-dump, ba-duptity-dump" while slowly spinning in circles. She had a freezer full of Popsicles. She would let me wear her jewelry to church. As I got older I learned more about her, but never enough. I learned, for example, that she helped out with YWCA, and that one day, in an attempt to explain that the programs needed more initiative, she mixed up two metaphors, announcing to the board of directors that they needed to grab the bull by the balls and run with it. (It's one of my favorite phrases to this day, and I almost said it at work a couple weeks ago.) I did not learn, until her passing, that my grandmother was the YWCA Athletic Director at the time, or that, in addition to offering what can only be described as extremely poor bovine management advice to a room full of men and women who had the collective sense of humor of a sack of human bones, she also initiated volleyball and basketball leagues, swimming for all ages, and Lynchburg's first gymnastics program. I knew that my grandmother broke her wrist at some point in her forties practicing a back flip from her bed. I did not know that somewhere around that time, she spent a week at circus school, possibly learning how to do back flips in a less disastrous manner. I knew that my grandmother was physically active. I did not know she ran a mile and half every day, even after having five children.

As I've learned more about who my grandmother was, I feel this mix of despair and hope. Despair because, by the time I started following in her footsteps - teaching silks, running a ten-miler, incurring various self-inflicted injuries - her health and her memory were failing her, and I never got a chance to sit down and listen to the wealth of advice and hilarious stories she probably had to offer.

On the other hand, when I hear about everything she accomplished, I think, my God, there might actually be hope for me yet. Lately I've felt like I've reached the end of the race and I'm not that happy with my time. I've felt like my prime is over, and everything I've left unaccomplished or abandoned is dead and gone. But my grandmother obviously did not reach 30 years of age and decide she was done. She kept pushing, as an athlete and a community activist. She probably endured hundreds of set-backs, from men telling her she was too sexy to be an athletic director (I haven't heard such a story, but by God I know there is one) to bones inconveniently breaking on her when she needed to work on her back flip.

I'm not sure I'll ever be the woman she was, but learning about her life tells me that I have the ability to make more of my own. It's not easy, but nothing in life ever is. I just need to grab the bull by the balls and run with it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


With the busiest time of year at my work finally coming to close, and other random events settling (or in certain cases, still wreaking havoc, but wreaking havoc in such a way that they are not time consuming) I found my fingers itching today to write a blog post. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm ready to start writing again. It's a big commitment and involves exposing certain sections of my soul to the anonymous public, both concepts I have come to fear. But I logged in to my blog account, and lo and behold, my last post (never published) was drafted on 9/4/2013, which means it has been almost three years on the dot since I quite suddenly dropped this project in the midst of turmoil in my life. Add to this lovely bit of serendipity the fact that I'm on the edge of beginning a few health projects (each with varying chances of success and associated levels of excitement), and I feel like maybe it is time to brush the dust off this blog and go at it once more- at least until Christmas destroys me and I give up again.

So here we are, blogging. A lot has happened in the past three years. I started teaching silks. I stopped teaching silks. I ended a long term relationship. I switched jobs. I switched homes. I lost weight. I gained weight. I ran a 10-miler. Recently, I bought a house, and I moved into that house with my boyfriend and his four kids, who live with us 50% of the time. My life, to put it way too mildly, has changed a lot. The last few months have been particularly rough for my health and wellness. Buying a house brought with it a ton of new responsibilities for which I wasn't 100% ready, and everything from cleaning to fixing faucets to digging a patio has devoured my spare time in a manner evocative of the rip-tear-munching of the Stranger Things monster. On top of that, things at work got hot for a while, and I spent more than a month clocking 10-12 hour days, so I found myself going for weeks without any time to do much of any physical activity at all besides maybe an hour-long class here or a few minutes working out on my own there. And of course, while living with kids can be really fun, it also means that I need to make 50% of my dinner meals "kid-friendly" which has resulted in more carbs and fats. and pizza. Jesus Christ, the pizza.  

Anyway, I'm now a substantial 145 lbs, and while I haven't lost ALL my strength, my push-ups are pretty disappointing, and I can't do many of the things I used to do in the silk. I spend most of my time feeling slow, tired, and fat and nowhere near the young healthy person I used to be. But in good news, I've signed up for a weight training class which I'm really excited about it (we meet tonight to do our first "weight-trainy stuff" [that's a technical term]). I've also got an elliptical trainer sitting in my basement now, and have rediscovered the immense joy I find in reading a book (Ready Player One) while moving on the elliptical. Add to that the fact that I've signed up for a soccer team and I'm hoping to continue ballet (holy shit I suck), and I actually have some legitimate reasons to believe that this fall will see some positive changes in my health. Who knows, maybe in the near future I might actually submit another blog post rather than letting this poor thing atrophy once again. (All right, let's not go too crazy with the optimism, kid.)

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, Internet, I need to pack up and head to class. Best of luck with your own adventures until we meet again!