Just Sit? That’s Deep. And Impossible.

I’m missing yoga. I’ve been put on the injured reserve list with tons of “no’s.” I’m active. I don’t sit still. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s the bad athlete syndrome….I’ve got something to prove. “You ran six miles, I’ll run sixteen.” I’ve got a car, distance is entirely unnecessary. But I do it.

I’ve given up the gym for nature. The gym’s too competitive–I’m always peaking at the person in front of me…She’s going 7.1mph, I can do 10. There’s no reason for it. Needless competitiveness tears people down. Exercise should be one of two things, team building, spirit building or both. Always leave exercise smiling.

Nature makes me smile. There’s nothing like running a solid seven miles leaping over horse manure in the street. It’s exhilarating. The feel of the cold going up my nostrils with my favorite play list…nothing like it. I miss it.

Naturally, I’m grumpy at my doctor who said, “No exercise.” What doctor says that? Next he’ll be saying, “I’d like you to start drinking, eat donuts and chips, and, oh, here’s a crack pipe from the pharmaceutical rep. Three times a day should do it.”

It’s not his fault. He’s just the messenger with the sheepskins on his wall. Delivering the letter of the law. No running, no kickboxing, and no….yoga? What kind of person banishes a person from yoga?

“Are you crazy?” my friend said, “I’d KILL to have doctors tell me to sit on a couch and not exercise.” My friends all want his business card. Most people go from “couch to 5K,” I’m going from seven miles to couch. Impossible for me.

So I turned to my yogi friends.

Yogini one, the person who got me into this yoga-loving mess to begin with, listened with compassion to the “letter of the law.” Yes, I’m looking for a loophole and an accomplice here…

She thought. She responded. “Just sit. Sit for an hour each day.” Who wants advice like that? I’m looking for something more like “Ah HA! Your doctor forgot to banish this. You can beat yourself up with THIS yoga, and it’s all perfectly legal.” But instead, she said “Just sit.” Like Gandhi, when his people told him his schedule didn’t allow him an hour to sit, reportedly said “Then I’ll sit for two.”

Yoga Friend Two told me I could stand in a tree pose forever. What?? No fun! They’re all afraid of lawyers, I think. They won’t help me be disobedient. I thought good friends were put on this earth to help us get dirt on our new clothing and get us in trouble.

I decided on “just sit.” Neither the spirit of Gandhi nor Yoga Friend One remembers to factor in The Boy. I meditate when Declan doesn’t find me. Lately I’ve been a little off. He thinks it’s “hide and seek.”

I plopped Declan in front of a good movie. I thought, “I think I’ll sit now. Possibly even meditate.” I shut down my work, taking a mental step toward the other room.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.45.09 AM“MOM! I need you!”

“What?”

“Come HERE!” The boy can sniffs out meditation like he finds yoga.

“Look. This is funny.” I laughed. Briefly.

“Watch your show, Mommy has to do…some stuff.” If I said “meditation” he’d destroy it.

“Okay.”

I went. I sat. I accomplished 2.5 minutes of sitting.

“MOMMY! I NEED YOU!”

“No you don’t.”

“I DO! I BROKE IT!”

I run for “I broke it.” I never know what “it” will be. Parts of my desk–the one supporting my computer, were strewn across the floor.

“It was an accident.” Dismantling my desk…an accident? I put it back together.

“Don’t do it again. Now, I need a minute.” Actually, I was hoping for a series of them, strung together. “Watch your show, please.”

I went. I sat. I looked up. There was a fire-breathing dragon in my face.

“Are you doing YOGA?” No, please don’t think I’m doing yoga. You’ll never leave.

“No, I’m planning dinner. I think I’ll make broccoli.” He ran away.

And so this continued I was able to attach twelve glorious minutes together. Twelve minutes of sitting and doing nothing. I never “do nothing.”

I fell asleep. Sitting. In a pretty good posture.

I heard a noise. I looked at the clock. Minute thirteen.

Yoga Friend One suggested I at least try for twenty minutes. That’s a 60% discount off the original full hour. “Have Rusty watch Declan so you can do it.”

If Rusty watched Declan and said “Leave Mommy alone,” Declan would know something was up. Sneaking is the only way.

Settling for ten minutes of sitting and two minutes of sleep I declared victory. The biggest win I’ve had all day.

Time to get up.

And make the vegetables…

Note: Yoga Friend One has an amazing blog. I especially liked her thoughts on “miracles” here.]

[images: http://oplkids.wordpress.com/2011/04/]

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Sit and Eat Chicharones (Or Find Your Passion)

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 6.06.52 AM

“What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and exercising?” 

“How do you write every day?” 

“Why do you teach even though the climate is so bad for teachers?”

These are three questions that crossed my feed this week. On the surface, they’re all unrelated, but in truth, it’s the same question.

“How do you….(insert habit here…)” There’s a one-word answer for every one of these. Passion. Stop reading. Continue drinking coffee. That’s really the essence of the solution.

Never having been one for brevity or one-word answers, I’ll elaborate.

Exercise:

I exercise because I love the feeling it gives my mind. Most view it as a chore. If you view it as a chore, you should sit on your couch and eat chicharones (fried up pork rinds…dead pig crisps apparently taste better than vegetarian things like carrots and chips). I love to run five, six, seven miles because it clears my spirit and gives me ideas.  I’m grateful when I can exercise–I remember being on crutches for months after a bad game of basketball wishing I could get off the couch and run. I try to see each opportunity to work out as a privilege. The feeling of freedom I get when I run, lift, do yoga, go kickboxing, or pick up a game of basketball makes my body and soul smile. Once, when my doctor grounded me, my friend said “Man you’re lucky. I’d love to have a doctor tell me I can’t exercise.”

If that’s the case, you’re viewing exercise incorrectly. See it as a privilege. Only then will passion develop. You will exercise. You will eat well. You will respect the limits of your body. And your body may decide to treat you well, too. Life’s too short. I try not to do much I don’t feel passionate about these days.

Write Every Day: 

Use the Nike method, “Just do it.” I write at the same time each day. 4AM. This means I don’t have to shove my family in a closet or ignore them to concentrate, and I can enjoy the most beautiful time of day, the sunrise. I sit with my cup of coffee and the glow of the wood stove. Because I carry a little notebook, I usually don’t run out of ideas. I scrawl them when they gift themselves to me, and I develop them when I have time–4AM. So many people want to write, but view it as a burden. It’s not. It’s a privilege. Think, “I want to do this every day…I’m grateful I can. I’m grateful to have something to say, and furthermore that someone out there might enjoy it or find it helpful.” I look forward to 4AM because I’m deeply honored by my readers–the friend’s I’ve made through my writing journey. I owe them my best. Life’s too short, I may have said, to do things about which I don’t feel passion. 

Teach: 

Sure, the climate’s bad. Awful. There are days I feel the press hates me, and times I’m convinced I should’ve majored in accounting or stat, because the pendulum has swung in that direction and–the kids say–away from all the things that made them love school. This breaks my heart. But to get in there, roll up my sleeves, and give them something to love anyway, even if I have to fall on the sword once or twice, gives me passion. To watch their eyes when I connect them with a noted scientist or author, or see them generate ideas about their future?  It’s worth chopping through all the vines in the jungle, I think, to give them that same passion. Remember, life’s too short to do things without passion.

Who knows, maybe the passion for these things will leave me. That’s okay. Then I’ll find something else to do every day. More art, more calligraphy, animal husbandry…rekindle old passions, and discover new…let a few present ones ebb away to make room for more. Nothing’s permanent, and there’s a ton out there to discover. To feel passionate about.

Exercise, writing, teaching–or anything else, really–it’s all the same. It all boils down to passion. Do the things you love. Because passion is what makes life so beautiful.

 

[image: famousquotes.com]

Girls Should Not Be in the Weight Room

I wanted to be a bodybuilder.  I know, check out the “about me” photo, and you’ll see a pretty scrawny individual who is not even good at cross-country, the one sport where people are morally required to cheer for all participants even if they’re terrible.  But for some reason, in college, I got the idea that I should not only be a bodybuilder, I should compete.

My lifting partner and I met twice a day at the non-varsity gym at 5 AM, no small feat for Rochester, New York. I lived off campus, and it was a mile and a half walk through all sorts of weather to accomplish our morning workout. It usually snows and rains in Rochester about 400 days a year on a leap year–the weather is so crappy, that the suicide rates are higher due to lack of sunshine. The University even built tunnels from building to building so that, like moles, students can burrow along and not emerge until after the thaw in mid-July.

But even with the distance to the gym and my crazy schedule—I worked full-time all crazy hours four miles in the other direction–weight lifting was important.

We started our day with a protein drink and the first half of our split workout somewhere between 5 and 5:30 AM, a time when no college student is awake except for the very few still painfully trying to locate their dorm rooms after whatever they had done the night before.

For a while, our presence in the non-varsity gym was somewhat of a curiosity—the muscle-loving college guys didn’t give us much respect. Girls aren’t supposed to be in the weight room. Well, maybe they can in certain circumstances, like when they’re decorating the sidelines or showing off matching outfits near the five-pound weight section that they might lift after the gossip session. We were very, very different. There were no matching clothes for us—only baggy sweats, lifting gloves, straps and all the grungy equipment a proper weight lifter should have. We were serious.

After our morning workout, we went to the dining hall with a half-dozen zip-lock bags and Tupperware containers.  We ate what we could and packed food for later. I’m not proud—technically, this was against the spirit of “all you can eat,” maybe even crossing the line into theft, but I was flat broke.  Breakfast was the cheapest meal available, so breakfast was the meal I attended.

The way we saw it, it was the best $2.35 shopping trip in town for poor, off campus college kids. It didn’t feel wrong packing take out lunch, because the football team “all you can eated” half the room.  Ergo, I felt I deserved a bag full of apples, some cereal, a couple of bagels, and whatever else didn’t squash in my bag, especially when I factored in the tuition I was paying. This turned out to be a mistake for my lifting partner when she left hard-boiled eggs in her bag and two days later, cleared out the entire section of physics.

After a while, things got socially better for us in the weight room. Some of the guys actually acknowledged our existence. They’d even move away from the weights to let us pass through and let us rotate into sets.  They passed us the real weights, not just the girly-5’s. It was definitely a sign of respect. And one day, someone even gave us the “hey” nod.

But the lines in the sand were still drawn, and the boundaries were clear.  Guys often give lifting pointers to other guys, “Hey, you should try maxing out at ten reps, then doing supersets of (insert exercise here.).”  If a guy performs an exercise incorrectly, another guy is required to correct him, either to help him avoid injury or to attain that girl-scoring chiseled physique.  It’s in the rulebook.

But girls can never correct, help, or spot guys.  It’s not allowed.  When we dared try to helping a scrawny guy about to drop a weight on his face doing an exercise wrong, the entire room stared like we were suffragists a hundred years ago demanding the vote.

Eventually, we broke through the barriers. We knew we had truly made it–become real lifters–one day when a guy took our pointers and nodded a weak thanks.  He cast a furtive look around the room to see if he had been socially emasculated, relegated to the ranks of wimpy guys driving minivans who lost their male card. Noting that he had not—that the gym crowd was treating us as genderless equals–he actually broke a smile.  We were in.

Eventually, even though we were Part of the Crowd, I decided I was not going to be a competition weightlifter, even as a hobby.  First off, no matter how many stolen hard-boiled eggs I ate, I could not gain enough weight to be serious in the sport—yes, “the sport,” for it quickly turns into an addiction.  It starts with enjoying the strength and conditioning, escalates to reading Muscle & Fitness every day, chanting mantras like “Incomplete reps make incomplete body parts,” and finally to glorifying chemical drinks and potions, fake tans, and a diet only an anorexic could love, void of health and balance. I couldn’t do that.

Alas, we were not going to audition for American Gladiators when they came to our area. We would never be ready to take on the ranks of sculpted females who could throw cars and out muscle guys named Sven and Hans in strongman competitions following it up with more one-finger pushups than Bruce Lee.

That knowledge, and the requirements of the real world, ended my weight lifting career.  I still work out—I run, I’ve taught and practiced martial arts, lift for fun, and hustled various sports at school.  I usually lose, but I’m not above saying “Your mama!” in order to rustle up a good game of hoops.

When I think back on my real weightlifting days, I’m horrified by the lack of health, balance, and nutrition we put ourselves through in the name of health and fitness. I apologize to my poor body for this, because it’s growing older every day.  I also apologize to the good people in the dining center for all the eggs I’ve stolen.  Know that when I strike it rich, I’m going to pay them back, but in the mean time, I’ll feed some poor kid who forgot his lunch in their honor.