Birthdays, Breakdowns, and Buddhist Monks

As I mentioned back in this post, I have a strange tendency to get real introspective in May.  Last weekend, as Mother’s Day approached, a familiar happysad feeling descended.  It’s happened for the past 5 years but continues to take me by surprise (there is still some part of me that won’t let go of believing I should always feel like the “after” photo in an add for antidepressants….).

In typical control freak fashion, I decided to cut these feelings off at the chase: super early morning run (for the endorphins) followed by yoga (increases GABA) followed by some pretty strong ceremonial cacao on an empty stomach (anandamide, theobromine, more socially acceptable than cocaine…).

T has this book called “When Sadness is at Your Door” in which a little girl nurtures a cute blue character (the embodiment of sadness) for a day by doing nice things with him until he gradually disappears….I took another approach and attempted to kick sadness’s cute blue ass.  Needless to say it didn’t work.  (Side note: those with sensitive stomachs might not want to start the day with a boatload of ceremonial strength cacao….just sayin’….).

I spent most of Saturday analyzing what I could have done better and ruminating over every wrong turn I’ve made from birth until present.  I decided my life lacked meaning and needed more depth.  I proceeded to express this to J ad infinitum.

Enter Sunday: Another early morning run, another yoga session, a more reasonable green juice followed by an adaptogenic latte.  Feeling better, I decided on a whim that we should hit up Mother’s Day service at a local church.

The reverend relayed a story about a tree with white ribbons tied around its branches to represent babies whose lives were cut short.  J and I looked at each other perplexed.  We knew that tree.

As we thanked her on the way out she recognized me from participating in a hospital’s grief training during which I told my story.  For the rest of the day and into the next I felt connected to something greater, though I can’t exactly say what.

Enter Tuesday: T lost his s$%^.  Hating on me from morning until night, with a few moments of epic cuteness in between (are random moments of cuteness the reason for human survival?).

At my lowest point, near tears on the phone with my sister while a screaming nude T pelted me with underwear (at least they were clean?) I felt connected to exactly nothing.  Purpose be damned.  Today was about trying to survive.

Survive we did, and once the (undies) storm passed, things became a bit clearer.  On my podcast feed the following day an interview with Zen Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim popped up.  With a title like “How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection” I knew it was my jam.

Listening to the podcast while walking Dee in the perfect spring weather, a deer emerged from the woods.  A beautiful sight from afar but upon closer inspection his entire face was covered with cutaneous fibromas (I am not a vet and did not know this at the time…thanks Google…).

He seemed to stare at us though I can’t say for sure since his eyes were completely covered over.  He did not move an inch as we walked past.  Something about this juxtaposition made me feel connected again, though I still can’t say to what.

If you’ve read this far and you are wondering what the heck any of this has to do with health and fitness I will leave you with this quote from Zen Buddhist Monk Haemin Sunim:

“Only when we move our body and get engaged can we actually change our life.  So for example people who are depressed or having difficulty with relationships, rather than constantly thinking about these things, just take a walk around and just move your body.  You can do yoga or you can run or you can do swimming.  Anything that is going to help you.  When we have a nimble and very soft body that’s when we begin to think very flexibly.  When our body is stiff and tense then our mind also becomes tense.”

I could probably just write the sentence “Move your body.” and hit post 52 weeks a year, but isn’t saying it in 764 words so much more fun?

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

T teaching me his latest yoga move last Saturday, a random moment of cuteness on an otherwise imperfect day….

Peaceful Mother’s Day

Wishing all you mamas out there a peaceful Mother’s Day weekend!

If you know my story, you may know my relationship to the upcoming holiday is complex.  In connecting with many women through this blog and otherwise over the years,  I’ve come to find this complexity to be less the exception and more the rule.

The following are a few posts that have resonated with others in the past and may bring some comfort whether you are celebrating, memorializing, or (as is often the case) doing both:

Mixed Feelings and Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and More Yoga

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!





Aging, Gratefully

As my birthday weekend draws near, I can’t help but feel a little fatalistic nostalgic.  What was once party hats and streamers has somehow turned into a yearly existential crisis.  I blame this on J, who has a history of fervently assessing his life the month week before his birthday.  Always the chill one in the relationship, when he freaks out over something you know it’s time to worry.  Watching him, my nervous Nelly brain is like “Oh my, guess we should be worrying about this too!”

On a recent trip to Chicago, we stayed at the hotel where I got my first full time fitness gig.  This hotel once housed a combination spa/fitness center that was so swanky all staff received a complimentary spa treatment once a month (spoiler alert…the company eventually went bankrupt….).

Upon inquiring about personal training, each potential new client was given an assessment by a very expensive machine that gave them a “body age” reading (in case their actual age wasn’t stressing them out enough…).

Now, almost a decade later and no longer outsourced, the once fancy gym is a run of the mill hotel fitness center.  The setup is almost completely identical, yet lacks all its previous panache.  Decidedly less exclusive, I entered automatically with a swipe of my room card.  No extra charge.  No front desk person pushing over-priced personal training.  Just a simple little click of the door and I was in.

After a stint in the weight room, I wandered into the studio.  There I was, almost a decade later, reflected in the same mirror under the same bad fluorescent lighting.  A once upon a time fitness ingenue turned wizened wellness professional (ever notice how all “fitness” professionals have magically morphed into “wellness” professionals over the past few years?  Guess I’m on trend….).

Back then I embarked on a career in the fitness industry with confidence I would crack the code.  Looking back, it’s laughable that I believed there was a code to crack.  Just within the past year a new organ has been named and there is talk of a previously undiscovered bone in the knee!  It seems we still know very little about this vehicle we traverse the world in.

Similar to how we now know good nutrition isn’t simply a matter of calories in vs. calories out (and I say this after spending a significant amount of my time in college using and abusing Splenda….) the human body is incredibly nuanced.  The diet+exercise equation I once fell prey to now has a myriad of other components.  Hormones?  Environment?  Sense of community?  Weather? (ok I made up that last one but you must admit there could be something there….).

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that no one is an expert on the body.  Some of us (ahem) are more interested than others in its goings on, but how can anyone be an expert when we are still discovering new organs and bones for pete’s sake???

One cool thing is, the more I live, the gap between who I am and who I want to be begins to narrow.  This can be attributed roughly 20% to self improvement and 80% to self acceptance.  I’ve learned am learning how to best support my body rather than constantly attempt to control it.  I’ve learned that trying to make the healthiest choice at any given time is much better than being a stressed out perfectionist (except on that last trip to Chicago, when I tread the length of O’Hare airport certain I could find a healthier option and ended up barely making boarding call with an overpriced banana…which I could have gotten in the American Eagle lounge for free….).

I’ve also learned that you may get teary eyed when your 9 year old dog starts to limp and you find your first gray hair and your son starts talking about driving you around in his Jeep all in the same day (ok, he is under four and it’s imaginary, but the day is coming….).

So this weekend, as I take a walk while listening to The Blue Zones audiobook, I’ll do my best to do so with an air of celebration rather than trepidation.  These centenarians I am learning about know where it’s at, and I hope to know that one day too.  For now, I’ll be scaring the s%*# out of J as I sit next to him on the couch googling “mid-life crisis”.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

I am the one on the far left, as happy-go-lucky then as I am now……

Flashback Friday

This Flashback Friday post is an ode to Dee.  The weather is warming and running season is in full swing.  If you (or your dog) need some motivation to get up off the couch, check out this oldie but goodie:

My Toughest Client

I told Dee we were going on a run before I snapped this shot….