Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hide & Seek, or the usefulness of vulnerability

Hide & Seek has never been one of my favorite games.  Even as a child I never felt like I could find a good enough place to hide.  When I was found, I felt like I didn't hide well enough; and if I wasn't found, I had that little moment of all kinds of panic: "What if they ditched me?  What if they forgot me?"  And seeking?  Forget it.  So imagine my chagrin when my kids ask me to play Hide & Seek.  As an adult, there are even fewer hiding places I can squeeze in to.

Today was my scheduled appointment with my counselor, and with a couple of sessions under my belt, I half expected to be wiped out afterwards.  My counselor and I are a good match, and I'm covering all sorts of ground.  The drive home aways finds me enlightened and exhausted.  On the other hand, since I've been feeling very level since our last session, I thought today's session might be a cake walk.  It's really up to me: what do I want to explore.

What I got around to today was my insecurities as a mom; and trust me, I've got a lot of 'em (insecurities, not moms).  When you get down to it, my worries stem from one theme: I worry that our kids will grow up and move away, leaving me alone and lonely.  (Yes, I know this sounds crazy coming from the same person who occasionally considers running away to a remote northern island free of children's demands.  Even as I write I have a wee helper.)

Why would my children move away?  Well, with luck and love, our kids will move on to fulfilling lives of their own, which may or may not happen in northeast Ohio. 

Why would my children leave me alone and lonely?  If I hurt my kids emotionally, they might not want to be around me.  I have visions of lying alone and forgotten in a nursing home.

Why would I hurt my children emotionally?  Not intentionally, of course.  But what about all those unintentional times I hurt them? 
"Mom, will you play with me?"  "Not now." 
"Mom can I have...?" "No, we don't always get what we want." 
"THIS is dinner? Blech."  "Just eat it, it's good for you."

What about those times I lose my temper and become snappish or sarcastic?  What about the bad example I set when I don't do my own chores yet expect my kids to complete theirs?

My counselor and I spoke for a good hour, which somewhat surprised me since I didn't think we'd have much at all to talk about.  Then again, earlier this week when I saw my daughter's final elementary school Halloween parade, I knew I was grieving inside and needed to find a way to cope.

I knew I needed to find a way to cope because since I've begun counseling, I've rarely used food medicinally.  As a matter of fact, I've come to view comfort eating in a different light.  Without my old coping tool of food, I needed to do more.  I needed to hold my dilemma up to the light like a crystal, seeing how the light plays off this surface and that, so I can understand just what it is I'm holding on to.

Driving home today, I thought about how so many times when I give my kids the short end of the stick, it's because I'm trying to maintain the illusion of perfection (don't laugh).  My kids absolutely don't think I'm perfect - just ask 'em - but they're loving and precious and I don't want to ever let them down.  And in my efforts to never let them down, I put unrealistic pressure on myself. 

And I realized that instead of answering my daughter's "Can I help?" with "Not this time," I owe her and me a better answer.  I owe us "I'm trying to figure out how to do this."  I can tell her what I'm trying to accomplish, and invite her to try to solve the problem, just like I am.

I can show my kids that it's okay to not have all the answers. I can teach them the value of "I don't know,"  and how "I don't know" isn't the end, it's just a bump in the road. 

I can teach them how to overcome obstacles.  My husband is extremely good at this, but my kids need to see it from me too.  Just like my husband talks through this challenge or that, I need to verbalize my inner dialogue and model this skill of figuring-out.

I think that's why I'm so crazy about working out and lifting weights.  Every time I accomplish a new lift or level, I feel self-reliant and empowered.  Unlike the external praise won through cooking or crafting, exercise gives me self-made pride.

Having explored this fear of mine (abandonment) in a new light, I felt so calm that I was able to play hide and seek with my youngest this afternoon.  I found her and she found me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exercise Hangover

Boy, am I gonna be sore tomorrow.  Tonight's was the best workout I've had the pleasure of in a long time.  I drove toward my west side gym (younger crowd than my early morning east side gym) in the setting sun with some new music to listen to (including Shonlock's "Hello"), found a free arc trainer, and got to it.

90 seconds in, my quads asked just what did I think I was doing.  13 minutes in, the couch potato in me was whining to stop at 15.  And I distracted myself like crazy to keep going because I had decided that come hell or high water, I wasn't quitting till the clock ran out.  I closed my eyes and imagined pedaling in a tri; I glanced at the TV screen and couldn't solve a single puzzle on Wheel of Fortune; and I concentrated on good form and using a whole bunch of muscles.

I really, really needed a good hard workout which left my clothes sticking to me.  I've been feeling like a polar bear at the zoo, pacing back and forth out of boredom.  I miss my trainers like crazy, the way they'd work me till I felt like a pile of overcooked noodles.  I never thought I'd say it, but I even miss those push-ups on an inverted bosu ball.

I'm so thankful for tonight's workout: for the frame of mind, that the equipment I wanted was available, for knowing how to use the equipment.  I felt so good that after the arc trainer I did some leg presses (out of deference to my surgeon, I didn't press 400).  I worked so hard that I've got my post-workout freeze going on (I'm wrapped up in my coat while I type).

Next time I see my surgeon, I'm going to put on my weightlifting gloves, drop to my knees, and beg him to let me start lifting again.  But first I have to get over the pain that awaits me tomorrow morning.  It's so worth it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Chocolate Vaccine

Who doesn't love chocolate?  Many of my happiest memories involve chocolates: twine-wrapped parcels bursting with chocolate sent to us from Oma in Germany; Advent calendars which built anticipation of Christmas with chocolate behind every door; the chocolate peanut butter scent of a Halloween haul; the baby-sitter who gave my sister and me 3 Musketeer bars (till then, I never knew people kept chocolate bars in the house!).

Somewhere around high school I decided that I wasn't going to like chocolate anymore.  It was my thing.  I held on to that thing all through college and beyond. 

And then I married into a family of chocolate makers.  Seeing danger ahead, I tenaciously held onto my mantra "I don't like chocolate."  I weakened to "I only like chocolate from Germany."  And then the horse blew out of the barn.

Well, Ladies & Gentlemen, I am here to report that I have recently  discovered the chocolate vaccine, a cure to chocolate addiction. 

Work with chocolate at home on a regular basis. 

Similar to exercise, working with chocolate takes patience, concentration, persistance, and education.  But whereas exercise enlivens me and helps me blow off steam, working with chocolate makes me anxious enough that I can hardly wait to go for a walk.  After exercise a good shower is in order; during the chocolate process I find myself washing my hands dozens of times.

Working with chocolate is rewarding in that it takes some effort and offers the reward of people pleasing.  It's fun to create things, to experiment with recipes, and have relatively quick feedback.  It  can't hold a candle to the endorphins of exercises and just the scent of it increases my desire to exercise.

So bring on Halloween and Christmas, and you can keep the chocolate.  I'll make it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finding the Beat Again

Hey! Hey! Things are lookin' better now
Hey! Hey! Nothin' lasts forever
If you open up your heart and let it in,

I've been working up to reclaiming my Early Morning Gym Rat status.  I've tested how my body works with my Bionic Ear, and so far so good.  All I had to do was take the next step.

I had to make up my mind.

Left to its own devices, my mind would be messily rumpled like a well slept in bed.  It'd be utter chaos in my noggin, with my brain flitting from one Bright Shiny to another.

But guess what?  Old habits die hard, and apparently going to the gym early is now an in-grained habit.  It's a behavior which has taken root inside, and despite the attraction and distraction of daily chaos, it wouldn't give up on me.

So Saturday I decided that Monday morning I'd be up and attem bright and early (or pitch dark and early).  I remembered that just like a mail carrier, I'd gone to the gym through rain, snow, sleet, and heat, and I envisioned myself getting at my usual gym with my usual crowd.

Then I thought about what I'd need to do to reach that goal of being in the gym, and I made up my mind to do those thigns. 

Step 1: Put my music, water bottle, and an apple on the table.
Step 2: Get ready for bed early.
Step 3: Set alarm clock for early.
Step 4: Lay out workout clothes in a pile easily found in the dark.

And it worked!  I was at the gym, I found my co-horts, and I burned 400 calories before the rest of my household awoke.

And now my brain is free to flit from task to task.