Mamma Mia!

My daughter is going away to college in a few weeks, and I ran straight into that reality last night as we watched the local production of Mamma Mia!

Abby has been dreaming and planning for this year of college for quite a while now, and she has been driving me crazy lately with all of her dorm room shopping and talk about dorm room shopping. It makes me a little crazy, because I don’t like shopping and I didn’t see the need to obsess over it months in advance. Aside from the shopping annoyance, I’ve been pragmatic about her leaving in the fall. I’ve made sure that I have the weekend free to take her to school, and I’ve booked the hotel room for that weekend. Time has kept its steady pace, and I haven’t been oblivious to the speed with which September is approaching, but I haven’t been emotional about it yet. Well, until last night.

There we were at our community theatre to watch the absolutely amazing performance of Mamma Mia! Abby had placed herself between her father and I for the night, which meant she and I shared many glances, nudges, and bits of conversation. We shuddered together over some fashion choices in the crowd. We nudged each other when someone from a middle seat had to get out in the middle of the performance, because we had talked about the tightness of the rows, our preference for sitting on the aisle, and the fact that it always seems to be a person in the middle who needs to get up during a show. During the song Knowing Me, Knowing You, I leaned over to hit her with the “a-ha” of the chorus, and that’s when reality smacked me in the face.

My girl is going away in a few short weeks, and I am going to miss her. The house won’t be empty, but there will be a void. Abby and I have a good relationship, and it is going to be strange to not have her here to speak sarcasm with and to disagree over Captain America and the Winter Soldier. I won’t have someone blessing me for having a pot of coffee on in the morning or understanding the need for chocolate. Instead I will need to make sure the cat gets fed and the litter box cleaned out, but I refuse to FaceTime the cat for Abby. Maybe towels won’t get lost in her bedroom once she’s gone, and maybe my chocolate will last longer.

Because I am who I am, my eyes leaked during the performance from start to finish. The waterworks were especially strong during the song Slipping Through My Fingers. Abby told me after that she had looked over during the song and seen the tears on my face. That made her laugh a bit, at least enough to stop her from getting too emotional. Typical.

My emotional balance has been restored with the light of day. For now. Abby tried to make me cry this morning by playing Slipping Through My Fingers again, but I’m okay. She’s determined to make me emotional about her leaving, and she will likely succeed at some point. That can’t be helped or avoided, but I am not at all sad for her to go. I am excited for her to go and learn and spread her wings.

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In The Moment

When I pull my brain back from tomorrow and my heart from yesterday, I live with joy today.

(I came across that quote somewhere a while back, but I have no idea who originally said or wrote it.)

It’s been a weird week. There was the unexpected follow up appointment with the neurosurgeon and a couple of surprise announcements that are going to take some time to process and accept. After a deload week in my training, I began this week expecting a fresh training week feeling strong and fresh, but that never quite materialized. At the gym on Wednesday, I wanted to throw a kettlebell through a wall, because the back was so achy and uncomfortable, and I cannot always avoid feeling frustrated and stuck. I had no anger or frustration issues at the gym today; however, my mood was drooping and I simply felt tired and weak.

I didn’t sleep well at all last night, probably the worst night in a while now. Sleep has been tricky since the start of this injury, but the past few months has at least allowed me to settle into a reasonable, functional rhythm of lying awake, falling asleep, lots of tossing and position changes, and a few wakeful periods. Last night had plenty of tossing and position changes and lying awake…not so much sleep though. It wasn’t all due to the physical symptoms. The brain was racing for the first hour or two, twisting problems into knots before unraveling them to start over again, but the brain did eventually quiet and settle. Still no sleep. Despite the central air-conditioning and bedroom fan blowing, I felt too hot, too uncomfortable. The lack of sleep probably didn’t help me out at the gym this morning.

Although I stopped taking my prescriptions more than a month ago, I still have them. Lots of them actually because the last refill had been a big one. In all the time that I was on the medications, I never felt like they made a difference in the pain or symptoms, which is why I stopped taking them. I hate taking medication, but there are moments when I pause to consider the vials on my counter. What if I was wrong about the impact they made on the pain I felt? As much as my current pain levels are a far cry from what they used to be, I am still in pain. All of the time. It sucks. It saps energy and life from your body. It eats away at you from the inside and wears you down. Most of the time I can look beyond the pain and discomfort, but there are moments, sometimes days, when that is difficult to do. I think today is one of those days. Perhaps most of the week has been like that, and certainly my body is still re-learning and adjusting to being back at work, even if with limited hours.

I am tired, frustrated, and hurting, yet the day was not all gloom.

I got to go to the gym today! Although this injury has significantly impacted my ability to train as I would like, I am still of the mindset that going to the gym is a positive. My body might not always enjoy working out these days, but I am always glad to be able to do it.

My youngest son came by today. Sure, he was only here to pick up some mail, but that’s two days in a row I got to see my baby boy.

It’s far too easy to allow pain, fatigue, and low mood to throw road blocks in front of any sort of productivity I might have planned, but I managed to get a few things done today.

I laughed. Not the fake laugh one does when being polite but genuine laughter. Mostly at my own expense and that’s okay. It was still the sort of laughter that lessens the weightiness of whatever is sitting on your shoulders. And I didn’t laugh alone, which only increases its’ potency.

I finished off one book and began another. You would think that someone who had been off work and essentially idle for seven months would have read plenty of books, but the pain was too distracting and my head too foggy to focus on written words up until recently.

 

Be Kind & Mischievous

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ~Mary Oliver

I do not always know what other people think of me, and I try not to care about that too much. But I do wonder sometimes. How do people perceive me, and does that perception line up with how I see myself?

I know that I am not always the easiest person to get to know. Ever the introvert, I open my doors cautiously, slowly, and there are many doors to pass through. It took my husband twenty years to realize that I have a thing for shoes, because I have kept that passion locked up tight. It’s not that my love for shoes was a secret I felt I needed to hide; in fact, I was actually surprised that my husband hadn’t been aware of it. (I think he knew it and simply forgot!) My reasons for not indulging in shoes have been financial (I had three kids burning through shoes on a regular basis.) and practical (Where am I going to wear 4 inch stilettos? And honestly, the heels I love are brutal on the body.) My shoe example might point more towards my husband’s attention to detail than my being difficult to know!

After powerlifting competitions, I have been told that I am so calm and cool on the platform. I go out and do my thing without drama or some grand production. That is just how I often tend to be. When I am at work, I tend to be mostly calm and cool and focused on the tasks at hand. In social situations, I am much the same. I might be trembling like a leaf with doubt and insecurity on the inside, yet I’m easy-going, calm, and doing what needs doing. But don’t let my calm manner and cool exterior fool you!

I know how to be silly and mischievous. I even sing, although usually when alone in my car or while doing housework or with my daughter when Bohemian Rhapsody comes on the radio. Green hair isn’t a shocking sight these days, but it definitely wasn’t common when I was a teenager, who on a dare sat in the front row at church with green hair. There are too many times to count when my family rolls their eyes at my fan girl freak outs over Star Wars and Wonder Woman, but I am a 46 years old fan girl! Fingernail polish and flashy jewelry are not permitted at my work place, but I have always enjoyed expressing myself through the colours painted on my nails and big, funky earrings. Sometimes I forget that about myself, because I have grown so used to being work place compliant. Kindness is something I know how to do, to be, even though I fail miserably at times.

Kindness can turn around and bite you though, and I bear many unseen scars. Earlier today, I found myself reading something I wrote quite a few months ago, which brought some of those scars to the forefront of my mind. The words I wrote were in response to being bitten by the very kindness I had given away. There is a measure of sadness in the memory, a touch of anger at the injustice, but mostly, I think, I feel so far removed from that actual attack. It happened, and I still don’t understand what doesn’t make sense. But I do believe that kindness is still a valuable commodity worth sharing with others.

Every Mountain has a Valley

A blogger I follow posed a question the other about favourite stories from the Bible. There are so many good ones to choose from, and I think my choice varies depending on where I am and what I am going through at any given time. For that reason, it would be easy to choose the story of Job, because it would be easy to view my current circumstances through the lens of the unfair and undeserved. It’s a good story, difficult to grasp at times, but not the one I would choose right now.

One of my all-time favourite Bible stories is Elijah on Mount Carmel…and what happens after. (You can find the story in 1 Kings, chapters 18 and 19.) In a nutshell, the land is in its third year of drought. King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel did evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped Baal. A spiritual battle took place on Mount Carmel, between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. I’m going to skip the details of that battle (please feel free to read it for yourself), because the important point of this for me isn’t in those details but in the victory Elijah experienced. It was a victory that was incredible, powerful, and it was God’s victory. Without a doubt, Elijah would have been on top of the world with having seen his enemies vanquished in such a fashion. He was on the mountaintop. Literally and figuratively. But he didn’t stay there.

Jezebel was furious in defeat and threatened Elijah’s life. You would think that someone who had just witnessed God’s power would not be intimidated by the evil queen’s threat, but he was. He was afraid for his life, so he ran away. He went alone into the wilderness and wanted to die. From the emotional mountaintop, Elijah had crashed into the valley of despair and depression. He felt alone and hopeless. How is that possible? To sink so low after being so high? I know a little something about that, and I reckon you do, too. Although the story is of a spiritual nature, the cycle of up and down is not limited to spiritual matters. I think it is a part of human nature.

We triumph. What that looks like will vary from person to person. It could be a job promotion, a new relationship, a fresh start in a new city, beating cancer, or reaching a goal. For me most recently, my mountaintop experience was my powerlifting competition on November 4, 2017. I had slogged through a physically and emotionally tough year to put in the work. Every big and little goal I had for myself was achieved. My performance was perfect, and I had a World record. I was on top of the world with excitement over what I had done and what I looked forward to doing at my next competition. I thought I could ride the crest of that excitement all the way to Nationals in February, but I was wrong.

We fall. The mountaintop is a lovely place to be, but we are seldom able to linger there for very long. Why are addicts always looking for another hit? Because the high doesn’t last forever. The same is true for emotional (or spiritual) highs. For me, herniating my disc pushed me off the edge of the cliff before I even had a chance to fully savour my high. I might be in a good head space now, but that hasn’t always been the case over the past five months. I haven’t wished to die like Elijah did nor had reason to fear for my life, but I understand how he felt alone, hopeless, and in despair.

The story doesn’t end there though. While Elijah was hiding, God took care of his basic needs. Elijah slept. An angel provided him with food to eat and water to drink. That’s not all. God himself met with Elijah, listened to Elijah’s complaint and despair, and revealed himself to Elijah in a gentle whisper. God let Elijah know that he wasn’t alone, and He provided Elijah with a helper. Sometimes, much of the time, it feels as if I’m alone in my suffering, forgotten and passed by. I feel useless and without purpose. I physically hurt all the time, and that chips away at my sense of hope and confidence. I feel fear that this situation will never get better, never end, that I will hurt forever. When you are walking in the shadows at valley bottom, it can be difficult to see all that you have going for you.

I have supportive family and friends. I have the luxury of time to heal at home rather than struggling to work through the pain. My income might be non-existent, but my husband has lots of work. Much of the medical system might be slow and frustrating, but I have at least one health care professional who listens, cares, and is proactive rather than reactive. I have a coach who also listens, is proactive, and has my well-being as a priority. It’s taken longer than necessary, but I have finally been referred to a neurosurgeon. I didn’t make it to Nationals in February. I won’t be competing at all this year (or longer), but taking the time to heal is more important than rushing back to the platform. Although I don’t think I was ever a super crazy go-go type person, this injury has forced me to slow down…like to a screeching halt. I have no doubt that I will discover even more positives through this situation as the days and weeks and months go by. Sometimes God speaks and moves in ways we don’t understand or recognize immediately, especially when we’re in the valley, but I know He is with me through the highs and lows.

So This is Christmas

I slept well enough last night, but it was also uncomfortable thanks to the multiple pillows necessary for maintaining a back happy sleeping posture. Unfortunately, the pillow positioning changes depending on which side I am sleeping on, and I’m not always awake enough to remember to change the pillows when I roll over. As such, I was awake around 6:00 this morning and coffee has since replaced the blood in my body.

Gifts have been given and opened. For those who know me, there is no surprise at the nature of the gifts that I received. Star Wars. Wonder Woman. Wine. Coffee. Journals. Fun socks. A puzzle. I am so easy to buy for, so easy to please and excite. And as difficult as my boys are to buy for, I think I can safely say that we managed to find gifts that they actually enjoy and will use!

Food is always part of Christmas. After we open our gifts, we have brunch. My husband makes most of it, while I contribute by making some mini frittatas. Normally I am adequately planned and prepared, but my life is not currently normal in many senses of the word. It wasn’t until we were ready to make breakfast that I realized I couldn’t find my old recipe, so I winged it. For the first time in all the years I’ve been making these, this was the first time that the frittatas didn’t stick horribly to the muffin pans! Go figure.

After brunch, the only other meal of the day will be a big dinner with turkey, ham, and all the fixings. The space between meals is left for grazing on nuts, chocolate, and whatever other goodies are laying around.

Games are always a big hit at Christmas, and we added several to our collection today. I think three new games have been cracked open and played already. Having young adult aged children means that time all together becomes increasingly more difficult to find, but it warms my heart to see our little family having fun together.

For the past several years, my husband has had the tradition of giving the kids new Nerf guns at Christmas, and there would always be a massive Nerf gun battle after dinner. This year my husband decided not to get any new guns. One child nearly freaked out upon learning that there wouldn’t be new Nerf guns under the tree. It might be safer for the bystanders tonight!

Christmas Day always means the Doctor Who Christmas special, and I’m looking forward to today’s episode as well.

On the subject of entertainment and Christmas, there is some disagreement in the family as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. My husband and I say it is, while the kids disagree. What do they know anyway!

It’s cold and grey outside, but we’re warm and cozy inside. I wish we had a fireplace, but we don’t. That’s okay though. I have my heating pad that I can enjoy as I recline between periods of standing and activity. The legs are buzzing with electric currents…nothing new there!

So that’s a snapshot into our Christmas. It’s low-key compared to some people’s and likely extravagant compared to others. We are far from rich, but we are richly blessed. I am thankful for all of our blessings, and I am learning to be thankful for those things that are not easily seen as blessings. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope that this is a season of love and joy for you!

Gratitude

The third question on the list for ending your year intentionally is:

What or who is the one thing or person you’re grateful for?

Regardless of what my year has looked like or how I feel about it, I am always grateful for the people in my life and I have long been in the habit of expressing gratitude for things, big and small, on a daily basis. Thankfulness is part of who I am, and I could go on for days expressing all that I am grateful for over the course of the year.

To choose one thing or person is a difficult task, so I am going to approach it as a group result. Have you ever watched a boxing match? When the bell rings to signal the end of a round, the boxers go to their corners where they are tended to, coached, supported and encouraged. Cuts are tended. Sweat is wiped away. Water is provided. The boxer has people in his corner. I am not a boxer, but I know what it is like to have that kind of support and I am grateful for all of it.

1. My husband! He lets me do all these crazy things and willingly spends countless hours at my competition, most of which is just waiting for my turn to lift. He cheers me on, encourages me, and takes video for me. He has been at 8 of my 9 competitions, missing out on one only because he was still recovering from hip replacement surgery. It was odd not having him at Provincials this year, and I know that I felt the loss of emotional support when that competition didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I am glad that he was there at my most recent competition. When I broke the World record for my squat and emotion was bursting out of me, being wrapped in his arms was a wonderful feeling. Now that I am injured, he is still supportive. He encourages me when I feel troubled by worry and despair. He has my back. He loves me.

2. My chiropractor! I visit my chiropractor with some regularity as I put my body through a lot. He helps keep my body functioning as well as it possibly can, but he doesn’t just twist and crunch me. He seldom fixes me up without also giving me practical skills and advice to help keep my body working well. On occasion, I am also blessed to receive words of wisdom or encouragement that nourish my spirit and soul. In my eyes, my chiropractor is more than just a health care professional…he’s also a friend.

3. My coach! Perhaps coach should really be coaches, since I have had two different coaches this year. My previous coach got me started in powerlifting and played a big role in my journey. Even though he is no longer my coach, I cannot discount his part in my story.

My current coach and I are still in the learning each other stage, I think, but I have already experienced good things under his programming. Although I no longer have the direct, real-time contact with a coach while training, I still feel supported, encouraged, and challenged by my new coach. When I started with him this summer, I was recovering from another problem with my back or SI joints and hadn’t been in powerlifter mode for several weeks. I had the November competition on the horizon, and my coach took me through training on a level I had never done before…and it worked. I could hear his encouraging comments as I was on the platform. My injury has changed the nature of my training again, but I know my coach has my back!

4. My friend Sienna! For my competition in November, I needed a handler. This was only the second time that I have needed to find someone to help me out at a competition, because that role was usually covered by my coach. My daughter was my handler at Westerns last year, and my friend was my handler this time. She was probably quite nervous, uncertain as to what to do to support me, but I think she did a great job. I have competed enough that I know what I need to do and when to do it, but it is always nice to have someone there to chalk the back, offer encouragement, and remind you what you’re capable of.

5. My physiotherapist! This is a recent addition to my support crew thanks to my injury, but I feel confident in his abilities and treatment. I tend to be highly cynical when it comes to doctors and many aspects of “health care”, so I am always grateful to find medical professionals who are not stuck on out-dated methods and systems.

6. My friends, co-workers, and family! These people have cheered me on every step of the way, through thick and thin, weight cuts and water loads, disappointments and frustrations, sore muscles and all my back struggles. When I’ve had success, they’ve celebrated with me.

 

Enjoyment

Continuing the end of year reflection theme from No Side Bar that I began in yesterday’s blog post …

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

2017 has been a difficult year for me in so many ways. What did I enjoy doing this year? That’s a question that requires grinding mental gears and peering deeply into the dark corners of my memories.

Yesterday I mentioned celebrating my 25th anniversary with my husband, and our little celebratory holiday was definitely something I enjoyed doing.

My most recent powerlifting competition was also highly enjoyable.

This summer when I changed my gym and my coach, I stepped out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar and potentially scary territory. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I would thrive or even like what I was doing. As an introvert, it is not easy for me to dive into the unfamiliar or place my trust in someone I don’t know and doesn’t know me. At the time of the coaching change, I had already been through months of struggles with my SI joints and low back and a disappointing competition. My confidence in my ability to overcome those struggles and regain strength was a little shaky. Despite my struggles, doubts, and nerves, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the change and the process.

It wasn’t easy to step into the unknown like that, but a small part of me was glad for the challenge. My doubts and fears resurfaced every week as I would receive my new program, yet a part of my spirit soared at the prospect of squashing those doubts. In the gym as I put in the work, the load sometimes felt heavy and hard, but I did it and I took joy in the results. Those months of uncertainty and challenge were enjoyable! It sounds odd to say that, but it is true. I enjoyed it, because I grew through the challenges instead of being destroyed by them.

This year I have also found enjoyment in the company of family and friends. Celebrating birthdays. Family holiday gatherings. Graduation. Escape room success. Celebrating successes. Cards. Texts. Notes. Christmas bake day with girlfriends. Grey Cup party. Homemade gelato. An impromptu dinner out with friends. Musical theatre. A heart-to-heart over wine with a best friend. Many of these instances are of little consequence in the grand scheme of a year. As a lover of words and authentic relationships, these small instances add up to a whole lot of love and affirmation.