Hindsight

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

There is a saying about hindsight being 20/20, and it is usually true. Looking back we can more easily discern the wisdom (or lack of) in our decisions and actions. We can see more clearly the hazards that laid in wait for us, and we can quickly see the alternate routes that we should have taken in our quest to get ahead in this game of life. There are occasions though when our ability to look into the past is hampered by the limitations of memory. Maybe we don’t want to remember or perhaps the occasion was not sufficient to cement itself at the forefront of our memories. Such things are seldom lost forever, but they take a fair bit of time and patient coaxing to draw them out of the depths where they reside. As I prepare to answer the question that leads off this blog post, I know that forgotten memories will rise to the surface at random moments after I have finished this post. No matter how much time I spend on reflection, my memories will always shift and shimmer in unpredictable patterns.

So, if I could go back to January 1, 2017, what advice would I give myself?

  • Do not hang out in a body weight squat for 5 minutes! Probably not even for 2 minutes!
  • Take more time off than just a long weekend for our anniversary vacation.
  • You’re going to lose some friends. It won’t make sense and it will hurt, but you will be okay.
  • Yeah, losing some friends is going to cause a bunch of insecurities to bubble to the surface, but don’t let those insecurities change the shape of your character. You know who you are and who you are not. You also have people in your life who also know who you are and who you are not; trust them.
  • You might have a disappointing competition experience. This would be unfamiliar to you, but it is a normal part of being an athlete or competitor. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win but still have a sub-par performance or injuries. It’s okay to be frustrated and disappointed, but you are strong enough to pick yourself up and move on.
  • You know how you want to try stand up paddleboarding? Just do it!
  • When you see the really good deal on Christmas tree lights, don’t be afraid of buying too many! You know that the ones you have are old and in need of replacing. Buy more than you think you will need, because you don’t want to have to mix a couple strands of newer cool white lights with strands of older yellowish white lights!
  • When you herniate your disc and your boss asks if you want to take a leave of absence, do it. Forget about your pride and propensity for people pleasing. Do not think that gritting your teeth, digging fingernails into palms, and choking back tears are satisfactory means of surviving a shift at work!
  • Get a zero gravity chair! It beats sprawling on the living room floor when sitting is too painful. Trust me…you’ll need it a lot this year!
  • Wear the bikini. Spend more time in the backyard pool.
  • Regardless of what comes at you remember this…you are brave, you are strong, you are thoughtful, you are kind, you are loving, you are trustworthy, you are enough!

 

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Worry

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

Worry is an odd thing for me. I tend to carry a lot of figurative weight around on a day-to-day basis, things like worry and stress; however, the weight of such things isn’t always heavy. For example, as a mom I had worries for my son when he traveled to Thailand recently. This was his first time undertaking such a lengthy and distant trip and without the presence of family or a large group. I am not naive about things that can happen when traveling (or at home). Although I did worry for my son’s safety, the worry was not heavy or consuming. I went about life without dread or fear. While I appreciated the bits of contact that my son made with me during his absence, I was not dependent on them to have peace of mind. I held worry in my hands but was at peace with the situation. This is how I respond to stress and worry over many details of life. I can feel the inner disturbance yet quickly regain solid footing. My natural inclination is not chaotic or dramatic but calm and rational. Mostly.

As for worry that weighed heavily upon me, I suppose I can pinpoint two situations.

1. A friendship ended this year. At the time and still to this day, I don’t really understand what happened there. The type of worry that eats away at you only lasted a brief period of time before I reclaimed my peace and solid footing. That short period of anxiety and doubt and worry was horrible, not so much for how it made me feel but for the sense of impending loss. I am often slow to open up to new people and cautious about who I allow into the deeper levels of relationship; however, once someone has been granted access and makes the choice to accept me, I invest in the relationship and value it greatly. When a treasured relationship ends, it hurts. There is confusion and uncertainty. Worry…about so many things! What did I do wrong? What did I say? What didn’t I do right? What didn’t I say? Those questions and doubts can attack with brutality, leaving you bruised, battered, wounded, and forever scarred.

Thankfully, my confidence and knowledge of self has grown stronger over recent years, and I was able to discern truth from fiction and weigh my worries accordingly. The friendship was gone, but I was not destroyed. I think I’m stronger now.

2. The other big worry for 2017 has been and continues to be my back. My back has been through a lot this year. This current disc herniation makes my earlier SI joint problems look like a walk in the park. Tomorrow will be 7 weeks since I herniated my disc. There has been improvements. I even think there continues to be improvements, but they are slow in the coming and not always consistent from day to day or even hour to hour. I am not in screaming, agonizing pain on a scale of 100 out of 10…thank goodness! But there is still pain. Too much standing/walking and the numbness in my left leg/foot increases, pain shoots down both legs, and the back hurts/aches/throbs. When I lie down I can feel the shock of electric currents traveling down both legs. There are moments when I feel almost normal, except for the permanent numbness, but such moments are brief and sporadic. I am so weary of this injury.

In the early stages of the injury, my worry was mild. In my ignorance of what was actually wrong with me, I was still optimistic that I’d be back to normal soon. When I was made aware that I had actually herniated a disc, that little blob of worry transformed into a giant black hole that sucked all the joy, peace, and hope out of me. I was worried, and this worry was heavy. As the days and weeks progressed and my recovery progressed so slowly, that worry began to crush my soul. Knowing that discs will eventually heal wasn’t enough to allay the worry. The lessening of the pain wasn’t enough either. The continued presence of numbness and the later addition of pain and numbness in the other leg only fed the worry I held inside. I’ve cried a lot of tears. The worry has been all encompassing. I’ve been worried about how my injury impacts my ability to do my job to the level that I am accustomed and that I desire to attain. I’ve been worried about how my injury impacts my co-workers who have had to cover my short-comings and my absence. I’ve been worried about my limitations in doing basic, every day stuff around the house. Worried about the limitations in my ability to train at the gym the way that I enjoy most. Worried about my future in powerlifting. Worried about the financial impact of this injury. Stress over the process of applying for a medical leave and employment insurance. The worry about my short-term and long-term health has been heavy. Even the process of seeking medical care is riddled with worry and stress. This worry has taken a heavy toll on me.

I am still dealing with this injury, tripping my way through recovery and medical care, and slogging through the muck of emotional distress. I am still worried, and I do not yet have resolution to this problem. I am still injured. Recovery is still in progress and hazy. There will still be a financial impact for months to come. There is no sneak peek into the future. Uncertainty remains. So does worry.

But the worry is less consuming now and I feel more hopeful than I did a week or two ago. I am far from where I want to be, but I do know how to put one foot in front of the other in order to take a step forward. I know how to work hard to reach my goals. I know what it feels like to struggle, to feel challenged in a task, and to succeed. I know failure, too, but I also know how to pick myself up again. Worry isn’t done with me and my disc and I don’t know how it will turn out yet, but I know I will be okay.

 

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.

Express Yourself

Admittedly I haven’t been blogging a whole lot lately, at least not much more than posts about my training sessions. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to blog. There have been days when I have felt the need or desire to blog but I didn’t. There are many reasons for the lack of blog posts, ranging from the “I have nothing to say” to the “I don’t know what I can say”. In a way, I feel sort of handcuffed in what I can say on my own blog, because someone has chosen to twist my words into something drastically different than what I have ever said or intended. While I obviously cannot control how people may interpret my words, I know my heart and my intent and I am at peace with both. Despite the peace I feel in this situation, I have been feeling reluctant to blog about much of anything beyond the basics of training. I know this is a season of sorts, and I will get past it to blog more candidly once again.

I have to admit that part of my reluctance to blog flows out of the knowledge that my blog could be read by those who choose to twist my words into something I never intended. Obviously, if you find something on the internet personally offensive to you, you have complete freedom to NOT continue to read it, right?! This is my blog. It is about me and my journey. This is my journey of self-discovery, of growing comfortable in my own skin, and knowing who I am. Sometimes my journey towards becoming Angela involves other people, because we do not go through life without being touched by others and in turn touching others. This is my journey. If you don’t like it…don’t read it. Plain and simple! I don’t blog for personal glory or recognition or followers. I have no expectation that anyone reads my blog and won’t be offended if nobody does.

And still, I hesitate. I open my WordPress site with the intention of blogging and then I hesitate. I think about who might read my blog, about who might take my innocent words and twist them into something ugly. So I pause until I have no more time to blog, or I simply blog about my training, all the while feeling censored.

Despite how I feel in regards to blogging, I am feeling perfectly fine. I am sleeping well. I am happy and at peace with myself. Although I have been hurt and rejected recently, I am doing very well. My husband and I were talking about that situation the other day, and he asked me if I had forgiven the offending party. I was kind of taken by surprise by his question, because I don’t even look at that turn of events as being worth my time or attention. Was I hurt? Yes. Am I holding onto any of that hurt or resentment? Heck no! While I do not agree in any way shape or form with the other point of view in this situation, I also don’t consider this to be worth holding onto. It’s difficult to explain how I feel without going into more detail in the situation, which is something I am not going to do. Suffice it to say that I am completely comfortable with who I am to know that I am not at fault in this situation, and as such my forgiveness is essentially automatic. Would I be comfortable bumping into this person in public unexpectedly? Probably not but that’s just me and my non-confrontational nature potentially pushed into an uncontrollable scenario! Am I losing sleep or stressed out over what has happened? Absolutely not! Like I said, I know who I am. I know my own heart and my intentions. I can put my head on my pillow each night knowing that I was true to myself, to my family, and to my friends. If someone sees that differently, then that is their problem and not mine.

I suppose this post is where I draw a line in the sand and say, “No more!” This is my blog. This blog is about me and my journey and what makes me who I am. If you have a problem with that, then feel free to stop visiting! If, on the other hand, my journey interests you, then please follow along. I cannot promise that my journey will always be cool or exciting, but I will always strive to be real and honest. I am no one of consequence or importance. I am merely Angela, a 45 year old woman, a wife of 25 years and mother of 3. I am a friend, a powerlifter, a barista, someone who is thankful for everything and entitled to nothing. Although my education is limited, I am a lover of words, and writing is how I express myself best. And this is my blog.

Exposure

At one point yesterday, I logged onto Facebook and received notification that I had been tagged in a post by my chiropractor/friend. I clicked on the notification to see what I had been tagged in and quickly found my eyes bugging out and my jaw dropped to the floor. My chiropractor had shared a blog post of mine and offered up a little commentary of his own to go with it. I was caught off guard, surprised, and instantly uncomfortable in the spotlight. Isn’t that a funny reaction! I’ve had a public blog for years, so why should I react in such a manner when someone else shares it?

I can answer that question easily enough. For all that I am perfectly okay with exposing myself on my blog, I still tend to assume that virtually no one reads it. The blog hosting site has tracking features which allow me to see how many people actually do read my blog and the countries they are from, so I know that any given day will have been seen by anywhere from 1 to 60+ people. What I don’t know is who these people actually are. Are they people I know in real life, or are they complete strangers? I think I can be confident in knowing that a viewer from Romania is NOT someone I know in real life; however, the typical bunch of American/Canadian viewers could potentially be people I know. I just never assume that they do. I’m not sure why I assume that. Maybe it’s just easier that way. Maybe I just don’t get a lot of feedback from those who do know me, so I assume they don’t read my blog. Whatever the case…it doesn’t matter. I don’t blog for the sole purpose of being read and commented on. I do this for myself, like a journal, one that just so happens to be laid out for others to read if they choose.

And yet, for all that I assume no one I know reads my blog, I still feel a moment of embarrassment or panic when I realize that someone I know actually has read it. This is what I experienced yesterday, when I realized that Ben had shared my post. Ben has far more Facebook friends than I do, which means that the potential exposure was slightly overwhelming. Ben is infinitely smarter and more educated than I am. Why would he ever share my little post? Quite honestly, when I shared my blog post with Ben, I wasn’t even sure that he would read it. He promptly disabused me of that belief, but I’m still half-surprised that he read it. My blog is not anything special. It is just me, revealing myself, trying to be honest and real in a world that isn’t fond of either quality.

This is not the first time that my chiropractor has done something similar to me. Indeed, nearly two years ago, he made a Facebook post congratulating me on my success at a competition and the journey I had made thus far to change myself. His post made me cry, and I appreciated his kind words. However, a day or two later I received a message from a local television station about being interviewed for a segment. That was both an intensely petrifying and oddly empowering experience, and I blame it all on Ben. But can I really blame him?

He might be more than a decade younger than me, but I’d be proud to grow up to be half the person he is! I admire him, because he is a real person. I am drawn to honest, real people like moths to a flame. I value realness. I want to be seen as a real person. Known as a real person. I’ve lived a lifetime wearing masks to make others happy and comfortable, all the while I’ve chafed under the mask and afraid of being revealed as a fraud. I am no longer content to be someone I am not. Becoming Angela means that I am striving to be myself without hiding behind masks. Sometimes I still hide behind a mask, for my own comfort or yours, but I am trying to keep the masks off.

“In a world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul.” ~?

Today, I am not freaked out about the fact my chiropractor shared my post. There’s been a small increase in viewings of that particular post, but so what. Why should I feel fear or embarrassment or anxiety over the fact that someone thought my blog post was worth sharing? Wouldn’t the more natural response be a measure of pride? Or at least a sense of validation or encouragement? Okay, so I won’t likely ever feel pride in such a situation, but there’s no reason for me to react negatively. I am just me. I can only be me!

Wine, Wonder Woman & the Weekend

It is my Friday. Working an open shift this morning means that I have officially been on days off since 2:00 this afternoon. My first plan upon getting home was to have a bubble bath. This morning I had thought about having a glass of prosseco as I bathed, but by the end of my work day I realized that I hadn’t had any coffee yet. An Americano while bathing was what actually happened. I find it kind of funny how drained I feel in this moment despite having a 4-day work week. As I do feel wiped out, I put my Wonder Woman onesie on after my bath and had planned on enjoying a quiet night at home. Then my phone beeped a text notification…

A friend wanted to know if I had any plans for the evening. I paused. Thinking. Mentally weighing my options. I could say that I had no plans but just wanted to stay home and do nothing, or I could open the figurative door to hanging out with my friend. I chose to open the door. A quiet, relaxing visit with a friend over some wine would be rather nice. As much as I truly love my friends and enjoy being with them, we are all busy people and simply don’t get together very frequently. But I wonder if I should give my friend the head’s up that I am planning on coming over in my onesie…because it is warm and comfy and I really don’t want to get dressed in real clothes again tonight.