Ownership

Grey gave way to blue sky and yellow sun this afternoon, and for a moment my restlessness gave way as well. The sun has slipped back into its hiding place behind the layers of cold, grey clouds. As I type I can feel a figurative finger pressing into my skull between my eyes, eyes that feel scratchy and tired and leaky. My body is reclining, because sitting is painful, uncomfortable, something to be avoided as much as possible. For the first time in nearly three months, I can recline and feel only minimal tendrils of pain in my legs. Instead of non-stop electric currents of pain from butt to toes, I am now getting sporadic shards and spasms in my butt, in my calf. This is progress and it makes me happy, but I feel heavily weighed down by restlessness, boredom, and the darkness that swirls within. I have been feeling this way for days.

This morning, while the day was still dismal and grey, I drove to the gym, grumbling under my breath at the idiots on the road and in the parking lot. As is my habit, I parked at the far end of the parking lot and I trudged, lost in my own negative self-talk. Suddenly I heard a voice call out, “Hello, beautiful Angela!” I looked up and towards the road to see a friend waving as she drove past. Outwardly I smiled and waved back, but inwardly I was already thinking about the less than beautiful parts of me: the eyebrows that had been left to grow wild for almost three months and the hair that still carried the scent of dry shampoo. I carried those thoughts into the gym with me, and I am certain they shaded my confidence with more doubt than I should really have felt in the circumstance.

In my grey days I struggle to like myself. The gross fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows had been annoying me for at least a month, but they were well past being rescued by a pair of tweezers. I had intended on washing my hair last night, then there was no point washing it before the gym this morning. Self-care gets dicey on the grey days. It’s a vicious circle; however, in fairness, these grey days are based more on the boredom and restlessness of being on medical leave since early December.

I am trying to chase the clouds away, even if it seems as if I’m using my breath when hurricane strength winds would be more effective. Today I am choosing to accept what belongs to me, even if I need to double check the name on the gift.

take the compliment

do not shy away from

another thing that belongs to you

~rupi kaur

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Bumpy-wumpy

“Time isn’t a straight line. It’s all…bumpy-wumpy. There’s loads of boring stuff. Like Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays.” ~The Doctor, The Impossible Astronaut

Most of my days are heavily laden with boring stuff especially of late. I miss going to work with my amazing co-workers and interacting with our wonderful customers. Being on a medical leave is boring. Almost every day my husband asks me what my day is going to look like. I haven’t had anything overly interesting to say in response, although I suppose I could make something up. My days look almost identical. Drag myself out of bed. In varying order: eat, drink coffee, get dressed. Go to the gym three times a week. Do my rehab exercises at home every day. Eat lunch. Drink water and more coffee. Apply heat to my back. Walk around aimlessly in search of something to do. Perform a few light cleaning tasks or tackle a cluttered spot. Read the news online. Make dinner. More heat to the back. Go to bed and lie awake for 2 hours. Sleep. Wake up once or twice and lie awake some more. Repeat.

The good news is that as the back continues to heal so does my ability to move and engage in somewhat normal tasks for short periods of time. I might not be doing much in the grand scheme of things, but I am making progress. I can do more, but I still need to listen to my body. Yesterday I was finishing up sorting the stuff stored under my bed. All I was really doing was putting a few bins back under the bed after sweeping up all the dust bunnies. It didn’t take long for my back to ache from the forward bending, even though I was on my knees. I’m healing but not finished yet.

This week I have been doing a little bit of light weight bench pressing with my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat. It has been so good to touch a barbell again, something I haven’t done since November 4, 2017 when I herniated my disc. As exciting as it is to be able to do some almost normal bench pressing, I also realize that I still need to be mindful and slow with my progress. As I was benching today, there was one rep where my lower back arched ever so slightly. Seriously, it was barely perceptible, but I immediately felt mild discomfort in my back. I made sure I flattened my back before the next rep and all was okay again.

A couple of weeks ago I tried some goblet squats with maybe 10 pounds and felt discomfort in my back. The goblet was abandoned, but I was able to use that same weight to squat with the weight held with arms straight down. Today I tried the goblet squats again using 15 pounds, and it was all good. A forward step of progress! But I still know that putting a barbell on my back is not going to happen anytime soon.

The left leg continues to be a nuisance. You know, I think that the numbness in my left foot is slowly diminishing, although watch it flare up again now that I’ve made such a bold statement! 😉 A lessening in numbness is progress, no matter how slight the difference. In general, the left leg pain has been slightly less since last Friday, but it was slightly more again last night, waking me up a couple of times. I skipped doing leg curls today, because of the surge of leg pain last night and the way the leg was feeling today. It’s a process and a reminder that healing takes time and that timeline is not straight at all! It’s all bumpy-wumpy.

But tomorrow actually is Saturday and I feel kind of excited about it. No particular reason why and no particular plans for the day yet. There is just something lovely about have a wide-open Saturday.

The Polar Bear

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu

For the past few weeks I had given thought to taking part in a polar bear dip to kick off the new year. There was something intangibly appealing about entering the frigid lake water, but I wasn’t without apprehension. My determination wavered last week with the arrival of a foot or more of snow and colder temperatures. I may be a Canadian girl, even a prairie raised one, but my seasonal preference is for something slightly warmer. When I took up running several years ago, I found a way to enjoy being out in the snow and cold, but since I no longer run, I no longer enjoy winter quite as much.

Still, it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to find enough courage to pursue my course of action. I knew I could do it. I knew I would do it. My biggest dilemma was in the execution. Should I take part in the official dip with dozens or hundreds of people running in and out of the water in a mad frenzy, or should I go it alone without all the supportive hoopla? There were good and not-so-good aspects to both options, but I ultimately chose to enjoy a simpler solo experience. Most of the time now I can walk quite well, numb left leg and all, but I cannot help but feel protective of my herniated disc. I had no intention of running in and out of the lake with it’s unpredictably bumpy bottom, and I did not want to be accidentally jostled or knocked about by the frantically flailing arms of a human swarm.

So, I did it. My husband and I drove to one of the local beaches. I peeled off my outer layers of clothing, and then we trudged through a path in the snow until we got to the shore. Despite being -10 Celsius outside, I didn’t feel very cold until we got to the shore. Although the distance between our vehicle and the shore wasn’t really very far, the wind was distinctly more noticeable at the shore. With the new chill in the air, I felt a reluctance to remove the towel wrapped around my shoulders. I paused and soaked in the stillness and the view before me in all of its shades of grey. Then I passed the towel to my husband and walked into the water without pause.  My steps were steady and measured, eager to reach an adequate depth of water but mindful of the softness of the soil and the rapidly freezing state of my toes. It felt as if I walked for a long time, and in a way I did. Okanagan Lake has many beach access areas where one can walk out quite far before ever getting deep. My body could have kept going, but my toes were in pain, so I found the “deepest” spot and knelt down to submerge as much of my body as I could. I would have liked to have submerged more deeply, but the depth of the water coupled with my own injury-related physical limitations meant that I got decently wet but not higher than mid-waist. Then I walked back to shore, wrapped my towel around my body, and trudged back through the snow to the vehicle and dry clothes.

polarbeardip

“No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ~Heraclitus

A new year has begun, and it is full of possibility and adventure. One of my goals for the year is to try new things and live on the wild side now and then. I think today’s dip in the lake was a good beginning.

Making Lemonade

When one year ends it has been my habit to create a theme and goals for the approaching new year. Since my birthday is January 4th, I tend to view the start of my year as my birthday. It just makes sense. But I have been chomping at the bit for the past week or so as I have given thought to my 2018 theme. Having herniated a disc at the beginning of November, I wasn’t feeling up to theme creating and was teetering on the edge of depression, but then a friend made a comment that managed to pull me back from the ledge and helped me find my balance once again. (Thanks Ben!) That comment also got me thinking forward and my 2018 theme was born.

This is what he said:

“Accumulate enough lemons, and one can get really good at making lemonade…even learn to see the value in lemons before the lemonade is made.”

Can you guess the direction of my theme? Lemons. Making lemonade. It is a subject I have been twisting around in my head ever since my friend’s comment, and so I have decided to look at 2018 as my year to make lemonade. Maybe I will even learn to appreciate the lemons before the lemonade is made.

“She was powerful, not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.” ~Atticus

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” ~C.S. Lewis

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

“My attitude is that if you push me towards a weakness, I will turn that weakness into a strength.” ~Michael Jordan

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” ~Jeremiah 17:7-8

Those quotes and the passage of scripture speak to me and my theme of making lemonade. The quotes talk to me about persevering and making the most of whatever situation you might find yourself in. This is what I want to strive for…accepting life’s challenges and lemons and making something beautiful and tasty out of them. Whether I am treated like crap by someone I considered a friend, struggling with ongoing herniated disc related issues or dealing with another of life’s little pitfalls or snares, I have the power to accept those lemons with open arms and to use them to create something beautiful in my life. Sounds easy, right? Ha! I expect that some lemons will be easier to accept than others, but I am willing to accept the challenge.

As is always my habit with the start of a new year, I also have a list of goals. I don’t like to call them resolutions, because I think there is often a negative connotation attached to that word. Resolutions tend to be things that people make and seldom see through to completion, but I am not interested in shallow resolutions. I am not always focused on a specific time-frame for completion, nor is a deadline always beneficial or necessary; however, I do like to have goals on which to focus my energies. Sometimes the most valuable lessons are learned in the striving for a goal more than in the achievement, which compliments my making lemonade theme rather well.

So what do I want to strive for in 2018?

  1. In a practical sense, I want to use lemons to my advantage. This is a vague but broad goal. Using lemons to my advantage could mean finding ways to use lemons while cooking or baking. It might mean finding splashes of bright yellow in my day-to-day life. It could even mean something that I haven’t yet considered. Regardless, I want to incorporate lemons into my daily life, and I want to document it to the best of my abilities. I am not an expert in photography, but I can take photos of what I create in the kitchen or the wonders that I see. I can definitely blog about it.
  2. Heal my disc. As I am typing I am desperately trying not to writhe from the pain that is coursing through my left leg. It’s been about 8 weeks since I herniated my disc, and most days I feel doubtful and uncertain about the healing process. I know discs will eventually heal, but I am weary of permanent numbness in my left leg, weary of pain in both legs and the back. I am bored with being off work for weeks on end and unable to do much of anything exciting. I have been doing my rehab work and listening to my medical professionals, but this healing process is moving slowly. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to heal.
  3. Get back on the powerlifting platform. This could be a big goal…probably the big one of the year, if I can even achieve it in 2018. This is a perfect example of a goal without a deadline. I’d really love to compete at Provincials in June or a local meet in August. Of course, I’d love to compete at Westerns, too, so I can check off the boxes necessary for going to Nationals in 2019. But…I do not have a timeline for healing my disc, which means I have no timeline for picking up a barbell, for training like a powerlifter, for stepping onto a platform to compete. This is a goal that I am striving for, hopeful for, and yet wholly aware that I cannot attach a deadline to it. And I should be okay with the process, regardless of how long it takes to reach the goal…it’s all part of the lemonade theme.
  4. Walk on the wild side now and then! I want to take chances, get messy, and make mistakes. Over the past few years I have learned to enjoy trying new things, but it still so easy to become comfortable and complacent. I know my limitations. There are things that I will never wish to attempt or do, but I don’t need to do everything to walk on the wild side. All I need is to step outside of my comfort zone now and then and as I am inspired and challenged. I don’t know what this one will look like over the course of a year, but I am interested to see what transpires. Who knows? I might even start the year off with a polar bear dip.
  5. Simplify! This is something that I include in my list of goals every year. The reason for that is because I view the act of simplifying one’s life as a lifelong challenge and process. Simplifying can take many forms. It might mean reducing one’s possessions, the amount of time wasted on social media/TV/idling in traffic. Simplifying could mean eliminating junk emails, Tupperware with missing lids, and clothing that has gone unworn for months. Perhaps simplifying means reducing financial waste or contact with toxic people. Even my own perspective on simplifying will likely change as the year progresses, and that’s okay. I am always on a quest of removing excess clutter from my life. Just last week, I donated more than half a dozen boxes or garbage bags full of clothing and household items, and I could easily repeat this process every month. Clutter is overwhelming and constricting, and I am always looking for clarity and peace in my little world.
  6. Expand! In a way, this goal goes hand in hand with the goal of simplicity, which seems odd, I know. I want to expand in ways that have the most impact and matter the most. I want to grow my relationships. I’ve always been someone who treasures relationships. In 2017, I saw the end of a treasured relationship, and that end blindsided me with it’s suddenness and ferocity. While I don’t know that I could have done anything differently in that situation, I do not want to take my other friendships for granted. As much as I often have grand intentions of investing in relationships, sometimes I give myself reason to opt out. That is not the kind of friend I want to be, and so I strive to be better. Expanding can also mean setting and protecting my boundaries. I am a big believer in having boundaries or margins in life, but it isn’t always easy to maintain them. Expanding can also apply to my spiritual life and growing my faith.

So that is my list of big, generic goals for the new year. Undoubtedly, I will create more goals as time goes by and more specific ones. I am always adding layers to my goals. In fact, the other day I picked up a little notebook that I haven’t opened for several months. This notebook contains goals, most of which are connected to the gym, training, and powerlifting. I was able to check off a few goals that I had achieved between then and the last time I had glanced inside the book, but I also began a new list of gym goals, some of which are carried over from before. Like doing 25 consecutive pushups or bench pressing my body weight. I don’t know when I will achieve those goals, but that’s perfectly fine. Real growth is in the process.

The hardest part of this theme has been in deciding on an actual title. Obviously, it needed to include lemons but how. Should I go for the alliteration? Loving Lemons? Or should I settle on the more realistic? Making Lemonade? The simple? Lemonade! Lemons! So many lemony choices and not enough clear, sharp brain cells to think. (The pain killers I am taking can make one drowsy. While I am not drowsy enough to fall asleep while driving or to take a nap, I do feel tired and I do feel as if my brain is stuck in dense fog.) So, which one should I choose? I feel as if I should be wittier in my title-making, but I just can’t force it to happen. Since I need to learn to make lemonade, Making Lemonade it is.

Loaded

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” ~Lena Horne

That quote was added to my little notebook of quotes quite some time ago, but it has never been quite as applicable as this current season of my life. There are so many ways to take that quote. It applies perfectly to the simple act of picking up a box as it does to a sport like powerlifting. There are also applications to the mental and emotional loads we carry.

There are some who are quick to point to my herniated disc as a reason why lifting weights or powerlifting are not good things to do. My response to such comments depends on the person uttering them. I might make an attempt to defend powerlifting, or I might just politely smile while seething on the inside.

My technique when lifting may not always be perfect, but I was taught well. Did lifting weights contribute to this injury? Possibly. But you can herniate a disc doing seemingly safe and ordinary things, too. Now that I am rehabbing an injury, I am even more aware of body positioning and load carrying. I get in and out of bed differently. Getting down to the floor to do my exercises and back up again after requires more consideration as to how best to accomplish the movement. Some of my effort is to minimize an outburst of pain from my still upset sciatic nerve, while the rest is just mindfulness of the fact that I have a herniated disc that I want to heal. For the most part when at the gym, I am quite mindful of how my body is moving or carrying load. It is outside of the gym where I tend to forget.

My job involves a lot of bending and lifting and movement. I take it for granted until such movement results in pain. Putting away boxes of stock? I’ve always been pretty good about lifting boxes properly, but it’s so easy to twist at the waist and lean over to fill a cup with water rather than to turn the entire body to the task. Grabbing a jug of milk from the bar fridge…open the door, bend forward and heave the jug out and up. Or take the extra second to squat or kneel down to remove the jug.

Outside of work and gym is not much better. Twisting and bending to get in or out of bed. Poor posture. Lots of sitting (although this hasn’t applied to me for a long time!) Picking up, carrying things awkwardly. Twisting to reach something. There are just so many ways that we put unnecessary stress and strain on our bodies, day after day. That’s the way to break yourself.

So I am trying to remember to use my body properly. Of course, I also kind of have to because of the injury thing. I am not supposed to pick things up off the floor, regardless of perfect technique. I am not supposed to bend forward. I am not supposed to do things that involve twisty, swaying motions like mopping a floor or vigorous sweeping. I am not supposed to sit. There are a lot of “not supposed to’s”. Sometimes I feel constricted by all that I cannot or should not do, yet I know that the purpose is to heal. Not being able to do the things I enjoy doing in the gym is a heavy load in its own way. So is the internal feelings of guilt that I cannot do many aspects of my job right now. But it isn’t the load that breaks you down…

Dignity in the Shadows

“Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows ever fell over a life?” ~Ann Voskamp

I think it is safe to say that being injured feels quite like having heavy shadows blanketing one’s life. There is a distinct chill in the air as you lose the warmth of taking part in the normal routines of life, and it doesn’t take long to feel as if darkness is closing in, suffocating and impenetrable and permanent. You stumble about in the darkness, lost and afraid and alone. Or so it can seem.

I had someone tell me today that I am handling my situation…the injury with all of its disruptions to my plans and the limitations to my everyday life…with more dignity than most. If my name had not been used I would have wondered who was being referred to, because I don’t know that I would have come up with “dignity” as pertaining to me in this situation. It’s not like I’m wailing and gnashing my teeth, but I suppose I do generally have a positive and relaxed attitude about it all. Even when I do have an emotional meltdown, I am usually quick to return to my more typical calm and rational self.

Where I struggle the most is with feelings of guilt and obligation. My house is a mess. My husband washes the dishes and works long, hard hours with one of my sons. The other son is on the other side of the world until just before Christmas, and my daughter is in the midst of midterms, assignments, preparing for exams and juggling her work and volunteer schedules. They help around in the house in varying degrees, but there is still so much that has been neglected. And here’s another scenario…today is a day off work, so I am home to make dinner. A new recipe has caught my interest and I intend to make it tonight. It sounds simple enough yet potentially delicious, but there is one little problem. The oven is required. A baking dish is required. Bending to put the baking dish in the oven is required. This is something I am not supposed to do in my current state, even if I feel no pain in the act. Thankfully my daughter is already home and can help me out tonight, but that isn’t always the case. I needed to do some laundry today and had my daughter carry the hamper downstairs for me before she left for class. I might have carried one clean load back up the stairs, but I did leave the last load for someone else to bring up. I popped into a grocery store for just a few items this morning, and the cashier put them all in one bag. Normally that would be perfectly fine. I wasn’t even halfway to my car before I realized that I was feeling some slight discomfort in my back and probably shouldn’t be carrying a bag of groceries as heavy as that. Oh how all this chafes against my sense of self-sufficiency!

And then there is my job. Sweeping, mopping, lifting large trays of dishes down into the sanitizer, bending down to lift those same trays out of the sanitizer, bending forward to take jugs of milk out of bar fridges, lifting boxes from the floor or from far overhead…all that and more a regular part of my job and I am not supposed to do it. Even though I can do some of those things without pain. Even though I think I should be able to. On the one hand, I want this injury to heal and to heal properly, while the other hand doesn’t want to be a burden or handicap to the lovely people I work with. They have all been incredibly supportive and helpful, but I still feel guilty and useless.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as uncomfortable and miserable as the shadows may be, I am striving to allow my experiences, good and bad, be a source of joy and blessing in my life. As uncomfortable as I am permitting myself to be seen as weak, my weakness allows me the opportunity to feel grace and mercy, to experience love and kindness, to learn humility and patience. If choosing to accept my struggles makes me dignified in the eyes of others, I will just shrug my shoulders and carry on as best I can.

Book Deals

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” ~Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I bought this book this afternoon, along with Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourite novels, so I have been wanting to read the loooong awaited sequel. As much as I am a bookworm, I seldom rush out to buy new books in hardcover, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t read Watchman yet. Today I scored a brand new hardcover copy for $9, and I cannot wait to immerse myself back in the world of Jean Louise Finch.

Since I do love books and browsing through the bookstore, I clutched my book and roamed the aisles. I came across The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and was immediately intrigued. A quick read of the synopsis furthered my interest, and the 50% off deal was too good to pass up. A couple of pages into the first chapter has me thinking that this will be a very interesting read. It also has me itching for my highlighter, which means that I will soon be marking up the pages, always a sign of a good book. If the title didn’t give it away, there is some language, but I’m not offended by language.