Too Wet To Go Out

As much as I enjoy rain, I am finding our current weather to be too cold, too wet, too damp, too dreary. I kind of feel like this:

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day. I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two. And I said, “How I wish we had something to do!” Too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all. So all we could do was to sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! And we did not like it. Not one little bit.

~Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Okay, so there is more to my sense of solitary confinement than just the weather. This injury, the constant pain, being on medical leave from work…these are the shackles that bind me. I feel stuck. Purposeless. Useless. Forgotten.

Every month, I’d cling to the hope that my return to work would be approved by the powers that be, and every month I’d be disappointed. Despite my constant pain, I was still stunned when my doctor told me earlier this week that I need to stay off work for another three months. The earliest I can return to work is the 4th of July, which means I will be off work for 7 months. SEVEN MONTHS! By the time I get back to work I won’t know anything. No one will know me.

I really do love rain, but these days I need the sun and the warmth it brings. The cold has seeped into my bones until it feels like I won’t ever warm up. I look forward to each evening when I allow myself to enjoy the warmth and comfort of my electric heating pad on my back. For the past couple of weeks, I have limited myself to using the heating pad only once a day, because the skin on my back has become mottled and rather disgusting looking from overuse. It is just too soothing to give it up entirely. But sunshine! Warm weather! I could drag myself outside more if the weather were nicer. Maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so closed in.

This morning I had coffee with a good friend. We sat in her car, parked with a view of the lake through the rain-streaked windshield. A walk would have been lovely, but my back was in too much pain to tolerate the exertion, and the rain eliminated the possibility of sitting on a park bench. Actually, sitting in the car for that length of time wasn’t comfortable, but it was still so good to connect with my friend and catch up.

The rest of my day was unproductive, even less than usual for me these days. It’s hardly surprising that my productivity (ha!) drops significantly when my pain level is high. I didn’t sleep well last night due to the pain in my back. I am so weary of hurting all the time, no matter what I do or don’t do, and I just want to reach the end of these dark days. Pain is grinding me down. On the inside, I feel like a twisted and deformed shadow of myself, and it isn’t pretty.

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Poetry in Motion

Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous–to poetry. ~Thomas Mann

One thing about dealing with an injury that takes a long time to heal, at least in my experience, is that the opportunity for solitude is higher than the opportunities to be busy and connected with others. In my situation, I have degrees of pain and physical discomfort with pretty much everything I could possible do. Sit down for a meal out? Back pain and maybe numbness in the left leg. Drive anywhere that takes longer than 10-15 minutes? I’ll be squirming uncomfortably in my seat for a while, and if the drive is longer than an hour, I’ll be in a lot of pain. Want to go for a walk? Sure, but my back will begin to hurt within the hour. Go to church? Sit on the pew and feel instant back pain or stand through the entire service and feel the back pain increase with every minute? My opportunities for social interaction are not automatically dead because of my injury; however, my willingness to subject myself to physical pain and torture is limited to those activities or outings I deem worth the suffering. Throw in a severe shortage of sleep and my eagerness to be out and about is pathetically weak.

It has been four and a half months since I hurt my back, and three and a half months since I have been on medical leave from work. Since I continued to work through that first month, I was at least connected with my co-workers. Since I’ve been on leave, I feel so disconnected from everyone and everything. I go to the gym, do my thing and then leave, maybe exchanging a quick hello with a staff member or familiar face. I go to my Starbucks for an Americano and connect briefly with my co-workers and regulars. I endure the pain of standing through a church service, maybe chat with one or two people, and then scurry (or limp) out as quickly as I can. I go to my appointments, buy a few groceries, and run errands, but mostly I have become even more of a home-body than normal. Home is my safe place where I can switch between standing, walking, cleaning, and laying down as often as necessary. There is nowhere else that could possibly cover all the bases of positioning for my pain-wracked body, and so I feel isolated in solitude.

I enjoy poetry, and I have read a fair bit over the course of the past few months; and yet, I have not written a single line of poetry myself. This is somewhat surprising, and I have often wondered why I have not put pen to paper during this season. Sometimes I write poetry, but my poetry seems to flow out of struggle and emotions more often than from happy, peaceful thoughts. This season of my life should be perfect for creative writing. It brings drama, volatile emotions, pain, suffering, anguish, frustration, shattered dreams and goals…everything that fuels my creative juices. But not this time.

It’s not that I haven’t entertained thoughts of trying to write poetry; I have. I just don’t know if I have it in me to write. My emotions and thoughts are ALL over the place, and they have been since hurting myself. Some days I feel mentally okay, while other days I am certainly an unpleasant person to be around. I don’t even like myself on those difficult days. The act of writing a poem is like stripping oneself bare and parading down Main Street, exposed and vulnerable, and I feel too fragile for such vulnerability right now.

And yet, creative thoughts swirl within me, bubbling so violently they threaten to boil over. Maybe one day I will put those thoughts to paper, or maybe I won’t. It doesn’t really matter, I think. Healing, whether physical, mental or emotional, is something that happens on its’ own schedule.

Of Joints and Discs

The back is cranky today. How else can I describe it when it isn’t anywhere near the worst I’ve experienced but also not close to normal? I haven’t done a whole lot today. I trained between 9 and 10 this morning and had a chiropractic appointment at noon, for which I was dropped off by a son and I walked home. The back was cranky at the gym, but I don’t think the squats negatively impacted anything. My chiropractor put me through the wringer, and I could barely get up off the exam table by the time he was finished with me. The walk home was short, only slightly more than 3 kilometres, but almost every step seemed to jostle the lower back uncomfortably. <sigh> SI joint trouble and a resurgence of a disc issue…I’d rather the disc issue over the SI one.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 8, 123 x 7

with belt:

153 x 6, 168 x 6, 178 x 6, 178 x 6

With the exception of two reps, the squats were generally good. They had good speed, consistent bar path. Depth was still questionable. There was some forward pitch on the final rep of the first set at 178 pounds, and the fifth rep, I think, in the final set had a wee bobble midway up. Not too sure what happened with that rep.

Michael made a comment at one point about every rep looking different and not like Angela. I completely understand what he was saying, because I feel the changes, the tentativeness, and the resistance in the low back. Even though I’m trying not to push for depth too hard, I am perturbed by the ongoing struggle to break parallel. I’m not used to having so much trouble making depth, and I don’t want to head into competition with questionable depth.

1b. bench press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 8 all of these sets were done with my knees bent, feet on the bench. Having my feet in the air hurts the back.

100 x 6, 115 x 6, 115 x 6 these were all done with my feet on the floor and with a moderate arch. It was quite uncomfortable to get into position (and out of it), but I’d rather put up with a bit of that discomfort than end up with shoulder pain because I can’t get my upper back and shoulder blades into the best position. It’s like choosing the lesser of two evils. Arching isn’t comfortable, but I don’t think it is truly detrimental to my back issues. Mostly.

2a. bench press-close grip, keeping constant tension with touch and go, not fully locking out

95 lbs x 6, 85 x 10

The first set felt so heavy, and I couldn’t press the bar off my chest for a seventh rep.

2b. rows

TRX x 15

inverted with rings, knees bent x 8

2c. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 pound vest x 12 each leg

 

3 Years in a Life

A few days ago Facebook reminded me of a post that I had made three years ago. In that post I commented on the fact that I had survived my first week of training and was actually looking forward to the next week. In that weird way that time has of messing with your mind, it really doesn’t feel like I have been training for three years, and yet it also feels like I have been training forever. Being somewhat of a sentimentalist, I enjoyed that little reminder of my training anniversary, because that first step into Progressive Fitness was the catalyst for incredible change in my life.

I could ramble ever on about those changes in my life or you could read back through my blog posts, because most of it is all there. But I do want to comment on something that has flitted in and out of my consciousness with a regular cadence. Perhaps one of the little things that has seen the biggest change is the way that I carry myself.

After work this afternoon I had to stop in at the neighbourhood grocery store for a few things. As I wandered the aisles, hoping to recall every item on my mental list without forgetting anything important, my thoughts strayed over to the way that I was walking. Now I am my own worst critic and will often see myself in a harsh light, but I have noticed a change in my general posture over the past three years. Sure there are moments when my shoulders will slump into their old familiar, comfortable position, but I stand tall with shoulders back much more often than I ever did before. While I may not always feel confident, I certainly walk with more confidence than I once did and this is what I noticed in myself at the grocery store today. There I was roaming a grocery store with strength and confidence in every step. That’s a feeling that is not so easy to explain with words, but I hope you can appreciate what I am getting at.

Training has put confidence into my step and into the way I carry myself. There are still situations when I feel inadequate and lack confidence in myself; however, these situations are far fewer than they ever used to be. Now, even when I have internal doubts, there is an inner strength and confidence that keeps me moving forward regardless of my uncertainty and fear. I can look those scary scenarios in the eye, acknowledge the fear, formulate a plan of attack and move forward. I might stumble. I might even fail, but I am also capable of getting back up to try again…and I will.

I am tired and my brain is struggling to keep my thoughts coherent now, so I want to cut this short before I simply begin rambling. I may be an introvert, but I am quite capable of rambling under the right circumstances.

Going to the gym isn’t a magic pill that will solve all of your problems in life. It just doesn’t work that way! However, in my experience, going to the gym has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. No one could have convinced me of that before I finally agreed to go, because I simply could not imagine being the type of person who could ever enjoy a gym. Once I caved in and agreed to go to Progressive Fitness, my life changed. Slowly at first but then with speed like a snowball rolling downhill. There are other factors in play, of course, but lifting weights was a big one.

Sushi Sampled

I am 44 years old and, until this week, I had never, ever had sushi. I know what you’re thinking. How is it possible to have never had sushi?! Well, when you grew up in small town Saskatchewan and the only ethnic food was Americanized Chinese take-out, your exposure to a wide variety of flavours and textures is quite limited. Although I certainly now live in an area with more options to choose from, I’ve mostly stuck to what I know, which is why I had never had sushi until now.

I had a ‘walk & wine’ date with a girlfriend earlier this week; however, when I arrived at her house, she was in the midst of making sushi with her family. The walk was scrapped, and I was introduced to sushi instead. Little hands helped me make my very own sushi roll. I sampled two pieces and some homemade pickled ginger; I survived. In fact, it was not bad. My biggest worry was the seaweed, but it wasn’t too bad. No raw fish involved in this sushi which suits me just fine. I’d have sushi again.

 

Sweetly Broken

The good sleep I was looking for last night never quite materialized, and, although I am still definitely sore, it isn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it might be at this point in the day. My coach said last night that I might not like him today because of how sore I might be, but he’s still one of my favourite people. 😉

Having been off work for the past six days, I was looking forward to working today, yet there was also kind of a disconnected feeling that didn’t really disappear until more than halfway through my shift. Then again, the past few days haven’t exactly felt normal either. I have been so focused and driven for the past few months, and all of that energy, physical and mental, combined on Saturday into the perfect storm. It wasn’t really a storm, but I can’t quite think of a better way to put it. The competition was amazing, but at some point you just need to decompress and process and feel.

For months, I have been listening to the same narrow selection of songs, specifically chosen for the way that they inspired and motivated me. On Sunday, I listened to no music at all. There was no music for most of Monday either, and, when I finally did turn some music on, I stayed away from my power songs and enjoyed singing along with ABBA. I didn’t listen to music while doing paperwork in the office at work today. Sometimes I like the silence.

When I got home from work, I changed clothes and put on my running shoes to go for a walk. I hadn’t been for a walk since last Wednesday. I put in my earbuds and paused to consider which playlist to listen to as I walked. My instinct when walking (or running back in my running days) is to listen to upbeat, inspiring songs, but I couldn’t do it today. Instead I chose to listen to worship music.

You know, I thought that I was just going for a walk, that I was simply moving my body and helping my muscles recover, but it turned out to be so much more than that. Before I knew what had happened, I was assailed by chest-heaving sobs. The emotion of the competition was finally hitting me, and it left me swiping at tears as I walked. Decompression. It probably didn’t help, or perhaps it did, that I watched a compilation video that my coach put together and I saw a picture of a tattoo that is almost exactly what I had been imaging for months (more about that in another blog post down the road).

I am proud of what I did at the competition on Saturday. My squat and my bench were not personal bests, but they were still better than my previous bests with this same powerlifting federation, including a new National squat record. The unsuccessful World record attempt doesn’t phase me at all, not one bit! I was close and I had a decent shot, and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Lifting more than twice your bodyweight is no small feat, and I did it! I still have a video clip of me lifting 215 pounds for the first time nearly 2 years ago, and I remember how heavy and tough that felt. One that day, I would never have imagined adding almost another 100 pounds to the bar and being able to lift it! I did that on Saturday. Me! If I’m not careful I am going to slip into that future blog post…

It was an emotional walk. While I may not have expected it to be like that, I am glad for how it turned out. All that was tightly compressed inside of me has begun to expand and release. It felt like I was living in a fog for the past two and a half days, but now the skies are clearing. I haven’t had much of an appetite since Friday night’s post-weigh-in feeding frenzy, but I enjoyed loading up my dinner plate tonight and eating until I was sated. It was nice to not need to measure out my food! Likewise, I have not stepped on the scale since Saturday morning, and I doubt that I will do so all week. The scale doesn’t scare me, and I generally don’t obsess over my weight; I only focus on the numbers on the scale when necessary for a competition. I won’t need to cut weight for my next two competitions, but I have also decided that I am okay with moving up a weight class the next time I compete in the same federation I just competed in. (There is a slight difference in weight classes between the two federations I compete in which is part of the reason why I cut weight this time.) I am feeling relaxed, happy, and proud, but also motivated and ready to re-focus.

Where the Wild Things Are

“And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said “BE STILL!” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things. ‘And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!'”

I’ve always loved this book by Maurice Sendak. The part about letting the wild rumpus start played through my head, over and over, as I was out for a walk this afternoon. This was likely due to the fact that I was feeling rather grumpy and emotional. In fact, over the course of my 50 minute walk, I went from grumpy to choking back tears to focused to doubtful to determined to empowered to doubtful to choking back tears to grumpy. I had hoped that the walk would clear my head and calm the swirl of thoughts, but it really didn’t turn out that way at all. There are so many wild things inside of my head. It kind of feels like I need to be the most wild thing of all in order to tame them.

Competition is 6 days away. During my walk I realized, as this competition rapidly approaches, that there is a completely different feel to the anticipation. With each of my previous competitions, my level of nervousness has been minimal. There were goals that I wanted to reach or attempts that I felt were going to be tough, but nervousness was never a major factor. So far, I wouldn’t say that I am overly nervous about this competition, but I am definitely feeling…something. I am confident, mostly, in my ability to reach my big goal for this competition, which is likely why I am feeling the way that I am. It’s that little sliver of doubt. Of course, it could also be the visualization of reaching my goal. The fear of failing and the anticipation of success are both tugging at my emotions.

I caved Friday night and allowed some wheat back into my diet, and I allowed that to continue all the way through to lunch today. On the one hand, my tastebuds have rejoiced; however, on the other hand, I am not sure that I like the way my body has been feeling all weekend. There is no need to panic about my weight, but I sort of do feel a little afraid of my scale lately. On Friday I compared the accuracy of my scale against my coach’s scale. We had done this prior to a previous competition, so I have been operating on the assumption that my scale was 1.2 pounds heavier than the reality; however, the difference was only .75 pounds heavier on Friday. It’s really not a big deal, but I think that my subconscious feels just a wee bit stressed out about it. Trust the process!

I haven’t had quality sleep for the past four nights either. One consolation is that I am used to training later in the day on the days when I am up by 4:00 AM. I’m also used to training first thing in the morning after what is usually my best night’s sleep of the week. Regardless of how I sleep before the competition, I don’t think fatigue will be a major factor. I just get a little grumpy when sleep is elusive.

There are only two work days left in my week. I work tomorrow and Tuesday, and then I have 6 days off. They may not be the most relaxing of days, but I’m looking forward to them anyway. Mostly, I just need to stay focused and tell those wild things inside my head to be still.