Category Archives: Psychology & Moods

The Stormy Psychic Seas of Job-Huntin’

The thing about the unemployed-becoming-self-employed-or-something lifestyle is, it’s fight-or-flight, feast-or-famine for a while.

It’s a reactionary life. “What’s out there? Jump! Get it! There it is! Don’t let it escape!”

When it’s about job-hunting, other pursuits in life tend to get dropped while opportunity gets pursued.

At the moment, that’s where I’m at. I have to work as much as I can RIGHT NOW because I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. I could sit around and collect unemployment insurance and do nothing, but I’d rather be working. I’m thrilled to have the chance.

When it comes to taking jobs, I’m old enough to know that not just anything will do. When it’s 25% of your weekly life, including sleep, you better fucking like what you do, or at least who you’re doing it for and with.

There comes a point in one’s life when one should realize a job interview isn’t just about them interviewing you, it’s about them being good enough for your commitment. This is the first time I’ve ever been patient enough to see it that way and I’ve come close with some amazing opportunities, some of which aren’t yet played through.

Unemployment is a hard, hard road. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve been through, if you don’t learn new things about yourself during unemployment, dude, yer doin’ it wrong. Most of us, it’s probably one of the toughest tests, and most educational passages, of our lives.

I’ve been that person in the past who gets laid off, then the next day has a new resume, and nine days later has a shiny new job. I’ve done that. And it was one of the worst six months of my life. Including my mother’s death. Seriously. Bad choices equal bad results.

Getting A job, ANY job, is easy. They have books on it, you know. It’s a method. Look pretty, smile, be funny and warm and engaging, do stuff during your life that looks good on a resume, learn the answers, know how to talk, and really give a shit. It ain’t for everyone to master, no, but it can be learned.

The right job? Whew. They’re like blue moons and honest politicians, they’re out there — it’s just real damn hard to come across one.

Me, I’m in an era of transition. Whatever happens in the coming days will shape my year(s) to come. And it’s totally up in the air.

How often do we get to enjoy THIS? Uncertainty, hope, possibility, unpredictability, the unknown, variety? Most of us, we find a groove in life and off we go. That’s the path we tread for months, years, and even decades: Routine.

I called a dear friend on the weekend and told him a situation I had to decide about. Do I press forward despite the personal risk? He took a deep breath and sighed, we batted the idea around for a while. At the end, he commented, “I’m jealous: The unknown. I don’t envy the choice, but I’m jealous of the possibility.”

For years, he’s gotten up, worked at the same store, same people, same routine. For years, I had, too.

There’s a comfort in such a routine. It’s not exciting, but you know your bank account empties and refills, ebbing and flowing like any river of life.

This fluttery what-will-I-get confusion and possibility I’m living under these days, it’s driving me sort of insane, but it’s also something I know I might not experience again for 5 or 10 years. If ever.

All that being said… I’m glad I’m getting closer to resolution. I’m ready for a new chapter. I’m ready to work on other areas of my life. I want my financial picture clear and reliable so I can move back to feeling, and being, creative — with abandon.

The long things drag on, the more I feel like I should censor my creative efforts. @Smuttysteff who writes The Cunting Linguist? Sure, that says “hire me.” Well, actually, unbeknownst to some, it does say just that. Still, I’m not a fan of this creative apprehension.

A year ago, the Olympics were rolling into Vancouver. Since then, I’ve grown a lot through taking chances, confronting fears, and believing in myself in a quietly persistent way through some trying times. I’ve had refreshers about what’s important in life — and who.  A year ago, I didn’t know I was about to lose my job. I never would’ve predicted the year that followed, but there you have it.

Even now, I’ve no idea what’s around the corner, except that it’s hurry-up-and-wait time.

But what I can tell you is, I hope I never forget some of the lessons I’ve learned this year, or the old ones I’ve been reminded of.

Adversity’s your friend. Suck it up, buttercup. Become better. Find your weaknesses and replace them with strength. Unemployment is a relentless opportunity to discover who you really are and what you really need.

Unless, you know, you actually enjoy the living-and-operating-from-a-place-of-fear approach to unemployment.

It can be a long ride, man. Best advice is, buckle up and see where the hell it goes. It might just be an end destination you never woulda seen coming.

With that, it’s on with my unpredictable-yet-not week. Oy vey.

Of Fitness and Depression: My World at Present

I should edit this more. It’s over 2,000 words. But it’s about depression, and I’m too depressed to care about editing it down. Chuckle, chuckle. Besides, I’d rather go work out than stay stuck here, thinking about this shit for another hour. Please ignore errors and redundancies. Thanks.

___

Depression can be like a refrigerator’s hum, so quietly ever-present you forget it’s there.

I have been battling it off and on for years. It’ll probably be a lifelong thing. I’m not medicated, and I’m steadfastly wanting to avoid going to Pill-Taking-Land.

This week, I’m slowly accepting that I’ve been back in the throes of depression for quite some time now. Some of it situational, the existential equivalent of “duh, OBVIOUSLY,” but some just… there.

Part of my desperation in this return to fitness and health is that I’m hoping it solves the depression.

Ironically, depression makes you want to do less. It’s an interesting challenge. You know, in case I thought my life needed any more challenges.

Bernd Nies' 1999 eclipse is a fantastic image of what depression's like; there's light but it's controlled by the dark.

I want a “healthy life” to be my solution, but it’s probably a bit of a pipe dream. Still, I don’t want to medicate until I know I’ve done what I needed to do.

I took down yesterday’s posting because I realize it’s more depressed in tone than it is of “I’m achieving!”

Part of the problem comes from feeling forced (through my own actions, naturally) to make the journey public. You know what? Some struggles need to be private.

Some people’s struggles feel harder and take more to get past than the same struggles might for others.

When it comes to getting fit, that’s my reality.

I was under the mistaken impression that, because I’ve achieved so much athletically, and rehabbed so many injuries, that this “return” would be a lot easier.

I’ve been going through weeks of pain. The irony is, I’m trying to undo years of pain through creating more pain. It’s frustrating. And when you’re depressed, frustration isn’t really a great thing to throw into pot.

Some alchemy has results no one wants to be around for.

Fortunately, I’m not morbidly depressed. Just ever-presently so, in a mild and intrusive way, but not anywhere near debilitating.

I’m not that worried about the depression yet… just, well, depressed about being depressed. It makes me feel like a failure. I hate feeling this way, feeling like nothing’s ever really right or fun enough or good enough. I hate snapping at friends or being anti-social. I hate, hate, hate this feeling, and hating it just makes me more depressed.

But those things aren’t Horrible. It’s not like I’ve got a collection of wrist-cutting razors nearby or anything. I’m not even remotely on the likely-to-self-harm scale. No need to fear such things, kiddies.

The worst this depression is doing to me is the eating-too-much thing, and making me way too fond of wine and gives me a penchant for wanting to hear songs like Swag’s “I’ll Get By” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I’ll Survive”.

The trouble with depression, though, is that moods are so easily influenced by other factors around us, and a mild depression can plummet quickly. That’s ScaryTime, baby.

So, I worry about that, the ever impending “what-if” possible-doom scenario. And, naturally, that doesn’t help much.

“Don’t worry,” then, you say.

Well, that’s a pretty skookum idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

Oh, because I did. Depression isn’t a do/don’t scenario. You don’t decide to “do” something and then just have it work. If you could, depression probably wouldn’t be one of the more pervasive problems society faces or the largest medical expense faced by corporate America today.

I’ve been trying to do the standard things to fight depression. Sometimes I get ’em done. Sometimes I don’t. Resolve isn’t really the depressed person’s best friend. Neither are dark Canadian winters. You need a whole lot of faith and confidence to fight serious depressions, and some days those just can’t be mustered.

Fortunately, I’ve been to this dance. I know one just gets up and does their thing and one day it improves or it doesn’t. Then there are pills, if that improvement day doesn’t come.

But that’s why this return-to-fitness thing has been so hard for me.

And why it’s so important to me that I overcome it. I hate pills. Pills brought me close to suicide, so as much as they can solve problems, they can be destruction in capsule form, too.

This getting-fit desire been crushing me because I want so much from it. I’ve so much hope pinned to it. And when I’m willing to put in the work but the only payment I receive is more pain, well, how does one really just swallow that and put on a happy face?

They don’t.

I don’t. I can’t. I hurt. I’m not “sore.” I’m not “stiff.” I hurt.

I hurt on the outside, and I hurt inside, and sometimes it’s really hard when you just can’t find a happy place in between all that.

So, yesterday, when I posted a long “what it’s been like” thing about my start in this return-to-fitness quest, and it mostly focused on how hard it’s been, a lot of that turned out to be me writing for myself — explaining, “Well, yeah, it SHOULD hurt, look what you’ve been through.”

Then someone left a comment that essentially said “Shut up and stop whining,” and that was a pretty intense breaking point for me yesterday morning, and left me really emotionally fucked-up for the rest of the day, while I tried to process two very different truths:

1) The reason I blog AT ALL is so that I can talk about what I’m enduring and what my life experience is — not so I can write what other people want to hear, solve their life, shed universal truths, or do the whole rah-rah self-actualization type posts. Enough people do that kinda blogging. If I wanted to appease others and write for everyone’s happy-point, I’d be being more commercial and would mack this shit up with affiliate ads and everything else that has money attached.

2) They’re right: Shutting up and doing it works, and often. But when you’re depressed and the return to fitness is your attempt to right what’s wrong in your life, and you’re daily going through pains that really make it seem pointless, but you know you need to battle through it — writing about how hard it is, but why you keep fighting that hardship because you know you NEED the results, well… that’s pretty much my only tether to sanity during a time that I’m finding really fucking hard.

I don’t WANT to share my depression with anyone. I don’t want this blog to be an active record of this thing I feel or these times I’m enduring. I want it to be snapshots at best.

Why I write about how fucking HARD the experience is, is because I think others go through this, but they quit — just like I stopped halfway through my journey.

I don’t want others to go off their roads and have the same struggles I’m having while I’m trying to return to mine.

And I don’t think I should apologise for not being Miss Sunshine about it, either.

I need to get fit. I don’t need to be happy about it. I don’t need to appease anyone. I just need to survive this, then thrive, and then not look back. Getting fit will probably improve my body chemistry, it will likely help me better deal with these moods.

I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. If I’m not textbook about it, and don’t have the “Go, Team” attitude about it, then I think it’s even more fuckin’ awesome that I’m still trying to make it happen.

The commenter, which I haven’t “approved” since I took the posting down, also chastised me for dwelling in the past of late.

But, I’m not.

My past is DEFINING my present to the extent that the daily pains I feel are kind of this confrontation between what I’m trying to make my present into but its parameters are still being controlled by aspects from the past. Like, back issues, etc.

The injury happened in the past. It took me a YEAR to get past. REMEBERING THAT YEAR makes these six weeks a lot easier to swallow.

That’s MY mental process. That HELPS me.

If YOU think it’s whining or “dwelling,” then that’s your worldview. Not my problem.

So, my anger about how I feel when workouts come with backlash is more easily mitigated when I remind myself of how long and hard the back injury was, that this residual stuff makes sense, that all these pains and injuries I’ve been through have LARGELY been rehabilitated, and this is the last of what I need to endure — the legacy of those times, if you will.

While I’m doing this fitness-battle thing, I often pretend like I’m in hand-to-hand combat with my past. Sure, it’s still making my life a struggle on a daily basis right now by way of “injury legacy,” but ignoring that never helped me any.

Yes, I need to do the work. Yes, “shutting up” is useful.

Right now, I just can’t be positive, sell the Kool-aid, or get anyone else on board. I just can’t.

I thought I could. But I can’t.

Again, that feeling of failure just exacerbates the accepting of such limitations. That’s depression for you.

I do need to just get through this. And I’m not so depressed that I don’t think I can get through it, either — thank god. I expect I will succeed. I don’t have a lot of faith it’ll be soon, and that’s probably where I’m going wrong. It’ll likely be sooner than I think.

Either way, it needs dedication.

All I can do right now, the only battle I feel equipped to fight, is that of ending these legacy pains and creating the fitness I desire.

But don’t kid yourself if you think I can stop writing about it, and don’t delude yourself into thinking I can be Miss Sunshine-and-Rainbows when I do.

I write about my experience, my worldview. I leave a lot out that I don’t want to give to you. I don’t want to put my innermost fears, angers, losses, etc, into your hands. I don’t want those words here.

That’s not for you.

So, I try to write about it in a skating-the-surface kind of way. Allusions and hints, a biographical writer’s best friends.

When I do that, sometimes it sounds erudite and poetic in its subtle references to things I’m experiencing or perceptions I have, and sometimes it sounds bleak as fuck because you don’t see the subtleties that I’ve convinced myself are there, tempering the content.

Ideas are always whole in my head yet filled with holes on the page.

Shit happens. What can I tell you?

My writing isn’t always good. It doesn’t always capture my thoughts.

And, fact? I usually write with the assumption that people who’re reading me might be here for the first time, andI’ll rehash details because I’m too lazy to find a blog link that explains that same crap, so it seems like I’m “dwelling” in my past, but, actually, I’m just lazy.

I don’t know what to really say to wrap this up. I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the reality that I’m depressed. At least now I know that I am.

And all I need to try to feel today?

Proud.

Because, despite how badly I’m left feeling most days, how hard I find this journey, I find moments of victory, snippets of accomplishments, and even when it gets bad enough that I take a day off, I get back to it the next day.

For the most part, I keep improving. Some things are holding me back, but, like an elastic band, if I keep pulling away, I think those bonds will eventually snap.

I’ll get past this.

But I won’t pretend I’m enjoying the experience. That’s the least of where my energies need to be.

I know today, now, here, this THING I’m experiencing — everything from trying to find a new career, solving my depression, dealing with financial struggles, watching my family’s strife, trying to lose 50 pounds, the added stress of Christmas — is probably going to be the period I look back on in 30 years, when I say “That Defined Who I Became For The REST of My Life.”

And that is why I get the fuck up and I do my thing.

If I whine a little?

My fuckin’ prerogative. Especially when, every week, I’m accomplishing more than I did the week before.

I’l write about whatever I want. And slowly I’ll get what I need to get done, done. Sometimes I’ll tell you about it, sometimes I won’t.

MFP, baby. My fuckin’ prerogative.

If that’s what the depressed lady can take to the bank, then so be it. Cash that fucker.

Building Blocks: Mastering Less as More

It’s been a long week and you’re probably wondering how it went, given my dreaded Month of Suck admission last week.

I’ve spent this past week slowly recalibrating myself, lowering my expectations, ditching my guilt, and focusing on the individual steps to take rather than being overwhelmed by the bigness of my journey…

Found on SciFiTV.com.And it’s been much, much better.

My workout with Le Physique’s Nik Yamanaka last Monday was really an empowering start to my week. She was empathetic, didn’t dwell on my admitted failings, changed the game up a little, challenged me, and provided great positivity, support, and encouragement during the workout. She also brought The Funny, and we like The Funny.

It wasn’t that she was babying me, not by a long shot. She pushed me enough, and god knows I felt it the next night as the Screaming Thighs of Fury set in a day after the epic “Let’s try some lunges” experiment, but she didn’t push me past what I could take.

Who cares about the Screaming Thighs of Fury, though?

Face it, anyone who doesn’t have killer-sore legs after doing their first-ever triple-set of lunges is probably immortal. We don’t like those people.

We really, really don’t like those people. But I digress.

Aside from letting me ditch my guilt and shame by playing me her version of the “everyone has reversals” record, Nik also provided a lightbulb moment when it came to stretching.

I think I know better than most people the profound difference that can come from tweaking a stretch angle by a few degrees, so I was really surprised to find that, a) I’m still being uber-overzealous in my hamstring stretching, b) it’s probably a huge part of why my hamstrings never stretch out, and c) it’s likely instrumental in why I have recurring back issues on a small scale all the time.

Nik drove the point home that the hamstring is a very gentle stretch, and one of the most important ones we can do. She said to wait while the hamstring naturally extends itself. Stretch the leg to the point of feeling it, hold, as it releases and resistance lessens, extend slightly further, hold, repeat, etc.

Okay, whoa, hold them technique-horses a moment.

This needs saying: I’m not a licensed kinesiologist, I’m not edumacatin’ you on stretching, and you shouldn’t be doing anything by way of my limited explanations here. This was a trained professional explaining the best way of stretching for MY body. Your body is a whole ‘nother thang, and this is why certified personal trainers are a wise idea for anyone embarking on a new life of fitness: Because every body responds a little differently.

(But if you’re like most people, you probably should be stretching those hamstrings more, honey.)

Anyhow, that slight adjustment, less-kamikaze approach has been making a difference in my legs and back this week, but there’s another stretch that’s proven monumentally important to me, now that I’ve been hearing Nik’s voice in my head all the time: “Drop your shoulders. Drop your shoulders.”

I’ve always had my shoulders up too high during stretches — and now I realize my stretches are probably largely responsible for the “tension headaches” I get, or at least as responsible as other things, like carrying too many groceries or wearing heavy shoulder bags.

By keeping my shoulders down during the stretches, I’ve greatly reduced the headaches that were seriously cramping my style. Whew. Fantastic.

So, where didn’t my week go as ideally?

Well, everywhere, of course.

But “perfect” wasn’t my goal.

Sure, I didn’t exercise the “Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names” routine, but I decided to cut myself slack and instead just focusing on Doing it Right and Feeling Good Later. Nik seems to approve.

I still haven’t stretched often enough, eaten as well as I would like, but I really don’t care.

I really don’t — because I’ve done everything better, I feel better, and I know I can still do better.

The difference is, this time I feel like doing better isn’t going to kill me. I don’t feel the dread and fear I was feeling for a while, when I kept paying for my efforts with negative fall-out (thanks to the trifecta of overdoing it, poor sleep, and bad stretching.)

Now I think “doing better” might even have me feeling better overall.

Working out through my pneumonia recovery has proven challenging, but I’m finally at the point where pushing cardio may still have me spent and asleep on the sofa by 8:30, but a good night’s sleep recharges that battery, and I find myself with more to give the next day.

That’s a new thing — having more to give — and a good thing.

Will I manage the Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names program this week?

No, probably not, but I can get closer, do it better, feel stronger, and have the feeling that I’m adding to success rather than kicking myself when I’m down.

I’m listening to my body with exercise, and soon I know I’ll be listening to it for food, too. That’s always a 1-2 thing for me — I get the exercise sorted, then figure out the food.

All in all, it feels like the pieces are falling into place — or, rather, that I’m kicking ass and throwing them into place.

This week, less has been more.

By doing less and feeling like I’ve executed it better, or more well, or more promisingly, the emotional gains and the confidence I now have in going forward is both a pivotal and welcomed change in my life.

I knew I’d get here, but it was just such a rocky road with so many obstacles, and me with my lack of objectivity at the time.

Recalibrating, lowering expectations, and focusing on technique but working through obvious pains while trying to reduce unnecessary pain, have been a key in my week of regrouping.

Going into this week with a little less fear and a little more confidence will be a nice change, provided I remember that it’s doing less, but doing it better, that’s being my “more” right now.

Baby steps, baby.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

If you enjoy this, or any of my posts, please hit the “like” button at the bottom, because sharing it on Facebook helps me get readers, which is kind of the point. Thank you for your support!

October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.

What I’ve Learned Slowly in Life & Writing

They don’t tell you that knowing who you are isn’t enough.

They don’t teach you that having a sense of identity doesn’t equal understanding how that identity fits into society.

They don’t say that loving what you’re gifted in doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to make a living at it, or even that you’ll ever be guaranteed access to doing it.

No. They don’t.

That’s the way the reality dice roll.

Shamelessly borrowed from Ebaumsworld.com.


I remember a day in early May, 1994, sitting on a rocky shore in Oregon, as waves crested and broke below me, a notepad wobbling on my knees, wanting more than anything for the ability to break through the writing-blahs I’d been wallowing in, and wishing I knew how to do what I wanted for a living. I remember staring into the waves and thinking the only thing I ever really cared about was being able to just explore writing in my own way, and to do it for myself first, always.

I had no idea then, but that was the start of a very long,  strange ride for me — within 4 months I’d be living in the Yukon, within 5 years my mother would die, within 10 years I almost died, and then came the struggle through the Weird after, much of which I’ve written about at length.

I had no idea what would loom, where I’d go, and just how goddamned far from my dreams my road would lead.

Ironically, the further from my dreams I’ve been led, the better my writing has become… and somehow, I’ve come full circle, closer to the ‘writing life’ I’ve always wanted to live. It’s like an existential whirligig, one that takes some 20 years to come ’round to its start again.

Experience is the best teacher, and this is true also of writing.

You’ll always be a shit writer until life dunks you in the tank a few times. All the Sufi mystics would tell ya we’re only as broad as what we’ve lived through, right?

I guess the gift of Aging is that we start to realize we’re shaped by our pains as well as our joys, loves as well as hates, and we’ve learned through repeated exposure that we are built for survival, not perishing.

Look at what we can endure. Look at the Chilean miners rescued this week, and those who overcame the most ridiculous of engineering feats to manage that rescue.

And, yet… Life isn’t an engineering challenge.

It isn’t something one can solve with a drafting program, some applied physics, and a ruler.

Life’s a cosmic dodgeball game — played in a big-but-small room, where more balls than you can imagine are bouncing and ricocheting wildly, with no discernible pattern, and no reason for who or what they take out in their bouncy-travels.

Knowing who you are and what you can do doesn’t ever guarantee your efforts will be made of win, it doesn’t mean life won’t hit you in that game of dodgeball, sidelining you instead of sending you sailing successfully into the next game series.

I don’t think it’s a “Work hard enough and you can get it” scenario for everything in life. Methink that’s idealistic and what Random House et al want you to believe so you keep buying self-help-guru books when The World somehow shuts the big door on you.

In life, I think luck is as much a factor as work. Some folks are the pigeon, some folks are the statue — shit or be shat upon.

For what it’s worth, I don’t feel life’s posed enough of an obstacle to keep me out of the game. Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until later in life, and I’ve always suspected my 40s would be when I mastered the whole “world domination” thing.

The mentality of “you gotta be someone by 30” is the biggest piece-of-shit fallacy in the world.

It doesn’t happen that way. The school of life doesn’t run in semesters and grades, not everyone gets a pass at 18. Life lessons come and they go, but never fear — they’ll be back. The lessons will always be back.

The great dame of acting, the fabulous Ellen Burstyn, wrote an autobiography called Lessons in Becoming Myself, published in 2006, when she was 74. She was asked if she had “become” herself, and she answered no, that even as 80 loomed, she was still constantly learning about herself, forever becoming someone new, better, and more evolved than the woman she was, even a year, month, or week ago.

I remember watching her delivering this slow, well-thought answer, and smiling. I smiled too. I could do with getting old if it meant I’d always keep improving, and wasn’t relegated to becoming a lesser version of that which I once was.

And that’s another thing they don’t tell you.

They don’t let you know that you may think you know yourself, but ya don’t know jack, Jack.

You don’t know yourself until you’ve faced demons and betrayal, loss and hopelessness. You don’t know yourself until you’ve hit bottom and gotten back up.

The trouble is: “Bottom” is relative. Every time you hit what you think is bottom, don’t worry — you’re not bottomed-out. You can always go lower.

Believe that. Know it. Respect it.

Just don’t fear it. It’s a teacher, and you’re built for survival, remember?

When you’re young, they also fail to share that life ain’t about perceived successes — it’s not about who you become at the office, or the cachet you carry with you at meet-n-greet events, or the hot babe on your arm. They don’t teach you that life ain’t about money, glam, swag, beauty, or praise.

Life’s really about being able to like what’s in your head when the lights go out at night. Like Grandma Death in Donnie Darko says, “Every living creature dies alone.”

I think, ultimately, just getting to that side of life (death) and being able to die alone, but die truly knowing who you are, what you’ve had in life, must be the greatest departing gift one can have.

They don’t talk about that.  Or just how hard it is to get that place of knowing.

You can’t teach people in advance about the pain that comes from a life lived, or how much any one person can endure. No one can know endurance till they’ve had it, any of it. And some just can’t go there, be that; they’re not built Ford-tough.

But I am.

Somehow, I wish I knew that 20 years ago. I wish I knew long ago that protecting myself was just foolishness, and I’d get hurt often and deeply regardless of safety measures. I wish I was taught to just go, do it, fail, and do it again.

But I wasn’t.

Yet I’ve begun to learn it.

Like I say: Some of us don’t come into who we’re supposed to be until much later. Perhaps it means we’ll be better at who we’re supposed to be because we’ve had more practice with the bump-in-the-night of it all.

I have a feeling I’ll be finding out myself, soon.

Older, wiser… this shit ain’t so bad.

Better-Faster-Stronger Steff, Day 1

If ever someone’s mentality was built for Kicking Ass and Taking Names, it’s mine.

On the outside, however, I’m more of a tribute to the StayPuft Marshmallow Man.

Inside, I’m G.I. Jane (with better writing).

Starting now, it’s onto Mission: Outside-Matching-In.

Found on MediaBistro.com, taken at a marathon.

I’ve managed to snooker a personal trainer who’s willing to make me into G.I. Jane-Librarian.  (But Imma be the Baby-Still-Gonna-Have-Back/Librarian Model, however. We likes a tushy.)

She works my ass out, I write about the whole experience, in short.

Meet Nik Yamanaka, my kicking-ass-and-taking-names trainer-extraordinaire from the Vancouver personal training firm Le Physique, located on the waterfront between Vancouver’s amazing Athlete’s Village and Granville Island.

Le Physique looks like a boutique gym, but it’s a place you go to be guided into a fitness program that is all about you. There’s a big difference between some quickie-certified “trainer” and a licensed kinesiologist like Nik, and I’m really thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her.

Someone like me, coming from a history of injuries, is right to be really scared (ergo cautious) about starting off a program of fitness. There’re a lot of little road-bumps I expect to crash-land into along the way — and that doesn’t mean I’ll have to stop the program; it means tweaking the program.

I’ve done it myself before, but it’s a lot more graceful (and less painful) when done with professional guidance.

There. That’s the deal, okay?

As this experiment goes on, I’ll be writing the real-deal experience from my side of the getting-trained situation.

Where are we at? Well…

Later I’ll measure myself, and those are numbers I’ll keep to myself, but for now I’m about a size 14-18, depending on who’s making the clothing and what it is, but usually a 16/14.

I’m 5’7 and I weigh 212. I was, at one time, more than 280 pounds. I say “more than” because there were several years I went without weighing myself and wearing a whooooole lot of Spandex-y leggings and muu-muu-y tops, back in my size-24 days.

The 68-pounds-at-least-lost is poundage I lost by myself, mostly without gym passes or trainers. During that time, however, I blew out my back and had to rehab my way through 10 months of oodles of pain, which taught me how to at least eat within my daily calorie limit and still lose weight without the endless cardio to compensate.

It wasn’t until I graduated from physiotherapy and started saw an ass-kicking kinesiologist for 4 sessions that my pain finally subsided and I regained strength of old.

Then I burned out on training, because I’d been doing 6-12 hours a week of working out for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. I’d been dumping cash I couldn’t afford into expensive rehabbing costs, chiropractic care that wasn’t effective, et cetera, for all that time, too, due to the high level of fitness I was pursuing.

What I never “got right”, though, was the food. Or the stretching. Or the precise technique.

Hmm. All I really got right was having the will to get it done. I worked through phenomenal pain. I screwed up a lot, sure, but I got it done, I proved a lot to myself.

The experience was really hard, though. Really, really, really hard. In every way.

It’s difficult to rectify why you’ve made so many grueling life-changes when all you keep being rewarded with are sports-related injuries, inflammation, and denied foods.

Then, it’s hard to get past the burden of being an emotional eater, like I often am, when this “healthier” lifestyle you’ve chosen cuts into enjoyment as much as the inactive life led before did — back when you got to eat at Dairy Queen.

Emotionally, starting this new journey with Nik has me coming from a place of fear. I think everyone knows what it’s like to worry that they won’t be able to measure up with what they once were — or, worse, that all their fears about how obsolete they are will be confirmed.

It’s the severity of that fear that changes for each of us. Me, it’s almost crippling at times.

Add to it the fact that I’ve  just gotten over six weeks of pneumonia, and, kapow! Scaredy-Steff right here, buddy. But here we go.

Fortunately, I have first-hand knowledge of everything I’ve been through and what it took to surpass.

I have the confidence of knowing that my trainer went to school for a good long time and understands not only the bio-mechanics behind working out, but the science behind sports eating (like, everything from portion-sizing for performance to what timely consumption of foods can do for us).

And, me, I have the eagerness to soak it all in. I want to learn why and how I paid so heavy a price as I bumbled through the loss of 70 pounds without any professional help.

In the end, I want to lose 50 pounds with Nik. The first goal is 35 pounds. I don’t remember the deadline we set for that, but, there you go: Numbers, since that’s all everyone cares about.

Get far enough on the journey and you realize numbers don’t mean jack when you’ve got the emotional issues kicking around still, so it has to be more than numbers.

So, for me, most importantly than the weight loss, I want to change my attitude about everything from what I’m capable of all the way through to how I feel about truly “healthy” food. I want to find the confidence and self-admiration I know I deserve to have, but that which the fat face in the mirror keeps me from really buying into.

In short, yeah, it’s about being better, faster, and stronger. It’s about saying I don’t want to experience crippling injuries or illnesses like pneumonia ever again. It’s about believing I deserve better than a life lacking energy or enthusiasm or a healthy body.

It was a baby workout yesterday, more for talking about process and where we’ll go with things. I’ll be a little less hands-on for Nik because I don’t need the motivation or constant overseeing others might require, and I do work really well alone — I’ve just done it kinda wrong and need to be righted upon my path.

Therefore:

I’ve been prescribed a cardio goal, a weight-lifting/plyometrics routine, and have been requested to resume my old rehab routine (which is about 30 minutes for a set) six days a week. I said I could handle it, and I know I can. I’ve also been asked to keep a food/activity journal that isn’t just a log of what I’ve consumed/burned, but also about the feeling that came as a result of each entry. I’ve done calorie-counting often, but I’ve never recorded how things made me feel before, and I’m curious if it changes the logging experience for me.

So, that’s where we’ve started.

Let’s see where the heck it all goes, shall we? Stay tuned. I’ll be doing weekly updates right here.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.