Tag Archives: change

Ratcheting It Up After a Slow Afternoon

Yesterday I cycled 42 kilometres.

That’s the fifth time I’ve ever bested 40km in a day. It felt pretty awesome, because it’s the first time out of all those times that I managed to Finish Strong.

Fitness, for me, isn’t just about health. It’s about proving things to myself. It’s about saying now that “That can’t beat me anymore.”

It’s about saying “I Win.”

There was a time when cycling a round trip of 7 km to my bookstore job would add about 40 minutes to my day. It once took me 74 minutes to cycle 12km home from downtown (with about 4-5km uphill), not including “catching my breath” breaks.

Now I can do it in about 34 minutes.

Being athletic isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you make it go. It’s a mindset, a way of life, a credo, and a pursuit. It’s about taking control of your health and dominating something, ANYTHING, in life.

Me? It’s been a long, long time of slowly improving and constantly setting new goals. “Okay, I did that. Now what?”

The only problem I run into, though, is who I was versus who I am.

I wrote once about how Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of The Tipping Point applied to me, personally, with my weight issues. Gladwell asserts it takes 10,000 hours to gain expert proficiency at any one thing.

Well, I spent 218,000-plus hours chasing the “expert” status in Being Fat. I mastered that shit. I came pretty close to being The Funny Forever-300-Pounds Friend.

Now, with all my weight-loss efforts, I’m probably over the 10,000-hour mark for Kicking Ass and Taking Names, but the 218,000-plus of fatty-school hours did some pretty intense conditioning to this Bear of Little Brain, I tell ya.

This week, though, I measure myself and learn I’ve lost 2 more inches off my hips and 2 more off my waist. Somehow, there’s this band in between that isn’t yet giving, but hey, movement in the other areas is fantastic. I’m closing in!

Today I’m learning about diabetes, and I’m reminded just how preventable that disease is.

I’m loving that exercise is such a major factor in how likely you are to prevent or reverse its occurence.

I’m loving that I can now describe myself, most weeks, as being “active”.

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of yesterday doing a ride that killed me years ago — when I used to do a 20km shorter version of it, and tackling on an extra 10km on an already-50%-longer route for the hell of it because I had “more left in me”.

It’s with a great deal of smugness I can casually state what I’m capable of doing these days, when the opportunity to talk about it comes up — only because I know how hard I’ve tried to get here. I’m the one on the other side of painkillers, ice bags, chiropractor appointments, and everything else I’ve had to learn to use to my advantage as I suffer through the acrimony of Becoming UnFat. I’m the one on the other side of asthma.

I don’t know.

I don’t know what I want you to take from this, why I’m writing it. I guess I ultimately hope that anyone who’s out there who’s not fit or active can learn what it’s taken me a long time to work through — that you don’t need to remain who you are today, that exercise does hurt but it’s supposed to, and it’s in that struggle and pain and recovery that we become new, better, more confident people.

Even if you’re “skinny-fat”, inactivity kills people every day, and the lack of self-esteem from being inactive cripples people every single minute of every day.

My athletic accomplishments make me stronger in every single life experience I face, because I know the mental fatigue I can overcome, and the physical strength I’ve shown. I KNOW it now. I’ve proven it to myself.

It’s not about filling 30 minutes with walking because the doctor says to do so. It’s your opportunity to set a goal and kill it.

If you’re not huffing, puffing, sweating, and wheezing, then you’re simply not exercising hard enough — whether you’ve got 10 minutes to do it or an hour.

Leave everything on the floor, and you’ll know it.

And a few hours later, then a few weeks later, and then a few months later, you’re gonna increasingly love it.

Today, I’m recuperating a little. Soon, after a healthy meal, a healthy snack packed, and hydrating a little more, I’m off to ratchet up at least another 25 km today.

Come Tuesday morning, I want to feel like I won the Weekend Warrior challenge.

It’s the athletic version of the old saying “Why do I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer? Well, ‘cos it feels so good when I stop.”

If you don’t know that feeling, isn’t it time you started?*

*The first 3 weeks will suck. The best antidote to stiffness and sore worked-out muscles is to do it all over again. Ice. Advil. Whatever the common prescriptions are for overcoming training, go for it. In a few weeks, they’ll not be necessary anymore. You, too, will be a fitness machine, grasshopper. If I could do it? SERIOUSLY, you can.

Jumping into the Darkness

Before you read on: I know you MEAN well, but don’t give me life advice right now. You have about 3% of the information you need in order to offer specific-to-me insight. If you’re a friend of mine in REAL life, please talk to me over a beer.

If you only know me online, I love you for caring, but don’t weigh in. Life’s confusing enough without 80 cooks in my kitchen. I’m just thinking out loud, not soliciting advice here. Understood?

You rock. Thanks.

—-

I withdraw, sometimes.

It’s most likely to happen: a) if I’m rethinking my life’s direction, or b) when I’m jarred by a person, thing, or event/series of events.

And it happens.

Recently, a) and b) have happened.

Thus, this past week, I’ve withdrawn. Mostly because I couldn’t really withdraw last week. And I still had a lot I needed to do this week, and a lot of crap to deal with.

But in the moments I could, I withdrew. It was everything I’d hoped it could be. I hope to do even more of it next week.

Someone’s got some thinkin’ to do, and she’s not too sure how much she wants to share.

You already know I’m a big believer in writing your way through things.

Yet sometimes it’s better to get through life with a bump-in-the-night approach. Feel your way through and have quiet faith in where it takes you.

Do not be afraid, blindfolded grasshopper.

Bump-in-the-night’s a pretty solitary experience, though. Putting it out there for public consumption is a pretty foolish endeavour. Some things are just better left inside some days.

“Do I go this way? Do I go that way? What’s it feel like? Did I step on a bug?” Yeah, foolish to share.

Sometimes thoughts seem like stars being born. An idea appears as if out of nowhere, just an inkling in a semi-dark mind. Nebulous in its power and growing, slowly gaining clarity and discernible features as it comes into light.

Sometimes life events are like that, too, and to really learn what we’re being taught, we need silence and a little time alone in the dark.

Lately, I’ve sorta been hanging out in my own private darkness, looking for a lightswitch.

Last week, I did a big new thing. I officially became self-employed. Finally legally laid off for good-for good from my old employer, I took the jump and now my new work for them is in the form of Self-Employed Earnings. The exact direction I want to go in is a little hazy, but I’m off to a new start.

It’s a scary leap in a million ways, a jump in the dark with no safety net. Pretty terrifying, regardless of the fact that I deep-down think I can do it.

I mean, I know thar be no monsters, but sometimes when I turn the lights out, I get a little scared at night, y’know? It happens. The curse of being imaginative.

In the bold new world of 24/7 and epic personal schedules, it’s pretty easy to ultimately realize the only person you can ever really, really count on is yourself.

That’s not saying I don’t trust my friends to be there for me — that’s just me learning the hard way that their lives can get in the way, too, and I won’t always know why at the time, so instead of feeling like they’ve let me down, it’s usually better to have a self-sufficient plan of getting through things.

Sometimes self-sufficiency is the only way to go.

When it comes to things like self-employment, it’s really all about you. It’s about you putting in the work, getting it done, capitalizing on connections, and living up to the hype. You can have all the fuckin’ friends in the world but if you’re selling shit product, doing shit work, or delivering shit service, you’ll land face-first in the dirt every time — and rightly so.

This time I have to do it on my own, but I know that if I do provide great product, awesome service, and I do my work like a professional should, then not only will I have success, but my friends will have nothing to lose from supporting me.

Some people take business referrals very seriously, and everyone else who doesn’t SHOULD. Who you refer reflects entirely on you. They’re great to have a beer with but offer no business scruples? That’s on you. They screw your friends over in the end-run? On you. They flake out? On you.

I refer few people. I’ll be honoured when I see judicious people doing the same for me.

But, that’s somewhere down the road. I’m new to this.

For now, I’m figuring out my future and it’s a very strange and difficult path. Designing any kind of career based on the internet and writing for it is a pretty harrowing thing these days. No one knows where it will lead. So, I’m a-thinkin’ life over — and what I bring to it all.

For me, it’s a follow-the-heart do-what-thou-wilt moment. There’s a door open to me and I’m not really sure what’s on the other side of it, but I think I can take it. I think I can kick its ass and take it.

I just need a moment alone to find that in me. Don’t we all?

Interdimensional Limbo

When I transition through phases in life, I tend to find myself sort of mentally overwhelmed, and my response to it is that I find one thing to focus on, to just get somewhere, then I can take a look at the larger picture from a better place.

Or, you know, something.

I’m onto a “me” phase out of necessity. Things are in the works, big change is afoot for this here writer.

Coming up on July 1st, I’m officially un(der)employed.

Happy Canadian independence (repatriation, if yer picky) day, indeed.

The Canadian system allows us to earn about 25% of our working salary on top of unemployment benefits, legally and without financial penalty. It makes life much, much easier — puts the food on the table when benefits only cover my basic costs of living, not even food.

I’m lucky, I’ve got that 25% worktime on my hands. My present/former employers do love me and I get work when I need it / they have it. So, you know, I eat. I like this.

Do I want to go back there full-time long-term?

Well, I’m faced with knowing I’ve given the last 10 years of my life to an industry that is at the mercy of international currencies, cultural trends, taxation policies, and government legislation.

Time and time again, I’ve gotten the ax. It’s unpredictable.

“Well, why do it,” you ask? Working in film is a lifestyle choice. The people are hip, fun, cool. The jobs are plentiful in variety and come in waves. It’s creative but structured. It’s an industry you work in because you’re a fan — anything you can do to be a part of film? Yeah, diggit. You contributed. You’re a part of art immortal, a member of a creation team.

But I’m too old for this shit.

Being Canadian, there’s lots of great options available. As a worker in a long-tenured position, I can return to school — which I’d have to pay for — and receive unemployment benefits for up to 2 years. I’ll be looking into some options in the coming weeks, but sort of know what I’d like to pursue.

What a time of change, though.

Never coulda seen this coming last year. What a wild ride the last three months have been. I already know some of what’s coming for the next three, too, and it’s just more of a wild ride.

When I lost my job, my attitude was “Well, I can’t change that, but I can be open to what this time brings.”

I see some people resisting the change life’s thrown at them of late, acting from a place of fear instead of empowerment. I ain’t judging. I’ve been there before.

There’s a certain salty confidence one gains from hard times. Lord knows I done seen mine.

I’ve never been as confident in myself as I am now, but I’m also at an absolute loss to tell you what my life will entail. I know aspects of it, sure — writing, speaking, doing comedy, losing weight, looking for clients, et al… but where it’ll lead? Who knows.

It’s the mystery that makes it fun. It’s the intrigue that makes my eyes sparkle with curiosity. I’ve loved the weird detours I’ve had so far, and can’t wait for whatever unexpected discoveries come my way.

As long as I’m eating month to month? Well, hey, man. Let’s see.

If you’ve never read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, it’s one of those books that’s in that crowd everyone should read in college — Siddhartha, Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, etc. It’s a book about a young shepherd boy who dreams of achieving his goal one night, and sets off in search of treasures in far away lands. It’s a fable, and it’s a wonderful little novella.

Along the way he is frequently told “Maktub,” which apparently translates from the Arabic to mean “It is written.”

Beautiful thought but I’m not so sure I agree. I can’t believe the strangeness I’ve endured year in, year out is written.

Life seems like a game of celestial pick-up sticks to me, my friends. Throw what you can, get what you can, and see what you can make of it.

Perhaps, though, life is written. Perhaps I just need to have a sly smile and know my life will take me the right places, because I know myself and I know my dreams. Perhaps, in that way, it really is written.

Life really is a gorgeous mystery sometimes. It’s nice to believe in the mystical, to think there’s some cosmic puppeteer helping to orchestrate incredible happenings of rich experiences, if you’re willing to play the role and follow the program.

The last time my life began moving in strange and mythical ways, I landed my ass in the Yukon for a year — living in the land of the Midnight Sun, reading dead writers, learning about writing, and experiencing my dream of seeing Northern Lights night after night.

There’s a lot to be said for sitting back and telling life to take the wheel for a while. Who knows where it feels like goin’?

It ain’t the destination, it’s the journey. If you’re always fucking with the navigation and the “right” way to go, there’s some amazing unexpected happenings you’re liable to miss.

Chill, Winston. Enjoy the ride. Have a destination in mind but be open to detours. It’s the best way to travel.

From Hair to There

I’ve been adrift in a thought-sea for days now.

Just lost in waves and waves of thought.

About me, my future, what next, why now, where to go, who to see, and a million other things.

I can’t write during those times. I get a little discombobulated and things don’t really happen linearly for me. Writing tends to start, then stop, languishing in the land of Unfinished.

There’s probably a dozen drafts I’ve conjured in the last week for this blog, for me. All starting and then hitting a mental dead-end. But they sit there in the hopes of one day getting cranked into reality.

I don’t really feel into writing today, either, but it’s one of those times that needs to be noted. I’ve spent a lot of time lately working out — turning a lot of lost-muscle-flab back into strength and tone. It’s been a hard, hard, full couple of weeks. I’ve made it past the initiation, though.

The returned-to-it pain that comes from going all Olivia Newton-John on my ass and getting physical is finally settling into a full-body strength and intensity that tells me things are changing, and how. Doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s just a new normal of feeling like I can kick all your asses with ease. I kinda like that. Throwdown Steff, yo.

Today’s a pay-off day, too.

Haircut time.

I’ve been slowly growing my hair out since Christmas. In less than two hours, I’ll be under the scissors as someone turns me into a hair model. I get an experienced stylist hacking my overgrown mushroom cloud of a haircut into something fierce and sexy — because my getting-longer thick mane’s made for fierce-sexy — for free. Why? Because I’m a genius and know where to look for such things.

Adversity isn’t something you need to bend over and take like some listless doll. It requires creative thinking, a smiling face, and a willingness to seize chance as it comes. Me, just because I’m unemployed doesn’t mean I can’t be resourceful about how to enjoy elements of life.

Soon, haircut.

There’s really nothing like a new hairstyle for defining who you feel like at any point in time. I don’t know who I’ll look like in 3 hours, but I’ll know that girl really earned that new look.

I need to feel differently when I look in the mirror. There’s something I’m wanting to see looking back at me, and it’s not there yet. I don’t mean a size 4. I don’t mean something hot. It’s not that. There’s just a sparkle in my eye I want to find every time I catch my own gaze.

I want my amusement back. I want my perennial grin.

I have this card on my bookshelf:

I find that smiling makes people wonder what you’re up to.

It’s that going-through-life equivalent of When Harry Met Sally, after Meg Ryan fakes her orgasm in the deli and the old woman (Rob Reiner’s mom) tells the waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

There’s something fun about BEING the person who LOOKS like they’re always having fun. Other people vibe off of that in really interesting ways, and life gets more entertaining and unpredictable as a result of their reactions.

It’s probably something to do with the law of attraction. Look fun, feel fun, and fun finds you.

For me, that starts with a haircut I can really own, something that, when I look in the mirror, I know for realz that that ain’t the girl who was stuck in neutral for a long, long time — just reacting to life rather than shaping it (for a short while, anyhow).

A makeover doesn’t take much, but it sure has a massive impact when your biggest goal is a different you.

My desire to change myself shouldn’t come across as some “Wow, I sure hate ME, so I’m gonna do something about it!” because it’s actually quite the opposite.

I think I’m awesome. I think I’m funny and entertaining as hell when I’m in the right mood. I can be electric. I know what I’m capable of, what I exude, what I can be.

But most of the time I get in my own way.

Because of stupid, stupid insecurities that have taken a lifetime to develop and need to be undone one at a time, in slow and lasting ways.

As time progresses, more and more of those insecurities fall away. Since my weight’s increased and not been lost in the last year, it ain’t recently about weight or my size.

It’s something internal that’s shifting. That’s how it should be.

A nebulous growth of a new self or worldview, a seedling — small and blooming. That’s real change. It sprouts where you don’t expect it, and it gets along just fine by itself for a while — some inadvertent sun, rain, and away it goes. Then, one day, it needs more and you have to be ready to train it, support it, and give it something to hold to, then it grows taller, and stronger.

That’s kinda where my change is. I’ve sort of got it started, and now I need to define it, make it taller, stronger.

Which is where my head’s been for so long of late.

And today my head gets a new look. My inner self gets a new perspective on its outer self. And change becomes obvious and defined for the first time in a year or two.

All because I get to have a haircut.

For free.

Long hair! Sexy hair. It’ll be awesome. I haven’t had bob-length hair in eight or ten years. Oh, yeah.

So what do you want to change?

Look around.

See what little opportunities for harnessing your life and taking it in a new direction might be waiting for you to discover. If you’re not looking, you won’t see. Pretty simple. Life Through Remedial Math 101.

So, today? This week? Open your eyes. See what you’re missing. Go where it takes you. Enjoy the ride.

I know I am.

A Sly Smile Kinda Morning

The sky is an iridescent grey, at once inspiring and eerie.

My day is stretched before me with a loose idea of all the things I have to do, mostly of the meetings-and-appointments sort. A murky mess sits at the bottom of a mug I wish was filled with fresh black coffee. I just shrug at its emptiness and type on.

Inside, calmness has settled in. A calmness I probably haven’t felt in a number of years.

It began yesterday morning with a kind of prescient feeling about how much I could or would get done during the day. I blew that out of the water and settled my to-do list with great authority, meeting and beating all aspirations for the day.

At the end, I decided I’d finally take a look at my finances. For the first month of my unemployment I’ve applied the Ostirich Approach to my situation — only after I’d taken a hard look at the bottom line of what I would need to live on each month, and had the vague notion I might be okay until June. Then, I buried my head, spent as little as possible, and just did my shit, with the assumption that Spending Almost Nothing was all I needed to do.

Much of what I did spend was covered by “found” money — gifts from a couple kind people. (You fucking rock.)

I knew when the month started it would be tight and was 95% sure I would either be deferring my loan payment or telling my landlord I needed an extra week to pay the rent. I mean, the reality is, the first month of unemployment is ALWAYS the hardest.

I was in the situation of having had a bad-spending winter, followed by the Olympics crushing my savings, and had NO idea that a complete lay-off loomed. I thought I’d lose a day of work a week — I was praying for it — as we’d applied for the Workshare program (spreading a lay-off throughout the company, with the government paying 55% of the one day a week each employee gives up).

I never thought I’d be laid off entirely this year. And after a year spent rehabbing a back injury and two years of having to replace entire wardrobes with every season due to weight-loss, and that I’ve been making lower-middle-class income in one of the world’s most expensive cities… well, yeah, no savings either.

But…

But I managed to get enough ducks in a row as soon as the “OMG, lay-offs might be coming” fear that hit around March 24th, before finding out on the 25th that I would be entirely laid off, likely the next day, that I sort of had a fighting chance.

I was also insistent with my employer that the additional 3 days of work at the end of March would make the difference between me surviving until June at least.

And it did.

I finally scrounged up everything I had last night — not including a little emergency money I’ve set aside or what’s on my Visa — and know I can pay rent AND groceries until the middle of the month, without even receiving my government employment insurance benefit. AND I keep what little safety net I have intact.

That changes everything.

I feel like it’s the stamp of approval. “Go forth, Steff,” it says. “All will be well.”

I know, I’m supposed to be all embarrassed that my money’s this tight.

I’m supposed to be ashamed.

Wealth is a sign of success and position and talent and brains, isn’t it?

Fuck you.

Fuck ANYONE who thinks I need to be ashamed that things have been so close.

I’ve NEVER been irresponsible with money. All I’ve been guilty of is being average with money. At my income, spending an additional 10% every month cripples you in a hurry.

I am NOT my adversity. FUCK that.

Try losing 70 pounds and having to buy new wardrobes every three months, or getting so severely injured you spend a month laying on a floor and for months have to take cabs and pay 20% more in groceries  just for the convenience, because you’re in too much pain to bus from a further, cheaper store.

That I’m even paying rent tomorrow without any interceding forces makes me more proud than you’ll ever fucking know.

Fuck anyone who thinks money and whether someone gets through a jam financially is a reflection at all of that person’s intelligence, ability, talent, or resilience. Money is as much about luck and selective adversity as it is savings abilities.

Some people just have more things to overcome. In my life, money was always the villain. That line between getting by and barely surviving is thinner than most people might realize.

For once, money doesn’t feel like my villain anymore.

I’ve got rent, baby. And food. And I’m gonna buy me some wine and a steak tonight to celebrate.

[shaking head]

Yeah. I don’t know… I feel like I have to say more:

So many of you need to feel what kissing poverty is like. You need to feel how much it hurts inside when you’re terrified about paying the rent or you’re sure you’ve got to resort to drastic measures to get by. You need to know what it’s like to think hope is too expensive a luxury for your position. You need to imagine what that fear’s like when it’s not just you it affects.

You need to know how hard it is when money’s not within your grasp. Everyone needs to feel that.

I hope I never feel it again. And I hope I always remember that pain. I hope I always have the empathy I wish more people had shown me earlier — but so many are showing me, even showering me with, now.

Today is a day of gratitude, goodness, and calm. For me, at least. You? You can choose that, too.

Take a minute to think about what you really have, and pray you never come close to losing it.

Some fears aren’t fit for anyone. But gratitude is one-size-fits-all.

Beyond the talk of money? My future’s looking great. What a ride this summer will be. Stay tuned.

PS: Methinks unemployment might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to me. Wait’ll you get a load of me, baby.

The Piano Has Been Drinking*

So too has the blogger.

And, boy, has my body decided it’s had enough.

I became social again last year, which effectively doubled the amount I’d been drinking. It became far too regular, and had it not been for the drinking, I’d probably have lost more weight instead of just having maintained my numbers for a year now.

The drinking escalated last fall. More this spring. A good three or four nights a week would be 2-3 drinks, maybe more often than that if it was a busy period.

Just how often became a significant realization this week. Continue reading