Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A brief, but sweet reminder

Olympian swimmer Missy Franklin reminds me so much of Joanna. It's bittersweet watching her on TV.  Frank just walked by, and an interview with Missy was on the news. His comment: "Man, she really reminds me of Joanna."

So, it's not just me.

I miss Joanna. Lately I miss Jolie, too.

Being on vacation at home for two weeks, alone, has been a stark reminder of how profound my loneliness is.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Gym

Day Before Day 1:
I wash and organize the $300 worth of fitness clothing I purchased so I could work out. All of the fitness wear I already owned was too small, so I needed to start over with size XL. Black knee-length stretchy pants, a pair of sneakers, eight sports bras, and seven feather-light, high-wicking tops. There are not enough black fitness clothes and bras available. I would like to wear only all black when I exercise. It's a statement.

Day 1:
I pull on stretchy black knee-length pants, a robin's-egg blue Moving Comfort bra, and a Nike tank top in the same color as the bra. New white socks. New sneakers. I stand at the entrance to the workout room, a fat girl dressed in sparkling new clothes and pristine white sneakers. I look like an idiot and feel very dorky. It's like the first day of school, but much, much worse.

I spend 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, the only piece of machinery I know I can manage. Within five minutes, sweat is running down the sides of my face in rivulets. My chest is also drenched. By the end of 30 minutes, it looks like I have gone for a swim. I drag a mat from the pile near the wall and position it on the floor in front of an over-sized oscillating fan. I spend ten minutes doing situps and push ups. I can only do the girly kind of pushups--ten of them. I hear a creaking noise and realize it's me, wheezing.

Day 2:
I make my way into the gym for a morning Power Pump session. I took Body Pump classes years ago, so I assume this is similar if not the same thing. There are six people in the class. I am by far the youngest. I am the only overweight person in the room. Awkward. I lift my weights, do my crunches, and lurch through lunges. So many lunges. I fight the urge to cry, but I am grateful to realize there are no mirrors in the gym. After class, I mop up the floor around my area and walk over to the fitness room for another half-hour session with the elliptical trainer. I perk up when I realize the data screen on the elliptical trainer is also a television, but am quickly reminded that daytime television sucks.

Day 3:
It's upstairs to the Studio for Tai Chi Chih. There are again only a half-dozen participants in the class, and again I'm the only one who is not retired. One 70-something-year-old woman introduces herself and welcomes me to the group. She asks what brings me to the class. I explain that I had wanted to go to Biggest Loser camp in Utah, but it was far too expensive, so I'm spending my vacation at this gym. Everyone laughs, thinking I'm making a joke. The instructor talks a lot. We do a lot of Tai Chi moves named after pulling taffy. It seems cruel to bring up sweets at a time like this.

After Tai Chi, I stick around for Zumba Gold, the class for seniors. I have zero dance ability, no sense of rhythm, and a near-total lack of coordination, so I figure that the class for seniors should be well within my ability. It's not. I find a new appreciation for running in place while baffled.

Day 4:
Back to Power Pump, but the teacher is a sub who lays off the lunges and practically skips the abs part of the workout. I make up for this by heading into a mat Pilates class immediately following the Power Pump class. Pilates and I go way back, but I always forget why I've abandoned it...until I try it again. It's just too much information to process and too many body processes to coordinate all at once.

Since I'm not in much pain after the first two classes, I stick around the studio for something called NIA. The catalog description says it's fun. Before I can even consider that possibility, I'm horrified to realize that we'll be facing the massive wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors during this class. The instructor says to focus on the mind-body connection. I make it my task to focus on keeping myself positioned behind the instructor so that I cannot see myself in the mirrors.

Halfway through class, my eyes well up with tears and I fight the urge to sob. God, I hate exercise. I'm just so bad at it.

NIA does not live up to its applied adjective of "fun," but it does make me sweat. Everything makes me sweat.

Day 5:
I planned on Core Challenge, but skip it when I remember that I'm supposed to pick up a prescription at the doctor's office. I eventually arrive at the gym, change my clothes, and realize that I've left my sneakers at home. Shoes must be worn in the workout room and while using machines. Shit. I put on my sandals, grab the car keys, and drive home for my shoes and my yoga mat. Once at home, I pet the dog, use the bathroom, grab the shoes, and return to the gym, only to have it dawn on me that I still forgot my yoga mat. Sigh. I attribute the absent-mindedness to all of the exercising. Surely so much chest-heaving heavy breathing has left my brain deprived of oxygen.

I enter the Studio for a Hatha Yoga class. I'm early, so I pass the time doing squats and lunges and then agonizing wall sits. Standing in front of that imposing wall of mirrors, I can barely look at the puddle of fat around my middle. I'm reminded of why, exactly, there are no full-length mirrors in my house.

The instructor arrives along with more skinny, muscular people, except this group is also impressively stretchy. I am a blob. Most poses are beyond me, except for the one where you just lie on the floor on your back not staring at the ceiling because your eyes are supposed to be closed while you focus on breathing, your "practice," and your "intention," whatever that's supposed to mean.

After yoga, I have an appointment with a staff member to introduce me to the equipment in the fitness room. She asks me about my fitness goals. I tell her that my immediate goal is not to cry in public or to crash into anyone during a workout. I explain that my long-term goal is to be skinny. She seems surprised that I have no interest in improving my health. She says, "You only have one body and you have to be good to it."

I explain that I used to be very fit and health-conscious. Without giving much in the way of details, I tell her that despite my clean living, my body went on to reject and betray me no fewer than six different ways. I tell her I am living proof that being good to your body doesn't mean anything. I tell her that now I'm really bitter and my body must be punished and shown that there are consequences for such betrayals.

The trainer thinks I should be doing standup.

Day 6:
I get on the scale. I have gained a half-pound. I go back to bed and stay there until almost noon.

Day 7:
Screw this.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Yes, it's that time of year when I would normally be posting pictures of the Sonoran Desert or some other place I like to go. But I'm not there. That's right, I really did go with the staycation. For all of my whining, in the end, I really didn't have the energy to go anywhere out of town. It seemed somehow more prudent to gather my thoughts and restore my energy by staying in town.

That being said, this is a lonely, lonely stretch. I'm essentially alone all day, every day. I mean, I go out and I interact, but business transactions don't count. I posted a notice on Facebook inviting local people to let me know if they were up for a lunch or dinner out, or just wanted to get together and do something fun. Cue sound of crickets chirping on a dark summer night.

True to my word and original plan, I have been going to the gym. Of course, before I could start going to the gym, I felt compelled to go out and buy all new workout clothes. Nice ones. Every vacation should start with a wardrobe tune-up specific to the activities planned. It was actually quite a process that left me with these questions:

  • Who works out in low cut stretchy pants? Wouldn't your butt crack show every time you reached up or bent over? These pants are ubiquitous, so somebody must find them appropriate.
  • Is there anything more useless in this world than the shelf bra in a workout top? 
  • Does anyone actually pay $65 for a little synthetic fiber workout top? I like to keep it under $12.
  • Thong workout underwear? Seriously?

I don't get yoga

Yoga has been prescribed or recommended to me by almost every doctor I've seen in the last five years. That might just be them being polite in saying I need to calm the fuck down. I'm perceptive sometimes and I get that.

I hate yoga. I do not understand what it's supposed to be doing for me. It mostly invokes an inner rage I cannot articulate. I am uncoordinated. Very uncoordinated. Never is this more obvious than when I'm attempting to perform yoga poses. Observe, all, the big dork of yoga class.

Sometimes, I fall over.
Sometimes, I burst into tears.
No, I do not understand what part of this is supposed to be calming and soul-centering. Mostly, it just pisses me off.

My conclusion is that yoga is for people who are very skinny, muscular, fit, and have already achieved inner calm. I am the only fat person in the yoga classes I've tried. It's humiliating.

Don't get me wrong--I do try to get through those poses, but the only one I have mastered is the child's pose and the one at the end where you lie on your back pretending to be relaxed. The rest of them leave me sweaty and confused.

Here is what I think about yoga:
  • It's really hard
  • There's nothing relaxing about it
  • It frustrates the hell out of me
  • It's very painful. Every pose is painful somewhere.
  • It's not good for wobbly people with poor balance.
  • It makes me fall over. A lot.
  • It's incredibly slow and boring. Oh. Dear. God. It is so boring. And self-important.
  • It makes my feet hurt
  • All that focus on breathing--seriously? Have these people not heard of the autonomic nervous system? Breathing takes care of itself. When I do all of that focused, butt-expanding deep breathing, I wheeze. It has to be annoying to anyone around me.
  • Yoga leaves me sore and ultimately feeling bad about myself because it highlights my lack of balance and coordination.
  • Yoga induces enough anxiety in me to make me cry while I'm attempting (and failing) to do it
How do people find this relaxing or Zen? It's so awful. It's so difficult. It's so painful. It's so  full of impossible body contortions.

Why in the world was this recommended for me? Is it that my doctors have not-so-secretly hated me and this is their revenge joke?

I think I'll check in when I weigh 105 pounds and have developed solid muscle from normal workouts. Which will be never.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'll never understand

Oklahoma City. Gabby Giffords. Norway. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tuscaloosa just last week. Aurora, Colorado.

I feel so discouraged. I spend every day of my life trying to make lives better, trying to help people see the possibilities of a better life. I try--I really try--to help people who have seen the worst that the world has to offer to reframe and focus on light and love and kindness.

Maybe I am just naive in thinking that love and kindness matter at all.

And don't get me started on the warped interpretations of the Second Amendment that make these events not only possible, but ubiquitous. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the U.S. as the result of gun violence since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but nobody cares. There is no call to action, and just mentioning anything negative about guns will get the bible-thumping NRA zealots calling you un-American and ready to well, shoot you down. And they win. They always win. I'll bet most of them have never actually read the Second Amendment, and of those who have, they've chosen to be blind to the part about access to guns for the purpose of a well-prepared militia. I don't think the Founding Fathers meant every man and woman should be his and her own personal militia.

Not that we can undo the ubiquitous presence of guns in the U.S. There is no putting that genie back in the bottle.

Instead, those who are angry, impatient, ill, obsessed, insecure, or violent will always have access to that thing they worship. Guns have only one purpose, and that is to perpetuate violence, be it in war, in law enforcement, on the streets, or against nature's animals.

We can't undo the flow of guns, but among the information included in the reports of Thursday's violence was the bit about how the shooter had purchased about 6,000 rounds of ammunition in the last few months. And that was perfectly OK.

This reminded me of something Chris Rock said in his act several years ago. His modest proposal wasn't to eliminate guns, but rather to make them impossibly expensive to use. If you haven't seen this before, take two minutes. It's funny and smart. Even if you have seen it, watch it again.

Personally, I think he's onto something. Not that it matters. The crybabies in the NRA will always find a way to bully and shout down any voice of reason. It's what they do. I wonder if they get a collective hard on every time a mass murderer lets loose with an automatic assault weapon. I'll bet they do. They probably come all over themselves when they think about how it could have been them dominating and eliminating innocent people who weren't angry and insecure enough to be similarly armed. And they revel in knowing it's perfectly legal but, as they see it, maybe still a bit too regulated.

They win. They continue to win, and people like me, who advocate peace, kindness, and a more highly developed sense of human compassion, well, I'm not sure there's a practical place in the world for us anymore.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The biggest barrier

No, this isn't me.
I'm about that size, though
It has been four days since I joined the gym, but I still haven't gone. I fear workout clothes. Yes, I do. More than that, I am avoiding something that my house lacks but is ubiquitous in every gym: full-length mirrors.

The only time I use or dare to even look into a full-length mirror is when I'm trying on clothes in a store dressing room.

Having to even catch a glimpse of myself when I'm exercising is so repugnant to me that it's actually stopping me from going to the gym.

I know this is a mental problem, but I haven't been able to get past it for about 20 years. True.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I need help

I need help, but I couldn't for the life of me, if asked, tell you what I need or what the problem is.

I'm being dogged by a nearly overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety. Not worrying--that would imply something specific. It's more like the feeling that something terrible is happening but I just don't know what it is.

I've been told this is pretty common among women my age and is often a symptom of the onset of menopause. That would actually be great, because that's treatable with hormones and menopause is a process with an end to it.

Eh, I don't know. Maybe I'm just neurotic and too far gone to ever be rewired..

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Exercise in futility

Frank and I joined a gym today. Yesterday, we drove around and visited several fitness facilities close to our house. It started to feel like a parallel-universe version of "House Hunters."

Number 1: 24 Hour Fitness--not even up for consideration. Too crowded and too full of younger people looking for a hook up.

Number 2: Local Parks and Rec center--This one is close to home, affordable, has an outdoor pool, and gives us access to all rec centers in the city, but the hours aren't very good and the room with the machines is small.

Number 3: This is a smallish fitness facility that is about 1.5 miles from our house, but in a different municipality, which means we would pay the out-of-town rate. The place is only four years old, but despite top-of-the line equipment, it always seems to be mostly empty. Oddly, it has a dramatic and sweeping great room lobby that deserves mention on its own merit. There is a pocket branch of the local library in this part of the center. No communal showers. Alas, no pool, no hot tub, and parking is on the next block. Plenty of classes, though. Did I mention granite counter tops, stainless steel accents throughout, and cherry wood cabinetry in the locker rooms? Definitely not our cheapest option.

Number 4: The nearby YMCA  is familiar and Frank gets a discount through work. Lots of classes, it has an indoor pool, plenty of regular folks, but it's also overrun with children, the showers are communal, and the parking lot can be tricky to enter and exit. Certified personal trainers are really inexpensive here, though, and intensive training program package deals are amazing.

Number 5: There's a swanky fitness club on the way home from my work and reasonably close to Frank's office. Lots of beautiful people and the most comprehensive yoga schedule we've ever seen. We're not yoga people, though. It has Reformer Pilates! It also has an outdoor pool (woot!), a juice bar, massage rooms and spa facilities. It's an absolutely gorgeous and serene(!) place, and it costs a fortune.

And the one we chose was...Number 3. It's really like a boutique facility and it's still within our budget. The fact that it has state-of-the art equipment and is usually mostly empty works in our (my) favor. The showers and locker rooms are spa-like. This particular municipality doesn't have much of a residential base, but has a ton of big-box stores and hotels in a single square mile. They have more tax revenue than they know what to do with, so they built--and subsidize--this beautiful facility. I wasn't lying about the granite and cherry, so this is still like House Hunters, even though it really had no bearing on our decision.

So, the next big decision is to actually, you know, go and work out. I friggin' loathe exercise with all the depth and breadth of my being. There's not enough state-of-the-art equipment on the planet to change how I feel about that.

Would it be wrong to work out w/chilled white wine spritzers in my water bottle? It's so refreshing and could make me feel better about exercise.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

And now back to our regularly scheduled program

I seem to be having a coronary artery spasm. It's that angina. That Prinzmetal's thing. I haven't had one of these in a year, since I started medication.

New and improved! Now comes with an instant-onset, splitting headache!

This isn't a bad episode, but damn, it still really hurts. How weird it is that I know what a heart attack feels like although I've never had one.

Let me fill you in: It's incredibly painful and scary as hell.

I can't figure out why I'm having this in the evening. It typically only happens early in the morning. Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bucket list item

Almost as good as when I was on NPR--at length--a couple of years ago. I was quoted in The Atlantic magazine! I was quoted in The Atlantic! MY words are in The Atlantic!

OK, then.

Unfortunately, what I said is incredibly pathetic. True, but pathetic. I used the name May Voirrey, but it looks like their fact-checkers figured out that May only exists here. So, I'm billed as "Anonymous." But it's still me, 100 percent, and goddammit, I made The Atlantic!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I miss

I miss friends who will spend time with me. Those who can tough it out. Eventually, I wear everyone down.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making a list, checking it at least twice

Things to do during the two-week break from work at the end of July:
  1. Get a manicure.
  2. Get a pedicure.
  3. Change my hair color (best to hire a professional)
  4. Read at least one of the dozens of books residing on my Nook.
  5. Make one piece of jewelry every day. Well, maybe every other day. OK, maybe three or four pieces over the two weeks.
  6. Sew something. A bag. Curtains. Something.
  7. Go to the local art museum.
  8. Keep a food log. Daily. It's only two weeks.
  9. Get my teeth whitened.
  10. Go to one live music or theater performance. Buskers don't count.
  11. Clean the bathroom.
  12. Cook at least once.
  13. Write my will.
  14. Decide once and for all if life is worth the effort and proceed accordingly.


I've fallen deep inside my head and I can't get out.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I felt better saying it out loud

Today I stood in front of nine people to explain my part of our group-created vision board. It was for the nonprofit I helped to start five years ago. We were revisiting and articulating our vision on this, our fifth birthday as an organization.

After I had explained most of my contributions to the board, someone in the room asked me to explain a picture of many hands layered one over the other, under which there was a single word: Community. Very matter-of-factly I said, "I don't really have any friends. Not here, anyway, not in my day-to-day life. For the most part, I am not a person that other people choose to spend time with or even will spend time with outside of work situations. I feel very isolated, very lonely--and this is my culture, my country. It doesn't feel good. I imagine that the refugee women we serve must feel even more isolated, so I want our organization to help them build community across cultures and to have friendships that transcend this very specific context where we see them."

This reality of my dysfunctional relationship with the world is something I only share here, on this blog. It's not something I discuss with anyone. This was a first today. I didn't think about what I was going to say before I said it; I just spoke from my heart and spoke the truth. I can't say what anyone else thought at that moment or how they reacted. I imagine that what I said was not a surprise, although my coming out and identifying it openly may have taken those women aback. Or not.

Having explained myself openly and unapologetically, I feel better. I hate the thought that anyone might think I lack self-awareness.

First thought of the day

I woke up this morning with this thought: It doesn't matter that I have money and time for vacation. I just don't want to be on vacation alone--here or anywhere. That just feels so lame.

I researched going to fat camp. Wow. I'm about $7,000 short for that. How can they charge you $8,000 when you barely get to eat, there's no housekeeping service and no coffee? I realize they have trainers for the exercise sessions, but with, say, 20 people per group, I still think their overhead is more than covered. That's a crapload of profit. Anyway, scratch fat camp from my list of possible places to go.

I figure I'll get a mani-pedi, color my hair, get a massage, and go to the art museum. That leaves me another 13 days to pretend I'm having fun.

Grumpy, yes.