Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Anger, thy name is Woman

I've been feeling angry lately. This weekend, while running errands downtown, I was nearly bowled over by a feeling of hate for the people around me. I hated the crowds, I hated the tourists, I hated the consumers with their shopping bags, I hated the women in their coordinating outfits, I hated all the couples canoodling together. I was just pissed off and feeling out of place.

Which is weird, because I'm usually the most patient and accepting person. But the last few days, oh the last few days everything just has me seething.

And there's not really a reason for it, or at least not one specific reason. An accumulation of discontentments, perhaps.

One thing is being angry (again!) at my Dad, and not saying anything to him about it because I have the misguided notion that being angry has no productive point to it. And also, because I have my reputation as the good, happy child to uphold (I'm the middle child, can you tell?).

One thing is that I'm bored spitless at my job but am too insecure and lazy to look for something different.

One thing is that I've been struggling with the customer service, hand-holding nature of said job and I've caught myself being ungenerous and curt to clients lately.

One thing is feeling judged on my female-ness lately. (Last week, at lunch with co-workers, my female colleagues were talking about their morning rituals. They all mentioned that they put on body lotion every day, religiously. When I mentioned that I never use lotion, they all looked at me with stupefaction, as if I'd broken some cardinal rule of womanhood: "thou must slather thyself with cream to stave off dryness and wrinkles upon pain of eternal damnation." Then, we were talking about our bathing habits -- whether we bathe in the mornings or evenings -- and I mentioned that I sometimes I go a few days without washing my hair or taking a shower, and again the cries of "what?!" and "why would you do that!?" rang loud above the lunchtime chatter. Likewise, last week I wore makeup for two days in a row and everyone exclaimed over it as if it were an historic event. Finally, this morning I brought in some homemade fudge cookies I'd made. Admittedly, they are a bit misshapen because I used too much batter for each cookie, but my co-workers went on and on about how weird they looked, teasing me about my cooking skills. Now, I open myself up for this teasing because I'm generally good-natured about my own failings and because I'm usually the first one to make fun of myself, but, oh!, I was pissed off this morning, feeling like I was going to cry over some damn cookies (so, to show them up I ended up eating like 12 of the cookies myself. Take that!))

So I think what this boils down to is a sense of being misunderstood, of being an outsider, a square peg for a round hole, for which I can only blame myself. After all, if I don't make an effort to speak up, then how are others supposed to know how I feel? Der.

And I'm sure getting back into a regular exercise routine would help, but I'm angry about that too because all I want to do when I come home is nap and nap and nap.

I decided to make a Gratitude list to help dispel some of this negativity.

I'm grateful for …

… my workhorse of a bicycle, and the coordinated pumping of my heart and lungs and legs and breath when I ride it

… the evolving understanding of myself provided by athletic pursuits, including the slow realization that I have a bonafide adventurous streak

… my love of water and the fun of playing in rivers and lakes

… my sweet and loving and wide-eyed niece and nephew

… sunshine and heat

… salsa music and afro/cuban/brazillian percussion rhythms

… a relative degree of financial security

… the middle-class luxury of having petty concerns

… a clean kitchen

… a peaceful apartment and old pine floors that glow in the late afternoon sun

… my mother and her blue eyes, which are exactly like my own, eyes which gently tell me she understands and accepts me

…. a branch library I can walk to and a desk clerk who recognizes me and will check the hold shelf without my asking to see if any new books have arrived for me

… my friend Jennibear in Dallas who listens to me complain and will play a knock-down, drag-out game of Scrabble with me whenever I visit

… blue gel pens

… a tall glass of water drained in a few, long swallows

… a gin and tonic with lime

…. bites of perfectly ripe cantaloupe

…. a purring kitty sleeping on my chest, her head tucked under my chin

Friday, June 24, 2005

Obsessive hypochondria du jour

This week I've run twice, each time for an hour. If someone had told me a few months ago that I'd be running voluntarily for an hour at a time I'd have called them crazy. Specifically, I might have said "you're smoking crack!"

So there's something going on with my right heel. Whenever I walk I have the sensation of a mild snapping, like someone's lightly flicking my heel with a rubber band. There's no popping sound, no swelling and no pain. But it is an annoying sensation, and it wigs me out because my basic anatomy knowledge tells me this area is near the achilles tendon, which as far as I'm concerned, would be a nightmare to injure.

I'm inclined to ignore it, but I'm posting here in case one of youse has ever felt anything similar.

On tap for this weekend: a bike food tour. I'm going to bike to a farmer's market and Italian deli, and then on to a bakery. I've developed something of a bread compulsion. You know that girl, at the bread aisle at the supermarket who stands there for ten minutes, blocking the aisle, picking up every loaf, muttering to herself, putting one in her cart, staring at it and then putting it back on the shelf? That's me.

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I must buy bread that has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Well, in perusing the backs of loaves recently, I've discovered that every single damn loaf sold at the supermarket has a gazillion ingredients, all including fructose or some sort of corn sweetener. You know, I'm not entirely on the "no processed foods" bandwagon, because I loves me some Doritos, but something about not being able to find bread with a simple ingredients list bugs me. After all, bread should just be flour, yeast, some sort of liquid, sugar and maybe a fat like butter or oil, right? Even the bakery bread at the supermarket had an ingredient list several inches long.

So since I can't cook worth a darn, I'm off to buy some fresh-baked, likely wildly expensive bread at an artisinal bakery.

Oh, and, yay Spurs! I live about two miles from downtown, and sleep with my windows open. At 11 p.m. last night a wall of sound began -- shouting, horns honking -- that was a bit eerie, floating to me through my window. The city really felt united, even this morning everyone is smiling and glowing -- how interesting it is that sports can make people feel part of a community, that it can generate such goodwill and satisfaction. I didn't even watch the game, but I'm grinning like a fool this morning.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Oh, the Drama!

I haven't run much in the last two weeks, partly due to the heat but also due to a falling out of sorts with my running coach. Some of you may recall that I had sneaking suspicions of a quid pro quo motive on his behalf back when we started running.

These suspicions were fueled by several dinner outings after our running sessions (dinners for which he insisted on paying), lots of hugs that sometimes included brief kisses on the neck and once, startingly, a slap of the ass, a few outings to shop for running shoes and meet his dogs, and the telling of many off-color jokes. I always get into this sort of trouble with guys -- I think they're being friendly, and because I have very little sense of what's appropriate and think of myself as being socially uninformed (I second guess myself, as in "maybe other people DO speak in double-entendres all the time" and "maybe touchy-feelyness IS more common than I realize"), and because I'm polite and pathologically conflict-adverse and to be honest, because flirting is fun, I always end up leading people on. This is not an attractive trait.

And as several of my male acquaintances have pointed out, men apparently never just want to be friends, which frankly, disappoints me and is something I refuse to believe.

At some point I had A Conversation with him about it, letting him know that I liked his company, but that's all I was interested in. I distinctly recall using the word "tease" and saying I didn't intend to be one. "That's fine," he says, "We're cool," he says. The original rate I paid him was to join the running club, but he was the one who told me I was too slow to run with the club and offered to run one-on-one with me, even though I hadn't paid him for it. Once I realized that his personal training rate was much higher, I asked him what he wanted me to pay him. He told me not to worry about it, accepted my second check for the reduced rate, and continued to schedule one-on-one sessions with me. I also told him that if he ever needed to bump my time slot for someone who was a fully paying customer, that all he needed to do was say so. He agreed.

Last week he leaves a message on my machine saying that he can no longer run with me because he has "spoiled" me and been too "generous" and there has been some sort of "miscommunication" since I'm not paying his full rate and what I paid was the amount only to run with the running club, not one-on-one with him.

I don't have any beef with him deciding not to continue one-on-one sessions. He has a right to be paid fairly for his time. What irks me is the implication that I haven't done my best to communicate with him and that I was somehow deviously taking advantage of his services. I'm ungenerous enough to believe that the real problem is that he finally realized I wasn't going to put out.

If I think about it, he's been giving me some subtle clues in the last few weeks -- doubling-up my runs with other customers, canceling sessions, etc…, but I'm not the most astute person. All he had to do was open his mouth and say something.

I left a very polite message in response, thanking him for his time and running advice, offering to continue volunteering at races and saying that I'd most likely join up with the running club in the next few weeks.

I'm not inclined to immediately go back to the club, though I eventually will. But not having those weekly running appointments is a problem. I'm not used to running alone anymore! What's more, I considered Coach a friend, and am sad that something's gone wrong.

The day-to-day task of communicating with people and maintaining relationships just exhausts me sometimes. Ugh.


I'm struggling a bit right now with a feeling that time is running out. I'm sure this is a side effect of turning 30. A recurring thought I've had lately is that I need to try on a new life. This life I have now -- living in this city, working this job, seeing these faces and sights and sounds -- I know this life. I've lived this life for awhile now, too long, maybe. I think I want a new one.

Earlier this year I wrote down three words in my paper journal: Passion. Rigor. Transcendence. Yeah, I know, there could be certain connotations to those words, but lets not take the lowbrow route, shall we?

I'd like to live day-to-day with more of a sense of engagement and involvement, of pleasure. I'd like to have more intellectual rigor in my life regarding global/moral issues, and less fixation on celebrity gossip. I'd like to have more moments of feeling transported beyond my daily mundane concerns, by some sort of creative activity, listening to live music, having a good conversation, being outdoors.

I know rationally that time isn't running out. I know that if I stay in good health, I have years and years of experiences ahead of me. I guess I just want to get started.

The catch is that I have a notoriously poor track record with making decisions or making changes. I am enormously comfortable with the familiar. I don't know how to get out of this pattern of thought, this inertia of intentions. I do know that I've had variations on these same thoughts for years and years, but have never done much to implement actual changes.

What can I do differently this time?


Lastly, here are some books I've read over the years that helped change in some important way how I thought about body image:

The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness by Kim Chernin
The Hungry Self: Women, Eating and Identity by Kim Cherni
Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo
Never Satisfied : A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies & Fat by Hillel Schwartz
The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes by Laurie Toby Edison
Zaftig: The Case for Curves by Edward St. Paige
Minding the Body by Patricia Foster
Losing It: False Hopes and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry by Laura Fraser
Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media by Susan Douglas
Adios, Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity by Ophira Edut

Monday, June 13, 2005

At the Top of Texas

I hiked to the highest point in Texas (the Guadalupe Peak) on Saturday, and today (Monday) I am still hobbling around and feeling like a pretzel, which is I suppose what happens when one kicks one's own ass. As promised, here are some photos. For those of you who are numerically inclined, the hike was 8.5 miles, the path gained 3000 feet in elevation, and the total hiking time was about 5 hours in mid-90 degree temperatures. The peak is at 8749 feet and ranks 14th in a listing of the highest peak in each state.

West Texas is mostly jackrabbits, scrub brush and flat as far as the eye can see, as evidenced near the base of the trail:

This is one of my favorite desert flowers, the pink cholla cactus:

I like pictures of plants, so here are some more:

Climbing, climbing, climbing. Note to self: when borrowing a backpack, remember that smaller is better and that the big packs with a gazillion straps only make you look like an overstuffed dork:

And then, the rocky desert terrain gave way to a remarkably perfumed pine forest:

Ladybugs are cute, aren't they? Well, when they swarm like this they are apparently cranky, because the little bitches can bite:

At the top! The pyramid was erected by American Airlines, whose pilots used the mountains as directional guidance. Anyway, to the left is New Mexico, to the right, Mexico, and straight back, salt flats:

A good time was had by all. Adventures are fun. I should have more of them.

So should you!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Brain dump … now downloading

I've read some great race reports in the last few days. Go read all about Lara's determination, VJ's marathon triumph, Dietgirl's very first race ever, and Lynne's seriously kick-ass adventure race.

I ran my own 5K this weekend. I wanted to do it because the route featured some inner-city murals. I ran with my camera, but it turns out it's pretty hard to run and take pictures, so I only got one shot. It was one of my favorites though. Here's a detail of a girl peeking at a piñata:

It was a muggy morning, and I ran 32:10, which is about a minute slower than my PR. After the race I went around to the front of the community center and took a picture of this tiled mural, made a few years back by a well-known local artist. It's a vela (candle) of the Virgin de Guadalupe; if I take the bus to work, it passes this vela and half the people on the bus cross themselves:

And then! Then! I won a door prize, which turned out to be one round-trip ticket to anywhere Southwest flies. Oh bejeesus. Let the agonizing begin!

Thanks for all the nice comments on my previous post. I forgot to add that I was inspired, in part, by this crazy video of cyclists riding in some real traffic. I can't say that the cyclists in the video are exactly, shall we say, following strict safety laws, but clearly that's part of the thrill.

I'm continuing to use the Sprint Tri plan as a loose guideline for my workouts, switching up days as needed. I also did a run last week using the Maffetone heart rate method, which essentially is intentional slow running with the goal of improving the aerobic/cardiovascular base. I like running slow because I have more consistent energy, but there is so much controversy about different heart rate training methods that I'm not sure if I'll use this one for any length of time.

The last few weekends have been full of the best kind of summer play! My bathing suit has become an essential part of my wardrobe suddenly. And while my Tri plan calls for lap swimming, absolutely nothing beats swimming out of doors, in lakes, rivers and outdoor pools. God, sunshine makes me so simply happy, it's ridiculous.

I can't say the cellulite on my ass makes me equally as happy, but I refuse to cover it up to spare the eyes of the public or to perpetuate the idea that an imperfect woman should hide her body. (An aside on cellulite: I don't understand it. I see some women who are much more overweight than I with the smoothest thighs and backsides. And my mom doesn't have any. But you could probably take all the dimples on my thighs and ass and string them together and circle the globe for, well, a foot or so, but still, it's a lot. I don't think any amount of exercise will ever get rid of it, so I'm working on making peace. Though, I would kill to get my hands on a copy of a photo of Sophia Loren that I recently read about, in which her skirt had accidentally blown up and her pasta-loving, olive-oil slurping thighs were on display.)

I went tubing on Memorial Day. Y'all know what tubing is, right? Somehow I figured Texans invented it or something, but I'm sure people near other rivers have figured out the joys of flopping in a tube with some beer and floating down a river. The best part was getting out of the tube and kicking across some strong currents a few times -- I loved the physical challenge of it and how my heart pumped.

I went sailing this weekend with my Dad and niece on Dad's little two-person boat. I asked Dad to teach me how to sail, because I feel in some way that the skill set of my parents and grandparents will die out if I don't make an effort to learn some of these things. My dad grew up sailing on lakes in Minneapolis, but none of us know how. Just like none of know how to fish or recite limericks or poetry or sing the Norwegian national anthem or make preserves or cook without recipes or sew or cuss in Slovak. (Since I've turned 30 I've been feeling this panicked nostalgia for my extended family, none of whom I grew up near. When my parents die, will I ever have contact again with any of my aunts and uncles or cousins, most of whom I barely know? Will I be alone in the world? I suppose if it's important to me, I need to initiate some sort of ongoing contact with them.)

Regardless, the math involved in sailing absolutely defeats me. Dad will say something like, "you see how we're sailing at a 45 degree angle into the wind?" and nothing in that sentence will remotely make sense to me. I can't see the wind, and if I could figure out which direction it was blowing, there's no way I'm going to be able to visualize angles in my head and then steer the boat and change the sails, etc….I need sailing instruction for the spatially challenged.

All this outdoor activity has meant that I've had the opportunity to watch a lot of young girls in their swimsuits and mourn for my pre-pubescent self. I swear little girls are pure muscle and so free with their bodies. They exist to play and run. They are frankly stunning.

Unlike most of my female friends, I don't have any strong memories of my own puberty. I don't remember when I got breasts or body hair or when the hair on my head went from straight to wavy. It just seemed to happen. But I do remember when I started to wear shirts over my swimsuit and stopped thinking that climbing a fence with the neighborhood kids was the height of fun. Probably around 6th or 7th grade.

I hope I can shield my niece in someway from that complete dis-identification with her body.

One symptom that you are hopelessly bored with your job: an alarming increase in the time spent surfing for celebrity gossip and/or ordering trashy romance novels through the library's interlibrary loan system.

A guy on the bus last week said to me "I just have to tell you, in case you didn't know, that you are one fabulous babe." The fabulous part redeemed his drunken ass in my eyes.

My parents finally moved out of my childhood home this weekend. I forced everyone into a circle in the living room during the packing and admist much eye rolling, guided them through this brief activity (just the first bit, not the sage bit). I'm glad we did it, marking the transition somehow, because everyone has been a bit too practical for my tastes about the whole change. I really expected my father, who is a minister, to say some sort of prayer or blessing at some point, but I honestly think he's so keen on getting out of town and away from the various financial disasters that are my brother's and sister's lives that he has deliberately distanced himself from any feelings of sadness he may have about the move.

I know it's cheesy and all, but it made me realize that I wish there was some more ritual in my life. One of the dance workshops I went to a few weekends ago included a ritualistic choreography that I really enjoyed. The instructor taught us a basic choreography that represented sharing and collecting our own energy -- sort of like Tai Chi. Then we had to come up with three moves on our own that represented who we have been, who we are now, and who we want to be. The instructor turned on some music and the women in the class began walking around the room. Each time you made eye contact with another woman, you showed her one of your personal gestures and she showed you hers, and you moved on until you had shown someone all three of your private gestures before going into the energy choreography.

Even though you didn't know what the other women's gestures meant to them personally, it was a very interesting to wordlessly communicate something to someone and have them accept it unconditionally. It was like we each were greeting something important in the other.

A residual bonus of my parent's move is that I now have a microwave for the first time in years. O god, the things I can now cook! The timing couldn't be better, as my kitchen has no AC and summers are always a bitch in terms of cooking.

My mother also bought me a yogurt maker for my birthday. Of course, this just gives me an excuse to make full-fat yogurt, as a higher fat content in dairy makes it easier to digest. Lactose intolerance, screw you I say!

I have been gaining weight. Hmph. Not sure how I feel about this as I am not dieting, and don't have plans to diet even though I'd like to lose some weight (yeah, you figure that one out too), but I'd like to at least stay at my current weight. I've been eating homemade granola for the past month for breakfast. Maybe that's the culprit?

I have decided, though, to try and track my food for the next three weeks as an experiment, to get an idea of what the heck I actually do eat.

Finally, I'm going hiking this weekend. Texas is so freakin' huge, that I'm going to be driving with some people 8-10 hours (one way!) and still be in Texas. I envy those of you who live in itty-bitty states. I'm going to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park to climb the highest peak in Texas. There will, of course, be pictures.