Progress is Nice

With one thing and another I went a full week without doing Crossfit.  I was out of town, then sick, so it was Wednesday this week when I got back into the swing of things.  Anytime I miss more than once in a week, I feel like I have backpedaled.  It is worse if I am out sick for a week or two, being sick is hard on the body, plus the time missed, so it always feels more challenging.  Technically, while I was sick, I only missed about two sessions, so that was good.

On Wednesday, my trainer let me pick between two equally arduous looking WoD’s and I chose the one with a bit more running because that is where I need work.  I try to choose what will be the harder option, however, this time I think the running was the easier option – if your choice is running or cleans, pick running.  WAY easier.  The WoD was run across the field, back pedal (run backwards) to where you started, 5 burpees, 10 sit-ups, 15 mountain climbers – 10 rounds.

The reason this is a pretty big deal is that I do not think I’ve done 10 rounds in a WoD before and it was one of the WoD’s on the board.  This means it was one that the rest of the gym was doing as well.  Our trainer has been creating WoD’s for us and sometimes it is the same as what the gym is doing, other times it is a modification of what they are doing, and usually it is something tailored to us or a psychotic creation we are guinea pigs for (those are my favorites).  But on Wednesday, I did the WoD the rest of the gym did, even though it was 10 rounds, and Scott did not scale it back.  Slowly but surely I am making way up to the big kids table in Crossfit.  One day I will RX these puppies from beginning to end….

After I finished – and I finished!  Hooray!  I did 10 rounds!!  Major accomplishment right there – Scott went over some of the WoD’s we did, or more correctly, failed to do, when we first started.  He even put notes in the margin on ones we were not able to finish, or when ones were too hard.  There was one where we were doing front squats with a PVC pipe that I apparently couldn’t complete, which I find quite amazing now, but this is the reason he tailored so many of the WoD’s to us specifically. There for a while simply finishing a WoD was huge accomplishment and I would grin like a fool if I did what he wrote on the board for us because I was just so happy to complete it.  Now, I kind of smile but mostly just try to breathe.  The WoD’s got harder…

Part of what kept me coming back was always being able to do a little bit more and the constant encouragement of our trainer.  He never disparaged us or made fun of us or embarrassed us in any way for being so completely out of shape.  Will was never as bad as I was, but I was abysmal.  I initially walked into Crossfit Simple feeling embarrassed and was pretty ready to take whatever hits came my way, but always walked out feeling pretty confident and happy with no one having put me down.  After many failed attempts other places (SIU Rec, I’m looking at you) I simply cannot be happier with how nice everyone at Crossfit Simple has been and continues to be.

Even though I have lost a significant amount of weight, I still have a ways to go.  Sometimes I focus more on what I have yet to accomplish and less on what I have already accomplished and this week has been like that. Progress happens, but it is slow, and I lack patience quite often.  Call me Veruca Salt, don’t care how, I want it now.

Today, the WoD was holding a 45 pound barbell in the rack position while stepping up on a 12″ box (I kind of wonder if these were supposed to be box jumps, but if you make me hold something and jump simultaneously, I just fall over) then dips, then dumbbell pushpress, 21-15-9 reps, while running a lap in between each set of reps.  I am still not really great at running, although I am practicing and have signed up for 2 different 5K’s over the next two months to motivate myself to practice running on my own more.  However, going from running to stepping up on a box (“It’s easy.  It’s just walking,” our trainer kept saying, mischievous evil glinting in his eyes) really winded me.  I managed to do it all in 13:07 minutes, which I was happy with, but want to try to beat it by several minutes next time.

My epiphany of the day was that doing step ups with a 45 pound bar was really hard.  The first 10 were easy, but the rest were not.  Then I thought, “I’ve lost 60 pounds so far.  I used to just carry this 45 pounds, plus an extra 15, around on my person.  No wonder I was slow and tired a lot.  This thing is heavy!”  The step ups continued to suck and be hard, but I was much happier about them.  It made a lot of sense that I did not start out jumping on a box, but rather jump a few inches on a weight instead.  I am now curious how high I will be able to jump when I lose another 40 pounds.  I bet it is higher than my current 12″ box jump.

People who love Crossfit, I think love it for a variety of reasons, but for me one of the most solid and pleasurable reasons for love of Crossfit is tangible results at pretty much every stage.

You get better.  You get faster.  You get stronger.

You can always work on getting better, faster, and stronger.

Sometimes simply finishing a WoD is a huge accomplishment, like the 10 rounds on Wednesday, and other times it is lifting a heavier weight (new Personal Record, or PR, today for cleans!  103!  Happy dance!), and still others it is seeing how far you’ve come since you started.  I think that sometimes the weeks where actually getting to the gym and getting in the mindset of working are the hardest, you feel the biggest sense of accomplishment.

That said, I am going to be running a lot more over the next few months and I hope next time I do this workout, I can get 10:00 minutes or under.

Music of the Heart

Music moves me.  Sometimes it annoys me.  It can make me cry or dance or sing or laugh or <fill in the blank with an infinite number of actions and emotions>.  I know that if I have a really great playlist, I can walk forever or get the entire house clean because I want to hear the next song on the list.  I have often cleaned my entire house while listening to Chess, Les Miserables, or Phantom of the Opera.  Lord knows I tried to like Rent, but even though I listened to it several times, the clanginess of the music was irritating.  Since marrying Will, I’ve also listened to Jesus Christ Superstar and learned to appreciate its 60’s sound and its poignancy.  Although, the first time I heard it I merely thought, “Piercing.  Ow.”

While listening to music, I have often thought about how if Will ever dies, I may never be able to listen to my favorite songs ever again.  Will loves music as much as I do, and he is less picky than I am.  What Will and I have bonded over with music (other than everything about it) is mainly lyrics.  Will and I like words.  We like how words are put together when they are put together cleverly.  This means that lyrics are intrinsic to our enjoyment of songs.  This also means that he and I have talked about and deconstructed many song lyrics in the years we’ve been together.

After the first 2 years we were together we did not have a song, but many songs.

“Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles is a great song in and of itself, but we both love the line “he was brutally handsome, and she was terminally pretty”.  You know, right there with that brilliant bit of wordsmithing that this relationship is not going to go well, but also the combination of brutally handsome and terminally pretty is just fantastic.  It says a lot while saying very little.  Therefore, every time I hear this song, and that line in particular, I think of Will.

For all of my Generation X people who were raised with certain iconic images, in the movie Say Anything, John Cusack holds up a boombox while playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and this song also makes me think of Will for a variety of reasons.  Back in the day when I would drive for pleasure and for escape, before gas prices became a nightmare, back when you could get a half tank of gas for $5, I would buy a pack of smokes, some gas and just drive around listening to mixed tapes.  Thus “In Your Eyes” speaks to me on many levels, but most especially “When I want to run away, I drive off in my car, but whichever way I go, I come back to the place you are” because I would drive off and inevitably end up where Will happened to be.  I never planned for it and sometimes I was even driving away from him when we would have a fight or something, but he was always my destination.

Later on, when gas was not so cheap and I was working full-time and going to school full-time and somehow still not making ends meet, I would listen to “In Your Eyes” and the lyrics I identified with, both because of how hard Will worked as well as because of how hard I worked was “I get so tired of working so hard for our survival.  I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.”  Life can be hard and sometimes just knowing there is someone going through the hard with you makes it worthwhile.

The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” has too many great lyrical moments to count, but this is another one that makes me think of Will.  Both because of his intense hatred for the travesty that was Limp Bizkit’s version as well as his love for the original.  “If I swallow anything evil, put your fingers down my throat….”  “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas makes me think of Will as we both love the song, but especially the lines: “Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man.  Though my mind could think I still was a mad man,” as well as “Masquerading as a man with a reason.  My charade is the event of the season.  And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know.”

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot was a song I had never heard prior to being with Will.  On a trip up to Alton we listened to it, and I cried for the loss of life it described – the men died and they died hungry, which just seemed worse to me somehow.  Will also teared up a bit and one of my friends who was riding with us said from the back seat, “You are both &%$ing crazy, you know that, right?”  She thought us crazy, but we thought her callous.  The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

Another song I did not really know prior to Will was Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and Will loves that song so much that for me, it is intrinsically his song.

A song that used to make me think of my mother, but now makes me think of Will is the Beatles “In My Life”.  Really the entire song describes how I feel about Will, but rather than bore you with the entire song’s lyrics, the highlight is “Out of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you and these memories lose their meaning, when I think of love as something new.  Though I know I’ll never lose affection, for people and things that went before.  I know I’ll often stop and think about them, in my life, I love you more.”  When I was a kid, I kind of thought these lyrics were a little mean spirited.  Way to dis on all of your friends and memories, but as an adult I know exactly what those lines mean.

Most recently, we were listening to Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and I was telling Will I could make a good argument for this song being about a vampire.  “Come one, Will, ‘I’ll give you my dawn surprise?  Be with you until the stars are falling?’  He is clearly a vampire as he has ‘waited so long’ and is apparently going to live forever.”  Then the next song that came on was “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns and Roses and Will went on a tangent of silliness about how this song, too, could be about a vampire.  He made a good argument, although I think he was trying to highlight my silliness with Cream’s song.  We decided that given enough time we could make almost any song about vampires and then left it at that.

When it comes to musicals, part of why I love Chess is because the unabashed arrogance of the characters makes Will laugh.  “One Night in Bangkok” is a song from Chess that showcases some of this arrogance, “One town’s very like another when your head’s down over your pieces brother.  I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine. I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating, I’d let you watch, I would invite you, But the queens we use would not excite you.  So you better go back to your bars, your temples …your massage
parlours –”  Also, the double entendres that the game of chess lends to the song is really quite fun – Will loves puns.

Les Miserables reminds of Will because Will simply loves Javert.  I never liked Javert, but Will thinks he’s great.  Also, Will enjoys the beginning when the Jean Valjean steals from the Bishop and is immediately captured by the police.  The Bishop tells the police that he did make a gift of the silver Jean Valjean stole and then he says to Jean Valjean: “But remember this, my brother, See in this some higher plan, You must use this precious silver, To become an honest man.  By the witness of the martyrs, By the Passion and the Blood, God has raised you out of darkness – I have bought your soul for God” and this worked as Jean Valjean then does become an honest man.  There is Fantine’s song “I Dreamed a Dream” where she sings “but the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder” which Will and I have talked of extensively.  Then my favorite line from the musical is at the end, as Jean Valjean is on his death bed – “Take my hand, And lead me to salvation. Take my love, For love is everlasting.  And remember the truth that once was spoken, To love another person is to see the face of God.”

There are hundreds of songs that make me think of Will, these are just a smattering.  “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones, “Darling be Home Soon” by Matt Costa, “Space Lord” by Monster magnet, “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche, “Black” by Pearl Jam, “Wish You Were Here” by both Pink Floyd and Rasputina (this song has some simply fantastic lyrics – “did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts  Hot ashes for trees Hot air for a cool breeze  Cold comfort for change  Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”) “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Nirvana (Will actually wrote a short story called “In the Pines”), “Renegade” by Styx, “We Belong” by Pat Benatar, “Burn,” “Hot, Hot, Hot,” “Just Like Heaven” and “How Beautiful You Are” by the Cure (I made him listen to a LOT of songs by The Cure), “One” by Metallica, “When I Grow Up” and “The Trick is to Keep Breathing” by Garbage and I could go on and on and on.

There are two songs I particularly like that I will end with. The first one is by The Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place” and it was introduced to me by some really good friends.   I then stole it for myself and my life, but as many people can have a song, I am sure they do not mind.  I am putting the entire song here, but bolding the parts I like the best:

Home is where i want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(so i) guess i must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok i know nothing’s wrong . . nothing

Hi yo i got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up + say goodnight . . . say goodnight

Home – is where i want to be
But i guess i’m already there
I come home – -she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from another
Did i find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this where i’ll be . . . where i’ll be

Hi yo we drift in and out
Hi yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I’m just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till i’m dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head ah ooh

The second is by Tom Petty – “Alright for Now”

Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love
May God watch over you from above
Tomorrow I’m workin’ what would I do
I’d be lost and lonely if not for you

So close your eyes
We’re alright for now

I’ve spent my life travelin’
I’ve spent my life free
I could not repay all you’ve done for me

So sleep tight baby
Unfurrow your brow
And know I love you
We’re alright for now

 

 

 

Bad Dreams and Husbands – Or, Love the Will

I like being married.  I keep waiting to get sick of my husband, but that hasn’t happened, yet.  It is kind of odd, because lord knows he can be annoying, but I usually find him funny when he is being annoying, so it all works out somehow.

I have bad dreams.  Not all the time or always, but fairly frequently.  When we first got together, I had bad dreams on a pretty regular basis.  During these dreams, I usually wake myself up trying to scream.  For some reason, my dreams are like that old Abbott and Costello movie, where the scary monsters come but for some reason I cannot actually scream for help.  It comes out as a whisper – this is because I am asleep, but I don’t usually realize that – so my screams start off as a whisper and generally get louder and louder as I get my breath.  When I finally do end up screaming, I usually wake myself up.

When Will and I got together, I would have these dreams, but I never really got to the screaming portion because I would wake him up and he would shake me awake.  He became good enough at this technique, that I would get to the barely above whisper portion of yelling, he would nudge me a few times to snap me out of the dream and we would both fall back asleep before we were aware that we were awake.

However, lately I have been going to bed much earlier than Will, so I have plenty of time to get to yelling myself awake.  The other night I went to bed while he was still at his parent’s house, and had one of the dreams where I scream myself awake, but instead of getting to the screaming, Will shook me awake.  It was like a little miracle.  He had apparently arrived home a few minutes before and heard me yelling, and came into the bedroom to wake me up.

It was vastly comforting.  Will is wonderful at being comforting.  And sarcastic, but that is for a different post.

I asked him how long he’d been home and he said not long.  I asked if he walked in the door and heard me and he said that no, had that been the case he probably would have come rushing into the bedroom much more quickly and with weapons.  This was also comforting.

One of the things I like about being married is the interweaving of my life and habits with Will’s life and habits.  This includes weird sleeping habits.  Even if he does accuse me of being a cover or blanket anarchist.  Honestly, I have no idea how the blankets go sideways and end up weirdly rolled together.  I blame gnomes.  Will seems to think that it isn’t gnomes, but rather something I do.  Poor paranoid man.  It’s gnomes.

Many times upon getting into bed with Will, even if he is asleep, he will curl around me, or I will find myself surrounded by his arms and possibly a leg or two wrapped around mine.  It is immobilizing but comfortable.  We watched a video about this octopus that they put in a tank with sharks – they were initially worried about the octopus, but it turns out that an octopus can eat a shark (depending on size, type, etc).  They just put all 8 arms around the shark and swallow it up.  I apparently do the same immobilizing arm and leg wrap to Will when he comes to bed.  He describes this as “You were all like ‘MY shark’ when I came to bed last night.”

It is annoying to have bad dreams, however, they allow Will to shine and be heroic, if only on a small scale, but in my mind life is a series of mundane, small scale happenings.  Being heroic in the mundane, small scale things means that a person is pretty heroic in life.

Continued Weight Loss, Or, Crossfit is Awesome

I keep losing weight.  I’ve been a bit worried the past few weeks because the weight loss slowed from a steady pound a week to more of a half a pound a week, then one week with just maintaining my weight.  However, I have been a bit more of a cheater with non-primal foods lately or eating a bit too much fruit, so it is just a matter of refocusing on eating the things that I know are good and having less flings with bad foods.  Weight loss decreasing when you cheat on your diet – who knew, right?

That said, as of today I have lost 60 pounds since I started at Crossfit.  I am rapidly approaching a point where my husband says I need to pay less attention to the scale – I think he is hoping I will transform into She-Hulk or the chick from the movie Nemesis 2 or something – as muscle weighs more, but I still have quite enough flab that we are not quite to that point yet.  However, I have been keeping track of the inches lost as well for when that point does occur.

                  Starting Inches            Current Inches                 Inches Lost

Chest                 47.5                              41.5                                           6

Waist                 44                                 35.5                                           8.5

Hips                   50                                 44.5                                           5.5

Neck                   15                                 13.75                                         1.25

Upper Arms      16.5                              15                                              1.5

Thigh                  31                                 26                                             5

Altogether that is 27.75 inches lost, which I am pretty pleased with.

I’ve been doing the primal diet (which is basically paleo but I get to drink milk, which I have been craving since I started changing my way of eating) for 21 weeks and when I started I weighed 206 and today I weigh 186.  So in 21 weeks, I’ve lost 20 pounds, which makes me pretty happy.  Now, some of those weeks I was stalled (apparently you shouldn’t eat four apples a day) and some weeks I lost more than one pound, but for the past two months or so it has been pretty steadily a one week, one pound kind of deal.

Also, the benefits of eating this way have helped my digestive system be much more behaved.  I was diagnosed with IBS years and years ago, and then I was told I couldn’t really have dairy or much fat or red meat.  Well, since switching to eating paleo/primal most of these digestive issues have gone away unless I eat processed foods or breads or things that are not really allowed on the diet.  Since there is no shortage of meat, dairy, or fat in my diet (although good fats like avocadoes, eggs, olive oil, etc) but my IBS is all but gone, I am going with the doctors may not have diagnosed me correctly there.  Maybe I just have trouble digesting processed junk – of which I used to eat a lot.  Will and I looked at the calorie content of one of these ring-shaped lemon cakes at Kroger that I used to buy frequently, and the entire thing was around 4000 calories.  No wonder we gained so much weight and never lost it.

Always read the nutritional label.  It should scare you into eating healthy.

I also need new clothes.  I got a few new shirts today, but since the weight loss is steady, I do not want to waste too much money on clothes that are going to be transitory.  However, I need new bras.  I normally buy bras online – they give you a guide for measuring so you order the right size.  The last time I ordered I was down to D cup – and I’d been a DD for a LONG, LONG time before that.  Today it said I was a C.  I cannot quite wrap my head around that.  I am opting to not order any online, but rather go somewhere so I can try them on, because I cannot quite believe that I am a C cup now.

The thing is, I hate shopping for clothes.  I like getting and having new clothes and shoes, but going to a store, looking through all of the store crap, trying things on to determine what size you happen to be in this particular store (sizes do not seem to be uniform anymore), and then paying for everything is just tedious and annoying.  I like to find a shirt or pants that fit, then buy a couple pairs – maybe in different colors if it is shirts – and then go home.  Then never do it again until the clothes become rag like.  Because shopping is no fun.  I feel the same way about shoes, but tomorrow I think I will force myself to get a pair of the barefoot running shoes I want.  I meant to go today, but then remembered I hated shoe shopping so I didn’t bother.

Nattering about shopping aside, the point is that this Crossfit, yoga, paleo/primal thing works.  I have not, as an adult, ever weighed so little.  I am constantly amazed at the numbers on the scale decreasing week by week.  21 weeks is a good long time to sustain something like this, so in my opinion, this stuff works long term if you put in the effort.  And this is where I give a huge thanks and shout out to Crossfit Simple in Carbondale, for putting me on the right track, for answering lots and lots and lots of questions, and for generally being around to help people like me get fit and healthy.  You guys rock!

Our Crossfit Trainer Rocks

One of the best things about Crossfit is that every day it is something different.  Our trainer comes up with some of the best WoD’s.  I know that if he if tells us that he is using us as guinea pigs for a WoD it is going to be a fun one.

Those are usually Will’s favorite ones as well, because you are constantly moving, doing something different, and they are also kind of hilarious, too.  Bear crawls and broad jumps often turn into bear crawls and bunny hops which are pretty funny after a certain point.

Our trainer came up with one WoD where everything we did was a surprise.  Basically, he had us get the equipment out for a variety of exercises, but did not tell us how many of what we were doing, or in what order.  He would let us know right after we completed one exercise what the next was.  It was a fun WoD and one where we did a million different exercises.  He said that normally WoD’s focus on a specific muscle group but that occasionally it was good to do a variety.

Another one we did was 15 dips, bear crawled across the indoor field at our gym, then we did 15 hand stand push-ups (I kneel on a box for these to prevent breaking my neck or taking twenty years to complete), long jumped back across the field, did 15 push presses, bear crawled across the field for 75 sit-ups and then long jumped back for 150 jump ropes.  Round two was the same only with 10 dips, hand stand pushups, and push presses, 50 sit-ups, and 100 jump ropes.

There was one he had us do that was really cool.  Again, set up on the field, instead of going across, he had us go around.  At each quarter of the field, we would do a different exercise.  To get to that part of the field we would bear crawl, do walking lunges, run, or something else pretty fun.  The “station” type of work out is usually interesting enough that you don’t realize how much it is kicking your butt.

Yesterday we did a partner Fran.  Fran is named workout, which is usually a sign that it will be difficult.  You do 21-15-9 reps of thrusters and then pull-ups.  For the partner WoD of this, I did 21 thrusters, waited while Will did his, then I did 21 pullups, waited while Will did his, then I did 15 thrusters … you get the idea.  It was very fun and our trainer said that we probably worked harder this way as we knew we were getting a rest in between.  I know that I worked harder because I knew I would have a bit of a breather in between reps.  You can push yourself pretty far if you know in advance that you will get time to catch your breath.  Well, almost catch your breath.

I think part of the reason Crossfit works so well for Will and I is that we never get bored.  Sometimes I look at the board and see what we are expected to do and think, “Seriously?!” but we always manage to do it, so that incredulity has worn off for the most part.  Partly because when I look at the board and think that it is going to be a simple one, it tends to be a real challenge.  I have no real gauge on these things, yet.  Fran looks easy as it is only two movements 21-15-9, but your arms start to noodle, and if you do them quickly, which is part of the point, you can really end up feeling it.  With Crossfit, if it looks easy, it often isn’t.

Middle School Harassment – How My Past Informed My Present

The other night, Will and I were talking about going to my 20 year high school reunion.  I was telling him how I was thinking about opting out of it, mainly because there is one person I am afraid Will is going to punch.  Will did not dissuade me from thinking this and admitted to it being a real possibility.

Part of the problem is my fault.  I have made this habit of telling Will everything and not really considering the ramifications of doing so.  I forgot entirely that what with spouses coming along to things like reunions he may meet some of the people I’ve spoken about.  And he may dislike them intensely.

In middle school, I was one of the unfortunate girls to develop early.  I was in a C cup by 5th grade.  Now, I’ve spoken with some other women I went to school with prior to writing this blog, and those that didn’t develop early were treated to cruelty as well, so I guess the Buffy the Vampire Slayer metaphor of school being hell holds true – none of us really had it easy.

That said, I can only really speak to my own experience, and my experience in walking down the hallways, especially in 7th and 8th grade was that of being grabbed a lot.  There was a group of boys, but two of them being fairly predominant in this, that would simply grab the girls breasts and butts.  It got so that most of us would walk with books tightly clasped to our chest so that the breast were not gropable.  This did leave the back side exposed, but at a certain point you just deal with ass grabbing as a normal part of life and move on.  This was such a common thing in life, that I didn’t really even think much of it – it was just this hellishly maddening thing all of us went through and we were all furious about it, but it was our normal day and we were too young to realize that it was not normal.  I was in middle school over 20 years ago, and sexual harassment and issues of that nature were not really a part of the day to day consciousness.

We did fight back.  This group of boys would try to grope us with one hand while they protected their privates with the other hand as we did try to kick them and fight back.  I think in their deranged little minds they thought this was us flirting and not us being angry and wanting to do them harm.  One of these boys even wore a cup occasionally.  He thought he was clever.

I had the lucky fortune to sit in front of one of the boys during English class and most of English was pretty horrible because he was pretty horrible.  One day he even grabbed me from behind, cupping both breasts in his hands.  The teacher saw him doing this and she laughed.  She was friends with one of the other kid’s mom, and I heard through the grape vine that she thought I was precocious, which really is middle school speak for slut.  That is ok, I thought she was horrible person who should never have been allowed to teach, so we will never be in a mutual admiration society together.

This wasn’t something I ever discussed with my parents because it was part of my day in day out life in middle school, and since I wasn’t alone I thought it was normal.  It was until I married Will and talked to him about it – as just a part of growing up in my mind – that I was informed that it was NOT normal and was actually pretty horrible.

Now, these pasts incidents inform my present self in many ways.  The first way deals with weight issues.  Part of the problem with me being overweight was I ate the wrong things, never exercised, and generally speaking had a pretty unhealthy lifestyle.  However, there was a starting point for these behaviors and that point came when I started to hate my body and feel separate from it.  I think somewhere in my subconscious mind, I thought if I was fat, then I would be safe from the unwanted and often forced attentions of men.  Undoing that mental barrier was one of the hardest parts of weight loss for me, because I would fail over and over and over again because there was a part of my mind that felt fat = safe.  Luckily, I have lots of experience in recognizing when I need outside help, and I have no problem going to counselors and others to help me get over different mental barriers.  I got past that one, after a 4 month plateau in my weight loss, but I started to wonder how many people are overweight because of similar issues?  I know of few friends and acquaintances can pinpoint when they had their weight gain to similar incidents of varying intensity and I wonder how many women and men are overweight because they feel it brings them a measure of control and safety?

I have started to really like my body – not in a vain “look how gorgeous I am” sort of way – but in a way where I appreciate my body’s efficiency, functions, and adaptability.  Through Crossfit, my body has learned to do all manner of physical things, my balance has improved, my aim when throwing something has improved, I can catch things now, I have stamina to explore paths not taken, and generally speaking my body actually does a good job of improving on itself every day, which gives me more freedom and joy every day.  It is amazing to me.  I appreciate all of the things that my body does for me and all of the ways in which, if I treat it right, it helps me out.  Making peace with my body and learning to appreciate it and enjoy it has been this miraculous process for me, as I was never what anyone would call athletic.  But I know that someday I will be.  That is a good thing to have on the horizon.

I’ve also moved past this mind/body dissociative split I have dealt with for a while.  I am more in tune with my body and I feel like instead of me being this puppeteer of a meat suit, I am this total person of mind, body, and spirit.  Can I get another hooray for the miracle of Crossfit?

Another way this past informs my present – I consider myself a feminist.  People tell me that I should be a humanist or that there is no need for feminism anymore, but I disagree.  Women are still harassed, women are still given a hard time simply for being feminists, and women are still abused and raped.  As long as we have those issues going on, I will be a feminist.

One of the boys who did many of these groping things was friends with many of my friends.  I asked one of my friends why he continued to be friends with someone who did all of the horrible things to women this guy was known to do and he said that while he may not be a good guy with women, with men he was a lot of fun and great guy to hang out with.  At the time, that explanation made sense.  As an adult, I can read it as, well, as long as you are not considering half of the population, he’s a great guy.

However, that half of the population is where I live, therefore, it matters to me that he isn’t a great guy.  As long as guys ignore the ill behavior of other guys because “that only matters if you are female”, then feminism is needed.

As long as I worry about publishing a blog post like this for fear of fallout, then feminism is needed.

I also firmly believe in counseling.  I wish that there was free counseling for all because it really can be so helpful to people.  I have gone periodically over the course of my life and it really keeps me moving forward with my life.  I think that living in this world can be a challenge and very few to none of us can get through it unscathed.  It helps to work through things with a counselor, because a lot of times that is the best way to break cycles of behavior that are actually harmful coping mechanisms.

Ok, I promise the blog will not be a heavy one.  I just get tired sometimes of people thinking that being fat is a problem with one straight forward solution.  There are often many mental and emotional reasons people behave the way they do and sometimes I think it should be said that some of these over weight issues are just broken defense mechanisms at play.

A Cursed Path

Yesterday, Will, Jen, and I went hiking and it was a day of firsts.  The first place we went was Inspiration Point, a place I was happy to see for the first time.  It is simply beautiful and breath-taking there.  It is up on the bluffs (oh, bluffs, how I miss your great heights over the Mississippi!) less than 15 minutes away from my house.  You can see forever, it was a wonderfully windy and cloudy day, turkey vultures were circling overhead hoping we would fall and provide a snack.

Our fearless guide, Jen
Will, of course, found a cave. In like, five minutes.
This is a very cool little twisted tree. There were a couple of them up there, with twisted roots and trunks.

Inspiration Point was appropriately breath-taking and beautiful.  There is not much of a hike to the point, a fairly straight forward, maybe five minute path leads you right there.  I think I know where I am going to be spending a lot of my time this fall.  I loved being up high, being on the bluffs, and it was breath taking.  Literally – I think the adrenaline I got from being up high so long stole my breath there for a while.  It was great fun and I could have just sat and hung out there all day.

We get back to the car and as we are deciding where to go next, Will asks where the road uphill leads to.  Jen didn’t know so we drove to find out.

Most of the outings Will, Jen, and I have been on so far we fly by the seat of our pants.  What is that way?  We don’t know, so let’s go find out!  Whee!

I like to explore areas and roads I have never been on.  I love back roads and I like to know how everything is connected.  Luckily, Will and Jen seem to enjoy the same kind of thing.

Thus, we find ourselves on the Cursed Trail.  We get out at this area that is really part of the River to River Trail.  There was not a name on this trail that we noticed, but the description talked of a creek, and we thought it would be fun to hike to a creek as we had scads of time, seeing as it was only 1:00.

The first part of the trail, while muddy, was fine.  I slipped in the mud, but that is to be expected, mud is slippery.  Then we came to a fork in the path – we could take the King Hollow trail or the Clear Spring trail.  We took Clear Spring trail, the path that looked less traveled, and yes it made all the difference.  Not a good difference, mind you, but a difference.

Since the rain finally decided to give Southern Illinois relief from this horrible drought, it was muddy, wet, and the mosquitoes were insane.  I have been spoiled this summer because of the lack of mosquitoes everywhere – they are still around, but not in man eating droves like they usually are.  They were out in man eating droves yesterday.  For most of our hike there were swarms around each of our heads and a kind of constant high-pitched humming occurring.  It was very frustrating.  I really think that if I had been better prepared to fight off mosquitoes, I would have been a lot happier on this trail, but the Harrison Bergeron noise distraction of constant humming was really a demoralizing factor for me.

Jen had this really nifty, light weight, comparatively short machete that Will made good use of.  Most of this trail that we traveled, this Cursed Clear Spring Trail, had vines and grasses that were about the height of my waist, although in some places it was chest height.  I am short, so this probably means that the grass/weeds were about 4 feet tall.  I felt like a hobbit for most of this journey, as I was short, and the mosquitoes seemed to enjoy me (“What do they eat when they can’t get hobbit?”).  I once had a never list – things I never wanted to do and hike in grass up to my arm pits was one of them.  However, that never list was made when I was a lot more overweight than I currently and when I was ten thousand times more out of shape, so I consider it obsolete.  Part of the joy for me of this miserable trail was that I was able to go on it at all.  I didn’t take one look at the trail and say, “Have fun, I will meet you at the car!”  Something I would have done in the past.

The initial part of the trail, before we got to the Cursed Clear Spring Trail, took us maybe 10-15 minutes.  The Cursed Trail we hiked for 2 hours and 10 minutes.  In that time, Will cut himself twice with Jen’s machete, once on the backswing, but her nifty machete has a serrated edge on the opposite side, so it bit Will.  Will pulled up his socks (he was in shorts) to catch the bleeding from one of these wounds.  I kind of hoped his blood would attract my mosquitoes but alas, there were plenty of mosquitoes for all to share.  There were several large areas of downed trees and vines, lots and lots of poison ivy, and lots and lots of thorny vines that somehow sensed that my capri pants had a two inch opening in between the pant leg and the socks. My ankles were fairly well sawed on by vines with thorns.  Nasty buggers.

However, my misery could not compare to Jen or Will’s who were both wearing shorts and walking the same trail of evil.  When Will and I got home and assessed damages, the two very minor cuts from his machete had nothing on the multiple lacerations from the trail’s many blood thirsty vines.

We decided at one point – after many stops where we asked each other if we should keep going or turn back – that we would walk another 30 minutes.  My thought being that if it took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach this point, we would need the same amount of time to get back to where we started.  At 3:00 we gave ourselves until 3:30.

The Cursed “Trail” – there is a trail here, I promise. But the growth of plants was very high.

And this is where things got a little bizarre for me.  Maybe I was just tired and imagining things, maybe I went too long without a large amount of water as we were all sharing Jen’s water bottle at this point, but things started to feel and smell kind of off.  I was well and truly behind Will and Jen, but Will was sticking within eye sight.  For Will, any horror movie setting he is going to be a bit protective and a hyper aware.  Anyway, the trail started to smell weird.  There was a strong ammonia smell for a while, which I attributed to animal urine (does a bear pee in the woods?), but at the same time there also seemed to be a less friendly aspect to the trail.  I mean, the vines before were cutting us, the bees and mosquitoes were chewing us up, but none of that felt unfriendly.  It just felt like nature.  This part of the trail felt unfriendly.  Then I started to smell a weird kind of sulphur smell under the urine.  The trail started to feel a bit oppressive.  It was 3:20 and I did not want to be the person who called it quits as that has too often been the role I played in things, but I wasn’t going any further on the trail.

Will and Jen, in the friendly-ish and pretty section of the trail, which is to say we were only getting thorns and mosquitoes drawing blood

I told Will that I was going back.  He went ahead to get Jen, although he loathed separating in a horror movie setting.  He told me to wait where I was and he would be back.  He emphasized that I should not just go back without him.

I am not the most obedient of wives.  The smell of ammonia and sulphur was getting to me, as were the mosquitoes, and I turned and headed back.  I am usually the slowest person in the group, and Will and Jen move with a speed I envy.  I knew they would catch up so I just made sure I was within earshot.  When I stopped being able to hear them, I would wait for a bit.  They did catch up, and, yes, pass me, but I prefer to be passed than to have people waiting on me.  Neither of them seemed upset that I called it quits, which was a relief to me.  The last thing I wanted to do was tell people that I was smelling weird things and the trail seemed somehow to become nefarious and dark.  Because that is crazy talk.  While I am crazy, I do try to keep it to myself as often as possible.  Also, most likely I was just tired and thirsty and thus imagining things.

The milder part of the Cursed “Trail” with Jen leading the way.

The walk back was much, much quicker.  Poor Jen had to cut her scarf in two in order to wrap her ankles which were getting very cut up in the thorny, viney growth we were wading through.  Her white scarf was fairly bloody, once I could see her feet again.  She is a tough cookie, that one.  I would have been whining the whole way, but she just took all these cuts on her legs in stride, so to speak.  Not happy about it, but no whining from her, and her poor legs were pretty cut up – nothing deep or scarring, but definitely painful.

Since most of my clothes are slightly too big for me right now, my shirt had plenty of material for me to wrap it around my head to keep the majority of mosquitoes at bay.  I just pulled stuck my head in the material and looked like a bramble covered, blue habit wearing nun for a while.  Will spotted me and did the same thing and told me I was a genius for thinking of it.  I said that I was merely copying Jen who was clever enough to bring a scarf to tie around her head and ears to thwart the mosquitoes.  I am definitely buying a scarf or two for future use.  I do not look particular wonderful in a scarf, nor am I a hat person, but I think when hiking comfort over looks is the way to go.  Besides, Will tends to think I am cute regardless of what I do.  🙂

I asked Will at one point if we were getting close and he said, “Yeah, we are almost to Camp Crystal Lake.”  I told him he wasn’t funny, but laughed anyway, because yeah, there was definitely potential for a horror movie there.

We finally got back to the car, to the relief of all of us.  Will and I guzzled the water we did bring but were too foolish to take along on the trail with us, shared our water with Jen since we drank all of hers.

Then we drove home a different way since none of us had ever taken that particular route home before.  There were two or three interesting little roads off the road home, and if we were not all so worn out we probably would have explored those roads just to see where they went.  Maybe we weren’t as daunted as we should have been, but hey, no cursed trail can break our collective “Where does this go?” spirit.

Will and I decided in the future that a backpack with water, snacks, and a flame thrower is a must.  Jen decided that Will cannot be trusted with a machete and that anytime the three of us agree that something is a good idea, she isn’t doing it  (“I like the red dress.  You both like it, too?  Ok.  I am getting the blue dress.”) because clearly our collective decision making skills are somewhat lacking.

Later that night, Jen texted me with a map and information about the area where we were.  I started tracking our progress on the hike back to the car (round trip it was 7.8 miles, so 3.9 miles one way) and the map I was looking at basically showed that the trail was 2 miles long.  There was a triangle of trails, one of which went by this creek we wanted to see, but the entire triangle was 6 miles.  Anyway, in the process of perusing these websites (and later Will got on google maps as I have the longitude and latitude of where we went on my phone) Will pointed out this:   “Caution — You may encounter many user-made trails that are not described here — use maps and caution — it’s very easy to get disoriented in the rugged terrain of the Illinois Ozarks.”

Really, you don’t say?  I laughed for a long time at that little caution and the brilliant idea of maps.

So, also in the future, maps.