29 May, 2012

Experiments in ... patriotism.

Happy Memorial Day!  And thank you to all of you who have served to safeguard the lives of Americans - in whatever way you may have served.

xoxo,

Melanie

28 May, 2012

Experiments in … bliss: Sweet Saturday



Yesterday was sweet, indeed.  Although to many this weekend is a holiday weekend riddled with meticulous plans and high expectations of fun and frolicking, for me, it’s just another weekend.  Now, don’t get me wrong … I’m very thankful for those who have risked much so that I might experience the freedoms that I do.  It is not my intention to belittle the significance of Memorial Day.  I just mean to iterate that I have an unconventional work schedule, and, therefore, the fact that Monday is a “bank holiday” does not affect my schedule the way it affects the majority of Americans. 

Now that my disclaimers are out of the way, I’ll get back to my sweet Saturday. 

Yesterday was only a casually planned event.  And that’s using the word ‘planned’ in the loosest of definitions.  It started out with a trip to the farmers’ market with Sister.  As usual, we had mentioned a proposed meeting time the night before.  Also as usual, we ended up meeting about an hour after that originally proposed time.  So, I got to her house around 9am, and we strolled through town toward the market.  Once there, we were enveloped with the telltale signs of the impending arrival of summer on the farm:  the brilliant greens, yellows and reds of the vegetables on every table; the mouth-wateringly heady aromas of freshly baked breads and pastries; gorgeous bouquets of flowers; the promise of pie reflected in the rows and rows of strawberries, blueberries and peaches; and, of course, the throngs of people emerging from hibernation to celebrate the return of this hot-headed southern sun that lords over us as summer comes to call. 



We were blessed to run into our good friends Chris, JD, Theresa, Lula and Shady.  Isn’t it always nice to share unexpected encounters with the people we love?  I think so.  We strolled the market together for a few moments, made plans to have lunch soon, and parted ways feeling even warmer than we already had in the early morning heat. 

The market and the surrounding areas were even more bustling than usual yesterday.  Apparently there was some kind of road race (or, possibly, a triathlon?) happening downtown.  It generated a good crowd of jolly townsfolk and athletes and even a very stylish gentleman with the most delicious hat I think I’ve ever seen. 


After filling my bag with some of Durham’s finest and freshest produce, Sister and I proceeded to Parker + Otis to share a drink and some conversation.  She had a soda. I had tea.  We both ogled the fine wares of the shop longingly.  We enjoyed sitting for a spell in the fun atmosphere and the good company, before parting ways around noontime.



After coming home to unload my market loot, I headed back into town and to The Carolina Theatre.  This weekend marks the last days of the Alfred Hitchcock retrospective.  I treated myself to a double feature of Strangers on a Train and Notorious.  (Isn’t Cary Grant just the dreamiest?)  I had never seen either film, and enjoyed them both a bunch!  (Today I’ll be seeing SpellboundGregory Peck, anyone?)  Then it was back into the sunlight of the early evening for a lovely promenade home. 


I had made no plans for my evening, but after practicing my Spanish during all my walking trips, I decided to lie back on the couch and watch the Spanish-language film, La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon).  I’ve wanted to watch it for ages, and I wasn’t disappointed.  It is such a beautiful story of the bond between a mother and her son.  It also portrays the plight of illegal immigrants in a very poignant way without being overly sentimental about it.  It broke my heart over and over again, but also gave me hope and some valuable insights into a growing group of people who are finding themselves in a sort of purgatory between two cultural identities.  I totally recommend this film.

As I was getting ready to turn in early (yes, on a Saturday night), the phone rang.  As if my day wasn’t already wonderful enough, my parents were calling.  We managed a relative glitch-free trans-world skype video call.  It was great catching up with them and hearing all about their adventures and upcoming birthday plans!  Mom and Dad, if you’re reading, I’m so glad we got to talk last night!

Then it was to bed to read a little before succumbing to the comforting embrace of Sleep.  Aaah.  What a sweet Saturday!

How was your Saturday?  What did you do?  I hope it was sweet, as well!

xoxo,

Melanie






23 May, 2012

Previously on Days of My Life … plus a Resolution Roundup


When last we met, I had committed to getting my body off my couch and into motion.  Well, I am happy to report that I have been keeping up my end of my bargain with myself.  I have generally been sticking to a 6 days on / one day off plan where workouts are concerned.  I did allow myself a couple extra days off while trying to heal from the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever endured.  After the first 10 days of my previously mentioned TAM-esque 15-minute muscular structure (MS) workouts followed by 20 minutes of rebounder/floor combination cardio work, I upgraded to a new TAM-esque MS sequence that take about 30-45 minutes followed by 30 minutes of mostly, or all, floor dance cardio.  I began this sequence with 25 reps of each MS move, and have gradually worked up to 40 reps each.  (That’s why the 30-45 minutes.)  As soon as this 10 day period is finished (which is very soon) I will begin the actual Tracy Anderson Method Metamorphosis program.  I would have started it sooner, but there was an ordering glitch and it took forever to get here. 

I am feeling pretty good – physically and mentally/emotionally.  I weathered the whole poison ivy storm.  I managed to slightly injure my foot, but am still getting my cardio in (while taking reasonable precautions, of course).  And while it can feel excruciatingly difficult when I’m doing the work – especially by the time I’m nearing the fortieth rep of an already challenging move – I am finding that I look forward to my workouts.  It’s a pretty amazing feeling.

I referenced the notion of failure in my last post.  That’s a topic that has continued to roll around in my brain lately.  I continue to question my understanding of what failure is and how I perceive failure in my own life.  I have been using these internal discoveries and analyses to help inspire me when I’m feeling like giving up or taking the easy out during my daily experiences.  It has been amazing to notice just what exactly has been playing on my internal radio for years!  So many excuses doled out as inevitabilities … so much power given over to other people and external circumstances … so much bullshit!  As I begin to really listen to all that bogus programming I become much more able to negate it.  I am finally beginning to take responsibility for myself and my situation a little more fully and with a little more presence and prescience to what my internal naysayer is likely to toss at me.  So, I suppose this is part of that “sound mind in a sound body” thing?  Points for me!  Progress is being made already! 

In the spirit of gauging failure and success, it seems a good time to do a resolution roundup.  By that, I mean that we are nearing the halfway point in this calendar year, and it seems like a good time to see how I’m faring with all those resolutions I made back in January.  So, here we go …

1.  I resolve to maintain ample space in my schedule for my Self.

I fixed this one by leaving my job at the inn.  I was finding that the job was consuming way too much of my time and energy leaving me too exhausted to do much else.  Not conducive to Resolution #1!  Now, I have lots of free time and tons of me time.  And I remember why I made this resolution in the first place.

2.  I resolve to regularly take classes to better myself.

Well, this one started strong out of the gate, but has slowly petered out over the long run.  I am hoping to get back to some yoga classes soon, and have signed up for an e-textiles workshop later this month, but am not taking a regular class at present.  Will work on finding a class to rectify this slip.

3.  I resolve to clean up my diet, and eat a sustainable diet of whole foods that nourish the whole me.

Well, this one is a little loosely worded, so it’s tricky.  For the most part, I’d say I’m doing alright here, though I could definitely make some improvements.

4.  I resolve to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every night.

As mentioned in #1, this was beginning to get bumped during my overworked days at the inn, but now I’m getting a solid 8-10 every night … just like my body likes it!

5.  I resolve to do some form of mindful movement (yoga, stretching, dancing, etc.) every day – even if only for 10 minutes.

As in #1 and #4 … as I started working too much and falling behind on my me time, this didn’t always happen, but I’m back in business now, and that business is boomin’!

6.  I resolve to cultivate a daily meditation practice.

Oops.  This one didn’t last very long … again.  Geez Louise!  Why is it so hard to make time to sit for 10 minutes?  Will have to work on this!

7.  I resolve to get a pedicure every two weeks.

Oops, again!  Haven’t gotten a single one.  Though I still think about it regularly, and hope to figure out how to fit it into my lifestyle.  It seems like when I have the money, I haven’t got the time and when I have the time, I’m not sure it’s the best way to spend my money.  Must remember this is an investment in my Self. 

8.  I resolve to get a massage or other healing bodywork session at least once a month.

Nope.  Have only gotten one massage this year.  Yikes!  That’s terrible!  Why is it that so many people in healing professions have such a hard time making Self care a priority??  Argh!

9.  I resolve to dance at least once a week.

After dance class ended, so did my regular dancing … until I started the cardio dancing a few weeks ago.  Now I dance almost every day.  Hooray!

10.  I resolve to write in my blog at least once a week.

Umm … if you ever read this blog, you will know that’s another fail.  (See … failure!  It’s popping up everywhere!)  But, while weekly posting is still a wonderful goal, I am happy that I am still writing at all.  (Take that, Failure!)

11.  I resolve to cultivate a daily practice of acknowledging and expressing gratitude.

While I have not managed to establish a specific routine of when and where I express gratitude, I do acknowledge the things in my life for which I am grateful on a very regular basis.  In fact, I am grateful that I can report that right now.

12.  I resolve to take at least 2 vacations (min. 3 days) each year.

Well, to be fair, the year’s not even half over yet, so this one gets a free pass for this round up.  (And while, no, I have not taken a vacation yet, I am planning one for next month.)

13.  I resolve to experience at least one social activity with friends every two weeks.

To be truthful, I haven’t really paid too close attention to when my social activities have taken place, but I’ve been more social this year than in many recent years, so I consider it a success!

14.  I resolve to support my local organic farmers by buying much of my food from my local farmers’ market.

Yes, indeed!  This one I’ve been doing!

15.  I resolve to give my Self a full body exfoliation every week.

Bummer.  I forgot all about this resolution.  It’s a good one, though, so I think I’ll work to reinstate it!

16.  I resolve to fast on each full moon and new moon.

Check!

17.  I resolve to observe the power and magick during full moons, new moons, and the holidays of the Wheel of the Year.

Check!

18.  I resolve to avoid looking at my computer screen first thing in the morning, or just before bed at night.

Since I’m typing this at 10:30p, I can’t claim total success with this resolution, but I’ve kept it much more often than not.

19.  I resolve to always resist the temptation to say something negative about my Self, opting, instead, to say something positive and wonderful and maybe even glorious.

I can always improve here, but I think I’m doing pretty well with this one.

20.  I resolve to resist the temptation to mindlessly eat/drink in an attempt to sate my emotional needs.

This is still a huge struggle for me, but I have been making vast improvements here.  I will continue to work on it throughout the year!

21.  I resolve to resist the temptation to beat my Self up if I break my own rules or resolutions.

Done!  (Though I do reserve the right to give my Self  regular pep talks and motivational speeches.)

How are you doing with your resolutions?  I’d love to hear from you!

xoxo,

Melanie

09 May, 2012

04 May, 2012

Experiments in … health!



Thomas Edison + light bulb
I recently read a little tidbit about Thomas Edison.  I don’t remember where I read it, but I am sure it has been repeated plenty.  This particular tidbit was regarding the fact that Edison had reportedly had one thousand failures before finally succeeding in inventing the light bulb.  His response to this sentiment was that he had not failed at all.  The light bulb, he claimed, simply took one thousand steps to invent.  Pretty wise fellow, that Edison.  I really appreciate his ability to blend a focused diligence and determination with a humble acceptance of and regard for the fumbles along the way. 

Why is this relevant to health, you may ask?  Well, I have been feeling pretty guilty of late as a result of my failure to maintain the Body Ecology Diet (BED) beyond two months.  (Perhaps it was because I allowed myself to get smug for having lasted that long?)  Over the past several weeks I have been making allowances – small ones at first, then larger ones – for eating cookies, pastries, chocolates, fries, and gasp! an inordinate amount of gluten!  This will not do!  It’s no good at all!  My body’s very angry, and I’ve been tunneling down a shame spiral as a result.  Of course, I also have moments during which I play the spin doctor to my wounded inner conscience.  You don’t really have to do this diet … it was a choice!  You’re only cheating this little bit!  You’ll be better tomorrow!  You can totally make exceptions when you’re out with friends … it’s a special occasion!  (This dialogue chain is very familiar to me.)  Then there’s the Aries rebellion that starts working away on my will.  You can’t spend your whole life worrying so much about what you eat!  Screw that!  Life is for living and enjoying!  You eat well most of the time.  You eat organically and locally and seasonally.  You practically pay the salaries of the Whole Foods staff single-handedly!  Why should you not treat yourself with this little glass of champagne?  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have some of that delicious dark chocolate mousse that your friends are enjoying … I mean, it’s right there in front of you!  Eat it!  (This dialogue chain is also very familiar to me.) 

I am learning a great deal about myself here.  I am learning that, like countless others in this world, I have become A.) disillusioned about just how healthy I really am, and B.) a total pansy.  That’s right:  I’m a weak-willed emotional eater who doesn’t exercise nearly enough.  I also seem to forget that I am no longer that twenty-year-old girl with lightning metabolism who works out regularly and goes dancing on the weekends.  In fact, I am a woman in her late thirties who rarely works out and never goes out dancing.  Hm.  That’s quite sad, actually.  No wonder I have a tendency to fall into the moody blues (the emotional state, not the band). 

 Wait, where was I going with this?  Oh yes … I have decided to strike a deal with myself.  And this deal is that I will maintain a basically conscientious eating plan, sticking to many of the BED principles a majority of the time, while allowing myself to have some of those things that really make me happy (ie: granola w/ coconut milk, fruit, and an occasional glass of bubbly wine).  I will be sensible about, but  not fixated upon, the food I eat.  In exchange for this culinary freedom, I will work my body.  I will put in some serious effort to make it stronger, leaner, more pliable and more capable.  And I will begin doing this by committing to Tracy Anderson’s 90-day Metamorphosis program.  No more will I so cavalierly sit on the couch watching fictional characters lead active healthy lives in films or television shows.  I will begin earning that couch time by crafting my body into a formidable and flexible machine.  I will offer my blood, sweat and tears to the fitness gods and pray for healthy results, and maybe some endorphins, in return.  (Though hopefully there will be mostly sweat, and extremely little quantities of blood and tears.)  

Tracy Anderson

I have already experienced Tracy Anderson’s 30-day boot camp.  A little over a year and half ago, a friend and I did that program.  It was hard, and – surprise – I was kinda half-assed in my approach.  I did the muscular structure work really well until the last 10 days when it got really … really … hard.  The cardio dvd was really badly produced, so I used that as an excuse to be sloppy with it.  And I didn’t even bother with her diet plan (which may lead to weight loss, but I believe is too calorie-restrictive).  Unsurprisingly it didn’t change my life.  It did, however, change my body, though in much more subtle ways than if I had done the program all out.  I do believe that her method of working the body is effective and, if done with awareness, better for the joints than most styles of exercise.  Already, for the past week I have been doing a sort of halved version of a Tracy Anderson Method (TAM)-esque workout every morning.  I’ve been doing around 15 minutes of muscular structure work and about 20 minutes of dance cardio on a rebounder.  The Metamorphosis program consists of 30-minutes of muscular structure work and 30-minutes of dance cardio.  (At least that’s what Tracy claims the time commitment will be … that doesn’t include the moments of lying on the ground in a crumpled heap trying to convince yourself to keep going.  I had these during the boot camp, and am sure to have them during the 90-day gig.)  I’m sticking to a combination of rebounder and floor dance cardio to keep from over-stressing my joints – specifically my hips which have been very angry with all my walking.  

So, that’s my deal with myself.  I’ve already ordered the Metamorphosis dvds, so I suppose I’ll begin whenever they get here.  Wish me luck and fortitude, please!

Oh, speaking of my cranky hip joints … (jeez, I really am getting old!)  I have also started wearing a heel insert in my left shoe.  During my last massage appointment, my therapist agreed that my left leg is actually skeletally shorter than my right.  I’ve known for years and years that there was an imbalance, but for a long time I believed it to be muscular.  So, the insert is meant to keep the rest of my body from taking on so much stress in compensation for the imbalance.  This is day 2 of wearing it, and already I’m feeling relief, though I imagine at least part of that is due to the exercising.

Mens sana in corpore sano.  Translated, this familiar phrase reads: A sound mind in a sound body.  It is a common belief that if one creates strength, health, flexibility and endurance of body, then the same traits will naturally be extended to the mind, or even more optimistically, the soul.  Here we go … I’m going to get my body in order, and with any luck, the rest of me will follow. 

Happy experimenting, everyone!  I hope you're enjoying this amazing Spring!


xoxo,
Melanie


PS:  If any of you are interested in joining me on the Metamorphosis challenge, I would love the support and camaraderie.  Send me a message if you’re in!