Drowning not waving

Image result for drowning in the poolI’m terrified of deep water. If I can’t stand up in it then I’m a) clinging to the nearest stationary and solid object b) peeing in terror and c) screaming.

I’d like to think that it’s this which made me such a great sailor for all those years; abject fear of ending up in the water is a fantastic motivator to staying upright.  I learned how to capsize and right a boat only getting my feet wet.. mainly because I swim like a stone.

The signs weren’t good from the get go. Early swimming lessons at the local pool with my sister kicked off with a lesson in floating. As my body sank to the bottom of the pool and my very very short life flashed before my eyes, it was only the shouting of my mother from the balcony “Grab your sister NOW” that assured my existence. Needless to say, I didn’t take my feet off the bottom of the pool for the next 20 years.

Fast forward to 40 something and in the midst of a life crisis it came to me. I needed to learn how to be comfortable in the pool. Maybe..if I could swim with ease… I’d have one less thing to be terrified of  and live happily ever after. (with a pool)

As I now embark on my 4th set of private lessons I’m still terrified in any pool over 4ft deep. I have my strokes down pat but as soon I see the bottom of the pool deepening I’m heading to the bottom await my drowning. And this time, my sister’s hand is 4,200 miles away.

I’ve tried chanting, wearing fins, closing my eyes, looking ahead instead of down and even Valium. Nothing. Choking, panic, snorting and inhalation of an awful lot of water and once, a lifeguard actually ran to help me..  and still.. nothing makes it less horrid.

So maybe I’ll see you at the pool. I’ll be the one looking for the life lesson wearing horse blinkers and a noodle.   Be sure to look for my wave.

Back in the saddle

Image result for shoulder brace after surgery womenAs everyone knows, starting something is the hardest part. A diet, a commitment, a new job, the toilet roll. Re-starting something might be even harder. This time around you know what to expect..how hard or painful it’s going to be. This time.. you think, maybe just maybe it’ll be easier than you remember.

Following 2 extensive surgeries on my shoulder last year I found myself restricted from all physical activity involving my arms, shoulders or upper body movement of any kind.  A sneeze rendered me in tears and lifting a mug of tea became my Crossfit. As an independent lass it pained me to have to ask for help lifting groceries into my car (where I’d carry them, one or two items at a time, up 3 flights of stairs) and I became adept at deciding what to cook based on whether I could cook and eat it 1 handed.

It was pitiful, with spots of hilarity (I fell over a LOT).

To call me disabled was an overstatement, but basically I became a human wine box with bruises for 18 months.

Fast forward a year and I graduated from my various slings and arrows, discovered pitches of screams I didn’t know I possessed and managed to carry my first gallon of milk. All in all, almost back to normal. Sure I’ll never salute an officer , throw down a Hiel Hitler (wasn’t going to anyway) or ‘raise the roof’ (ditto) but I can now wear a bra strap, carry a purse and blow dry the back of my head.

Exactly the qualifications for some mountain biking.

I’d wanted to get back on the back for a while… pretty much 10 mins after I came around from surgery the first time. But everything hurt, I literally couldn’t use my arm, and every time I thought about falling… the sense of doom was overwhelming. What if I fell and needed another surgery? Or a new shoulder? I packed away riding for ‘another time’. Which came this last weekend.

It had been so long. so so long. I think Madonna was on her first face lift when I last rode some dirt. And oh how I missed it. The fire in your chest, the thumping of your heart, the feeling of flying on the downhill. The smell of warm pine as you crash into a tree on a particularly tight switch back. Glorious. And I was finally done being afraid.

I packed myself into straining Lycra, grabbed the Percocet and headed to the hills.

I’ll spare the blow-by-blow suffice to say it went something like this:

  • Shock (‘holy cow this is hard’)
  • Concern (‘is my heart meant to be pounding this fast?’)
  • Horror (‘fuck me, I don’t think I’m even moving forward’)
  • Despair (‘oh god, those people with the old dog are passing me’)
  • Hope (‘oooo is that the top? is it? it is isn’t it??)
  • Devastation (‘damn fucking false flat…’)
  • Resignation (‘Why am I doing this ? I’m clearly too old for this shit’)
  • Self criticism (‘Popcorn isn’t a recovery diet dammit.. should have made more soup’
  • Motivated (‘Damn it.. I can do this.. I have to do this or I’ll get old and crinkly and die’
  • Thrilled (‘I did it!!! I rule!!!! I did it!!!)
  • Realization (‘HOLY FUCK GODDAMN THAT HURTS MY SHOULDER’)
  • Alarmed (‘OMG I need to ride down this fucker! This is going to hurt sooooo bad’)
  • Joy (“I’m gonna love every single second of this. This is why I ride’)

I got on my bike, full of Oprah fed wisdom and promptly rode into tree.

Starting again is hard. You look ridiculous, you feel like a loser and your brain never shuts up reminding you of how much better you used to be at this. But the alternate – a life of memories, of ‘remember when?’, fear and failing confidence  – is way way worse.

At my way,  I get to look good in Lycra.. some day.

On the road again

santa-cruz-skateboardsEver the wandering non-Jew, I’m celebrating the season by once again packing up and moving to a new zip-code. I personally think its a GREAT way of avoiding dusting or ever cleaning the oven, but frankly this time its motivated by a need to find my tribe. Some friends. A life outside of work, and tech and Teslas.

My current locale has much in common with a Ferrari. Everyone agrees that its beautiful, but its bloody expensive, ridiculously ostentatious and its not exactly the ‘go to’ to for a single chica with tats and financial challenges. I look like everyone else’s dog walker.

So I’m heading over the mountain to the promised land. Aka Santa Cruz. The land of the Banana Slug. Where I can walk to the beach, ride my bike to the bar and my dog can watch for whales, seals and seagulls all damn day long.

Populated by students, dropouts, hippy throwbacks, surf addicts, completely normal people and mountain biking fanatics, its also a place where I’ve experienced a lot of positive things. Christmas on the beach. Girlie friendship. The psychotic reaction of my dog to a dolphin. Insane downhill. The ability to breathe out. Strangers telling me how to cure mange while exploring rock pools- (no mange here but now I have the cure!).

Suffice to say, its my kind of weirdos.

I know the common denominator in my moves is me, and I’d be the first to admit if I was trying to escape something, but actually this is more of a ‘find’. Finding the trees, air, beauty and silence of Colorado.. but next to the ocean and peppered with friendly folks with a 70s vibe. Finding my tribe of peeps who don’t judge, who disappear on a surf day and who let you turn right without laying on the horn. Who knows.. maybe I’ll find a dude who gets me, some friends to hang with and the secret of eternal life for my dog.

But first I just need to deal with the reality of sand in everything.

The little things

006It’s been a tricky year in my new locale. New job, new company, new town, new state, new weather, new trails, new friends and weirdly no new men.

Trying to build life in a new place, amongst people who can’t tell you apart from a hole in the wall, and don’t have time to ask your name, well its pretty challenging. Doing it with a dog helps (especially when he looks slightly retarded like mine) but overall everything from finding a grocery story, new routes for an easy ride or even where to take visitors for a good meal can mean hours online, polling of work colleagues, and at least 3 U turns on the way to everywhere.

How I don’t have a ticket yet in CA is beyond me. The cops must be BLIND.

Along with all of this life building, I’ve been challenged by long hours at work, resistance from natives who resent us ‘new folks’ driving up rental prices, and for the last 5 months, a bum shoulder that refuses to heal.

I never realized how important that thing at the end of my collarbone was until now. Who knew?

Mainly I’ve missed my friends. All of the people who I knew well, or just slightly, but who at least knew my name. Knowing where the best taco truck is. And the bad sushi.

Finding friends in a new city, a new state is really f-ing hard at 40 something. It takes patience. Time. Extraversion. The ability to appear likeable over a 90 minute period.

See..??? Hard.

But since I’m British (well British-American), I vowed on this, my one year anniversary, to keep plugging away, looking at the palm trees and delighting in the little things I love about my new locale.

Like the motorists who pull over to let you lane split. The seals who watch my dog as he swims for a ball. The smell of the beach on a Friday afternoon. Fresh fish that wasn’t flown anywhere. Riding in redwoods. Motorcycling  on curved mountain roads built for my Guzzi. The Golden Gate bridge anytime.

The little things can be breathtaking.

I miss my old home town, I miss my friends and I miss a reasonable mechanic who isn’t out to fleece me. But as long as there are phones and planes, and the temperature never dips below 50… I’m building my Californian home.

I’ll just have to start dating my mechanic.

In Search of the Holy Grail.. pain free kick ass shoes

heelsI have a secret. I have the feet of a Hobbit. Scrawny, knobbly, bent and twisted. Not quite the ragged hairy nubbins of Frodo, but my feet do seem to have channeled Shrek. Lets just say my bi weekly pedicures are necessary for the sake of humanity, and those attending my yoga class.

After 4 years working from home, my hobbit feet had become accustomed to the comforts of home. Clogs, Tevas, Ascis and Frye boots litter my closet. Wool socks formed the basis of most outfits.

I did wear heels .. but only on dates with tall guys or when I needed to feel particularly girlie.

So basically once or twice a year. And mainly for sitting down.

Then I moved to CA, moved back to working in an office environment and tried to reintroduce my feet to footwear that didn’t resemble something available with a prescription or worn exclusively by retirees.

The result, unsurprisingly, was pain. Lots of pain. Pain that radiated from my toes all the way up my legs and at one point through my eyeballs. Trying to walk into a meeting with aplomb was akin to firewalking. Best achieved at high-speed and with quick intakes of breath. I managed to make it to my car with a combination of tip toeing and waddling.. anything to avoid the feeling of nails being driven through my toes and heels simultaneously.

Why bother you might be thinking? Why no just sling on some flats and be comfortable?

I tried flats. I really did. But several comments about my ‘little girl’ height and jokes about me not seeming like my usual confident self made me question what heels did for me. Heels gave me authority. Heels enabled me to look people in the eye instead of the nipple. Heels enabled me to wear pants without paying $25 per pair in alterations.

Hey, I’m cheap.

Of course I could straighten my spine and walk tall (5 ft 2 isn’t quite midget status), but honestly I’d rather look my boss in the eye and who can resist looking more authoritative, slimmer and just a little sexy? After all, I am single, I work with senior execs all day and hell..if I have to dress up for work, I’d rather not be the poster girl for lesbian chic. I left that look back in Colorado. There has to be some version of heels which doesn’t result in sobbing …right? I mean people have been rocking these things for 50 years.

I started with a few requirements…..

  • The ability to walk at high-speed without losing them. My job involves running across conference halls/ airports/ hallways on a regular basis and I have left at least 2 shoes in the middle of a cross walk before now. Straps or laces, however it works.. but ‘firm fit’ is key.
  • Able to fit my weirdly skinny ankles and bizarrely shaped toes without causing nail loss. I don’t rule out square toes, but I’d prefer if my heels didn’t resemble something from the early 90s.
  • Suitability for a hetero 30-40 something woman who wears skirts, dresses and pants. i.e. Huge platform soles and knee-length lacing are out.. along with anything with the name ‘comfort’ in the title.

But since I’m wearing them all day every day, I figured.. money no object. At least for one pair.  No problem right?

WRONG.

A Facebook request to friends led me to Franco Sarto, Cole Haan and Nine West. A gift certificate led me to Macys. After exhausting everything from kitten heels to wedges, Sam Edelson to Prada and an entire weekend I came to several conclusions.

  • It doesn’t matter how much you spend.. boots win out every time for comfort, fit and style. Bummer because I now live in CA. Where its warm. All year.
  • Elastic or leather with stretch are your friends.
  • Most shoes will fit your heels or your toes.. but rarely both.
  • Fancy straps, chains, buckles or slingbacks generally result in blisters about 30 mins after you wear them for the first time. Wear them around the house for a few hours – vacuum, clean, cook, do laundry. By the time your clothes are in the dryer, you’ll know. (plus if you live with someone, kinda kinky).
  • Expensive ($250+) does generally get more comfortable and more long-lasting but you’re going to be spending a minimum of $250, $400 or $1000. Which to most single chicas who aren’t Meg Whitman means an annual treat if that.
  • Comfort and style don’t mix. I’ve tried all of the ‘so called’ solutions and the closest I came was a $550 spanish brand that still resembled something you’d wear to perform a stompy fiesta dance with a tambourine. Fine if I were living in Spain, or about to head out for the evening, but a tough mix with my all black, formal wear, wardrobe.

So in the end I wound up settling for slightly uncomfortable, slightly more than I could afford, and perfectly office appropriate. I’ve already taken them out for a test run up and down the halls a few times, and I can stand in them for about 6 hours. Not perfect, but hey.. at least I can make it to the car without walking like a constipated duck, no-one is making comments about ‘the single chick with comfortable shoes’ and I’ve not broken out a single band-aid yet. Yay for Donald J. Pilner.

But in the meantime I’ll continue my search. I figure anyone who finds that ‘style and comfort’ solution for women’s heels will make millions.

If I find them first, I’m buying stock.

 

Not better, just different

sfContrary to popular opinion, I am still alive. I am also not incarcerated, incinerated or incapacitated. Sadly I have not been held captive by a silver fox off the coast of Belize and no, I did not win the lottery.

I’ve just been rearranging my life.

In the last month I found a new job, planned a cross-country move, completed my Christmas shopping AND grew my hair an inch.

NOTE: Growing the hair was the toughest. This mother will just.not.grow.  I am doomed to a shaggy pixie for the remainder of my days.

After the best summer ever drew to a close I realized that it was now or never. Things were good. Work was …okay. My little life was pleasurable and harmonious. Nothing too exciting and something too stressful. I could quite happily continue to live out my days in gorgeous Colorado, riding my bike with awesome chicas, spending my Thursdays on an ever-increasing spiral of bad dates and doing a bit of work to pay the rent..OR I could change things.

Why change things when life is good? When you’ve found friends who actually ‘get’ you and an apartment where you can leave the door unlocked. Where life has a rhythm and cadence that is soothing and predictable. Where you give Uncle Fester a second date because.. well .. he wasn’t that awful. Why risk ‘good’ for ‘different’? Especially when different comes at twice the cost, double the traffic and the need to wear actual outfits to an office on a daily basis?

I can’t exactly explain it except that I knew something needed to change when my neighbor asked why I was doing my laundry on a Friday night instead of my usual Saturday morning. When another neighbor said ‘I knew it was you walking your dog because of your pajamas’ and I found myself counting down the hours one Saturday night until I could reasonably climb into bed with my book. It was 7.30pm.

I’m 42. Not dead.

Life can be too good. Too comfortable. Too ‘nice’. Life without edges can make you sloppy and your brain fuzzy. You settle into routines that your grandmother would find boring. And when you realize you’re waiting out the days.. until…well..something different happens. Yes,  something needs to change.

So I decided to make a change.

In a few weeks, 19 years after I arrived, I’m leaving the rocky mountain state for the west coast. Back to water and Democratic majorities, GMO-hating hippies and Silicon Valley geekdom. I’m excited to use my brain again (the dust bunnies up there are something else), to explore a whole new state, to find new friends and spend a winter without thermals covering every square inch of my body.

Sure it’s going to suck. Its going to be exhausting and my expectations aren’t for some miraculous life change. Just something different. New roads, new trails, new weather, new vistas. Not better, just different. I’m 42 and we only get one time around. Going to bed at 7.30pm on a Saturday night out of boredom isn’t how I want to remember my 40s. That isn’t living.. it’s just passing time. So instead I choose change. I choose different.

I’ll keep you posted.

Riding with girls

01 MtnBikingWomen-2500pxI’m easily intimidated and not the most socially adept person when meeting men, women or small children (FYI: dogs love me), but this weekend I decided to do something that scared me, and signed up for a women’s mountain biking clinic.

The group name – Dirt Divas – was my first hurdle. Any association with the word ‘Diva’ implies Mariah Carey, high maintainance women and satin floor length dresses as far as I’m concerned.. non of which naturally sprang to mind in association with mountain biking. Plus ‘Divas’? Does this mean they’re all super awesome pro racers who sneer at us amateurs who still struggle to bunny hop up a curb? But I saw that the clinic was being run by pro downhill racer, Zach Griffith, and figured that I could use any advice for not overshooting switchbacks.. even if I had to do so surrounded by elite riders or chicks in evening gowns. I’ve provided the front range mountain biking community with enough YouTube clips this year thanks and frankly, 1/3 of my salary is going to Bandaids and gauze pads. So if the ‘Divas’ could waive the floor length satin dress requirement .. I was in.

Having ridden with dudes my entire life, I’m a bit tired of being dropped, panting my way up the trail only to have the entire group spring back on their bikes, just as I’m unclipping for a bit of a rest. I hate that dudes consider my walking a 3 ft drop as ‘pussying out’ and frankly, I know I’m never going to be awesome, so I just enjoy doing what I can. As a result, I’ve been riding alone this year. Something that is dangerous when injury is involved (a weekly occurrence for me), plus it changes the ‘post ride beer in the parking lot’ from a fun group activity to a weird ‘stay away from the weird alcoholic lady’ warning to small children.

I need chicks to mountain bike ride with. Women who can actually ride up rocks, but who know that waiting means waiting.. and won’t sneer when you can’t make it up the 10th washout board in the ladder. Who you can emphasize with you when the handlebar jabs you in the boob or when you didn’t unclip fast enough and hit the thorn-bush ass first. But I don’t know any… I did, but they all got married and quit, or now ride with their kids.

I had a moment of fear as I pulled up to the parking lot, frantically checking that no one was wearing downhill pads or a dirt bike helmet, but breathed out as I saw a chick wrestling her Ibis off her rack and not a Fox jersey in sight. In fact, as more of us pulled up, it looked more and more normal. Chicks my age, most of us driving trucks and 4Runners, baring scarred knees, junk in our trunk, dirty shoes and not a swipe of makeup amongst us.

As I stood with the other ‘Divas’ (never was a group so misnamed.. not an inkling of cleavage or small dog amongst us), a chick behind me said ‘I hope no one here is awesome, cos I suck‘ and I knew I’d found my people.

It was GLORIOUS.

The clinic itself – well I’ll skip the details as its only interesting to about 2 other people in the universe was great, but the overwhelming joy I felt was more due to the opportunity to do sports with other women. Something I don’t think I’ve done since high school.

Once we’d gotten over the ‘I’m crapper than you’ modesty show down (can you imagine dudes having that conversation?), it was all about asking for advice, guidance and at one point, a round of applause for some cornering which would make a slalom racer proud.

Do dudes applaud when someone nails it?

Our coach (married with 2 daughters, and seemingly endless patience for chicks) balanced delivering information en masse, followed by one on one, second by second coaching as we rode the course. What normally would have had me knotted and sweaty, morphed into memories of my dad showing me how to ride while running behind me with his hand on my seat. It wasn’t embarrassing or weird, or intimidating in the slightest. Just hearing that voice behind you, and shouts from the chicks waiting their turn, turned the day from a ‘how to’ into one huge bonding session. Soon chicks were videoing each other, showing each other where they were dropping the wrong foot or standing too high, helping to dissect their own and each others bad habits. And with the usual feminine  modesty prevailing, the atmosphere was weirdly supportive and fun rather than critical.

When I found out that the group rides during the week, takes weekend trips to downhill and explore the state both on and off-road, I was sold. Finally, a group of like-minded ladies who aren’t going to leave me in the dust, but still ride hard enough to give me lots to learn. Some are already racers, others (like me), getting the hang of a new bike, without the annoyance of being the slow poke of the group.

As I left the group, grinning like an idiot despite learning that I’ve been riding all kinds of wrong for the last 20 years, I realized that for the first time in my life I’d found a whole group of people just like me. Tomboys. Girls who like to get dirty and sweaty, but haven’t turned into dudes while doing it. Girls who aren’t competitive, but who want to keep learning and pushing themselves for no reason other than it feels good. Girls who don’t take it that seriously and who aren’t afraid to curse loudly when it all goes tits up.

And when someone said ‘lets ride Wednesday’.. I realized that these chicas actually recognized one of their own. And want me to be a ‘diva’ too.

6 years of therapy = one morning with some mountain biking chicks.

So I didn’t meet any actual “Diva’s” and I didn’t get that dirty, but I did learn that doing scary things always has a payoff. And doing scary things with girls doesn’t have to mean cliques, discussions about men, feeling old or being frightened by expertise. You might learn something, you definitely will meet some new people and when one chick mentioned that she’d gotten a new dirt bike, well I think I just met my new best friend.

Complaint Free! … well for about 4 hours

Complaint DepartmentMonday afternoon I spent a good 90 minutes with my therapist trying to figure out why my two abhorrent friends (Debbie Downer and Negative Nelly) have come for an extended stay.

Yes. I have a therapist.

No.. I’m not ‘one of thoooooose people’

But I am all in favor of therapists. Especially when you live alone without a significant other, your family is 3200 miles away and you don’t want every social occasion to turn into a Dr Phil moment. Yes, friends can be great to unload on, to discuss ‘what should I do’ decisions or ‘why did I do that’ moments.. but they’re only human and its not fair to ask them to gaze at your navel for hours every week.

My chesticals maybe… navel… not so much.

So I like to spread my musing around a bit, and if I have to pay one of them.. its worth every penny. Plus she has mints.

Anyhow, after both of us navel gazed for an age about my startling negativity of late, she suggested that I go ‘complaint free’ for 21 days.

Somewhat like any recovery program (but drinking allowed), the goal to go without complaining, ‘negging’ , moaning, being rude or sharp, critical, whining or gossiping for 21 consecutive days. At the end of which you’ve apparently broken the habit.. aaaaaaand hopefully not been sectioned to the local pysch ward or recruited by the Mormons.

21 days without a single negative word? Now that’s a challenge for a Brit. We’re brought up on moaning. Its second nature to be sarcastic and don’t get me starting on complaining. Its wrapped around every strand of our DNA. Brits are polite to a fault, but behind closed doors or under our breath, its a whole other story. We need it. All that rain, dealing with the class system, lack of ice and foreskins… you need to moan a bit.

This challenge was designed for me. If challenge means ‘literally impossible’, ‘requires no training’ and ‘doesn’t involve heights’. This is my Annapurna. I may check out North Face and see if they have anything suitable to assist me in this herculean task. A gag perhaps?

What do I have to lose? It might help me kick my inner Eeyore to the curb before I get fired and if I fail? I’ve been a bit nicer for a bit.

To help with recording complaints, (since complaining doesn’t give you a hangover or cost anything), you wear an elastic band on your wrist. Every time you complain, whine, moan or bitch, you switch the band to the other wrist. Goal = band stays on the same wrist for 3 weeks. If you switch the band just once … you go back to Day 1. You don’t get to progress to Day 2 until you’ve made it a whole 24 hours without complaint. And even if you’re on day 20, one moan and you’re back to Day 1.

Now this doesn’t mean that you’re sallying around chattering about butterflies and unicorns; you’re not expected to become Tony Robbins either. This isn’t thought police either – you can think whatever you want.. but the words. The words can’t be negative or gossipy or mean or rude. And if the facts invite a negative discussion, you have to stick.to.the.exact.facts. Without adding a tone, a sneer, a sarcastic remark or chiming in on someone else’s negative moment. If you have nothing positive or neutral to say, you say nothing.

For those who know me… stop laughing. I’m not that bad.

Except I am. *sigh*

I invite you to try it for just a single conversation with someone you know well. Its so very  ridiculously strange. And alarming to realize how much you say without actually saying very much at all. Suddenly I realize how often my default is sarcasm or rudeness. How sharp I can be in simply stating facts and under pressure?

Not surprisingly I’m three days in and still on Day 1.

Day 1 (my first Day 1), started out easy. I live alone and I didn’t have any calls for a few hours. By 4pm I’d made it through 2 conference calls and not a harsh word, sarcastic comment or criticism made. I was verging on smug, after I’d been warned ‘you’ll be on Day 1 for quite a while’, here I was only a few hours from bedtime and, well, call me Miss Positivity.

Until I stepped outside to walk the dog and ran into a neighbor.

We chatted for about – ooooo – 10 minutes. By which time I’d switched the band about 5 times. My mind was scrambling to try to direct our conversation away from complaints to something positive, something neutral… but I couldn’t help it. I dived right it and complained along with her. I literally couldn’t stop my mouth from moving even as my brain was screaming ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOO’.

Later on the phone with a friend I resolved to make it through one of our usual hour long chats without a complaint or a negative comment, even though I’d already fucked my Day 1 chances of moving to Day 2. After a while I noticed that having to pay 100% attention to her words (and mine), not only energized the shit out of me, but I felt good. Really good. For no reason. Now obviously chatting with a friend should make you feel good. You’re connecting, your laughing, you’re nattering on about nothing… its fun. That’s why you’re friends. But this was something else. As I hung up the phone, I felt … well… joy.

In really engaging with her, focusing on the great things happening in her life, I found myself talking about the awesomeness that is going on with me. She responded to my positivity in kind and in an hour, my mood was positively giddy with joy. Something that I’d not been able to locate for myself with a therapist or a bottle of wine. Apparently focusing on the positive…. makes you positive?

Day 2 (though its still Day 1 according to my wrist). A full day of conference calls and face to face meetings, and by mid day I’ve noticed that I need to give my full attention to each meeting in order to stay positive and factual. I’m more careful when I speak, and I’m actually having to think about my words before I use them (first time in 42 years kids!). I still failed to make it through the day without a neg sentence, but my awareness of doing it – switching my elastic band each time – helped me try harder with each call. And most strange of all, I felt more positive overall. I was excited about work. I noticed more of the good, less of the stuff which generally drives me nuts. Its so unbelievably weird.

If your life is really determined by your thoughts, and your words reflect those thoughts. Then words really do matter. But can you really change your thoughts, by changing your words? I don’t know, but I’m interested to find out where this goes.

I’ll be over here, snapping my elastic band and frantically trying to steer the conversation away from the weather.

Getting cross while getting fit

You might have noticed some weird posts from friends on their social media lately.  Mentions of WODs, AMRAPs and sumo deadlifts. Nope, its not a new sexual practice or iPhone app.. welcome to the world of CrossFit.

Cross fit, as I learned recently, is fitness program that focuses on exercises somewhat like ‘basic training’ in the army. Lots of pushups, squat thrusts, pull ups and medicine balls, no machines to speak of and a cult like following.Its short, aggressive and somewhat manic in its intensity.  Like Zumba, Step Aerobics and other trends of its ilk, Crossfit has it passionate supporters who see it as a portal to a whole other world (I put that down to lack of oxygen), and some swear its made them a better person able to take on tough challenges in their life. Others think its ridiculous.

Skeptics ask how safe it is for non pro lifters to be jumping on and off boxes, skipping rope and hauling large weights around what is often not much more than a garage, but I can see how any gym could be accused of the same. I’ve seen enough dudes in wife beaters trying to bench 250lbs at Ballys to know that any exercise can be dangerous, regardless of the situation or ‘title’.Seeing a hernia pop out of some dudes groin one day at the gym ended my membership and any desire lift a weight every again. 

6 months ago a few people I work with started ‘Crossfitting’. My boss lost 45lbs and my girlfriend started to look like a total bad-ass. They seemed really jazzed and the results were quite startling.
I remember delts. I seem to remember that I liked having them, but the whole gym grunting sweating thing? After 3 years of yoga and running it seemed so 90s’ and really not appealing at all. Nope, not for me. I did step, I did weights.. I was over that stuff.

Then one day, finding myself in a headstand for a few minutes I noticed that not only was my stomach relaxing into a very unappealing fold, but my thighs seemed to be heading south too. I giggled at my chub and watched in horror my entire body start to wobble, like a mini tsunami in reverse. Yowser. No. Just No.
Now I know that being tight and firm while upside down isn’t exactly a goal in life, but I have to say that I don’t fancy osteoporosis either and aging isn’t going to make me any fitter. Plus with newly tattoo’d arms, I can’t hide these bat wings forever. Well it is spring and I do need a new challenge.. time to change things up. Time for Cross fit. Ugh.. but maybe I’d get good abs out of it.

Arriving 10 minutes early, I almost didn’t make it to the first class. The size of the weights, the intense sweating, the crazed looks, pulsing veins.. and that was the women. Some of these chicks could snap me with their neck muscles. I want to get fit, not turn into Henry Rollins. But before I could turn on my heel, the instructor caught my eye (damn cute too), and I was trapped. Internally chanting my ‘I’m scared’ mantra (do it once, you can always leave), I decided to ovary up and at least check it out. Plus the instructor was hawt.

After practicing with plastic poles (approximate weight… 5oz) for 20 minutes, my thighs were burning and I my head was spinning with all of the things I needed to remember in order to lift the weight the ‘right’ way. I honestly thought I had a squat down.. but jeez.. this was like Olympic level coaching .. was he planning on having me lift a car or something? Still, time was flying, the sweat was pouring off me and I’d still not picked up an actual weight. Maybe the weights were just for the ‘big girls’. I looked over at the pile of weights in the corner and felt nauseous. I couldn’t do this stuff with a plastic pole.. never mind with 50 or 75lbs. What was I thinking?

Except 20 minutes later I was lifting 50lbs.

I was Iron Man. I was Rocky. I was Her-cu-lees.

And that’s the addictive part of Cross fit. With extensive coaching and technique you can do some quite incredible things. Like lifting 50lbs. I felt invincible and strong as I powered the weight over my head again and again…. I am Thor.. I am Woman…

..until we put down the weights and had to jump on and off a box.

At which point my legs turned to Jello and I fell over. And stayed there.

Which, while horrifically embarrassing, is also addictive. Because now I need to come back in order to not fall over. I was cross that while lifting 50lbs over my head was a breeze,  I couldn’t jump on and off a box without turning to ‘fat wheezing chick’. So I’m heading back to Cross fit.  To redeem myself as ‘lifter of heavy things’ and ‘jumper of boxes’ and not least, to figure out what on earth WOD means. Woman of Destruction? I kind of hope so… except maybe not so veiny.

My patchwork life


I’ve always been a workaholic. As a studious Capricorn, I’m never happier than buried in work, getting stuff done. I was the kid who did their homework the evening I got it, wrote stories and painted murals for something to do, and read voraciously to keep my brain from exploding. Lazy summers drove me nuts (and on some seriously long bike rides), and no kid was ever more excited when school started up again than me. I only really felt comfortable if I had structure and purpose. 
My life was a patchwork of hobbies, school, friends and family, with all of the edges straight and clearly defined. I obsessively planned, wrote lists and organized to wring the maximum out of each day. My sister spent endless hours spent lazing, chatting, playing with her hair and makeup – all completely confounding to me. I never really understood how someone could be so ‘drifty’ through life. Life was about doing stuff. And lots of it.
For someone who reveled in organizing and doing, consulting was an obvious career for me and my first job was a passionate love affair. I was obsessed with my clients, my company, my work and I was quite happy to drive myself into the office every weekend for an unbilled 8 or 10 hours. Eating, drinking, socializing, working out… everything else happened after I left the office at 9pm and that was just fine. My mother bemoaned by lack of ‘life’ and my obsession with work but I couldn’t think what else I’d be doing if I wasn’t working. Settling down? Having babies? Have we met?
Then as 30 loomed, I looked around and noticed the singularity within my life might not be as healthy as I thought.  I didn’t know a single person who lived in Denver, I lived in a carry-on bag and I had dry cleaning in several states. I was proud of my ability to pack 4 outfits and workout gear into a 14 inch square, always get the aisle seat and wring the most work out of a 3 hour flight to Chicago.  Hey, we all have skills. When I flew 100,000 miles in a single year I was excited rather than depressed, even if most of those flights had involved trips to a snowy Detroit, freezing Minneapolis and drizzly Manchester.
While I was happy, my patchwork life had shrunk to a single patch – work. My friends, my social life, my being all revolved around my job. The only people I dated were coworkers. I worked every single day of the week, and I’d forced friends to delay my 30th birthday celebrations while I finished a work-plan on New Years Eve. As we wished each other Happy New Year, I caught up on the engagements, babies, houses and travels that my friends had been busy with throughout the year. Cue my first panic attack as I realized that in 10 years I might still be sitting in exactly the same place, doing exactly the same thing if nothing changed. And while I was happy in my work, a PowerPoint deck can’t pick you up from the doctors or cheer you up when the cat dies. I’d never been busier… but my life had never felt smaller. The next time I looked up from my email, everyone had moved on.
Then in 2000 I got laid off. I didn’t even have that single patch any more.  
  
If there’s a lesson in the cruelty of my layoff – 8 yrs of 100 hr weeks over in a single day – I’m not sure what it was. It felt like being left by a lover… I was confused, hurt, angry and lost. What was I without my work?  Who was I? And what was the last 8 years for? Why didn’t it love me like I loved it?
Living in a foreign country with a rapidly expiring visa, 2 weeks pay, few local friends and no clue what to do, I did what I do best. I planned, I organized, I created structure and I ‘management consulted’ my life into some semblance of sanity.  
When I jumped back into other companies and other love affairs with work, I never quite gave away my heart and soul again. My quilt of a life will never shrink quite so small again and I work at keeping it varied and rich. Adding new patches- finding new passions, new friends, more balance – its hard when you’ve spent your life so focused on one thing. But I guess that first heartbreak scars you forever and so I keep looking for patches to add. 
Maybe this summer I’ll take some swimming classes and finally learn to enjoy laps, or return to tennis and improve my net game. Maybe I’ll find some good guy friends or finally encourage one of my boomerangs to land. Take that trip to Costa Rica. Ride my motorcycle down to Santa Fe. 
Or maybe actually learn to sit still and enjoy doing nothing.

Okay, lets not go too crazy. 

Concessions.. and not the popcorn variety


I’ve often been accused of being too flexible. The Queen of the concession. Driven by an insatiable need to be liked, I’ll be whatever and whoever you want me to be. I’ve become many different people through the years with the sole aim of appealing to someone or fitting into their idea of who they wanted. I’ve been Disco Rachael, Indie Rachael, Homemaker Rachael, Introvert Rachael, Extrovert Drunk Rachael, Fashionista Rachael, Adventure Planning Rachael, Workaholic Rachael and far too many times, Spineless Rachael.

Appeasing other people is how I wound up studying something ‘useful’ instead of something I loved, got into rollerblading (thankfully short-lived, though I’m sure a few people have flown to Vancouver BC to explicitly do something they hate), bought 100 year old houses I was ambivalent about, lived with a dog who liked to bite people and who my husband preferred to me, sat through every friggin’ Star Wars movie, moved to Seattle despite a hatred of rain, treated entire families I’d never met to Indians tickets, listened to music which made me consider figurative suicide.. the list is frighteningly long. I’ve thrown away friendships, rearranged my life, purged my bank account.. all in the name of being someone else. Someone you’ll like more.

Sometimes I lost myself completely and the outcomes weren’t pretty when I finally resurfaced. No, this isn’t ‘natural evolution’ for me, but a series of ‘sure’ ‘ok’ ‘sounds fun’ ‘ I love Yo La Tenga’ until suddenly you can’t remember what you really like to do, who you were, who you are. It’s a long process to get back to ‘you’ and you become weirdly protective of yourself as a result.

So after a few years of living single and selfishly, my desire to bend, to make every concession to who I am has all but been eliminated. I am firmly myself. I like to hike. I like getting dirty in the yard. I like restaurants with tablecloths. Oh, and I hate Yo La Tenga.  With a passion.

While I’m still willing to flex to accommodate the things I can’t change or to try something that sounds fun, I’ve stopped short of becoming a different person to please or appeal to someone. It’s made me a stronger, more confident person. But it also creates somewhat of a nervous knee jerk reaction to making concessions. If I concede, change my plans, flex what I consider appropriate.. am I giving up myself? Am I returning to old habits? Am I losing myself again? It’s a terrifying prospect after how much I fought to reclaim who I am.

This month I keep running into that fear. After a sleepless night, arguments in my head at 2am and a reassessment of a situation, I decided to make a big concession – not who I am, or what I value – but still a concession. I’m still not sure whether I can do this – be myself and have it be enough. But I can’t be friends with someone, be with someone, work with someone and not flex, be willing to do things which I don’t like or don’t want. Its just not possible and I don’t want to turn into the weirdo spinster with 17 little dogs who works at the charity shop.
The questions remains whether I have the courage to flex without losing myself. I guess as long as I stay away from Yo La Tenga.. thats a start.

Dating ‘normal’

Unexpectedly I found myself on a date with a non hippy, (body part, not ethos), sane, good looking dude one Friday night. I had a scotch or three to celebrate.
Interesting? check. Passionate about his job? check. Good body? big check. Eyes? two, facing forward and aligned, check. Single? check. Chemistry? ummmmmm????

Here’s the kicker. The guy had no edge. Either he was hiding it in his pants or he really was the ‘what you see… ‘ guy. Which threw me for a loop. Where was his self obsessed monologue on his activities?  His off handed criticism of former partners? Slightly sexist comment about my career? Nada.  None of it. Instead, I just had a great date. Which ended at 1am and a request for a second date that following Sunday.

Second date – snowshoeing – gave me the ideal opportunity to dig around his personality to find his edge, plus check out his ass in snow pants (hey, these things are important in Colorado). Damn. He passed that test. Clearly he’s drinking blood or sucking down HGH because this guy does not look his age in the clarity of daylight.
So we hike. And we chat. Well he chats, I’m conserving oxygen and watching him slowly wilt. And again, no edge. He’s open, apparently honest and not hiding much – but with some boundaries. All very appropriate and proper.

The problem becomes apparent- its me. I’m not used to normal people. Certainly not guys I’m on a date with. By now we’ve hit the sheets and he’s already picking out rings as I’m making for the door.  Or I’m planning our vacation and he’s out the door. Instead this guys is telling me about how he took care of his Mum when she was terminally ill with lung cancer. Seriously. He’s that nice. He’s making me laugh, calling me on being harsh and generally acting like a good friend.

The result – I’ve never felt like more of a freak as it becomes clear… this guys wants us to be friends and get to know each other before anything happens. Did this guy write a dating book? I’m floored. Stunned. What a pity that I find him so boring. See? this is what dating does to you..I can’t be attracted to normal. I don’t know what to do with nice or normal.

Now help me find a guy who’s completely career obsessed or has a burgeoning drinking problem please. That I can deal with.

When I am American

After 15 years of alien-ness, I’ve decide to abandon the proper use of the letter ‘t’, learn to like grits and join the mother ship. Yes, I’m becoming an American.

I moved to the US from the UK, full of self righteous superiority and plummy vowels, determined to show the Yanks a thing or too at work while surreptitiously looking for some yummy Springsteen ass (only made in America, I assure you). No surprise that the wind was knocked out of me on my arrival. Gone were the grey faces, sour dispositions and cynical sarcasm that I knew as mothers milk. The people I ,met were were positive, friendly (if a little resistant to my English wit) and welcoming. America was the hug I’d been wanting since childhood and I wasn’t leaving.  

Armed with a green card I’ve been happy to remain an alien. I still cling to the correct pronunciation of tom-ah-to, celebrate Guy Fawkes day and get my Marks and Sparks Christmas Fruit cake sent stateside every year.  I drink tea not coffee and think that your bacon is a travesty, but I love this country. When I think about where I’ll end my days, the thought of drizzly old England leaves me cold. Give me the mountains, the blue sky and people who say ‘ma’am’.

As a new American I might not be able to run for President (I’ve already got enough grey hair thankyou) but I will participate in the democratic process. Its the main reason I’m adopting this country (that and replacing ‘God Save the Queen’ as my national anthem should I ever win that 100m gold medal).
As I swear my allegiance to the flag and offer up my assistance to defend the country (I’ve already got the gun and I can probably learn to chew tobacco), well, I’ll be thinking about the possibilities and the future. Not just my own, but what I can help influence for other women.  Not being able to vote has been the thorn that drove me to finally call myself an American and all that goes along with that, good and bad. I will fight the inevitable American fattening up process and you have permission to kill me if I ever watch an episode of anything starring Aston Kutcher, but along with crap comes the ability to stand up and vote for what I believe it, and lend a hand in 2016 should Hilary choose to do whats right.
And that’s what I’ll be thinking about tonight as I sit down with my flash cards and  Schoolhouse Rock. Plus did you know, Washington had wooden teeth???
How cool is that????

‘ ..on your own???’

As a single women at the age of 40ish, it seems that many people still think I need a chaperone through my own life.

Most recently when I moved house, I was asked ‘do you have a friend to help you?’ with a worried look and a vague offer to ‘be there’ that faded away before the words were fully out of his mouth. Yes, actually I do have a friend. I ordered him off the internet and he charged $85 an hour, just like every mover I’ve used. Would I rather have ‘a friend’ help me? Hell no, my sofa cost $4000 and I need pros for that baby. But I run into it everywhere. The horror of doing things ‘on your own.’

When I bought my first apartment I was counselled that I should ‘get a male friend’ to come with me to the transaction close. Why? So we could consummate the sale at the realtors office?
‘You know… just in case.’ In case??? My friend Geoff found it hysterical that anyone thought he was more capable at closing a real estate transaction than me.. especially as the only thing he’d ever bought was his 1998 VW Golf. I can understand the value of bringing a friend, if that friend also happened to be a real estate lawyer, but what it boiled down to was the projection that a single woman shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing on her own.

Planning a vacation after my divorce, I was asked by my mother who I was going with;
‘Noone.. just me’
‘You’re going … on… your own? Couldn’t one of your friends come?’
‘I want to go on my own’
‘Won’t you be lonely?’
 ‘….??’

How it was going to be more lonely on a Hawaiian island than at home in my house was beyond me. Both featured ‘just me’. And the island came with hot surf instructors, bartenders and fellow beach bums..I wouldn’t be alone for long. But there it was again, the projection that being ‘on your own’ was somehow a terrible thing.

Following my divorce I couldn’t move for assurances that I’d find someone ‘really quickly’ and that I needed to ‘get out there’. I was still licking my wounds but the message I heard loud and clear was ‘find someone ASAP!’ as a way to avoid the dreaded state of ‘being alone’.  With a fire lit under my heels, it wasn’t until I found myself on a date, wishing I was watching Top Chef instead, that I realized I didn’t need to be part of a pair to have fun. In fact, fun was sometimes, actually often, being a single and alone.

The weird thing is, I used to think that I did need to be part of a pair, everywhere I went.
I remember being terrified to even hit a movie for fear that people with pitchforks and wild eyes would laugh me down the aisle for being on my own.
I thought that people traveling overseas on their own were reckless, and those who vacationed alone were clearly mules for drug cartels or were cruising Club Med for divorcees and widows. Those women who traveled the world alone, ate alone and didn’t seem phased by being ‘a single’ were bonkers. A little sad. Clearly lonely. Probably too picky. Probably just needed to ‘get out there more’

Its taken a long time to realize that single doesn’t mean alone. In fact single has meant more friends, more adventures, self awareness and much greater happiness than being ‘together’. Sure I troll around looking for male companionship and naked fun, and it would be lovely to be partnered for those snow days or when my toilet leaks, but I don’t need to be a couple these days. 
Plus you can find anyone to do anything on Craigslist.

NOTE: as I googled images for this post every single image for ‘alone’ showed someone crying or looking sad. Talk about projecting!!!

Those who race bikes

Since it seems to be cycling week here on the blog, I can’t skip racing. Much as I scorn the cyclists obsessive nature and his fixation on improvement, when it comes to racing it actually make sense. These guys (and gals) get a pass. Don’t be confused, they’re still psychotic and sadomasochistic, but at least they do it with purpose.

Take my friend L. Since joining a team and starting racing in her early 40s she’s undergone a complete transformation. She’s become the person I believe she always was. Focused, driven by competitive desires, enjoying comradeship from her team mates and I have to believe, a more fulfilling self of sense. I don’t see that look of ‘I wish I could’ that most of us fall into after a certain age. She did just it and now into her second winter, she looks insanely good – ripped even – happy and she just shines, even as she’s climbing exhausted into her car at the end of her race. Certainly, I’ve spent more time looking at her podium shots that any hetero woman should admit to. How did she get those legs??? (cycling.. idiot!)

My other friend Hope took up cycling as part of her triathlon training. As soon as she suggested a tri I really did have to fight the desire to delete her number, but since she’s a good friend I put it down to mid life crisis and temporarily oxygen deprivation after a long run. Now she rides flywheel and rode over 500 miles in December alone. While she might be approaching crazy-ville, she looks great, she’s discovering the competitive edge in herself and its exciting to see where she might take it.

Neither of my girls are going to give up their jobs, families and move to France to pursue their TdF dreams, but both seem to have used their love of the 2 wheels to take them out of their rut, fuel some inner competitive edge and drive change in their lives. 

Of course not all racers take it up as part of mid life crisis. My friend Bob has been racing for years and boasts one of the best ‘masters’ asses I’ve ever seen (his partner knows I check it out and I’ve not been slapped yet. I think she revels in it). Not only does it keep him fitter than most 30 yr olds, he’s powered through medical issues, life changes and challenges by remaining focused on the next crit.  When some might be thinking ‘ I should hang it up’, he’s learning to surf, riding harder than ever and amazingly, still improving his performance. Bob’s a lifer as far as cycling goes and I can see him riding for another 40 years since his cyclist psychosis is tempered by an enjoyment of all things culinary and an extremely health sex life. Clearly he’s not spending too much time in the saddle.

All of these guys race and yet instead of spinning themselves into deep psychosis, it seems to keep them in touch with reality. They seem to thrive on competition – so much you can actually see it. Maybe because they’re spending their time channeling their sadomasochism into some form of tangible achievement instead of spending hours checking Cycling News, researching the latest derailleur wire and obsessing over the weight of their rice portion. Or maybe they just like winning and we don’t much opportunity to win anything after the age of 10.

I wish I had a competitive bone in my body where cycling was considered – it seems nothing but positive as far as I can see. Ripped bodies, satisfied Sunday nights and the opportunity to stand stiffly on a podium and feel like a winner, even if your audience is composed of spouses and prairie dogs. Sadly I’d no more chase down a cyclist to pass them – just for fun – then I would ask them for their digits. I guess I need to get my kicks in other ways… and no, dating doesn’t count as a competitive sport.

Owning it

Today I became a woman.

No, I’m not the oldest pubescent in the world, but I did finally make the switch from thinking of myself as a girl, to mentally owning the word ‘woman’. There isn’t really a female equivalent to ‘growing some balls’ (‘ovary up’?) but today, whatever it is, I did it.

How?

I bought a motorcycle. And rode it.

Notice that I separate the two actions. I bought it. And I rode it. The time in between the two actions was dicey, and my hands are still shaking but I bought and used something purely for the joy and fear of doing it. I can’t claim that its a ‘next step’ in adult hood, or that its advantageous for tax purposes. Its not going to extend my life, make me rich or attract a mate (lord I hope not, biker guys are scary). I can’t blame someone for making me do it. It serves no unique role that isn’t already filled by my truck or my scooter. No. Today I bought something purely because I was scared and excited to do it. And because I finally had the ‘balls’ (ovaries) to do it.

Having spent my girlhood largely following expectations in order to ‘fit in’, my inner desire seems to have finally ‘ovaried up’ enough to do what I want.. regardless of what other people might think.
Yes, sailors and hookers have tattoos… but so do lots of regular people, including me. Yes, bad ass drug kingpins ride motorcycles.. but so do lots of regular people, including me. I’m not taking on the stereotypes to piss off someone.. its more that I finally realized that people are, or aren’t, judging me anyway about things that I largely don’t have control over. So why not have them judge me doing the things that I want and do have control over. So, shaking like a leaf I bought the bike.
Then 6 hours later, shaking like a leaf and resplendent in leather, I rode it around the neighborhood.
The result? I have no desire to get a ‘Love’ or “Mum’ tattoo on my hand, hard drugs are still repellent and I don’t think that I’m ever going to want to drink bourbon, no matter how cold it gets. But today I owned it. I challenged myself and I finally thought of myself as a woman.

Does this mean I can finally bury the white picket fence ideal?