Rain, Sweat and Tears

Mother’s Day dawned wet and dreary, with a windy chill in the air. I was exhausted from my girlfriend getaway I’d just returned from, and I felt the let-down Sunday usually brings. I was greeted with gifts and cuddles from my family, which I appreciated, but I just can’t stand the expectations of this particular holiday.

We went to church and I lurched out of my funk quickly upon seeing Alistair, my three-year old son, singing a song about mothers from the stage. He waved proudly and then sprinted to us before the number was over.

But when we arrived home the tiredness and gloom settled upon our apartment again. My husband wanted to nap and Alistair needed a nap, so I just joined them, knowing I’m a ‘bad napper.’ I usually wake up feeling guilty, not refreshed.

This proved to be the case. I woke up disoriented, feeling sad about missing my own mom (who is in a long term care situation over 4 hours away) and guilty about all of the Mother’s Day chocolates and feeling that, as predicted, this holiday wasn’t living up what it ‘should’ be.

Alex took Alistair to the grocery store to thoughtfully by the makings of my favorite dinner. While gone, I contemplated laying on the couch and eating chocolate. But I knew I’d feel even worse. I needed air, no matter how wet.

I proclaimed I was going to go work out. I arrived at the YMCA to find the place deserted, especially of women. But I felt an immediate lift just being there, knowing I was going to do something.

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I contemplated this blog and thought, “This is a win. It’s a small win, but I’m here. I’ll photo chart my journey and write a post about the magic of the small win.”

I was even in my favorite shirt at the moment- Perfect Is Boring.

I began in earnest, pushing myself as I racked up some cardio.

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But it was HARD, much harder than my usual trips to the gym. I only managed 20 minutes and a mile.

And the darn machine timed out before I could even photograph my stats (see above) I tried some weight machines but was intimidated by all of the dude-bros.



The lack of any other women started to get to me. “They’re all having a great time with their families, and I’m here with a pathetic mile to walk.”

I’m not generally pessimistic, and I’m not generally gloomy, but this was SUCH.A.GLOOMY.DAY.

I went to the exit, mopping my brow with a towel and then wondering why, as it was a torrential down pour at this point.

A man came running up to me with a bracelet. “Is this yours?” he asked. It was. And one of my favorite pieces, purchased from Top Shop in Edinburgh with an emotional attachment.

Something about his thoughtfulness cheered me up.

I was  incredibly hot, and decided on a whim what I really wanted was stand in the rain.

So I did. I let it pour down on me as I slowly walked to the car. I did the cliché thing, putting my hands out and letting it drip over me while I looked up in to the cloudy sky.

I jumped into my car damp and shivering, a few tears springing to my eyes as well. I couldn’t place them. Relief tears? Missing-my-mom-on-Mother’s Day tears? Tears celebrating my teeny tiny win on the elliptical? I wasn’t sure.

I drove home and felt a release. The release of the expectations I’d put on myself and others. The release of the longing for my own mother, so far away in too many ways. The release of the idea that my small win was the one mile at the gym.

Because my small win WASN’T the work-out. It was letting myself feel what I needed to feel, and not feeling guilty about it.

It’s important to celebrate the small wins, for sure.

And after I pulled in to park the car at home, I realized my face was a mixture of rain, sweat and tears.

I took this photo to document the ‘Small Win.’

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Later that evening I contemplated the amazing weekend I’d had in Winnipeg. I thought again about Alistair waving to me from the front of the church. I thought of the delicious meal my husband prepared to celebrate me in my role as a mother.

I almost felt selfish for my earlier cry. Until I reminded myself….. THAT was my small win of the day.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the good things, but we ALWAYS need to remind ourselves that we are human.

Rain, sweat, tears and all.

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Flowers from Winnipeg.

Exercise Anxiety

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‘We Can Do Hard Things.’

This saying is popping up everywhere lately. I even purchased a wooden plaque with the saying from a thrift store the other day. I put it up on my husband’s bed stand, and looking at it makes me giggle just a little bit. Double entendre aside, I like the sentiment. I DO do hard things. Raising my son, looking after my mom, writing a novel, going to endless grad school…

But one of the hardest things for me to do is live an anxiety-free life.

And it’s very, very hard for me to workout; like REALLY workout.  Proper exercise.

Last week I went to Zumba. I’ve gone through phases of doing Zumba regularly, but I always modify it, and leave for at least one song to get a break for my sanity. In the past few years I’ve avoided it completely.  But Lauren, my workout buddy, and I had been doing such a great job at pushing ourselves every day, that on this one day she couldn’t do our cardio/strength routine, I went to Zumba by myself. I felt confident I could do it alone.

The fun ensued and I sweated through a few songs. My heart raced and I tried to ignore it. I shook out my hands, stood in front of the fan, and kept moving. I slowed down the next song, took a drink of water, and willed myself to keep going. But my heart raced and raced,  and as I took a certain misstep I thought for sure I  was going pass to out.

I panicked. This it it, I thought. Death by Zumba.  I wobbled to the door, mopping up my sweat with a towel and willing my heart rate to slow down. It didn’t. The evening remained hot and sunny, and the corridors of the gym filled with warm damp air as I wished for nothing more than a cold place to sit. Everyone walked past happy and fit, unaware I may be dying.

I hyperventilated my way to the locker room. Happy women sat chatting on the chairs and my vision was going blurry but I ran to the toilet and locked myself in, willing myself to stop panicking, trying to ignore the throbbing in my chest, now painful. I tried some vasovagal maneuvers.

I made my way outside somehow, and into my car. I blasted cold air on my face, took a drink of water, an anxiety pill, and sat with my head between my legs. Slowly my heart rate and breathing returned to normal. I was going to live.

It surprised me. It always does after a panic attack.

I texted and called my husband and a few friends, seeking comfort, distraction. I felt better.

Eventually I went on with my evening with nothing but an eye twitch to remind me of the episode.

I cried a bit that night for no real reason. I guess I felt a bit sorry for myself. I couldn’t finish Zumba. I obviously needed Lauren or someone to keep me from panicking. I couldn’t even go to the gym like a normal person.

Because this is one truth about me: I’m a worrier, and I’ve had a fear of cardio exercise for a decade.

It sounds almost silly to say. As I gained weight, doctors told me to exercise. I agreed, but never did. Not REALLY. Not in the P90x sort of way. I stuck with yoga and walking.

Finally I admitted it to my GP: “I  can’t do vigorous exercise. I hate the feeling of my heart beating quickly; it makes me panic. I literally think I’m going to  die every time. I actually look for the defibrillator to make me feel better. ”

“That’s not normal,” she said. “I’ve never had a patient tell me they look for a defibrillator for comfort.”

She raised her eyebrows.

I’ve had many heart tests done, just to rule out if I were paranoid or they really were after me. Anxiety is an expensive disorder.

In the end, it turns out I am able to overcome this particular fear through a variety of methods:

1. Distraction –  I work out with a friend. If alone, I listen to really loud music. Really. Loud.

2. Support –  I feel ‘safe’ with a friend.

3. Something to grab- If I’m feeling panicky on the treadmill, I can grip the sides. Steady myself, as it were. Zumba is so open. A definite  trigger for me. (But sooooo fun if I can do it)

4. Channeling my inner calm. Deep breathing, utilizing CBT techniques..

5. Anxiety medication.

6. Strength training. Less risk of getting short of breath.

Exercise may easy for some people. For me, it’s one of the hard things I have to do.

It’s not as hard as most things  in my life. But I know that to be my best self and to be the mom Alistair deserves…I need to overcome my exercise anxiety.