I should have trusted my gut. I knew, even while I was waiting outside the yoga studio for the earlier class to let out, that this was going to be bad. I can’t explain it. Maybe it was because there were only four of us waiting. Maybe it’s because two were men. Maybe it’s because of the earlier epic battle I’d had with my new sports bra. I’m not sure, but something was telling me, Hey, you should probably just go lift some weights or jump on the elliptical or, better yet, just head on home, take off this medieval constrictor suffocating your boobs, and have a glass of wine. Anything but go into that room and be stuck there for the next hour and a half.
Yeah, because that’s some other shit people don’t tell you when you begin taking yoga. The classes are a full ninety minutes long. Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s very few things I like to do for ninety straight minutes. Sweating and being ouchy does not fall on that short list. That being said, I have been enjoying the classes, and I can touch my feet again, so I’m making some semblance of progress.
Anyhow, against my better judgment, I went in, dutifully grabbed my mat and blocks and laid down in the back of the room, away from the mirrors. When I glanced up as the instructor walked in, I noticed with alarm that not only were the other five people in the room incredibly fit and toned, but were right up front as though they actually wanted to see themselves in the mirror. By now the alarm bells were dinging a little louder, but it was too late. The door was closed, and to get up and walk out was to admit defeat before I started. I closed my eyes again, trying to focus on my breathing like everyone keeps telling me to.
The following is an edited transcript of the class, with the instructor’s voice in bold and my terrified thoughts in italics.
OKAY EVERYONE! I’M JEROME, SUBBING FOR KATIE. LET’S ALL GET INTO PLANK POSITION TO START!!!
Wait, no!!! Where’s Katie? I love Katie. She lets us lie flat on our backs for the first ten minutes, getting used to the room and breathing in and out. It’s my favorite part.
So we’re just going to hold here for several breaths, and okay, now ease slowly down and right up into down dog. Go!
And up and vinyasa and now lift your right leg as high as you can!
I don’t think yoga instructors are supposed to yell go, Jerome. In fact, I don’t think you’re supposed to yell at all. Katie doesn’t yell. She lets us lie here and breathe and says soothing things in a nice, quiet, yoga-ey voice.
Also, who starts with planks? Planks are horrible. I can hardly find my breath while trying not collapse and it’s only been five minutes!
Shit, everyone is standing up. What’d I miss?
I clumsily got to my feet and tried to copy the pose of the person in front of me, catching an unfortunate glimpse of myself in the mirror.
How did everyone get back on the floor so fast? The fuck, Jerome? Slow down, for God’s sake. This isn’t a contest, right?
Okay, now if you want to challenge yourself more, straighten your front leg completely while you touch your forehead to your knee and raising your arm towards the ceiling, raising your gaze to look at your fingers.
Oh, apparently it is a contest, as everyone just managed to fold themselves completely in half and raise their arm up.
Just don’t fall over. Don’t. Fucking. Fall. Over. You don’t have to look up. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone here. Just breathe.
What did I just fucking say? Don’t look up. YOU CAN’T LOOK UP. You don’t have that kind of balance. At least no one noticed, right?
Of course they noticed.
If you find that looking up is too challenging for you, feel free to keep your gaze low.
You know he’s talking about you, right, newbie? I told you not to look up.
Twenty minutes go by, during which I alternate flopping to my mat and attempting to stand up gracefully, consistently five to ten seconds behind everyone else. I spend a good majority of the time in the downward dog position, face firmly planted in my double D’s, contemplating a breast reduction. Also, no one seems impressed that I can touch my feet.
Now we’re going to go into the (insert actual, yoga name for squatting uncomfortably with your knees spread apart, or the pose I like to call, “If anyone is going to fart, it’s going to be now,) pose.
Yay! I can do this one!
But wait, I know what comes next. It’s where everyone else manages to do the crow pose (balancing on your forearms in what my preteen self would call the teapot) while you sit in the squat and question why the hell you ever took up yoga.
That’s okay though. This is sort of motivating. One day I’ll be able to do it. Today is just not that day.
So, even if you don’t feel comfortable trying crow, you can put a block in front of you and rest your head on it while you try and lift just one leg off of the ground at a time!
Not going to happen, Jerome. I learned my lesson with the whole looking up thing.
(Jerome stares directly at me as he repeats his modification.)
(I stare back, smiling as I sit spread eagled in a squat, hands firmly in front of me like I’m praying.)
(Jerome looks very discomfited.)
Leave me alone, Jerome. Go help the yoga masters who are somehow balancing on one arm wrapped between their legs. I’m just going to hope I can make it to a standing position from here without toppling backwards.
You are so not relaxing. I miss Katie. She tells me it’s okay and to take it at my own pace. Plus, she isn’t a contortionist like you all seem to be.
Now would be a good time to mention that every other person in the class? Is having a blast, balancing on their fingertips, legs shooting straight in the air, twirling around on one hand like circus people while I sit, smiling and squatting.
Now, if you REALLY want to challenge yourself, you can bind your arms and only use the left one for balance. Use the strength in your arm and core!
Is my foot asleep?
And….now I have to pee.
If this goes on much longer, you are going to fall onto your back like a turtle and piss yourself. Get up. Get up now.
So now to dolphin pose for some inversions. Dolphin pose is a great way to build that shoulder strength. Just walk your feet right up as close as you can to your elbows, and if you want to take the inversion, kick up…..(blah, blah, blah, because none of this is happening for you, blondie in the back.)
You know what? Fuck off, Jerome. If I ever see you again in front of this class, I’m going to run as fast as my fat ass will let me in the other direction.
Hmm. I don’t think I’m getting the whole “restorative, cleansing properties,” out of this practice as advertised.
Okay. Just do the damn dolphin pose. We’re almost done and then we get to lay down and breathe quietly. You excel at that part.
(I spend another five minutes, face firmly planted between my own breasts, desperate for 7:30 to arrive already.)
Mercifully, the class begins to wind down. We lie on our backs, we stretch, we roll from one side to the other. All things I’m very good at and – btw – Katie says are just as important.
Oh, thank you, sweet dancing Moses I don’t think I could be here much longer.
I don’t even know how to begin to process what just happened.
Well, thank you all for coming out today. Katie will be back next week but if you want to see me, I teach at (other Chicago Athletic Clubs) on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.
From one of the circus contortionists in the front row, “Oh, but can’t you come back and teach all the time??!!! This was awesome!!”
SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH!!!
Okay, time to go home. You almost said that out loud.
With a smile for me, Jerome says, “Don’t worry. It gets easier.”
I grind out a “Thank you,” through clenched teeth and start to wipe down my mat, concluding my ninety minutes of torture by knocking over my water bottle and stepping on my phone.
Get. Out. Of. This. Room.
I don’t tell you all of this to scare you away from yoga, because for the most part, I love it. I tell you so that if you should take a class that you feel is above your level, you can think back and realize, “Hey, this could definitely be going worse!”
(I saw Jerome in a different area of the gym yesterday on the way to my class and immediately broke out in a cold sweat. Thankfully, I spotted the lovely Katie in the studio and almost hugged her, I was so happy.)
It had finally happened. After a solid month of waking up every single morning exactly twenty minutes before my alarm went off to the sound of chainsaws, jackhammers, large equipment being broken, and heavy appliances being dragged by loudly irritated construction workers, the apartment above us was finally complete. (Seriously. I don’t know what the fuck was happening up there, but I can’t wait to see it. By the sounds of it, they built an entire bowling alley/theme park/festival grounds. I had thought Mr’s Stomps-A-Lot, our previous neighbors, were loud. They had nothing on these workers. Nothing. Plus, I’m a night person, so their bowling tournaments/boot stomping competitions at midnight didn’t bother me. This was happening in the morning. Not cool.) For an entire month, the first words out of my mouth were “Oh my God why??!!! Just shut up!!!” So on Saturday, when we walked out to see two guys moving actual furniture in, I was elated.
We met Preston, and he told us his girlfriend Courtney was moving in with him. How fun! The last female neighbor I had was awesome, maybe I’d make a new friend – and she’d have my name!! How exciting.
Saturday was awful, weather-wise, and all previous plans went out the window in the face of cold pouring rain. (Seriously, Spring, get your shit together.) Anyhow, we planned on grilling and watching the Hawks game, but even we weren’t willing to stand in the downpour just for grilled sausages, so we elected to tailgate on our inside back porch instead. That porch is shared with the other tenants, but it seemed as though they were done moving, so we didn’t think we’d be in their way. We found an eighties playlist on TuneIn, got some beers, and hung out most of the afternoon. We were having a lovely time.
The day prior, I received a frantic call from my landlord, stating there was a leak in the first floor apartment, which is unoccupied, that seemed to be coming from our place. Now, I’m no plumber, but I do know two plus two equals four, and I quickly deduced it was likely from the plumbing work that was being done upstairs the day prior. But no, he was pretty sure it was coming from our place, despite no water being on and never having a leak before. Also, he didn’t have a key to our apartment because of course. “I don’t know what to do, Mrs. Drobick!! This is really bad!” (Did I mention my landlord is 27
years old? And bought up half of the damn city last year? Ugh.) He said they were going to have to break our deadbolt, but assured me that they would fix it right away and make sure the cats didn’t get out. Based on the fact that he had also called the exterminator due to the complaints of giant rats in the basement and then texted to say they’d be right out with the ant spray, I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in this, but what was I going to say, no? The kid was freaking out.
***Side note? They drilled two giant holes in my pantry which shares a wall with our bathroom to be clear the leak wasn’t coming from us. It wasn’t. But that led to me being woken up that Monday by a gentleman pounding on my door, yelling in broken English, “Miss!!! I’ve come to fix your holes!!!” I have dropped so many f-bombs before nine in the morning the past month, I can’t even tell you.***
In the course of having to drill said holes in the pantry, they had to pull out all of our pots and pans because for some stupid reason we have no cabinets. So all of my pots, pans, cutlery, baking dishes, etc. were piled on the kitchen table when Tony got home. They had, of course, put the stuff they pulled out first – i.e., the stuff we actually use – on the bottom, meaning the top of the pile was oddly shaped tupperware, the blender, and three stupidly small saucepans that I cannot even fathom why I have.
Oh, and a cake mold shaped like a penis. That was right on top.
To be clear, it’s not like I use said cake mold. For one, I don’t bake. It has been used exactly once, almost thirteen years ago, for my friend Kelly’s bachelorette party. Kelly got married when we were still really young, and that type of stuff was super funny. But for whatever reason, it has traveled with me through five moves since then. Sure, I’ve lost an entire set of tools, a box of ticket stubs, a set of flatware, and approximately seven pairs of shoes in those moves, but the cake pan? Of course that made it. (Other ridiculous items include the box full of marbles and dice, every stuffed animal any of us has ever won at a carnival, a jar of flour, a crystal rooster with its claw broken off, and a fake bronze monkey statue we use to hold a hackey sack. Because we’re good at adulting.)
When I got home, I started putting pots and pans back, despite the holes. I didn’t know when they would ever be back to fix them and didn’t want everything sitting on my kitchen table all weekend. Tony and Tony, of course, thought the cake pan was hilarious, and decided that instead of putting it back, they would use it as an ashtray. Which, okay, even I thought was kind of funny. (Again, see “Adulting: Things we’re bad at.)
Back to Saturday. The three of us are hanging on the porch, singing along to a little “Buffalo Stance,” looking forward to hockey, and having some beers. It was a good day. Around 5PM, we heard someone walking down the stairs.
“Hi! Do you guys always listen to such fun music? And I’m being serious, this has been awesome! I’m Courtney, I just moved in upstairs! Thought I’d bring a beer down and introduce myself.”
It goes without saying that Courtney is super cute, about 24, and appears to be a yoga instructor, right? And that I’m wearing a hockey jersey, zero makeup, and my whole socks with sandals deal because I’m old and have bad feet?
She really is super nice. We talk for a little bit, they met at Iowa State and just moved here. She works downtown too and is asking about riding her bike to work, saying maybe we could go together the first time. They’re sports fans, they love to play cards, and she says once they’re settled in they’d love to have us up to have some drinks and play. Yay! How fun would it be to have friends as neighbors again?
And then. And THEN. She lights a cigarette.
I’m guessing she’s going to want to put that out at some point. Which is worse, acting like we’re dirtbags who put out cigarettes on the floor, or handing her a penis-shaped cake mold? Has anyone ever had to make this decision???
I do, apparently. She seems pretty cool, hopefully she’ll think it’s funny? I reach under the chair next to me and say, “So, they’re using this, but there is a reason…”
“I did notice that, I have to say. That’s hilarious!” she replies.
Right. Can’t you just hear how that conversation went when she went back upstairs? “How’re the new neighbors, honey?” “Well, they’re a little older, were listening to Rump Shaker, and use a dick mold as an ashtray, but other than that, they were great!”
I can imagine she was met with a slow blink.
Surprisingly, they did not take us up on our offer to watch the Hawks game at our place as their TV wasn’t hooked up yet.
What the hell, universe? It’s not like we ALWAYS use a penis-shaped cake mold as an ashtray. Why today? Why??
In other news, Tony just told me that she came down earlier and knocked on the back door – which was open – to inquire whether the laundry in the washing machine was ours while he was lying on the couch in only his boxers. Thank you, baby Jesus and all that is holy, for the fact that he had pants in there to put on and didn’t answer the door all Cousin Eddie style, beer in hand, like he did that one time to my cousin Sherri.
So yeah, this is why we don’t get out much.
I love the internet. All of it. I love Facebook, I love blogs, I love Huffington Post, I love Twitter wars even though I still haven’t quite grasped the concept. I love the memes and the emoticons and all of that shit. I’m a part of a couple of separate groups on the book face and love the sense of community. I spend a lot of time perusing online and interacting with people I haven’t met in real life. (Yet.) That being said, with this significant amount of screen time, there’s a lot of things that drive me crazy about the online community. Some of the words/phrases/taglines which are now a normal part of our lexicon that started out on the internet make me nuts, and sometimes I’ve found myself literally sitting on my hands trying not to comment on a Facebook post about politics that I know no good will come of.
Most of it, I’ve learned to just ignore. For instance, I now know better than to read the comments on any story that could be considered remotely polarizing. If it has to do with race, religion, politics, or how to raise a child, I steer clear of the comment section. Mostly for my own sanity, because if anything makes you question your faith in the human race, it’s the comments section on an article about at what age it’s safe to leave your child at home alone (never is the correct answer, according to most.) On a side note to this, I don’t know how you parents do it. If I had kids I think I would have to turn off the internet forever. According to the internet, you are ALWAYS doing something wrong. I’m already steeling for the next election, as I’ve learned that politics bring out the stupid in everyone on both sides and really, there’s no point in engaging. No one wins these arguments; the chances of someone changing their entire belief system based on my Facebook comment are pretty low. And yet the temptation is still high.
But nothing – NOTHING – gets me more crazy than the “shaming.” You know what I’m talking about. Fat shaming, slut shaming, clothes shaming, blond shaming, etc., everyone and everything can be shamed on the internet. Hell, we do it to our cats and dogs. Any action or reaction can be considered shaming. Got laughed at on the beach? Fat shamed. Got smirked at wearing a short skirt? Slut shamed. Didn’t have a date to a wedding and someone remarked upon it? Single shamed.
I don’t believe anyone should be shamed for being themselves. Hey, you want to wear a bikini but don’t have the “perfect” body for it? Fucking go for it. Love short skirts? Wear ’em. Everywhere. Big fan of 40’s style dresses in the middle of winter? Do you, man, and don’t let anyone tell you not to. But understand me – if someone side-eyes your out of this world outfit, or raises an eyebrow at your miniskirt, or points at your bathing suit – you’re not being shamed. You’re probably being laughed at. It’s not nice, and sure, in my world, none of this would happen. But not everything is being shamed. Sometimes? People are just making fun of you. And that’s okay. It happens to me all the time.
Look, no one in the world wants a society where everyone is accepting of each other and happy with themselves more than me. Ask anyone I know – I will defend anyone and everyone’s right to be themselves and be happy with it. And certainly, the terms above exist and happen. I’m not making light of that. What I have a problem with is every time I turn on my tablet, I see another article about how someone was “shamed,” in some way or another, and it’s getting out of control. I brought examples and everything. See below.
Teacher Lunch Shames Mom for Sending Kid to School with Oreos.
Lunch shamed?? Are you even kidding me right now? You were LUNCH SHAMED?? No. This is not a real thing. Your kid’s teacher sent home a note questioning your choices. While I personally disagree with said teacher and would certainly be sending my child to school the rest of the week with nothing but Snickers and Doritos covered in fudge sauce in their lunch box, this is not shaming. Lunch shamed. Seriously. Look at that. Look at it again. Lunch shamed. Does that actually sound like a thing to you?
I Was Gluten Shamed in the Liquor Store
Yeah, read that one again. Look, I get the whole gluten-free movement, and anyone suffering from Celiac disease has my sympathy because it’s a giant pain in the ass to try and eat gluten free, and yeah, I’m sure you get a lot of shit from people who are tired of dealing with people like myself who stay away from gluten because it’s the trendy thing to do. I get that. But no. You weren’t “gluten shamed.” BECAUSE THAT ISN’T A THING. Someone was a dick when you asked for gluten-free beer. Does it suck? Sure. Were you gluten shamed? Again, no, because that’s fucking ridiculous. Gluten shamed? Are you fucking kidding me?
I have more. There’s a blog post I read recently about a girl going without a bra for a year. Apparently people at her work and social circles pointed it out, and this was deemed slut shaming. I’m sorry, but it’s not. I respect and agree with the fact that any woman should be able to wear whatever she wants if she’s happy with it. But if you decide to conduct an experiment with the sole intention of gauging people’s reactions, please don’t be surprised when they react exactly as you would expect. If you’re swinging around double D’s without a bra – and seriously, how physically uncomfortable was this girl for an entire year? I have to put on a bra to walk into the living room- it’s not a shock that those around you notice it. That’s not slut shaming. That’s “wow, wouldn’t you be more comfortable with a bra??”
If all of the above were real things, I’ve been shamed many times this week. I was beer shamed when I asked where the Miller Lite was at the super hipster organic, IPA-filled store next to my gym. Speaking of the gym, I was gym shamed when I tripped getting on the elliptical and the guy next to me laughed. I was cat shamed when my mom told me – again – that my cat should be set free because he’s a dick. I was bus shamed when I asked someone to move their bag so I could sit down.
We need to stop whining. Seriously. People get made fun of, people point and laugh at the out of the ordinary. And yes, in a perfect world, that wouldn’t happen. We’d all be happy and singing songs holding hands around a campfire, and sure, I’d love that. But it isn’t going to happen. So instead of crying, “FOR SHAME,” at everything we don’t like, let’s concentrate on being okay with our own decisions and outfits and Lunchables, all right? Like I said before – do you. Be happy. Stop making mountains out of molehills. We’re all going to be okay.
I posted yesterday about finally fixing a problem after a year and a half of throwing coats over chairs and hanging them on every possible surface that was at least four feet off the ground. When we had company, every door would be overgrown with coats, scarves, hats and sweatshirts. I would occasionally comment, “Hey, we should get a coat rack,” as I was balancing yet another coat on the one hook we had, but that was about it. Yesterday, I went to Family Dollar and bought one of those over-the-door coat racks. The entire process, from decision to installation, took exactly seventeen minutes and six dollars, and it made me so immeasurably happy that I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.
I do shit like this a lot, and it’s only partially to make my mother crazy. For instance, every week, I take a train and bus each morning and afternoon to get to and from work. This costs almost exactly $25 each week. Each week, I know this. The CTA is not going to change prices, the weather is not going to break enough that I can ride my bike – therefore, on Monday, the smart, adult-like thing to do would be to load my CTA card with $25.00. Instead, each day, I like to play a game called, “Hmm, I wonder if I have enough money to get on the bus?” while running down the street with wet hair to catch said bus. Inevitably, I do not, and then – you guessed it, load $5.00 onto the card just so I can repeat the fun the next day. (I used to do this when I drove to work and it made my friend Kelly insane. I’d be on the phone with her and she’d yell, “I hear you at the gas station! Don’t you dare only put six dollars in that tank. Fill up the fucking car! I know you have money!”)
Before you ask, no, I don’t know why I do this. It’s not about the money. I have enough. There’s literally no explanation. None. I don’t enjoy it, and yet every other day or so, I can’t seem to pull the trigger on pushing the $25.00 button. It’s decision making like this that makes me occasionally question my ability as a functioning adult in society. Here’s a few other things I learned this week.
1. Just because you can use Tide pods in the dishwasher when you run out of dish tabs and they get the dishes sparkly clean doesn’t mean you should. (See also, “How to Fix Your Dishwasher without Alerting Your Landlord to the Fact that You’re an Asshole.”)
2. There’s really no good food to eat when you feel like you’re starting to get the flu, but the absolute worst thing to eat would be the delicious pot roast and mashed cauliflower that you love more than anything. Throwing up your favorite meal makes it less favorite-y. Beer is also a poor choice.
3. The fact that it’s early in the morning does not mean that you can make time go slower. Everyone does this to some extent, but convincing yourself that you can shower, make a smoothie, look presentable, and be at the bus stop in seven minutes is unreasonable and counterproductive. Especially because you don’t have enough money on your card to get on said bus.
4. By the time you’re yelling at and bargaining with the cats to leave you alone, you have already lost. Go hide in the bedroom and take a timeout.
5. When one decides to try and mimic the super fit girl at the gym doing pushups using TRX straps, (Google it if you don’t know,) one should assess their ability to do a regular pushup on flat ground first (nonexistent) instead of blindly putting their feet in straps and swinging wildly until they fall on their face.
6. Speaking of the gym, one should never, ever glance at the full length mirror while trying to do a deadlift. You do not look cute. Trust.
7. After you have spent the better part of 12 hours vomiting from the flu, two of which were spent on the bathroom floor (okay, fine, on the toilet) eating a popsicle because you were so dehydrated but afraid to leave the bathroom, if, when you walk out of said bathroom to go back to bed and step in a pile of cat puke, you WILL start to cry uncontrollably.
8. When your husband publicly calls you out on Facebook for not ever telling him that you’re out of dishwasher tabs or cat food, looking up as he walks in the door and exclaiming, “Oh, shit, we’re out of cat food!” will be met with homicidal glares.
9. The next time you see a patch of ice and think that you’ll gracefully hop over it, remember that A) You are not graceful, B) You are wearing dress boots with no traction, and C) Your hands are in your pockets because you didn’t bother to put your gloves on. When you fall, it’s going to hurt.
10. If you are meeting a friend at Walgreens to then go shopping, coming up the escalator to meet him while proudly holding the bargain deal muscle roller you didn’t realize looked just like a sex toy will not be met with enthusiasm. He will refuse to walk with you until you find a bag that completely conceals it.
11. Engaging in debates on Facebook about whether “50 Shades of Grey” glorifies abuse will make you want to take a hostage. (It. Doesn’t.)
12. Drinking an entire pot of soothing tea before bed is a good idea. Not checking to make sure its decaffeinated is not.
13. Stopping at your gym on the way home from a night out to use the bathroom is acceptable. Being half in the bag while doing so will get you mocked when you come in the next day. (Whatever. For 70 bucks a month I’ll do what I want.)
14. The cashiers at Reckless Records on Milwaukee Ave. are assholes. Big smiles and attempts at conversation will be counteracted with huge sighs and eye-rolls, no matter how friendly you want to be.
15. Proudly exclaiming you’ve seen New Kids on the Block eight times in concert will not garner you the positive attention you were looking for.
Whatever. I got the coat rack thing done. I’ll work on the rest.
Many of you know that I’ve been working on getting healthier; exercising, losing some weight, eating a less-mashed-potato-centric diet. That’s part of the reason that I haven’t been around very much – the more I get into working out and eating right, the more it is the only thing I can really talk about. And really, is there anything less interesting than listening to someone go on and on and on about their workout regime or awesome new protein shake? Other than, perhaps, listening to someone detail last night’s dream in excruciating detail or take you step-by-step through their work drama. (“And then Lisa, I told you about Lisa, right? The one with the boots? Argh. Stab me in the eye with a fork.)
My point is, I didn’t want to flood those of you kind enough to follow this blog with a whole bunch of stuff you’re not interested in. So I created a new site, completely separate from this one, where I can blab on and on about trying to do a side plank and nearly breaking my face without boring everyone to tears. I’d love for you to take a look at it and follow along with me – but if it’s not your thing, feel free to pass it right up!
This is the site link: http://undieter.wordpress.com/
This blog will be back to its regularly scheduled asshole cat and partyboy neighbor stories shortly.
If you follow this blog or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I ran my first 5K this past weekend. If you didn’t notice, you should probably get your observation skills tested by a professional because I’ve been basically shouting it from every form of social media I have at my disposal. I’m not going to lie – I am proud of myself. Proud of myself for signing up, for following through, for finishing, for signing up for more. It may not seem like the biggest deal; I was among thousands on that day alone, let alone all of the other people that run miles more than that every day. But was a big deal to me.
That being said, I think I may have been overoptimistic and conveniently forgot that the 5K was not just a big party and that before all of the good feels that would come with finishing, I would actually have to run three miles. While I knew I could do it, I was much more involved in the atmosphere and fun than the actual running portion.
And thus I present to you: My First 5K – A Narrative
- It’s RACEDAY, BITCHES!!
- Sweet Jesus, it’s early. Is that the moon?
- I don’t get up this early for work.
- Whatever. It’s raceday!
- NO YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WEAR A SOX JERSEY TO THE RACE TO WRIGLEY, TONY.
- This is great! Look at all of these other runners on our bus! How fun!
- Yes, yes, I am a runner too, people. I have the commemorative shirt on, just like you.
- Which is a bit smaller than I would like, I must mention.
- I must have been drunk and optimistic when I ordered this size.
- We’re here! Look at all the people! There’s my mom and dad! Yay!
- I have to go to the bathroom right this second.
- Apparently raceday for me starts in a porta-potty.
- Okay, I see how it works. The 7 minute milers start here. (Show offs.) I’ll head back a bit.
- Where, exactly, is the 15 minute miler start line?
- I’ll just stand back here with the people pushing strollers.
- They’re all stretching. I should stretch.
- Except I don’t really know what I’m doing. I usually warm up with a brisk walk.
- I’ll just walk in a little circle for a bit.
- Yeah, now you totally look like you’ve done this before. Stop it.
- Starting horn! We’re underway!
- Except my group isn’t moving.
- Here we go! There’s the start line!
- This is awesome! So many people cheering! Woohoo!!!
- There’s my mom and dad again! Look at me! I’m doing it!
- That picture they took is totally going to be my profile pic.
- Wait, why does this hurt already?
- OW. Should have stretched more. That’s okay. First couple of minutes are always a little tough. You got this.
- Awe, look at this awesome couple! He’s pushing his wife in a wheelchair! How great are they?
- I’m kind of sad that I just saw that because he passed me up….
- Huh. I thought they were going to mark each mile. Must have read that wrong. Because surely we’re past the first mile?
- I’ll just check my watch.
- Seven minutes? It’s only been seven fucking minutes?!
- Where’d all the cheering crowd go?
- I should have brought my headphones. Listening to myself huff and puff is not super motivating.
- Okay, okay. Beautiful day, first 5K, we’re doing this! Look, there’s the first mile marker! You’re almost done!
- Yay! They have one of those water tables and I can totally be one of the runners that grabs a cup of water and downs it without stopping, defiantly throwing the cup on the ground as I continue my strenuous run.
- Except no one is handing me water.
- Oh, yay, someone did!
- Yeah, I’m not sure what made you think you could drink a cup of water and run at the same time.
- Because now you’re choking.
- Also, you’re an asshole, because no one else threw their cup on the ground.
- I’ll just double back and throw that in one of the fourteen conveniently placed receptacles.
- This went a lot different in my head.
- Where’s the wheelchair guy?
- Here we go! The girl in front of me has on a Marine Corps shirt. And I’m keeping pace! You, unknown soldier, will be my motivation. I shall keep up with you.
- That bitch just picked up a toddler, put him on her shoulders, and sped past me.
- Well, there’s like 475 reasons you wouldn’t be a good Marine – this is just another one.
- Wait, no one said there was going to be a hill.
- Now’s probably a good time for a little walk.
- Hey, guy? On your front porch? Who just yelled, “Good job! Only four miles to go!” You’re an asshole.
- Water station! That means mile two is done!
- Let’s try not to fuck up so spectacularly with the water this time, yeah?
- I don’t want any more water, anyhow.
- Wheelchair guy! Yay!
- Don’t think about the fact that you’re celebrating catching a septuagenarian who is literally pushing the weight of another human. Concentrate on the positive!
- Hey, there’s my mom and dad again! And friends!
- Hell yes, it IS almost bloody mary time!!
- It’s entirely possible my parents have covered more ground this morning than myself.
- Hey, lady? With the stroller containing three children? You are hurting my feelings.
- Yay, more cheerleaders!
- Almost there! I see the field!
- I do not, however, see a finish line. Which is unfortunate, because I’m kind of getting done with this whole running thing.
- WTF do you mean, we still have to run around the whole field before we go inside?
- DO YOU KNOW HOW BIG THIS STUPID FIELD IS?
- Maybe just another short walk.
- Heading into the concourse! I did it!
- Except this is kind of uphill, too.
- And I totally have to pee again. I wonder if the bathrooms are open?
- It would probably be the shortest line ever for the bathroom at Wrigley.
- No one will ever let you live it down if you stop to pee in a three mile race.
- There’s the finish line!
- And there’s all of my favorite people that came to see me!
- That picture? Is totally not going to be cute.
- This? Right here? With my best friends and family, who got up at the crack of dawn to watch me chug past the finish line? This is awesome. I love everything.
Next time, though, I’m bringing my headphones. Ke$ha and Avril Lavigne are infinitely more motivating than my inner monologue.
It was the Christmas pictures that did it. There was my beautiful sister, almost seven months pregnant with her first child, looking radiant standing next to me – fifty pounds (at least, I didn’t ask. I have to maintain some sanity,) heavier than her, looking like a distorted, bloated version of myself. What struck me the most wasn’t how heavy I was; it’s not like I hadn’t realized my pants were getting too tight and I got out of breath trying to put my boots on. I knew I’d put on a considerable amount of weight. But what struck me the most was how unhappy I looked. I didn’t look like me. The me I knew was happy, she wasn’t this puffy person desperately trying to smile.
Once I had untagged myself from all of those unflattering pictures, I made a decision. I didn’t want to be that person. I did not want to be the person that did not want her picture taken. I wanted my as-yet-unborn niece to have photos of her aunt that loved her, not just a vague recollection of a fat lady. Those pictures snapped something in me and made me question what else I was missing out on. I’m self-aware enough to realize if I was hiding out from the camera, I was hiding out from other things as well. What else was I letting pass me by?
So I made some big changes. I cut out the carbs and sugar, switched my six or seven Diet Cokes a day for gallons of water. I quit drinking beer. (I switched to vodka and diet Sprite. I’m not a saint.) I ate vegetables. Instead of my previous late night dinners of loaded baked potato soup, mashed potatoes, or spaghetti with a half a loaf of garlic bread, I made mashed cauliflower with chicken. I made smoothies with spinach every morning, despite my previous disdain for anyone that would do such a horrible thing to a delicious beverage. I found out I was wrong. They were delicious.
And I started running. I had quit smoking almost a year prior but still had the smoker mentality that went something along the lines of, “If I am running, you better start, because there someone behind me with a murderous weapon.” I had never run. Ever. I always got a C in gym class because I would never run the whole mile. But I found this Couch to 5K program that boasted it would enable me to run a 5K within nine weeks. I didn’t believe it for a second after the first day, when I damn near passed out after running for sixty seconds. I signed up for one anyway.
The biggest thing I did, however, was not get on a scale. I hadn’t had one in years, and I decided that instead of weight, I was going to concentrate on this 5K. I set what I thought was a realistic goal: One, I was going to finish the program. Two, I wanted to run the whole thing and finish under 45 minutes. They weren’t lofty goals. There are people that can walk a 5K in 45 minutes. But they were my goals, and they weren’t directly related to a number on the scale.
I felt great. Each day after I completed my run, I was exhilarated. Every other day I was out there; in the bitter cold, in the snow, in the rain – I would run. I couldn’t believe it – I was doing it!!! After a couple of weeks, my clothes were fitting better. I had more energy, I was smiling a real smile again – I was happy. I was me again. Most of all, I was so damn proud of myself. I was achieving my weight loss goals like I never had before.
About eight weeks into the program, I was over at my sister’s for lunch. I went to use her bathroom and spied the scale on the floor. I couldn’t help myself. I had to see. I mean, it had been eight weeks! After all of the changes I had made, at the weight I started, I was confident I had lost at least fifteen pounds. I had done the low-carb thing before – the wrong way, with no exercise, subsisting on bacon and peanut butter – and lost eight pounds the first week. So I was, for the first time I can remember, excited about getting on the scale. I kicked off my shoes and stepped on, eagerly looking down at the number.
That can’t be right.
THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT.
It is impossible that I have only lost three pounds. After all, I’d been eating vegetables. I got off and let it reset. Clearly it was malfunctioning. I got on again.
In eight weeks, after letting nary a potato or beer cross my lips, after drinking gallons and gallons of water a day, after drinking spinach for breakfast, after increasing my endurance to being able to run a mile and a half at a stretch, after turning down Portillo’s four times, after throwing away the crust on the work-lunch Lou Malnati’s pizza, after eating all of this cauliflower – THREE POUNDS.
In short, I was devastated. All of my hard work, all of my good feels, all of my pride and energy; it was like it had never happened. According to that scale, all of my work was for basically nothing. And the next thought that crossed my mind was, “Why even bother? I might as well go back to macaroni and cheese for dinner!”
How. Stupid. Is. That?
I knew I’d lost inches. My clothes fit better, I’d been getting compliments, the foot pain I’d struggled with for the past year was non-existent. I was able to keep up when we went for a walk. I was able to run a mile and a half, for Christ’s sake. I was no longer sweating while trying to zip up my boots, in fact, I could fit my whole hand in between my leg and the top of them, whereas weeks before I could barely get them over my pants. My yoga pants were dragging on the floor even when I wore shoes. I didn’t resemble John Goodman anymore. I felt great.
Yet I was letting a number on a scale determine whether I had been successful. Somehow, none of those great things I’d been feeling mattered anymore, because the scale said they didn’t. Anyone who has ever struggled with their weight knows that the scale rules all. The scale has the final say. The scale tells you whether you are doing well or badly. And in the end, the scale will break you.
I can say with complete confidence that if I’d been weighing myself every day throughout those eight weeks, I would have quit about three weeks in. No way would I have continued the running that has made me stronger, eating food that doesn’t require a nap after consuming it, drinking water instead of pop, because the scale would have told me I was failing.
So I’m very glad that I don’t own a scale. Because if I did, I wouldn’t be wearing jeans two sizes lower than I was in January. If I owned a scale, my smile would still look stretched and forced. I wouldn’t be excited about the summer, looking for clothes and planning activities that I know I’ll be able to enjoy. If I owned a scale, I sure as hell wouldn’t have run three straight miles yesterday. I wouldn’t be looking forward to running a 5K next week – in fact, I’d be dreading it, because it would be another failure. All because of a number that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Throw away the scale. Eat well, be healthy in whatever way works for you, and be happy. Get your smile back and be proud of what you can do.
This is three pounds.
I started writing this before you were here, Violet Mae. Before you were you, before I saw your head full of hair and your blue eyes and your precious little fingers and toes. Before your mom and dad were a mom and a dad, before I saw her little nose and mouth and his eyes looking back at me from your tiny face. Before the waiting room, before the joyful anxiousness of looking up every time someone walked by the door, craning our necks, waiting for your daddy to come tell us you were you and you were perfect.
There is no way to impart all of the wishes I have for you in a short list. What I want for you is infinite; I don’t think I could describe it if I wanted to. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, and by the time you’re old enough to read this, you’ll probably know that already. But believe it or not, I have learned a few things along the way that I’d like to pass on to you, baby girl.
- There are beautiful people in this world, and there are ugly people. The trick is to learn very quickly that this has nothing to do with their looks.
- Your mom and dad are very, very smart. You won’t always think this. In fact, you might be tempted to stop reading right here. Don’t. When they talk, listen. When they don’t talk, ask why.
- Find something you love and pursue it.
- There is something great to be seen in every single day. Sometimes it’s a beautiful rainbow and sometimes it’s simply that it’s not raining. Find the joy.
- Never be afraid to be silly. It gets harder, the older you get, to allow yourself to be silly. Don’t stop. Being silly just to do it, for the sole purpose of laughing, is a great feeling.
- You are very loved, baby girl. Not everyone is. Always remember that and consider it when you may want to judge others. It’s hard sometimes. But do it anyway.
- Never stop singing out loud. I don’t know yet if you will have the voice of an opera singer or a scalded cat. It doesn’t matter. Find music you love and belt it out. There’s few things more freeing.
- There will be days that you can’t wait until they’re over, and days that you wish would never end. It is up to you to decide whether you have more happy days than sad days.
- There are people who say the phrase “Attitude is everything,” is a cliché. Those people have bad attitudes. Don’t be one of them. See above.
- Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. You will never please everyone, so don’t try. Be nice, and be kind, but know that you won’t be able to win over everyone, no matter how hard you try. Never spend more time trying to please other people than you spend trying to make yourself happy.
- In our family, people can be loud. The same is true with most situations in life, whether it be your friendships, co-workers, or family. Learn to be loud enough to keep up, but quiet enough to make yourself heard. It’s a fine line to walk, but an important one to learn. Ask your grandpa. He does it well.
- Your grandma would bend the world for you, if she could. And because I knew her mama, I tell you this: No one will love you in the way your grandma will. In her eyes, you will never have flaws. Look at yourself through her eyes when you’re having a tough day. She’s usually right.
- Your mama is awesome, and so is your daddy. I know I already told you that they are smart, but there are a lot of smart people that aren’t so awesome. Your parents will undoubtedly teach you the difference, and you won’t always believe them, but this is one of those circumstances you just have to trust me on.
- Every year, on your birthday, take a moment to remember that in 2014, the day you were born, was the happiest day in the lives of so many people. The moment you were born, the world tilted in a beautiful way. I don’t say this as a burden, baby girl, but as a reminder. You are special. You are important. You are amazing. And you are so, so loved.
I know you’ll be happy, because I know your parents. I watched them today, as new parents, gauging and learning your moods and noises as you were only a few hours old. They never faltered, because they already know you; you’re the best parts of both of them. I watched your daddy be gentle with your mama and make her laugh in the same minute and I watched your mama make you both smile just by being her; to have parents that love like yours do – it’s a precious thing, baby girl. It’s one of the many things you’ll learn. In the space of moments, you became the center of their world and the heart of them both.
There are so many things I wish for you, Violet Mae. I can’t wait to see who you will become.
To walk across the fire for you???? Ha! Now that I have that song in your head, you’re going to want to read on, right? I wasn’t even planning on going there but as soon as I typed the title, Melissa Etheridge was all up in my brain so I had to share. Aren’t you glad?
Anyway, it’s been a long week. Well, it’s been a long several weeks, as most of you living in Chicago understand. I’m not going to write about the weather because it makes me want to punch everything in the face and wish that wind would become a solid, physical thing for like forty seconds so I could kickbox it to death instead of it calling the shots and propelling me face-first over ice disguised as sidewalks and sonofabitch if you people would just shovel this wouldn’t happen….Ahem. Suffice it to say, it’s been a bad winter. When the best part of your day is NOT getting impaled by an icicle falling off of a building, the winter has already beaten you. Trust. So us Chicagoans have been pretty much of one mind the past couple of weeks, which consists mainly dreamily remembering those beautiful days last year that didn’t require fucking boots.
I saw a picture on Facebook yesterday demonstrating how we can save ducks’ lives by cutting the plastic rings from a six-pack so they don’t get caught in them and choke. A year or so ago, I wrote this post on that same topic, as I was surprised that other people didn’t do this all the time. It got me thinking about some other things that I do or think that I assume are perfectly normal, but other people consider to be a teensy bit crazy.
Am I The Only One?
- That Thinks We Need to Leave Bieber Alone? Yeah, I said it. Leave. Him. Alone. Is he a punk kid with little respect for authority? Absolutely. Does he deserve the wrath of an entire country actively awful upon him? No. One, making jokes about how hilarious it would be for him to get raped in prison? Doesn’t make us look very smart. Ditto for starting a petition to get him deported that received so many signatures the government actually had to act on it. Folks, if we deported or imprisoned every nineteen-year old that made a couple of really stupid, arrogant decisions, it would be the end of the population as we know it. Do you not remember being 19? Hell, I was an asshole at 19, and I was a rule-abiding kid from the suburbs with only $45 a week to work with. If I’d had access to millions of dollars with no supervision, the least of my problems would have been smoking pot and drag racing, I promise you that. Is he a shit? Yes. Did he make some mistakes? Absolutely. In one way or another, he’ll pay for them. I hope it’s in the form of realizing he’s a shit and straightening up. Hoping for him to fall into the revolving door of drugs and rehab like so many celebrity teenagers before him, hoping for him to fail, is just mean-spirited.
- That is Completely Terrified about The Missing Plane? Is it just me, or is this some Langoliers shit come to reality? Two hundred people and thousands of tons of metal just gone into thin air? How have we just gone on about our business, like, “Oh, well, can’t find it, that’s weird.” I just picture them all in some abandoned airport in an alternate universe all, “What the fuck? Why are we not the top story on the news? What is WRONG with these people?”
- With the Musical Taste of a Preteen in the 90’s? I’ve been running a lot, and I’ve found there is a direct correlation between how long I can run and how much 90’s angsty pop music is on my playlist. Ludacris and Eminem have taken some top spots in the rotation to keep me going, but the number one song that pumps me up and propels me to keep going? Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend.” Why? I don’t know. It’s been over a decade since I’ve had any reason to hate someone’s girlfriend, and if you really listen to it – which I have, often – it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yet here we are, and every time it comes on, I go faster than I did the day before. If the folks in the park had any idea what was blasting in my headphones, they’d actually be LESS scared of me than they already are, which is a tough spot to find.
- That Has Notebook Paper Decorating the Fridge with Magnets, Despite Being Childless? Currently, my refrigerator boasts a notepad, three coupons for Family Dollar, a picture from 1980, a pen-draw picture of an eyeball, my sister’s baby shower invitation held up by a Bert and Ernie magnet, and a note scribbled in Magic Marker that says nothing but, “SOUL TRAIN IS ON.” The notepad? Not for grocery lists, or things we’re out of. (Which is likely we make frequent trips to above-mentioned Family Dollar at 9PM for things like toilet paper and cat food.) No, it has sports predictions for the upcoming week. The eyeball was drawn by a friend late one Saturday night and we deemed it a work of art. The Soul Train note? My husband was on the phone one Sunday morning and he would not appropriately respond to my frantic gestures to run into the living room for this grand moment in television programming.
Everyone has their little pockets of weird, right? Right????
Last year, I starting riding a bike to work in an effort to not murder someone on the CTA and hopefully improve my fitness at the same time. I learned a lot in those first couple of weeks; drivers in Chicago despise bike riders more than Steve Bartman and Lovie Smith combined, speeding joyfully down a hill whilst reminiscing about the freedom you experienced as a child riding a bike lasts only as long as it takes for a car to pull into the intersection at the bottom, and people should really pay more attention before whipping their car door open on a busy street with a bike lane.
I loved riding the bike to work and can’t wait to start it up again. Of course – it has to be mentioned – this is partially because this winter is by far the biggest bitch I have ever encountered and the CTA, as hard as it tries, cannot possibly keep up. There’s too many people, there’s too much snow, there’s too much slush, there’s problems with Ventra, everything is freezing to itself – it sucks. My commute, on a good day, should be about 30 minutes, door to door. This year? It runs between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, and that’s on a day it’s NOT snowing. Which isn’t often. So the thought of walking out my door, not almost killing myself on the stairs, getting on a bike, riding through the wind and sunshine, and arriving at work not swearing and covered in salt and slush is extraordinarily appealing.
I did not take off any weight after starting this regimen. In fact, I gained some. That was disappointing – I mean seriously, who gains weight after going from zero activity to riding a bike six miles a day? The answer is someone who carb loads as if they are training for a marathon instead of mildly exercising for 40 minutes a day. (Very mildly. I’m so slow on the bike that everyone passes me. Old people, young people, overweight tourists on the Divvy bikes – everyone.) Baked macaroni and cheese, loaded mashed potatoes, and my favorite creation entitled spaghetti monster – baked spaghetti with cream cheese and mozzarella in the sauce – this is what I lived on. Unsurprisingly, by the time Christmas rolled around, I was a giant, puffy version of myself and more closely resembled John Goodman than I ever would have liked to.
Something had to give, and that something was carbs. I won’t bore you with all of the details of my newfound love affair with cauliflower as a substitute for every single thing I used to make – take a look at my Facebook and you can see plenty of that as I am, unfortunately, that person who now posts pictures of their dinner with alarming frequency. (But seriously – cauliflower pizza? Genius.) So I’d been feeling good, had taken some weight off, had more energy – all the good feels you get with eating better. And somehow, somewhere in my brain along the way, I got it in my head that I wanted to run one of the 5K’s that Chicago always hosts throughout the year.
Let’s get something straight right here. My family? We’re not runners. Even my little sister, who does run, who has run a half-marathon, who attends those terrifying-looking fitness classes that make me want to vomit just watching them – even she admits we are not runners. It’s not that we’re lazy or have never been athletic; in fact, some of my favorite memories are bike riding in the forest preserve as a family when we were younger. My sister and I always played softball or soccer, and she was a cheerleader and – believe it or not – I was in my high school dance troupe for two years.*
*People are always surprised by this. For some reason, they are never as surprised when I tell them I played the tuba. Go figure.
At any rate, the most I had run since high school was at a haunted house about 15 years ago when one of the actors chased me out the exit with a chainsaw. I ran about fifty yards out of sheer terror before my body realized what it was doing and I collided into a tree. So when the thought of running a 5K first crossed my mind, I dismissed it as pure madness. Like, Okay, Courtney, we’re not drowning in a vat of mac and cheese every night – let’s just go with that win instead of getting all crazy here, okay?
But I couldn’t get it out of my head, and soon I found myself researching 5K’s and how to get started running. I found a program called Couch to 5K promising to turn me from a couch potato into someone able to run three miles in nine weeks. I found myself looking up success stories and starting to think that I might be able to do it. There were other people, both smaller and bigger than myself, with pictures of themselves smiling with medals and thought, well, it’s worth a try. And I decided I would start the next day. And I did, which is possibly the first thing I’ve followed through on in three years.
Week One. Longest run time – 1 minute. I learned that when one is 35, out of shape, and an ex-heavy smoker, running for even such a short amount of time should be approached with more caution than exuberance. By the third repetition of the “run” portion of the workout, I was running slower than I was walking and being outpaced by toddlers in snowsuits.
Week Two. Longest run time – 1 1/2 minutes. An increase of a measly thirty seconds. Pssht. That’s nothing, right? I learned that thirty seconds is a really fucking long time when you’re trying to run.
Week Three. Longest run time – 3 minutes. This time, I knew. I knew it was going to be harder. So I downloaded some inspiring music to keep me going. I was feeling good and enjoying the challenge, so I really wanted to keep it up. I learned that just because you like a song does not mean that it is good to try and run to. (Eminem’s Lose Yourself? Good. Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe? Not as much.)
Week Four. Longest run time – 5 minutes. This is the week that I got hit in the ear with a piece of rock salt by a passing car so hard I almost went blind and Mother Nature dumped a whole shitload of snow and horribleness on Chicago – again – and I had to repeat it over the course of about three weeks. I learned that I should pay more attention to cars in my path and that Mother Nature is fucking pissed beyond belief at us for spraying all that Aquanet in the 80’s.
Week Five. Longest run time – 20 minutes. I know. Hell of a jump, right? It was eight minutes the first day, then the last day of the week – WHAM. Twenty minutes. Like you weren’t huffing and puffing through 90 seconds just a few weeks ago. I learned that this stupid app on my phone has been right since January, which is a longer track record than I’ve had in quite awhile.
I’m signed up for three 5K’s this year. The first one is the Race to Wrigley in April. I don’t know if I’ll be able to run to the whole thing. My app says I can, so I’m hopeful. But I do know that I will finish, whether it takes me 35 or 60 minutes. And if the Cubs’ past few seasons are any indication, it is the happiest Cubs fans will be all year at Wrigley unless they’re going to a concert there.
So there’s that.