Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Yoga and Me

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with yoga, and right now yoga and I are back on.

Hopefully for good. I like yoga. It's a great workout, and it's a great workout in a different way than most of my other workouts.

In the past there have been reasons why, despite my best intentions, I haven't stuck with yoga -- mostly logistical (moving around a lot and having to find yoga classes; having a chaotic schedule and no time to attend). There's also another reason, but I won't get into that yet.

Anyway, knock on wood, I'm in a groove right now in life and have the opportunity to immerse myself back into yoga. So in my first class back I'm taking my shoes off, setting up my mat and feeling very relaxed. The yoga instructor walks in and, by a happy coincidence, I happen to know her because she and I used to go to the same gym a few years ago.

This is going really great. And then a woman comes up to me:

"You know," she starts to say, "Every time we get a guy in this class..."

Therein lies the other reason I've been sporadic with yoga: whenever I attend a yoga class I am, almost without fail, the only male in attendance.

And this always makes me incredibly self-conscious. Do they think I'm really here to find women to hit on? I'm not. I'm here to work out. But then I start to convince myself that everyone else thinks otherwise, and no matter how much the rational side of me knows that's ridiculous -- they're all here to work out too and couldn't care less what gender I am -- my self-consciousness spirals out of control and sometimes makes me feel too awkward for yoga.

I'm getting that feeling again, where I think, forget it, and walk out of class, when the woman finishes her train of thought.

"...Every time we get a guy in this class, he never takes his socks off."

I scan the room. Indeed, everyone else in this class is barefoot. Me, I have my socks on. I'm not much of a foot exhibitionist, I guess. When it comes to foot image, I can be pretty modest.

Then I looked back at the woman, shrugged my shoulders and said, "We'll see how it goes tonight. Maybe next time."

No, I wasn't ready to bare my feet in that first class. But last night I went back for Class #2, and the first thing I did after rolling out my mat was whip off my socks. Life's too short to worry about what people think of my feet, or what people think about me taking yoga, regardless of what the gender composition of the class is. I'm doing this for me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Marathon Monday

Last year on Marathon Monday, I worked from 6am to 2pm, and then went home to fall on the couch and watch The People's Court while half-napping (I don't do 5am wake-up calls well). I was marginally interested in a typical landlord-tenant dispute when the show was interrupted by a BREAKING NEWS update.

Wow, I said to myself, something must really be up if Channel 38 [which runs mostly courtroom shows and canceled sitcom reruns] is running breaking news.

38 was simulcasting Channel 4's breaking news updates on two explosions that had just taken place at the Boston Marathon. And while I'm not CSI, I knew.

Despite the fact that I've lived in the Boston area most of my life, there are times when I feel oddly detached from the Marathon Bombings. A few years ago I used to work on the Marathon route (not in downtown Boston but along Route 135 in Natick), but no longer. I've always fantasized about running -- and finishing -- the Boston Marathon, collapsing right after crossing the finish line, fighting back tears as I pushed my body to the limit and it miraculously responded, yet never in my life have I run more than 5 miles at a time. And I can't say I know anybody who got hurt in the bombing, or worse; can't say I know anyone who's even acquainted to anyone who got hurt, or worse.

Today I opened the store, worked from 4am to 1pm, and then went home to take a catnap (I don't do 3am wake-up calls well). I woke up and felt a burst of energy, so I went to the gym, like I usually do on Mondays. And then I hopped on a treadmill, something I don't usually do on Mondays or any other day, and ran for 10 minutes. The total distance was 1.5 miles, not 26.2, but it felt great.

And then I went to do The Double, back-to-back classes of cardio kickboxing and weightlifting, which I've set as a goal to do a few times this year. It was pretty exhausting. In all, I worked out for 2 1/2 solid hours.

I couldn't quite figure out why I had such a burst of energy until it hit me:

There are people who ran 26.2 miles today.

There are people who cannot run or lift weights or shadowbox today because of what they lost in the bombing, yet many of them still are running or dancing or doing whatever in a more nontraditional sense.

There are people who were along Boylston Street last year who are fortunate to be alive today.

And in that moment I felt a small sense of something much larger than me. Boston got sucker-punched last year. But Boston moved on with life.

In the end, Boston won. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 New Year's Resolutions...err...I mean...2014 Goals

I have this way of putting off New Year's resolutions.

For starters, I'm an against-the-grain type of person, and why bother doing resolutions in January when you can do them in April. (Hey, last year I didn't post my resolutions until May, so today's blog post actually represents progress.)

Secondly, I feel like New Year's resolutions always seem to be designed for short-term gratification. Nobody ever carries out resolutions throughout the year. New Year's resolutions are the one-night stands of self-improvement. I'd rather work on self-improvement that has long-term potential.

Lastly, over the past few months I've continued to gradually emerge from a turbulent period in my life, and I have more time to blog and self-reflect.

Anyway, for the most part I hit on my goals/resolutions last year. Hopefully this year I will be as successful. Here goes:

SAVE MORE MONEY: OK, goals should be more specific than this, I know, but I'm very private about many things in my life, my financial situation being one of them, and I imagine you can understand that. I do have a dollar figure in mind as far as how much I would like to sock away. We'll leave it at that. I'll give you a Yes or No in December or early January.

FIND A NEW DOCTOR, SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT AND GO: I haven't been to my doctor in a few years and never will again, because unfortunately since my last physical he's retired. Which means I now have the daunting task of figuring out what doctors in my area are taking new customers and accept my health insurance (which I just had to change because last year I was one of three people in the whole company that had a certain plan and it got axed, so I had to choose a new one), and then go. For all I know, I could be dead -- in which case I can stop doing this annual resolution/goal thing -- but I really should find out.

DO "THE DOUBLE" AT THE GYM AT LEAST THREE TIMES: "The Double" = going to the gym on Mondays and participating in back-to-back classes of Group Kick (essentially, shadow kickboxing) and Group Power (essentially, cardio weightlifting) from 5pm-7pm. One of the class instructors there, Chantal, has been a great motivator for me as I commit to getting back into shape, and she keeps trying to get me to do The Double. And I'm always too winded after an hour of kickboxing to stay for Power, or I can't get to the gym in time for Kick and have to settle for just Power. Even if I can successfully build up my stamina, there will be times I have prior commitments and can't make both. But I will try to pull this off more than once.

BLOG ON A WEEKLY BASIS: When I started this blog I was posting virtually every day, sometimes more than once a day. When I started this blog, I had also just been laid off from the 2010 Census, which began one of the lowest periods of my life. Obviously my pace has slowed down considerably as I rejoined the world of the gainfully employed. But I enjoy blogging and want to pick up the pace again. When I was down during my jobless stretch, blogging was sometimes what prevented me from thinking/acting upon very dark thoughts about my life. Just because I have a job again doesn't mean I don't have my low moments, that writing could help me work through. 

FINISH MY NOVEL: Yes, you will recall this was a goal from last year. And yes, as I advanced at my company I ran myself a little ragged and it crimped my plans to work on my novel to a large extent. I have a finished draft, but as I revise many continuity issues arise and I have other things to smooth out. I've surprised myself recently by dusting it off again. I really want to get this to the point where I can have some people whose writing I admire and respect take a look at it and give me serious feedback.

That is all. I'll see you sometime around Dec. 31 (though I'll blog again next week).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Personality Test

In a fit of boredom, I followed a Facebook friend's link to a Web site where you can take a personality test.

What the hell, I said to myself. Take it.

So I answered 10 minutes worth of questions as honestly as I could. I won't get too specific, but here are a few snippets (paraphrasing slightly for clarity) about the personality type I tested out as:

"[People of my personality type] are masters of written communication, with a distinctively smooth and warm language. In addition, their sensitivity allows them to connect to others quite easily. Their easy and pleasant communication can often mislead bystanders, who might consider them a very sociable person."  I've been known to do some writing from time to time, so this is probably a positive development.

"As introverts, they need to have some 'alone time' every once in a while; otherwise their internal energy reserves will get depleted really quickly. If this happens, they may surprise everybody around them by withdrawing from all their activities for a while, and since other people usually see them as always friendly and sociable, this can leave them both surprised and concerned."  My friend Dianne has been known to say, "Every so often Phil needs his alone time." (I hate how she says it in my presence while referring to me in the third person, but whatevs.) According to this, she's right. And there probably is something to it. I do go through periods of intense social interaction, followed by periods of intense craving time in my room, taking a walk, driving around aimlessly, away from everyone else. Dammit, Dianne! Why do you have to be right?

"People with this personality type are very sensitive." That's me. I have a hard shell of an exterior that some people find difficult to crack, but that shell is protecting my sensitivities. I am a human M&M.

But I guess what struck me most about it is that my personality type is supposedly shared by less than 1% of the population.

This personality test may be total BS. But I've always felt like an against-the-grain, less-than-one-percent-of-the-population type of person. So in that sense, they nailed me.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Day Somebody Thought I Was a Contestant On The Bachelorette

There's a small carnation sitting in a glass next to the cash register at my store. An associate brought it in the other day after a memorial service.

Yesterday a customer saw it.

"Oooooh...who gave you a carnation?" she asked me.

"Nobody," I said. "It's not mine."

"Oh come on, you can tell me," she said. "Don't be shy."

It's not a matter of shyness. It's a fact. I don't have a photographic memory of everything that's happened in my life, but I'm pretty sure nobody's ever given me flowers. And I'm OK with that. I probably wouldn't turn down flowers, unless they were from somebody whom I don't want to mislead, but there are many other ways for a woman to win me over.

But that's beside the point. This woman continues to argue with me, insisting that somebody gave it to me. I can't believe this is happening to me. I guess this is the price I pay for having the misfortune of being the closest person to the flower -- someone thinks I'm a contestant on The Bachelorette.

Finally, I come up with an exit strategy.

"Did you know that everything on that rack behind you is on sale for $1?" I ask her.

"Really? I'll go check it out," she says.

Then I run back into my office to work on invoices. Invoices are mundane and tedious, but they are more fun than arguing with someone you don't know about flowers.