Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 90: The Loneliness at the Peak

Well, that's not the title you expected, was it? Yesterday marked 90 days for me. I guess now I get a big "COMPLETE" stamp on my blog header (I've told Patrick I'd prefer updated pictures since the me of 90 days ago looks a little different than the me of today). This is what I've taken out of the project. If you've watched and wondered for the past three months, this is it.

Last night, as I climbed for the second time, I tensed up. I could feel the tension start in my climbing shoes, at the base of my body. It worked its way up my spine. It ended in my forehead where I furrowed my brow at the wall. Shit, I thought. I'm up here at the top. I can't figure out which hold to reach for. I could back down, but I'll be damned if I do that. So I have to push forward. But where. "Gwen," the instructor (pictured below) called up, "don't get frustrated up there!"

How did she know?! I thought. How did she sense my frustration? I'm, what, twenty feet up here? Alone. Facing a wall. Talking to myself. Gritting my teeth. I let go of the wall and floated in mid-air. Went back to the wall, refocused, relaxed and kept climbing. When I got to the top I said, "release." You're supposed to say, "lower." Throwback to too many years of yoga. I think in terms of releasing - breathing and releasing. Letting the body unlock itself.

So this is my last post. And I do feel great. But it was a lonely 90 days. Attending birthday parties, watching people eat cake. Going to Happy Hour and having a virgin drink. Karaoke, sober? Forget it. Workouts? Lonely. I even felt lonely when I missed workouts. And I got frustrated with myself. Pursuing health is a lonely path. Nobody will be there 100% of the time to soothe you when you're having a chocolate craving. You aren't always going to have someone shouting from the ground, "don't get frustrated up there!"

But there's this other truth, too. Disease is just as lonely, or lonelier, than health. Life is full of loneliness. The loneliest I ever saw my mom was in the months before she died - she spent hours, days, alone. Perhaps the project has taught me to come to better grips with my loneliness. I realize I still have a long way to go (ask those closest to me - I can be hangy onny in the worst ways when I'm feeling insecure).

Here are a few things I've tackled (some on my own, some with help from others) since I started the project 90 days ago:

- financial mastery - I've taken steps like meeting with a financial planner, working with a coach that is a master at the sales process, I've set up systems for managing my money flow, the flow of wealth in my life (in all areas) has improved dramatically since the start of the project

- negotiation - I've read more than half a dozen books since the start of the project. Several on the art of negotiation. I also held a yard sale, in part to try out my skills

- food - I've tried out new recipes and developed an affinity for balsamic dressings

- housing - put in an offer on a house. Got a counter. Accepted the counter. Close on the house this month.

- travel - I've added dates to the calendar and figured out ways to stay healthy on the road (resistance bands, jump rope and in-hotel chairs are really all you need)

- "no" - I've mastered the art of saying no to foods, drinks and other things that don't serve my well-being. Without qualification. Simply, no, thank you for the offer

- sobriety - being completely sober for 90 days. I can do it. I didn't love it, but I did it. There were definitely times when I wanted to numb out/relax with a beer or 3. I didn't. And I'm happy to say I feel pretty awesome for it

- greek yogurt - are you kidding me? I'm so hot for this stuff. I will never go back to "normal" yogurt. 0% fat, 100% rock party in your mouth, y'all

- new consulting, speaking, writing and party projects

- site - the new gwenbell.com went live during this 90 day period

- protein shakes - big fan. Huge fan. Embarrassing truth

- sex life - let's just say being fit makes you want to get it on

- the skinny - I dig my body. I dig my lanky frame and long fingers. I don't want to exchange it out and that's what matters. The next person to call me a skinny bitch will be responded to with a smile. It's me, it's not going anywhere as long as I can cultivate this body/mind

Here's the thing. You have to make the decision to take care of yourself. You know, instinctively, how to do it. You have a thousand reasons not to do it. You have a thousand temptations on a daily basis. You have a thousand road blocks to health. It's a lonely, solitary path. It's a tough decision. And guess what? When you get to the top, reach out with all five of your fingers and grab hold of something, you don't hang out there to savor it. You catch and release. Then you come down and help the ones that go after you. You show them the way to the peak. It is my hope that sharing my journey to the top with you has helped you make the decision to embark on your own journey. It is lonely, but that can't stop you from reaching out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Climbing Up Walls

[Image: Eric Foltz]

Last night I started an intro to indoor climbing course. It's a small class - there are four of us in it. I decided to take on the class as I'm nearing the end of the Peak Condition Project. There are a few things about the PCP that have been super challenging to me (surprisingly, I got over the chocolate cravings in the first 30 days. I don't miss it at all now). Here's what I do miss: community. I miss working out, talking about working out and swapping experiences with other people. And, more specifically, with women. I can't stress how crazymaking it has been not having someone to share the journey to peak condition with - there weren't people in my "group" on the site here, so, in a sense, I had no folks to be accountable to. Besides Patrick. And he doesn't count.

I joined the climbing course for a few reasons. One, accomplished climbers have told me I have "the body for it." Two, I get the sense it doesn't require a whole lot of coordination. And three, it gets me in contact with other folks.

The first lesson went well. We learned:

- to tie knots
- to belay
- to be safe when climbing (we're learning to climb in pairs and check one another's gear out before we begin climbing)
- basic climbing commands (which I promptly forgot once I got up the wall)
- how to get into our harnesses

Taking on a new practice is a lot of fun. This one, in particular, as it turns out, is both fun and challenging. For me it was less physically challenging, more mentally so. You have to think before releasing a hand from the wall. You have to think about the knot as you tie it. Starting from fresh with something really does force you to be mindful about it. I'll keep you updated as we progress through the course.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Three True Stories

This all happened about thirty minutes ago, within the time span of thirty minutes.

I'm on a retreat. The food at the retreat center is...retreaty. Nothing to get excited about. As I was leaving to get food tonight I was stopped at the door. Someone said, "I hear it's tofu tonight. Vegetables and rice. So I'm not going to be going. Who can eat that stuff?" "Uhmm...me?" I said. This is the first dinner where the main course wouldn't have meat in it. So I got sort of excited. I continued on my way to the "mess hall."

No sooner had I sat down to my Asian tofu than a woman enters, walks up to the buffet and calls out to a staff member, "Miss? Miss!" and then walks over to her. "Is all of that on the buffet tofu? I heard you were doing tofu tonight and I'm not interested in tofu. We'll go somewhere else if all you have is tofu." I stopped mid-bite to watch. (What can I say? I needed some blog content.) Was she berating this woman for having tofu on the bar? In addition to tofu there was an extensive salad bar, a variety of fruit options, lentil soup and, yes, meat. Deep fried chicken nugget-like things. And beef. There is no mistaking beef for tofu. You know that. It's beef. What was more surprising to me wasn't that the lady, clearly incensed that there was tofu on the bar near the meat options, but that she couldn't have skipped meat for one meal if it had been the case.

What happened next was almost as surprising. A mom, talking to the folks at the table, in response to someone pointing out what a good eater her child is laughs and says, "yes! He's the only one who'll eat vegetables, but look at all this dressing!" I look at the salad - a piece of broccoli winks at me from beneath the white creaminess.

Last of the three stories (and perhaps it's just one big story). Get back from dinner. The tofu was spicy and to my mind, pretty good for retreat food. A group is heading out to dinner. They say they heard there was tofu, vegetables and rice for dinner. They want real food, they tell me. "Sure, some people might eat that stuff, but we're sure not going to, we're going out for fast food," one of the teenagers says. I stand there unsure of what to say. So I shrug and come upstairs. To wonder about where we're all headed.