Scarlett’s Letter December 15, 2013

I went to yoga today and it was just the thing!

I haven’t been to yoga in ages and I was relieved to find that I could still bend, in an acceptable manner, in a number of ways. With my exercise focus being exclusively on running, lately, in preparation for my first marathon, it is good to be back to other methods of exertion. I did run yesterday, the first time since the marathon a week ago, and it was amazing. I ran really, really, fast! For me. So, for any casual observer, I probably appeared to be shuffling frantically. For the record, there is a brief moment, each stride, where both feet are, in fact, off the ground. Simultaneously. Yes.

I was so indescribably tired last night. After my run and a shower, and taking Mom on her errands, and grocery shopping for myself, I was exhausted. I can run 26.2 miles, but a day of errands with Mom wears me out. I’ve heard there is a “post-marathon” depression, or malaise, maybe that’s what this mild irritability and exhaustion is about. Or maybe it’s the cumulative affect of my six weeks of east coast/west coast travel. Or, maybe because I stayed up until 1:00 AM chatting with my Sweetie the night before. Or maybe it was the chat, itself. He was being feisty, playing devil’s advocate and just generally being a brat. All in good humor, of course, but I was on my toes and sparring the whole time. Or, all of the above. Whatever the reason, once I finished dinner and dishes, all I could think about was reading one of the four hundred new Kindle books I have yet to start. I awoke with my Kindle on top of  me, unopened, this morning.

I was excited to get up this morning. I have groceries! Real food! Do you have any idea what it’s like to return to the produce section of a Whole Foods in California after being on the other side of the country? Real, local, organic produce! A selection! I almost fell to my knees and kissed the inlaid tile “Whole Foods” logo on the floor in the entry to the store! I bought yogurt, eggs and produce. That’s it. Three heavy to lift, reusable, “Whole Planet Foundation” bags full of produce. And having yogurt again! Today was the day I have been waiting for! I opened the tub of organic Wallaby yogurt, made right here in Napa County, stirred in my local, organic honey, and, the best part, I opened a jar of Alaskan blueberries that I helped pick right off the tundra, that my Sweetie jarred and flat-rated to me, and stirred a generous amount into my yogurt. It was the most divine thing I’ve had for breakfast in a very long time. I can’t wait for breakfast, again, tomorrow. Or, maybe I’ll just have breakfast, again, for dinner! Or both!

Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone Sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!

The yogurt was the only part of breakfast I found enjoyable. My oatmeal wasn’t cooked to perfection. My fault.  And it was cold by the time I ate it. I guess I was busy eating the yogurt first.

When I travel, I try to stay at hotels with a fridge and maybe even a microwave. Last week’s hotel was not one. In hotels without such amenities, I usually have fruit not requiring refrigeration and an organic granola bar for breakfast. No matter what I have, it is during breakfast that I check Facebook for interesting news, wish any Facebook friends having a birthday a great day, and write in my journal. I forget, upon my return home, that these activities are difficult to carry out at the breakfast table. I do really like to focus on any articles I click through to from Facebook, reading them from start to finish without interruption, conversation or being read the local newspaper, which Mom seems inclined to do. And today’s article of click-worthiness was awesome! I like to be able to write in my journal with complete focus and attention, since it is my morning affirmations I usually document. I consider this to be practically meditative. I always hope that when Mom see’s my pink journal, she’ll realize that I need a few minutes of complete calm. Nope.

I can remember very clearly, my dad, sitting at the kitchen table, where I sit now, across from my mom. He’d be trying to read something and she’d be reading bits of the newspaper out loud to him, or asking him a string of questions, as she does a lot of. He’d sigh, grimace, as only he could do, mark his spot with his index finger and an air of exasperation and look up at her, impatiently, over the rim of his gold wire rimmed bifocals. When I do that, try to mark my spot with my index finger, as I’m reading on my iPhone or iPad, I end up unintentionally “liking” something or navigating to a link I don’t mean to. I finished my breakfast, my dishes, and quickly retreated upstairs to finish my morning routine. I admit, I was a bit frustrated, which is no way to be first thing in the morning, and I finally remembered that I had altered my routine during my last “at home” stint, to finish those items requiring my focus, before heading downstairs. It was the yogurt and the blueberries, I guess, and my excitement over them, that caused me to forget that rather important little scheduling detail. I am now reminded and will act accordingly.

Yoga, as I said, was great. During our initial stretching, where we are to quiet our minds, to acknowledge and dismiss our thoughts, I was kept pretty busy. Things I wanted to include in any of several articles I’m working on kept drifting through my mind, as did some of my petty frustrations at home. At one point, the instructor told us to let everything “out of our mind”, and, at this point, as only I would do, a song popped in based on those lyrics. I remember my kids’ reaction when I played this song, they find it pretty amusing that I listen to a lot of the stuff they do. The song? “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, featuring LMFAO, the chorus going something like this,

“Get outta your mind, get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)
Get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)”

So, in yoga, to a hip-hop beat, in my head, I’m singing, “Get outta my mind, get outta my mind, bump that shit, get outta my mind …” It worked. But I almost laughed out loud, just a little, which would’ve been an outward breach of protocol, I’m pretty sure. I’m already about as unconventional a yoga practitioner as you’ll find. By the end of our hour and a half of practice, I was feeling much better, my calm sense of composure, energy and enthusiasm restored. All the bad jou jou of the past couple of days were “outta my mind!”

I didn’t have a text from my Sweetie this morning. We didn’t talk last night, he was headed north, piloting an oversize load to Coldfoot. I fell asleep before sending my nightly, “good night, Love” message. I wanted to send my usual “good morning” text this morning, but thought if he got in real late last night, which was certain to be the case, due to a late start, I didn’t want to wake him. When I got out of yoga at noon, I checked my phone and there were a couple of texts from him. Good, he was home. I don’t worry, remember, it’s pointless and doesn’t change anything, but, still, I am always super happy when I know he’s home again after a trip north. He made it home fine. The million-mile Ford did not. Well, it did, eventually, but they did not arrive home together and the million-mile Ford did not return under its own power. The poor old blue truck won’t be making that trip, again, until it gets a new engine. Zowwie.

The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!
The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!

But, other than breakfast and the news from the north, my day went exactly as I hoped it would. I wrote. That’s all I wanted to do today, write. And, now, it’s time to think about dinner. Wallaby yogurt with local, organic honey and real Alaskan blueberries, picked myself and lovingly jarred by my Sweetie. Perhaps, so. Or for dessert, maybe. Or both!

And, tomorrow, a big day. One I am excited for. Though Monday, it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. I will plan ahead, prepare, and even try to get a super good night’s sleep in anticipation of this sure to be magical event! Tidings!

Morning Exercise

For those of you who hate mornings, and Monday mornings in particular, may I try to offer you a little inspiration?

First, mornings are necessary, there is no avoiding them, and so my recommendation is to meet them head on, tackle them and conquer them. True, if you sleep until noon you technically miss morning, but, you still have to accomplish all you need to for the day, and you have way less time to do it! Think of mornings as the foundation for your day. Use morning to build yourself a solid base for the rest of the day to rest on. I have a couple of different morning exercises, if you will, depending on my work schedule and the day of the week. Whatever day it is, wherever I am, and no matter what time I have to get up and be at work, I have a plan to get my day started on the right foot.

I find that by having a plan, by following it, a bare minimum routine, that I can accomplish more than if I just wing it. I find solace in a routine, and as I am often on opposite coasts during the week than on the weekend, anything that provides consistency is a good thing. And I think that applies for people who don’t flit around quite as much as I do, too. I really benefit from a routine, appreciate it, actually, even when I’m home for a while.

This time of year I am working from home more often than not. I am working on projects more than I am meeting with customers. My days and weeks are littered with project team meetings (conference calls) and maybe a training session or two per week via the web. I, generally speaking, have all the time in the morning I need to accomplish all I desire. I take advantage of this slower time of year to get re-focused on my goals, my fitness, and my health.

My alarm is usually set for a respectable hour, 6:30 or 7:00. I am usually awake before my alarm goes off and I find great benefit from just laying in bed a few moments, quietly reflecting, just sort of being still and letting my mind empty. I don’t call this “meditation” because that seems to put way too much pressure on it for me. As soon as my brain focuses on “meditation” I become completely incapable of just being and breathing. “Reflection” seems to work; I breathe, I be, I am in the present, I am still. There is no time set for reflection, I’m probably lucky to be awake but still for five minutes before my brain springs into action and I leap out of bed.

Once I’m up, my fastidious side likes to make the bed immediately upon touching feet to the floor. Then I’m downstairs to fix coffee and a small healthy breakfast. I bring my journal and after breakfast, I fill a page with “affirmations” and another with “gratitude”. My affirmations are single sentences, affirming to myself, my strengths, qualities I seek to enhance in myself, qualities that boost my self-esteem, each one beginning with “I am”. The next page is reserved for noting down all the things I am grateful for. This entire exercise takes about five minutes and really sets me in the right frame of mind for the day. I first read about this in a book many, many years ago. Since then, nearly every author on self-improvement heralds this method. I whole-heartedly agree. The days I miss this morning exercise, I find myself in a less than optimal mood, unfocused, easily agitated, frustrated and generally, just out of sorts. I follow journaling with a challenging workout video, a shower and the whole beauty routine that ensues.

Crazy, insane mornings where I have to get up super early for work are my “minimalist” mornings. There are things I must accomplish, in addition to shower, hair and makeup, no matter the day, no matter the demands of the day. My minimalist routine consists of writing in my journal and eating a healthy breakfast. Whether I am traveling or at home, if it is an early and rushed morning, I make sure my alarm is set, and obeyed, with adequate time to accomplish these tasks. I will avoid defeat by setting out as much the night before for my breakfast and for getting ready in the morning. Be your own best friend, not your own worst enemy. Workouts, I really, really try to make them happen in the evening, but when flying coast to coast and switching time zones on myself constantly, admittedly, sometimes I fail. This is something I’m working on, affirming.

On leisurely weekend mornings, when I don’t have a running engagement (I’m in a running club that meets on Saturdays most of the year) or other early morning activity, I allow myself to sleep in without benefit of an alarm. Which means I may sleep until 7:00, sometimes even 8:00. I follow my weekly routine, but perhaps a bit more slowly. I have discovered that if I have all morning to complete my routine, I am going to take all morning to complete my routine. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Now, Mondays, let’s talk about Mondays. Much like mornings are the foundation of your day, Mondays are the foundation of your week. I think of Mondays as sort of a mini-springtime, time for renewal and growth. We’ve had the weekend to recover and recuperate, or to party and completely destroy ourselves, but no matter, Monday is when our week begins fresh and we can make it what we want by spending a little time getting it pointed in the right direction.

So, to employ another analogy; think of mornings as the New Years of the day, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. Mondays, likewise, are the New Years of the week, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. What you write in your journal, those are your resolutions, and by focusing on them at the beginning of the day, the beginning of the week, we are much more likely to stick with them throughout the day, the week, the months, the year. A small step in truly achieving what you hope to achieve.

I know it all sounds so ideal; get up when the alarm goes off, eat breakfast, write in your journal, work out, get ready, go to work and a perfect day is made. I will be the first to admit that this rarely goes exactly according to plan.

Today, for instance; I had two mid-morning meetings, so I figured, when I set my alarm last night, that I’d allow an hour to eat, journal, clean up after breakfast, text K-Man (my significant other), check facebook, finish my coffee, jot down some blog fodder and dilly dally in a few other ways. I’d allow an hour for my workout video, and, finally, an hour to shower, do my hair and makeup and get to the office (the third bedroom in my house, so, lucky for me, commute equals three steps down the hallway).

I awoke well before my alarm went off and figured I’d get the day started early so I could take my morning even more leisurely. Somehow, that seemed to put my internal timer on relaxed, weekend morning mode. The whole breakfast/journal/facebook/coffee/blog fodder/text K-Man thing ended up taking nearly two hours, putting me about a half an hour behind schedule. Before heading upstairs for phase two of my morning plan, I choked down my vitamins and finished my first tall glass of water for the day.

You know how Mondays can be? As I was taking my vitamins, I dropped one. Typical. My first lightning quick thought was, “yup, it’s Monday”, so negative, but I reached out my hand as the vitamin bounced off the table and headed for the floor, and I caught it. My whole perspective changed in an instant. Did I just conquer Monday? Then I dropped the vitamin a second time. And caught it between my knees. Yes, Monday was mine, I owned it!

Phase two; I was half an hour behind schedule, but I was not about to let myself wimp out or postpone my workout, because once the shower/hair/makeup is done, there is severe resistance to the whole workout thing until late in the evening, and I have an appointment tonight. I really, really don’t like compromising the workout schedule on Mondays, it just really sets the wrong precedence for the rest of the week. Especially after this weekend’s dietary indiscretions!

I ran upstairs, threw on my work out clothes, and loaded my Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit DVD into the player. I panted and sweat along with Shaun T. and all those perfectly fit people on the screen, who are all about thirty years younger than me. It’s supposed to be a sixty day program, I’m thinking it’ll take me more like six months to be able to accomplish the Level I Drill, once, let alone the entire set of exercises. But, hey, I make a little progress each day. That’s the point. Now, since I’m new to Insanity, and old in years, my thirty second breaks sometimes stretch to sixty, or so. I usually have a good “reason”, need a(nother) towel, (more) water, etc., but when you start to multiply that across all the breaks, a forty-five minute workout becomes more like an hour.

Now I’m really late. As a matter of fact, as I step into the shower, and by God, I’ve GOT to shower, I have less than fifteen minutes until my first conference call begins. Shaun T.’s voice is still echoing in my head, and I swear as I grab the shampoo bottle I hear him yell “Shampoo! Squirt! Lather! Four, three, two, one! Rinse! Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Conference call is in ten minutes people! Let’s go! Soap on loofah! Scrub! Eight, seven, six, five! Four more! Three, two, one! Towel!”

I made it to my meeting on time, squeaky clean, glowing from my workout out, and totally owning Monday, and the whole week!