Sunday, June 2, 2013

My First Camping Trip - Part 2

The big excitement for Sunday morning and donuts!!  Turns out the concession stand sells hot coffee and hot chocolate and donuts every Sunday morning, and we'd been looking forward to the coffee since Friday night.  In Wired's blog, she talks about how thru hikers look forward to trail towns and the hot meals they can get there, and when we were camping I got a tiny inkling of what that must be like.  We had cars and could have gone for some hot drinks whenever we wanted, but we still had Sunday morning's hot coffee on the brain the whole weekend.  The ironic thing was that Sunday morning wasn't actually too terribly cold, and since I'd bundled up so well the night before, I wasn't in as dire need of hot beverage as I'd been the day before.  It was still a nice treat, though.

After breakfast on Sunday, we packed lunch and some snacks, and headed off to a nearby park, Lake Loramie, to check out their hiking trails.  It was only half an hour away, and it was one of the parks we'd looked at before settling on St Marys.  Once we got there, I was glad it had been full and we had to camp elsewhere.  It's a lot bigger than St Marys, and you can see the road from the campgrounds.  The lake is fabulous and huge, and we drove around it for a bit looking for a park office.  We finally found one, and it was closed, but we were able to grab a map of the trails from the campground check in office.  We picked one, and headed off to find the trailhead.  On the way, we got a bit turned around, and in the process drove by a house with two alpacas in the backyard!  So cute!

When we got to the trailhead, there were a couple of people fishing on the lake who seemed annoyed by the noise we were making getting settled and figuring out where we were going.  Heh.  Oh, well.  After some looking, we found the bridge crossing that would take us to the Blackberry Nature Trail on an island in the lake.  I was looking forward to checking out the island, but sadly, the bridge was closed.  :(  After some picture taking, we headed back to the other trailhead, for the Lakeview Trail.  Once again, we were stymied when we followed the wrong sign and ended up at an almost immediate dead end.  We decided we weren't meant to jump across a giant gap onto a log in the lake, so we went back to the parking lot and found the actual trailhead - complete with giant signage and everything.

The trail started off in some woods, but very quickly opened up into a view of a farm - like it was reminding us that we were still in Ohio!  Most of the trail was right next to the water, but there were hardly any mosquitos unless we were in the more wooded sections.  We saw an eagle lookout that was built by an Eagle Scout troop, which was pretty cool, and come swampy areas covered in water lilies that made it look like we were in Florida!  The trail was very flat, which was nice, since it was 2 miles. It was hot in the sun, but not horrible.  The halfway point ended at the campgrounds, and then looped back to where we parked.  We were going to take the alternate route back, to complete the loop, but it appeared that section was a bit less traveled, b/c it was more enclosed and much buggier, so we turned around pretty quickly and just went back the way we came in.  There were several more branches off the trail than the map indicated, and I think A was worried about getting lost, but I figured one way or another we'd find our way back.  There was a moment of disagreement when we backtracked as to which one of the branches to take - ultimately, A was right and I was wrong.  With my family's famous directional sense, I should have expected as much, lol.

Once we got back, we made our way to a park for some lunch.  There was a beach on the lake with a lot of kids swimming.  I stuck my hand in after we ate, but with all of the signs around warning of the blue-green algae and its toxins (we had those at our lake, too), I'd have been too nervous to swim in it even if it wasn't too cold for swimming.  There were a lot of families out for the day enjoying the sunshine.  And we saw a confederate flag bikini, which I would not have expected that far north.  Just goes to show there are rednecks everywhere, I suppose.

When we got back to our camp, A had a headache and took a nap, and I took my chair out to the beach and read for awhile.  It was very peaceful until some kids came over and started playing in the sand.  Luckily, A came over soon after and we headed back to the tent to play some games.  We also headed up to the concession stand for a raffle - we'd bought tickets the day before from another volunteer driving around in a golf cart.  The campground had a lot of activities going on that weekend - a scavenger hunt, putt putt and bingo tournaments, etc - but the split the pot raffle was the only one we took part in.  Alas, neither of us won.  Even though it wasn't really an activity per se, it was kind of cool to be there while a lot of the campers gathered together for a few minutes.  We built a late fire that evening and used up the last of our firewood, and while we were cooking a late dinner, the nice lady who hauled our firewood for us the day before drove up and gave us a free chocolate cake!  I guess it was left over from the cake walk.  Wired talks about trail magic, which is when people will do nice things for hikers on the trail - give them a hitch into a nearby town, or have stashes of water and/or food on the trail, or sometimes have a set-up on the trail with food and drinks and chairs and the like.  You can read about a pretty cool example of some trail magic on the PCT here.  Anyhow, after scoring free chocolate cake, I remarked to A that we got some awesome camp magic!

It was supposed to rain that night, so we stashed our stuff in either the tent or our cars.  Sadly, we didn't think about bringing the coolers into the tent - they're waterproof, after all! - so when we woke up to rain the next morning, we had no breakfast.  :(  Luckily it subsided to a drizzle for long enough for me to emerge and grab some food.  We munched on chocolate cake, bananas, and soy yogurt in the tent on Monday morning and played some more games, waiting out the rain.  It finally stopped, in just enough time to take down the tent.  I grabbed my first shower of the weekend in the shower facilities - you're supposed to be stinky whilst camping, right? - which were pretty nice.  I'd forgotten my towel, though, so I used A's trick of using clothes to dry off with.  Not quite as effective, especially on my hair, but good enough.  Check out was at 1, and we squeaked in just under the wire.  It was a little eerie how empty the campground was by that time.  And sad, too.  A fabulous weekend come to an end.  :(

On my way home, I stopped by the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, which was only a few miles from our campgrounds.  Neil Armstrong grew up in Wapakoneta, hence the museum's location.  There must be something in the water up there, b/c apparently there are an awful lot of astronauts who are from Ohio.  Perhaps it has to do with Wright Pat being close by, who knows.

All in all, a fabulous weekend, and I can't wait to do it again!  (Cold and all, lol.)  I learned a lot of things for next time:
  1. Get a sleeping bag that fits.  I've read that they're less effective when they're too big and when they're too small, and I think maybe part of my cold toes problem was due to the fact that my feet were right up against the bottom of my sleeping bag.  Even though the thing's supposed to be good for people up to 6'2", it isn't.  It's not really that big a deal for a casual camper like me, but it's something I wish I'd known before I bought my sleeping bag.
  2. Bring something to heat water for hot drinks in the morning.  I know there are coffee pots you can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car, or even a tiny camp stove would work, I suppose.  Something that doesn't involve lighting a campfire just to warm up water.  (Which we did not do - hence the excitement over Sunday morning coffee.)
  3. In a similar vein, cooking over a campfire was a fun experience and all, but in the future I think I'd prefer to bring a camp grill, and save the campfire for sitting around in the evening.  Food that can be stuck on sticks and held over the fire would be fine, but for regular food it's a bit of a pain, especially if you have food that requires heating for both lunch and dinner.
  4. When obtaining firewood, make sure to get enough medium sized logs to balance out the bigger pieces.  The campgrounds only sold the bigger pieces, and we had to go hunting for more.  I know you're not supposed to transport wood, so I'll have to investigate how far you have to travel before that restriction takes effect.  Hunting around for other wood like we did is only so successful, especially if every other camper is doing the same.
  5. Go RV or camper camping someday.  Some of the campers had some pretty sweet setups - and I'll bet they didn't wake up with numb toes!
  6. Also, WOOL SOCKS for sleeping in.  I bought some the very day I got home, even though my next camping trip isn't planned for a few months.
  7. Bring shoes for the showers.  Maybe not a necessity, and my feet seemed to have weathered the public showering just fine, but it was in the back of my mind the entire time I was in there.  Next time I'll have them, just to make me feel better.
  8. BUG SPRAY.  We had no troubles with bugs at our campsite at all, but every mosquito in the park swarmed me when we were hiking.
  9. Tablecloths are not frivolous, they're a necessity.  I didn't see a single picnic table not covered in bird poop.
  10. Bring one of those canopy shelter things that's basically a tarp on poles to put over your picnic table.  We see picnic tables covered in tablecloths and coolers and food as part of a nice camping adventure.  Birds see them as signs that read "RESTROOMS HERE".
  11. Since this was my first time camping, I obviously have nothing to compare it to, but I have to say that I very much enjoyed not having to crawl into our tent every time I had to go in and out.  If I ever buy a tent of my own, I'm definitely getting one I can stand up in.
  12. And last, but certainly not least: always bring a towel.

(I'll add pictures here once I've figured out how to get them off of my camera.  I seem to have misplaced the transfer cord...)

My First Camping Trip - Part 1

About a month ago, for reasons I no longer remember, I was seized with the sudden urge to go camping.  It's something I think about doing every so often, but never seriously enough to get my shit together and actually go do it.  But this time I texted my best friend A (incidentally, the only person I know who goes camping...and therefore has the gear with which to do so...heh) and said "we need to go camping."  And thus, my very first camping trip was born.

A lives near Detroit, and I'm in Cincinnati, so we decided that somewhere roughly halfway between would be good.  We had issues finding a campground that was both available (apparently I waited a bit too long to have my camping urge, since we chose Memorial Day weekend) and had showers (a must for A), but we ended up settling on Grand Lake St Marys State Park, which is just a few miles outside of Wapakoneta (where Neil Armstrong grew up, for the uneducated among you).

Wapakoneta's about 2 hours up 75 from here, and it's an easy enough drive (I even got to see Hug Me Jesus - sadly, I remain unsaved).  The park isn't far off the interstate, but when you start seeing signs for tractor pulls, you know you're in the boonies.  The park entrance was easy to find, and I checked in at the office, turned the corner, and was immediately blown away by just how many PEOPLE were there.  Seriously!  People everywhere!  I'm not exactly sure what I expected, but this was most certainly not it.  The campsites were very close together (to me, although I'm a camping virgin, so what do I know), and virtually every single one was already occupied.  I found our site and parked, but A wasn't due for another three hours yet.  I didn't want to just sit there like a moron with no tent to pitch and have everyone around me staring at me wondering why the new dumbass was sitting around not pitching her tent yet even though it was 7pm and the sun would be setting soonish (b/c the world really is all about me, you see), so I decided to go for a walk.  I discovered later that the park itself is in disconnected little sections surrounding Grand Lake (which is huge, by the way), but the camping section is fairly small.  Just the campgrounds, a "trail" that doesn't really even deserve the name, a tiny camp store, a playground area, a nature center that wasn't much more than a shed (I never did go inside).  They did have an outdoor movie screen set up and a little bitty concession stand.  I checked the schedule, and Saturday night was For the Love of Benji, and Sunday was Benji: Off the Leash! - hardly riveting stuff, so we opted not to take part.  The place wasn't big, so my walk didn't last too terribly long, so ultimately I just bit the bullet, pulled out my camp chair and my Kindle, and settled in to wait.

Our campsite was largely in the shade, which would have been fabulous had it been about 20 degrees warmer.  As it was, it was in the 60s and low 70s all weekend, so after the sun set, it got pretty chilly.  A got there close to ten, at which point I was bundled up with only a tiny part of my face showing!  Setting up a tent at 10 o'clock at night in the dark with tiny lanterns was interesting, to say the least, especially for my first tent experience!  A couldn't find her stake mallet, so we borrowed our neighbor's - and then they were nice and brought over their nice big bright lantern for us to use while we finished pitching the tent.  Sadly, we never did ask their names.

I had gotten a sleeping bag just that day, and vacillated b/t the 10-30 degree big and tall option, and the 30-50 degree tall option.  I ended up with the warmer weather one, b/c 1) I didn't think I'd do much camping in below freezing weather, 2) it was $12 cheaper, and 3) it was a prettier color (I have my priorities, after all).  When I woke up shivering at 3:30 that first night, I was thinking perhaps I should have invested in the roomier, warmer option.  :/  First, I put my fleece jacket on over my hooded sweatshirt.  That didn't help.  So I dug out my knitted (by me) wool scarf, which I'd almost left at home, and wrapped it around my head like a turban.  That helped, but not much.  Then I put two more pairs of socks on, and that finally stopped the shivering.  I checked the weather on my phone - 45 degrees.  Cold, but not enough that I would have expected to be quite so uncomfortable.  When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't feel either of my big toes, and my nose was an ice cube - that, combined with the dire need to pee, got me up and going at 7:30 on my vacation!

We lazed around most of the day.  Being so cold the night before, I just could not warm up.  It didn't help that our campsite turned out to be in the shade most of the day.  I kept looking at everyone walking around in T-shirts and shorts and thinking how crazy they were - I was still wearing my fleece on top of my sweats!  Close to lunch time, we decided to walk up to the camp store to see if they had any coffee or hot chocolate (we were cold!).  As soon as we got out into the sun, it warmed up by several degrees - no wonder everyone else was wearing less clothing than us!  The store did not have hot drinks (alas), but we did score some ice for the coolers and a couple bundles of firewood.  And as we were leaving, a very pleasant older woman driving a golf cart drove by and offered to drive our stuff to our site for us.  Score!  We saw a lot of volunteers - we assumed - driving around in golf carts over the weekend checking on people and helping out, which was pretty cool.

Lunch was our first attempt at a campfire.  We attempted to warm a pot of refried beans on the built in grill over the fire - a semi-successful endeavor.  Lukewarm counts, right?  The fire didn't really stay lit for very long, but we learned some helpful tips and did much better at dinner.  (Our afternoon hunt for medium sized wood helped - for lunch all we had were tiny sticks and big logs).  After eating, we took our chairs and a game to the beach and hung out there for awhile.  A group of guys passed by us and commented on our game - if I'd been the outgoing type, we may have hunted them down later on to see if they wanted to join us in some games, but I'm not the approaching strangers type.  Ah, well.  Evening brought a more successful campfire, and hot dogs (of the vegetarian variety) and roasted veggies made over the fire.  Wilderness skills!  The veggie dogs weren't bad...especially with mustard and cheese, hehe.  We sat around the fire for awhile, and turned in earlyish.  This time, I bundled up - including wearing both pairs of sweat pants I brought - from the beginning.  That, combined with a warmer nighttime temperature (51 degrees) kept me warmer that night, although I still had to wake up my big toes the next morning.

This has turned out to be a long post, so part 2 to follow...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

In Cincinnati, "When Pigs Fly" Isn't Just a Saying

Today is the second day of Cincinnati's marathon - the Flying Pig - festivities.  (I've heard it's supposed to be one of the most difficult in the country, b/c the area is so hilly.)  The full and half Pigs are tomorrow, and the 5 and 10Ks are today.  Years ago, when I was Little Miss Healthy going to the gym for two hours or walking a few miles in the park every day, I had decided that I wanted to do a marathon.  In hindsight, that was probably a rather lofty goal.  My joints are not the best, even without all this extra weight I'm lugging around, and I've never really been a huge fan of running.  I like walking.  Perhaps with some momentary bouts of jogging thrown in.  But running?

Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind again once I've gotten my svelte and skinnyish build back.  (Try not to laugh too hard here.)  We'll see.  But in honor of the Pig festivities, I've decided on a goal: I shall join them next year.  I seriously doubt I'll do the full marathon - although Sedentary to Marathon in One Year makes a nifty blog title, no? - and I'm not even sure I could pull off the half.  Knowing what I was like even at my most fit (which really wasn't all that great in the grand scheme of things, if I'm being honest) and how much running hurt, I'm not sure if I could ever really become a runner.  But walking the 5 or 10K wouldn't be unreasonable.  And if I jog a bit now and then, so much the better.

I've heard of the Couch-to-5K Running Plan before, and I even vaguely remember looking it up back in the day, not that I apparently did much with it.  In light of my newfound porcine goal, I decided to look it up again.  And discovered a major flaw: this plan is supposedly for beginners, but it assumes that one can jog right off the bat.  For more than, you know, three steps.  They did not build this plan around people carrying a whole extra person's worth of blubber on their bodies...

So, continued walking will just have to do for now.  Hopefully at more regular intervals than I've thus far managed to do.  Yesterday, I "speed" (for me) walked to a store in an outlet mall to get there before closing, does that count?  Sadly, I left my activity monitor (a post to come on that later) attached to my work pants, which were hanging out on my bed, so all that walking about and getting turned around and walking some more went untracked.  All those steps, lost to the ether.  Alas.

Anyhow, since today is also a geek holiday (too bad I hadn't had my Pig inspiration last year), I shall leave you with this:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Anchor

This week's Weight Watchers goal was to find an anchor.  The anchor could be anything - a word, phrase, object, etc - that gives you the motivation to stick to the Plan (yes, they do capitalize the Plan).  The last time I lost weight was around the time Alias was on the air.  I watched it religiously, and I had a bit of a girl crush on Sydney, the main character.  I just thought she was the coolest thing since sliced bread, and I loved that when her life kept - repeatedly - getting knocked all to shit, she didn't wallow (like I would).  Instead, she fought back, both literally and figuratively.  (Seriously.  The girl kicked some major ass.)  On days when I was driving home and didn't feel like going to the gym, I'd think 'what would Sydney do?', and that would be enough to get me into the parking lot.  Or walking the tree trail at Ault Park and coming to the big stone steps in one of the hills, if I wanted to slow down or take a break b/c my legs were burning, I'd think 'what would Sydney do?' and instead of slowing down, I'd pick up the pace all the way to the top.  Fictional though she may have been, Sydney Bristow was my anchor, the person I wanted to be.  She's what kept me going.

I've tried the same trick this time around, but I've found that it's been too long since I was that into the show, and my WWSD mantra just doesn't provide the same oomph anymore.  But when we were sitting in our meeting last night and the leader was talking about anchors, I immediately knew what my new anchor was.

I no longer remember how, but a couple of years ago I stumbled across a blog written by a girl named Erin Saver.  She was from the midwest (as am I) and had moved to Portland (as I desperately desire to do), and at the time was thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I'd heard of the Appalachian Trail, but never the PCT.  Turns out the PCT, at 2,663 miles, is even longer than the AT (2,200 miles), and stretches from Mexico to Canada by way of California, Oregon and Washington.  And people hike it.  All in one go even, which apparently takes around 5 months.  I was fascinated.  Erin had a blog post for each and every day she was on the trail, and each post was full of her adventures that day, complete with pictures and often videos.  I found the blog a month or two into her hike, and I devoured the entirety of it in a couple of days.  I loved it.  The scenery was gorgeous, the stories entertaining, the people interesting.  Somewhere along the line I ended up trailing off (no pun intended), and I never made it to the end of her hike (a tragedy I am currently rectifying by going back through all of the posts again, starting from the beginning).  Reading about her experiences on the trail, being that immersed in and dependent upon nature, is so inspiring to me.  And the thought of how much discipline is involved in pushing yourself to walk 20-30 miles in a day when maybe you feel like crap and you've got blisters on your feet and there are bears and rattlesnakes and sketchy water amazes me.  It's the kind of person I want to be.  And every once in awhile, when I don't feel like doing this or that or I'm feeling lazy, I think of Erin and all the other thru hikers out there and what they go through, and I think about how they wouldn't sit around on the couch eating bon bons instead of washing the dishes (although I'm sure there are times they do), and I get up off my butt and I do whatever it is I didn't want to do.  My mantra is no longer What Would Sydney Do?  It's What Would Erin Do?

Because I'm a visual person, I decided I needed a visual reminder of my anchor.  Something tangible that would remind me every time I saw it of everything that my mantra means to me.  Now, when you're walking 20-30 miles a day carrying everything you need for your survival on your back, you don't pack extra outfits.  Consequently, in all of Erin's pictures she's wearing the same thing - chartreuse and navy.  Since I've seen so many pictures on Erin's blog, these two colors have come to symbolize Erin and thru hiking for me, so when I decided I needed a visual reminder of my anchor, something I would see and have with me all the time, two thoughts immediately occurred - chartreuse, and bracelet.  So off I went to one of my all time favorite stores, REI (not that I really do much outdoorsy stuff yet, but I can still spend hours and hours on their website comparing this tent to that one, this pack to that one - preparing for the day when I'm in shape enough to do it all, I suppose), to buy a paracord bracelet.  I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking when I decided upon chartreuse paracord for everyday wear - for those of you unfamiliar with paracord, something about it seems to intensify colors, so the dark colors are rather dark, the dull ones very dull indeed, and the bright colors are very...nauseatingly...bright.  So navy it was!  And now every time I see my wrist will be a little nudge to stay on track, to be disciplined, to be the kind of person who would leave everything behind to spend 5 months walking across the entire country with nothing but 20-something pounds of gear and their wits.

Erin's blog is called Walking With Wired (Wired is her trail name).  She's currently walking the Continental Divide Trail, another Mexico to Canada trail, and at 3,100 miles, it's the longest (and apparently most dangerous) of the three major trails - the PCT, CDT, and AT - which together make up the Triple Crown of Hiking.  (Incidentally, I grew up in Kentucky.  As much as I've been reading Erin's blog, I still can't hear Triple Crown without thinking of the Derby.)  This is her second of the three.  Go read her blog.  Now.  You'll thank me.  (Or, more appropriately, her.)

Crossing Over to the Dark Side

I've never been a big fan of organized dieting.  It seems like every diet out there has some wacky strategy that may be very effective as far as short term weight loss goes, but that's not actually very healthy or feasible for the long term.  If you want to lose weight for an event - wedding, graduation, Dragon Ball Z convention (not sure where that thought came from...I don't even really know what Dragon Ball Z is...) - then fine, diet away.  Just be prepared to gain all of the weight back as soon as you stop said crazy diet.  But long term weight loss & maintenance, in my opinion, is a lot more complicated than that.  It involves changing one's entire relationship with food - you have to rewire how your brain thinks about food and eating.  Permanent change requires more than just the latest fad diet.

So when my mom suggested a few weeks ago that I could join Weight Watchers with her, my initial reaction was less than enthusiastic.  Weight Watchers, while obviously not qualifying as a fad diet (it's been around for more than half a century, after all), seemed to be the epitome of one of my least favorite dieting techniques - counting.  The thought of counting calories and staring at boxes and bags and adding up this and that has always made my brain cringe.  And then there's all the weighing in.  While I've always had a general number in mind of what I'd like to weigh, my biggest goals for losing weight have always been 1) to be able to do the things I want to do (hiking, jogging, walking around the zoo for more than half a second) without feeling like someone's trying to drive a railroad spike through my lungs, and 2) be healthier.  Yes, I want to be smaller and cuter again (ah, the good ol' days), but mostly I just want to feel better and do more.  Obsessively tracking every tenth of a pound lost just didn't seem to fit into that equation for me; my goals are qualitative, not quantitative.

But I liked the idea of the meetings.  For several months now, I've been toying with the idea of looking for some sort of eating support group or the like.  I felt like I needed to be able to be in a room full of people who have the same problems with food that I do and be able to talk about it, share strategies for reworking how we deal with food and eating, etc.  I really do feel that food is an addiction for a lot of people.  I've read accounts of drug addicts and what goes through their minds when they're thinking about drugs, and the physiological effect that drugs have on an addict's brain, and I could swear I had written said accounts about my thoughts and reactions to food.  I had even gone so far as to look up local Overeaters Anonymous meetings, although I never could quite bring myself to attend one.  Not necessarily b/c of the stigma (though that was part of it), but more b/c of the 12 step thing.  I just couldn't identify with the religious aspect of the 12 step program, and I figured that around here (otherwise known as Catholic Central) it would be pretty hard to escape that.

Ultimately, I decided what's the worst it could do?  Work?  So three weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers.  And I have to say, it hasn't been what I expected.  Yes, there's counting, but there are apps available that make it a lot less labor intensive than I had anticipated.  You just type in the food you want, and up pops the point value.  The selection of restaurants that have menus pre-loaded into the app is mind boggling, although they are mostly chain restaurants - if I want to go to a unique local place, I have to resort to guesswork.  And as a bonus, I've found that tracking everything through the apps feels a little like a game to me.  Kind of like constantly checking in to FarmVille to water your crops.  Which, of course, appeals to the geek in me.  There's the obvious benefit of becoming more aware of your eating habits, since you have to write down (or, in my case, type in) everything that passes your lips.  And it's really helped both with portion sizes, and with balancing out what I eat.  So if I want to eat a cheeseburger for lunch, I can, but I have to compensate for that by eating something healthier for dinner.  I hadn't ever really paid attention to that before, so that's been a nice bonus.

The meetings are the best part, though.  My friends know that I'm not big on crowds, and I'm even less big on large groups of people I don't know.  But the meeting leaders are overly peppy and friendly, and are very good at putting everyone at ease.  There's a topic to each meeting, which I didn't expect, and we get little assignments to work on.  Even if I don't participate much, it's so nice to know that I'm in a room full of people who are all going through the same experience - albeit in their own ways - and we're all there to provide support and encouragement to each other.  And as much as I rail against the quantitative aspect of the whole thing, it does provide a structure for me, which I do often require.  Much as I like to delude myself with the myth of my own spontaneity, I generally don't accomplish much unless I have a deadline or clearly delineated goal to aim for.

All of this was my (extremely) long way of getting around to this week's goal.  But seeing as I've probably lost most of you by now anyway, I will talk about said goal in my next post.  Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Game On

Have you ever had the feeling that something - anything - in your life has got to change?  Not just a little thing, like hair color or new glasses, but something major.  Drastic.  What's the phrase?  Something's gotta give.  I've been having that feeling a lot lately.  Sort of this niggling little irritant in the back of my brain urging me to make a major change in my life, sell everything and move cross country, or some such insane idea.

The thing about me is that I don't generally do drastic.  I have a love/hate relationship with change.  On the one hand, I'm all for progress, moving forward, discovering the latest and greatest - and lord knows I have a definite instant gratification streak.  But on the other hand, I loathe the unexpected.  I'm a planner.  A control freak.  A turtle who likes to hide in her shell with detailed maps and itineraries, researching and planning every last little detail of everything until I've sucked every last morsel of joy and spontaneity out of whatever it is I'm obsessively researching.  The problem with that is that I never have enough data to make what I feel is an informed decision, and so one of two things happens.  1) I get so tired of the indecision that I make a choice - any choice, generally with utter disregard for all of my careful research and planning - just to be done with it.  Or 2) I become so overwhelmed by information and am so terrified of making the wrong decision that I end up making no decision at all.  The former is how I ended up with my first tattoo.  The latter is why, 8 years after graduating from college with a degree I no longer had any idea what to do with, I still hadn't figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

The choice I made back then - 8 years out of college, newly laid off, faced with a desperate search for a job in a career I despised with every fiber of my being - was the first drastically different, and I think the most genuinely *me*, thing in my life I'd ever done. At first glance, choosing massage therapy might not seem like such an odd thing, and to fully explain why would require a bunch of boring information that no one really cares about.  Suffice it to say that both of my parents have graduate degrees, and from the age of 8 I had declared - loudly and often - to anyone who would listen that I was going to be a doctor.  My decision not to attend medical school was bad enough.  Choosing something that was not academic, rational or cerebral?  Sacrilege.

One of my favorite quotes is from a Doctor Who episode:  "When you're a kid, they tell you it's all...grow up.  Get a job.  Get married.  Get a house.  Have a kid, and that's it.  But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that.  It's so much darker.  And so much madder.  And so much better."  And it is!  I've always lived on the weirder side of life, but - again - only with the smaller details.  The bigger things?  Normal, rational people just didn't live life that way.  They made safe choices.  Non-risky choices.  It took me 30 years to grasp the concept that making big decisions against the mold wasn't just something other people did.  It was something I could do, too.

My forward momentum on the 'be more me' front did continue past my initial decision to go to massage school.  After I'd been in school for a few months, my mom and I were talking about...well, I no longer remember what exactly, but it was probably something to do with holistic practices or organic foods or some such...and she made a comment to the effect that she wasn't surprised that I had gotten into these weirder things after starting massage school.  My response was that massage school hadn't caused the 'weirdness', it had just allowed me to be more comfortable expressing the side of myself I had always kept tucked away.  But those were baby steps.  Little things.  The drastic changes began and ended with that one brief burst of brilliance (no alliteration intended) three years ago.  So here I am, 32 years old, filled with the absolute certainty that I need to turn my life on its ear...with my feet firmly planted to the ground in terror.  Something's gotta change.  And this is my first step.

For as long as I can remember, I've had this image in my head of the person I want to be.  I was hit with the realization recently that I don't have to become that person, I already am her.  She's the real me that's been locked inside all the crap and conventionality and safe decisions that have been piled on year after year for over three decades.  All I've needed is a plan to get rid of all that flotsam and let her out.  So this is the story (all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down...true though that may be, now that I think about it, I digress) of how I plan to Make It So.