Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Milissa meets Bikram

I wanted to try bikram yoga since I heard about it about 3 years ago.  But I was afraid to.  Bikram is done in a "hot room."  The temperature is set to 105 with 40% humidity.  The class is 90 minutes long...but you know you have to be in that room for about 5 minutes before and after class...so that's 100(ish) minutes in a hot room.  How can anyone sit in a hot room for 100+ minutes?

I am NOT a fan of the heat. I blame this on growing up in the midsouth...where temperatures were 110 from April to October with 90% humidity.  Okay, okay...that might be a slight exaggeration.  Maybe the 110 degree weather didn't start until May.  The humidity makes everything miserable, even the cold weather is miserable...it's a "wet" cold and cuts you right to the bone.  But I never complain about the cold.  Because I believe you only get to complain about one season.  I complain about summer.  The complaining usually starts after day 2.

My friends know...I'm the weird person that likes cold and rain. (I LOVE rain!)  So I'll admit, it's weird and somewhat counter intuitive that I was interested at all.  My interest didn't wane and I have this (new) goal (making an effort to try new things, find new hobbies) so I finally made plans to "try" bikram yoga.

The closest studio is 35 minutes from me.  I showed up one morning and bought a "new student week."  Everything I read suggested you buy the week and "go as much as possible" during that week.  At first, I wasn't really sure about that...but I figured if I could get 2 classes in a week, the price was worth it. If I absolutely hated it and never went back, then I was supporting a local business and that made everything okay.

Class 1 - The breathing exercises are weird.  I hope everyone else brushed their teeth before class.  I liked the postures and the flow of the class.  I survived...the heat wasn't anywhere near as bad as I anticipated.  I'll be back.

Class 2 - Oh my gosh.  I already see improvement.  I love bikram.

Class 3 - Feel. Like. I'm. Going. To. Die.  My body does not work.  I can't do any of these postures.  I think it's hotter than 105 with 40% humidity.  I hate bikram.

*Note...somewhere between the end of class 3 and the beginning of class 4, I forgot I hated bikram because I bought my own mat.

Class 4 - Why am I sweating so. much. sooner. than before?  It's so hot in this room.  I know it's hotter than 105.  I'm resisting the urge to check the thermostat.  I don't know the order of all the postures yet, but I'm mentally counting.  Or trying to.  I know there are 26 postures...but the 2nd warm up posture has 3 parts...does each part count?  What about savasana?  How many are left before they give me "dessert"?  (cold lavendar towels...and after being in the hot room, dessert IS the appropriate term.)

*bought my own hot yoga towel and a bag for my yoga mat.  a few of my running shorts work, but my running shirts are not ideal. started looking for different shirts.

Class 5 - Sweating as soon as I walk into the room.  Every time I come into this class, the sweating starts earlier than the last class.  Why do I keep coming back?  I really just want to sit down today.  I start talking to myself with my running mantras. Practice not quitting.

Class 6 - (final class of my intro week.)  Major improvement today.  Not in any of the postures...but I did not feel like I was going to die.  Whoo-hoo.  The room was hot, but I finally stopped looking at the instructors through suspicious eyes and my "I know this room is hotter than you say it is" face.

I left the final class of my intro week and bought a month membership.  It's early in my "relationship" with bikram yoga, but I'm addicted.  Bikram is hard.  But at the end, I get this amazing high.  Almost like the "runner's high."  I never intended for yoga to become my only means of exercise...and it isn't...but I am making every effort to get to that studio as much as I can. Because aside from the exercise, it's teaching some important, and much needed lessons.  Among my favorites...

Be compassionate with yourself.
Listen to your body.
Work with the body you brought today.
Find your edge.  Then push beyond it.
Too uncomfortable?  Back off.
Be patient.
Stay in the moment.
Choose your thoughts.
If you can do nothing else, focus on breathing.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

From Weight to Health

I was a skinny kid.  A really skinny kid.  The kind of "skinny" people made fun of.  I was called names like anorexic, bulimic, Ethiopian, Olive Oyl (from Popeye), and others.  Clearly, kids did not understand the seriousness (and meanness) associated with the first 3 names.  I did not have an eating disorder.  And I was not malnourished or literally starving.  Nonetheless, these are some of the names I heard over and over.

I grew to hate pretty much every word that meant skinny...because whenever people used that word about me, it didn't seem to be a compliment.  Skinny.  Thin. Willowy.  Underweight.  Those words almost always followed "too."  Too skinny.  I tried everything I knew to gain weight.  I drank weight gainer shakes.  I ignored eating "rules" like don't eat at night or don't eat dinner immediately before bed.  (I mainly ignored these so called rules because I was hungry...and for me, hunger at night is intense.  I am hungry every few hours...so I eat every few hours.  Meaning, I eat at night...after dinner.  My younger self knew this wasn't normal...especially when I spent the night with friends...I can still picture the looks on my friends' and their parents' faces when I would declare hunger or ask for a late night snack.)  I have always eaten healthy foods (because I have always loved them) but I never denied myself sodas (I was a coca-cola addict!), fast food, fried foods, or dessert.  (Note:  I haven't had a soda, carbonated beverage, or sugary drink in almost 4 years.  I occasionally eat fast food, fried foods, and dessert...more than I should, but MUCH LESS than my younger self.)

Even as a young adult, people made fun of me.  I worked at FedEx for many years.  I started in the hub of Memphis.  You had to take a lift test to get the job...and I'll admit, I needed the help of a personal trainer to pass that test.  When I started the job, I overheard people placing bets on how long I would last.  Many people underestimated me.  A few actually told me about it and apologized later.  I can vividly remember an exchange at work.  A man who was not my direct boss, but in a managerial position...a higher position than I held, made a comment that even with all my winter gear on, I was "too skinny."  I don't remember his exact comment, but I remember it set me off.  Here was a man who was the same age (or older) than my father, making a ridiculous and insulting comment...and it was supposed to be funny.  I was not laughing.  I looked at this man and without missing a beat I asked him "Do you make insulting jokes because you are self conscious about being short or bald? How much fun do you suppose it would be if the jokes always centered on your baldness?  I might of missed something recently, but I'm not sure that's the 'cool' style these days."  I immediately felt awful.  He apologized and I apologized right back.  By this time, we had drawn a crowd and I said "These jokes are mean...they are not funny.  For some crazy reason, people think it's okay...maybe because skinny by itself is supposed to a good thing.  Jokes about too skinny are not okay...and it's the same as making fun of someone for being too fat or too bald...not really acceptable jokes.  I don't like it and I want it to stop.  Now."

A few years later, I acquired the nick name "change the channel."  I was "so skinny" that my knees reminded someone of the old fashioned knobs on a television set...the kind you had to walk to and turn in a circular fashion to change the channel.

I was "too skinny" for the first 25 years of my life.  Then, I gained weight.  When I first started gaining weight, I was thrilled.  But one day I realized that I had gained "too much."  I was no longer too skinny, I was overweight.  I started making healthier choices and lost a few pounds.  Not as much as I wanted...and I've struggled with about 10 pounds for years.

As someone who has been on both sides of the weight issue (no...not to extremes, but I have experienced the under and over side of the ideal weight scale), BOTH sides are HARD.

For the last 6ish years, my internal critic has been quite harsh regarding my weight.  I shouldn't be here.  I can't believe I'm now trying to lose weight after spending the first 26ish years of my life trying to gain weight.  I should have more will power with food choices.  I should have more discipline when it comes to exercise.  After all these years of exercise, I should be able to do more push-ups, more burpees, run faster, run further, run more.  Less, less, less (food).  More, more, more (exercise).

Until.  My brother got cancer.  Until I started seeing critically ill patients. I mean really seeing them.  I've worked in health care for a long time.  I've learned about many illnesses.  But understanding the science of a disease is different than really seeing and understanding the implications of said disease.  One day (more recently than I'd like to admit), I finally got it.

Now, I'm no longer beating myself up over what I consider my shortcomings.  I am celebrating my abilities.  Not everyone can do a push-up.  Can you imagine falling on the floor and not being strong enough to push yourself up?  Not everyone can run...even a mile.  The lungs or the legs don't work.  Can you imagine not being able to breathe?  Or move your legs?  Not being strong enough to carry your own weight?  The fact that my brain sends signals and my body responds seamlessly is an amazing thing.  Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for someone whose brain and body are not in sync?  What if your brain sent the signal to move your leg, but your leg didn't respond?  Or you thought "walk" but could only "slowly shuffle"? What if your balance didn't work?  I can sit on the floor and stand up.  I can bend and twist (not as a yogi, but I have a normal range of motion.)  I can squat, pick things up, run, jump, push myself off the floor...my body moves.  I do not have to be a barbie doll or an Olympic athlete to celebrate my abilities.  I am amazed when I think about all the things my mind and body are capable of.  I am grateful to be average sized with average strength and athletic abilities.  And you know what I learned through all this?  When I started appreciating my abilities, it became easier to take care of them.  It doesn't feel like punishment or deprivation.  Health and ability are gifts.  I am grateful.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I experienced a mini mid-life crisis during the week leading up to my birthday.  I know 35 isn't old (unless you ask a kid.)  "Old" is a moving target...it's ALWAYS at least 15 years older than you are.  Plus, there is no justice in this universe.  You are not guaranteed to live into old age.  Many (good!) people die young.  Aging is not a right, it is a privilege.  I believe all birthdays should be celebrated.

My mini mid-life crisis was not about age.  It was about purpose.

At 35, I was supposed to have this whole life thing figured out.  I was supposed to know exactly what my contribution to the world would be.  I thought by now, I'd be doing something of consequence.  Right before my birthday, I shared this sentiment with a favorite friend.  She said "What makes you think you are not doing something of consequence?"  Well...I don't really know.  How can you know whether you have affected anyone else or the world?

Friend - "I think you are waiting to experience some grand epiphany that's going to make the world make sense."
Me - "Yes."  (My friend definitely understands me.)
Friend - "You know that's not going to happen, right?!"  (She is not afraid to tell me the truth. A true friend!)

What?!  No "AHA!  And now the world makes sense." ???

Apparently, this is an unrealistic and romanticized view of the world.

Almost a month later...35 doesn't feel any different than 34.  As a matter of fact, I do not feel any different at 35 than I did at 33.  Or 31.  Or 24. Or 16.

I'm not exactly the same person I was at 16 or 24 or 31 or 33.  Life happened.  As a result, I have become more empathetic, compassionate, understanding, and forgiving.  I have also become more cynical and suspicious and sometimes outright pessimistic.  I've simultaneously gained wisdom and laugh lines.  But inside my head, I just feel like me.  I feel like the same me I was at 17 and 22 and 25. Regardless of my age, I'm sure that as long as I'm here (in cognitively good health) I will always feel like me.

I don't know anyone that has this whole life thing figured out.  And it doesn't appear that crystal balls will be hitting the retail shelves anytime soon.  If all the world's problems could be solved with some sort of equation, everyone would be so much better at math.  If happiness had a specific recipe, we would all have that recipe memorized.  If purpose was assigned, we would receive a specific instruction manual.

I have finally come to terms with these truths:  The universe is not fair.  I cannot make peace with evil or sad.  There are (terrible) things in this world which no explanation will ever be acceptable (to me.)  Therefore, so many things about this world will never make sense to me.  I can stop waiting for the aha moment.  Maybe purpose doesn't really exist.  Maybe I will never fully understand exactly what my contribution to the world is.  But being alive means I have made a contribution. Because the reality is, we cannot experience life without interacting with other humans...and every interaction has the potential to leave some sort of imprint on the world.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Big Three Five

The annual Sweet Dreams 5k was held the morning of my 35th birthday.  My birthday celebration began with a 5:30am wake-up call...to run.  I do not run many races anymore, but I always run Sweet Dreams. It's my favorite race. It's a very hilly out and back course with beautiful farm views...and it's FREE. You can't beat free.

Over the past few weeks, I have pretty much been a slacker.  And my mileage has been low for the past few months. So I was not expecting a PR, I was just hoping for a "decent" time. My ipod was loaded with a carefully chosen and arranged playlist. (Sidenote: after creating the playlist, I realized I removed "Smack That" and replaced it with "Shake That." This girl loves some hiphop. My Memphis is showing.)

In my experience, running requires more mental strength than physical strength.  I struggle with the mental part of running.  My mind gives up long before my legs and lungs.  I can always gut through it (so I guess that's something), but I struggle with pace.  Not Saturday.  The playlist worked.  I wanted to slow down around the half way point. That is exactly when my "pick up the pace" song came on.  Not only did those legs keep moving, but my turnover did not slow.  My "speed" song was next followed by my "maintain the pace" song. Perfect music to keep a steady pace...all the way to the finish.  My time (29:20) was exactly the same time as 2012.  (What are the chances?)  I consistently trained last summer.  I did zero training this summer. Duplicate times = win.  :)  I also received the last shirt in my size and won a door prize.  Score.

We went to dinner and then to see Bill Cosby.  Best. Comedy. Show. Ever.  I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.  My jaw hurt.  My stomach hurt.  I cried.  I laughed for almost 3 hours straight.  Every. single. joke. was. funny.

Things I noticed at the Bill Cosby show.

  1. Kids.  Do these kids even know who Bill Cosby is?  It's not like they are growing up with The Cosby Show or Fat Albert.  The thing is, you can take kids to a Cosby show.  He's hilarious without profanity or vulgarity...a rarity in comedy.  
  2. "Old people" smell.  What causes this?  Is there any way to avoid this?  I do want to live into old age, but I not want to smell.  Is that possible?

I can't believe all the fun stuff I was able to do on my actual birthday.  It was a FANTASTIC day.  I moved my body, I ate good food, and I laughed.  What more could I ask for?  I'm feeling optimistic...35 is going to be a good year.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lessons from a 4 year old

Granny (my mother) and I were watching my niece play in the pool when Footloose came on the radio.  I remarked (to my mom) "This is a really good song to run to. When this song comes on my ipod, I can pick up and maintain a pretty good pace."

My mom responded "This is Mae's favorite song...turn it up."

I turned up the radio and there were three girls of three generations happily be-bopping to the same tune.

The song ended and this conversation followed:

Mae - Why didn't they play the whole song?
Me - They did play the whole song.
Mae - No...it's a really long song...like 15 minutes long.
Me - Wow...that would be a really long song.  The song isn't that long.  I bet when you are in the car, your parents put the song on repeat.  They would do that because it's your favorite song.
Mae - I don't understand.  What's repeat?

The simplicity of a 4 year old's thought process coupled with her desire to understand the world make for many interesting conversations.  Mae doesn't over complicate anything.  She thought the song was 15 minutes long because when you play the song 5 times in a row, you hear 15 minutes of music.  Mae sits in a car seat in the back and therefore cannot control the radio...she did not know a replay button existed.

Her question wasn't profound...it was the statement she made prior to the question that was profound.

"I don't understand."

A simple statement, yet something many adults struggle with.  When do we become uncomfortable with this phrase?  Kids say this all the time.  Usually followed by a specific question related to whatever it is they are trying to understand.  Adults...not so much.

Somewhere along the line, it became "uncool" to ask questions.  We feel embarrassed to admit we don't understand something.  Asking for clarification makes us feel exposed and vulnerable and stupid.  So we don't ask.  We try to figure it out.  We read between the lines, we make inferences, we guess, we use our imagination to make up stories of what we think it might mean or could mean, we might even look stuff up and hope whatever resource we come across is credible. Asking questions...oh no...we won't do that...that might make us look dumb.

These days, I'm taking cues from a 4 year old.  I'm simplifying.  If I don't know something, I ask about it.  If a favorite song comes on the radio, I turn up the volume and dance. At the end of the song, I hit replay and dance again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A way with words

How have certain words and phrases become associated with a connotation completely opposite or unrelated to what those words actually mean?  

For example:  selfless.  I hate how this word has become classified as a moral virtue.

having little or no concern for oneself

Selfless is not a desirable trait. You should have concern for yourself. You should have more concern for yourself than others.  Because the truth is...you cannot care for anyone else if you do not care for yourself first.  Why do you think the airline safety speech says "put your own oxygen mask on before assisting anyone else"?  You cannot assist anyone else if you pass out!  This is an example of caring for yourself first...and this is a moral way to live.

I was listening to talk radio today and the topic was television "guilty pleasures." Someone called in and questioned the term "guilty" pleasure.  She said (paraphrasing) "Why are we calling this guilty?  If the activity is legal and nobody is harmed, why can't we just acknowledge it as a pleasure?"  

That woman speaks my language.  

Unfortunately, the radio hosts did not get it.  They responded with a conversation about how their show is entertainment rather than intellectual and therefore may also be considered a guilty pleasure. They ended the segment by "not discouraging" anyone from their television guilty pleasures for fear it may translate to their radio guilty pleasures in which case this show would lose listeners.

They missed the whole point.  The caller's point was not one of judgement for what people are watching or listening to.  Her point was about the language we use.  

having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; justly subject to a certain accusation or penalty; culpable

Watching television (even bad television) or listening to entertainment radio is not a crime. Why is there guilt associated with such activities? Why is our culture so conditioned to feel guilt over any pleasurable experience?  I do not understand this.  (Side note:  this is one reason I gave up religion 10 years ago.  I am not a fan of "unearned" guilt...which seems to be a heavily used tactic in many religions.  I do not understand this concept so I'm in utter shock at how effective it is for some folks.  Sorry for the tangent, maybe I'll explore this in another post.)

love words.  When I think of my favorite authors, it is not just their stories I love...it is how their chosen words tell that story.  Command of language is underappreciated.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I'm a square peg.  I don't fit in.  I've known this for a long time...but as I get older, almost every social situation reminds me I'm a nonconformist.

I guess it's a good thing I'm comfortable with different.  And I'm certain it's a good thing I'm (mostly) non-confrontational.  Otherwise, all social interactions would end in some sort of debate.  I'm not the argumentative type...but I'm a thinker and I have a thing for reason.  So when people say things to me that don't make sense, I ask questions.  I ask questions because I want to understand.  Also, I'm -SP (Myers-Briggs) so I know there are many viewpoints.  I am stuck inside my head and can only think of so many.  If you see the world differently, I want to see it from your lens.

I think I could make a list of 100 nonconforming viewpoints...but that would be one very long (and possibly quite boring) blog post. Instead, I'll share what seems to be the 3 most controversial.

1.  I do not drink.  I have my reasons...several of them actually.  It doesn't taste good.  None of it.  I've tried a lot of drinks, I haven't found anything I like.  (The "let's find a drink Milissa likes" game used to be a favorite at social events.)  I can usually tolerate a drink for a few sips...maybe even half a drink...then whatever it is becomes unbearable and makes me gag.  A few years ago, I finally stopped trying to fit in by socially drinking (or pretending to.)  I don't understand the point.  Unless you are trying to get wasted...what is the point?  I like to be in absolute full control of my faculties.  I do not like what alcohol can do to you. Do you know or have you ever known an alcoholic?  I do.  I'm not saying everyone that drinks will become an addict...what I am saying is I never want to be one.  With all that being said, I'm no party-pooper.  I promise you...I know how to have fun and I don't need a drink in my hand to do it.  I won't stop you from having your fun.  And you know what's so great about being a grown up?  Unless we are married, you do not have to justify any of your choices to me. (That last statement does not mean I dictate what my husband's drinking habits should be. He is a social drinker and I'm okay with that. That statement speaks to the weird thing that always seems to happen when drinkers find out I'm a nondrinker...they feel the need to justify their drinking to me.) I promise, I will not make you feel weird or uncomfortable about your drink.

2.  I'm a woman in my mid-30s without children or a ticking biological clock.  At this point, I have chosen not to have children...and it is highly unlikely I will change my mind.  This does not make me less of a woman or some weirdo child-hating person. There are a few kiddos in my life and I LOVE them fiercely.  I think kids are cute, funny, perceptive, and fun.  Kids often teach adults all about what's really important. Also, I've noticed I am usually the most forgiving person at a public venue when kids are misbehaving.  Hey...sometimes I want to throw a temper tantrum too. It just isn't acceptable for me anymore.  If you're 4 and having a bad day...have at it. Kids are just little people...and they do not have the same reasoning or coping skills as adults. I'm not saying I condone kids throwing a fit, but I can easily forgive them.  Life is disappointing and hard for them too...and they only have the coping skills of a kid. It's misbehaving adults that I have little tolerance for.

Raising kids is the hardest job on the planet.  The real job does not look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Nothing prepares you for it and there are no guarantees.  There are no guarantees that you will have a healthy kid, a smart kid, a mentally stable kid, or a kid that grows up to become an independent and productive member of society.  You can be the absolute best parent in the world and have a kid that chooses drugs and/or crime.

Now...all of this does not mean I won't have kiddos in my life.  But I do not think my worth as a woman is defined by procreating.  There are lots of children already on this planet that need a family.  If I decide I want to be a parent, I want to parent one of those kids.  Have you seen Martian Child?  There's a really awesome line in that movie "I don't want to bring another kid into this world, but how do you argue against loving one that's already here?"  That's how I feel.

3.  I don't believe in religion.  More specifically, I'm atheist.  Sometimes, I wish I was religious...I think that would make my life easier in some ways...but religion just doesn't work for me.  I was raised Catholic in the bible belt.  This means I was exposed to a lot of religion as a kid.  There were no traumatic experiences that made me quit believing.  Just reason.  A lot of things about religion do not make sense to me...and the more I studied it, the less it made sense.  It took a long time for me to admit I am a non-believer...but when I finally did, it was liberating.