Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thanksgiving: A Reminder of What I Don’t Want To Be

Thanksgiving is my annual reminder of what I don’t want.

Perhaps I ought to give a warning. Blogs and other publications traditionally offer warm-and-fuzzy, aren’t-I-blessed, isn’t-family-great posts around holidays. This isn’t one of those. Back to the story:

I returned from Thanksgiving, as always, far more stressed than ever. A lot of this is nobody’s fault. In addition to the fundamental unpleasantness of traveling long distances, big crowds in confined spaces are a personal nightmare of mine. While I like most of the 22 people who descended on my brother’s parents-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, that doesn’t change the fact that there are 22 people in one house. There are limits to the amount of time you can spend in the bathroom. I’ve tested.

The crowd really wasn’t the big deal—it just helped fray the nerves I needed to deal with the real issue. You see, my immediate family is marked by, well, some really fucked-up power issues, often combined with a desire to pretend that demonstrations of power are actually acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. Being talked over, being told what I really mean and what I really think and what I really want, being given “advice” whose central component is how defective I am, having my plans changed on a whim, and receiving good old-fashioned temper tantrums… well, I don’t particularly want to relive them right now.

This holiday was relatively well-behaved, but after a lifetime, every little bit grates.

I have to admit, I don’t have good coping mechanisms. Stress-eating is a big problem (which is actively encouraged by certain parties). I breathe deeply, which does nothing, and I focus on playing with the nephews, which helps but can be exhausting.

In the past couple years I’ve also allowed myself to blow up (in words only) when someone deserves it. That scares me, to be honest. I don’t want to scream as randomly and regularly as I was screamed at growing up, which is why it took me 37 years to do it at all. (I made a vow to myself as a young child not to.) But it helps, and I’ve never shouted without provocation, and I usually don’t scream even with provocation, so I feel ok.

Despite that, after holidays with the family, I arrive home frazzled, bloated, and sick.

But this year, there is a very slight upside, because I realize that the experience is a reminder of what I don’t want. I don’t want to be a constant shouter or shoutee. I don’t want a life where solitude is impossible. As much as I love my nephews, I don’t want kids of my own. I don’t want food to be the crutch (and weapon) it has always been. And above all, I don’t want the powerlessness, worthlessness, and respectlessness I always feel with certain family members.

Can any good come of this reminder? That’s a trickier question. Being frazzled, bloated, and sick are self-sustaining conditions. The weekend helped to remind me of some of what I do want, but it comes with the reminder of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities too. And all the inspirational memes in the world don’t take those weights off my throat.

I feel like I should make a dick joke to wash away some of the bleakness. But that’s beneath me. Instead, I’ll just eat a banana, dipped in yogurt, and await the morrow.


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When I’m 64/Screw New Zealand!

Another event my gym recently held was its participation in the SkiErg World Sprints.

But let’s back up for some definitions. A SkiErg is an indoor skiing machine. It’s made by Concept2, the same company that does rowing machines, and it uses the same mechanism for resistance. The World Sprints are a worldwide virtual 1,000 meter race. A gym is a place where people go to exercise. An event is… I think I may be over-defining here. If you disagree, you are probably stupid.

Man on a camel.

I don’t have any interesting SkiErg photos, but if you do a Google image search for “ski erg” and limit it to photos that are labeled for reuse, you get ones like this, which comes from, a site that offers vacation house rentals. It’s much more interesting than any other photo I could post.

Anyhow, bunches of us did it, although we aren’t turning up in the official results. (I think it’s because the gym didn’t collect ages, so we can’t be put into our appropriate age groups in the results.)

Nevertheless, I did the race, so I can at least compare my results, and it happens to make a Beatles reference. I did the race twice, but my better time was 3:41.8—good enough to finish 64th in my age division. (Well, tied for 64th, but let’s not quibble.)

The event was not without international incident, however. My first time was 3:48.4, which was considered not bad—it was at the time second at my gym after only one of the trainers.

But it wasn’t to last. The next day a faster time arrived on the board, and it was from a name I didn’t recognize. That’s because it wasn’t someone I recognized: A fellow from New Zealand, in town for only a brief period, had beat my time.

And so it was nationalistic fervor that fueled my second run. And terror. Mostly terror, really. That’s because I’m an endurance athlete at heart: I can go at 91% of my maximum pace forever and 92% for 12 seconds. In the second race, I went out way too fast and expected a lot of pain before the end. My pace did slow, but the race didn’t completely fall apart, and by the end I had defended America against the Kiwi Scourge.

It lasted about an hour. The New Zealander had a friend, and when I’d finished my class (sort of; everything about me was shaking for a solid half hour) there was another name on the board, with a time ahead of mine. And, as if to taunt us all, he’d added “From New Zealand” after his name.

Oh well. They’ve left now, and since their ages weren’t recorded and our times aren’t in the official results, it’s entirely possible they never happened. So there!


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My gym is having a charming little contest around the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s called Planksgiving, and as you might suspect, it involves planks.

Wood plank graphic

Haha! See what I did there? This extraordinarily bad joke provided by Extraordinarily Bad Jokes, Inc. When you want your humor to fail, call Extraordinarily Bad Jokes, Inc.!


The point of said contest is to take a photograph of yourself doing a creative plank, or a creative photo of yourself doing a plank, or some combination of the two.

This is not my entry, because I don’t want to force the managers of my gym to have to decide between free speech and not spreading vulgarity in a business setting. But fortunately, I don’t need to worry about spreading vulgarity in a blog setting, so I’ll share it with you:

The human centiplank

The HUMAN CENTIPLANK! (First Sequence)

Enjoy that image. (And if you’re not horrified by the image, be bothered by the mediocre-to-poor Photoshopping, only it shouldn’t really be called Photoshopping since I used Gimp.)

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Me Vs. Yoga

I feel constant guilt about this fact, but: I don’t like yoga.

I know it’s supposed to do wonderful things for your mind and body, but I’ve made a few attempts to get into it, and it’s never taken. Frankly, after a session, I’ve never felt relaxed or centered or good in any way. At best, I’ve felt a vague sense of distasteful unease, but far more often I’ve felt a truly uncharacteristic-for-me rage towards all of humanity.

I’ve learned to be comfortable with my distaste for yoga, and I feel the world is big enough for both of us to coexist. I don’t go into any yoga studios, and no yoga studios try to force me into any bendy positions, and we avoid arguments.

Recently, however, yoga reared its ugly head.

It started when my gym introduced a new class format that I’ve become fond of. It involves a bunch of unusual maneuvers (some of which might be considered yoga-esque, but let’s not get into that) that are challenging but interesting. One of these is an inverted L pose against the wall: hands on the ground, jump your feet up to the wall parallel with hips, straighten arms and legs to make an L shape.

One problem I have, however, is that the room that this class takes place in is a no-shoe place. The walls are wood, and during the workout, my feet get sweaty and slippery. So in addition to the difficulty, the L pose is fraught with danger. Fraught, I tell you!

To overcome this, another person in the class had the bright idea of yoga socks—socks with those little rubber bits on the sole to aid sticking. I figured that might help me too.

I tried a general sporting goods store, which did not work; they didn’t have any. So then… ugh… I tried Lululemon.

I’m sure Lululemon is a lovely establishment, but the name is a really clear indication that I am not its target audience. The only store I think I’d like less to enter is the horror that is American Girl Place, and that’s not by much. (Seriously, so creepy. The combination of the blissed-out zombie faces on little girls leaving the store, followed about 15 feet behind by the dejected self-loathing on the faces of their fathers who invariably have to carry all of the bags, will haunt me for decades.)

But I did, and went up to one of the employees, and asked if they had yoga socks, figuring that a yoga store might have them.

I was wrong.

They had women’s yoga socks, but those only went up to a women’s size 10, and I happen to know that those aren’t practical for my (size 12) feet. I can get my feet into a women’s size 10—I’ve done so when portraying Barbara Bush and a 10 was the largest size shoes I could find at the thrift store for my costume—but it’s not something that will work over the course of a class. There would be a constant danger that my feet would either rip through the toes, or more likely, they would slip off mid-workout and the elastic would send them flying through the air. (Probably landing on the instructor’s head, which is invariably a 10-burpee penalty.)

Even more galling: Lululemon, the yoga store, does sell men’s running socks. Which, why? And, what? I always assumed that running socks were just socks.

The apologetic shopkeeper did recommend trying CorePower, a yoga studio noted for having a retail operation as well. I had a bit of time, so I looked it up, found a location near my actual destination, and called to see if they did in fact have the socks I was looking for.

Calling was less constructive than one might hope, however. The website listed individual phone numbers for each location, but the one I called sent me to a central headquarters—and they couldn’t tell me anything about the things any individual location sells.

I hadn’t been in a yoga class in several months, so I was still reasonably calm, thanked the person on the other end of the line, and decided I would just pop in to see. But this plan was scuttered by a mistake of my own making: Chicago addresses are divided into East and West by State Street, but the vast majority are west of it. I didn’t notice that this one was east, so I got to the location I thought I would find the studio and… nothing.

Upon deciphering my mistake, I determined it was a bit too far to hike in the time that I had—and I was getting tired of things yoga-related by this time—so I gave up.

There may be a happyish ending. I have since acquired yoga socks that at least reasonably fit online. However, the tale has one final indignity:

Yoga sock

Yep, the socks have separate prongs for each toe.

There’s no way I’m going to not look like a jackass in those.

We’ll see if the added stability will be worth the utter humiliation.

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Ahhh! Halloween!

Yes, it’s the most frightening day of the year, apart from when you go to the dentist or meet someone who has replaced the vowels in their names with Ys and expanded it into extra syllables (and yes, I’m speaking from experience there).

I like my Halloween costumes to reflect true terror. So this year, I went as:




A YouTube comment section.

Hey, it might not be good, but at least I clearly didn’t have any help making it. (Although misspelling so many words made my fingers burn.)

And I even managed to work out in it!

Sure, the costume made it tough to bike, and the kettlebell swings (120 of them) were tricky too, but it was worthwhile.

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