Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Expensive Fig: Pilates

Joseph Pilates

I paid my money yesterday, all $450 of it, to begin a session of 10 private Pilates lessons.

I know.

That's a lot of JCrew clothes.  :)

But...like many of my other ideas, I have this lingering idea (perhaps fantasy) that if I take private Pilates lessons, I'll get into the best shape of my life.

I also have a secret desire to teach Pilates, which makes no sense, as I've never actually taken classes.  My experience with Pilates is based on a few DVDs I own and, frankly, celebrities who rave about how Pilates transformed their bodies (and, by proxy, their lives).  Oh, and my horse trainer in NC began taking private lessons after her back gave out and we had to dead-lift her across the bed and finally cart her off the ER via ambulance.  She raves, as well, and says that Pilates has helped her riding immensely.

I also like the Pilates look.  I don't like a muscular-looking frame on a woman.  I know....it's simply a matter of personal preference.  To be honest, I don't like that muscular look on a man either, unless he's some kind of badass Special Forces operator who might actually use that muscular frame to do his badass military work, but those are few and far between.  Mostly, I just don't like the look of people who seem to spend a lot of time in the gym.  Tan.  Buff.  Stocky.

They don't look graceful or fluid, and I like graceful and fluid.

For several years now, I have managed to keep a healthy weight and pretty toned body doing online workouts and walking/riding horses.  The online workouts are a combination of Pilates, yoga and ballet (Barre 3), and they're just the loveliest exercises I've ever done.  I would keep going with them, as they've yielded good results and only cost me $15/month, but I put the Pilates lessons on the list, and I'm committed to the list.

Plus, I want to see what personal training will really do.  Will it erase my stubborn saddle-bags?  Will my core be a bastion of strength and tightness?  Will I walk taller and have better posture?  Will I simply glide through life?

Yes, I'm aware that I put a lot of hope and expectation into these things.  That is one of the reasons I've committed to this list:  to see if all that hope and expectation pans out.  So far, it has in some cases, and it hasn't in others.  That, in and of itself, has been worth engaging in this whole list at all.  I've been shocked to discover disappointment in some experiences and unexpected excitement and passion in others.

I have no idea where I'll land with Pilates.

How is it going so far?  Well, I've had two lessons.  My first was a try-it-out, starter lesson, which was free.  I met Mark, the Pilates instructor, in his studio in the back of a confusing gym set-up.  Few people.  A few machines.  A random employee or two.  I have no idea what's going on there.  Mark is in a corner in the back, with a set-up including all sorts of machines and a set of free weights.

I'm not going to lie:  I expected white-washed wood floors, minimalist art and maybe some scented candles burning while Enya or Dar Williams played in the background.  Isn't that what Gwyneth Paltrow would workout in?

But, Mark's set-up is kind of surfer-dude decides to settle down in his hometown and make a go of it teaching women how to tighten their core.

Either way, Mark is the only option in my town, and I liked him right away, so I figured I wouldn't push it with expectations of Parisian candles.

The first lesson was good.  It wasn't difficult.  I wasn't huffing and puffing.  I didn't feel pushed to the max.  But I also don't feel that with Barre 3, and I've seen consistent results, so I'm beginning to discover that exercise need not be torture to be useful.  I left the session with a slight glow and the feeling that I could definitely do 10 lessons, no problem.

My second session was yesterday.  I suppose because I was actually paying for it, and because he had seen what I was capable of doing, he got down to brass tacks.  We started with the 100, and when he counted up to 99 I thought to myself:  if he goes any further, I'm out.

It was hard.  He took me through exercise after exercise for the next hour, amping up the intensity when he saw what was easy for me.  He asked, toward the end:  is there any part of your body you feel we haven't work?

I said:  my butt.

He looked surprised.  But truthfully, my butt felt like it had been sitting out the entire time.  My quads were on fire.  My core was engaged.  My knees were kind of achy.  I worked my lats and shoulders. But my butt seemed like it was simply benched.  If I'd like to 'work on' one area of my body, it's the butt, which is getting closer to my knees than my belly button.  I'd like to reverse that action and also, while we're at it, whittle down those outer thighs.  So far, in all my exercise experience, nothing has done this.  So, I have pretty big hopes for Pilates.

We did a few more workouts, to target my butt, and I said I felt it was working, but it wasn't.  I never felt my butt engage like I do when I do the Barre 3 videos.  Ever.

And, this morning, I'm not sore.  At all.  Now, I don't think being sore is the end-all-be-all of exercise.  In fact, I don't believe in over-training.  But to not be sore after a hardcore hour workout with a private instructor?  That is a red flag to me.  Particularly when I am often sore after doing Barre 3 workouts, and they're typically only 30 minutes long.

What gives?

I have no idea.  Maybe Pilates isn't a sore kind of workout?  Maybe I'll be sore tomorrow?  Maybe I just need to stick with it, and it will click one day?

I will be very interested to see if having a private instructor will yield significantly better results than my own workouts.  If it does, I may stick with it.  I'm not riding horses this year, so I can afford to fill that space (my husband would argue otherwise).  If it isn't significantly better, I'll go back to daily Barre 3 workouts and accept the fact that a few inches on my thighs is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

I'll report back after 10 sessions.  To keep this interesting, I'm going to measure my waist and thighs.  I don't care about my calves and biceps or my neck.  I can't get that detailed.

I'm also going to eat clean, because eating has been dodgy (at best) since we moved.  I felt healthier and had more energy in NC, eating well and riding horses.

That is my long-winded SITREP.

I'll report back.  Also, I have other plans.  I'm starting a new life-series.  I know.  What is a life-series?  Oh...just you wait.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kindness Gone Awry

I am back.  I have been wanting to write again for a long time, but I always feel as if I should have something profound to say, so I put it off for a day when profundity hits.

Alas....I'm still waiting.

Truth is...I dropped off the kindness bandwagon i-don't-know-when.  I can't even remember stopping the week of kindness.  Was it a week?  I think we began our move, and that began a few months of total upheaval and any intentions I had other than waking up, surviving the day and managing to help my children survive theirs was lost in the shuffle.

We have now moved.  We have settled in.  Most boxes have been unpacked.  We have found grocery stores, restaurants, friends and schools.  And by schools I do mean schools in the plural, as we are all now attending some sort of formal program to educate ourselves.  Ray is attending War College.  The kids are attending the 2nd and 4th grades at a public school just down the tree-lined streets of the most charming neighborhood we've lived in, and I am auditing a Chinese language class at the local college, which is full of wealthy kids who, when referencing life pre-college life, talk about where they attended boarding school.

I have given up horse-back riding for the moment, because the weather up here will turn bitter in a few months, and because I thought it would be nice to have more time and money for other things.  I then...of course....have to get busy with the other things.  I feel an itch to do something new, and in the back of my mind my little blog kept calling out to me:  your list is still waiting for some attention.

There is so much to do.  First, I have to update the blog and write about the figs I've finished.  There are several.  I have pictures.  I know.  It's exciting.

Then there are the figs left waiting.  As I begin to close in on the list, it's interesting to me to see which ones I've put off.

Jump off a high dive
Knit a sweater
Host a dinner party
Buy a fabulous bathing suit
Attend the opera
Host a dinner party
Write a letter in Chinese
Read the Quran
Have my eyebrows threaded
Learn to play an instrument
Cook a standing rib roast
Write a letter to Aunt Marie
Drive a sports car (stick shift)
Take a beach vacation
Meditate everyday for 1 month
Take private Pilates lessons
Plant an herb garden
Bake a multi-layered cake from scratch
Buy a fabulous underwear set
Read:  Brothers Karamazov and Grapes of Wrath
Perform one random act of kindness a day for one week

I mean....that's still a long list.  I thought I had a 'few' things to do here, and now that I've looked at the list I realize I've been a bit complacent?  The past few years have seen about a fig-a-year.  I guess that's fine, but I also feel that this year in PA might just be my year to hit it hard again.

Perhaps I should add a fig:  stop trying to hit it hard in life.

I will begin this week.  I will look at why I haven't done these particular figs so far and consider where I'd like to start.  Life is funny.  For some of it, you must plan and take direct action.  And then there are the times all you have to do is be open to what the world has to offer.

It's sometimes difficult to know when to push and when to let it be.

For now....it's just nice to be back.

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