Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Summer Magic and Memorials

One of my favorite movies is Summer Magic, a Haley Mills Disney classic that hardly anyone has heard of, in other words totally typical of my favorites list.  At the end of the movie there's a big dance in the barn behind the house and each gentleman greets their date at the bottom of the beautiful wrapped staircase to escort them.  The girls parade down the stairs in their best dresses, giving their fellas ample time to appreciate the view.

Ever since I first watched Summer Magic I dreamed of living that scene.  Getting ready for a big night with the girls and each having their moment to shine down the staircase of a grand front entrance.  Growing up in a rancher and with best girl friend lived in homes that lacked such entries I never thought I could make it happen, that is until one of them moved to a grand-foyered home our senior year, just in time for prom.

Prom was an event to remember, that's for sure, which is quite a statement given I don't remember very much of the actual event.  It was the pre-show that really sticks in my mind:

There we were, 4 best friends getting ready for arguably the biggest night of our high school careers.  Steph stood in full make-up, a perfect French twist, pantyhose, heels and tears having realized she'd forgotten to bring her dress while either Cher or VA both made rumblings about the likely hood of us falling down the highly polished curved staircase in the vaulted ceiling foyer.  I, for once being the voice of reason, insisted that the more we focused on our mishaps and spoke of falling the more likely one of us would bite it.

One by one our dates arrived and soon I was left alone in VA's bedroom watching intently out the window for my date as seemingly endless minutes ticked by.  From downstairs I could hear laughter, idle chit chat and ponderings about whether or not I would get stood up.  Finally (only 15 minutes late) my date arrived and the butterflies in my stomach turned from fear to excitement.  VA's mom handed me the corsage I would present to Mike and between that, my stole, purse and skirt of my fabulous Jessica McClintock I rapidly discovered I had no hand left for the banister.

At this stage in the game an intelligent might pause, take a moment to consider a safer alternative, one that could be executed quickly and gracefully so as not to show the nearly 2 dozen people consisting of friends, dates, neighbors, family and parents of girls not even part of our prom group any cracks in the illusion of a cool and collected facade.  In high school cool and collected is crucial.  I, however, am not always an intelligent person and so I forged ahead without a safety net, thighs flexed to capacity to carry me as safely as possible down the polished wood.  I stared at those stairs as if they would jump out from under me.

Finally after seconds that felt like hours I reached the 3rd to last step and deemed it safe to look up to find my date in a sea of watching faces.  A decision that proved to be my undoing.  The moment I looked up my thighs revolted and my foot shot clean out from under me.  I landed on my backside so hard I bounced and found myself standing on the floor, having skipped the last two steps completely, with my stole now hanging over my head.  Embarrassed I rushed forward to present the corsage I had held onto dutifully only to find I mistook the form standing in front of me as I stared down the lens of a video camera, not my date.

Yup.  All on tape.

After prom came graduation where the pre-game chatter involved certainty that I would be the one to fall down the stairs.  Ha ha.

A few years later VA's parents had their foyer stairs carpeted for additional safety.  More for their daily use than because I fell that one time.  For Christmas that year I bought them something to mark the occasion...

This plaque lives on the side of the rise I fell off, just below the lip on the back side of the staircase that faces the dining room.  With any luck years and years and years down the road when a new family moves in that plaque will still live there, unnoticed and forgotten, left to live there indefinitely.  Or until some small child or an overzealous house cleaner finds it and wonders if there be a need to call in the TAPS team.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hoofing It

I jogged last night.  Real, honest, premeditated jogging with intent to jog.

You may not believe it (or you are already rolling your "Well, DUH!" eyes at me) but this is an epic accomplishment in my world.  I've a long standing history of uncooperative joints that make activities with impact particularly difficult for me to stomach.  That and I just hate running. I admit I like the idea of activities that include the necessity of running (ToughMudder, Warrior Dash, surviving a zombie apocalypse) but generally speaking I'd rather have an un-sedated root planing courtesy of Dr. Giggles than have to perform the act of traveling faster than a speed walk in a linear direction for any length of time.

I know that running is a passion for a lot of people and this I have never, ever understood.  I supposed if I thought about it really hard I could whip up a short list of appealing points in its favor but my Do Not Like list chumps the pros substantially.  This aversion makes it particularly difficult to walk up to an old friend who has obviously lost some weight and is looking fantastic and find out that their secret is diet and not just exercise, but the running variety of exercise!  It sinks my heart.

This past weekend I saw such a friend and felt my stomach seize when I heard she'd started running.  Unlike others who found their way to the cult (that's right, I called it a cult, bunch of crazies...) she shared her introduction to it.  She and her husband would visit a track and she walked while he ran.  One day she thought she'd see what that whole craze was about and upped her pace to jog for a brief time.  She started sprinkling her walks with jogs here and there and now she looks incredible and can run for 3.5 miles.  This story flipped some kind of switch in my head.  Curiosity I understand.  The desire to try something new and exciting (dangerous) I also understand.

I spent that evening and the next visualizing myself running.  First slowly, just barely above speed walk pace and maybe for only 2-3 house lengths.  I could wear some spiffy workout clothes, feel all official and drag Clif along as he walked the dogs to be my company and traveling "home base" should I feel over my head.  Last night I turned my visualization into action and stepped out with a cheer leading squad of a husband and two completely distracted dogs to try something I never thought I'd do willingly.

I made it past the first house, then the second and then the third and kept going.  I made it down the block, around the bulb of the cul de sac and back across the street before stopping because my calves felt like they were going to snap in two.  Lately my calves have always stopped me well before my elevated heart rate and exercise induced asthma do.  I limped along with Clif for another block and a half then forced myself to slowly, steadily jog my way half a block back to our house.  I spent far more time jogging during our brief outing than I had expected I would be able to and I'm ready to try again.  Just don't tell my calves, I think they're ready to riot...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Twisted Sense

I have this habit of... well, it depends on who you ask.  If you ask me it's being truthful.  Others call it self deprecating humor and I'm sure there are plenty who think it's just a bid for attention.

In the last few years I've noticed sweeping changes in the great Who I Am.  In my grade school days I was never one of popular crowd, often teased, picked on, forgotten about and fantastically invisible.  Some of that was a product of my own perception but ingrained perception like that comes from somewhere solid, know what I mean?  As I got to the college years I had a dawning realization of having gained the title of Doormat (bred from an overwhelming desire to please and like everyone and have them like me in return), yet I found it nearly impossible to find the strength of character, the self value to change that status.

A few years ago my world rocked enough for me to put my foot down and grow a spine.  I had to unmake a difficult decision in, unfortunately, a very ungraceful way and I had made a friend who ultimately made me realize I wanted to be anything in the world but like her.  These two large events, combined with the beauty of growing up, drove me to change my fundamental operations in the choices I made, the people I associated with, the things I thought and said, how I treated others and most importantly how I treated myself.  At first I didn't have high hopes that I could actually change myself so drastically, it had been so hard in the past, but this time around I was surprised at how easy the changes were.

The biggest and, in my opinion, most notable change had to be in my self assurance and esteem.  I have struggled to evolve from a weak willed, insecure person to something better.  And I do mean struggle.  Yet, here I am today a much, MUCH happier, thankful, optimistic, peaceful and strong, though with it remains a bit of residue from the past.

A few months after I first started training capoeira I traveled with our instructor and some fellow students to New York to what I call our "sibling school".  We have no direct affiliation other than being from the same training style but geographically we're close-ish and travel back and forth to support each other.  I was very green and the workshop that was being given was geared toward slightly more experienced capoeiristas.  It was apparent in moments that I was bad apple of the bunch.  Being overweight and out of shape I often struggle in highly active environments.  Exercise induced asthma, terrible joints and unforgiving muscles compound my weight issues, but by gracious, I try!  I try as hard as I can until I struggle for air and my body screams and it is NOT a pretty thing.  My fellow capoeiristas at home are far more forgiving than they were up north and I realized if I had tried to learn capoeira -any-where else I never would have returned after the first class.  The New Yorkers were more intense, less forgiving and quite obviously made it known that I was That Girl, the one no one wants to get stuck training with.  Quite soon I shifted myself to the furthest corner of the room as I could, like a pariah, hoping no one would notice me and I could survive the rest of the workshop in silent efforts to keep myself from sobbing.  Naturally I was discovered by a graduated student who pulled me to the middle of the room, in front of the Masters, where I floundered in hot, red-skinned mortification for all to stare at.  For the first time since I'd made my great change my new foundation of self-assurance almost broke out from under me.

Before that trip, and certainly since then, I suppose I've made it an unintentional point to make sure the populace knows that I am not delusional.  My commentary is met with responses generally saying I'm silly and over exaggerating, but there's method to my madness:

1) At the very least to me it is truth.  I am overweight and out of shape and usually when I struggle in my physical activities it's because that is my fact.  Ex: the other night in training I took a foot to the arm, not in a painful way but enough for it to shake my balance.  Afterwards I thought about how I missed seeing her kick, I had been staring at her (upside down and between my legs) before I realized my backside is big enough to cause a sizable blind side.  I don't say that because I'm trying to have someone tell me, "No!  You look great!" or think I'm just being whiny, it's because I have a wide load!

2) Something about saying it out loud guilts me into trying to be better about doing something about it.  If I get angry enough at myself for struggling so much with the simplest things then maybe, just maybe I'll take bigger and better steps to fix it.  Believe it or not every time I acknowledge my wide-comings I have the desire to eat a salad and hit the gym.  I don't always follow through and DO those things but my track record is improving, albeit sloooooowly.

3) I want to beat someone else to the punchline.  This one stems the most of childhood years being picked on and tears over not understanding why or how to make it not hurt.  Someone telling me I'm fat would hurt, a LOT, even if it is true.  If I say it first if leaves less ammo for someone else to use.

What I can't figure out after all of this pondering and analyzing is whether my mechanism helps or hinders me.  I'm sure it's a little of both though it certainly feeds my strength to feel calling myself out leaves me firmly in control of the situation, and that, in some twisted sense makes me feel stronger.