Once I started actively teaching Pilates – which I love doing – I had to adapt my own workouts. Teaching helped me focus on the nuts and bolts of each exercise. Also, I teach a lot of beginner classes currently, so mechanics, form, and essential exercises dominate my attention.

To help myself continue to progress and still feel like I’m getting a workout, I’ve started my 5×5 flow. Each week, I pick five mat exercises for my own growth. Once I start mixing and matching for maximum flow, it is cool to identify connections between exercises. What reinforces what, how does moving between planes of movement challenge me, and how can I utilize transitions?

Follow my IG (emceemovement) for the 5×5 flow!

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Disclaimer: author does not assume to be mature or a pro at Whole30.

My second round of Whole30 ends soon. My thoughts swing from “Oh, I can’t wait until I’m not thinking about what I’m going to eat” to “hhm, what am I going to choose to eat post-Whole30?” Limits and/or boundaries produce manifestations. Sometimes, the little child in us erupts with a tantrum and sometimes the adult in us makes rational choices. Both are choices, but when limitations such as zero gluten, dairy, or sugar hit, our ability to mask the little tantrum thrower inside gets stretched.

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This round of Whole30 I actually had some food dreams. Pizza and brownies starred in those nocturnal adventures. In some ways this round was easier, as I had a better idea of what I signed up to do. That also made it a little harder, because assuming this round would be like the first didn’t hold true. My schedule was a lot different than last time so maintaining adequate food prep was challenging. With less time, I was simultaneously more and less creative with recipes. Creative in that I simplified complicated recipes to streamline prep time; less creative by relying on a stock 8-10 recipes in rotation.

I moved to Nashville since my last Whole30 effort. I’ve been slowly making my way around to churches, gyms, and art spaces. I find Whole30 to be very revealing spiritually and emotionally because it is about making choices and choosing whether I’m going to stick to those choices even when forgetful friends and family offer you fun size candy bars, cinnamon rolls, PIZZA, and all the stuff.

Emotional maturity. Honestly, when I heard this sermon title at Legacy Church, I was apprehensive. What does maturity even mean? How is it faith forward? A few things that stuck with me:

  • Find the area in your life where you’re already a “10” to unlock your purpose
    • I spent the last few years doing a career that while I felt “good enough” in doing it, wasn’t a 10 for me. Starting at your 10 gives you a springboard to action. This doesn’t negate building underdeveloped skills.
    • I’m in a new career that I feel is much more in my 10 realm. That doesn’t make it easy; but passion is great fuel to purpose.
  • Growth is rewarded with pruning.
    • My parents maintain a beautiful garden; it looks great in the spring because of the pruning they did in the fall – every year.
  • We’ve all heard, “the first shall be last…” Who are the last? The people I deem unqualified. The “last” in your life may be different than the “last” in my life. Who am I to determine someone else’s qualifications?
  • We have to stay connected to God so we don’t pervert the dreams/purpose he has given us.
    • I’ve had some wonderful opportunities in the last decade. Some of them started with huge promise but ended with a lot of disappointment and frustration. As I sat in the sanctuary, I thought, “hmm, maybe I overrode God’s purpose in that opportunity/job/relationship with my own, which was built on pride, control, and comparison.”

In Bob Goff’s Everybody, Always he described his daughter’s grading process for her students: M = mastered, G = grade level, and N = Not Yet. Part of building emotional maturity for me means embracing the “not yet.” I want to find the balance of being patient while developing the skills to beyond “not yet” and being inspired by increasing the spectrum of “not yet”.

It is the same with Whole30; how am I going to use the information gathered in this 30 days to stretch forward to my N’s. My N’s include weight loss, reduced inflammation, cortisol and adrenal stability. They’re better but they’re not there yet.

I never thought of myself as a single-issue voter. I’ve lived in equally liberal and conservative parts of the country with opportunity to develop a greater context for some of the hot button issues. Yet, this election, it centralized on one issue for me: respect and value for people. If we can’t value someone as more than an opportunity for advancement or pleasure, how can we solve any of the issues around healthcare, education, and equality? My bottom line frustration with Donald Trump (aside from many other concerns): his gleeful practice of sexual harassment as sport. While I certainly found inspiration in the idea of a female president, Hillary Clinton’s calculated silence on her own spouse’s sexual semantics compromised her presence in the conversation on sex and power – to me.

Born into white middle class suburbia, my resources in terms of education, healthcare, etc. were privileged. My vigilant mother frequently identified the opportunities sexual predators utilized for their benefit – like the manager of our neighborhood pool. My mother recognized his dismissive attitude towards regularly present parents and hugging nearly naked kids in swimsuits or holding their hands when their parents were nowhere to be found. He lived across the street from an elementary school, taught at the middle school, and ran a Sunday School class. Once I became a lifeguard, she told me to never be alone with him. A few years later, his arrest for sexually molesting dozens of children rocked our small, tight-knit community.

Somehow, one relief created from the current executive office consists of emerging dialogue on the very tangible concern of sexual aggression. Perhaps, the uncovering of Harvey Weinstein’s career-long sexual perversion and domination became a more legitimate, believable part of the conversation clearly revealing that sex abuse occurs at numerous positions of power. The bravery of our colleagues in the entertainment and media industries detailing years of trauma showed that sexual abuse doesn’t detour at privilege.

Sexual harassment ranges from subtle slights and micro-aggressions to aggressive physical contact. Subtle slights include the many times I entered a room, gas station, coffee shop, or meeting to find myself visually appraised from head to toe. Or, a male colleague shaking the hands of other men at a conference with intellectual platitudes, before turning to me, remarking how he loved to kiss a pretty lady goodbye. A faculty member greeted the other members of the panel with a handshake but kissed me on the forehead instead.

More aggressive actions include drivers tooting their horns, yelling their enjoyment of my backside as I jog. When this first started happening to me in high school, it was explained that “I should wear less appealing clothes” and to “not advertise what isn’t for sale.” As a grocery store cashier in high school and college some male managers would press against me as they cashed out my drawer in the very small kiosk rather than allow me to step out before they stepped inside. A lesbian coworker looked up my shorts every time I climbed up the lifeguard stand.

In a previous neighborhood, I increasingly appreciated passing a major police station on the way home. When men followed me for multiple blocks, detailing all the things they’d like to “do to me”, they disappeared once I hit the police station’s block. On the subway, men tried to sweet talk me into who knows what. As an experiment, I said, “no, thank you, please leave me alone.” When they wouldn’t let up, I said, “my boyfriend wouldn’t appreciate your speaking to me,” and most backed off instantly. They respected an invisible, imaginary boyfriend but not the person standing in front of them just trying to go to work, the gym, or the movies. Several NYC bartenders I knew constantly ran interference on men refusing to accept “no” from women.

When the above video came out, none of my female friends found it that remarkable. Just another day, trying to mind one’s business. I considered the video pretty conservative in my experience. I don’t fully endorse Amber Rose’s process of promoting female equality, but we concur on the basic message: no means no, women are not responsible for a man’s inappropriate behavior. In an interview with Rose, Rev Run countered, “you should dress how you want to be addressed,” putting the responsibility of the perpetrator’s behavior on their target. For the record, I’ve been hit on/harassed wearing baggy sweatpants, a full-length puffer coat, and a power suit. Catering one’s clothing or behavior to avoid harassment doesn’t solve the issue. Rather, one takes responsibility for another’s issue; the offending behavior unchecked.

Probably the most frightening experience occurred as a junior in college. My then-boyfriend and I enjoyed a day in New Orleans. We went to mass, hung out in a music store, ate a po’ boy, and walked through the French Quarter. The PG version: a large pickup truck with several men inside pulled up, followed us for a few blocks, purring about what a catch they’d found, that they would all take turns with me, and they’d even let my boyfriend watch! We suddenly realized we didn’t really know where we were, and, as we picked up our pace in the dusky light, debated how to get out of range. We took off running and turned left. Thankfully, that ended it. My deeply shaken boyfriend – a six foot four proud member of the NRA with a hidden gun compartment in his car – designated a safe word for either of us to use whenever we felt we were in a bad situation. He decided that if either one of us invoked the safe word, I would run for help and he would “take on” the instigator.

I traveled to Italy post-graduation with a theater cohort. In a little seaside town, locals at the roller rink/club announced that “the girls had already been divvied up.” I spent most of the trip’s remainder holding hands with a fellow male student when in public, just so men would leave me alone. Because, again, they respected another man’s “girl” but not the girl herself.

When I was mugged a few steps from my apartment several years ago, it was deemed lucky the incident didn’t become overly physical. So lucky. When I asked my landlord about installing a light at the entryway (at the suggestion of the attending police officer noting our building was not well lit), she snapped “it isn’t my fault you were attacked. You shouldn’t be out so late.”

I spent a couple years in an office with a very handsy colleague; in case you didn’t know, sexual orientation is not a factor in sexual harassment. One day the receptionist pulled me aside, warning me to keep my distance from a certain board member because, “he liked pretty girls.” I tried to adhere to my mother’s advice to always keep myself between the door and someone I didn’t know/trust. I shared about said colleague and company on LinkedIn – which received nearly 500 hits – and received this apology note: “I’m not sure if this post is referring to me…I hope you can forgive me. I have no excuse, and I will not even try to explain the reasoning behind my behavior.”

In Lupita Nyong’o’s Op-Ed, she described how Weinstein normalized sexual harassment. For young women entering the industry, he set their expectations on how to be treated. I think this is why many women, including myself, don’t think of ourselves as victims.

This behavior was/is normal, often    common knowledge, occurred casually   and regularly.

 In a raise negotiation, a director told me I wasn’t “done paying my dues and that there were a hundred other people who would willingly do my job for less compensation.” This negotiation came after working six days a week, nights and weekends; sharing an office with inappropriate colleagues regaling anyone within earshot of their recent sexual exploits; some taking every opportunity to touch me. In my mind, I thought, “hhmm, these ‘other people’ must be trust fund kids with a sugar daddy/mama because I can barely pay my rent or afford a gym membership.” It seemed to me that I’d been paying my dues. There were other human resources issues at this particular company; the expectation set for me was that I should just grit my teeth, do my job, ignore the chaos, my hard work rewarded with ridicule. It was so bad I took another job with a significant pay cut. The relief of staff meetings without someone caressing my back or stroking my hair temporarily neutralized the lost compensation.

I state all this as information; not as an angry rant about the wrongs done to me. Unfortunately, the statistics are much worse for women of color and lower economic/education levels. They say we have to hear something between three to seven times for the brain to comprehend the information. So, I’m saying it, and encouraging those with similar experiences to do the same. This is not a complete account of every harassment endured, but I think you get the idea.

For all this, I’d like to counter with times people looked out for me. Like the guy who caught me as I slipped on the stairs at Penn Station, “I hope it’s okay I grabbed you, I just didn’t want you to get trampled.” Yes, it is okay that you caught me by my backpack before I took out the morning commuters. Or the summer I worked as a lifeguard in Colorado and coworkers alternated picking me up so I wouldn’t have to walk through the woods alone in the dark. Or the bartender pushing the dude away kissing me without my consent. The landlord offering to come over, reset the locks, whatever was necessary, when a really aggressive ex-boyfriend made me feel uncomfortable staying there by myself. With the racial tension in Tallahassee, the Florida A & M student walking me to my car after a joint FSU/FAMU dance project rehearsal on the FAMU campus because, in his words, “white girls aren’t received well here.”

I heard a pastor say once that “when we choose to open the door to sin (make decisions we know are wrong), we may think we’re opening the door only a little to judgment (what some might call karma) but in fact we don’t get to control what comes through that door of bad decisions.” You can’t sexually harass or assault someone just a little; all those little indiscretions add up. Ask Harvey Weinstein. Sometimes privilege is more of a hindrance:

Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. ~Matthew 19:24

 

Ugh, right? Icebreakers. They’re often awkward parts of professional development or mandatory staff gatherings. We mutter under our breath about them, but we keep doing them. And, usually by the end, we’ve all had a laugh about something. Or, found a way to get into heated political discourse.

Today was one of those days: icebreakers at a quarterly staff meeting. These are people I see infrequently. People have been hired or fired in between some of these meetings. At a large institution, it can take months to figure that out. I am scheduled to run the icebreaker for the next meeting, so I sized up the room today while my coworker charged bravely forward leading the exercise.

It involved asking and answering questions, shuffling of prompt cards, and negotiating question options. The structure isn’t really the point. One of my prompts asked, “What would you do differently/more of if you weren’t afraid of being judged?”

Bam. I feel judged all the time.

Plus, this question came after my partner told me a beautiful story about her father. Whenever she finds herself really missing him or “talking” to him about a problem, sometimes a red cardinal will appear. Cardinals hold great significance in her family history. She takes comfort in their timely appearance in her life. Her prompt asked, “What is something/someone you really miss?”

Bam, bam. I miss NYC, I miss my friends, I miss feeling healthy, I miss having a tan, I miss so many things all the time. It is exhausting to actively miss something or someone.

I told my partner I would ask more questions if I didn’t feel concerned about being judged. Where do we keep office supplies? Why do you like me? Why don’t you like me? What do you want from me? Do you think I’m smart enough to do this? Do you think I’ll ever figure my life out? Will people stop asking me why I’m not married yet? Would you help me understand this problem? Would you listen to me? What brings you joy? What is making you a better person?

So, later today, I realized I needed to ask my boss for help. I hate asking for help because, a) I like the challenge of figuring things out, and b) I don’t want people to think I’m dumb or incapable. Guess what? Never asking for help can mean that you never figure out some of the “things” and some people think you’re arrogant.

So, I asked for help. But, I couched it with all these reasons about why I needed help. I felt the need to justify how I could need a little help. Never mind that I hosted two artist residencies within a week, five performances took place in multiple venues last week, and I traveled for a professional obligation in the middle of all of it. I needed a little help; or maybe an assistant for the day.

A little help made life so much better in about five minutes. Of course, my boss helped me out with a minimal issue.

We hate icebreakers because it is work that is sometimes painful. But we have to keep chipping away to find who we are deep down inside.

I’ve been thinking about investments. This election brought up a lot of questions and concerns about our identity as a country. The implications of that are huge and overwhelming for me, so I scale those questions to the micro-level as they manifest in my immediate sphere.

A recently heard definition of integrity keeps coming to mind: integrity is making and keeping promises to myself. The promises I’ve faithfully kept have been some of the best investments I’ve ever made in myself, my relationships, and my experiences. Some promises have been surprisingly hard – like trying to stop drinking coffee. Took me a whole year, folks.

My grandmother turned 95 this year. I made a timeline for her, capturing 3-4 significant events from each year of her life. She lived through a lot! Presidents, world wars, medical advancements and disasters, social and civic sea changes…this doesn’t even include her own personal life journey. She came of age during World War II; she is a mother, grandmother, wife, sister, daughter. Contemplating all she witnessed during her life, I am impressed by the commitments she had to make to various people or institutions not knowing what would come next. Some of her investments paid off early, some cost her dearly, and some turned out better than she could ever imagine. If your grandparents are still living, take a moment to flip through a photo album with them. You might even find a telegram from your grandfather to your grandmother that “he’ll be home on Saturday.”

The thing with investing is that we just don’t know how it will turn out. Wherever or however we invest our resources is simply a marker of how far we will stretch ourselves. We have to believe in the cause or idea, more than we believe in what we will get from it. We have to consider what kind of promise we can or can’t, will or won’t make to something or someone.

In my current work, I observe students in their early twenties promising their time, energy and creativity. I’m fascinated by those choices; and highly reflective of the choices/promises I made at their age. Moral of the story: embrace learning.

As I completed my thera-band exercises this week, I was reminded that resistance builds strength. Resistance to the promises we make can appear as road-blocks, when in reality, resistance may be the opportunity to strengthen us to maintain that commitment. In daily navigating the sometimes murky, cluttered waters of a large university structure, I’m seeing that success comes not from fighting resistance but positioning it as a catalyst for achieving the long-term goal/investment.

What are the promises, investments we can make in our homes, workplaces, and communities that will unfold positively in healthcare, education, and the environment? What are the investments I need to make now, regardless of how long they take, or whether I immediately (or ever) benefit from them?

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~Matthew 16:25-26

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore can
~recorded by Nat King Cole in 1965, composed by Bert Kaempfert, lyrics by Milt Gabler.

Last year in my annual New Year’s post, I was still settling into a considerable life change.

A year later, I am still settling. I think about houses or wine maturing with age; one doesn’t settle into a new place or way of existence in a day, a month, six months. For whatever reason, I tend to think that I’m exempt from nature’s timeline. Because that has been my life experience – step-in and step-up whatever the cost. Begin ballet training about six years too late but start managing a studio and company by age 19. Finish high school a year early. Take the GRE’s without studying. Move to New York City with 7 days notice. Start dating someone within a week of moving to Pennsylvania. Run a 5k without having run at all in the previous six months. By giving a little extra effort, I think I can bypass everyone else. Well, bypassing isn’t really an option. Maybe I am able to separate myself mentally from uncomfortable experiences, but when I do that I pass on a lot of good things, too.

I love the rush of achievement, of betting on myself…hence the adrenal fatigue I wrote about last New Year’s. One doctor even termed it “cortisol (adrenaline) addiction/abuse”. All of these challenges/pseudo accomplishments serve as a distraction from my knowing myself and those around me. None of these accomplishments required commitment or endurance. I just went for it. You can call it boldness or ignorance, or a mix of both. It makes a tasty cocktail with gin. I have not built any muscle (mental, financial, physical, or spiritual) strength or memory for long-term relationships or goals.

Like many people, it wasn’t until a health issue manifested that I really considered my lifestyle management. Like many people, I discovered a long, tangled mess of roots in identifying the source of the issue. It has been a complicated year, folks.

I, of course, made substantial dietary changes which helped a lot. But it didn’t change everything.

In the middle of a relationship crisis, it suddenly became clear to me: I treat love as an obligatory transaction. That realization was very hard to acknowledge and necessitated a lot of apologies. But, I saw how clearly my life experiences primed me to view love as something to go without. Love gets in the way of things. Love requires you to slow down, pause, look farther down the road, consider things beyond your immediate circumstances. For a lot of reasons, I never felt like the option(s) were available to me to do that.

In reading and listening to resources from Shiloh Place Ministries, I heard a phrase I’d never encountered before: submitting to love. Yes, love is a choice. We choose to surrender to letting people into our lives. We choose to let people (and God) see us for who we really are. We choose to let others bless us. We choose to accommodate abuse. We choose to enable addictive behaviors.

This is what I’ve struggled with my whole life ever since a family member’s year-long health crisis when I was four years old: needing others and being needed. Throw in a couple incidents of gun violence in my teens and early twenties and you get the picture. I sought escape, which the rush of achievement temporarily provided. Since I lacked the capacity to maintain boundaries within relationships and needs, I chose to mostly bypass relationships (and love). I survived on the support of family and two or three external relationships which I’m sure has been draining for those very loyal people.

My life feels so small compared to previously; I now feel I’m seeing myself under a microscope and it is uncomfortable. It is also liberating and exciting. There is joyful hope. After some very hard conversations, there is peace.

2017: love for myself, others, my body.

photo taken at Grounds Central Station in Old Town Manassas during holiday travels.