A Timely Reminder

Proof that I don’t always rock the boat

I wrote the following piece with the editorial help of an online magazine.  After a couple rounds of working with my embarrassingly crude initial draft, the editors rejected it.  I’ve never known why they put in so much work only to discard the results.  In keeping with the content of the piece, the experience taught me a lot and revealed just how much I stand to learn in the arena of publishing my writing.  That was over a year ago.  Since then I’ve thought about the points that I was attempting to share with a twinge of regret since they never made it out into the world.  In any given piece of writing, it is the content that matters more to me than other elements.  Perhaps that puts me in the minority and will ensure that I never become more than someone who writes for merely personal gains.  In the case of this piece, I recognize that the quality may not be great, but the points I was attempting to make were nonetheless important to me.  Furthermore, I’ve had enough glimpses into others’ experiences to know that what I say here doesn’t just reflect my reality, but also that of other moms working their darnedest to balance their professional and parenting ambitions.  Currently, I’m wrapping up another round of hard-won lessons in that very area, and my MFT reminded me that while I may have thought that I was working on a project based in this material world of ours, I was actually working on some spiritual growth.  I’m always grateful to have the trusted insight of another person to help me put together the story of my life because it can be tricky to craft a version that leaves me with no regrets in spite of what I’d aptly describe as failures.  I’m grateful to have this independent space in which to present a summary of that analysis that’s polished just enough for public viewing.  There is real healing for me in that multi-staged reflective process.  With that said, today is finally the day to stand by what I wrote, even if it’s not exactly what a couple editors deemed appropriate for their publication.   

Growth Notes
Since becoming a mom, relentless obstacles have been my daily routine. What had begun to feel like a continuous stream of suffering shifted into a discovery process as I figured out how to confront what challenged me. My process of reflection began in earnest when I realized that I was engaged in the unpleasantness of growing, and that the impetus for so much of what challenged me was the choices that I had made with respect to the very thing that I had wanted for so long, to be a mom. Once I was able to see that I had placed myself in each predicament expressly to learn and grow, I was empowered to do so. Along the way my understanding of the personal growth process deepened. I’ve gathered my principle insights, along with the strategies that either helped me discover them in the first place or to keep them in practice, into a list of notes to self. Because there will most certainly be a next time, and I’m hoping to make it through with a little more grace and a little less pressure.

Growth Note One: Hardship is a sign of hard work being done beneath the surface
Given that I often felt depressed and completely void of confidence in my early days of motherhood, it was no surprise that things in my life were not going too well. But beyond that simple cause and effect relationship, I came to see that there was more going on. I’m not sure that it’s important to extensively analyze our life’s circumstances, but I have come to see that it can be very helpful to remember that there is nearly always more at play than meets the eye. In the case of my foray into motherhood, I had built up a romanticized view of growth and parenting as principally positive experiences.

I was due for a reminder that growth is messy and painful.  Only then could I enjoy a reinvigoration of my self-discovery process that reminded me of my own personal tendencies, namely that I’m something of a personal growth enthusiast.  Once I realized that I was in the power seat, my sense of empowerment was primed to grow as I learned to fully inhabit the life I’d created for myself. I arrived at that clarity of understanding by continually changing my thought patterns around the situations that were frustrating to me. In short, I kept my mind moving. I have found that when my mind feels stuck, there is usually some other way to keep moving. Chores, taking a walk, running an errand, and visiting the park, have all been instrumental in shifting my perspective.  In all likelihood, I got the idea to redirect myself from my son, and the non-stop pace of engagement that so typifies us in our early years.  More often than not, he is with me when I’m feeling stuck and it turns out that he’s quite happy with a change of scenery too.

Growth Note Two: Change is Integral to Being a Parent
Becoming a parent initiated such a large degree of change in my life that it took me a while to get my bearings. Now that I have settled into my new identity as a mom, it seems so obvious that my struggles were par for the course, and that I could approach them with the same spirit of expansion that I’ve embodied throughout my life. Perhaps the enormity of the change that parenting brings is intrinsically disorienting, as to make us forget some of our most common strategies for responding to the circumstances of life. At this point, I’ve had enough fellow parents confirm my assessment to have established something of an expectation. Of course the content varies, but everybody tells me the same thing: your life will never be the same. Mostly I take this open-ended statement as a consolation and a reminder to be kind to myself. Whatever the inevitabilities of parenting are, we have a choice as to how we respond to them and I tend to think that kindness is a reliable guide.

Growth Note Three: Unlearned Lessons Get Repeated
I am enamored with the idea that through cycles of growth we are given multiple opportunities to work with our most private matters, the beliefs about ourselves and our place in the world that are so ingrained in our thinking that we are completely blind to them.  Being eager to shed whatever keeps me from growing, I’m inclined to honor my subconscious and work to remove the blinders.  It has become apparent to me that spending so much time with my son is a very effective means of doing this.  By witnessing my son’s progression through the many stages of development, I’ve found a way of uncovering what lurks in the recesses of my mind.  When I have a bout of what most of us would call negative thinking – feeling angry, defensive, anxious, argumentative, anything unpleasant – I’ve come to understand that a long forgotten memory is surfacing.  That’s an invitation to take a little more time and care with myself in order to figure out what it is and how to address it.  I believe that I have discovered and healed many personal wounds only because of the nearly constant companionship of my son, another person passing through the age at which I was originally wounded. No one else could trigger such insights because I’m not so close to any other person of his age.  Given the intensity of practice I’ve had in the past couple years, it has become easier to identify the messages hidden in my emotions and to recognize the influence they wield even though they rarely come to the surface of my consciousness. I’ve come to embrace the unpleasant thoughts when they arise because I have learned how to deflate them once I am aware of them.

Growth Note Four: We Each Have Our Time
I’ve come to see our family of three as a continually expanding entity. Usually one of us is in the growth hot spot and that designates the rest of us to support roles. While we do indeed grow the most in the earliest days of our lives, that type of growth is distinct enough from the more intellectual rigors of adult growth that the two can occur simultaneously. Perhaps some divine design is at play, I have often marveled at how I could be tending to my son’s needs with apparent success while addressing my intense emotional ones. In a way, I feel that it has been to our benefit that I was equally engaged with my own personal work as he was with his, it seems to have given us each a space of our own in close proximity to each other. As I finally catch my stride and anticipate slightly smoother terrain ahead on my own path, it seems reasonable to expect that I will be more available to support my son as he takes on his own increasingly complicated challenges. My practice of self-care has served me well, so much so that it has become habitual and the foundation of my career.  For me, self-reflection goes hand in hand with growing and having some space for that is essential.

Growth Note Five: We All Learn From Each Other
The general parenting idea that has yielded ongoing inspiration for me is the notion that we are all equal in the arena of learning. Just as my son learns from me, so do I from him. With respect to growing pains, little ones experience many: teething, the frustration at the slowness of the tongue in comparison to the quickness of the mind, the rage of disappointment when good ideas are not realized; and I am constantly reminding myself that growth and suffering are two sides of the same coin. In time I realized that my son’s growth experiences could serve as signposts to my own and that simply paying attention to what is happening with him can provide me with lots of learning opportunities. I cannot think of a better framework for learning than one of curiosity and enjoyment. And so it follows that the natural act of taking joy in my child’s company can set my learning in motion.

 

I’ve been a mother for a little under three years, and already I feel that I’ve undergone extensive transformation. I am currently enjoying a hard-won respite from the demanding lessons of recent years. In all aspects of my life, I seem to have progressed beyond what challenged me. I take this as validation of my interpretations, and a possible guarantee of future successes. I am now more comfortable with the reality that my continual expansion will bring me face to face with the inextricable pairings of challenge and triumph, anguish and joy. I’ve worked with these ideas enough now to have faith that the next time I’m overwhelmed by the mess and the pain of growing, the grace of a blessing is within my reach.

The Luck of the Early Bird

Sun rising over San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

Sun rising over San Francisco’s beautiful Palace of Fine Arts

Two little things.
1). Recently  I’ve been waking up absurdly early  – around 4a – and not going back to sleep.  My mind is brimming with tasks to complete, ideas to evaluate, and plans to confirm, all for Pilates Origins.
2).  Spring forward means my kid now gets up at 7a instead of 6a.

Those two things that could easily be cause for upset in my orderly mind have made day one of DST doable.  Surprisingly, I’m not complaining about spring forward.  Nor am I disoriented – at least no more than I was yesterday.  For the first time in my personally recorded history, I’m cool with DST.  I’m choosing to call that a case of good luck.  Furthermore, I’m choosing to mark my gratitude here so that if I change my tune in the near future, I’ll have some means of recalling my positive outlook.

It’s nice to know that through some strange twist of circumstance I can arrive at a different perspective on a topic that I’ve always seen the same way.  That feels like something of a mental breakthrough no matter how funnily it came along.  Perhaps my overall outlook on life is shifting toward the sunny side – that would be great.  Whatever it is I’ll take it, and enjoy it while it lasts.

With that personal note made, I’m jumping back into the fast lane.

My Thoughts on Self Promotion in the Pilates World

The Isle of Man looking far lovelier than as a prison

The Isle of Man looking far lovelier than as a prison

I started writing in this space for a few reasons.  A big part of how I chose to set up the space was to write under a pen name.  My husband has tried to convince me to drop the name many times over and yet I’ve stuck by it.  When I opened this space I was burned out on the Pilates personalities that I’d been working with.  Traversing the psychology of my teachers was an exhausting labor that I’d taken on in my quest for knowledge.  When I turned my attention toward being a mom, I no longer had the energy to hold other people’s stuff.  I am biased in believing that is what we ultimately do when we accept others’ personality quirks and stifle our own frustrations with them in order to complete some sort of task, be it learning or producing some sort of event in which we play host and organizer.  I also did not want to inflict my personality on others.  I wanted to have a place where I could share what I know and the insights that I’ve gained through experience without blatantly promoting myself.  I wanted the ideas to be enough.  Because I believe that while we must live out our lives in a series of actions and interactions, if we apply some analysis to those activities we can improve.  But the two things are often separate.  Having a space for ideas makes sense to me.  It gives me a place to put my thoughts so I can keep on living in the present.  And I hope that it offers others a place to do the same.

For what felt like a long while, I had very few people reading my posts.  That was fine on a couple levels since the space was in large part for me and my posts are sometimes more stream of consciousness than most readers would like.  But I am by nature ambitious and I wanted my ideas to be “out there”.  At least a little bit.  Somebody suggested that I post on FB and so I did.  And then somebody who had started another FB forum invited me to join it.  That is when I started to share my posts, only the ones that I felt were relevant to that community.  And people did start to read them.  I have little idea what they thought, but at least they stopped by and had a look.

Once I turned that corner, I came to realize that all bloggers with success engage in self-promotion to a degree.  In most cases, people are writing as themselves and so when they know people in the real world those people also know about their blog.  I had naively thought at one point that blog friendships could happen online.  Not so – they happen in the real world and are merely mentioned in the blogosphere.  I had effectively cut myself off from that avenue of promoting my writing through the nature of my blog.  Creating a space apart from the real world had some serious ramifications, as my husband had pointed out.

Following that thread of insight further along it’s fairly obvious that at a basic level we are all self-promoting.  Anybody who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.  For a long time I held a romantic story in my imagination about how someday I would be noticed and supported in becoming something more than my lowly beginnings in the midwest.  It’s the story of fairytales and being “discovered” by some talent scout.  In all candor, I carried that romantic ideal into my adult life and my Pilates training.  It is in the Pilates world too – how many people tout that Romana or some other great teacher called them a star or honored them with some title of expertise?  Apart from the fact that I’m not that person, and perhaps because of that I had to learn through time and experience that I was the one that had to do the discovering of what I have to offer this world.  And then I have to have the courage to present it to the world.  No one is going to introduce me to the broader world, I have to do that myself.  Most of us do.  In reality even the stars do.  I’ve spent enough time in LA to see all the people clamoring for their moment in the spotlight to be seen and “discovered”.  We are all self-promoter in one way or another.

And finally, this discussion would be incomplete were I not to point out that Joe Pilates was a fierce self-promoter.  He traveled to a new country twice to do his work.  In NYC, he was a stranger in a new world, and for the second time he was living in a place that was at war with his nation of origin.  Germans were not popular in the US in Joe Pilates day, he had no choice but to self promote.  I think that’s important to remember.  The work of Pilates builds our confidence from the inside out.  It makes us into self-promoters because we become so impassioned about the work that has fortified us for living a productive and meaningful life.  While it is always important to temper ourselves and our tendencies and I believe in a constant process of self improvement which lends itself to being more cooperative than a purely self-interested person would be, I think it’s equally important to know our roots.  Pilates started with a passionate hot headed genius who carried out the work of his dreams in a sea of strangers who were bound to misunderstand him.  He did it his work and enough people got it to carry it on till today.  At some fundamental level, self promotion is the reason that we have Pilates today.

On one of the forums that I joined under my pen name way back when, there is currently a thread on the topic of self-promotion.   It hits a chord within me for obvious reasons.  I am very much of the mind that I want to participate in the community in a larger way than just promoting my own work.  But I’m bound by my choice to be anonymous and so I end up doing the very thing that I set out not to do.  I wanted to explain myself a little more thoroughly somewhere, and this is the place.  And to make a broader general point, that our actions are usually the result of complicated mental machinations.  We each have our reasons for participating in any given community the way that we do.  Which is all the more reason to practice compassion and maintain an attitude of curiosity.  We will learn far more from those perspectives than from quick judgements based purely on outward behavior.

Here’s to learning to accept the important role that strong individuals play in a thriving society even if that means accepting the reality of self promotion.

And to bring my point just a little further home, I’ll add a quotation from the Orson Scott Card novel that I’m currently reading because I love it when an idea I’m currently marinating on shows up in an unexpected way:
“‘I’ll tell you what I think, ‘ said Wiggin.  ‘I think you don’t grow up until you stop worrying about other people’s purposes or lack of them and find the purposes you believe in for yourself'”

My Plug for the Pilates MAT

open leg rocker

open leg rocker at Squam Lake, 2013

It’s time for March MATness again and I’m pretty happy about it because last year was the first time I caught wind of it and it was already underway when I did.  Not that I’m that much more on top of my game this year, but at least this post is going up on March 1st.  And I’ve already got a message out to my clients.  For me being an in-home mom and studio owner, it’s a great way to feel connected to the Pilates community “out there”  and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is constrained in that way.  Hooray for the internerd!

For people who are used to taking mat classes but want to build a daily home practice, I’ve got just the videos, Pilates I and Pilates II are the mat exercises in real time without the official Pilates Mat (that’s why I perform a version of the roll up that I teach to folks with sensitive backs or no strap).

And if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here’s what my Pilates Mat work did for me back in 2013.

Let the MATness begin!

Pilates Plus Life

Sometimes the only choice is to keep on going.

Sometimes the only choice is to keep on going.

I read something online recently that pulled at my heart and mind.  It’s a notion that I’ve heard over and over again throughout my years in the Pilates world:  that we Pilates enthusiasts must embrace our lives beyond Pilates because there is more to life than Pilates.  On the one hand I say, here here!  On the other hand I sadly say that sometimes my life feels all about Pilates.  There are a couple reasons why, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone which is why I’m inclined to share.

I am not wealthy now and I never have been.  I grew up with divorced parents and lived with my single mom.  I left my home state when I graduated from college and moved alone to a place where I didn’t know anybody.  It happened to be one of the most expensive places to live in the United States of America and I’ve been hustling ever since.  I have always been determined to follow my dreams.  Dreams first, everything else second.

This has meant that pretty much all my resources have gone into my Pilates training and little studio.  I don’t know from experience, but I imagine that wealth affords us a bit of distance between time and money.  We can luxuriate more in the fun of life because we don’t have to be earning every available moment to cover our bills.  For me, the link between the time and money has always been pretty short.  It’s meant that I haven’t had the spare time to build community around other pastimes.  I’ve done my best and have had pockets of fun here and there with dance, tennis, and other interests, and I do love my craft projects, but these days life is mostly about work.  And family.

Aside from work, I did also manage to find a mate out here in the wild west and we have a son.  My husband has his own business.  Between our businesses and our child, we are packed schedule-wise.  I don’t like it at all.  In my head or out loud, I complain about it most days.  Which I realize is a personal problem that I can address.  But there it is.  Dreams first.  Neither my husband nor I is ever ready to throw in the towel at the exact same time that the other one is so we keep on going.  With time I do believe that we have become more tenacious which is a blessing and a curse.  As a means of emotional survival, I keep working my mind to find the little nuggets of joy that sparkle up my days.

I tend toward the introverted side of the scale and along with that goes being sensitive to my environment.  I noticed something back when my teaching practice was really full and I was talking for several hours a day all the while engaging in the peculiar brand of relationship that Pilates instructors have with their clients (I call it intimacy with strangers).  I stopped listening to music or NPR in the car (I love music and have always listened to the radio) – I needed the quiet.  The fullness of my teaching practice and my sensitive nature demanded that I retreat when I wasn’t working.  Which was fine, but where were the fun social activities?  There weren’t many.  That could be fine for a span of time right?  We all have different phases of life.  I also live far from longtime friends and family so I don’t have those regular social interactions happening around me as I would if I lived back in Michigan and I have a sort of wacky spread out family anyway.  All that adds up to even less social time.

Then I became a mom and I tried to do it my way.  I was determined to keep my work with my little studio right under our home, and even more than that I was determined to keep connected to my son.  My dream of being a mom has always been my biggest and dreams come first.  I’m glad that I’ve done it my way even though it has been the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done – by far – and I’m not even four years in.  Compounding the challenges has been the extreme loneliness.  I never joined a moms group because I didn’t have time – I work when other parents play with their kids.  Unlike working moms who still have their colleagues, I work alone and I’ve become much clearer on the boundaries between professional and personal relationships thanks to a few instances of professional relationships gone “bad”.  Bottom line is that it’s hard and lonely to do things in an unconventional way.

Looking back I can see how it all fits together to create the life that I’m currently living.  The life that frustrates me.  My singular focus on following my dreams no matter the cost, the challenge of building a life far from my original home, how I needed to respond to the particular demands of my work, and how that all set me up for being even more isolated as a new mom than I would have otherwise been.  It’s true that it’s my design and that I have the power to change it.  But it is also a rather tangled web of desires and knowing which thread to pull free in order to loosen it all up is difficult.

I’m trying my darnedest not to feel pitiful, I’m trying not to whine.  But I’m also trying to understand.  I’m trying to figure out why I’m not perfectly happy living the life of my design because clearly this was not the plan.  I’m pretty sure that I’m close to cracking it, I’ve got almost all the pieces perfectly in place.  In the meantime I mull over the ideals and compare them to my reality and try to stay positive.

When I read that same old idea, one of my guiding lights in putting together my life I felt sad and compelled to dig a little deeper into the topic and shed some light on the complications that make setting up the perfectly balanced life such an involved project.  Against the odds, I do believe that we can all get there.  Sometimes writing it out serves us toward that end.

Pilates, Love, and Kindness

With Liberty Comes Responsibility

With Liberty Comes Responsibility

I was born and lived in Detroit’s city limits, I cut my teeth surrounded by underdogs.  After years of reflective thought I have arrived at a personal philosophy of kindness as a guiding light through this complicated and strife-full world.

Sometime around the new year I was among many Pilates instructors to receive a solicitous email in my inbox promoting a 90-day online certification program.  I didn’t look carefully since I’m not in the market and sadly have hundreds of more pressing messages to attend to in my inbox.  I was drawn into giving that message far more thought than I would have otherwise due to a post in one of the online forums that I frequent where folks were lambasting the people behind that message.  I was embarrassed by the blatancy of other’s criticisms.  Especially when I learned about the source of the original email – a training program closely linked to my own separated only by one professional parting of ways (I don’t know the story and don’t care to, I only know that had I entered Romana’s program at an earlier date I would have known the senders of that message personally).  My feelings of discomfort only increased when I read their follow up message a few days later.  For the record I did not see the follow-up message, one that would have quieted any criticisms excepting ones addressing marketing techniques, mentioned in the same forum.  Somehow for me there was a line that had been crossed in all the critical remarks that had been made and it probably had something to do with the fact that the people who sent out the original email were in some way privy to them to the extent that they knew about them and were compelled to send a follow up email.  I’m pretty sure that the senders of that email wish that they had sent a test message to a sample group because the message they intended to convey was not at all the one that was received and harshly criticized.  I came away with a reminder at just how challenging marketing is.  And just how cruel we can be as individuals, but even more so in a group that has a certain degree of ephemeral anonymity.  I find myself saying, I must remember to be kind, it is so easy to slip out of that mindset when sitting at the keyboard.

I wanted to say something, to stick up for the folks who had been blackballed, but I wasn’t sure how.  Then this morning another post popped up.  A response from an organization that was mentioned in the original email.  (Boy, what a can of worms!)  I’m only sitting here in my apartment with a  sliver of free time because my son is sleeping late, with piles of more pressing TO DO’s all around me, and yet I must add something to this online exchange.  Because I feel that our humanity is missing and that concerns me.

The same old stuff is being raked over in this recent storm of furies.  With Pilates it seems to always boil down to the people and how the work is shared.  Who’s right, who’s the best, who’s legit, etc.  And while that provides us all with a lot of juicy drama, it also drives us crazy and certainly makes us look that way to those who do not share our fanatic passion for Pilates exercise.  I’ve settled into my own little sphere of influence here which involves a few clients and my family.  I have a small studio and enough professional training to keep it running respectably.  This situation has influenced my perspective.  I don’t have employees, I don’t train teachers, I don’t have a lot of overhead.  And I wonder if I’m part of the majority or the minority.  Just like Pilates lessons have evolved from an open gym, supervised workout format to individual lessons in which the student has the complete attention of the instructor; so it seems that more and more people are opting to purchase their own equipment and set up small studios.  The interpersonal challenges of working with others seem to be driving us apart.  I do think that we are losing to power of the collective in isolating ourselves and yet I see that we are not equipped to gracefully navigate collaboration toward an end that suits everyone involved.  Here in the US, the individual rules (and is lonely and depressed for it).  I think that this is something to keep tabs on and I think that it directly relates to the big looming legitimacy question in Pilates.

Legitimacy.  Some people want it, others (like myself don’t).  I used to.  I used to want the respect of professionals.  I used to want to be the one consulted when movement was a concern.  But then I realized all that I’d give up to be legitimate, all the extra costs, all the extra hoops I’d have to jump through.  Then and only then did I realize that I prefer autonomy.  I prefer following my intuition and allowing my intellect to catch up rather than the other way around.  I prefer to keep things small- scale and personal.  I prefer to remain clear about what is my responsibility and what is the responsibility of my clients – I do not want the power to know more than they do about their bodies.  Rather, I want to bear the more subtle and elusive power of helping them find their own internal power source.  In my case I partly wanted legitimacy in order to bolster my confidence.  But now I know that confidence only comes with time.  During the years of my most active learning, when I was laying down my foundational knowledge of Pilates, it was important to be a part of a particular community because the information that I wanted was in that community – Romana was in that community.  But now that I have learned, and now that Romana has departed I do not have a desire to be part of a group associated with Pilates.  I understand that some people do and that reasons differ.  But given the impetus for this post, I am compelled to point out the risks of groups, the very real danger of allowing oneself to be subsumed by a collective.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.  Joe Pilates was a self-learned, self-made man who beat his own drum.  In large part that is why we have the situation that we do, he didn’t manage to pull together a functional organization around his work in his lifetime.  The reasons are theoretical, but the reality is there.  What he did do was inspire others completely, along with passing on a remarkable body of work and the apparatus to go with it.  That is the substance of the work and the reason that we still have it.  And the reason that I just had to write all this out is because some of the people who uphold that tradition have come under fire.  In that way they have become the underdogs, at least for January 2015.  I prefer to stick up for the underdogs.  I prefer to extend a bit of kindness toward anyone who is receiving a lot of something else.  Just as a balancing measure.  Just to steer the conversation back toward our humanity, back to the place where we all started.  A love for one man’s work:  Pilates.

bigger, Better, BEST

The Cadillac:  After

In all honesty, I’m in a rather sour mood lately.  It’s the sort of mood that comes along in the wake of a very full and busy season of crafting and merry making.  This makes it either the most or least ideal point at which to finally close chapter two of my Pilates Body Boost:  The Cadillac.  This space has always been my place for finding my way out of the blues, so I’ll hope for the best and I’ll try and keep this short (as if).

The good news first:  my body sleuthing efforts are really paying off.  In 2014, I managed to find my way out of chronic pain thanks to the help of a very talented bodyworker.  I have also learned how my diet impacts my skin and how my habit of overeating was affecting my figure.  Right at this moment though, I’m feeling achy and stiff, I’ve got a small colony of blemishes on my face, and the frigid weather (I know, I’ve got nothing to say in a conversation about cold weather that includes anyone outside of California – but it’s still c-o-l-d here) is keeping me entrapped in a dull frame of mind.  Just about the only cheery thought is that we’ve started a new year ripe with possibilities and I’m primed to cash in on a few years of diligence when it comes to work, health, and happiness – so here’s to optimism!

As I’ve reported before, my cadillac phase just seemed to go on and on, I eventually gave into the idea that it would endure for the entirety of 2014.  The full year turned out to be necessary because it was meant to set me up for the reformer and I really wanted to address the tension that has held my body captive for over 20 years so as to get somewhere new on the reformer.  I haven’t maintained the same routine throughout the entire year and in truth, Pilates has served as a maintenance regimen for substantial periods of time as I’ve navigated some pretty big stresses.  During those periods the time that I have set aside for my Pilates workouts went to various therapeutic exercises, what we call Mami’s self-care in my family.  About mid-year, I was very heavy and pimply but out of pain.  That was the bigger and better part of the year.  At that point I resolved not to continue to put on more weight as my body seemed inclined to do – adding a pound a week really doesn’t work for me or my non-existent clothing budget.  And the pimples were driving me crazy – if I could figure out how to get rid of those, I’d be soooo happy.  True to my historically proven approach, I started with exercise.  I added 20 minutes of quick walking every day and got back in to a rhythm of Pilates workouts that gave me a minimum 20 minutes of sweating and heart pumping in the studio.  Just to prove that I was serious, I cut back on sweets a lot and made sure to eat a little less.  After six weeks of that I weighed the same.  THE SAME.

That’s when I got serious.  That’s when I decided that something with the food I eat was going to have to change.  I started by cutting out sugar.  I still eat honey, maple syrup, and fruits – I haven’t gone all the way with cutting out sweets, so that eases the challenge substantially.  Excepting several “off” days that I can count on my two hands, I have not eaten cane sugar since mid-October.  That’s a lifetime record and I have been amazed at how easy it’s been for me.  My dedication has made me realize how motivated I am to find a way to stay slim through adulthood.  But I wasn’t there yet, I discovered something else when I cut out wheat too….

After a week of no sugar, I realized that I’d have to cut wheat flour too.  Because with no sugar, I somehow managed to eat way more bread than usual.  And that just didn’t seem right.  Once the sugar and wheat were out of my diet, I did start to feel some positive changes, I wasn’t quite as achy, and I generally felt lighter and more energetic.  Avoiding wheat and sugar meant abstaining from lots of snacking and eating for emotional rather than physical impulses.  It made every food choice more deliberate, has helped with my overall intake, and has taught me a lot about how I eat.  It wasn’t until nearly two months in that I realized the pimples on my face were associated with my eating wheat and sugar.  Case in point:  after one of my days off to enjoy the most delicious-pancakes-ever at an annual neighborhood party, a big red prize popped up within 24 hours.  That is why I attribute the current cluster of red dots on my face to my Yuletide indulgences.  And that is why, I’m bound and determined to keep clear of sugar and wheat for the next few months with the hope that after a good long break my body will be able to handle some treats without a complete freak-out such as I am now experiencing.  I’m afraid that I’m also going to have to cut way back on cow’s milk because it’s become clear to me after hearing from my aesthetician, and Rupam that my skin reveals my food choices nearly instantaneously.  As of now I have assessed that limiting my food choices is primarily taking care of the pimples.  I’m glad that my determination to slim down has given me some insight into what I need to do to care for my skin.  But what about the extra weight?!

I persisted and have finally clued in to what the slender people of the world have known all along.  The real drops in pounds came from another project that links back into the Pilates world – 80 Bites.  A colleague returned from the PMA conference with a copy of The Body Biz – thanks for sharing  Joan!  I borrowed it and finally read it through.  I recommend it, there is some solid Pilates intel within those pages.  But what really got me curious, was one of the author’s more recent businesses, 80 Bites.  I downloaded the app on my phone the evening that I finished the book and within a few days I’d ditched my over-eating habit.  That was back around Thanksgiving.  I haven’t been overly full since and am finally on my way to dropping the extra 20-or-so pounds that I’ve been lugging around everywhere I go.  On average, I’m dropping a pound a week.  What’s interesting to me about 80 Bites is that it helped me to understand my particular brand of over-consumption and constant eating.  Before my few days of revelation, I would eat several small meals throughout the day and then a way-too-big-but-healthy dinner.  In the evening, I would eat way too much of something like a salad simply because I felt it was good for me.  Between the frequent meals that didn’t give my digestive system ample time to focus on its singular duty, and the great big dump of nutrition that I’d load in at the end of the day, I was creating weight gain.  Now I’m careful to eat enough at breakfast to really sustain me until my next meal.  I may have a snack or I may not depending on what my three meals consist of.  It turns out that I can enjoy food and not overeat which somehow I hadn’t really understood before.  I believe that part of my lack of understanding around portion control has to do with my rebellious response to my mother’s obsessively small portions given her previous line of work as an RD.  It’s also possible that it boils down to getting the appropriate information at a point when I was receptive because it’s not as if I hadn’t caught wind of the calories-out-calories-in concept before.  Speculations aside, 80 Bites forced me to look at my eating habits in a way that no other previous program had and I can’t help but wonder whether my eating habits would have changed earlier had I learned specifically what the 80 Bites program teaches.  I’m very grateful to have found it now, and I’m happy with the idea that I’ve got a plan for staying slim for the duration of my life.  Because while I know that there are merits to cutting out wheat, sugar, and dairy, I can’t see it as a permanent solution for me and I really like food.  80 Bites has given me a way to savor food for as long as I live.

(So much for keeping it short, I haven’t even gotten to how I found my way out of chronic pain.  That’s HUGE for me.  2014 really has been a very productive year despite what currently appear to be lackluster results.  It’s a good reminder that sometimes life is like that.  The good stuff happens in the meanwhile, didn’t I write that a while back?)

I just had this feeling that Stephanie Wilger could help me when I met her.  It took a couple months, but I eventually scheduled a session with her, not with any particular agenda.  When she asked what brought me there, I started with my tailbone since I’ve learned that so much of what ails me started with that fatal bump on a sled in the bleak Michigan midwinter.  In that first visit, Stephanie got my tail unstuck and determined that it had indeed broken off many moons ago.  She’d had a similar injury as a teen in the midwest and has since become an expert at unfurling tailbones.  She gave me homework that I have diligently practiced daily since our first session.  During our next session the topic of mouth guards came up and Stephanie told me about Spino-Mandibular Equalization.  I was soooo excited at the prospect of a new mouth guard that would not leave me achy and desperate to be rid of it after a night of sleep.  (My dentist fitted me with mine back in 1999 and I’d worn it every night for fear that I’d wear down my teeth by grinding – he checks for tight jaw muscles every visit and always confirms that I clench.  Turns out that old guard was keeping me in knots.  Each and every night it was reversing any progress out of pain that I’d made in the day.  I’ve learned that getting out of pain and staying in pain are both daily projects.)  The new mouth guards worked miracles.  When I first got them, I’d pop them in my mouth whenever I felt that old familiar tension arise in my abdomen.  Within minutes the pain would be gone.  For the past several months, I’ve witnessed my body unwind layers of tension as I reset every night to a relaxed and productive state of self-repair.  I still have a long way to go and it’s clear that my tension patterns need support to keep unwinding, but I am heartened by the progress that I’m making.  For as long as I can remember I’ve been at the mercy of muscle tension.  I’ve always been amazed at how other people will not get worried about a muscle spasm because for me once a muscle seizes it’s always been days or weeks before it lets go.  But now, muscles seize and muscles let go.  It’s a whole new world of ease in my body.

Given my mood and the overwhelming list of things on my my TO DO list, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about taking another round of photos to officially close this phase of my personal care project.  But as I was in the studio one day I realized that my body does feel different than it did a year ago and my ever-supportive husband was ready and willing for a quick shoot and photo processing for the upload.  Boy am I glad to have these photos!  The changes aren’t necessarily huge, but all the same it’s quite satisfying to see the increased openness in my upper back and shoulder position.  Now I have proof beyond my own feeling that the past year has been one of improvement.  And I can’t help but think of Joe’s words:
“…Rome was not built in a day.  Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor.”

Circle Frog: Before and After

Circle Frog: Before and After

Kneeling Ballet Stretches:  Before and After

Kneeling Ballet Stretches: Before and After

Thigh Stretch:  Before and After

Thigh Stretch: Before and After

Roll Back:  Before and After

Roll Back: Before and After

Monkey:  Before and After

Monkey: Before and After

And now, it really is time for a jumpstart with my Pilates workouts.  I’m eager to see if I can make any gains on flexibility especially in spinal extension – though I still have a limited amount of time to dedicate to my workouts.  Keeping track of my progress is satisfying for me so I’ll keep My Pilates Body Boost going since I’m now two for two with progress made (here’s the concluding post for phase one for any curious newcomers).  I’m just going to get comfortable with 2015 first and then gear up for Phase Three – The Reformer.  Hopefully I’ll report back here before summer!  Putting this post together, photos and all, has indeed improved my perspective:  I am happy to conclude that 2014 was the year for bigger and better.  That sets me up for getting to my personal-best-yet in 2015.  Sounds like a happy new year to me!