Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Girl Look at That Body. I Work Out.

I love the gym. No, I'm serious. I really do. It gives me a much needed sanctuary from, well, life in general. Cable TV, cold water fountain, a bathroom that is always magically clean without me having to do it myself or threaten anyone else within an inch of their life if they don't start picking their %*#%@# towels off the *&#%*% floor. Also, there is always toilet paper. Always. And not just sitting on the floor or counter. It's actually ON THE ROLL. Every. Time. And even though the carpet at the gym is sometimes dirty, I can just look at it and shrug and be all like, "Whatever dude. Not my job." Oh the freedom. I am a little sad about the fact that the only offerings available in the Coke machine are water, Powerade, and Diet Crap, and there's no candy bar machine at all, but eh, what can you do? At least if I DO decide to buy some gross Diet Something or Other, there's no one around to backwash in it and I can drink the no calorie nastiness in relative peace & quiet.

I have found, though, that there are a few things about the gym that are not my favorite. Granted, none of those things are deal breakers. I mean, you heard how there is ALWAYS toilet paper in the bathroom, right?? But they are not my favorite. And I do so like to make lists. (In fact, if you were wondering, I am totally that person that makes lists of things that I already did just so I can feel good about crossing them off. But that's a blog post for another time.)

So here it is. The list of my Top 5 Things I Don't Love About the Gym. (Not to be confused with the Jim. Cavaziel that is. I love everything about him.)

#1. Mirrors.
I mean, really?? I avoid my reflection as often as possible. And that's on a normal day. When I'm showered and have my hair did and all. At the gym? First thing in the morning? With crusty sleep stuff still in my eyes and no make-up?? Um. Ew. Don't nobody wanna see that. Least of all me. Least of all in an entire wall covered top to bottom in reflections of me. So. Gross. But there's no escaping them. They're everywhere. I suppose the purpose of them is so that you can check your form or some such nonsense. I don't want to check my form. I mean, have you ever tried to do a dumbbell shrug without making a dreadful face? Go ahead, try. I dare you. It can't be done. I prefer living in the blissful ignorance of believing that I look just like something fresh off the pages of Shape magazine. (Not the cover, mind you. Even my imagination has limits.) But, no, no blissful ignorance for me. Just real life, sweaty face, greasy hair Cyndie staring back at me from 7 million mirrors. I hate her. She's the worst.

#2. People Who Are Stronger Than Me.
So, yes, pretty much everyone. That includes 12 year old boys and 70 year old women. Despite my goal of adding more weight lifting to my workout routine, I seem to have still failed to build any sort of strength. Any. Sort. It's actually quite depressing. And yes, I'll admit it, when I use the weight machines I totally move the pins up to a higher weight when I'm done. So it looks like I'm stronger than I am. Because the pathetic amount of weight I can actually lift is really quite embarrassing. And nobody seems to like to re-rack their free weights when they're done with them. So sometimes I have to skip a machine altogether. Cuz it's totally not worth lifting and carrying 90 lbs of weight just so I can do 25 calf raises. My calves look just fine. Stupid muscular people. The good news is that I never have to fight anyone for the 8 lb. dumbbells. Ever. Which brings me to my next item:

#3. Sharing.
Cyndie doesn't like to share. It's a sad, but completely true fact. Don't get me wrong, I don't really like being completely alone at the gym. I've watched far too many horror movies for that to be any fun. But I also don't like it when people are using the equipment that I had totally planned to use that day. For example, there is only 1 bike at my gym that I actually like to use. 1 out of probably 4 or 5 bikes that they have. I don't use it often and 98.8% of the time no one at all is using it. But the day that I decide that I want to use that bike, well, guess what? Yup. Someone is totally using it. And they're usually not even working out very hard. They're just sitting there, barely pedaling, flipping through the TV channels, snacking on beef jerky, not even breaking a sweat. What a waste. And don't even get me started on the muscle bound guys who casually throw 250 lbs. onto the Smith machine like it's no big deal when I already had it all set up and ready to go for squats with my 45 lbs. It's just mean. Don't they know that Thursday is my leg day?? Geez.

#4. Swim Trunks.
I know what you're thinking. Swim trunks? What do swim trunks have to do with the gym? Nothing, you would think. But you would be wrong. It's just another one of those pesky gender inequalities that guys can throw on anything. And I do mean anything and head out to the gym. They don't care if it matches. They don't care if there are holes in their shirts. They're guys. They can totally work out in swim trunks and black knee socks. What? What's wrong with that? Let me tell you what's wrong with that. It's simply not fair. Do you have any idea how much workout clothes for women cost? Um, like a million dollars. You want some Nike running pants? $50. You want a shirt that matches? That'll be another $50. Oh, you also need a coordinating sports bra? Be prepared to shell out another $35. At least. Those of you women who own workout clothing already know this sad fact. The rest of you. Yeah. It's totally true. I about had a heart attack when I first walked into a Sports Authority and saw the price tags on those babies. I mean I want to look decent at the gym, but not that badly. Danskin, you will do just fine. But you know what's even cheaper than Danskin? Yup. That's right. Swim trunks and black knee socks.

#5. Being Old.
Admittedly, not the gym's fault. That doesn't make it any less annoying. There's nothing like a buxom blonde co-ed running on the treadmill next to me at 8 mph with not even a drop of perspiration marring her lovely little face to make me question why I even bother. It's obviously not a race. Because if it was she would have passed my panting, sweating, 3-5 mph behind long ago. But no, instead there she is. Next to me the entire time. Rubbing in her fitness and youth without so much as a bead of sweat on her brow. I get it. You are young and beautiful and the world is at your feet. I'm fairly certain she doesn't actually need to work out at all. And even though she could get away with eating cheeseburgers and fries for every meal without putting on an ounce, I get the feeling that she subsists solely on flax seed and Special K bars. In fact, I am fairly certain that the only reason she comes to the gym at all is so she can relish in her health and energy and secretly mock the crazy old lady who can't even lift a decent amount of weight let alone run more than 2 miles without looking like she is going to die. Well played, buxom blonde, well played.

So there it is. My top 5 gym grievances. It truly is a small price to pay for one whole hour of solitary peace each day. And nary a towel on the bathroom floor. It's the closest thing to heaven that I have in my life. A sweaty and sometimes a grunt-filled heaven. But a heaven nonetheless.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Secondary Drowning

I have recently seen a rash of articles shared online about a condition that some people are calling secondary drowning. This is a situation where (typically) a young child inhales water and then is seemingly fine immediately afterwards, but later exhibits signs of low oxygen like lethargy, coughing, or a change in breathing. This is due to the lungs having fluid in them and can happen as late as 24 hours after the initial incident. This is a dangerous and sometimes tragic (although thankfully rare) event. And not to make light of what is a very serious ailment, but the phrase "secondary drowning" has stuck with me ever since I read the first news story.

Life is hard. Sometimes really hard. I came to work one day a couple weeks ago and with no prior warning found that tears were just pouring down my face. Nothing in particular had happened that morning to cause such a breakdown. I suddenly just found myself hyperventilating and sobbing for no apparent reason. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm super stressed right now...there's reasons aplenty, but there was nothing to instigate that specific meltdown. Luckily no customers came into the store while I was attempting to pull myself together and eventually it passed. Call it an anxiety or panic attack, call it depression, but I like the term secondary drowning. It is what happens when you are dealing with something sad or confusing or traumatic or especially difficult (or any combination of the 4 all rolled into one colossal mess.) And just when you think you are over the worst of it and you are getting on with your life BOOM, you're a total wreck. A basket case. A completely neurotic walking disaster. Secondary drowning.

It happened again just a few days ago. I had to make a last minute trip to California with my parents for a funeral. Funeral: Sad. Seeing People I Hadn't Seen in a Really Long Time: Great. Day at the Beach: Fantastic. Then suddenly it was time to come back home. Cue the breakdown. I could barely hold back tears and felt like I couldn't catch my breath at just the thought of coming home and dealing with real life again. Disability paperwork, doctors appointments, unemployment appeal, bills, college registrations, financial aid applications, job search, car problems, grocery shopping, having 5 other people depend on me to NOT be a total catastrophe...it was just too much to stomach. (This isn't the first time this has happened when returning from being out of town actually. Maybe I should just circumvent the whole issue by changing my identity and moving to sunny Mexico?? Curse you, metric system!) It was all I could do not to have a full-out tantrum and refuse to go. Fortunately the thought of a somewhat self-respecting 40 year old woman grabbing onto the porch column and making her parents drag her kicking and screaming into the car was ludicrous enough that I was able to once again pull myself together. Which is not to say that it wasn't a tempting proposition for a time. Secondary drowning.

The symptoms of secondary drowning can include, but are not limited to: confusion, fear, short-temperedness, extreme sensitivity, shortness of breath, anger, sadness, general orneriness, and let's not forget the completely unwarranted crying fit. The good news? Well, I don't know that "good" is really the best word to describe it, but maybe the comforting news is that all of us experience it at one time or another. Life is hard. And life is not just hard for me. It's probably not even particularly hard for me (it just feels that way sometimes.) All of us are broken to one extent or another. All of us have dealt with difficult and challenging times. All of us are vulnerable. All of us are prone to secondary drowning.

The treatment? Obviously a quick trip to the ER for oxygenation and monitoring is not going to work in these situations. But just as in the real cases, it may be of some help to watch closely for signs and indicators. Observe the people around you. Especially your loved ones. They are all victims of life and susceptible to secondary drowning. Treat them with an extra measure of patience and love. Observe yourself. Give yourself a little latitude. Indulge a breakdown or two. Or ten. Be patient. Life can feel like a series of near drowning experiences. That doesn't mean we give up. We press on. We go forward. We fall down. We get up. It's what we do.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Diving Into the Job Pool

Looking for a job is probably one of the most depressing activities a human being can engage in. It's sort of like cleaning up after children or watching a movie with Kevin Costner in it. (Is it just me or does his acting just keep getting worse & worse?) It makes you want to give up hope. Add to that the fact that I never finished getting my degree and I may very well need to be able to support my family with said job AND the fact that I was somehow unable to make a go of owning my own business which has been a dream of mine for a very long time and...well, I'm getting even more depressed just thinking about it.

The resume in and of itself is just an exercise in misery. If you ever want to feel like you have spent the last 20 years of your working life engaged in fruitful endeavors, I do not recommend writing a resume. The very practice of condensing all of your accomplishments, skills, abilities, and intelligence into a one page document meant to get the attention of a prospective employer...does the word disheartening mean anything to you? Especially when it is not recommended that you use the phrases "freaking fabulous" or "smarter than most people you have ever dreamed of meeting."

And don't even get me started on the interview process. (Not that I've gotten any of those yet. I blame it on the fact that I can't use the word fabulous on my resume.) Just thinking about some of the interviews I have been subjected to in my job-search experiences makes me want to crawl in a hole and die. (Unfortunately I have yet to find the person or company who will pay me a living wage to crawl in a hole and die.) If you have ever wondered if there are interviewers who actually ask you what color crayon you would be and why, I can tell you that yes, yes there are. (Is fabulous considered a color?) I have also been subjected to a weeks-long interview process with an entire panel of people only to secure a job watering plants and running mail to the post office. True story. I've also been hit on, intimidated, and asked impossible questions. Am I more a hunter or a gatherer?? Um, I'm a grocery store shopper. And I actually don't even enjoy that.

Alas, I digress. The purpose of this post was to cheer myself up, not to become so dejected that I just give up and run off to join the circus. (Who am I kidding, though? I am neither bearded, flexible, or red-nosed enough for the circus. I don't think even they would want me.) At any rate, over the past couple weeks as I have been actively involved in the job search process, I have been thinking of about some of the jobs that as a young girl I thought I might have when I "grew-up." I thought it might be fun to revisit some of those imagined job prospects and why they didn't work out.

#1: Super-Model
As a preteen and teenager I was pretty much obsessed with super models. Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Claudia Shiffer, Helena Christensen. They were my heroines. I followed their illustrious careers. I looked at every picture I could find. (Which made for a lot of magazine buying & clipping since Google & Pinterest weren't really invented yet.) I loved them all. And what girl didn't dream of being the new Guess girl? I was convinced that I was just in my awkward high school (middle school, elementary school) phase and I would outgrow it in my adulthood. Just imagine the looks on all of those boy's-who-never-asked-me-out faces when I was gracing the pages of Vogue, Elle, and/or Seventeen (I wasn't picky.) Well, as it turns out you not only have to be incredibly photogenic to be a model (which I am truly not), you also have to be impossibly tall. How was I to know that at a whopping 5'4" I was already completely full grown? You mean people don't usually hit a 5 inch growth spurt in their early 20s?? Sigh. Oh well, NEXT.
#2: Witch/Advertising Executive
In my younger years, I was also obsessed with a little syndicated TV show called Bewitched (Also, Mr. Ed, although I never wanted to be a talking horse.) I would have loved the opportunity to be an impeccably dressed, beautiful SAHW (Stay-at-Home-Witch.) Entertaining my husband's boss and co-workers with fantastic dinner parties using the good china? Raising my darling little paranormal daughter Tabitha? Endless magical shenanigans with Endora and Dr. Bombay?? Yes please! However, much like my graceful beauty and height, I also never grew into my supernatural spell-casting powers. Bummer. That's ok, though. I'm flexible. When I realized I would never be the SAHW that I dreamed of I simply switched career aspirations to Darrin Stephens' occupation: Awesome Advertising Guy. Coming up with idea boards and slogans for new products? Fun! I could totally do that! (I even once composed a little Haagen-Dazs ditty for the holidays set to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree in preparation for the day that I would be the awesome advertising guy that Darrin Stephens was.) Admittedly, as a husband he was goofy as heck, but Darrin always managed to come up with those last minute marketing ideas that would knock the socks off Larry Tate. I thought I could totally do that. And possibly I could have. Unfortunately, as I got older I realized that the advertising business wasn't all glitz and glamour. And they don't really have people who just sit around thinking up cool slogans. And really it's all just about manipulating people into spending money that they often don't have to spend. OK, fine. Maybe not that either.
#3: Pediatrician
I attribute this career goal to the fact that I really loved my pediatrician. And she was a woman. I thought that was really cool. I actually told my high school counselor upon entering high school that I thought I might be a pediatrician. As it turns out, you have to go to a LOT of school to be any kind of doctor. And you have to get good grades in high school in order to get into the kind of schools that you want to go to as a medical student (which means not ditching to go to the beach or the outlet mall every other day.) And you have to have an aptitude for science. And you have to not mind blood and vomit and assorted other bodily fluids. So, yeah, maybe that one just wasn't destined to work out for me. It sounded good at the time.

That is a mere sampling of the occupations I once thought I might have. There was also Airline Stewardess (free travel!), Inventor (I'm not really sure what I planned on inventing, but something spectacular for sure), School Bus Driver (the kind that gave candy out to all the kids every Friday so they would love me), Fashion Buyer (those who can't model, shop), Weather Girl (before I realized you also have to be beautiful and tall to be on the news and that the actual word is meteorologist) and Rockette (again with the height & flexibility requirements, sheesh!)  I never really dreamed of being a front desk receptionist, a sandwich artist, a customer service representative, or an alarm dispatcher. And while such a random sampling of jobs doesn't make for a super cohesive resume, all of the jobs that I have had have given me countless life experiences and helped me to meet some of the best friends I have. And now it's back to the drawing board. Looking for a job. Again. Wish me luck. And interviewers who don't ask me what color I am.