Category: exercise & health

Blood drive at church and the nurse who learned to stop fainting

They really got me with that flyer in the church bulletin about a little kid who needed blood transfusions during treatments for leukemia. Gosh.

When I was old enough, I think 16, I remember being excited to give blood. The bloodmobile regularly parked at my high school, and lots of students would give as often as we were allowed to. Once I was sent away for not having enough iron in my blood (ah, those vegetarian and vegan days!), but other than that I had no problems.

When I was 18, I left for the military. The first time I had a reaction to anything was at MEPS, when they took a few vials of blood. It was crappy, but not that big of a deal. A nurse put me in bed in a little room by myself for fifteen minutes or so, and then I went on to all those other tests I had that day.

Once I finished boot camp and all that stuff, I got back to donating when I could. Then two or three times in a row it was just… awful. The last time I donated was on a bloodmobile parked at the naval hospital where I was working at the time. Across from me, a physician was also giving. While the blood technicians (or whatever they are) were elevating my feet and looking worriedly at my pale face, I asked why I was having a problem–I wasn’t afraid of needles or new to the experience or anything. “It’s called a vasovagal response. People just have them sometimes,” the doc told me.

After that, I started feeling fainty pretty much every time I needed a needle stuck in me–which was a lot, since the Navy required me to get a ton of vaccinations. I became avoidant, though I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been afraid, of medical procedures in general.

Finally, a couple of months ago, I had to have a mole cut out of my back. First my doctor took a little shaving biopsy, which was bad enough. And damned if it didn’t turn out to be “abnormal.” Since I, like most people, really don’t want cancer, I made the appointment to have a deeper chunk of flesh cut out. Fortunately for me, the nurse practitioner performing the procedure was totally cool. She knew I was fainty, so she talked to me about all kinds of interesting things. Then it came up that she used to be fainty too–“How’s that? You said you always knew you wanted to be a nurse! And you are one!” I said. Finally she told me how she’d always had the calling, and so when she got to nursing school, she just… fainted. That’s simple. She told me she fainted about a dozen times before she became desensitized, and she hasn’t fainted since (about thirty years). I was amazed.

So when I got the blood drive flyer in the church bulletin a couple of weeks ago, I let myself also be inspired. “Mind over matter,” is a really old mantra, but it’s probably still my favorite. The best part of physical challenges, to me, has been the triumph of my own will. That’s the magic of a marathon. That’s what makes a snack taste really excellent when you eat at the top of a mountain. That’s why it’s bothered me not giving blood and having to ask to sit down whenever I get shots. I don’t think it’s pride, but it’s really just that I want to do what I want to do–so why don’t I? It’s that I don’t want to make decisions based on fear or anxiety or imagination. It’s when Paul talks in the epistles about endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness. It’s just not consistent with me to avoid doing something good because I don’t want something uncomfortable to happen to me. I would rather donate blood and faint, than not even try because I might faint.

I donate blood today. I told the vampires that I had been fainty in the past, but I also wore some red lip gloss so they wouldn’t remark on my lips becoming pale (if they did). It was fine! It was fine! It was fine! I drank a ton of water, I looked at baseball news (sad indeed for my team, but that’s okay), and I talked to people who were around. I felt pretty hot and got tunnel vision for a  minute after the needle was removed, but I didn’t even care at all by then! My will triumphed. I was willing to faint if need be, and I didn’t; my apprehension had been unwarranted. Now maybe I’ve done a good deed, maybe even helped save a life. I am so happy, and I will be going back to donate next time.

You probably have a modicum of control, but that may be all

Earlier this week I wasted a number of hours on a draft that I ultimately deleted. I couldn’t get it right, couldn’t work it out. It was about illusions of control. This is how my thinking went:

       I really want to go back to Japan! I hope my husband gets orders back there because that’s about the only way it’s happening…

       Shit, the timing is screwy. How am I going to finish my degree in time for the move, if he does get orders to Japan?!… 

       Almost three years since I got out, and what did I do? Went and married a Sailor so that Navy could continue to control my life!…

       No, no, no, no. Faulty thinking! Control is an illusion!

So then I went on to write about the Navy actually doing me a favor by teaching me that however I might like to have complete control, I just can’t have it. I actually consider it a Christian principle, too, because as Kierkegaard explains far better than I shall even attempt to, we need to need. If you want to feel intimacy, you need to feel need. If you want to know God, you need to need him–to know you need him. I’ll leave it at that, except to say that Kierkegaard really does explain it better; try reading the Kierkegaard book that changed my life, “Works of Love.”

Reading this post by Am I Thirty Yet, I figured out where my thinking went wonky on the aforementioned post: I was being, dare I say, uncharacteristically, black-and-white.

I stand by my belief that much in life is beyond our control, and things are no worse for military folk dealing with orders than they are for civilians dealing with natural disasters, medical bills, economic recession, transportation accidents, and so on. I stand by my belief that we need to need. Keenly feeling one’s dependence on God is a blessed thing, though it is not without suffering.

I understand what AmITY is writing too. When she described her anxiety over HIV, I was shocked to read it because one of my closest family members went through many months of severe anxiety over the same thing! I understand better than I wish to because honestly, though I do not like to admit it, I deal several symptoms of OCD. There are things I do to keep myself in line, but there are also things that I… can’t see as being within my control, much as–God knows– I want them to be.

But there is also power in belief. I’m not speaking so much about Jesus right now, as about the placebo effect. I spent a few years of my life depressed, and there is just no way that I would’ve emerged from that terrible gloom had I never believed it was within my power to do so. I believed that with sustained effort, I could get better. And I put in the effort, and I continue to every day. And I am better.

The problem with motivational posters and naturally optimistic friends is that they tend to tell you you’re thinking or feeling in a flawed way, and that you can just decide to stop. That’s not right, and is, I think, akin to telling an overweight person to just decide to do ten pullups.

I think mental health depends as much on behavior and environment as physical health does.

When I was depressed, I became inspired by the belief that I could climb out of the pit. As if I were in a literal pit, I looked around for tools to help me accomplish my goal. I began to observe the things and the people in life which made me feel worse, which encouraged nihilism and thought on the topic of suicide, well why not. Silly as it may sound, I had to quit listening to Elliott Smith. I still abstain from his music because it still has the power to stir up within me the terrible things. Why I ‘enjoyed’ his music back in those days is a psychological question for another day (or never!), but the fact is that when I listened to it I felt hopelessness and pain and what else it is hard to say. Franz Ferdinand doesn’t give me that. Lady Gaga doesn’t. Led Zeppelin doesn’t. J Cole. Beethoven. Elliott Smith did, and so I ceased to listen to him.

There are numerous changes I made to my behavior to encourage good moods, constructive thoughts, and pleasant feelings within myself. The important point is that I made changes to my behavior. I did not choose to be happy, but I chose people and things which would help my happiness.

Over the years I have done the same thing with my body. I ran a marathon, learned to swim, hiked Mt. Fuji, lost fifteen pounds, and did my first pullup. I did not decide, “Today I am able to be thinner!” I made changes to my behavior, which eventually led to those accomplishments.

All I’m getting at is that nothing can improve without work, but work requires motivation, and it is extremely difficult to feel motivated to do something you believe is actually impossible. So I say keep the motivational quotes coming, but maybe don’t tell people, “It could be worse!” because they are probably just thinking, as I used to, “Yes, or it could be better!” Or they are thinking you’re being awfully insensitive. Or you’re making them feel guilty, because they already know that kids in Africa are starving. Or a combination. So again, maybe don’t go with “It could be worse,” or “Look at the good things.”

Maybe talk to your friend about what’s causing his or her depression or anxiety or perpetually shitty mood. Suggest some behavioral therapy, if your friend has money for it. Or do some amateur BT like I did on myself (oh, better believe that I still do).

You don’t have total control, but you probably have some. It’s not either/or. Look for it. Study yourself, your surroundings, your reactions, what makes you cry, what makes you fume. Change your behavior and you will eventually change yourself. I do not say you can perfect yourself, but I think nearly all of us have a great capacity to improve and even heal ourselves. Cheers.

‘Endorphins make you happy’

I’m not trying to oversimplify anything here. Depression is a sickness. I’m not saying, “I worked out, so I’m worry free!”

But…

About two weeks ago, after my usual lifting routine, I attempted a short run. I’m pretty sure by now that my PCP was wrong when she said “tendinitis,” and that I actually have something called “tendinosis,” which requires a ton of rest.

sigh

Anyway, I went for a short run because my pain had gone away. I was really slow, really careful, really cautious, but I still ended up getting that twang of pain, and I stopped and walked back home. During the next few days, pain came back a bit, but fortunately not to the level a couple of months ago when I first injured it (and was limping). Okay, fine. Bike it is.

sigh

If you can’t tell from the multiple dramatic exhalations, I hate rest, and I’m really ambivalent about riding my bike for exercise.

So Monday, the 6th, I went for a long bike ride. For some reason I didn’t lift that day. Then I didn’t lift the next day. Then I didn’t lift or exercise at all until yesterday, and the whole time was miserable. I had some major exams, homework, and confusion I was dealing with, and I’d thought, “Okay, I need to dedicate more time to studying. I’ll get ahead, then I will get back to the gym.” But it really didn’t avail much. The exam I was worried over didn’t go very well, but I’m still managing a B in the class. The homework and other stuff I was dealing with… honestly probably didn’t get done any better than it would have had I just worked out as usual. In fact, I’m thinking not going to the gym might have even had a detrimental effect on my studying and performance. Why? Because I was anxious. Because I was in a grumpy mood. Because I wasn’t sleeping as well as usual. Because I was endorphin-deprived–I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m just thinking about this quote from Legally Blonde:

Yesterday, I got back to it though. I did some serious work on my squats (that’s a whole other story), and even though I didn’t get to run, I felt a thousand times better just like that. Just like that. I still feel better. I ate and slept better than I have in about two weeks, and today wasn’t much of a bummer at school at all! I feel totally rejuvenated, and I really didn’t realize what a huge part of my life lifting heavy things is. I was/am so frustrated about not being able to run, and not knowing when I’ll be able to again, but it’s okay. Last night, I was thinking about how the previous week might’ve gone better if I’d stuck to my gym schedule. Then I wondered, Would I have been depressed as a teenager if I’d worked out back then? I really do wonder. I mean, at some point I did start running and doing basic exercises to prepare to join the military. But mostly I was inactive. My favorite thing was my weekly horseback riding lesson — and even that makes me wonder. Surely I loved that because of the horses. There’s nothing like moving together and almost seeming to think together, being part of a team with one of nature’s most elegant, powerful, yet gently beasts. I won’t pretend the cute outfits had nothing to do with it (I was a hunter/jumper rider). Now that I think of it though, maybe riding was my favorite thing because it was the only thing I did that really got my blood pumping. Who knows?

The point is, I’m back to the gym, and I’m not skipping a day again unless I get really sick. It’s not worth it. I always feel better when I work out. Always. It just works that way. I’m addicted, I guess. I feel pretty stoked about it. It’s like I didn’t know what I had until it was gone, but then I got it back again, so now I know what I have, and it’s awesome! (Can’t imagine how great it’s going to feel when I get to run fast again!)

Life is good. I don’t have straight A’s like I’d like, and my physics class is a royal pain in the ass — depressing because physics is my major — and I’m still impatiently awaiting a semi-affordable Tesla to come out (hell yes), but — life is good.

Feeding kids sugar

Today I saw a huge group of kids, maybe 5th graders, I’m not sure, come to Starbucks. I was sitting there working on some chemistry stuff, and a man with a little girl came up, evidently waiting for some people. They had two big boxes of donuts. Little did I know…

A few minutes later, the huge group of kids arrived. They were loud and obnoxious, but that’s not the point. They pushed and shoved over the donuts, and lined up at the Starbucks order counter.

It bugs me. I’m not that informed about caffeine, although I can’t imagine letting Junior have an afternoon latte does much to help with getting him to go to bed at a reasonable hour. What bugs me is the sugar. Most Starbucks drinks are loaded with sugar, and most of their food is too. Loaded. Simply loaded. Candy covered nuts. Scones. Muffins. Donuts. Sugarmilkcoffee with creamsugarair on top. — And these kids were already eating donuts!

It’s not my business (although I could argue that in some indirect way in the long term that it is), but it bothers me when I see kids just hogging out on sugar or fast food. I don’t blame them. They’re kids. They want what tastes good. That’s what we all want, right? The thing is, most kids are not equipped to make good choices about food. They don’t know and they don’t think about an apple being healthier than a cookie. Even if they did know and did think about it and did desire to make a healthy choice, they don’t do the grocery shopping. They can’t say, “Hey Mom, I think we shouldn’t buy Bisquick because it has trans fat.”

I know a lot of adults aren’t very informed about healthy eating either. That’s why fad diets exist. That’s why all kinds of gimmicky packaged foods exist. That’s why all kinds of books exist… That’s why I don’t blame people for being overweight, and I don’t necessarily assume when I see people eating McDonald’s multiple times a week that they really know that’s not a great idea. I guess ignorance is an okay excuse when it’s just you. But when you ignorantly feed your kids food and drinks that will likely ultimately harm them? Even that I can understand. I think that is what my parents did.

What gets me is the people I see with smartphones who feed their kids donuts and Starbucks drinks and Burger King. If you have a smartphone, I’m going to assume you have the Internet. I’m going to assume if you have the Internet, you have access to all the information in the world on the fact that eating a bunch of junk is harmful. So if you still choose to eat it yourself, fine. You’re a grown up. But does your child have the information to make that choice too?

It’s such a shame. I had to go through so much, and I consider it something like a miracle that I somehow learned enough about nutrition and exercise that finally, at age 25, I’m physically fit. But why at age 25? Why was I an overweight kid? Why was I overweight even in the military? Well of course it’s because I ate fast food and drank soda and things like that. But why did I do that? I just didn’t know. It’s how I was raised, and that’s something really powerful. After I got the information, and figured out, hey, I need to change this… it’s not easy changing decades of habits and tastes! It’s not easy learning how to cook totally differently, go to the gym for the first time, or buy proper running shoes. And sugar? I’m not a scientist, but I insist it’s at least somewhat addictive…

So I just hate to see kids being set up to be overweight and sick and addicted, and not even know it. I just hate to see how people fetishize foods like chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. I enjoy food as much as anyone, but is it really a good idea to put it on a level in our minds with sex? Is it really a good idea to eat differently based on emotions? Is it really a good idea to celebrate every birthday, every life event, every social gathering, every holiday, with pies, cakes, cookies?

There’s so much more I think about this. There are social dimensions to obesity just like there are to alcoholism… but we try not to encourage kids to drink, while we think nothing of feeding them extremely sugary foods and drinks! We don’t tell them it’s okay to drink lots of cocktails “because it’s a holiday,” but we do tell them they can have buckets of candy because it’s Halloween, or slices of pie because it’s Christmas. Even children’s school fundraisers are selling candy and cookies half the time. Why?

I’m not trying to critique people’s parenting. I’m not. I’m not mad at parents. That’s not the emotion that’s got me writing. What’s got me writing is really feeling for the kids. I feel for all the ones who are overweight and don’t know why. I feel for all the ones who are going to have health problems because of what they’re eating when they don’t even know they should be eating differently. I feel for the ones who know they need to lose weight, but can’t really do anything to do so. Parents don’t seem to be doing that great a job teaching kids about healthy eating. Schools damn sure aren’t (at least I never learned anything about it in school). The government can’t help. What are kids supposed to do as they grow up and realize maybe they wish they had more energy or felt comfortable trying a new sport or just wished they weren’t shopping in the plus sizes? I’m glad the Internet is there to help those who have access to it… but even then, there is so much bad information on the Internet, as well as tons and tons of products, books, programs, and other complete shams that take advantage of people who want to get healthy without actually getting them healthier. What can you do? What can I do?

Why can’t more of us “love our bodies” without putting others’ down?

I’ve been thinking about “fat shaming” and “thin shaming” lately because of the two hit songs lately, “All About That Bass,” by Meghan Trainor, and “Anaconda,” by Nicki Minaj. Both of the songs talk talk about “skinny bitches,” so I don’t see how these are feel good songs. I like the idea that at least the former ostensibly promotes, but not what it’s really saying.

One of the things that it seems everyone agrees on teaching children is that you shouldn’t ridicule others for their physical appearance. You don’t treat people differently because their skin is brown or red or pale. You don’t call them names for being fat or for being thin. You don’t judge someone else because they have a scar on their face.

But in reality, what do our hit songs teach? What do SO MANY memes that I see on Facebook teach? When I was a kid, you weren’t supposed to make fun of fat kids, but still, it happened. And it happened because there weren’t that many fat kids. What would they do? Now that skinny kids (and adults) are the minority, is it then okay to call them names and say we think their features are disgusting? With phrases like “stick figure Barbie doll,” and “skinny bitches,” and “only dogs like bones,” so common, I guess that it is okay after all.

Another thing we try to teach girls is not to judge their bodies by comparing them to others’ bodies. I agree with that. Of course we all know that it’s illogical to compare yourself with a millionaire celebrity who has personal trainers and dieticians, and whose job is largely to look good. We seem to be coming to terms with the fact that it’s illogical to compare our ordinary bodies with other ordinary people’s bodies, too, because we’re learning more and more about genetics all the time.

But even though it seems like some women and girls may not be looking at Kate Moss’s body and saying, “I wish I were thin like her,” now they just say, “I think it’s gross to be that thin anyway.” Either way a stupid comparison is being made, and either way a harsh judgment is being made as well. Is it really something to celebrate that a girl puts down someone else instead of putting down herself? For people who think so, I argue that this attitude values [supposed] self-esteem above kindness.

The reason I doubt the true self-esteem of people who have that attitude — the ones whose only praise of themselves consists of insults toward others, or statements of superiority — is because when you really love something, you talk about it. It’s true. I love mathematics, and my husband can vouch for the fact that I talk about it even when there is no one else around who knows what the hell I’m saying. If I didn’t talk about the beautiful aspects of mathematics to express my love, but instead made a lot of statements about how much better mathematics was than psychology, likely I’d come off as not loving math quite as much as I hate psychology… That is what I’ve seen all over the Internet.

When someone seems satisfied with their body, that’s believable. But when someone is really in-your-face about how much they love their body, sometimes I wonder if they’re trying to convince me or themselves. If you love your body, then you love it. If you love your body, then you love it whether or not you think it’s better than Kate Moss’s — why put her down?

I also don’t believe that it is in the nature of love to… well, hate. This could get theological really quickly, but what I’m saying is that if you’re really talking about something you love, that loves shines brightly in your mind so that you’re not thinking about the things you hate! You’re not making comparisons. You love! When my sister or my friends talk about their daughters, they’re not saying, “Oh, I’m glad she’s not good at violin anyway, because it’s better to be a gymnast.” Or “she’s so much prettier than the girl across the street.” They say, “I’m so proud of how quickly she learned to write!” or they say, “you should see her in her Easter dress.” Their love is foremost in their minds, and they can find enough positive things to say about their little girls without ever having to start making useless or mean comparisons.

I’m not sure what the general teaching is on this one, I do know how I was raised, and what I believe: that is, partly, that a girl has worth regardless of what boys think. That means a girl isn’t any better if every boy in the school wants to date her, or only a couple do, or none do. That means that a girl isn’t any better if she’s voted some magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman Alive,” or if she’s a certifiable plain Jane. This brings up a serious issue I have with pop music, both the songs I mentioned above, and a lot of what I’ve seen being written or said by fat women. A popular thing to say is, more or less, that men actually prefer fatter // thicker // curvier // whatever-the-adjective women to thin ones. I DO NOT CARE WHETHER THIS IS GENERALLY TRUE OR NOT. Western women with their self-righteous but mistaken belief that we are so liberated! Still we are judging ourselves according to what we think is pleasing to men? I’m supposed to love my body because “men like a little more booty to hold at night?”

I’d really like to write more about this, sort out my thoughts more, but I have homework to do. I have to say that I never thought a lot about gender or sexism when I was a kid or a teenager. My mom was always a self-styled feminist, and I do remember her asserting things like, “You can do any job a man can do,” or “You could be the first woman to win the Kentucky Derby!” or “Blue isn’t for boys. Pink isn’t for girls. If you want blue, you get blue!” I always took this for granted, I guess…

After a few years in the Navy, I started to think about sexism. I ran into a couple of men who I’m pretty sure really hated women. I ran into men (and women, too) who treated male and female Sailors differently. I worked on the legal proceedings of a pretty insane sexual harassment case once. I heard lots of stories about rapes that were found not to have rapes — as well as rapes that did happen. I knew men in power who took advantage of lower-ranking women. The list goes on, but what I really noted was that for all that men sometimes to do undermine women… we women do a whole helluva lot to undermine each other. I don’t have time to describe all that right here, right now, but it’s part of what I’m seeing with this whole fat-shaming/thin-shaming. Apparently more women have body issues than don’t, so how come we’re all mad at each other instead of supporting each other? Why are we dividing ourselves into these cliques even online?

I think about sexism now that I’m a married woman of childbearing age, majoring in a male-dominant field. Can I compete? Even if women are just as good at math and science… what about the fact that our bodies grow babies, while our male colleagues (competition) can have multiple children without missing a day of work? There’s always that familiar double standard about a man being “assertive,” but a woman being “a bitch.”

I just wish all these blogs and songs and advertising campaigns that are ostensibly building women up were actually doing that. I wish women were building each other up, not tearing each other down — on the basis or weight or anything else. I wish we weren’t still deciding whether we love ourselves based on whether men seemed interested. I wish we could just say, “This is my body. If I couldn’t compare it to anything else, here’s what I’d like, and here’s what I’d try to improve.”

Faith is stress ‘management’

Medical – A few years ago, when I was an overweight, McD’s eating, daily-soda-drinking, cigarette-smoking, binge-drinking fool, I was actually pain-free. When some of my shipmates complained about knee pain, I thought they were making excuses not to exercise. When I got to my ship, my knees did get sore for a little while, but then they seemed to adjust to the ladder wells. I got a sore elbow now and then if I didn’t make sure to alternate which arms I used to open and close doors and my rack (because ship doors have ‘dogs’ that can be very tight). Still, none of these little problems persisted. I felt so robust and sturdy and lucky.
Ever since April-ish of 2013 though, I’ve had problems. First, I hurt my right knee during a spin class in which the instructor had us ‘mashing’ gears… something I learned later on from biking forums is a terrible idea. With RICE and some new weight-lifting exercises, my knee got better — though never back to the way it had been before. I also got a lot stronger, finally kicked tobacco for good, and lost fat. I had been working from mid-2013 on, trying to run my second marathon, but I hurt my foot by November. I only got up to doing halves, when I had all the symptoms of a stress fracture. But I didn’t have a stress fracture.
The podiatrist I saw X-rayed my foot and found no fracture. Long story short, I tried doing everything he said, but as soon as I stopped all of his suggested treatments, and started running barefoot (or in FF’s), I was fine. That is, I was fine until maybe two months ago, now? I had a little tendonitis on my right foot, which was easily defeated by a little rest, then improving my stretching routine. To this day, neither of those problems has returned.
But only a couple of weeks after that tendonitis went away, I got it really bad on the peroneal tendon of my other leg/foot. I saw my primary care physician, and all she said was to use anti-inflammatory pain patches. Thanks a lot. This injury, whether it’s just inflammation, or if it’s actually a bit of a tear or strain, has put me out of commission. I can’t even run a mile without pain that will leave me limping the next two days. This injury, whether it’s just inflammation, or something worse, was also the fault of my ignorance. I had been running for a few weeks on some soccer and baseball fields, and neighboring sloping fields. Apparently, running on uneven surfaces, like mashing on a bike, is known to cause injury.
I’m not writing to complain, but I need to vent. For years, running has been a major way that I unwind, reduce my stress, and get some quality thinking done. Not only that, but it makes me feel good, and makes me feel good about myself. It’s so easy for people to give advice to “manage your stress,” but what happens when you lose your main stress reliever?

Dental – I obviously care more about health than I used to, and I’m even better at not procrastinating. Therefore, I recently got back to the dentist, and have had to return for additional care. It turns out that not only my peroneal tendon is inflamed, but my gums are too. I’m only 25 years old, but I have gum disease. Again, it’s my own fault: I didn’t have dental insurance for two years, and why? Because I just wasn’t concerned. I could’ve afforded it, but I was just not thinking. Anyway, my teeth are really not bad at all. It’s my gums that are puffy and red. But what a lot of people don’t realize, and I didn’t either, until I sat down to think of it, gums are part of the body as much as knees or toes or eyeballs. Gum health affects over all health. How have I neglected it? I’ve been brushing and flossing, but not well enough. Now I am hoping, since I had debridement done, that I will be able to restore my gum health somewhat. The point is that it does add just that extra flavor of stress to my life.

Being a Wife – This morning, when I was on my way to school, I became aware that my sweater and my hair smelled like bacon. Suffice it to say, I became irrationally furious, cried, and ultimately came back home — skipping school — because I just couldn’t take it. I was disgusted. I cannot stand smelling like food, and that is actually why I don’t fry much food at home, not just that it’s not healthy. But I can’t be mad. My husband had gotten up early not only to cook a week’s worth of turkey bacon for us to enjoy, but also to assemble things in the crock pot for dinner tonight. A few weeks ago, I thought if only K. would cook a little, I would be so relieved and grateful. I work on school just as many hours as he works on actual work. When I come home, I either work out, cook dinner, or get to studying. In fact, until seven or seven-thirty every night, I am doing a combination of those things. When K. gets home, it’s true usually it is later than me, but he has plenty of time for the gym, running, biking, or racquetball. He also doesn’t bring work home with him, because he doesn’t have to. He gets to play video games. So I’ve thought, why can’t he just cook dinner half the time? Or even once a week?
He started to do this a little bit, in recent weeks. Maybe he realized before I did how terrible this semester is. The demands on my time are huge, on top of the fact that since we moved, my commute is way longer and more stressful (the stress of driving in a California city could be the subject of a book by itself). First, K. made jambalaya in the slow cooker. I did help by making red beans and rice to eat with it, but… I thought, Wow, this is amazing! I’m so glad he’s doing this. Then he made chicken adobo in the slow-cooker… then ribs in the oven… all of which turned out very well. Then last night, I came home from the dentist’s office to find him in the kitchen, chopping a whole boat load of vegetables, preparing a slow-cooker bolognese. I don’t know how long he worked on it, but this is the dish he woke early to finish preparing for its day in the slow cooker. I am grateful, but… at the same time, foremost in my mind is not gratefulness, but a feeling of inadequacy and generally not being the type of wife I would want if I were K. At this point, I really don’t contribute a lot financially. Probably my main contribution is that I cook meals, and now that’s out the window. How useless. The other day I had planned a dinner I thought K. would particularly like, only to tell him when it came time to cook that I simply could not do it because my physics homework was destroying me, and I had to finish it. I didn’t even eat dinner with him that night because physics had gotten me upset so that I lost my appetite. All I can say is that that was a mistake. It was not as bad to tell K. that he had to take care of his own dinner, but it was not right that I did not dine with him. If we must commute, toil, exercise, and do so many things separately, I feel that I family — and that is what we are, though we are only two people — ought to take the time to share at least dinner together. I let my obsession with homework — which turned out to be fruitless anyway, that night — to get in the way of my life’s most important ministry.
I should say that I somewhat doubt K. even thinks much about this. Does he wish he wouldn’t have married me? Am I troublesome? Do I just increase his bills without making his life better? I don’t think he thinks that, and of course I hope he doesn’t. Still, one must have standards for herself. And if I can’t do as well by the person I most love, who can I do well by?

Being a Student – The bane of my existence is also what occupies most of my time, even on weekends. I do love to learn, and I do not want to quit school. But I am frustrated by it, and always feeling rushed. Many, many things I have ostensibly learned, but only actually begun to understand months or years or semesters later. But college is so expensive that I do not have time or resources to fool around. It must be done, and it must be done promptly.
All my life, or most of it at least, people have thought I was so smart, or at least precocious. Always. And for a while this is an ego boost. I am sure for many others besides myself, it has been enough to say in one’s mind, “I cannot socialize, and I am embarrassed to try a sport — but I am smarter than most of these people around me.” Even if I never thought that consciously, probably something similar was present in my subconscious mind. I don’t mean to analyze my childhood here. But others have realized, as I am lately, that with high expectations, high pressure can come. I never worried about getting an A when I was a child. Ever! I knew I was smart, and I felt that I had nothing to prove. Much of adulthood, however, is proving oneself, even if it is only some bullshit written on paper and vouched for by a professor or former employer or two. Increasingly, we must quantify ourselves and our accomplishments, qualifications, etc. It is never enough to say, “I am confident that I can learn quickly what you want me to do, and I can do it well.” So I do feel a great pressure now to do well in school, and to possibly even qualify myself for some sort of career that interests me.
But I am always afraid of that intellectual wall. I am afraid, now that it seems important to me, that maybe I am not so smart after all. When I was a kid, I didn’t question possibilities. I thought I could do anything. Part of that is probably the American psyche, the belief or delusional hope (maybe not delusional, I don’t know) that “you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” I must admit that empirically I do not agree with this. Many poor people work very hard, and make no more mistakes than the rich — yet hard work alone is not enough to rise above poverty, most of the time. It seems to me there is much more. Perhaps you  must be hard working and especially intelligent. Or you must have connections. Or you must obtain a miracle from God. But I have seen with my eyes how much easier things are for those who already have advantages! There are no leveling grounds, even college and the military. I am getting away from the point though. The point is that I don’t know the point, and nobody does. My husband tells me I am so smart all the time. He never used to tell me this, so I wonder if he is trying to boost me. Or maybe he thinks that just because I am beginning to comprehend calculus, I must be smarter than he’d though. I don’t know. But he says it, and I think, “You have no idea how much I’m struggling. Are you joking? What do you mean when you say this?”
And as far as struggling goes, I am annoyed with my professors too. Firstly, half of them do very little teaching; and I end up having to instruct myself at home from my textbooks and online resources. Secondly, they talk about the grand importance of concepts — which I think I get pretty well, actually! — but then focus lectures, work, and exams primarily on quantitative analysis. Quantitative analysis is of course where I require most practice, but still I somewhat resent the fact that my strength — conceptual understanding — is at the same time talked of like it is important, but then hardly talked of. It makes no sense. I am so early in my education that I don’t even know what to hope for, who to believe, where to get advice… ultimately, it comes down to the fact that college, in many ways, emphasizes so many uncertainties in my life. Uncertainties about career, abilities, intellect, work ethic, and more.

Being a Christian – The thing is, those uncertainties are always there. I am only a human, and it isn’t my place to control things. If it were my place, I suppose I’d have been granted the ability to control them! I am not unique in this. Feeling out of control is a bit different than becoming conscious of the fact that we are always out of control. This isn’t new to the Christian, yet again, I know I am not the only modern Christian to struggle with this. It is so hard to be a creature. Why do adults marvel that children want to grow up? They want to control their lives, perceiving that that is what adults do. They do not realize that adults are not as in control as they may appear.
The Bible talks about this. You cannot change your hair color or height by worrying. You need not worry. God cares for you. It even talks about worrying about the physical world vs. the spiritual one. What does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul? But how well can we comprehend these true teachings? We cannot even control what we want. So many things we do we want to, yet we don’t want to at the same time. This is part of Jesus’ humanity: Jesus partly did not want to be tortured and crucified and descend to hell, which is why he prayed that the Father “take this cup from me.” Yet he wanted to do it, too. He made his will God’s will. I know that Jesus is God, so it is perhaps a little different… but really, isn’t the goal of a Christian to daily make his own will more God’s will? Don’t we want to turn our evil desires into the desire to do good and glorify God? We are just full of conflicting ideas and feelings and wills. I can’t crack this.
But anyway, I pray sometimes for help to “conform to Your image.” While I believe this is a good thing to pray for, since God first made us in His image, and said that it was good; still I think I must be careful to distinguish between the image of God, and God himself. It is right for me to conform to God’s image, or desire to, but it is not right that I should wish to be God — and what I  mean by that is, it is not right that I should wish to control everything, which is God’s prerogative.
Aside from struggling to just accept that I do not have control, and should stop vainly wrestling for it, as a Christian, I also face the question of what matters. I let myself become confused about this. What matters? Am I really saying that I hate my life because I am pissed off over my physics quiz? God forgive my absurdity, ingratitude, and loose tongue! I cannot believe myself sometimes. I cannot believe the things I treat as though they really matter, when truly they do not. I become upset about the smell of bacon in my hair, yet there are people with serious material needs. There are people who would be happy to have clean hair like mine, even if it did smell like bacon. I can be so vain. I cannot believe I actually considered spending $300 on the whitening treatment offered by my dentist! That would be making the appearance, not the health, of my teeth, above hungry people, people suffering from diseases, etc. Three hundred dollars on teeth! I thank God I came to my senses. Would he forgive me if I spent that money, when of course it should be given to Medecins Sans Frontieres or something instead? For that matter, it would be better spent on books or entertaining friends or anything before the appearance of teeth! God help me.
What is important? It goes back to my choosing to study the other night, instead of eating with my husband. He is more important than school, yet school is the pathway I am walking toward hopefully a better, easier life for him in the future. If he died today, may God forbid it, wouldn’t I regret my studying terribly? I don’t mean to be dramatic or extreme. But really I must try harder to stay aware of what really matters. Relationships matter. Other people, even strangers matter. Needs matter more than wants. What matters is pleasing God… and I don’t think that an Eternal Being could really “not give a shit” about anything, that is, I think he is able to consider literally every single thing, no matter how seemingly insignificant to us; but if there were something I don’t think God would give a shit about, it would probably be college degrees. A degree might mean having more money over the course of a lifetime, but as far as I know, it has never been correlated with improved health, family happiness, kindness to others, or any other type of goodness. I do not know whether in itself it enables one to better serve others.

Being a Daughter – It’s just as simple as I live thousands of miles from my parents, and I don’t know when to call them or what to say. I love them, but what do I do? What all does it mean to honor them? The trouble is that a child cannot ask advice on such things from parents because parents are typically selfless in their answers. They will usually volunteer to suffer if they think it will even add a little convenience to their child’s life. It is a beautiful thing, in a way, but at the same time, sometimes I wish my parents would be more clear, vocal, and honest about their wants and needs.

How Do I Manage it Now? – *shrug* I suspect it may have to do with stopping trying to. That is how I learned to swim, years ago. I was struggling and struggling and stressing and stressing, trying to swim in Navy boot camp. Finally I was tired and my hope was waning, and I thought I wasn’t going to even get to be a Sailor because I just couldn’t do it; so I quit trying, and I prayed to God to make me do it if he was willing that I should. If not? I guess a lifeguard would’ve saved me. And it just happened. Was that the Holy Spirit? I’m not theologian, but I can at least realize an act of faith. I think that is what is needed. If I am stressed because I cannot control anything, and I am more stressed because I cannot control my stress… I must really have faith that it is better for God to be in control than for me to be. Things aren’t really going badly for me, only they don’t go exactly as I wish they would — but if they did, probably I would not be able to account for how they would affect other things… Like Star Trek time travel. You never know what one person traveling back in time will do to the entire future. But God is Eternal, so I think he is able to always know how things tie together. The Bible says that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…

Well, tried to run again today… NOPE!

I tried to run… really carefully because I had a feeling it was a bad idea (the pain in my ankle isn’t 100% gone)… and yeah, the pain was like, “HEY! I’M STILL IN HERE!”

Which is okay. Leaving this evening for a couple of weeks in Ohio. I guess I just won’t take my running shoes? I don’t know what to do. Seek out a public pool, perhaps. Ehhhh. Let’s be honest. One of the things that makes running far superior to other exercises/sports/activities is that it’s so convenient! You don’t need anything besides some sort of foot protection (even then, there are some good places to go totally barefoot), and, for some, a sports bra (and even then, you could certainly do without if you had to).

You can run anywhere at any time. You can run in rain, snow, even ice (done it). You can run indoors on treadmills, or on a ship in the middle of a Pacific (done that too).

But biking requires, well, a bike, and a helmet. Bikes ain’t cheap, and even if they were, they’re not the easiest things to fly across the country with. Swimming? Ha! Perhaps this would be almost as convenient as running if I lived in my native Florida (I say almost because there are times when due to severe storms, you would be stupid to swim anywhere except maybe an indoor pool, which I’m not sure even exists in Florida). But here in San Diego, you’ve got to pay to go somewhere, or pay to maintain your own pool, or take your chances in the frigid misery on our coast. I’ve asked people who know the area better than me where to go swim, and most places they say they wouldn’t dare jump in. The only place that seems like an option is the ocean–and even if it weren’t freaking freezing even in summer (I know, I tried to snorkel in La Jolla once), you know… to me it’s just not great for swimming. It’s either rocky, or there are tough currents, or both. Ugh!

Not by any means saying I want to go back to Florida, or that I don’t appreciate my baby (that is, my mountain bike). Just saying I wish to God I could get through a few months without some injury that keeps me from running! Running is the best!

Oh. Plus you can eat while running, but it is much harder to do so while biking or swimming. I like eating, therefore I like this fact.

OFF TO OHIO.