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On Being 40

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I turned 40 about a year ago so 2016 has seemed like a good time for self-refection. Here are some of the things on my mind:

1. Ugh: It’s too late.

The fine lines on my face tell me it’s too late to put more sunscreen on during all those summers at the beach. It’s too late to build really strong bones (bone mass growth peaks at age 30). It’s too late to do lots of kegels after having each baby (squeeze ladies, squeeze!). It’s too late to foster a closer relationship with my grandparents, who have passed away, and whose wisdom I would appreciate now as I enter middle age. Ugh.

2. It’s not too late, fool.

Sure, there are some things you can’t undo (or do), but you’re only 40. Get it together, lady.

3. Further to #2: Maybe I should lift some weights.

When 2015 (my 40th year) dawned, I woke up one day and thought rather over-dramatically: Eek, 40. Pretty soon I’ll be a hunched over old person with broken hips. Flab and weakness upset my vanity in my 30s but now my life is in danger! (Also, I always kind of hoped I’d be one of those hot 40-somethings…you know, like JLo.) So that very day I joined Crossfit Immortal and today I actually have some muscles. I even did my first pull-up a few weeks ago! (Though I still have no dance moves.)

3. Woah. I need new clothes

I turned 40 the same year my youngest child was toilet trained, marking my emergence from 10 years of a having-babies haze. When I took a good look at myself in the mirror, I had some questions: Why is my winter coat older than my middle-schooler (with a broken zipper and faded seams to prove it)? Why do I wear ugly old race t-shirts to the gym in the age of Fabletics and Athleta. Why do events like funerals, work meetings, and High Holidays send me into a what-will-I wear panic? I can’t blame my disheveled appearance on my babies anymore.  I have some shopping to do.

4. Things are getting invasive.  

I have been blessed with good health and I’m pretty good about preventive care. I get blood tests as advised. My skin is checked by a dermatologist now and then. I have annual gyno exams. But my annual check-up at 40 came with a few unpleasant prescriptions. My family history means colonoscopies had to begin this year instead of at age 50. I need 3D mammograms from now on. I can’t read the fine print anymore…reading glasses are in the near future (though I can’t focus on that now, hee hee). And that derm check-up: it found a spot of skin cancer on my back! (It has since been removed and I’m fine.) This is not the fun side of the 40s.

5. Real life is now.  

JR and I have always wondered when we would feel grown up. Will we feel like adults when we get married? No, we’re still in our 20s! When we have a kid? Nah, we have no idea what we’re doing! When we have two? When we move out of the city? When we host a Thanksgiving dinner? When?! I figured one day we would leave the figuring-everything-out stage and arrive at “real life” but it never felt like that day was today.

Well, I think we may be there now. We put down roots in a peaceful small town, we own a house and hope to live here for at least as long as we have the 30-year mortgage. We have 3 kids, none of them new, and there are no more to come. My series of jobs has turned into a career. We have a Bar Mitzvah date in the calendar for goodness sake. I look at my oldest nieces and nephews, finding their way through their post-college years, and I do consider them to be grown now, but I can’t pretend to be in the same stage of life. All signs point to me being a real adult. It’s finally happened. 

This realization doesn’t make me feel wistful about youth as I feared it would, though. Having stuff figured out feels rather awesome. And the massive responsibilities that come with this full grown-up life do not feel like a burden. They feel like a gift.

Happy 41st Birthday to me. 🙂

Pull-Up Despair: A Life Lesson

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For 5 months I’ve been working hard to achieve a goal that I’ve had almost my entire life. I want to do a strict pull-up. I want to hang from a bar and pull myself up over the top of it. Not a lot to ask, right?

So in February, I started a pull-up training program designed by my coach, Tommy Carter at CrossFit Immortal. I printed out the 3-day-a-week plan and teamed up with a friend, AG, who also aspired to pull herself up. We committed to it. We’d stay after class, meet up during Open Gym time on Sundays to work.

I’ve completed the 4-week program about 4 times now. At first, I’d hang from the bar and not really move. When “assisted pullups” were prescribed I needed the springing power of the thickest band or both of my feet pressing hard into a spotter, who basically had to lift me up over the bar. Five months later, I’m using only the lightest band and I can put just the smallest bit of weight on my spotter’s hips as I pull up. The progress is undeniable.

Every time we get together to do the program we start with one unassisted pull-up to check on our progress. Well, on Sunday, AG did it: she hung from the bar and pulled herself right up over the top. As she approached the top I started screaming and clapping like a lunatic. To say I was happy is an understatement. I was thrilled. And then it was my turn. I hung from the bar and pulled myself all the way… to about my forehead. Even if my life had depended on it I could not get over that bar. Oh well, I said, and I continued my work. But when I got home later, I cried. Pride, disappointment, anger, impatience. I want to do a pull-up!! I have been working hard, too! Where’s MY pull-up?

I was still emotional about it the following day, and now my back was feeling sore due to another lingering weakness that I struggle to overcome – my overhead pressing position/mobility/strength situation. I felt sorry for myself about my pull-ups and about my push jerks and now I was feeling ashamed of my mental state, too. I’m a can-doer! I stay positive and work hard. Why am I letting all of this get to me?! I had tears in my eyes as Coach Tommy gave me a pep talk (along with some new overhead positioning stretches).

When I got home I learned that my 11yo, N, had been cut from the travel soccer team. He just hadn’t shown himself to be a strong enough player at the 2-day tryout. His best buddies made the team and he did not. My heart broke as I listened to JR breaking the news and heard the raw emotion in N’s voice.

It’s a life lesson, JR and I told ourselves to ease the pain we felt on his behalf. Sometimes you work hard but it just doesn’t happen for you, we told him. You can try again next year. We’re proud that you always showed up and gave it your best. Keep your chin up. Don’t dwell on past let-downs, just make a new plan for the future.

Um, hello?! I expect and hope that this small person-in-training can pick himself up after a setback, dust off his bruised ego, and step back out into life and try again. Well, I’m a grown woman and I better do the same thing.

So, here’s where I am today: No more stupid pull-up tears. No more feeling sorry for myself. You have to work REALLY hard to achieve some of your goals in life. And the thing is, I want “really hard” to mean 3 times a week for 5 months. But maybe it means 3 times a week for 6 months. Or for 9 months. Or however long it takes. And you know how long it will take if I give up? FOREVER. You know how long it will take if I bitch and moan instead of staying positive? Well, um, it may take the same amount of time but man, that time is going to be unpleasant.

So, I took a 48-hr break from mental fortitude but that’s over now. AG, ever the supportive friend, sent me this motivational text when she checked in to confirm our date for more pull-up work later today:

IMG_8880

It pumped me right up. That’s more like it!  Pull-ups, I’m coming for you.

Afterward

About a month after this post, I hung from a bar and pulled myself right over the top. And then I burst into tears like a little girl. 🙂

In the weeks since, I have worked my way up to 2 pull-ups at a time.  AG can now do 3! We continue to stay after class and do extra work on Sundays. Next up: kipping pull-ups!  

#wontstopcantstop

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