Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I have always been hesitant to be proud of certain things about myself.  Keeping with what seems to be my theme of the last few posts about what I was told as a child, I believed I was allowed to own that I was caring, and thoughtful, and generous.  And perhaps that I was smart, as long as I didn't flaunt it.

Physical attributes were a whole different story.  And quite honestly, at the time, I didn't believe I had any.  I mean, what young girl does?  (I think we need to rewrite the manual for what we teach young girls.)  Perhaps I believed I had one good quality.  It was hard to argue with the fact that I had pretty eyes.  I mean, if strangers came up to me and told me this, then it must be true, right?  So that I could say comfortably and confidently.  But anything else?  Not so much.

In the shadows of the night, I have come to whisper that I like my ass.  I do.  But am I allowed to say that without sounding arrogant?  Conceited?  Not sure... (see this earlier post)

But after watching my ass shift and grow and change without workouts from what I thought it was naturally...I realize that I had worked hard for the ass I admired.  So you know what?  I have officially decided that I am allowed to like any and all of my assets...especially the ones that are shaped by my dedication and hard work.  So there! :-)  And that goes not only for the outer assets but the ones being strengthened on the inside as well.

Try it.  It's a tad scary, but kind of fun.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Girls v. Boys

WHY do we give girls a different message than boys?  Maybe it is no longer true.  Maybe it was generational.  Maybe it was only in certain families.

It is not like anyone exactly said that I couldn't do anything and everything I wanted to do.  Or that I wasn't capable or smart.  Smart was actually an allowable trait to possess, as I recall.  But do something that makes you happy was the message.  And by the way, do it quietly and kindly.  I remember going off to college not knowing what major to choose and my parents said we want you to be happy.  Which I totally appreciate.  (I believe my friend José was only given the choice to 2 acceptable majors).  Except...I feel it was incomplete.  I don't think my folks thought they were being remiss.  I just think they believed I was never going to have to support myself, so just find something you like to do.  No talk about reaching your full potential.  Or dreaming big.  Or making it happen.  Nothing like that.

They sighed a proverbial sigh of relief when I got married at a young age.  Ahhh.  She is set now.  Her husband will earn a living and she will have her babies since that is what I was "supposed" to do.  Ha!  If my mother only knew.  

In my 40's I now find myself  reevaluating what I want from my career...for my soul, for my personal fulfillment, for my lifestyle, for my future.  Never was it discussed as I entered the adult world whether I wanted my job/career to provide a certain lifestyle, or financial security in my later years.  Did I want it to be challenging?  Exciting?  What did I want from all the hours in my life that I will spend working?

I realize this is a sweeping generalization, but I wonder why men seem, on the whole, to apologize less often for asking for what they want?  Or for being assertive?  Or charging what they are worth?  Were men given a different message from early on?  That they were not only expected to accomplish things?  But that they deserved to accomplish them?  

What message were you given as a child?  As a young adult?  And what message are you giving your girls and your boys?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

insecure...humble...self-assured... confident...bold...arrogant

Should these words be on a continuum?  And are they in the right "order"?  Are there some of these that are positive, or negative, in what connotation?  Perhaps the answer differs depending on who you ask.  

I feel like I got a lot of messages growing up about how I should behave and how I should be in the world.

Children should be seen and not heard
Do what you are told and be a good girl
Don't call attention to yourself

And I don't remember if I was told this in so many words, but there was also a message that I should not be too confident, and definitely never bold...heaven forbid conceited.  So how that translated in my head was that was it is appropriate to be humble but not really ok to be confident.  As if that is a bad thing?  I would say that the first 3 on the continuum were "allowed" and the last 3 were definitely not ok.  It wasn't ok to self proclaim any qualities or strengths.  That would be unladylike.  Presumptuous.  Why does the word inappropriate keep coming into my head...any of you fellow McDermott clan people know?

As I have aged (or let's say matured) and given myself permission to evaluate what I was told (rather than follow it blindly) I realize do not agree with the above assessment.  I think the middle of this continuum is the preferred for me.  The far left doesn't serve me and the far right is not in keeping with the type of person I aspire to be.  

Self-assured is a good thing for us all to be.  Be sure of who you are and what you are capable of.  Confident is great.  And you should be confident in your attributes and your skills and your talents.  Confident in your beauty, your worth, your value in the world.  Be confident in the things within you that still need work.  

And by the way, what the hell is a "good girl"?

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Angel in a Stranger

A few weeks ago I started to feel like I was going a little crazy.  One too many "aren't you better yet?" inquiries and I was afraid that perhaps I had turned into a Sally.  But deep down I knew that if I could be working full time, I would be.  And if I could work out, I would be.  But WHY wasn't I healed yet?  And OMG, will I ever feel like "me" again.  I honestly think that has been the scariest part.  

Then a friend who has been reading my blog offered to introduce me to a friend of his that had recently suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury).  He thought it might be helpful to talk to someone who had been though it.  I am sure he has no idea of the magnitude of that gesture.

It was a turning point for me.  A fellow active female who had been sidelined for almost 6 months by a concussion.  Finally, someone who truly understood how I felt.  Who "got" it.  That although I look fine, my head was foggy, and just not right.  That the slightest overexertion creates a cascade of symptoms which had me running (not literally) for my bed.  To have someone say "I have been where you are and you will get better.  You will feel like yourself again.  I promise."  That was huge.  Someone who has walked a mile in my shoes and through sharing her experiences was able to comfort me and allow me to surrender even more fully to the healing process.  Gave me permission to acknowledge how bad I still felt and encouraged me to do what I needed to do to take care of myself.  I still have not met her...we have only emailed.  But I am so grateful to her.  

I imagine for any of us...to know we are not alone...in our experiences, in our fears and insecurities.  And to hear from someone who is older, or further along in the process, that there is hope and there is healing.  I feel that is an invaluable gift.  One that we can all give and receive at different points in our lives.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

How sweet it is! (Part 2) also by Francesca Amendolia

(Start with part one here.)

The riptide looked like this: my autistic son hit puberty and went to pieces. We tried him on a medication that made him manic and suicidal and proclaim allegiance to the great Sock God (we stopped the meds, obviously). I started to spend more time sitting outside his classroom than I did at home. My husband was facing down the last months before his tenure review, and my daughter was feeling neglected. I was trying to work forty hours a week, write a book, and I was in a pared-down, six actor touring production of Romeo and Juliet. I coped. I staggered on. Every day I got up and did the job in front of me and then went to bed and then got up and did it all over again. Every day.

Then we decided something had to change, so we enrolled our son in cyberschool, which, by the way, is a fancy word for "homeschooling with no control over the curriculum." Every day I sat with him for six or seven hours, struggling to help him focus, to help him regulate himself, breaking down tasks into steps he could manage, holding him when he melted down, sobbing in my lap like a toddler. I cut down my work hours, but I still worked at night, on weekends. I stopped writing. It was incredibly intense and difficult (and ultimately, very rewarding), and while I saw him for all the moments of all the days, I saw no one else. I stopped going out. I stopped talking to people. I used up everything I had and more, until I had nothing left to reach out with. I had no energy to ask for help.

But you know what was ALWAYS there? Always comforting? Always ready?

Or cake.
Or chocolate.
Or sesame bagels toasted and spread with butter and cream cheese. Maybe two.
Leftover Halloween candy.
Homemade challah.
Homemade any bread at all.

And little by little, I found myself again in thrall. Once again, I found myself regularly wandering through the kitchen looking for comfort, something to help me through the next hour. Once again, I wasn't choosing what I ate. I ate what I craved. And I consciously fed my exhaustion. Sugar was my safety net, and I was falling into it over and over.

Still, everything that had been true about sugar was still true, and now I felt like I was consciously choosing to poison myself. Which, you know, is kinda insane. So I decided to stop. Again.

This time, it took months. Every day I'd start, every day I'd surrender. Then the click happened (I never know why the click happens when it does. It's like those little pop-up suction cup toys that you press down really hard and then wait for them to spring up into the air with a POP, hopefully missing your nose.) I stopped.

And braced myself for two weeks of feeling like complete crap. But I didn't. Almost immediately I began to feel better again, less depressed, less overwhelmed. Less mean. Less (thank the gods, because I could hardly stand myself) needy. It was shockingly easy. My inner Catholic girl was almost irritated. Where was my penance, damn it? Luckily, my sane outer adult took charge, and I decided to be grateful instead. And eat more brie. Lots more. Hooray! I thought. I'm back on track and now I'll be good forevvvvvver. And then I nearly smacked myself because I am not a CBS Afterschool Special, and nothing is ever fixed. Nothing is solved. Nothing stays the same.

Maria's dealing with a particularly traumatic detour right now, but here's the thing. Life is all detour. We aim at things, we forge paths through our personal wildernesses, we might even find a bit of really well-paved road and think that we've finally found our way. But our way is all the detours and forged paths and bits of paved roads and cliff edges and deep pits and blockades that we wander along or around in our lives all strung together. What looks like a detour is really just another piece of our journey.

So whither next? Who knows. I'm just putting one (for now, sugar-free) foot in front of the other.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How sweet it is! (Part 1) by Francesca Amendolia

A few years ago, I started seeing more and more information floating around about how poisonous sugar is, how it feeds cancer, how it promotes inflammation, how it rots your teeth, how addictive it is, and so on and so on. It acted in the body like heroin, one science writer dramatically proclaimed.

Thing is, I'd known for years that I was pretty much in thrall to the sweet stuff. And it wasn't simply that I was overly fond of those foods that exist primarily as sugar delivery systems -- carrot cake, Twizzlers, warm chocolate chip cookies, pistachio ice cream, fat chocolate bars with layers of smoothly dripping caramel. I did (and do) like all those things, but I also loved and sought sugar in more hidden forms: in lovely, cushiony white bread warm from the oven, in bagels the size of my head, in drippingly sweet honeydew melon, in perfectly ripe bananas, in deep, dark rum. I even preferred sweet vegetables (like red peppers, snow peas, and carrots) to other vegetables (like broccoli, about which I am still pretty meh). Heh, when I was a kid, I used to pour sugar from the sugar bowl over my fingers and lick them clean (don't judge me).

My sweetheart!
I'd also known for years that I could get miserable, deeply depressive hangover-like reactions the day after too much sugar, or too much bread. I had already perceived the cycle of dependence feeding dependence. I knew I ate sugar not just because it tasted good, but because it made me feel happier, calmer. It played with my brain chemicals, comforting me when I was stressed. I realized I was behaving much like an alcoholic with a bottle. I frankly didn't care. What good is life, thought I, without the joy of a crackling crust splitting open to reveal its soft, warm promise, like a yeasty geode. What use in living, thought I, without vanilla soft-serve crusted with rainbow sprinkles, me racing the sunlight to consume its melting sweetness?

Then I read about the potential connection between sugar consumption and dementia. My relatively young, healthy, wise-cracking mother had recently been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers, and I was (as were my sisters and all our family) deeply shocked. Having someone you love get Alzheimers is like watching someone get run over by a bus in super-slow motion. You know what's happening. You musn't look away. You know how it will end. And every second hurts. And every second breeds fear. Is that going to be my fate? Will my own family have to watch me vanish by creeping degrees?

So when I learned about some promising research suggesting that the overuse of sugar (in the standard Western diet) might essentially be the root cause of Alzheimers (they described it as type 3 diabetes), something went click. Here was something I could control, unlike my genetics. And I went cold turkey. No sugar, no bread, no bagels, no nothing. I decided I would read labels, I would eat less fruit, I would break my addiction.

It was horrible.

I called Maria. "I think I'm dying," I gasped hoarsely. "I'm shaking, nauseous, I can barely move off the couch. I can't think, and my heart is racing. I will never be okay again."

"You're detoxing," she said. "Wait it out. You'll be fine."

Suddenly the heroin comparison didn't seem so far-fetched. It was like I had a ten-day flu, and then it took another few days before I began to feel anything close to normal. And after that, it was, honestly, easy. I ate eggs and cheese and chicken and lots of vegetables, berries, full fat plain yogurt, nuts until they came out my ears, almond butter, and thick, thick cream. I didn't want sugar any more. I didn't wander through the kitchen looking for something to soothe me, restore me. It was an enormous relief. I ate whatever I wanted (as long as it was low in sugar, and for whatever magical reason, that didn't seem to be a problem).

The only disappointing thing was that I didn't feel THAT different. I wanted, I don't know, to be suddenly glowing and sparkling like some healthy fiend who willing munched kale for breakfast with flax-seed milk and spirulina (and other super-duper healthy stuff with weird names). In fact, I didn't know how different I felt until I went away to the beach and had an ice cream. I mean, come on! It's against the law to go to the beach and NOT have ice cream, and I'm very law abiding.

And one Dairy Queen soft serve cone with colored sprinkles later, I suddenly had a blinding headache. Dizzy and nauseous, I curled up on the couch for an hour. I felt sick. I felt poisoned. From one ice cream.

And I felt like maybe not having an ice cream wasn't the worst thing in the world. And I was all like, yes! I am sugar-free woman, hear me roar.

Then life happens, which it tends to do, but sometimes it happens in gentle, predictable ripples, and sometimes it's a riptide. I was swept out to sea, where I found one very large piece of reassuring flotsam to cling to, and it was called sugar.

I took a detour. And got a little lost.

(Read part two here.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wildly imperfect. Always enough

It is no secret that this injury has been a huge curveball for me.  But please don't misunderstand.  It is not a bad thing.  Yes, it is difficult at times, but there have been numerous opportunities for me to grow.  And I have been learning over the past half dozen years to embrace all the challenges that make me stronger.

One of the things I have been learning is how important it is to know our value.  I think about this a lot.  To have a strong, but clear and realistic sense of who we are in the world.  To know the positives.  But equally as important to own the less pretty aspects of oneself.  The whole picture.  The good and the bad.  And to believe that the entire package is always enough.  Let me say that again.  Always Enough.

Would it be empowering to be able to articulate those things about yourself?  Hard as it is...to speak both the pretty and the less so...I will go first...

I am 43
I am single
I am strong (often)
I am fragile (at times)
I am confident
I have a concussion
I am scared
I am funny (at least I think so)
I am silly (ask my class)
I am short (I know, I am supposed to say petite)
I am agile
I am a glass-half full person (most of the time)
I am intelligent (not mensa material, but smart)
I fear complacency
I am inspiring
I am afraid that without my outer physical fitness, I am less attractive, less desirable
I am vulnerable
I am tenacious
I am stubborn
I worry about a lot of things (but a lot less than I used to)
I suck at time management
I am a procrastinator (is that the same thing?)
I am honest (that is good and not so good, depending on who you ask)
I am learning that it ok to fall down (next time I will try not to smack my head)
I am good at taking care of others
I am not so good at taking care of myself (getting better as we speak)
I find humor in life's hard moments
I am open-hearted
I have trouble accepting help
and I am always enough

In case I forget, my sister gave me a bracelet to remind me.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Perspective and Choice

I am not naturally slim.  I have not always been fit.  I was not a particularly athletic child.  True I was damn fast in the 100 yard dash in CYO track, but I certainly didn't excel.  

As a fitness professional I have received many comments in the vein of...
"I know it is easy for you to stay in shape" 
"I am sure you have always been active and fit"
"I can't believe you didn't play sports in high school/college"

I say all this because it is important (for me and everyone) to understand that it it not something that comes easy to any of us.  It is a choice to fit.  It takes effort.  And while that effort may be fun, it is effort nevertheless.  Until recently I always had the option to be fit.  And although I had not always exercised that option (sorry for the pun), over the last 10 years exercise has become something I enjoy.  Dare I say love.  It is fun to jump around and lift things and learn what my body can do.  I truly value the opportunity to use my body, as well as encourage and inspire others to test their limits.  And I like to think that I do it by example. 

Now being in a situation where I do not have the option to be active, I realize what a huge gift it is.  To be healthy and to have the choice to exercise and be active.  If you are lucky enough to have that option, please ask yourself, why are you not moving?  Why are you not finding the time to exercise?  Figuring out what you love to do and making it happen?

Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it.

I am not saying it is easy.  Shit, I get it.  I am scared to start working out again.  Will I be able to do it?  Will my body remember how to squat, jump, pull, push?  Will I be able to tolerate the discomfort of being so deconditioned?  The answer if YES!  And the answer for you is YES!  We all choose to make time to eat, to brush our teeth, to see friends...why are you not exercising your option to take care of your body in this way?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The 5 Stages of Loss (of Movement Freedom) by Meredith Koch

If you are accident prone like I am, then you have a basket full of stories about injuries and recoveries. Like the time I twisted my ankle while sliding into 3rd base (in case you were wondering, I was safe). Upon looking back at those injuries, I can laugh at them. But what happens when you get injured as an adult and your body simply refuses to heal in the normal 3-6 weeks?

I’ve been struggling with peritoneal tendonitis for the past 6 months due to a combined ballet and running injury. Like Maria, I am an active individual. Running, dancing, swimming, biking, skiing – movement is my natural stress reliever, my anti-depressant, my generator of happiness, a way of life. So through my denial (it can’t be that bad of an injury), my anger (no activity and in an AirCast for 4 weeks), my bargaining (with doctors for some form of physical activity), and the feeling of worthlessness (due to inactivity and thinking others see me as a lazy slacker), I have come to accept the healing process of my injury.

What does it mean to accept a prolonged healing process? Just like losing a loved one, the loss of movement freedom leads to methods of coping and rebuilding. I have chosen to prioritize my health over my research and pride. I have come to appreciate my body for what it naturally is, not what I want it to be. I have become more willing to try new things, like yoga, in order to optimize my physical limitations. I acknowledge that I cannot do everything yet, but I am doing what I am able to at this stage of healing.

And that could be the best lesson I could have learned from this lengthy recovery because now my body dictates what I do, not what my mind or pride says I should be doing.


Kindness from others touches me in so many wonderful ways.  I want to say a huge thank you to Karen, Kim and Stephen at Downunder Kayaks, SUPs & Surf in Westport.  I LOVE to paddleboard!  One of the things that makes me most happy is to be on the water.  I look forward to the warm weather every year so I can get out on my board.  I went by the store last week to rub elbows with those that can paddle (since I am still on the DL) and the reception I got from the crew there was amazing.  Like long lost friends.  And Karen jumped right into action offering me a chauffeured ride on her board so that I could enjoy some of the benefits of being on the water, without the exertion that could hurt my head.  Then she wrangled Stephen, who barely knew me, into taking me for a ride as well.  It was amazing.  I might even rent my services out as training weight to aspiring racers.  Lemonade, right? :)

There are certainly many challenges for me in this head injury.  But I love finding the unexpected joys, of which their have been many as well.  So to my friends, old and new, at Downunder, for being creative and finding ways for me to participate that don't involve physical activity.  Cheers!  This is why small businesses exist...a family in many senses of the word.  

See you all on the water :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Invitation to You

When I originally envisioned starting this blog, I imagined it would have a number of benefits.  First, as a vehicle for me to share my experiences...the fears and pitfalls, as well as the lessons and the joys of this detour.  But also to hopefully be a support and inspiration for others who may have experienced the same or similar emotions around an injury or other such change in course of life.  I imagined that it might grow to be a group effort.  A place to share thoughts and ideas, frustrations and revelations.  

So here is my invitation to you.  I want to invite anyone who is interested to be a guest blogger.  It can be a response or elaboration on something I have already posted.  It can be focused on something you have been struggling with, or to vent about a detour in your life and what it means to you.  

Please comment or message me if you are interested.  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, May 5, 2014

True colors...or perhaps role playing

Sometimes these posts start as one thing in my head and wind into something completely different by the time they make it to the printed page. 

I have been pleasantly and not-so-pleasantly surprised as well as intrigued by the various reactions of people to my ongoing injury.  Some have been super supportive.  Folks I haven't seen in months have reached out.  Those I might have least expected have offered help...to grocery shop, or bring me food, or to drive me places.  Some call me to check in, knowing I am lonely sitting at home doing nothing.  Others have been noticeably absent, or had difficulty expressing empathy, or sympathy.  There have been those who seem rather impatient with, or intolerant of, my slow recovery.  When I get those less supportive reactions, I feel angry.  But really what I think is that I am hurt.  I even commented to someone that you learn a lot about people in situations like this.  You see their true colors.  But then I think some more...and two realizations come to mind. 

The first is that none of us can ever know what is happening in someone else's life.  What is transpiring in a person's life will inform how they react to me and my set of circumstances.  Perhaps they, too, are injured, or struggling personally or professionally, and don't have additional energy or empathy.  Or perhaps my injury, or lack of health, strikes too close to something in their past, some injury, or some family tragedy, or some deep-seeded fear of which I know nothing about.  So maybe I have been too quick to judge another's reaction...without having walked in their shoes.  

Then I wonder if it is all about the roles we play in our relationships with others.  We all have many roles, and in my job as massage therapist, I help people.  I take care of others.  I wonder if it is hard for some to imagine me as needy.  In my job as fitness instructor, I am the leader and I am strong.  I wonder if it creates a sense of unease...knowing that I can be vulnerable as well.  Life events will change the balance in our relationships.  They shift the equilibrium.  And perhaps not everyone is willing, or able, to notice and adjust to that shift, even temporarily.  Hmmmm.  I'm not sure.  At the moment it is all a working theory.  What do you think?