Friday, January 21, 2011

Note to Self: Remember Tracy


I went to my last therapy session on Wednesday morning. I’ve been going for a little more than two years and decided to stop after my insurance raised my co-pay to $20 for each visit.   In an attempt to be financially responsible, I’ve decided to cut out therapy and see if I can put two years worth of sessions to good use – on my own. I’ve also secretly decided that if I pocket that $20/week, I can buy myself a fancy Garmin watch that will track my pace and distance while running indoors. I’m done with Nike.

For this last session, I was catching the therapist up on what significant events had happened since I last saw her and what events I was anticipating in the future.  I also voluntarily brought up that after the session, I’d have to go swimming. And the therapist asked me why I ‘had’ to go swimming.

“Well, because it’s written on a calendar,” I responded.

“Tear it up,” she said. 

“But, I have to do the workout and tell my trainer if it was okay,” I stammered, shocked that she could possibly suggest that I skip a workout or ignore a major item on the to-do list. Had she learned nothing about what makes me tick over these past two years?

Turns out, she has been listening.  And she wasn’t trying to keep me from working out. Nor was she implying that I should stop communicating with my trainer. But she did point out that I crave admiration. And if I don’t get the admiration … or if I don’t think that I deserve it … things start to feel like ‘have to’s’ instead of ‘want to’s’.  And then I’m back to being graded on my pulse rate (that’s a reference to an earlier blog entry).

I have some clients that are all about wanting to do things vs. being obligated to do things. Their belief is that the experience and the outcome are always better if you want to do something instead of feeling forced or obligated to do it. I wrote portions of their web site and focused on the concept of intention vs. obligation, yet, didn’t quite apply it to my own life.  Actually, in some small ways I did. This Christmas I made the decision to not bake 8 or 9 varieties of Christmas cookies. I stuck with five varieties of the family favorites. This still took a week of my life, but I made the cookies with less pressure and less tears. And most importantly, no one died because I only made 5 varieties of cookies. So, I modified the baking plan to make it more manageable and I had a better time baking. In fact, I didn’t burn a single tray of the 800 dozen cookies I baked – I was in the moment, I liked what I was doing and I didn’t bite off more cookie dough than I could chew.

Sadly, not all my decisions are as easy as thinning down a cookie tray. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, exercise started as a distraction. And being the laziest, most sedentary skinny person in the world, any exercise was great because I just never exercised before. I didn’t have to. Even once exercise became more structured – specific workouts on specific days, each meant to help me achieve a specific goal – I still succeeded. The workouts were good and no matter how impossible they seemed initially, I managed to kick, pull and fartlek my way through them and couldn’t wait to report my stats / accomplishments to my trainer.  At some point, and I’m not sure what came first, I started working out for my trainer, not for me, and my success rate started to plummet. And she wasn’t aware of this change in my intention, nor is it something she created. Something in my brain told me I had to swim/run/bike for her.  I needed to live up to her expectation, not my own.

I think this tendency to please started in my childhood. With divorced parents and a whole lot of ‘steps’ for relatives, you learn how to behave differently for the different expectations of various people in your life. The upside of this is that as an adult, I feel pretty confident in a room of strangers.  I can assimilate into any group, figure out the dynamic and generally speaking, use my sense of humor to achieve a “we’ve known each other since kindergarten” vibe. The downside is that the desire to make other people feel comfortable or happy – particularly in situations or relationships that last longer than a cocktail party – frequently leaves me – Authentic Tracy – out of the picture.

Looking back, even professionally, I seemed to check myself at the front door of our office every day. I did well at my job. I had a good relationship with my employers, and was respected by my team and clients. On most days, I liked my job. But something felt like bringing the Authentic Tracy across the threshold and having the audacity to carry it through the cubicals into my own office and apply it in the way I managed my team to how I dealt with clients, well, that just wouldn’t fly. So, for eight years, I left me at the door every day. 

At some point, I decided that a marketing career wasn’t going to sustain me and resigned from the agency to become a stay-at-home mom. The reality is, I’m actually marketing again. I’m doing it on my own and while I don’t have anything that resembles a full-time client roster, I love what I’m doing. And the big difference is that I’m doing it as Tracy. I pick the clients I want to work with. I make it clear to them that they’ll never see me in a suit. Some of them see my inappropriate Facebook posts. And when the time is right, I can drop a few F-bombs with them. Oh, and I provide crazy good, comprehensive marketing plans that give clients the tools to do the marketing on their own, if they so choose.  Anytime I interact with a client, I’ve got Authentic Tracy with me. And that makes me not only love what I do, but makes me want to do more of it. By leaving me in the equation, I’ve taken the obligation out of my work.

And so it turns out, I took exercise … something that started out as something for just me … and I turned it into a job. Work. A timesheet. A yearly review. No wonder it’s been hard.

Moving forward, the workout plan I wake up to each morning will be a guideline and not a Pass/Fail situation. I’m going to measure the success of the workout not on how fast or how long it takes me to complete the workout, but on the effort I put into it. And that’s not a cop-out. I just need to rewire a few of those crossed circuits and remember that I’m doing this because I genuinely want to do it.

I feel pretty empowered with this intention.  After my session, I went to the Y to get in my workout, all the time in the car thinking about wanting to do it vs. being obligated to do it (and believe me, you can’t just switch your intention in a 10-minute car ride).  The idea for this blog started forming in my mind and it took everything I had to make the left hand turn onto Church Street to head to the Y instead of continuing down Crawford to Oakton – the speediest way  to get to my house – to start a blog entry.

At the Y, I ran into the Channel swimmer – swimming royalty, in my mind – in the locker room. She totally inspires me. Not that I’d EVER find the desire to swim The Channel, but her dedication to that goal is impressive. She’s also just very nice. And the last time I saw her at the pool, she gave me a ginger candy and told me to take it on deck when I swim – it helps her when she gets nauseous, so it might work for me, too. The Channel swimmer swims for four or five hours at a time, so she sometimes takes a thermos of soup on deck so she can get some calories in during her swim. I’m comforted in knowing I’ll most likely never have to swim long enough to warrant bringing soup on deck. So anyway, I see her, I know she’s put a lot of time in the pool already and I tell myself that my workout is only 45 minutes. Get in the water and just fucking swim already.

I got to the pool and chose a lane with a swimmer that looked like he’d respect sharing the lane and got to my workout.  The warm up was great. I took it slow and focused on my form. The first part of my main swim was made up of five 100-yards at a moderate pace, with a 15 second rest in between intervals. I did the first 100 faster than I should have, but managed to slow it down for the next four.  The second part of the main swim was to complete four 25’s (it’s a 25 yard pool, so one 25 is just swimming from one end of the pool to the other) at an ALL OUT pace. ‘All out’ implies that you’re swimming from sharks. After I completed the five 100s, I decided to allow myself a 60 second rest before starting the four 25s. While I was unwrapping the ginger chew, I looked up at the clock and couldn’t believe it – I was 30 or 35 minutes into the workout. This was the FIRST time I looked at the clock during the swim, and I only had another 10 or 15 minutes to go.  I felt amazing. And I launched into the first 25 like a bat out of hell, reaching the other end of the pool in 22 seconds. Not bad. Not bad at all.  I finished my workout and went back up to the locker room completely triumphant.

I did the workout my trainer wanted me to do. But something in my brain told me to just swim, don’t get freaked about time and in doing that, I think I was swimming for myself. I’m certain that when I started my hard 25’s, I was swimming for myself. I actually wanted to see just how fast I could go and I wasn’t playing it safe on whether or not I’d work myself into some kind of dizzy exhaustion – I just moved my arms and caught water as fast and efficient as I knew how.   22 seconds, baby.

Yet another short story made long by Tracy. Authentic Tracy. I’m going to work very hard at keeping me in my relationships, whether they are professional relationships, personal relationships or even my quirky relationship with endurance training. Let the better results begin!

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