Muay Thai 2 (Garage gym post!)

Surprised to see another garage gym post again so soon? Well, the other day – that would be Friday – our houseguests took off in the morning, and Callaghan went back to work. I could’ve done any number of useful things, but I was feeling better after a couple of days of medical shenanigans, and the garage was just sitting there in the fine spring weather.

I had no plan, so what ended up happening was a Muay Thai workout, because that’s usually the direction I go when I wing it in the garage.

Whatever the case, I recorded my workout again. That’s just the best way for me to see where I can improve. It also allows me to share a few pics with those of you who enjoy these garage gym posts. Thank you for that, by the way!

During the 45-minute workout, I practiced the techniques in haphazard sets, mixing it up at random. Instead of jumping rope, I started with a little resistance-band rowing for a warm-up.

Speaking of which, it’s already getting warm in that garage! This year we must find a way to make it survivable during the hot months.

 

Let’s get this party started.

 

rowing (with resistance band)

 

rowing

 

(dummy migration)

 

lower-body warm up with a little side-shuffling (tentatively, because of my knee)

 

keeping warm

 

round chamber (warmed up and feeling okay)

 

round kick

 

(I was mindful of how I felt during this workout; I wasn’t going to continue practicing a technique if it was causing discomfort.)

 

teep

 

teep

 

(teep pullback)

 

(down elbow dummy set-up)

 

down elbow chamber and throw

 

down elbow

 

(same thing on the other side)

 

down elbow

 

down elbow – sticking it

 

back to the bag for side elbow strikes (this one’s a jump)

 

(That whole move right there should’ve been higher. I didn’t get in close enough, so I missed my target. I cringed when I saw the footage! I threw this strike something like 30 times throughout the workout, and it was all terrible.)

 

side elbow

 

(My ground side elbow was a little better. To be fair, though, it’s hard to get in close on a bag with a base such as this one, especially with my short reach.)

 

back to the dummy for knee strikes

 

(Left side only, since my right knee had just recovered.)

(Also, I would LOVE to have a B.O.B. again, especially for knee strikes.)

 

back to the bag for speed punches

 

(I also practiced power punches and combinations on the bag.)

 

to the floor for stretches (holding a modified plank – active rest)

 

plyo push-up (top)

 

plyo push-up (descending)

 

I finished with speed punches on the dummy, sitting on the floor and stabilizing the upright dummy between my lower legs. That was a good core workout as well as a speed and knuckle-conditioning workout…. the dummy provides a more solid punching surface than the upright bag.

Oh, there’s no “walking back” pic this time. I walked away around the edge, for some reason. But there’s a “walking on” pic at the beginning, so maybe that’ll be the new tradition. Haha.

A year later… (looking back)

Friday was the anniversary of my Major Life Change… it was a year from the day I quit my job and made a commitment to take on this writing project. I made the change on the cusp of spring (Happy Spring!), and the timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. Who doesn’t love fresh, shiny, new beginnings?

Of course we had to celebrate.

We kept it low-key, because that’s how we roll. We went for a lunch date on Friday at our favorite place near Callaghan’s work, and then for a movie date over the weekend. It was a good excuse to see John Wick 2, which I’d been wanting to see.

But I digress! Where am I a year later? I’ve been checking in with updates here and there over the last 12 months, but to recap:

Physically speaking, I’ve taken over the Room Formerly Known As Our Dining Room when the Room Formerly Known As My Office became Cita’s Room.

(“Physically speaking” is hugely important to me. I could take my laptop around the house and write, and I’ve done that and still do that, but I’m a person who needs to be grounded somewhere.)

This began innocuously enough, with just my electronics appearing on the dining room table. Things snowballed from there. I’ve even decorated the area according to my project’s theme. Writing is an art, a craft, a discipline, so if the environment needs to comply, one needs to pay attention, right?

 

After a year of writing, and everything that goes with it….

 

Some of my comfort zones have been left behind, too. Instead of having a fixed work schedule, I wake up to a unique day every day, and that’s a good thing, because it allows for fluid productivity, and fluidity is unforced. My creative energy has free reign.

I’ve recognized that for me, this kind of writing is a 24/7 job, and I’ve come to embrace that. It’s an ongoing exercise in recognizing my best hours for concentrated writing. The discipline lies in treating those times as sacred.

There’s continual reading and investigating and learning, a part of the process as a whole. For a year I’ve been eyeballs-deep in crash course after crash course on a hundred different subjects. My brain is swollen with information and (like all writers) I hope my search engine history goes unnoticed, but I haven’t felt more mentally stimulated since grad school over 15 years ago.

(The downside to this is that I’m in my head more, which doesn’t always translate to seamless social interaction. I’m flightier than ever, for one thing.)

The only concrete temporal structure I have in my week is my blog posting schedule and my gym class schedule, and that structure is non-negotiable, especially the gym part. If I don’t make it to the gym, it’s for medical or transportation reasons, or the occasional scheduling conflict.

This work has been challenging and tough from the standpoint of mental well-being, too, but it’s been positive, overall. I owe Callaghan a debt of gratitude for nudging me onto this path in the first place, and for being my number one support system and a faithful reader of the material. Also, thank you all so much for reading here and for accompanying me on this journey!

What’s in my bag?! (Apocalypse bag.)

If you’re one of my regular readers, you may have noticed that I’ve had survival on the brain these days, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my EDC (Everyday Carry) has evolved into a compact survival situation – I’ve been referring to my handbag as my “apocalypse bag.” I’ve only been half-joking. It’s basically a smaller version of a 72-hour bag, which is, in turn, a smaller version of a Bug-Out Bag (BOB).

There’s room left in this bag when fully packed, but it isn’t light. To solve the problem of Callaghan wanting to put stuff in my bag (thus making it heavier), I’m considering getting him a Man-Bag, Dammit (MBD), so he can carry his things around in his NutSac.

That aside, my apocalypse bag is unassuming enough. We went to Target on Monday evening, and Callaghan took this pic of me in the parking lot just to give you an idea:

 

Me with my EDC (aka apocalypse bag)

 

–See? You can’t tell that it’s holding everything AND there’s probably a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too.

–There’s an orangutan on the side because it’s a Kipling bag. I kept it there because why remove a perfectly good orangutan.

–Yes, that is my bra. No, I didn’t realize it was visible until I saw this pic. Thankfully, this top is only see-through when the camera captures me in the light of a brilliant Arizona sunset, and at this particular angle. Also because of the sunset, my black top, pants, bag, and shoes all came out in shades of orange. My hair came out red. I don’t usually filter my pics, but this was definitely a job for a filter. I went with the first one I tried (“vintage”), because in addition to kind of correcting the color, it lent a sort of noir energy to the pic, which I thought was apropos.

Here’s the apocalypse bag just sitting there:

Apocalypse bag, full

 

Here’s how I organized it:

1). Front compartment: Keys. I keep a miniature pocket knife on my key-chain, along with a bolt snap.

Apocalypse bag, front

 

2). Side compartment 1: Kleenex, gum, glasses lens wipes.

Apocalypse bag, side

 

3). Side compartment 2: Earbuds.

Apocalypse bag, other side

 

4). Back compartment: Folding fan.

Apocalypse bag, back

 

5). Middle compartment: This is my main tool compartment. It holds my folding knife, which I keep attached to the sewn-in key-clasp. My knife is a Victorinox one-handed lockblade Trekker; I covered the handle in gun grip tape for a more secure grip (pro-tips). This compartment also holds my Gerber multi-tool (mainly for its pliers, wire-cutter, and wire-stripper); portable phone charger; mini scissors; mini flashlight; spare batteries for the flashlight; lighter; nail clippers; tweezers; travel adapter for electrical outlets; pen; pencil; neon post-its. With the exception of the knife, pen, pencil, and post-its, everything is packed in protective pouches and plastic zip-loc bags.

Apocalypse bag, middle

 

6). Main compartment, which includes an inside zip pocket that holds my passport and emergency cash stored in a zip-loc bag. (Travel-ready, though I don’t know where I think I’m going with my bag that’s full of all sorts of tools and blades and scissors and whatnot. I always have my passport on me, regardless, so it’s just a habit.)

Apocalypse bag, main compartment

 

See how there’s still room left in there? There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff in this compartment:

Under the top layer (normal handbag-type things), I keep four protective pouches/zip-loc bags that hold: a). disposable rubber gloves; antiviral face masks; antibacterial hand wipes; face wipes; bandanna; gallon zip-loc bag for soiled/contaminated materials (or vomit); extra Kleenex; extra lighter; extra pen and neon post-its. b). toothpaste, folding toothbrush, dental floss. c). aspirin; upset stomach tablets; ibuprofen; Emergen-C packets; antibacterial wound spray; band-aids in three different sizes. d). protein bars, fruit & nut bars, peanut butter packets.

I can also put an empty water bottle that can be filled wherever there’s water. Sometimes I have it pre-filled. A double eyeglass case for glasses and sunglasses also fits.

Here’s the empty bag:

Apocalypse bag, empty

 

The bag is made of water-resistant nylon. It’s very light, which is good; the only weight I’m carrying is of the stuff inside. The canvas strap is thick and adjustable for length.

That covers it, for now. This is a work in progress! I’m going to add gauze, sterile tape, and some sort of thin, strong rope. I thought of adding pepper spray in case of dog attack, but I don’t like the idea of pepper spray in my bag. I also thought of a whistle, in case of drowning emergency. (I did learn something from Titanic.)

I just like feeling ready for basic emergencies. And if the apocalypse is a zombie apocalypse, I might be able to survive that with this bag, too. (But do I need a hammer? Must research.)

Sensory deprivation tank experience, Part 2c. (The experience!)

Now to describe my second experience in the sensory deprivation tank! First, I couldn’t have done it without Callaghan, my partner in crime. I was especially thankful considering that he took time from his super busy agenda. He’s signed up for the entire on-going effort, and I’m grateful to him for his moral support and commitment of time in this venture.

My goal this second time was simple: I just wanted to experience being in the tank with the door closed, if only for a minute.

 

Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

 

(Never fear – I’ll have a new pic to accompany the posts I write about my third try!)

I started by getting in and stretching out on the water, lying on my front and gripping the lip of the door opening with my fingertips. If I didn’t keep that fingertip hold, I would’ve drifted to the back of the tank.

Once I had the feel of the water, I asked Callaghan to close the door and hang out right there so we could test how he could hear me through the enclosed tank. Here we found that I had to speak very loudly in order for him to hear me.

Then I wanted to test opening the door by myself. This turned out to be a good gauge of the extent of the battle ahead of me: I was able to push the door up, but it felt arduous. It felt like the door wasn’t opening easily enough or fast enough, because I could feel the water pulling at me as I was doing it.

At this point, it seems that any resistance I meet while pushing the door open will cause me to panic. I know that this is irrational (definition of a phobia)… of course some effort has to be made when opening a door. Any door. Doors do not open magically upon touch. The thing about this tank is that the effort involves some other element – the water – challenging my control of my body. No part of me is anchored anywhere when I try to open the tank door.

When you open any normal door, you’re on something solid, usually the ground, and usually while you’re standing. Your feet are rooted. I like being rooted. Being rooted in every sense of the word is essential to my wellness in every sense of that word.

Callaghan had to pull the door open the rest of the way, not because I physically couldn’t, but because I was starting to freak out. I didn’t want to get to the same level of panic I found myself in the first time.

So that was terrifying. I had to take a minute to breathe. After Callaghan talked me down from my ledge, we moved on to the next step.

The next step would not involve me trying to open the door. I would lay back on the water, he would close the door (I’m nowhere near ready to close the door myself, as that was what caused the fiasco that took place the first time), and I would stay in the enclosed tank for as long as I could stand it.

My anxiety was profound as I settled myself. He asked if I was ready for him to close the door. I said yes. I felt like I was bracing myself for that puff of air in your eye when they do that one test during an eye exam. Times 1,000.

He closed the door, and I closed my eyes. I focused on my breathing. So far, so good!

Lying on my back on top of the water, I tried to imagine that I was floating in outer space, since my body was suspended in zero gravity in the complete darkness. This worked at first, and then I felt encroaching panic urging me to open my eyes. I opened my eyes. My heart-rate went up more as my brain said YOU ARE INSIDE A SMALL TANK. I closed my eyes again as I reasoned with myself in a soothing inner voice. I tried the outer-space imagery a second time.

When I reached my threshold – past my threshold, actually – I called for Callaghan to open the door. He did and I sat up and I felt the cool outside air and I took a few deep breaths, and then I asked, “It’s been about half an hour, right? I was in there for around 30 minutes…?!” I was excited about my progress. But he said, “No. Not even 10.”

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crestfallen to hear that after all the painful effort, it’d only been 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a good start, though, right? I was proud of myself for staying in the enclosed tank for 10 minutes, even though it felt like 30, at least.

The aspect of the tank that really started to trigger my next-level panic was the warm, humid air inside. It was stuffy. It made me feel stifled, like I couldn’t breathe physically, let alone psychologically.

When I go for my third try, I’ll pick up where I left off. I have until then to meditate on it and to practice the meditation I want to try in my next attempt.

Sensory deprivation tank experience, Part 2b. (The “WHY?”)

Good morning! So. I said I would write about my second experience in the sensory deprivation tank, and I will, but there’s still so much interest in the “WHY?” that I thought I’d take today’s post to elaborate on that. If I also describe my second experience in the tank, this post would be too lengthy. Look out for that part next week Friday, if you please.

[Tuesday’s post will feature my January Favorites. Hello, February.]

*****

Q: WHY the insistence on this sensory deprivation tank?

A: I’ve been saying, “I’m working on overcoming my claustrophobia.” But being honest with myself, I recognize that answer as an abbreviation for: “I want to be able to keep my composure during claustrophobia events.”

Because in all likelihood, I’ll always be claustrophobic to some degree. No doubt I’ll improve, but I’ll never be completely stress-free in a small space, or while trapped anywhere.

I’m training myself to be mentally strong in the face of my phobia, because the ability to deal with claustrophobia would be the next best thing to not having it. It’s easier to approach the sensory deprivation tank with this mindset of acceptance. This is reality. If I do end up free of claustrophobia, great; if not, I should at least be able to handle it in a situation.

Naturally, PTSD is behind this, and I’m thankful for it. I’m always looking for exits, for the way out; always checking people out in the elevator, assessing threats and potential dangers, etc. At Callaghan’s company party in December, I realized that it would behoove me to assess the dangers within myself as well as the dangers around me.

One of the dangers within myself is claustrophobia. It makes me vulnerable.

For instance, if I meet with foul play and wake up in the trunk of the Bad Guy’s car, the last thing I want to do is freak out because I’m in the trunk of a car. I want to be able to stay calm so I can think and act. If I flounder in panic, I would be a victim… of my claustrophobia. I’d be a victim of myself. Not acceptable. Hence:

 

Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

Sensory deprivation tank (pic taken by Callaghan during my second attempt)

 

…here’s my dummy car trunk. Filled with water. Just as an example, of course.

That’s the longer explanation behind this sensory deprivation tank endeavor. I figure I train to be physically prepared for various situations, so I should also train for mental preparedness; I know my weak area, and I am correcting it. I need to be armed with the confidence of knowing that I can depend on myself.

I’m choosing the sensory deprivation tank route because I’ve learned from experience that an effective way for me to overcome a phobia is to confront it head-on. (Let’s please not talk about roaches at this time, though. Or ever.) After all, I overcame my elevator phobia by getting into an elevator every day to get to work. I had no choice! I still hate elevators, and being in one still stresses me out, but now I can take one without going nuclear in my head.

I hope this makes sense! Next Friday’s post will be about my second experience in the tank. Happy Friday, All.

The je ne sais quoi of Badassery.

A lot of people inspire me, and they’re all badasses.

Well, maybe not a lot of people. But if one badass seems like ten people, then we’re talking about a lot of people.

“Badass” is in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster says the word’s first known use was in 1955, and all of its definitions are prefaced with “often vulgar.” 60 years later, “badass” is mainstream enough that the preface isn’t warranted, in my opinion.

Badassery is tricky to define. It’s more than displaying “formidable strength or skill.” Badassery is also attitude, but to an even greater degree, another part of badassery is a je ne sais quoi that awes and renders anyone’s argument invalid.

This image is a modification of one I stole online:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Badassery

 

That about sums it up.

Also:

1). The fake badasses out there confuse things. It’s fake badassery (MW’s definition 1) that’s all arrogance, bravado, and swagger.

2). A fake badass can be mean, while the grit of a real badass can be mistaken for meanness. A real badass isn’t mean. (Case in point: Danny Trejo.)

3). Real badasses don’t know that they’re badasses. If they do, they don’t show it.

4). Bullies think they’re badasses, but real badasses don’t bully.

5). Confidence doesn’t always make a badass, but a real badass can beat an opponent who’s over-confident.

6). Real badassery doesn’t gloat.

7). Real badassery is when you compete with yourself, and if you defeat someone, it’s just because they got in your way.

8). If real badassery causes an accident, it doesn’t leave the scene.

9). Real badassery is lending strong authority to whatever you’re doing; your work speaks for itself. (I’m married to such a badass. Callaghan is a badass artist.)

10). Real badassery is beast-mode. It’s giving yourself 100%.

11). Real badassery is imposing your will… on yourself.

12). Real badassery is saying “f*ck you” (to bring vulgarity back into the conversation) with a game-changing action that no one saw coming.

13). Real badassery is winning because you were underestimated. (The tortoise was the badass, not the hare.)

14). Real badassery is winning because someone looked at you and mistook meekness for weakness.

15). Real badassery is looking at yourself and always seeing opportunities – and taking those opportunities – for improvement, so you never stop training, growing, learning.

16). Real badassery is getting up when you’re down and going in for more but knowing when you’ve had enough.

17). Real badassery is not quitting… it’s graciously accepting defeat, then regrouping.

18). Real badassery is focusing on the fight in front of you.

19). Real badassery is beating the odds.

20). Real badassery is surviving, then forging ahead like nothing ever happened.

We should have a National Badass Day where we take a moment to thank the badasses in our lives who inspire us to push ourselves toward our greatest potential. Everything else has its day, it seems. Yesterday was National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Need I say more?

The Darkest Hour, Part 2

I’ve been wanting to continue on the theme of my Darkest Hour post, and I have to confess that I didn’t give it as much thought as I would have liked – but even as I finish writing this, sitting here on my lunch hour at work, I realize that it’s useless to try to compact the mysteries of nebulous life problems away into neat little lines of text. So this is just me, not being a psychologist or a counselor of any kind – there’s my disclaimer! – rambling a little about life and crises and regret and goals and action.

Mainly what I want to say is, things aren’t always as bad as they seem.

You know how when you stare at something really hard, your vision blurs until the thing becomes obscured? Or how, after searching frantically for something, you give up, only to later realize that it was sitting out in plain sight all along… it was right there, but you couldn’t find it? The answers to the biggest questions in life are often like that, I think. They’re maddeningly invisible in their obviousness.

In fact, it seems that quite often, issues arise the more we try to see, look for, search for or find things. When using variations on the sense of vision doesn’t help us to figure things out, it might be time to change strategy.

Furthermore, when searching for “what I want,” that (whatever it is) often turns out to be a mythical beast, and why waste time and energy chasing something that may not even exist? Our hearts’ desires are often illusory in the sense that sometimes, we think we know what we want, but when we get it, we realize that we want something different!

For me, the more worthwhile challenge is to open my mind to knowing what I want – more in a process of discovery, rather than a searching for. If I (at least) believe that I know what I want, I can take steps toward getting it. I can set goals and strive to make things happen. Motivated by the ambition to reach my goals, I’m exempt from the struggle to find the answer to ultimately meaningless questions like “what do I want to be when I grow up?” and the tedious preoccupation with “finding myself” that I’ve seen bog people down until they’re lost in the confusion they’ve made of their existences. I try not to overthink my life and myself.

And as much as I like to joke about it, I don’t think I actually believe in the concepts of “mid-life crisis” or “identity crisis” or “existential crisis.” There’s just crisis, and the practice of labeling it and applying definitions to it only gives us more tools of procrastination we don’t need.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-merriam-webster-crisis

 

A difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.

Of course we all experience crisis, but everything can’t be a crisis. Just because we’re dissatisfied doesn’t mean that we’re “in a crisis.” There are degrees of difficulty and danger, for sure, and it’s always good to be aware (stay alert to stay alive!), but funneling our energies into taking the situation apart from the inside out usually doesn’t lead to anything but mental and emotional fatigue and frustration. We end up building apathy into the self-defeating cycle we’ve created, and that’s where we get stuck.

It’s blissfully liberating to realize that we can use that same energy to fuel our own productivity… and on our own terms.

It’s worth endeavoring to become a creator and collector of goals, both long-term and short-term. It’s worth trying to become a dedicated collector and keep those goals in sight, lined up all nice and neat.

Success, victory and triumph are personal, even intimate degrees of measure we construct for ourselves. It’s not just the day you win at a competitive event wherein everyone can witness your badassery. It’s more meaningful the day you can say, “Hey! I’ve finally stopped making that one mistake.” It doesn’t matter if you had to make that mistake five or ten or a hundred times before that. The growth still happened. You developed as a person. YOU did that for yourself, and in doing that, you gained freedom from old restraints.

Regardless of where I am at any given moment, as long as I can look back at my own life and note progress happening somewhere, in some realm of my being and existence, I feel successful.

And what of regret? I want to address this briefly, too, because it’s another thing that can drag us down.

Regret doesn’t have to be a spirit-crushing specter overshadowing our lives. Aside from the inevitable random moments of thoughtlessness in which we speak or behave carelessly (if we’re human, there’s no avoiding these moments – all we can do is learn how to handle our blunders with grace), there are difficult times during which we’re likely operating in “survival” mode, meaning that our thinking is foggy, or we aren’t thinking, at all. We’re distracted and worn-down by an onslaught of challenges that causes us to see everything as a threat. We’re propelled to action, and sometimes, in the urgency of the situation, we misdirect that action, making decisions we might later wish we hadn’t. We can make bad judgment calls regardless of the goodness of our intent. It just happens sometimes.

But it’s easy – too easy – to look back on these moments years later and feel regret, guilt or shame when we’re no longer under duress. Berating ourselves from that detached standpoint isn’t fair to our past or current selves. We can wallow in regret, or we can grow from our experiences by taking away lessons offered through them.

Regret is something we can manage by recognizing any mistakes that may have caused it and accepting that we made them, with gracious allowance for the external factors that comprise “circumstances.” Then we can gather our hard-won nuggets of wisdom and relish the satisfaction of a more mindful moving-forward. We can proceed with a purposeful energy infused with something akin to defiance and rebelliousness, that revitalizing energy that allows you to be the surfer standing on two feet at the crest of the wave not only with determination, but with joy, as well. We can commit acts of joyful courageousness on our quest to attain our goals. There’s a sense of liberation there, and the view is stunning. 

This brings me to the subject of balance, but I’ll save that for another day.