Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Ok, so bear with me here. I'll go somewhere with this, I promise.
One of my greatest philosophical heroes is Viktor Frankl, the man I quoted on my main page as saying, ''What is to give light must endure burning.'' Viktor Frankl, for those who don't recognize the name, was a trauma psychologist who one day found himself in a Nazi concentration camp. He endured the brutality of the Holocaust, losing both his parents and his wife, with the unique perspective of a trauma expert. He paid careful attention to those whose spirits survived the ordeal and those who didn't. He took notes and inside his mind crafted the book he was going to write about the experience. During the hard winter, when his own spirit was flagging, he marched outside and practiced delivering academic lectures to an imaginary audience--lectures about surviving trauma.
When Frankl was released from his hell on earth, he wrote a book, ''Man's Search for Meaning,'' and he developed his own therapeutic technique called logotherapy. The purpose of this therapy was to help people create meaning for their suffering. He recognized that people survive by giving themselves a purpose. He was a strong proponent of Nietzsche's philosophy: ''He who has a suitable WHY can bear almost any HOW.''
This basic concept has been one of the cornerstones of my own ability to survive some very difficult times. But I had a bit of a revelation today on deepening this philosophy -- and I owe it to Jillian Michaels. Yes, the Biggest Loser lady.
As I was working out today, (I logged 1 hour of circuit and one hour of cardio), Jillian Michaels was kicking my butt by having me do all these planks and plank rows and goodness it was hard work, you know? And she said to me, ''I want you to do these workouts with intention.''
She says that in her cardio video too, and it's made me think about what it means to do things with intention. In a very simple sense, it means you think about why you are doing the thing you do while you are doing it. I've found this to be a really helpful way to get through the workouts, and I used it today to go through my chores and various unpleasant activities, when it dawned on me...
... this is just like Frankl. Not only you can endure existential horror by finding a purpose in your suffering, you can pretty much endure just about any minor inconvenience by finding your WHY and sticking to it. It also fits in with the SparkPeople strategy of finding your motivation for healthy lifestyle change.
I find this to be so interesting and effective. Who knew Jillian Michaels was in cahoots with Frankl?
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Today something happened that actually made me weep with joy. It's been a long time since something so innocuous and kind of random has affected me so deeply. It requires some background.
My choice of graduate schools was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I have two major passions in life (or at least, two that translate into getting paid.) One of them is mental health and the other is immigration. I applied to my dream school for mental health (Penn) and my dream school for immigration (Columbia), and I got into both. I then realized that my choice, in essence, was between pursuing one passion or the other.
I chose mental health. I chose Penn. I chose it because of the intimate atmosphere, the sense that I would be a part of a supportive, dynamic community, and because I fell head over heels with Philadelphia. I realized in doing so that I might be closing the door on immigration work, at least in a professional capacity, forever. My field placement rather confirmed this -- while it is an EXCELLENT resource for my field of study -- the treatment of PTSD -- it is not very culturally diverse. The one guy there who speaks Spanish is... wait for it... the janitor. *sigh*
Nevertheless, when I'm in Philadelphia, I get that feeling, that breathless, punch-you-in-the-gut, This Is My Destiny kind of feeling. That feeling that I am exactly where I need to be right now. So even though I had to leave behind immigration, there was that still, small voice telling me: stick with this.
Well, today while I was chatting with my internship supervisor, she was going over the requirements for the program, and said, ''I do have to inform you that our Human Resource Department requires that anyone working as a volunteer participate in our FLEX program outside the facility. So you have to do at least 5 hours a week in FLEX. They are looking for a bilingual caseworker and I told them I know just the girl.''
After I hung up the phone, I wept. And I am going to cry again. Because life shouldn't be like this -- or actually, it should be, but for everyone else too.
The part that makes this particularly poignant is that I have been thinking over whether or not to apply to a competitive placement in Penn's Intercultural Leadership Program. From what I can tell it's basically a three day conference about cross-cultural exchange, held in the Fall. Following the exchange you then take a regular leadership role in on-campus cross-cultural exchange throughout the year. It's definitely the kind of thing I would love, but I wonder what my chances are as a white girl from the Midwest. Still, I've been thinking of beginning the task of graduate school with something like this as a cornerstone -- a marker of my intention to expand the depth of my commitment to diversity so that this commitment will influence my practice no matter what my specialization.
In a sense, this news about the FLEX program leaves me no excuse to leave my commitment to diversity behind. It reminds me of what I stand for. I am going to try my shot at the ILP, whiteness be damned.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I have exercised every day for the past week and a half. Today I ran two miles, and I did so at a slightly faster pace than the 2 mile run I did earlier this week. It was a hot, sunny day, particularly difficult because I am allergic to the sun and am still recovering from a sunburn. Nevertheless I pulled it out, two miles nonstop.
I am a slug on the running trail (hence RacingSlug), but out of curiosity I compared my pace today to my pace last year around the time I ran my first 5K, and it's actually not much different. So if I am in that same range right now, and I *just* started running again, I am in a good position to beat my personal record for pace at the Kid's Chance 5K this October. Though to be frank I will be happy just to do another 5K, no matter how fast I run it. I know I'm not going to be running any eight minute miles any time soon, and that's fine as long as I can measure consistent improvement in myself. The cool thing about running is that your only real competition is yourself.
After the run I did Pilates Abs, Butt and Thighs for 40 minutes, and let me tell you it's quite a bit harder right after a cardiovascular workout. I really enjoy Pilates though, especially because you get so many opportunities to stretch yourself out, and one thing I'm desperately lacking is flexibility.
I've been working out like crazy mostly because I don't start school for another week and I have lots of time on my hands. I want to get into the habit before I become incredibly busy (I am about to become INCREDIBLY busy, as a full time student with a 24-hour weekly internship on top of that.)
It all sounds like a lot, and it IS -- but that's how I function best. The more I have on my plate the better I generally feel and do. I'm one of those people who thrives on routine, and I know I've got the chance here to make myself a really impressive one. The magic word for me right now really is discipline. I'm doing as much as possible to exercise the discipline muscle so that when the real challenge comes I'll be ready for it. I've got big plans -- not just for fitness, but for my personal and financial life as well. I just don't feel like letting anything hold me back.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I am home. Isn't that funny? New Jersey is home now.
I am taking stock of the last three weeks, where I did healthy things and not-so healthy things. I'm surprised by how easy it was to cave into social pressure and eat whatever was offered. Fortunately a few of my loved ones have healthy eating habits, so it wasn't a total loss. There were days we put our feet down and went to the grocery for fresh food. Still, I found the raspberry pie to be a most fiendish adversary. The longer time wore on, the more permissive I became about my diet. I paid for it more than once with illness.
It is unclear how I fared in terms of my weight. I usually gain 3-5 pounds when I'm PMSing. Combine that with the fact that I've been doing strength training and it's hard to tell whether the weight I've gained is muscle, temporary bloating, or actual fat. I will check again in a few days.
Either way, I'm not in the mood to feel bad about it (among the apparent benefits of exercise is disinterest in dwelling on past mistakes.) Even if I gained 5 pounds of pure fat, that means what? Just that it will take a little longer to reach my goal. We made a Whole Foods run before we even dragged our suitcases through the front door, so I have nothing but goodness in this house.
I've taken some steps to improve my eating even more:
1. Dom and I committed to one month of absolutely no eating out. Exceptions may be made for social events to which we are invited by friends, but that's it.
2. Committed to eating food only at the dining room table. No food at the computer or the couch in front of the TV. I am hoping this will eliminate the cue to eat at inappropriate times. It will also serve the added benefit of keeping crumbs off my keyboard.
3. No cheese at home. Since I'm likely to eat cheese when out or when it is offered, it's not forbidden during special occasions. Just at home, because I can't stop eating it when it's here.
4. Back to tracking my calories. This is to make sure I am neither eating too little OR too much. I know exercise has a tendency to increase appetite and now that I am regularly working out I want to make sure I don't overeat.
I am about to start grad school in less than 2 weeks, a time when people notoriously gain weight due to lack of time/attention/stress. Thus I must enter this life stage with commitment and discipline in order to succeed at my fitness goals.
So I am going in with guns blazing. I just registered Dom and I for a charity 5K race on October 18th -- when you pay up front you're more likely to follow through. The 5K is to provide post-secondary education to children who have had parents killed or seriously injured at work. This to me is a great cause. As of right now I can run 2 miles with some difficulty, so it will take some dedication to get another mile by mid October, but I know it's possible. When in doubt I'll just think of the children.
And next week I guess I'm just going to go ahead and start with Aikido.
Making all of this work really is about discipline, but I've surprised myself before with how disciplined I can be. I'll just have to keep surprising myself.
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