Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Burning Question On My Mind

Sometimes life's biggest questions just stump me.  There are times when I just can't find an easy answer.  Occam's Razor grows dull.  Questions tickle my brain as I lie awake at 3AM and the answers evade me as much as sleep does.  No matter how much I search for the truth, no one can provide the definitive answer I seek.

What exactly are "yoga pants"?

I started doing yoga about 22 years ago.  Yoga was just becoming trendy at the time and I started out with books and videos until my gym began offering a single weekly class.  You know what I wore?  I wore the same clothes I wore for my other workouts, minus the sneakers.  I wore leggings and bike shorts and sweat pants.  In those days yoga had no specific uniform.  Most yoga classes were taught by the old-time gurus who, if female (and in those days they were all female), wore mostly the leotards and footless tights of an earlier era, or else just wore ordinary shorts and t-shirts.

Now yoga has become a multi-million dollar industry.  The soft-bellied, middle-aged, women who used to stand in front of my classes have been replaced by young, taut, and tattooed gym rats and personal trainers looking for some esoteric state of enlightenment (or just hoping to cash in on a fad).  I used to think of yoga as a fairly egalitarian exercise meant for all body types, all ages, and all economic levels.  Now yoga is an activity favored by rich white women who pay hundreds of dollars for classes in high end studios.  

Yoga now also has it own uniform.

Go into any sports supply store and the fitness area will have all kinds of specialty yoga clothes.  They differ from your regular workout gear in two ways.  The first is that they are decorated with trippy artwork that may or may not have some kind of special Hindu meaning.  The second is that they are making a statement about the body types expected to be seen in yoga.  Yoga tops tend to be wispy little tanks with no backs and thin straps.  Any woman with significant boobage up top or a belly she would rather not expose is not meant for chic yoga wear.

But what exactly is the point of the pants?

I keep hearing and reading about "yoga pants".  What makes yoga pants, yoga pants?  I tried Googling yoga pants recently and I came up with photos of all different types of pants.  I saw bike shorts and long leggings and capri leggings.  I saw looser fitting workout pants.  I could not see any indication of what defines yoga pants.  How do yoga pants differ from workout pants, training pants, leggings, capris, capri leggings, bike shorts, and jazz pants (I suppose traditional jazz pants have a more extreme flare in the lower leg)?

I suppose the answer could be your yoga pants are the pants you wear specifically to do yoga in.  I'm not going to easily accept that answer because the joke seems to be that women like to wear their yoga pants for anything but yoga.  It seems irrelevant if you go to yoga class and wear all of the new, expensive, trendy gear.  You're not going to yoga class.  You're just going to be comfortable.

Is that where the phrase "yoga pants" comes from?  The idea of putting on comfortable, stretchy pants means that you can relax as much as you would doing a corpse pose in yoga class.

I confess I haven't been going to yoga classes much in recent years.  I enjoy doing yoga stretches as part of my regular routines, but my body recomp goals require me to focus more of my energy on more intense forms of exercise.  I do enjoy the occasional yoga class when I have the time though.  When I go I will put on a pair of leggings, or maybe a pair of looser fitting workout pants, or shorts or capris if it's warm out.  I will wear a regular t-shirt that actually covers my upper body.  I won't be wearing yoga pants, because I still don't know what they are.  That's okay because I don't think I'm supposed to wear yoga pants to do yoga.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

1 Week Post-Surgery. The State of Rachel

So it's my 1 weekiversary for my surgery.  How am I doing? 

Pain.  It's quite manageable.  I do without pain meds most of the time.  Some movements still hurt.  I try not to do those movements.  I don't know if my pain level is better or worse than it should be since I don't know the average levels are.

I am capable of hobbling around the neighborhood pretty well.  I can go a block or two to Dunkin Donuts or to the gym.  The hardest tasks are the simpler ones like getting dressed or getting in and out of bed.

I fear overdoing it.  I fear I'm not being careful enough.  I have been known to hobble partially or fully unassisted around the house when I'm in a hurry.  I move my leg too far to the side.  I bend over too far forward now and then.  I keep scolding myself not to, but I tell myself, "Just this once."  I worry about reaching the breaking point.  What is going to be that one move that damages my fragile, healing, labrum?

I was becoming very frustrated because when I walked any distance, the leg strap on my brace kept falling down.  It took me until today to see I needed to secure it by putting the strap through a plastic slot before fastening the Velcro.  #Howtobedumb

I had a huge scare yesterday.  I didn't feel quite right after doing my required therapeutic bike ride at the gym yesterday morning.  I felt a pain in my leg, radiating from the back of my thigh and all the way down to my calf.  All kinds of scary situations ran through my mind.  My doctor reassured me that it was likely that my back was being thrown out of whack a bit and that was causing the pain.  After trying to do as little walking as possible (no more leaving the apartment) yesterday the pain went away and hasn't returned.

I get very stressed out sometimes trying to find the time to do all of my therapeutic activity.  I have 6 hours a day I'm supposed to do in the hip flexion machine.  Kevin is supposed to rotate my leg for me daily.  I have a series of isometric exercises to do.  I am also supposed to spend 2 hours a day lying on my stomach.  I'm lucky if I can fit in 30 minutes.  The instructions say to ride the stationary bike twice a day for 20 minutes.  Once a day is all that I can manage (the time it takes to hobble to the gym means it's far more than 20 minutes of my time each day).  I am supposed to be doing actual work while I'm sitting at home as well.  I have to carefully plan my day for when I will fit all of this in.

Speaking of that hip flexion machine - I.HATE.IT.  My bed is too small for me to have it in bed.  I have it on the couch and the couch isn't long enough for me to position my upper body comfortably while I'm in it. It's physically a pain (no wonder my back was out of whack and causing leg pain).  It's also just plain boring to be stuck in that thing for 2 hours at a time.  What would I do without Facebook and my iPad?

I'm bored and lonely.  I'm alone in the house for hours at a time.  Yes, I do have Facebook.  I Skype Kevin all day when he's not busy.  At least one of my parents calls me daily  I just really miss having a human presence around.  I want warm bodies and face-to-face conversation.  I am really looking forward to returning to the office because I just want some live human company.

It stare down the coming months and really fear for what all of this is going to mean for my body.  I worked hard and struggled for years to be fit and strong.  According to everything my doctor and the literature tell me, it will be 6 months before I can return to my old levels of activity.  I don't want to lose my strength or my aerobic capacity. In the hospital everyone who had to take my heart rate and blood pressure complimented me on my level of fitness because my RHR was so good and my blood pressure was so low.  They all said they knew I was active and healthy. How is that going to look 6 months from now?  Last year I had to buy new clothes because I had become so much smaller.  Now will I have to buy new clothes again because I'm going to regain all of the weight?  What about the fact that I will simply miss my hobbies?  I want to ride and dance because they are activities I enjoy.  How will my body feel the day after I first get back on a horse and trot?  (I do think occasionally getting on a horse and just walking would be somewhat therapeutic.)

On the bright side, my appetite has changed.  My body seems to know I can't eat nearly as much as I did when I was still exercising daily.  I just can't seem to eat much.  That could be quite a blessing with the holidays coming up.

Pain meds are all well and good, but sometimes I would rather just medicate the old fashioned way.  A glass of wine with dinner tastes much better than a pain pill.  One of the main reasons I wanted to wean off of pain meds this past weekend was that I knew I was going out to dinner and wanted to be able to have that glass of wine with the meal.  Of course thinking these things makes me feel like an alcoholic.  

I'm grateful for the enormous outpouring of support I received from everyone both online and in real life.  My circle is vast and far-reaching and it makes me feel so lucky and loved.  

I am grateful for the health I do have.  My situation is uncomfortable, but it's temporary.  In 6 months I do have that option to start living an active life again.  As I struggle to do every day tasks without pain, I realize that there are people who deal with this every day of their lives.  There are people who don't have my current level of health and never will due to diseases that are out of their complete control.  I have it good.  I have it very good.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Opting Out

Usually by this time of year, I have a carefully planned list of family and friends I need to buy Christmas presents for, and some rough ideas about what I will buy.  In fact, I often have some of those gifts purchased already.  People seem angry and resentful that I do this, as if they are incapable of not waiting to the last minute and that I am somehow blessed with some magic talent for shopping early.  I simply say that I like to have the gift shopping out of the way by December so that when the holiday season is in full force, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the festivities without the gift-buying panic hanging over my head.

There is more than one way to enjoy a holiday season free of the stress of having all of your gifts purchased on time.  How about not buying gifts at all?

I found myself reading the archives of my favorite fitness website Stumptuous and saw this rant about not Christmas shopping.  The author talks about enjoying the season eating good food and enjoying the company of family without participating in the mass consumer culture.  She also goes on to say that she made a bigger effort to take care of herself and her own health and fitness.

It seems I spend a lot of time these days with my mouth agape, staring at my medical bills.  When I began having pain in my hip, I went to the same orthopedist - one of the best in the area- who looked after my knee several years ago.  I never bothered to check if she was in network for my current insurance plan.  Because she is out of network, my co-payments are huge.  I have paid, or need to be paying, hundreds in medical bills when all is said and done.  There have been doctor visits and multiple MRIs and physical therapy that we had hoped would prevent a need for surgery.  My most recent bill costs nearly the amount contained in one of my paychecks.  This is scary stuff. I'm trying to work out a budget so I can pay for this stuff.  I'm looking at ways I can save money.  I can stop shopping at high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods and DeCicco's and do my shopping at A&P and Shop Rite.  I can stop drinking lattes on cold mornings.  I can cancel the order for those backordered boots and stop buying any other new clothes.  I can brown bag my lunch.

I can also not buy Christmas presents for everyone this year.

I do want to celebrate Christmas with my family.  I would like to get together for nice dinners with rich desserts and good wine.  I would like to experience the fun of having my whole family together in the same way I do for Thanksgiving and birthdays and whatever other dinner parties we all attend.  I don't need presents to enjoy that, do I?  Christmas cheer isn't only about presents, is it?

Holidays are often a mess in my family.  Finding time to spend with everyone isn't easy.  Like all children of divorced parents, I have two sets of parents to visit.  I'm lucky that Kevin doesn't have much family so I can just include his mother in celebrations with my family.  My brother isn't so lucky.  He is married to someone from a very large family and his wife also has a married son and granddaughter living in another state. Their availability for holidays is always In question.  Kevin and I have been spending Thanksgiving in recent years with his brother in Chicago, but this year we can't, which means we had to find local family willing to take us in.  Finding time to get together with family for holidays is a very complex process.

Last year was total chaos.  I had a Christmas Eve dinner with Dad, which my brother was unable to attend because he was spending it with his wife's family.  Both of us had brunch the next morning with Mom, and then he  had dinner that night with Dad.  There is always a shuffle and always multiple relatives and multiple sets of in-laws to visit.  I have no idea what this year's holiday season will bring.  Mom says she doesn't want to host Christmas and Thanksgiving plans were filled with miscommunications and changed plans. Dad has nothing planned yet.  I am thinking of hosting a dinner at my place for those people who have no other place to go as long as my health cooperates.  Maybe I'll even buy a tree (and hope it doesn't try to kill me).  Given the unpredictability of holiday planning, do we really need to add gifts into the mix?  Half of these celebrations end up as just excuses for gift exchange. Maybe having some place to go and something good to eat will be more important than having gifts.

One thing I have noticed in recent years is that Christmas shopping is much harder than it used to be.  I used to be quite good at scoping out people's needs.  At the very least, most of my family members had Amazon wish lists, which made shopping a breeze.  I notice hardly anyone updates their lists anymore, and when they do, it's often with "fantasy" items - expensive stuff they dream about, but not anything that's practical for friends and family to buy.  One of the drawbacks of adulthood is that you have to prioritize your needs, and figure out exactly how much space you have in your home for possessions.  I am very cognizant about giving useless tchotchkes these days, even expensive ones, because we all only have so much shelf space. (I admit I occasionally see something small and cute that I think a relative might like, but I try to limit that.)  I try to avoid giving gifts people can't actively use, wear, or eat. Even stuff you can wear can be tricky as accessories can feel like an easy gift for women, and women may have limited space for scarves, purses, and jewelry.  It just seems that these days people needs less.  Home offices, kitchens, closets, and backyards can be stocked with all necessities and the garages, basements, closets, and cupboards simply can't hold anything more. I ask people what they want, and half the time they can't give me any answers.

I don't even know what I want, if anything. I have limited space and most areas of my life that require equipment are stocked with what I need. In the past I always kept several small cheap, but necessary items like socks or small kitchen items so no one would have to spend much money to know that they were buying something I need.  I just don't need that much.  My closet is nearly at capacity.  Certainly between now and Christmas I may need something, but I don't know what that might be.  For my birthday this year when Kevin asked me what I wanted, I ended up just telling him to get me a gift certificate to one of my favorite clothing stores.  That sounded like a great plan, except when I received the gift, I found that there was nothing at the designated website I really wanted at the time.  I forgot about that gift for three months before finally finding it and spending it a few days ago when I saw the website had added some cool new merchandise.  I'm not in a hurry to buy things or acquire more stuff.

If trying to find the right gift, something my family will actually want and use, is part of the problem, why not just buy everyone gift cards?  I can buy them for certain stores, or I can just buy them generic Visa gift cards.  I can write checks or give cash.  Wouldn't that solve the problem?

My first issue is it feels like a copout.  I can't be bothered to really take some time and attention to find out what a loved one really needs, so I just give money, or some kind of equivalent.  My second issue is that you never know how much is enough.  I don't want to look cheap, but it can be really expensive to give significant, generous amounts to everyone on the holiday shopping list,which brings me back to my original point of not having much money this year.

Christmas is about the joy of giving, right?  We're not supposed to expect stuff, but we are supposed to give of ourselves.  In that spirit, I will be making charitable donations.  I buy an animal for the Heifer Project every December.  This year I will throw another charity in there as well.  I don't need more stuff.  My friends and family don't need more stuff.  There are however, many people, and animals, that need the basic necessities of life.  This year I would like to concentrate more on them.  Being temporarily immobilized by my surgery gives me a great appreciation for my own physical health and well-being.  Medical bills or not, I am very fortunate and I need to spread around what fortune I do have.

My only concern this year is for the children in my family.  I remember what it was like to be a child at Christmas.  Most kids aren't monsters and neither was I.  I believe most kids (and I was no exception) fundamentally know it's not good to be selfish or make presents the point of Christmas, but let's face it, for most of our formative years, those Christmas presents mean a lot.  They are what children wait for.  It's why they tolerate time with their boring relatives.  I don't think giving kids gifts equates teaching them materialism and consumerist values.  I believe that a child who is raised with any sort of conscience will figure out the lessons eventually.  I don't want to force those lessons on them.  If they come over my house for Christmas, will they hate me for not having gifts for them when they are there?  I have always loved lavishing them with gifts.  I hope to only have to disappoint them for one Christmas.  My niece's and nephew's birthdays bookend Christmas and I do intend to give them gifts for that - even if I likely won't see them for their birthdays. 

I hope to make this year's no-gifts Christmas a temporary situation.  Looking forward, I wonder if I should.  There are plenty of reasons to give up the habit entirely. 

I don't know what decisions I will make in the future, but this Christmas, if you need a place to go, you're welcome to come to my place.