Monday, April 21, 2014

Reading moves me.

(Note post-writing: this is longer than it probably needs to be and I'm sure will be interesting to .3% of you so feel free to skim or skip.)

My last post was all spring! spring! spring! One of the reasons I appreciate spring is I feel compelled to be up and about and get moving. It probably has something to do with extended daylight and fresh air and the surge of exclamations. My adrenaline is constantly pumping. I have had a LOT OF ENERGY that needed to be expended, which may be spring talking or the ridiculous amount of water I've been drinking or the pent up energy from being a winter recluse. I am pleased and kind of shocked to tell you how I have been getting the energy out lately.

So, working full-time and being back in grad school has put a whole new perspective on the time I have available. I also pray and aim to remain balanced and will not neglect church, time with friends, sleep, and self-care. I was getting bummed over the last months when I felt I had little time or motivation to get moving. I wanted to take some fitness classes but kept looking at prices and schedules at various gyms and fitness studios and basically never made a decision. I finally decided that I didn't really care what I did, I just needed to figure out a way to move and not feel like I was sacrificing time. Hooray! I found it!

I have a ridiculous amount of reading to do for courses, but instead of holing up in my bedroom or a local coffee shop, I have been taking papers to the community gym to walk or bike and read. I was not sure if I would be able to do it or how long it would last. I have never liked treadmills, and they kind of scared me. I was also afraid I'd get thrown off, which actually happened once. But I set out to conquer, even if I had to walk slowly. Now that I have gone multiple times per week for multiple weeks, I felt okay sharing this new love. That's right, love. I love it. It's so weird. If I bike, I can only last 20-25 minutes and then have to walk the rest of the time. I can bike at my normal pace, but have to walk slower while reading. Tonight I walked for an hour, up a slight hill, at the rate of 3 miles/hour, which is an increase from my initial sessions and feels comfortable now while reading (I also read 4 papers--booyah!). I feel like I'm actually working my body and mind, the left and right sides of my brain, and killing two birds with one stone. I walk away feeling good because I have been reading and also have been moving. I actually feel really good when I leave so I keep going back. I don't think it's just endorphins from exercise, but I feel like I've somehow gained time by combining two activities I need to do. I do love to multitask, and this seems to be a perfect mix.

I'm figuring out my rhythms. I can't take books because of how I need to hold the paper to read while moving. Must be printed papers. Must be either one page per page or if 2 per page in landscape, the font has to be a certain size. I adjust my speed based on margins/font size. I don't really care if I increase speed, distance, elevation because this is just about making sure I'm moving. It is nice to see differences today though compared to several weeks ago. I also find I'm really productive reading papers and have zero distractions, and I'm definitely much more comfortable with the treadmill. However, I have accidentally touched the side of the belt with my foot when I got distracted and dealt with some belt issues another night and a faulty treadmill with sudden stops another. I stayed on and kept moving. I'll probably fling off tomorrow, but I really feel like I'm winning the game of figuring this out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Springtime exclamations

I love spring. Fall is a close(ish) second. I don't mind winter and prefer it to summer. But spring? Ah, spring.

The air warms, the breeze in the windchimes, the birds chirping. Okay, I admit in the early morning hours I do not always love the chirping birds. Still, they keep chirping and coax me out of bed. The light lingers in the evenings, and the sun begins greeting me a little earlier. Trees and flowers bud and bloom while it seems people come out of hiding. Strolling. People stroll. I have even witnessed a bit of frolicking. Farmers markets re-open and windows open. You can wear shorts, short-sleeves, pants, or long-sleeves. The grass greens; the trees fill out as leaves appear again. It seems puppies are being born, chicks hatching, lambs are being lambed. I exclaim when I see tulips have bloomed seemingly overnight, my favorite pear trees are full and beautiful for the very few days, and daffodils poke out of the ground. Everything seems to be jellybeans and rainbows. I LOVE IT.

And I have to remind myself that spring always means rose-colored glasses to me. EVERYTHING seems wonderful and amazing. I could probably get punched in the face daily and feel positively about it. It is really good that I have become more self-aware over the years and know how spring affects me so I do not get carried away in the delight of new life and wonder. Still, much of life lately seems to be exaggerated exclamation marks. So here I am trying to enjoy the beauty of what I have been given, while keeping a right and rational perspective. What a lovely and odd place to be.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On living for now

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the brevity of life. It is so quick, and here we are just absorbed in our schedules and to-dos. Or maybe that was just me? 

Folks I know with late-stage cancer. Babies who never get to cry and wriggle in their mamas arms. Vibrant lives interrupted or seemingly cut short. Poverty, genocide, betrayal, corruption. It is enough to perpetually make one's head slump in the weight of sadness. But we can't stay here or we'll die without living, and then what's really the point of it all anyway?

I have missed my mentor-friend this week. As I got my grades for my first quarter back, I thought how proud he would be of me. Really, he wouldn't have cared as much about the grades as he would have wanted to read my papers and then schedule a few lunches to go and talk about my ideas, research, and opinions. That's how he was. Our very first conversation started that way. He told me to pull up a seat, and when I thought he was going to shoot questions at me, he leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head in his easy way, and started asking me all about my thesis from grad school. My sociology thesis...sociology of the family...not physiology or even science at all. I do not even recall real "interview" questions but just him getting a feel for who I am, what I was/am passionate about, my personal and professional goals, and then piecing together how he could be involved in helping me get there and thrive while doing so. 

Thinking about death and what I would want others to think or remember, puts much into perspective. I shared my perfectionist tendencies a few weeks ago, and I think it's natural to want your home to be tidy, clutter- and mess-free when someone has to go through your things after you are gone. But I don't want people to think, "Gee, Andrea had it all together. Her place was always clean, and it looks like a lot has barely been touched. It looks like her placemats, fancy shoes, etc were never even used. Look at these dishes she must have been saving for a special occasion." 

No. I want people to think, "Now THAT was a life LIVED! She found people and places as treasures. Her stuff does not appear to be collectible condition; it looks used!" (Well, that might not be all I want them to think, but for this post, you get the idea.) I want them to empty my cabinet of dishes and wonder why there are not an even number of nice plates or crystal glasses. I want them to picture me sitting around the living room sipping tap water, knocking my Waterford off the table accidentally, and having to toss a a broken glass out.

Death and lament wait for no one. Life is for living, and we should celebrate each day for the gift that it is. Timely post. I have also been pondering through many situations, "God, may my day (or situation or fill-in-the-black) honor you." This is not a general thought but in specific situations, which has made me more present and much more in tune with how I can honor God. 

Today I could have rushed back to town after a work meeting just outside of Charlottesville, but I considered the goodness given to me right here, right now. It was a beautiful day. I thanked God for the sunroof I never really wanted, and the time and wonder He also graced me with. I slowed my pace to celebrate today in its glory. Then I headed to a park to sit, read for classes, and embrace more of the beauty. When the end of my life comes, I want others to think, "She really celebrated moments and each day. She had hope, wonder, and love for others. And I want to know Who gave her that."