Grief – Revisited

This has been a tough and emotional week due to the loss of a family member, one of my best friends mom passed away.  She was really like my mom as well. I no longer distinguish between blood and chosen families, they are one because they all have significance in my life. I have been numb for most of it, and still haven’t processed it all yet.  The crash hasn’t happened yet.

The funeral/viewing was yesterday. The family decided to have a private viewing where only a few were invited to come, and to spend alone time with Donna. It was more intimate than any viewing I had ever been to, and I think I finally understand the originally intent of a viewing. It’s not meant to be a mass of people going up to the deceased, and paying respects for a split second. It is one last time for closure, and to spend time with them privately that you might not have had a chance to do so. It gave me an entirely new perspective on funerals. I took my time with her. I spoke with her, and expressed my gratitude for her and her family accepting me as one of theirs. I also expressed my concerns, and to send her strength to her family that could use her fortitude. She was one of the bravest, most sassy, and stubborn women I have ever known. The service was informal, and kept as “light” as possible. With mingling until 1:30, and then there were eulogies given. It’s what she would have wanted. It was perfect. It was Donna. The room was filled with pictures, memories, and moments in time that were captured and shared by her husband John and other family members.

happiness in my life

She fought until she couldn’t anymore. She gave us all she could give, and went out on her terms. She was ready. It reminded me so much of my Nana and her last day.

I have felt my Nana’s presence strongly in the past couple of weeks. I still don’t know what she is trying to tell me, but I am ready to hear it. Maybe Donna will help, too.

The Universe/God/Narnia has a plan and a reason, and sometimes that reason sucks at the time. I started to write an entry about the fluidity of friendships, and it has morphed into this. There are a number of friendships in my life that have become distant for a myriad of reasons, and some have already started to be mended. Life happened, choices were made, and we were all in pain for different reasons.. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself first because you are not capable of taking care of others. Learning that lesson this year was quite painful and hard. The grieving process has brought us closer together again.

grief is

It still hurts. All of it. I am sure it will hurt more in the next couple of days when it really settles in. I have cried plenty. I started crying at 9:30 yesterday morning and continued periodically until we left the funeral home at 2. I even sent a text to one of my best friends saying, “it’s too early for me to be crying.” She said, “Love. and it’s never too early to start crying.” I am crying now as I write this.

lauren funeral

It was not that long ago when I rarely cried. And never in public, except for once.  It’s being vulnerable, real, and present. It’s about letting it all in, and then letting it all out. I held all my emotion in for so long because I didn’t think I was worth the opportunity to express my emotion in public. People bond via emotion, and I am realizing while writing this that Grief brings us together. If the silver lining is that this brings more amazing people into my life, and relationships to mend, I’ll accept those gifts.

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Day 10, Gym 9

Updated for full report now that I’m more awake.

This is going to be short, and I’ll expand more on it tomorrow.  It was time to try the gym that women in the Lehigh Valley area all seem to be flocking to, Sweat Like a Girl in Nazareth, PA.  I signed up for a free class, it was fight club.  The class was awesome.  I was sweating quite a bit by the time we were done, and it was so much fun.  Another full body workout, and I mean every part of my body was worked.  The instructor, Amy, was pretty consistent with showing us form, rotation, and placement on the bag.  She seemed to pick up on the fact that at one time the music was too loud, and turned it down.  This was by far my favorite class so far.  It was a combination of community since we broke up into groups, all body workouts, and pushing yourself to the limit.  If you enjoy a kick ass workout that is all-encompassing, but so fun and efficient this is your class.

The vibe of the gym I would describe as low-level coolness.  I’m not sure how else to describe it; it’s understated but humming with energy.  It is unclear how clean it is; to be clear, the gym didn’t have an odor to it or appear dirty, but rags to clean and wipe down the equipment seemed a little spread out.  Hence the I’m not sure.  It could be clean as an ER floor for all I actually know.

The gym itself is a basic gym, which is fine for me.  I don’t need fancy equipment, pool, sauna,  etc.  I would like, however, is a place to shower after I’m done.  Sweat Like a Girl doesn’t have that.  So, if you want a gym that you can take a killer class, sweat, then shower, and go to work afterwards, this gym won’t work for you.  If you want to take a class after work, have the opportunity to go home in between events, or just budget time into do so, this gym is great.  If you want a kick-ass workout where you get sweaty, and then can go straight to work afterwards.  As far as actual basic gym equipment availability, I’m not sure how much they have.  I saw some free weights, mats, etc.  It’s a fairly small gym, and they probably have equipment they move in and out for classes.  It seems to be a gym that is geared towards classes and community.  It definitely has a friendly feel to it, even for my first time being there.  The friendliest gym I’ve been to yet, and very similar to Cornerstone in New Hope.

I think the cost of the gym is a slightly pricey for what you get, but not exorbitantly so.  It’s $50 per month for unlimited workouts if you get a contract, or you can purchase class passes.  It is $65 for month to month.  I absolutely loved, loved the class and the feel of the gym itself.  There’s also childcare available, if that is a need of yours.

All in all, though, upon reflection, the lack of showers is a small caveat.  Sweat like a Girl has been my favorite so far, but I’d have to see what other equipment they have available for it to be an all-purpose gym.  The vibe is great, the people are friendly and nice, and it truly did feel like a community even though it was my first class.  Bring baby wipes with you and do kind of the college shower, because you will sweat.

Valentine’s Day Redefined-Not what you think

I am not really the romantic type.  I’ve had one or two serious relationships that Valentine’s Day would have meant anything anyway.  Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day will always mean something infinitely sad for me.  It was the day my Nana passed away, tomorrow it’ll be a year since she passed away.  She was 96 years old and was in damn good shape for 96.  She was sharp as a sharks tooth until she was about 92-93.

My 96-year old Nana receiving a mud mask last summer. Thank you Arbonne for giving me the time with her.

My 96-year old Nana receiving a mud mask last summer. Thank you Arbonne for giving me the time with her.

I haven’t felt this sad about it in a long time, which is to be expected I guess.  It is really the first family death that hit home hard.  When my Aunt Goldie died (at 96ish), it was sad, but as much as I loved her, I didn’t feel as much of a connection with her as I did her sister, my aunt Gert.  When my Aunt Gert died, I had actually said goodbye to her a few years before, after seeing her for the first time after her massive stroke which had left her as a virtual vegetable, I saiIt td goodbye.  Eventually I just couldn’t go to see her anymore, it was too painful.  Despite her being the virtual vegetable, there were signsher still there.  Which is even worse in my opinion.

I was trying to figure out why I was somewhat melancholy throughout the day today, after feeling on top of the world this month.   I have no been this upset about Nana’s death in a long time, but I guess that’s too be expected.  This might be the first time I let everything in the past year hit me.   It’s been the gauntlet.  My friend said, “you’ll cry when you least expect it.”  It was about three months for her.  It’s been about three months since EVERYTHING hit, and came at me like a cattle yard with a fan.  So, I guess that makes sense.

I still didn’t expect the affect of her death to affect me like this.  The start of everything that set my soul on fire to get my ass in gear.  But this shit fucking hurts.  I know it’ll dissipate with time.  It’s very different than anything I have felt in a very, very long time.  The pain is deep, visceral, and feels like a living, breathing being that I wish I could stab to death.  This is a free-thought entry.

I am very good at compartmentalizing when it comes to emotions, etc. However, I do much better when I expect it coming.

Day 3, Gym 3

So today was an actual gym, bright and early at 8 AM and it kicked my ass in the best kind of way.  It’s called Nxt Level Performance in Easton, PA on 323 Pine Street. Ollie Thomas just started renting the space, and had been previously working for a different gym before this.  A couple of my friends have been going to his workouts for a few months now, and I had heard much about this man through a friend of mine Peggy.  It was finally nice to meet the man who has really affected her life and body in such a positive way.

ollie's gym

Ollie Thomas at his gym Nxt Level Performance

I can see why they continued with him.  He kicked my ass with a circuit training, which I had never really done before, that included a bit of everything.  Including a lot of cardio and a lot of core ab work.  I think every exercise we did involved some kind of core muscle involvement.  Today proved that my cardio endurance is in serious need of improvement, to say the least.  Ollie pushed me beyond where I thought I could go, but it wasn’t your typical aggressive trainer behavior.  It was more like nudging and overall encouragement.  He made sure I was always doing the correct form, and that was one of his focuses for me today.  He knows I’m doing this 20 gyms in 20 days thing, and he wants to me get the motion right now.  This is why I can see him being quite successful in his new business because he actually cares.  The cost of the class?  A whole five dollars.  Yes, that’s right a 50 minute, almost 1:1 personal training session due to small class size was five dollars.  It was hard, pushed my limits, and activities were quite varied.  A full body workout with cardio achieved in 50 minutes or so is damn efficient.

I’ll have another soreness report tomorrow.  I am utilizing my Arbonne Phytosport line to help heal my muscles, hydrate, and thereby preventing or reducing soreness.  So far it has worked splendidly, along with stretching throughout the day and before bed.   I do think my abs might be sore tomorrow because it really was a hell of a workout for my core.

Day 2, Gym 2-Dancing

After my whole body workout yesterday, I was really thinking a quick 30-minute cardio workout today.  This is something my body is desperately lacking right is my cardio endurance.  So I scoped out the scene in Easton, PA and picked out Fitness Club at Easton, a gym I thought would meet the criteria for the day.

I got there, and said, “I’m moving into the area and checking out several gyms in the area.  I would like a guest pass, and a tour, if that’s possible.”  “We do not give guest passes because it’s only $10/month.”  I was like okay.  “It is a $29.95 enrollment fee.”  This where I thought it got slightly odd, and not in a good way.  I was thinking, “so, if I don’t like your gym, I’m essentially out $40?”  I got a quick tour, which is a very nice gym overall but not what I am looking for.  I left in search of a second gym.

As I have been thinking about this process, I thought I wanted to go as local as possible.  I’d prefer not to have chain gyms, etc.  I always like supporting local, why would gyms be any different?  However, after this and my determination to get to a damn gym, I stopped at Retro Fitness.  I couldn’t get a guest pass there either because I didn’t have photo ID.  I started to feel like, “I budgeted two days for possibly not doing this, and I hadn’t anticipated it being so soon in the 20 days.  Alas here it is.”

I had started writing this in my head before I figured out about the dancing equals cardio, and that this is a little different but not much.

I thought that this is the universe telling me something.  I left late from work because a customer needed help, and I waited, helped patiently, and waited some more.  I did not get out when I wanted to, was slightly peeved about it, and wanted to know why I let that happen.

I started this because my friend told me to.  As I am progressing in this journey, I am realizing several things this will teach me.  I will only touch on one here right now, and it’s probably one of the most important.  I have an issue with discipline, and I want it known that it takes time, patience, and maturity to deal with it.  This blog will help me be accountable, which will make me less inclined to miss a day.  I got out of work late, which caused me to scramble to get where I wanted to be.  The opposite of relaxed.  This is going to help me focus on managing my time better, and sticking with my schedule.

 

hydration

Arbonne’s Hydration, part of the Phytosport line, is like Gatorade but better.

Then I got determined.  I remembered I was going to see an awesome reggae band, and I made a vow to dance for at least 30 minutes.  I do not really like to dance in public.  I have gotten much better at doing it in public, and more confident, but it still that causes me a lot of apprehension.

I did it anyway with my friend Jess.  We danced, grooved, laughed, and smiled for about 40 minutes.  Was it like being on an elliptical?  Of course not.  Did it get the job done anyway, and infinitely more fun than an elliptical?  HELL YES.

I can’t wait guys, and I’m seriously getting more and more excited about this everyday.   Thanks for being part of the journey, too.

 

Day 1, Gym 1

Updated for full review.

This is going to be short due to it being late, but my first day of this was pretty cool.  I took a Barre Fitness which is kind of like a bootcamp featuring yoga, all sorts of body movement, and a bit of dance that was a whole body workout.  It was an unique experience because I’ve never done a class outside of paddling and yoga, and it was intense and yet not.  I really liked the instructor who was a good blend of sass, technique, and encouragement.  One of my classmates, who has been doing it for awhile, called her .  I’m curious to see how sore I am tomorrow.  It was at Cornerstone Health and Fitness in New Hope, PA.  And the whole vibe of the place was laid-back, but very informative and not salesy (is that a word?) at all.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to going back.

When I got an official tour of the place, membership services, etc.  The woman asked me if I was used to gyms because I didn’t have much trouble during the class.  Which I thought was both a compliment and an intriguing question, because I am not a gym person.  I have been a member infrequently, and not anytime recently.  It made me think that maybe Maria was onto something with this challenge and suggestion.  I will keep you guys posted.

Morning Soreness update:  Surprisingly not that sore.  Yay for Arbonne hydration, post workout shake, and stretching before bed.

 

Disappointment

The
moment
when
you Realize
They are
Not
the
person you
Thought
they were.

When
Reality
that you
Cannot
drop
Everything,
and
wait
while
they get their
Shit
together.

They
realize,
you have

Changed.

While
they
haven’t.

When
You
realize
that you
have to
factor

Yourself
and
others Relying
on
You
into the
Equation.

Since it
is no
Longer

Just about
the

Shit

You will
Put up
With.

It’s
how it
Affects

Ones
Mindset.

The
rigidity
of your
words,
attitude
still

Haunts
my
Mind

But soon,
it won’t
Matter.

they
won’t
Change,
and
Accept
it’s Not

about
their
Needs
all the
Time.

Unconventional Life

My life has not been “conventional.”  I did go to college, it took me awhile to graduate, and it took me a year to find part-time work in my field of interest, environmental science, which became environmental consulting.

I thought I’d spend my life doing it, it’d be my “career.”  That was the point, right?  To settle down, build a life, and stay with the company forever.  Well that little scenario didn’t happen, and I found that I had four employers in the span of 7 years.  I certainly wasn’t happy, and when the temporary position I had ended, I was actually relieved.

So, I went back to the retail job I had since high school, started dogsitting, and started working my Arbonne business.

set of four

I realized a few months ago that I am not meant to live a “conventional” life, and that is a valid life choice.  I have too many passions, outlets, and love for others to have it pigeon-holed into one category for the rest of my life.  I love photography and to write; I am in love with helping people and empowering them, and I am obsessed with teaching paddling to everyone I meet.

This is my path, my destiny, my journey, and I have chosen to live my life this way.  I have also taken responsibility for it, and that has changed everything in my life.  My mindset, my purpose, and my belief in myself have all come from this realization that my life choice is okay.  Better than okay, it is mine.  I own that decision.  It may be messy and chaotic, but I love every minute of it.  I love the flexibility I have in my life, and the time freedom to pursue all the things I am passionate about.

My life choice has led to me to the most amazing, empowering people I could have ever met.  I have the best friends and support system that I never would have fathomed being in my life. I have surrounded myself with people who respect me, and who empower me to be better.

Pinnacle Moments

This is my life.  I have chosen it, pursued it, tasted it, lost myself and it briefly on my way journey to this moment.  A series of life-defining moments have led to this Bold Act of Vulnerability that was unparalleled in my lifetime.  I sang karaoke it was the song, “Invisible” by Hunter Hayes.

Brene Brown wisdom

I had written about a series of shifts a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t enough for my psyche.  Which is rare for me.  Writing is usually enough of an outlet for me, along with nature.  However, a combination of lack of outside time, stress, and little sleep led me to this moment of badass bravery.

It was cathartic, it was bold, and it was terrifying.  I could feel my heart racing not at the beginning, but about halfway through because that is when I realized what I was doing.  I let out a lifetime of pain, anger, sadness, betrayal, and shame, and let it leave my soul.  Which is what I do with my writing, essentially.  Except this time, I let other people see and hear my emotion in my voice in a way that was as a friend of mine put it “the bravest thing you’ve ever done.”

My mind is blown by this revelation, and I suddenly understand the power of music.  I have always loved music, and know I understand why it touches my soul so much.  It’s the vulnerability of the words, the performance, emotion, and letting people see that aspect of you.  I did not care what others thought of me in that moment, and I went with it.  It was one of the most inspiring, magical, pinnacle moments in my lifetime.  Even better was my friends were there to experience it with me, and embrace me once I got off the stage.

 

 

Community and Vulnerability

I am loving life these days, and in every aspect.  I am brimming with gratitude, happiness, and determination, along with a sense of self that I have never had before.  Why?  Many reasons, but one of the biggest is the community I surround myself with.

Photograph taken by unknown paddler.  Features Looie Voorhees, Diane Z, Grace Jones, Ruth Krieger, and Alexis Krukovsky

Photograph taken by unknown paddler. Features Looie Voorhees, Diane Z, Grace Jones, Ruth Krieger, and Alexis Krukovsky

I have many different communities I am privileged to be apart of.  Some of the characteristics they all have in common are a huge sense of support, unity towards a common purpose, mentoring, and constructive feedback.  Everyone is a collection of experiences they have throughout their lifetime.  It is one’s job to sift through it, and find one’s place where you can feel at home and “safe” at.  Where you can be vulnerable without having to worry about what people are going to think.  I started small by venturing out where I feel safest, paddling.  Since the summer it has snowballed into other areas, and now I feel at peace with myself.  Free even.

I think one has to be vulnerable to be great, because you have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve greatness.  This involves opening yourself to others, something which has terrified me for most of my life.  We’ve been taught that vulnerable is a dirty word, and it means to be weak.  In my experience, it’s the combination of vulnerability and mental toughness that brings people to greatness.  I have experienced within the past month what I would consider a shift.  I am making myself more vulnerable, and trying to be more open with people in my communities.  And I think it’s one step of many in my path to a greater sense of self and purpose.