Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm always early to class. Arriving early is a habit of mine, one I have no real need or desire to break. Anticipating this, I grabbed a few of my books off the bookshelf to occupy the downtime. Side note: my stuff arrived from the states a few weeks ago and I've been so happy to have all of my books in one place, on shelves. There is a comfort to their presence. I grabbed a few and made my way to the metro to go to school.

One of the books I grabbed was my friend Tait's collection of poetry called "Shortcut to Infinity." I first read it years ago shortly after he handed it to me. It was the right book to take with me yesterday. A few poems in, I started to feel a calm I had forgotten about--that wonderful feeling that is strictly for the intake of art and expression, that warmth and knowing and lifting of the spirit that poetry has always given me. I haven't read poetry in a while, and I have missed that feeling, that internal movement and flare to flame that turns me inspired.

It wasn't just that feeling, but also a feeling of familiar. A home that I know stays with me, even after departure. His poems echoed Pittsburgh, and brought back memories and things I haven't thought about in quite some time. Wonderful things, both large and slight. Like the pinball machine in the Quiet Storm. Like the shows and late nights and long walks. In reading them, I remembered that young and wild, that persistent need to stay out stay up stay inspired, stay writing. We all were barely ever standing still in that city. Now, it is a different place and we are all a bit different too, but there is still a heartbeat in memory. A glory in remembering.

I left Pittsburgh after living there for 13 years. At that point, the city was a part of me and it was time. When I think back, what I miss the most(aside from friends of course) is how free the place let me be. I lived all of my 20s there, grew up in it, and it was a wonderful city to grow and be in. Artistically, I always felt supported and at the same time challenged. There were weeks where you could stumble into a poetry gig more nights than not. Pittsburgh played a phenomenal role in shaping me as an artist, in teaching me how to brave and to try things. I carry these things with me, I hold them close even thousands of miles from the source.

Living overseas, all this newness and shifting, has not been easy for me. The past few weeks have also rendered me physically and mentally tired--I think overdoing my training has a deeper source...all that time spent in the gym focusing on exertion. I have not been writing like I am used to. I have deprived myself of a balance and the balance is essential to who I am and how I feel. I never want to say I forgot about that feeling of being moved, of the flame flickering strong again, but I will say I have deprived myself of it. Maybe it's some strange part of me that insists on hard times being their absolute hardest--when I need what I need the most, I pull away. I go without. Maybe this is an old self-preservation habit, an outdated thing that does more harm than good. I'm almost certain I've written about this sort of habit before.

How simple and sweet it is to remember through a friend's poetry. To recall where I have been, to recognize where I am now. To see that I am hardest on myself, for whatever reason. It is not a complicated notion to feel inspired, to seek that out on the daily. But I have made it so. Have flung myself far enough from it to think it is no longer an option. Sometimes I feel like I treat myself as if I've disappeared. Reading poetry yesterday for the first time in gosh-knows-how-long sunk me back into my flesh. It felt very much like coming home, and home may be a hundred things and places and people, but the true most-fitting home is me. This has never felt so true.

I wrote Tait, and told him thank you. And now I write this, and I do so as a promise to myself. Stop running. Stop pulling away from what you need the most. Stop scrawling maps when you know the way. Feed the flame, and glow madly with the light.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

at ease.

My overtraining? Confirmed.

Friday night, I hit my proverbial bottom. I've been feeling pretty terrible for the past few weeks, each day a little more in the gutter. Each night sleeping less. During the day Friday I decided it was time to take a week off and rest(hence my last blog post). In the middle of the night, J woke up having a hard time breathing(I think he might have sucked air and/or saliva down the wrong pipe in his sleep). He got up immediately and tried to work through hyperventilating. This woke me up, and I jumped out of bed quickly to see if he was okay. Within seconds of standing, I felt incredibly dizzy and nauseous, which drove me out of the room and to the bathroom. I passed out as soon as I entered it, falling against the sink and counter. I registered the noise when it happened, even though I don't remember "seeing" it(the evidence of falling was also visible in the disarray of objects on the counter afterward). I opened my eyes to find myself on the floor with my head against the cabinet. I roused myself to a sitting position and immediately got sick. I broke out into a phenomenal sweat at this point--fat drops of it dripping off my nose and chin. I left a puddle of it in the shape of my legs when I finally got up. J was getting his breathing back to normal while checking on me, and I was a mess. Shivering, sweating, crying. I was sick again thirty minutes later and slept fitfully on the pull out couch bed for the rest of the night.

In the morning, we called the doctor. I also discovered a decent gash on my chin from when I fainted. They could see us that afternoon, which was a relief.

So. Saturday afternoon I had a plethora of tests done. EKG, nerve tests, urine dip, pregnancy test, blood pressure taken sitting/standing/laying down, and 7 vials of blood were drawn for a battery of tests including blood sugar and inflammatories. He checked my pancreas, kidneys, liver, and appendix. I was also given a referral to the eye doctor--the floaters I've been experiencing in my vision could have indicated retinal detachment(I went to the eye doctor and my eyes, thankfully, checked out fine). My heart rate was good at 50bpm, blood pressure very low(but it always has been), negative pregnancy test, my blood sugar is fine so no diabetes. I received the rest of my blood test results this morning and everything looks normal. Very, very good news to receive.

I haven't worked out since Friday, and I've been feeling a lot better. More like myself. I'm not incredibly fatigued anymore, and I'm sleeping better. I'm not in as much pain, but I still have floaters in my vision which is more annoying than anything. My doctor agrees that I am very overtrained and need to rest.

I'm feeling a little embarrassed and, quite frankly, bewildered. I should know better. I've read so much about training methods and the dangers of overtraining, but my thoughts remained along the lines of "that will never happen to me." Despite tracking all of my workouts, I lost track. It is not enough to simply write it down and do the work. It's important to take the time and care to review your program and note progression...but this review should also include basic common sense and fairness to one's own body. My training grew to a volume that my nutrition had no chance to keep up with. After this week of rest, I will be returning slowly to training. I'm already getting antsy and feeling ready to get back to lifting/pushing/pulling heavy things, but that antsy feeling is exactly why I need to take a moment to cool my jets. Rushing my recuperation will gain me nothing.

If you are physically active, in any capacity, please bear in mind that rest is an important part of your regimen. Muscle growth doesn't happen in the gym--growth occurs during rest, after the trauma of training. If you do not listen, your body will raise its voice until it is heard. My intentions were always rooted in good, but I pushed too hard for too long and tipped over. Lesson learned.

Friday, November 20, 2015

of the too much variety

I haven't been feeling well lately. A handful of symptoms to grimace and yawn through, a few worrisome enough to engage in the fine art of denial. My migraines bring with them a general malaise, and since I've had a few more than usual over the past few weeks, I figured my exhaustion was part of the usual game. But then the headaches cleared and the fatigue did not. I would go to bed tired and lay awake for hours with a mind determined to think all of the thoughts in rapid succession. In the morning I was waking up acutely aware of every joint in my body, some hollering more loud than others. Shuffle to my coffee, stretch on the couch, and reluctantly get up and head back to the gym with my notebook of sets and reps written out.

This morning I grabbed denial by the shoulders and did some shaking, then some googling and reading, then some confirming. Here I was wanting to think that overtraining was a mythical state, something too major league for my minor activity. But after looking at all of the symptoms and my documented workout days, it's quite clear that I've tipped my balance and fallen right into the overtrained category. Chronic joint and muscle soreness, check. Insomnia, check. Spots in my vision? Check(this one has been really bugging me lately). Weight loss and appetite loss, check check. Irritability, check. Doing too much? Yes. For nearly two months now I've been dedicated to spending 6 days a week lifting. I document my workouts time-wise for each day, and I've clocked over an hour for each workout for the past two weeks. Yikes. The regimen started out innocently enough, but with time I've added reps, sets, weights, and variations. Added, and not really taken away.

Today I decided to take at least a week off from lifting. During my rest, I plan on figuring out a way to better balance my diet--keep it protein heavy but be generous with carbs since I need those bad boys for energy. I will also be redesigning my training program, because my current load is absolutely not sustainable. My body hurts in ways I am not used to. My mood sucks. And progress-wise, I'm starting to regress. There is such a fine line between training and overtraining--the instinct is to lift more, lift heavier. But if you don't manage the load and allow proper recovery, your muscles never fully repair themselves. All that progression ends up in the dirt, and you end up losing muscle(and even bone density).

I called my dad today to talk to him about it. "You get that from me," he said, before listing his own arsenal of workouts from the previous week. Five spin classes, a long bike ride, and three sessions in the gym. And he's 65. So yes, I guess it's in our nature to overdo it. I expressed my frustration to him--I love working out, sweating, getting stronger. But I hate that I let my love for it push me to this current state. I see it in my eyes, I feel it in my joints, I hear it in my voice when, for the umpteenth time in a row, I don't have the energy to even go out to dinner.

My solution comes in two parts: rest and diet. I'm going to take a break from the gym. I'm going to take a look at my diet and I'm hoping that I'm dealing with this overtraining business in a timely manner--approximately four of my symptoms fall in line with having high levels of cortisol(the body's long term stress hormone). High levels can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can require a longer recovery time.

I'm writing this out(and sharing it) because I don't want to do it again. I'm writing this out because I am currently in school to become a personal trainer, and it's my responsibility to promote healthy habits within myself so I can extend that to my clients. I suppose it's good, in a way, to experience the effects of this so I understand the consequences. Despite overtraining, I'm proud of the hard work I've done this year, in and out of the classroom. I'm motivated to continue and grow stronger. Growing stronger simply requires being smarter about how I get there.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

There is this thing that happens when you are unsettled for learn to keep the ends of yourself that like to take root tucked in. You learn to be untethered. You pack your bags better. You learn the beautiful art of arriving, being, then leaving. You figure it out, even if you aren't planning to. We, us human beings, are quite adaptable. We will even adapt to impermanence. Which is why staying put was beginning to feel like the most bizarre thing to do.

I am here, and I no longer feel like a tourist. I'm enrolled in a school. I have an address, a flat to come home to(a flat to reference with the very word home). I have to-do lists and places to be at certain times--the making of a schedule, which I could not successfully find for myself in Cairo. I can walk home from class, at night, and not be bothered once. The cafe next to my school knows my face(and my order: pb and banana with a lemon-mint).

We had the last of our curtains installed today. I had to slip Egyptian one pound coins into the bottom hem to keep them from billowing out so much with the flow of air conditioning. The winter months are quickly approaching, which brings sweet relief after that relentless Dubai summer heat. Day temperatures in the 90s, nights in the 70s. The wind today was extra strong, pushing limbs out of the way to expose more of the nearby skyline.

The wind also mocked my budding green thumb by whisking away a plant of mine to the parking garage below.

For me it is the little things. Riding the metro with a perfect accompanying song in my headphones. Constantly falling for the afternoon light. Buying fresh strawberry juice. The beautiful, fluid nature of the rear delt crossover. Sand sneaking in between my foot and sandal as I walk home from the train. The mime I share nods with outside of my school. Stumbling on odd little charms.

Much of my days are filled with purposeful movement. I move until sweat pours. I have discovered a new poetry of the body. Muscles moving in melody. I've been weightlifting for just over seven months now, and my body has changed, bringing with it a shift in mind too. When I get stuck in my head, I go to my breath. When I get stuck in my head, I go to the gym. When I get stuck in my head, sometimes I stay there until I'm too tired to stick around. Some things never change. Most things do.

I can't help but marvel at how unaware some people are. The daily things. I get whisked away by the grind too, but lately I'm moving to dodge more and more people who are too busy looking down at their phones to notice that they are about to walk straight into a person. Bodies so consumed with getting onto the train that they barely leave room for people to get off it. Walking around in the Middle East in general feels a bit like a game of chicken. None of these things are surprising. I walk around listening to comedy podcasts, trying not to bust out laughing.

To celebrate a brief break in studying, I'm digging into a writing project that I've been kicking around for a while. For years, easily. For November I'm hoping to unravel some more creativity here--my shipment from the states should be arriving this weekend or next week, which means access to all of the writing I've kept--bar napkin scrawls, third drafts, class assignments, brainstorms galore--a nice file box of importance I put together in 2014 as I prepared to leave Pittsburgh.

More soon. I'm off to find some dinner.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

cerebellum buzz, like bee

all the paper butterflies

Lately I've been silent on here for two reasons:

1: I am busy. Be it adjusting to medicine, a new country, to being in school again, new routines. In the brain and outside of the brain, the days go fast and the plate is full.

and reason #2: I keep waiting for the "right" time to update. I've been defining "right" as in: absurdly overjoyed, inspired, structurally thoughtful(as opposed to usual order of chaos), and bursting with stories and pictures.

Here's the thing: today I've been in a shitty mood. I don't feel well. I'm stressed out. My brain feels like a ripped open cushion. My body hurts and, in full disclosure, I devoured far too much hummus in one sitting for dinner.

So yes, now is in fact the perfect time to post something here, because life we know is not a blog. She is oblong and messy with good days and boring days and in betweens and out of sorts.

I go to school three nights a week, three hours a night--all lecture. Outside of that, I have hours of shadowing trainers and taking other(physical activity) classes to accumulate. I'm also doing a four day training split in the gym myself. When I come home from class, my brain is complete mush. The oatmeal made with too much water and left in the microwave variety. The first bit of the course is all anatomy and biomechanics, which is fascinating to learn about but also pretty tough. Lately I've been making flashcards for myself so I can remember the names of all the muscles. A quadricep is not a quadricep--it's four muscles, each with their own name. Our first exam is in 19 days.

learnin' levers

Since the beginning of my new career commitment, I've been holding fast to positive, determined thoughts. I tell myself you got this multiple times when I am feeling overwhelmed by the information in front of me. I visualize what this will mean a year from now. I think about what my philosophy as a personal trainer will be to set me apart from the rest. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, and falling behind isn't an option. I'm working hard. Every night I have my school binders, anatomy charts and notebooks spread out on the couch and coffee table. I know that if I really want this, then I have to work hard from the word go. Despite a massive amount of stress, I'm feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I got this.

Meanwhile, I'm adjusting to a new dosage of my medication, which means two weeks of a fuzzy-edged existence whether I want it or not. I've been trying to identify symptoms before they get too wild--this adjustment period means I'm more tired, headache-y, and achy in general. I think I'm just about through the thick of it.

apartment hunting

J and I have been searching for a flat, and we signed on one today. I think we will be relocating in a week. We've been in a residential hotel, which is fine for the purpose it serves. We have our essentials and can get to where we need to be via the metro or a taxi. But I think we are past the point of daydreaming about ruling our own space again, with our own things, etc. It's hard to feel settled in temporary housing. Real estate is a funny thing here in Dubai--places go fast. A lot of units are very similar to each other, so it's important to look for the little things that make them unique. The things we wanted in a place weren't too crazy, we knew what specific areas to look in, and we have a fantastic agent who knew exactly what to show us. We thought we had found THE place last week, but had to rescind our offer due to shady landlord things. I think we were lucky to have it not work out, in a way--it set us up to be ready to go for the place we did end up finding and signing for. Meanwhile, the bulk of our possessions are at port in Egypt, and the rest of mine are in the soon as we have residency established, these two shipments will get the go ahead. In a few months time, we should have all our things in one place. International moves are no joke.

I'm carving out little routines for myself. J and I found a hotel bar with cheap-enough drinks and giant screens for viewing futbol and rugby. I take the metro to and from class, headphones in both ways. It's quite nice to take public transportation regularly again. I'm no longer getting lost when I venture to the mall(I was getting lost on a daily basis at first). There's still a whole lot of exploring to be done. The weather is cooling down here slowly(highs of 100 degrees instead of 108, that's Dubai's version of "cool down"), and I miss autumn's brilliant show back home--changing of leaves, the emergence of scarves, days of nothing but rain and grey. When you're used to it, and it goes away, there is a missing that occurs. Will I miss winter? Probably not. Fall always had a romance to it, I think.

All this, and writing too. My pen is starting to move again, after much agonizing over its stillness.

More soon. Time to study.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

such great heights

photo by JG

Last Thursday we went to the 125th floor of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

I loved watching other people as they looked to the city sprawled out below them. The selfies and poses, open mouths and huddle of bodies.

I put my hands on the glass lightly(a surface cool to the touch) and tried to see beyond what I could see. Past the haze. Past smudged sun setting that turned the sky into a layered rainbow. Blood on the bottom and violet near the stars. You know the one.

We had just missed the magic hour of light, but still managed to snap a few of the sun if we leaned just enough to the right.

As time passed and the viewing crowd thinned out, I was able to find a view in the corner, alone. I needed a moment. I kept thinking I am here I am here I am really truly here. The world below looked toy-like as the sun kept slipping and darkness replaced her. Lights along the roadways lit up and turned the entire thing secretive. I did not expect to feel the way I felt. Content, unlost.

Here's to new adventures and inspiring perspectives.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I had a bit of the new city blues today. This can happen with newness. I walked around a lot in the early afternoon, letting the hum blend into my edges, became a part of it. Realized I am a part of it, even if everything feels separate. I craved a little normalcy so I did a load of laundry. The drying rack barely fits on our meager balcony, but cleanliness is draped all over her now, cockeyed but steady. I write and stutter through email. I buy comfy track pants at the Carrefour for 12 Durhams. They were buried in a pile of other track pants and tshirts that a row of shoppers were rummaging through. A worker was nearby, slowly folding each article in the chaos. Act of sisyphus. I stuck around and folded a couple myself.

Bulgar and almonds and silence for lunch. I have songs stuck in my head that I don't know all the words to.