Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Madness, aka Spring Rabies

You know what I consider the most telltale sign that I am an inveterate athlete?  When I am not training regularly, I am constantly poised for when training starts again.  Like, rather than not training being a return to my routine, it is a departure from it.  Those days feel...off.

For better or worse, and with absolutely no judgement of those who consider this their category: I don't think I could ever find satisfaction as an exerciser.  I tried that after I graduated from college in 2004, with a recreational soccer team and weight-lifting classes at the gym, and five years later was a professional triathlete.  So.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." - MLK, Jr.

"The arc of exercise is long, but it bends toward serious athletic training." - KEB, Sr.

I feel like a bird perched on the edge of cliff overlooking a vast body of water that stretches to the horizon.  I know that I am supposed to be out there soaring, that's where I am designed to be, but for the time being I am here, waiting to be out there and remembering what it feels like to be out there.

No surprise that the title of my training log is "becoming...never being."

I actually started this post before the events that transpired into this post.  Yet, the feeling remains.  I might just have to find a new body of water over which to launch.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Finite Swim In An Infinity Pool

I should have saved the title from my post two Thursday's ago - The Cost Of Doing Business In This Body - for this post.  I did find several relevant ones, in addition to the one I ended up using, on the list of potential blog post titles that I maintain: Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Swimmers, Worry Never Robs Tomorrow Of Its Sorrow, Luxury vs. Necessity, or maybe Shooting Bullets At The Moon.  They would all encapsulate the story of this post, but the one up top is most descriptive of the basic gist.

When I first wrote this post last Wednesday - as I waited for my MRI results - the next paragraph was this:  My swimming career, such as it is, is over.  It turns out that the tendon of my left suprasinatus muscle had eight years of swimming in it, and I know that because those eight years are up.  The end shivved me in the kidney in the dead of night: I went from making an appointment to getting the MRI that did the deed (in the prison kitchen with the sharpened toothbrush) in less than 48 hours.  There's a hole and catching and if I don't stop swimming...that way lays madness, surgery, and six months of rehab.  And frankly, surgery isn't worth it.

I wrote that based on what my ortho thought would show up in the MRI and for the last four days I have edited and reedited this post to within an inch of losing all meaning as I received the actual results, discussed treatment options, and decided on a plan of action.

But the point is the same: I am facing and exploring the end of my ultimately finite swim in an infinity pool.  And I am finding the list of what I am willing to do about it is much smaller than what I am not.

Do you know how shocking it is to have that sentiment come out of my mouth....er, fingertips?

Explanation by way of anecdote: I once ran myself through shin splits to a shin bone stress fracture, ran a marathon on the fracture, took not enough time off, and then came back and ran myself into a stress fracture in the hip on that same side.  Only then did I stop training and when I did, it was to walk with cane for three months.

Considering stopping full-stop while still being able to take a stroke demonstrates unprecedented sanity on my part.

Why that sanity?  Because I have very little left to prove athletically (and very little that I could prove in swimming) and only more to lose by pushing.  Through my many overindulgence-related injuries I have always stopped before I needed a knife to rectify the situation.  Time, maybe, and compression, but never a knife.  I have heard repeatedly that once a joint is opened for inspection and alteration, it is never the same, and while I don't need surgery right now, I don't need swimming enough, for itself or as a physical outlet, to ruin my shoulder worse than it is right now.  I am not - or more aptly, no longer - desperate enough to do anything to get back to it.  My priorities rearranged themselves when I wasn't looking.  How dare they.

It's taken me decades to get here, but it feels sensible and honest now that I am here.  It might be only the second time ever that I am not making an injury related decision out of fear of some kind. The first was this.

Right now I have a cortisone shot scheduled for this afternoon and I'm half expecting to go in there and balk.  The two biggest reasons propelling me into that exam room are not being pain-free in life and no significant improvement with rest (not just from swimming, from everything short of dressing myself and driving).  The shot will also allow me to swim again in the short-term, but if the pain comes back, I'm done.  Cortisone isn't a daily multi-vitamin.

But what if I just quit now?  What if I try swimming again for a while to see if the issue works itself out before I get the shot?

Like I said, exploring the end of an ultimately finite swim in an infinity pool.

What would be next?  Sports that don't require putting my arms above my head.  Ironically all of those sports use joints that I already know are destroyed, but as I told my parents, those joints have had their rest and now it's their turn to rotate back into action.

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." 
- A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome Your New Overlord

My new shirt expects your obeisance - and your soul while you're at it.

#winteriscoming #butsauronisalreadyhere

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Cost Of Doing Business In This Body

{NOTE: I wrote this last Saturday.}

This morning something happened to me for only the third time in my life, all three instances of which have happened since moving to Bloomington: I was overtly misidentified as male.

The first time I was facing away from the waiter who inquired "and sir, what you like to order?"  The second time I was facing the employee who called me "sir," but wearing a winter hat.  Today I was not wearing a hat or sunglasses and facing the woman who inquired about my preferred pronoun usage - "he? she?" - and then before I answered, settled on "he."

I have several feelings about this new trend, but interestingly, none of them are anger or the like.  First and foremost is confusion, because despite my hair, I am so securely female.  In fact, think about it this way: I am so securely female that I cut my hair into a "man's" cut, knowing that if and when I want, no one could misidentify me as male.  So yes, today while wearing t-shirt and yoga pants at a coffee shop, I wasn't explicitly performing my gender (or sex for that matter, which although they match for me, are different things: biology versus internal self-concept) and propped the door open for potential misidentification.  But still confusion, like "how can you not see externally what I feel without question internally?"

Because this trend is new, my other emotion is surprise to the point that {brain sputters to a stop}.  I'm actually glad this happens because it means my reactions are completely without judgment.  It's all I can do to say...anything, let alone something with unintentional tone.  Usually I laugh and do what I can to minimize their embarrassment.  Today I politely corrected by just saying "she" with no inflection and went back to explaining electrophoresis to her son.  Which makes me wonder if she chose "he" because she already knew that I studied physics in college and now I was explaining the process to identify muscle fiber types.

Was she labeling my mind instead of my body?  Does there exist a discrepancy between my mind and my body?

The timing of these interactions is particularly ironic because this semester I am taking multicultural counseling.  Last week I myself presented on sexism and gender roles, and this week someone else presented on heterosexism (and so on and so on; we cover a different "-ism" each week).  We talk about:
  • socially created gender roles, and how that causes and is supported by external/institutional/macro-level categorization and enforcement of certain behaviors
    • i.e. a mom telling a daughter "honey, girls only play with dolls"
    • or a husband assuming it's the wife's job to make dinner
    • or companies interviewing only women for secretarial positions
    •  or the Catholic church refusing to marry any couple that isn't cisgender and heterosexual)
  • internal self-concept and identities for sex and gender, and the related internal perferences of gender role and expression (definitions: sex is biological; gender is internal self-concept of female or male, doesn't always match biological sex assigned at birth; gender role is (externally) specific sets of expectations of "how a boy/girl acts" and (internally) how I as a female think females act, internal and external can match, but don't have to; gender expression is behavior through which we communicate gender, essentially an external performance of internal self-concept of gender combined either external or internal gender role expectations, some people express external gender role expectations, which don't match their internal gender self-concept to protect themselves)
  • how sexual orientation is not reliant upon nor correlative to either sex or gender identity
  • the idea of "performing a gender": fulfilling either an internally identified gender or an externally prescribed expectation of one.
    • Specific example: my hair performs male (despite that not being my intention for it) because society has determined this haircut to be one that males have (or that only males should have).
    • More specific examples: If I really cared to fulfill society's expectations of expressing my *gender* I would have long hair, despite not internally identifying with long hair as a requirement for females.  If I really cared to fulfill society's expectations of my *gender role* I would be married with kids, no matter my internal definition of a women's role.
  • how gender is created anew in every single social interaction, through performing a gender.  A person who internally identifies as female will dress in socially-determined female clothes so every other individual with whom they interact will identify them as female.  That starts with parents performing their baby's gender for them, and then subconsciously teaching them to perform their gender as that child learns to dress itself.
  • how internal identity and external categorization don't always match and how that impacts or dictates a person's "performance" (because of item #1: social enforcement against not performing what society ascribes as your gender...is someone willing to be subject that enforcement?  am I (Kelzie) willing to be subject to people inquiring about my gender, which is a social enforcement, as the cost of having this haircut?)
  • what happens if the identities and/or the performances don't match
    • Exhibit A: the rampant murder of trans* individuals
    • Exhibit B: gender dysphoria ({sarcasm}Thank you ever so much, DSM-V for pathologizing it so that we can simultaneously deny people's symptoms are serious enough to warrant surgery and say people's symptoms are serious enough to medicate the shit out of it. {/sarcasm})
    • Exhibit C: this morning
I literally just gave a 90 min presentation on this, and then wrote a 10 page cultural autobiography, and then I got a live demonstration.  Yeah, ironic and relevant.

Still, I'm not mad - because she asked.  The overarching theme of multicultural competency is after we learn about all the "-ism"'s, how do we change our practice to respect and treat clients impacted by those "-ism"'s -- through the lens of our own cultural identity and awareness of our personal biases.   Yeah, it's not a small topic, but the take-away point is you have to ask, because assuming is bad, really bad.  

Why is assuming bad?  Because assuming based on the existing socially created binary system (black/white, male/female, straight/gay, Christian/non-Christian, upper class/lower class, abled/disabled) gets us the "-ism"'s.

So I'm not mad - because she asked instead of assuming.  It tells me that I should probably show off my cleavage more if I don't want to be misidentified as male on a lazy weekend morning, but: she asked.  (Note: One friend hyperbolically suggested that I "wear blinking construction lights on them so people take notice.")

In the larger context of why this started now?  One friend from class suggested it might because Bloomington is "far more south than it thinks it is," meaning this woman was actually purposefully enforcing "that's not how women are supposed to look."  I think it's because Bloomington is quite liberal and people here are forward thinking enough not to just assume.  People in Texas probably did assume, quietly.  Case point that I had totally forgotten until just now: The Texan thought I was a lesbian for the first three years we knew each other....because "your haircut is a lesbian one."

I'll probably field more of these types of comments and questions, and while doing so might be the enforcement for having short hair, I never want my response to be insulting.  People who ask don't deserve to be insulted - unless they are doing it to be insulting.  Then they're going to feel the enforcement of "people shouldn't be so close-minded and derogatory about gender expression".

And let's not downplay the benefits: think of all the extra bathrooms - without lines! - that I now have access to.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Did I Last Shower?

How do people who don't workout regularly remember to shower?

Scheduled swim practices force me to take a shower 6 days a week.

Ok, my personal hygiene standards require that I take a shower after I swim, which I do 6 days a week.

But during this two week long end-of-the-season break, I don't have that prompt.  I lifted last Thursday morning and didn't sweat very much.  I was going to just rinse my body, when I realized that I couldn't recall when I had last taken a complete shower.  I still can't; I think it was the previous Sunday, four days earlier.  I knew that I had rinsed on Tuesday after lifting and that I wash my face every AM and PM, but the last time I swam was that previous Sunday....This situation is very confusing.  I am confused.

Do I need to get one of those pill-a-day sorters for bathing?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

You Can't Go Home Again, But...

You can go back to college.

My first graduate class was a 6-week, like-drinking-from-a-fire-hose general exercise physiology class last summer.  Because that material forms the basis for every single discussion that comes after, I felt the need to be exposed to it again (and again and again...since that's how you learn something to a professional level).  My then-advisor was teaching the full-semester version in the fall so I sat in on the class.  I attended, took notes to ensure my attention, and then left the classroom and didn't worry about it until the next class meeting.  Because I was never lost or behind and I am very pro-learning, of course I enjoyed the experience.

I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it again.  But in a completely different subject.  That has nothing to do with either of my Masters degrees.  And thus began what I am calling my "enrichment class curriculum".  Or "bilking Indiana University out of $4k per semester."

This semester I am sitting in on M212, which translates to second-semester single variable calculus, because calculus is easily my favorite academic subject.  ("Hi, have we met? My name is Kelzie and I'm an unapologetic nerd.")  I took this class for academic credit my senior year of high school and then moved onto multi-variable calculus etc etc in college.

This class is like conducting an academic archeological dig in my mind.   Some topics the professor introduces and I'm like "uh, yeah, I never learned that" while other topics look familiar and come back as soon as the surrounding rock is scratched away, but the weirdest part is when I just see a problem laid out in front of me, knowing exactly how and what to do, despite not having done it for 15+ years.  It must be what it's like to crack open a boulder and find a fully intact skeleton right along the fault line. The skills are just...there.  The other skills will only eventually reveal a complete skeleton after being (re)excavated grain of sand by grain of sand with a paintbrush.

I'm already drawing up a plan of study for my "enrichment" degree.  Choosing potential classes is a delicate balance of large class sizes so I can easily hide in the back - many topically
fascinating courses are too small in which to hide - and knowing something about the topic, but not too much - so that I won't get behind when I don't do the homework, but won't get bored either.  Sadly, as much as an intro philosophy course interests me, I don't have time to do hours of reading just can I fully understand lectures in a class that I'm not officially taking.  There are limits to my nerdiness - even if I am only finding them now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 8: Stick Your Nose Into Everything

My degree program in the School of Public Health - Applied Sport Science - is a very small one.  I think there are 8 or 9 of us at various points of completion.  It is a program oblique to the much-larger Exercise Physiology: they run experiments, we apply the results to athletes.  Since the head of our program is a visiting professor and there are so few of us and the program requirements are being reworked, our little band of mis-fits has no cohesion.

I'm fine with this - mostly because I have glommed on socially and administratively to the ex phys program.  Case in point: the lab in which I sit is an ex phys lab; applied sport science students don't normally get desks.

The last remaining bastion of ex phys sanctity that I have not penetrated is the ex phys listserv, an email list comprised of ex phys grad students and faculty.  Articles, meeting reminders, etc etc circulate.  I'm not on it, but people routinely ask me why I wasn't at something (mostly thesis and dissertation proposals) and it's always because I didn't know it was happening.  Since I'm generally pro-learning, I would go if I could - and if I had known it was happening.

I am pretty sure I'm being left off not because the faculty want to willfully exclude me (as separate from an entire excluded program), but because attention to students' details is a little lacking.

Well, attention to those details might be higher in the near future.

Two Fridays ago, on my way back from class, I saw someone who rarely emerges from his monastic cell...I mean, office...leaning up against the wall outside a darkened conference room and watching something happening inside the room.  I sneaked a peek and pretty much every academic whom I know in the building was in this room.  Perhaps I should be in this room too?  So I scrunched down on the floor just inside the door and listened as someone finished presenting their dissertation proposal.

The Q&A gets going and one faculty member, who teaches my current seminar, keeps bringing up RPE (rating of perceived exertion; a numeric scale used to assess physical effort).  Two days before I had presented a paper (not mine!) in seminar, at this faculty member's assignment, on RPE.

At some point he was struggling to elucidate something, basically speaking in ellipses, and ended "I wish Kelzie was here.  Kelzie just presented on this...."

At which point I popped up from where I was sitting, where no one had seen me, and said "Well, I am here..." and supplied the gist of my presentation and then asked a few questions about the dissertation's granular resolution of data collection.

Someday I am going to get on that email list and when I do, I might get to meetings before they start and not have to sit in the corner.  

Until then, it is really fun to jump out of the corner and surprise everyone.
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