Friday, July 31, 2020

Saying Goodbye

Over the last couple weeks, I've gotten to say goodbye to my friends here in Florida. The local ones, at least.

I was hesitant to have a big "going away" party, partly because of Covid and partly because I hate being the center of attention. It worked out nicely, then, that the pandemic made large gatherings impossible. Instead, I was treated to two small, outdoor get-togethers that left me feeling loved and appreciated. I need to give myself more credit - it seems people actually like me and will miss me!

Not pictured: my gracious host.

First, Stacey hosted a small dinner for me at her place. We all sat outside on her patio and chatted for hours over sushi and wine. Jenn and Jess couldn't make it, but my other closest friends were there. It felt wonderful to just sit and talk with some of my favorite people!

I had told Stacey how uncomfortable I was with being the center of attention, so the gathering was very low-key and casual. It was perfect.

Then a week later, my principal asked me if I'd feel comfortable coming to an outdoor, socially-distanced luncheon with our team. Although the gift-opening was a little more intense, the atmosphere was super laid back and comfortable. I felt so lucky to be acknowledged in this way.

I had been thinking of getting a necklace very much like the one they gave me, so it was perfect. Also, I am stocked up with tons of gluten free snacks for the road now!
It's silly. You're probably thinking, You've worked there 11 years, of course people are going to say a proper goodbye! But the truth is, I have it in my head that I'm not going to be missed. I feel like...have I really made an impact on anyone here? Do they care about me the way I care about them? Do they think of me when I'm away, or is it "out of sight, out of mind"?

I'm going to miss my other Musketurtles!

I know these thoughts stem from my difficult childhood move to Florida; these low-pressure get-togethers, thrown in my honor and without my asking, have finally soothed the emotional wounds I've been unconsciously dealing with for all these years.

Flashback to my going away party in summer '99.
I feel properly spoiled and loved, now, and maybe I can admit I deserve to be celebrated.
Yes, that is a decorated and signed toilet seat...truly the most unique gift I've ever received!
I'm going to miss my work family so much, and I'm going to miss my friends. I'm so grateful for social media, and I hope in time this pandemic gets under control and I can have some visitors up in Seattle. This feels a little bit like a do-over, a chance to leave the right way. I'm excited for what comes next.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Finding Myself through The Great British Bake Off

In these times of staying indoors for the good of humanity, I know I'm not the only one who's found myself delving into parts of Netflix that never interested me before. After years of hearing how watch-worthy The Great British Bake Off is (mostly from my mom), I finally fell down the rabbit hole.
I've always enjoyed cooking shows, although I tend to gravitate away from competition-based shows because they stress me out. But, the GBBO has a completely different feeling about it. The challenges are pretty straightforward as far as expectations go - there are no surprise ingredients or last-minute twists in the instructions, like we see in American cooking shows. The bakers are competitive but respectful of each other; you can tell they want each other to succeed. Most of them seem to compete the way non-professional runners do: against themselves and their own limitations.
This show is so wholesome. The contestants offer each other help when they can.
While the judges are honest and blunt in their criticism, they aren't cruel or dramatic. They've also mastered the sandwich-theory of delivering feedback, couching negative or constructive comments between two genuine compliments. As someone who has always feared criticism, watching hours of its delivery and acceptance has started to change something in my brain.

This show has been a relaxing background to my continued isolation, but as I've been watching I realized there's actually something to be learned from the show outside of how to bake the perfect genoise.

Life Lessons I've Learned from The Great British Bake Off
  • Have confidence in what you know, and don't be ashamed of what you don't. Be open to learning.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments, even if they're not perfect. 
  • There's a lot to be said for personal taste - you can't please everyone.
  • Try new things; test the limits of your comfort zone.
  • Don't be afraid of criticism or take it personally; take it at face value and grow from it.
  • Having a bad day or delivering a bad product doesn't make you a bad or unlikeable person.
  • Don't be afraid to take risks; put yourself out there.
  • Have confidence in what you know, and don't be ashamed of what you don't. Be open to learning.
  • Don't hate your competition - forge friendships and learn from each other. You're in this together!
  • No matter how dire things look, never throw it all in the bin. Never give up. 
  • Don't hate your competition - forge friendships and learn from each other. You're in this together!
  • Being a master of one skill will only get you so far; branch out, learn new trades, and keep adding tools to your toolbox.
  • Mistakes happen. Pick your battles - sometimes you can let them go, and sometimes you need a redo.
  • Don't panic - improvise.
  • If you're going to do something, do it. Give it your all.
  • No matter how dire things look, never throw it all in the bin. Never give up.
                        We've all heard these pithy words of wisdom before; they're not revolutionary or anything. But here's what got me: it's rather like the writing advice "show, don't tell". I've now seen example after example of how people actually implement these life lessons to follow their dreams, and it's incredibly motivating!

                        I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately, because I'm facing some huge life changes right now, and lots of what I'm reading talks about being unafraid to be your authentic self. I haven't been afraid to be myself in ages (thank goodness we don't stay teenagers forever!), but I'm beginning to realize that I've spent so much time repeating a pattern in daily life that I've lost touch with who I really am. Who is my authentic self these days? Working long hours in an emotionally taxing career completely sapped any motivation for self-reflection.
                        With a big move on the horizon, now is the perfect time for reinvention.
                        People who've known me since childhood would describe me as creative...a writer, a dreamer. I feel a bit disconnected from that part of myself, even though it's how I still see myself. It seems silly, but as I've been watching GBBO and seeing these bakers follow a dream and put themselves out there, I've felt that part of myself wake up a little bit.

                        There's a tedious journey from realization to actualization, but I'm feeling a little more aware of my wants and dreams, and I'm excited about starting fresh. Outside expectations and messaging still cloud my head every day, but it's becoming a little easier to push past it and focus on what I want.

                        Now that I've seen how it's done, I just need to put it into practice.


                        Thursday, July 9, 2020

                        10 Years Later

                        The other night, after the lights were out but midnight thoughts were keeping me awake, I found myself reflecting on marriage.

                        When Matt and I got married, I knew about the "honeymoon stage", and that the love I had for him would evolve. I thought, having been together five years before we got married, maybe that wouldn't happen to us.
                        Matt and Ali dancing on our wedding day.
                        I was wrong. Things have changed; they've gotten better. Over the last decade, Matt and I have dealt with typical ups and downs, and we've truly learned how to communicate, how to support each other, and how to truly be partners. We were pretty young when we got married, by today's standards. When I look back on who we were when our marriage began, I can't believe we were ever those people. I am grateful that as we've changed, we've always grown in the same direction.

                        Whether it was taking up sports (neither of us were athletes when we got married) or getting more educated on and involved in politics, our values have always aligned. We are on the same side.

                        Above all, I didn't know, back then, to look forward to how comfortable things would become. Not in a "settling" kind of way; in a I-really-can-just-be-myself-and-you-might-laugh-but-I-know-you'll-support-me way. 

                        In a grateful-to-have-you-in-my-corner-and-never-doubt-it way.

                        In a home-actually-is-wherever-you-are way. 
                        10 years later, Matt and Ali dancing at a friend's wedding. They gaze lovingly into each other's eyes.
                        I feel wholly content every day I'm with him, and that feeling of total satisfaction is just...everything.

                        I'm looking forward to where our life together takes us next, and to a time when we can actually get out of the house to celebrate 10 years how we've always wanted to...maybe before year 11 comes around.


                        Wednesday, July 1, 2020

                        Chloe Ting 2 Week Challenge - Week 2 (Results)

                        I started week two feeling a little discouraged. Despite feeling stronger and generally in better health since starting, I guess I was secretly hoping to see some ab lines by Day 8. Instead I looked the same and my left wrist is killing me.
                        Screenshot of videos for days 8 and 9 of the challenge
                        Day 8: I had to adjust some of the planks so I could do them on my elbows to save my wrist, which was really hurting when I had to twist it or adjust balance (like during Corkscrews). Still, I got through all three videos today without stopping, sweat a ton, and felt wobbly afterward, so I know I still got a quality workout in.

                        Day 9: This was the last active rest day of the program, and I needed it! My wrist was glad for a break. Matt and I went for a short run that ended up not exactly being restful. The humidity was super high and there was no breeze. Of course, the minute we finished it started to rain.
                        Ali and Matt standing in a parking lot, smiling after a hard run
                        Day 10: My wrist felt marginally better but I was feeling pretty exhausted from the previous night's run. I almost flip-flopped this day with Day 11 to make it easier, but ended up finding the energy to get all four videos done. I changed some of the exercises to take it easy on my wrist. All those Army Planks, though!

                        Day 11: I was relieved to only have two videos today. We've had workers on the roof, which means my sleep has been badly interrupted and I've been waking up with headaches. These two videos felt easy to pound out after Day 10's four. Results-wise, I feel stronger and tighter everyday, but visually there's not much change.

                        Screenshot of workout videos for days 10 and 11
                        Day 12: This was the first day I didn't want to do the videos. I overslept and wanted to eat right away, so then I had to wait until I digested to workout. I did them around 4pm and felt...bored. The workouts were getting redundant. I turned on Dexter to watch while I worked out, and that helped a bit! 

                        Day 13: Watching TV really provided the perfect distraction for finishing this challenge, which I was beginning to find dull. I was still working up a major sweat during the workouts, but was not really feeling the same kind of muscular impact (read: soreness) I was during the first week. At this point, I was looking forward to being done so I could change things up.
                        Photo of text reading: "flat stomachs really need to stop being a thing people expect from others like...what the fuck do you mean I need a flat stomach when I have 7 meters of intestine in me"
                        This came across my Instagram feed this week and kind of reset my thinking, too. My hope in undertaking this challenge was to have fun and get motivated, not physical results. By Day 13, I was over it, and perspective is important. I will always come back to working out for mental and physical health, not looks.
                        Day 14: After taking my "after" pics, I just couldn't be bothered to do this workout. I was so burned out from this challenge! But today wasn't a failure, nor is it quitting. This routine has given me a sense of accomplishment, but I am ready to return to running as my primary workout.

                        It's funny to me that I can run the exact same route dozens of times in a row and not get sick of it, but 14 days of these videos - in various orders, all of which incorporate 19+ different exercises - just got boring for me! This is why running has always been my preferred workout and the only one I stick with longterm: it's the only thing that doesn't lose its edge.

                        As for physical results, I don't see much difference. I didn't lose any weight or notice a change in my muscle definition. When I flex really hard I can maybe see a few more lines in my abs. I intend to do the lower body workout once or twice a week to continue building strength for running.

                        Anyway, here are my before/after pics. I think the change is most noticeable in the side-view, both in my stomach and my thighs.
                        Face-forward side-by-side photos of Ali Flexing, showing minimal changes in her ab definition
                        Back-view of side-by-side photos of Ali
                        Side-view side-by-side photos of Ali
                        So, not bad for 14-days' worth of work, but like I expected all along - no miracles here. I will say I definitely feel stronger and my posture feels a bit taller these days. I'll incorporate some of these videos into my weekly routine, but at this point...I'm really ready to run again. It may not give me abs of steel, but it makes my heart and head happy, and that's worth more to me.