On December 31 last year, I woke up in Bangkok and went to bed in Singapore.
In the morning, I went for a run in a Bangkok park, where, like everyone else, I stopped and stood in solemnity when the national anthem blasted over the loudspeakers at 8 am, as it does every day. I ran back to my hotel through empty holiday streets, past temples, feeling lucky, free and joyful.
I landed in Singapore just as night was descending, ate a simple street meal and wandered with extremely well behaved crowds down to Marina Bay. Realizing I didn’t want to hang around in a squished crowd (unbelievable to think of, now) for three hours until the fireworks, I wandered back toward my hotel. I had a gin and tonic at the UR-colonial hotel Raffles, and then went to my room at 10 and did Adriene’s “transition” yoga series.
Just before midnight, I went up to the roof of my hotel. The lovely concierge had urged me to join the rooftop party, despite not having paid for it. Someone handed me a glass of bubbly and I watched the most spectacular fireworks in the world, complete with drones forming a countdown clock. I danced two dances and went to bed. Content, tired, optimistic, grateful.
In the morning, I took the yoga mat that came with every room in the boutique hotel out of its cunning little drawer under the bed and went back up to the now pristine rooftop and did a full Yoga Mala, 108 sun salutations. Every one focused, attentive, present. Infusing 2020, the new year, with intention, gratitude, presence.
My last two workouts of 2020 were, like most of 2020, completely virtual. Workout #449 for the year was a long-planned feat of riding 105 km in Zwift, the epic 25 laps of the volcano. It took me three hours and three changes of shirt. Workout #450 — my goal number — was Alex’s virtual superhero workout, the movement community that has kept me sane this year.
As we started our workout, Alex asked us to reflect on the year. “What are you proud of?” she asked. “Maybe it was accomplishing something new like a handstand, or maybe it was showing up when it was hard. I’m proud of choosing fitness that actually resonates with my body, not exhausting myself trying to do something that doesn’t.”
I reflected on that as I moved my zwift-sore body into the mobilizing lunges we started with. I thought about those 450 workouts, each one a bead on a long steady prayer to stay strong and resilient and centred through this wildly unpredictable year. Runs in Singapore and gym workouts giving way to virtual strength classes, filling my living room with weights and bands and mats. Achieving crow pose for the first time, handstand pushups. Yoga with Adriene and Chi Junky online, and out of my own head. Distanced walks, alone and with local friends, spotting luminescent hearts and community art all around my neighbourhood. A summer spent more outside, gratefully, runs and longer bike rides and spinning in an alley. Two weeks sojourn on Salt Spring Island on my little folding bike and on my feet, rolling over and climbing hills. Then back inside, grateful for my prescience in ordering my bowflex spin bike on Labour Day, more Alex, more Adriene, more alone time.
Those movement beads on my internal prayer were all about resilience. When I move my body, I find joy and strength. When I zoom into Alex’s classes, I situate myself in community. When I push myself to head outside into the wind or anxious streets, I’m reminding myself to breathe deeply, find embodied pleasure. Moving every day has been a somatic practice of being, being with what is, whether it’s hard, unexpected, joyful, difficult, easeful, delightful, accomplished, devastating.
By moving my body every day, I navigated 2020 with some grace, a sense of adaptation, a sense of the absurd that served me well. I couldn’t have predicted any of this when I infused the year with those 108 sun salutations — but that movement, that practice, set me up to absorb whatever came.
What are you proud of about this year? What are you writing for 2021?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who will be seeing in 2021 at a cottage near Algonquin Park.
Regular readers, family, and friends know that all bikes make me smile.
I love my road bike. I love bike commuting. I love bike holidays. I used to love riding on the track at the velodrome. Whee!
Basically riding a bike puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like a kid again. For Tracy, it’s swimming. For me it’s riding a bike.
But not all of my bikes get me smiles from other people. People yell at me on my road bike. See here and here. I’m never sure what it’s about really, the hatred of cyclists–is it the clothing?–but I only hear about it on my road bike.
So I’m smiling on my road bike but aside from other cyclists, I don’t get that many smiles back.
Other bikes of mine though do merit smiles from pretty much everyone and gather lots of attention from people out and about. I’ve written before that my Brompton is not an introvert’s ideal bike. It’s cute. It’s pink. I even bought a pink sparkly helmet to go with it.
And I think I look approachable riding it, wearing regular everyday clothes, not going too fast.
The fat bike is the same.
So many smiles.
I think it’s partly that fat bikes are so unusual looking. It’s partly that I’m smiling in the snow.
People love to stop and ask questions about the bikes. If you have questions, by the way, feel free to ask in the comments below.
The bikes themselves are playful. They’re very easy to ride. They aren’t technical like mountain bikes can be. The fat tires will roll over almost anything. Yes, you can end up in deep snow off the packed trail but at the end of day, it’s snow you’re falling in.
In the woods I love how quiet they are. I had imagined they might be loud, crashing through the forest. But they’re not. You can ride and hear the sounds of the woods, the birds, and forest animals.
My partner and I bought ourselves two things for Christmas this year: a hoover (vacuum) robot and a running/bike trailer to take the little human on sporty adventures with us. So on Boxing Day, we ventured out for our first run as three, which was also my first run since I was 28 weeks pregnant. It was So! Much! Fun!, even though I’m very much out of shape. No regrets on spending our hard earned euros on this new plaything! The small human enjoyed it too, or at least he didn’t complain and even fell asleep.
Hooray for getting my identity as a runner back, and for making the little one part of it!
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, or some Christmas-like event, or at least for those of us who end up on a different schedule between December 24 & January 1, we are currently at the time of year when the days all run together.
Routines are off kilter – meals happen at weird times, we’re eating a lot of different foods, and our sleep patterns have gone out the window.
This is when we lose all sense of time and end up in a holi-daze.
An especially dangerous thing for those of us on Team ADHD who have a tenuous grasp on the concept in the first place.
In this odd year, that out-of-phase feeling has been recurring for most of us. The things that give shape to our year have been changed and time has been expanding and contracting around tasks/plans/activities as they mostly moved online.
I think, though, that having that out-of-phase feeling recur so often this year has made me realize (Re-realize? Possibly!) how important schedules are for my mental health.
In previous years, this week would find me with all kinds of lofty ideas about just letting the days progress in any old way, seeing what might appeal to me to do at any given time.
I have encountered some fun days that way in the past but mostly, I end up feeling a bit scattered and let down by the end of the day.
Because, as much as the idea of spending a day drifting from task to task might have appeal, in reality, I know that I won’t drift pleasantly from task to task.
Instead, I’ll spend the whole day feeling vaguely dissatisfied and with a looming sense that I should be doing something else.
So, I create a plan for my week and then a shape for each day so my atemporal brain won’t leave me in the in-between with a feeling of frustrated sadness.
Making a loose plan for my week and then giving each day a shape makes me choose how I am going to spend my time. It helps me notice if I am trying to cram too many different things into the time that I have. And creating that shape lets me do important preparatory things like saving enough time to actually make the meals I plan to eat or to drive to the places I want to be.
And, yes, giving my days a shape does include a (fairly flexible) schedule and some rough time limits for my chosen activities.
I know to some this will sound like ‘Christine doesn’t know how to relax.’ but this approach is actually the key to my relaxation.
For starters, these plans and shapes do not necessarily involve work. My plan for the week includes holiday activities, some special meals, and hanging out with people on Zoom. My shape for a given day might be to read a book for an hour after breakfast, to do some drawing for 45 minutes before lunch, and then to take a long walk at 3pm.
And having that plan, that schedule, is actually restful. It means that time won’t gallop away from me.
It means that I won’t spend the whole week figuring out when to do which activity. And I won’t spend each day continuously trying to decide if now is the ‘right’ time to read, to draw, or to head out for a walk.
And, having that plan, that shape, lets me make stress-free decisions when someone asks me if I want to do something else. If my plan is to go for a walk at 3, and someone asks me to watch a movie at 2, knowing the shape of my day means that I can more easily decide whether to change the time of my walk or to say no to the movie.*
If I know that I have enough time for the things that I really want to do, that I won’t run out of time, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at any given time, my brain will stop looping around ‘Now? How about now?’ and give me some ease.
And if that’s not a recipe for a holiday, I don’t know what is.
*Perhaps, to the Neurotypical, this may look like overthinking, or as if I am making a big deal out of something simple, but for my ADHD brain, a holiday schedule is a relief. And, I thought that anyone who finds themselves in a holi-daze might borrow some of these ideas for themselves.
Tracy and I founded the blog in 2012. Lots has changed since then. Tracy stepped away from day to day involvement in 2019 but she’s still posting from time to time. We’re now a thriving community of bloggers, with core team members, regulars, and guests, and frequent commentators. We posted a new blog description here.
Welcome to our happy place where feminism and fitness come to play.
I’m done using the term “binge watch.” I didn’t “binge” on the new-to-me Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast I found a few weeks ago. I’m not “binging” on The Queen’s Gambit right now.
I know many of us aren’t proud when we spend hours consuming content, but it truly isn’t the same thing. We may be numbing out, which can be analogous, but binging is so much more than an act of self-sabotage and shame.
We would never say, “I refused to watch that whole series; I was totally anorexic about it!” Ok, so in part we wouldn’t say it because it sounds weird, but more than that, we recognize that it is insensitive. It makes light of a serious medical condition. Binge eating can be serious, too. And for the person who struggles with binging regularly, it is deeply painful.
My guess is that we are ok making light of binging because most of us unconsciously hold the belief that it’s ultimately an act in the binge eater’s control and shows their personal weakness rather than something larger. Most people who habitually overeat believe that they are fully responsible for this behavior. They have bought into the diet culture belief that overeating is a sign of personal weakness, not a product of their environment, personal food history, food availability and so much more. Even if they are aware of the research pointing to these influences, people often believe that they can override them with strong enough willpower and discipline.
Binge eating, though, is a symptom of dieting culture and fatism. People who chronically restrict their food, either in quantity or in type, are high risk for binge eating episodes. Research suggests that even the thought of restriction, “I really shouldn’t eat cupcakes anymore,” can lead to binging episodes later. In addition, binge eating is actually encouraged by food producers, and for a fairly large percentage of the population, we are susceptible to the cues–flavor, texture, visuals, etc.–to keep eating that bag of chips or stack of cookies until they are all gone. However, most habitual overeaters, and most folks who are aware of them, will still put the responsibility squarely onto the laps of the eater, not diet culture and food manufacturers.
I don’t want to contribute to these assumptions anymore. I’m not willing to make light of binge eating or to perpetuate the lie that chronic overeating is only about personal will and discipline. No, when I sit down to re-watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in series next weekend, I won’t be binge watching them. I’m just going to be enjoying my movies.
Can you help out, dear reader? What phrase can we use instead of “binge watch?”
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle science and health teacher. She can be found serially watching nostalgic, nerdy movies, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .
When 2020 began I was focused on knee replacement surgery and on my son Miles going off to Australia for study abroad in the middle of a year of very serious bush fires. He ended up coming home early not because of the fires and smoke but because of the covid-19 pandemic. Luckily the N95 masks we sent him with turned out to be useful for something.
I haven’t heard about my knee replacement. I’m assuming it’s delayed. The hospital where it was scheduled to take place keeps experiencing covid-19 outbreaks and cancelling all non-essential surgery.
The really big drama of my year was the story of being dean at a university as we closed down residences and moved out classes online. I blog about #DeanLife over here.
Next up, in personal drama, was the year of the empty nest. Frankly I didn’t expect to mind when children moved out. I thought I’d enjoy having them over to dinner on the weekend and still having family vacations together. I didn’t expect to be empty nesting for the first time during the pandemic with public health advice guiding our actions. Mostly I haven’t seen much of the kids, except outdoors, and now it’s winter, and the whole thing is tough.
I don’t whine about it much, that’s not my way, but it’s also been hard watching other people not be so careful and welcome their university age kids home as if being family makes it all okay. It doesn’t. The household is the people you live with, not the people you love, or the people you’re related to. Anyway, it’s been the hardest part of the year and it’s made me sad even if the completely empty nest ended this month when the youngest moved home.
It’s been the year of missing people but also missing holidays, missing bike trips, missing charity bike rides, and lots of missing seeing our friends.
The only part of the summer that seemed normal was when things opened up a bit in Ontario and Sarah and I got out for a big canoe adventure. We also did one shorter trip with more time for reading and basking on rocks with my daughter Mallory.
Now it’s the end of December and I’m trying to relax a little at the same as I also chase writing deadlines and finish up grading. I’m on holiday from Dean-ing but not from the other parts of my job as an academic.
What else to tell you in a year wrap up?
I’m exercising lots–just hit 401 workouts in 2020. But really it hasn’t been for reasons of physical well-being, though my knee does feel lots better when I move more. Moving energetically helps me feel better emotionally and more able to cope. And often it’s the only thing I can do. I’m too easily distracted to watch much or read as much as I’d like.
I’ve ridden my bike more than 5000 km.
Thanks Strava for the lovely data.
But the real rock star of the pandemic isn’t Strava. It’s been Zwift. As regular readers know I’ve been racing lots. I joined a Zwift bike team, TFC. That’s been a blast. It’s been fun learning a new thing, meeting new people, and riding in a bunch of brand new virtual worlds.
If you’re on Zwift, please follow me and throw some ride-on love my way!
Sarah’s been Zwift racing too, of course. You can read about her big adventure here.
I haven’t read as many books as I’d like (this list is mostly non-philosophy–I don’t track work reading).
That said, another 2020 highlight has been connecting with a group of readers across the globe through Todd Tyrtle’s international book club. He’s a fellow cyclist, which is how we met, and his blog of adventures is here.
Cheddar has also played a big role in my #workfromhome life. He’s in the background of most of my Teams meetings. And we go for walks together during the way. Hello sunshine!
Oh finally, one more thing. We have a new pet, Lizzie the bearded dragon came home with Miles. She’s kind of delightful.
I’ll write soon about my plans for 2021. They’re cautious plans. Things can change fast. I knew that already but I extra know that now.