fitness

On “cancelling” Canada Day

Sarah, Sam and I had dinner together on a patio last Saturday, the first time we’d seen each other in person in a year and a half. It was wonderful and emotional to have them in the flesh, all three of us weathered a bit by the time, the lockdown, the COVID anxiety, the shifts in our moral urgency about our relationship as White people to racism, to structural inequity, and especially, to our identity as settlers. We were talking about the #CancelCanadaDay conversation, and our server overheard us.

“Nope! No Canada Day!” she said, confident about interrupting, emotional. “Not this year. We are finding dead babies everywhere. Just give it a goddamn MINUTE.”

For the non-Canadian readers who haven’t been tracking, unmarked graves of hundreds of children have recently been exposed on the sites of former “residential schools,” cultural assimilation centres for Indigenous children that operated in this country for more than a century, the last one closing in the 1990s. Much of the coverage of this horrifying story — two sites of unmarked graves with 1000s more expected to come — casts these discoveries as relating to “a dark part of our history.”

But it’s not history. And that’s why we need a day to pause and reflect on what this project of “Canada” is all about.

These centres were part of a multi-century program of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples that continues today in many forms, including persistent appropriation of land for pipelines and other reasons, the federal government fighting Indigenous human rights claims in court, the Catholic Church refusing to acknowledge its substantial role in residential schools, a failure to provide clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, Indigenous children being deemed “at risk” and disproportionately taken from their families, the “silent genocide” of missing and murdered Indigenous women, profound health inequalities for Indigenous people, and overt racism in the health and mental health systems, with Joyce Echaquan being just the most recent and prominent example of an Indigenous woman mocked for her pain and left to die in a hospital in Quebec. And all of this doesn’t begin to acknowledge the intergenerational and cultural trauma that every Indigenous person in Canada carries.

The discovery of the graves of children in cultural assimilation centres is not an anomaly; it’s incontrovertible evidence that the project of White settler colonialism in Canada has, at its centre, cultural and actual genocide. We cannot look away. As our server put it last weekend, “give it a goddamn MINUTE.”

Today is officially Canada Day, the anniversary of confederation. Since “Canada 150” in 2017, there has been a growing movement to inflect the day with reflection on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to be with the truth of Canada’s history and presence along with celebration, gratitude for the many things that are good about this country, appreciation of the natural land. This year, that movement has blown fully into a call to #CancelCanadaDay. Many municipalities have called off celebrations, rallies of solidarity are being organized, and many people have suggested spending the time writing letters to politicians or listening to the voices, art and stories of Indigenous people. (A great place to start the exploration of Indigenous voices is the Downie Wenjack Foundation site, which is also sponsoring “a day to listen” with radio stations across the country. Blogger Kim suggests becoming familiar with Indigenous activist artists like Tara Beagan, Kim Senklip Harvey or Article 11. I have also found this book really meaningful this month).

I know that “cancelling Canada Day” feels like an overreach to some people. My mother expressed scepticism, pointing out of course this is all terrible, but we’re also coming out of a horrible pandemic, and we need to feel a little hope. Our prime minister is trying to walk a line between acknowledging the horrors of dead Indigenous children, reflection and “looking forward to a time when we can all be proud to celebrate Canada Day.” For many newcomers, Canada Day means something important.

I get it. Acknowledging that the structures, the country, the culture you are embedded in, you identify with — that these are also directly accountable for incredible harm? This is extremely difficult. It’s a paradox — how can we be a country that cares about human rights, does good in the world, creates safe spaces for LGBTQ people, is one of the most diverse places in the world — and also be a country that profits from colonial structures, glosses over or reinforces persistent racism, fails to examine our own biases, turns away from pain. We want to distance ourselves from the overt racism from the past and not acknowledge the persistence of more subtle, harmful dynamics. And dismiss the more overt ones like the death of Joyce Echaquan as anomalous, not “us.” Fundamentally, we want to be able to “address wrongs” while maintaining existing power structures.

“Listening” means unlearning. It means letting go of what we think we know, even what we think constitutes “knowledge.”

A few years ago, I helped convene a forum on Indigenous Health for about 150 of the most senior scientists in Canada. Throughout the day, every speaker coming from an Indigenous perspective underlined the message that addressing chronic health issues in Indigenous communities isn’t about the specifics of individual diseases, it’s about forming relationships that enable each community to create its own solutions, in partnership and with the support of western medicine. That the root of chronic disease like diabetes isn’t about individual food choices, or even about community access to food, but about the very relationship to one’s body and health that evolves out of generations of trauma. That an intervention that works in one community isn’t transferrable to another, that each community’s unique engagement with healing IS the intervention. The science was solid and the voices were moving. And one after another, older, White scientists (usually male) stood up and made little speeches about how the problem was diabetes, or that diabetes requires intervention X or Y. As though they hadn’t even been able to hear this challenge to their version of evidence and knowledge.

This unlearning is a lot of work, and it requires vulnerability. Listening and trusting that the people who are telling you their truths are telling you something important. Even if that “something important” is deeply uncomfortable or disorienting.

During the Canada 150 celebrations, I did my own micro-reparations by researching 10 Indigenous organizations and activists and donating $150 to each of them. I continue to support most of them financially, but my relationship to those donations has shifted. I think I used to see it as my sharing my privileged resources with “marginalized” groups. A power relationship in and of itself. Now, I still see my accountability to support these groups. But I also see that money as (insufficient) compensation for what those organizations, what those artists and activists, have contributed to my learning.

During Canada 150, my friend Raven, an Indigenous, mixed race, 2-Spirit multidisciplinary artist and activist from the Anishinaabek (Ojibwa) Nation, Treaty 4 in Manitoba, was documenting their experience of Canada Day. They talked about walking around with their camera, feeling huge distress at the spectacle of people publicly “celebrating genocide.”

I will admit that at the time, my quiet reaction to that comment was that it felt … overblown. Surely no one was *consciously* “celebrating genocide”? Surely we were celebrating the parts of Canada that we value, the very parts that could enable us to own our accountability, acknowledge our racism?

Somewhere in there, I shifted. I let myself listen to Raven instead of letting my reactions filter theirs. I see the truth in what they said. Celebrating the historical Canada IS celebrating the very structures that built those schools. The “fathers of Confederation” were literally the architects of the residential school system. Canada Day creates yet another opportunity to mentally gloss over those structures, mentally compartmentalize “celebrating that which is good about Canada” while temporarily laying aside the dark bits. (Although I don’t know when we actually dwell in the dark bits — that part is not institutionalized). That glossing over might have been easy to rationalize four years ago. It’s not possible to rationalize in the wake of the discovery of the graves of potentially thousands of babies taken from their families.

As my friend Alice said on facebook the other day, “I feel like most people I know can commit to a “genocide trumps fireworks” moral hierarchy.” I think that’s true. But recognizing this hierarchy is work, and we all have to do it.

Susan and I will be at her cottage for Canada Day. There is an annual “tour around the lake” festival. We talked about how participating would be more of a signal of being part of the lake community than it would be celebrating Canada Day, that we could hang our intersectional pride flag on the boat. We fantasized about handing people flyers with land acknowledgements on them. We talked it through.

“You know,” I said. “I do want to hang out on the lake, But I think I just won’t be able to see people joyfully tooling around with Canadian flags without being upset. And in the end, it’s not actually meaningful to “cancel” something unless it’s something you WANT to do.”

She agreed.

If it’s not pouring, we’ll go for a bike ride on Canada Day. We’ll do some reading and reflecting on our settler identity and shame. Consider concepts like “who does that land we call “crown” land really belong to?” And we’ll think hard about how to keep doing the unlearning and relearning that matters so much.

Cate Creede is a White queer Canadian directly descended from the earliest French settlers in Southwestern Ontario, who were part of the founding of Fort Detroit. She lives in the part of Toronto that is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. It’s the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

fitness

A Day to Listen

I’ve written a post that will be published on Thursday about what Canada Day means to me in the context of our reckoning with centuries of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples. A big part of my own evolution of understanding of my role and identity as a White settler is listening to Indigenous voices, experiencing Indigenous art.

On June 30 (today!), the Downie Wenjack foundation is sponsoring “A Day to Listen,” in partnership with radio stations across Canada. This is an important opportunity to immerse ourselves in the truth and listening part of reconciliation.

Look for more information here: https://downiewenjack.ca/a-day-to-listen/

And while you’re at it, here is a great book to understand more about the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canadians: Indigenous Writes, by Chelsea Vowel.

What are you doing for reflection and listening on the eve of Canada Day?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is directly descended from the first French settlers in Ontario. She lives in the part of Toronto that is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. It’s the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

fitness

Rumspringa!

There is, apparently, a thing in Amish communities where some youth have a kind of gap year where they experience life in more mainstream environments, away from the constraints and expectations of their communities, called “rumspringa.” The loose translation of the german-derived word implies “running or hopping around.”

I’m not sure how much understanding I actually have of the Amish concept, but “unfettered running and hopping around” sure applies to what’s been happening in Toronto over the past couple of weeks. Finally freed of the longest consecutive lockdown in the world, rapidly vaccinating and releasing into perfect early summer weather, people are suddenly EVERYWHERE. On patios, on beaches, in parks, on their bikes.

Most of us still have a veil of COVID anxiety — is this REALLY okay? is this too many people? is this going to come back and bite us in the ass? — but it’s also just blissful, just delightful to see people moving their bodies outside of their homes and into the world. We’re still in Step 1 — no indoor dining, no hair, no pedis, limited shopping — but outside! Outside is OPEN!

Last week, I did yoga in the park, I did an early Saturday am spin class in the alley, I went for a long long bike ride in the country where I passed people just jammed onto beaches, like a beach blanket movies from the 1960s. I felt like oxygen and light were literally infusing my cells.

I also noticed a few post-lockdown consequences as I stretched into my skin like a little groundhog emerging from my hibernation den.

  1. Yup, many of my summer clothes don’t fit. Some of the bike jerseys are a little tight. And I’ve grown extremely impatient with any clothes that aren’t 100% soft and comfortable, so some things that do technically fit are just plain irritating. 16 months of COVID reshaped me a bit, all that anxiety and limited movement and comfort eating, and I’m relearning my body. But that’s okay — I’m strong, I’m sturdy, and I survived a pandemic. I’m an effing superhero.
  2. Buying the perfect pair of training-but-not-running shoes online is impossible. Pre-pandemic, I had a perfect pair of Nike somethings that worked for strength classes, supported walking around AND looked sporty but okay with business casual type clothes. And of course they stopped making them. I have ordered now 9 pairs of similar-looking shoes online, and all were truly terrible. I ended up with a pair of allbirds as a walking around compromise, but they don’t work for the days I want something while I’m deadlifting or skipping. THIS is something I need to go into an actual store for.
  3. Riding nearly 3000 km in zwift this winter on my bowflex kept me fit and mentally sound, but it doesn’t directly translate into fitness for outside riding — never underestimate the effort of paying attention to the road under your tires, the weight of the sun, and the energy of actually having to track the traffic around you. They are both good, but they are not the same.
  4. My face has aged more than the usual 16 month pace in COVID times. I am lined. My eyelids are drooping. I look older. That is okay too, but it takes a little getting used to. I see selfies and can’t fully recognize that person with the pandemic hair, the edged forehead, the softer jaw. I am still making her acquaintance.
  5. Finally, all of this working out on my own — running alone, zwifting alone, yoga and strength training in zoom — has erased a lot of my inhibitions. When I did yoga in the park last week, I heard myself making … noises. Ooof. Ummhp. Siiiiiigh. Owwww. Ooof. A little soundtrack of old person body moans. I suspect it’s not as endearing as I imagine it to be. It’s a good thing we’re still well-spaced while I relearn social norms. In workouts and other contexts.

There is a lot of relearning in this rumspringa time — remembering the absolute privilege and joy, for example, of being able to take myself out for dinner on a patio after a long work day, and eat a pizza and an interesting eggplant and capers thing someone else made. How to decide what I want to do outside in the world and what will stay in the comfort of my little nest. How to be among people.

I was talking about the joy and anxiety, the bubbling over of the social world with my yoga teacher when we were in the park. “Yeah,” she said, “though I was at a thing on the weekend where I thought, this is just waaaaay too many people.”

“If you were outside and not touching, it was probably okay,” I offered.

She lowered her voice and leaned forward. “There was a SLIP AND SLIDE.”

Okay, maybe don’t do that yet. But revel in moving your body outside.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is flexing her outdoor muscles in Toronto.

fitness

How I spent my pandemic lockdown

Last week Susan wrote a beautiful post about the lost year that wasn’t really lost. She invited others to talk about what we’ve gained over the 16 months of covid we’ve lived with — this frightening, confusing, cosy, exasperating, awakening, exhausting, languishing, enraging and clarifying year. (BTW, in case anyone’s counting, we’re still in full lockdown in Toronto. We’ve now had the longest continual “no restaurants (even outdoors), no hair, no gathering, no toes, no gyms, no swimming, no touching, no non-essential shopping, mostly no schools, NO TOUCHING” lockdown in the world. Our third wave is now behind us and we’re vaxxing like mad, but our premier is now locked in his own paralysis of doing the wrong thing. But never mind about THAT).

So what am I taking from this year? What were, as they say, the unexpected gifts?

  1. A stupid little daily walk really does help my stupid physical and mental health.

Cheryl posted this meme in our 221 in 2021 workout group a few months ago, and we started using the hashtag #slwfmspmh in our group for our daily constitutionals. It’s a thing. I do it almost every day. I feel better. It counts as movement.

2. It took a pandemic to really lock my body down into menopause. My now three year old post on still menstruating at 53 continues to be in the top 10 most read posts every month, but I am no longer the menstruator emeritus. Being trapped at my desk in zoom while being lashed with 20 hot flashes a day eventually drove me to hormone replacement therapy (and let’s not even speak of the vaginal atrophy — more on that horrifying phenomenon later). But I’ve crossed a milestone into cronishness, and I like it. As a friend said on facebook the other day, “the less estrogen I have, the more honest I become.” I concur.

3. Time really does move along like a son of a bitch, so you’d better get on with the things that matter. Facebook memories kept popping up this year reminding me of the Before Times, and they were always waaaay longer ago than I remembered. Wasn’t that trip to Bhutan just last year? Have I really had my little Georgia cat for four years? That — plus, you know, global doom — triggered a little tick tick tick in my head of time passing, and I finally — finally! — started working in earnest on a book I’ve had in me for a long time, about my experience with the project I’ve been running in Uganda since 2008. I’ll be blogging here a little less because of it for a while — from once a week to once a month — so I can really focus. It’s in my head even when I’m not working on it, which is the best place to be.

4. Little latin dance workouts are actually fun, and it doesn’t matter what I look like. I got a new apple watch a couple of months ago, and I was immediately enamoured. I like being bossed around by the rings, and I like the illusion of accomplishment even on days when I’m essentially pacing like a hamster in a cage. I didn’t leave my house, but I closed my rings!

I already knew I was motivated by “badges” — what I didn’t know is how much I would appreciate the free three months of apple fitness + that came with the watch, I quickly flicked away the yoga (I got my own peeps for that), the strength training (the beloved alex), the core, the spinning. But the dance workouts. The dance workouts! 20 minutes with Jhon doing a fake merengue and I’m transported to a carnivale in my head. And I’m alone, so I can pretend I’m even good at it. I feel like an 8 year old dancing completely unselfconsciously. That, I did not expect.

5. Cats can get eczema from stress. That’s not really about me and my body, but it’s really interesting, isn’t it??! Poor Emmylou had all these gross head scabs until I got a little pheromone thing to destress her. It works.

6. When you’re 56, your body needs careful tending. Over the past year, I’ve developed a shoulder impingement, Morton’s neuroma in my left foot, an unnerving infection in a finger after I had acupuncture for an arthritis node and something got in the wound, two different rounds of sciatic pain (different sides), and occasional knee pain. On top of the hot flashes, insomnia and other unsavoury menopause symptoms. But I’m a little less … annoyed… by these things this year. I tend to them — with chiropractic, stretching, release, rest. I thank my body for letting me do the things it does. And I’m grateful — so grateful — my good, strong body has gotten me through this pandemic.

My hair was so much shorter in January!

7. Yoga is always a good idea. I’ve written a lot about doing the Yoga with Adriene January program, and my teacher Amanda, and learning to do bakansa, and how the concept of drishti really helps me stay focused. I’m not always 100% consistent, but my mat is almost always ready in my living room, and that continual invitation has brought me so much deeper into my practice, into my comfort with stillness, into my body. My body has changed this year — age, menopause, stress, lockdown. All the little fiddly problems. My summer clothes from last year don’t quite fit. With my current pandemic ponytail, greying roots and cat’s eye glasses, I look like my own great-grandmother. But yoga is always there to bring me back to the essence, to show me my strength, my resilience, my adaptability, how I can keep growing no matter what.

My beloved bombtrack, with the coca cola I only drink when I’m on a long ride.

7. And finally…. my bike will always be my best friend. I got through the winter riding a spinning bike more than 2000 fake kilometres through the simulated world of zwift. I was so grateful for that. But when I got on my bike and pedaled alone on country roads last weekend? Found a place that was willing to sell me a curbside cheese sandwich? Ticked past 55 real kilometres for the first time this year? Then I was really home. That will not change.

What about you? What were the unexpected aha’s you experienced this year?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is still in lockdown in Toronto, but was able to go on a solo adventure near Beaverton last weekend.

fitness

Transcendent movement: An interview with Amanda Donato

During our interminable lockdown in Toronto, I’ve come to appreciate classes streamed from two of my usual workout providers even more than I valued them in person. I’ve written at length already about the wonderful Alex and the community they’ve built in our morning workouts that Tracy, Kim and Susan also do. In another zone, I’ve also really come to appreciate live streamed classes from my local studio, Chi Junky — and in that context, have actually discovered my favourite yoga teacher of all time, Amanda Donato. There is something about her teaching and presence that simultaneously makes me feel like I’m exactly perfect as I am as well as inspiring me to reach even deeper and into more complex spaces than I ever have in my 25 years of practice. Via zoom. When I’ve never met her in person. So I asked if I could interview her to try to understand.

Amanda doing the pose that I fell on my face trying.


1.  Can you just tell me a little bit about your background?  I know you’re a dancer, but how did you get to the yoga space you’re in now?

I started dancing at 3 years old at a school specializing in Ballet and Jazz examinations in Scarborough. In my adolescent years, I jumped around a few studios as a recreational dancer, with a burning feeling that I needed more. As I transitioned into more vigorous hours and competitive programs in my teens, there were many contradicting moments where I considered quitting. The whole idea of needing to “know” your future at such a young age confused me. Still does. I was also extremely hard on myself and influenced greatly by external voices whispering: “an artist’s life has no promise or stability”. 

I studied Psychology in University (still a dear love of mine, and an academic path I hope to continue on), and kept up my dance training as I began working professionally. There was, however, a breaking point in my second year of Undergrad. A perfect storm of neglected anxiety, childhood traumas, and self-induced pressure bubbled to the surface… and I lost my grip on reality. 


I don’t remember my conscious decision-making process, but I knew there was a yoga studio down the street from campus. I also knew that a bodily practice had the potential to pull me out of my mind. At least I’d be training my alignment, strength, and flexibility regardless. This was all in addition to seeking a therapist. 
My resonance with yoga was not instantaneous by any means – but it felt like an anchor. There was challenge and grit and sweat (shout out to Queenie Phair’s classes)… and it was void of performance pressure. There was freedom. (This eventually leaked into the way I experience dance now). I intuitively completed my Yoga Teacher Training in the summer of 2015, and my reasons for sticking with Yoga are deeply-ingrained… and ever-changing.


2.  Do you have a philosophy of teaching?  What do you want people in your classes to experience?
I think my teaching has always been enveloped with a deep understanding that yoga has existed long before me, and will exist long after I’m gone. 
I have the responsibility of holding space and guiding bodies when I teach – but I never feel like I’m not a student too. I wish for people in my classes to tap into their life energy, creativity, and agency. I wish for them to feel safe and to embrace curiosity… to connect to joy and playfulness. I see the physical challenges I propose as gateways/catalysts for this.


3.  Do you have a way you describe your orientation to yoga?  What’s the intention or purpose of solo practice for you?  What about practice in community?   (I know these are BIG QUESTIONS that change day to day — whatever comes to mind is fine ;-)).

Connection is the first word that comes to me here. A solo practice is a way for me to remember how multi-faceted I really am… and it pulls me out of how small my mind likes to make me. The wavering openness after a practice is unbeatable: length and space in my joints… my limbs… my heart. My movement practice does not feel like an epiphany every time I step onto my mat, but showing up feels necessary and keeps me creatively accountable. 


Growing up in dance studios… supported by a web of teachers, mentors and peers… was my lifeline. Moving and sweating in a room full of people is still one of my favourite things ever. The energy is unbeatable and community is everything. 


4.  What do you experience when you’re teaching in zoom — how do you stay in your body AND connected to the people on the screen?  How do you stay in your sense of community?

I am in full belief that the in-person class experience cannot be replicated. The subtleties… the nuancing is blurred out with online classes. I also believe, however, that the practice transcends all limitations. When I start a Zoom class, I trust that my intentions and energy will penetrate through screens, and that students will get to intuitively fill in the blanks. I work from a place of celebration: that everyone has gathered at the same time to move in their own spaces. The best thing we can do (especially in these trying times) is to stay with it and remember that we’re not alone. The whole online teaching experience has been this personal case study of how much I can soften, surrender… and proceed to serve my community. I am grateful to every soul that shows up to these classes. 


5. What is it you think you uniquely bring to your teaching?  I keep trying to articulate why it is that I feel so free to explore with you, what the source of my sense of confidence is.  I think part of it is that I feel like you are somehow IN your own body, not self-conscious or something like that, and it invites us to be in the same way.  You are extremely good at cueing verbally — I rarely have to look at the screen to figure out what you’re doing — even when you’re encouraging us to try something I haven’t done before.   You are very conscious of all of the different planes and edges and sensations in your cuing.  And you have all of this confidence that the “hardest” versions of poses are available to us over time — like flying lizard — but I never feel that just staying in the simplest version is “wrong.”  Somehow I feel like I and my body can exist in multiple dimensions in time and space and the same time in your classs, lol — like the Cate today isn’t doing flying lizard but she could if she just focused.  It’s how I managed, in your class, to do a flow from crow to headstand, back to crow and then a graceful chataranga.  It amazed myself.  It’s also why I fell on my face trying to do pincha mayasurana.  LOL  — I forgot I couldn’t do it.

Wow! Thank you, Cate! I am letting your words marinate. Riffing off of what you are saying: 


I feel like I am indebted to the movement I am teaching. What I teach isn’t really “mine”, but something moving through me. I don’t plan specific cues or sequences prior to class, which keeps me incredibly present in my communication… and open to what the people in class are needing that day. I no longer resonate with the “right” or “wrong” dichotomy like I used to. Apparently this comes through… hence you feeling limitless going for pincha! No doubt that I am often negotiating with my default perfectionism and rigidity… but the practice feels so much bigger than that anyway. It always wins. 

6.  Is there anything else you’d like to share about your teaching or your practice or your experience of movement?

My life is enriched when I peel back the thinking mind’s expectations of what “counts” as practice/training and what doesn’t. I’ll go a few weeks without practicing yoga on my own… but immerse myself in running or biking instead. There are times when I feel like I’m choreographing a piece while layering a lasagna and listening to great music. Sometimes reading a book feels like a full-body experience too. 


It’s this constant revisiting… listening… softening…. Grateful for it! 

Amanda is a professional dance artist, educator, yoga instructor and choreographer from Toronto, Canada. You can find Amanda at her website: https://www.amandadonato.com, where you can sign up for a streamed yoga class or just watch incredible videos of her body moving in dance.

fitness

The transcendence of moving your body: The Superhuman Strengths of Alison Bechdel’s new book

I’ve been a fan of Alison Bechdel since the early 1990s, when she was writing a weekly niche queer comic called Dykes to Watch Out For long before the Bechdel test and the phenomenal mainstream success of Fun Home, her graphic memoir that became a heart-wrenching musical.

“Fan” isn’t even the right kind of word, really — I feel a strange intimacy with Bechdel for someone I’ve seen read in person once but otherwise have no actual relationship with. I don’t have this kind of “parasocial” connection to too many public figures — but Bechdel is one of the few people whose life tracks feel so aligned with mine, who reflects my lived experience of self in ways I rarely see in public space.

When I spread out my treasured original paperbacks of Dykes to Watch Out For, the chronicles of a crew of queer and lefty folks in a tofu, granola, make-your-own-family world of the 1990s, I see my own queer history and yearning for visibility, community, acceptance in narrative form. These books were carefully hoarded from the time when queer/feminist bookstores were rare, semi-hidden affirming oases.

When I was in my first serious relationship with a woman, I saw my own coming out angst mediated through the relationship between Harriet and her family. In Bechdel’s sly capturing of the “look” of mid-90s queers, I saw a community where the haircuts, male-of-centre clothing and sharp eyeglasses of my tight little breakfast club were the norm. When the DTWOF gang ventured into the world of procreation, and of women’s bathhouses and polyamory, of genderqueer identities, it paralleled my world. When same sex marriage became a possibility, I grappled with the same paradoxes of mainstream acceptance and subsequent scrutiny on my relationships as Sydney proposing to Mo with “Will you do me the honor of paradoxically reinscribing and destabilizing hegemonic discourse with me?” DTWOF was the our pop cultural touchstone, a tracing of the evolution of queer culture as nothing else did. The comic faded out as queer culture became more mainstream, feminist bookstores disappeared and the treasured little pockets of carefully curated affirmation got woven into greater openness — but that imagined world was always a mirror realm where I both saw myself reflected back and could aspire to the confidence of a fleshed out community where queerness was taken for granted and people had language I hadn’t stumbled across yet.

In that fading, Bechdel also produced work that had more mainstream resonance in her graphic memoirs Fun Home (about her relationship with her father) and Are You my Mother (about her mom). Her success with these felt like my own sibling was being recognized in the ways I’d always hoped for — and her re-telling of her life in relation to identity, to family, to gender, to sexuality, to community, to wanting more for the world — opened up new spaces for me. So when I heard she had a new book, I ordered it without even looking at what it was about.

And lo and behold, The Secret to Superhuman Strength is about Alison’s relationship to her body, to movement, to fitness. It’s like I dreamed this book into being.

Like her earlier memoirs, this is a telling of Bechdel’s life, a literal trek through running and skiing as an adolescent, karate in her early 20s, hiking, yoga, cycling, more skiing — a bulging gear shed of four decades of changing culture AND Bechdel’s own grappling with her understanding of self as she experiences her body. Bechdel’s unique gift is her ability to depict a deeply familiar experience in “comic” image form while scraping four layers off the skin to reveal the sheer human emotion, existential questioning and revelation underneath– and then interpolating a philosophical inner dialogue with other voices. In Superhuman Strength, as she experiences and inhabits her body differently over her life, she — in true Bechdel form — also ponders romantic poets and transcendentalists like Wordsworth, Emerson, Coleridge and Margaret Fuller, Fuller’s descendent Buckminster Fuller, and Jack Kerouac.

On one hand, Superhuman Strength is an illustrated, accessible treatise of a lifelong ontological journey to understand the transcendence of movement, the eternal question of the interplay of body, mind and spirit. It’s a clever depiction of queer life in North America over the past 50 years, a where’s waldo of lesbian tropes and nostalgic recognition of moments where bare breasts at a womyn’s music festival were giddy and freeing, a reminder that the quest for a more progressive, interdependent, accountable world have been woven through our culture for a long, fatiguing amount of time. It’s a funny telling of how our culture has successively and obsessively grasped at different forms of exercise, movement and promises of spiritual enlightenment. And it’s one person’s gloriously, lovingly told life story, a fundamental grappling with meaning, with belonging, with presence, an unexpected, perfect additional melodic line in Bechdel’s life work.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who practically crowed picking up this book. Buy it from your local independent bookstore, like she did!

fitness

Why are people worried about “vaccine shedding”? (Spoiler alert: it’s NOT A THING!!!!!!)

I wrote a post last week rounding up the science related to people’s worries about a possible relationship between covid vaccines and various reproductive/menstrual issues. The bottom line was:

  • a recent vaccine MIGHT give you an inaccurate reading on a mammogram, but any lymph node inflammation will subside after about a month (lymph node swelling is a normal effect of engaging your immune system with any vaccine)
  • some people have noted menstrual oddities after vaccines, which may be “just plain stress” or may be, again, a temporary effect of your immune system swinging into gear
  • both the mRNA (moderna, pfizer) and viral vector (oxford astrazeneca and Johnson and johnson) types of vaccine have been tested and found safe for pregnancy

At the end of my post, I noted something I just called “lunacy”: the vague little wave of nonsense making the rounds right now that somehow vaccinated people can “shed virus” (or “shed vaccine”) and cause some sort of magical interference with other people’s uteruses.

I thought that one paragraph and my link to Jen Gunter’s “it’s a vaccine not a spell” would be enough to shut down that discussion. But oh, how naïve I was. Someone on the blog’s facebook page begged me to stop spreading misinformation (while kind of accusing me of being duped by fake science). And then Nicole shared that she’d seen a whole whack of people on twitter yammering about how their hairdressers or what have you wouldn’t take vaccinated clients “because of the shedding of the spike protein.” And then there’s that school in Miami.

I briefly ducked into twitter, eyes squinting and sort of hunching over, trying to avoid getting hit by a nonsense bomb. Four or five minutes was enough to despair for the future of knowledge.

Well, Chemin, I sure wouldn’t want you catching my baby. But you know what? No one is catching ANYTHING from a vaccinated person. Which, you know, as a health provider you should know.

But here goes, one more time. I don’t expect this to “convince” anyone who believes I’m a vaccinated zombie, but it should give you a bit of an understanding of how to respond if you trip over some of this nonsense. The made up story of “vaccine shedding” goes something like this:

  • The concept of “viral shedding” is a term used to describe how much of an actual virus (not a vaccine, the actual virus) makes its way out of one infected person into the air or into another person — through coughing, or blood, of other waste products. This is a term that was used a lot at the beginning of the pandemic to try to determine how infectious COVID-19 was, and how prevalent virus was in things like respiratory droplets. (Why we wear masks, for the record — to contain our own shedding in our own little bubble as much as possible).
  • In the world generally, as COVID vaccines started to be developed, the people with questions about new vaccines (all along the continuum from vaguely and appropriately hesitant to microchip zombie conspiracy pure anti-vax bonkers) put a lot of their energy into asking whether the new vaccines were safe. This is a good and reasonable question — they’re new! Two of the prominent ones have a newish technology! But somewhere in there, ONE paragraph in a 146 page document outlining the study protocols for the Pfizer vaccine got yanked out of context and mis-interpreted as “hidden proof that we are being lied to about the vaccine.”
  • If you wade into the twitterverse of wild-eyed anti-vaxxers, it’s this one paragraph that is breathlessly reposted over and over. This section in the study protocol, which is super standard for any clinical trial, basically says “study participants who are exposed to the vaccine while pregnant or when they are putting sperm into someone to get them pregnant need to report this” (Dr. Jen Gunter does very useful work explaining this in this post). This is a very very standard thing in any study — researchers want to know and account for whether or not someone in their study is pregnant, so they can consider that in their findings. (And note that even THIS doesn’t say “hugging or cutting the hair of a vaccinated person needs to be reported” — the connection to sperm somehow got translated to general proximity).

So let me recap the elements of how this “false truth” became so quickly embedded:

Vaccine hesitancy (or just plain anti-vax beliefs) + a new vaccine + generalized anxiety + alluring language about viral shedding + a boilerplate warning about pregnancy in a study + an enticing and scary term like “spike protein” + [whatever dash of conspiracy theory suits you] = “vaccinated people can shed spike protein, which is dangerous for pregnant people or people who might want want to get pregnant.”

Let me say this really clearly: this is… bonkers.

All vaccines — even those with live viruses, which the Pfizer is NOT — do not inject spike proteins into our bodies, they inject — “the instructions to teach our cells how to make a protein, or even just a piece of a protein, that triggers an immune response in our bodies. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them. The immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

“Shedding vaccine” is just not a thing. It’s a made up thing in a time of great uncertainty.

And then there’s the wisdom of this sailor girl

My personal belief is that these kinds of conspiracy theories arise because people hate uncertainty, and don’t like to accept that there are some things they have no control over. They would rather believe that Someone Out There has some kind of control, and that they can take back that control by exerting some decisive action in their own lives, or autonomy over their own bodies. Defying authority in this way is a way to do that. And really, in some ways, I get that. It’s been very hard to have so much of our lives taken out of our own sphere of influence over the past year and a half. But this? Putting all of your energy into refusing to let vaccinated people come into your school, your midwifery practice, your hair salon? This is not the answer. If you need more autonomy over your environment, get a peloton. Get a dog. Take up knitting. Repaint your bedroom. But try to do those things with just a teensy bit of scientific understanding.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who has a PhD in communication theory, and is much happier when she stays off Twitter.

fitness

Covid vaccines and vaginas: a link round up

A person having a pleasant-looking mammogram (Image from US National Cancer Institute, via unsplash)

I had a follow up mammogram a couple of weeks ago, and the first thing the tech asked me was if I’d had a vaccine yet. I thought she was making conversation, but it turns out that vaccines can cause inflammation in the lymph nodes, resulting in inaccurate results.

I tucked that information away, but started noticing a lot of buzz about whether there is a relationship between any of the covid vaccines and fertility (apparently a lot of healthcare providers are not getting their vaccines because “I haven’t had my family yet”), and more recently, vaccines and periods. Is this all just noise? Or is there anything to it?

My favourite stylized “suggest menstruation in the most sanitized, prettiest, unbleediest, unclottiest, look at the pretty flowers” image of all time (Alexander Sergienko from unsplash)

First — and the most important thing — is that researchers haven’t yet really studied the relationship between the covid vaccines and the menstrual cycle. There’s a whole long patriarchal history behind this, but as this New York Times piece outlines, researchers just don’t study (or understand) menstruation well enough. But there does seem to be some increasing anecdotal suggestion that many period-having people have some disruption in their menstrual cycles following vaccination, either skipped periods, breakthrough bleeding or heavier, earlier periods. So what does that mean? Should we be worried about the intersection between vaccines and reproduction?

To try to unpack this, I turned to The Vajenda, my favourite source of gyne-related info, written by Dr Jen Gunter, an OBGYN and pain physician. (It’s a substack, so you have to subscribe, but there is a free option that gets you about half the posts.)

Here is her definitive post on the vaccine and menstruation:

The covid 19 vaccine and menstrual irregularities

Here are two related posts:

Don’t blame bleeding after menopause on the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine and mammograms

And my favourite:

The Covid-19 vaccine is a vaccine, not a spell — no, it can’t affect other people’s reproductive cycles by proxy. More on this below.

I’ll distill the key takeaways from these posts — with the most important being that even if scientists haven’t fully studied menstruation and vaccines — and they SHOULD, hello patriarchy — we can still use science to do some thoughtful and factual analysis of what might be happening.

First, mammograms.

  • The point of a vaccine is to engage the immune system to teach it how to fight a foreign interloper that looks specifically like the thing you are being vaccinated for. A critical part of the immune system is lymphocytes, which produce the cells that make up the antibodies your body needs to fight to off any illness or infection. You have lymph nodes — small glands that produce and filter lymphocytes — all over your body, but very noticeably under your armpits.
  • About 10 – 15% of people experience swollen lymph nodes after any vaccines, which is totally normal, because it means the immune system has received a signal that something foreign has happened and it is marshalling its little knowledge system to figure out how to respond to it.
  • These swollen nodes can show up on mammograms as an irregularity, which can mess up mammogram results — so if you are going for a regular screening, try to put it off for “at least four to six weeks” after your last vaccine dose. But don’t put off scanning for any problem you might be experiencing.

Now, menstruation.

The first thing Dr Gunter underlines is that there may actually be no link between vaccines and period weirdness — it may be something people are connecting because it’s happening anyway and they just happen to be paying attention to their bodies in a more heightened way, or there may be changes caused by stress. But IF there is actually an impact for some people, there are different hypotheses for why this might be true. All of them come back to the relationship between the uterus and the immune system.

I have to say, I’m pretty interested in menstruation — I’m well known around these parts for a post on menstruating well into my 50s that shows up in the top 10 almost every month — and even I did not know that there are “a lot of complex immune system interactions in the lining of the uterus that are also involved in menstruation.” In other words, your period isn’t just a thing happening out there on its own little agenda, it’s highly intertwined with all of the other things going on in your body around health and your general experience of immunity. This is why stress and fatigue and colds and other illness can affect menstruation.

Dr Gunter outlines three different mechanisms for how the vaccine could possibly interact with the menstrual cycle:

  • nitric oxide, which is produced when the immune system is activated, also has a role in causing endometrial tissue breakdown — so it could accelerate a ‘normal’ cycle
  • vaccines can trigger the release of inflammatory cells called “mast cells”, which also relate to the enzymes that break down the lining of the uterus
  • proteins called “toll-like receptors” (Tlrs), which play an important role in regulating the essential functions of our uterus and ovaries, are also sensitive to changes in single-stranded RNA; COVID-19 is a single stranded RNA virus, and the Pfizer and Moderna are RNA vaccines.

I could go down a rabbit hole here, but the basic upshot is: menstruation is intertwined with the immune system; vaccines trigger the immune system; ergo, just as we may experience immune responses like chills, fever, fatigue, etc after a vaccine, we may very well experience effects in this menstrual part of our immune system. And as Dr Gunter underlines, actually CATCHING COVID-19 is likely to have an even more powerful impact on your menstrual cycle.

So. Don’t put off getting vaccinated because it might mess with your period: serious illness will mess with it more. Do, however, pay attention if you bleed after the vaccine after menopause — that IS something to pay attention to. And if you want to participate in the first research to track the relationship between vaccines and your period, here is a link to a brand new study:

https://redcap.healthinstitute.illinois.edu/surveys/index.php?s=LL8TKKC8DP

Now, what about fertility?

First, studies have been done on the relationship between pregnancy and vaccines, with the conclusion that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnancy, not associated with miscarriage, and does not damage the placenta. And again, it’s more dangerous to actually get COVID while you’re pregnant. The province I’m in added pregnant people to the list of vaccine priorities last week because of ICU admissions for pregnant people.

I do understand anxiety about something unknown and pregnancy — someone very close to me didn’t even want general anesthetic when she had to have her appendix out during a pregnancy for fear of what it might do to the fetus. (The surgeon, appropriately, said no, she needed the anesthetic, and both she and the baby were fine.) Pregnancy can be an anxious time, and this is new. But again, the science is helpful here.

There is a full, great explainer of how vaccines work here in the New York Times. But the basic takeaway is that once either type of vaccine has done its work of teaching your immune system how to specifically respond to the spike protein on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, it disappears. It has one job, just like every other vaccine. It shows up, livens up the party, does a little dance, and leaves, leaving you with a temporary hangover.

So yes, it’s possible that the parts of your reproductive system related to the immune system might be triggered during the time you are actually responding to the vaccine — but that goes away. There is no reason whatsoever — no hint in the science, no hint in the research, no hint in the logic of how vaccines work — to think that there will be any more impact on long term fertility than any other vaccine. For more in-depth understanding, read the piece linked above in Nature — it details how the rumour about mRNA vaccines and fertility got started, and why the science completely counters it.

Now, lunacy

The final thing I want to just briefly touch on is the lunacy that people who have been vaccinated could affect the reproductive cycles of other people. There are alarming pockets of the world who believe this, including a private school in Florida that has forbidden people who’ve been vaccinated from interacting with their students. That’s just plain bonkers. As Dr Gunter wrote, it’s a vaccine, not a spell. And it’s a terrible indictment of people’s complete illiteracy about basic biology.

So the bottom line: of course I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. But if you’re hesitant, spend some time dwelling in the science. Even though these vaccines are new — we didn’t even know this virus existed 18 months ago! — the science behind them is tried and sound. Reassure yourself. And protect yourself. And everyone else.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is an amateur immunologist. Here is her vaccine selfie, for which she is very grateful.

fitness

Functional fitness for the win, right now

Look how innocent and sweet Emmylou looks. Until she tries to murder me. Or a sparrow.

The other day, my cats were loudly demanding dinner, and I was walking toward their dishes and simultaneously trying to open a new bag of dental kibble. As usual, not paying much attention to where I was walking. The round ball of fur that is Emmylou snaked around my feet and tripped me. As she yowled, I did an agile little dance to free myself of her without stepping on her, dropped the kibble and executed a perfect little chataranga onto the edge of my kitchen island, avoiding smashing my face into the granite.

Functional fitness, baby. That’s what all those early morning squats and lifts and mobilizations have been about.

I wrote last week about how unmotivating movement is for me — and many others — right now. Other bloggers, including Sam and Catherine, chimed in with how one of the only things getting them to the yoga mat or the bike seat is thinking about all of the things they are going to want to do in the summer — camping, hiking, riding. That’s functional fitness right there: the movement that prepares you for other movement.

I was thinking about my relationship to functional movement during my virtual superhero workout this morning. I was noting how hard it is for me to do a squat with complete precision holding an 18 lb kettlebell — and contrasting that to the devil-may-care squats I used to do in the before times with 100+ lbs of barbell on my shoulders. That was just “grin and bear it,” brute force grunting. Now, I’m focusing on the kinds of movement that make it possible for me to sit at my desk in the zoom for hours and hours and then stand up without pain, go for a walk or short run without triggering the daisy chain of middle-aged aches I’ve come to know so well. (Here, have some morton’s neuroma in your left foot (stabbing pain #1!), and add crappy hip mobility, which causes pain in both knees and the occasional acute flare up in my SI joints (stabbing pain #2!) and don’t forget the shoulder impingement that makes lifting my left arm SOMETIMES, unpredictably, the kind of thing that suddenly makes me screech and fall to the floor (STABBING PAIN #3!), and sometimes just like doot de doo, all is fine).

As we did carefully curated split squats this morning, Alex reminded us that this is the kind of movement that make it possible to run, to walk, and to continue running and walking as we age. So after class, I asked them “what ONE thing would you recommend right now for functional movement?”

Alex being Alex, they responded “YES! What a great question! Do you want psychological or physiological tips?”

BOTH please, I said. So here’s their advice.

Physiological I would say we’re missing out on “openness” right now- both in terms of the world around us, but also our bodies. How do we expand our body and open it up compared to our constant states of being hunched over a phone or a computer, sitting, rounded. I would suggest a mid back or hip elevated shavasana daily to decompress.

Really any movement is good movement right now, but especially those that open us up. Neck circles, that kneeling hip flexor stretch with the side lean that I love.

Alex demonstrating elevated savasana, with Martie in the background.

On the psych side, I would say less is more right now- this pandemic is traumatic and tiny movement promises to yourself go a long way. Try and pick one small habit that’s so manageable you almost feel like it’s “not enough” and do it daily. This can be doing a wide leg fold while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, or 3 squats while you brush your teeth.

Here is a link to Alex’ program offerings — there are live classes, video on demand and one on one coaching. All infused with the kind of philosophy that will let you be in your body in a way so you can trip over your cat and not smash your head in.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is very grateful for the Virtual Superhero workouts she’s been doing about four times a week for more than a year now. It doesn’t matter where she actually lives because she hasn’t really left the house since October. Here she is with the less murdery cat, Georgia.

fitness

Are you in a slump? How’s that feeling for you?

Slump: that thing where you just can’t find the … enh <waving hand vaguely> stuff to embrace movement with gusto. Or at all.

I was in a slump a couple of weeks ago. For the first time since I started doing the “217 workouts in 2017,” I didn’t think about tracking movement. For days at a time. For 10 days, in fact. I did some things during that time, but they were so incidental that they felt kind of meaningless.

This is what I felt like — like someone had taken me out for a bike ride and I just wanted to take a nap.

I had no energy to move my body, no motivation to head out the door even when I knew it would make me feel better, and even when I did do some things — a yoga class, a short run, a walk — I felt no joy or grit or satisfaction in completing it. And I even did a thing I might have only done about 3 times in my 26 years as a runner: I got my running clothes on on a lovely evening, got a block out the door and just thought, “enh, whatever” and turned around and went home.

When I finally got my shit together to post about it on the 221 in 2021 group, several other people commented that they had also been struggling. I noticed that — like me — a lot of people weren’t actually NOT MOVING — it isn’t a full “I’m not even putting on the workout clothes” slump. But they are moving less, and feeling unmotivated to do so even when they know it will make them feel better. And even the movement they ARE doing isn’t as restorative as they want it to be. Tracy called it a slumpmentality. Which I define as: “I’m still moving because it’s a habit and a thing I do, but I’m not striving and it’s highly unmotivating and I’m doing the bare minimum.”

Well, it is the third wave of a pandemic. And the allure of spring isn’t quite the same thing when you’re back in full lockdown and your hospitals are crammed to the gills. And I — like a lot of people — am just bone tired. Weary of screens, weary of the sameness, weary with endlessly long work hours and weary with 14 months of deep anxiety hanging over me. (Not to mention the menopausal and feline sleep disruption).

So. What are the other bloggers’ perspectives?

As Martha put it, in simple terms: I am not sure where to start except to say I am very, very tired.

Sam is overloaded too: For me it’s been work exhaustion. I’m working 12 hour days and feeling exhausted. Sleep comes first and so I miss out on exercise. But still I feel better if I do do something so I’ve been aiming for shorter workouts, dog walks. Sometimes that helps. But I also get sad about missing the harder things. Even if I only miss a few days in a row here and there, they feel like slumps since normally working out is a thing I love.

Sam also added: I also feel like I got hit by a truck after being vaccinated! I never have a response to vaccines not even shingrix which everyone warned me about. I ache all over, headaches and sleepy. Also dealing with various work and family crises. Ugh.

Tracy says I was in such a slump that I didn’t even have the motivation to blog about it or find my way out of it through a post about “starting small.” In fact I think I didn’t want out of it quite yet. But I’ve made it through to the other side and the Apple Watch helped. More on that Friday.

Catherine shared her experience of anxiety during the pandemic. I’ve had a series of slumps over the pandemic, especially difficulty in leaving my house. A combination of imposed advisories, fewer incentives (no movies, theater, church, dining out, etc), increased workload and decreased work boundaries, plus massively increased anxiety, which I suffer from in the best of times, has meant that I haven’t walked or ridden nearly as much as I wanted or needed for my own well-being.I have wonderful and attentive friends who encourage me to come outside with them, and that’s helped. I also have friends who have done zoom yoga with me, which also helps. But pandemic-exacerbated insomnia has also taken a toll on my energy and drive. Blech.

Bettina is also trying to balance work, a tiny person and lockdown reality: For me it’s totally work and family-related, but I’m definitely in a slump. The long walks I manage to take on the weekends are nice, but I just can’t get a long, hard workout in – a bike ride, or even better a swim since pools are still closed – the way I used to.

Diane finds a lot of motivation in her group of friends: I have had slumpy days, but they don’t last long because I have a network of friends to check in with. It’s hard to go more than a couple of days before someone calls to ask about a walk or a swim. Scheduled, pre-paid classes help me a lot too. There are times I would do nothing without them.

Nicole’s habit of fitness is serving her well, as she wrote about yesterday: There are three things that I think always keep me going: 1. Knowing I will feel better at end of workout and not feeling ok if I don’t. 2. Fear of family health history catching up to me. 3. Being a creature of habit and having an engrained habit.

She added: I have a couple colleagues who work out regularly and who say they just can’t right now. I worry about them as I think it’s a sign of depression if they usually can and can’t bring themselves to now. I don’t think tips help people in that state. I think it’d be best to speak to a doctor in that case. [Editorial note: I agree. If you’re finding yourself completely unable to move, and this is new, talk to your doctor or your therapist].

For Sam, three smaller bites of movement and projecting forward into what her body will be able to do in the future. 1. I need to remind myself that small things count–yoga before bed counts, knee physio counts, dog walks count. Not everything needs to be a 1 hour strength workout or a massive effort on Zwift. 2. It also helps me to think about plans I’ve made for the summer and getting/staying in shape to do those things. 3. Finally company helps. Lifting with my son or talking walks with others. 

My cats know how to exercise in short bursts and then just chill.

So what helps?

For Catherine, it’s seeing some light at the end of a long dark year and going slowly. Now that the weather is warmer and brighter, life is getting better. Vaccination is a real boon—I’ll be traveling to see family and can hug my mom for the first time in over a year. De-slumping won’t happen overnight. I’m trying to be happy with myself for getting through this period as intact as I am, with structure and support and means and plans for biking and hiking and swimming and paddling. And then there’s this pickle-ball thing, which I may check out.

Child’s pose IS yoga.

For me, it’s letting myself rest — yes, a walk counts as movement, dammit, and so does cleaning up my deck. It’s trying to go to bed earlier. And it’s a little novelty. Livestreaming a new yoga teacher, walking on streets I’ve never been on before. I fell into a real slump about continuing to work my way through all the zwift routes when all of the remaining 11 were well over 90 minutes and the appeal of indoor cycling has waned as the weather has warmed up. So today, I signed up for a livestream spin class from my usual studio, and ran zwift in the background to get half a route done while taking my cues from Jill, an instructor I like. (It backfired, though! Something went wrong when I paused zwift for a few minutes to get more water and it skipped over part of the route and then after toiling away for almost 1:45 hours, I didn’t get the badge! ARGH!)

I’ve also fallen into capitalist solutions. Although I’d resisted the very idea until now, Tracy’s new apple watch gave me impulse-purchase itchy fingers. I’m tracking it in the mail. And I’m about to hit go on new workout shoes I don’t really need.

What about you? Are you in a slump? What is helping?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who has let herself rest in places as diverse as a barbeque joint in Texas and a yurt camp in Kyrgyzstan.