I never realized that starting something new, whether tentatively or full-force, had so many aquatic metaphors or turns of phrase.
Getting your feet wet
Testing the waters
Dipping a toe in the water
Taking the plunge
This makes me very happy, as I get to be both literal and figurative at the same time. Yesterday I did my first solo pond swim during the fall. Ever. That’s right, I’ve never done any New England open water swimming after early-mid September. That’s not particularly shocking, of course: school is starting, temperatures are dropping (although they’ve been up and down and up again the past month), and our attention turns away from crisp blue water and toward crisp red apples. So it has been with me.
Until this year. Yes, I know: cold-water swimming is to pandemic outdoors as bread-baking is to pandemic indoors. But hey, whatever gets you in the water… We’ve blogged A LOT about swimming. If you’ve missed them, start out here, with some videos about wild swimming.
Back to me: Saturday was a lovely day, with air temperatures in the low 70sF/22-23C. Walden Pond, my swimming hole of choice, had water temps around 67F/19.5C. For me that’s a little on the brisk side, but easily manageable in just a swimsuit plus cap, goggles and trusty swim buoy.
It was around 4:15pm, and there were lots of open-water swimmers out there. A little more than half were in swimsuits, and the rest in wetsuits. It took me a few minutes to get used to the cold water, and I didn’t hurry (this is one of the tips I read most, even though this water isn’t cold… yet). Honestly, why hurry? I enjoy just hanging out, standing in the water, taking in the scene, getting used to my new aquatic environment.
Finally, I submerge myself up to the neck, squealing a little (I tried not to be too loud), and swimming to get warm. I swam along the shore for a bit, just checking things out. Once I felt comfortable and adjusted, I headed out to deeper water, enjoying the blue sky above me, the gently lapping waves (there was a bit of a breeze that day), and the distant sounds of people having a wonderful time on a Saturday afternoon.
This was my first wet run of the fall, and I discovered a few things:
Don’t forget ear plugs next time (to avoid swimmer’s ear and also for when the water gets colder);
Don’t try to adjust your goggles while in deep water; it can be done, but maybe on shore is better;
If you swim with the wind, your swim buoy will snuggle up to you and even try to pass you in the water
As a solo swimmer, I will need to come up with a plan to keep myself occupied; coming up with time goals or route plans seems like a good idea
I REALLY LIKE SWIMMING! I WANT TO KEEP SWIMMING THROUGH THE FALL!
I did manage to find a shortie wetsuit that fits (che miracolo!), which I will use at some point, along with neoprene booties. Maybe neoprene gloves will be purchased at some point, too. And I have my eye on this swim cap.
We shall see how things go, but I’m excited. I’ve broken the ice (even though it’s not that cold yet and I doubt I’ll be that hardcore, but you never know) and am going to try to swim every week for… a while…
Readers, how are your fall sports or activities transitions going? Have you said goodbye to some things, or are you shifting to fall-weather gear/clothing/etc.? I’d love to hear from you.
I know it’s not very feminist of me to care about the crevice in my forehead.
It bothers me though.
I tell myself it bothers me because I feel together and happy. I haven’t always felt together and happy. I wish my forehead looked how I feel. But why do we associate ageing with unhappiness? I am happy to be ageing. I should think the crevice in my forehead speaks of happiness. A life being well lived. I’ve always loved the meme with Lauren Bacall stating:
I mentioned on my Facebook status recently, that it would be great to live two lives. One where we learn how to be our best selves. The other, where we get to be our best selves from the beginning. Of course, this means, understanding the important things to focus on (helping others, self improvement and learning, caring for one’s body that carries us around through life, not worrying about comparison to others or measuring ourselves against unrealistic or unimportant criteria, learning how to manage goal stymying anxiety at a younger age). It does not have anything to do with my physical appearance. But, as far as such second lives would go, it’d be great to have my 30 year old forehead, coupled with my 49 year old wisdom. Not an original thought, but true.
I know the crater between my brows is a privilege of age. I am grateful to be in such an otherwise lucky position, that I have mental energy to waste on my forehead. As I write this, I know it’s ridiculous.
I should care about more important things and others (and I do). But caring for more important things doesn’t mean that occasionally when I see my forehead in a picture or on camera, I am not subconsciously trying to erase it with some kind of magic eraser. My brain is capable of creating a wide range of emotions, seemingly thousands at a time, some big, many small! Also, as we know, many of our thoughts are just wrong and we shouldn’t give to much credence to them.
But then, I think about how some women seem to age without intervention and own it and they look great. I think about how some women look like they’ve done too much to their faces and it doesn’t make them look younger, just like they’ve done a lot to their faces. I also think about how I shouldn’t care about what other women’s faces look like. And, I don’t really. I care that the person seems happy and comfortable in their own skin. Do I feel happy and comfortable in my own skin? Yes, for the most part. Some of the mojo I had several years ago would be great too. I’m so greedy.
I have a rough idea about how Botox works, how much it costs, what other women who have done it have to say about its effectiveness. I think being a feminist means being supportive of whatever they do as long as they seem comfortable with their choices and not coerced into doing anything (and that while they are not being weakened by the patriarchy, they are also not weakening others who are equity-seeking).
I keep telling myself that I don’t want Botox because I feel like it would be a losing battle. The start of a never ending quest for an unachievable goal that I don’t really want anyway. But I still find myself wondering.
I want to love my forehead, crevice and all. It is merely a cover for my healthy brain.
I think I should give the crevice in my forehead a name. I think by naming it, it will feel like mine. A loved part of myself that I chose to keep and give a name. Any suggestions?
There I was last Sunday, hitting golf balls in the drizzle on a driving range. The satisfying CRACK as the wood hit the yellow ball, propelled it into the air. An unfamiliar ache in the muscles in my forearms as I tried to remember what I learned about holding a club the last time I golfed, in the mid 1980s.
It was an impulse, to stop at this driving range. I had an hour to make some use of late on Sunday afternoon, the liminal time between leaving the cosy, perfect tiny house that was my base for sleeping, reading, writing and hiking for a solo retreat for a few days, and catching the ferry off the magic of Salt Spring Island to the mainland.
Earlier Sunday, I did my final walk through the seaside forest trail on land belonging to the Tsawout First Nation, my final climb up Reginald Hill. I’d eaten an unexpectedly delicious turkey dinner, had a local cider and some pumpkin pie, and now, with an extra hour to savour, I’d found myself pulling into the golf course.
I learned how to golf when I was a teenager. Driving ranges were a thing my dad and I did together, looking for a shared activity for our awkward non-custodial time. My dad died when I had just turned 27. Golfing was part of my adolescence, time with my dad, my uncles, the men of my childhood who died early deaths. The men I needed an activity to hang out with.
In this in-between space on Thanksgiving Sunday, some force I couldn’t name had propelled me into the golf course. I’d found myself in a warm, well-lit pro-shop that was surprisingly open for a time when most people would be eating dinner with their families. A guy named Nigel rented me a wood and an iron ( $2, “give me something for someone with sense memory and zero skill”) and a bucket of yellow balls ($4, “I think small will be plenty”).
I dropped a couple of the yellow balls into deep puddles as I walked out to the driving range. They were both lighter and more solid than I remembered. The range was brand new, according to Nigel. It had a covered overhang, and one tall young guy was fiercely hitting balls as I walked up. THWACK. Sailing far away. THWACK. I left a two spot distance between us, daunted by his skill, knowing I’d be terrible.
I was terrible. A few times, my club went right under the ball, caught the tee and left the ball right there. I hooked several balls into the woods. I played with my grip, realizing that what I’d learned at 12 in 1977 didn’t really apply anymore. Connected with two, three, four balls. The perfect noise, as soul-satisfying as hearing the lids pop on perfectly sealed canning jars. They didn’t go far, but they moved. I felt the force, an unusual sensation for person who never does anything involving balls.
My companion fished one of his balls back in from where it had flopped and said to me “I can’t end on a bad one.” He looked at me. “I just come out here and… hit. It’s kind of meditative.” He hit the rescued ball long and hard, past the markers. “That’ll do,” he said, and stowed his clubs.
I picked ball after ball out of the basket, kept hitting, thinking about my dad. He would have turned 80 a month ago, if he’d lived past 50. What would an 80 year old Tony have been like? He was a creative, emotional being, a high school English and drama teacher. He liked baseball and amusement parks and the kinds of experiences — like getting lost in a cave — that made for a good, long, hanging-on-your-every-word story over a bottle of wine. He liked comedies, and the poetry of Led Zeppelin. He liked a poem or a play that reminded you that life is absurd and love is possible.
I finished the bucket, and, alone on the grey range, fished a few more out of the ditch for myself. A small bucket wasn’t quite enough, as it turned out. My forearm was aching, but I tried to connect with every ball, figure out the twist of my hips that made a difference.
As I walked back to the pro shop to return the empty bucket and the clubs, an elderly orange VW camper van putted by. Tony’s iconic vehicle, the 1972 van he drove for nearly 20 years. I petted Nigel’s dog and asked his name. “Louie,” he said. My dad’s family dog name.
Outside again, I stood still for a moment, in the rain. The universe felt small, enfolding, connected. “Thank you,” I said.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is back in Toronto and still feeling a sense of magic.
If it’s not obvious, I’m a fan of embracing failure. I think that for many of us–maybe women especially–fear of failing holds us back from trying. Being able to separate self-worth from success at a particular thing is an important lesson. In my university work I’m struck by it in terms of the how much grades matter to the choice of one’s academic major and how much this is divided along gender lines. The short version is that women are much more grade sensitive than men, gravitating to the subjects in which we do best. Men are much more grade resilient. They’ll keep taking a subject, even if they are failing some classes, if it’s the thing they really want to do. Failing a class has a different impact on men that it does on women.
Getting over my fear of failure is part of what’s made sports fun for me as an adult. I remember taking sailing classes at Northwestern University as a graduate student and not caring if we messed up and capsized. My ego was elsewhere! Bring on failure. Likewise, that same attitude made it possible for me to give rowing a try during our ‘fittest by 50’ challenge.
Another perspective is that we should we just ditch ‘failure’ talk altogether. You haven’t failed if you capsized a sailboat. You haven’t failed if you’ve failed one class. I didn’t fail that time I missed a box jump and cut my leg on a wooden box at CrossFit. And so on. Some people find ‘failure’ talk so demoralizing and awful that we should just give it up. I’m less sure about that. I think of it as looking at a failure for what it is, seeing where it fits in the grand scheme of things, seeing what lessons can be learned from it, and moving on.
There’s been a trend in my discipline lately of posting news of rejections (grants and awards we didn’t get, journal articles turned down by reviewer 1 and 2, etc) so that social media isn’t just full of success stories. I like that too. I share some failures there but not all.
How do you feel about failure, both the actual thing and the language we use to talk about it?
I received a DM from a friend in early September. Attached to the message was a screen shot, from Facebook, of an ad campaign for the CIBC Run for the Cure – an annual breast cancer fundraiser in Canada.
“Yes, that’s me,” I replied.
“Wow!” was the response. “That’s so awesome.”
Other messages started trickling in over the next few days, especially after I posted a YouTube link to the 30-second commercial from the same ad campaign. Which features me, at the 14-second mark, baring my naked chest, and exposing my two, 10-inch mastectomy scars, for all the world to see. (If you’re curious, I’m embedding the commercial below, or you could also click on this link, if you want.)
“You’re so brave,” was the frequent feedback. I think (but I’m not entirely sure, because I have trouble discerning the underlying the meanings and motivations behind many social communications) that they meant was, I was brave for revealing my scars in such a public way.
I agree that I was brave… but maybe not for the reasons you think.
Then I got a DM from Sam last week, asking if I’d be interested in writing about my experience of being in the marketing campaign for the Run for the Cure, and I said yes. I’m still not sure if this is going to be very interesting for anyone, but here goes.
I didn’t make my decision to have a double mastectomy without reconstruction lightly, and I’m happy to say that six years later, I haven’t had one moment of regret about the choice that I made.
In the years since my surgery, I’ve also become part of a large and diverse online community of “flat” women who have had one or both breasts amputated. And within that community I’ve experienced a lot of support, encouragement, and normalization of flat life. Trust me when I say, there are many women who have had their breasts cut off, and they are perfectly fine with not having breasts anymore.
So when the opportunity to feature my own scars in a commercial to help raise money for breast cancer research came along, I didn’t think twice. The production company was very upfront – they were hiring me because they wanted to feature my scars in the commercial. And I was similarly upfront: I’m okay with showing my naked chest. This is who I am. I’m proud of my life, and the body that goes along with it.
Don’t get me wrong. Breast cancer – and all of its psychological baggage – is a complex issue. Any cancer is frightening – it can be fatal, right? On top of that, breasts are bound up in how people with breasts (whether cis-gendered or trans) understand themselves, their bodies, their sexuality, their desirability, and in some cases, their value, in a culture where female breasts are repeatedly judged by their size, shape and density.
In addition, losing a functioning part of our bodies can be fraught with physical and psychological trauma. (Not to mention the ongoing trauma of cancer treatment itself, which can include radiation and chemotherapy in addition to surgery, with or without reconstruction.)
Cancer of any kind sucks. Breast cancer can be especially sucky.
I am happier in this body – this less-gendered, more-neutral, less-sexualized body – than I ever felt when I had breasts. I feel less like I am missing something, and more like I had something unwanted – and foreign and alien – removed.
I am more wholly me – Michelle Lynne Goodfellow – without breasts, than I ever was with them. My experience of my life without breasts is better than my experience of my life with breasts.
So I didn’t think twice about showing my breastless chest in a national commercial. I’ve already been living my life as a visibly flat woman, 24/7, for the last six years. This is just who I am.
I also happen to have very little body shame. I’m comfortable with this body (although I wasn’t always). My body is a certain size, and it has lots of lumps and bumps in addition to my surgical scars. It works pretty well, for a body of my chronological age. (Although its function seems to be declining, which I’m not thrilled about.) If I knew how I got to this level of body confidence, I’d tell you. I have a feeling that more people would like to be as comfortable with their own bodies as I am with mine.
No, what made me brave about acting in a television commercial with my naked chest bared was the acting part itself.
You see, I’ve secretly wanted to be an actor for most of my life. It’s been on my bucket list for years, to somehow be a small part of the film industry. (I love film so much, I even have a university degree in film studies.)
But I also have crippling performance anxiety. I worked through a lot of it when I was a classical singer who performed regularly (mostly with choirs), but if anything, my performance anxiety got worse as the years went on, not better. (I eventually stopped singing in public completely.)
Not only do I have crippling performance anxiety, I have crippling anxiety, period. I have Complex PTSD from some experiences in my childhood, and for most of my life, anxiety and a pervasive hyper-vigilance have been my “normal”. With the help of a caring therapist over the past couple of years I’m beginning to feel that something different is possible for me… but it’s still a struggle to interact with people, and to be the centre of attention, and to have my performance critiqued.
(After almost every social encounter, for example, I can spend hours ruminating about what I said and did – sure that I did everything wrong, sure that the people I was talking to disliked me, sure that I have nothing of value to offer to any interaction.)
So it was very, very brave of me to audition in front of strangers, reading lines that I’d just seen for the first time five minutes earlier. And it was very brave of me to travel to Toronto from my home in the Niagara Region, to have people do my hair and makeup, and have professional photographs taken of me. And very brave of me to travel to Toronto again to try on clothes for the video shoot. And very brave of me to participate in the filming itself – subjecting my performance to the judgements of not only the production crew, but the marketing team, and the “client” – the marketing staff of the Canadian Cancer Society, and the CIBC sponsorship team.
After the filming, the hard part was over. Having the commercial (and the print campaign) released nationwide was no big deal, compared to that.
I’m really glad that the commercial touched people, and hopefully encouraged them to donate to breast cancer research. I’m also really glad that I did something really difficult for me, and survived it.
(Oh, and I’m glad I survived cancer, too.)
If you have breasts and live in North America, you have a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer in your lifetime. To help catch breast cancer early, when the chance of survival is better, check your breasts regularly. Know what they feel like, and notice if they change. (My breast cancer was diagnosed because I felt a change in my breast.)
If you want to help create a world where people don’t have to fear cancer, donate to your preferred cancer research organization. You might even want to donate specifically to research aimed at a finding a cure for cancer. (There is currently no cure for stage 4 cancer.) Thank you for reading, and for caring.
You may also be interested in these blog posts by Michelle about her breast cancer experience:
Here in Canada, most of us had a long weekend and we’re starting our week on Tuesday instead of Monday.
We had an unusual Monday and now we are heading into a short work week.
How many of us have adjusted our schedules and expectations accordingly?
It’s a trap I fall into on the regular – my schedule or capacity* is altered in some way and yet I still try to do as much work/keep the same routine/fit AllOfTheThings in despite having less time or less energy.
This happens to me most often when I’m not paying close attention, when I forget to take stock of how much I am trying to fit into my schedule. During short weeks like this, I’m especially prone to it.
Trying to cram the same amount of stuff into a smaller container is a direct route to extra stress and frustration, and to a persistent feeling of ‘not measuring up.’
And it doesn’t matter if the ‘stuff’ you are trying to cram in is work-related, fitness-related, or personal. The issue is that we have set expectations that are way too high for us to meet.
In this case, it’s about time and about routines, but a mismatch of expectations and capacity about any goals or plans that we have set for ourselves can lead to those same feelings.
So, Team, whether you are heading into a short week, or an ordinary one, and whether your expectations are around your work, your workouts, or about anything else, I’m inviting you to pause for a moment and think about whether they match your capacity.
If there’s a mismatch, please don’t be hard on yourself.
We all fall into that trap sometimes.
Instead, why not reevaluate your time and your expectations and adjust accordingly?
Your brain will thank you.
As always, I’d like to offer your gold star for your efforts. In fact, here’s a whole bunch of gold stars – adjusting your expectations will take a lot of little efforts over and over so it makes sense to offer you a lot of little gold stars in recognition of those efforts.
*For example, if I’m feeling sick or if I have slept poorly.
I’m nervous. But I’m going back to the gym this week.
It’s a weird mix of excitement and apprehension to return to the gym after (and I’ve had to count this a few times) nearly 19 months away due to the pandemic.
I said goodbye to the gym in this blog post dated March 9, 2020. It was early days in terms of the pandemic. Gyms were still open.
I was just starting to think about personal risk but also about group effects of our actions during the pandemic, especially for society’s more vulnerable members.
I wrote, “Just remember, it’s not just about you. Jeff makes that point about the larger social good pretty well in the context of conference travel in this blog post over at Boating Adventures.” His focus then was cruise ships. Remember the cruise ships?
I was an early leaver. I remember that. And I’ve been slow to return.
The university gym has been open for awhile but it’s only now that I’m happy to go back.
Well, the university has a vaccine mandate and almost all of our students are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t will be unenroled from their face to face classes in the week ahead.
You might worry, well I worried that they could still come to the gym, but the province has also enacted a separate vaccine mandate for gyms and fitness facilities. You need to prove your vaccination status to enter the gym.
And because the university’s vaccine mandate includes staff it means that everyone there will be vaccinated. Regular gyms have a vaccine mandate for customers, enacted by our provincial government, but staff don’t have to be vaccinated. Adherence to the new rules isn’t 100% in the big wide world either. Tracy’s former yoga studio is proudly breaking the law.
Why go back? Weightlifting mostly. I miss the squat rack. It’ll be nice to have a real bench. We’ve been doing backyard personal training but that won’t continue once the snow starts to fall. My son started back at his gym months ago and I miss weightlifting home companionship.
Soon it’ll be me and the students again. I’ve had mixed minds over the years about working out on campus. But you can’t beat the convenience of working out where you work and in terms of covid safety, I don’t think anywhere is better given our strict vaccine mandates.
All reasons point in favour of going back. I’m still not sure how it will feel. I’ll report back.
And I think cycling is good for the planet. Cars are dangerous and polluting the planet. We’d all be better off if people rode and walked more and drove less.
But one of these things is not like the other…
Fewer cars won’t make people lose weight. In fact, what we need to get more people on bikes is a more inclusionary cycling culture. It’s not all thin men in lycra. Sometimes it’s chubby middle aged women in lycra. And sometimes there’s no lycra at all.
Here’s our posts about the lack of a connection between bike riding and weight loss:
1)Leaving my house more: I’m enjoying the outside world more for work, for social activity, for physical activity. Where I live, there are high rates of vaccination and mask mandates in most towns I go to. I’m lucky and happy about this, and also feeling more comfortable (while observing safety measures for myself and others).
2)Finding new pleasures in old activities: I’m liking commuting (yes, I said it), getting to know my students (even with masks), and walking around campus (I’m meandering more after classes). I’m bingeing on podcasts in the car, and yes, I’ve even done a bit of driveway listening. My favorite these days: Hear to Slay, with Tressie McMillan Cottom and Roxane Gay.
3)Embracing that late-to-the-party doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had: After being inside A Lot, I’ve been venturing out in nature more with friends and by myself. In the past month alone. I’ve found several sweet parks that I never knew existed. Water is my favorite, but I’ll take woods, flowers, rocks, whatever you got.
4)Feeling more myself than I have in several years: I haven’t worked out what exactly the pandemic’s effects have been on me (we’re all working on this still), but 18 months after it started, I know that I’m more aware of where I am and what I want than I have been in years. Partly it’s due to my restarted meditation practice and partly due to my newly-started personal writing practice (I’ve taken some Zoom writing classes at Grub Street Boston, which have been excellent).
5)Planning my fall 2022 sabbatical: it’s only 217 days until my sabbatical. I’ll be on research leave May 15, 2022 until January 15, 2023. I’ve written my proposal, and enjoying thinking about, researching (read web surfing) and planning possible travel to Canada (fingers crossed), recreational travel in the US, and possibly a writing residency, too.
6)Preparing to buy an e-bike in 2022: Yes, I said it. For cyclists, a new bike is always an exciting prospect, and always feels just-around-the-corner (recall that n+1 is the perfect number of bikes for anyone owning n bikes…) For a lot of reasons, I think it’s the right next bike purchase. I’d like an e road or gravel bike, which is many dollars. Hence the prep time for research, test riding, and making that money to pay for it.
What about you, dear readers? What are you enjoying this fall? I’d love to hear from you.
We’ve got some fit feminist groups doing the PaarticipACTION challenge this year. You can read about our kick off here. There are at least two teams that I know of. Teams are limited to 8 so we had to break into groups.
My team has made it to Saskatchewan so far.
So far I’m enjoying the challenge and the hope of winning the team trip to the Yukon. It’s been a good reminder for me to get out and walk everyday. I’m still biking lots too.
With my horrible end stage osteoarthritic knees, I’m never sure how much is too much. Yes, walking hurts but it’s not making things worse and I like being outside and walking with family members and our dogs.
Mallory, Sarah and I are considering a hiking back country camping trip this spring and I’m really curious to see if I can do it. Knee replacement seems to be on hold forever and I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not sure if I’m just getting used to being in pain or if walking is actually less painful some days.
Here’s galleries from three of my walks since the challenge began!