Namaste.

river2Legs crossed, back straight, imagining a string that pulls me upward. Just like the instructor says. Posture matters. So does breath. 

Each week I try to escape my mental reality. 

She says, “Set an intention for your practice.”

I come here each week to calm my jagged nerves. I come here for calm, but my mind wonders. “Why does each day suck so much? Why can’t I be grateful for all goodness?”

She says, “Find a mantra. Choose a Sankalpa. This is your practice and level of commitment. Control your breath, control your life.” 

Instead, my brain screams for calm.

100-word challenge:  CALM
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Gravity Happens

The earth sometimes pulls you back down to terra firma. Taking my third-time-ever spin class this week did so to me. I’ve found, for the most part, I dislike group exercise. In fact, I’ve decided going solo is a comforting although often lonesome endeavor.

Being the oldest and probably physically weakest person on a stationary bike in that class felt humiliating. The odd-woman out, which I feel on a day-to-day basis at work enough as it is. Yes — I project this title onto myself — but need to own that feeling to process and get past it.

Maybe I’m meant to be on an outdoor trail instead, regardless of the falling temperatures in the Midwest. It’s important to be receptive to change, as it’s the only constant in life. Period.

A temperate day brought me there yesterday, to a wonderfully maintained trail near our suburban neighborhood, albeit with a wipeout on the fallen leaves from over-confidence in my downhill speed. The universe reminded me of my limitations once again when I drifted sideways and landed squarely on my shoulder and hip. More importantly, though, I got back up and continued. IMG_2167

Doing so brought me to a beautiful creek where I got to sit and listen to gravity take the stream down to the lake and renew my mind, if only for the moment. Much like in life, the coast comes with the climb, and the spin accompanies the grind. But I can do that. I can stand up on my pedals to get up the hills even if I’m not feeling that stand in a spin class.

I try to remind myself how the sun will always eventually break through the clouds even if the momentary voices in my head are the most formidable force I face. It’s always darkest before the dawn, as the tired saying goes.

So my search for a way to feel grateful continues. Each moment of positivity in getting there is a tiny piece of grace I welcome.

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Stuck

1 stone

A smattering of gravestones eventually became a constant barrage of cemeteries noticed, seemingly at every turn, markers practically jumped out in front of her car. Death brings an overwhelming sense of immediacy, an obsession with its existence, the frightening inevitability of everyone’s ultimate fate. 

She looked at the chiselled names, hoping to memorize a few so those people’s existence could mean something to someone else beyond their own families. They were here. They mattered.

And her mother’s absence might feel a little less heavy. Maybe she could obsess just a tiny bit less than she did yesterday. And every day.

 

100-word challenge:  obsession 100-word-challenge

 

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“May I take your order?”

steering wheel.jpg

He looked damn good to her from a few car lengths away. Definite eye candy. 

“I should get his number. I might be 38 years old, but I still got it,” Brandy kidded herself. 

The restaurant clerk was surely checking her out, so she flashed her cutest smile, then blew a cascade of smoke out the open car window, ashed her cigarette, and inspected her rear-view mirror’s reflection. 

Upon reaching the window to pay, she couldn’t believe who greeted her. “Hi, Mrs. Jackson,” said her oldest son’s childhood friend. “It’ll be $5.95. I’ll be right back with your order.” 

100-word challenge prompt:  candy 

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image: Pajero by CarTestr

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Time for a career move

tree

With the little one-hitter tucked easily inside his back pocket, he hoped it looked more like a tire gauge than a pipe if someone suspected anything. Rick toked up from the front seat inconspicuously parked just behind the office building, or so he thought. The blacked-out windows negated any need for shade but being tucked under the trees helped him feel a little more incognito. 

He grabbed some Visine from the console, aimed some toward the blood shot, and let loose a stream of Axe spray before returning to his disastrous call center cube. The weekend couldn’t come soon enough. 

100-word challenge:  disaster

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Tour de Bass

My “getting off the couch and moving” effort began back in April when I decide to bike for MS. Joedie, a friend and former co-worker, bravely face her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, so I dedicated my ride to her. I want to live in gratitude that I’m healthy and mobile and beg the universe I can stay that way as long as possible. The aging process brings about such obvious yet scary realities. 

ride signThis final bike marathon for the year played out in the form of an intended 28-mile route on a dreary morning I embarked on before the October sunrise last Sunday. 

Lesson one:  download the GPS ahead of time 

Lesson two:  download the planned 28-mile route 

These two important strategies for success are especially important when cycling without a partner. My lack of technological preparation led me to three misdirections resulting in seven and a half extra miles traversed along the way. The first mis-step occurred at the half-way point when I continued the path that was actually the 50-mile route. Imagine my shame at having a septuagenarian recommend the GPS app. 

ride selfieMy second mistake came from following what I thought were road markings through a random neighborhood. The automated “ding” warned of my being off-route, but I thought I knew better. Thank goodness I saw two other stragglers who also turned around at the rest stop in an effort to bypass impending rain. They soon lost me in their proverbial dust, and I then failed to notice the street marking recommended by the aforementioned GPS voice. 

Lesson three:  Follow the GPS route

Much to my chagrin, the rain descended just before I heard someone bellow from behind about my missing that turn. I loathe feeling helpless. I can’t stand to ask a man for directions. And both happened. A self-reliant life spent being stubbornly independent brought me to this moment.

I now call what happened “being swept,” as the guy who found me off-course said he was running “sweep” for people who’d lost their way … like me. Being humble means relenting my control, learning my error (or in this case, errors), and realizing I need help sometimes. Which I absolutely HATE! 

ride store The future will tell if I have any more bike races in me. I say that because 52 feels very old on the saddle when it’s raining. My left quad muscles exclaims that sentiment to me vehemently while I’m at it. My own inner monologue is the toughest thing to beat, but playing music on a wi-fi speaker in my water bottle holder helps draw me out of my head. 

Lesson four:  Keep spinning

I call it “embracing the suck,” meaning no matter if your Hello Kitty socks are sopping wet and you’re riding into or somehow against the wind’s direction, you keep going because the end is inevitable. You might feel like shit on the side of the road, but the wheels must keep moving. You’ll get there one way or another, so you may as well go laughing (even at yourself) and singing your favorite song.

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Kilroy was here …

door

Living there had been poisonous since Dad’s previous springtime affair. The man proclaimed, “You’re on your own now, buddy. Don’t want ya here no more.” Sam was kicked out precisely one day after high school graduation. 

The escape planned before taking the old wagon with his name down the side in pilfered spray paint, Sam drove by blaring the horn long enough for them to embark on the porch to spy his handiwork. 

The couple retrieved his father’s trailer later that night from a county line gully, with all four tires flat but glowing letters illuminating it in the dark.

100-word Challenge:  poison

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Averting a Mid-life Crisis

black-eyed susans

All along I’d told myself not to measure the effort only by mileage. Yet that last 17 miles was perhaps the toughest thing I’ve ever physically done. It came after, as I later reflected with astonishment, I heard myself say, “There’s only 17 miles left?” I finished day one of the Bike MS Ozarks, so that’s what I consider a half-marathon completed at my own power on a bicycle on a very humid 90+ degree day up and down some hellacious Ozark hills. 

Mentally floundering after that treacherous incline just before rest stop #5 where my husband and son were working, the most fun one with shaved ice, bubble machines, donuts I couldn’t stomach by then, and loud music — which my team sponsored and posted wonderfully signs to that point — I was ready to quit. Stop. Finito. Done. I’ve never been so grateful for calories in my life. Peanut butter and cherry Kool-Aid, go figure. 

I met an amazing 62-year old woman along the way who’d taken this journey 20 times previously. She, honestly, is what got me through that last 17 miles. I’d listened to my music, gotten emotional a few times, doubted myself, gotten mad, swore profusely several times. You know, much like I do life itself. My new acquaintance talked me off the proverbial cliff to make me finish, though. 

Emmy asked me if I was okay right before the last quarter-mile, to which I replied, “I think I’m gonna throw up.” A bright orange balloon arch loomed in the distance, and she asked me, “You see that? That’s the end. You throw up at the finish line.” 

complaining

Laughter is what it took to get me to that end. I thought I lost her after crossing it, that maybe she’d traversed my imagination as an apparition, but she showed up a bit later, showered and still supportive. This existence is funny. I’m still in awe of how we meet the right people at the right time to help us cope and conquer.  

biking reality

How did Kezia talk me into this thing?

Alas, I finished the first day and clocked 79 miles all told. Just day one, but that doesn’t matter. My personal goal was attained. I’ve kept mentally repeating that I’m getting stronger, physically and mentally, throughout. Now it’s time to maintain that momentum. 

The next leg of that metaphysical journey happens this weekend in another, much shorter, bike ride. Oddly enough, I’ve even looked up a local spin class option for the late autumn and winter months. My hope is to keep these endorphins flowing. 

difference

Possibilities, possibilities. 

 

Back where it all began:

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/09/04/full-of-something-maybe-metaphors/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/08/26/too-close-for-comfort-aka-dos-and-donts/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/08/04/practicing-gratitude/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/23/flat-straightaways-easy/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/11/back-in-the-saddle/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/04/lets-get-fired-up/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/22/what-else-can-we-do/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/14/ebony-irony/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/03/farm-road-wisdom/

 

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Making Danica Patrick Proud

bus.jpg

Usually light-hearted and felicitous, Fannie appeared befuddled. The quaff normally perched atop her head in platinum perfection, instead shot out in all directions, and her frippery lay uncharacteristically in disarray. Fannie didn’t feel her normal self. 

The children fluttered about her like mob of meerkats, just as frantic as she, before loading into their Mercedes sedan. The nanny usually drove them to school, so everyone’s anxiety ran high. Mother’s driving expertise equated amateur level. 

A previous trip ended in such embarrassment. Last time she delivered them to school, arrival was marked with sirens sounding and lights in the rear-view mirror.

 

100-word challenge:  amateur 

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Photo: Markus Kneibes via Flickr

 

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Raising Cain

Apple pie with pecan nuts

Grandma made them all aprons as a gift, like they’d one day become domesticated. It just wasn’t in the cards, though, much to their father’s surprise. The troika instead grew into independent non-cooks and bakers who didn’t fastidiously keep house. With better things to do, nary a homemade muffin would emerge from their ovens. 

“If that shit’s going to get done, hubs can do it himself. Make his own damn sammich,” the youngest protested. “He’s got two hands.”

No wonder Mrs. Bray warned her mother at first-grade parent-teacher conferences, “I can just hear her griping at her husband one day.” 

100-word challenge prompt:  homemade

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photo:  Marco Verch via Flickr

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