White Fur

A good book will haunt you after it’s finished, seeking answers to the how’s and why’s. A great book doesn’t spell it all out, or tie everything in a nice bow with the final sentence, but will give a sense of closure.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire haunted me this week. Home sick with a bad cold, I finally dove into this novel which had been sitting on my shelf for months.

I’ll say, it was presented as a sexy little read, but this was no Fifty Shades. The premise is privileged boy meets girl from the other side of the tracks. Cue the expected family and friends don’t approve shtick and the expected culture clash that ensues.

The love story that occurs is sweet, tender, sick, sexy, tragic and infuriating. Foreshadowing throughout the novel tells the reader that something bad is coming. And when it does, it’s truly maddening and frustrating. Elise is not a very sympathetic character, but by the time you get to the climax of the book, your heart wrenches for her.

They both come to eachother from very different places, and neither character is likeable in the beginning. This must be why I started the book several times but didn’t finish it until this week. Their love evolves each character into just what they need to be, for eachother. They aren’t there for the reader to like, but you will find something you relate to in them. Individually they are strange, awkward and hard to love. As the pages go on, you begin to see what they see in each other, why they fell so hard for one another. They grow together, each pushing the other to be better. Fighting so hard to be together that they give up everything.

This novel spoke to me as someone who tends to worry about the other shoe dropping. When things are going really well, there’s always that nagging feeling that it will come to a crashing halt. Or that worry that one bad decision, one slip in judgment could take everything away from you. I crossed my fingers, praying that the last few pages of the book would wrap up the story into that nice little bow. That Elise would get her happy ending, and Jamey would find peace. All I’ll say is that they end up exactly where they are supposed to be.

Character assignments*:

Elise – Christina Ricci

Jamey – Richard Madden

* This where I reveal who I picture while reading this book, granted ages aren’t appropriate since both characters are early twenties. Use your imagination.

Make your actions match your goals

2017 started with the worst stomach virus of my life, couldn’t eat for 5 days and weighed in 10 lbs lighter than my usual. Not exactly what I had in mind, and not really what I would recommend for a weight loss plan.

2018 started with a great celebration with friends, NO hangover (win), no flu (double win) and Maple Bacon Doughnut fromĀ Do-Rite (doesn’t really get any better). As January 1st continued on, it became clear that a head cold was setting in. I’m battling it the old fashioned way: soup, hot tea and lots of rest.

Not usually one for New Years resolutions, I’ve had a lot of time to think these past 2 days, and probably spent too much time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook while Fixer Upper ran a marathon on HGTV. I’ve been stewing over a couple things during this time, and aside from wanting a new open concept kitchen and a master suite that would make every day feel like a stay at a fancy hotel…here’s what I came up with:

Money –

I thought about several years ago, when Phil and I had a combined income of under $50k. We rented a small apartment with very little furniture and not a lot of frills. We ate cheap, and didn’t spend much money on ourselves. But we managed to have a full emergency fund, and took a couple awesome vacations.

Fast forward to today, our careers are flourishing despite a few challenging years with my job, but we still find ourselves living nearly paycheck to paycheck. We set money aside into savings every paycheck, but it always feels like we get set back easily (home repairs have really hit us hard in 2017, vet bills due to a couple health scares for our beloved puggle, car repairs, etc.) and all the while we want to be able to take trips and enjoy time as a couple.

The truth is, sometimes we are a little too good to ourselves. We need to feel comfortable with less, like we did back in the day.

So my big resolution, is to be better managing money. We have some big goals coming up in the next 10 years, and they all have hefty price tags attached.

Honesty –

When I think back on some of the issues that have come up in my relationships in the past year, a lot of them could have been quelled by being honest in the moment. With friends, family, coworkers…I don’t like confrontation and I try not to rock the boat. If I know that an opinion won’t be popular, I tend to keep it to myself. That needs to change, I’ve found myself in damage control mode when I should’ve just had that difficult conversation in the moment. Lessons learned, but application is key.

Growth –

If you talk to a handful of people about resolutions, I’m sure a majority of them will touch on this next idea. It’s not a new concept, we waste a lot of time. Think of the last time you sat down at the computer or with a device, even if it started as a productive session before you know it you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of articles, videos, online shopping, all time wasters. We also disconnect from those closest to us, in order to zone out and experience other peoples’ lives that we haven’t seen or spoken to in years.

We walk away feeling worse about ourselves, or in my case, reliving old painful situations with the reminder of people that hurt us. It’s like picking a scab, it never gets better, we never move on, we can’t ever heal those old wounds.

The other facet of this is so simple, how much shit could we get done if we weren’t poking around on the internet all the time? We never have enough time, but yet we waste so much of it. That has to change.

My last goal is to work on using my free time for personal growth, rather than picking at old wounds and watching online tutorials (although I have gotten infinitely better at doing my eye makeup). I was reminded by Jenna Zaffino of all the books I have bought, or started, but never finished. If you expand upon that, all those “things” you talked about doing, but never really got there.

In the end, we have to put our resolutions into action. If you want to accomplish a goal, then you have to match your actions to that goal. No progress will be made if nothing changes. Write it down. Break it down to manageable steps. And go tackle it.

Failure


“Come with me.”

I thought I ended up where I am today, as a result of that phrase. An innocent invitation that sparked something in me that I never could have expected. I had bigger things planned, important things, things that I thought were more worthwhile, more regarded, I was going to change lives. Important stuff.

During the summer before I started college, a friend got me a job as a camp counselor. One of those day camps, parents drop the kids off on their way to work and pick them on the way home. Nothing glamorous. I was a substitute my first year, meaning that if a counselor was sick or out of town, I would fill in. Kids were separated by age group, and ranged from 10-15 in each group. On days with full attendance, with all counselors on hand, I would get placed with either the largest or rowdiest groups. The group that always caught my attention was the special needs group, they were always the loudest, rowdy, a really diverse group, extra counselors around serving as aids, but that’s not what drew me in. 

There was one boy that always caught my eye, Charlie. He had been born with cerebral palsy, and as a result, was in a wheelchair. His voice carried above the others, and though he had some difficulty speaking, he had opinions and ideas and this amazing joy for life that I’ll never forget. You couldn’t quiet him once he got going. Just embrace it and let it happen. His body was tight as can be, especially the legs, spastic as a result of the CP. 

This was 16 years ago, and I remember it so clearly. I would see all the kids running around the playground at lunch time, and Charlie was always in his chair off to the side. I don’t think it bothered him much. But it bothered me. One day I asked his aid if he was allowed out of the chair, she said he was, but he was difficult to handle. He was around 9, I believe, and didn’t have much muscular control. It was a lot for one person to manage. But two people, that seemed reasonable. He was lanky, kind of tall for his age. But it was more than doable. So we started taking him on walks. First on pavement, then grass, sometimes sand, because he liked how soft it was. He would lay in the grass and we would move his arms and legs around, as his foster mom told us we could. And it became this little project of ours. I decided in that first moment that his feet touched the ground, that I wanted to be a physical therapist. I wanted to help kids like Charlie, walk. 

Maybe it was too grandiose at the time, or maybe I just didn’t have it in me to follow through on that. But in the course of my college career, I lost my ambition. I lost that fire. I let fear take over.

I ended up on a different career path, because of failure. Literal failure. I failed Calculus. Twice. Seems relatively unimportant, but when your dreams are to become a physical therapist, it’s a pretty defining thing. Graduate schools have these requirements in place, kind of antiquated in my opinion, but that doesn’t change the fact that I failed to meet them. My gpa dropped and I lost that spark. What was the point, this thing that I had been working towards. That I wanted so badly, would never happen because my brain couldn’t figure out calculus. It was numbers on a page, it might as well have been Japanese. Or hieroglyphics. The numbers made no sense, the first or the second time around. Honestly, probably my first defining failure in life. Like actual, honest to goodness, no talking your way out of it, no negotiating, you failed, failure. 

My last semester of courses at school is a blur. I wasn’t present. I still maintained all the requirements for my major, but didn’t have the gpa or the prerequisites for physical therapy school. One advisor, who seemed a little harsh, told me in some iteration “you’re never going to be a physical therapist, you don’t have the grades or the prereqs, you need to move on to something else”. She was right. Maybe not about the never part, but at least not right now.

So I changed focus, but I wasn’t that excited about it. I pursued fitness, personal training specifically. I obtained an internship at a hospital based health club, doing the tasks that interns do. And when my time was up, they offered me a job as a personal trainer. It wasn’t that exciting at first, but it paid decent and had great benefits. I still had plans to get back to school, just needed to work for a bit, save some money and finish my prerequisite courses. 

About 4 months into my new position, living on my own for the first time, and struggling to make ends meet. A co-worker presented an idea. She was developing a Pilates program at the health club, and thought that I might be “good at it”.

“Come with me, you’ll like it”. And at the very least, the club was paying for it, so basically no risk on my part. I was a new trainer, and a specialized program that only two of the staff members were trained in, seemed like a good bet. The instructor who taught that first Reformer course I attended, she was old school, she probably would have been horrified to know that I had never stepped foot into a Pilates Studio prior to that day. My experience level began and ended with the set of three Winsor Pilates dvd I’d had for years, but realistically only used a few times each. I remember googling “pilates reformer” and had no idea what I was even looking at. I was intrigued.

The course took three days, and at the end I wanted more. In the last 11 years I’ve never stopped. I became obsessed. I didn’t know where to begin. But I dove in with every client I had. I didn’t fully know how to use the tools I had in my possession, but I knew they were powerful. 

Today. With not even the slightest desire to go to graduate school, I am very thankful that I didn’t keep beating my head against a wall with another attempt at Calculus. Would I have been a good physical therapist, I think so. But who knows? All I know is that I do change lives, every single day. I work with broken bodies, scoliosis, post rehab, athletes, kids, moms, non believers of the work, the hopeless ones that haven’t exercised because they don’t think they can, people who don’t really “get” what I do, until they try it. And I’m good at it. Like kick ass. I’m so present. Thats what keeps me coming back, day after day. I look back at this weird, unconventional journey, that all started because I failed.

Not Me

I recently attended a weekend of workshops with the incomparable Carrie Pages, if you’re not familiar with this dynamo, she’s equal parts sweet as pie Southern Belle, Pilates maestro and magnetic force of nature. She hands out humbling experiences that leave you thinking “what just happened?”. The biggest moment of the weekend surprised me, it was a complete shift in personal responsibility in movement.

My neck had gone into spasm the morning of the workshop. Not a great start. I’m usually the first person to hop on a reformer and try something wild. I headed into the weekend understanding that my typical movement was not a reality, no going up onto the shoulders, no abdominal curls, none of my favorite things. At the same time, I committed to being a rockstar at the movements that were within my wheelhouse.

Saturday started with Footwork. I got this. I can rock neutral like no one’s business. Throw any cue you’ve got at me. Change the breathing. Adjust the feet. Lengthen the spine. Lighten the springs. Heavy the springs. I’m ready. And extend the legs to move the carriage…

To the group, “Unlock your knees.”

I’m good, she’s not talking to me.

“Unlock your knees.”

Not me.

In her sweet, slightly Southern tinged voice “If your name is Jessica, unlock your knees”

Head lifts up. Me?

Can you believe, all this time, I didn’t realize that I lock my knees in Footwork. My mind was blown. How had I missed this? In 11 years, no one had ever said this before. Or did they? Did I just assume they weren’t talking to me? Confusion. Denial. Then finally, acceptance. I do that. I’ve probably been doing it for a while. I have something new to be conscious in my body. A new responsibility.

A few weeks prior to that, I had an issue going on with a friend. In my mind, this friend was upset with me for no reason. Not me, I didn’t do anything. After a very honest conversation with her, I realized, wow, she’s right to be upset. Not only that, I was at fault. I wasn’t being a good friend. I was taking our friendship for granted. I was being a jerk. I was quick to say “not me”, but when I looked back on the sequence of events that led to that conversation I could see clear as day that I was wrong. I commit to take this new information, and be a better friend in the future.

The moral of the story: Before you say “not me”, step back and look at yourself from an outside perspective. Find some clarity. Ask the questions. Be prepared to be wrong. Be humbled. Then…be better.