Archive for ‘Veni, vidi, vici…sort of’

July 16, 2014

The world didn’t end

Aaaaannnnnnddddd I survived!  To catch everyone up, you may have noticed that I vanished after April.  This is because it was my turn to endure the tortuous, graduate school rite of passage…the qualifying exam.  Also known as the comprehensive exam, prelims, or the ninth circle of hell.  It is widely regarded as the worst experience of grad school (my vote can now be included in that- I’m declaring it with still a few years to go) and has, outwardly, a seemingly insufficient payoff: I get to pursue a Ph.D.  But wait, you may say, wasn’t that what you were already doing?  Sadly, no.  During the first two years, you must acquire the knowledge and then prove you are “ready”.  Yes, that rigorous, merciless raking-over-the-coals was rewarded with, effectively, a “Yeah ok, you can stay”.  And yet it is EVERYTHING to a grad student.  We’re insane.

One does not simply   pass the           Qualifying Exam.

You guys, that was my first meme!

Anyways, I am now a third year and right on track for the idealism plummet that, so I am told, leads to an actual, semi-successful career in the sciences.  All-in-all, I’d call that a win!

 <– Truth

November 10, 2013

Lady troubles

So, I’m going to tell a tale.  I could tell you this happened to a friend of mine, but we all know it was me, so I’ll just get on with it…

Gentlemen, from time to time, ladies will employ little wardrobe tricks cleverly concealed underneath our clothes.  Double-sided tape to keep our bra straps in place or a strategically placed safety pin…because wardrobe malfunctions are rarely beneficial outside of a Super Bowl performance.  And speaking of pasties, I happen to own a pair of far more understated ones.  For when I want to wear a billowy blouse to work that ties behind the neck.  Because pasties have expanded far beyond strippers and Vegas showgirls to serve a far more utilitarian purpose for all types of women…and because in very few professions outside of the two aforementioned ones are the unintended appearance of nipples an appropriate thing, including mine.  I happen to have a pair of silicone ones that attach to me purely through the mechanism of my own body heat making them sticky, so there has always been an awareness on my part that this is not a foolproof setup.  Which was recently proven correct when I returned home from school one evening and removed my lovely chemisier to discover that, yep, I’m only wearing one.  Panic descends.  For I have only noticed this now.  Lord knows when this happened!

I start going through the events of the day.  Naturally, I had a million places to go that day at locations that couldn’t be more distal from one another.  And I bounced and flounced my way to each of these, blissfully unaware that I was dropping ill-supported undergarments like so many bread crumbs.  Of course I had class that day, so it is entirely likely that this event was seen by a fellow student who I will have to see for the remainder of my career there.  Ha, or perhaps even a professor.  Awesomeness!  And of course I work in a lab, nay, A FLOOR populated almost entirely by men.  I fully expect to find it stuck conspicuously to the lab floor on Monday morning.  Well, I won’t find it, but it’ll be found and no doubt correctly assigned to the only one within a 100-yard radius with breasts.  Oh, and did I mention that of course, OF COURSE, this all went down on the day that I had scheduled a meeting with the department chair.  Ahahahahahahahahahaha!!!  Funny, right?!  The best part, I think, is how this happened on a Friday, so I get to ruminate on this ALLLLL weekend.

At this point, you may find yourself thinking, “But, Lisa, if this was so mortifying for you, why am I reading about it on the internet?”.  Well, I suppose I’ve decided at this point to simply own it.  These things happen, folks!  In fact, ladies have also been known to menstruate, grow hair under their arms, fart, and drool when they sleep; in all likelihood, I’ve done all of these at once.  Let’s all just try and behave like grown ups.  And men, if ever your (let’s see, what’s the equivalent here?), er, athletic cup (??) jiggles loose during an afternoon stroll, I promise to pretend I didn’t see a thing.

agent-provocateur-black-tassled-pasties-product-1-12281157-200113130_large_flex Miley-Cyrus-wears-pasties-cries-at-Vegas-festival 300px-Cornish_pasty

July 25, 2012

My thoughts on kickboxing, part two

Why do I insist on paying young, fit people large sums of money to physically and emotionally torture me? How much punishment must one inflict on oneself before one is considered a masochist? Evidently, the DSM IV only has a classification for sexual masochism, so unless I intend to make these kickboxing classes a lot more inappropriate, that question will go unanswered. Despite full-body akinesia from my first kickboxing class just 48 hours prior, I, upon the advice of several people more athletic than me (who I now resent), decided to “power through it” and go to my second. The question of whether or not that was a good idea I hope to answer in the proceeding paragraphs.

So, about ten minutes before I had to leave work to make the class, I changed my mind and decided this was lunacy.  The similarities to stories of mentally ill people who jump out of windows, break both legs, and continue trying to run are too great.  But, after numerous self-asseverations that I would not liquefy into a boneless, muscle-less puddle as a result, I conceded to go.  I arrived late. On the way there I went east when I should have gone west; like the pompous, would-be auteur that I am, I was writing in my head the brilliantly cynical and hyperbolic blog post I am now typing and took the wrong exit. I finally arrive, rush in, and jump into my workout clothes à la George Jetson so that by the time I’m ready to go, I’m already out of breath. This does not bode well.

Halfway through and (surprise, surprise) just as before, I’m certain my quadriceps are about to spontaneously inflame, my abdominal wall is about to collapse in on itself like a dying star, and my lungs are about to explode out of my chest and spray innocent bystanders with blood and tissue bits. The woman I’m partnered with this time for sparring is clearly picturing me as some sort of sinister attacker. She has a look of such murderous fury on her face, and she’s punching my gloves so hard that, in combination with my profusely sweating hands, she’s about to punch them off and send them flying across the gym. I’m pretty sure at any moment I’m going to have my ear bitten off. This is possibly what she thinks is happening:

Needless to say, this is a jarring experience for me, for whom tennis is a contact sport.  The instructor today has a personal vendetta against my abdomen. Images of me chained to a large boulder doing crunches while a vulture eats my liver race through my head.  For those keeping score, when you combine Parts One and Two, I have now made three references to Hades.  Not a good sign.  In short, things are going pretty much exactly as I expected them to.

When I get home that evening, I’m actually feeling pretty good.   I’m feeling energetic, not too sore.  This can only mean one thing: yep, by morning, I’m catatonic.  Getting out of bed requires this ludicrous swiveling, sliding technique I haven’t employed since I got a violent stomach illness at the age of 12.  My joints pop and crackle with each step; I am human bubble wrap.

Evidently, this is still not enough of a sign for me.  Clearly dissatisfied with how long it took for paralysis to descend, I then enrolled in my first ever pilates class that weekend, another mere 48 hours after my most recent body-wracking.  I needed a haircut, and my salon is right next door to the studio, where I’ve previously taken yoga.  So, with the promise of a head massage and a glass of wine immediately after, I once more forced myself to go.  It seems my pilates instructor also has an unabashed hatred for my abs.  And she is merciless.  My abdominals and obliques are broken; my innards have free roam.  She’s also cracking jokes and talking about the cheese plates from Wegmans and how good they are with a glass of wine.  I could shank her with a sharpened toothbrush right about now.  If I thought my kickboxing instructor was vengeful, this woman is some unholy amalgamation of Titus AndronicusInigo Montoya, and Lorena Bobbitt.  By the next day, a sneeze is now an agonizing ordeal.

That night, something occurred.  The most apt analogy I can ascribe to the apogee of my workout week is your grandpa and his dusty, old chair.  The upholstery is worn and the wood creaks, but it is still his most cherished companion.   Imagine that, without warning, the beloved chair snaps in half as he’s sitting in it, and your grandpa is lying prostrate across it on the floor.  As I went to bed that evening, I began to lie back as usual and that was when I was reminded that my whole body is broken, the inevitable result of a fortnight of rigorous exercise regimens, which also included my regular yoga classes.  My neck, back, stomach, ass, arms, and legs all give out simultaneously, and I plop violently onto my pillow. It has all happened so suddenly.  We, your Grandpa and I, feel confused and embarrassed and confused that we are embarrassed; we did just fall, but it was under such strange circumstances.  After all, years of uneventfully leaning back had taught us we could reasonably expect for it to happen again without incident.  We feel we should be alarmed or ashamed.  Yet we are just so tired and, hell, we’re already lying down.  So instead, we just go to sleep, snoring lightly in a heaping pile.

And the final verdict:

First of all, everyone is inexcusably cheerful.  It’s almost intolerable.  And I don’t understand it.  When I feel like my body is being ripped in half, I don’t want to see your smiling face.  Or worse yet, have to smile back at you, as was the case in my pilates class.  This isn’t a pre-school dance recital.  I’m a grown woman (who is one more set from curling into a ball and whimpering like a little girl).  Generally, when grown-ups smile for no reason, it’s not a good thing:

   

Furthermore, I’m not smiling because I’m in pain, and I’m in pain because I’m out of shape although I do thank you for reminding me of that fact.  Overall, it’s a level of jocoseness not in tune with my current level of suffering.

Similarly and on a side note, giving exercises and implements cute and catchy names like burpee, teaser, and magic circle is so misleading it’s almost criminally deceptive.  A more appropriate name for the burpee might be the barfee, the ralphee, or the evaginatee.  The slang definition of a teaser is an enticement to attract attention; do not satisfy this curiosity or you will end up like this and then the joke’s on you!  (Ba-dum…tsh!)  And ah yes, the Pilates Circle, a device akin to a medieval rack in terms of the pain it can inflict, was a new discovery for me.  My instructor kept ironically referring to it as the “Happy Circle”, which kept making me laugh, thanks to my having more than a few vulgar friends enlighten me as to the actual definition.  Another new discovery: laughing is inadvisable when one is doing The Hundred.  Who knew a small hoop with two padded handles could be such a pernicious little contrivance?

These were my final classes for a bit.  I had to take a break from the relentless exercise to plan my 30th birthday party, arguably the impetus for this newfound activity that I’ve tenderly nurtured into a full-blown obsession.  And party-planning in my home, when you’re with my OCD Adonis of a Greek, means doing a bunch of work on the house and cleaning it from top to bottom, even the parts guests are highly unlikely to be in- anyone else clean their laundry rooms before a soirée?  But I vow to continue the butt-kicking kickboxing because…I think I might love it.  I’m beginning to savor the immense regret I feel about two-thirds of the way through when I’m utterly
convinced that this is the time when I won’t make it, and I even enjoy the debilitating pain afterwards…it means it’s working!  [Maniacal laughter]  But most of all, I like the post-class high.  Following such frenetic exercise, it’s a
completely different sensation to yoga.  But like yoga, it’s a feeling that you’ve done something incredibly healthy for your body and mind that you actually found, dare I say it, kinda fun.  Yes, yes, I just spent the entire post complaining about it, but that’s what the people expect.  Would you prefer I had just talked about how awesome it was and how awesome I am for doing it this whole time?  Oh, and it is, as you can imagine, an equally great albeit less meditative form of stress relief.  As for the bonus pilates class,…meh.  To me, it just feels like unhealthy yoga with a lot (A LOT) of props.  It just doesn’t give me happy-joy-joy feelings at the prospect of going back.

So, it’s decided; my road to physical fitness shall be traveled via the Asian arts.  Or, rather, the Western bastardization of ancient Asian art forms…whatever.

July 13, 2012

My thoughts on kickboxing, part one

I’ve been doing yoga regularly (alright fine, sometimes sporadically) for over a year now, so I actually began to think that I was in pretty good shape. Then, last month, I tried mountain biking for the first time, and all I believed to be true was swiftly strafed out of existence in a single morning, a strenuous, six-hour auto-de-fé of torture and public humiliation. Things I yelled at the instructor tasked with waiting behind with me, the sole straggler: “Please stop! Your words of encouragement are painful to my ears.” “Your abs are mocking me!” “Stop calling it ‘granny gear’!”. Things I contemplated doing in my exhaustion-induced stupor: faking a sprained ankle and demanding to be Medivac-ed off the mountain at once; buying the bike (which was for sale) right then and there so I could abandon it on the trail and walk the rest of the way; just…running away.  This profound lassitude did, however, serve to distract me from the unbridled terror I was simultaneously experiencing.  Things that happened to me during the ride: I received a blister on my heel so bad that it bled through my thick sock; I fell off the bike twice, once from essentially a stopped position (don’t ask) and again on an especially wide stretch of trail when the nature geek in me dared to look out at the bucolic surroundings and I clipped a tree at the edge of the path.  Things that I kept thinking were going to happen to me: falling off the mountain and dying, falling off the mountain and dying, and falling off the mountain and dying.  Mountain biking…never again.

  

But, in my ongoing efforts to receive unwanted pity from ripped twenty-somethings, I bought a Groupon for ten kickboxing classes from the American Academy of Martial Arts in Columbia, MD.  I took my first class this past Tuesday.  Upon arriving there, I encountered a young man behind the desk.  I hand in my Groupon, and he signs me in.  “Are there changing rooms?” I inquired, “because obviously I can’t work out like this” I say to him, gesturing at my work clothes.  “After all,” I smirked, “this is ‘Cardio kickboxing’, not ‘Cardigan kickboxing’”.  Silence.  This is not going well.

The class begins.  Techno music is thumping in my ears; already I am not happy.  I find a place beside the floor fan.  The fan sits beside the speakers, which are blaring aforementioned loathed techno; ‘tis the price one pays.  The class is very confusing and intimidating to a newcomer, particularly one whose most recent workout experience involves serene yoga music and the faint smell of incense while a hippie/yogi gently chants in my ear, “There is no judgment and no competition in this class”.  Aaaaahhhhhh……  The best example I can give of my confusion, which caused the Greek to suddenly burst into laughter as we lay in bed that night upon recalling my telling it, was when, facing my bag with my back to the instructor, he ordered us to do a series of shin kicks.  Naturally, I took this to mean kick as if trying to kick someone in the shins and so began toe-kicking the bottom part of my bag (Hey!  I’ll have you know that it’s an actual sports competition in Great Britain!).  Anyways, after noticing the woman beside me absolutely pummeling her bag with high kicks and after thinking the poor fool was never going to kick someone’s shins if she kicks that high, it occurred to me: shin kicks in kickboxing actually mean kicking with YOUR shins.  Live and learn.

About halfway through the class, it seemed strange to me that I should see so many lightning bugs INSIDE a building.  “Holy shit!” I grasped (and gasped), “I’m about to pass out!”  This didn’t end up happening, but at one point later on, a woman in front of me turned to the woman behind her and said, “I’m going to kill him!” in reference to our instructor.  While I am certain she was kidding now, at the time, in my crazed, oxygen-deprived trance, I thought, “How can I make this happen? I need to talk to these ladies. Sure, he’s weakened us with his unending drills, but together we can do this!”.

When the class FINALLY ended, I was pooped (It took me until the second class to find the wall clock, and the gloves don’t permit one to wear a watch.  The class is like the vacuum of space: there is neither time nor oxygen).  My limbs quivered from exertion.  My body was drenched in sweat; so much sweat had poured down my face during the last 40 minutes that my eyes stung.  I may never micturate again.  As I stumbled crookedly across the parking lot towards my car, I called the Greek.  “Lover,” I stammered, “remember when I used to get mad at you when you told me yoga wasn’t exercise?  I just came out of my first kickboxing class and that…THAT was exercise!”.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am still very much pro yoga; it has built my strength and flexibility tremendously.  But in terms of primitive, ancestral, running-from-a-saber-toothed-tiger, stamina-building, heart-exploding types of exercise, kickboxing takes the proverbial cake!  (Actual cake or indeed any food that requires digestion is, at this point, out of the question)  You might also think that I did not enjoy my first foray into kickboxing.  Not so. On the contrary, during the rare breaks in our workout (The real ones, that is. Good sir, running in place is NOT a break. For the record.), I was overcome with the desire to scream “YEAH! LET’S DO THIS!!!” and smash a beer can with my forehead.  Unfortunately, that sensation dissipates immediately after we start moving again.  It is an exhilarating workout!  And you feel damn good afterward.

Which brings me to the afterward.  Directly after, when the endorphins and epinephrine are rushing through your bloodstream, you feel awesome.  You could not feel awesomer.  Sure, it’s an effort to depress the gas pedal and walk up your front porch steps, but you’re still convinced you’re unstoppable.  Let’s see any heinous hooligan or menacing malefactor try and test me; I’ll punch his guts out.  Then the nirvana-inducing neurotransmitters are no more and you wonder how it is you’ve been transposed into the body of a 90-year old woman.  Climbing a flight of stairs becomes a life-altering decision.  Unscrewing your water bottle cap is impossible.  Your nights are plagued with dreams of some over-roided demi-god screaming at you from a sea of flames: “FASTER!!! HARDER!!! LOWER!!!  HOLD IT…HOLD IT…HOLD IT…”.  And you can’t wait to get back!

Stay tuned for Part Two: The Second Class…

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