I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘Growth’

Coachie on Crack

There was more to this conversation, but this is the part that got my attention – 

Me: Why am I slower than I used to be?! 

Coachie: Blah blah insert reasonable scientific answer oh and you’re a year older…sorry! 

I want to make sure I’m understanding correctly. My age is supposed to have some effect on my physical output? No. Way. 

Up to this point, I had been pretty excited for my birthday. I even have a countdown on my phone! I am thankful for the life with which God has blessed me. My twenties have been a big deal – I’ve finished my formal schooling, started my career, become slightly less insecure, am becoming more physically fit, and finally get to stop kissing frogs. I am starting to see just how blessed I am. Bring on the years, baby. Then Coachie drops this bombshell on me. “You’re another year older…sorry!” Black isn’t supposed to crack at ALL, much less so early (Lord willing!) on life’s timeline. I’m confused. 

I went to my computer and started looking at pictures of myself from my early twenties. “My word,” I thought to myself. “I DO have cracks!” I look in the mirror and see lines that weren’t once there, not to mention a gray or two that has appeared since 2005. “I’ve been thinking to myself that I just keep getting better and here’s all this…aging. Yikes.” 

If I am being honest with myself, I still believe that’s the case. I AM getting better. The cracks in my black are evidence that growth always comes with a cost, whether it be time, money, or gray hair. I suppose I could have stayed inside away from the sun, or not taken the risks I have. My life is that much richer because of my choices. 

That being said – I have since upped my moisturizer game. 



Lady J, You are (registered for) an Ironman!

266 days to figure out why the hell I signed up for this business. Probably should know before I get to the starting line. This list should grow often.

1. I’m not disciplined enough to stay healthy without a goal that doesn’t terrify me. Two years ago, the idea of losing 10 pounds and doing a 5k did the trick. Clearly I’ve had to up the meds.

2. I’m not promised anything in the future. I’ve got my health right now. May as well go big with it.

3. I’ve witnessed how it’s made other people around me stronger.

4. I get to grow with and toward some really amazing people.

5. Some annoying people will test me and that will help me become stronger as well.

6. I am curious to see how good of a swimmer, cyclist, and runner live in me. By following Coachie’s plan I will get to see all of those things.

7. I will have to ask for so much help. Anything that forces me to my knees is good for my proud ass.

8. I can eat a lot of food!

9. I am told I am stronger than I think.

10. It is highly likely that in 2016 my focus will change from becoming an Ironman to becoming an Ironmom. That’s pretty much the realest ish ever.

11. I am not usually a quitter.

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Thanksgiving, Day 5

This music teacher is loath to toot her own horn, but looking over past entries in my blog reveals that I am pretty thankful throughout the year! I am using some of today’s post to highlight people about whom I’ve previously written. These people regularly challenge me to be the best Lady J I can be. Consider this somewhat of a “greatest hits” kind of entry. 🙂

1. Zoe. That is, Zoe Jane Volkswagen. You don’t realize the stress you put your car under until you try to make your legs/bicycle do the same thing.

2. Red FREAKING Rocket.

3. Regularity. I won’t elaborate.

4. The Sexiest Ironman Ever.

5. Proactiv Plus. My skin is so clear now; it seriously has been a Godsend! I don’t break out like I’m 15 anymore.

6. Give the patience and excellence in coaching award to this chick. Now.

7. My stupid battery life on my stupid phone. Legit first world problem here, but waiting until my contract is up to upgrade is proving to be a serious lesson in patience. Clearly, it’s a lesson I must need.

8. This woman is all up in my life and thus my blog. For reals.

9. My not so great eyesight. I remember when I was at piano camp in high school and we had communal bathrooms – I could take my glasses off and it’s like the germs weren’t even there!

10. Nothing less than a 10 for Lady J. Heh.

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Permission Granted

Every Triathlete Ever: OMG, it’s so hard; this is so much work. I’m miserable right now. You should totally do this. It’s great.

Um, what?

I can’t be the only person who has noticed this. When E.T.E. is asked why I should, like, totally do this (this being sign up for X or Y race), typically the response involves his or her addiction to racing. “I just love it, Joan.” Of course, having chosen to do it more than once, I’ve experienced the thoughtfulness of E.T.E. as I panic and question my decision. However, not one of them warned me of what would happen after my first half-ironman.

The afterglow.

Don’t misunderstand. Any fool could reason that life after a big event would feel calmer. I knew my training load would be lighter, despite having two races left in my season. Time in the pool and on the road feels easier now that I’ve experienced what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. What I was NOT expecting was to be a more forgiving person in the classroom.

I realize that things probably should feel different for me this year, in that I’m no longer quite a rookie at work. I am noticing drastic changes for the better. The way I talk to my students is different. I am much more calm in general, and it takes a lot more for me to become upset by anything that happens at work, really. I had thought that I was already judicious with choosing my battles, but now I am seeing that some situations aren’t even battles. When a student is flipping out about playing a. stupid. note, I handle it much more sensitively.

I must admit that I feel more than a little foolish about this change. I am an experienced musician and have no shortage of empathy for my students as they deal with performance anxiety. Why, then, have I been such a (relative) bitch to them in years previous? I believe the reason is twofold:

1. I have had the opportunity to see their growth despite my imperfection.

One of the many reasons I love being a specialist is that I am privileged to work with my students for several years. There are times I have looked through and executed my lesson plans and thought to myself – shit. Did I teach anyone anything? Now I am able to see students who used to look at me like I have two heads use musical terms with ease and play confidently. Children who once were completely unenthused about playing by themselves eagerly raise their hand to show me what they can do. While I don’t take all the credit, I think it’s fair for me to take some when what they do is pretty solid. They quote things that I have said that make it seem like they have paid attention to me throughout the years despite all the errors I’ve made along the way.

2. I have had the opportunity to see my growth despite my imperfection.

From the department of the bleeding obvious – I’ve always been imperfect. I’ve always made progress nonetheless. However, I have been a musician for so long that the process has often taken place without my being aware of it. The difference between the person who starts something at 4 and the one who starts something at 27 is stark. Only a complete dumbass My head would have to be buried under the sand for me not to be aware of the risks I’ve taken in the last 22 months; I’ve signed more “if you die it’s your own damn fault” waivers than I can count.

It took me 7:35:58 to finish 70.3 miles. Were there things that could have gone better? Of course. Did I do my absolute best? Totes. Are most people faster than I am? Am I black? I know I have a lot of room to grow, not because I’m black and therefore inherently meant to participate in endurance sports but because I know my best can get better. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy where I am right now, despite all of my flaws.

How gracious of me to allow myself to be human, whether I’m in the classroom, on the race course, or anywhere else. I’m welcome.

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Warning: Triathlon can make it go soft.

Your heart, that is. What else would I be talking about?

All right, kids. It’s been a week since I registered for this madness, and I am quickly realizing that my life is very different than it was just a year ago.

“But Lady J,” you retort. “You were sexy as hell last October, even before you did your first triathlon. What are you talking about?” Well. Who am I to fight an argument like that? *blushes* I’ve got to tell y’all, though – the eyes through which I admire myself in the mirror see life in a new way.

Life can be more than a bit torturous for an introverted perfectionist. Already, my tendency is to share myself fairly selectively. Add to that my feeling that the more people know me the less they’ll want to do with me – quite frankly, it’s a wonder that I open up to anyone. Probably because all humans need connection with one another. Whatevs.

Since triathlon has come into my life, I am finding that I resent that need less and less. What is training but dealing with imperfection? Race day is simply imperfection management. I have learned that excellence and imperfection are not mutually exclusive. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that because my definition of success is changing, I am slowly becoming more comfortable sharing with others.

As I think of just how intense my training will have to be as I approach my first Ironman, I find myself looking forward not to race day itself but to the path that will take me there. I am excited to dig deep and see more of what I am made. The real shocking part is that I am also excited to get to know people who are currently in my life even better. Not only that, it doesn’t scare me to ask for help as it once did. I know I am going to meet a lot of new people and it doesn’t even make me roll my eyes to think about it. What’s that about?!

I think my favorite part of my mellowing is what I see happening in my professional life. I find that a kinder, gentler Lady J is more sensitive to the needs of my students. It is easier for me to see the good in their efforts to make music, even when it sounds absolutely horrific. The words that it takes to convince someone to try something new are coming more naturally to me. My babies are becoming less tense because I am starting to recognize that it is normal for them not to understand something right away, to stumble, and then get it if they keep showing up.

“Lady J,” you say in disbelief. “You teach music. Shouldn’t you know better than anyone that practice is needed to become proficient at anything?” Dammit. You’re right again. And I have always maintained with my students that I don’t expect them to be perfect – only to try their best. I am realizing I have secretly been hoping that they would get it right on the first try because their imperfection is a reflection of my imperfection. The more they play imperfectly, the more I have to deal with my own inadequacies as musician and teacher. Twisted, I know. Now, I am able to celebrate their progress with much more than a sigh of relief. “Thank God I don’t completely suck,” I would think. No, no, NO! “Thank God you stuck with it and can reap the rewards of your hard work.”

So, um, yeah. Lord willing, becoming an Ironman is gonna be pretty sweet. The road and relationships I build along the way are going to be even sweeter. Hugs for everyone!

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Seventy Point Whee: Pre-Race Report, Part I

In stark contrast with my previous experiences, the hours leading up to the race were super enjoyable. I understand why all you people insist that being around one another is wonderful. Quite frankly, it can be a helpful distraction from nerves. However – many of the same people were at St. Anthony’s and I remember purposely hiding behind a tree at one point trying to avoid people. Either I am getting more comfortable with racing in general, getting more comfortable with people in general, getting more comfortable with these people specifically, or a combination of all three.

And it is absolutely wonderful.

If you know me at all, it is very easy to tell when I’m uncomfortable. Where my comfort ends, my jokes end. Even inside my own head I cannot make myself laugh, which is absolutely tragic. While next to Red in transition, I found myself laughing, coming up with Facebook statuses and memes for later, and just being happy. Yes, I was focused on what I came there to do, but I didn’t feel the need to shut everyone out to do it.

I am pleased that I am now in a place where I feel I am not dead weight among my triathlete friends. I understand that I probably never was, but it is nice to feel that I am becoming grounded enough to share the smile, hug, or joke that a fellow athlete might need to help get them through the day. I suppose that’s usually how it works, though. My circumstances haven’t really changed. I’m only becoming slightly less hard-headed and realizing what amazing people I have around me.

Guess I’m not such a tribaby anymore.

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When the therapist is the patient – and lacks patience

School is back in full swing, which means Lady J’s after-school ensembles have started. I get to spend my Tuesday afternoons helping 25 students learn to play the ukulele. At the same time. God help us all.

Most of them have had no prior experience with the instrument. I’m no ukulele virtuoso, but I know enough to stay ahead of them – for now, heh. Over the course of our time together, we’ll familiarize ourselves with enough chords so we can sing and play several songs for their loved ones. “It’s not enough for us to be adorable,” I tell them. “We have to sound good too!”

So we start with the easiest chord. One finger on one string. For most, this was no problem. Then two fingers on two strings. Some problems but still okay. Then three fingers on three strings. What had been a fun rehearsal turned into bedlam.

My fingers hurt!

This is sooooooo hard!

I will NEVER get this!

“Dudes. What do you have to do in order to be good at ANYTHING?” Practice, they tell me. “How long have you had your instrument? Like, 10 minutes? Why are you expecting to be amazing at this? There is a difference between difficult and new. Calm down. Keep going and you will get it.”

This outer dialogue was much calmer than my inner monologue. “OMG. Everyone is panicking. I am a blight upon my profession. Nobody will ever learn to play if they are learning from me! Why is this so hard for them?! They are going to go home and tell their parents that I should be fired.”

As we were wrapping up, a 2nd grader got my attention. “Man. I feel so much better! It was hard at first but now I am getting it! I was worried!” I smiled at him and said, “Toooooold yaaaaaa!”
Tee hee. I love when my babies stick with anything long enough to see how much progress they can make.

Wait. Doesn’t that mean my inner freak out was unjustified? Though I was encouraging them to keep trying until they get it, my reaction was as though I wanted – and expected – them to be perfect in their initial attempts. Because they weren’t, I was being ridiculously hard on myself. “Joan, your teaching isn’t perfect! Why are you even here?! Maybe this was a bad idea.”

Is it really possible that teachers aren’t expected to get everything right on the first try, either? Are we allowed to be human, or is it like society portrays us – either martyr or wholly unqualified?

It felt good to return to work in the following days and hear from both parents and students that they were having fun in my group and excited about what they are learning. I suppose I should I do what I am asking of them and keep showing up. Perhaps.

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