Catching up and slowing down

I cannot believe I forgot the best quote from the Level 1 cert, so I’m including it here, because I can: “Not everybody could pull that shirt off. You can.” I was proudly wearing my latest CCF gear. For those of you not familiar, the shirt says “Harden the f*ck up.” AND this came from one of the trainers, quite a kick-ass woman in her own right!

Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling the need to tell myself that a lot these last few weeks since I’ve been back. It actually feels like a new year to me, a new beginning. But not one I’ve been happy with my performance in so far. Some physical failings yes (I’ll blame jetlag) but more to the point I haven’t really been naturally in the right headspace much, and I’ve had to keep pulling myself back to my center. It’s like there’s a bit of a battle inside myself between how things are and how I want them to be. But, that’s normal in a way, isn’t it? We’re constantly striving for something else even no matter how happy and satisfied we may be with life as we are currently living it. And anyway, how we feel is all just chemicals in the brain in any event, when it comes right down to it. But I’m usually a glass half full kind of person, but I’ve been having a lot of glass half empty thoughts recently, and not only that but have been straying from my diet a bit, drinking too much sometimes, and just generally in the wrong state of mind.

So it’s actually not a matter of hardening up so much as of remembering who I am, what I want, and remembering Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Yes, there is an element of only wanting to see what we want to see, and that horrible thing known as confirmation bias … but a good thing to remind ourselves. Sometimes when we try to get too smart or play it too safe, we actually lose out.

Too much went on in these last few weeks to do a full blow-by-blow, so here are some of the highlights of what stood out (in no particular order):

  • Seeing lovely Mandy when she picked me up at the airport, and my first dinner back at Peter & Mandy’s
  • Dinner at Carne with my coach on my first night back (and thinking when I walked in the door and they offered me a drink how what I really wanted to say was “goodness no, I can’t drink in front of him!” when the truth was more complicated).
  • Feeling like quitting 5 minutes into a 20 minute CrossFit workout; the important point being …. That almost NEVER happens. Feeling like I’m going to die, yes, feeling like I want to stop, not so much! This was the Friday after I got back and I was still jetlagged so the workout that would have been bad on a good day was absolutely awful, in large part because my body just wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, or I guess what I felt it should have been capable of. The workout definitely made my top 5 most painful workouts ever. It was 20 minutes where every minute on the minute you had to do 5 burpees, then as many thrusters as you could the remainder of the minute (29kgs was my weight). In the first minute I did my burpees in like 10 seconds and I did 14 thrusters. I think my worst minute I did 2 thrusters, and the burpees were taking me 25 seconds. I really wanted to get to 100 and I wound up with 102. Thrusters are a thing invented by the devil himself I am quite sure.
  • Meggie’s birthday party in Nordhoek, complete with the tequila Chris so kindly brought along … that was fun, if a bit of a train wreck and luckily I fell asleep at home instead of continuing the evening later!
  • My own birthday party at Beluga, continued at Cubana. That was great because I did it on a Sunday night and I was first of all happy because I really didn’t want a big party but I didn’t want to not invite people, either. So between it being a bad night and a lot of people bailing out at the last minute (or no fewer than three people had flu!) the crowd that showed up was just perfect in size. Also the gifts I got were ones I would want, which was kind of the idea. And, importantly also, I came to a realisation that evening (well, actually the next morning… when the hangover was at its worst). Bottom line, my own behaviour was contributing to a situation that I didn’t particularly care for. Time at least to adjust my own self and take responsibility; we don’t exist in a vacuum now do we?
  • My birthday workout! Last year on my birthday we did a workout called Spealler Special, which is 1 clean & jerk @43kgs followed by 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats. Last year I couldn’t do the workout as prescribed because I couldn’t do pullups and 43kg clean & jerk was probably near my max (if not my actual max, and speaking of my max, 60kgs I have you in my sights darn it!). So last year I did it with something called ring rows and 29kg clean & jerk in 25:13. This year, 26:02 albeit a totally different workout. And even at that I didn’t feel super strong at all …. So, lots of room for improvement for next year, when my goal is sub-20 minutes. It’s always good to have goals, right?
  • Wine tasting with Mandy, and seeing this beautiful old couple still very much in love and enjoying the weather, view, and wine.
  • Finally getting back to yoga (I hadn’t dropped off the edge of the earth). There is something just so calming about Ilana, even when she’s telling you to keep doing something incredibly painful for longer, or go deeper. Yowzers.
  • Learning the butterfly pullup. I won’t say I’m proficient yet but I went from being able to do 0 to 2 in one session, then from 2 to 4 in the next … hardest thing is keeping the rhythm going because the movement feels SO weird. OTOH, my double-unders still suck and I can’t do them consecutively. Trying to break those bad old neural pathways is hard. I’m probably over-thinking it, but how do you stop over-analysing? At least I’m practicing almost every day because avoiding things you suck at is no way to improve.
  • Going from the States where I was constantly in fear of getting a moving violation for ignoring most of the traffic laws (No u-turn? No texting while driving? What?) to Cape Town where I was a hazard my first two days or so on the roads because I wasn’t aggressive enough.
  • A trio of fun concerts: the first was a benefit concert at the Upper East Side hotel featuring the beautiful Louise Day, D7, Ard Matthews (right after his humiliation in the public spotlight for forgetting the words to the national anthem in the middle of singing it for the Springbok team announcement), Zolani, some of the guys from A.King, and the always amusing Jack Parow.
  • A show by Digby & Roochi (formerly Diesel Vanilla: apparently the name didn’t market test well in the U.S. which shocks the hell out of me) in their apartment in Century City. Beautiful as always.
  • Jeremy Loops & co headlining at the new Zula. This was quite exciting, although I was bummed to have to leave Hermann’s birthday bash to go. And I was bummed to have to leave the party to get some sleep, which wasn’t enough in any event.
  • A braai in Kommetjie where I met a bunch of new people and had a great time despite not having gotten enough sleep the night before.
  • Watching Graham & Jobst play around with one-armed handstands (against a wall, but still …)
  • My first omelette with Roland at the new Sandbar. So glad I can continue eating those. I am not sure life in Cape Town would be quite the same without them. Actually I am writing this right now from Sandbar, which is where I come to do work when I need to clear my head and get out of the house. It’s not the same as the old Sandbar, and the new Zula isn’t the same as the old Zula. Well, things change: it’s that old cliché, right?
  • A CrossFit workout so intense it left me sore for days and amused me because I think Ralf and I scared the newbies a bit, between coach Chris yelling at us not to drop the weights or drop off the bar, and us frantically stretching our forearms in rest periods. We did 5 rep max push press … I was aiming for doing 5 reps at my previous 1RM of 50kgs. I got 48 and failed at my third rep of 53 … but anyway the soreness came in with the second part of the workout, which was 5 rounds of 30 seconds on, then 1 minute rest alternating between dumbbell push press (I was using 12.5kgs because the 15s felt heavy after all that other lifting!) and pullups. It was the pullups that killed me. I did 12 in the first set, then 12, then 13 (!), then my grip died so my last 2 sets were 10 and 11, respectively, because I couldn’t hold onto the bar very well. I was actually pretty pleased with myself for getting 13 pullups in 30 seconds; still plenty of room to improve but not too terrible either! But the funny thing was the look on the faces of the newbies (Ralf and Chris were coaching them in the basics course after our workout was done): something between admiration and fear. When I first started at CCF there certainly weren’t girls across the room rocking out pullups like that, so it’s actually a whole other level of intimidating for new people starting now. But hey I’ve come a long way in a year, and we’ll see where the next year takes me. 

So that was all the stuff outside of work. What happened at work you might ask?

  • Spending more time managing our interns. This was low-hanging fruit for improvement. We actually have a couple of new ones, including Christoph from the Netherlands, Jeff from the U.S. and Lilian from Germany. All very smart, and interesting people and I look forward to working with them more and accomplishing some of the things that have been outstanding for a while.
  • Checking in with most of the organisations in the acceleration program. I am now putting together a forward plan for some of them, and once we start marching down that to the speed we are able things will feel better. But without actual goals and plans it’s easy to feel rudderless and anchorless because, well, because you probably are.
  • Some of the organisations are undergoing some sea change, which is necessary but disruptive of course, and we also do need to tie the conversation back to the fundamentals: money, customer value proposition, social impact.
  • A jumpstart and multiple meetings with a corporate for whom we are doing some consulting work
  • Realising the difficulty in starting a company, any company, without good sales capacity
  • A fun Hub movie night where I ran out right afterwards because I was exhausted (!) 

I’m finding consulting hard. Not by the nature of it, but because ultimately you don’t have control. So it’s an interesting struggle for the control freak in me. It seems like working smarter, not harder, is the order of the day both for me and for a couple of the different enterprises I am working with.

Somehow the natural disasters occurring on the East Coast of the U.S. (I’m still waiting to hear of Irene totalled my car…) combined with some things going on with my family life, and probably also my recent visit to both the east and west coast making me feel closer to and thus miss more my friends there, I’ve been feeling nostalgic a bit recently. Gabriel Garcia Marquez described this beautifully in 100 Years of Solitude as something like mirrors pointed towards each other, and while you are in one place you long for aspects of another, even if you don’t want to be there. In his book there was a Colombian who had lived in Barcelona and sometimes he would miss the crisp autumn air, or walking down the sidewalk to the coffee shop, or the leaves as they started to turn bright colors of yellow. But when he had been in Barcelona he had missed the flowering almond trees, the smell of the earth after the rain. Or something like that.

Well, when I was in the U.S. I missed (aside from people of course) the smell of the air, the lights of City Bowl, training at CCF, the security of the brick of the Old Castle Brewery, the taste of the grassfed beef, and Table Mountain.

At the moment I am missing the anticipation of that twang of autumn air, pumpkin beer (although I wouldn’t drink much), the start of football season, the changing of the seasons (it is turning to spring here but it’s not as extreme a turn as what happens in New England). And the fog of the Bay Area, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and the wide boulevards and avenues and palm trees of California. Oddly enough, because I was only there once, and briefly, I’m also feeling a bit of nostalgia for late nights along the Nile in Cairo. There is something just so magical about that part of the world (I think!). “Home is wherever I’m with you.” True enough, that.

So, where does this all leave me? Obviously not feeling grounded. I’m battling with doubt in pretty much all areas of my life right now. Actually, scratch that, probably ALL areas. But this is natural, too. I’ll pull out of it, and pull out of it stronger.

  • “Once you’ve been bitten by the bug, well, you’re screwed.” – Peter
  • “The only reason I kept going is because no one else was stopping!” – Graham
  • “I need to go and get some alcohol. I mean some drinks for tonight.” – Mandy
  • “I wish that people would do what they say.” – Jacques
  • “Oh my goodness I nearly just said, ‘thank goodness, the wine has arrived.’ That’s terrible, in so many ways.” – Peter (Word.)
  • “How would you describe our relationship?” “Oh my goodness. I don’t know what to say.” – Ellie & Rob
  • “It’s a weird cult.” – Chris
  • “You do rip your hands open, yes, but you also see all the good in things.” – Chris
  • “Well, you do see the good in everything, don’t you?” – Chris (another Chris … that’s what was weird about it!)
  • “We’ve lost Chris. And we’re in Khayelitsha.” – Louise
  • “The world is driven by fear.” – Heinrich
  • “If we didn’t have these problems, what would we do? Really. What would we do?” – Peter
  • “It’s never a good thing when the weight starts to look intimidating while it’s still on the rack!” –Ralf
  • “Congratulations. It’s not that bad.” – Lilian
  • “They are sharp guys and love to have fun. I think you would hit it off with them.” – Roland
  • “You’re good. But you’re not THAT good.” – Peter (ha!)
  • “Vermont. I’ve heard of that. In movies.” – Danie
  • “You don’t want a grumpy stripper.” – Jo
  • “I didn’t think you’d miss a gig.” – Devin
  • “You could die any day here.” – Anke
  • “This wine might change your life.” – Ronnie
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One comment

  1. Mmm… I think this feeling of unease is natural. You had both a life-changing experience (the Games) and you traveled to places that included good friends and challenging family. Either one of those would be disruptive to your regular self, even if the experiences are good, and you did both. Your experience is going to change you and so there will be a readjustment period when you come back to “regular life”. It can no longer be what it was because you have changed. So things are in flux. If they weren't you would have wasted your time on your trip. Do what matters to you and I think you will find things start to smooth out a bit.

    I too enjoyed the one-handed handstands courtesy of Graham and Jobst. Need to track those photos down from Grant 🙂

    Dinner soon?

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