Mile 777: Seven Accomplishments Since Last I Blogged Regularly

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“You can make this world what you want.”
–Muse, “Revolt”

Miles since last time: 127
Total miles: 777

It’s been a while since last I wrote and you politely skimmed because you are related to me. So, in honor of my 777th mile this year, here are seven things I’ve accomplished in the last two months.

1.) I’ve started doing stand-up.
While taking Level 2 classes with the OKC Improv, I also decided to take the beginning stand-up elective because I’m a comedy masochist. Since making my stand-up debut during our student show the day after my birthday, I’ve continued to do some open mics and shows. I even competed in the Funniest Person in OKC competition. During each the six preliminary rounds, two comedians were chosen to move to the finals and one alternate was named. Not to brag or anything, but I was the alternate on the night I competed. The two finalists during my round were the stand-up class teacher, Josh Lathe, and the guy who wound up winning the whole thing, C.J. Lance. NBD.

I’m going to keep doing it, and I’m even going to be in a showcase next week–which you should totally check out if you’re in the OKC area.

And lest you worry yourself about the state of my improv career, rest assured that I am still saying awkward things, laughing inappropriately, and generally being clueless during my Level 3 classes. I’m living the dream.

2.) I enrolled in an online fit camp.
A friend referred me to an online fit camp run by Jackie Lease (she’s a friend of a friend of a friend). It’s run completely online, via Facebook group. At the beginning of the month, she sends out a calendar and assessment sheets, and she posts videos of the workouts every day. You do them in the privacy of your own home, or if you’re like me, you do them at the gym. I’m in my second month, and it seems to be a good system so far. I would definitely recommend it if you need a bit of guidance on workouts, don’t want to pay crazy fees for a personal trainer, and enjoy sweating profusely in your living room-‑or in the little corner of the gym you found for yourself while avoiding eye contact with all the people stretching out or using the hip adduction machine nearby. I mean, if you’re like me.

3.) I started running again.
Earlier this year, I took a break from running due to self-diagnosed Weird Hip Pain. I’m back on the treadmill now, puffing my way along, trying to be more careful about it, and supplementing the running with fit camp workouts‑-which means fewer miles per day but shooting for longer intervals. It’s still hard and I sweat like a fat kid on a treadmill (hey, wait‑-is a simile still a simile if it’s true?), but I should be okay as long as my Weird Hip Pain doesn’t flare up.

My most immediate running goal is to be able to run around a 1.5-mile track near my home without stopping. I’m currently walking for two minutes and running for three, but  I hope to be at four by the end of the week. There’s still a long way to go.

4.) I got in a hit-and-run.
I realize this isn’t an accomplishment, and I’m totally fine‑-not injured at all. But my car currently doesn’t have a front bumper. Don’t you feel sorry for me?

5.) I’m a fish mom!
After a seriously bad day that involved the aforementioned hit-and-run and finding out that my cat (who had been living with my parents) had died, I decided I needed a new pet. People living alone should have a pet, right? We have that in common with Hogwarts students.

I went for a low maintenance pet due to my jet-setting lifestyle. Meet Alphie, the Betta Attack Monster Fish. You may also call him Alphie the BAMF. I do. I also sing “Alfie” to him sometimes. He loves it, even though his name is spelled differently.

Alphie, the Betta Attack Monster Fish

What’s it all about, Alphie, the Betta Attack Monster Fish?

*Side note: Having a fish does not quell the desire to adopt all the puppies and kittens.

6.) My fish baby is still alive!
Before I leave my house every day, I point at Alphie’s tank and say, “Don’t die, Alphie.” And he doesn’t because Petsmart trains their animals really well. This doesn’t necessarily stop me from constantly worrying that I’m going to take my eyes off him for five minutes and look back to see him floating at the top of his tank. It’s just like having kids, guys.

7.) I haven’t murdered anyone.
Sometimes this feels like an accomplishment, okay? Also, I ran out of things to say.

It’s been a less eventful couple of months than I thought.

Mile 650: The Goal Jeans, Part 2

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“To all the cool kids on my block,
Where’s the original thought?”
–Neon Trees, “Teenage Sounds”

Miles since last time: 63*
Total miles: 650

*Yes, I’ve only gone 63 miles in the last five or six weeks. I’VE BEEN BUSY, OKAY.

Depending on how long you’ve followed this thing, you may or may not recall that I started the Mile Project with pair of goal jeans. I bought them on clearance with the idea that I would someday be able to wear them. They look something like this:

Well, actually, they look EXACTLY like this.

Well, actually, they look EXACTLY like this.

Periodically over the last however many miles I’ve gone in the last two years, I have taken them out and tried them on to see how close I was to being able to wear them.

I quickly discovered that I had somehow managed to find the ONE pair of women’s jeans that had ABSOLUTELY NO stretch.

Eventually, though, I could work them up over my exceptionally meaty calves (thanks, genetics), but not over my thighs (thanks again). Then I could pull them almost up to my waist if I lay down and did a jig. Then I could get them on but couldn’t button them. Then I could button them but couldn’t sit down. Then I could sit down but had to keep my legs straight.

Around that time, I put the goal jeans back in a drawer, thought, I’ll give it another month, and promptly put them at the back of my mind for much longer than a month.

You may also recall that, back in November, I set a 30-day challenge for myself to clean out my closet. If you are at all remotely familiar with my track record for completing 30-day challenges, it should come as no surprise to you that I only successfully finished the closet purge a few weeks ago right before I moved to a new apartment.

As I was going through my clothes, I had one rule: if it doesn’t fit, it gets donated. This eliminated approximately 80% of my wardrobe, but it made the whole process pretty simple.

And then I came across the goal jeans. I pulled them out of the drawer and easily on over my still meaty calves, and was quite surprised to find that I could fit several fingers into the buttoned waistband.

I was also surprised that I still couldn’t sit in them without feeling like I might pop a seam at the knee. Like I said, they are the ONE pair of jeans with ABSOLUTELY NO stretch, and I guess girls aren’t supposed to have meaty calves. I’m making peace with them, though.

I had no choice but to take off that that pair of clearance jeans I bought so long ago and put them into the donate pile.

As it turns out, weirdly enough, my current jeans are two sizes smaller than that goal pair. And I can actually wear them because they have stretch.

So, goodbye, goal jeans. I never got to wear you in public, but we still had some good times. Like that time you helped inspire this blog. Or that other time I tried to squat down in you and you cut off circulation to my lower legs. Sigh…

You may not be my goal anymore, but I’m sure you’ll make someone else very happy. If they don’t mind no-stretch denim.

Mile 587: An Introvert’s Guide to the Gym

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“I spent my life becoming invisible.
It’s hard to maintain, and it’s hard to get by.”
–Neko Case, “Nothing to Remember”

Miles last week: 51
Total miles: 587

One of the good things about the Internet (that seems like an oxymoron) is that I feel like people generally better understand the difference between introverts and extroverts. That, or the Internet really only exists so that you can validate yourself and I frequently peruse the geek board on Pinterest, which sometimes has pins that tell you it’s okay be an introvert–pins like this one:

Basically, introverts are introspective, watchful, quiet, and need alone time to recharge. This, of course, causes a whole host of problems and assumptions that are slightly beside the point right now. What we’re talking about today is how being an introvert can affect your gym time.

That’s right. There, unfortunately, can be a social aspect to working out. There are people there. And sometimes they try to talk to you when you’re huffing and puffing and generally being a disgusting, sweaty mess. It’s madness.

If you’re an introvert like me (I know–you’re completely shocked to discover this personal detail about myself), then social interaction takes a bit more energy than it does for extroverts, whether you realize it or not. At the gym, though, you need every bit of energy you have to concentrate on burning those calories and not dropping weights on your foot. You’re going to have to take some steps to make sure no one else there does anything annoying, like talk to you.

As an introvert who frequents the gym, I am prepared to share my wisdom with you. Just follow these tips to ensure that you have plenty of fortitude to make it through a workout without collapsing from conversation-induced exhaustion.

Buy noise-cancelling headphones.
Nothing says “unapproachable” like completely covering your ears with technology specifically designed to muffle all sound around you. The only bad thing is that they’ll make your ears sweat. It’s also not very fun when you break them and have to duct tape them back together, but your hair keeps getting stuck in the adhesive when you wear them. I heard that from a friend…who is definitely not me…

Pick one machine and stick with it.
If you’re getting up and moving around to different areas of the gym, there is a chance that you will accidentally make eye contact with someone. And we all know what eye contact leads to: acknowledgement of another person that you may have to speak to. Whether it’s a quiet hello or a mumbled apology for almost crashing into him or her, this is a needless expense of energy that you will undoubtedly need if you have any hope of being able to move after a few sets of squats. If you ever squat and fall over, just know it’s because you nodded at that person when he or she walked past you on the way to the water fountain.

If you must move around, make sure you have your phone.
Your phone is a vital tool in evading social interaction. I tend to wait until after I’m off the elliptical or treadmill and on my way to the paper towels (because I’m sanitary and clean off any machine I touch) before I tell MyFitnessPal how many calories I’ve burned so that I can avoid looking at any people–or, you know, where I’m going. I only SOMETIMES run into things, okay?

Just pretend you know what you’re doing.
Whatever you do, DON’T ASK ANYONE HOW ANYTHING WORKS. There are diagrams on the machines for a reason, y’all.

Close your eyes when using equipment.
This will make it look like you are concentrating and working hard on muscle definition when you’re really just trying to stop yourself from glancing around the room and looking like a creeper. On a side note–don’t close your eyes when using the elliptical or treadmill, as this may result in vertigo or personal injury. I also heard that from a friend…

So there you have it. The key to surviving at the gym as an introvert is essentially to avoid eye contact and act like you belong.

Good luck out there, introvs*.

*I’m so sorry. I was trying to make “introvert” cool and abbreviated. I see now that it was a bad idea and deeply regret my attempt at colloquialism.

Mile 536: Improv Achievement Unlocked

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“[scat singing]”
–Louis Armstrong, “Heebie Jeebies”

Miles since last time: 100
Total miles: 536

On Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m., at the intimate Oklahoma Shakespeare on Paseo, my Level I improv class did our first ever improv showcase as Iron Turkey.

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Since I’ve never had to get myself ready for a comedy show before, I sort of IMPROVISED. (See what I did there?) During the afternoon, I listened to the Comedy Bang Bang and Improv4Humans podcasts, and I popped in The Lonely Island’s Incredibad on my drive to the venue–because why not?

I don’t know if the podcasts and music helped or not, but my thinking was that I needed to surround myself with comedy so that some of it might soak in…or something. I was pretty nervous, okay? I’m not saying my thought process is logical, but it felt right at the time.

I’d love to give you a blow-by-blow of the whole evening, but the truth is, I remember very little about anything I said or did during the twenty-five minutes of our showcase–and not just because I’m posting this a week late.

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

It’s kind of weird, actually. I remember awesome and funny things the rest of Iron Turkey did. There was definitely a sexually harassing gorilla in Madagascar, a unicorn war with bats, skydiving mastodon hunters, and a lot more. I know I was there–there is photographic evidence–but did I do anything? Probably?

I think this is called improv amnesia. It’s totally a thing…maybe…

I pretty much just remember the evening as a big blur of fun and some tasty pizza afterward at Sauced on Paseo with a few good friends. (Seriously–it was freaking delicious pizza. I highly recommend it.)

So, I suppose the next question is–did I accomplish what I set out to do when I decided to sign up for improv?

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Improv Facebook page

As for what I learned or what I got out of the last eight weeks, I think it’s hard to say in any sort of simple way. It’s kind of like weight loss that way. Most change is small and slow. You may not notice it because you don’t see yourself. You just have to do what you want, trust yourself, and keep moving forward.

I suppose I feel different. Maybe? I don’t really know. The filters are still there, but you can’t expect them to disappear in two months. As to whether it’s helped my writing or made me a more active participator, only time will tell. I do feel even more motivated to keep going.

Now that I think about it, I think that’s what I really got out of this introductory experience: motivation. Motivation to make funny things with great people. Motivation to keep trying to entertain people. Motivation to strive for more creativity. Motivation to spend more time with the people who make me laugh. Motivation to get over it and just do my thing.

Stolen from the OKC Facebook page

Stolen from the OKC Facebook page

I’m glad and grateful that I took a chance on something that I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do for a long time. I’m also grateful that no one told me I was wrong for it or looked at me like I was crazy (except for that one guy that I’m not even friends with, gah), and I’m unbelievably lucky that I got to experience it with six awesome people and a great instructor. Most of all, I’m super stoked that I get to keep doing it.

I’m leveling up. LEVEL II, BABY.

Gosh. For a blog post about a comedy thing, this got a wee bit sappy.

IRON TURKEY.

[gobble noises]

Mile 436: Make a Sound Like an Author

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“Go and make interesting mistakes. Make amazing mistakes. Make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”
–Neil Gaiman

Miles since last time: 102.5
Total miles: 436

The surest way to send your week downhill pretty quick is to start it out on a high–like seeing Neil Gaiman on a Monday, for instance.

I speak from experience.

That’s right. Last Monday, a few friends and I attended the Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha to see world-famous, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman. It was a rest day well spent.

Surprisingly, I found out about the event through my gym. When I saw the flyer in the window, I nearly had a heart attack. Neil Gaiman? In Oklahoma? FOR FREE? Sign me and three friends up.

His face was on our tickets!

His face was on our tickets!

Gaiman is responsible for giving the world Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere (which I’m currently reading), American Gods, his famous “Make Good Art” speech, and so much more, including two episodes of Doctor Who. As someone raised in Chickasha, I can tell you that this type of thing does not happen often.

The month or so between ordering the tickets the tickets and attending the event was marked with much anticipation and coworker jealousy. Sometimes, I would silently squeal “NEIL GAIMAN” to myself and smile for what others probably thought was no reason.

The event was general admission, so my friends and I did have to wait in line for a bit, but it was a small price to pay. Before we entered, the staff passed out programs with question cards inside. If we so chose, we could write a question and he may or may not answer it later. I knew I wanted to ask something but had no idea what. He surely gets the same questions all the time. I mean, he’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

Once the doors opened, I spent some time thinking about what to ask while continuing to chat with my friends. (It had been a long time since we’d all been in the same room, so some catching up was necessary.) At some point, I sort of mentally threw my hands in the air and wrote something down. Spoiler alert–he did not answer my question. NOW I’LL NEVER KNOW.

My question for Neil Gaiman: "What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?"

My question for Neil Gaiman: “What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?”

Finally, a student came out and introduced Mr. Gaiman to the packed house, and he filled the auditorium with his distinguished British tones for an hour and a half. He talked about where writers get ideas, the lie of writer’s block (after all, gardeners don’t get gardener’s block), read two stories from A Calendar of Tales, talked about working with his dear friend and colleague Terry Pratchett (who unfortunately passed away a few days later), and answered questions about everything from how he met his wife to what missteps he’s made in his career. The biggest laugh line came when he picked up a card and read the question, “How does someone get an agent?”

He paused, looked up at the audience, and said something along the lines of, “Go to a place where agents gather and make a sound like an author.”

It's Neil Gaiman--I promise!

It’s Neil Gaiman–I promise!

(I say “something along the lines of” because I, most unfortunately, do not have the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory. I’m getting older, people.)

He was everything you would expect a Neil Gaiman to be: wild-haired, engaging, thoughtful, insightful, funny, and just all-around awesome. Do I even need to say this? He’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

In deep discussions about the event afterward and reading other bloggers’ accounts (such as Alyssa Grimley’s and Lex Selzler’s), I’ve discovered that different people were inspired by different aspects of the evening, whether it was hearing an author read his own work, hearing him assure amateurs that you should focus on making an interesting thing instead of getting a paycheck, or so many more things than I could possibly say here.

What struck me most was how much Mr. Gaiman is a storyteller to his very core. He took every opportunity to give us a full picture of every little detail of whatever he was discussing. When talking about how he got involved with Doctor Who, he launched into a scary-accurate impression of Steven Moffat. When talking about getting his start in journalism and lying about what publications he’d written for, he told us that he made sure to go back and write for each and every one of them so that he wouldn’t be a liar–just a bit chronologically inaccurate. He could have so easily answered any question with a sentence or two, but he took the time to give each his full attention and the Neil Gaiman treatment. He took the time to tell each story.

He made sounds like an author.

And that’s what was inspiring to me.

“Make a sound like an author” may have been intended (and received) as a joke, but as I continue to examine that night, I’m realizing what that really means. For me, “make a sound like an author” means “take every chance to tell stories.” Do it with every breath, with everything you have, with every word you know. There are stories only you can tell, and people want to hear them.

After I got home, I felt the need to somehow tell Mr. Gaiman how amazing it was for him to come to Chickentown (I’m from there–I’m allowed to call it that) and that he should come back soon and often, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I tweeted him.

And then this happened.

I'm @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I’m @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I hope you do, too, Mr. Gaiman. Or may I call you Neil now, since we’re Twitter best friends?

Mile 333.5: On the Importance of Letting People Pass You

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“To me! To me!
To you and you and you, you, and you.”
–“La Vie Boheme,”
RENT

Miles last week: 18
Total miles: 333.5

On both Monday and Friday, I left work early because of snow. I am not a terribly aggressive driver, so I took the entire forty-five-mile drive home pretty slow. People passed me the entire time.

Sure, I maybe could have gone a little faster, but I figured, why risk it? I drive a ten-year-old Ford Focus. I’ve probably spent more on repairs than it’s worth and most of the time I would like to send it over a cliff–you know, in a mostly “Sure, I’d like smash you into pieces but I’d also be sad if you were gone” sort of way.

I have a complicated relationship with my car. This is beside the point.

The point is, I didn’t drive any faster than I felt comfortable. My philosophy was that I wasn’t racing anyone. I was the only one going to my house, and those other people may know better what their cars are capable of. I just did my thing and tried not to worry about what other people were doing while I rocked out to the Rent soundtrack.

(Yes, you heard that right. La Vie Boheme, baby.)

For some reason, it is harder to have this non-racing philosophy in other areas of life. Like the gym, for example.

I am not someone who has mastered the art of not comparing myself to others. It’s hard not to see other people and think you should be doing what they’re doing because they are obviously superior beings who have everything together.

I’m worried it might be a permanent condition. I think I’m just always going to hate the ginger bastard gliding along at ten miles an hour on the treadmill next to me (well, now he’s a few machines down since I’ve been relegated back to the elliptical).

Seriously, what’s that guy’s problem? He doesn’t even break a sweat. What a jerk. GO RUN A MARATHON OR SOMETHING. I hope you can’t find a port-a-potty when you need it.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but you can’t always be looking at what everyone else is doing. Trust me–I know how difficult this is. You can only try to do better than you did the day before.

Perhaps the only way to fix this comparison disorder is to constantly pretend I’m driving in the snow and trying not to die. Apparently that’s the only time I remember that everyone is doing their own thing and I’m the only one going to my specific destination.

It’s not a race.

Unless you’re in a race.

Then it’s a race.

But you probably shouldn’t be in a race all the time.

If you are, you should probably rethink some things.

That’s a post for a different day.

Mile 315.5: I Know We’re Broken Up, But…

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“So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body.”
–Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”

Miles last week: 52.5
Total miles: 315.5

Oh, Elliptical. I’m sorry–Lipty. I know you like it when I call you that.

I promised myself that we were through, but goddammit, I just can’t stay away from you.

The treadmill hasn’t been treating me too well lately, Lipty. I know it doesn’t mean to. It’s just that sometimes I push it, and the treadmill pushes back. It’s not the treadmill’s fault. It’s mine. This is what I get for trying to increase my running intervals, and right now, my left hip is paying for it. So, I’m feeling a little bit like an old lady and I need a friend.

That’s why I’m here. Well, that and the fact that all of the treadmills were taken the other day. I can’t believe that bastard is cheating on me on top of everything else. What a jerk. Do you have any cake? No–wait. Don’t answer that.

I suppose I’m a little lucky, though. Seeing no available treadmills sent me back to you and made me realize that you wouldn’t hurt me like the treadmill. With you, I’ve never questioned whether I should start looking into joint replacement.

Don’t take this for more than it is, Lipty. I’m only here because my left hip has decided to start protesting higher impact and I’m trying to prevent self-injury. I’m out of here after my new Dr. Scholl’s Sport Insoles (which are specifically made for all-day shock absorption and stress on the lower body joints) start to kick in and I feel a little more like my normal, older-than-young-adult self. This is purely physical.

SportInsoles

I had to buy the boy ones.

Don’t look at me like that, Lipty. I can’t help it. I need the treadmill. But right now, I need a little safety.

We’ll have fun while it lasts, though.