Holiday Spirit

I have so many reasons to be thankful this year. I am gainfully employed. I am respected and well liked at work. I have been diligent and consistent in my powerlifting. I have a wonderful tribe and supportive family. It should be enough. Yet every year at this time i fall into a funk that I can’t quite shake. A few years ago I let it swallow me whole for a long time. This year I am going to direct it into something I can use.

How? I am not quite sure but the first thing I am going to do is talk about it. I’m not talking about it to get your pity or even to ask for your help. Mostly it’s just to let you know what’s up. I have a really hard time talking about my feelings and this is a start.

See, I have built this persona, Donna the Destroyer, for a reason: to mask my insecurities and show you my strengths. Today I am breaking the barrier between my persona and myself. I am sad. The Christmas season has had this affect on me for years, possibly decades. I feel like a fraud and I don’t want anyone to see through my facade.

And if you’ve been resin carefully you know that I haven’t told you why. And I don’t know if or when I will let you know my secret. It’s raw and personal and I don’t know how to express it without hurting myself and other people. And if you know one thing about me it’s that I NEVER intentionally hurt other people.

I guess this is the time of year when I realize the toll that this part of me takes. While I see the pictures others paint of their lives I look at mine and think “why can’t I make this better? Why am I stuck in this rut?” And I know the answer but I’m having a hard time accepting it.

And that is at the heart of my holiday feelings. I am so thankful for my friends and family that it hurts sometimes. I love seeing them happy and excited and enjoying themselves. So much so that I have a hard time talking about my own feelings – who am I to bring them down? Ahh, the double-edged sword of empathy. Wanting everyone to be happy and wanting to reach out to everyone and let them know how I’m feeling.

So for those of you who have been observant and have noticed me get quieter, less vocal in social situations over the course of the season, I want to thank you for asking me how I’m doing AND accepting my response. I am not ready to talk about it partly out of respect for your holiday season and partly because I don’t know how to talk about it. Yet. Just know I am thankful for you and your questions.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanza, and happy holidays to you all. May the coming year bring you joy and peace.

joy-and-peace

 

Advertisements

Costume Party!

I was out for dinner with a dear friend this past week and we were discussing my recent trip to Paris which included a visit to the Catacombs on Halloween. She asked me if I wore a costume. I thought for a moment and answered “yes” even though I wore street clothes. All the outfits I brought to Paris were costumes – I had consciously packed clothes that would project a specific image to the world.

Upon further reflection I realize that I wear costumes every day. Some days literally (hello PL meet singlets) and others days secretively. You see, I decided not too long ago who I wanted to be and what I wanted to project into the world even if it wasn’t who or what I felt I was internally. While I AM this person, it doesn’t always feel like it and sometimes I need a costume to help me feel the part. And my costumes change from day to day.

Who is this person I created? Well, she is cool, confident, knows what she wants and doesn’t care whether others are on board with this decision. She wears funky vests and skirts over leggings some days, classic business attire other days, and often wears workout clothes. But she is always put together.

Some days she is the daring adventurer – wearing her safari gear and ready to roam to unknown places. Some days she is a fiercely independent business woman who gets shit done and helps the people around her. Some days she is the powerlifting diva, holding court in the gym, strong and confident in her booty shorts and lifting socks.

Except when she isn’t. There are days when these personas, these costumed characters just aren’t me and I have to switch costumes – switch to be a little less out there, a little less noticeable. These are the days when I need to recharge and remember why I have so many costumes in the first place and try to reconcile the costumes with who I am today.

I like to think this was a deliberate choice, but I know better. I created these personas to protect me, keep my inner secrets of insecurity hidden from the world. When I put on the costumes and get into character it is easy to think I’m always confident and act with ease in every interaction throughout the day. But I know it’s not the case. I know there is insecurity (I’m not smart enough, strong enough, capable enough) lurking inside.

But at the same time, I created these personas so one day I can be this person effortlessly. The costume that I put on each day helps bring me one step closer to internalizing the outside. If I continue to look and act the part of a confident woman one day I will realize that this person IS me and my clothes are no longer costumes but the outward reflection of the person I have become.

Oh. Hi There.

Let me introduce myself. I know we’ve met before but I want to give you a little more of my background, help you understand what motivates me and the reasons I do what I do. And how and why things around here will be changing.

I’m Donna Adams, aka Donna the Destroyer. I am an avid Powerlifter, Software Quality Assurance professional, outdoorsy, liberal woman. My current mood is to let my liberalism out into the world and see where it leads me. Afterall, it is this liberalism that helped me find my voice though powerlifting. You may be wondering how, so I’ll tell you a little story about me.

I grew up in a blue collar, lower-end middle class household, the fourth of five children. This was a strong democratic household. My parents showed through their actions that it is our civic duty to vote, and they leaned heavily democratic. My first memories of politics were in the 80’s – Reagan vs. Carter, Reagan vs. Mondale. I remember being upset that Reagan kept winning even though he wasn’t for the little people, the people NOT in power. I realized that I was a Democrat and that the Democratic party was the party for the people and by the people – ALL PEOPLE. Not just the rich, not just those who looked like me – ALL PEOPLE. And this was important to me then and it is important to me now.

Maybe it was because I was picked on for being different (which is odd, since I look at myself and see a VERY white, privileged woman), maybe it was because I was a girl growing up smart in a male-dominated world (subtle sexism, anyone?), but whatever the reason I always chose the side of the other, the different, the oppressed (if they truly existed in my pocket of suburbia). I have always surrounded myself with people of like mind and always wanted to do more. There were so many good intentions, good thoughts, moments of anger and rebellion where I wanted to take action but didn’t – it wouldn’t do, it wouldn’t be lady-like, don’t rock the boat, your voice isn’t big enough for people to hear. But in the back of my mind I knew that I needed to find and grow my voice.

I am fortunate in many ways, privileged in a few (color, class) and due to this fortune I was able to seek out my current tribe. I had the time and money to go after what I wanted. I began looking for a place where I felt included regardless of who I was and what I could do and where I would learn the ways of the Jedi (ok, not the Jedi but where technique would be the focus, not just “getting done” with the workout). And soon I found the perfect place, the people I whose tribe I wanted to join. These people celebrated the strength of women, cared about the foundations of strength, and seemed fairly liberal.

First I stalked them (social media, facebook, hello interwebs) and then I got the courage to find them in person. In the beginning I was quiet and tried to hide in the background, not making waves, trying not to be noticed. I just wanted to absorb everything and everyone and give the minimum so I could be part of the group. Not because I am selfish (sometimes, but not always) but because I am shy. My voice was still small. But my spirit was growing with all the talk of inclusion and helping and being a community for ALL the people. The liberal inclusive light was shining on me.

It was not until a fateful day in November 2014 (wow, two years ago!) when someone uttered the words “who wants to do a powerlifting meet” that my ears perked up and my voice began to come out. Powerlifting made me feel powerful, strong, able to take on great things. For a long time this simply meant my relationships, my work, my immediate life. But then things began to shift within me, my focus began turning outwards. How could I help other people? I began encouraging other women (and some men, too) to see that building strength on the outside helps to build strength on the inside. My voice began getting louder. And I started a blog to chronicle my powerlifting journey.

I have taken you from my little gym and local meets all the way to the national stage and since then I’ve been trying to figure out where I should take you next. The events of this past week have helped me figured it out: I’m taking you all on the journey as I find out how loud my voice can grow and shout out to the world that while I will accept the president I will not accept the changes that I fear will come. Oh, most of this blog will still focus on powerlifting and my progressions, regressions, aches, pains and triumphs. But here and there, sprinkled amongst the words of strength and encouragement about lifting will be messages of solidarity, hope, and action for the nation.

And here is my first action: I’m marching on Washington in January. I had planned to participate in the inauguration of the first female president but instead I am going to march, show my allegiance to all WOMEN and all minorities. Because this is a stand I have to take. I am not going to let OUR current rights be diminished because someone can’t hear my voice. I’ve finally found it and now is the time for me to see how loud it can grow.

Happy birthday to me!

Monday was my birthday. I turned 44 years old at 6:29 pm and I feel fine!

Last Saturday I spent the day volunteering at and watching the Solcana Novice Powerlifting Meet and saw the light beginning to shine in the eyes of newly minted powerlifters. I was moved by the emotions of each of the lifters as they walked out onto the platform for the first time did things they weren’t expecting. I was there to cheer on one of The Movement Minneapolis own lifters but as with every meet I attend I was cheering for everyone putting their skill and love of the sport on the line. I will say that my early birthday present was that Dani Saubert had a great meet and PR’d her deadlift! What fun to see.

And afterwards I had lunch and a long conversation with my favorite coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. We talked about many things including the past several weeks of what I considered lackluster performance in the gym, my own expectations of myself and how I should be doing in training (which oddly enough translates to the rest of my life), and how to finish prepping for USAPL Raw Nationals in two weeks. Apparently my expectations were waaay out of whack and she set me straight. Expectations that may have been true as a novice lifter are no longer realistic since I’ve graduated to the intermediate realm – especially with my training cycles so close together. So I had to reset my brain (once again) to focus on what feels right in the gym rather than what I expect should happen in the gym.

What led me to this point (again)? I’m fairly certain it was my misguided expectation that I needed to prove that I can lift heavy things at the same level as my last competition during training for my next meet. I don’t trust a one time deal – my job as a software tester has taught me that until it’s been tested at least three times it could just be a fluke. In my mind setting a PR once is not proof that I am strong and can recreate it in my next meet. I need to hit that weight again and again to feel that I’ve earned the right to say I can lift it. And to me I should be able to hit the weight (or close to it) with relative ease during my training cycle or it was a fluke. I was having a hard time trusting the training and therefore a hard time with training.

This week has been a relative breeze with this mind shift. And I’m hoping it finally sticks. I was able to get through bench, squat, and deadlift days with ease – working up to a weight that was challenging, about an 8 RPE, and staying there. I inched up in each for a final set just to see what happened and even those reps felt good. And because I didn’t try to start too high I finished the sets with my head on straight. I started “comfortable” and inched up a smidge to check on my gainz. Spoiler: I’ve still got it.

I’m going into my last week of training with a fresher mindset and a comfortable plan for USAPL Raw Nationals. I’m treating this as a chance to see how far I’ve come since I began lifting competitively last year and to see where I’ve come since the Twin Ports Raw Open in June. I’ve put in the training, I’ve been consistent. I’ve learned to trust my coach and other trainers. I’ve got two weeks until I compete and I’m going to try to use them wisely. There will be long talks with JVB, recovery, and plenty of quiet time. All of this is will help me lift better, be stronger, and destroy my old expectations.

Oh, and how did I spend my birthday week? Playing dress up, of course! (Bear courtesy of office move).

Ahhh, that’s better

Two weeks ago was, well, challenging. Nothing felt right and everything was a bit off. I don’t think I could even tie my shoes without feeling like I was doing something wrong. Be it hormones, mercury in retrograde, or a simple slump. Everything  was harder than I expected.

mercuryretrograde2

Part of this was because of (I LOVE being a Monday Evening therapist) my “research” of the women I will be competing against at Raw Nationals. I had looked at the roster a few times since I registered but a couple weeks ago I really studied it. The Masters 1 class for both the 84 and 84+ classes seemed to have exploded with women. STRONG women. Women I don’t know and have never seen compete before and I’m sure they are sooo much better and stronger than me. And why am I doing this again? Cutting sucks and my lifting is bad and I can’t even do a “normal” set of 5×3 at deadlifts at 315 pounds. I’m sure I won’t hit any lifts…

For me, neither weight class is a “sure thing” for a medal any more (not that I ever really thought they would be) but I chose to cut so I would be more competitive in a weight class. At the time I registered I had the third highest qualifying total in the 84 kilo weight class so I decided to cut weight and see what happened.

I mean, I knew that more women would be registering and that would affect my ranking/standing in my weight class since I registered so early. But I didn’t realize how it would affect me mentally when saw their numbers and where I landed. I’m coming out of my small pond where I’ve been a “bigger” fish in the women’s 84+ Masters 1a division and going into a much larger pond – where I’m a much smaller fish. And it’s scary. And I let it get to me. A lot.

But this past week came to my rescue. Something shifted and (nearly) everything that was wrong before became an opportunity and learning experience. I’m not entirely sure what the shift was – maybe admitting to people I was having doubts and issues – but it happened. I have been able to NOT focus and stalk the roster, which is a good thing.

PLUS it was a training de-load week which meant lighter weights, shorter sessions, and definitely more WINS. Sometimes you have to feel like a winner to feel better. On bench day one I did a little heavier on the Dumbbell Incline Bench and my Sumo Anderson Squats were on point on Squat day. My heavy-ish bench clusters on bench day two? Nice and easy at 135 pounds. I liked it. And I rocked the 4×8 FAST deadlifts at 225 pounds on Deadlift day. That’s 32 deadlifts folks. At 225 pounds. For a total volume of 7200 pounds. And that wasn’t ALL I did in that workout.

So, does it matter to me who I am competing with in four weeks? Not really. Because I’m no longer focusing on them or who I can beat. I’m focusing on being better than I was at my last meet. I was pretty damn fine at my last meet so look out Atlanta – here comes the Destroyer! 

 

When life gives you lemons

This week I had to go back to work after a week long vacation. And no one ever likes to go back to work  but I was ready. I wanted to see what my team had been up to in my absence. My team – I had a new lead in place, two great full time analysts (one here and one off shore), and two great contractors. Before I left on vacation I had begun the process of converting one of my contractors to a full time analyst and by the time I returned I learned the deal was done. Yay! But, and there’s always a “but”, at the end of the day my new lead turned to me and said those dreaded words “I need to talk with you.” Those are never good at the end of a long day. And then he laid it out: he had been offered a position that suited his situation better so he would be leaving and his last day would be in two weeks.

Sigh.

So now what? Well, I’m going to take these lemons, squeeze them for all they’re worth and make some awesomely sour and sweet lemonade, that’s what.

How?

Well, obviously my training will be even more of a release for me and I’ll need to hire a new lead, but also I think I’m going to take more risks, try new things, and in general not let this bring me down (though I admit that I took a night on my couch to mope about my feelings). But its on to bigger and better things and the right person to help me create the best department possible.

The opportunities for doing new things are endless: fly to Hawaii for a week? Sure. Go skydiving with my gym? Why not? Train harder and smarter? Of course! Pitch new business opportunities to clients? I’m on it! Figure out if there is something else out there for me to pursue – why not? I’ve got nothing to lose by trying and everything to lose by sitting back and letting things happen to me.

So what do you do when you’re handed lemons?