Monday, July 28, 2014

Decisions, Decisions...

I have a confession to make.  I think... maybe... I might be... indecisive.

To most who know me, this will come as quite a shock! Normally I am so assertive in what I want to do, where I want to go, etc. (Is the sarcasm font I downloaded working?)

Okay, so, this isn't exactly a new development.  Anyone who has ever asked me where I want to go to lunch has been invariably met with "I don't know, where do you want to go?" or some similar sort of sentiment.  Now, I have come to realize that this is pretty normal. Pretty much any time I ask a friend where he or she wants to dine, or what movie to see, I am met with 'I don't know, what do you want to eat/see/watch/etc.?'  This type of indecisiveness seems to derive from politeness.  When I say 'I don't know, what do you want?' I usually have a secret thing I actually want, but don't want to say I want, in case the other person doesn't want that or has a secret thing that they want that isn't what I suggest... And, I've been met with "That's what I wanted, too!" enough times to know that I'm not the only one who does this.

Sure, there are friends that are more assertive--they will tell you what they want, where they want to go, when they want to go, and often times why.  I'm not saying they're any less polite, they're just more assertive.  And, as my mom and dad always used to remind me: the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  I can't exactly be genuinely mad if someone asked me what I wanted to do, I said I didn't know or care, and then that person selects something I didn't want. I like my assertive friends, and I like my passive friends--though making decisions with assertive friends is always easier.

Anyway, it's become fairly obvious that this sort of indecisiveness is pretty normal, and appears to be socially driven.  We don't want to appear bossy or unwilling to compromise, so we offer the choice to someone else, and they, in turn, offer it to us, and we go round and round until we come to a mutually agreeable decision.

But, I have come to realize that my indecisiveness goes a lot deeper than that.  I came to this realization a long time ago, but recently it's felt more burdensome (or maybe it has gotten worse? I'm not sure).

A week ago yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter because I saw a dog online that I thought I might want to adopt.  We ended up spending 2 hours there, while I tried to decide whether or not we should adopt this little dog.  At one point, he was ready to adopt her--and I held us back.  2 hours later, we eventually decided against it, and went home empty handed.  Yesterday, we were back at the shelter, 30 minutes before it closed, looking at a different dog that we had seen the week prior.  This time, we had her information at the counter, and were getting ready to pay, before I decided I was just too unsure.

I kept thinking about money, about whether our existing pup would have his feelings hurt, about whether they would get along, what if she is mean to Cash when he is having a seizure, in general: what if it didn't work?  The questions were endless, and we ended up walking away empty handed again.

But, that's okay, right?  This is a big decision--a 10 year commitment, at the least.  So, of course I would be indecisive.  So many people would be--fair enough.

For dinner after we got back to the shelter, we ended up trying a burger restaurant around the corner from us called The Counter. They have pre-designed burgers, but they also have a little form where you can choose your own burger! You can choose the bun, meat, sauces, sides, toppings, etc. And, oh! What choices there are! (see photo below).

The myriad of choices at The Counter

It took me a good 10 minutes longer to decide what burger I wanted than it took my boyfriend, and in the end, I was much less adventurous in my burger choice than he was (he chose a burger with feta cheese, apricot sauce and crushed peanuts--while I chose a burger with honey dijon sauce, mozzarella, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and a side of grilled pineapple).  I've always known I was indecisive--but that perspective, sitting at The Counter, feeling utterly overwhelmed by decisions about a burger, is when I knew that it's probably a little lot more serious than casual indecisiveness.  It's a burger.  And I couldn't decide what I wanted on it.  I could not throw caution to the wind and get ginger sesame dressing with carrots and grilled pineapple.  And you know?  That kind of upset me.  I feel like my indecisiveness has come to a point where it actively interferes with how I live my life.

A few weeks ago, I had to make another decision--and the process left me so completely exhausted that I curled up and slept on the passenger's seat on the way home.  And I ended up changing my mind, and we had to go back and go through everything again.

I know that my indecisiveness is definitely linked to other parts of my personality.  For instance, I can see how it closely relates to my incessant need to plan everything.  I am not spontaneous in the least, and I like to have a plan for everything (including time of departure, arrival, and some general idea of who will be there, what will happen while I am there, etc.).  I can't just randomly go to a friend's house, unless I prepare myself for at least 24 hours (though I would prefer a few days to a week, so I can plan everything around it).  I also know that this need for planning everything, is at least partially related to the fact that I am an Introvert, and being around people for long periods of times depletes my energy, and I need time to recharge.

But, my indecisiveness has gotten to a point where it is frequently exhausting.  Knowing where I got it from doesn't help matters any, either. (Hi, Mom!).  In some ways I feel like it has grown into this nebulous entity that I can't control, and which will continue to affect me in unknown and surprising (usually not good) ways. 

When people consider a decision, they probably consider a few factors--most people, anyway.  I'm sure there are people who just decide and worry about the factors later.  But, when I make a decision--any decision (see Cheeseburger story above for reference)--I think about so many factors that I can't even list or control them all.  And then I think of consequences of that decision.

For instance: Do I want red relish on my burger as a sauce?  What if I don't like it, as I have never tried it before?  What if it is too pickly, or too ketchupy, or just gross in general? If they put it on my burger and I don't like it, then I will have a burger I can't even eat. If I scrape it off of the burger, will I still be able to taste it? I want to have a burger I enjoy, and I don't know how I would like any of these odd toppings on a burger, so I don't know what to do.

Etc., etc., etc. etc., etc., etc.

Nowhere in my thought process do I stop to think that it is just a burger, and if I didn't like it, they'd probably let me get something else (or if that thought did cross my mind, a whole new set of stream-of-consciousness worries/questions would come with it). And, while the burger analogy is just a small sampling of what I deal with (imagine big decisions), I am constantly worried about making the wrong decision, which usually leads me to make a safe decision, or worse, to make no decision at all.

(For decisions not related specifically to things that will only affect me, I have other questions I consider: What will _____ think? (usually family, friends, parents, etc.) How will _____ act if I choose this?  What if _____ doesn't want Mexican food?)

Sometimes, I'm able to make decisions fairly easily--but more often than not, I'm stuck hemming and hawing about what I want to do/eat/see/watch/be/learn/know. 

While certain parts of this are funny--yes, many who know me are shaking their heads and saying 'Oh, Natalie, you're so indecisive,' and sure, it's funny to watch me not be able to decide what flavor ice cream I want... there are other aspects of this that are really scary, and real, and harmful. Sometimes, not just to me.

And, the thing is, I have no idea how to fix it.  How do I, after 27 years of shying away from decisions, do I suddenly learn how to become decisive about little things, about big things, and how do I teach myself to not always make the safe decision?

As with most things, I think I'll try to start small-- I'll choose toppings on a burger, or ice cream, and I'll try to do it without considering the [seemingly endless] consequences.  If I can master that, or at least get better at that, maybe I will try to make unsafe decisions--choose weird toppings, and hope for the best.  Realize that it's just a burger, and just $9, and not the end of the world.

Maybe someday I'll make it to big decisions.  Maybe...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exercise is Hard

Exercise is hard.  And, of course, I mean that literally--it is literally hard to do the things you are doing for a prolonged period of time when you are exercising.  But, I also mean that mentally--perhaps even more so.

It is so hard to get out of your warm bed when that alarm goes off no matter what you're doing, but it is especially hard when you are losing precious sleep to exercise of all things.  You would think that it would be easier to get out of your warm bed in the summer, when it's 82 degrees outside, your apartment faces the sun, there are no trees in front of your place, and no air conditioning in your bedroom, but somehow, it's not.  It is just as hard to drag myself out of bed, get ready, take Cash for a walk, and then drive my lazy ass to the gym, park, and walk into the gym in summer as it is in fall and winter.

It's rough.  So, I got my gym membership last February.  No, the February before that--February 2013.  And I, like everyone else, when they join a gym, convinced myself that I would totally use it. I would definitely take advantage of all the group fitness classes! Of course I would. Fast forward nearly a year and a half, and let me tell you: that is not the case. While I have been to two fitness classes (read about that here), I have not taken advantage of the multitudinous unique classes my gym offers.

So, why haven't I quit?  Well, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that hope springs eternal.  Also, because of this (if you're on your phone and it won't link it's "I want to quit the gym" from Friends): 

So, I never quit the gym.  Instead, I've been paying my monthly fee, and many nights I go to bed with the thought 'tomorrow' running through my head, promising myself that tomorrow will be the day. The day I use the gym!  Of course, it never is.

This past week, however, I finally started going to some classes that I've always wanted to try.  While I am limited in the ones I can attend (I can't get there at 6:45am, and I can't go at 6:45pm because of work), I have finally started going.

My [gym provided] Yoga Mat for Ashtanga
Saturday, I attended Power Yoga at 12pm.  This is a 90 minute class billed as good for 'all fitness levels.'  I lasted the entire 90 minutes, so I know that must be true.  But, it was hard.  This wasn't just stretching yoga.  This was power yoga, and I was super sweaty and sore by the time the class was over.  But, I also found out that I really love it.  It was basically the antithesis of my Spin Class experience (again, here), where I didn't stare longingly outside of the classroom wishing I was anywhere but where I was.  In fact, I didn't even look at the clock ONCE during the entire 90 minutes. I really enjoyed pushing my body, and even though I am sure I looked ridiculous doing some of the poses, I am so glad that I went. I know I'll definitely be back to a yoga class at my gym.  Maybe I'll even join a yoga studio, who knows! For my first class in Yoga since my Sophomore year in college, I think I did pretty well!

Mat & tools for Barre Assets class
Tuesday, I attended Barre Assets (which several people called 'bare assets,' but it's actually 'Bar'), and this was a nice little mix of aerobic activity and light weight training coupled with bar work (think plea, etc.).  I liked it, and I only looked at the clock once.  I am finding that how many times I look at the clock during a fitness class has a direct correlation with how much I enjoy the class.  After class, I stayed for a little cardio in the Zumba class right after Barre Assets.  I had been to Zumba before, and it's pretty fun.  So, each class was a 60 minute class, so I spent 2 hours at the gym for the first time since I'm guessing college.

Thursday, I went to Barre Assets, with a different instructor who was a sub. It was good, and we did a few different things than we did on Tuesday, but overall I enjoyed the other instructor more. 

Surfset Board
Then, since I was already at the gym, I went ahead and stayed for H2-OM, which is an integrated yoga class where you do some floor work, but then you also do some work on the 'surfset,' which is basically a mock surfboard.  This class was only 45 minutes, but it was such a good mix of floor work and work on the surfboard.  The surfboard (which is basically set up on three balls and strapped down--see below for a picture from the side) is pretty hard to balance on (at least for someone like me who hasn't done yoga since college), so you really had to concentrate on tightening all the muscles in your body in order to stabilize yourself.  The instructor for this class was pretty great, because he kept repeating that we should go at our own paces, and sometimes while people were doing crazy stuff on the board, I was just trying to balance myself (even so, I could feel all of my muscles burning with the effort).  I think this is a class I would definitely like to try again.  I'd like to see myself become fully stabilized on the board and able to stop wobbling.

Surfset from the side.

Now that I've gone to a few classes, a bit of the nervousness and apprehension has worn off, and I will continue to drag myself out of bed to partake in group fitness merriment (or torture?).

Has anyone out there tried any unique fitness classes?