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Challenging Your Thinking

Since I love to dance, one of the ways I have chosen to help get fit and meet my dancing shoes need is to get back into Zumba at the gym.  So for the past month, I have been going to a yoga/tai chi/Pilates class on Mondays, a yoga class on Friday mornings and Zumba Gold on Wednesday mornings.  Zumba Gold is a "lite" version that includes a bit more instruction and more low impact moves. 
When my oldest was home last week for Thanksgiving and his subsequent reading week, I took advantage of him being home and booked him in for all the dental, doctor, hair, driving lessons I could which ate up my morning gym time.  Feeling guilty, I thought I would go to an evening of "real Zumba".  
I didn't think much of it as I had previously done "real Zumba" to the point where I became pretty good at it (or at least I could keep up yet felt tired but energized by the end of class). What occupied my mind prior to going that night was that one of my direct reports often took a yoga class that ran immediately following my class.  I hadn't seen her in a year, so had no idea if she was keeping this same routine. Here was my big fear--built up in my head--about what people from work would think if they see me now--20 lbs heavier and at the gym (that doesn't seem like something a sick person would do---go to the GYM ---hmmmm and she if FAT now too....).  I indulged in a little bit of forecasting and then  I put the thought away, no thinking traps--stopped catastrophizing--stopped worrying about something that might not even happen---just like we were learning in class.
Real Zumba was killer. Within the first 10 minutes I had to leave class and hide in the bathroom stalls for a minute to catch my breath.  I let the ice cold water run over my hands when I washed and splashed some on my very red face and back of my neck.  I was soaked with sweat--and that was just the warm up.
Back in class I had to tone down some of the moves and was happy when we switched from what I would call "cheerleading on speed", to more samba, salsa, and merengue like dance steps.  These I could keep up with.  The last song was Michael Jackson's Thriller which was a great way to finish as I grew up with that song and had practiced the dance moves to the video oh those many years ago.  (I remember we had a DJ video party in our cafeteria in high school where we watched the extended video for the first time. Sigh....high school flashback).
I left class on a high! Red faced--- both exhausted and exhilarated.  I headed for the door-- relishing the though of the cold air outside soothing my burning skin.  I wasn't sure if I could convince myself to come back again, but I sure got a glimpse of how much more work I needed to do to get back to where I once was aerobically anyway. 
Exiting behind a small group of women I had forgotten my fears of seeing 
anyone I knew.  But then  I saw her.  I had a split second to decide how I wanted to proceed.  I could huddle, eyes down, behind the group in front of me and probably pass by without notice,  Or, I could acknowledge her with a wave and keep on moving, or I could stop and say hi.  I was cursing the fact that I left my cell phone in the car as "pretending to talk on the phone so you don't have to notice people around you" seems to be socially acceptable, but was currently not an option for me!   I ducked.  I walked.  I considered....I stepped toward her...I stepped back...I ducked....
Finally I took a step toward her, and then another.  She was chatting with her daughter and I wasn't sure she was going to actually see me ---and then I wondered---just for a moment---what if SHE was ignoring ME?  It was clear she had been waiting outside of the exercise room for a bit and with the doors open she could have easily seen me.  Ka-POW! Punch to the gut.  What to do? 
I could feel my foot almost stop mid-air in hesitation.  But I put it down and walked on. 
As I approached---I said, "I couldn't just walk on by without giving you a hug and saying hi".   She looked at me in shock for a second but then wrapped her arms around me and hugged me back.  I was soaking wet ---like wet-dog-soaked-by-the-rain-and-sprays-you-when-they-shake wet. Ugh, I never thought that far ahead. 
She asked how I was (I told her I was doing better--vaguely mentioned my doctor and I working together to get me well).  She asked me when I was coming back (not sure yet. working with the doctor still to find ways to not have this happen again).  And she told me I HAVE to come back.  Said she missed me--not boss me---not work me---just me who liked to talk about clothes and hair and things. (This was a surprise to me for a second. I thought, 'How lovely! She misses me for me!' Again, new revelations---people like me--for me.  Not because I am their boss and they have to like me. hmmmmmm....) 
I laughed and told her I had seen her pictures on Facebook of her vacations.  I 
told her I was newly back to the gym, mostly did morning classes and had taken up the yoga/tai chi, Pilates class she had recommended.  She waved off my comments about gaining weight and talked about her own weight gain (ummm......).  This would be a sensitive spot for me.  I was always slim and owned a few form fitting dresses that showed off my figure.  I couldn't even get these dresses over my hips now.  Ugh---uncomfortable feeling to reflect on it---by necessary medications meant weight gain so I was coming to terms with it slowly and battling what I could with my renewed interest in the gym.  Still, I worried people would say nice things to my face, and whisper behind my back if I returned to work.
Then she hugged me again and I told her she had better get in to class and I should go since I was soaking wet and might pass out at any moment from class.

So there it was.  My first encounter with someone who reported to me. I am sure it was only 3 or 4 minutes of conversation (and further sweating) but my internal monologue; worrying about going over to speak with her; predictions of people whispering behind my back; realizing I look probably the most horrific EVER at that particular moment; was outweighed by my desire to connect with her again.
Perhaps I have the exhaustion to thank as all my energy had been burned off in class and I had no adrenalin left to send me into fight or flight or freeze. 
Later, I reflected on our quick conversation.  I was surprised I hadn't been ruminating on it all the way home---dissecting each word or tone.  But I sort of shrugged and let it go.  As I quieted my mind I tried to focus on the big picture. 
1. I felt proud that I walked over and spoke to her - connecting meant more to me than shame. Yay me!
2. I realized that even if I was the first one to comment on my weight gain---no women is going to say---"Yeah! Crap! You have packed it on haven't you"!  (my closest friends just say nothing when I comment---which lets me know they see it but will not engage. That is a wonderful sense of validation and love.  They see me--all of me--they love me--all of me!)
3. People like me for me--not just cuz I am their boss and they have to be nice to me.  I didn't know I felt this until now.  I guess I thought they were just being nice to my face?  Maybe they still are?  Have to work on that one......  (yeah I covered this one in the body of the post--but it stood out so much, it is worth repeating.)
4. Having a personal connection with people at work is tricky.  At your peer group level it is a great way to chat and inspire each other; unload when you feel stressed; and socializing would be fine. At work, I may have crossed the line with some of the people who report to me.  Sharing my frustration with them is not appropriate.  While it does make for a great way to pull a team together by allowing them "in", it is also a way to fan the flames of discontent and make work far too personal.  This is what ends up being my Achilles heel.  I make work personal---then when things don't go well---I take it as a personal attack and I cannot disengage. 
5. I am not as far along as I though with my physical fitness.....but I am also not 25.  Still----there is room for improvement. (This is a good lesson as I was feeling a bit smug in the previous week's Zumba Gold class at how easy I was finding it.)
Work in Progress.....



  1. Ahhh! I. Love. This!
    I am so happy for you and proud of you! Keep being awesome. :)


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