"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, January 28, 2019

So Long, My Friends

I have been writing in this space for close to 8 years, which is an infinity in internet years. There are very few blogs out there that are still active from the time I started writing here. This started as an equestrian blog mainly dedicated to Lily and the trials and tribulations of being a horse owner in South Florida. (Believe me, unless you are an upper level rider, it is not for the faint of heart. I ultimately chickened out and never dove into that subject anywhere as in-depth as I had originally intended to.)

The first photo of Lily that was posted on this blog.
It still astounds me though that, had I not decided one random afternoon to claim a tiny corner of the internet for the stories of my horse, I would have never met some of the people that I now consider my closest friends.

I have been friends with this woman for years. We talk every day but we've only met once in person.
All because of this blog
I wouldn't have unknowingly motivated her to try out Working Equitation, a sport where she is now making a difference! (That still blows my mind...all because of one post I wrote in 2011. Talk about ripple effect!)

Forever proud of these two.
I never would have set foot in the mountains of West Virginia.

I wouldn't have tried cross-country skiing. I wouldn't have seen the Outer Banks from the perspective of a resident who took the time to show us her world...and who also became a dear friend...because of this blog.

I would not have not decided to try Lily out on the trails for real.

One of my first between-the-ears photos of Lily on trail, taken in August of 2013.
I would not have had the balls to start training for endurance, and I probably would have had a lot more difficulty making my way through that world. I definitely would not have attempted the Old Dominion 50 as my first ride!

If I could go back in time I wouldn't do it, especially because I was made to feel awful about it after the fact.
Not all of the equestrian blogging community is kind.
But this will always be one of my favorite memories with this mare and one of my biggest successes as an equestrian: my unspoken lifetime dream was to take a rescue horse that no one wanted and against all odds turn him/her into something that no one could have ever imagined.
DONE. I. fucking. DID.IT. 
And no one can take that away from me.
(Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.)
I would not have stuck with running. I'm not sure we would have felt the need to invest in a truck and trailer of our own. I would not have crewed for a 100. I probably wouldn't own Gracie, and I probably wouldn't have chosen to sell Lily...which would have been an awful thing. The list goes ever on and on. My life would be completely different if it weren't for this blog.

Writing as an equestrian blogger transformed me. I toed the line of writing about other subjects that both affected and interested me, and was pleased by the response these posts received: my life as a veterinary technician working in referral practice, my photography posts about running, my exploration of bodybuilding as a sport, my perspective living here as an "other," my stories about growing up in Puerto Rico.

I eventually realized that I had a lot more to say about those subjects than about horses, especially as I realized that I was gaining way too much baggage with Lily to want to further pursue anything significant with her. Some subjects were honestly chosen based on the fact that I had been told to stop talking about them, which is what has led to the defensive tone that has permeated so much of my writing for a while now.

An ugly truth.
Not surprisingly, the less I wrote about horses the less feedback my posts received. I expected post views to decline accordingly...but what surprised me was watching those non-equestrian posts receive the same number of hits as the horse-themed ones. (Not 20, 30, 50 views, which is what I would have expected...I'm talking 200-300 views within days of publishing.) So I knew they were being read. But because they meant more to me, the potential feedback also meant more...and like, who was reading? Was it the same audience or were these posts reaching a different group of people? I wanted to know if those posts resonated with readers, if they made a difference, if the message that anyone can find their personal strength if they believe in themselves enough that I was trying to transmit by telling the story of my adventures in strength sports, was being received/understood...or if it was just a waste of time to be publishing all of that. I realized too late that maybe I should have been asking prompts to encourage the conversations that I was hoping to start...But I'm old school, y'all, and there aren't any official "Rules of Blogging" written anywhere: when I started blogging, you didn't end every post with a question to get readers to comment like what seems to be all the rage among newer bloggers nowadays. You just figured that if readers were moved enough or if they liked what you wrote enough, they would comment. And that's what usually happened.

Swollen legs...

...and more swollen legs...
...and sliced-open faces...
...and emergency surgery after fracturing + displacing her splint bone on a day she took off galloping onto a main street.
It got real old to always be talking about these subjects. I never wanted to write about these things again.
So instead, I resorted to diving more and more into the personal details of my life, hoping that readers would identify with what I was trying to say to the point that they would speak up. And some of you did, and I appreciate you so much for that. My four Year End Review posts were the epitome of oversharing and, while I really liked how they came out and still feel that what I said in them needed to be said, I also decided I felt way too vulnerable and exposed in the wide open space of the internet. And so, just 5 days after publishing the final part of that Year End Review, I took those posts down. Actually, I took the entire blog down until now, because I needed time to think.

After much self-analysis, I've decided to discontinue this blog altogether. While the blog was always about my own story, hence the name and explanation, it started because of Lily and my audience became familiar with this space as Lily's story.

With Lily departing my life in 2018, it is officially not her story anymore. I will never be writing about her again here. I hate feeling pressured to write about horses in order to elicit a response. My blog is officially not an equestrian blog anymore and I want to target a non-equestrian audience. I want out of this box. I think it will help me stop writing so defensively as well: the defensiveness has been directed at a specific sector of readers that will be a relief to drop. I just want to write for my own enjoyment again, without being so preoccupied about who is or isn't reading.

And so this is my farewell to the online equestrian community.

If you missed the Year End Review posts, here are the lessons I was trying to impart by going into as much detail in them as I did. They are lessons that I've been consciously hiding in my writing for the past couple of years now, but I'm going to spell them out:

  • Follow your gut.
  • BUT: don't mistake gut feelings for anxiety. Anxiety can incapacitate you. That said, anxiety shouldn't be ignored either: it's not a personality flaw. It is a mental disease, it is treatable and you can get help for it. And no, you don't have to automatically go on meds to manage it: a professional can help you find coping methods to de-escalate anxiety attacks/episodes. *Also, if you're "normal" (whatever that means) and have anxious friends, for Chrissakes try to be empathetic. Making fun of your anxious friends and demeaning them just helps accelerate their downward spiral into depression.*
If animals can be empathetic like the rats in this study, so can you, human. It's not that difficult.
  • Discipline trumps talent.
  • Drive trumps genetics.
  •  Embrace your strengths and your hard work. Be proud of them. Stop comparing yourself to others: you'll enjoy yourself so much more if you just focus on what you can do. 
  • Females are stronger. Period. Pretty much regardless of species. 

  • Don't be intimidated by the gym. Everyone is intimidated when they start going for the first time. And I mean everyone. Me included, and I still have my days. The truth is that no one is paying attention to what anyone else is doing. Really. (I mean, unless you're the one woman banging out 200+ lb deadlifts in the entire gym...but that's just fun! :D) Make a playlist that makes you want to move to it, get a set of good noise-cancelling headphones and get lost in that music while you work out. Strong, Oxygen and Muscle & Fitness Hers are great sources that promote being strong over being skinny; they usually have solid workouts if you're new to working out and are looking for ideas/trying to learn your way around dumbbells, barbells and weight machines. 
  • #puertoricostrong forever and ever and ever.
  • It's okay to love other things in addition to/instead of horses. It's okay to move on from a horse that has stumped you with her training. Saying "this is enough" for your own health, confidence and sanity doesn't make you a quitter and you shouldn't be judged for that. It's okay to want to heal your relationship with horses by taking time off from them. It's okay to want a horse that is mentally sound, friendly, fun to ride and just fun to be around without any fantastic competitive goals. It's okay to just want to enjoy the journey with your equine companion. 

  • The ongoing theme throughout this blog for the last 4 years has been that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Be it turning the $1 mutt mare into an endurance beast...
(Photo by Becky Pearman, used with purchase.)
...or transforming your formerly non-athletic self into a powerlifter with a (currently) 230 lb deadlift that can also clock an 8-minute mile, two things which should not be compatible. You just have to be willing to put in the work to get there. Nothing worth doing is easy.

My lockout on 230 lbs.
Ya ain't gonna look pretty when you lift heavy shit in the gym. You also can't be shy when you start moving up in weight: you're going to get looks when you start slapping more plates onto your barbell and banging said heavy shit around. BUT: it's crazy empowering when you start doing that, so by that point you're not gonna care who's looking.(Like the guy in the back in this photo...lolololol)
  • Don't be afraid to set lofty goals. The trick is to figure out the steps you need to take in order to get to that goal...and focus on each of those steps so you can enjoy the adventure! That way if you change your mind or something comes in between you and that end goal, you can still say you had fun. :)
  • Don't make assumptions about other cultures and races. It's okay to not know: most of us are aware that US history and social studies classes leave a lot to be desired, and we would rather you try to learn than ignore the differences. Be intrigued about where other people come from,  their language, their religion, their music, their childhood, their flora and fauna. Ask questions, "What do you miss the most from your home? What is your favorite fruit? Your favorite food that you can't find here? What does it taste like? What did you listen to on the radio? What TV shows did you watch growing up? Are your holidays different? How do you celebrate? What did they teach in history classes? What made you come here?..." You'll be surprised by the answers. I can count on one hand how many Americans have asked me those questions in 14 years living on the mainland. Whereas it's a common subject of conversation when we meet outsiders, especially Hispanics from other Central and South American countries. Carlos and I know about Star Trek and Michael Jackson and Madonna and The Dark Crystal and The Simpsons and South Park and MTV and Nickelodeon, because we grew up in an American colony where all of those things were mainstream like they are here. What you don't know is that most of it, especially the TV shows, was dubbed in Spanish unless we saw it on cable or rented it at Blockbuster. (Ex: the Smurfs in Spanish are called Los Pitufos. Smurfette is Pitufina.) Most "others" don't grow up with your familiar American things. For example, I had a Russian coworker who had no idea what Star Wars was because Star Wars was not a part of Soviet Russian culture in the 1980s when he was a child in his home country. (Side note: his story was fascinating and well worth hearing. None of his American coworkers had ever expressed curiosity about his world or his country until I came along...and he had been working in that department for years!) So: ask questions. Be interested. Be less self-centered. The "others" around you will appreciate you more for making an effort to learn about them. You'll also break a stereotype while you're at it. <3 One of the beautiful things about living in the United States is that you don't have to travel overseas to learn about different cultures. You have a plethora of them right here within arm's reach. 
  • Having an accent does not mean that a person isn't fluent in English nor that they don't understand English. More times than I can count, I've been sent into exam rooms at work to talk to people that had "heavy Spanish accents" who sometimes did not have heavy accents at all and were 100% fluent in English...and who insisted on speaking to me in English despite being given the choice of Spanish. Again: don't make assumptions. And also: don't treat someone as less for knowing more languages than you do, because both myself and people that I love have experienced that too while living in the US. I have an accent when I speak in English: this whole blog is proof that a Spanish speaker can be more fluent in English than some English-only speakers...#endrantforgoodnow
  • Live in the present more. Don't wait until later to make your dreams come true. "Later" doesn't always come. 
  • And most of all: remember that when you want something, the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. <3
If you need a reminder, just go back and read through this blog. :)
There aren't enough words with which to thank those of you who have followed throughout the years, that have come out of the ether of the internet to become real presences in my life. Your comments and encouragement and help through thick and thin and the ups and downs that I've shared through this page have made such an enormous difference. It is because of you that I have continued writing for so long. I just need to move on from this equestrian space because I am not just an equestrian anymore.

I would love to hear from my readers one last time...and because I suck at this, I don't even know what prompt to write. I don't know what I want readers to comment about or on...I think I'd just like to know that the things that I wrote about meant something positive for you. If any of it changed you or made you think differently or try something that you never considered before...if it motivated you to go out in search of your dreams...I would love to know.  Maybe I'm afraid to ask because I'm also afraid that like so many other times in my life when I've said good-bye, I won't get a response in return. But please feel free to comment here or on the Wait for the Jump Facebook page if you so wish.

Two weeks from the publish date of this post, I will disable all comments throughout the blog for good. It will be read-only. The Wait for the Jump Facebook page will remain live, but I won't be posting on there anymore either.

If you would like to keep up with me, you are welcome to follow along on Instagram. My username is @ntorrech and for now that account is public. I started my IG account in 2014 as a direct complement to the blog and with over 1400 posts/photos, it has developed a life of its own. I post photos every week of the same subjects that I've written about in this space: my town, my horse, the cats, my running, my lifting, our adventures, our life in general. It's my little realm of self-expression. I write short posts on there too because I need to practice being more direct and to-the-point with my writing. ;)

And with that, I will say what the dolphins said in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Longest Streak

(Not on this creek...but within walking distance of it, which is close enough! :D)
Carlos had had to work all week because as a registered nurse, both of his jobs require him to pick up some holidays. He spent the 24th in Dialysis Land while I went to CrossFit to do the 12 Days of Christmas WOD, which didn't sound too bad on paper until you realized that it builds up just like the Christmas carol.

Ex: you do one L-pull. Then 2 man-makers and 1 L-pull-up. Then 3 box jumps, 2 man-makers and 1 L pull-up.
You know, like the song.
It took me 38 minutes and 3 seconds to do the whole thing. I also got confused and did the order of each set backwards, which made it harder. It also meant that when I realized I had gotten mixed up, I tried to fix it and ended up doing the #10 sequence twice. *face-palm* My heart rate was at an even 160 bpm for the entire 38 minutes it took me to complete.
I still somehow managed to finish third in our class, which was a pretty large group!
Carlos had to work in ER Land yesterday, Christmas Day, so I had signed up to work in ICU Land myself because I preferred that to spending the holiday sitting at home alone. (Carlos's family lives in Florida and mine in Puerto Rico: we do not have family local to us and the few friends we have were either also working themselves or spending the holiday with their families.)

Mom and the aunts went balls-to-the-wall with gifts this year. This was everything they sent us.
We opened gifts on the 24th when Carlos got home from work. 
Christmas in the veterinary ICU tends to be a nightmare for clients, patients, doctors and techs: a lot of death, a lot of uber critical, a lot of end-stage disease, a lot of tragic emergencies. I walked into work bracing for the worst while reminding myself that I was there at will: I had chosen to work on this day, so I was going to turn this into an adventure in the best way I possibly could. Plus, I got to work with most of my favorite people which was half the reason why I had signed up to begin with. :)

Since no patient photos, have a picture of the Zombiekins thinking he was completely camouflaged against this black blanket...lol
As it would turn out, I had three patients that were both very stable illness-wise and very easy to handle temperament-wise (in fact, all three were freaking adorable.) We had a handful of critical emergencies but most of what came in was simple to fix and we were able to send most of them home to spend the rest of the day with their families. Every single client that walked in the door with their pet was patient and understanding when there were long waits to be seen, which was a wonderful change from holidays I've worked in the past. To make it even better, most of them outright thanked us for being there to help them. It was so, so wonderful. It just set the tone for one of the most harmonious holidays I have ever worked in 11 years in veterinary critical care. 

It made up for this past weekend, which, with the full moon + pre-holiday + meteor shower + solstice, had been pretty much exactly what you would have expected...
...which was this. Sunday 12/23 left me so agitated it took me a full 24 hours to recover stress-level wise.
My FitBit confirmed the tale that was Sunday. I did not work out on this day: this was just at work!
It registered an extra 557 calories burned. Just from walking and stressing and lifting and cleaning.
(One of my 4 patients was a 60 lb Lab that couldn't walk and another had eaten 4 lbs of chocolate and was a constant mess of diarrhea who was loopy out of his mind from the insane drug cocktail we had to give him to control his chocolate-induced tachycardia.)
So yes: Christmas Day in the ICU was magical for me in the best way possible. :)

To make it even better, Carlos and I ultimately did make it home from our jobs at a reasonable time, where we put together a quick dinner and sat down by the gas fireplace with glasses of wine to eat. 

He had to work again today (he'll finally be off tomorrow!) but I was free, so I headed to CrossFit this morning for the Strength class, after which I stopped by the globo gym to do today's powerlifting programming. 

Arnold presses during a different Strength class. Coach A took these pics and featured them on the box's website. <3
I was working on four sets of 3 reps of squats at 85% of my 1RM (in this case, 165 lbs). I had struggled through the first set when I realized that it would probably be easier if I paid closer attention to my bracing. Which I did for the second set, but I was still super slow and sticky coming out of the hole on the third rep. I took a longer break this time, grumbling to myself as I leaned against the barbell to play impatiently with my phone. Long rests of up to 3 minutes, sometimes more, become a necessity when doing higher weight lifts. You don't realize what a difference it makes until you try to cut your rest time short. Hahahaha...been there, done that, got the T-shirt. With today's kind of effort, I was waiting at least 2.5 minutes in between sets. 

From a day I was squatting 160 lbs for reps, to correct depth. :D
There was a guy doing military presses on the Smith machine next to my squat rack. I had just unracked my barbell when I realized he had been about to switch out the plates on the machine, which meant that he had to walk past the end of my barbell. I paused with 165 lbs across my shoulders and glanced at him, "Go ahead," I said. I could wait. He shook his head. "No, I'll wait," he said. 

I nodded, took a deep breath, braced, and sank into the hole, keeping my chest up and upper back tight. Grind back out of the hole as I breathed out. Stand up straight, deep breath, brace again, and back down into the hole. I repeated this one more time, then took a step forward and slammed the barbell back into the hooks on the rack. That had been SO MUCH EASIER when I concentrated on bracing properly!

I turned around and thanked the guy for waiting. 

"You are super strong!" he said. "How much is that?"
I had not been expecting a compliment. I grinned, "165."
"Jesus. I don't even come close to that. I don't train legs enough."
I chuckled. He got to work on his machine and I went back to fiddling on my phone to kill time until my final set. 

You hear a lot of stories about women being deliberately bullied/picked on/intimidated by men during their lifts in the gym, but so far (*knock on wood*) all I've experienced is genuine respect and admiration. And it doesn't get old, especially when you consider yourself a fairly shy introvert.

The day was so absolutely gorgeous when I walked out of the gym later, that I decided I must go downtown for a run too. I swung by the house to eat and change into my thermal running gear first.

At 3:30 pm with the shadows lengthening as the sun made its way closer to the horizon, it felt chillier than the 47 degrees my car's thermostat was reading when I pulled up to Baker Park in downtown. But I knew I'd warm up within the first half mile of running. So I donned my windbreaker and headed out. 

And took photos, as I always do during these runs. Long-term readers will remember that this habit started with the "Today's Run" series back in the summer of 2013 when Lily was recovering from her annular ligament injury and I started running consistently in order to stay in shape. My way of staying accountable was to take photos during my runs and post them on the blog. Taking pictures while running has become deeply ingrained since then, and while I don't always post the photos online (if I do, it's usually on IG), I love having them to look back on and remember especially beautiful days where I just went the fuck outside with my music and my thoughts and pounded the pavement for however many miles I felt like going. 

At the start of today's run.
I usually swing by the library to grab a drink of water since the outdoor water fountains are turned off now in the wintertime. It's become a habit to take a selfie in the library restroom so I can compare progress over time. My quads have come a long way since I started taking these pics for funsies! Lol
"Purr more hiss less." This made me laugh.
These two doggos were insistently barking at another dog standing quietly next to her owner across the street. The other dog looked so confused, like "Why are those dumb-dumbs barking at me?"
I loved that you could see the streak in the sky mirrored in the water.
This view doesn't get old. I take a photo every. single. run.
There was a surprising number of people out and about. The clock tower was chiming Christmas tunes. <3
My weeping willow on the right, all naked for winter.
You don't need to be on the beach to capture a perfect sunset!
Baker Park, headed back towards my car.
I realized as I got back into my car after my 3 miles that this has been my longest outdoor running streak to date. I've been consistently running since May. In the past as soon as temps dropped below 50 sometime between October and early November, I'd flee indoors for all exercise other than riding. This winter I've been trading riding in for running on some days because running is my time to just enjoy being in my own headspace with my music and no distractions. It's been an amazing thing for keeping the creeping fingers of SAD at bay so far, and I'm loving every second of it.

It's also how posts like this one later get written. ;)

Driving home. <3