Friday, January 23, 2009

With Great Risk, Comes Great Reward

"Allison, you're always up to something new. How do you live so freely?"

This is one of those Frequently Asked Questions I've referred to in the past. The question has been presented in many variations. It's runner up only to the Muscle Up question. Now that we've got that mess cleared away, let's tackle this one. It's far more interesting, anyway.

I'll give all of you people out there with short attention spans the abbreviated version - I just do.

That's the basic concept. But putting it into action and understanding it is more complex and requires some extra thought. I don't know if I can give a specific answer. I don't know if there is one.

Lots of the e-mails I get asking that question are referring to CrossFit stuff. I've been to a lot of gyms, spent time with the most dynamic, intelligent, motivating CrossFit people, been to all the certs. I've traveled a lot. I've gotten myself into some shit.

I guess if the question is as superficial as, "How did you get invited to that cert" or "How did you end up in CrossFit videos", I could respond with a simple, boring answer. Let me know if that's what you really want.

I'm a CrossFitter to the core. Intensity doesn't just exist in my workouts, it penetrates every aspect of my life. That's my goal anyway.

My CrossFit life is just a portion and a reflection of what I've been doing since forever.

I wonder WHY they're really asking. Curiosity? Do they just want to know my take on things that have went down in public? Do they want to know how so they can do it, too? Or are they looking for something else?

Are they really just wondering.. Why ME?

All the coolest and most exciting things I've done have also been the scariest... the most nerve racking. Fear is part of the thrill. The unknown. Not being able to see around the corner or what's on the other side. Fear holds people back. But it's what drives me.

I take risks. When I'm presented with an opportunity to try something new, I seize it.. even if that means making a fool out of myself. That's how I end up all over the place. I accept invitations, I embrace opportunity, I go for it.

I haven't really been able to put my finger on why I've been extended so many interesting opportunities. I think life is just a series of events and each decision impacts our future. Maybe it's destiny or luck. Maybe it's my overwhelming charm that gets me things ;) Just kidding... sort of. Or maybe it's just being open and receptive to opportunities when they come around.

The universe works in strange ways. Things come our way when we need them to. We're exactly where we need to be when we're there. And there's enormous power in our thoughts.

When things get crazy in my life, and they often do, my Grandmother is always great at getting me centered again. She reminds me that I am where I am because I need to be.. as part of some sort of spiritual journey. Spirituality is only starting to creep into my life. I can now at the very least transcribe some of the messages presented into a language I can understand and accept.

I believe in human development. Human behavior is so complicated and interesting. We all have things we need to do, obstacles we need to overcome, people we need at certain times in our lives, to grow and evolve into some kind of "final product" when we die. I imagine at the end of my life, I'll look back on all the things I've done and went through to become that end product. Life is sort of like research for some big report that takes forever to write... and what for?

This may be one of the driving forces in how you live your life. Is someone grading your final report, or not? Who's rules are right and who's to judge your interpretation of how life should be lived? I'm not big on living based on guilt. I'm about living based on experience, love and growth.

Anyway, my Granny reminds me of the bigger picture. That always helps.

I accept consequences (they're almost always worth the value of the experience). I anticipate things not going exactly as planned.

It's okay to not always know what to do. It's okay to make mistakes. We make mistakes no matter how hard we try and no matter who's rules we aim to follow... and there are so many rules, aren't there?! It would be impossible to follow them all ... so we might as well do it up right with our own panache!

When I fall, I get up, I freak out and recover. And trust me, I fall often.

How do some people end up bold risk takers? Parenting, environmental factors? Do they just come out that way? I believe it's both. Nature and Nurture.

When I was younger I was constantly challenging authority. I got in trouble in school a lot. In NYC public schools it's fairly easy to get in trouble - Just ask one too many questions, disagree with what's being taught, challenge a teacher. Curiosity got me in trouble - be bold enough to ask a question not addressed in the teachers edition of a textbook and be labeled as pretentious or argumentative and be sent immediately to the principles office.

Free, critical thinking was discouraged. Memorization and regurgitation of information... now that's real education. Being vocal with my ideas and unafraid and determined to express them got me sent out of many classrooms. I can't count the number of times I've just picked up and walked out.

I've had dreams of classrooms where students desks were arranged facing each other. Where the teacher was more of a guide and moderator than a disseminator of facts. I wanted heated discussion and debate. I wanted to be challenged.

Instead, I sat in rows facing the board. Forced to be quite or be punished. Sometimes we were doomed to classrooms so crowded there weren't enough chairs and there was always a shortage of books. Those classes were like hell.

I had a few outstanding teachers over the years. I landed myself in six high schools and felt like I struck gold when I got a teacher who pumped life into their message. You know those teachers who make their subject interesting... because it is.. because it's interesting to them and they know it can be interesting to anyone if it's presented the right way. Their classrooms have energy. Students are excited and minds are awake and working. Those classrooms are pure heaven. I would go to school everyday for the rest of my life if I could find an environment like that. I'd hold on and never let go. My Dad told me that's what I'd find at Columbia. I think I'm ready. I'll hit that in my next entry.

Anyway, I didn't give a fuck. That's always kind of been my attitude. People put such limits on themselves.

I feel like a lot of us just end up falling in line and living how we're expected to live. Childhood and adolescence is spent being told to "Line Up!", "Don't talk out of turn", "Don't ask questions", "Don't read ahead", "Wait to use the bathroom", "Don't talk without raising your hand!". Most people don't grow out of that. It's like they Need rules and people telling them what to do rather than thinking for themselves. They're too scared. They don't know how. They weren't taught or prepared. Their educators failed them.

We're pressured to conform. I'm not concerned so much with how we dress and talk. People always think that if you dress "weird" you're different. No. You're just the same as all those other "different" people. I'd like to get into this one another time, too. Self expression and how we're perceived in society is some interesting shit.

But for now I want to zero in on how we're taught to live. It's our actions that are relevant. Society immediately starts putting boundaries around us. Our culture molds us with strategically placed barricade's to guide us through life like cattle. Some people are content with that or don't even see it. Others have this internal, primal drive to climb those fence's or hop right over those barriers like they don't even exist.

My Mom was one of those off beat people. She's the black sheep in a very traditional family - Mom and Dad married 50 years, one of four children who went off to marry happily and have children of their own. She didn't fall in line. Who knows why she was different. She probably makes a good case for Nature over Nurture.

My mother is kind, peaceful, selfless. She's also kooky, scatterbrained and animated. She's the artistic type, always doing some sort of project. Children love her for her playful and loving nature. It really is so genuine.

On the other hand I always thought my Mom was a little nuts. She embarrassed the hell out of me as a kid. I was always afraid of what my "Traditional" friends and their families would think of her and if they'd judge me based on her (they probably did).

She'd be playing with the neighborhood kids while I was hiding behind a mailbox, embarrassed and shy. She'd set up water balloon wars for my friends on the block and take us all to Jones Beach everyday in the summer.

We spent a lot of time in the doctors office because of my asthma... even that was fun with her. She'd entertain me by pulling the most random things out of her purse. It was like the Barney Bag.. we never knew what we'd find but we knew it would be hysterical. Every woman needs a spork, rocks and masking tape in their bag.. didn't you know that?! :D I'm laughing my ass off as I type this.

My Mom is weird. My brother, EthanBoo is a lucky little dude. He'll have a lot of fun with a Mom that enjoys digging for worms and playing with bugs.

I inherited my strong sense of humor from her. If you don't laugh at life sometimes, you'll go crazy. I had to laugh growing up with her...

I'm learning to appreciate her for all the wonderful things that she does. I've grown to admire her strength and her courage. I admire her independence and determination to live her life with passion. She has a fantastic sense of self and but never hesitates to show her vulnerability, her humanity. I realize that I've always been more like her than I thought. I did my own thing. I rebelled.. but maybe in a more thundering, vehement, abhorrent, sort of way.

I think as I've gotten older I see that I've learned something very important from watching her my whole life... I was learning it all along. I've been practicing, too. From her example, I've learned how to be myself.

She marches strongly and proudly to the beat of her own drummer. I respect her tenacity to ignore what "normal" people pressure her to do, directly and indirectly, and to find and fight for her own version of happiness.

That doesn't mean that there isn't any struggle in this way of life. There was for her and there is for me. I embrace it. When I look at my Mother I see someone who's taken the hard road sometimes but lives life honestly and passionately. She has war wounds that make her beautiful and interesting. I want to see those qualities reflecting back at me when I look in the mirror.

It's not always easy doing things the non traditional way, but it sure is fun.

My Mom always did things with grace and kindness. She's too easily manipulated for my taste. I know it's sort of contradictory to the qualities I've described so far, but it's true. She's put herself out there and has been taken advantage of in the process. It happens to the best of us. It's part of the game. But she's exceptionally easy on people. It's excessive and it pisses me off. This is where we start to differ.

I'm stubborn, hardheaded, insubordinate, contrary, disobedient, rebellious.

I'm riotous, impulsive and opinionated. I'm rarely compliant and I'm allergic to authority. I despise wimps who accede to every absurd law. I like to bend rules and karate chop them right in half if I really believe in what I'm doing.

I can easily identify where that comes from. My father was a bastard who didn't care for people telling him what to do. He's the most charming, wild, ferocious, brilliant, frightening, man roaming the Earth. Watch out for him.

When I'm in, I'm all in. All or Nothing. I can be reckless. It gets me into trouble and lands me in strange situations... I live for them.

Sometimes I hear myself wishing for an uncomplicated life. I know I've said even recently "Why can't everything just be easy and smiles. Why can't we just slide through life smoothly?". I wouldn't really want that. I like the bumps in the road - They're The Spice Of Life.

Life is about experiencing things isn't it? I want to soak it all up. With the good comes the bad.. Get High, Get Low. Soar above the clouds before crashing and burning. That's all good with me. Wouldn't have it any other way.

I've always stood up for what I believed in no matter the cost. I was always aware of consequences but never let the fear of them stop me. What terrifies me more is letting someone's (no matter how powerful or what their role or status) moral code or rules or ideas get in my way. When I put my head on my pillow every night, I need to feel like I lived my life and didn't hold back.

When I end a day with the feeling of "I wish I said that!" or "I wish I just would have went for it!", I feel tormented. The anguish of the "what if" is way worse than the consequences of any risk. "What ifs" cause me severe mental distress and I'm not willing to subject myself to that sort of misery.

I'm out there.. I've put myself out there and allowed other people to put me out there. One thing leads to another.

If we really do get just one life, one shot, I want to really live it. Live it hard. I want to feel alive and act like it. I want to Love Freely and without abandon. I want to make moves and do unexpected things. I don't want to know what's waiting around the corner but when I turn it I'll embrace whatever is there for me.

It's got to be the right blend of planning and impulsiveness. For example - I knew I wanted to give California a try. I had been dreaming of it for months but wasn't quite sure how to get from point A to B. One day I was offered a place to live out there... I was on the plane a couple of days later. That's what I mean. I don't just do things without total lack of consideration. I generally know exactly what I want. It's taking the right chances when they come along.

I live with a blatant disregard for things that other people would label as dangerous. This makes people angry sometimes. But it's not that I don't think about consequences. I just don't make my decisions based solely on the possibility of facing them.

THAT'S how I live freely. Freedom is a state of mind.

I go with the flow. I'm open and willing. I say "YES" and see where the world takes me. It's as simple as that.

Thrill comes in many forms. I don't seek it, but I embrace it when it comes my way.. it always does.

Chances.... Take Them.

I want to share a bit of an e-mail my Mama sent to me in response to one I sent her. I hope she doesn't mind.

Hi Allie,

Thank you for saying these kind things. I am glad that I can be a source of strength for you. It is hard to see a large picture standing in your own shoes sometimes, especially when you are experiencing difficulties, and it is good to have someone who can reaffirm truths.

Here is what I see when I look at you: An incredibly bright, beautiful young woman. A woman who has come to this Earth with gifts and knowledge that some people will never have. A person who is still learning to cope with the unfairness in this insane world. You are driven, talented, and funny, too. You have and will inspire many to be better by your example and by sharing your knowledge.

You have the courage to put yourself out there and have become a public figure. By doing this you have put yourself up for others to admire, judge, speculate about, and even ridicule. The only way to deal with this and have it work for you is to be firm in who you are that negativity about you is only laughable. Truths are eventually revealed when there are gossip and rumors, and people's allegiance's change with the wind. Take all of this with a grain salt and keep plugging along. It is your life, not theirs. If you make mistakes in public, people will love you for it because you show who you are as an imperfect human being, or they will use it to be a pain in the ass, or they will simply be entertained. You are so young, and just starting out in this fitness industry. Believe me, your rewards will come.

Be self reflective so you can gauge your progress. Know your strengths and strive to understand your weaknesses so you can work on improving. Identify your weaknesses. Create a plan for improvement.

Here are what I think are your weaknesses:

You don't like to talk about your weaknesses!!! This must change. You have learned to deal with the physical discomfort required to change your body in your Crossfit practice. Now you have to learn to deal with discomfort necessary to change your life in other areas.

Wanting instant gratification. You want what you want, and you want it now. While you are energetic at doing what you love to do, you are dead dog lazy about doing things you don't like, that are necessary for a balanced life.

Remember to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you have made. Chalk everything up to experience, and move on with verve! People are defined by how they respond to what is put in their path. And you do have a certain amount of control over what your path is. Victims are those who lay down and say they can't do because of what has happened to them. Survivors are those who tolerate what has happened to them. Hero's and winners rise above difficult circumstances and use all their experiences as stepping stones. You are a hero in many ways. And you are figuring out how to rise above other circumstances you are faced with. I have every bit of confidence you will rise to the top. You already have one foot there. Time to get even footing.

You are the best, Allie. I love you desperately, and unconditionally. I am so proud of you as you should be of yourself. I am your cheerleader. I hurt when you're down and want to spur you on. Go, Allie, go! I'm rooting for you. And always remember you have a place here in my heart and in this humble home of ours if you need to bail out.


How Lucky Am I?


CrossFit Cape Fear said...

You and your mom are great ladies!

Allie's Mama said...

Just in case you need a laugh, I will open my purse for you. Presently, it contains: a grocery store receipt and coupons I will carry until they are expired, (and then I’ll be relieved that I can throw them out because I can’t use them anymore,) a bill I’ve been carrying around for weeks but haven’t stopped to pay (the company called me last night,) about a dozen acorn caps, a little aluminum foil ball, six 2 ounce plastic cups, a box cutter, a glue stick, a Marshmallow Krispie Treat, a clothespin, six kinds of lip gloss, 2 flash drives with Power Point presentations of ideas to try with kids, my camera, and extra SD card, 1 clip on earring, a small, high powered flashlight to see the contents of all of this in bad lighting, and the journal you gave me two years ago with the inscription: Mama, Clear your mind and be your creative free thinking self. Enjoy. I love you to the moon, around all the stars and back, Allison.
Of course, you never know what my purse will contain next week. The journal has ideas about creative tension, and ideas for activities teachers can try that would inspire children to ask questions, seek answers, and develop solutions. There are notes about discussions with teachers so they may receive children for the individual differences they have, about learning styles, creating a safe, nurturing, risk free environment, about respect for cultural diversity, and notes about joy . . . I can’t change how awful some of your education was, but I’ll try to make it better for other children.
Sorry for being a little weird. I just can’t help myself. You are a little weird, too.
To those reading, Allison is who she said she is: An adventurer by nature, at ten months old she spoke one of her first sentences, “I wan do go owside!” She toddled and got her sweater, and went to the front door. In the streets of Harlem she would stretch her arms toward buses, stiffen her fingers, squint her eyes, and make a strange noise. I asked what she was doing and she replied that she was getting power from the bus. She was no older than 18 months old, and had never seen television to get such an idea. When she was 3, and anyone asked her name, she said she was “She-Ra, Princess of Power.” When she was in third grade she came home with a tape recorder she had cleverly hidden in an empty Oreo box with a hole cut out for the microphone. She wept, motionless, as I listened to her teacher screaming. In fourth grade, mothers of her classmates were calling me to tell me she stood on a desk with a fist in the air, and quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in defense of a classmate she believed was being treated unfairly. I got calls from her schools regularly. Once I found some pictures of her and her friend in a vehicle. When I asked her about the pictures, I was informed that she and her friend had hitched a ride back to school before dismissal in a truancy van and were singing, “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.” Raising her was interesting. She fought every injustice she happened upon and was often in trouble for this. Finding more than her share of lose-lose situations, she fell into despair for some time. Her newborn brother brought light back into her eyes. She found passion for life by having him in her life, and finding and practicing Crossfit. We are very different people, Allie and I. But we both hate doing the dishes.

Jamie said...

"Allie" and Mom, GREAT stuff!!!

So, Allison, when are you gonna start blogging everyday??? It's such an empowering read for us girlie Crossfitters!

CrossFit Cape Fear said...

Mom (If I may as I think we're actually near the same age),
I met Allison at the CFK cert last year and have to say it's been a privilege to listen to her as she shared about her life, and now to see her thoughts take shape.

I have to say, her writings are not only excellent, but open in a most touching way and how she looks at you (from the writing and hearing her first hand)... is a true joy to see!

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