THE CALMING NEON ORANGE ROPE
By: Lauren Anderson
When I was little, my parents brought us to Paul Bunyan Land in Northern Minnesota. We rode rides and watched dancing chickens and got our pictures taken with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox. Pretty much having the greatest time a kid could have at a kitschy Minnesotan theme park.
And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, on the way out, I was told that I could pick out something from the gift shop. WOO HOO! There’s is nothing like the euphoria of getting a special treat as a kid, that you get to pick it out yourself!
I scoured the aisles of goodies. There were stuffed animals and t-shirts and toys galore. But I couldn’t get over the bin of rope bracelets near the front register. The neon of the nylon rope they were made out of was too attractive to my young eyes. And at 20 cents a piece, I knew I could pick out one of each color.
When I showed my mom what I wanted she said, “Are you sure?” surprised. Because up until that point I was a pretty stuffed animal-centric shopper. I remember nodding my young head.
“But you can get these bracelets anywhere. Don’t you want something with Paul Bunyan on it?” I shook my head no, even more convicted in my choice. “All right. You can get more if you want.”
I picked out about twenty bracelets. Enough for a full stack. Enough so the rope bracelets would ride up and down each arm. The screaming neon pink and yellow and green and blue and especially the neon orange–unforgiving in their brightness.
I remember lining the bracelets down each arm and this incredible feeling of calmness came over me. As if they were magic. Or like armor or something. Perhaps this is where my love of bracelets truly began? Who knows?! But anyone that has met me, knows I never leave home without something on my wrist. And it all started that summer.
As a hyper kid, with a lot to say, and even more emotions to match– I remember those bracelets fondly.
Because they became this strange anchor that I wore that helped me feel tethered back to the earth. Like I could look down and grab my wrists and feel the rope of the bracelets and know that I wouldn’t spin off into the stratosphere. They somehow calmed me.
I wore those bracelets until they literally fell off from wear n’ tear, in the shower or the lake.
And even though I don’t have those bracelets anymore the lesson they gave me remains. And it is as powerful as ever. I have the ability to calm myself down.
I didn’t know it at the time, because I was young and I had birds to chase, and books to read. But those bracelets were like a lesson in being mindful. We didn’t call it that back then, but looking back now… that’s exactly what it was.
* * *
So… flash forward to the gym last Friday.
Coach Jerik is walking us through the Met Con (The real exercise-y part of the CrossFit experience) And we’re supposed to do a series of jump ropes, then sit ups, and then deadlifts. Four rounds in descending reps for time.
As we got our gear set up, Coach Jerik takes a moment to talk about the jump rope.
He says, “As you’re jumping, I notice many of us, myself included, start off strong and then eventually we get caught up and have to stop. Then when we go back into the jump, we start to clench and our wrists and arms get tighter, making the rope come closer to the body in smaller loops, causing us to get caught up even more frequently. Making us stop more often. Which makes us more frustrated, which makes the jump rope even tighter.”
A few of us in class laugh. I practically guffaw. Cause that is me. That is SO ME.
Usually when I jump rope, I can get about 30-40 jumps in a row before I get tangled or my breathing goes awry. After I gulp for air and try and start back up again, it’s inevitable that my next round of jumps will only be about 20 jumps or so before I get tangled and have to stop again.
This is very frustrating, especially when you have big numbers of jumps you’re trying to complete in a set amount of time. And then every time I begin after that, the jump sequence gets shorter and shorter.
It never occurred to me before Coach said this, but I usually get tighter. I start to move my arms less, and my face will change from a neutral, to a “Don’t F*** with me ROPE!” pretty quick.
And I never realized it before now. I get mad at the jump rope and the anger causes me to tense, which makes me make more mistakes, which only makes me more mad! Ah! The stupid cycle!
Coach Jerik continues. “So I’d like you all to be aware of this, and when you get tangled or have to stop, I want you all to keep breathing and try and stay as relaxed and calm as possible when you jump. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised the difference that it makes. Stay loose in your body, and in your arms and wrists.”
It’s not long before the buzzer sounds and we’re off to do the Met-Con. I grab my trusty orange jump rope and start jumping. But this time, I really took Coach’s advice to heart. I purposely set my face to a loose happy neutral. I kept my jumps loose too. I made sure my arms moved in circles, not tight little flicks at my side.
I’m trying my damnedest to actually enjoy myself too. Side note: I’ve been on this new kick lately about trying to “Mine moments of joy” out of potentially difficult situations. Meaning, basically to look for and celebrate little things that can happen that offer comfort or joy, even while I’m in the middle of something I don’t want to do, or somewhere I don’t want to be. And then I try and live there for as long as possible.
Like for example, say I somehow find myself out on a date that isn’t going the way I wanted, but boy the meal is delicious, or the server makes me legitimately laugh, or I learn something new about 12th century Gothic Architecture. You know, purely hypothetical… ahem. (I mean, I had no idea that even though it’s most popular in France you can trace it’s origins to Islam. Fascinating!)
In other words, mining the gold out of the dull rock. So I could walk away from the date with more than a to-go box and an awkward hug, ya know? It becomes experiential, and therefore useful. Even fun!
So back to the jump rope. I’m trying to “Mine the Joy” And LO and BEHOLD! I think I did!
I’m purposefully jumping in this way that day, and what I noticed was this strange sense of calm wash over me. Even though I was moving fast–faster than normal even– the world felt like it slowed down. I was in what I think athletes call “The Zone”.
Before I knew it, my jump count had reached 65, when I finally snagged my foot and had to stop. Yeah, you heard me right– 65 consecutive jumps! The most I’ve been able to jump in a row without stopping since I started at Solcana.
And honestly, if not for that ill-placed foot, I bet I could’ve kept going. Which is also kind of a coup for this lifelong asthmatic. Yes, my breathing is better than it has ever been. But anyone with breathing problems knows that any kind of JUMPING is always an air-snatcher.
I think the calmness kept my breath going stronger too. And as I type that, I’m kinda going “Yeah, no duh Anderson. Of course staying calm helps your breath. You know that from LITERALLY EVERY DOCTOR YOU’VE EVER TALKED TO ABOUT ASTHMA, AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.” But hey! Sometimes I need a new perspective to see the full picture.
When the workout was done, I was sweaty and spent, but I noticed I also felt happy, and dare I say…RELAXED?!?! As if I had accomplished a great task and was satisfied in my accomplishment.
Talk about Mining the Joy! I wish I felt this fulfilled more often. What a feeling!
And as I’m wrapping the orange jump rope around my wrist to pick it up and put it away, I look down and I get the same wash of calmness that those bracelets used to give me. I sort of giggle to myself, because the jump rope and the rope bracelets kind of look alike.
Because I tried to be mindful in my workout and SEEK OUT calmness, I was able to jump longer and stronger than I would’ve if I just went about like I had been. I didn’t belabor it, or force it either. I just kind of “put on the idea” like I put on those bracelets, and let it ride.
That small shift made all the difference. And what a great reminder again, that I have the ability to calm myself down. I have the ability to control my outcome to a certain extent. Not with everything all the time obviously– but with some stuff maybe? And what a powerful thing to note.
All these years later, and again it takes a neon orange rope around the wrist to remind me of the power of being mindful, and to seek out calm when I can.
The rope may have got a little longer, but the lesson remains the same.