Going To Extremes


By: Lavinia Plonka

I’m into extreme sports.  I know, I don’t look it. Soft around the middle, gray roots peeking out of the bright red henna, vertically challenged.  Wikipedia defines extreme sports as “certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger.” It also says that “Extreme sports tend to be more solitary than traditional sports.” That’s what I love about my dangerous activities, I get to compete with myself.
Wikipedia also says that most extreme athletes are young. I did begin at a young age with each of my chosen sports.  I trained hard, and while the thrill is gone from some of the challenges, I still often find myself going for “the gold” more often than someone my age probably needs to do. For those of you who think that you’d like to include extreme sport in your lives but can’t figure out how to integrate it into your lifestyle, I offer the following primer.  But remember, only you can assess how much adrenaline you really need to feel good.
Race Against the Clock
This began as a passive aggressive strategy to drive my parents crazy when I was a teenager.  Every morning, I would find some way to delay departure for school.  Sometimes I needed to listen to the last part of the Moody Blues “Nights in White Satin” one more time.  Or start the homework I hadn’t done the night before.  Maybe the Dippity Do had glued my hair to the curler and I was turning into a sobbing, tangled mess.  Each day, my parents would take turns screaming upstairs till I finally charged down the stairs, skidded out the door, powerwalked the half mile to the school, raced to my homeroom and slid into my seat as the bell rang.  It was before the era of pumping fists and happy dances, but inwardly I gave myself points for how late I had left, how many delaying tactics I had employed, and how close to the bell I had arrived.
More than forty years later, this has been refined into a whirlwind dance.  Often I’ll actually be ready to leave the house on time.  If I walked out of the house at that moment, I could drive the speed limit to my office or appointment and arrive with a few minutes to spare.  But something in me can’t do it.  I must rise to the challenge. It could be as simple as deciding to pay a bill online in the thirty seconds I have left before I’ll be “late.”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, her fingers are flying across the keyboard.  Will she get the site up on time?  What was the url anyway, was it .Net? Or was it  The clock is ticking.  There it is. But wait!  The password.  Did she change it?  Damn!  Invalid log in or password!  Security question!  What was the make of your first car.  Well it was a Volkswagen.  Or did I spell it Volkswagon? Or are we talking about the Plymouth, yes!  I’m in!  But wait, why does it say my bill is $434?  What have they done now? I have to call them, NOOOOOO! The buzzer goes off. 
I have been known to start making stock five minutes before departure.  Dye my hair twenty minutes before leaving.  Have a fashion fit moments after I should have already left.  Finally, I dash to the car, load the trunk, slip in the seat, then remember: the cellphone, the folder for the meeting, lunch, kiss your husband, or all of the above.  Sometimes I have to run three times from the car.  Who needs cardio?     
I fly down our driveway, cut off the car coming down the hill, slide through yellow lights, zip around sleepy pedestrians, and arrive on time.  Yes!  Happy dance, slap me five, I have beat my personal record.  The adrenaline pumps.  You rock, baby!
Hindu Goddess or the Multi-tasking Championship
I’ll be talking to my sister on the phone. “What are you doing?” I ask. 
“Baking cranberry muffins and folding the laundry,” she replies.  “And you?”
“Great idea! I’m googling cranberry muffin recipes as we speak. Got my Ipad in the kitchen so I can keep making the pesto, while downloading some songs from Itunes and, hold on a second,” I hit the food processor to blend the pesto, and turn to load the dishwasher as the processor whirs, “OK, I’m back,  you there?”
After a pause, my sister says, “Huh? Yeah, I’m here,” my sister replies.  “I was just photographing the hummingbird nest outside my window while I waited for you.”
Of course it started when we were young.  My sister blames the combination of Catholic School (idle hands make a devil’s workshop) and a wildly chaotic upbringing. She said our multi-tasking compulsion is the result of a psychological need to fill every corner of the mind so that we wouldn’t have time to fear inevitable family dramas.
But I think it was more about doing what I wanted to do while I was doing what I was supposed to do. I began training at around age nine.  Forced into early accordion bondage, I was supposed to practice on the cursed squeezebox an hour a day.  My parents’ dream of getting me out of the poverty cycle was to turn me into a child prodigy so I would someday get to perform on Lawrence Welk.  I’m not kidding.  They would make me watch Lawrence Welk every Saturday night and each time Myron Floren came on to play My Blue Heaven or Flight of the Bumblebee, a parental unit would slap me on the shoulders and say, “If you keep practicing that could be you!”  Little did they know that I was secretly nurturing the desire to become a Hulabaloo dancer and felt like the Ancient Mariner carrying the albatross around his neck each time I donned the instrument.  (Years later, I’ve come to love the accordion.  But it’s a known psychological phenomenon that victims come to love their torturers….)
I learned to improvise simple gypsy melodies that, from the kitchen, sounded somewhat like music.  My mother, who loved anything in a minor key, would lie on the couch in her perpetual migraine haze, sighing about her life in the Old Country.  Meanwhile, on my music stand was the latest Nancy Drew novel, which I could read as my fingers flew across the keys.  I eventually mastered memorizing my history lesson while playing so that I could dispense with two distasteful tasks simultaneously. 
To this day, nothing gives me greater pleasure than the challenge of cooking, talking on the phone, and googling information for both activities all at the same time.  I can have a business phone conversation while spreading manure for my garden without the other person ever suspecting that while bull shitting, I’m also shoveling shit. My husband Ron will sometimes come home to find me talking, stirring and dancing simultaneously. 
The danger factor?  Oh yes.  Multi tasking while driving. No I don’t text. But I eat, look up addresses, listen to audio books and talk on the phone simultaneously. No law against that! Yet.
Pile It On! Weight Lifting Competition
Ron has a saying, “You never know you’ve had enough until you have too much.” As a mature business woman who has worked to embody principles like, “Listen to your inner guidance system,” “Only accept things that make you feel good,” “Follow your bliss,” etc. etc., I should know better.
But there is something about being needed that is such a dysfunctional rush, like doing some illicit 70’s party drug. Nothing gets me going more than someone asking me for help.  Except maybe the thrill of then having them say, “Wow, thanks, no one can do it like you.”
Back when I was in showbiz, this need to be needed landed me at gigs where I had to play a sexy, drunken elf, pretend I was the girlfriend of the host flown in from France, dance the Paso Doble in platform shoes and tell fortunes to Fortune 500 executives (“People don’t really appreciate your creative side. And I see some profit coming up in the next quarter.”) Nowadays I write, edit, counsel, cook, organize and speak in addition to my “day job.” I’ve rescued horrendous articles, given talks at elder daycare centers, cleaned out closets and held hands just because people said the magic words, either, “I need your help,” or “I’ve got a cool idea for a project!”
Then to make it more exciting, I add a project of my own.  (“I think I’ll write a book!  And I’ll have it ready in two months!”) But that’s not enough.  Because there are still a few hours left in the week.  So I’ll start a new garden.  Or clean the attic. After all, you can’t just “think” all the time.  Someone once said that workaholism is society’s legitimized addiction.  The worst that can happen is you get a better resume.  I don’t do it for that.  I just like to see how I score. 
There are so many more. Can I make it down our snaky hill without having to hit the brakes? Can I make it through Sam’s Club without buying a gas grill or fuzzy slippers? How fast can I print and trim one hundred schedules? And of course, no one has to know about the batch of schedules I totally messed up. Or the fourteen glitter t-shirts I ended up with from Sam’s. I only count the winnings.  Life, when played with gusto, is its own extreme sport.

When not doing the hundred yard dash to her car, Lavinia calmly works at Asheville Movement Center helping others find sport in life.  Do you have a sport you’ve created?  Or a comment?  Visit and give us your take on Lavinia’s world.  Or come take a Feldenkrais class:

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