Joy and Pain. Side by Side.

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“Choosing to nurture joy does not mean turning a blind eye to pain or difficulty or injustice. It means holding positive possibilities while looking deeply into pain. Deep truth about what is and recognizing joy can exist side by side.” ~Circle Forward

I read those words and I was reminded of the phrase finding joy in the mess. And then I was reminded of the times in my life when there wasn’t much to be joyful for, yet, somehow opportunities to choose a moment of pure joy would sneak in, despite the current state of messiness. A sudden eruption of pee-your pants laughter in the depths of unfathomable grief, a beautiful ray of sun appearing from the clouds when all hope seemed lost, a heartfelt hug from a dear friend in a moment of despair. Life-saving snippets of joy in the midst of struggle. Joy and pain. Side by side. How can we know one without the other? Kind of a mind blow, right? Always the paradox. Always the struggle. How can they co-exist? Yet . . . how can they not?

Choosing to find joy in the midst of difficulty is one of the most courageous acts a person can take–although we rarely give ourselves permission to do so. What if, in the midst of your struggles, no matter how big or small, you gave yourself permission to choose joy for just one day, or for one hour, or for even one minute or one second? It’s SO okay to take a break from your pain. Choosing to nurture joy does not dismiss or diminish our hurts, but instead creates space for hope to seep in. And with hope, all things are possible.

Let yourself choose joy and then nurture it. Let it live side by side with your sorrows. Let hope create the space.

the soul knows

There are no coincidences. The soul seeks its own path. ~Angela Gwinner

The other day, I stumbled upon a box of treasures from my youth. Having no recollection of packing it all away, I was clueless to its existence. So, when I realized what I had found, I excitedly started digging through the old stash.

Tucked within the memorabilia, most of which was deeply sentimental, was this edition of Young Miss, circa 1980. Of the hundreds of magazines that I read growing up, this one was the only one that I saved. For real. None of the juicy gossip mags (hello, Tiger Beat) full of pictures of all the 80′s heart throbs and hair bands. Nope. Not those. Instead, I saved this one.

It’s funny because I was not a runner growing up. I would not become a runner for 33 more years after this magazine came out. Now, I cannot imagine a life without running. In fact, running has saved me in ways I’ll never fully understand. I guess my 11 year-old self instinctively knew what my grown up self would need? They say the soul knows. . .

I guess they’re right.

Trail time

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As we say in our family, “It ain’t a trail run unless you’re muddy and bloody.” Today’s run delivered both and more…

Still feeling the lingering effects of a ridiculous sinus cold that set in a couple of weeks ago, I headed out on today’s run with no agenda. No set number of miles to complete. No time goals to hit. No anything other than just being outside on this glorious February day. I hopped in my car and headed south, not really even sure of my destination. I ultimately settled on the park that grounds my soul. Every. Single. Time.

The space of time between the snow melt and the new buds of spring gives opportunity to explore new trails, ones far less traveled than the paths that I usually traverse. Trails that are not visible during the overgrowth of summer, had now become visible and invited me in. Sites unseen, I opted out of running for the remainder of my time and instead settled on a fast hike as to enjoy the woods through a new lens. The eagles were soaring and the geese were gathering, honking loudly overhead as I eventually traveled back to the big river in the park.

No time in the woods is ever wasted but some runs are just a little more special than others. Today it wasn’t about the mileage or my mile-per-minute pace, but instead about so much more. I left the park with a grateful heart and a peaceful spirit, in awe of the gift of nature.

Facing Fears and Finding Me: 5 years later

It has been a year since I’ve posted here. I’m really not sure why it has been so long. There are a million things floating around in my head and scribbled in my journal that I need to write about, things that are bursting at the seams to leave my realm and hit the pages of this blog. I could provide an ample amount of excuses to why I haven’t been writing, excuses that would pretty much be all valid but I’ll spare you all and just dive in.  I almost feel it’s like a rebirth here with this post and if I’m being honest, it is.  2016 was a year of struggle, change, and growth for me but through it all, I am re-emerging. . .  

On January 23, it will be FIVE years since I began my journey to better health. Five years since I faced the scale and bared my soul in a blog about my struggles. Five years and 75 pounds! I remember that terrifying day like it was yesterday. . .

Change has abounded in that time and life is completely different now than it was back then. Many of those life changes I have written about and are buried within the recesses of this blog. Many more of those changes are scrawled across the pages one of my many journals waiting to be shared here, and yet others, I still have to process. In short, there is no way I could have foreseen what life would have in store when I began writing about my journey so long ago.

Every year since has brought its own successes and failures and 2016 proved to be no different, with the exception that my successes and failures this year unexpectedly came with a far greater meaning than they ever had before. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser now, or maybe it’s because I had just fallen so far away from myself that I needed some hard lessons to find my way back to me again. I’m not really sure.

The fitness flops of 2016 (that stupidly started with the failure to follow a training plan and spiraled downward from there) began to erode my self-confidence and eventually the failures began to chip away at my self-esteem. It didn’t take long for my already waning self image to erode rather quickly. It wasn’t too much longer after the erosion began that I started feeling pretty sorry for myself. (FYI: Self-pity is selfish and leaves no space for gratitude. Without gratitude, it’s hard to remember how far you have come.) Before I knew it, I was s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g with where I was at in my journey, especially when it came to running. It finally took a 17-hour mountain summit in late July (when 100 feet from the top I was absolutely sure I couldn’t climb anymore, but did it anyways) and a middle of the night 10.5 miler during a relay race in mid-August (in which I had a full-on mental breakdown complete with the old fat girl tapes playing loudly in my head, but finished the run anyways) for me to begin to really examine at what was going on in my life. The icing on this figure-your-shit-out cake came for me in September (after my second failed attempt at a 50k) when I was reminded of the the phrase our growth is in our struggle. I’ve been ruminating ever since. Our growth is in our struggle. . .

What I’ve discerned through it all is that is exactly that–our biggest growth always comes through our biggest struggles. Always. Failures are nothing but opportunities for growth. I’ve also figured out that growth only begins when self-pity ends.We just have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves long enough to figure it all out.

Cheers to the lessons of 2016. I am grateful for the struggles, and failures, and growth. And here’s to 2017. I am looking forward to another year of facing fears and finding me.

P. S. Thank you, as always, to all that have been there for me along the way. Our journeys aren’t meant to be traveled alone and for all you that have been along for the ride, I am so very grateful. Happy New Year. With love.

Two of my biggest struggles  growth moments, not only of last year, but probably of my life. Both of these photos are raw and at my most broken open of moments. Picture one is on the summit of Longs Peak ( 14,259 feet) in Colorado. I took this photo seconds after realizing my accomplishment, something I never could have imagined when I began my fitness journey five years ago. Picture two is shortly after I finished one of the most grueling runs of my life, not physically grueling, but mentally. Every old fat girl tape that has ever played in my head suddenly replayed during the first miles of a long, middle of the night relay run. It didn’t help that I was getting passed by runners like I was standing still. I recovered though and finished. 

Baby-steppin’ it to better health

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Goal setting.

If you do a little Google search on the term goal-setting, you will find 28,100,000 results in .30 seconds. Literally. You will also see this toward the top of your search page:

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality. The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life.

The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life. . . 

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Additionally, if you want to dig into it a little farther, you will find meme after meme stating things like this:

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or this,

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or this,

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To keep us alive? Ahhhh! And on and on it goes. It can get scary as fuck (pardon the language) quite quickly. If you aren’t careful you can go from simply wanting to make a positive change to being overwhelmed in exactly.30 seconds with 28,100,000 examples of how to do it. If I was new to goal-setting or to the fitness world,  I probably would have said fuck-it (done swearing now) after Googling goal-setting and walked away. But, I am not new to either one so I will tell you this. . . goal-setting IS a powerful tool that WILL lead to lasting and sustainable change, IF you are SMART about it.

The acronym SMART as applied to goal-setting means creating goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time-bound. It may sound a bit intimidating but trust me, it isn’t. Using the SMART acronym to will help you reach the goals you have made for yourself and that, in turn, will keep you moving forward on your journey to better health. Let me give you a hypothetical example of setting a proper SMART goal and hopefully it will make better sense.

Goal: To run a marathon by February 25, 2016. That’s a great goal if you are already an experienced runner that consistently runs substantial miles every week.  The goal is specific (to run a marathon), measurable (26.2 miles), achievable (you are already an experienced runner), realistic (you’ve been logging the necessary miles), and time-bound (you have a specific date.) There is only one problem with this scenario–you are not an experienced runner. You are a 42-year old couch potato that hasn’t run since high school (which was me in 2012 when I began my quest to better health.) If I would have set a goal like this for myself early on in my journey, I would have failed MISERABLY. The failure would have likely set me up for additional failures because I was already feeling bad about the inability to achieve the first goal (albeit wildly unrealistic) I had set for myself. (Some of you know that downward spiral. A person can go down the drain of self-despair pretty quickly sometimes.)

Keeping with the hypothetical couch potato-to-marathoner scenario, what if the goal-setting looked more like this:

My goal  is to run a marathon in December of 2016. Currently, I do no physical activity so I will begin work on my long-term goal by setting smaller, SMART goals to help me achieve my dream of running a marathon. My first step will be to walk for 10 minutes per day for the next week so my body can begin to get used to moving. This small, short-term goal is specific (walking for 10 minutes per day), measurable (10 minutes), achievable (most any able-bodied person can walk for 10 minutes per day), realistic (it’s 10 minutes), and time-bound (one week.) The most important point here is that this small goal, with some effort, is achievable. With achievement comes a mindset for success. This success mindset will help you  to create your next goal, and your next goal, and your next until you suddenly find yourself cruising across the finish line in a 26.2 mile race. Make sense? You can dream big but to achieve great things, we have to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually small. And that somewhere always involves time and effort; but, starting small makes the big dreams possible. Think baby-stepping it small like Bill Murray did in the movie What About Bob?

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Baby steps. Set small goals that are achievable (achievable not easy, there is a difference) and go from there. It really is that simple. Baby-steppin’ it to better health. We can ALL do that.

Where are you in your journey to better health? What goals have you or are you going to set for yourself in 2016? Write them down and go for it! One baby step at a time.

 

Facing fears and finding me…

The past few days I have spent some time reflecting on my weight-loss/health/fitness journey. And while reflecting on this journey is something I tend to do regularly, I have been extra reflective as I get ready to write down my 2016 goals. Adding to that, a good friend recently asked me for some weight-loss tips the other day which really got me thinking. . .

This was the very first honest post I wrote about my weight and my struggles. I wrote it on January 23, 2012 and I remember this night vividly. We had just returned home from Iowa after sending our youngest off to Oman to study abroad. I had looked at the going away pictures. I remember consciously trying to stand in a way that would make me look not as large as I was when we were taking the pics. Those pics were my tipping point. My surrender. Later that night I sat down to write this after I ordered my scale. Again, thank God for Amazon one-click or I may have chickened out. I am also not sure where I found the courage to hit the publish button that night. . . but I did. Facing your fears and owning your story, is the most empowering and freeing thing I have ever done in my life. Happy New Year. May you find yourself and be free.

Hangin' by a Thread



Part of truly being yourself is owning your story. Today, I’m owning a pretty big part of mine…


I did something today that absolutely T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D me, something I have avoided- successfully or not, depending upon how you look at it- for years. My heart is still pounding a bit, but thanks to one-click shopping at Amazon.com I didn’t have time to stop and think before I tossed it into my virtual cart. Boom, it was done. No going back. I had to face this once and for all.

Anti-climactic, I know, but the big, scary thing I did was order a digital scale, something I haven’t owned for years. For many people, hopping on the scale is not a big deal, but, as a person that has battled an eating disorder for a good share of my 40 plus years, the thought of owning and stepping on a scale is…

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Calvin’s adventure– So thankful for kind people!

I first published this on August 11, 2012. On December 31, 2015, my sassy, spunky little dog earned his angel wings. RIP Calvin, you will be missed.

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Calvin, my sassy, stubborn dog!

As I sit down to write this, I am procrastinating going on a run. So far, it’s working great!

Fast forward to three hours later. . .

It dawned on me when I sat down to write this morning that if I could create time to write, I could surely get my butt out there to run. I would probably write better after a head-clearing run anyways, so I got dressed, procrastinated a little more, then finally leashed up my dogs and headed out. I figured I would warm up by walking them and then head back out for a couple more miles.

When I walk my dogs I like to take them to a trail that runs behind the nearby creek– it’s only three blocks from my house. My dogs drag me down the streets until we get to the trail where they know…

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