Because I run. . .

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(Language warning.)

Because I run. . .

As I was slogging through my morning run today in this ridiculously toasty weather, I found myself lamenting about my current condition. I was hot, thirsty, my legs were feeling rather log-like, and I was kind of whiny. I was only a little over a mile in when I began thinking. . .

“Running is so hard.”

“This is so damn hard.”

“My legs felt worse today than a week ago when I was out for hours on an extremely tough trail.”

“NO WONDER people always talk about how they want to run, or used to run, or have tried to run–but it’s just TOO HARD, so they don’t.“

Dang, I get it. I get what they are saying. Running is hard. So hard sometimes. Running is one of the hardest things that I have done in my life, especially when I was taking those first steps years ago or on the days like today, when, for a million reasons or none, the run is damn hard.

Knowing I just had a couple of miles to go, I vowed to suck it up and get over myself. I remembered that I would be done soon, and I’d be relaxing on my porch. “Yeah, running is hard,” I thought, “but that hardness is temporary.”

T-E-M-P-O-R-A-R-Y.

As I kept running and working to get a better perspective about my current temporary condition, the words of a dear friend popped into my head. She once said, “Running is easy, it’s life that is hard.” (This is coming from a woman eats 20-mile training runs for breakfast, mind you.) For the rest of my run, I thought about those words. My mindset shifted immediately. She was so right. Running is easy. Life is hard. So fucking hard sometimes.

Job loss, cancer, mental illness, chronic pain, chronic illness, poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, sexual violence, divorce, homelessness, domestic violence, trauma, miscarriage, child abuse, emotional abuse, aging, addiction, separation, depression, anxiety, recovery, loss, death, grief, and all of the other hard things that life brings. That shit is hard. SO. FUCKING. HARD.

Running. . . yeah, that’s the easy stuff.

Running is what has created space in me to be able to face the hard things. I know in my heart that if I hadn’t become a runner when I did, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I’m pretty sure I’d be curled up in a corner, a sobbing, gooey mess most days. But, I’m not–because, I run.

I can be brave. I can face life’s challenges, even when I don’t want to–because I run.

I can grow from my struggles and be a better human. I can heal from the hard shit–because I run.

Because I run. . .

Who are you? What can you do. . . because you run?

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Illness and surrender

January 14, 2018

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Day bazillion of a wicked painful sinus infection that has left me very puffy and exhausted. I haven’t ran in a week and I’m kind of going crazy but trying really hard to be patient with the healing process.

Yesterday I surrendered to the Minute Clinic and finally got a healthy dose of antibiotics. It had been a ridiculously long time coming. If I’m being honest, I have been feeling rundown for the last several months, it just happened to be that December 12, 2017, was the day my body said, “I give up. I’m taking you hostage until you get your shit together.” Unfortunately, it has taken me until now to get it together. Well, mostly get it together.

It all started with a gastrointestinal bug that took eight days (as opposed to my usual two days) to “recover” from. After the bug, I had a window of a few days where things were looking up. Then, the frigidness set in on the holiday weekend. My nose got stuffy, my throat got raw, and my overall rundownedness flared again. I chalked it up to the weather, crappy holiday eating, and a long pre-Christmas week at school. But alas, I was wrong. A sinus cold soon set in and I spent the last days of 2017 sucking on cough drops like they were candy, with a box of kleenex attached to my hip to catch all the drips. By the new year, I thought I was over the hump. I was so crazy wrong, AGAIN.

Nine days ago, the sinus cold morphed into a full-blown, wickedly painful infection. I thought it would subside in a couple of days so I loaded up on OTC painkillers and toughed out the days. Instead, it got worse. Way worse. Until I just needed it to not be worse anymore. So, I surrendered. And I went to the clinic, something I rarely do. (Besides, my very wise friend gently suggested that it was probably time for antibiotics. And she is a nurse so I figured I better listen.)

Today, I impatiently wait for the antibiotics to begin working their magic. I’m staying in bed all day and doing a whole lot of soul-searching. The pain is annoyingly present but I’ve cut back on the OTC drugs, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting better, even though it doesn’t quite feel like it yet. The doctor said in 2-3 days I should be 50% better.  I can’t freaking wait, although right now, I’m having a hard time believing what she said will come true.

Through it all, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons of the last month. While I am extremely grateful to be a healthy person most of the time and while I know that my current state is temporary, I can no longer dismiss being ill for a month as no big deal. I do that a lot, try to pass things off as not important because what I have going on isn’t a big deal in the big picture of life, and it isn’t. Until it is. And I need to stop doing that. One month of being ill is something that shouldn’t be dismissed. I know that now. At least I’m working on believing it.

Physical pain shuts me down mentally so I’ve been in my own little bubble for the last week, saving every ounce of mental and physical energy for the most urgent of things. I’m kind of exhausted from being exhausted BUT from this moment on, right now, I’m vowing to listen to my body when it begins to whisper to me, instead of waiting until it is desperately screaming at me to pay attention. Self-care should always, always, always be our first priority and I know that. But so often, it isn’t. And we have a billion excuses as to why taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be a priority. And the majority of the time all the reasons are bullshit. 

So, while I’m healing, I’ll be refocusing and I will be working on making my health-mind, body, and spirit–a priority. ONCE AND FOR ALL. No more half-hearted attempts or making up excuses. For starters, I’m going to try very hard to manage unhealthy stress (which involves not taking on things that are not mine to take on), to clean up my eating, and to make rest a priority.  I am not exactly sure how I am going to wholeheartedly accomplish this yet, but I’m going to be working on it. Very fucking relentlessly. (Incidentally, this will likely entail a mental unraveling of sorts so stay tuned for more on this matter. Insert evil laugh here. Muhahahaha.)

How about you? Has every viral illness of this weird winter knocked you down? If so, why do you think that is? What are your best wellness tips? What are your best excuses?What do you do for self-care? (Sorry, bubble baths, wine, retail therapy and all of the other fluffy things don’t count.) What changes do you need to make in your life to move forward in a way that is more healthy for your mind, body, and spirit? What whispers should you be listening to? What is stopping you?

A gratitude adjustment

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Frosty hair and eyelashes on my first run of 2018. That stuff happens when it feels like 20 below. 

January 1- First Run of the New Year

I hit the trails today for the first time in weeks. It didn’t matter that the “feels like” temp was -20, ALL of my being just needed to be outside and moving, regardless of the weather or how I felt. (Multiple illnesses kept me down during the last half of December and I’ve not had the greatest of attitudes about it. Believe me when I say I NEEDED this time on the trails.)

The run was hard. The trails that I know so very well are now snow-covered, which added an extra element of challenge to the journey. At times, I struggled to find my breath in the icy-cold air. My legs, far from being at full-strength after minimal workouts over the last few weeks, felt like jelly after only a couple of miles. I was dressed in multiple layers, which kept me toasty warm, but the layers also made it difficult to move.

Midway through the run, I was struggling a bit. My outer layer of pants was twisting and it was irritating the crap out of me, not to mention making it even more difficult to keep pace. I found myself starting to get whiny but then I looked up for some reason and the sun hit my face. Even though it was frigid out, the sun was so warm on my skin. I stopped for a moment to soak it in, extremely grateful for that moment. Then, after a minute, I decided to fix my pants the best I could, but more importantly, I decided to fix my bad attitude.

Instead of being upset about trivial things like twisty pants and jelly legs, I decided to get over myself and just be grateful for all the glorious things I had going for me. I was grateful that I had legs that could feel my twisty pants and grateful that I had legs that could move, despite their current jelly-like state. I was grateful for my usual good health and grateful that my current illness, while annoying, is only temporary. I was grateful for the sun, And the snow. And the opportunity to be there, in the woods, at that moment, soaking up all of God’s beautiful creation.

I finished my run, twisty pants and all. It was far from fast or spectacular, but I left the woods feeling rather bad-ass anyways for getting out there and getting it done. And, of course, feeling grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Cheers to 2018. I will be striving to greet each day a grateful heart for all that life brings.

Yes, my closet issues run deep. The end.

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The never-ending battle with my closet ends now. Yes, I’ve likely said that before and even blogged about this. But, this time, it’s for real. I swear.

I am not really sure when my quest for simplicity began. I know it goes back to at least 2009 or so when I bought the book Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living.  I don’t exactly know what prompted me to buy the book, but I’m pretty confident it had something to do with my big, fat, messy, filled-with-cheap-clothes closet.

Fast forward to late 2011, early 2012, and I stumbled upon a blog in which the writer was talking about living with only 12 pieces of clothing for a month (or something insanely crazy like that.) I was wildly intrigued. For years I had struggled with having way too much clothing. Most of it ill-fitting, or pieces I generally wasn’t comfortable in. Being extremely overweight didn’t help my closet cause either. Neither did years of buying cheaply made, bargain basement clothing because somehow filling my closet with crap made me feel temporarily better about myself. (In retrospect, I was busy stuffing my face and trying to make myself feel better by stuffing my closet. Told you it runs deep.) Anyway, somewhere between the purchase of the Idiot’s Guide and 2012, I made a commitment to myself to try to only buy things that I love and to stay the hell away from the clearance racks. I was so far from perfect at this but at least I sort of had a plan.

Besides the crazy blog post about 12 items of clothing that got me thinking about genuinely making an effort to reduce the amount of garb in my closet, I also came upon Project 333.  In a nutshell, you are challenged to pare your closet down to 33 items. That includes jewelry, clothing, outerwear, and shoes (what?) and excludes undergarments, lounge-wear, and workout wear. You pack up the rest and you wear the chosen items only for three months. Then you rotate. And on it goes.  It made some sense to me and wasn’t nearly as crazy as only keeping 12 items of clothing. I set a goal to someday achieve just that. 33 items. No more. No less. Five years later, I have yet to achieve that goal but I am getting closer.

Like I said, around 2012 I was beginning to get serious about my wardrobe issues. I was so tired of the battle to get dressed in the morning–just really tired of an issue that really is completely pointless in the big picture of life. I was in the process of losing weight at the time so NOW would be the perfect opportunity to really get a handle on my closet. I tried to be a bit more mindful when buying clothes to fit my new body, knowing that the clothes I was buying likely wouldn’t fit in a few months. It was a good test of my ability to go minimal and be smart about my purchases. But then life came crashing down hard in August of that year when my mom, sister-in-law, and niece were killed by a drunk driver. Although my closet issues were obviously one of the last things on my mind, in the midst of my grief, they were actually about to become front and center. 

For those of you that have survived a traumatic loss of any kind, you know that the weeks and months following the loss are often brutal, so difficult in ways that you never could have imagined. My soul was so weary–sadness permeated every waking moment– and my brain was in a deep, deep fog.  After about a month, I slowly began to return to everyday life, which for me meant that I would have to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. Every day. I was scared shitless. (Thank God I worked with an amazing soul that gave me the space and the grace to get it together. Someday, I’ll be able to write about that time, not quite yet though.)

What I soon found out in my less than triumphant return to real life, is that the things that I struggled with prior to the crash would be multiplied times one million in post-crash life. (While I would later be grateful for the gift of the protective veil that fogs your brain early on, the fogginess made everyday decisions extremely difficult for me. I know some of you reading this totally get that.) Any sort of clutter drove me crazy and I had a huge need to get organized, maybe only because I wanted to be able to control one tiny thing in a life that had spun wildly out of control. Then, one morning, the most epic of closet meltdowns occurred and even in my foggiest of brain states, I knew something needed to change and it needed to change fast.

It seemed to happen out of the blue. I went to my closet to pick out something to wear and I could not get dressed. LITERALLY.  I wandered in and out of my closet for two hours. TWO FLIPPING HOURS before I finally screamed “FUCK IT!” as loud as I could to nobody and everybody and then went back to bed. Sometime later, the same thing happened. I did make it to work that day, albeit two hours late. For real. The struggle was so real. Something that I had struggled with prior had now become debilitating at times. Something had to give.  I knew that I had to if I wanted to keep my job and rebuild a life, I had to get my closet shit together sooner than later as I couldn’t keep going back to bed or going to work two hours late every time I couldn’t get dressed. Sometime in the weeks that followed, I did a closet purge. I bought a few things that I knew fit well and I wore the same exact jewelry with every outfit for months. It got better. I laugh about those moments of struggle now, but at the time it was tough. So tough.

Fast forward to the here and now. I have since developed a nasty pattern that I am VOWING to break in 2018. The cycle goes like this. I purge my closet. I rejoice in my awesomeness about downsizing. And then I get lazy about my closet again. My wardrobe magically expands. And then the cycle repeats itself. Ad nauseam. I’ve also discovered that when I am overly stressed, getting dressed in the morning becomes difficult, but only when my closet has expanded (and yes, I know ALL of the little tricks about setting your clothes out the night before etc. Those tricks are great fun but don’t always work for me.) 

Yesterday, I purged my closet for the LAST damn time. I SWEAR! Five garbage bags of clothes and shoes are being donated, and another container full being given away as well. The only thing I have left to go through is my jewelry, which I will tackle soon. I have been through every sock, pair of underwear, running clothes, shirts, pants, sweatshirts, dress wear, shoes, purses.

ALL. THE. THINGS.

And it feels so good. I’ve reduced my everyday wardrobe to 23 items. (Its basically a Garanimals wardrobe. Almost everything goes with everything else.) I put about 10 dressy items away in another closet for the occasions that they are needed. I kept 10 pairs of shoes in my closet for the winter season, four pairs of which are running shoes, and I reduced my running clothes to comfortably fit into one small drawer. For the winter season, I have additional fleece wear and puffy vests for outdoor activities that will be packed away as soon as the weather gets warm. My summer clothes, which mainly consists of running shorts and tank tops, have been reduced to one container, and that includes all of the summer shoes that I kept.  I’m rejoicing wildly! And vowing, vowing, vowing never ever, ever to return to my old ways. 

My ultimate dream is to go smaller yet, but for now, I know that I need to get completely comfortable with what I have and where I have been on this weird journey that so obviously had much more to do with than just too much stuff. I’m going to add some motivational minimalist feel-good quotes to my closet as a constant reminder to be mindful, to be intentional, and to be more grateful, not just when it comes to my closet, but in and for life itself. Life is SO MUCH MORE than stuff.  Here’s to stress-free dressing in the new year! Wish me luck.   

P.S. While I could not find the original crazy article that I referenced above, here is a different one, equally as intriguing. 10 items for a year.

 

Do unto others

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Snapped this pic in the bus station bathroom shortly before my eventful lunch.

It was a beautiful late spring day in June and I was comfortably nestled into my cozy little outdoor table at a corner pub on Pearl Street.  I’m sipping my beer while waiting for my food and I’m people watching, marveling in the incredible eclectic-ness of this place. Locals, tourists, business folk, hippy-looking musicians of all ages, young families, wanderers, and homeless persons–strategically positioned amongst the high-end retail shops–crowd the old brick street mall. An early 20-something lady down the way is belting out an acoustic rendition of House of the Rising Sun. Her sweet, crisp voice echoes over the crowds. In the 30 minutes that I’ve been here, I’ve heard her sing this song twice, and nothing else. I wonder if it’s the only song she knows. . .

My attention soon turns to what appears to be a  homeless man. He is wearing a plain white tee that seems particularly white given the rest of his disheveled demeanor. The man in the plain white tee is harassing one of the city gardeners that is watering the meticulously groomed blooming baskets that line the street. The harassment began rather quietly but has definitely become more audible in the last few minutes.

My perfectly blackened turkey burger with equally as perfect deep-fried sweet potato fries has arrived. I take a bite of burger, then a fry, then a sip of beer. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch.  At first it seems that the guy in the plain  white tee might be intoxicated or on drugs, but as I listen to him continue to verbally assault the gardener, (who he thinks, from what I can gather, purposefully got a splash of water in his eye) it becomes pretty obvious that the guy in the plain white tee is likely a person struggling pretty badly at the moment with mental illness.

The tension mounts. The bewildered gardener, who had been doing a splendid job of not engaging with the increasingly agitated man, walks off to continue watering the blooms. The man in the plain white tee continues ranting loudly to whoever will listen.  Now, he’s kinking the gardener’s hose, stopping most of the water flow, while continuing to yell.  For real. This is shit that you can’t make up, ya know. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch. Not quite believing what I am seeing and hearing, but knowing that the situation is very real.

By now, I’m worried about the man in the plain white tee. I’m worried about the gardener. I’m worried about all of the unaware folks that are aimlessly walking through the mall. My years of emergency trauma training have kicked my brain into high gear. I contemplate if there is anything that I can safely do to alleviate the tension. I know that there likely isn’t, at least for the moment, so I continue to quietly observe.

The men seated next to me have been watching as well, although with a much different lens than me.  I had listened while they quietly mocked the man in the plain white tee. At one point, as the tension was mounting, one of the men got out his phone and stated that he’s going to be ready to video, “because this shit is going to go viral.”  For real. Again, shit you can’t make up. 

The heartlessness of the viral video men had me fuming. Even though they were wrapped up in the scene being created by the man in the plain white tee and not super aware of me, I made sure to glare them both down anyways, with the best angry resting bitch face I could muster, prepared to publicly shame them loudly if they dared to hit the record button. At about that same time, another diner said something unkind about the man in the plain white tee to the wait staff. I regaled him with my best angry resting bitch face as well.

The intensity of the situation began to wane, although it was only because the gardener had moved further down the mall. The man in the plain white tee had followed. Still yelling. Still kinking the hose. Still very much out of control. Thankfully, not long after they had moved from the pub area, a police officer arrived and was doing his best to kindly de-escalate the situation. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch. I’m sad and angry and wondering about so many things at the moment. 

Suddenly, a loud yell comes from somewhere else in the mall. I look up in time to see a very large man wearing a hockey jersey, wielding a hockey stick, and yelling all sorts of obscenities into the crowd–he’s very obviously in the grips of a mental illness as well. I quickly say a prayer for him and for the man in the plain white tee and for all of the passers-by. I pray that no one will be physically hurt, especially the little ones and the elderly that are in the presence of these men.

My heart was so heavy. I wanted nothing more than to bring those men someplace where they would be safe, and medicated, and have the chance to get well. I knew nothing of their stories yet I knew that whatever their stories were, they had to be painful for them as well as for the people that loved them. I wondered what I could have done differently in the moment other than say a prayer and angrily glare the assholes down that wanted to film the next viral video. My thoughts soon shifted to lamenting about how far our society has sunken and I couldn’t help but wonder when we started seeing each other as the next viral video instead of as human beings?  When did this become normal? And, most importantly,  why the fuck are we okay with it?

I could write volumes more on all of this, especially because I am a  sociological geek that loves to theorize and research and study human beings and society but really, it all just comes down to this one thing for me–the Golden Rule.  You know, do unto others.  Nearly every religion in the world has its own version of this guideline for life but who wholeheartedly lives by it? We love to preach it but do we ever truly practice? What if we just loved and accepted each other as human beings? Simple as that.  

For now, though, I’ll leave you with this thought. . .

What if, in 2018, we all made a New Year’s resolution to humbly do unto others? Can you imagine what this world would be like? I guess that would mean instead of me glaring down the guys next to me with my best angry resting bitch face and judging them harshly on their lack of humanness, I would lean in and say, “Hey, maybe we should do something to help that guy in the plain white tee? It looks like he’s having a pretty rough day.”

Shalom, my friends. I’m challenging myself to be a much better human in 2018. Who’s with me?

 

 

Here’s to new friends, giant suitcases, and inspiring runs. . .

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(August 2014). As I stood in the chute waiting for my teammate to arrive, I wondered for a minute how I got here, to THIS very moment in my running journey. Dick Dale’s Misirlou was blasting from the speakers (BTW, one of the greatest songs ever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIU0RMV_II8), people were cheering, and I was about to take off on a six-mile jaunt, in the sizzling hot midday sun, the first six of the 16 miles I would be responsible for in the next 24 hours or so. I was excited and nervous, not because I didn’t think I was up for the challenge, but because for the first time I was running with a team–a team of runners I barely knew. There were times I thought I might explode with nervousness (or maybe it was the carb overload I had going) but nonetheless, I knew I HAD to finish each leg of my journey to the best of my ability. There was no room in my head for letting my team down. I was prepared for blood, sweat, tears, and crawling, if needed, to finish each of my legs of the relay. . .

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(August 2016) I wrote those words two years ago, in the hangover stage (the hangover stage is the day after Ragnar ends and even though you are glad to be home, you can’t stop thinking about all the fun you had and you wish that you were back in the van for just a while longer) that occurs post-Ragnar. If you aren’t sure what Ragnar is, I lifted the official words from their website for you.

What is Ragnar?

Here’s what we do: long distance, team, overnight running relays that take place in the most breathtaking places in the world. Teams come together to conquer a course over two days and one night, and push their limits, on little amounts of sleep, with friends and a community of runners by their side.

In reality, or at least in Van Two of the Rusty Nuts team, Ragnar is 36 hours of six people crammed into what becomes a very smelly van over the course of two days. Sleep is minimal, hygiene is ridiculously sketch, and Wisconsin cheese curds suddenly become a food group of their own. F-bombs may or may not be dropped frequently and we have an arsenal of Van Two inside jokes that will live on for eternity.

As for the actual running, we journey just over 200 miles with our other six teammates, all taking turns on pre-assigned legs of the course. Each runner is responsible for three runs, including running overnight. The course is challenging, the weather unpredictable and often unforgiving. The mental and physical challenge of running with little sleep, no recovery time, and at least in our case, terrible fueling (said cheese curds for example) adds to the overall toughness of the event. At times, this race can be downright brutal. I’ve been near tears, thrown up (cheese curds and pizza and then ran for another eight miles in the dark), fallen face first on concrete in the middle of the night, been swooped by a bat, and currently, it’s extremely challenging for me to sit down and stand-up due to leg muscles that are screaming, “What the hell did you just do to me?” There is not a single mile that I could have logged without the support and care of my teammates. 

But, back to the beginning. When I first started writing about my very first Ragnar in August of 2014 (a bucket-list run for me) I had just completed that journey with people that I barely knew. In fact, I didn’t meet most of the Rusty Nuts until about a week before our first run. I figured that Ragnar would be a one and done. I’d have this fun experience with some cool people and then I’d check it off my bucket list and move on. Except, that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened at all. Two years and three Ragnars later, our team has morphed from a mismatched group of strangers that love to run into a little running community of great friends that love to run. That’s a pretty cool thing in my book.

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And now it’s 2017 (Yes, it’s taken me three years to write this.) After running in 2014, 2015, and 2016, for a multitude of reasons, the Rusty Nuts took a year off from Ragnar in 2017. The fact that our team stayed intact for those three years was a little miracle in itself (we only had one person drop from our original team after the first year.) At first, I was okay and ready for a break,  but as the months went on, I realized that I missed this race–A LOT. Really, a lot.

As far as running races go, the fact that I miss this race so much doesn’t make sense. For starters, the race is mostly on the road. It’s always hotter than hell. We get virtually no sleep, we eat crappy food and are stuck in a van for hours upon hours. And the smell. Oh, the smell!

What it is though, is simply this. It’s the people. The TEAM. This group of people that were strangers to me just over three years ago have become like family, a little running family.  I cannot imagine my life right now not knowing any of them. Crazy isn’t it? I am so grateful for every mile that we have run together over the years. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all you Nuts! I am looking forward to every single mile that we will run in 2018.

 

2015
2015 Rusty Nuts
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After Van Two’s finish in 2016.

 

 

A wellness journey evolving

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Me, five minutes after waking on the morning after a four-day holiday feeding frenzy.  Yes, I felt as rough as I looked. At one point I would have been so shame-filled about my overindulging that I never could have posted a picture like this. Not anymore. I’ve evolved. I know that most of the time I choose well. My worth is not defined by a temporary lapse in judgment. And neither is yours.

It occurred to me last night as my body was going into its post-four-day-holiday-feeding-frenzy total meltdown, that I realized that I really missed (and need to be) blogging about all the things health and wellness that I used to when I began my fitness journey nearly six years ago. So, here I am, back at it, determined to keep writing.

Six years. For real. It’s been that long. It was a journey that began with me just wanting to lose weight. Instead, it has evolved into a journey that I never could have imagined. One that has had me rejoicing on mountaintops to painfully falling on my face (literally), more than once, mind you. From taking life for granted to learning to navigate the grief and challenges that accompany a devastating loss of life. From not being able to run a mile to running marathons. And a whole lot of other things along the way including people. Amazing people have come into my life. Each twist, turn, celebration, and fall from grace that this journey has brought me on has been an opportunity to grow in strength, patience, courage, grace, humility, joy, and so much more. I am grateful for all of it. 

As with every departure from writing regularly that I’ve taken, it always feels a little awkward hopping back in. I always feel the need to recap the gaps in painstaking detail and catch y’all up to speed but that usually turns into a novel that ends up completely emotionally draining me mainly because I haven’t written for so long and I have so much to get out. (Most of the time–for a million reasons or none– I end up not hitting the publish button anyways! Ugh!) Naturally then, because of the mental angst,  I don’t write again for a very long time because it was so hard to write the last time. Which ironically doesn’t make much sense because writing is one of the things that I need to practice as part of my core-level self-care routine so, in theory, I should be keeping up with it. But, I don’t. Then I get caught in my own vicious cycle of feeling bad about things I should be doing to keep myself well but fail to do. Soon, because of my failure to do what I need to do for myself, the shitstorm of shame begins. (For the record, it’s a ridiculously vicious cycle to get caught up in as shame can wreak havoc in a person’s life. And as a side note in this parenthetical note. . .  I know that I’m not alone in this as I am guessing a whole lot of you reading this have your own shitstorm of shame stories to share when it comes to health and wellness. Life is a treat sometimes, isn’t it?)

So, I’ll spare you all the gory details of my hiatus and just recap the highlights of the last couple of years for you, in bulleted form. (Things always seem easier to digest in bullet form, don’t they? Also, I have managed a couple of yearly updates during this time so some of this might be familiar to a few of you. )

  • Since my first DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first attempt at a 50k race in September of 2015, I’ve failed two subsequent times, once in 2016 and once in 2017. Although there is a part of me that cringes when I think about those failed attempts, I’ve grown immensely as a runner from each experience. Considering six years ago at this time I literally could not run a block, the fact that I’ve attempted 50k’s seems like a freaking miracle. I’m trying really, really hard to celebrate how far I have come on my running journey, despite the many setbacks.
  • In 2016, amidst a whole lot of life-changing experiences, the old fat girl tapes started replaying in my head during a particularly tough long run.  “What are you doing? Fat girls don’t run. What are you trying to prove? You aren’t a real runner. Real runners don’t take walk-breaks. Look at those thin fast runners whizzing by you. Why are YOU out here?” And on and on it went in my head for miles. It took me over a year to get to the root of that break-down. Again, like my race failures,  I learned greatly from that experience although if truth be told,  it still haunts me a bit. 
  • I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that writing, practicing yoga, and trail-running are my essentials for my optimal mind, body, and spirit wellness. I need them all to thrive, to breathe. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I need to. Although I run several times a week, I don’t always get to the trails, which is what soothes my soul. Writing and yoga? Well, they are sparse, but I know that I need them as much as I need to run.  I haven’t figured out what is exactly stopping me from doing what I need to do for myself, although I have a pretty good idea. (Hint, likely relates to the old fat girl tapes mentioned above and there is definitely NOT space to unpack that baggage in this post.) I can, however, wholeheartedly say that I am working on it all. 
  • With the exception of falling off the wagon briefly over the last few days only to eat meatballs and a bit of bacon (my brother and uncle both make incredibly delicious meatballs that I will never pass up and then, of course, there’s bacon, because bacon) I’ve stopped eating red meat and I really don’t miss it. At all. In fact, I feel better NOT eating red meat. Now, if I could just stop eating sugar. . .
  • Although I doubt that I’ll ever follow a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, I will be incorporating more and more vegan recipes into my diet. It is crazy how good food tastes when it’s not laden with a bunch of animal products. During the holiday feeding frenzy we baked/cooked/made the following vegan recipes:
    • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. It was decadent and was seriously one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. (Okay. A chocolate frosted cake is not really a healthy option ever, vegan or not. Just wanted to acknowledge that.)
    • Green-Bean Casserole. You know the kind with the crispy fried onions. Instead of the crappy canned cream-of-something soups, we used a recipe that made a cream of almond milk, garlic, vegetable broth, and a bit of flour. In my opinion, it was much better than the original version.
    • Vegan Monkey Bread. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when we decided on this recipe, but WOW, I was blown away by the taste. While this was still a sugar-laden treat, applesauce replaced the butter making it a better option. It was incredible!
    • Vegan Waffles. Just as fluffy and delish as regular waffles.
    • Vegan Wheat Bread. Five ingredients. Bam. So good.
  • When I began my weight-loss journey in 2012, my original goal was to lose 100 pounds, a goal that I didn’t come close to reaching. I have, however, lost 70 pounds and kept it off for over five years. Although I know now that my original goal was likely one that was a little too lofty, I do have a solid 20 pounds that I want to be gone, not because I don’t like the way I look, but because I know that I will feel better and be able to move faster and farther. I’ve already unpacked all of the reasons and excuses as to why I’ve remained plateaued, and details aside, it comes down to the fact that I’ll need to return to the hard work of being mindful about what I eat (like when I began) and to commit to not being lazy about my choices. Because I am very active, it has been relatively easy to keep the weight off. Easy is lazy. Lazy is comfortable and fun. It’s easy for me to eat chocolate cake and then run it off. It’s not easy for me to NOT eat the chocolate cake and still go for a run. Flawed? Of course. Am I working on it? Slowly but surely.
  • I’ve learned that health and wellness are SO MUCH MORE than just diet and exercise. True health and wellness come when we are taking care of our WHOLE selves–body, mind, and spirit. Please know that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care is essential for life. When you believe that you are worthy of taking care of yourself, you will begin to experience life in a beautifully different way. It was when I was finally able to accept and love all 250 pounds of myself, as is, and then embrace all of my lived experiences wholly for what they were–nothing more, nothing less–was I able to commit to loving and taking care of myself. I’m still a work in progress and always will be. I’m okay with that now. I wasn’t okay with that when I began this journey.
  • I have learned that wherever you are at in your quest for better health, you are never alone. There is a wonderful health and wellness community out there, loving and supportive folks that will have your back. Find people that will be there for you along the way, people that will be there for you to help you through the struggles as well as celebrate wildly with you when you reach your goals. Be accountable. Don’t fall for the plethora of weight loss and health gimmicks available. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Be patient with the journey. Remember that you are worth it. You will gain a much better perspective on life when you stop beating yourself up. I know this from experience.

So, that’s mostly it in a neatly bulleted nutshell! And, I decided as I was writing this that I am not setting resolutions for the upcoming new year, as I do every year, instead, I’m setting them now: write often, run a lot, do yoga, evolve. Sounds like a tee-shirt. Maybe I should get one made.

P.S. Although I will hold myself accountable for my goals, accountability partners are always appreciated! What intentions are you setting for yourself when it comes to health and fitness? Share if you like!

P.S.S. THANK YOU to every single person that has been a part of my journey over the last almost six years. There are so many of you! I have treasured all of the runs, walks, talks, hugs, tears, recipes, challenges, workouts and everything else along the way. And I am looking forward to so much more of all of it!

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