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?

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.

 

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

 

 

Navigating change. . . without completely losing yourself in the process

“The process of metamorphosis is scary and sometimes painful, but it is also the way to experience wonderful new adventures we weren’t even able to imagine in our “caterpillar” identities. Accept the process: care for yourself, dream big, work hard, and keep learning. Then don’t be surprised when one morning, you wake up to find that you have wings.” ~Martha Beck

C-H-A-N-G-E.

The dreaded “C” word.

Some embrace it.

Others, not so much.

The rest of us? I’m guessing we fall somewhere in between.

If you haven’t experienced a major life change yet, hang on, because–you will. It’s inevitable. Change is a part of life that we can’t skip over, no matter how hard we might want to. Maybe it’s a career change,  a new marriage, or a divorce. Maybe you just had your first child or grandchild. Maybe your baby is about to start kindergarten or they are leaving the nest for the first time. Maybe you are facing a sudden illness or injury or maybe you are facing the loss of someone you love. Maybe it’s something entirely different. Whatever you’ve experienced, change, whether it’s a welcome one or not, can be quite scary, messy, and difficult to navigate. (It can be joyful and beautiful too, but that’s a story for another day.) You would think that after living for a certain number of years on this planet we’d get the hang of it, right? But, we mostly don’t. At least in my experience anyway! Change is H-A-R-D and there is no getting around it, you can only go through. Unfortunately, there is no play-by-play manual that shows us the way, mainly because every change and every human are different. There’s no one size fits all model for being human and/or surviving change.

Last year, at the age of 47, I dove headfirst into a mid-life career change when I moved from working as a director of a nonprofit agency advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, to working as a high school teacher. (Yeah, you heard that right.) This change came on top of a few other big life changes like finishing grad school and becoming a first-time grandparent for starters.  The career change was positive, one that I sought after and welcomed. I knew my transition would be a rough one but because I was well-versed on how to deal with change (in fact, previously, I had taught others about navigating life change) and how to take care of myself in the process, I wasn’t super worried the transition. In retrospect, the fact that I wasn’t super worried should have been my first clue that shit was about to hit the fan, but in the stress and angst of my change, I totally lost sight of my path. I couldn’t manage my anxiety like usual and I could feel depression aching to grab hold. A very long story short, I seriously thought I was L-O-S-I-N-G my shit for good. And I was a little freaky about it all. Prolonged stress had hijacked my brain and I was pretty sure I was on the fast track to derailing. My body finally shut me down (as in I had to take a sick day) before I began to get a clue what I was really dealing with.

The stress I was under due to the changes I was in the midst of, had taken a serious toll on my body, mind, and spirit. One that has taken months to recover from. It got so bad that about midway through the school year I actually thought there was something physically wrong with me (like I had a serious disease or something) yet, in actuality, it was my body sending a giant SOS signal to slow the heck down and figure my shit out. It took a few months and a lot of patience, but eventually, things began to get better. Now, several months later, I’ve gotten somewhat of a grip and I thought I’d share what I did to survive my mid-life crisis, although if I am being honest, I probably didn’t do any of this consciously at first as I’m pretty sure some innate, well-trained survival forces kicked in to keep me going. There is no particular order to what I have written as for me as these steps all kind of blended into one ginormous mess of a process. If you are struggling with changes, I hope you’ll find some value in my words. Take what you need now, and come back later if you need the rest.

  1. Recognize the grief that accompanies change. Sounds weird, right? Why would there be grief attached to a change that I chose and welcomed? Well, often times we forget that every time we have a life change, we lose something. Change equals loss. Plain and simple. You can’t have one without the other. It’s quite obvious to see the loss and experience the accompanying grief when there is a loss of life, or job loss, or major illness, etc. but it’s not so obvious when the change is a positive one. For me, (nutshell version here) the loss of the comfortability in my previous job led to a loss of self-confidence in my new position, which eventually gave way to a total loss of my sense of self which created room for some pretty intense self-loathing. The stress of the unrecognized grief was tremendous. It was devastating to me for a while there until I figured out that I need to make space to honor what I lost when switched careers. By making space for my grief, I was able to open the door to celebrate all the new and wonderful people and things that my new career had to offer.
  2. PRACTICE GRATITUDE! Yes, those words deserve all caps and bold. I cannot stress this enough. Practicing gratitude has saved me from myself and has lifted me from the depths of some pretty unrelenting grief in my life. It truly is difficult to feel sorry for yourself if you begin to look at your circumstances in a different light. Apparently, through the angst of my career change, I’d abandoned the practice. When I resumed and began making a conscious effort to be grateful, even when I absolutely wasn’t feeling it, my outlook began to change and my mood began to shift to a more positive one. My self-esteem started to improve and my mental strength began to increase. Practicing gratitude had ignited the process of getting over myself (for the umpteenth time in my life) and that paved the way for a clearer path for me to keep moving forward. (For more on the life changing power of practicing gratitude, start here with this short read, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round )
  3. Manage stress. Well, let’s just say this is a mighty, big topic, one that I will barely, and I mean, barely, scratch the surface on here. For starters, I’ll offer this. Did you know that we are not made to handle long-term stress? I repeat, we are NOT created to handle long term stress. Ever heard of the flight, fight, or freeze response? Well, in short, when we are stressed, the part of our brain designed to keep us safe from a potentially dangerous situation (our amygdala) is activated. When that happens, the part of our brain that we need to think critically, to process, to learn, and grow, etc. (our prefrontal cortex) shuts down, which makes things difficult because we need our pre-frontal cortexes to help us think through our current dilemma. Our fight, flight, or freeze process was designed as a short-term stress response to keep us safe. Prolonged stress damages our brain. (Science backs this up. Google it or message me for some research.) Because I was under a period of prolonged stress my brain wasn’t functioning as it should. It took me figuring some stuff out (at a much slower rate than normal) and then beginning to tackle some of my stress before my brain finally started to calm down. Finally, with some stress subsiding, I was able to start thinking more clearly, which made moving forward much easier. fofbraindiagSide note: It is important to remember that we all deal with stress in our own way. Nobody can tell you exactly what you need to do because we are all different. Regardless, do your homework on stress management and then learn to manage yours! For real. Get to the core of what’s causing your stress and figure out what you need to do to keep yourself healthy–body, mind, and spirit. BE HONEST with yourself. Retail therapy, alcohol, food, drugs, or the oft-touted hot bubble bath with a glass of wine, are only band-aids and band-aids are only temporary.  They stop the bleeding but don’t heal the wound. Does that make sense? (Go here for more information on what stress does to your brain. You’ll be shocked.)
  4. Find a mentor or a friend. REACH OUT! We have been conditioned in this society to believe that we can go it alone when times get tough, you know,  the ridiculous bootstrap mentality, (which I totally call bullshit on by the way.) We try to figure it out on our own because we don’t want to appear weak, or unintelligent, or unprepared. Or maybe we don’t feel comfortable burdening others with problems that we think that we should be able to handle on our own. Well, guess what? We are not made to go it alone. We need other people. Let me say it again. We need other people. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. (Thanks to the coworker that reminded me of that when I was struggling.) When I finally began to figure out what was going on with me, I mustered up what courage I had left and spilled it all to some of my new coworkers. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be supported and to hear the words “me too” come from some of them. There is so much restorative power in learning that you aren’t alone in your struggles. A good friend or mentor will listen without judging and be there to walk alongside you as you figure things out. (For more on the value of mentoring, check out this article. Eight Qualities of a Great Teacher Mentor.  Even though this is an education themed article, the qualities apply to all.)
  5. Authentic reflection. Equally as powerful in my book as practicing gratitude, is practicing authentic reflection. When you are honest with yourself about how things are really going, you can begin to lay the groundwork for dealing with whatever you need to deal with. What is going well? What isn’t? And most importantly, why? By taking the time to critically think about a situation or event, you can begin to see what you can do differently to navigate better. For the record, authentic reflection is not an easy task. In fact, often times, at least in my case, it sucks and is hard because for reflection to be effective, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and maybe face parts of you that you don’t really want to. (Or you might have to take ownership of your role in something instead of blaming others or something similar. Anyways, you get my drift.) On the flip side of that ugly stuff though, you might actually discover some awesome pieces to the puzzle that you hadn’t noticed before or maybe you’ll discover something pretty cool about yourself! Regardless of where your reflections bring you, remember that for reflection to be truly meaningful, for you to learn and grow, you must be willing to take action with what you discover–good, bad, or otherwise. (My actions over the past months were the steps above. You don’t have to change the world with your actions, just yourself. Not always easy, but always worth it.)change4.jpg

It’s funny. Even after writing all of this, I feel like it’s just the beginning of the story. I’m still reflecting on all of this, even a couple months after scribbling this all down for the first time.  No doubt I’ll be writing more in the future. For now, though, this is what I have for you and I’ll leave you with this. . . Remember that change, whether it’s welcomed or not, is often hard, and messy, and scary, but you will get through it. And maybe, just maybe, if you look for it, you’ll find some joy and beauty along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Hangin' by a Thread

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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