I Would Have Missed This

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I’m on my way up! This week I had to increase my long run to 10 miles. In last weekend’s hot and muggy weather, I ran 9 in Chicago. No, I did not enjoy it although I did enjoy having my friend Sally with me. It’s not often I get running partners these days. The hot, sweaty miles dripped off much faster with good conversation and a few laughs.

So Jessica challenged me with 10-miles this week. However …. I’m going backpacking this weekend. I do not want to run 10 miles on Saturday morning and then go hiking, so I decided I might try a long run before work. Nine miles took a little over 2 hours, so 10 would take even longer. The math told me I’d need to start no later than 4:30 AM to get it done and get ready for work.

I went to bed at 8:30 last night determined to get a good night’s sleep. But first I googled to see if any other idiots ever attempted a long run before work. Sure enough, several bloggers had written about it, so I fell asleep with the confidence that it was doable. I even gave myself permission to split it in two if I desired.

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I woke up on my own at 3:30 AM and considered it a gift. I had time to drink a cup of coffee and leave at 4 AM, giving me a little more time to get ready for work. Ashok and I took off in complete darkness. I ran a 5.5 mile circle and dropped my girl off at home so I could finish the rest on my own. After a quick restroom break, I started out again, and my body was begging me to go back home. But I remembered from my past running career that this feeling would pass. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The sun was just starting to come up, and I ran down to the beach. A great blue heron waded in the lake. As a little blessing it started sprinkling, and I was thinking how nice it was to feel cool raindrops on my skin. It wasn’t too hot, but it was hot enough with all the running. I rounded the corner by the fountain, and I noticed a faint rainbow over Lake Michigan. With only a hint of color, it was perfect and whole. It framed the path ahead of me. Wow…. I thought to myself. If I had not done this, I would have missed it.

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The rainbow got a bit brighter as I felt a happy burst of energy. Two deer headed out on the beach at the park. I’d never seen deer on the beach although I assumed they probably drank there. They looked at me as I came closer, and they headed down toward the water. The sand sloped into the lake, and I could only see their faces and ears as they watched my every move. I stopped to take a picture, and a fellow runner said, “Are you taking a picture of the rainbow or the deer?”

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You can see a little set of ears over the hill.

“Both,” I answered back with a smile on my face. And just think, if I had turned back toward home, I would have missed this.

I almost ran over a bunny in my subdivision who waited too long to run away. We startled each other as it leaped out in front of me. Orange exploded into the sky as the sun began its ascent. Other runners began to pass me as it got later in the morning. Traffic picked up, and by the time I got home, my neighbor was out walking his dog.

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Had I decided to run on the treadmill instead, I would have missed that lovely little rainbow. If I had only run 5 miles, I would have never seen the bunny or the deer. If I had decided to let backpacking derail my training, I would not have felt the sense of accomplishment of seeing 10 miles click off on my Runkeeper app… or at least not today.

Sometimes running is not so fun. At times it’s like checking the box. Other times it takes everything I have to get out and do it. And frequently it feels good physically but I’m distracted by other stuff. But this morning I was reminded of the gift of running that always inspires me to come back for more. For, if it wasn’t for running this morning, I would’ve missed this. And that would have been a huge loss.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed. I’m exhausted for some reason.

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You Don’t Always Get What You Want

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This morning’s readings were strikingly similar. One was from Hope for Today, and the other was from Around the Year with Emmet Fox. They both were about prayer. One set the expectation that God doesn’t always answer prayers in one fell swoop. Sometimes the answer comes in steps. The other one asked me to let God decide which are my biggest needs. I should pray for help but let her work out the details. I may not have enough insight to understand what’s stopping me today from being a channel for good.

It made me think of my past experience with prayer.  Time and time again in my prayer life the answers I sought were not the ones I got. In the end, they always provided what I needed. I’ve learned to be open-minded about the solution. Instead of God giving gifts, he often provides paths into a deeper understanding.

I prayed for companionship and unconditional love, and I found my sweet dog.

I prayed for peace in my marriage, and I got a divorce.

I prayed for a better job, and I got laid off. I got another job still not suited for me, and I got laid off again. Five years and many steps later, I’m in a job that seems to suit me. More importantly, I learned that a layoff can be a signal that something better is in the wings. Wait for it.

I prayed for love, and I was given a mirror to learn to love myself.

I prayed for relief of my anxiety, and I found meditation.

I prayed for better sleep, and I was taught about the impacts of sugar.

I prayed for riches, and I was given sunsets beyond my wildest dreams, winter landscapes that inspire fantasy and deep, wild forests to explore.

I prayed to heal my depression, and I found a running group that provided a meaningful social experience, motivation and a love of running.

I prayed for wisdom, and I became a writer.

What prayers have you had answered in a surprising way? What things have you prayed for that, in hindsight, have been answered over time? 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasures in the Sand

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For my second run this week, Jessica told me to run 30 minutes and then run some dunes or stairs. Luckily I had taken today off, so I decided to go to Grand Mere State Park and run the trails and dunes. I’m always afraid to do it before work even though daylight comes really early now. There are trails all over the place, and I just know I’ll get lost and wander into work late.

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I loaded up Ashok, and she was very excited to see that we turned into a green, wooded area rather than downtown. Several deer were at the trailhead, but they ran away before I could snap a picture. I knew immediately this was a great idea, and I decided right then and there that I will go even earlier next time so I can catch the soft dawn light settling over the wildflowers and dunes.

At about the same time, I realized most of this run was going to be in sand. Runner’s World had a feature last month that raved about the benefits of running in sand. So I knew it would be good for me even though it would be a challenge. We ran through the woods on the edge of the dunes for about 20 minutes before heading toward the lake.

We were all alone except for the animals and the rising sun. The beach was deserted for as far as I could see, so I let Ashok off leash, and we ran a long, slow beach run. Little baby waves lapped at the shore. I remembered a story one of my friends had shared about Grand Mere. A few years ago around this very bend, an ancient shipwreck emerged. People flocked around and looked at it for weeks before it disappeared back into its watery grave. Wouldn’t it be fun if I found a treasure this morning?

All I found was a lovely seascape, some bonfires ready to be lit, an enormous amount of sand and one very happy dog. While the treasures may seem small in comparison to an ancient gem, the moment and the effort was worth every breath. I am not disappointed at all with my bounty.

Have a great weekend, y’all! And get off your ass, will ya? It’s good for you, and you never know what might find along the way.

Michigan asparagus….

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Learning from Anxiety

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I woke up this morning before the alarm. My jaw was clenched. My eyes felt wild and panicked, searching for something to fixate on. The back of my neck gripped onto itself. I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep. My animals started to stir, reacting to my movement. Anxiety, dammit…. Damn IT! 

I’ve been practicing meditations for anxiety when I wasn’t anxious so I could be prepared the next time this happened. I have a list of interventions that I know with some certainty work to ratchet down the relentless grip of tension. Practice yoga … no coffee or sugar … let myself cry … meditate … take a walk …. listen to Gregorian chants… there are many solutions at my fingertips. There is no need to panic. But anxiety screams, “OMG… PANIC … PANNNNIIIIIICCCC!!! This will never end. Today will be HORRIBLE!”

I got out my 10% Happier app and pressed play on the “Before Getting out of Bed” meditation. It helped a little, but when I opened my eyes I could still feel the tension in my neck. I gave myself a little neck massage and it relaxed a bit. I had to get to the gym, so I went, and the anxiety ratcheted up again. I found myself hating my workout. I tried to talk myself down and stay in the moment while I worked through my reps, knowing that I needed the workout even if I was anxious. It was not pleasurable. I hated virtually every minute of it, but I did it.

On the way home, I was really uncomfortable. Instead of falling into the trap of blaming myself for my anxiety, I reminded myself that this was like a headache for me. It’s not because I’m overthinking. It’s not because I don’t trust God enough. It’s not the result of eating anything bad. I just have a headache, and, for me, the headache symptom is a relentless attack on my body by my anxiously-wired brain. Beating myself up only exacerbates the problem. And latching on to any of the crazy, hateful thoughts my brain is tempting me with is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Just let them go and do the next right thing.

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I got home, made myself some herbal tea and chose the Working with Anxiety meditation from my app. She had me focus on my feet – like really, really focus on my feet. Oh my, that felt comforting. Next we focused on my hands, and the anxiety was loosening its grip. Then we moved to my stomach and on to my breathing. I followed her instructions, and like butter oozing off a sweet potato, my anxiety slipped away.

By the time I opened my eyes my anxiety level which was definitely at defcon 8 when I started was probably at a baby 3. Wow! I’m still at a 3 right now as I sip my herbal tea, and it could still go back up again as the day goes on. But the more I just let it be and take care of myself, the less it seems to impact my mood. I’ll just keep it simple today.

 

 

Swimming Upstream

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I pulled the Salmon Medicine Card this morning. I couldn’t find the card reading to share with you this morning, but I did find another website with information on salmon medicine.

My book club just read a book about a woman who was raised by a Native American and who was deeply steeped in their ways. Her father was a psychopath, but he taught her a lot about living off the land and learning from the animals. Our world is full of different kinds of animal species who each have lessons that can teach us to survive and thrive in different situations. One of the greatest sadnesses I have right now is the consistent loss and suffering of our animal species due to our over-consumption and lack of compassion for the earth. They teach us and give us much. We should appreciate and fight for them more.

Salmon are the epitome of determination. But the lesson from salmon is much broader than that. They live much of their life swimming in ocean waters before they make the arduous journey back to the place of their birth to spawn and then die. They do this with an undeniable instinct and inner knowing that what they are doing is in their best interest. Predators, boulders, dams, and lack of water kill many but the most determined and hardy of them will make it back to the calm waters where they were born.

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This journey is a celebration. It is a celebration of their life, and it is the celebration of the lives they are meant to spawn. They leap over waterfalls, jump over rocks and press against the current. They play. Salmon tells me that I should have fun and celebrate with child-like energy and enthusiasm as I manage the obstacles in my path. It is also obvious from the journey of the salmon that the destination is not the place to celebrate as the destination is my death. It is the journey that matters.

Salmon are masters of the water and water symbolizes emotions and change. Salmon reminds me to let my emotions ebb and flow and to follow the river without judgment or fear. My inner knowing and instincts are my compass. The river of life may take me on many twists and turns and erect barriers to slow my progress, but the pursuit of learning for learning’s sake is worth the effort. Salmon tells me this morning to delight in the obstacles of my life. He also reminds me that the journey is short, and I need to be awake and energetic to get the most out of it.

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If I were a salmon this morning, I’d know nothing except the present moment. Breathe in…. breathe out… I’d find food for my hunger, swim against the current if necessary and enjoy the sunshine. I’d trust my strength and my instincts for each obstacle even if I’d never encountered it before. Breath in … breathe out…. I’d steer clear of bears if at all possible, hang with my shoal and linger in cooler water when I’m hot. Most of all, I would have some fun. My instincts tell me that life in the stream is short, and I have much to do. Breathe in … breathe out…

Happy swimming, fellow swimmers! Make today a day of strength and ease. 

Gratitude: Monday

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It’s Monday! I think I’ll start the day in gratitude. Won’t you join me?

I’m grateful for:

  1. The ability both physically and financially to go do things like I did this weekend. Many times in my life I haven’t had the resources to just unplug like that.
  2. Friends both near and far that make time for a long chat.
  3. Sacred and spiritual music that lifts my spirits and connects me to my sweet and powerful Higher Power.
  4. My sweet, patient Ashok. A friend of mine said, “It’s a beautiful love affair.” She’s right. It is… for both of us.
  5. The warmth of the summer sun.
  6. Hair dye.
  7. My beautiful simple little house that seems to have somehow found me.
  8. The practice of meditation and all of the teaching resources available with technology.
  9. Healthy food available in abundance.
  10. The chance to start over again – every day. Everything is a work in progress.

Have a great Monday, y’all! What are you grateful for?

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Unleashed

 

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I’ve lost some steam on my running. I had that great day in Saugatuck, and then I had the Memorial Day Holiday come up. My friend Alisa from Louisiana was up, and, although I ran a little, we mostly walked and visited beach towns. Admittedly, we walked a LOT. Poor girl, I think I wore her out. But I didn’t run a whole lot that weekend. On Tuesday a cold started clogging up my head. I didn’t feel like running, and I couldn’t breathe very well when I did.

I decided I’d better get a plan in place to build some momentum. “A 10K!!” popped into my head Friday morning. I finally found one for this weekend. I didn’t really want to do something this weekend, but it looked like a fun race, and it was in Ann Arbor. In 10 seconds, I was signed up! Yay! Instant motivation.

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Ann Arbor – University of Michigan Stadium

 

It was a bit too far to drive in on Sunday, so I booked a hotel, packed up Ashok and headed east to that sweet little college town Saturday evening. I got a good night’s rest, and Ashok and I were up at 5 AM to pick up my race packet. After being one of the first customers at packet pickup, I headed over to Starbucks for a green tea latte and some breakfast. I had plenty of time, so Ashok and I people-watched and enjoyed the nice weather. It was supposed to rain, but you’d have never known it at 6:30 AM.

I pulled up the Weather Channel radar to see if rain was really likely during my race, and I saw just a few little bluish spots around Ann Arbor. No big deal. I zoomed out, and I saw this.

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Uh oh. Unless we got really lucky, it was going to be bad. The ETA was right in the middle of the race. I decided to leave my phone in the car, skip the rain jacket and not bring anything except my car key and an energy bar. I was going to be soaked, and I didn’t want to chance ruining my phone. There would be no Runkeeper tracking for run data this morning.

It wasn’t raining when the race started. It started sprinkling at mile 1. For about a minute, we all sort of moaned a little and said a group OH NO. Then the bottom fell out. It wasn’t Louisiana pouring, but it was definitely more than a normal Michigan pouring. It poured, and it poured, and it poured. My socks and shoes were soaked, my hair looked like a wet mop, and my clothes were “unspinned washing machine” wet.

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As the weather unleashed itself on me, I started to feel unleashed myself. It felt great to be untethered to my phone. I had no camera for pictures. I didn’t have to worry about my dog since she wasn’t allowed in the race. Race pace didn’t matter because I had nothing to track it with. And, once I got used to the rain and decided I was just going to get wet, it was pretty freeing. Splash… splash… squish .. squish... everybody was in an even better mood BECAUSE of the downpour. My nose was running horribly, and I just blew it out on the street. I didn’t even have to have manners! I used the excess as hand cream. (Just kidding, but that grossed you out, didn’t it?)

I realized about halfway in that the 3 min/30 sec interval I had set was a bit too aggressive for me. I was getting tired, so I backed it up to 3 min/1 min intervals. That was much better. I love running with walk breaks. I feel good the whole time, and when I have such short intervals, I can run really hard. It helps to pump up my endorphin rush much better than a long, slow interval. My time is usually better with walk breaks because I feel much stronger and more refreshed. After I switched, I got my energy back and squished down the road even faster.

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You look like a drowned rat. #karma #doglessrunning

My finishing time was 1:09:18 – slow by anybody’s standards, but I felt great. People were literally dancing in the rain afterward. As I walked back to my car with a big smile on my face, I realized how great it felt to be free of technology and pressure to meet a time goal. I think I’d like to do that more often. I answered that age-old question “if you run without tracking it electronically and posting it on social media, did it really happen?” I can emphatically say yes, it happened. And I have a pile of soaking wet clothes to prove it.

Oh, yeah… and when I drove out of the parking garage, it had stopped raining. It literally ONLY rained on my race. Go figure.

Changing Self-Talk Through Engaging With It

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This morning I chose a meditation by George Mumford in my 10% Happier app. This app has “courses” led by great meditation teachers to lead you deeper into practice and to provide tips on how to deal with the stress of daily living. George has become my favorite of all the teachers on this app. I wish I could take him home and let his gentle voice guide me through all of life’s problems.

90% of it is learning and practicing. Only 10%  is performance. So all of the pre-thinking you do, all of the habit patterns you have, happen before the performance – that’s why you can’t separate the performance from now.

~~ George Mumford, meditation teacher who taught Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant how to meditate.

He makes a point that our negative self-talk is the biggest hindrance to performing. If I am afraid to do something, or I think I can’t, it is going to impact my ability to complete the task. He says we can’t just ignore the voice because if we power through and ignore it during practice, it will be literally screaming at us during the performance. And it always impacts our confidence. The alternative is to listen to the voice, investigate whether or not it is true and create a new narrative from the truth. Only in this way do we help mold self-talk that is supportive of reality and helps build confidence. But you have to practice to know what comes up for you.

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I am not very detail-oriented. It has impacted my work in the past. I used to tell myself that I was not good at managing details, and I would forget all kinds of things. I’d find myself getting frustrated with any complex task because I’d try to keep it all in my head, and my head assured me I was going to fail. I had an insightful boss who had the foresight to send me to a class where I learned a system to organize work and prioritize. It was the beginning of my learning how to manage details with “tools” instead of my abilities. Success helped build my confidence that I could overcome that shortcoming.

In my new job as a Project Manager, I’m starting to get feedback on what I bring to the table. Almost everyone says I am really organized. I usually laugh out loud because that is the farthest thing from the truth. My self-talk could easily sabotage my abilities in that area. But, when that little voice in my head tells me there are too many details, and I’ll never remember all this sh*t, another more reasonable voice reminds that my toolkit has the appropriate tools to create a path through the chaos. My shoulders relax, my mind quits spinning, and I can set myself to organizing the work. And every time I do it, that voice gets louder and more coherent than the other one. But without practice and years of learning new tools and techniques, I would have never built that kind of confidence in myself.

What is your self-talk telling you? Can you teach it a new, more informed message? What can you learn and practice that would help you step up to a higher level of performance? 

 

The Beast, the B*tch and the Badass

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Last weekend I realized that I hadn’t actually registered for the Mount Baldhead Challenge (The Beast) in September. So I (The Badass) went to the website, and read the announcement that the 15K had now become a 12-miler and some change. “Well that’s not a 15K then,” Jessica (aka The B*tch) said when I texted her. I’m going to do it. I have my heart set on running this multi-terrain race, but this means that the distance has increased, and when I checked the map, the amount of trail running has increased as well.

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Now this race was already hard. The first time I ever ran it, I had just started back running that year. I was choosing races that would help me increase my distance. I didn’t know enough to look at elevation or terrain or anything else. While standing in line at the porta-potty, I asked a fellow racer if he had ever run it before. “Yes!” he said. “This is my favorite race. It’s supposed to be the toughest 15k in the country! (or did he say Michigan?).” I was shaking in my running shoes.

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I ended that race dead last. The cop car with lights flashing followed me across the finish line. And I was hooked. I ran that race 3 more times – once in a pouring thunderstorm. The course takes you through scenic Douglas and Saugatuck, along country roads, up, over and through the beautifully wooded dunes of Lake Michigan, and just about the time you get really tired, you climb 302 steps to the top of the dune called Mount Baldhead.

So now it’s two miles longer. And I’m quite a bit older. Jessica has increased my mileage and the elevation of my runs. The bluff in Saint Joseph features a staircase that climbs about 75 steps from the beach into town. For the past two weeks, I’ve been adding a hill running/stair climbing training run. And, I’ve been running trails. This week, she told me I should come to Saugatuck and start practicing on the race course.

The Goal: Run for 75 minutes and then climb Mount Baldhead 4 times. (I’m sure that Okie B*tch is thinking of wimpy Florida dunes. She has no idea that Lake Michigan dunes are beasts.)

The Reality: Ashok and I took off and discovered that even the elevation of the roads in this area is very hilly. In town, it’s pretty flat, but when you get to the dunes, it’s like running in East Tennessee. I’ll be climbing that beast twice. Maybe I’ll work up to four in the next month. Maybe ….

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I was surprised at how strong I was running the roads. Even though they were hilly, I kept up pretty well. Ashok did great, too and enjoyed playing in the ditches to cool off between intervals. Deer and squirrels kept her prey instinct occupied. It rained on and off, and the temp was a comfortable 50 degrees. I felt like I was on vacation with all the woods and water areas.

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No dogs were allowed on the stairs, so I tucked her away in the car and started my climb. No way I was going to run them. Even walking, I had to stop and catch my breath several times. But I got up to the top, caught my breath, took the long walk down and did it again. I told myself I could try 3 if I thought I could make it, but my legs were so wobbly after 2 ascents, I thought I’d better call it a day. There will be plenty of time for stair climbing in the next three months.

Now I’m really excited. I hope to be in better shape for this race than any of the previous ones. I always trained on roads and hoped for the best. I never trained on the course ahead of time. And I look forward to spending more beautiful Sunday mornings atop Mount Baldhead while the view – and the climb – literally takes my breath away.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to take a nap.

 

Self-Love is Power

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The flashing of my light alarm awakes me. I close my eyes, Ashok gets up and stares at me while I roll into a fetal position on my side and hit the snooze. “Go back to bed, Ashok,” I say. I feel her breathing behind my ear as the tension grips my gut. “I love you,” I say to myself and hug myself into a ball.

A puzzle from work flashes in my mind, and I rifle through solutions. I let it go and find my breath. The light flashes again, and I’m up. I feed the dogs and cats, fix my breakfast, wash my face, make some tea and sit down. It is too much too fast. I am craving stillness. My head is spinning with thoughts and worries of the day, self-criticisms and emotional pain. On a scale of 1-10, I’m at a 6 today, but I’d love to be at a 2.

I find a meditation in my 10% Happier app on allowing the stress to settle. I grab my cozy socks, arrange my blankets and cushion, light a candle and incense and ‘tap to begin’. The teacher encourages me to sense the anxiety and tension. My legs and buttocks are gripping in unidentifiable fear. I breathe in to release. As soon as I release, they tense again, so I repeat. This time, my body puddles. I still feel the tension swirling in my abdominal area, and my mind is racing, but my body, at last, is not reacting.

I follow his direction to wrap a warm blanket of kindness and compassion around the area where my tension grips. It snakes around my abdomen, and I mentally hug it close. Warm and soft, it soothes me. I send myself love and compassion and focus on my breath. It is uncomfortable bathing in my anxiety. Self-critical thoughts flash, tempting me to hate myself. I concentrate on the simple act of breathing. “God loves me,” I say to myself, and the blanket cinches.

Finally, my energy settles. I know I could start it up again with a single critical thought, but instead I focus on how peaceful my body feels. I am in the arms and presence of God. The world is out there, but I only hear my breathing. In a minute, I will open my eyes, and the world will bat me around. But for this moment I am still.

I have been reminded several times this week how important it is to love myself. We have a culture that believes we must flagellate and criticize our self and others in order to perform. We learn it as children from critical parents, and the pattern continues with teachers and bosses who are reacting from their own pain from self-criticism. By the time we are adults, our minds are filled with the words that browbeat us into submission or enrage our anger. Like a programmed computer, our brains regurgitate what it has been fed.

You have been a loser all your life. Every time you think you screw up. Fatso. Fatass. Your hair looks like a brillo pad. You will never amount to anything. I don’t want to hear a word out of you. You are way too sensitive. Buck up. Do something with that frizzy hair. Who do you think you are? Shut up your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about. You better learn how to be friendly. What is wrong with you? What will other people think of you? Shut up …. Shut upSHUT UP.……..

I can choose to close my eyes when I feel the churn, wrap the blanket of compassion around where it hurts and settle into love. That hateful voice does not belong to me or God. I know how to silence it. Self-love is power.

How do you love yourself? Do you love your self? What are the key messages of your critical voice, and who do they belong to? Can you let them go?