Thursday, April 17, 2014

Around the Country...

Most days, I have squirrel syndrome. I should be doing one thing, and 18 other things pop up in my head.

This happens most ridiculously when I have to write a paper or do homework. My brain hops around from topic to topic. I get a lot of dishes and cleaning done. I end up booking hotel rooms for early 2015. I actually did this on Monday for the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans race in January 2015.

But this week, not only did I book the hotel room, I started to look into a 2015 Team in Training race. In Alaska. You see, comparatively to others, I haven't traveled a lot. I haven't take many vacations and I think it's about time that changes.

What better way to marry running and traveling?

So, I have put together a spreadsheet of all 50 states, plus D.C. My goal is to run at least one long distance race in each US state. 

So far, I've got Michigan (duh) and Washington, D.C. I am scheduled for a race in Florida in November. And, I suppose I will be running to and from Canada in October, eh?

What I ask is this - wanna go on a trip? I'm happy to have travel companions!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sometimes, you just have to get by...

Over the weekend, something popped into my head that I was finally able to think about. You see, I've been just getting by. Doing the absolute minimum, making excuses for doing so, being tired, etc.

Yup, I've been lazy. I'm sure I'll get push back from that. Obviously, it's relative. In some ways, it's not exactly lazy, but prioritizing things differently. Unfortunately, it's also gotten to the point of prioritizing being lazy over most other things.

I've just been working on getting by. It's incredible how quickly things happen: junk piles up in various places, due dates come up, weight piles on, running ability is gone, etc. But to get those things back to normal it takes time. Things can be ripped away so quickly, but it takes time to build things back up.

I started thinking about this because it's been a theme in work, school and life for me this year. I was reminded that we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. 

I've been thinking things like:

1) Why can't I run 11:30/mile anymore?
2) This paper should be so much easier than it is.
3) I really should be much further along in X, Y and Z.
4) Wait, there's only one of me and I can only do so much...

It seems the puzzle is finally coming together for me. I've had a productive few days, and I hope it continues. I have had to remind myself that I cannot get the 8,000 things on my to do lists done today, this week, or this month. 

I see a picture in my head of a skyscraper, half built. While we can't come to a halt on things, but we also need to be realistic with what we can do and how long the bigger picture takes to get to.

It seems like today, people are expected to do so much more and be everything to everyone at all times. It's not realistic, and I've been reminded of this recently. And what I take from that is that when we don't allow ourselves and others to hold us to unrealistic expectations, we're happier and more productive.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't sweat the small stuff - embrace it

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." - John Wooden
Over this past week, I've noticed a different in how I'm looking at life. I've finally started to come out of the awful rut I've been in. Part of it is that I have taken the last couple of weekends to myself and had some quiet time. I've been listening to what my brain and body needs. It's not the easiest process when things are nagging at me from the to do list.
But in the process, I've noticed some little things that I've had some success at. Seriously, the fact that I cleaned out an entire drawer in my bathroom was a success for me. Small, seemingly trivial things are what I'm basing things on right now. It's all about baby steps.
We have big dreams. But what we need to remember is that there are steps to get there. I look at my to do list and it overwhelms me some days. Then I remind myself that not everything on it needs to be done RIGHT NOW. Prioritizing needs to happen. Sometimes I need to get away from the list and do something that I can just finish.
The moral? Honor what you can do at the moment. That small chore is the first step toward something bigger. Success builds upon success.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sharing the struggle

As I was driving home from class tonight, I took a little time to reflect on the past few months and the struggles I've been dealing with. I mentioned in my last blog that some people probably wouldn't like that I was open with my struggle with depression, but honestly, the sentiment above is what I've chosen to follow.

I went to a meeting in Ferndale today with some colleagues, and if they didn't know before that I'm a smart ass, they know now. But anyway, I was sharing a little of what I've been dealing with, and in the conversation, we started talking about the stigma mental illness brings and how when you hear about it in the news, it's attached to violent acts or something to laugh at. It was brought up that one of my colleagues hadn't even noticed any changes. That's not the first time that has happened.

I still have the ability to function. The problem is that sometimes, it's only because I spend an hour talking myself into doing something. Sometimes, it's because my brain just doesn't believe I can do it. Sometimes, it's because I don't know what I can even contribute to the world. But I try to pull it together and get at least something done each day. 

It's not the way I like doing things. One colleague today was talking about everything that her high school daughter is involved in. And another made a statement about how she sounded like "that one" while pointing at me. Those of you who know me understand that I tend to do a lot with my time. So you can imagine that when my drive to do things isn't there, I end up beating myself up because I'm not being as productive as I believe I should.

I share what I'm going through to show others that it can happen to anyone. The stigma drives me nuts. Our society treats mental illness so differently than things like cancer or chronic disease. It shouldn't be that way. I share my experience so others know they are not alone. I share it because it's me. I'm tired of hearing that we all need to be happy and positive all of the time. Yes, there are people that are just cranky. But depression and mental illness are real. It's not something one can just snap out of. 

It's the struggle I've dealt with for a number of years. It's my struggle. Some days are better than others. Some weeks are better than others. Some years are better than others. The struggle has been triggered by multiple things - unemployment, stress, money and social shunning have all been culprits. But it ebbs and flows. When it happens, I just hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I know the tunnel is always around.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Failure and light

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy

During the holidays, things started to slide for me. Since then, I've been fighting a pretty deep depression. I've been going through the motions, while longing to sleep most of the day, eat everything in sight to try and make me feel better, and barely stay afloat. I just haven't cared much.

Some of this may be news to you. Life has been off the rails for me since the beginning of 2014.

I've had a hard time getting any traction with my running. That led to me doing a half marathon this past Sunday only having run 25 miles since January 1. In case you were thinking about doing a half marathon without training, I'd highly suggest you don't.

Anyway, earlier in the week, I was cursing this decision to do a race in early March. I was cursing my friend Dave, whose idea it was (after we finish the GR Half back in October). I had lead time, I could have trained. I planned on training, but life and the dark cloud had hit me harder than I have experienced in awhile.

I was cursing on Saturday night. I was cursing on Sunday morning when my alarm went off (let's be honest, this is a daily occurrence). Leading up to this race, I was concerned about finishing before they closed the course. I was concerned about not finishing. But somehow, I still got up and went (paying for it already probably helped). I told myself it didn't matter when I finished, but I'd still get bling.

I walked a lot. It was slow. I used my YakTrax for the first time, and got huge blisters on my feet. At mile 6, I nearly fell (did the splits instead) and kept going. At mile 11, I really started to feel my body screaming at me. I was walking almost the entire time by that point. I couldn't get a good running rhythm the entire race. I thought about quitting multiple times. There was a good chance I was not going to finish this race.

Just after mile 12, there was a cheer station that was packing up when I got there (told you I was slow). But they were there, cheering just as they had been the first time I went by (around mile 8?). And there was one gentleman who saw I was struggling, put his hand out and gave me a high five. He told me that you could smell the finish line from here. And that kept me going at that point, despite the sniveling I was doing because someone cared enough to tell me I was almost there.

From there on, there was a city worker in a truck that gave me a thumbs up. I watched as people that had finished long before me were walking to their cars to go home. I reached the entrance to the school parking lot (where the finish line). I hit the 13 mile marker, could see the finish line and started to run (if you call it was still pretty slow). I ran that last .1 mile in to the finish line.

There were a few people there to cheer me in, but most had already gone inside because it was so cold. But I kept walking to get my medal. Then into the school to warm up. As horrible as I felt, I had my bling.

I've been limping around since then. And while I may not have achieved greatly in the grand scheme of things, I put it out on the line to possibly fail horribly by not finishing this race.

This race was something I needed. I needed it to help me crawl out of the depression that's been keeping me down. It showed me a light I haven't been able to see in awhile. I hope there's more light. In fact, I need more light.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Black, white and the in between

There's a saying that things aren't always black or white, sometimes there's a lot of grey. I tend to gravitate toward this saying, but it's hard to say with a straight face sometimes, now that our society has been introduced to "50 Shades of Grey". It's funny how an awful book can ruin things sometimes.

Anyway, I was having a discussion with a colleague yesterday and it made me realize how far I've come personally and also with how people perceive me. Those of you that have known me for awhile probably remember when I was hot headed, get annoyed and frustrated at EVERY LITTLE THING and my view is always right.

Now, this isn't to say that I don't have those tendencies still. Because I do. And I recognize that. However, over time, I've had a lot of experience dealing with people - kids, adults, tweens, teenagers. It's amazing what teenagers can teach you. But what I've learned during that time is that many times, there's not a "right" or "wrong" answer. There are some beliefs that I have that are hardcore and not changing. But in most things, there's just a difference of opinion and views. But those differences are what can make something huge and impactful. If we'd put aside our stubbornness (yes, I am quite stubborn) and realize that we don't all have the same views and that's ok, I bet we'd be able to solve the problems of the world.

But right now, I see a lot of screaming from one side about how there is no good to taxes. I see a lot of screaming about how my view is the right view. But what we need to look at is how do we hold our beliefs, but still be flexible and listen to others? How do we put the right questions and model to the situation that will work best at that time? How do we take our beliefs and look at the long term consequences and what's best for everyone?

I can't answer all these questions. But I do think that as people that come from very different backgrounds and styles, we need to each ask ourselves these questions.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Looks can be deceiving...

I'm sure we've all heard it before that first impressions matter. And while this is true in most cases, I think we need to take those impressions with a grain of salt.

I look at this from my own experience. I've been told that I tend to seem stand-offish much of the time. I try to work on this, but in all honesty, it's a coping mechanism for me. Despite seeming outgoing, I really am nervous about meeting new people that I don't know much about and also interacting with people that I know do not like me. I put up a wall in order to protect myself.

As we continue to evolve, we need to make ourselves aware of our faults and try to work on them. But in that process, we also need to accept that there may be something more to those faults. Someone may act like a jerk not because they are, but because they're uncomfortable, worried or anxious.

So, while first impressions matter, I hope that we can sometimes learn to look past them. Many times, I have had the opportunity to change my opinion of people and add them as friends. We certainly could all do with a bit more understanding of others.