Lessons about suffering that fit on an index card

I had been reading some books that were jiving well with my worldview, “The Shadow Effect” by Deepak Chopra and “Snake Oil” by Becca Stevens. Deepak was making a case for a collective unconsciousness and Becca was advocating for the most beautiful form of community.  Both spoke on suffering, but due to the work Becca does with Magdalene and Thistle Farms*, she has seen more than her share.

I finished her book and I sat up in bed and wrote my most profound epiphany onto a notecard in felt tipped pen. I wrote my best explanation of why suffering is necessary, (basically to force us back to our community) and somehow what I wrote made me think that if I could just read it over and over I might welcome future suffering a little more and fight it a little less. I used the notecard as a bookmark and it ended up in my brief case and somehow got wet which meant the pen bled and it is hard to decifer now…

When I pulled the index card out and found the smear of words I kind of laughed to myself. What a great representation of what goes on with my brain. In a quiet, inspired moment I was able to find one of my deepest truths, but I didn’t record it with appropriate significance in my brain.

There is an episode of Parks and Recreation  where Ron Swanson has to watch a recording of himself explaining why he should run from Tammy II. Ron knows she’s no good for him at most times, but in the middle of a Tammy Tornado, he needs that clarity that can only come from hearing it from his own mouth.

That’s kind of how I envisioned my index card working. I was moving it from book to book only because I loved the tickle of delight I got reading it and thinking, “Oh, that’s good.” I thought that if I kept it nearby, it would pop up when I truly needed the reminder but not because I’m in the middle of a suffering storm and particularly need it. What kind of reminder will my smear provide?

After thinking of the irony, I started to feel some fear. There are lessons each bout of suffering will teach us, but knowing anything about suffering is not going to prevent it from happening. I wondered if the message was also that I’d just have to relearn the truth next time.

I don’t want to go back to square one. I have been working hard to build myself into a strong woman. I am practicing gratitude. I am paying attention to people who show me how to find grace, peace and love while enduring it. By creating difficult goals and then achieving them I am bolstering my self image as a strong person. In a race or a tough workout when I think, “I’m not sure if I can hold this for very long” I work with that fear and practice focusing on each minute.

Maybe I will forget how suffering can teach me important things and send me where I need to be. Maybe it will just be so tough next time that I’ll have to sit in some darkness. No matter what, I’ll have the memories of these beautiful, happy times and all those skills I’ve built for myself.

 

*Becca Stevens runs a home in Nashville, TN called Magdalene for women who would like to leave a life of prostitution and drugs. The women follow the 12 steps program while re-building their self esteem in part by having a job creating products for Thistle Farms. Most women have seen intense suffering in their lives and Becca believes that love can heal anything.

Race Recap – Harrisburg Half Marathon

Race Recap – Harrisburg Half Marathon

Imagine you have signed up for an intimidating race and practiced seven months for it. You know you haven’t been as disciplined as you should have been. You’re not even sure you can finish the whole distance. Still, you love running, and the atmosphere of race day. You know you have grit.

You low-grade obsess about it the whole week before. It’s finally here and there’s no time to improve any more. Still you manage to be positive even when you find out it will be non-stop raining. (At least it’s not hot!) You know it’s a privilege to race. Race day is a collection of people who are brave enough to test their limits. There is an energy of excitement. To me, it feels like a buzzing hum of optimism.

You feel important too. They’ve closed roads and bridges, and there are volunteers all over who are smiling and happy to see you test yourself.

The race began on Market Street bridge headed in the direction of Wormleysburg. I tried to get to the back of the pack so I wouldn’t be tempted to go out faster than I intended. To keep myself relaxed I decided to smile at anyone who made eye contact. My shoes were already soaked because my “primo” parking spot happened to be in the middle of a four inch puddle. Oops, didn’t notice. I’m just going to go ahead and mention that it was raining and I will not be mentioning that fact in future because it rained the whole damn time.

harrisburg half -doppler

I started my first podcast episode, WTF with Marc Maron. The episode was an interview with Anthony Bourdain from 2011. I like listening to Marc because even if the conversation isn’t a particularly funny one, I’m still entertained by trying to picture his accompanying cranky facial expression. I left one ear bud out so that I could hear the sounds of the race. How I kept my heart rate down, I’m not sure, because I was just ready to go.

I occasionally turned my head to reassure myself that I was not the slowest runner in the whole damn race. Insecurities much? I thought to myself, “Hold up. These ladies next to me are doing a run/walk method and they are sticking with me. That’s not fair.” Fair or not, going slow to start was what I was supposed to do, so mission accomplished.

We ran with the Susquehanna River to our right and I took in the view. The river was brownish grey and roiling because of the rain. The Capitol was covered in fog. It was cold and I thought of my husband and son who would be waiting for me once I crossed the Harvey Taylor bridge. Knowing they would be waiting for me in this terrible weather made me feel so grateful and I started to cry. Mile two and I was already overwhelmed with gratitude.

I felt like it took forever to get to them. I usually run a loop in training and a linear route with a landmark you’re straining towards makes the distance go so slowly. Tyler made fun of me because each of the photos he snapped of me had me making goofy faces. I couldn’t help it. I was so happy to see them and wanted Camden to know that Mommy was excited he was there. I waved and smiled and yelled, “Hey baby!!!!!” He gave me the sweetest smile when I got close enough that he could recognize me.

Once I passed the boys I knew I had about an hour until I’d see them again and so I could just relax into the pace and enjoy the view. From the Harvey Taylor bridge we turned onto Front Street and ran in a coned off lane.  There were a lot of people to cheer and smiling at them helped me feel grateful. My raincoat was keeping me warm and my visor was keeping the rain off of my face. Marc and Anthony weren’t talking about anything I hadn’t already heard before, so I was ok half listening. A man handed me a beverage which I expected to be water or Gatorade, but turned to be beer. Not my thing. I saw it was frothy and tossed it.

Our route diverted down to the lower level, only five feet or so above the river at it’s current height. There were puddles galore. Even though my feet were already wet, it doesn’t feel the greatest to have a sloshing on your shoe’s foot-bed or a splashing onto your calves, so I tried to avoid them. Maneuvering gave you something to occupy your mind with and maybe helped the miles go a bit faster, but I would prefer to get in a steady pace of course. The leaders of the race passed us going in the opposite direction and we were able to cheer for them.

We ran what felt like a huge square around the PENNDOT building and then entered a “Green Belt” section. At first it was no different from the river front, but soon it became mud and there were puddles that were unavoidable. At parts we had to climb a knee high wall to avoid pretty deep puddles or dangerous mud. I was getting close to that point where it stops being such a struggle and it feels like your muscles just loosen up and you can run so much faster. I wanted to get going and RACE so I was starting to get impatient with the puddles. The green belt led us back to the river front and I decided to give up on avoiding puddles. I was ready to go “fast” and I managed to get in a good rhythm. I dropped a lot of the ladies who had been running with me. Everyone was very happy and supportive, but I liked that it was not very crowded and I could look at the water and the fog and the bridges. In the quiet moment I let myself think of Adam and gave myself a chance to tell him how much I love him. I dedicated my run to him and felt determined to make him proud…Cry #2.

There was a ginormous hill which took us back up to street level. I knew I would be seeing my boys again. Despite the cold, I was starting to get nice and warmed up so I took off my rain jacket to throw to Tyler. Camden was clearly not having fun and pretty cold. I felt simultaneously bad for them and also really proud that my husband understood how much it meant to me to have them there.

Next was a looooooong portion of running on Front Street. I switched my podcast to Armchair Expert with Dax Shephard. It was probably one of the most boring episodes he’s done, but the familiar voices provided me with white noise that helped to drown out any doubts or thoughts of pain or discomfort. (It’s one of my favorite podcasts)

All the runners ahead of me were headed back in the direction of the walking bridge and most of them looked tired. I needed not to look forward at how much farther it was until I could turn around. (That turn was a big deal for me mentally because it signaled my last portion!) I made eye contact with as many runners as I could to tell them “Good Job” or give them a thumbs up. I got so many smiles and they really helped me.

We had some water stations on this portion which were manned by a local cross country team and they were phenomenal with their encouragement. I think I’ve mastered the drinking from a cup without stopping. Tyler pointed out I’m probably just better at it because I was going much slower in this race than I was in the 10k.

Once we were turned in our final direction we ran about 2.5 miles on street level and then had to take that same huge hill down to river front. I walked most large hills and definitely did for this steep downhill. Even if I wasn’t trying to save my quads and keep my heart rate down, the river front section was getting much more dangerous. The puddles were getting even deeper. I ran through a puddle that ended up being 5 inches deeper than I anticipated and muddy on the bottom so my foot made a scary little twist. There were sections that were completely covered in water and we had to walk as if on a balance beam on the outer portion of the sidewalk. If you toppled to the left you’d fall down the steps and roll right into the river. It was a bit scary when I was that close. Another section had a man from the race staff directing us where to put our feet since the puddle was deep and muddy. Definitely an adventure.

In miles 11 and 12 I started to wonder how I should proceed. My longest run had only been 11 miles so this was all new territory. I didn’t know if I was going to blow up at any minute and feel like I had nothing left. For our Turkey Trot 5k the final portion of the half course was also the end of our 5k. I was running MUCH faster then, but when I took the hill that leads up to the walking bridge I felt completely sapped and had to push REALLY hard to get a final kick of speed. I didn’t want to have to try too hard for the final sprint because I wanted to be fast in order to cut off some time but also to finish strong.

There were two women whose pace was pretty close to mine. I just took their cue pace wise, but I felt like I could maybe push it a bit more, especially when we entered mile 12! I was anxious to get up that hill and sprint. Instead I played it a bit safe. I walked the hill since running it in the 5k felt so foolish, then I took off. I was proud of all the energy I still had left, but half way across started to get scared again that I’d use it all and feel like I had to walk. I DID NOT WANT TO WALK IN TO FINISH. I pulled back just a bit and finished still sprinting. Tyler and Camden were there waiting for me.

harrisburg half - finish

I was shocked to see the gun time. It said 2:33:43! I had no idea what I could do since I had never run this distance before, but I had a window of times I would be proud to have achieved. I thought I could get a 2:45, but if I pushed maybe a 2:40. A time of 2:30 was the pie in the sky dream, and here I was so close!!

I got my blanket, a water, and my medal and I just kept thinking, “I did it.”

Tyler moved to the side so I could meet him and Camden there and as I walked towards them I started to bawl. I told Tyler “Babe, I did it” and he said, “YOU DID IT BABY!” with tears running down his face. He told me he was proud of me. I asked him if he could believe how fast I had done it. I was too afraid to even tell him about my time goal, and what’s great is it didn’t matter to him whether I did it fast or slow. He knew that I set this goal for myself and then he watched me work steadily towards it for all these months. He would ask me how many miles I did in my workouts and say “Wow! Babe, 9 miles!” He knew that sometimes it was really hard to just do shorter distances. Because he raced in Charleston with me, he knows how a course can surprise you and race day can throw you curve balls. He really understood what it meant for me to do this. How lucky am I to share that with him and have him get it? What better feeling is there than to make yourself and your loved ones proud? I love it that Camden will see that he has always been there to see Mom race. He will know I have grit because I have been working all these years on becoming a stronger person. He will be inspired to be strong and he will have the very thing I want most to give him: a belief that he can be strong and take on this world.

harrisburg half - finish photo

Man, what a gift it is to race and to achieve your goals!

harrisburg half - medal

What Camden’s loving – June 2018 books

We’ve been busy this month playing outside or getting out of the house, so there’s been a lot less time spent reading during play time. Most of the books on the list were hits for bedtime.

Monster Park by Annie Bach

monster park

This one has limited rhyming text on each page so it is easy to read in a perky and dramatic voice which is what I think Camden loves the most about it. I loved the colorful illustrations and that the book ends with the Daddy saying, “We can come back another day” which is similar to what we tell Cam when it’s time to leave anywhere. We say “We’ll come back soon!”

Maybe a Bear Ate It by Robie Harris

maybe a bear ate it

In this one the kitty (?) drops his book while reading in bed and has trouble finding it. He comes up with several dramatic things that might have happened to it. I like this one because it encourages kids to create dramatic plots in their heads. I’m sure not every kid needs encouragement with that, haha.

Courduroy Goes to the Beach based on the character created by Don Freeman

corduroy goes to the beach

This book has some flaps for the kids to lift, though most are smaller than lift-the-flap books for younger kids, none bigger than an inch or so. I thought flaps might be old news for Camden, but there are about four on each page and it’s almost like a look and find in that you have to figure out which parts of the picture are flaps.

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney

little excavator

This one has everything for a 2 1/2 year old boy to love: all kinds of construction equipment. The text has lots of action words to describe what the machines are doing, but the illustrations tell the whole story which is that the little excavator keeps trying to help with jobs he’s too little for, until the last job needs to be completed and he’s the only machine small enough to do it.

I just now noticed that it was written by the creator of the Llama Llama series. I’m not crazy about those books because I feel like the Mom is portrayed as very “Anything goes” when it comes to Llama’s behavior and I like to have clear expectations for behavior even when Camden is sad or mad. He liked the image when he saw it on Netflix though and so we had to give it a try… sigh.

 

What I’m loving – June 2018

What I’m loving – June 2018

Mondays aka my days to write!

I am working on writing a novel…er, practicing writing a novel. I have an idea for what I’d like my first book to be about, but I have never sat down to try to write anything like it before. In my head the idea is a home run, so I don’t want to just sit down and try to write it without practicing being in the habit of writing first.

I’ve heard authors say that beginning the project can kill all the excitement about it because what you start to write isn’t as perfect as you imagined. In a way I feel like I’m setting myself up for success by working on my ‘throw away’ project instead while I keep outlining in my brain ‘the’ novel.

I know this all sounds like a procrastination out of fear, and it probably is, but it’s my path. I’ve actually been really enjoying the throw away project and have mostly been able to do a full chapter each week so who knows maybe this manuscript will be completely finished in 6 years. It’s a bit cliche, but the more I work on it and develop characters and make it authentic the more I have my fingers crossed that it will also be something sellable…

Speaking of selling a novel, my next favorite thing is:

First Draft Podcast by Sarah Enni

For this podcast Sarah talks with lots and lots of published authors (mostly YA authors) about the when, the how, and the why of writing their novel and how they got it published. The podcast was my first insight into the business side of writing a book and I love it that I’m learning so much–but in an inspiring way.

To me it’s the equivalent of the “How I Built This” podcast but instead of how to build a successful business it’s building yourself into a published author. Sarah is set up for success in each interview because she’s there to talk with authors about their ‘baby’, the product of their passion. But Sarah also brings her authentic excitement to the interview and it seems like each author is immediately comfortable with her resulting in a personal and enlightening interview.

My favorites (so far) were versions 1 and 2 with Ava Dellaira and Morgan Matson

GOOD BOOKS

This month’s favorites were:

Bucky F*cking Dent by David Duchovny

Ted is an aspiring writer whose agent tells him he writes unpublishable crap. Without an inciting incident there is no plot. Ted’s life mirrors his quest for a sucessful novel and on the very next page we get the inciting incident: his estranged father is dying.

I’m pretty sure his father is already dead and the story the narrator (Ted) weaves is just himself working through some issues while writing a more satisfying and compelling story of their lives. Without this twist it’s just a cute story, but the twist makes it more interesting.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Jacket description: Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonweatlh is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Ann Patchett is just the best. She writes so beautifully and is really good at coming up with new plots. I hope one day to write as well as she can. Here are two of my favorite quotes:

“There’s no protecting anyone,” Fix said, and reached over from his wheelchair to put his hand on hers. “Keeping people safe is a story we tell ourselves.” P. 258

If her mother hadn’t been so pretty none of it would have happened, but being pretty was nothing to blame her for. P. 312

One is a universal truth and the other is essentially the point the whole novel revolves around. I might write a more in depth review because it can only help me become a better writer if I practice dissecting good literature.

Armchair Expert Podcast by Dax Shephard

When I first peeked at this podcast, I was not excited. Each episode is approx 2 hours long and I have found with other podcasts of this length that there’s a ton of time to talk about stuff that’s just not very compelling.

For instance, I also tried “You Made It Weird” with Pete Holmes. The first episode I tried was the Andy Samberg one and for about the first 20-30 minutes they just talked about obscure references to things that made them laugh. That’s fine, and I still enjoyed listening to them laugh but I thought, “This is going to have to be an ambient noise podcast and I have far too many podcasts that are packed with interesting and inspiring content to get through…”

For some reason I did end up finishing that epidsode anyway and it did get much better, but it still left me with the feeling that a long podcast is a big commitment. I’m trying to manage my iphone storage space here peiople!! (BTW some other episodes of this podcast are much better and you should still give it a try, especially Mark Duplass’s episode)

Back to Dax. Dax played my favorite character on a little show called Parenthood. Somehow I saw an advertisement for his most recent podcast with Mae Whitman who also starred on this show. From reading Lauren Graham’s book “Always Looking Up” I know that they were all basically a family and loved to hang out between scenes so I thought at minimum I’d get some cute nostalgia.

I could listen to this podcast all day long. All. Day. Long. Dax is curious, sincere, open, funny AND a great interviewer! He keeps the conversation rolling through the whole thing.

Somehow he can effortlessly switch between being deeply in his guests’ mind and then sharing a personal anecdote or struggle. Dax is very open about things that trigger his insecurities and I love how easily he can speak about them. He is “woke” as they say. I wish we could all talk as easily and humorously about our own triggers! It is very obvious that he shares himself in order to uplift others and I just love that so much.

The only thing I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with is the way the end of the podcast is basically an audio version of the show notes. Dax has his assistant (?) Monica “fact check” whatever has been said and they discuss. I’d hate this part if Monica wasn’t cute and if it didn’t give me more of a chance to see what hanging out with Dax would be like.

So let’s be friends, k? Tyler and Kristin would be fast friends and entertain themselves while we jibber jab. P.S. we love her show The Good Place

And finally, Knobels! 

Our whole extended family went to Knobels Amusement Park this month. It is one of the last amusement parks that doesn’t charge for general admission so if you plan to ride two rides the whole day and just want to hang out, or if you are a grandma who wants to meet up for a picnic lunch you don’t have to pay $50. They sell books of tickets or hand passes if you will ride a ton. Plus it is shaded so it doesn’t get unbearably hot. We go on a weekday so it’s not too busy. My favorite part was that Camden loved it so much he wanted to look at the map we brought home and find all of the rides. He especially wanted to locate the “Fire ride” that was really loud and scared him while we were there. When he finds it on the map he says, “Mommy, fire ride please? Camden not scared!” So cute. Featured image is Camden too asleep with a Knobels map blanket.

Life is About Connection – Supporting Characters

Life is About Connection – Supporting Characters

Talk about life teaching you a lesson! Holy crap, lately I have been having a bunch of what Oprah calls “A-Ha!” moments. Some of them have been while I’m running which helps me to work through things. Some of the moments have been while reading an amazing non-fiction book. This moment was brought right to my lap.

I’ve been working on a fiction writing project that started out so easy for me. I decided to make a version of myself the main character so that I wouldn’t have to agonize over what the “character” would say. I made the setting a place I love to be and the writing became an escape to that place. There was, of course, a love interest. He was charming and funny so I enjoyed escaping to hang out with him too.

I was surprised how easy some of it was proving to be since this is the first time I’ve been brave enough to plan out a plot and try to write it… But then the writing stalled. I was able to come up with a general plot structure, but I had no idea what to fill in all the space with. As I thought through it, I realized, “This is never going to work without some supporting characters.”

And that right there was not only an “A-ha” moment for my writing project, but for my LIFE! I guess if I’m being honest, this “A-ha” moment came courtesy of all the routes I listed before. I’ve been seeing this message in everything: Life is about connections with others. Sure, the most fun are the romantic connections, but the kaleidoscope of color is made from all the quirks of the supporting characters.

I began thinking of some of my favorite stories and how their substance is more than just the epic romance. The perfect examples were:

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Can I get a “what what” for silly Mr. Collins and cheeky Mr. Bennett and obnoxious Mrs. Bennett?
  2. You’ve Got Mail – Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner’s romantic leads were more loveable because of what their friends and acquaintances taught us about them.
  3. Gilmore Girls – I literally don’t need to say more
  4. The Mindy Project/The Office – some of the characters seem to exist only as tools to better deliver some jokes. Who would Michael Scott be without his employees? Mindy would fall flat if no one in her office cared that she was being dramatic and watching her character would be the textbook definition of “A bit much” without the relief from a well-timed and well-placed Morgan Tookers joke.

I could go on and on because all my life a written character has been more desirable than going out and finding one that exists in real life. It just takes so much work! Haha. When I realized I needed to brainstorm some new characters I also thought, “That’s a lot of work”. Haha. Instead I spent a couple hours thinking back to characters who were well written and real to me. I made lists of books I needed to re-read so that I could study how they were created and how they developed and all the different ways they could be inserted. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea. After all, if you want to get better at something, observing some masters can help.

Observing is something I’m good at. I am a certifiable introvert. People tend to suck the life and energy from me. To be specific—the wrong people tend to suck the life and energy from me. Even introverts are able to connect with some chosen few who can share in the things that feed our souls. If I had a Kirk from Gilmore Girls in my life I would hide from him like the plague. I would be annoyed by him instead of charmed at the random stupidity of his essence. I would NEVER talk to Babette because she’s your neighbor and I have mostly lived in apartments during my adult life. Rule #1 of apartment living (especially as a single woman) is to NEVER speak to your neighbors.

I think the best love story of Gilmore Girls is the love between Rory and Lorelei (duh). Although they are mother and daughter and literally share the same name, they are Yin and Yang. Lorelei feeds on attention and talking to people. Rory would much rather read and speak to her select few favorite people. They are the same in the way it counts though. They have the same sense of humor and lots of the same interests; as a result they are able to help each other grow.

In life, you are lucky to find a person who gets you but is also different from you. Our default state is attempting to be comfortable. When reading a book and connecting to the characters, if it’s just not happening, the worst you have to lose when you quit halfway is losing the time you invested. If you like the characters, but their quirks or flaws are a bit much, you just have to put them to the side for a bit. Was reading my crutch? (Ooo boy that’s a question for another day, I’m not ready to criticize my favorite past-time)

Isn’t it funny that when I try to conjure a detailed character for my own writing I’m drawn instead to all the characters I’ve met before? Talullah Hipster (a character I just created) thinks, “That’s soooo derivative.” Thanks Talullah…go suck a lemon. I’m ok with that being my knee-jerk reaction because I agree with Paris Gellar and Ralph Waldo Emerson:

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

However, for my future books and also, for my future life, I want to create a story in which the main character has a happy ending but the supporting characters bring meaning as well. I guess we’ll see how that unfolds…

Grief – Desire for Control of Surroundings

Grief – Desire for Control of Surroundings

calm

Since first watching the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice I have been an anglophile. My Aunt Linda has the same interests and has always passed me books and movies that enhanced this obsession. Shout out to Charles Dicken’s #1 fan Linda! Linda is a curator. She has this amazing talent for bringing people new things to experience. She planned a trip for herself, my Aunt Bethie, my Mom and I to go on a bus trip around England, Scotland and Ireland. The trip was truly once in a lifetime. I’ve always loved books because they let me travel the world in my mind and here I was able to go THREE countries.

The trip began about 9 months after we lost Adam. If you have never travelled oversees or on a sightseeing vacation there are some things you should know. You’re not always going to be the most patient person. There’s this thing called jet lag that will steal your joy. Because we were doing a bus tour, we were frequently driving with 30 other people.

We were travelling with Rose.

Did you read that with a voice dripping in loathing? Well you should have. Rose was an elderly woman who just wanted to see some of the world in her retirement. Poor Rose was Canadian and probably because of the universal health care system, was not able to arrange to have her knee replacement BEFORE the trip. I don’t know if you know this, but there are steps leading onto a bus. There are steps leading up to castles. There are steps leading into restaurants—lots of steps—steps that will cause her to have a panic attack in front of them and leave the ENTIRE REST OF THE BUS waiting out in the street when all we want after a long day of travelling is just to sit down and eat. Boy, I did not give her any grace. All this friggin perspective you’re getting of her point of view and how hard it was for her—there was none of that in my brain or in my heart. I wanted to throw her out the window. I kept thinking, “Why should she be ok with ruining the trip for the rest of us. It’s just complaining all day every day for her.”

Rose was just doing what everyone on the planet tends to do each day. We are each struggling with our own battle and we’re not inclined to think of how it’s affecting others. It’s natural.

What wasn’t natural was my expectation that people SHOULD be more aware. You see, I have this intense desire for fairness. If Rose can vomit her struggle onto my day, why don’t I get preferential treatment for mine? If they knew what I was dealing with they might leave me in peace. Can’t we skip the part where I have to explain what I’m dealing with and jump to the part where everyone is just super nice and understanding with me?!

This was THE biggest theme of my grief. My logic was this: The world is cruel and dangerous. People should be kind and if they can’t be kind they should allow me peace.

Newsflash! People aren’t living their lives to make YOU feel a certain way. If you are waiting for them to treat you the way you deserve—if this is the standard of a good life to you, you will be severely disappointed. Even people who love the crap out of you are not going to be able to hold that standard for very long. Please, take it from me, if this is your expectation you will be very angry when it is slashed every damn day.

If I could mentor myself, I would tell that Sarah she needs some coping mechanisms. A great coping mechanism for this situation would have been gratitude.

On the trip I tried using my journal to vent my frustrations, but venting didn’t release them. I was still stuck in a cycle of “It’s not fair I have to deal with this.” When your mind is spinning on a loop like that, you need to reverse the direction completely. If I had sat and picked three things I was grateful for I might have been ready to release the frustrations. Maybe I could have focused back on what was important, which was the quality time with my family in these amazing places. Instead I internalized my frustrations and it made me even less patient; as a result I fear I was just another Rose.

It’s not the load, it’s how you carry it

It’s not the load, it’s how you carry it

The title of today’s blog post is from a quote by Lena Horne:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. I’ve been wishing there were more time in the day. I know life is all about balance, but it seems like to make time for one thing I have to steal from another thing.

Specifically sleep. I want more time in my day and I would love to wake up early to get that, but since I’ve been sick my body is just demanding a bit more than usual. Today I had to steal time from my job in order to get a much needed nap. I had wanted to wake up at 5 this morning in order to do some walking meditation, but that was a no-go too.

With feeling overwhelmed over all the effort life is taking lately, it wasn’t the right time to get some discouraging news about my thyroid–but hey the medication needed a refill so it was blood test time.

It certainly didn’t help that I finished “Blue Nights” by Joan Didion and was thinking heavily about my mortality. Joan described the tragedy of her daughter’s battle with illness and her own losing battle as well. My mind was already dwelling on my feeling that I’m losing in the fight to live a health life despite having an auto-immune disorder (Hashimoto’s). More on this in a later post…

I was feeling very low, but I could see this and wanted to do something about it. So I did the following:
1. Reached out for advice from people who might be able to help

2. Went for a run

On my run I began with deep breathing, blowing my exhale out heavily for a full four count. I could feel the tension in my shoulders leaving. The humidity was 95% so it was not easy, but the track was beautifully foggy and not too hot. I listened to some music I love and even sang out loud sometimes even though there were other people around.

I was able to remind myself that I can only control the present. Although my body has issues, it’s still able to bring me happiness in other forms. I will remember gratitude and mindfully live in this moment.

This is what I feel the quote means. You can carry your stresses and disappointments with a macro view of, “Oh, this is happening to me” and despair that it will continue happening to you. Or you can look at it as something that you can’t control, feel ok with doing what you can to help and then shifting your perspective to what really matters.

Take the light with the dark.

*A note on the photo I chose for the featured image. This is a watercolor painting by one of my favorite artists Steve Hanks. If you have ever dabbled in watercolors you will know how amazing it is that there is so much detail in his work. Most watercolor painters have an ethereal, loose, watery effect to their works. Hanks’ signature is the sharpness of his image despite the medium and his ability to make the light seem so real. I love the emotion that the figure shows, but to me the star of the painting is the sunlight shining through the window.