Side Effects and Society – A Light Bulb Moment

so distant by Andreia BohnerA few weeks ago my General Practitioner put me on a new medication. One of its potential side effects is drowsiness. I mentioned to her that I was concerned about that – I have enough problems with getting enough sleep and being tired/grouchy the next day, I didn’t need a medication that was going to add to that! She had a simple solution:

Take it at night.

In retrospect it seems incredibly obvious. If I take the medication at night, the drowsiness takes place at night giving me the added benefit of helping me get to sleep! By the time I get up in the morning, the side effect has passed. Brilliant! The thing is, I never would have never thought of taking it at night. I’ve somehow been trained that you take medication in the morning. You just do. Medications are kept in the medicine cabinet and you take them right before you brush your teeth in the morning along with your multivitamin. I don’t even know where that routine comes from, childhood, I guess.

It’s interesting to me because I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on societal conventions / family norms and how we just accept them as fact without necessarily thinking about whether they actually work for us – for our own lives. When to take medication seems like a small, silly example, but it speaks to a bigger theme I’m seeing in my life – that some of the things I’ve just accepted as “the way things are” don’t have to be that way. In fact, they were set up by someone with completely different goals and aspirations than me. So, I’m starting to think about that. I’m in my forties now. Life is pretty stable. It’s time to take stock and look at things – even little things – and make sure they fit how I want to live. If it isn’t how my mother or my aunts would have done it, so what! They have their own lives – and I have mine. Time to make it mine!

 

 

Photo credit: Andréia Bohner on flickr

Falling Out of Love with Fall

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

I used to love Autumn. Summer was my enemy. It was always too hot, too sticky and too sunny. When the weather started to turn, I was in heaven. The cooler nights and walking through falling leaves made me happy. I felt settled. This year, all that has changed.

This year I embraced summer. I ran, hiked, biked, kayaked, swam – even tried stand up paddleboarding. For the first time since being a kid, I’m actually tan. I’ve loved being this active and being out in the sun. Autumn, however, has come very suddenly to the Midwest. For the past week or so it’s been cold, rainy and windy. Since getting a dog, I feel much more attuned to the seasons. I am outside every morning and every night with him and I notice the shortening of the days more than I used to. I see the fading flowers and the landscaping changing, and I notice the flocks of birds moving south. I keep an eye on the weather. I watch out for thunderstorms (since my pooch is petrified of them,) and I now have to dress for the temperature. I’m already adding more and more layers.

I’m finding my mood is getting dark too. I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested reframing the season, to find things to love about autumn again. I thought it was good advice – it doesn’t make sense to try and fight Mother Nature, she always wins. So, replaced all my desktop photos of the lake this summer at the cottage with photos of pretty Fall foliage.  I took my hot pink toenail polish off and replaced it with a silly OPI color called “Wooden Shoe Like to Know?” I’ve started putting funny little Fall window clings on my door – not as decor for people coming in, but to make me smile when I leave. I bought some new candles in scents called “Harvest Apple” and “Flannel” and have been lighting them when I get home. (No “Pumpkin Spice” though… I have to draw the line somewhere.) I’ve even started pulling out my favorite sweaters.

I’m trying. Sometimes “fake it ’til you make it” is all you can do. I am very grateful for my fitness classes right now, though. Last year I had trouble staying active this time of year, this year I am actually ramping up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

I Suck at Pilates – and I Like it Anyway

The studio where I take my boxing classes offers a lot of different fitness classes. I decided awhile back to buy a three month unlimited membership, so I can go to as many classes as I want. I wrote awhile ago about trying Pilates for the first time. I went again last week.

So far in all the classes I have taken there have been a few people who are older or less in shape than I am. Not so in Pilates. The gals (and so far it has all be ladies) who take this class look like they are all in their 20s or early 30s and are super fit. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I am the older, less fit person in the room! I should note that there is absolutely no reason why men or anyone else shouldn’t take this class, it really is a great workout. The studio where I go seems to have a really nice cross section of ages, races, and genders, and I see it in other classes. Perhaps it’s that Pilates has gotten a bad rap? Maybe that’s why women who all look like former dancers take it? (Or perhaps 2 classes isn’t much of a sample and I’ll see something different when I go the next time.) In any case, I don’t actually mind being the “older” “kind of out of shape” woman. The fact is, I suck at Pilates.

And I don’t care.

It was something like this - but without the ball, and our faces were down. That whole thighs off the mat thing? Not happening.

It was something like this – but without the ball, and our faces were down. That whole thighs off the mat thing? Not happening.

That’s kind of a new thing for me. I tend to be an overachiever. I like to be in the top percentile. However, as I continually find in all my fitness adventures, that just isn’t going to be the case for me. I did not grow up doing sports and I’ve never been anything like athletic until very, very recently. Also, bendy, I am not. In fact, you could say that between an ironing board and I, the board is going to have the easier time in Pilates! At one point the instructor led the class through a pose I could not do. Normally I can get (sorta) close, perhaps with a modification, but this time I just laid there. I was trying – with all that I had I was trying – but nothing was happening! (Everyone else was able to do it, naturally.) Instead of being frustrated or angry, I just started cracking up – my face planted in the mat.

The beautiful thing about being bad at something is that there is only room for improvement. I am enjoying “the beginner’s mind”, as they say. I mean, why not? As adults it is too easy to get hung up when we aren’t good at something. Instead, I am just going to enjoy the process – or the bridge position – as it were.

However, I also tried “Glow and Flow” yoga, and that didn’t go so well. There were a lot of weird things going on though. First of all, there was a fill-in instructor. Secondly, it was the first time I had taken two classes in a row. They offer yoga right after boxing and I’ve noticed that a lot of people do multiple classes. So when I saw someone staying for yoga after boxing one week, I asked her about it. She said, “It is great for stretching out all the muscles we just pounded together.” I liked that idea, and the following week, I stayed. I ended up being at the back of the room, and usually when I take a new class I like to be right up front. However, there were several of us from boxing staying, and I ended up near them. (Honestly, I get so sweaty during boxing, I thought it would be good to be by “my people” rather than risk offending the noses of the yoga-only crowd.) The acoustics in the studio are kind of rotten, which is one of the reasons the instructors normally wear head mics, but, of course, that seems too tech for yoga. Net result? I was super tired from boxing so I couldn’t think, plus I couldn’t really hear, I couldn’t really see, I didn’t know what I was doing, and frankly, neither did anyone else. You could tell even the die hards were struggling to follow along with the instructor. Nothing wrong with her, but it wasn’t their usual. There was a whole lot of looks that clearly said, “Umm…. what? Oh… okay.” So, it wasn’t fun. But again, that’s okay. I don’t have to like everything. I won’t write it off based on this one experience, I’ll definitely give it another try, but if it doesn’t click for me, I am okay with that.

 

 

Depression is a Jerk (And So is Anxiety)

Storm clouds by nicgep114I wrote about my excitement in getting a compliment from the instructor in my boxing class on Thursday, but what I didn’t tell you that a few weeks ago I skipped class. At the time I didn’t think that much of it. I love this class, but I had woken up that morning tired and sore. My body felt sluggish and every muscle ached. I figured I had just overdone it a bit and maybe needed a break. But a couple of days later when the next class came up, I still felt the same way. I didn’t want to go to class. In addition to feeling exhausted and painful, I was also afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it through, that I would get sick or even pass out. I talked to my boyfriend (who, remember, is studying to be a therapist) about all this and he agreed that it could be that I was just overworked, but then he said something I didn’t know, “Or it could be your depression. Depression causes body aches.”

What?!? I guess I remember seeing some tv commercial for some drug that helped with body pain associated with mental health issues, but I hadn’t understood what that meant at the time. I said to him, “So, exercise is good for alleviating depression, right?”

“Right.”

“But depression can make your muscles ache… so you don’t want to exercise?”

“Yep.”

“Depression is a jerk!”

And depression is a jerk. Anxiety is too. What do you think it was filling my head with visions of throwing up in class? Anxiety. Both depression and anxiety actively work against activities that make things better – it’s almost like they have their own willpower. That’s what’s tricky about these two. Usually I can tell when I am struggling with them, but in this case they hid themselves in something else, everyday muscle aches, the kind of thing I get on a regular basis. Grrrr….

Julian encouraged me to go to my class this time. He reminded me that this class is like “medicine” for me. It makes me happy, boosts my mood, lets me work off my stress, and so on. (We all know the benefits of exercise.) As such, I should go as often as I could. And so I went. It wasn’t a great class, but it wasn’t a bad class either. I didn’t throw up, or pass out and I made it through just fine. But that is one of the things I didn’t understand before I had to deal with depression and anxiety, that they work against your very efforts to get well.

Jerks.

 

Photo credit: nicgep114 on flickr

My Boxing Coach Gave Me An Actual Compliment!!

Gloves and wrapThat’s right, I got an actual compliment from The Instructor (TI) in my boxing class!! Understand that TI is a nice guy. He’s funny and he’s encouraging. He’s also a Welshman who yells like a drill sergeant. All the other coaches at the studio use head mics to be heard over music and sounds of people working out. Not TI, he just bellows.

While in class TI walks around and helps people with their form or encourages them to work harder. This usually means variations of, “C’mon you can do more than that!” or, my favorite, “Keep moving! This isn’t yoga!” When he helps me he’ll say something like, “There you go. You’re getting it.” But it isn’t an actual compliment as much as an acknowledgment that I’m trying.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to modulate my effort in class. The first few classes were so hard that I just did what I could do and sort of limped my way through, happy to just get through to the end. Once I started getting a little better, I realized that all my energy was going to the first part of class, but by the end I was completely worn out. So, I tried holding back a little at the top of class and about halfway through pushing out as hard as I could – but that’s a lot trickier than it sounds. Once you get used to holding back, it’s hard to suddenly pick up, especially since make no mistake, the class is tough. Last night for whatever reason, I just went all for it. And that’s when it happened, I was working a combination at the bag and he walked over, watched for a second and said:

Beautiful.

AHHH! I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if it was on my form (which I kind of doubt since I am still working on that,) or if it was because I was really going to town on that bag. I have to say, it made my night – and just that one word helped me keep pushing through the class. At the end I was slowing down, of course (and so was everyone else,) but it felt great.

You know what that means of course… now I have to give it everything I’ve got every week. Whew.

 

Photo credit: Maxim Pierre via flickr

We Are All Brave

My bike on the rail trail.

My bike on the rail trail.

Up by my cabin there is a long and wonderful rail trail. It is completely paved, more or less flat, and perfect for biking. I’m still a biking newbie so trails like these are great for me. Since I don’t yet know my limits, I would set an alarm on my armband for 30 minutes or so and head out to see what happened. I was testing questions like, “Can I ride for an hour?” (yes.) “How many miles can I ride in an hour?” (Eleven.) “Where are the ice cream shops?” (About 8 minutes from the cabin, near one of the trail heads.)

So, one afternoon I am riding along, enjoying the scenery, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot. This really isn’t that uncommon. My cabin is located in a rural area where people do a lot of hunting, and naturally, they practice target shooting. I looked around, but surely no one would be firing at the trail, right?

And that’s when it hit me. I was out here on my own. If something went wrong, it was up to me to deal with it. Sure, I had a phone with me, but I am miles down some rural trail, how do I even tell someone where I am? By the old railroad mile markers? On top of that – who do I call? It was just me and the pooch up at the cabin that weekend, and I haven’t yet taught my dog to drive. This is when I started thinking about other blogs I’ve read of women cyclists. I read some awesome blogs with some badass gals who bike. I’ve noticed though that they have all mentioned fear at one time or another – whether it was with traffic, or riding alone or using a new bike. I always think they are so brave… and here I was, biking alone, in a new area, and guess what? I was being brave!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but lately I haven’t been feeling very brave. I think my friends would say that I am, but that’s because I talk a good game. In truth, this depression and anxiety stuff has taken a real swing at my self confidence. It’s been hard. There are times when I feel like I am mired in a rut and don’t know how to find my way out. I’ve lost some of the faith I’ve always had in myself.

As I rode my bike though, I felt great, and as the miles passed, I started to think of other incidences when I’d been brave:

  • Getting married
  • And then getting divorced
  • Buying an old house
  • Choosing to live in that house, despite a lot of reasons not to
  • Deciding to get fit
  • Joining my boxing studio
  • and so on….

Even things that I am a little embarrassed about, like getting divorced, changed completely when I looked at them in this new light. It stopped being a failure. I made the brave and bold choice to marry someone and try to make a life with them, and when I knew it wouldn’t work out, I made the brave and bold choice to end it. I have a tendency to look at decisions where things went wrong (or didn’t turn out as I expected) as a failure on my part. I didn’t plan enough, I didn’t prepare enough, I ignored the little warning signals, this is my fault. Instead I started to turn them around to think of those choices as bravery – being brave means stepping out of your comfort zone, and sometimes ignoring your own warning signals and doing something anyway.

We are all brave. Each of us had made leaps of faith. Even if they didn’t turn out as we wanted, we had the guts to take that step. That’s something to be proud of.

This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Happiness isn’t Made with a Cookie Cutter

Lack of passion

Oh, shut up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and happiness. It started with a question – if I wanted to change careers, what would make me happy? It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward question, but I didn’t know the answer. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous how we choose careers. Unless you know from birth what you want to be (and some people do have passion like that,) it’s hard to know what to pick. There should be some kind of “try out period” where you can sit in on different jobs and see what they are like before you commit. (And no, I am not talking about college.)

Trying to narrow this down I asked myself a couple of questions: 1) What would I do if money wasn’t an issue, and 2) What do I enjoy doing now? The first question wasn’t about a career, it was more about how would I spend money if I didn’t have to worry about earning it. I didn’t mean the lotto, because that’s a whole different kettle of fish, I just meant if whatever it was that I did paid “enough” what would I do? Most of the things on my list were pretty practical – I’d remodel the downstairs bath, I’d get another kayak, I would take more fitness classes. The only thing that really popped on my list as “extravagant” was that I would travel more.

Then I looked at what makes me happy now. Again they were simple things: walking with my dog, being on the water, spending time with people I care about, reading books, cooking and so on. I quickly figured out that while there are a lot of things I love, none of them were things I wanted to do as a career. I love to cook, but I don’t want to be a chef, I like paddling around in my kayak but I am not looking to become a guide, and so on. In fact, what it seemed like I would be best at was being retired!!

That’s when it hit me – I had gone through this same cycle when I was in my 20s and in college. I was trying to decide what to major in. My passion at that time was community theatre – as a volunteer, I didn’t want to be a professional actor or stagehand. So ultimately I decided to find a career that I enjoyed, but that was also stable, interesting, challenging and could support my “theatre habit.” I ended up in marketing since it beautifully combined my love of art and writing.

Now that I am in my 40s, all that holds true. I might be on a break from theatre, but the basic premise still holds true – I want a job that I enjoy and that I am good at that will support my lifestyle. I don’t have one huge dream to chase after, instead, I know what I want in my life, and I have set up my career to support that.

I admit that part of me feels like this is a let down. That somehow I should have this big… goal in my life, some grand dream. I don’t though, and you know what? That is okay. I can love riding my bike without having to race in a triathlon. I can have a career that I am proud of, without it being my “lifelong dream.” I can be good in business without feeling like I have to start my own. We push ourselves so hard to go big, to be the best, but how about just enjoying what we have right now?

That seems so unAmerican, right?

I’m tired of feeling like I am not meeting some kind of expectation because I’m happy with some fairly simple things. And I am tired of justifying those simple things. I’m fixing my life, but not by making any big changes – instead, I’m simply finding small ways to enjoy what I have now even more.

 

Anxiety and Me

Here’s what my anxiety looks like:

  • It’s the hyped up, heart racing jittery rush of being over caffeinated. It’s as if I consumed a half dozen expressos, a couple of candy bars and few handfuls of PopRocks. My breath feels short, I’m sweating and I have a stress headache.

    I'm so disappointed...

    I’m so disappointed…

  • There is a nagging feeling I have forgotten something, something really important. It’s a “I’ve left the oven on in Patrick Stewart’s condo and it’s going to burn down if I don’t turn it off soon.” kind of feeling. (You can pick any celebrity here, or anyone from whom it would be devastating to hear the words “I’m not angry, I’m just really disappointed in you.”) The problem is, I don’t actually know what it is I have forgotten. Truth is, I haven’t forgotten anything, but that reality doesn’t change how I feel.
  • I’m distracted, irritable and frustrated. I react too quickly. I want to punch the coworker who stands to close, sneer at the woman wearing that obnoxious shade of purple and scream at basically everyone on the road at the same time I am. While this is happening, I am perfectly aware that it is all me, so I try to be nice, I try to be calm. (It isn’t easy.)
  • At the exact same time, I am fragile. I am afraid of offending or hurting someone – particularly the people I care about.
  • I have a hard time settling down. I’m thinking about everything… and nothing all at once. My brain latches onto a thought and I run it around and around in circles in my brain, gnawing at it, until the thought becomes completely abstract. It loses meaning. Then another thought pops in.
  • I rush through things I should enjoy. I can’t relax in the garden, I have to hurry through it… though I don’t know why. I go for a walk on a beautiful morning, but I don’t enjoy it. All I can think about is getting back home, even though there is no reason to hurry.

The good news is that my anxiety isn’t debilitating. I can go to work and function just fine. At most, my coworkers might notice that I am a bit more quiet and considerate. I am aware of when anxiety is getting to me, so I take special care not to say, or do, anything I will regret. However fortunate I am that I can still work and take care of what I need to, it’s still hard.

The last couple of days I have been struggling with this. I went to boxing class last night hoping that I could work some of it off. Boxing is so intense that I was hoping I could release some of this uncomfortable energy. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

To start with, there is a reason why boxing is called “the sweet science.” It isn’t about just flailing away at something as hard as you can. There is a level of concentration required in how you hit. If you aren’t being deliberate, the bag will start to spin. As my instructor said, “Now you are hitting him in the back of the head… that isn’t so bad for street fighting, but it’s not allowed in boxing.” The class was a good distraction, (it’s hard to think about anything but the class,) but it didn’t give me quite what I was looking for.

The other problem was that I tired. My whole body was exhausted. I think the SUP class I took earlier in the week was harder on me than I realized. I didn’t feel as strong in the class as I usually do, and at the end I was completely exhausted – but not in that giddy “I left it all on the floor” kind of way that I usually do.

In fact, the best moment of the evening was when I was riding my bike back home from class. I was tired, but it was a beautiful night and the ride felt great. As I neared home, I decided to go an extra block and take the long way around, just for fun. I found out that the street leading to mine is one long, slow downward hill. I had this beautiful moment of sailing down the road at my top speed – wheeeee! Plus I knew that my house was at the bottom and I didn’t have to go back up! (Which is what I’m usually thinking about when I am coasting down a hill!)

So, I am just going to take care of myself this weekend and try to relax and remind myself of this quote by TS Elliot:

quote-T.-S.-Eliot

 

 

Life Changing Thoughts

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to write a post on therapy and how that is going. It’s hard though, really hard. Talking about my physical fitness adventures is a lot more fun! It also seems a lot less private. But let’s give it a go again and see if I can get one out of the draft box and into the published space, shall we?

Bravery

I’m going to start with a revelation I had while biking. That might be easier – I like writing about biking! I wrote about taking my bike up to the cottage a couple of weekend ago. While riding, I figured out something very important. It’s completely changed how I look at my life.

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that's a pun!)

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that’s a pun!)

A Little Background:

The week before I went to the cottage I had read a blog post by a woman who competes in triathlons. She was struggling with the bike portion – she wasn’t enjoying riding with certain groups, but at the same time, said she was afraid to ride alone. We’re talking about serious racing and long distances, not just little neighborhood jaunts or rides in the park like I do. I empathized with her dilemma.

Fast forward to the weekend at the cottage:

I’m tooling around on my one speed cruiser and meandered my way to the ice cream parlor. I thought it was going to be a fairly decent ride, but had grossly underestimated the distance. It took me… eight minutes. I had my ice cream, but the plan had been to take a nice long ride and then get ice cream. I felt a little cheated, and not quite ready to pedal home, so instead I went over to the nearby rail trail. It was nice. It was gorgeous going through the woods, wildflowers were in bloom everywhere. At first, I saw other people pretty regularly, but the further I got, the fewer I saw. Then I heard it –

The unmistakeable sound of a gun being fired.

This rail trail goes through some pretty rural country. You are on the backsides of farms and pretty rustic homes. A gun going off isn’t really that surprising. There are hunting ranges nearby and undoubtably a fair amount of target practice going on. I was dressed brightly and I was mostly sure that no one would fire a gun towards the trail, but still, it gave me pause. If I got into a jam, there is really no one I can call. It’s not like I can call my dog and have him come pick me up, (he’s a terrible driver and I don’t let him have a cell phone.) I have the phone number of one neighbor by the cottage, but how could she even get to me? I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Let’s put aside the shot for a moment, what happened if I got a flat tire or hit a root and fell off my bike? What do I do?

And that is when I remembered the blog about why the triathlete doesn’t like riding alone. I thought about it as I rode. I didn’t feel particularly scared, just a little cautious, and suddenly this thought floated across my brain….

You are brave.

This is something I have been struggling with. If you have been following this blog at all you know that I am really excited about all this fitness stuff that I’ve been doing, and one of the great things about it is that it makes me feel brave. I do things now that I never would have done a few years ago. Part of the reason this has been so important to me is because I haven’t been feeling very brave. But in that moment, with that one thought, everything changed.

I thought about it all the way back to my cabin, and then was so caught up in the idea that grabbed an old notebook and went to sit on the picnic table to write and think about it some more. There are a couple of big things that happened in the last 15 years or so that really kicked the snot out of my concept of bravery. They’ve stuck with me and made me feel out of control and sad, but as I sat writing at the picnic table that night, brave things started popping up. There are things I’ve done that are brave. 

  • I flew cross the country to meet my father’s long lost cousins, on my own, barely knowing anyone. I had met one of the cousins once, for about an hour, but when she invited me to come out and stay a week with her and her family, I just got up and went.
  • I own my house (which is a rental unit, so I am a landlord,) and my cabin. I take care of both these somewhat complicated properties on my own.
  • I got married.
  • I got divorced. (Both were acts of bravery.)
  • I regularly give seminars in front of large groups of people. I fly all over the country, by myself, to teach.
  • I stepped out of the familiar and decided to lose weight for the first time ever.
  • I started lifting weights.
  • and so on…

As I wrote, more and more acts of bravery started pouring out of my head. Even things I had earlier classified as decisions made on fear, I was able to turn around and see the brave acts within them. It completely changed my perspective on my life – in particular those parts that hurt.

I also realized that I have been struggling to regain my sense of bravery, and that a lot of my work over the last year has been trying to get back into my old groove – to feel like myself again. These rail trail bike thoughts helped enormously. I’ve got some decisions to make coming up, and it is hard to choose the right path when you are hamstrung with anxiety. Recovering my sense of strength is a step on the right path.

Flooded Heart trail