Who are You Going to Listen To?

Here’s a quick recap for those of you who don’t really know me or have lost touch.  I got hurt badly in a fall just before law school.  Already significantly overweight before law school, the injury, horrible diet (can you say free pizza?) and hours and hours of studying coupled with a completely sedentary lifestyle added up to a middle-aged woman who was not just morbidly obese – I was “super obese.”

Some years later, through changes in diet, DDP Yoga (check it out – it’s amazing) and putting on a pair of running shoes for the first time in my life, I lost over 100 pounds.

My Facebook feed was full of photos of the meals I prepared and notifications from Nike Running Club that I was going for a run.  When people “liked” my post, the app would cheer.  It was really motivating!  I attempted a half marathon in 2015 and was “swept” at mile 8 (I couldn’t maintain the minimum pace).  I didn’t give up.  I was training for a “rematch” with the same half marathon course when I read a Facebook post written by a law school classmate who I considered a close friend.

I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist of the post was that people who aren’t serious athletes shouldn’t post about their workouts – that we just are attention seekers and our “friends” don’t really care about our workouts.  Especially guilty were those of us who enter a competition and fail to complete it.  I was devastated.  He didn’t write my name, but I was all of those things.  I did manage to finish the 2016 half marathon attempt (just barely), but afterward, I lost my mojo.  I would run a few times a month, but I never got back into a predictable schedule.

I stopped posting, so I lost the “cheers.”  I stopped running, so I lost the endorphins that exercise releases.  I started eating potato chips again.  Life took some really tough turns, and instead of going for a run to ease the anxiety, I turned back to food.  Over time, I packed on nearly 50 pounds of weight.

As a self-employed person, my health insurance premiums became really expensive.  I switched from traditional health insurance to a health share plan, and in order to be approved, I had to agree to work with a health coach.  He doesn’t tell me what to do.  He helps me to set goals, and when we check in every week or so, he asks me how I did.  With his help, I’ve dropped 30 pounds.

I’ve missed running.  I’m very slow, so running any distance requires a significant time commitment for me.  My “homework” from my coach a couple of months ago was to sign up for a race.  I signed up for the Cleveland Rite-Aid Marathon Weekend 5K / 10K Challenge which was held this weekend (May 19-20, 2018).  The “overachiever” in me couldn’t just sign up for the 5K.  I had earned 3 medals in 2016 for completing a challenge, so registered for both the 5K and 10K and I set out to repeat that feat.

Here in Ohio, the weather has been miserable.  To top it off, my left foot has decided to grow some benign, but uncomfortable “lumps.”  These two factors combined to make a very serviceable excuse to skip training runs.  I skipped lots of them.  Basically, I didn’t train – I just ran a couple of times when the weather was nice.

I checked the weather forecast mid-week.  Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be stormy.  I ran the 5K / 10K in 2016 when Cleveland had sleet, hail and thundersnow (yes, that’s a real thing) in mid-May.  I nearly didn’t pick up my race packet.

By Friday morning, the forecast had improved.  The forecast showed clear windows for both races.  I posted about not being ready and about my food hurting, and a running friend (an ultramarathoner, no less) encouraged me to join the ranks of the injured and undertrained and do it anyway – so I did.

Saturday was the 5K.  I did really well.  I ran the fastest 5K I’ve run since I started running again.  I was stoked.  Sunday, I arrived at the start and it started raining.  I very nearly turned back, got on the train and made my way back to my car.  The voice of my “friend” was back in my head.  I was going to finish near the very back of the pack.  I hadn’t made it to anywhere near 6 miles in my training runs, and to be honest, other than yesterday’s 5K, I had only run once or twice in the past month.

I was just about to allow my “friend’s” imaginary voice that was telling me that I did not belong on the course to persuade me to return to the car when another  law school classmate saw me and talked to me for quite some time.  He was running his first race.  That brief conversation gave me a minute to chase the other classmate out of my head.

I was sore from the 5K.  I held back the first half of the race because I knew that I was under-trained and I was virtually certain to run out of steam.  I was fine until about mile 4.5 when we had to climb a really steep hill.  I was really tired.  I wasn’t in pain, but it was hard to make my feet go faster than a slow walk.  My pace had dropped, and that guy’s voice in my head was working on me again – “You didn’t train for this.  Nobody cares about your posts.  Nobody cares about your run.  You’re a fake!”

I was discouraged.  I felt like crying when a voice cried, “Betty!”  Yet another law school classmate stopped in the middle of her own race to grab me and wrap me in a hug.  Take that, “mean guy.”  People do care.

The last mile and a half was slow, but I didn’t care.  I was soaked to the skin (the rain never did completely stop) and out of energy, but I had a grin on my face that nobody could erase.  I crossed the bridge over the Cuyahoga River that was just before the finisher’s chute.  I collected my medal.  I found my way to the tent where I received another medal for the completing two races in one weekend, and ran into yet another law school classmate.  She cared, too.

This is a long, long story.  The moral of the story is be careful who you allow as a “tenant” in your head.  Nearly every time I post on social media about a run or a race, I receive a whole bunch of “likes,” which I translate as a positive thing.  Maybe it *is* attention seeking, but if that little reward keeps me on the track or trail, I think it’s worth it.  Anyone who is not interested has the power to block, unfollow or simply “mute” me on social media.

I allowed one post by someone who was probably going through his own issues YEARS ago to be an excuse not to do things that are good for me.  Even sadder, that same guy wrote a post a couple of months ago apologizing to his social media friends for basically being a jerk a couple of years ago.  Months later, I was still allowing his years-old post to be my excuse for not trying.

I ran more than 9.3 miles this weekend, most of them in a cold, miserable rain.  I didn’t use an app that “cheered” me, but I received live, in person love from people I haven’t seen in person in years.  I collected 3 medals to hang from the cane that I used to need to hobble around my law school.  Most importantly, I’ve issued an eviction notice to the imaginary “friend” in my head because I don’t want to renew his lease.  It’s time for him to go.

The announcer at the race said that 15,000 people were registered for today’s events.  The fact that I found three people I knew, some at just the right moment to keep me from “throwing in the towel,” and one to share my joy in having finished went beyond coincidence.  I believe in miracles, friendship and a bit ‘o luck.  Today I experienced all three.

To all of the people who have told me that I am an inspiration and the reason they started doing something hard – whether it was going back to school or exercising – even running: I’m back.  Being told that you’re an inspiration can be uncomfortable.  I wonder why people say that sometimes because I am so imperfect.  Perhaps it is that very imperfection that inspires.  I get back up time and time again.  It’s okay to stumble.  It’s okay to lose your way from time to time.  Finding your way back to the path  is what matters.  Thank you for believing in me when I stopped believing in myself.

To the friend who accidentally found his way into my head:  I didn’t write this to call you out.  It looks like your life today is going in a fantastic direction.  I miss you and I’m proud of you….I just don’t want you in my head anymore.  Okay?

The moral of the story is:  when you have to choose between listening to people who love you and want you to succeed and people who are going through a hard time and complaining about something they don’t like on social media, choose wisely!

Peace out, I’m going to go hang up my medals!

~Be~

 

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Comfort and Joy

Happy New Year!  I’m quite late for a New Year post, I know, and believe me, that’s actually a good thing.  You see, 2016 is the year when I make good on my promise to be good to myself.

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Historically, I have run in the new year and then spent hours poring over journal entries and blog posts from the previous year, decade, etc. to see where I’ve come from, and what track my life is taking.  This year was different – the clock struck midnight and my husband and I shared a sparkling grape juice toast with our youngest son before heading upstairs – together – and falling peacefully asleep.  There was no attempt to review the past – no tears shed at past hurts, and only one resolution:  to be good to myself.

2016 is the year of comfort and joy.  This is the year of self care and learning to say, “no,” when necessary.  I’m taking time (and making time) to do the things that bring me joy.  I’m allowing myself to enjoy the things that bring me comfort.

This is the year of silly songs at the break of dawn, loose leaf tea in fancy teacups, essential oils that smell like liquid joy or comfort in a bottle, and beautiful fibers that wind themselves into scarves and blankets while my eyes watch the television.

Thanks to the efforts of my husband and children, I once again have a “sacred space,” (named the Betty Room by my hubby) where I can sit quietly to read, pray, meditate, and contemplate.  I’m also getting a new bathtub with enough depth to soak – more comfort (and some joy, too).

My first bit of advice for 2016 is to make room for comfort and joy in your own life.  Experiences that comfort us and that allow us to feel joyful replenish the energy that we deplete when we give.  Although giving to others without expectation of receiving anything in return brings its own rewards, when people take from us without giving, over and over, it can take a spiritual and physical toll.  Seek out joy.  Seek out comfort.  Make your own happiness, and then share from that vessel that is no longer empty.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We can pray for comfort and joy, or we can seek it out. I had a difficult Monday with a difficult adversary in a difficult proceeding at work.   It was bitterly cold, and when I stopped my car for gasoline, I opened my back door to retrieve a hat.  When I went to shut the door, it would not latch.  Believing it to be frozen, I took it to a local auto repair place hoping they could quickly thaw it so that I could be on my way to a court proceeding.  It turned out to be a broken latch, not a frozen one, and replacement parts had to be ordered.  There was no way to fasten the door shut (except, possibly the rope and duct tape that my cousin suggested) for the 45 mile drive, so I had to beg for mercy from the party with all of the power in that situation.  The tone for the tense email exchange that followed was probably largely imaginary.  The tone of the voice in my head as I read the email response was set by the morning I had already had.

I wouldn’t go nearly so far as call that person an enemy, but it nevertheless the terse nature of the exchange (real or imagined) created a drain on my joy.  I set my little table with one of my favorite teacups as I brewed a fragrant pot of tea.  I rubbed a few drops of my favorite essential oil blends on my temples, and I allowed the aromas from the tea and the oil to surround me with beauty, comfort and joy.  That’s probably not what the Psalmist had in mind, but soon I was singing again.

My husband said, “boy, you’re in a good mood!”  I explained my quest for comfort and joy.  Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.”  When you’re faking joy, though, it quickly becomes real as it infects others with smiles (or even laughs).

I’ve had a tough week so far, but my cup runneth over.  Being good to myself is my only resolution for 2016.  Actively seeking comfort and joy is the first step toward achieving success.

Happy 2016.

~Be~

We’re All Winners!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I believed that “participant” trophies and awards for every child on a little league team or bowling team were silly.  After all, we need to teach these kids that we don’t all win, right?

I believed in my own misguided way that it was okay for just the “winners” to get trophies.  Sure, the coach should take everyone for ice cream, but they don’t all need sprinkle – “Sprinkles are for WINNERS!”  You get the drift…

I believed that – I really did.  Then something unexpected happened:  I discovered running.

Now my wall in my workout area is adorned with bling from races in Ohio, Florida and Nevada.  I’m signed up for three more in the upcoming months, each with its own medal (or at least a shirt!).  I’ve never won a race.  Several times I’ve been dead last, but I won that medal fair and square.  Sprinkles may be for winners, but medals are for finishers, and I want mine!

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The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

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I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I took back my life a little over a year ago.  I began exercising regularly, I improved my diet, I made a vow to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative, and my life has improved drastically as a result.  Although I am still quite overweight, my health and fitness have improved to the point that most of my limitations are gone.  It’s a great feeling.

As a part of the changes I joined a number of facebook groups filled with others who are facing or have faced similar challenges.  As a result, I see a lot of articles about “fat shaming,” “fit shaming,” and “fat acceptance.”

I’m not sure why we need all of these labels.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just get along?  No amount of fat shaming could make me lose weight.  It made me feel even worse about myself, which led to poor self esteem and misusing food as a comfort device.  fat acceptance isn’t terribly helpful either.  Someone telling me that they love me “just the way I am/was” still made me feel like a fat slob.  We don’t tell slim people “I love you despite your fitness.”

I’m encountering a new phenomenon online (not in my personal life yet) in which a once unhealthy individual is being shunned by friends after adopting a healthy lifestyle.  That’s “fit shaming.”  I don’t know whether the shunning is due to the individuals’ unpreparedness to face their own health issues or whether it’s because the newly fit person talks a lot about her new lifestyle (I know I’m certainly guilty) and the old friends can’t relate.

We’re all people.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  There are people in my life who are suffering from lifestyle-induced illnesses just as I was.  I accept them as people – not “fat” people.  There are people in my life who get tired of hearing about my runs and races and my new shoes, I’m sure.  I’m fortunate that they still talk to me anyway.

I feel accepted.  Most of the time I felt loved and accepted at 300+ pounds.  I don’t think people like me more or less because I’ve lost weight.  I’m not ashamed of where I am.  I’m not ashamed of where I was.  Every step of this journey teaches me more about myself and about others.

Fat or fit, gay or straight, black or white, we are worthy of love and acceptance.  Meet people where they’re at.  Leave the judgment for God.  Let’s all get along.

~Be~

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

I once read a popular book on relationships by John Gray, PhD.  It was titled Men are From Mars, Woman are From Venus.  The general concept that I gleaned from the pages was that men and women think differently.  When someone presents a problem, a man’s tendency is to try to solve the problem rather than responding with empathy or sympathy.  Women share their problems hoping for emotional support, rather than a problem-solving session.  The failure of the woman to appreciate the solutions offers is unsatisfying to the man, and the woman feels slighted because the man hasn’t given her the emotional response she had hoped for.  Chaos ensues.

By birth, I am a woman.  By vocation, I am a lawyer.  While I am still a woman (and happy that I am), my law school education changed how I respond to other people’s problems.  I have developed a tendency to listen, identify the problem, and offer a solution.  Sometimes I put hours of (unpaid) time into figuring out a legal solution to a problem that has been shared with me.  Imagine my shock and horror when, instead of thanking me for doing free legal research and offering a tangible solution, the person with the problem got ANGRY with me.

While it is not uncommon for lawyers to be maligned, most of us are pretty nice people.  We charge money for our time because it’s all we have to sell, but many of us provide pro bono services to indigent clients, help family members and volunteer our time for other good causes. Forget everything you learned about lawyers from reading lawyer jokes (please).

This week I had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated.  Her frustration stemmed from problems in an area that I have training and experience with.  As she shared her pain and frustration, my mental wheels started spinning.  I had solutions to those problems!  Just as I took a breath to deliver my well-thought-out plan, I heard a little voice in my head say, “Not your circus, not your monkeys.”  I swallowed my words and said nothing.  I listened.  I realized that not only did my friend probably already know the legal solutions to the problems, but she was also not the person who needed to act.  The situation was largely beyond her control.  She was telling her problem to her friend – not her lawyer.  Instead of giving in to the urge to fix the problem, I needed to offer emotional support to my friend.  She just needed to vent.

I’ve been a worrier since I was young.  If I’m not worrying about my troubles, I’ll worry about yours.  I finally understand what Mom meant when she warned me, “don’t borrow trouble.”

I posted earlier about wearing many hats.  Sometimes those many hats lead to confusion.  I am learning that when I am wearing the “friend” hat, I need to put the “lawyer” hat in the closet.  The lawyer hat tends to make me look like I’m from Mars, anyway.

It’s Not All About the Numbers

Today I rediscovered the joy of running.

One year ago today I bought my first “real” running shoes.  I was painfully slow, and filled with pain – both emotional and physical.  With each mile I ran, I found freedom.  For the first several months,all of my running was inside on the treadmill.  there I could run in the safety of home, with my television for entertainment, the air conditioning and ceiling fan for comfort, the bathroom mere steps away, and an unlimited supply of ice water whenever I wanted it.  I could run in shorts or pajamas.  I couldn’t imagine running outside.  That soon changed.

As the weather became nicer, I decided to venture out to the local high school track.  I couldn’t believe how different it felt.  I hated every step that first trip.  The wind made it harder to run.  There were people there who might secretly (or not so secretly) make fun of me.  They were all faster than me.  They had nicer running clothes, too.

I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I would ever really like running outside.  A friend commented that she wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind.  She was right.  I loved watching the scenery pass, and I loved the feeling of actually moving forward.  I enjoyed the sights and the sounds and the sensations.  Sometimes I ran with music, and sometimes I listened to the wind and the birds.

Soon I was running at the track on a regular basis.  I “branched” out and began running around town and on local trails.  As winter fell, I found I hated the treadmill.  I had fallen in love with running.

Although I tracked my pace and was delighted to watch it improve, I didn’t focus much on my pace.  That all changed when I signed up for my first half marathon.  I knew it was an ambitious undertaking.  I had started as a person who needed to lose fully one half of her body weight.  I couldn’t walk a mile without stopping.  The race I signed up for had a time limit.  I was slow (I still am).  Not only was I asking my body to move much farther than it ever had before, I was demanding that it do so at a particular rate of speed.

I began tracking my pace on every run.  I tend to get a little obsessive about certain things.  Soon I was running with three different apps open, each with a particular feature the others didn’t have.  The joy of running turned into anxiety about a slower than average day, or the fact that I hadn’t improved over the previous week.  I pushed my body harder and faster, and when the race came, I still couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I got swept.  It was terribly disappointing.

Upon my return to the gym, I downloaded more apps that did more things.  I put a sensor on my shoe and obsessed about whether or not the apps were properly calibrated for the indoor track.  I lost sight of the joy I had found and focused on the numbers as a measure of success.

It’s been a long, cold winter.  When the sun came out today, I went back to the high school track where I took that first outdoor run.  I turned on an app to track my pace, but I turned off the feedback about pace and distance.  I listened to music.  I ran “faster” for one minute, then “slower” for the next minute.  I didn’t stress about my pace.

When my run was finished, I looked at the stats.  My pace wasn’t half bad, but that wasn’t what was important.  I got out there.  I ran.  I burned calories.  I sang.  I had fun.  I remembered why I started this running business in the first place.