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.

A Subtle Sunrise

Easters were special growing up.  We colored dozens of eggs.  Mom made homemade candies and molded bunnies.  I wore a new dress every year.  Some years Mom made the dress for me.  The white shoes came out of storage (forget Memorial Day!) and we posed for pictures in the back yard in our finest.

My Aunt would buy bags and bags of the left-over Easter candy and a week or so after Easter, we would have a big candy hunt with all of the cousins.  Life was simple.

We didn’t always attend sunrise service, but I remember being excited to go.  Some years, it would be very cold, and I would insist on wearing my thin Spring dress (often sleeveless) no matter how loudly my teeth chattered.  Although I can vividly remember some of those dresses (and the hand-crocheted shawls Mom made to go with them), I cannot remember the sunrises.  In my imagination, they were vivid  – as we sang hymns, the bright ball of the sun peeked over the horizon and the angels sang.  In my imagination, it was quite a spectacle – worthy of motion picture awards.

This morning, My dear sister-in-law and I decided to go to sunrise service.  It was cold (low 40s), and the service was being held on the shores of Lake Erie, where ice covered the water mere days ago.  I had no Easter dress, and as an adult, common sense ruled and I wore my heaviest wool pants, two sweaters, a winter jacket and woolen socks under my winter boots.  I carried a travel mug of steaming coffee.  I was prepared.

The rest of the early morning worshipers dressed like me.  Nary a light spring dress with bare arms was to be found.  In the pitch black darkness, we sat on rough wooden benches, our backs to the frigid lake.   As the service began at 6:45 a.m., the sky began to lighten just enough to read the prayer on the bulletins we were handed.

Our Pastor shared the scripture from Mark 16 – “…trembling and bewildered, the women found the empty tomb and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

This account lacks the drama from the Passion Play.   Mark doesn’t tell us about Jesus’ appearance to his followers.  There are no vivid beams of light streaming from the empty tomb.  No heavenly chorus – no trumpets – only frightened women fleeing.

As we said the closing prayer and sang the remaining hymns, the sky continued to brighten. There was no startling contrast, no brilliant colors.  The lake didn’t sparkle.  It was quite dreary (and still very cold).  Pastor told us how some evenings when vespers is held at the same location, the sunset is stunning.  Other times, like this morning’s sunrise, it is just a subtle transition from one day to another.

I wish that I had more time this morning to sit and contemplate that subtle sunrise.  Instead, I came home, downed a cup of coffee and cooked breakfast for seven.  After breakfast, I boiled eggs to color with one of the grandchildren who had spent the night. As my daughter helped him dye the eggs, I began preparation for the family celebration as we came together to enjoy fellowship (and food!)

After lunch, the children scampered through the yard looking for brightly-colored plastic eggs filled with candy.  While I was inside the house being busy, the day had transformed completely.  The cold had disappeared and the sun shone brightly. It was too nice to go back into the house, so we visited on the front porch.  It was a wonderful time.

With the last of the family guests gone, I took my opportunity for that quite contemplation that I missed earlier.  I donned my running tights and shoes and headed for the high school track.  I reflected on the cross, and the excruciating pain that would be involved in crucifixion.  I remembered Christ’s pleas for forgiveness for the people who were torturing and killing him.  I imagined the empty tomb, and this time my mental movie included this morning’s subtle sunrise, as the black night gave way to the soft gray of a cloudy morning.

My own life has changed a lot in the past year or so.  It’s been a slow process.  Some days I am disappointed that the changes aren’t mind-blowingly vibrant.  Other times, like today, I am grateful for the calm that fills me when I’m alone with the only sounds being those of nature around me and my feet striking the pavement.  As I took my final lap around the track, the sun began it’s gentle descent toward evening.  The bright ball in the sky was too bright for me to capture with my iPhone camera.  It was the kind of light that chases away any kind of sadness left in the corners of your mind.

I sat in the car and watched the light.  It was the kind of brightness that would be perfectly accompanied by angels’ voices and trumpets.  It filled me with awe, and calm.

Last week was difficult.  My mind was occupied with current events and political thoughts.  I spent energy uselessly pondering issues that are beyond my control and problems that aren’t even mine to solve.  While I was alone, in that moment, none of it mattered.

My subtle sunrise brought me calm.  The light that ensued brought me joy – and peace.sunset

The emotions today brought with it may be lost in translation, but the message for me came loud and clear – even a dreary, subtle sunrise can become a breathtaking day.

As the Easter hymns of my childhood echo in my mind, I am filled with joy.

He is risen [He is risen indeed!]

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~

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.

Celebrating Life – The Anniversary of My Decision to LIVE

Tomorrow is an important anniversary for me.  I will celebrate one year of learning to love life again.

Sometimes depression creeps  in unnoticed.  We keep on doing the things we need to do, but we stop caring about the things that used to matter to us.  We may continue to care about others, but we stop caring about ourselves.   For me, it was like that.  I can’t point to an event that triggered it.  I don’t know why things changed.  I just know that in the days and weeks leading up to March 9, 2014, I was in a dangerous place.  I didn’t think anybody really cared.

You see, at over 300 pounds I was having a lot of health issues.  Daily life was difficult.  Losing half of my body weight seemed like an impossible task to contemplate.  I was having “heart palpitations” and began to feel as if I was about to lose consciousness on more than one occasion.  I came to believe that I was dying.  Rather than seek medical help, I decided to let nature take its course.  I wasn’t about to take steps to actively end my life, but I didn’t want to make the effort to save it.  I guess you’d call it passive suicide.  My overeating and inactivity were robbing me of life in a very real way, and I didn’t care enough to stop it.

I wish I could tell you what, exactly, flipped the switch in my head.  On March 9, 2014, I made up my mind to call my doctor and ask him to prescribe an antidepressant medication.  It was a Sunday.  The office was closed, but I made up my mind.

I called first thing on Monday morning.  My doctor was out of the office for the week, but I had a prescription bottle and an appointment for the next week before noon that day.  Opening the bottle and putting the first pill in my mouth, I felt both a sense of failure for not being strong enough and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe I could feel better.

I have a group of online friends who I have “talked” with in various places for 7-8 years.  They are my invisible (not imaginary) friends.  I have plants they sent to my dad’s funeral to prove they exist.  I confessed to them my feelings of failure over needing medicine.

I confided in them about the tremendous loneliness and the feelings of isolation I was experiencing.  One of them suggested I try running.  I chuckled at the thought.  I tried going to the gym the next day.  I had a panic attack.  I couldn’t do it.  I was afraid of judgment.  I made my husband turn around and take me home.

A fellow attorney practicing in another part of the state (not one of the previously mentioned group of invisible friends) who I have never met in real life sent me a message suggesting we virtually work out  / run together and sign up for a race.

The “Arthur” video began showing up in my facebook feed over and over.  I’d watched it dozens of times before.  I’d even purchased the DDP Yoga videos in 2012, shed quite a few pounds,  and did a great job of learning to get off the floor (a skill I’d retained) before eventually giving up and going back to my old ways and regaining nearly every pound I had lost.

I watched the video again.  This time, when Arthur began running, the tears streamed down my face.

I’ve learned in my life that when I start getting the same message over and over from different sources, God is trying to tell me something.  I listened.  I decided that if I wanted to live badly enough to put medicine in my body, then I wanted to live badly enough to take back my life.  If Arthur could learn to walk again, and learn to run, then so could I.

Those of you who have followed me the past year know how the rest of the story goes.  I started walking, and then I began running slowly on the treadmill.  I got over the fear of the gym and added weights to my workout.  I hit the yoga mat and did some DDPYoga.  I swam laps.  I posted on Facebook (a lot).

Soon the weather warmed and the outdoors called.  I ran on the high school track.  I ran through town.  I ran on trails.  I ran on the beach.  Although I sometimes took Jimi the Wonder Dood with me, usually this was time to myself.  I started seeing the wonder in nature- in leaves and waves and birds.  I talked to God.  He talked back in rustling leaves and wind on my face.  He talked to me through “cheers” when friends “liked” my runs on Facebook.

It wasn’t quick or easy.  I still had days when sadness pressed on my heart and made it difficult to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  Slowly, though, I returned to the land of the living.  I stopped just going through the motions.  I devoted more time to getting my soul back in order through prayer, meditation and lots and lots of sweat.

The popular adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  I’m making lemonade and trying to give it away.  One year ago I really didn’t care if I lived or died.  One year ago, I thought that nobody cared.  One year ago I couldn’t have dreamed how wonderful life is today.

I still take those pills.  I take another for my thyroid and one for my blood pressure.  It’s part of my daily routine.  The pills didn’t fix me.  I had to do that myself with a lot of help from God and my friends and family.  I still run.  I still get sad once in a while.  It’s no longer overwhelming.

I’m a little frightened to post this, but I feel it is necessary.  It’s scary to admit that you struggle with depression.  I worry that it could hurt me professionally.  I fear that people will think less of me if they know that I have problems just like anyone else.  I believe that we need to move beyond the stigma that mental health issues hold.  I believe that if people in pain knew how many people suffer with them, people would be more inclined to seek help before it becomes easier to think about dying than to think about living.

Writing this blog post is me making lemonade.  It’s not the  “koolaid,” if it’s not your thing – move on.

I don’t believe that God tests us like Job in the Old Testament, but I do think that he gives us opportunities to understand and help others when we face trials.  I think that he gives us the grace to move through our challenges if we ask.  I think that when we are taught lessons paid for with blood, sweat and tears, it is only right to share the lessons that we have learned.

Please don’t give up.   Don’t passively wait for your vices and problems to kill you.  If you are depressed, there is hope.  Medicine is not shameful.  Therapy is not shameful.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Don’t be afraid of judgment.  Never, ever give up.

Today, I celebrate the life I have been given.  I am excited to see what the next 365 days holds. I am a work in progress.  Next year you will see another brand new me.  I can’t wait.

To those of you who have “liked,” “commented,” or “shared” my writing in the past, thank you for encouraging me.  To those of you who are new to this page, welcome.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you.

Today, I am celebrating life.  Welcome to the party.

~Be~

Ditch the Witch!

I wrote this several years ago (2012) at the beginning of one of my “practice starts” to my healthier lifestyle.

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There is this woman in my life – she makes things so hard

  • she never leaves me alone
  • she goes everywhere with me
  • she sleeps with my husband (that’s awkward!)
  • she makes me carry her up the stairs
  • she makes me carry her down the stairs
  • she shares my clothes
  • she eats my meals
She’s mean, too:
  • she won’t let me ice skate with my kids
  • she won’t let me ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point
  • she won’t let me do fun things with my husband

Every step I take, I carry her with me.

Letting the other woman into my life made sense at the time. She helped me hide from the people who might want to get too close.  She protected me from attention I couldn’t handle.  She helped me come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go for a walk or dance at a wedding.  She was my partner and co-conspirator (and made a wicked hot-fudge sundae, too!)

I weigh as much as two of the *real* me.

Every step I take is twice the work.

I’m going to ditch the witch!

She won’t go away all at once.   I’ll have to push her away ounce by ounce.  She knows she’s on her way out.  I’ve started packing her suitcase.  Most of the size 26 clothes are already in it.  She can have them.  I don’t need them.

I won’t send her away hungry.  The cupboard is full of processed foods with gluten and refined sugars.  She loves that stuff, so I’ll pack her a care package.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to run on the beach, ride roller coasters and chase kids and grandchildren.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to buy skinny clothes made for one person – not two.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I don’t need her anymore.

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Update:  her suitcase is getting pretty full.  She’s been given the eviction notice and she knows her time is limited.

I’ve added to the things I’m going to do when I ditch the witch

I’m going to run (and FINISH!) a half marathon.

I’m going to run up and down the stairs at the high school stadium

I’m going to zumba and kickbox and yoga and RUN her right out of my life.

I’m going to ditch the witch (3/4/2015)

The Bus of Shame (or, The Saddest Ride at Walt Disney World!)

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of participating in RunDisney’s Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort.  I lined up at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot  at Epcot Center with about 15,000 of my fellow runners for the happiest half marathon on the plant.

On the long walk to Corral “N,” we passed a large truck with the label “mass casualty response unit.”  This was more than a little disconcerting.  Still, although the air was chilly and I hadn’t had my coffee, I lined up and excitedly waited for the first group to be released at 5:30 a.m.  As you may have gathered, it takes some time to release nearly 15,000 runners on a course.  Consequently, I was still waiting to begin my run for another hour.  I spent that time reflecting on the journey that had brought me to where I was.

I thought back to the day in March 2014 when I took my first steps in several years on the treadmill.  I was elated when I finished my first mile.  Soon I traveled to a running store and purchased “real” running shoes and downloaded an handful of running apps.  Although I often felt slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, I kept going.

A few months later my lovely “bonus daughter” (also a runner), told me she was planning to run the Princess Half Marathon.  Although I knew it was a lofty goal for me, I registered and began training.  Over the course of 2014 and early 2015, I logged over 400 miles.  Sometimes life got in the way, and between unexpected life events and illnesses, I missed out on several significant blocks of training.  As the race date approached, I knew that I could go the distance, but my times were still slow, and I knew it was questionable whether I would be able to maintain the required minimum pace, although I was doing w11020486_10153158688958223_2338817202565848104_nell on my training runs on the nice flat, climate-controlled indoor track.

I obsessively checked my training times, read blogs about the wicked “balloon ladies,” (the pace group for the 16 minute/mile).  I crafted my tutu, packed my bags and felt moderately confident that I wouldn’t be “swept” and have to ride the “bus of shame” back to the finish line instead of running through the happiest finish line on earth.

By the time my corral was called, I was cold and my feet hurt from standing in one place.  My timing app wasn’t working right, my glasses were fogged and smeared so I couldn’t read the screen anyhow, my earbuds were malfunctioning, and I had absolutely no clue what my pace was.  I just knew it felt slow.

I had a blast running among other “princesses” (and a few princes) wearing tutus (the princes, too!).  I pumped my fist as I ran by the speakers playing the theme from Rocky.  I sang along to “Don’t Stop Believing”  and I smiled my way into the Magic Kingdom.  As I passed through the park, I remembered the long, long lines at the porta potties I’d passed, and I popped into a “real” bathroom.  Still blissfully unaware of my pace, I readjusted my tutu, washed and dried my hands and popped open a packet of caffeinated jelly beans.

As I joined the pack of princesses, I heard the news – the balloon ladies had passed by.  My trip to the bathr10502162_10153159811733223_3231952080083691982_noom had cost me precious minutes, and now I had to try to fight my way through the pack of princesses to catch up.  I flew through Cinderella’s castle and as I exited the park again, I spotted the balloons waaaaay up ahead of me.

I tried my hardest to pick up the pace.  The news filtered through the pack that we had until Mile 8 to catch up, or we would be swept – transported to the finish.  I tried hard to weave through the other back of the pack princesses.  I could see the balloons getting closer.  We passed by several security people and I overheard one tell the other, “the race is over for these ones, whether they like it or not.”  I passed by a woman sobbing loudly.  I asked if she was okay, and she answered through tears that she was okay, just devastated that she wasn’t finishing.

I pushed harder even though I knew I was wearing myself out with 5 miles left to go.  I could see Milepost 8, and I could see the balloons.  As the balloons passed the mile marker, two large buses pulled across the road.  Medics were there to help those who needed assistance, and we were asked to board the bus.

The driver told us each, “great job.”  The ride back to Epcot seemed to take a very long time.  There wasn’t a smile to be seen.  We had been swept.  We were on the vehicle that had been dubbed “The Bus of Shame” by numerous bloggers.  My heart sunk.  My Facebook was broadcasting my splits to my friends.  I really thought I could do it.  I had failed to reach my goal.  I was sad.

As we exited the vehicle, some of the wonderful volunteers staffing the event met us with high fives and medals.  Although we had not finished the 13.1 miles, they draped a shining medal around each of our necks.  They showed us where to get our bananas, our drinks and our snack boxes.

I wandered over to the “real” finish line for a few minutes and watched the crowd cheer for those who were finishing.  My heart sunk into my shoes, and I moped my way back to the bus that would return me to my hotel for a much needed shower.

I called my husband, and told him I’d only made it 8 miles.  I posted on Facebook that I’d only made it 8 miles.  I waited for my bonus daughter  (who finished!  Yay for her!!!) Then, I took a nap.

Naps fix almost everything – especially attitudes.

My high school friend, Lyle, posted one of my statuses from early 2014 on my wall – one where I was overjoyed that I was able to run for a handful of minutes without stopping.  It was at that moment that I realized there was absolutely no shame in having been swept after 8 miles.

I thought back to my first 10K race in September.  I finished dead last, but I was thrilled to have finished.  That race was only 6.2 miles.  My Disney run was 2 miles longer (more if you count the long hike to the corrals before it even began!)

Since I started running in March 2014, I’ve completed four 5K races and a 10K.  Yesterday I finished my 500th mile.  I’ve run on trails and tracks and through parking lots.  I’ve had scores of wonderful experiences and only a handful of negatives.  Best of all, I’ve lost over 70 pounds, I’ve regained the ability to physically do many things that I couldn’t dream of for a number of years, and I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

Although that bus ride was still the saddest ride at Walt Disney World, there is no “Bus of Shame.”  Every back of the pack princess on that bus was someone who set a lofty goal and spent many hours training getting to mile 8.  While I apologize to the runners who had to fight their way through the pack in order to pass me, I’m so glad that I tried.  I’ll be back next year, and I may even wear a tiara.  10959471_10153161521318223_290637641601916152_n

They Call it the Present Because it’s a Gift

There is no time like the present.  I really mean that.  Right now is the time to start doing whatever it is that you know that you need to do but have been avoiding.  You may think it’s too big.  You may think you’re not ready.  Whatever idea it is that you have in your head that’s holding you back, get RID of it.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  I’ve used every excuse out there.  I can justify anything.  I’m the master procrastinator.  I’d go see my doctor and he’d bug me about my weight.  My line was always, “One thing at a time.  I’ll deal with (fill in the blank), and then I’ll work on the weight.”

I dealt with the broken leg, the thyroid, the illness and death of several people close to me, undergrad, law school, setting up a law practice, and countless crises that come with the territory of being a wife, mother and human being. When I had bloodwork, my numbers were good.  Although I was borderline hypertensive, my A1C and lipids were good.  I prided myself on being “healthy fat.”  I had a love affair with Ballreich’s potato chips and anything sweet or salty.

Just about a year ago I was sitting at my office conference table with three friends who were in my Rotary Club.  We were discussing what needed to happen and how to get things rolling.  As one of my colleagues was talking, I realized that the room was fading.  I broke into a cold sweat.  My heart was doing weird jumpy things, and I couldn’t concentrate.  I considered asking one of my friends to call my husband to take me to the hospital.  I was feeling that strange.  However, I said nothing.  I concluded the meeting, went upstairs to my office and collapsed into my chair.  I was chilled and clammy. I wondered if I was sick or dying, and at the moment, I wasn’t sure if I cared.  Life wasn’t much fun.  I had a hard time moving on the best of days.  I was tired of watching the people who I cared about get sick and die.

Whatever happened was happening to me passed.  I went about my business and finished up the day.  I didn’t pass out, die, or get sicker.  I also didn’t say anything to anyone about what had happened.  In retrospect, it was probably an anxiety attack, but in that moment it felt like death was knocking at the door.

I got up the next morning and realized that something had to change.  I had put off going to the doctor because I didn’t want to have the conversation about my weight.  I hadn’t been on a scale in months.  I don’t know exactly how heavy I was, but it was a big scary number, and it was only one of my problems.

I posted in a Facebook group full of ladies I met on another internet site that I was having some troubles in my life that had me feeling very discouraged.  One of those ladies suggested I look for a group called Moms Run This Town.  She said that not only would I feel better getting some running in, but the other ladies would be great listeners as I worked through my issues.  I thanked her, and laughed silently at the thought of me running anywhere.

Over the course of the next week or two, more people suggested I try running.  One offered to train with me for a 5K race.  Although we lived miles apart, and the training together would be virtual, I agreed to give it a try.  That night I put on my walking shoes and dusted off the treadmill.  I walked a mile.  It took a good, long time, but it felt good.

I remembered a line from The Shawshank Redemption.  Red said, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I decided to get busy living.  I’d been just simply going through the motions for far too long.

When I first started exercising, it felt like I would never be able to “run” a mile without stopping.  In those first weeks, I spent lots of time holding on to the side rails of the treadmill and supporting a good part of my weight with my arms.  Still, I faithfully got on that treadmill night after night.

Time passed, and I got up the courage to go to a running store for a pair of real running shoes.  They didn’t laugh at me.  I didn’t get sarcastic comments or rude remarks.  I left the store with a box with a pair of shoes that cost a good chunk of change and I vowed not to let them gather dust in the closet.  I vowed that if God would just let me live long enough to undo some of the damage I had done to my body, I would enjoy life again.

As I progressed, I left the safety of the house for the high school track and then trails at local parks.  I began participating in 5K and 10K races.  I marvelled as a doe and fawn watched me run.  I came alive listening to the sounds of nature.  I began looking for new places to run.  I visited parks and neighborhoods in my town that I had never been to in the 15 years that I have lived here.

I’ve listened to music of every genre, waved at hundreds of strangers, learned to enjoy a good sweaty run, and I’ve enjoyed (nearly) every moment of it.  I’ve learned that chocolate tastes better if you have to run a mile to earn a piece, and that potato chips are still my kryptonite.

Since that day in March 2014, I have run over 450 miles.  Today, I ran a half marathon on the indoor track at my gym.  In two weeks, I will repeat that feat at Walt Disney World dressed as Ursula from The Little Mermaid.  I can hardly wait.  I’m still 100 pounds overweight, but I can run a half marathon.

half marathon

I’ve done a lot of reviewing the past year.  What does it have to do with the present?  I’m still here.  I’m healthier than I’ve been in years.  I’m happier than I’ve been in years.  My life is still not perfect, but life is sweeter because I received a wakeup call.  Only when I thought that I might possibly be dying did I realize how sweet life really is.  I don’t take my life for granted any longer.  I want to live long enough to dance at the grandchildren’s weddings.  I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane on my 65th birthday.  None of those experiences are promised.  Life is sweet and it can be cut short in a moment.  When you “get busy living,” every moment, even the sad ones, is a gift.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with.  I don’t know what battle you are waging and which side is winning.  I do know that whatever you want to happen, there is no better time than right now to start doing something about it.  If you want to lose weight, get up and walk right now.  Don’t wait until Monday to start your exercise program.  If you want to write a book, grab your pen and write an outline.  If you want to learn to play Rhapsody in Blue, get up and play the first page as slow as you have to play it to get all of the fingers in the right place.

If you want to run a half marathon, put one on the calendar.  Pay the registration.  Recruit a partner.

There is no time like the present.  Tomorrow is not promised.  You will never regret starting right now.  A year from now you’ll wonder why you waited so long.  I promise.

It isn’t all about you

It’s sometimes difficult to look at the big picture.  I’ve often been guilty of seeing only how something affects me and not how the same circumstance affects those around me.  It’s human nature.  I don’t wear the other person’s shoes, so it’s not always easy to know how they feel.  At the same time, not knowing what is plaguing others, it’s easy to misinterpret bad moods, scowls and just plain lack of friendliness as a personal assault when it’s quite possible that the person is actually distracted or consumed by events that have absolutely nothing to do with me.

Nearly two decades ago a very wise woman listened to my complaint of the day and said, “Betty, it’s not all about you.”  I was taken aback.  I felt attacked.  I was pouring out my heart to someone who was there to listen, and she had the NERVE to tell me that my pain wasn’t about me.  Seconds later, she said, again, “It’s not all about you...  and you can be so glad it isn’t.”

I learned all about “Jesus Christ Syndrome” from that wise woman.  She told me that I “take on the sins of the world.”  I really do tend to blame myself for a lot of things.  I say “I’m sorry” a lot.  My friend once challenged me to go an entire week without apologizing to anyone for anything (I didn’t make it).

This morning I had a reminder that “it’s not all about me.”

My husband and I go to the gym together.  I had a rough start last year.  Actually, I had a (couple of) false start(s) last year.  I was extremely obese, self conscious, and absolutely sure that everyone would be starting at me at the gym.  I invented errands to do on the way to the gym and the errands gave me opportunities to become very upset with my poor husband about something dumb and as a result, I had an excuse to demand that he take me back home without setting foot in the gym.

After two of those incident, I finally made it past the front desk.  The staff were smiling and the other members were not staring at me.  I had a good time and it soon became a habit.  I’ve been going regularly now for about 6 months, and until recently I’ve never had a negative experience.  Recently, though, things changed.

There is a male staff member at the gym whose actions today reminded me that it isn’t all about me.  I smile a lot and I say good morning to just about everyone.  It’s just how I am.  This guy never smiles back.  Sometimes, when I am walking my warm-up laps around the track, he stands in the middle of the track to watch Fox news.  He never smiles.  He rarely makes eye contact.  He exudes contempt.

I was really very happy this morning.  Think about Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, and you’ll get a good idea of how bouncy I was feeling.  I was jamming out to Time Warp, Funky Town, and other favorite tunes as I walked around the track when I came upon Mr. Muscles directly in my path.  I gave him a big smile and said, “good morning!”  He looked right at me, locked eyes for an uncomfortable second or two and said NOTHING.

I checked my clothing for stains.  I sniffed to see if I smelled funny.  I ran my fingers through my hair, made sure that I was walking the correct direction around the track, checked my shoes for dog poop and concluded that I was okay, but that he either has a problem with women in general or just with fat women.  Whatever caused him to stare me down was obviously my fault.  I wondered what I did wrong.  I finished the workout avoiding all possibility of making eye contact with him.  I lost the bounce in my step, and felt my Tigger mood transition to Eeyore.

I finished my workout and dashed down the steps, collected my belongings from the locker room and got in the car.  Once we were in the safety of our car, I turned to my husband and asked him if he had noticed the tall blonde staff member wearing the Lifeguard shirt.  He said he knew who I was talking to.  I told him that I thought I must have irritated him because he wouldn’t even say “Good Morning.”  He chuckled and said, “it’s not about you – it’s him.”  Darling Hubby, too, had tried to engage Mr. Muscles.  He didn’t get as far as I did because Mr. Muscles wouldn’t even make eye contact.

Darling Hubby said, “It’s obvious that guy doesn’t like his job.  He doesn’t want to be here.  He doesn’t like the members.  He doesn’t like the work.  He probably won’t be here long.”

I don’t know if Darling Hubby is right on all accounts or not.  Mr. Muscles may work at the gym for a long time, but I do think he’s likely correct in stating that Mr. Muscles isn’t a happy guy.  It’s not all about me, and I’m so glad it isn’t!

Today was a good reminder that it’s not all about me.   Just as nobody else is responsible for my happiness, I’m not likely to single-handedly ruin someone else’s day very often – especially not a stranger.

One key to my happiness is to live my life trying to do the right thing.  The words below have often been attributed to Mother Teresa.  I don’t know if she actually said them, but  I love them.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

It’s not all about you, and aren’t you glad it isn’t?

Everybody has a story

I’ve never attended a twelve-step meeting, but I’m familiar with the one day at a time concept.  I have often used it, or variations (one semester at a time, one month at a time…you get the idea) to deal with difficult or stressful events.  I got through law school 16 weeks at a time.  I told myself that I could do anything for 16 weeks, and having resolved to do so, I finished on schedule.

I started making some big changes in my life in March.  There was no plan.  I was afraid that I was going to die.  I had a couple of scary medical events.  I was hypertensive, morbidly obese, and full of excuses.  With a thyroid disorder, a busted up leg, severe arthritis, COPD and likely close to type II diabetes, I was a mess and convinced that my sedentary lifestyle and obesity were beyond my control.

One day in February I was in a meeting in my conference room and the room began to get black around the edges while a ringing in my ears got louder and louder.  I didn’t pass out.  The event passed and I lived in far that it might repeat itself. Soon thereafter, I was walking through the grocery store with my husband when I broke into a cold sweat.  I could feel my heart beating, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to crawl into bed and see if I lived until morning.

This pattern repeated itself a few times over the course of a few weeks.  I did not seek medical attention because I was convinced that my physician would scold me about my weight.  I had a gym membership that had been unused for at least 9 months.  Several times I got dressed for the gym only to have a panic attack on the way there and scream at my husband until he drove me back home.  I was convinced people would stare.  I was convinced people would laugh.  I was convinced that people would find me disgusting – and tell me so.

One day, I hit rock bottom.  My health was scaring me.  I was short-tempered, my family was bewildered, and I was depressed.  I went to the doctor.  He added a prescription for an anti-depressant to my list of meds and told me I needed to lose weight.  I said I would (like I had each time I saw him over the many years before), and scheduled my follow up visit.

The next day, I decided it was time to “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I dusted off the treadmill (we won’t talk about the thickness of the dust layer) and took a step.  I don’t remember how long it took me, but I walked a mile that first day.  I went back the next day and tried jogging a little bit.  I was thrilled when I was able to “sprint” 2.5 mph for 30 seconds.  Day after day, I went back to the treadmill, and was amazed at the difference those 20, 30 or 40 minutes made in my attitude.

I began to share those little successes with my facebook friends.  I found a iPhone app that tracked my runs.  My feet starting hurting, and I asked my facebook friends to help me pick out a pair of running shoes.  I received scores of comments and suggestions from runners and walkers who are scattered all over the country.  Boosted by their well wishes, and filled with a sense that this time would be different, I entered a running store and plunked down $120 for my first pair of running shoes.  On that day I posted a photo of my new kicks and decided “I am a runner.”

Having found the confidence to walk into a store for athletes without being met with scorn or laughter, I resolved to try the gym again.  Armed with my new shoes, I made it through the door and through a circuit without anyone laughing, pointing, or (to my knowledge) posting a picture of my backside to their flickr account.

I have a hugely supportive circle of family and friends.  They have “liked” and commented on my runs (which makes my phone cheer), they have put up with me posting photos of myself in spandex, shining with sweat and holding up a medal.  I began posting for accountability’s sake, and along the way I have received many messages telling me to keep posting because I have inspired my friends to make changes in their own lives.

As I share my story, those friends keep telling me to write a book.  I love the idea, but didn’t know where to begin. I finally know where the book is coming from. I am a survivor.  I am a fighter.  I am a listener.  I am changing my life one day at a time, one step at a time, and one mile at a time.

My name is Betty.  This is my story.  It’s still being played out.  I want to help you become the person you were meant to be.  I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can tell you how I’m going about it, and perhaps you will find inspiration to do the same.

Every story has to have a beginning.  You may see parts of mine in flashback, but for now, we’ll start here: “Once upon a time there was an unhappy woman who was scared of life.  She was sick, and tired, and didn’t know where to turn.  This is the story of how she took her life back.”