awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

awareness

Grief

Grieving is different for everyone. Grieving is more difficult for some than others. This year I saw a lot of loss around me. Too much if you ask me, but it’s the hand I was dealt this year.
I lost a dog just before COVID. There are many times he is thought of but the memories in the heart last forever. He is running with the angels somewhere. There was just one Axel in my world. Forever a memory just like my childhood dog named Tuffy. 

Then a jovial business associate lost his battle with cancer in the early days of COVID. That was gut-wrenching but at a distance due to COVID. He made so many laugh. He inspired many in his years. He was just a big loss to many. He is better off now, in peace. No more suffering.

Then within 48 hours of my dad passing naturally my mother-in-law passed. Boom. Just like that. Two family leaders gone in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Amidst a pandemic. Travel bans, burial restrictions. So many nos. Not the goodbye one ever expected. The roller coaster and shock of a double whammy still makes me shake my head yet it still seems surreal.

Boom another colleague drops just like that. He was suffering in silence. Away from people due to isolation requirements with a low immune system. Gone and somewhat forgotten. Why? No service beyond the immediate family because of full-blown COVID. Time has passed. People have moved on. Did they forget? For those closest I see the hurt. Their healing is a delayed state. Still isolated. Lacking drive. Wondering why the circumstances are still what they are.

Time passes. Grief lingers. Everyone emotes differently. The fall/winter holidays are hard. The first Thanksgiving meal without that special somebody. That first Christmas tree without a special helper to decorate with. A new year alone. Isolation of a different kind sets in.

Depression hits some hard. Anger hits others. The pandemic is still here after so many months. Some haven’t moved on but some have. Isolation. Stress. Loneliness.

Check on your loved ones. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I share my losses to help others who may still be grieving alone or in silence. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to miss that person. That’s all part of the process. You will have good days. You will have days that are a mess. Just keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. You can do it.

It’s time to honor the memories and cherish the moments you had with that special person with others. I’ve really thought about what I will do this holiday to make sure I include the one who’s missing in the celebrations of my family.

Their spirit can be echoed on in many ways. May you have a peaceful holiday no matter how you celebrate this year.

Make the most of what you have. Make memories. Share the special moments while you can. Even if it’s virtually.

awareness

In the Dark

When I wrote a recent post called nightfall, I thought back to many other nights and the sounds that were different in life. A lot less peaceful. Scary. Bothersome. Then I thought I should share a different kind of nightfall. One many will never know and most would never enjoy.

The haunting night from a child’s eyes. One of many scary night scenarios that happen behind closed doors. Do you think you know what this story will be about?

Maybe you think know but I doubt you really could know unless you lived in these shoes. The sounds of the night that are not so bright. So here goes.

Boom! Wake up! A loud shriek from the other room. A bang on the wall. Now more pounding. A loud scream. That’s my brother making those noises. What is happening?

In the middle of the night it happened again!

What is it? Why am I wide awake? What time is it?

At first I didn’t know but then my parents explained it me.

Boom. Aaaaaaahhhhhh. Shake shake shake. Boom. Ahhhhhhhh. Ouch! Another high pitch shriek. A piercing duh duh duh duh duh sound on repeat. A fearful and painful scream.

That is my brother making those loud sounds as my parents rush to him. What is going on I asked?

Go back to bed, says mom.

I peek from my bedroom door. It is my brother having a seizure in his sleep.

My brother has had seizures since I was in my mommy’s tummy as a baby so I don’t know him any other way.

I love my big brother. He is the best big brother.

He can’t help himself when he has a seizure. It’s a medical problem.

Most people won’t understand seizures if they don’t get educated about them because people look okay on the outside but inside their brain they sometimes have a firework party that makes their whole body shake.

His body gets tight and shakes and he makes painful sounds for about 10 Or 20 seconds.

The time seems like hours when you have to watch your brother have a seizure but it’s only seconds.
Count 1 Mississippi
2 Mississippi
3 Mississippi
4 Mississippi
5 Mississippi…
6
7
8
9
10

See it’s not too long but now I have to try to go back to sleep. I have a test at school tomorrow. Wait so does my brother. Oh no.

My tummy hurts a little because I am worried about him. Mom says I have to sleep school starts early in the morning for both of us.

Just when my parents get him settled back to sleep,

it happens again. And again.

My parents say this is a cluster and I should go back to bed. But they don’t know I really watch my brother.

I watch him sleep to make sure he is okay. I don’t want him to hurt himself.

Oh no, here comes another one. Breathe my mom says breathe.

This is hard to watch. Even the sounds are hard to listen to.

My brother is so strong he can hurt somebody when he has a seizure. Watch out mom. She ducks as he flails and swings his arms and legs.

I watched him break a table when I was younger. I watched him hurt himself when had a seizure and bumped the wall too hard.

I wish the doctors could fix my brother but they can’t.

I am going to be a doctor one day. I want to help kids who have seizures. I wonder how many other people see seizures at night. My mom calls them nocturnal seizures. I call them terrifying.

Nightfall can be peaceful on many days in many environments however there can also be a darkness associated with nightfall. This example shows a glimpse into a medical environment that is extreme to some and normal to others.

Some children have a different fear of nightfall. The sounds of rage or alcoholism for example. These sounds play out a bit differently. Ponder those thoughts or scenarios as you set in for your nightfall. Somehow the sounds of crickets seems worlds away.

This post came from the vault. A vault of posts that are written but may not come to life until a later date. For this post it’s today.

As the world has changed so much with corona, some nightfalls have remained the same for some but magnified for others. Those with scary nights like the ones noted above still suffer on top of the uncertainties corona brings. It’s important to consider the burden of others who may not be as lucky as you when night comes.

awareness

Nightfall

It was a Tuesday evening in summer. Not too hot out, maybe 75 degrees. Sitting at a friend’s house in their backyard by their pool. Surprisingly no kids were around, not even in the pool.

No laughter. No whining. No birds chirping. No splashing of water. No dog barks. Nightfall was upon us. A simpler time of day in the yard.

The sounds of the night were so very different from the sounds of the day. What an interesting thought or moment in time to recount in this blog. Nightfall.

Creatures of the night were awake and singing to us. From the grass to the trees sounds were in full force. Crickets for sure were out in full force. Was there one or many? I can’t say for sure but it seems orchestrated or echoed.

A variance of chirps and high pitch zaps and wonky sounds in stereo in the backyard. It was calming. White noise, pink noise or whatever noise this refers to. It’s a peaceful sound. A simple sound of the peace within the environment.

How these sounds differ if the environment was a beach, a farm or a cruise ship. The click of the air conditioner turned on. Clack, buzz and the vibration hum set the background tone. The crickets sing on top of the bass sound. Layered on top are random zaps from a nearby bug zapper. Katydids egg on the crickets with their anthem. It’s a full blown orchestra if you listen.

Don’t let the silence kill you. Enjoy the carefree whispers around you. As a mom those silent times are few and far between. Embrace the silence. Enjoy the whispers from the grass to the trees. Appreciate the calming sense of the sound. If you tune out the chaos of the hustle and bustle of today’s world you will most likely sleep better at night.

If on a farm would I hear bears wrestling at night? Would I hear the moos of cows? Would I hear the sound of grass crackling when a deer passes by? Would I hear the sound of a horse wrestling in the solitude of his barn? Would I hear the sighs of those taking in the stars at night from their back porch? I may just have to research this.

I do know if I am at the beach instead of the backyard the night sounds are distinctively different yet calming in a different way. The rushing of ocean waves. Simple sounds but in a repetitive pattern. Swoosh. It may have a soft finish if the wave hits the sand or a harsh sound if the wave hits the rock. How a storm can change the sound in the backyard, the beach or the farm.

From a distant thunder to shaking of the roof when it draws near. To the sound of rain hitting your roof. And how different the sound is if your roof is metal vs. straw.

Nightfall. The sounds that ensue. Have you slowed down to appreciate the sounds of the night in your part of the world? How do your sounds differ from mine? Sounds are soothing. Enjoy your next nightfall. I know I will enjoy my next nightfall wherever my night falls.

awareness, fitness and nutrition

Chad

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We’ve written about CrossFit Hero WODs here on the blog before.

The subject of today’s blog is one of the more recent ones, known as “Chad.”

Read the story.  It’s a worthy one.

The workout seems seems simple enough. 1,000 box step-ups with a weighted vest.  Not much movement.  Same thing over and over again.  Just counting and moving, moving and counting.

1,000 of anything, though….I’m not sure CrossFit has any other workouts that reach into 4 digits.

My mindset: It would take a while.  I knew that.  It would be grueling.  I would keep going until it was time to stop.

So, before sunrise in the middle of the quarantine, I started counting and moving, moving and counting.

As with many hero WODs, there are lessons to reflect on.  The story of Chad made me think about mental health throughout most of the reps.

Here are the lessons I learned, 50 reps at a time. As many face mental health challenges in our current coronavirus situation, some of the lessons seem more important than ever.

-It is ok to set your weight down sometimes.  You have to pick it up again eventually but it is ok to take a break sometimes.  This was easy for me to say with my dumbbell in a backpack, but what about those who can’t put their weight down?

-I had choices.  I brought out dumbbells, plates, and more.  But in the end, it seemed like too much trouble to switch even though it might have brought relief to do things a little differently.  Lesson:  Sometimes even our best advice or tools aren’t useful to people who are consumed with just getting through whatever it is.  People will often default to what is familiar because it is familiar.  When you are enduring hardship, change can be too much of a challenge even if it might help.

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-Good music helps.  Drowning out the discomfort and having a little to sing along with makes a big difference.

-After a while I lost my form and was just flailing.  I also took extra steadying or stutter steps on the ground between each step up after about 500.  I thought to myself I should be more efficient and tried to skip the extra steps and keep my form together but my body just wasn’t doing that. It needed the extra break or correction in between. Sometimes we can see a problem and think our way into fixing things, other times not.

-I would have sudden bursts of energy, seemingly out of the blue.  I’d just push right through 6 or 7.  Then, it would go back to the same slow rhythm.  Unpredictable energy levels happen.  I may seem ok, but then slow down again.

-Coming down was just as hard as going up.  You’d think the up would be the challenge, but I noticed myself coming down harder and harder as the reps went on.  I knew my knees were under pressure.  Even the easier things require effort and concentration.

-Sometimes, the only way out is through.

Surprises:

-My heart rate was SO high and I burned so many calories.  To a passer by, it would probably not look that complicated or taxing. Just up, down, up, down. What’s the big deal?  I couldn’t believe how out consistently high my heart rate was.  Sometimes we can’t tell the effort others are putting in to things that may look simple.

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-Sometimes my body just refused to step up even though my mind told it to. A few times I barely missed the top of the box.  Other times my body just stopped like a stubborn horse refusing to jump.  Just no.  Sometimes our bodies and minds don’t work together.

-I ran the full gamut of emotions.  Bored, Anxious, Determined, Giddy, Frustrated, Relieved.  All over the map.

I thought to myself:

-I wish I was not by myself.  I wished it was a partner WOD at one point, then I thought I would have settled for a buddy or even a FaceTime friend.  CrossFit is built on community and shared suffering.  It was REALLY hard to do it alone.  It just lifts you up when you see others engaged in the same task. But, sometimes in life going it alone is the choice you have.  I had many partners in my thoughts cheering me on.

-I need a coach.  When I felt my form and motivation slipping, a coach watching me, helping me, encouraging me, barking at me would have meant a lot.  Someone who knows what they’re doing, knows me, and knows what to do is a good companion.

-I had a huge case of the “I don’t wannas” between 300-600.  Not at the beginning, not at the end, just the long, wide middle.  Monotonous.  Boring.  Is it over yet?  I just kept pushing but it was mentally and physically taxing when I wasn’t in the excitement of the beginning but couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The middle is hard.  What about situations where we don’t know where the end point is?

-I was hard on myself.  I “no repped” myself many times when I didn’t stand up completely on the box.  But really, does it matter that much?  How many people do we know who are just really hard on themselves when it’s not entirely necessary?

-At times I lost count or had repetitive thoughts.  I got so tired things didn’t even make sense anymore.  I was taking a break every 50 reps to have water and write.  But, sometimes I would go to write things and I had already written them, or I couldn’t remember what I was thinking about when I got to the paper.

-Toward the end, I had a burst of “I Think I Can” and Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” in my head.  It was almost time for me to go to work so I also got a little flustered toward the end thinking I wouldn’t finish in time.  But getting toward a goal can be motivating.

The aftermath:

-Pain that went all throughout my body in waves for about 48 hours.  Just gotta keep moving to keep the real pain of immobility from setting in. Pain is real.

-I was one of the first to do it in our gym group.  So, I was able to encourage people who came after.  This is one of the most important parts of being on the path, and being a survivor.  Help those who are with you or coming along after you.

Finally,

The first thing I wrote was,

-What is my mountain?

I am still thinking about that.  There are many.  Short term, long term, distant future.  This was a metaphor for many challenges in life and living.  I’ll keep thinking about it and I wouldn’t be surprised if I do it again some day.

What is your mountain?  Who can be your partner on the path?  Your inspiration?  Who can you encourage today?

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