mental health

Chad, Again

Last week was Veteran’s Day. It’s become a recent tradition for some in the CrossFit and fitness communities to complete the hero workout Chad. I have done this one once before, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting. That seems like a decade ago in so many ways…work, family, fitness, friendship, life in general.

I skipped it last year but this year it pulled on me over and over again. I finally chimed in to my fitness group to see if anyone wanted to complete it the weekend after Veteran’s Day. I can’t decide if I was surprised or not that some of my friends said yes. In many ways this workout feels like a “one and done” but my friends are also crazy like that. We couldn’t all be there, but we had some cheering for us in spirit.

I was glad I had written about my first experience doing this workout in detail. I went back and reread my thoughts before I started. I remembered it being grueling. I remembered rushing to try to get to work (on my couch). Much of the rest I had just let go of.

This time was different, doing at a gym. This time was different, doing it with a vest…a little lighter than last time, but a weight I would not take off (no matter how much I wanted a break!)

This time was different, though, since I had friends to do it with.

Friends made the experience a bit less challenging. Was it still long and tedious? Absolutely. In fact, it may have taken me 45 minutes longer this time around. Some of that I attribute to a lower level of fitness. But some is just because we chatted between the rounds. I lost count a bunch of times. But I kept going. We were going to finish this.

Friends make hard things a little easier. This was the main lesson I learned this time around. Hard things don’t stop being hard. But the hard path isn’t as lonely. It makes me think about VFWs and other social organizations. Sometimes we need a place where we are truly and deeply understood.

Life has been challenging, lifey, whatever you want to call it lately. Things feel heavy. In some ways, time is moving very slowly. I’m not at all comparing my challenges to veterans, but I knew I had to complete this workout for myself as well. Getting something done is hard these days for me. My mental soundtrack has been less positive.

These and other friends inspire me to just keep going. Keep showing up. Keep moving. Every day won’t feel great or be the best. Some of the challenges will seem unending. But if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually reach the goals I have. Days will get brighter. Get up, show up, never give up.

adventure

It’s in the Details

A surprise picnic. The weather wasn’t great. We didn’t even really know the area. The option to hike it in would have been too much to carry.

A friend scouted a park with a pavilion. We wandered in tandem with the vague directions we had, then finally stumbled on the spot.

The coolers, tucked in the back of the jeep for hours, and boxes and bags were ported out. Then the spoiling began.

A white tablecloth was the foundation. Topped by a fall-themed tablecloth with muted hues. Draped with care over the metal picnic table. Then, fancy bamboo plates and utensils. Yellow napkins folded at each place. Then, the finishing touches…jewel-colored velvet pumpkins that later doubled as party favors / remembrances for each of the women there. A fall candle bought brand new for the occasion, glowing and sharing a hint of apple scent. A table worthy of special guests. Even out in the middle of the soccer fields and playgrounds. Then, a build-your-own lunch spread courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Nothing too fussy. Just nibbles to try.

In recent years, I have grown to love surprising people…not in the sense of surprise parties, but more about delighting people with over-the-top unique details. Whether it be decorations, unexpected custom cookies that match their party theme, party favors that make people giggle, artist-created invitations, or a meal fit for a queen, it feeds my soul to make people feel special and make occasions memorable. People are worth celebrating.

This also extends to presents I may drop on porches on a random Tuesday. Life is a challenge for many. Why not make people smile?

I hope when they pull out that pumpkin each fall they smile and remember a great day, and someone who cared about them enough to plan something special. Spoil people a little sometimes. They are worth it.

perspective

You Can’t Make Me

Parenting and life lessons. My youngest is a senior in high school. With two twenty-somethings, I have had some practice letting go of the reins with my kids. I might be a little more chill about their decisions these days, but that hasn’t come without a lot of years of frustration.

I remember when one of my kids was talking to someone on social media that they shouldn’t be. Waking up at all hours, endlessly glued to the screen. This was many years ago, when it wasn’t quite so usual for everyone to be attached to their screens all the time. After trying so many things, taking away the phone, taking away other privileges, and talking until I was out of talk, I still caught that child up at 3 am, on an old “lost” device, talking to this person they shouldn’t be. Again.

I remember my rage and frustration so clearly, in the middle of that night, and the wide eyes of my kid, completely unmoved by my temper. The look said “you can’t make me.”

There may be few things as frustrating to a parent than the realization that no, you really can’t make them do anything. Not without mental / physical injury or breaking the law. Oh, I wanted to wring that child’s neck that day, but I didn’t. And I remember that “you can’t make me” moment so well.

I remember the time I gave it to my own parents, too. I was running around with a much older crowd, lying about where I was. They went to the place where I said I was one night, I wasn’t there, and then confronted me when I arrived home. I got the lecture, and the “promise you won’t do that again” ultimatum. But I looked straight at my father and told him I couldn’t promise him that. And I am sure, in that moment, when I was supposed to promise, whether or not I meant it, he must have wanted to wring my sassy teenage neck as well. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! Wish you were here so I could apologize to your faces.)

In my adult life, this lesson has smacked me in the face many times. No matter what, you really can’t make people do anything. When you’re left out of a social gathering. When people make decisions that you disagree with or take you further from each other. So many little daily things that happen that may seem puzzling or even hurtful. Here’s what I’ve come to realize:

You can’t make people spend time with you. You can’t even make them want to. People are fickle and messy and unpredictable. You can’t make people thoughtful or considerate. They are or they aren’t, and this changes from one day to the next. Most people aren’t sitting around thinking about how they can make me feel left out or unwanted. Most people are too self-centered to even have that thought. (Or maybe they do, but I’ve realized it’s not productive for me to obsess over other people’s hurtful actions.)

If you have someone who cares about you and thinks of you, cherish that in the moment it happens. Thoughtful moments are rare and to be treasured. If someone thinks of you repeatedly, that is truly special. Enjoy it. Relish it.

In the end it is all just data. I just know what I’ve learned from what I observe.

Everything and everyone is optional. Most people and things will eventually move on. When you change your circumstances, it’s inevitable that things and people change. That probably sounds callous. Maybe it’s the stoic reading I’ve done that makes it a little less personal.

Change doesn’t make the people you’ve moved on from less important. Life takes us all kinds of places and there are only so many hours in a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. It just makes every present moment more special. Time and attention are finite resources for each of us. If we can’t make anyone do anything, how are we spending those precious fleeting moments?

awareness

Action Words

Pooped
Tired
Exhausted 
Fatigued

The action words above describe me after today. After the crazy week. After all the emotional highs and lows I experienced. Too many highs and lows to note. More importantly, my week resembled a roller coaster of life. A real shit show.

Refreshed
Recharged
Rejuvenated 
Rested

The above action words describe me now after some time alone. After some time to gather my thoughts. After an unplanned trip to the coffee shop for a sweet treat. After a day outside In the fresh air. After a trip to chase the mountain air.

I had plenty of things on my to do list. I had a few events I could have gone to. I had some folks I could have visited with. There were many things I could have done but instead I chose me. Just me. Just time away from the noise. The chaos. The crazy. The stupid. All of it.

A plane ride to an island might have been a nice oasis but with the pandemic still lurking my options were a little closer to my normal than a vacation destination. The destination didn’t so much matter as much as the journey. The break in the cycle of chaos.

Many times I talk about a reset button. We all have them. We all need to use them at times. If you don’t reset the crack will deepen. The crack will then turn in sink holes that you can’t find your way out of. A trap of sorts.

Many may never see you need a reset but I’m sure you know. The question is can you just drop the to do it list and fix you? I do. I do it sometimes more than I want to or more than I want to admit. The point is I’m not afraid to say I need a mental health day. A day off the grid. A day doing the unexpected or unplanned. There is only one of me and in order to fire on all cylinders when it’s needed others around me need to know not to let the crack deepen. They need to see a stress fracture and say I can cover for you. Take a break.

How many just want somebody to notice they need a break? Many. Some people don’t ask if you are okay because they are scared of what you will say. Some won’t ask a hard question because of fear. I take the fear away from others. I say what I feel and do what I need to because nobody can fix me but me. 

This rant was about mental health A-Z. I may use myself as an example above but it’s relatable to many. Our teachers need a break from the chaos they see daily. The students need a break from what’s all been thrown their way, too. Let’s not forget about the parents that are juggling work, carpool changes due to Covid changes last minute, who has shots and who doesn’t, mask or no mask….they need a break. A break without punishment. A day off.

How many actually take a day off. How many people say no you can’t have that day off. Plenty! Plenty is one too many. My mom always said never judge a person until you walk a day in their shoes. Many have shoes I wouldn’t want to fill in this day and age and heck many wouldn’t want to be in my shoes most days. For whatever reason we need to have the ability to recharge. Reset. And just play hooky.

10 years ago I’d never tell my kid they could take a day off just because. However today I leave the possibility open. PTO of sorts. Physical time off. Time away. Taking care of self before others. Getting into nature. Moving the body. Stimulating what you want vs. what you have to. That homework can wait. In today’s world it’s okay.

When I revisit this post in a few years I may have a different mindset but today this is my journal post of sorts.

I will leave this post with words of discomfort. Words that require action in one way or another. What’s relevant today but most likely to be avoided.

Covid

Pandemic

Mask required

Vaccinated

Quarantine

Symptoms 

Restrictions 

Zoom

Digital day

Hoping 2022 has something spectacular lurking. 2021 is just as much of blur as 2020. 

balance

Life being Lifey

Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.

Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?

Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:

Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.

Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!

Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.

Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.

Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.

What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!

These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.

“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.

In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.