awareness, balance

Boredom Rings at Odd Times

2:40 am and the house is super quiet. Not a creature is stirring, but I seem bored.

My mind is racing but on much of nothing. What am I going to do tomorrow? Nothing big? What can I do? Nothing big? What should I do? Nothing really?

I doubt I am alone but what are others worried about? Food, shelter, essentials and how to support themselves. Maybe that what’s keeping me awake.

An acquaintance in the restaurant industry that is a server. His livelihood relies upon customers, tips and his restaurant being in operation. None of those things are available currently. This impacts his ability to pay his rent, buy food and basically survive. I am worried for him.

The two young adults learning to navigate early adulthood living on their own. Living paycheck to paycheck. Having no cushion for next week let alone a month. Both hourly workers in an industry cutoff by the corona virus. How will their mental health fare during this time? Will they springboard and value the importance of saving for a rainy day?

My friend’s family owns a restaurant. My friend is a hair dresser. My friend is a mechanic. My friend owns a gym. They all have families, budgets, bills, and employees. They have to make hard decisions to survive. Some are in states with mandatory shutdowns of their business. Business is always risky but nobody forecasted the world halting like it did recently. How will this impact these friends in the short term and the long term?

Those caring for elderly. The heightened scare for their health due to underlying problems. The isolation. Will this solidarity kill them? Will they give up on their own because it’s just too much to cope with at their age?

I think I worry about the mental health of many connected to me. The stress, the anxiety, the unknown all hinges on fear. When fear is constant on the news, on the internet, in the government, on the radio, in the desolate streets one needs to have coping skills. And I’m not just talking about phone a friend because you need multiple options for coping and navigating these unchartered and turbulent times. One friend can’t solve or take on that burden themselves.

You may need to call a doctor. You mean need to reach out to a phone hotline. You may need to research stress relievers for your type of triggers. You might need to take up a hobby like cooking. It’s also critical to include exercise. Sometimes exercise can be overlooked in this type of crisis, but exercise can be a form a stress relief and add mental clarity.

I am working out at home daily. Inside or outside depending on the weather. Different movements than usual and maybe more bite-sized packets of workouts than long hard workouts. Mostly depends on the day and what I have to knock out.

I can’t forget to mention two friends in two different parts of country suffering from cancer. Both mid-stream in treatment. Extensive treatment that absolutely requires isolation. They live in fear of not only their cancer but now the virus lurking around them. Their risk is so much higher. Their stress has to be maxed. Their family full of endless worry. My heart bleeds for these folks.

My friends on the front lines. The nurses, doctors, x-ray tech, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, and others involved in care giving in the present. They are all handling their duties so well, full of pride and boundless energy. I am full of gratitude to those of you I know near and far. Keep working hard.

I guess when I started this blog I noted I was bored. In reality I am probably just worried. Troubled mind thinking of others. Clearly I can’t cure the virus or solve the problems of all the folks above. I can however offer hope, kindness and positive vibes to those I interact with.

I will find little ways to brighten people’s day around me. Even if brief it’s my contribution. My efforts that I can control. Today their are many things out of my control but I choose my attitude. I choose my efforts. I can make an impact. Small maybe but if I motivate one person I did something.

Even if we are on lockdown we can all offer hope to others. I guess I should have named this post hope not boredom. Signing off to sleep a little more now that my mind is at peace. What a wonderful method of relaxation, writing. That’s a little tidbit for you. Grab a journal and write your thoughts down while you navigate this challenging time. Writing is therapeutic from my perspective.

balance

When Life is Subject to Change Without Notice

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Competing in next week’s big game.

Carefree time on the 3-day weekend.

A long planned-for (paid for!) international adventure.

Taking in the beauty of the first farmer’s markets of the season.

All things to look forward to.  Now, all on hold.

When the Coronavirus started to rapidly unfold in America last week, I said to a new friend “it feels like everything now has an asterisk next to it.  Everything is to be announced, subject to change without notice.”  I didn’t know what that meant then, a few short days ago.  So much happens each day.

Not only are the things we have to look forward to either canceled, postponed, or up in the air, even the basic routines of life are disrupted.  Will I go to work next week, and if so where and for how long?  My daughter is unexpectedly doing school online for a while. How will that go? You’d think she would be thrilled, but she groaned when I told her.  She said she will miss school, even with the ridiculously early wakeups and late nights getting home from practice.  She loves her teams and her friends and being with people.

That’s really it. We look forward to people. Experiencing and sharing life with them.

Now it’s all social distancing. Abundance of caution. Flatten the curve. A curve ball I wasn’t anticipating.

I’ll admit, the uncertainty has gotten me glum or a little anxious at times.  Even though I’m sometimes overwhelmed by my typically busy life, I love what I do.  I’ve started to reflect and appreciate the joyfully-packed life I get to lead most of the time. And I know it will return.

At the moment, I am living in the present more so than I have in a while.  The calendar is suddenly much emptier than it was.  The urgency of a lot of things is gone. It’s very strange, living in the time of to be announced.

As for healthy hacks? What helps me today is focusing on what I can control.  Exercise. Nutrition. Cleaning. Routines. Basics. Patience.  Taking some time to get outside to appreciate the signs of spring that are popping up (see the pics!) Nature has a rhythm that continues and comforts in times of upheaval. Keeping the amount of news and social media I consume at a reasonable level.  I have had a rocky time with several of these already, but I’m trying.

I choose focused over frantic. Present over pessimistic.  Peaceful over panicked.

Choose daily.

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anonymous letters

Graduation Day

 

Recently, someone close to me reached a huge goal. She called me, a mix of relief and joy in her voice, to tell me the news.  She celebrated a graduation day of a special kind.

Not everyone knew what she went through.  Not everyone could see her struggle. Most didn’t even know she was on this path. It was a kind of schooling that she took on not because anyone said she had to.  It was the kind of schooling she took on just for herself. When the time was right, she volunteered.  She committed. Invested. She did the work.

Not many people knew what brought her to the doorstep of that school.  She was pretty quiet about the learning she had to do, the lessons involved, the tests she brought upon herself.  She found her own teacher, someone she thought could help her find her way to her goals. And she worked with that teacher faithfully to learn what she needed to know. She did the work. There is no substitute for doing the work.

Life is full of schools.  Some are official, with bells and class rosters.  Some schools are of our own making, when we decide it’s time to level up, or maybe level out.  There are schools of hard knocks and schools of higher learning. Schools for driving and schools where we learn to be a passenger.  Lessons from classrooms, lessons from the streets, and life lessons that we have to learn over and over again, sometimes the hard way.  But for the most part, once we get past the tweenage years, the schools we attend are by choice.

It takes courage to take ourselves to school when we know we need to learn something but it won’t be fun or easy.  These kinds of schools aren’t required.  No attendance officer is going to call you if you don’t show up.  Holding ourselves accountable can be one of the biggest challenges we face when the topics are tough and the lessons are long. Homework is the deep challenge of learning, unlearning, and relearning how to think and live. We may not get grades, but we know when we’ve failed and when we’ve passed.

It’s not the kind of graduation where she gets a cap and gown. No cords for clubs or uncomfortable seats.  No one is sending her gifts or cards. No diploma will hang on her wall. But she does wave at the crowd, whether you recognize it or not. She smiles with a deeply confident face and a fresh mind. She doesn’t stride across the stage and shake hands. Instead, she treads a quiet victory, walking her new walk every day.

There may be no certificate, no tassel, but still…she tosses her hat into the air in an inspiring way, sharing her journey and her learning as she sees fit.  To witness her journey and her graduation brought me to a new, deep level of respect for her. I celebrate her today and every day, as she bounds toward her next classroom.

 

healthy hacks

Just Add Eggs

Another quick healthy hack for those interested. The “baggie” trick I learned from
my friend Milagros.

Toss things you need in a baggie and use later. For her it was marinara sauce that she didn’t want to add to a meal until it was ready. How clever. Then I thought hmmm… I’m going to incorporate that into my meal prepping.

Now I have three go-to baggies made every couple of days. 2 ounces of my meat of choice: steak, ham or sausage. Diced onion, pepper, zucchini and mushroom. Sometimes a mozzarella medallion to spice it up. Some fresh spinach.

When I am crunched for time in the mornings I toss the components of the baggie into the pan while I grab two eggs. When it’s time, I add the eggs and cook away.

No chopping, no deciding what to eat, no wasting precious time. This meal prep is simple when you do a few days at a time. You can add variety by changing up the meat or adding cheese or not.

I always add in Everything But the Bagel seasoning to give my breakfast some added flavor. Give it a try you won’t be disappointed.

I am always full and energized after this meal and it’s so easy to make and cleanup is a cinch. This is a also a great way to show your teens how to start the day off right with a good meal and a little pre planning.

Another healthy hack from 2 Chicks and a Pen. Helping you get healthy in 2020 and beyond one meal hack at a time.

health, inspire

Emotional Hygiene

 

Part of my goals this year are about using my time more thoughtfully. (I’m looking at you, hour long commute! You too, meal prep marathon!) Instead of riding along listening to 70s music (again) or the usually depressing news, I wanted to start listening to podcasts. I loaded some up and have enjoyed quite a few (while easily deleting others after a couple of episodes.)  I’ve learned that some are pleasant to listen to, even inspiring, and will linger with me.  Then, there are others where I am actively nodding, mind completely engaged, stopping to jot notes down to think about or follow up on later. I’ll share interesting tidbits once in a while.

The first one I wanted to share here is an episode from Lewis Howes’s School of Greatness podcast. Specifically, an episode with Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator who now trains people to negotiate across many fields, especially business.  This is definitely an episode I would have skipped based on the topic / title except for one thing…I was going to a car dealership later that day to buy a car.  People who know me can guess I’d be nervous about negotiating anything, so when I saw this episode title I thought to myself…well…maybe I can learn something that will help me feel more confident in negotiation for this car.

As I listened, most of what stood out to me was about mindset.  He talked about the way much of our brains (around 75%!) are neurologically wired to be negative – to defend ourselves for example, but we are actually significantly smarter when we are happier.  Like, 31% smarter.  That’s huge! This comes from Harvard professor Shawn Achor’s Ted Talk, The Happiness Advantage.  Who knew that just by being happier we boost our smarts?  Left me with a lot to think about.

Another tidbit that struck me was Voss mentioning the importance of gratitude in starting your day.  He recommends that we write down 1-3 things to be grateful for at the beginning of the day as “emotional / spiritual hygiene.”  I’ve known the importance of gratitude for a while.  I’ve even written about thanks on this blog. But I think the idea of how gratitude is as necessary as taking a shower or brushing your teeth was a mind shift for me.  It’s not just nice to do, it’s necessary in order to get your brain framed up the right way for the day.  Gratitude is a way of taking care of ourselves. It is a daily practice that keeps us on track.

So far, podcasts are an interesting new way to learn for me…I’m late to the party, I know, but I’m figuring it out.  Do you have any podcasts you enjoy or recommend?

As for negotiations, I have started to notice all the subtle little negotiations we make during our days, from the coffee line to casual conversations at work.  Will I improve at them using what I’ve learned?  I’ll let you know.  In the mean time, I still haven’t bought a car, but that’s a story for another post.

 

 

 

 

fitness and nutrition, friendship, perspective

What I Learned from Coming In Last

“It’s not a big deal to me how we do, as long as we’re not last.”

These words came from one of my amazing teammates at a recent competition. I nodded in agreement, and I’ve said them, too.

Flashback to my very first 5k “race.”  Run Your Cookies Off – a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts.  I was probably 80 or 100 pounds heavier than I am now, maybe more.  I had no idea what I was doing. I was a slow walker / jogger as I approached the start line in terror.  But as long as I am not last I’m ok, I thought.

I wasn’t last that day, but I was close.  I could see the last person behind me by maybe 30 yards most of the time.  I kept looking over my shoulder, fighting to stay ahead. I gasped and choked as I stumbled across the finish line, maybe 5th to last out of a few hundred runners.  But, not last.

Fast forward eight years or so to only a few weeks ago, the line comes into my head again. A CrossFit competition.  Looking around at some of the fitter people I’ve seen in recent memory, our direct competitors. Some twenty or more years younger.  But, we will be fine as long as we are not last.

After the first workout, we were second to last.  So, not last – a win!  And then, after that, for the rest of the day, workout after workout, it happened. We. Were. Last.

Yup, I was finally on the other side of the “as long as we’re not…”

And I looked at my teammates, two fierce, fit, incredible women, working their ever-loving asses off.  All three of us had been sick that week, with some of that sickness lingering on competition day.  All three of us were super nervous.  But we showed up, and we brought our best. And we cheered for each other.  And we pushed as hard as we could, pushed beyond what we thought we could do.  We pulled together and fought like heck for every rep, every lift, every jump and burpee and pushup and calorie.

And with all our fight, all our heart, all our effort, we still came in last.  (We actually tied for last with some of our good friends who made up another rockin’ team from our box, which made it all the more sweet.)

So, you may ask, what are the after effects of coming in last? Honestly, not much different than coming in higher on the board.

I’m proud of my teammates, as I should be.  One rocked her first competition ever, conquering move after move, challenge after challenge.  The other overcame huge obstacles to PR her snatch not just once but 5 times that day.  5 times!!!  I still smile when I pull out my team shirt and shorts.  We had a great and memorable day for our squad.  Weeks later, no one remembers what place we came in.

I’ve held onto a line I heard once many years back when I was just starting to get my health together.  It still serves me on crappy running days, and those inevitable afternoons when I just would rather not go to the gym at all:

As long as you show up…”you’re lapping everyone on the couch.”

No matter what place we finished in, we showed up. There are many who are less fit, and even many who are more fit, who didn’t have the guts or the gumption to just show up, put themselves out there, and see how they measure up.

There’s an old saying that nice guys finish last…now I also see that good people, people who work hard, train hard, and put forth tons of effort still do finish last sometimes. In fact, that effort may represent a huge personal triumph no matter what the leaderboard says. One that should be applauded.  Still, for better or worse, it’s just one day. One memorable day full of proud moments.

The real after effects of coming in last are what we choose to do moving forward. What matters most is what comes next. Nothing stops us from continuing to train and get better and cheer for each other. We’re already signed up for more races, more challenges, more adventures. Who knows where we will turn up next?

 

 

 

perspective

Never Say Never

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“I’ve eaten the same thing for lunch every day at work for the last eighteen months,” I told her.

“You mean you eat one thing for a week, then switch to something else?”

“No, I’ve eaten the same thing every single day, week after week after week, 99 percent of the time.”

“Oh, I could NEVER do that!” she responded, in a mix of disbelief and exasperation.

Hm.

Well, I thought, this is a person who appears to be healthy and fit.  Maybe she can eat different things all the time and maintain her health.  Maybe she doesn’t struggle with using food as entertainment / food as comforter / food as problem solver like I do.  If not, good for her.  For me, what has worked with sorting out my nutrition is basically monotony.

I figured out what seems to work and for the most part I stick with it.  Fat-free higher-protein yogurt and coffee with measured creamer for breakfast, chicken Mike Nuggets and protein chips for lunch with lots of infused water. A handful of beef jerky if I am really hungry between meals.  Dinner has a little more flexibility but I prep protein each weekend and choose from there.  If I keep to this all week and don’t go insane over the weekend, my energy, my strength, and the scale number tend to stay in the range where I feel good.  What works for me won’t work for everyone.  Maybe it won’t work for anyone else at all, and that’s fine.  Not a big revelation there, really.

But, what really stayed with me was the word NEVER.

I could NEVER do that.

What would I say I could NEVER do?

There are the nevers I just don’t like.  For example, I could never eat shrimp for breakfast.  I could never own an orange car.  I could never be a school bus driver.  Never is really too strong for all of these…If I had to do any of these things, I would.  But I’d really *really* rather not.  Maybe this is the type of never my friend was mentioning when it comes to my monotonous lunches.

But then I also think about other nevers I have said in the past.  I could *never* do CrossFit.  I could *never* run a half-marathon.  I could *never* weigh under 200 pounds again. All of these nevers have now gone from to-do to ta-da! All of them took effort.  All of them took facing fears.  All of them took questioning myself and the limits I place on me.  These are not just preferences.  They are self-doubts.  Limits.  Roadblocks by choice.

Some of these once-upon-a-time nevers have become among my proudest accomplishments.

As George Addair said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

As I think about my goals for 2020, I’m listening for the nevers in my self-talk.  Are my nevers “I don’t wannas?” Are they “I’m scared to try”?  Are they “I’m scared to fail”?  And if they are fears, maybe that’s a sign I need to put them toward the top of my to-do list?

What are your nevers?  And what are they holding you back from?