change, family

Beth and Liz

My full name, Elizabeth, can morph into many nicknames.

I began as Beth. That was my family name, my toddler name. My first name.

My parents loved to tell the story of going to first grade curriculum night. We had moved and changed schools. It was a few weeks into the school year and my parents went to meet the teacher. She asked my parents who their child was. My parents said “Beth.” My teacher said she didn’t have a Beth in her class. They put two and two together and figured out I was now Elizabeth.

Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t correct her. Was I not confident in that time of great change? Or was I ready to be someone new? Who knows what went through my 6 year old mind. But from then on, through elementary school up to 7th grade, I was Elizabeth.

Elizabeth followed me as I moved to Catholic school. But somewhere along the line, I started going by Liz to my friends. Again, I can’t be sure what my 13-year-old self was thinking. I’m pretty sure I thought Liz was cooler than Elizabeth. Honestly, who knows? But I knew the transformation was official when they started putting “Liz” on my report cards. I remember being surprised, but I went with it. Liz followed me through high school, college, and up into my twenties. Liz was a drum major and kind of emo in high school. Liz wore tights and steel-toed patent leather boots on non-uniform days. In college, Liz started drinking and smoking. Liz was a moody philosophy major. My Dad said Liz walked around with a little black could over her head.

After college, Liz was later a kindergarten teacher by day, a waitress / bartender by night. Liz walked 60 miles over three days to raise money for cancer research. Liz lost 100 pounds. Liz supported her parents through her Dad’s cancer fight. Liz met the man who would become her husband and the toddlers who would become her kids.

At age 29, I walked down the aisle and along with adding a new last name, I decided I would now go by Beth again. I just didn’t feel like a Liz anymore. Silly to some, I am sure, but my parents had never stopped calling me Beth, so maybe that’s why it felt like settling in to who I really am / was / would be.

In the nearly 20 years since I became Beth again, I’ve still continued to evolve. Beth is the mother of 3 now-adultish kids. Beth earned her PhD. Beth has gained 140 pounds, had a kid and lost 150. Beth quit smoking and drinking. Beth completed a half marathon and a triathlon. Beth has written books and owns a farm.

After a life with so many stages, there are people who call me by all different names. I have Elizabeth as my facebook profile since that seems to capture everything.

My father-in-law still calls me Liz most of the time. At a recent family celebration, he was passing the bottle of red wine around the table. When he got to me, he said “Liz, would you like some wine?” and for some reason I just thought, Liz would have, but Beth doesn’t do that anymore. Later that week, the conversation came up at work about going home to have a drink after a long day. The same thought occurred to me. Liz would have cracked open a drink right away. Beth is going to write or go for a walk or do something to make her feel accomplished. I just told my colleagues that I don’t drink but I’ll think of a good way to unwind. They stared with no response, then moved on from that topic.

Some will say that Liz was more fun than Beth. Maybe they are right. I guess it depends on what you think fun really means. Liz was definitely a whole lot more interested in pleasing others. Making other people comfortable. Liz also sought ways to escape herself, her thoughts, her confusion. Over time, Beth has become settled in swimming against the tide and approving of herself. Beth carries along her Dad’s encouragement to be smart, to stand out, to celebrate herself, and even to rail against gender stereotypes about what girls can do and be good at.

Beth feels settled in her skin more often that not, and that is something to celebrate no matter what you call her.

celebrations

Showing Up for Me

My friends and CrossFit community mean a lot to me.  My coaches are an important part of my progress. There are so many people who are important on my health journey. 

But in the end, when I go to workout, I show up for me. All the different versions. 

I show up for the grouchy one.  The tired one. The clumsy one. The one who doesn’t think she can do it.  I show up for the feisty one, the nervous one, the one who is just going through the motions.

I show up for the one who loves burpees and power cleans.  I show up for the one who forces herself to do thrusters and running.  I show up for the one who mumbles and grumbles and at times dawdles and always has to run to the restroom just before the countdown to zero.

I show up for the one who sometimes forgets how far she has come.  I show up for the one who thinks she will lose her momentum if she misses a single day. Who forgets that an off day won’t set her back 5 years.  

I show up to meet her.  Who will she be today? I show up to see what’s new and how she has changed.  Some days she surprises me. I show up to encourage her, to lift her through it.  

Keeping the promises I make to myself is as important as any other commitment I make in my life. A recent podcast featuring Ed Mylett reminded me how important it is to move, to detach from outcomes and focus on the process, and to follow through on the promises I make to myself. 

There are a few precious people I would put myself on the back burner for.  This is a huge change from how I used to be. I used to be willing to back burner myself at a moment’s notice for anyone who even asked. People I hardly knew. Heck, some of them didn’t even ask – I volunteered!  It was almost a point of pride to be that way. 

But the extreme selflessness I prized in myself cheated me of my strength, my energy, and my growth.  I am learning that I am better if I rank myself high on my priority list. And that means showing up for myself.  Even when it is hard.  Even when I am going it alone.  Even when no one high fives me.  The people who I would set it all aside for notice.  And they celebrate how I am changing. For the better. 

I can’t drink from an empty cup.  When I am there for myself, my cup runneth over, and I have more of me to go around. 

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challenges

Flexible, Agile, Pivot

These three words have come up multiple times in the past week.

First, from my friends in the teaching profession. Those are the three words they are being told to embrace as school begins in person (don’t say face to face it sounds too close) as we return to the buildings. Don’t plan too far in advance, as things could and probably will change day by day. In fact, since we started writing this post, we’ve already switched from in person to online school in many places to start the upcoming year.

Be flexible and ready to adapt to evolving conditions and unexpected challenges. Be agile, able to move quickly, efficiently and confidently from situation to situation. Pivoting to change direction is almost inevitable. With so many unknowns and twists and turns on the horizon those words are valuable to latch on to. For teachers who are trained to plan, abide by calendars, and be as routine and predictable as possible, it’s a bit against their training and possibly their nature. Time to rethink, reframe, and expand in a different direction, and help students and their parents do the same.

Me on the other hand, I giggle a bit on those three words. They represent my life In many ways, during a pandemic or just a routine Tuesday afternoon. All the twists and turns. All the adapting. The organized chaos I call life. I thrive under pressure and beg for adversity most days. It’s fuel to my fire.

Then the conversation hit on a Friday night at the ball field. We all had masks on. Following the rules. The sun was scorching despite the evening hours. I took my face mask down briefly for fresh air. It was still hanging on an ear. Technically I was wearing a mask. The directions didn’t specifically define what mask type, how it needed to be officially placed and so on.

Out comes a gentleman I knew well. He saw my mask and followed his glance with an affirmation (or was it an accusation?) of me not being a rule follower. That spurred a discussion that lingered. I am a rule follower. I just choose to follow the rules within the terms I choose. He implied that I am an A, B, C2-C3-C4 person. As if all the rules have an asterisk. Options within the boundaries.

Yes, that is correct. I always have a backup plan and C4 may be a good pivot point description for me. Explosive. Dynamite in a way. Always with a second, third and fourth plan. I call it depth. It’s layers deep. I make the rules work for me. It allows me to not only survive but thrive.

Some may see it as grey. Operating in the grey tones of life. Pushing the limits. Especially if the limits don’t make sense in certain situations. Staying in the black and white only confines me. Shades give life texture, interest, originality, make me memorable. For some, it makes them rewrite the rules with more care and specificity. It forces people to be agile in their mind and in their lives. But I am always at least one step ahead, if not more. Rewrite the rules and try to corral me. Just another challenge for me to find the gray and keep growing.

I see it for what it is. Depth, diversity, dynamic layers ingrained within. How the mask conversation turned into an unmasking of sorts

perspective

Hero or Villain?

Out of the corner of my eye, I see them. Someone I haven’t talked to or heard from in a long time.

Maybe it’s a few rows over at a meeting, or checking out at the grocery store, or even across the field.  We share a quick hello or nod.

I think to myself, wow, it’s been a while.  They haven’t posted much lately. I scan through social media only to find…I’ve been blocked.  Blocked!

There was a time in my life that this discovery would have consumed me.  No matter who it was that blocked me, whether we were ever close or got along well or not, it would set me on a spinning path of questions…what did I do?  What didn’t I do? Was it something I said?  Why don’t they like me?!?!?  In stereo, on repeat, for hours on end.

Thankfully now I’ve realized that being universally liked isn’t possible or even a worthy goal.  There will always be people who don’t like me, my choices, or how I do things.  There are people who won’t want to be connected to me.  And that’s ok. It’s not a ringing indictment of who I am or what I do or don’t do.  People come and go.  Some connections work well and others are temporary. It is what it is.

I’ve also learned to accept that in some cases, I am not just unliked.  I am actually the villain in someone else’s story.  I’ve made mistakes and bad decisions.  I’ve had bad days and dumped my grouchiness on others.  People have gotten hurt along the way.  Even if I didn’t mean to, there are people who don’t remember the chapters we shared fondly.

But on the flip side of that, I am also the heroine of sorts in some people’s stories.   I am  the comic relief to others.  I am the (relatively) reliable narrator, the plot twist, and these days I may be the character who develops in surprising or unexpected ways.

At this point, I am grateful for the heroes and the villains in my own story.  I realize that I have some control over who gets speaking roles in my life and who needs to just be a minor character.  I’m grateful for growing up enough to know that being written out of someone else’s story isn’t always the worst thing that could happen. I have my own next chapters to write.  What about you?

perspective

Eyes to the Horizon

We are in the thick of this.

Hard times.

It reminds me of the lessons I learned from Chad. We are in the long stretch in the middle. Maybe the 500 mark or so. Where the flurry of just getting started is over. We are grinding one. step. at. a. time. There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Only more drudgery and challenge. I am getting tired. Not just physically tired, but tired of it all, too. Giving up seems an option worth entertaining, especially with new worries on the horizon.

But I don’t.

Every day I have to just keep going.

Like Chick 1 put it so well in her post, we are going to have to choose to soar, and we might be a little beaten up sore to get to that point.

It’s like a butterfly in the cocoon stage. We know we will come out significantly different than when we wrapped ourselves in. Did you know that caterpillars basically dissolve into goo while they’re in the cocoon? To transform into their destined selves, they have to basically melt into mush.

How many of us are there some days?

I have to keep my eyes to the horizon. Just as Chick 1 reminded me that I am going to endure some sore to get to my soar, I know that the gooey mess I am now is on its way to becoming something beautiful, maybe even unrecognizable.

A post reminded me that after the profoundly awful Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Roaring 20s came rushing forth. We will get through this. It will not be easy. I have no doubt we will all lose something, many of us things that are profound and irreplaceable. But our world will come roaring back to prosperity, creativity, and hopefully some amazing parties with dresses, dancing, and all the pent up joy, merriment and connection we are missing out on now.

Stay hopeful.