Today, I choose Happiness!! I’m trying like hell, anyway

If Voltaire could choose to be happy, why am I having such a hard time?
If Voltaire could choose to be happy, why am I having such a hard time?

Some days are easier than others; you wake up, smile to the rising sun and choose to greet the day with a positive attitude. It’s a great day to have a great day!  Things could be worse! Count your blessings!   But some days it really, really takes a great deal of effort to smile, to forget the wrongs being done continually by inconsiderate people.  Some days are a lot more gray than others. It’s just the way of the world.

There is a fine line between shrugging things off “for the greater good” and putting your foot down and saying “enough is enough”.   When someone doesn’t bother to honor my feelings, or at least my professional dignity, it can be hard to feel part of a team; it makes me feel more like a cog in a very rusty wheel.  A wheel running willy-nilly down a steep hill.  I suppose every time you put yourself out there, take down the wall and allow yourself to get lost in something, there is the possibility that someone will hurt you.  Without the protection of thick skin, emotional distance and professionalism, it’s a lot easier to feel the pain of disappointment.

For me, passion is not an option; it’s who I am.  When I love something, become passionate about it, I cannot give less than 100%.  I put my Taurus head down and pour my heart and soul into it. It becomes part of my identity.  It’s not just a job, a relationship, a hobby.  I’m all or nothing and while I try not to, I take life very, very seriously.  This trait can obviously lead to a lot of disappointment, heartache and the desire to just give up completely.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option for me either.

It’s my own fault I suppose.  Over and over again I put my trust in people who do not deserve it. I give myself over to situations I cannot control and hope (with all my might) that this time, this time, things will be better.  And when they aren’t, when I still have the same results, I chastise myself for being naïve enough to believe again.  Because by then, it’s too late. I’ve already given myself over. Because I don’t know another way of being, I keep believing in people. I keep trying.

It’s a choice to be happy and it’s a hard, hard choice to make on days such as this. The biggest problem for me is that I want to make a difference.  I want to be more than just your average gal.  I’m smart, I’m loyal, I’m passionate and I give my all.  But for some reason, I’m incredibly obtuse when it comes to believing in the wrong people.  In believing that this time it will be different.  This isn’t my first heartbreak. This isn’t my first let down.  I’m 46.  I’d love to have the option of not caring, of not trying, but it’s just not who I am.  So, I take a deep breath, build another layer on my already thick skin, and put another brick in my wall.  I paste on a smile, try my very best to shine despite my pain, and keep on going.

While I can’t control how other people treat me, I do have control of how I treat myself.   Anger and pain is a poison that destroys my ability to be happy; destroys my ability to be the person I want to be.  So I’ll repeat slowly and often, “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health”.  And sooner or later, I’ll believe it.

As sung by one of my favorites, Frank Sinatra (written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields)

Pick Yourself Up

Now nothing’s impossible, I’ve found for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up, dust off, start over again.
Work like a soul inspired until the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you be a man, my son.
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, start all over again.
(musical interlude)
You gotta work like a soul inspired until the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you be a man, my son.
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
(musical interlude)
Once again now:
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
(coda)
That’s enough now.

As Promised…my Personal Mission Statement

I worked and reworked it…but I think it states who I am and who I wish to become.  I highly recommend doing your own and I’m making it a requirement for my children before they’re allowed to leave the roost 😉

I aim to nurture my mind, soul and heart with ageless wisdom; I want to pass my knowledge on to future generations, reminding people of the fragility of humanity across time and that we are all connected.  I wish to never do harm to animal or human.  I never want to stop learning, growing and evolving into the absolute best person I can be.  Through actions as well as words, I aim to always be a good role model for my children and all who touch my life; a positive influence always.  I wish to ultimately become a Sage, a wise, gentle soul who passes knowledge on to all who listen. To surround myself with those who help me create positive growth and distance myself (guiltlessly) from those who wish to hold me back.  I aim to never hold hate in my heart, but to replace the negative with empathy, kindness and acceptance.  I wish to have a beautiful soul to take into the next life.

Personal Mission Statement

It’s been a long time since I took a class, but I recently signed up for a year of classes through Franklin Covey. Cheesy perhaps, but I’m finding them just what I need in my life right now.  The “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is the basis for the classes (of course) and while I know these are really nothing new in life, it’s good to have them pointed out to us from time to time.

A few of the classes are interactive videos that walk you through the Habits; I just completed 1-3 last night.  One step in the process is to come up with a Personal Mission Statement.  The thought had never once crossed my mind. Sure, I’ve helped with our company Mission Statement, but the idea of a personal one was foreign to me.  Until I thought about it.  What’s the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”?  I began to wonder if the choices I’ve made in my life would have been different if I’d had a Mission Statement of my own.  So, with the help of the Franklin Covey resources, I’ve started sketching one out.  There are 10 pieces to consider:

Performance:   I’m at my best when…

I’m at my worst when…

Passion:                What do I really love at work…

What do I really love in my personal life…

Talents:                What are my natural talents and gifts?

Imagination:     If I had unlimited time and resources and knew I couldn’t fail, what would I choose to do? (no brainer there, but even I was a bit surprised on what came out along with “be a writer”)

Vision:                  Your life is an epic journey and you are the hero.  What are you doing, who is it for, why are you doing it and what is the journey’s results?

Character:           It’s your 80th birthday.  Who will be there and what tribute statement would you like them to make about you?

Contribution:    What is the most important future contribution would you make to the most important people in your life?

Conscience:     Are there things you feel you should really do or change even though you’d dismissed them many times before? What are they?

Influence:         Name three people who have influenced you and name one quality/attribute for each person

Balance:          What is the single, most important thing you do for balance that gives the greatest impact in these areas:

Physical:

Social/Emotional:

Mental:

Spiritual:

These are the questions I’m answering to try and help me with my Personal Mission Statement…and each one is a volume of information on who I am (that’s the purpose, duh!).  Each one of these questions makes you stop and truly consider what is important and dig into who you really are.  What you want, what you desire, what you need to be completely true to yourself.  What if we taught THIS in high school?  What if every teenage child was asked to create a Mission Statement and to be true to it?  Think of the understanding they could gain from their lives.  Think of the direction it would give them in some of their most turbulent times.  Why AREN’T we teaching this?

I find the idea of a Personal Mission Statement much like spiritual guidance; we are asked to look deep within, pull out everything that truly means something to us, and put it on paper.  We are asked to live with truth and balance in our lives based on our OWN needs and desires.  Will it change as we age? Of course!  But the basics will always be there.  It’s a guide to our own heart, soul and deepest needs that no one else can provide.  People often live their lives based on religious doctrine set down by others, but rarely create their own.  If God is in each and every one of us, doesn’t it only make sense that He/She has given us our own doctrine deep within? We just need to dig down, find it, and live by it.

One sample was “I hope to be the person my dog already thinks I am”.  Think of the power that small statement has.  How it would shape your thoughts and actions towards yourself and others!  Mine is a work in progress and I promise to publish the finished product here 🙂  

Mastering the Can Opener

It’s a simple thing.  The hand crank can opener.  A kitchen appliance that’s been around forever. It’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s easy to use. Right?  Wrong.  I have never been able to use one.  It gets stuck, falls off the can or just will not cut.  Stupid things!  But recently our electric one died and I opted to purchase a hand one for a couple of reasons.  One, it takes up less room and I’m on a mission to remove the clutter from my life (and more precisely, from my kitchen counter); two, it reduces our “carbon footprint”.  I’m a hippie remember.

Well, it still didn’t work.  Mind you, my husband and both my teenage kids have no issue using it, so thankfully the inability was not passed down to my children.  But I kept trying.  Not like I really had an option, after all.  Either use it, or skip adding the tomatoes and beans to the chili, making myself a tuna melt or some other treat packed away in the fortress of a can. It always ended the same way; a family member coming to my frustrated pleas of help when cans were mangled and I was ready to chuck the opener across the room. They would stroll in, open the can and stroll out giving me a look of mingled pity and annoyance.

The other day I finally figured it out. It wasn’t an epiphany at the time, but it certainly made me happy!  After opening several cans effortlessly, proving to myself that, yes, I indeed had mastered this feat, I called my family in to prove it!  After all, they stuck by me all those years when I couldn’t do it.  “Watch!!!” I was so proud of this new found talent! They smiled, patted me on the back and said encouraging things like, “Wow.” and “Finally!”

Sure, I suppose practice was at the root of why I can finally, at the age of 46, open a can with a hand opener.  But I think it’s a lot more than that (of course I do…it’s how I operate).  I finally understood the key to making it work.  I stopped trying to force it.  All these years I’ve been holding on for dear life and trying to force the cutter around the can as if it didn’t know how to perform without my guidance.  Once I let it guide me, it worked perfectly.  Hmmm.  Now, if that isn’t a metaphor,  I don’t know what is!

This is truly where I am in my life right how.  I’m having a zen moment with my can opener and letting it teach me another lesson in my relationships.  I’m tired of trying to force them to work.  It’s frustrating and unfulfilling.  While I know I need to participate and be part of the function to make it truly work, I can’t do it all myself.  The opener knows its role and does it well.  The can knows its role and also complies.  I was the only one that never understood that it’s a joint effort; only when you stop trying to control the situation, everything works as it should.

Yup, all that from successfully opening a can!

Listen to Your Narrator

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Is this real life, or is it just fantasy….

As a writer and avid reader I am always looking for the metaphor in situations; what does it really mean? In novels it’s rare that the main character sees what’s really happening.  People say one thing and mean another.  Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the narrator will tell us what’s happening in the other person’s mind. Reality doesn’t give us the luxury.  We have to try and figure it out for ourselves.   This is where my overactive, creative mind leads me astray. I try so hard to seek the metaphor that I completely miss the point.  I miss the actual WORDS and morph them into something else.  I run scenario after scenario around in my mind until I pick the one that fits snugly into the little world I’ve created.

But even in my own novels, while there may be twists and turns, the truth comes out in the end.  The truth eventually sets you straight and everything becomes clear.  Even in the world I’d created the truth finally reared its ugly head. I wasn’t completely surprised; deep down I had known all along.  No matter how many meanings I swirled around in my mind and no matter how I crafted my own world around them, I knew, I knew in my gut that I was fooling myself. I knew what the true reality was.  I just refused to listen to the narrator. Life does give us a narrator; not into the minds of the characters surrounding us perhaps, but into our own mind. It warns us when we are being foolish.  It warns us when we need to pay attention. We just need the ability to listen. I ignored those pangs of warning, the grumblings deep within telling me that something wasn’t right. Instead, I chose to soldier blindly on.

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

in·tu·i·tion

noun \ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü-\

: a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why

I think we all know what it means.  That little voice in your head…that little feeling in your gut that guides you or warns you that something isn’t right.  Hunch. Inkling.  I heard it. I just chose to ignore it.  But it only prolonged the pain.

Like learning to dance along to the music, I’ve learned the importance of listening to my narrator.  Listening to the warning signs bubbling in my existence. I need to get back in touch and feel the rhythmic hums warning me that all is not well. I was stupid, but I wasn’t blind. I chose to close my eyes.   But I won’t beat myself up. Like all good characters, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’ve grown.  Every experience is a blessing or a lesson.  The only difference is how you perceive it.

Ah, The Time Has Come to Learn to Dance

“…there comes a time, Timelord, when every lonely little boy must learn how to dance!”

~ The Girl in the Fireplace, Doctor Who

This quote has stayed with me from the very first time I heard it uttered.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Doctor Who fan.  I’ve seen them all multiple times; like Shakespeare and the Bible, each reading (or viewing in this case) often leads to a new emphasis on a word, a phrase, a scene.  What might have seemed simple at the time, now speaks volumes to a new, emerging part of my soul.  It’s just a show.  Sure.  But aren’t they all (shows, books, plays, etc) just reflections of human emotion?  Of course they are.

I’m not sure why this quote stayed with me. Perhaps it’s because David Tennant played that “lonely little boy” so well that I found myself thinking, “Yes!  He needs to dance”.  Because after all, isn’t dance such a wonderful way to free yourself from your inhibitions? Maybe it’s because I thought of Pride and Prejudice.  Where would have been without the dance?  Ms. Bennett would have never met Mr. Darcy.  Another lonely little boy.  But of course, I’m over thinking. Because over thinking is what I do.

But dancing is more than proper, formal movement; or completely random bursts of energy as you toss yourself around on the floor.  It’s a reaction to music deep within your soul.  It’s listening at its greatest.  Not to the words or the beat with your ears, but allowing your soul to react to what it hears.  I’m talking about when you truly dance, truly allow yourself to lose yourself to the music and let yourself go. I believe that’s what Reinette meant when she told the Doctor he needed to learn to dance.  She wanted him to listen to the rhythm of the music, the reaction deep within his soul.

Dancing goes back thousands of years for good reason.  Whether it’s ceremonial or meditative, music and dancing have allowed people to experience a connection–a personal connection– that no other medium can supply.  Think about it.  What happens when you hear your favorite song on the radio?  You smile, you turn it up and you can’t help but bebop along behind your steering wheel or wherever you may be.  Your attention is drawn to the song until the very last beat, making it hard to concentrate fully on anything else.  A part of you, I suggest your soul, won’t allow it.  Your soul is reacting and try as you might, it will not stop.   When you give in and dance, allowing your soul to express its happiness (or sadness) in the particular song, you are finally listening.  You are giving yourself over to the true self.  To who you are in the deepest, darkest, all too often hidden pieces of yourself.

Now, I’m not saying if you listen to Death Metal you have tendency towards violence or anything like that.  I’m saying something in the beat, something in the MUSIC is speaking to you.  Let it react!  I love a few of Marilyn Manson’s songs…Rob Zombie has some that I can’t help but crank up.  I have a lot of different songs that make me happy or sad or melancholy or reflective, depending on my mood. Listen to what your soul is saying when it reacts.   Music is a very, very powerful medium.

Recently, at the recommendation of someone who knows me very well and knew I needed a little peace, I bought the Loreena McKennitt’s  Book of Secrets CD. It has helped me in ways I forgot were possible.  Not only does it instantly calm me, it makes my heart and soul react.  My heart skips a beat when certain songs come on; my soul perks up and takes in every beat.  I don’t even know if I can explain the physical reaction, but the emotional one is of peace, ache and joy; a connection to something much, much larger than myself.  It’s spiritual for me.  I think that’s the only way I can describe it.  It allows my soul to connect to the oneness of the universe.  All through song.  Because it’s what my soul needs. It needs peace. And it needs to dance to that peace.

The past two years have been chaotic in my soul and I have found myself cut off from the sacredness I hold deep inside. I’ve forgotten how to do the things I truly love. Be the person I truly love to be.  I’ve forgotten how to dance.  But I’m ready to rekindle that connection with my soul; ready to be who I am supposed to be.

While not a little boy (or a Timelord for that matter), I am lonely.  I am very, very lonely. No one can ever fill that void if I can’t listen to the music and allow my soul react. But more importantly, to listen to what it’s telling me.  To allow it peace and joy and yes, even sadness.   It’s time I take the hand of my soul and learn to dance. 

Trail Therapy

I love this time of year. I’m done with hibernation and I’m ready to face the world again. The trees are starting to come alive, the grass is finally turning bright green. Wild flowers are popping up everywhere beneath my feet and around my lawn. Purples, deep reds, blues and yellows everywhere! Spring in New England is a beautiful time. I’m usually back to trail running long before now, but it’s been a strange winter for me. I seemed to get caught up in internal struggles and couldn’t get out the door. My Easter hike kicked off my season; got me out there and reminded me of what I’d been missing camped out in my chair staring at Facebook every morning for the past eight months.

I am a record keeper. I keep a diary.  I keep logs of all my hikes and runs for the past three years. I keep a log of my weight and measurements for the past ten years. I like to look back and see how I’m doing now. I like to see improvement! I knew I’d be sorely disappointed in my performance over the last year and I wasn’t wrong.

2012
January:   18 workouts
February: 31 workouts
March:       41 workouts
April:         30 workouts
May:           24 workouts
June:         11 workouts
July:          15 workouts
….and then it turns to shit. It isn’t until April 2013 that I get over 3 workouts in a month. How can I go from 41 workouts in March 2012 to 1 in March 2013? Life. Somewhere along the way I got lost. I know I had excuses at the time, and they probably seemed like good ones. August was “too hot”. September through December hunters are in the woods…always an excuse. I couldn’t afford to go to yoga four times a week anymore. I just gave it all up and became a chair-potato addicted to memes on Facebook.

Recently I realized I’m going through another bout of depression. I haven’t been “happy” for quite sometime, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why. My job? My marriage? Money (or lack of)? Sure, they all have their ups and downs, but no more than before. Something isn’t working for me and I need to fix it. So I returned to yoga. It’s one day a week, but it’s something. That lead to being aware…aware of my need to eat healthy and most important, to be outside. I started shutting down my computer and heading out the door in the mornings. I head back out at night after a stressful day of work.

I won’t lie; it’s only been since the beginning of April that I’ve been getting out there again. But with that simple decision to “just do it”,  I worked out 11 times in April, despite traveling to LA for work. I surprised even myself and worked out everyday in the hotel gym! Something I’d never done before. And I loved every minute of it. It was the kick start I needed as well. I proved to myself that I was in this for good.  I was back.   While machines in a gym are great and I love the elliptical machine sitting in my living room and the treadmill in my garage when weather is bad, there is nothing, nothing like being out on the trail.  The smells, the feel of the ground beneath my well-worn (and well-torn) sneakers.  Fresh animal tracks (and scat) beneath my feet reminding me I’m not alone out here.  I may have been inside for the past 8 months, but the woods were still very much alive without me.  It was I who wasn’t alive.

When I’m hiking or trail running I tend to think but never dwell.  Thoughts come and I try to work out problems, but somehow they don’t seem like problems anymore.  It’s easier to “let things be” when I’m more worried about where my next step needs to fall. I don’t play music; instead I listen to the sound of my feet hitting the ground or the labored breathing of my old dog. The chirping of birds is the only other sound that fill the woods; even the distant rumbles of the real world can’t make it all the way out here. I’m in a cocoon of quiet and calm.   My focus quickly changes to where I am in my hike or run, how my body feels, how the trees have changed, how cute my dogs are 🙂  My mind rushes with creative thoughts; I’ve probably had a dozen book ideas or written a hundred blogs out on the trail, only to have them erase from my mind the moment my foot hits the stairs.  And that’s okay.

Perhaps it’s because I’m not only doing something good for my body, but because I’m taking charge of my thoughts that makes being out there so important.  When I trail run I feel more alive than when I do anything else (even hike).  I immediately feel stronger, more in control.  I love the way my muscles react when my foot hits the ground.  I’m proud of myself for doing it.  I’m hot and sweaty and tired and strong. I get muddy and scraped up and my feet hurt when I’m done.  I’m bleeding and bruised from branches hitting my legs– and I bloody love it!  My feet are cracked and rough looking, but they are strong.  It’s better than any therapy session in the world! I’m alone with all the voices in my head and I let them work it out in the background. I know what I need; I just have to drown out the negativity.  I don’t have to talk to anyone except my dogs; I don’t have to look good or prove anything to anyone but myself.  If I need to slow down and walk, I do.  If I almost trip and look like an idiot, no one is there to see it 😉  If I twist an ankle and need to limp along for a little while, that’s okay…but I usually keep on running and it works itself out.  Out here I am me, for me, by me.  I have no one to answer to.  I am in control and I am strong.  I may have a stressful day at work or I may go negative in my checkbook…I may get annoyed at being ignored.  But that world seems to matter less when I know I have the woods to retreat to.  And slowly and surely, that strength and control will soon follow me out of the woods.  It will allow me to make it through the tough times without letting it get to me as much.  I’ll make decisions that are best for ME.  I’ll reconnect my body and soul and be happier for it.

Post Script:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t given up the infamous Facebook.  I have beloved girlfriends that I couldn’t live without on there.  It’s my social network and I love touching base with my friends and family. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  But I have changed its role in my life. I fill my newsfeeds with positive posts from inspirational people.  I follow trail runners and hiking groups. I share my clean eating recipes and tips and I try to make it a help, not a hindrance to what I want to become.  I may be on there less, but I still count on the friendships I’ve made to make me whole!

Patience is a virtue. Who knew?

Looking back at my blog from January 1st 2012, I have to pat myself on the back a little.  As I put a batch of granola in the oven I realized I’ve been cooking and eating clean for over a year.  Sure, I’ve fallen off the wagon from time to time, but as I’m down 5 pounds from last year, I’m happy with myself.  My cholesterol has improved so much  my doc said I was one of the healthiest patients she has 🙂  Can’t beat that!  So, was 2012 all happy smiles and healthy recipes?  Hell no.

I was taught from a young age to be self-sufficient.  To not only take care of my own breakfast, but to take care of my emotions.  After many years and several failed relationships, the constant deluge of “No one else can make you happy, you need to make yourself happy!” began to sink it.  I began to take trowel to brick and build a wall that ensured I kept my happiness my own responsibility.  In my typical all-or-nothing fashion, I stopped having expectations from people.  Except for my children, who give me unending happiness, I never quite let anyone in. After all, why bother?  Why did I need to?  My husband and I have been married for 19 years and it’s been a good ride, a great 2 decades.  One of the reasons we’ve made it so far is that I’ve had low expectations and have never left it to him to make me happy.  I rearrange my own furniture, paint my own walls, go on my own vacations, and find my own pleasures in life.  I’ve always been content with this arrangement; heaven knows he has.  There are few emotional responsibilities to uphold.  I don’t ask him (or expect him) to shop with me, take me to dinner, snuggle on the couch or watch sappy movies.

But in my birthday blog I set out to figure out who I was.  I wondered “who is JULIE now that MOM is becoming more and more unnecessary?” Let’s stop right there.  Unnecessary? I think I underestimated my mom abilities.  Sure, the kids are getting to the point where they don’t need me quite as much, but they still can’t find the butter on the shelf behind the milk.  Still, I had few friends to fill my time now that that the kids were busy with their own lives.  The same doc that bragged about her healthy patient this year, told me I had to start letting people in. I needed to have friends or I’d crash. Quickly.

Again, that all-or-nothing trait came into effect and I tore down the wall all at once.  I put all my trust into my new friends and expected, very unfairly, for them to fill the hole that had been growing for so long. I gave up all responsibility for my own happiness and lost myself in this new world.  I gave over the wheel and expected them to drive my soul to joyville.  It was not only unfair to them, it was unrealistic.  It was a long, crazy summer and fall.  I laughed a lot.  I cried a lot.   I was on a constant swing of emotions and it was exhausting.  So I took a step back and returned to who I used to be. I stopped drinking. I stopped going out.  I picked up my trusty books and dove back into my cave.  But it was too late.  I’d fostered true friendships that wouldn’t allow me to curl up and be alone.  Emotions had been stirred and while the wave of chaos was now a slow ebbing ripple, there was no denying it was there.  I just needed to figure out a middle ground.

And that’s where I am today. After journaling hundreds of pages of gunk out of my soul, I’ve found that while no one else can make me happy, they can be there to share in the fun.  They can bring out the good in me, enhance my life, and keep me on track. While it would be nice to have someone else take the wheel for a while, I’d never be happy in the long drive that’s left.  It’s just not who I am.  I need to drive my own destiny. But, I really like having someone riding shotgun.  Besides, as Dean Winchester says, “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cake hole.”

While I’m still cooking the same granola a year later, I’m certainly not the person I was last year, nor do I want to be. I’ve grown. I’m stronger, happier and more satisfied. I have amazing people in my life.  They make me laugh. They make me feel comfortable in my own skin and they don’t mind that I’m not perfect.  I’ve settled back into my comfy chair with a book and a cup of tea. Only now my book is on a Kindle, the tea is decaf, and I’m a lot more content in the life I lead. I’m older, wiser and learning a new virtue. Patience. Patience with life. Patience with weight loss. Patience with myself above all else.

The years will come and go and the only thing we can do is continue to grow. Continue to learn more about ourselves without sacrificing who we are.   When we stop growing we become stagnant and unhappy.  I was stagnant for a long time, but now I can feel myself growing into the woman I need to be.  I have two more tattoos, a new, short haircut and a sassy, yet classy attitude going into 2013.  Bring it. I’m ready.

It’s the end of the summer…

It’s the end of the summer, it’s the end of it all

Those days are gone, it’s over now, we’re moving on

It’s the end of the summer, but we’ll see it all again

~  End of Summer, Theory of a Dead Man

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Life seems to be traveling at warp speed and I never find the time to just sit and think. When I do, I’m generally lost in thoughts too complex to put on paper… or it’s 3am. But this weekend is the first in a long season of cold, crappy, home-bound days spent cooking, cleaning, and [hopefully] writing.

Usually I see the seasons as an opportunity to reinvent who I am. I dig deep, find a new section of my personality and drag it to the top. I toss aside anything that might be boring or stagnant and brush off the new and exciting aspects of my life, whatever that may be.  As summer comes to an end, so too does a part of me. But this year, while I’ve put away the shorts, tanks and flip-flops and pulled out bulky sweaters, boots and scarves,  I’m hesitant to pull out a new facet of my personality. It seems that for once, I like who I am.

It’s been a crazy summer of discovery, friendship and awakening. I traveled to New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta. I made new friends, strengthened bonds with old ones, and began the long process of giving my children the wings they ultimately need for their own growth. I met celebrities (yes, DJs are celebrities too), got tattoos, discovered new bands…but most importantly, I realized I’m capable of having friends again.  Cresting a mountain surrounded by familiar, smiling faces is absolutely better than hiking alone! Having a beer and sharing laughter with friends makes my soul happy. Allowing people into my life for the first time in years has made me stronger and weaker at the same time. The vulnerability that comes with letting others in is a tough concept to accept, but the outcome is certainly worth it.

Perhaps I’ll just put away the summer attire and leave the feelings, experiences and lessons right where they are. Instead of falling back on old habits and getting stuck in the same routines, maybe it’s time to build from what I’ve learned instead of creating a world where I’m in control. Maybe, just maybe, reinventing who I am every season isn’t what it takes to grow. Maybe, just maybe, it takes facing who I am and embracing it.  Sure, summer is over, but autumn has only begun…

Lessons from Bicknell Brook

It may not look like much from the road, but it’s paradise!

One of my favorite running trails is Bicknell Brook – Colette Trail a few miles from my house. Unlike running up back, I have to remove myself from my environment and routine and drive there. I found it about 2 years ago and it’s more than just a hike or run.   It’s a classroom for all sorts of lessons I could probably find elsewhere, but not with nearly as much enjoyment.

Since I found this little piece of shady paradise, I have wavered between taking people with me and keeping it to myself.  Each time I visit it’s an experience I cherish, no matter who I’m with.  And each time I seem to learn a bit more about myself.  Life Lessons learned in the woods.

Sometimes you need to stop and stick your toes right in.   At least stick them into the trickle of the brook that covers the beautiful rocks.  Too often in life I run through my daily routines, taking little time to relax and let life gently surround me.  Instead, I get caught up in the whys and hows of what is, what was and what shall never be, becoming so locked in my own head I’m not truly present.  Today as I looked at the cool water running ever so gently over the moist rocks, I thought “hey, I bet that would feel good…” And it did.  Instead of running right by with the thoughts in my mind, I took the time to slip out of my shoes and socks and let the water caress my feet.  It felt good.  It felt better than good; it felt amazing!

Sometimes you just need to have your ass on a rock and your toes in the stream.

You can do anything you set your mind (and legs) to. As long as you stick to it.  I started running trails two years ago when it became a matter of necessity more than anything.  I had added more and more mileage to my morning walks throughout the summer when the kids were home from school and needed to make up the time somewhere.  I started running the downhills, working my way up to the flats and eventually most of the uphills too.  The first time I ran Bicknell I gave myself a goal of 1 1/2 hours.  After all, I could HIKE it in 2, so this should be a piece of cake.  When I came back out in the parking lot in one hour, I was thrilled! Tired, but thrilled!  Not only had I done it a lot faster than I thought, I ran the whole thing. I didn’t need to stop once.  I suppose it might be one of the reasons it’s my favorite!  It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just start small.

It might take a while, but that tree WILL come down

It’s okay to look behind you, but only to see how far you’ve come.  I won’t lie.  I’m a big one on looking in my past and thinking of all the things I could have done differently.  But on the trail, if you look behind you too much you’ll fall flat on your face.  You always have to be looking one step ahead of your feet so you don’t trip on a rock or root or twist your ankle in a hole.  There is way too much shit going on to worry about where you’ve been. Still, it never hurts to look back and see where you’ve come from and how hard you’ve worked to get there.  You just can’t spend a lot of time doing it. Move along little doggie…

There are a lot of trails in life. Try them all.  Every trail may lead to the same place, but each one has its own unique quality.  There are quite a few routes you can take through the Colette Trail.  Some cut off the points closest to the water, bringing you deeper into the woods, making your run faster.  You can take the long loop back to the parking lot or the shorter, more direct one.  While I generally stick to the main trail, I’ve found myself delving into the less active paths to see where they come out.  I know I won’t get lost, but sometimes I just need to spice it up a bit, discover something I never knew existed. As I face the next stage of my life, I know there will be a lot of trails for me, a lot of paths I can take.  The one I ultimately choose will be the right one, but taking the path less traveled has always been my way.  I just keep wondering…what does it hold? Where will it take me?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Be free to make changes as you go and add where necessary. “The Best of Kansas” isn’t always long enough to make it through the full run. Sometimes I have to add a bit of J. Geils and The Cars too.  The art of improvising is key in every facet of life.  While I’m sure it makes more sense to create a long playlist from the beginning, sometimes it just isn’t what you need.  Frankly, I don’t choose my music until I’m out there (and if I’m listening to the radio I have no control). Every day is different and what’s needed to keep going changes as you go along.  If you find yourself short of dreams, find some more.  It really is that simple.  Besides, how boring would the same ole’ playlist be?

Just because it feels good at the time doesn’t mean it was the smartest thing to do… This lesson came a few years ago when I thought it would be really cool to take the kids to the pools and swim.  NOT a good idea. I, of course, was the only one to swim…and then had to hike out in wet clothes. Really? I was SO chaffed I thought my legs were burning when we stopped at Grafton Pond for a real swim.  They hurt for days!  But you know what, it was fun while I was doing it, so was it really that stupid? Well, probably.  Next time I’ll just bring a change of clothes!

Sometimes we have to go through the shit to appreciate the smallest of things. When you are sweating like crazy, even the slightest breeze feels amazing.  This one came to me today, my second 80+ degree Bicknell run in a week.  Sweat was dripping into my eyes, coating every inch of me in a thick layer of yuck.  But then the breeze came and felt SO good!   I was reminded of my girlfriend, Laura, who lost almost everything in Irene last year.  When the smallest plant came back in the Spring, it was like a gift from on-high.  It’s amazing how a simple word, smile or action can make a world of difference.  You can be having the worst day in the world and when someone reaches out and takes the time to care, it really feels amazing.

It’s okay to not run full steam ahead.  There are many times when I just can’t run the whole trail.  I no longer mind if I have to slow down and walk for a while.  It actually gives me the time to reflect, react to my surroundings and take stock of what I’m trying to accomplish. And sometimes it just gives me the time to catch my breath before running again.  Whatever the reason, it’s okay to go at a comfortable pace no matter what I’m tackling. Sometimes it yields much better results in the long run.

Welcome to my Paradise!

There are hundreds of other lessons that run through my head as I run (and walk) the paths around me.  Some are random and make absolutely no sense to anyone but me, while some are more poignant.  Sometimes I think of who I am and who I want to be. Other times I listen to my playlist or my favorite DJ on iheart radio and don’t think of anything at all.  It all depends on the day…and the run…and the lesson I seem to need the most.