Don’t Mess with People Who Run 26.2 Miles For Fun

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Above: When I earned my BAA medal in 2010. Out of my 14 medals, my BAA means the most to me.

Friday was One Boston Day, the third anniversary of the heartbreaking bombing of OUR marathon by domestic terrorists. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; it is a race that belongs to everyone. Whether you qualify or not, Boston is the race that shows the truth of the human spirit and the unfailing love that is part of the running community.

While my work schedule is often hectic and beyond my control, I did manage to observe a moment of silence close to the time when the first bomb went off on Friday. I remember that day three years ago, when I felt like someone literally took a sword and pierced my very soul. It was one of the deepest emotional pains I have ever felt in my life. I would have to say that it was one of the three worst moments I have experienced. Even though I was in NYC in 2001, I would have to say that for me, Boston felt more personal.

As horrific as that moment was, every single minute that has come after has shown the strength, resilience, and perseverance of the community of runners. It has been amazing to see how everyone, even people who are not runners, rally around us to help and heal.

The Boston Marathon is OUR marathon. The finish line belongs to everyone. The marathon represents hope to everyone. It represents the challenges and adversity people overcome to be able to toe the start line. It represents sacrifice. Mornings when we got up at 4 am to run when we would much rather push snooze and roll over. Afternoons spent running in the rain just to get the miles in the tank. Most importantly, the Boston Marathon represents LOVE. And it belongs to everyone. You just don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun.

Today is Marathon Monday. Happy Patriot’s Day, Massachusetts! This is the day when the crowds line the streets to cheer the accomplishments of everyone in the race. It is a day to come together and celebrate and be kind to one another. We have overcome the atrocity of 4.15.13 by showing each other tenderness and mercy in a time of need. As my hero Kathrine Switzer has said, “If you ever doubt the strength of the human spirit, watch a marathon.”

Speaking of heroes, today also marks 50 years of women being allowed to run the marathon. I am thankful for the opportunity to run every single day. At one time, women were not allowed to run more than a mile because it was thought that running more than that would make us unable to bear children. Of course, we all know this is a misconception. Many women have both ran marathons and bore children. However, it should be noted that part of the confusion came from the fact that when we run a marathon, it works the muscle groups directly below those used in natural childbirth. So yes, they are equivocally the same. Running a marathon pretty much does the same thing to our bodies as natural childbirth. However, marathoning does nothing to interfere with our ability to bear children. This was a huge hurdle that had to be overcome in order for women to be able to run marathons.

While Kathrine Switzer is well known for running Boston using only her first initial for registration and surviving an attempt by the race director to throw her off the course screaming “Give me those numbers,” we must remember that, in fact, the first woman to run Boston was Bobbi Gibb. Bobbi is one of the pioneers of women’s running that helped pave the way for the rest of us. 50 years ago women were not allowed to run marathons. Today, we make up about half the field in almost every race.

In 1980, American Joannie Samuelson won gold in the inaugural women’s marathon in the Olympics. Just a short 36 years ago, we showed the world that not only can women run marathons, but also that we can do so on a competitive international level. The three women: Bobbi, Kathrine, and Joan are the pioneers of women’s running. Today’s Boston Marathon is a celebration of the barriers we have overcome to be able to run this great race.

I am so proud and so blessed to have the ability to run. It is the greatest gift that I have in life. While considered a solitary sport, it is amazing to see what we can do once you get a group of runners together. We run to raise money for charity. We run to bring awareness to causes. We continue to run even when we are hungry and tired. We run through joy, we run through tears. We just keep going, because to stop would be one of the greatest pains to experience.

There is a meme that has gone around the Internet in running circle with a Matrix-like scenario. If you take the red pill, you can continue running at your current level for the rest of your life. If you take the blue pill, you will see significant improvement in your ability to be competitive, but your super running ability will only last for 5 years and then you will not be able to run anymore. I choose the red pill. Every time. I choose the red pill. I cannot imagine my life without running in it.

I will be doing a trail run today in solidarity with Boston. The day I earned my Boston medal in 2010 was one of the best days of my life. Let us never forget 4.15.13. We must honor those that we lost by continuing to run. We must run for those who cannot because we know they would do the same for us. We must show all terrorists everywhere that even if you bomb our race, it will not stop us from toeing the start line and from crossing finish lines again and again. Each step that we take is a step full of love.

You don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun because we have the ability to be, show, and bring out the best in humanity. Today we celebrate not only women’s running but also the hope and love that the marathon symbolizes. #BostonStrong

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Thanksgiving Day in April

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I had a bad day today.

Nobody wants to hear bad things. People want to hear good things. Before you stop reading, let me tell you this: It reminded me to be grateful.

That’s right, grateful.

I remember a time about 4 years ago, when I had a job so atrocious with a boss who micromanaged me with the precision of a Lego drill sergeant, that the most positive part of my day was lunch time. That’s right, lunchtime. I remember the person whom I was dating at the time trying to be supportive, knew better than to ask, “how was your day?” Instead they would ask, “How was lunch?”

In vast contrast to four years ago, my life today is at the most positive place it has ever been in my 37 years of life. For the first time, I literally have it all: A roof over my head, a working vehicle, 2 healthy cats/kids that love me, a job I love that pays me well & allows me to meet all my obligations each month. I am finally done with school & have more leisure time than I have ever had in life or know what to do with. The only thing missing is the person to share life with, and well, that just happens sometimes.

So what is one bad day? I need to have Thanksgiving in April. You know, I’ve always said Thanksgiving should not just be one day, but every day all year long.  It’s true. We should be thankful every day.

I am quickly approaching my one year anniversary of when I made a life changing decision to go from two minimum wage $9/hour jobs working 60-70 hours a week to working one living wage job working 25-30 hours per week. Even though it was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made in my life, I am glad I took the chance and jumped in blind with two feet. The past year has quite literally been the best year of my life.

Not only am I able to pay all of my bills, but also I am able to take care of myself better than I was able to before. My food allergies and autoimmune condition are very demanding, yet the past year they have been relatively under control.

Thanksgiving should not just be one day in November. We should be thankful every day for our blessings in life. Every day.

What are you thankful for today? How can you have Thanksgiving in April?

 

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

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It has been almost 2 months since I completely deleted my Facebook account, and I have absolutely no regrets. Not only have I had no desire to log in, scroll through a newsfeed, or create a new account, but also I am so much happier without Facebook. I do not feel that I am missing out on anything. I get the news, the weather, and am an informed citizen who gets my information through other formats. I am aiming to simplify all aspects of my life, and my technology use has been reduced to this blog, my email, and my cell phone.

There are some people with whom I communicated via Facebook, and I do miss those people. I will admit that I am disappointed in some of my so-called friends who cannot seem to pick up a phone to contact me without Facebook. Facebook is the modern day version of voyeurism. It is the lazy mans way of communication. Why put effort into talking to people when you can simply swipe through some “friends” on your phone? (Can you detect the sarcasm here?)

I have gone back to old-school basics of letter writing. You know, that paper and pen snail mail kind of communication that starts out “Dear Pen Pal,” or whomever.

This has enriched my relationships. I have to consciously take the time to sit down to compose a letter or card to an individual, and I personalize my message for the person to whom I am writing. It is so much more engaging than posting some vague status update and waiting for notifications or “likes.”

There is some excitement in getting return letters as well. Admit it – as an adult, mail service sucks. No one likes the mail because it tends to contain either bills or junk mail. Most people nowadays pay their bills online. When we open the box and there is a lovely handwritten envelope from a loved one or friend, there is a certain amount of glee that happens. We may even skip back to the house from the mailbox. Maybe not. I could be going overboard.

When writing a handwritten letter, we can send a whimsical card or notepaper. Who doesn’t like school supplies? Why use an impersonal emoji when you can use stationary to exhibit our own personal flair? We can even draw our own designs instead of using some computer-generated graphic.

There is so much more feeling and so much more meaning when we take time out of our busy days and busy lives to send someone a birthday card or a get-well card. It is a personal, thoughtful touch that will be remembered more than an impersonal post on someone’s wall. In fact, many people post on other people’s walls as a public display of some type of behavior – the same gesture done privately would mean so much more. Facebook puts relationships on display that should remain between individuals and not necessarily subject to public view and comment.

Handwritten cards and letters can be kept and read again when we are feeling down or need a reminder of how someone feels about us. Do you get that same feeling when scrolling through a newsfeed? Research has shown that Facebook has a tendency to make people depressed more than it brings people up. I have yet to see any research that proclaims positive aspects of Facebook. Yes, I understand that people have their reasons for using Facebook, and that there are positives to the platform that people find individually. Yet there is no research showing widespread positivity, only negative outcomes and influences. For example, more divorces than ever are listing Facebook as a reason for the divorce. Should we really be putting our personal relationships on view for the world?

The lost art of letter writing allows personal relationships to remain personal. Often, when we write a letter or card to someone, it is for that person only. It is not like we take out the letter and read it around the break room at work or stand on a street corner reading it for everyone to hear. We may sometimes share snippets of letters with others who know the same individual. Yet it is rare that we will read the entire volume to everyone else in our life.

What would happen if you randomly sent a handwritten letter or card to one of your close friends or family members? Would they be shocked? Surprised? Would it make them smile? Joy is the point of rediscovering the lost art of letter writing. Yes, it may be an antiquated method of communication, but can you tell me that you do not smile when you receive a letter or card in the mail?

Slowing down our lives for quality human connection is essential. Today’s breakneck pace of life takes away from our relationships. There are more divorces, more single people, more people alone than at any point in human history. Yet we are more “connected” than ever before. The Internet is a great tool, but the connections are often superfluous.

Increase the quality of human connection by discovering the lost art of letter writing. See who we can make smile by doing so.

Life Lesson #493: Do Not Wine & Adele

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Above: Recent art project in process. It will be much shinier and prettier after it is fired in the kiln. You can see some of my Deadpool skin courtesy of my autoimmune disorder.

They say that no man is worth crying over, and the one who is won’t make you cry. This is true for both men and women. While I have heard this adage many times, it has literally taken me years to develop a sense of self worth adequate enough to truly embrace it. When we are emotionally distraught, we tend to engage in negative coping skills in an attempt to deal with the pain. Part of growing up is developing and maintaining positive coping skills to be able to deal with life’s challenges so that we can become resilient and bounce back to full functioning in shorter periods of time.

When we are emotionally distraught, we are more susceptible to becoming overwhelmed by even the slightest thing. The smallest addition to the pile could be the tipping point at which distraught tumbles into full-blown despair or meltdown. About 5 years or so ago, I could very easily tell you what my most negative coping skill was for dealing with stress. It was then I learned to not wine and Adele.

We all have negative coping skills, from smoking to drinking, to binge-watching Bridget Jones’ Diary on repeat while inhaling tubs of Ben & Jerry’s to taking out our emotions on the people closest to us whether they deserve it or not. For me, it was wine & Adele. I could drink wine and listen to anything else from the Grateful Dead to The Doors to Florence & The Machine, but if I put on Adele, well, then, “rolling in the deep,” indeed.

Over the past few years, I have been successful in replacing some of my most negative coping skills with more positive ones. The fact that I have been able to minimize and simplify my life these past few years has greatly helped in this transition process of shedding negative habits for more positive ones.

Simplifying my life, slowing down my schedule, and reducing the amount of clutter around me has empowered me to more competently face and process my emotions better without being overwhelmed by anything around me. I have the time and space to process all my emotions, both positive and negative, without having anything in my environment be a tipping point to a negative place. I have been able to develop positive coping skills for processing negative emotions so that I can more quickly and successfully come through the other end.

March was a particularly challenging month for some reason I have not been able to identify. In March, I used my positive coping skills a lot. I did quite a bit of painting, I have been more active in community events, and have had more meaningful conversations with those whom I interact.

I did not wine, but I did Adele. With my autoimmune disorder, my wine consumption has gone from about 4-5 bottles per year to maybe 4-6 glasses per year, so wine is no longer a coping skill. I did, however, pop in the new Adele CD and have a nice, tear-free soak in the bathtub.

Sometimes when we are distraught, identifying our positive coping skills can by extremely difficult, even if it seems that they should be evident. For those moments when life is overwhelming, I have made a list of positive coping skills that I can look at to remind myself that there are ways other than smoking (I quit like 9 years ago), wine & Adele, or endless tears to be able to cope with stress and pain.

Some of my positive coping skills include:

  • Running
  • Painting
  • Baseball
  • Hockey
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Church

It is especially important to try to identify coping skills that are not dependent on other people, in case those people are not available, or maybe we just don’t have people in our lives on whom we can rely. Unfortunately, that is the situation in which I live. There is not a single person in my life that I could pick up the phone and call when I am having a hard time. I have tried it before and the usual response is “I’m busy.” I don’t even bother reaching out for human contact anymore. People know where I am. If they want to talk to me, they can reach out to me.

One of the reasons why learning to not wine & Adele is so significant is that wine & Adele was trapping me in a cycle of negativity. I was not processing my emotions and moving on from them; I was dwelling in them. Pickling myself in negative feelings is not what I have in mind for my life. In the process of slowing down, I now have the luxury of being able to unpack and address each emotion and move on from the situation that much stronger for having addressed the initial cause of despair.

Diversifying our coping skills is important in case our “go-to” is unavailable. For example, when I was injured last fall after my marathon, I had to rely on my other coping skills to deal with my running injury, because it was definitely not something I could just “run through.” If I ran with that injury, I would have done permanent damage that would have inhibited my running for the foreseeable future.

Do you have your own version of wine & Adele? What positive coping skills can you use to replace the negative ones? How can we be kind to ourselves and best allow ourselves the time and space to process our emotions in healthy ways? When we slow down our lives, we then have the opportunity to deal with our emotions instead of just dwelling in them. We are here to live, not to dwell.