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The bee is back!

28 Sep

I guess I couldn’t stay away for too long. Writing, like running, is a cleansing thing for me. And maybe you’re wondering….what happened next? And I hope I don’t disappoint.

But truth is, what happened next is an unwinding. Relaxation. Rest. Recovery. I needed it. To focus so intently on a goal for so long, to be physically and mentally moving so constantly, to remove all distractions and never waver…it’s exhausting. It was a phenomenal feeling of accomplishment to cross the finish line. And then I needed to not be doing it anymore. Just for a little while.

When I crossed that finish line I was a different person than the day I signed up for the race. Achieving everything you’ve set out to achieve is as awe-inspiring as it is humbling. Somehow, by the time I crossed that line, everything else in my life had fallen into place. Some things had changed drastically, others hadn’t changed at all. But my outlook on everything had changed- so therefore, everything was different. Everything was better.

And, perhaps one of the most mystifying things of all- in the midst of all of this, in the midst of not trying, of not thinking about dating, of not wanting to date, of being happy being just me- I met the greatest guy. By the time I crossed that finish line I was falling in love. And that was the one thing I didn’t really dream would actually happen. But somehow, by making other things happen- things for me happen- that happened, too.

I know that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten myself to a good place. My mom once told me that I had to focus on myself, on what I wanted, what made me happy, before I could ever hope to find a good relationship. Honestly, at the time, I thought she was missing the point- she had no idea what it felt like to be me, 26 and single for years, when she, at 26, was married and pregnant with me. Oh boy, I should have known better. As I think I’ve said before, my mom is smart and pretty much always right. Despite knowing that, I brushed off her comments at the time. But I never forgot the conversation we had, and I’ve since realized that she was right.

There are some things in life, like completing a triathlon, that you can work towards, and, through lots of hard work and effort, achieve. There are other things, like love, that you just can’t. You just have to get yourself to a place where you’ll be ready for it, should it come into your life. Without knowing it, I wasn’t ready before. And then, also without knowing it, I was. And love walked in.

Believe me, I’m well aware of how cliched and storybook-ending that sounds. And I don’t care, because it’s what happened. Cliches are cliches for a reason- because they’re true more often than not, and there is no such thing as a storybook-ending and I’m well aware of that. (Ok, that’s not quite true- I’ll always hold out for the storybook ending. My version of the storybook, that is). The point is…well, there’s lots of points, aren’t there? But ultimately, it’s just like I said in the beginning- it’s all in how you look at things. It’s that complicated, and it’s that simple. It’s still pretty emotional for me when I think about the past nine or so months- how far I’ve come, how hard I’ve worked, how happiness came once I stopped trying so hard to have it.

Somewhere in this period of recovery came another realization. While I needed to slow down, I really don’t want to lose my momentum, I don’t want to stop here. I decided I want to do the triathlon again next year- and I still don’t really know if I can pinpoint why. I just do. And so I will. Isn’t that how it’s always worked? I know that, moving forward, I want and need more of a balance between this and everything else. Before, it consumed me, and that was a good thing. Now, making sure it doesn’t consume me will also be a good thing. By focusing on that one thing for a while, I emerged with a well-rounded life, a new appreciation for every piece of it, and a fresh outlook on what’s to come. And I’m going to run with that.


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Part 4: The finish line

3 Aug

And you know, that really is what I like the best about running. There’s nothing else involved. You can just run. I still have a love/hate relationship with it, but how does the saying go? Better the devil you know than the one you don’t? I’m most comfortable with running so it was a huge relief to reach that leg of the tri.

Even more encouraging was the fact that the run was 2.9 miles, not 3.1. That’s a small difference that makes a big difference, at least in my mind. Usually at some point during a 5K my mind is fixated on the deep desire to not be running anymore. But that never happened the day of the triathlon. I honestly think I was so happy to be in the moment I was in, that I didn’t want to rush it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want it to last forever or anything. But I wanted to appreciate every step for what it was.

As I rounded the second-to-last corner, I started to get a little teary-eyed. It was the first moment I allowed myself to get overwhelmed, and I quickly stopped. I knew I couldn’t get emotional yet, I wasn’t done, and until I crossed the finish line I wouldn’t allow myself to get distracted.

It was only a minute or so later until I was crossing the finish line but the tears that had started to well up in my eyes were long gone. Crossing the finish line. I don’t know how to describe that feeling. Relief that it was over, that I did it. Pride in the fact that I was able to accomplish something that was so outside of my normal self. Happiness as I met up with the family and friends who had come to cheer me along, waving bumblebees and signs and cheering for me the whole way.

And I was also very humbled…to be surrounded by so many women whose goals were probably quite similar to mine, and to be surrounded by the people who have been so supportive and encouraging of me these past few months, who would get up early and stand around all morning just to see me for a few seconds here and there in order to see me cross the finish line.

It was also somehow humbling to realize I had done exactly what I set out to do. In the beginning I said: “For whatever reason and accumulation of circumstances, I want to complete a triathlon. So I will. I will use my energy to focus, concentrate, work hard, step outside the box. Actually, I will swim, bike and run outside the box. Why not?” And I did. And standing on the other side of that finish line, I knew there really isn’t anything I can’t do.

Now here’s the other thing I’ve truly learned that I hope I never forget. Life is crazy. It doesn’t happen how you expect it to. It doesn’t happen when you expect it to. But if you hang on for the ride, follow your heart and keep your head up no matter how rocky your path gets, the good things in life will prevail. There will be something to catch you before you fall. When you least expect it, something so good can happen.

When I set this goal for myself, it was a big deal to me. I said “I decided to change everything”, and I completely meant that. But never did I imagine how big it would get. Never did I imagine that when the goal was achieved, I would be so at peace with myself, with my life. That I would have everything, and want nothing. That I would be so entirely transformed, mentally and physically.

I never imagined that I could ask myself “What’s next?” and realize that I’m okay with the fact that I don’t really know for sure. But I’m incredibly excited to find out.

Thank you.

9 Jul

It’s impossible to get through life without the help of those around you. Not necessarily because you couldn’t, but because you just don’t. Help comes, sometimes unspoken, in hundreds of large and small ways, all the time.

Maybe it’s only me that takes each step when I go for a run- no one is physically helping me move my legs. Maybe my motivation comes from something inside me- no one tells me what to do. Maybe this whole thing is about me- my idea, my plan, my goal. After all, didn’t I say that the whole reason I chose this goal was that it had nothing to do with anyone else, only me?

But that does not mean that no one is helping me. Each and every step I’ve taken– both literally and figuratively– has been backed by the support of so many wonderful people. Could I have done it without them? Yes. But did they help me do it? Absolutely. I could have done it without them, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Sometimes getting help seems like a bad thing- like you can’t do something on your own. But that’s not true. When people want to help you and support you not because you asked for it, or even because you need it…it’s a wonderful thing.

So. I moved my own feet. And here’s to some of the people who made that possible.

Amelia. I have no idea how I have not mentioned you here before, because without you no one would not be reading these words. You’re the one who put the blog bug in my head, and I am so thankful. Besides that, you’ve been one of my most positive supporters, and have listened to my crazy thoughts more times than I can count. Thank you so, so much.

Audrey, your seemingly crazy idea to do a 5K before the tri has changed my life tremendously. Thanks for patiently re-teaching me how to swim and for always having the sweetest most encouraging things to say. Thank you. Because of you, I will not drown.

Callie and Wayne, I don’t care if you hate your blog names. I love you. Thank you for running with me. And thank you for always being truly happy for me, and for believing in me and in every aspect of my future.

Lola. I cannot imagine what the past few months would have been like without you. I would have definitely puked before the first 5K (and it might have been my last), maybe even cut out of the gym early some days and would not have given myself over to the idea of dating as easily. And I would have had a lot less fun. I don’t know how else to say how happy I am that you came on this journey with me….thanks for being the yin to my yang.

James….it’s still beyond words. Thanks for reading this, understanding me, and then doing something amazing. You made me realize that it is possible to do something for yourself that can truly reach other people. And speaking of beyond words– thank you for the bubble.

Piz, you believe in my words with such a conviction that I can really see myself on Oprah someday. I promise I’ll figure out a way to get you on camera too 🙂 Thanks for training with me, for coming to see me run, and oh yeah, for being the best brother in the whole wide world.

Mom & Dad, thank you for… everything. For being there. For believing in me. For laughing when I told you I was going to do a triathlon, because it reminds me how far I’ve come.

I just had to say all these thank you’s now, because I’m hopping on a plane to Mexico in the morning and I know that once I get back they days will fly by and it will suddenly be the day of the triathlon. I wanted to say these thank you’s before then so that when I cross the finish line each of you will know the role you played in getting me there and the gratitude I have for it. Because let’s face it, I’ll probably be so exhausted I won’t be able to breathe or form a coherent thought to thank you then.

I can’t wait! 16 days!

2 Jul

Yesterday was a really hot day and the sun was blazing, so naturally that was the day I had to leave work to take a trip to a local historical society to get some images for a project we’re working on. Whatever idea you have in your head of a historical society, I bet you’re right. It was just like that. Hot, lots of stuff, old smells, and no fresh air to breathe. I didn’t even have a chance to recover because when I got back to work I found out this was also the day that the air conditioner decided to break. I spent the last two hours of work trying to cool myself down. It was not just that it was hot. It was that it was stuffy. It was stifling. By the time I walked out at 5pm, I felt like I could barely breathe.

I got into my car (which was even hotter and more suffocating) and the feeling didn’t go away. Even after the air conditioning kicked in. Even after I drank a bunch of water. Even once I was halfway home. The feeling seemed disproportionate to the actual temperature displayed on my dashboard. It was making me nervous. Panicky. And then I realized– this is what I used to feel like every day.

I had to give that thought a moment. Wow. I used to feel this way all the time. In the winter, having nothing to do with the heat. On a normal day, when nothing in particular was wrong. My mind’s own constant revolution would cause the elephant to creep up and sit on my chest. Or it just never left. I could never breathe.

I don’t know how I got that way.

I don’t know how I got this way.

But thank God.

Testing the waters

22 Jun

I don’t know what is wrong with me, but for the past week or so I’ve lacked the energy and motivation that has been pretty much consistent over the past few months. Don’t get me wrong– despite this, I’ve still been going to the gym, running, biking, doing everything I usually do (and putting in a solid effort), it’s just that at some point while I’m doing it, I feel like I’m submitting myself to some kind of torture, and after I’m done I feel completely exhausted.

I’d like to think that this is partially the weather’s fault, because it’s been super gloomy and rainy for what feels like 2 months but is probably more like 2 weeks— and I don’t do well without sunshine. What I don’t want to think is that I’m just tired. While in general I believe you should listen to your body when you feel like you need a rest, I find that I never practice this belief in my own life. The stubborn side of me comes out and I just tell myself to stop being such a baby, have a protein shake and deal with it. Don’t I need to push myself to the point of exhaustion? Doesn’t my body need to know what that feels like? Doesn’t exhaustion just mean that I’m working really hard, and isn’t that a good thing?

I know (because I’ve been told by Lola and Callie, who are often smarter about me than I am) that now that I’ve come this far, I need to concentrate more on finding balance and learning to allow myself to rest when I find that I haven’t allowed myself to do something fun/relaxing in a while and I need an extra coffee–with a shot of espresso– to feel like a functional human being.

I think by “balance”, Lola means that she wants me to retract my no-dating policy, which, at her insistence, I kind of did a couple of weeks ago (I refused to call it a date, and it was quickly dubbed a “friend outing”). While it didn’t exactly work out smashingly in the end, I learned a lot of important lessons that really surprised me.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Lola’s convincing, I wouldn’t have gone out with him. Besides the fact that I didn’t think he was my type (whatever my “type” is), I wasn’t sure I wanted to be dating again- even just one measly date. And I would have been passing up a really great date with a super nice guy without even realizing it. That’s lesson 1. Lesson 2: it’s not all or nothing. You can test the waters, dip your toes in rather than diving in headfirst. This might sound obvious, but I guess I felt like coming out of my dating coma meant that I was going to be totally thrown wide awake into the dating stratosphere. But that’s simply not true. A date can just be a date, if you let it be (or in this case, a friend outing). Lesson 3 is one I already knew but hadn’t been given in return for quite some time: honesty is key. I was really honest with him upfront about my hesitance towards dating due to my laser-like focus on myself. Not only was he okay with that, but he respected it and still wanted to go out with me. And I totally commend him for this because I think my situation is hard to explain to someone, at least without them thinking I was two steps away from crazy and might be walking a fine line now. And he was quite honest with me upfront about where he was in his life. It was so refreshing. Complete honesty right from the get go is rare in the dating realm, at least in my experience (and I do happen to have some of the most bizarre dating stories out there, so maybe my personal experience is just unlucky). But the transparency in this situation– before we even went out– made for a totally relaxed, completely enjoyable evening that overall started to renew my faith in the entire concept of dating.

Overall, I realized I am much more optimistic about dating in general, and—here’s the key— a hundred times more okay with the fact that I’m single than I was six months ago. And–how bizarre is this?– I have found myself suddenly thankful that I didn’t get into a relationship back then. I needed to figure myself out first, not find someone to save me.

And I realized that I don’t always have all the answers- even when it comes to myself. Sometimes I need to listen to the people around me. Sometimes I need to be more open. And sometimes I just need to take a chance.

Piece of cake

29 May

Here’s one thing I’ve realized about weight loss: It’s simple. Now, before an angry ban of women bearing food scales and dumbbells as weapons shows up at my door ready for a brawl, let me explain myself.

For starters please note that I didn’t say it was easy. I said it was simple. People try to complicate it all the time, and they do that quite well. They subscribe to the mentality that you’ve gotta eat low carb/high protein, or that you should replace a meal with a shake, or that you have to eat only tofu and bean sprouts when you hate tofu and bean sprouts, or that you need to order the food that some plan tells you you need to eat. And maybe sometimes those things do work, but it’s complicated and leaves little room for anyone to keep it up. Once you’ve lost the weight, what do you do? Avoid carbs for life? Continue buying their food? And what have you learned?

That’s the complicated part that makes people think that they can’t do it. But that’s just noise. Here’s the simple part: Eat less. Think more. Move more. Lose weight.

I know half the people who just read that are thinking it’s oversimplified bullshit. I’d encourage you to give it a second thought, though. It really is that simple.

Eat less— you probably don’t realize what a serving size is, or how much you are truly consuming in the course of the day. You need to burn more calories than you eat in order to lose weight. Are you making that possible for yourself?

Think more about the choices you make— food is fuel for your body. What is your body running on?

Move more— getting in shape is not going to happen overnight, so just get going. It’s not an all or nothing deal— you don’t have to run a marathon tomorrow. Start small if that’s what you’re comfortable with. Nike has had it right all along. Just do it. Whatever it is.

And then, lose weight.

And this is why it’s simple but not easy. If it was easy to do all this, and to lose weight as a result, then we’d all be wearing a size 2 and one-piece bathing suits wouldn’t exist. Over the past few months I’ve lost weight some weeks only to gain part of it back the next- with no discernable difference in what I’m eating or how much I’m exercising. It’s frustrating, and some days I’ve wanted to tear my hair out. So I’m not gonna say that it will always work out exactly the way you want it too. But guess what? Keep it up, and over time your body cannot deny you the weight loss.

Don’t expect yourself to be perfect, because you won’t be, and that’s just setting yourself up for failure in your own eyes. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, because it won’t; it took you a while to gain weight, so it’s going to take you a while to lose it. Don’t make excuses for yourself— you’ll always be busy and you’ll always have obstacles— but you can always make time for something you consider a priority… aren’t you a priority to you? And don’t expect it to be easy, because it will always be a struggle, although the struggle will diminish over time. If it still feels complicated, then make it feel uncomplicated. Focus on what it really boils down too, and I think you’ll find that all that’s left is truly quite simple.

Woohoo!

21 May

These past two weeks have been filled with quite a few meaningful accomplishments, which has been just the boost I need. Sometimes over the past few weeks I’ve felt my headstrong, unwavering, go-hard-or-go-home attitude begin to waver slightly and it freaks me out. I don’t want to lose that drive. Then I think about what I’ve accomplished, and I realize that I’m crazy- I’m not losing my drive at all; maybe I’m just relaxing it’s grip on me a little bit.

Way back in December, when I first started Weight Watchers, I set my first weight-loss goal. I wanted to be a certain weight by May 1st. To be honest it was an arbitrary date and an arbitrary weight, except for that back then I thought it sounded like the beginning of summer and summer is a good time to be feeling thinner, and it was about a pound a week, which was realistic. Now, me being me, I don’t just set a goal and forget it. This goal was on my mind every day. Even if I wasn’t thinking “May 1st” I was thinking of what weight I needed to be at the next week in order to be on track for May 1st. My rollercoaster-like weight loss patterns sometimes made me think I’d be derailed somewhere along the way. But, gosh darn it, if I didn’t make it then I was going to be as close as humanly possible, and I wasn’t going to allow myself to be standing on the scale on May 1st thinking “Well if I hadn’t had that cake/pizza/ice cream/Coca-Cola/french fries, I would have made it. If I hadn’t skipped the gym/layed on the couch all day/slept in/been so lazy, I would have made it.” Helllllllz no. I was beyond determined to prove to myself that I could do this; that willpower and persistence would be my keys to success. The struggle of weight loss (and no matter how much willpower and persistence you have, it is definitely a struggle) you play a constant numbers game: I ate 7 points at lunch. I ran 2 miles. I was at the gym for 60 minutes. I worked out 5 days this week. Count your points, measure your portions, time your pace. All those numbers were worth it when, on May 1st, I got on the scale and saw the exact number I wanted to see. I met my May 1st goal!

The following week was my next 5k. It was by far the largest race Lola and I have run in so far (more than 5,000 people total) which was very cool. For some reason, this was also the first race where I wasn’t very nervous at the starting line. The course was great- not too hilly, yet not too flat and boring. It was through neighborhoods and the people were very excited to see the runners come through, lots of them were out on their porches cheering or blasting music. I finished mile 1 in 9:53. That was the fastest I have ever run a mile. It was also the first time during a race that I ran the entire mile without stopping. And I knew I could keep going. I ran straight through mile 2 and into 3. Shortly into 3 I had to stop, but I was okay with that. It was still the best I have ever run- race or not. And, adding to the triumph of the day, I crossed the finish line at 33:43– my best time yet by more than 30 seconds. It was a great, great feeling.

Tonight’s accomplishment was smaller but still significant. I went swimming! Phew! I’ve been so nervous about the fact that I haven’t started training for the swim, so it felt great to finally get in the water. And I was lucky enough to have Audrey as my swim coach. She went to a swim clinic a few weekends ago, and learned lots of helpful hints that she passed along to me after analyzing my technique (or lack thereof). I am hugely thankful for that, because when I first got in the water and realized the things I was doing wrong, I was slightly freaked out that the triathlon swim might mean my demise. As with running, it’s the breathing I have a problem with– but it’s even harder to think about breathing while you’re swimming because there truly are some less-opportune times to take a breath (i.e., when your face is in the water). But by the time I got out of that pool I had improved quite a bit (again, thanks to Audrey!) and felt much better about swimming. I probably would have felt even better if I hadn’t forgotten to bring a towel with me and didn’t have to dry off with Audrey’s extra sweatshirt and some paper towels. I am not joking; I was in a situation where drying my body with a sweatshirt was the best option available. And Audrey is teeny, so her sweatshirt was not very big and I didn’t have very much material to work with. Although it was surprisngly absorbent. Still, forgetting a towel when you’re going swimming is like forgetting socks when you’re going running (meaning it’s a completely doofus move). Even though drying off with a sweatshirt is not the greatest, thank goodness for Audrey and her sweatshirt. I absolutely HATE getting dressed if my body has even a drop of water still on it, so this was quite particularly torturous for me, but what would I have done if she wasn’t there? Answer: I would still be there, trying to get dry so I could put my clothes on and go home.