It gets dark just after 4pm now. By the time I’ve eaten dinner and done a little of this and that around the house, I feel like it’s bedtime. I look at the clock — it’s 5:30pm. During any other season of the year, I’d be beside myself, giddy with the idea of found time (like waking up in the middle of the night and realizing that you still have, like, 6 hours before your alarm goes off), but now I grudgingly admit to myself that it’s too early — even for me — to actually crawl between the sheets.

I’m one of the lucky ones; because I start work at 6am (that’s not actually the lucky part), I’m done and clocking out of the office while it’s still light (that’s the lucky part), even in the midst of the darkest time of the year. Most people don’t see daylight except through their office windows or at lunchtime forays back out into the world. My work days almost always start in the dark (there is about a precious month in the middle of summer where the sun is almost up while I’m commuting in) and end in the light so it always feels like a normal work day, no matter the time of year, if that makes sense.

But now it feels like it’s time to go into hibernation mode. The thing foremost on my mind once I get home from work? Dinner and bed. Of course, I (almost) never do that — even as someone with a ridiculously early bedtime, 5:30pm is still, you know, late afternoon. At best, early evening. I push myself to work out, even though it’s a little disconcerting to go into the basement while it’s light and come up the stairs to a pitch-black house. I try not to turn on the TV just to have some light and noise filtering through the house (I tend to lose this battle more often than not). It’s not like I don’t have things to keep myself busy — there are always books that I’m excited to read and writing that I want to do — but all of those things pale in comparison to the thought of snuggling into bed.

It’s not like I don’t have this same amount of time during the summer, but it’s somehow different. I’m not going to head out for a walk before bed. I’m not going to sit out on my patio, reading a book, enjoying a beverage. I’m less likely to want to make mid-week plans with friends, feeling like even before the evening has begun, it’s past my bedtime.

Instead my instinct is to hunker down with blankets and the dog, passing time until it’s okay to head to bed.

I don’t think I’m alone in this (right?).

So, instead, I try and use my bear-like attitude to my advantage.

I use the time to turn inward and start preparing myself for the rush of the holidays and then both the starkness and sense of renewal that comes with January and February. I start to dream about possibilities, awakening myself to potential much like I look forward to the coming of warmer weather. In the midst of this dark, there’s a rebirth happening beneath the surface. I begin writing out plans to give me purpose during those first few months of the year when there might not otherwise be a lot of look forward to.

I often wonder if those people who live in perpetually sunny and warm places go through the same thing? Over the years, I’ve found that my life moves in the same rhythm as the seasons, slowing down once the winter snow and cold arrives and then gearing back up when the warm weather graces us again. Not a complete hibernation, but a time to regroup, relax, regenerate. Ideas have time to be noodled around, percolating on the back burners of my mind while going about my regular business. There’s still forward progress, but it’s with an ease and unhurried nature that will disappear once the birds start singing again.

I’m sure I’ll be one of those whiny people complaining about the snow and cold soon enough, but right now I’m taking the time to appreciate the slow down that comes with this time of year (well, at least once the holidays are over with). Less daylight, more sleep, time for new ideas and fresh insights.

 

 

So, yesterday I did my third trail race of 2016.

The first was in February — it was a muddy, very long slog that was one of those awful/awesome experiences. I finished, but it took every last bit of willpower to keep going at times. Once it was done, though, it was all awesome and very little of the awful. Kind of like I hear childbirth is.

Then, last week I did a trail race out at Palos Forest Preserve, on trails on which I usually bike rather than run on. The fall colors were out in full force — like a technicolor movie after watching only black and white. I spent a lot of the race wanting to just stop and take it all in, but running there with my friend Mary just felt right. Felt like that’s what I was supposed to be doing, right at that particular moment.

And then yesterday I did another trail race, a whim of a last-minute decision, and enjoyed another beautiful trail out at New Salem. I ran by myself this time, and though I started out taking it easy, it wasn’t long before I found myself welcoming back those old competitive juices and while I’m still not speedy, I worked as hard as I could to do as well as I could. I felt a glimmer of that feeling that I always chased while running — this weird, elusive, empowering, I-can-do-anything attitude.

In my training, I haven’t really gotten to the point where running feels good. It’s always something to get through more than something I enjoy. And now I’m wondering: maybe I’m just doing my training in the wrong place. I spend my time on asphalt trails or sidewalks through subdivisions or on a treadmill — little to get excited about. It’s convenient, for sure, but not inspiring.

I can still close my eyes and picture the hilltop during the Palos run where the trees were blazing yellow, the ground was a carpet of yellow leaves; it felt like an otherworld. The overwhelming feeling is one of peace and oneness, where appreciating both the awesome beauty of the place and my body’s ability to run comes easy.

And you know what? That “otherworld” is a short 35 minute drive from my house. Seems to me that I should spend a little more time rustling through the leaves (and then slogging through the snow) and enjoying the nature that’s not far from my front door.

It’s funny how just taking an activity and moving it to a different environment can make a world of difference. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to move west, move to the mountains, and while that’s not in my near-term future, I needed these runs to remind me that I’ve got some pretty cool places right here in Illinois. Maybe it’s not Utah or Colorado, but it’s more than enough for now. I mean, just look at it – you can’t tell me it isn’t beautiful.

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My own special perk — an advanced copy that I got to read and highlight and tag before everyone else.

Jonathan Fields, author of The Good Life Project and the podcaster responsible for hundreds of interviews with fascinating and inspiring people, ends every podcast with this question for his guest: “so, what does it mean to you to live a good life?”

The answers are as varied as his guests, but with one underlying commonality: there’s this urgent but impassioned attitude that living life to its fullest potential might be one of the most important things that we, as humans, do. This necessarily takes different forms for different people, but finding those things that spark and light you up are the difference between merely being and truly living.

And to address this desire to live the best life possible, Fields wrote a book chock full of lessons and ideas to inspire. A little about the book:

How to Live a Good Life is a practical and provocative modern-day manual for a life well-lived. Drawn from the intersection of science, spirituality, and Jonathan Fields’ years-long quest to learn at the feet of world-renowned masters from nearly every tradition, this book offers a simple, yet stunningly powerful tool for life, the “Good Life Buckets.”

It then walks you through 30-days of fun, yet powerful mini-challenges, designed to rekindle deep, loving, and compassionate relationships; cultivate vitality, radiance, and graceful ease; and leave you feeling lit up by the way you contribute to the world. No need for blind faith or surrender of intelligence; everything you’ll discover is immediately actionable and subject to validation through your own experience.

How to Live a Good Life is not just a book to be read; it’s a path to possibility, to be walked, then lived.

I became a student of Fields awhile ago, taking in his podcasts in big gulps and still wanted more. When he announced his book, I knew I wanted to be along for the ride — I opted to become a Good Life Ambassador and spread the Good Life love. One of the perks? I have a case of 10 books that I want to give away (admit it, I just became your favorite person, didn’t I?).

So, how would you like to spend the next few months hanging out with me and other like-minded folks, exploring the book, becoming each other’s accountability partners and amping up your life while you’re at it? I want to start an action-oriented book club where we read the book together, covering the challenges and discussing them in a private Facebook group. Once past the initial few chapters that explain Fields’ Good Life Buckets theory, each challenge is only a few pages of reading and then some amount of doing — sometimes requiring a few minutes, sometimes more, but always worth the time spent.

I’ve got that case of books to give away and will be happy to send one out to the first 10 people who say that they’re interested — the only thing I ask is in return that you commit to being an involved member of our group while we work our way through the 30 days of challenges.

Of course, anyone who’d like to be involved is more than welcome — the more the merrier! So, go ahead and share this post, invite your friends and the first 10 get the book for free! What more could you ask for? A free book AND a group of awesome people to talk about it with. Life doesn’t really get better than that, does it?

I plan on starting this the first full week in December and hitting maybe 2-3 challenges a week, giving everyone plenty of time. Of course, nothing is set in stone and we have all the flexibility in the world to change things up to make it work better for everyone. If you’re interested, comment either here or on the Facebook post and I’ll get in touch with you to get an address to send the book to.

If you’re looking for more information before you commit…

Here’s a link to the first chapter of the book — you can read it without even having to provide an email. Go to the website, scroll down a bit and then just click the button and it’ll appear on your screen.

Here’s one of my favorite episodes of his Good Life podcast, with guest Elizabeth Gilbert.

And here are some of Jonathan Field’s essays to enjoy, if you’re still, for some weird reason, not convinced that this book club will be the most awesome thing you’ll ever join.

brene-quoteIf you spend any amount of time around these parts, you know that Brene Brown is one of my personal heroes. She was my gateway drug into the world of whole-hearted living and made me realize how much of my life can be influenced simply by how I treat myself.

One of the concepts that she often preaches about is the idea of “the story we tell ourselves” — it’s the story that our mind makes up to explain outside circumstances and situations, and these stories may or may not reflect reality. One of the examples that she uses is when a work colleague seems to be short with me, maybe the story that I automatically believe is that I did something wrong and so he blew me off or that he thinks I’m a jerk because I disagreed with his idea. I then go to his desk and say, “This is the story I’m telling myself … ” and explain what I’m thinking, and he replies, “Oh no, I had just gotten a phone call from my wife that distracted me” and all of a sudden, my story falls apart. My story may have explained what happened, but failed to actually sync up with the rest of the world.

These stories, they happen automatically. They’re just our way of making sense of the world around us, but honestly, we aren’t always very good at making them real. And believing these stories can really become an obstacle to doing something you want to do or moving forward in a different way. Because, see, we don’t just have stories to explain the behavior of other people, we also make up stories to explain why we act the way we do.

So, like I mentioned last week, I hurt my back last Friday — badly enough that I was pretty well relegated to sitting around for the rest of that weekend and very slowly working my way back this week. And it’s been difficult, because I had made such a good start on my rest-of-the-year goals and I was motivated to keep pressing on and then, in the span of one deadlift, I went from totally pumped to feeling like a deflated balloon. A deflated balloon that whimpered every time it had to get up after sitting down.

See, the story I tell myself is this: whenever things are going well, something will always happen that will keep me from moving forward and reaching my goals. Whatever this “something” is, it will derail me, I’ll lose ground and lose track of what was so important to me just a moment ago. That “something” will stop me from doing what I need to do and I won’t see any other way around it. I’ll be a failure. I’ll quit. I’ll lose all progress previously made and be back at square one where, at some point in the far future, I’ll have to start over yet again, after whining and complaining and generally bemoaning how unlucky I am.

This is an easy story for me to believe; it’s not like it hasn’t already happened many times. And I always start again, feeling like THIS is the time that everything will go smoothly. Of course, that’s just another story I’m telling myself. Do you know anyone who has completely smooth sailing on any sort of project or goal? Yea. Me either.

I need to change my story.

My new story is one of fake it ’til you make it. My new story is that I’m a person who perseveres in the face of challenges. That I don’t give up. My new story is that I might have to tack this way and that against the wind, but it’s always with the goal in sight. My new story is that even if I have to just tread water, not making progress, I’m at least holding my ground. My story is that even though the journey might not be smooth, I understand that this journey is important and just staying with it and not abandoning is a win.

Adopting my new story won’t necessarily be easy, but my new story tells me that I’ll be able to do it (how’s that for a little circular logic?). The goals that I had set out — move every day, eat mindfully, strength train — will have another overriding goal: don’t quit. Do the minimum, acknowledge and forgive any missteps, just don’t give up. Do what I can with what I have. I don’t have to be perfect — hell, if perfection were the only thing allowed, I would have been out a long time ago — I just have to keep trying.

So far I’ve managed to do my minimum — walking a mile — every day. It’s a sixteen day streak and I’ve got two months more to go to hit my goal. Just a mile a day might not seem like much, but that’s what I’m talking about — it keeps me feeling like I’m on-task and doing something even when most everything else is out of my reach at the moment.

Changing our story is something anyone can do. What stories do you tell yourself that limit you? What do you think about yourself that’s “just the way I am” rather than looking at it with a little curiosity and wondering, “how could I change that story?” There’s a lot of power in recognizing our stories, and also recognizing that we are the creators of these stories; being the author means being able to go back in and edit the heck out of them, rewrite the ending or even re-jigger the whole damn thing.

 

On and off. Black and white. Ying and yang.

Success and shadow.

What?

It was something I hadn’t considered — that every success has its shadowy side, the underbelly that you don’t always talk about. We all know that success takes hard work and commitment, but that’s usually where the story ends, right? But every success contains sacrifice in some other area and there’s always a push and pull that forces us to choose between what we want, what we have and what we could be.

This concept didn’t just appear, wholly formed, in my brain; I read an excellent essay by James Clear who used Picasso as his main example, and then said the following:

Do you want the shadow that comes with the success? Do you want the baggage that comes with the bounty? What kind of pain are you willing to bear in the name of achieving what you want to achieve? Answering this question honestly often leads to more insight about what you really care about than thinking of your dreams and aspirations.

It is easy to want financial independence or the approval of your boss or to look good in front of the mirror. Everybody wants those things. But do you want the shadow side that goes with it? Do you want to spend two extra hours at work each day rather than with your kids? Do you want to put your career ahead of your marriage? Do you want to wake up early and go to the gym when you feel like sleeping in? Different people have different answers and you’ll have to decide what is best for you, but pretending that the shadow isn’t there is not a good strategy.

It’s all a matter of choices. Sometimes it’s a relatively easy decision (at least in theory, if not in execution), like, “Can I give up 1.5 hours of TV a day to work out and take care of my body?” But other times, doing one thing can negatively impact something else you care about: “Can I give up 1.5 hours of time I could be spending writing to instead be lifting weights or running?” Sometimes the choice involves a little heartbreak.

It’s life’s biggest joke — so many things to want to do and never enough time to do them all in. Instead you have to prioritize and decide what’s really the most important. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a life where you can simultaneously juggle two or three important endeavors, but even still, life will never gift unlimited amounts of time and energy to anyone. It will always come down to figuring out what you can accomplish in your allotted time.success

And so this is what I’ve been thinking about this week: I have my goals that I set out for myself — are they really my top priority? Is getting physically fit and strong the thing that deserves my undivided attention ahead of all other goals? And more importantly, am I prepared to accept the pain that this involves, including taking time away from writing, not eating whatever I want (in quantities that I might want) and doing battle with the habits that cause me to want to snack incessantly?

Right now, my answer isn’t too difficult — my “yes” comes knowing that being single with no kids allows me more time and energy than the average person. And more importantly, being fit will allow me to fully enjoy the activities I really care about — hiking, exploring, photography, going on adventures. My sacrifices and pain are mostly caught up in the challenge of changing my habits and beliefs, which are comfortable, ingrained and not going anywhere unless I force them out.

In the end, I think that recognizing and accepting the sacrifices you need to make to reach your goals is just as, if not more, important than deciding what kind of success you want to achieve. Because if you can’t deal with the shadow side of success, you’ll never end up succeeding anyway.

On a vaguely related tangent: week one of my new plan is complete and so far, so good. Well, kind of. I checked all the boxes (moved at least a mile every day, strength trained 3 times, really focused on mindful eating), but on Friday I jacked up my back doing deadlifts. It’s not of the “lay on the floor and don’t move” variety, but careful and cautious movement is in order. I can still walk slowly — and so I have been — but nothing too much more for the time being. Any strength training is on hold for at least a week, but I’m hoping to ease back into cardio that actually causes me to sweat (which, I’ll have you know, is an incredibly low bar) in a day or so.

To sum it up, I was doing great — I got out on my tri bike, had a kick ass run on the treadmill, and then my back decided to put the brakes on the entire enterprise. Needless to say, I’m pretty pissed off at my back right now (the expletives that erupted from me the moment I knew I had done it, well … they would make me ineligible for a PG-13 rating). But, I need to look at this as an opportunity and certainly not an excuse to throw everything away. A twitchy back won’t keep me from my mindful eating habits. It also won’t keep me from my mile a day (though it’s really slow at the moment). Success is never easy. Here’s my first real obstacle. Let’s see how I handle it.

 

I’ve been home from Utah for over a week now, I’ve posted my vacation porn, emptied out the suitcase (though, admittedly haven’t quite put everything away yet) and spent a week slipping back into my normal routine. Or, at least, attempting to get back at it, though (again, admittedly) I haven’t been entirely successful.

The Utah trip was fantastic — one of the best vacations I’ve had in awhile. Beautiful country shared with a group of awesome people — it doesn’t really get much better than that — but the vacation hangover was in proportion to the absolute fabulousness of the trip. We got home Friday night, and that weekend was such a letdown — real life thrown back in my face. Nothing exceptional occurred, but doing laundry, grocery shopping, food prepping for the work week ahead — it sucked all the good feelings from the vacation right out of me.

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Storm moving in over the mountains at sunset

But seeing as how the escape of retirement is still just a little outside my reach, I need a plan to combat these post-vacation blues. Something to focus on, some way to get from here to the end of the year, intact and forward-looking. Which is how my self-designated, but awkwardly-named weekend of Creating Goals For The Rest Of The Year came into fruition. Because I’m desperate for something to take my mind off of the fact that I’m not longer in gorgeous southern Utah, enjoying nature, friendship and life.

One of the big takeaways from the trip was utterly unsurprising to me: I desperately want and need to be in better shape. Now, before you get any ideas, the only one commenting or caring about my slowness while hiking was me. Ever been in one of those situations where your brain keeps telling you that you’re over-talking and not letting something go and to just SHUT UP and then stares in horror as your mouth just keeps running on and on about the topic? It was sort of like that. I logically knew that no one cared, that everyone understood that I was doing my best, but my own shame and anger at myself for it kept me apologizing. It was as if I needed to (continually) let everyone know that I knew I was out of shape, lest someone think I was oblivious to my obvious weakness. Weird, convoluted, and patently unnecessary, I know. Welcome to my how my mind works.

Coming home from the trip reignited my vast desire to do more hiking, see more places, take more pictures. Traveling and seeing nature up close is where I find my peace, my wholeness. It also reminded me that while I can do these things right now, in my current state of fitness, those activities are far more enjoyable when I’m not spending most of my time wondering whether or not my heart is going to cede from the Laura Nation due to a massive overwork situation.

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Desert flowers

By the end of the vacation week, I could feel my body starting to acclimate to the tough hiking. My heart was still pounding, but it got easier to regulate, easier to find my pace, my happy place. And looking back, I know that if I can just keep doing more of the same, it’ll keep getting easier. Of course, “more of the same” is quite the challenge here in flatland Illinois. Illinois might have its own sort of beauty, but the West is where my soul is called to and out that way, highway overpasses are just overpasses, rather than “mountains” as we could call them here in the Chicago area.

All this to say, I’m in this odd place where I have nothing specific to work on, but feel like I need some goals to keep me moving. So, here’s my working list of things geared towards moving me closer to my fitness goals. I’ll commit to these until the beginning of 2017, when I’ll review what I’ve achieved and decide on my direction for the new year.

  • From today through December 31st, I will be active every day. My minimum will be one intentional mile a day, walking or running or any other self-propelled way. Walking around the office doesn’t count and even a mile of walking between the couch and the refrigerator won’t check the box. Weight training, biking, stair climbing, hiking — these all give me a gold star for the day. Starting today, that’s 78 days of activity, and I’m already good for today. 1 down, 77 to go.
  • I ran a mile this weekend — my baseline for my fitness. Surprisingly, I actually ran the entire thing, which I didn’t think I had in me, figuring that I’d have to stop and walk at some point. I didn’t. Go, me! This will be my main way of measuring my progress.
  • No calorie counting, no eliminating foods, no diets. Instead I’m going to really work on mindfulness about hunger and satiety. I’ve talked about this before, I’ve done this before — it’s hard and I find it easy to ignore when I’m anxious or depressed — but I’ll restart again because I (still) firmly believe that only by developing this skill will I be able to create a healthy relationship with food. Eat when hungry, stop when full, whether it’s vegetables and chicken or pizza and ice cream. Remembering that hunger is not an emergency will also be key.
  • I need to restart weight training. Can I be honest here? I’m not a fan. It’s boring and hard and I don’t really enjoy it. And because I’m adult who’s definitely not being paid to weight train, I try to use the argument that I shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything I don’t like to do (well, anything that’s optional… unfortunately, things like showing up at work and paying the mortgage aren’t currently optional…). But I know better — good health, especially now that I’m getting up there in years, can be exponentially aided with weight training. It’s such a healthy thing for a body to do. If only science would somehow prove me wrong… but until it does, weight training, here I come. I’ll restart my Stronglifts 5×5 program (again).

Pretty straightforward, right? Not only that, but quantifiable (which is yuuuuuge for a numbers-gal like myself) and pretty black and white (I either do it or I don’t). And the extra bit of motivation resulting from the vacation? I want to be able to keep up with my friends. They do cool things, cool things that I want to do to without me feeling the need to apologize for myself. I know that this isn’t the best reason for doing something, but I’m only being honest here. I have amazingly cool friends, they do amazingly cool things and I want to be amazingly cool while doing amazingly cool things, too, all while not feeling like I’m going to die in the process.

So, it’s again with the starting again. But that’s life, isn’t it? Fall down 7 times, get up 8. Success and satisfaction do not come from taking an arrow-straight path and rather rely on resilience and the ability to pick up where I left off. Each time I start again, I go into it with lessons having been learned and progress made. Sometime it feels like square one, but it never truly is.

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So, my brief flirtation with Utah and Zion National Park in February has blossomed into a full blown love affair. After almost a week of hiking and exploring, I’m just about ready to up and move to Southern Utah without even a glance backward.

We stayed at a Subway sandwich shop — well, the apartments above the Subway — and our location couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only were we less than 5 minute walk to the park entrance, but we could navigate back home simply by sniffing the air and moving towards the smell of bread and cookies baking. Pretty awesome, eh?

But instead of me just yapping at you, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

(sorry about the formatting, HTML and WordPress weren’t cooperating with me today and I ran out of patience)

Watchman Trail

This was a great introduction to Zion — a moderate hike that didn’t kill me with elevation gains but still provided some awesome views of the park and the valley below.

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Tired? Have a seat.

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Virgin River with some fall foliage

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I think the guy looks like he’s having fun

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Not a bad view, eh?

Emerald Pools

Even though the pictures don’t look like it, a lot of this hike felt like a half dozen tour buses had just released tourists into the wild.

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A view of the valley

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Lower Emerald Pool

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Middle Emerald Pool

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Heads we go left, tails we go right…

The Narrows

One of the most unique hikes I’ve ever done, this took place in the Virgin River, headed upstream — the “bottoms-up” hike of the Narrows. We were outfitted with neoprene socks, river shoes and walking sticks and waded our way up the river.

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As you can see, some spots were fairly deep

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The current could get quite strong

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Wall Street, where the canyon was only 25-30 feet wide

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Sun just starting to peek into the canyon

Hidden Canyon/Observation Point

Hidden Canyon was probably my favorite part of Zion (once you hiked up the switchbacks to get there). We ran into our first bit of exposed trails and then ended up in the canyon where we climbed and scrambled our way over rocks. So much fun! After that, the trudge up to Observation Point. Essentially, an unrelenting 2100 feet uphill. I came close to quitting this hike — it was one of the toughest hikes I’ve ever done — but the effort and sweat and swearing were all well worth it in the end (isn’t that the way things always go?).

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The mouth of Hidden Canyon

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Not as bad as it looks, honest!

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A hint at the scrambling we did

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Weirdly, the hike to Observation Point included what felt like beach.

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See? Worth it. That’s Angel’s Landing there, looking rather small.

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Totally worth the pain

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On the way back down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryce Canyon

A day trip from Zion, we were told that we shouldn’t miss it. I’d say those opinions were correct — totally different than Zion and still gorgeous in its own way. Zion is mountains while Bryce is kind of a mini Grand Canyon, so completely different terrain. Had a great day hiking the Navajo Trail and the Peekaboo trail.

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Hoodoos galore! View from the rim.

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Hoodoos and spires

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Windows in the canyon walls

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Natural doorways in the stone

 

Angel’s Landing

The one hike that I had my eye on since this trip was booked. I had hiked up to Scout’s Landing in February and was too tired and out of sorts to do anything more than look at the climb up to Angel’s Landing. This time, I was ready to go for it. Whether the Observation Point set a new standard for toughs hikes or if I was simply in better shape, the ascent this time went much faster than last. We got up to Scout’s Landing, met up with the rest of the group and went to take on Angel’s Landing. I won’t bury the lead — I did not make it to the top. There were so many people going up and down, using the same path and chain, and it got to be a little much for me. After a short bit, I reversed course and headed back down. I’m not done with Angel’s Landing, though — I’ll be back to try again.

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View from the valley floor

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I loved all the flowers!

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View from Scout’s Landing

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The first part of the climb up to Scout’s Landing

As anyone who knows me, I’m not a big believer in neatness. This whole Marie Kondo fad of only keeping stuff that you’re in love with? I read the book, but couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to undertake that huge of a task when a little bit of mess just makes life more comfortable, in my humble opinion.

I have no idea how I turned out this way; I come from a family of neatniks. My sister used to yell at me because I’d leave water spots on the bathroom faucet — “It takes TWO SECONDS to wipe it off! Why can’t you just do that ?!?” — and my Mom spent a lot of time disappointedly shaking her head at me as I left a trail of stuff in my wake. I’d like to say I had more important things on my mind, but I think I was (am) just lazy. It’s easier to leave stuff out — I might need it again soon! — than put it away.

These days I’ve been spending a lot of time getting my desk and writing area put together exactly the way I want it. I wanted a space that was welcoming and inspiring and efficient and productive, all in one. I bought a few monitors, wrangled all the different cables, got everything set up. The last piece of the puzzle was a desk lamp — and finally found the perfect light. The space is complete. Serene and peaceful, I sit down and almost audibly sigh with contentment.

img_20160924_091034If you zoom in on the picture, everything’s in its place. It’s not sterile, but it’s not really messy.

Then you zoom out and look at the space surrounding the desk and it looks like a bomb went off. Empty boxes, cables everywhere, papers and extra equipment scattered with no thought.

 

And you know what? That works for me. It’s like I don’t even see it (which confounds the rest of my family). “img_20160924_113722How can you sit at the desk and not notice the rest of the mess?” Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s my superpower? Maybe there’s some sort of force field that’s coming into play? I know that when I walk up the stairs and the room comes into view, I have a passing thought about needing to clean everything up, but it’s like I don’t even mean it. Like, my brain is paying lip service to a voice in my head that I know I’m not really listening to.

In all this, I realized that even though most people would consider me messy, I do spend time and energy nurturing and organizing the spaces where I truly live: my desk space, my computers (mostly making sure my data is organized and backed up), even my workout room. I work daily on keeping my headspace nurtured and organized, funny as that sounds. And the rest? Details that barely make it into my consciousness.

The take away from all this? Understand where you sacred spaces are located. Maybe, like me, your desk is the most important place. Perhaps it’s your entire house. Whatever your sacred space is, keep it warm, inviting and absolutely peaceful. And then let go of the guilt of trying to make the rest fit to what you think social norms require. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone.

 

The other day I went for a run.

Well, a run(ish), as I like to call it.

I worked hard to push through 3 miles of intervals — 2 minutes of running alternated with a minute of walking. I decided on 3 minute intervals because I knew I could run for 2 minutes at a time and — perhaps more importantly — my math skills can handle adding by 3’s without too much effort, seeing as how most of the cells in my body were concentrating on keeping me upright and moving forward.

Well, forward(ish).

I finished up, sweaty and depleted, and my trusty Garmin buzzed at me one more time than it usually would. I looked down to investigate and it was congratulating me on a PR: “YOU RAN YOUR FASTEST MILE YET!!!” it proclaimed in all caps. Now, I’ve only had the Garmin since Labor Day (what can I say, I’m incapable of resisting a good REI holiday sale), so this isn’t tracking over a long period of time, but I do believe that I puffed my chest out just a touch when I read that.

[Side note: I find it hilarious and ironic that my nephew, who I paced through his first 5k’s a few years ago, can now do two miles in thimg_20160916_194222e time it takes me to do one … he’s awesome … and doesn’t let me forget it… teenagers…]

So, my run(ish) and moving forward(ish) were enough to make a difference. Perhaps there might be a lot of power in the “ish”?

Starting back up with all this stuff, I qualify the things I do because I want people to know that I understand that I’m a long way from not only where I was but where I want to be. I’m not running, I “kind of ” run. I’m not training, I’m “doing a little something”. I side-eye running, feeling like I’m almost doing it, but not quite. Not doing it the right way, maybe that’s what I think. And from there was born the “run(ish)”.

But the ish seems like it might be enough, at least for now. It’s like finding this weird middle ground where I don’t have to feel the (self-imposed) pressure of “real” running, but I’m still out there doing it in a way that pushes me to progress on my own terms.

Perhaps I’ll just keep on ish-ing and see what happens. So far, my Garmin seems to be pretty happy with the ISH.

 

The older I get, the more I find that the list of things that I couldn’t care less about grows faster than I can keep track of it:

1. How I look when I’m working out. Yes, I’m sweaty. Okay, yes, I’m literally dripping all over the place and there isn’t a dry spot on me. I used to worry about what people would think, now I worry only about how I’m going to keep the sweat from blinding me and turning me into a 46-year old crybaby because “waaaaa, my eyes burn…”.

2. Whether or not I’m wearing makeup when I go out. I’ve never worn a lot of makeup, but back in the day I wouldn’t leave the house without a little something on. And then, I had Lasik corrective surgery. For a few weeks I wasn’t allowed to wear eye makeup. And afterwards, I found that my eyes were ridiculously sensitive to putting on makeup. It was an easy slide from doing a little bit to doing nothing, aided by getting up so damn early for work that a few more minutes in bed were more important to me than how I looked.

3. Okay, okay, I suppose I could probably just throw “how I look, in general” out there. While I try to look presentable most of the time, I’ve found that a trip to the store or dropping off the dog at doggie day care don’t require anything more than an old pair of shorts and a baggy t-shirt.

4. How often I go to bed before most 7th graders are in bed. Dammit, I’m proud of the fact that during the week I’m headed to bed by around 8:15 with the sole intention of snoring (metaphorically, people, I don’t actually snore) by 8:45pm, 9pm by the latest. I love sleep. Deeply. Truly. Unequivocally. Make fun of me all you want, but as long as I’m getting my 8 hours of sleep a night, it won’t bother me one bit (and if I’m not? you might want to watch it with the teasing…).

5. What kind of car I drive. Well, that’s not entirely true — I’m intensely in love with my Mazda3 — but what I mean is that while the little expensive luxury sports cars always turn my head, I’ve never gotten too close to purchasing one. I don’t need the status and if anyone thinks better or worse of me simply because of my favored form of transportation, well, they probably aren’t my friend anyway. Or they can buy me the sporty expensive luxury car to shut me up on the subject.

6. I’ve got questionable taste in music. Just to set the record straight, I can appreciate good music, but prefer to listen to what I call popcorn music: music that’s light and fluffy, doesn’t have much weight to it and is straightforward and easy to understand. Yes, I like country and pop music. Sue me. I’m sure I’m not far off from listening to whatever will be the “adult lite contemporary” music that kids make fun of adults for listening to. We can’t all be hip.

7. I like, no, love Pop-Tarts. I know that they are nothing but a vehicle for sugar and empty calories, but unless I’m going out for breakfast, they are my favorite breakfast food. And lunch food. And dinner in a pinch. Good cold or heated up, versatile enough to be packed along on a trip, quick energy wrapped in silver cellophane – there isn’t much that beats them. So, go ahead and eat your organic homemade greek yogurt with fresh berries that you helped to grow by chanting Buddhist sayings at them, I’ll be happy with my highly-processed sugar, thank you very much.

8. My house is a far cry from something you’d see in a magazine. And when I say “far cry” what I really mean is that my house exists in a completely separate universe from those magazines, with asteroids and aliens waiting to shoot you up if you dare to breech the gap between them. I like to call my house “comfortable” (my family probably has other words they would use). It’s a little messy, the curtains were leftover from a senior citizen-age couple who probably put them up 20 years ago and the furniture doesn’t really match, but I can assure you that the non-matching furniture is bury-yourself-in-it comfortable. And I’ve got no problem if you decide to put your feet on the coffee table (even with your shoes on!). Also, I won’t follow you around the house with a coaster to put underneath your drink. You’re welcome. Oh, and if you complain about the dog hair? You’re be kicked off the couch before the dog is.

9. I don’t like coffee. I know I should, but I don’t. I’ve tried to like it, really tried, but the habit didn’t stick for more than a year. Anyway, my version of coffee was a very sugary, vaguely mocha-flavored drink. Frankly, I’ll take my sugar in the form of a Pop-Tart. #sorrynotsorry

10. What people think of me. Okay, so this one is maybe 50% true and 50% wishful thinking, but I’m working on it. I like to tell myself that my ability to go out looking like a schlub without make-up isn’t just borne out of just laziness and convenience, but rather as part of my work of not worrying about what others’ opinions of me might be. Makes sense, right? I’ve got a tight circle of important people who I will always listen to, but outside of that, teaching myself to not concern myself with things I cannot control (which certainly includes what other people think about me) is a healthy habit that I’m continually working on.

It’s funny how age has the ability to make a person immune to some of the daily bullshit that crosses our paths regularly. What are some of the things that you find yourself letting go of?