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?

I didn’t intend to take a little summer hiatus, but I guess that’s what happened, regardless of intentions. If I’m being truthful, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be here, but rather my words failed me. I sat down, waggled my fingers in an authorly manner to warm them up, hovered over the keyboard and … nothing.

I had no words.

(don’t look so shocked)

And, I’m still kind of muddling around here — writing about not being able to write — but I’m determined to make another start.

So, what’s been wrong?

This summer has been a little like an incubator for my brain and I’ve been noodling around thoughts and plans of the future. Things as close as the Utah trip that’s coming up in less than a month (yay! ack!) and as far out as doing a through-hike of the Colorado Trail once I retire — not to mention all the fun adventures in between the two. And as I start thinking about these trips that stoke my passion, I can’t help but think about the practical stuff, too (it’s how I’m built (thanks Mom and Dad)).

On that practical note, I’ll say that very few of the items on my list involve sitting in front of a computer (except for writing, of course — don’t worry, I’m not leaving y’all) and instead involve gallivanting of one sort or another, mostly in the mountains. Which means this girl has to get in shape (because in case you didn’t know, gallivanting is a high-cardio activity, when done right)!

And here’s where my frustration level starts to betray me: for the past few months, I’ve been busting my butt to work out regularly. Am I training as much as I did when I was heavy into triathlons and running? No, but frankly, I couldn’t do that right now even if I wanted to (you might not believe it, but I’m not the spring chicken I used to be). But I am doing something most every day — strength training three times a week, stairs twice a week, other cardio the other days. Since May when I started tracking, there have only been 13 days when I haven’t done something active.

I’ve even brought calorie counting back into the mix, understanding that weight isn’t lost by exercise alone. And you know what? Even MyFitnessPal high-fives my consistent calorie deficit and remarks about how much weight I should be losing based on my numbers. MyFitnessPal is encouraging like that.

Does this have any impact when I step on the scale or pull out the tape measure? Nope. I have been gaining and losing the same damn 3 pounds for almost a year now. And just so you know it isn’t all about the number on the scale, I’m also not losing inches, nor do my workouts seem to be getting noticeably easier.

The voice in my brain tells me: “you’re too old, you can’t lose weight anymore, much less get in shape.” Or sometimes it’s, “you’re not trying hard enough” or “you can’t even do this right”. Those voices? They’re kind of mean and pissy and I usually know that they are less than honest, but there are days when it’s tough not to listen. I’m looking for something to blame and those voices have ready answers, whether or not those answers are truths.

I just want a reason why I can’t seem to make this work. Something rational so that I can grab it with both hands, study it and fix it. Because this situation? I just don’t get it. I’m doing the work and getting no results. My toddler brain is screaming, “NOT FAIR!!!!” and the rest of me is starting to feel like it really is just me not doing it right.

And maybe this is why I’ve been so mute this summer: I haven’t wanted to talk about this (who wants to hear someone complain about being fat?). The problem is that it’s kind of taken over most of my brain space, looking at all sorts of number (miles, calories, grams of protein and carbs and fat, pounds, inches) and tweaking everything tweakable in an attempt to make some progress. And what exactly has this brought me? A nice heaping portion of shame because I seem unable to get this done.

See, for about 9 months, I tried-not-tried to lose weight. I was mindful of my eating habits, I tried to get out walking most days and felt like I was doing at least okay. And there was a comfort in the not-really-trying because then there was no failure. And because my weight remained absolutely stable for those 9 months, I figured I needed just a touch more mindfulness to start seeing real results.

So, about 3 months ago, with the Utah hiking trip on the horizon, I decided to actively try to lose weight — going into this trip, I knew I was the weak link, so to speak — the one in the group that would hold up the rest of the stellar athletes that I was going with (not that they would ever say or think anything like this — I understand this is all me just overthinking the situation) — and I wanted to mitigate that as much as possible. I knew that my trying-not-trying method was close, but not quite enough, so I’d just buckle down, work my butt off and calorie count and that would be the answer. Hard work and nutrition tracking had never failed me.

Except this time.

Here I am in much the same situation as I was 3 months ago. And the voices — the shame — how can I claim to want to do audacious stuff like through-hike the Colorado Trail when I can’t make it up a flight of stairs without my heart racing? Putting my heart into trying to get in shape and lose weight and failing to do so gave those inner voices the material they needed to rip me apart and bring on the shame monsters.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Brene Brown, says this about shame:

“Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives:  secrecy, silence and judgment.”

So, I’m hoping to thrust all of shame monsters into the withering light of day so they can die a horrible death.

And I’ll be happy to see them die, despite being the peace-loving person I am.

I’m here. I’m working hard. I make small changes here and there, hoping to spark progress. I’m working mentally as hard as I am physically, doing what I can to banish the shame and own my story. I’m doing everything within my power to get in shape without succumbing to quick weight loss schemes that will do nothing but cause me to gain the weight back at a later date. I want sustainable weight loss because I want this to be the last time I have to go through this. I want — no, I NEED — a lifetime of health and fitness. And I’m not yet done trying.

20130324-sss-brene-brown-quotes-14-600x411Without having to carry the shame around, I’m hoping to be kinder to myself. I know that I’m not lying when I say I’m doing my best, and my best is all I have to offer. I can try different methods, sort through some other ideas, but without shame, I can look at them all with curiosity, as experiments that either work or don’t, without any judgment. And I’ll do well to remind myself of what my mantra used to be at the tail-end of tough races, when all I wanted to do was slow down because pushing forward was painful:  “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Same applies here — life isn’t easy and sometimes it takes awhile to make sense of it and move towards what you want. Persistence, an openness towards failure and my best effort is what I’ll put out there — and that will be enough.