Sunday, January 29, 2017

The PRACTICE of Life

I had an epiphany on New Year’s Day while doing yoga.  It was a new routine that I had found on YouTube, a restorative/meditative session, but I was having trouble synchronizing the breathing of a distance runner to the instructions on the video.  At one point, I realized my shoulders were tensing and my jaw was stiff.  It was supposed to be a calming, relaxing experience, but instead I was so anxious about doing it perfectly, I was instead stressed.

It was silly in so many ways, but mostly because yoga isn’t a competitive experience but a practice.  The goal of practicing yoga is to deepen poses, and the way to deepen poses is to work on the mindfulness, the breathing, the transition and holding of poses…in other words, practice!  The entire point of the exercise is not to be perfect out of the box.

Then I started thinking about other aspects of my life where I’m struggling to solve issues or just don’t know how to fix something….and it hits me:  everything in life should be seen as a practice.  Just like yoga.  People aren’t born naturally knowing how to cook, how to write, how to do their jobs, even doing their heair….the ability comes with putting the time and energy into it, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.  Even establishing good habits comes with practice, not discipline.

The practice of yoga.  The practice of cooking.  The practice of life.

This year, I want to focus on treating my life as a daily practice, rather than expecting perfection.  I need to be less hard on myself when I’m less than perfect or make a mistake, seeing that instead as part of the process of learning and growing.

That perspective completely changes my resolution-making.  Instead of having specific goals, I just want to practice the things that will make my life happier and better.  Yoga, and it’s meditative/mindfulness powers, is one.  Cooking, journaling, blogging, and running are all things that will help clear my mind from the daily stresses of life.  And hopefully, by the end of the year, I hope that I’m better at all these things, as well as others, by practicing.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Quest, Derailed

Yes, it’s been a year.

When I started this quest, I had planned to work on my blog every Sunday, then I met a cute guy and then we started doing Sunday Funday and then it was harder and harder to find time to do the blogs and….

But I was still running.  I was still improving, still moving towards the goal of the six marathons.  The blog was just to keep me accountable, and since I was progressing, there was no need to dedicate serious time for the blog, a good thing because it seemed that I didn’t have a lot of time and energy for it.

I was helping a friend (and working on my time) by helping a friend train for a marathon.  I worked out with the Libertyville Running Club and ended up running a 7:35 mile at the final time trial.  I entered both the Toyko and London marathon lotteries (but didn’t get in) and helped out on my charity team’s committee, hoping I can get a charity bib into New York.  The quest was progressing forward, and I didn’t need to be held accountable.

At the same time, there were subtle dynamics going on around me that I couldn’t ignore.  While everyone was super-nice with the run club, it did feel like a closer circle was forming, and typical of my life, I didn’t know what I did or didn’t do to be excluded from this circle.  I couldn’t be that upset, since 1.  I couldn’t afford to keep up with them because I have to save money for the marathons 2. My life was full and busy without them and 3. I was too shy to put any effort into connections.  However, the change in the energy affected my enthusiasm for the club. 

Then we had a little election.  For 99% of the country, they are armchair politicos, watching on news and posting on social media, but really have not invested any effort to impact the outcome.  However, my boyfriend and I work in the political field, so our lives can be dramatically affected by the vote.  In a Presidential year, it’s especially nerve wracking because so many voters chose their President and vote downticket that our lives are impacted by people who don’t even know what they are doing.
This election was contentious and emotional and angry, and in the end, the national election was the complete opposite of our local results.  While you can’t make politics personal—we are professionals, after all—there is a letdown, almost a grieving process, after an election.  Usually, most people go back their jobs, their lives, just as they are, pre-election, except for that 1%, like my boyfriend and I, whose lives were dramatically changed by the results.

This year, however, was different.  Many people were upset about the election results, including many in the run club.  Not only did I represent the other side, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many helped to turn my life upside down because they didn't see below the top of the ticket.  I was already feeling a little out of place before this happened, but now I felt isolated and unwelcome, to the point that I questioned why we were even doing this quest.

It was an extremely generous gift to have found my friend Christy, then.  She saw me through all this difficulty, running mile after mile and understanding my feelings.  And at my lowest point, she gave me a very special gift—a birthday marathon in New Orleans, LA.  It brought me back to running—and eventually, back to my run club.  However, my life is still very much in flux, to the point that I can’t make major financial decisions.  Consider it a setback in my quest.  We’ll be up and running and fighting again, but for now, it’s all about qualifying for Boston and writing blog posts, because that’s all I can afford to do.