Why do we challenge?

Why do we challenge ourselves? Why do we set goals and specific things that we hope to achieve? What is the difference between hoping to, and actually realizing that end?

Speaking for myself, this past year has been one that I have taken on a number of personally set challenges… and achieved a fair number of them…so it’s something that has been on my mind as my year wraps up.

I had someone ask me recently why I had done something. We were talking about events of the past year and I mentioned that I had just completed a race on November first. It was an outdoor, mud-based obstacle race. I had commented on how crazy I thought I was at one point when I realized that I couldn’t feel my hands from the cold and still had to use them. I was running. literally, with my hands tucked in my under arms trying to get them some feeling back. She looked at me like I was indeed crazy and asked simply “Why in the world would you do something like that?” My answer, after a second or two to ask myself that, was just as simple. To see if I could follow through.

For myself, it comes down to one thing really. Seeing if I can go from conceptualizing a goal, setting it as a goal, actually doing it and seeing that to fruition. It’s not even so much about how hard I can push myself or whether I can achieve something physically. The physical act of reaching my challenge is merely how I achieve a much bigger goal. One of knowing that I can do what I set my mind to. It’s not about the specifics, it’s about the bigger picture.

When I signed up for a 10km run that was in June, I knew that physically, it wasn’t that far of a reach. I was regularly running 5 – 7km a few times a week and had run a 10km distance a few times in the previous months so it wasn’t so much the physical. It was, somewhat unconsciously, a decision to commit to something and see if I could follow through. Even up to the day before, I was fully considering not going. I can’t stand crowds, I am not a fan of running with hordes of people in my way, the pre-run “warm up” that I never do… the list goes on of why I don’t do organized races. But I needed something to set and achieve. And I did it. In a great time; surprising myself and giving me a feeling of accomplishment more than a simple 10km race should have in my mind.

The next thing beyond that was the first of two of those aforementioned mud based obstacle races. A recap of that is here.
Coming out of that event and knowing just how hard it was physically was a huge sense of accomplishment for me. More than that though was the happiness that I felt not because of what I had achieved with the endurance or the strength but it was the mere fact that I showed up and did something that I committed to. It was something that scared me and I conquered it. Having to drive up island; knowing that I had signed up,solo, for a race that predominantly is run with people in teams; going into an experience not knowing details. I’m a control freak and hate the unknown. That race was a case of just show up and do what you have to as they don’t divulge course details other than the start location. So much more to that than just “can I do it”. Far more emotional than physical.

That alone, for me, is what this is all about. Being able to reflect and see a tangible result of my following through is more needed than any run or race to be honest.

Why do I do it? So that I can have a physical manifestation of personal achievement. That’s what is sorely needed.

Setting and achieving a physical challenge gives me proof – necessary proof – that I can do what I need to. Translate that to emotional and mental health. Can I feel joy and happiness and achieve the long game of living my potential? These little physical challenges show me “yes” and belief in that… hope… faith in my Self… that’s what it’s about. That’s why I do it.

For my Self today

A rerun from a few months ago but a good one and it’s fitting for today…

A love letter, from me… to me… because really, it all starts and ends with how you love yourself.

Closed eyes and a gentle touch
to the heart

arms felt wrapped around
wholly and fully, enveloping in comfort and love

whispered words…why I love You…

it’s Your strength that’s Your beauty
how You stand back up again, every time
it’s not that You never falter or sink down
but that You always rise up
breath in, breath out, move forward

the way You glance back to honour what made You who you are
without having Your gaze locked in the past
a past that holds no grip on Your future
shaped, but not cast in stone by your past
Your belief that who You are now and tomorrow is up to You
not decided by what anyone told You in the past
or by anything that happened to You

the way Your head and Your sight is firmly on the potential
and the silver lining of tomorrow, always visible to You,
even through the fogs that roll in and sometimes settle for a while
the way You run, forcing the fogs to retreat
how You know that You can always make that happen
and You do, over and over again
and that You will… as many times as You need to

I love You for your resilience and Your softness
I love You when You are weak and defeated, in moments of hopelessness
I love You for the way your brokenness hasn’t broken You
and for how it never will
And I love You even when You don’t see any reason to be loved
You are mine and I am Yours
I love You for You

little kiss on the nose and a nibble, cause I love that 😉

From not walking to running

Inside the mind of a committed (read: obsessed) exercise enthusiast, or, how I went from “I am not going to even walk today” to running 10km.

5am: Eyes closed still. Sleepy. Been awake since 4:30 when the cat jumped on my belly and woke up my need to pee. Can’t fall back asleep; the alarm is set for 5:30… I’m not getting up any earlier…. Run day today. Ugh.

5:15am (ish): The cat is onto me. She knows I’m awake but I’m pretending to be asleep and ignore her pleas for food. I can hear the rain outside. I’m tired. It’s clearly raining hard. Probably windy. Definitely cold. I’m tired. Really don’t want to run… but I should…

5 minutes later: I know… I’ll go to the gym and run on the treadmill. No rain, no wind, not chilly. *envisions banging head repeatedly on brick wall* I can’t do it. The treadmill is the hamster wheel of hell. I’d rather not run at all than run on a treadmill.

5 minutes later: Well now, there’s an idea. Not go for a run… I should take a rest day. I know, I know, this is my month of my self-imposed challenge of exercise every day, no days off. Buuuut…. rest days are important, just as important as anything else. That’s when your body heals and repairs itself so it can become stronger….. I know this stuff, I’m a personal trainer and Yoga teacher… yes, I’ll take a rest day.

5:30am (alarm finally goes off): Sigh, up and time to get ready for work. I’m glad I’m taking a rest day… it’ll be good for me. I’m not even going to go for a walk today. Nope, complete rest day. Restorative. Good.

6:00am: I’m going to head out for the 5km route. I’ll just do a walk/run and take it easy. Better than nothing and I’ll be glad when it’s done that I did it. Can’t take the guilt of being sedentary.

6:15am: dressed and ready to go just about. Another glance outside and switching to the slightly more water repellant jacket as it’s coming down like crazy out there. It’s ok though, just a 5km walk/run. Won’t be out there long.

6:30am: out the door and starting to run. A few blocks in and everything feels good. Maybe I’ll skip the intervals and just do a straight through run for the 5km.

…Approaching the turn off that will take me from the 5km loop route to the 7.5 km route…
If I can do the 5km, maybe I’ll do the longer run… I won’t run it though… I’ll walk/run interval it.

…At the approximate 2.5km point… Usually take a 30 or 60 second walk break here but hmmm, maybe I’ll skip this one. I’ll do King George Terrace hill then do a walk break… yeah, let’s see how hard I can push through the hill without a walk break first…
… Hill done and kicked ass on it. No point in a walk break now that it’s levelled off… and I’ve made it this far. Maybe I’ll do the full 7.5km without a walk… yeah… see how hard I can go today.

…approaching the turn point that is the halfway mark for the 7.5 km route… hmmm, I’m feeling good, great even. What if I didn’t turn here and instead I kept to the right and kept going for the 10km route? I don’t have to run all of it… I can walk/run interval it. Yeah

… ignores the turn and heads on, now committed to the 10km route.

… 5 minutes later… it would be stupid to walk NOW. I’ve made it this far and I still feel great! I can totally do this without walking! I’m not going to walk.

…Approaching the Marina which signals the last 2.5 km of the route. Almost there. I can definitely do this without walking… I wonder how my time is? My timer is at home so I won’t know till I get there…

… I feel so proud that I’ve done this without walking – it doesn’t matter what my time is. Just doing it without walk breaks is accomplishment enough.

… I bet if I just pushed a little harder I could finish in a better time than last time.

… Not that the time is important.

… Oh hell, who am I kidding…let’s see how hard I can push and how fast I can do this last couple of kilometers. Timing is everything.

*Arrives home, sweaty, soaked from the rain but feeling amazing*

And that’s how you go from snuggled in bed, swearing you are not even going for a walk to running one of the fastest 10km’s you’ve done in 10 years.

The out-going introvert

Introvert. Out-going.

Two words that seem to contradict each other yet I consider myself to be both.
An introvert is generally seen as someone who is shy and tends to keep to themselves; someone who prefers solitude or just their own company over being around others; someone who is usually overwhelmed easily in crowds and large gatherings of people, even people who they would consider friends or family. A pretty standard description and one that fits me perfectly.
Being described as out-going generally means that you are someone who reaches out and connects with others socially, whether it be one on one or in a group setting; someone who’s comfortable in a setting involving many people; someone who seeks out companionship and enjoys interactions with others and even craves it seemingly.

Both very different, but both me…and I think not that uncommon.

Growing up, I was almost debilitatingly shy. Switching schools almost every year did nothing to get me over the fear of being in unfamiliar places and having to meet new people. I remember being physically sick every year for many years on the first day of school. Stopping to throw up as I walked to school because I couldn’t stop my body from reacting to the stress. Racing heart, tunnel vision and frantically trying not to cry (because that would just draw more attention to me when I already felt I stuck out as the new kid). Being afraid to speak up when asked direct questions… never volunteering answers in class because then people would turn attention to me and people would look and listen. Terrified at the dreaded book report time of the school year. I would do anything to get out of it.
I was called a snob, told I was stuck up because I didn’t talk or try to make friends. It wasn’t that I thought I was “better than” like they said… I was scared and shy and had no idea how to join in or to connect.

I went on this way for years. Then something happened. The start of grade 7, I decided that I was going to try to fake it. I reached out one day and found that it was easier than I thought it would be. A comment and a laugh and I had a new friend. And I liked it. I had someone to spend time with and talk and share and laugh. I still coveted my alone time and wanted it – a lot – but I also wanted to be around people. My circle of friends grew slowly. I ended up staying in that school the longest I ever did – 3 years – and I found a comfortable thing develop. I made friends easily. All sorts of friends. This was when the schools were made of very defined “cliques” and found I didn’t really fit in any one in particular. I had friends who I hung out with in science and others in shop class, others that I went for lunch with and smoked in the alley with after school. My closest friends that I spent weekends with roller-skating or going to the mall… I loved it, but I was still shy.

I was always the quiet one in the bunch when new people came in or we met up with others. I would then revert back to “me”. Quiet and shy and timid. But it got easier as time went on to start to open up.
Carrying through as I left that school and life marched on. I found that in new places, jobs, schools, I would take a deep breath and fake it on day one. Try to hide the discomfort and the unease that was clawing at my insides… and it worked.

I even specifically chose a career based on how much it terrified me. When I was 20 years old I decided that public speaking would never be ok with me; so I decided to become a fitness instructor. Not only public speaking but doing it in spandex! Not bad for an introvert with severe body image issues and an eating disorder to match ;). But I did it. Sure I threw up three times before my first practicum class, but I did it… and that set the path for me to keep going.

I’m still usually the quietest one in a group. Although people are usually surprised if I describe myself as shy because that’s not how I tend to present as now. Yet underneath, the constant desire to just sit and be quiet and unobserved is always there. That’s my default. That’s who I am. Not what I am, but who.

Which means… While I have grown to love that closeness and connection with those I call “mine” in my life; my chosen family, my friends, my loves… I still am the happiest sitting and watching and being part of it all but alone and separate and just “me”. I may burst out with a joke or be the giggly centre of attention for a moment but then I retreat again… eventually making a full retreat to solitude and an aloneness that will give me what my introvert spirit needs to restore and recharge. Quiet, solitary time with just me, my Self and I.

I crave you…

My craving for you grows stronger the longer that we’re apart
I desire you like no other
My body aches for you
Remembering times you were mine
My senses titillated with your nearness
I close my eyes and breath in your scent from my memories
I can feel you… taste you…
As the time when we’ll be together again draws closer,
I almost tremble with anticipation
You will be mine again…soon…
The holiday season is upon us and I will devour you
My love for you knows no bounds.
If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
My fruitcake, my love, you will be mine…

The crafter and the craft

One of the saddest things in the world is not seeing yourself and not liking what you see. It’s seeing who you are and realizing that you are someone worthy of your love. And feeling all the years that you’ve spent withholding it.

Becoming aware that the only thing that has been holding you back from the self love and acceptance is yourself and your own envisioning of who and what you are. Skewed as it may be, it’s what has shaped your relationship with yourself.

Yet that’s also the wonderful thing. It means that you can change it. You crafted the way you see yourself now and you can chose to make the changes.

As I approach another birthday that truth is sitting heavily on my spirit…looking back honestly means looking forward just as honestly and being open about what I want to reflect on next year as my past. A past that I craft and navigate. Mine.

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” Toni Morrison

Good thing that sign is there…

IMAG4938Question of the day… do we really need signs like this? Have we become, as a society, so ignorant of our own personal responsibility for common sense actions that we need signs to warn of us the most basic of issues? Darn good thing it says the stairs are closed (and permanently) … stairs leading into the water look like a perfectly viable option for a walk *shakes head*.