Thursday, February 1, 2018

Decisions, Decisions

I have stated before, and I will state again, I do not do well with major decisions.  I take that back.  I do not do well with decisions, period.  They can be simple, they can be complex; making decisions causes me anxiety and stress.  So when the occasional life-changing decision comes along, you can imagine how much the stress and anxiety ratchets up.

I am on the cusp of one of these right now.  This decision will be one of the biggest decisions I have had to make in a long time.  While I do not look forward to that day when I actually have to decide, if and when it comes, this decision is self-imposed.  I have no one to blame for it but myself.

In thinking about this decision though, I also began thinking about how I handle items like this and what I might be able to do to help ease the stress and anxiety.  I see others making hard, life-changing decisions and I wonder how they do it without showing any stress.  How do they look so calm and happy when going through the decision making process?

For me and my obsessive/compulsive tendencies, I make lists.  Pros and Cons.  Random thoughts. Others' inputs and ideas on the topic.  I don't necessarily do this so that I can rank them and see if they offset each other.  I do it mainly just to do it.  I like the process.  I like seeing it "on paper".  I like being able to read through them over and over.  I like being able to think about things that I may have forgotten.

Lists calm me.

By the way, I don't do this just for decisions.  Any time I travel, I have a list for packing.  If I don't do that, inevitably I forget something.  For example, as I sit here and type this in Colorado Springs, I am sporting 3 days worth of beard growth.  Why, you ask?  It is not because I forgot my razor.  However, I did forget the charging cord for my razor.  And my razor had enough juice left for one shave.  Yes, my lists go to the detail of not only listing razor, but also listing the charging cord.  I didn't make a list and print it out and I failed.  My family makes fun of me for having packing lists, but they just do not understand the depths of my stress about forgetting something.

So, besides my calming lists, I am trying techniques to not induce excessive stress upon myself over this potential, impending decision I will have to make.  Yoga helps.  Reading helps.  Lying in my bed with my eyes closed and trying not to panic helps.

So I am soliciting input from you all.  What do you do that helps you stay calm over big decisions you have to make?  What techniques do you have that help you figure out the right decision for you?  How do you keep so calm and happy looking when your mind is racing over pros and cons?  Send them to me.

I am making a list.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

True Definition of Teammate

Something happened on my run this morning and I felt it deserved a little mention. It is not necessarily what happened that is the part that I wanted to publicize, but the person that initiated it. It was just another example of how a little, tiny thing can make someone's day and it was a great example of what being a teammate means.

I was in the 2nd mile of 7. This 7 was going to be my second longest run since October 1 due to my nagging injury. I don't know that I have mentioned that injury in past posts, have I? I will make sure I dedicate more posts later to my hamstring. :-)

Anyway, back to my run. As I came around a bend, a familiar face was running towards me. Now, if you know this person, you know the exact face I am talking about. Because no matter how long she has been running or how hard she has been running (it can be in the middle of a race), she always has the biggest, shining smile when she sees you. It has the power to instantly dissipate any and all anxiety, stress, and bad moods. It did its work again this morning.

But it is not her smile that prompted me to write this post. It was her actions as she passed by. How great it was for my soul to get a big "YEAH!" when she passed. It was that kind of "YEAH!" that I could feel came from her knowing how much I have been struggling with my injury and from her knowing how much it lifts my spirit to be out running, no matter the pace or the miles. It was that kind of yell that was genuine; she was truly happy for me.

That, my friends, is the definition of a teammate. It is not worrying how many races someone is running, their race times, how many miles someone is getting in. It is knowing their struggles, knowing how much it means to them to be back out there, and genuinely celebrating for them and with them.

It does not take much to be someone's teammate. While this person is my teammate both on the Huntsville Fleet Feet Racing Team and with RunningLane, she is more than that. She is a teammate in life, in getting through life's struggles and celebrating whatever victories can be found in this messed up world. And she is a teammate not by any grand actions or big shows. She is a teammate by her smile, by her wave, by her heartfelt "YEAH!" because she knows and understands. That's all it takes, folks. Trust me, that's all it takes.

So no matter what you are doing or where you are, be the best teammate possible. Be the best co-worker, the best athletic teammate, the best spouse, the best parent, the best child, the best boy/girlfriend, the best family member, the best fellow human you can be. Smile, wave, hug, but better yet, give that word of true celebration and encouragement that lets your teammates know that you listen, that you understand, and that you are truly happy for the little achievements over whatever struggles they are trying to put in their past.

So, thank you for being my teammate, Lauren Mitchell. And thanks, once again, for your beautiful smile and your "YEAH!" this morning. But more importantly, thank you for reminding me what it means to be a teammate.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blessings From Being Injured. Wait... What?!?!

 Many of my posts over the last year or two have either been focused on or have mentioned my struggle with my injured hamstring.  It has kept me out of serious training for a while now and having a long term injury like this can be more mentally draining than anything it does to you physically.  I have found it very easy to become borderline depressed.  Not only am I somewhat mentally depressed because I cannot seem to get back to some level of regular training, but running is my stress release and is what I turn to when I need a break or when I need to sort out life in general.

 Sitting here this morning sipping my second cappuccino, I decided to focus not on the lowlights of being injured and those effects that struggling through an injury brings into one's head, but on blessings that have appeared in my life during the time I have been injured.  So here goes.  Some of these blessings I can put into words right now, some I cannot.

  • The biggest blessing that has been reinforced during this time has been my wife.  Time and time again, I realize and am shown that Elizabeth is probably the biggest blessing that God has given me in my life.  When I cannot run and spend the amount of time training I would like, I get to spend more time with her because I am not going to bed as early. I get to just hang with her more in the evenings and just be.  I offer up and go on more dates with her, even if it is just a date going to the grocery store to shop together.  When I do get a run in, they are shorter and slower, so she is more willing to ride her bike with me when I run.  Just more time I get to spend with her!
  • A blessing related to the going on more dates with Elizabeth is that I am more prone to hanging out with friends more often since I am not staying home to get to bed early.  Without that early morning training run calling, I can relax when we are out visiting with friends.
  • One thing that I have done over the many years I have been running is efficiently train my body and mind to be an early riser.  So, even when I am not training, my mind still is expecting to get things going early in the morning.  During an injury, I use this fact to get in to work early before most of my fellow workers get in.  I get so much done during this time that I feel less stressed during the rest of the work day.
  • Not being able to run has opened up my mind to engaging my body in new and alternate ways of exercising.  Yoga, cycling, strenghtening, walking the dogs - I now look for ways to get some form of exercise in to keep myself sane.
  • Meeting new people and establishing and reinforcing relationships with those professionals who are helping me recover from my injury and helping me in general.  While it is not good as to why I find myself in their office or talking to them, it is always good to establish these connections and develop new friendships and solidify those already established.  From all of the folks at Results Physiotherapy and SpineCare that I enjoy talking with and working with to looking into cultivating a coaching relationship with Will at Running Lane, I find that my sphere increases of those that I can turn to when I need help and hopefully, I lend some blessing into their lives as well since my main job here on Earth is to pass along blessings I receive to others.
  • Another blessing I have realized/rediscovered is the quantity of folks out there supporting me both in person and online. Their support does mean something to me.  Just the simple mention that they empathize with me and are rooting for me lifts my spirit on those days when my mood takes a hit.
  • In the view of my job being to pass along blessings, I have found more opportunities to connect and commiserate with others in their injuries and life struggles.  Just as others raise my spirit, I look for ways to lift theirs.  I look for ways in a simple text, a simple comment, a simple wave, a simple smile to pass along a blessing to someone else.  In some cases, it may be reflecting back a blessing that they gave to me in the past that they may not even realize they gave me. 

  I am sure that there are plenty of other blessings that I have been given during this time that I don't even realize I was given.  That's how life works; blessings wash over us and you would think we would recognize them and we don't.  Some are big, some are small, but they all weigh the same.  They all work to raise us up.  All of my blessings work to show me what I should truly focus on.  In this day and age of complaining about everything that happens in this world, or taking everything as a personal attack against one's self or one's beliefs, or attacking everyone that does not believe the same way or have the same values, I choose to focus on blessings, both received and given, and to focus on how I can take more of the blessings I have been given and reflect them back to others.  Just as my spirit is lifted by the hands of all of those that I personally know and by those that I don't, I want to be that extra set of hands that lift others up.  Being injured has shown me how I can be those hands.  I urge everyone else to think about life in the same way, be the light of support, not the darkness of complaint and affront.  Use your periods of injury or struggle to recognize blessings in your life.  When you start focusing on these blessings, your struggles have a harder time establishing a stronghold in your mind and you will have no choice but to pass along blessings to others.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fall in Love with the Weather

I am recently injured, again.  As it seems to be in the past years, my injuries that sideline me always occur right in the transition to wonderful Fall weather.  It kills me when I walk outside in the morning to take the dogs out and I feel the cool, Fall temps and breezes, the low humidity, and the general wonderfulness that fall weather brings.  Fall weather, true Fall weather is my absolute favorite.

I was able to get some walk/run time in this morning with the temps in the 50's, a nice morning sun covering me with just enough warmth to keep the full-blown chills off, but not so much to make me sweat or overheat.  A slight breeze blew, rustling the turning leaves on the trees and blowing the few that had fallen already across the yards and down the street.  How could one not be out in this weather?  I caught myself grinning, no, full scale smiling, as I walked and jogged in my neighborhood.  Something just felt absolutely perfect about my time outside.

This kind of weather, true Fall weather, does not appear for very long here in Alabama.  Typically we are afforded a couple weeks, maybe three in some years.  It is way too short for this boy since it is my favorite season.  The transition from heat and high humidity to a time of low humidity, cool breezes, and mid-range temps gives this old man some extra pep in my step.  It will be all too soon before the weather moves into the lower temps where extra clothes, hats, gloves are required and the rainy season and dreary weather of Winter move in.

While Spring brings cool temps as well, it is the transition heading toward Summer, so the humidity in Spring is rising as opposed to Fall's lowering humidity.  Given this, while I enjoy Spring, I know the overwhelming oppressiveness of Summer is coming so I cannot enjoy it as much.  Also, don't get me started on the Spring pollen season here in Alabama either!

Random Fact: Cappuccinos taste better in the Fall so it has that going for it as well

So, you may understand a little more my frustration with being injured during this brief window of the year.  I only have a limited time to get my fix of Fall weather and I am being limited once again.  Given this, I will not get my fill this Fall and will have to suffer through the other three seasons until I once again feel the humidity dropping, feel the temps dropping, and see the leaves dropping in a cooling breeze.

What's your favorite season and why?  Do you enjoy the transition seasons of Spring and Fall better or the full-blown Summer or Winter weather?  Whichever you enjoy the most, make sure to soak it in when you get the chance.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This Road Looks Familiar. Too Familiar.

Three weeks ago it happened.  Again.  Hamstring cracked.  This time was pretty bad.  I was trying to just get back to the end of the run as slowly as I could without doing major damage.  About a quarter mile from the end and I felt it from the top of my hip down to below my knee; like a rubber band that suddenly stretched to its limit through the middle of my leg.  Knew then I was back to square 0 on my next road to recovery.

The problem was that this isn't a new road to recovery; it is one that I am quite familiar with, too much so,  and have grown bored with as far as scenery.  I don't want to travel this road again, but I must.

When I say I must, I am being literal here.  You see, I have no choice.  There are those out there, like some in my family, that always correct me when I say I have to go for a run.  They try to correct me by saying I don't *have* to go run, that I choose to go run.  That is just not the case.  I truly have to go run.  And to do that again, I must travel this same road, no matter how I hate it, how I hate the potholes in it, how I hate the overgrown grass on the side of the road.  My mind and my body do not allow anything else.  Running is part of me and dwells deep in my soul, attaching itself to every fiber of my life.  Others may think that after the past couple years of traveling and re-traveling this road that I could just give up running and take up other activities.  That is not possible.  I can't.

And so I find myself back at mile 1 of this road.  I am hitting it hard with PT and with their help, I will figure out the weaknesses in my body that contribute to stressing my hamstrings.  I am hitting it hard with  activities that I can do without causing undo stress on my hamstring while I strengthen it and the rest of my body.  I am looking into hiring a coach that can help guide my training once I get back to the point of a regular running routine again.

So after three weeks, I was given the go ahead by my therapist to try some walk/run this weekend.  Nothing too ambitious. Just jogging very slowly for 1 minute, separated by 5 minutes of walking.  This morning I hit the road to do this.  While I would like to say that everything was great, that isn't so.  I had some low grade pain from my hammie, but nothing sharp and nothing escalating.  We will see how it feels later today and into tomorrow.  While it was not perfect, it was another step down this road.

One day, I am planning on dragging out the "Road Closed" sign and placing it and some concrete barriers in front of this road so that I never have to travel this way again  Until that day, I will toil down this path making the best of it that I can.  I have some great people helping me along the way and I am finding additional great people that are helping smooth the road even more.

My prayer for all of you reading this is that you do not find yourself on this same road, or if you do, that you pass along it quickly, never to return.  Trust me, when this road becomes familiar, it is no fun.  I am not revisiting its path because I want to.  But given the hand I was dealt 3 weeks ago, I must.  There is no option for me.  And so I plod along, slow step by slow step, focusing not on the all-too familiar scenery this time, but on the small dot at the end of this road, my ultimate goal of strong and pain-free running.

I have no choice.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I Can't Believe She Let Me Make It To 25 Years

Been a little while since my last post.  At last report, E- and I had just become empty nesters as both M- and R- had gone to college.  The next big thing in our lives just happened less than a week ago.  E- and I hit the 25th wedding anniversary level of our own real-life video game.  In reaching 25 years, I figured I would impart my wisdom to all of you on what it takes to get to that milestone.

Before I get to that list, I just want it to sink in a little more, mainly to me as I am still not sure I fully comprehend, that starting now I have been married to E- longer than I have not been married to her.  More than half of my life has been blessed because she said yes.

Now back to my wisdom in the form of a list of what it takes to get to your 25th wedding anniversary:

Number 1: Find someone who puts up with you and your antics and lets you stick around for 25 years.

Number 2:  There is no number 2.  Number 1 is it.  My wisdom ends there as number 1 is the sole reason I can think of for why I am still married to E- after 25 years.  It is nothing I have done other than love her.  It is all related to her ignoring me when I am being stupid, or better yet telling me I am being stupid and that I should stop.   It is all related to her loving me no matter what happens or what I do.  At least, I think she still loves me.  Hopefully she still does.  Otherwise, I don't know why she still puts herself through it.

Don't get me wrong.  I am sure there are plenty of days when E- does not like me at all, but I think she still loves me even in those times.  It is the only explanation for 25 years.  I do know and can easily state that I love her.  She is my life.  She is my joy.  She makes each and every day better.

Aside:  It is no coincidence that as I was typing the last paragraph, blink-182's Home is Such a Lonely Place came on. The lyrics "Home is such a lonely place without you.  Home is such a lonely place." describe how I feel when E- is away and not at home.   There is no "home" without her.  It is a house.  Each spot there is just a room.  It is a place to sleep and exist.  With her there though, it becomes a home.  A place that is safe.  A place that surrounds you in warmth and love.  A place that I never care to leave.

Done with the aside (but not blink-182).  Back to my list of one.  My advice to my kids and to others out there is find that someone that you know will put up with you.  I am sure E- has her own list, but this list of one is all I could rationalize as being worthy, from my point of view, of passing along.

If E- is willing, maybe I will be able to post 5, 10, or even 25 years from now with some additional items for my list.  Even if I get to those milestones, I am thinking my list will still just be this one item though.

Here's to 25 more

I love you, E-.  More than I probably convey to you or that you know.

PS:  After some deep thought, I have a Number 2 for my list of infinite wisdom.  Number 2:  Make sure that person in Number 1 is E-.

Sorry guys, I am the only one that can achieve Number 2.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Next Steps In Life

I knew this day was coming for a while now, but somehow I was still slightly caught off guard.  Internally, I had prepared myself by going over what I believed to be all outcomes so that no matter which one came to reality I would be ready, but somehow I must have missed a subtle nuance.

As of last Tuesday, I am officially an empty nester.  Both of my children, now adults, are off to college.  So at least for 9 months, E- and I will be alone in our house with our two pups.

Both Rebbie and Matthew off to school

Given that Matthew is a junior this year, I have experienced a child leaving for school for several years now, but this year Rebekah is also in college.  It was both of them leaving that I had tried to prepare for.  While Matthew leaving during the school year was one thing, Rebekah leaving brought a whole new facet to it.  

You see, Rebekah is the spirit in our house.  Matthew, E-, and I all have brains that direct us toward the logical, mathematical side of the spectrum, like all the way to the end of that spectrum.  I truly believe that for us, we do not have a left and a right side to our brain, we are all left.

Rebekah on the other hand, while having all of the mathematical and logical talent that we have, has a right side that is very well developed.  She is our free thinker, our artist, our extrovert, our creative genius, our talker, our spirit.  When she is not in the house, it is eerily quiet.  As E- put it after Rebbie had moved to school, "The house feels strangely quiet tonight. Our passionate, creative, smart, talented, entertaining person left three engineers behind and we aren't that exciting without her."

Scientifically correct annotation of our brains

So with both of them off to college this year, I have not only lost a scientifically-directed person to sit and talk to, but I have lost that voice of creativity. 

I thought it would be easy.  Both E- and I are ready to be empty nesters, not because we want our kids to leave, but because we are excited for them.  We want to see where their plans and goals take them.  We are excited to see their successes and accomplishments as they continue their journeys.   Because we are so happy for them, I figured being at home without either of them would be pretty easy.  I was prepared.  I had this in the bag.

And I did.....  Until I went into their rooms to get the sheets off their bed to wash and to vacuum.  The quiet overwhelmed me even with the roar of the vacuum.  Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between your children not being at home overnight because they are staying at a friend's house and your children not being at home and knowing they will not be coming home in the morning.

My logical brain tried to figure this out.  What had I missed in my planning for this moment?  I went back over all outcomes and I had covered everything.  Then it dawned on me.  While my left side let me know that it was no longer as strong as usual because it had lost two key sources of input,  the puny right side of my brain that is usually hidden and strangled by the dominant left side, poked its head out to let me know that it no longer had its life support system that we call Rebekah.  I had not taken that into account over the last year or so of preparation.  I had failed to fully prepare myself for the definite hole left in my soul that has the exact same shape as Matthew and Rebekah.

Rebbie and her roomie
I am still not sad and I never will be.  I miss them terribly and I always will.  There is a difference.  One can miss someone with all their heart without being sad, but instead being happy and excited, and that is exactly how E- and I are right now.  I have always and still thank God for entrusting two wonderful, witty, smart, and enjoyable human beings to E- and I.  However, I have always known that neither one was truly "ours"; they belong to God, they are His children.  He allowed us to help raise them as best as we could and help prepare them for exactly this time in their lives.   I just hope that He feels like we did a good job.
The two Freshman (R and M's dog, Toby)

It is on to the next steps in our lives, whether that is becoming empty nesters or that is going to college and following dreams and setting goals.  I love you both Matthew and Rebekah and I always will, just as I will always miss you.  Do great things and make yourselves proud when you look back at your accomplishments.  

You have already made me proud to be your Dad.