The Quiet Foe

When I decided to ditch any of my metric collecting apps and electronics in the name of living a freer, more spontaneous life, I didn’t realize that these items were motivators that kept away the quiet foe I have fought for most of my life. Without goals like riding 50 miles a week (or near that), walking several miles a week, tracking my food intake, I slipped under the murky waters that I fight every day of my life.

Thanks to my genetics, my traumatic past and who knows what else, this quiet foe is simply chronic depression but it has a way of sneaking up on me. While at first, I felt freer and happier not tracking my steps, miles and calories, I didn’t know that these were indeed motivators that kept depression at bay. Left to my own devices, as depression started winning again without me noticing, I stopped riding my bike as much, stopped walking and hiking, stopped paying attention to what I’m eating. At first I thought that oh, it’s just peri-menopause so I rested more. I was taking care of myself, listening to my body. Except I didn’t realize I was slipping under again. Depression feels so normal to me, it’s so hard for me to detect until I’m almost drowning.

So, I can’t just be what I consider normal. I can’t trust my body or mind to tell me what I really need because without consistent exercise or eating healthy, I get swept back under the current of apathy, disinterest, fatigue and agitation from sleeping less than my usual nights. I can’t trust my body to tell me what I should eat because the depression has me seeking sugar as if it is my only life force. Without healthy food, I further compound my issues especially lack of energy. Without my weekly fitness goals, I lack energy and motivation to get outside, to ride, to hike and do yoga which counteracts my depression. My body just slips deeper into a ‘lazy’ pattern as I lose interest in things I enjoy. I just stop caring about doing these things.

Without forcing myself out to ride, walk, hike and so on, I just will not exercise. Or I make a half-hearted attempt at whatever I chose to do. It’s the curse of the depression. Once I have the goal set in my head and I’ve started into my first minutes of the activity, I find myself enjoying it but sometimes the hardest thing is just putting on my shoes or riding gear or driving to where I am going to perform the activity. Just starting can seem so overwhelming, I end up on the couch or lying in bed reading. Which if I do this often enough, it becomes the norm which lets my quiet foe sneak up on me and drag me down under the surface again.

It isn’t an easy thing to accept, that I can’t just trust my body or my mind to tell me the best things for me because it is so easy for me to slip into behaviors that make my depression worse because it is tiring always having to force yourself out to exercise. The benefit of this though is, the more I do it, the harder I work out, the easier it becomes to get myself started. The less depression has a hold on me. The happier I am. I wish I could just trust my inner judgment but the truth is, depression has skewed my perceptions of what is ‘good’ for me. Lying around all the time is not good for me. Lying around reading after I rode 20 miles isn’t the same. I’ve worked out, I’ve been outside, I’ve taken the sword and struck at the depression monster again pushing him back into his dark cave. The cave that he insists on dragging me back into with him. When I become complacent, he gains ground and when I fight (keep on the fitness, eating well path), I gain ground. The tug of war is so slight, so quiet that it happens without me knowing.

So bottom line, I have reinstalled my apps, I will clip my cyclocomputer back on my bike, I will reset my goals and keep fighting the good fight. This is what I need to do to live well and live happy. Maybe it’s a bit of a burden, maybe it ties me to my electronics and apps a bit, but the tradeoff is greater. The tradeoff is feeling alive, feeling happier and more alert. Goals aren’t a bad thing. Trying to go through day-to-day without any motivation, anything specific to work toward is like walking around blind at times. This has been an interesting manifestation of my theory of taking care of myself meant unburdening my life of everything that motivated me. As it backfired. Big time.

Taking care of myself means having these fitness goals to keep me moving. Otherwise, the quiet foe wins.

New Blog Series – Memories of Mom – Introduction

I've been tooling around the idea of capturing memories of my mother who passed away in 3/2014 in a blog series, mostly to capture them for later use and I've found as I get older, I tend to forget more and more details. I had considered just putting them down into a Word document journal fashion but this way I can share these memories (good and bad) with other people who loved my mom, like my daughters, other family and close friends. The posts won't be in any chronological order and I will probably be guessing at the general date of occurrence and honestly, our memories aren't the most reliable so it may not be exactly accurate but simply the way I remember things occurring.

My mom's name was Anita Marie and she was born on Christmas Day 1941. After 8 years of bravely fighting cancer, she went to Jesus as they say, at age 72 just shortly after my daughters, husband and I's birthdays in February 2014. In 1970 she gave birth to me, the fabulous oldest child and in 1972, to my sister who ruined my only child gig (just kidding). My parents were married in Washington DC, the city in which they met, on February 18, 1966, and they split up in early 1983 following years of abuse due to my father's raging alcoholism and what I believe was mental illness stemming into paranoia schizophrenia later in his life. My father passed away in 2002. The divorce was final in 1984 and my mother never received any child support from Dad. So she ended up working long, long hours to barely support us.

Her parents helped us out from time to time financially and such, but only when my mother was desperate because she hated asking them for help. I'm sure knowing my grandmother, it was held over her for marrying such a worthless piece of trash (my grandmother's words) not realizing my mother had been more than punished for her choice. My mom wouldn't have had any idea my dad would end up being an alcoholic when they got married. He was handsome and very charming. The thing was, when the pressure of life came down on him, he couldn't cope and turned to alcohol. Maybe this was part of his growing mental illness.

Back in the 1970's, you didn't get a divorce, it was shameful and against her faith. Though had she divorced him early on when the drinking and abuse started, I think maybe she wouldn't have killed herself working so hard and maybe met another man who treated her better. By the time she got away from him, she was done with marriage and close romantic relationships. If she dated, she kept it quiet for the most part. She was just too afraid that she'd make a wrong choice and someone else would make her life a living hell. She never deserved what my father did to her regardless of the reason.

I get some religions' idea of the sanctity of marriage and you should stay married since this was done in the eyes of God, but I don't get why it would be upheld in the face of physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse. Why weren't these men (and women in some cases) held accountable for their actions instead of excused back then? I have a hard time believing God would condone that kind of treatment of anyone and I'd think he'd given my mom a pass. As I think back, people excused my father's alcoholism, trying to hide it because it was embarrassing as if they didn't call attention to it, then it would go away but it only got worse. Using religion to trap women into horrific marriages was criminal.

Oh, poor, Larry, he struggles so much. Oh bullshit, he should have been held accountable for his actions. I loved my dad but I think he should have been in jail for the physical violence and domestic abuse to my mom and also to my sister and I on a smaller level. Unfortunately, this all happened before the domestic violence laws were established. Even today, it happens all the time. Don't stay, get the hell out and get safe. This person may love you and you love them but you don't deserve that kind of terror, pain and abuse. It is their responsibility for getting well and if they refuse to do it, then you don't have to stay with them and be a victim. Stop this shit! And honestly, some people just can't get well or we don't have the ability yet to treat whatever is going on with them which I believe many times stems from mental illness that has just now started to come into the light.

Anyway, my mom's life wasn't always easy and she spent 29 years working herself into the grave essentially with all the stress and long hours. The problem with the way she coped with the stress, was by smoking and drinking too much (until she quit smoking in 2000), and her health took a serious hit. People wonder why I don't want to rush into a high pressure job because I could easily be good at more than what I do for a living, this is why. Life is too damned short and I don't want to make it shorter if I can help it. I still may get hit by a bus crossing the street, but I just saw how unhappy my mom was in the midst of all that stress and I just could never bring myself to go there. I think my husband would be happier if I made more money and worked some high-powered job but I wouldn't be happy at all. I'd rather do with less than kill myself the way my mom did.

On a happier note, my mom was resilient and she found joy in many things especially her three granddaughters. Though I regretted my first marriage and having kids so young, it worked out the best because they had more time with their grandmother. My mom was always a survivor, a fighter and she always wanted to see you do your best and get what made you happy. She spoiled the girls, with the kind of Christmases she couldn't give my sister and I when we were younger. She had a strict work ethic and liked to do things by the book so her job in quality assurance kept with her personality. She loved Tennessee and while she only lived in Knoxville for a few years before my dad's alcoholism forced us to move to Missouri near his parents in the late 1970's, we returned most years starting in 1997 for spring break vacations which gave us many happy memories.

Mom and Corrinne on 1997 Tennessee Trip

My mom lived modestly even though she could afford a more lavish life because she was terrified of being poor again. She sunk back literally almost a million dollars in 30 years in investments which would have been more if not for that market downturn. I've always regretted she didn't spend more of her money on herself but she did what she wanted to do, which was pass on a safety net to my sister, my daughters and I. She didn't want us to ever have to live off of cases of Campbell's chicken noodle soup my grandparents brought to help us get through the leanest times right after her divorce.

Though growing up in the 1980's where designer jeans and such were the metric in which your worth was determined in school (and I fell way short because I didn't have most of these things), I never felt poor. We had enough to eat, we had the three of us (my mom, my sister and I) and we were making it day by day. Actually it was a source of pride for me. I was 13 when my parents split up and I had long been taking care of myself admist the chaos of dysfunction but once my dad left, it quieted down considerably and I stepped up to do what I could to help my mom. When we had plumbing issues in our rental house and the landlord couldn't get to it right away, I found my dad's toolbox and fixed it myself.

I took over being the 'housewife' because my mom had to work such long hours to support us. A lot of times I did the cooking and cleaning, making sure we were all fed. This gave me a sense of accomplishment that I never resented. No I didn't have much of a childhood and was bitter and angry about it for many years until I realized it helped make me who I am today. There isn't much I can't do or learn to do. I can take care of myself and I've passed this down to my daughters who are also very independent. My mom and I became this team, even working together for about 13 years until she retired. I also looked after her during her cancer (along with my daughters and husband) fights. I was there beside her when she passed, holding her hand. My mom was not only my parent, but my best friend. And when she got more sick, the tables turned and I took on the role almost of parent to her, though god knows, she fought me on damned near everything until the last few weeks.

Losing her was the most devastating thing in my life so far. She was so influential (good and bad) in my life. I walk around some days still, pretty lost, wishing I could call her or go over to her house, to sit on the couch and eat some dinner she put together. Though I hate shopping, I'd give anything to have her drag me around the mall and Kohls for long hours again thinking how bad my feet hurt. Or when I went to her house when she was still working in that jungle of her gardens, to have her walk me around her yard to show me what she weeded or what flowers were blooming. I notice when I visit my oldest daughter's house, we do this as well. Walk around to see what she's planted or is blooming and vice versa when she visits me. But this seems to be a family tradition, because all the women on my mom's side of the family garden and we all walk around the beds admiring their handiwork.

My mom was tough but she loved even tougher. She was always in my corner even though I made two poor marriage choices and divorces. She looked out for my girls, being more a parent to them than a grandparent. They spent their school years walking to Grandma's house after school because her house was closer to the different school buildings especially once my oldest daughter was of age to watch them and we no longer needed a sitter. She'd buy snacks to keep in the house for them as they huddled up at her house doing homework, playing video games and watching tv, until we came home from work together. Sometimes we would stay and eat dinner together at her house. I'm grateful my girls have so many wonderful memories and had so much time with their grandmother. She helped shape them into the amazing women they are today.

So in closing, I look forward to bringing different memories of my mom to my blog. My mom was so influential and so much a part of our lives, that this is a way for me to feel closer to her. It's always a good way to get these memories down before I forget them. I can't think of the times I wished when my family had told me stories, I had jotted them down because you do forget. Not all of the stories will be positive, but life isn't all good. Though I think I will dwell more on the positive than negative. I prefer to keep the happy memories close and let the painful ones drift into oblivion of the forgotten. Though the good times wouldn't have been so important without the bad times. C'est la vie.

Ohio the Beautiful

People love to knock my home state of Ohio. I'm not sure why it gets such a bad rap when it comes to people in other states but Ohio is pretty darn cool. After a 2500 mile road trip to Maine and back, I'm even more convinced of this descriptor. Sure, I saw some beautiful places especially Acadia National Park in Maine but it also solidified even more the love of my state. I'll tell you why.

I wasn't born in Ohio, but just outside our nation's capitol so I am a transplant but this is the state I have resided the longest so hence I consider it my home state. Well, because my home is here. I lived on the east side of the state in the early 1970's near Youngstown where my immediate maternal family hails from. After moving to Tennessee and then Missouri (where my paternal family is from), my parents returned to settle NW Ohio in 1981 when my father took a job here. When I got older I lived in Indiana for a bit until my first marriage broke up. Since 1998, almost 20 years, I've resided here settled between Dayton and Lima, Ohio.

When I mention to someone who doesn't live in our great state that I live in Ohio, their face might crunch up in concentration before they blurt out, "Oh, Ohio has a lot of corn doesn't it"? I'm not sure how we got this reputation, but okay, yeah we have a lot of corn. Actually, I live in the country and I can look out my windows right this second and see corn fields. You know what? Corn fields and other crop fields can be really pretty. So there, doubters. I don't mind living out among the crop fields, it's better than crammed up against people you don't get along with. I'm happy as a calm out here in bumfuk Egypt as my dad used to call it.

But while I live in what most outsiders believes our state consists of, I can in 1-3 hours drive to multiple cities. In an hour I can easily be in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. If I want to drive less than 4 hours, I can add in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ft. Wayne (IN), Indianapolis (do I need to put the state?), Detroit (MI), Lexington (KY), Youngstown, and Louisville (KY). When we plan a vacation where we need to fly, we have quite a few cities to check fares. Within a few hours, I can drive to another country, entering Canada through Detroit. All these cities offer their own unique experience so there is always a million things we can plan for a night away or even a day trip.

And sports? Are you kidding? Ohio is chock full of college and pro sports. We have two NFL and MLB teams. Sometimes it can divide families but hey it's all in fun. Not to mention to all the college sports (Hello – THE Ohio State Buckeyes) so you always have something follow or go spectate throwing in hockey and soccer as well. I'm not a huge sports person but you get the idea. We are even very grudgingly so, somewhat tolerant of Michigan fans. The rivalry of just OSU and Michigan could warrant it's own blog post. There are plenty of minor leagues and local sports to keep you engulfed in sportsdom. Even if you aren't a fan of a Ohio NFL team (I'm a Redskins fan – no comments ha), chances are you can see your team in our state some years as they may play the Browns or Bengals.

While our cities are great, our small towns are pretty awesome too. My town has been working over the years to spruce up the downtown and bring in new businesses. My daughters graduated from the same school system as I did which wasn't in my life plan as I wanted to get the hell out of dodge the moment I graduated, but I am grateful they had the same great education I did. They have all moved on to be successful, self-sufficient adults. They also all 3 attended OSU at least part of their college career (I had to throw that in lol).

I have to brag about our hometown a bit though. Our town not only supports sports like most school systems, but they are very active in all the activities such as music, academics and so on. My oldest daughter was in Quiz Bowl for 4 years and our school always had the most parents and family supporting their team. When our high school football team went to the playoffs with a big Dayton school at a bigger stadium between the two schools, our side was chocked full of people while the Dayton school side was pretty sparse. We also have a heart, people from our side went to the other team's side and sat and cheered both teams on.

Side note – Parental involvement is so important. When my oldest was in an honors psychology class at OSU, I went in to help out with a project for the class. The instructor told me he does the same project with the non-honors class as well but the parental support is much less. He contributes the kids being in the honors class to having strong parental involvement much of the time, not always, but over his years of teaching, this seems to be a consistent pattern. Okay off my soapbox and back to my subject.

Ohio has an incredibly diverse and rich parks system from local to state to national parks. Our terrain just isn't miles and miles of crops, we have shoreline along a massive Great Lake (Erie) and to the south we run into the rolling hills of Appalachia and everything in between. Okay, no desert but there are so many opportunities to be outside. Boating, hiking, cycling (road and mountain), kayaking/ canoeing, backpacking, hunting, and much more. Ohio also pays attention to providing handicap accessible options to get everyone outside. I can attest to the hundreds and hundreds of miles of bike paths/rail trails traversing through our state. I have ridden much of it at one point or the other. I love bike paths because you aren't dealing with cars so much and it's a bit safer though you still have to be careful of people. We have backpacking loops in our state. More hiking trails from short jaunts to the Buckeye Trail which circles our entire state.

Musically, you have local opportunities and then also considering all our cities, if your favorite band is touring there is a good chance you can catch them in Ohio or the state next door. We are also in a days drive of 50% of our country. Great location I think. One day I can be hiking in Hocking Hills and the next day lying on a sandy beach on Lake Erie. There is all sorts of culture from local theatre to attending Broadway productions in our larger cities that may be touring. We even have ski resorts, one just a half an hour from me. There are opportunities for many ethnic experiences as people from all over the world have settled in our midst, especially in our cities. The Arts are very alive and well with numerous large art museums and so on.

Ohio's other resource is it's people. It is rare that I run into anyone really unpleasant in our state. In general, people are really nice. The more rural you travel, the more this seems to stand out. If I'm out walking the dog on our country road and it starts raining, I'll have 3-4 people stop and ask me if I need a ride. That is the one thing I hear when I travel, besides the cornfield comment, is that our people are kind and friendly for the most part. No we aren't all backwards hillbillies.

Education in Ohio is abundant with great school systems throughout the state (some better than others of course) and colleges galore. Of course everyone knows of Ohio State but there are so many others like University of Cincinnati, Toledo, etc. Many private colleges as well such as Ohio University and smaller ones most people have never heard of. There is little you have to travel out of this state to pursue education wise at least on the undergrad level.

Our medical facilities in the state are also very progressive with places like the Cleveland Clinic and the Ohio State set of hospitals like the James Cancer institute which amazingly extended my mom's life to the fullest with her three boughts of cancer. Research is being done all the time to find new treatments and hopefully a cure in the near future. I pray for a cure.

I could continue to go on about the many historical sites and rich history, the restaurants, and many festivals that dot the state all summer long but I will stop here. I"ve got the day off and I'm going to go enjoy some of the great offerings of our great state. Don't knock Ohio, you doubters, come visit us. Ohio has a lot to offer!

Till next time.

Flying Blind – Update – Creatures of Habit

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post in which I proclaimed "A Year of Me" and that I was going to stop measuring everything in my life that isn't necessary to see if I enjoy my life more.

Habits, they are as hard to break as it is to form them at times. I've spent the rest of the week getting out of the compulsion to pick up my phone and enter data into the apps I was using. Or make sure I had my phone on me every time I moved around to count steps since the Fit Bit didn't work for me at all. Essentially I was grading myself in many aspects of my life rather than living it. I didn't realize how much I was doing this until I had to force myself to stop. Leaving my phone sitting rather than dragging it everywhere with me is freeing. You don't realize it but you can become a slave to that thing. You think you are doing something good for yourself but in a way you're creating a little prison all its own for you to stay within those four walls.

I still take my phone when I ride, but only to listen to my music, have a map handy if I would happen to wander out of my usual cycling area and of course to call in case of an emergency. Taking the cyclocomputer off my handlebars has helped me focus on the ride and the beauty I'm passing around me plus I also pay more attention to how my body is performing. Just feeling the muscles working in unison can be an amazing thing when you think about it. I am almost 50 and everything is still working fine, even better than I was in my 20's because I am much more active now.

Recently I read an article by Mark Manson who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck entitled What's the Point of Self-Improvement Anyway? I wouldn't call myself a self-improvement junkie as he defined in the article but more the self-improvement 'tourist' who delves into this arena when something isn't working in their life or something bad happens, though I may edge on the junkie part because I feel like I always need to be working on myself, getting better. Maybe it is in my German genes or just growing up in a family that was always pushing you to do better, do more. Either way, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matters is how I live today.

Manson points out that all this self-improvement is self-defeating. I don't agree 100% with all Manson spouts but he is pretty close on most of his points. He at least got me thinking in a different way and reconsidering how I look at life. His point is that if we are alway pursing improvement, is you are trying to reach a goal where you don't have to think about increasing productivity, or pursuing happiness until you not longer have to think about being happy, etc.

He goes on to say the only way to achieve one's potential is to become fully fulfilled or "self-actualize" – essentially stop trying to be all of those things. Essentially, I feel it is not be able to enjoy where you are today. That continuing to trying to self-improve actually creates unhappiness because you never reach that point of contentment with yourself. You don't step back and look at yourself and think, hey I'm really in a good place in my life because we always feel we need to fix or change something about yourself. See how that works? You work really hard to get to point X and instead of feeling happy about your achievement, you set a goal of getting to point Y because then things really will be better. We don't stop spinning in the self-improvement circles long enough to see what we have achieved or just maybe, we are amazing and awesome just the way we are.

That's a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. What if I stop trying to diet and lose weight? Would the world end? What if I put that scale and measuring tape up and just enjoy what I eat? What if I just say fuck it and if I get bigger just buy a different size or if I get smaller, then again just buy a different size? Not that I don't want to be healthy, I do. But the thing is, I am. Other than a genetic thyroid problem, my blood work and everything except my weight is considered healthy. There are people out there that are at their "healthy" weight but they can't walk 5 miles with a pack or ride 40 miles in the heat. I can. I'm strong, I can work outside like a farm hand in my yard and I don't seem to slow down much as I age. Sure, my body needs a little more time to recover but much of this stuff, I couldn't do in my 20's.

This is one of my biggest self-improvement hang-ups as it is a lot of women. Our size. It's like a prison. Trying to live up to some expectation of thinness or perfection. So what if I actually get down to that size 12? Would my life be perfect? Um, no. I'd still make mistakes, fall down and so on. That's just part of life. Why do we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? Yeah it could be the 10000000000 ads pointed at making us 'better' via weight loss, clothes, makeup, etc. What if we just focused on what made us feel good and made us happy?

Like, I eat a big salad with avocados, grilled chipotle chicken and hard-boiled eggs because I just love those foods. Or wear that new eye sparkly eye shadow because it's so pretty? Or no make up at all if that's how i feel that day. The world won't end if we walk out without no makeup. It's a vehicle to make us feel especially pretty as well if we use it for that reason. For us. My youngest makes makeup into a a creative art. And other days she doesn't wear any at all. It makes her feel good. That's the reason to use it. Not OMG, what will people think if I go out without my 'face'? Be authentic, don't hide behind it. Fuck those people, you won't care about them when you're dead.

What's wrong with my body right now? Nothing. Yeah I'm carrying around some extra but I'm also hypo-thyroid and going into menopause. My body is just doing its own thing. Why ride my bike just to exercise and burn calories? I should ride it because I love the freedom of riding, the feeling of power it gives me to be able to move from point A to point B by my own physical power. I hike because I love to be in nature and the woods. It is an avenue to add adventure into my life. I do yoga because it keeps me from getting too stiff, it counteracts my days of sitting at a desk, its spiritual/meditative and it also helps my body move better. At this age, it's critical to keep moving. Moving keeps me feeling amazing and younger than my 47 years. Google Ernestine Shepherd and see that aging doesn't have to be a walker and rocking chair.

After several days giving up all my metrics I use to judge myself, I feel better. Happier. I find myself noticing the world around me so much more when I'm not shackled to my electronics. I think giving up self-improvement and measuring anything is going to be something I'm going to have really work on, but I have this suspicion that it will be so worth it. Letting go of this, will be like dropping the shackles of unhappiness and walking away from them.

Thanks for all the comments about my posts. I love you guys!  You're awesome and amazing just as you are today.  Till next time.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

The Small World…

Recently, my husband and I took a 2500+ mile road trip through New York State, parts of New England and arriving finally in Bar Harbor, Maine where we spent the majority of a day (and not nearly enough time) in Acadia National Park. Which by the way was totally worth the trip but next time I would fly into Maine so I could spend more time there on Mount Desert Island and the surrounding areas. Acadia is truly all it is said to be and it is also one of the most heavily visited national parks in the system.

The one thing about driving 2500 miles is that you are in the car a lot and luckily my husband loves driving our 2008 Corvette which we took on said road trip. This gave me a lot of time to think and ponder the many things that run through my mind. When I was imagining our road trip, I did some research via the interwebs but also with books I got at the library trying to figure out since we were just passing through Vermont and New Hampshire, what I may want to see for sure. Vermont ended up being Ben and Jerry's (don't make a special trip for this, the tour was only 30 minutes and mostly videos- fun but not worth driving that far) and in New Hampshire I chose driving the auto-road up Mount Washington in the White Mountains as my two definite bucket list items. More on Mt. Washington in a minute.

When you think of New England, what comes to mine, at least my mind, was these charming small towns filled with historic clapboard churches and old buildings kept to pristine shape but that wasn't really how it ended up being. At least the areas that we traveled through. Like any state or area, there are very nice areas and there are run down, impoverished areas. in a way, other than landscapes, styles of architecture, accents, food preferences and some cultural changes, pretty much every place is the same in some way. Now I haven't traveled much outside of the US so pretty much this is all I can speak about.

I'm in some groups and such that include people from all over the world. And while cultures and landscapes are going to vary much more once you leave our country, people in general are the same and want the same things. We want the best for the people we love and we want to take care of our families. People every where struggle with self-image, self-confidence and finding their ways or even finding love. The one FaceBook group I follow, I see people post from our country, UK, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and every where in between. While their English translations may jumble up their posts into broken English, I found it striking how similar we all are when you strip away the outward differences and get to the heart of a person.

That's the amazing thing about social media and the internet. It takes what seems like this massive world and makes it into one big neighborhood of sorts where people from all walks of life and countries (at least those with the freedom to be on the internet) together on something so simple as a say, Pusheen, which is this cat comic that has found a huge following (including my daughters and I) in all ages and even has become more genderless of a thing than it may have been twenty years ago. Or a cycling group that also has members from many different countries. We all have similar traits, we love riding though it may be road or mountain, completion or touring or just for pleasure. But cycling in itself has its own culture and the greatest joy is usually the freedom two wheels and your own power can afford you.

The other very cool thing about these groups is the support you see from perfect strangers say if someone lost a loved one and they share it in a post to the group. Depending on the size of the group, hundreds if not thousands of people may offer their sympathy and prayers. No, it isn't face to face but I know the power of other people caring has to make a great impact, especially when it is someone you simply share an interest with. That is encouraging about the human race, that in general, the majority of us are inherently good and we care about others. So much of what you hear on the news is all so negative while every moment of every day, so much good is happening around that one bad and/or tragic thing that we never hear about. I would like to believe that our world, there is immensely more good, more love than hate. Your community can be as small as a few friends and/or family but as big as people all over the world. I find that to give much hope when all you hear about is the opioid epidemic, suicides, murders, etc.

I have mentioned before that I believe the meaning of life is simply love. Love one another, love yourself, and do what you can to help others (who truly need help and you aren't enabling them). You may feel alone in your problem but there is probably someone say, in China, dealing with the same problem. Or maybe right in your own office or classroom or church. The thing is, i know many times we feel alone and the amazing thing is, we really aren't. I think my grandmother scared the crap out of me that when I'd get older like she was (and she was the queen of the guilt-trip when I look back), that I would be all alone. I would have these visions of me sitting alone, in a house with no one around. Just me and the fifty cats I've hoarded to become the crazy cat lady.

Unless you are truly a miserable person who treats people like crap, you have no reason to be alone. You have to be the kind of person other people enjoy being around and if you are a whiny, victim who is just hateful to others, then that might be an issue. You know those people? The ones who feel the world and everyone in it, owe them something? Ugh. Those people are alone because they are bitter and toxic. And you don't have to be that way. You can make a conscious choice to be a kinder and more personable human.

I have been adjusting to the looming empty nest where there are nights now that I am home alone. Just the dog and I and I can tell you it's been a very long, long time that I have time in the evenings alone. At first, I was all unsettled and feeling out of place but then I settled into the quiet. Instead of thinking, 'oh poor me, I'm a loser for being here in this house on Friday night all by myself', I started doing more things I enjoyed but hadn't had time for such as I took a yoga and wine class (well yoga class, with wine afterwards). I go down in the basement and practice my piano not worrying about being too loud and hell, I even sing along to my own music (trust me, I can play but NOT sing). I even started piano lessons for the first time in 36 years.

Being home alone isn't such a bad thing like it seems like it should be. I am spending this Friday evening just relaxing, listening to some jazz and writing this post. My little buddy is lying on the floor next to me patiently waiting for his walk. Off and on, I get IM's or messages from my daughters, my aunt, my husband when he has a free second or a friend. I'm not "alone" even though physically it's just me in this house. We live in an age where all we have to do is open an iPad to reach the entire world. No, you don't want to spend all your time with your face in a screen and you need to get out among the living sometimes but I take comfort in knowing the whole world is my village in a way.

One of my favorite books and movies is Bridges of Madison County. There is a scene where Francesca (Iowa farm housewife) asks Robert (traveling photographer for National Geographic) about the fact he never really settled down. Didn't he feel alone? (I don't have the exact words) but he seems incredulous as he never really felt alone. She asks him doesn't he need anyone? And he tells he needs everyone. Or something similar to that. I'd have to look it up. I always found that to be an interesting take on life. Though he had no one close at that moment, he felt close to the world (or so that was my interpretation). I suppose it is all in how you look at life.

Much of life, much of the world, simply is how we see it in our minds, how we choice to see it and how we choose to live. No matter where you go, there you are as they say. And deep down, we are all pretty much the same.  It's a small world after all.

 

Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.