December 2022 Goals

In yesterday’s post, I reflected on what happened in November 2022 and lessons I learned. I also shared the status of the goals I’d set.

Keeping in mind the holiday, I’m not looking to focus on breadth. I’m going for depth instead. So, goals look light, but one of the goals, the YearCompass is where I will be putting most of my energy and where I’ll be going deep.

Here are my goals:

  1. Continue with 5k trail race plan, weight lifting and hiking.
  2. Purchase Vivobarefoot trail running shoes.
  3. Work on the YearCompass so it’s completed before New Year’s Eve.
  4. Film, edit and post one YouTube video this month.
  5. Enjoy the holiday and make it as close to family-drama-free (i.e. in-laws and family of origin) as I possibly can.
  6. Purchase a keyboard and keep on learning piano – a new side interest.

Thoughts and Hopes for December 2022 Goals:

Last month was very overloaded and had things on the list that I was trying to force myself to do that I didn’t really want to do but felt like I had to do. And, of course, I didn’t do what I didn’t want to do.

December 2022 is very Minessententional.

Minimalist, Essential and Intentional=Minessententional:

  • Fewer and more focused goals that go deep on the things that are essential and intentional to me.
  • Focused the things that are most important to me right now which are also the essential things.
  • Moving the dial on fitness and my business/brand with 1 YouTube video, 
  • Going deep on the YearCompass for next year’s goals to say goodbye and reflect on 2022 and plan for what I’d like to accomplish in 2023.
  • Adding in practice and a way to practice for a new side interest that I’m working on (piano). 
  • Need trail shoes for the trail race  I’m running in January and beyond. 
  • Being active and fit during the holiday and beyond. 
  • Maintaining my mental health so that I stay as close to a drama-free Christmas and New Years as I possibly can. For me, that means staying away from triggering family members like in-laws and family of origin.

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Need help with planning and goal setting for December 2022 or for 2023? Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let’s have a conversation about goal setting and planning. I’d love to hear from you and help you out in any way I can.

Sarathlete

A Review of November 2022 Goals, Lessons Learned and Thoughts For December 2022 goals

Check out the original post here: https://sarathlete.com/2022/11/01/goals-for-the-month-of-november-and-staying-accountable-to-these-goals/

Here are my November goals and the status of them is bolded in parentheses:

  1. Find a trail 5k locally to run and sign up for the race. (Achieved)
  2. Buy trail running shoes. (Need to do. I’ve been running mostly indoors. Decided to buy Vivobarefoots. Need to place the order.)
  3. Find a free trail running plan for a 5k trail race. (Achieved)
  4. Integrate the goal race and training plan into my current weight training plan so I can do both at once. (Completed and still tweaking my schedule)
  5. Clean out my closet in my room. (In process and mostly complete)
  6. Have a truly happy Thanksgiving and figure out what that really means to me. (Achieved)
  7. Art journal everyday with watercolor journal or a digital art app like Procreate. Post the art online somewhere, like Facebook, blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere and be consistent with posting everyday.  (Incomplete, went back to drawing Zentangle-like drawing instead).
  8. Write a blog post 4 times a week. (Achieved and went beyond my expectations)
  9. Meditate for one minute or do a meditate activity where I breathe deeply for one minute the first day and add a minute to each day so I meditate for thirty minutes at the end of the month. Compounding breaths should equal a calmer me by December 1st! (Didn’t complete. Only meditated once.)
  10. Practice Italian every day on DuoLingo. (Never tried on DuoLingo)
  11. Monetize my life and see how it goes. (In process and working on it daily.)
  12. Do Gordo Byrn’s version of journaling in the morning and evening from 10/31/22 post so that I write less and check in with myself more often. (In process and adjusting)https://feelthebyrn.blog/2022/10/31/creating-a-self-directed-life-with-meaning/
  13. Clean out my car. (Avoided this)
  14. Film and post 4 YouTube videos. (I filmed one video, but I never edited or posted it).
  15. Do the Authority Accelerator course and finish the first step of the course: Hero’s Journey and the Niche Down to Blow Up spreadsheet. Speak to 20 ideal clients to see what they have to say, OR jump into building the course since I am around my ideal client and I already am my ideal client and see how it goes. (Never touched this)
  16. Purchase Apple Watch Ultra and live only on the Apple Watch for 30 days. (Complete)
  17. Set goals with real numbers for The Rare Plant Haus. (Never touched this)
  18. Bake and sell baked goods on Facebook in the Chesterton Happenings Facebook page. (I baked for my husband and for my enjoyment, but I didn’t sell anything. With dogs, I feel that selling food online isn’t the greatest decision…dog hair and food don’t mix well).
  19. Sell stuff on Facebook Marketplace: plants, old stuff I want to get rid of as I declutter and try to make money out of my old junk I no longer want and money out of plants I can’t sell in my store because they are too big to ship or I just don’t want to carry that plant in my future lineups anymore. (There is resistance here, and I didn’t do it. I want to, but the thought of posting on social media and having to talk to people stands in my way every time).
  20. Get rid of the stuff that is hard to get rid of by playing the Minimalism game. (Didn’t do the Minimalism game, but I have been decluttering bit by bit every week).
  21. Clean out all of the hiding places stuff builds up in the house like in the closets, pantry, basement, drawers and dressers and do it daily, i.e. a little every day. (Working on it weekly, not daily).
  22. Simplify the plant room and what I sell and pitch or sell off the rest on Facebook marketplace or somewhere, doesn’t matter where. (LOL I avoided the plant room because I have so much stock that it’s overwhelming and I didn’t want to deal with it).
  23. Eliminate personal plant collection and sell those plants off that I no longer want to keep in my personal plant collection. Sell it off as part of the store and keep only the plants that hold meaning to me. (Need to do. I barely touched my plants this month)
  24. Buy LECA for the plant shop to propagate with going forwards. (Need to do. Didn’t feel like dealing with the plant business this month).
  25. Figure out how to fertilize with roots growing in LECA. (Need to do. Didn’t feel like dealing with the plant business this month).
  26. Sell five plants on www.therareplanthaus.com and get off of Etsy and slowly transition back to my Shopify store that is currently on pause. Stop giving money to Etsy and put it back in my plant shop’s pockets. (Didn’t do this at all).
  27. Align multiple businesses under one large brand with one greater message. (In process. Working on this as I go).
  28. Do one cleaning activity every day so I don’t have to do big pushes anymore in the house. Clean as I go so the house is always clean. (I worked on this, but I haven’t been able to achieve doing cleaning daily. I still did my big pushes).
  29. Read a few pages of a book every day or a chapter of a book once a day so that I get into the habit of reading. (I read a few pages one day, and never read again).
  30. Be outside everyday somehow, even if it’s just opening the window. (I was outside more often hiking, but I didn’t make it out every day.)
  31. Leave the house everyday. (I did this most days, but I know I didn’t do achieve this every day.)
  32. Go the library and sit and read the newspaper and magazines at least once this month. This will help me with getting out of the house everyday. (Achieved)
  33. Go on some artists dates, once a week, to start building new interests and hobbies that I can start to nurture over the next decade. (Never did this once.)
  34. No mindless Facebook scrolling. If I find myself scrolling, then stop scrolling and switch to something else. (Still mindlessly scrolling every day. Didn’t achieve this one).
  35. Check emails, orders and messages only once a day. (I checked emails more than this. I want to work on this one.)
  36. Live life on my watch as much as possible and stop carrying my phone around unless absolutely necessary. (Didn’t do this one very often.)
  37. Wear my contacts 15 days out of 30 days this month. Wear glasses less often. (I wore my contacts twice this month.)
  38. Shower less often to help build up body microbiome. (This didn’t even come close to happening.)
  39. Stop online scrolling mindlessly on costco.com (I check less often, but I still enjoy scrolling mindlessly on Costco.com to see what’s new in their site. Guilty pleasure, I guess.)
  40. Only go to recovery center activities that I want to attend, and stop shaming myself and feeling guilty for not wanting to attend all of the activities they offer. (Achieved!)
  41. Do one cycling workout a week, indoors or outdoors, to keep my butt in shape so I don’t lose the progress I’ve made. Keep my butt used to the saddle so I’m ready for spring riding in 2023! (Want to do, but didn’t achieve this month).

Thoughts on November goals:

  • I had a pretty ambitious month planned for November. Perhaps a little too ambitious.
  • What I found was that I did the things I really wanted to do: finding a trail race and signing up for it, getting Apple Watch Ultra, experimenting with a new journaling style, figuring out how to fit in the walk/run schedule with my weight lifting schedule, working on aligning my businesses.
  • I also found that things I didn’t touch were things I said/thought I wanted to do because I feel like I should want to or feel like I have to but they didn’t happen because I’ve been experience resistance with them for a while now. I feel like I should want to deal with the plants I have and the stock that’s hanging over my head, but I really have no desire to do it because I don’t want to do it anymore. I have a LOT of stock that I want to sell off and get rid of. I don’t want to sell plants anymore. I still enjoy plants, but I don’t really enjoy selling them and running a business around them, but I feel like I should enjoy it because I’ve invested money into this business that no longer serves me. Those were mostly things related to my plant shop, www.therareplanthaus.com and the Etsy store https://www.etsy.com/shop/therareplanthaus
  • I’m still working on my businesses. I posted to sarathlete.com nearly every day this month. That’s progress! I’m working through aligning my businesses through writing and figuring out what I want to say and focus on. What I found was that I like writing and I want to get back to filming for YouTube. I feel stuck between my life coaching site, Sara Dalton Coaching, and my sarathlete.com blog. There’s a lot of crossover I see there so I’m thinking of how I can make them into one unified brand. The same thing is true with the plant business, The Rare Plant Haus. I’d like to figure out how I can make plants a part of my brand but not have to sell and ship plants. Plants helped reconnect me to the land of the living in 2020 and I want to make them part of my brand message because of this, but I don’t want to sell and ship them anymore. Anyone want to buy an online plant business? 
  • Most of the items are works in progress, and I’m down with that. 
  • Reviewing my goals shows me I have a lot of work to do in the all-or-nothing-thinking/striving department. Quite a few of my goals were “do X thing every day”. As a striver, I feel shame for not completing these items every day. That shows me I still have more work to do in recovery. I have a hard time admitting that things are a work in progress or that I avoided goals altogether because there is resistance there. In my eyes, I failed if only did goal X one time or even that I tried it and it didn’t happen. That’s a great lesson for me though. Still have more work to do.
  • I could be setting myself up for failure with big goals like do X everyday. Maybe just trying putting it out there and doing it one time that month, or once a week would be more feasible. Building progress slowly over time and not forcing myself to do something brand new every day with so many goals at one time.
  • Fitness goals have been going well. I’ve been run/walking but not so much outdoors. I’ve been training on the treadmill for now and then doing weights afterwards. I’m proud of myself for getting my runs in at all. It’s been awesome! I need to buy trail shoes. I’ve decided on Vivos to start with. I run in trainers with zero padding and this helps me stay on the balls of my feet (that and years of dancing training). I find with the extra padding in a traditional running shoe that I heel strike way too much. I’m doing a very beginner run/walk program for my 5k goal race, so I should be able to build foot strength over time between Vivos and the NoBull trainer’s I run in on the treadmill and also lift weights in as well.
  • Mindless scrolling is still around, but there’s less of it. I’ve found the busier I keep myself, the less time there is for scrolling mindlessly. The habit of scrolling is dissociation for me. The Facebook and  costco.com mindless scrolling started this summer when I was going to ACA virtual meetings. I’d be waiting to share, and I’d be listening to fellow ACA’s share when it was their turn. I found that watching the Zoom screen was boring, so I’d open an internet browser tab and scroll through the Facebook feed for fun things to do in my town or just check out costco.com to see what was new. I don’t buy anything, but scrolling gave me something to do while I listened (the story of my life!). Currently, I’m not attending ACA meetings, but I found that the mindless scrolling habit stuck around. I want to eliminate it, but part of me enjoys having something mindless I can do to check out for a bit. 

Lesson Learned to Apply to December Goals:

I’m going to keep things simpler and more focused in December. I set too many expectations for myself, and then I hated myself for falling short. Classic Striver. Grrrrr. (Learn more about what a striver is here in the interview with Dr. Arthur Brooks on Rich Roll’s podcast on YouTube:

RRP featuring Dr. Aruthur Books on his latest book From Strength to Strength.

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December goals will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Sarathlete

YearCompass Guide: Reflecting on 2022 and Planning for 2023

Check out my video on YearCompass guide. I’m going to film an updated video on this because I’m getting ready to start it soon.

This is a video guide that walks you through what the YearCompass is, gives you some tips on how to work through it, and some thoughts and reflections on how you can use it to plan for 2023.

You can find this year’s YearCompass here (not affiliated or sponsored, just a free resource I love and recommend).

YearCompass a free guide for reflecting on the past year (2022) and a way to set goals for next year (2023).

Have a great day!

Sarathlete

Why You Should Nurture Other Interests While You’re Indulging Your Main Passion

For years, I had one passion: dance. 

What activities did I nurture on the side when I wasn’t dancing? 

Not much to be honest. Dance was everything to me.

That became a problem when I left the dance world, and all I had left was my day job.

One of the reasons I advocate for nurturing interests on the side is because I remember what it was like to have dance be my world, and when I chose to leave that world due to burnout, I felt oh-so-very lost.

So, what was next for me?

This blog.

I kept on moving. I started running. I did a 5k, half and full marathon one year. The next year I got into triathlons. The year after that was cycling. And the year after that was a year of hot yoga. 

The year after that, I lost touch with movement for many years. I had a very dark period where depression and emotional eating ruled my life. I stopped moving for a while. Eventually I went back to the gym and got into weight lifting and boxing. Then came COVID and a back injury. Then came ACA/12 step and recovery.

Within this time, I got very into personal development in searching for a solution to make myself feel better and trying to figure out why I was so depressed and felt so awful.

During COVID came an interest in orchids and growing other tropical houseplants. I enjoyed this so much I started my own business in May of 2021 called The Rare Plant Haus.

All throughout this time period I tried art classes of different sorts. I kept on moving even when I felt low and didn’t feel like moving my body.

Nurture side interests that you’re curious about while you perform your main passion because when you’re at the top of your craft, burnout your main passion is inevitable. 

It’s not just me saying burnout is inevitable. It’s human nature. It’s the 10 year/10,000 hour rule. At some point in your life, you’re going to want to change course and do something different.

If you wait until burnout occurs, you decide to leave your passion, and you haven’t nurtured anything else on the side, then you’re going to be a beginner and brand new at everything. Being a beginner at everything isn’t a bad thing, but you may not want to be like me and be the beginner at everything at the same time. Learning a LOT of new things at the same time is hard for anyone. It leads to the possibility of feeling like you’re not very good at anything. It’s not a fun way to feel.

If you nurture side interests you have and explore new things that aren’t front and center with your main passion, then you can enjoy being a beginner. You get to learn new things and find out what you like and don’t like about said interest and if you even want to pursue it or not. 

This advice is applicable to anyone, not just athletes. If you don’t nurture any side hobbies, then what happens when you don’t want to work in your field anymore? What other skills do you have to move into a new field? I would say none if you don’t spend time developing your other interests.

All of the things I thought I was bad at simply was because I was a beginner are now some of my main focuses: blogging and writing regularly as part of my business, wanting to live an active life again that does NOT involve dance, when I got back into fitness and movement I wanted to run, bike and swim. I’m not a beginner at any of these things anymore. I may not be great at them yet, but I know I enjoy them and can make a living doing them. These are all things I’m pursuing right now or will be very soon in the future.

What I need to ask myself now is: what’s next? The side things I did from 2011 to 2022 to build new interests are now my main focus. 

What new things am I going to try out and be a total beginner at so that I’ll have new interests when these passions I have now inevitably fade?

I’m aware that burnout will occur for me. I burnt out after 10 years of teaching dance. I burnt out after 12 years in the real estate/title examiner world. Based on my history, with work and athletics, I am asking myself right now, what would I like to do in the future so that I don’t (hopefully) repeat history and burn out with no clue as to what comes next. I don’t want to have to spend a decade developing new main passions because I lose interest in present day interests. 

If I take the time to nurture a new hobby or two now, then I reduce the chances of feeling lost and with a huge time void with nothing to fill said time. 

Burnout happens. You might fall out of love with the thing you enjoy the most. This doesn’t just happen to athletes. Many people start out in life with 9-5 job they enjoy and by the time they hit their 40s or 50s, they’re looking for what is next. Or worse…they get stuck. They stay because they don’t know what else to do.

What’s next for you? Need help figuring it out? Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com.  Let’s talk it out.

Sarathlete

Picking the Lesser Of Two Evils: Which Would I Rather Do? Fun Interview and Getting-To-Know Me A Little Better

I’ve had this idea bubbling in my head as like a trivia post. It’s a self-interview and gives you a chance to get to know me a little bit better. So I’m going to ask myself a series of questions where I select the lesser of two evils and see which one I pick. 

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Sara, which would you rather do:

  1. Dance on pointe (ballet) or run a marathon?

Run a marathon.

  1. Have Christmas dinner with your parents or your in-laws?

Have Christmas dinner with my parents. 

  1. Go shopping at a crowded mall or or watch a comedy-style opera?

Watch a comedy-style opera

  1. Take ballroom dance lessons from a complete beginner or socialize at a party where I know no one?

Take ballroom dance lessons from a complete beginner.

  1. Attend faith night at the recovery center once a week or drive in Chicago (or any large city) traffic at rush hour every day for a month?

Drive in Chicago traffic at rush hour every day for a month.

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I’ve given myself a selection of two things I don’t enjoy, and I’ve selected the one I can tolerate, put up with, or would rather do over the other. Both options in each questions difficult for me for different reasons, but I have a preference for one or the other if I was presented the choice because I know which one is more tolerable than the other.

Sometimes that’s what we get in life. We can’t do exactly what we want and we have to compromise and pick the lesser of two evils. When life isn’t going your way and you have to make a choice, sometimes you have to pick what you think you can tolerate when neither choice is optimal or enjoyable. You choose based on your preferences and what you can stand.

I’d rather run a marathon than dance on pointe, not because either was easy for me, but running a marathon was easier and far less painful than dancing on pointe ever was.

I’d rather sit through Christmas dinner with my parents because I know that it’ll be a quiet experience vs. my in-laws who are very loud, gossipy, and will pick at me. My parents are quiet and passive aggressive and I can tolerate them over my in-laws any day.

I’d rather sit through a comedy-style opera than go shopping at a crowded mall because I can avoid the crowds that way. Comedy-style operas are my least favorite, but I’d sit through one any day over having to go to a crowded mall.

I’d rather take ballroom dance lessons from someone who knows basically nothing (yes, this is a real thing that happens in studios where the teacher is often one step ahead of their students) than have to socialize at a party with anyone I don’t know. 

I’d rather drive in rush hour Chicago traffic than attend faith night at the recovery center once a week because I don’t want to have god and faith shoved down my throat.

Sarathlete

How To Know When It’s Time For Change: Spotting Your Breaking Point

I would’ve paid someone an obscene amount of money to fix things for me. Even better, I would’ve paid anyone to tell me what was wrong with my life as to why I felt so miserable in my life that I wanted to die because I could only see a future with my life the way it was and no improvement. I couldn’t see a way out of my life and that made me want to NOT keep going. Suicide ideation you could call it. What got to be so bad that I wanted to be out of my life? This was my breaking point. 

What happened to me was the first key. In late Fall of 2019 and early Winter of 2020, right before lockdown, I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively. I did the retirement version of the program which was perfect for my old soul. With the wisdom and guidance of the authors of this program, I wrote my memoir. Over the span of 12 weeks, I examined my life 3 years, or so, at a time. I was 39 years old when I did this, so the math worked out well. The goal for senior citizens is to do about 10 years a week, but I wanted to do the program so I had to make the math work for me.

I spent hours writing my memoir. In writing my memoir, I got a chance to examine my past from my perspective. Later on, I would identify this memoir as figuring out What Happened To Me (check out the book for Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah).

In writing my memoir, I started to examine the years of my life. I was able to see that I’d been truly happy for four years of my life in college. I started to see what had happened with my parents and my paternal grandmother. I started to see and write down what was going on with my marriage. I started to see what happened with my in-laws. For the first time ever, I was able to write down and identify what happened and why I felt the way I did. I often would say to myself, “No wonder you feel this way, Sara. No wonder you want to die. You’ve had 4 years of happiness out of 39 years of our life.

The first step to healing was writing down my story and admitting what had happened to me. The next step was admitting that I didn’t like what had happened to me, which was me admitting how I felt about what had happened to me in my past. This is what came for the next two years. 

What happened between 2020 and 2022 was the Coronavirus and the pandemic. It was a chance to take a pause in all of the distractions and really focus on myself and what was coming up for me. I wanted to push down the feelings of grief over what had happened to me. No one really wants to admit that they were sexually assaulted many times over the years, that their parents projected that they didn’t want them around and made them feel like an inconvenience, or admit to their own mistakes that they’d made as a result of what was going on. For me, an example of that was seeing that I worked out a lot my anxiety at the gym and spent a lot of time working out to numb the pain of the past.

In 2021, I left my corporate job because I couldn’t take being treated like a piece of underpaid garbage anymore. This was a huge step for me on the road to entering 12 step and recovery. 

How I felt about what happened to me started to catch up with me. I couldn’t keep pushing down the feelings anymore. I started feeling worse and worse after I left my job because, ironically, I felt amazing without being treated like garbage at a job that paid me barely anything, undervalued me and didn’t appreciate me. I started to see how I was treated at my corporate job and compared it to my life where I also felt the same way. Turns out, for me, my job was reflecting a mirror back to me of other areas of my life where I’d been treated similarly: my marriage, my family of origin and my in-laws. Just like I wasn’t happy at work, I could also see the dysfunction that was these other relationships in my life. 

I reached a breaking point with my corporate job and I couldn’t handle the stress, low pay and being undervalued anymore. The criticism, black and white thinking, perfectionism, people pleasing, and control was too much. By leaving my job and seeing how much better I felt without it in my life, light started to show on other areas of my life and how similar they were to the job I’d had. Like, how could I let anyone treat me this way? The way I felt about my job was the same way I felt about my marriage, my in-laws, my parents and my paternal grandmother. 

Noticing that the only period of time I was really happy was when none of these relationships was present in my life, and that was 4 years in college. It was the time that I identified in my memoir that was the last time I was happy. That time was me on my own and being happy and comfortable, for the first time, being me.

When I did my memoir, I uncovered how awkward I felt in childhood around my parents. This unease was present in grade school and high school in that I didn’t fit in. This happened when I moved back home after college, started dating my now husband and moved in with my now in-laws. I didn’t fit in. But college? I was regulated, satisfied and happy. I fit in. There was no dysfunction present.

In recognizing where I was happy, I was able to see the moments where I wasn’t happy in my memoir. Then I was able to see why I wasn’t happy and then how I felt about that. 

I entered ACA/12 step and recovery after a period of time where I was working very hard for little financial gain and no real support at home. 

I had to put myself first and tell myself that I mattered. I had to pull back from the work I was doing. Overworking and overworking out two of my addictions. I numb my pain and anxiety with exercise to the extreme. I LOVE to workout. It’s where I get high. It could be any kind of movement like dance, lifting weights, running.

And in 2021, I injured my back from working out too much. Or, so I thought at the time.

My truth is that the back injury was a huge reflection for me being miserable in my life and needing to change in order to feel better.

It was a time to say no. I injured my back while I was still working full-time at my corporate job. I was miserable. I tried to take out my anxieties with lifting super heavy weights at the gym. I believe between the stress of working out, the misery and depression I was in from my marriage and work, the stress I felt from the pandemic, and on and on, my body decided to send me a message, “Time to stop girl. Here’s a huge dose of pain in the form of shooting pain up your right leg until you fix this.” 

A huge sign from my body: STOP SARA. STOP IT.

So, the signs were there, but I didn’t stop and pull back until this back injury and pain was so present in my life that I couldn’t ignore things anymore. 

A sign from the universe? Maybe. A sign from my body? YES!

I’m grateful for what this injury has taught me. My body said, “I’m  not happy anymore, and you can’t take your anxiety out on me without a huge dose of pain.”

So, I had to stop and get better. It wasn’t easy.

That physical pain was another breaking point. It was the breaking point that caused me to do something about it. Because I wanted to get rid of this pain.

In healing the physical pain, I had to heal my entire body.

Everything changed for me. I did a major, radical overhaul of my life.

I entered 12 step, ACA, went to a recovery center, sought recovery coaching, attended programs at the recovery center, started exercising in small doses and moving again, stopped trying to prove myself to my husband, talked to my husband about what was going on for me. I had to STOP being passive aggressive and communicate my thoughts and feelings. I had to admit aloud how I felt and know what had happened to me in order to make changes in my life. 

Now, it’s nearly five months later after finding ACA, starting to work my way though the 12 steps and entering recovery. It feels like an eternity has gone by, but I also know that five months is a very short amount of time in the large span of a life lived so far on this planet. 

I’m will always be working on my recovery. Thank goodness I’m working on myself and getting myself to an amazing place. I am starting to heal. 

It’s touch and go. Things are finally looking up. I don’t feel like I want to die anymore. That’s HUGE for me! I want to live! I wonder why I couldn’t see a way out back then, but I see a way out and forward now. My back is much better, and I’m increasing my load. The shooting pain down my right leg is at bay. It’s not healed, but at bay and tolerable. It’s been a year since my last steroid shot. A year! Yes girl!

The pain from the injury hasn’t healed completely. It’s a work in progress, just like me. Recovery is a work in progress. Something I do daily so I don’t go back to the dark place I was in. Every day is work so that I never have to make big work pushes I dread a day in my life. It’s maintenance now. Maintenance is work. For a time, 12 step and recovery was my work. Now it’s more maintenance. In starting to write again and post on this blog, I’ve been bringing myself back into balance with work. This is now the work. It’s all the work because it’s all related! Love it! I matter. I know I matter. I value me. I’ll NEVER go back to a 9-5, W-2 job that treated me the way I was treated for so many years. Very much like, I can’t let my family of origin or my husband or in-laws treat me the way they treated me.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a huge reminder of the things I’d let go that no longer served me and that no longer had any control over me because I didn’t want them to: food, emotional eating, inviting family to dinner that made me miserable over a sense of obligation I felt I had. I did the things I did want to do: I posted a blog post on Thanksgiving day, I enjoyed my day with my husband and dogs, I didn’t emotionally eat or eat like garbage. My new ways of being and being happy in the world are sticking. Old ways are gone and new ways of being are sticking. 

Yes girl!

Before I could even start to heal my life, I had to figure out what happened to me. I did my memoir. Then I needed more convincing through a huge injury to see that I was truly hurting emotionally and physically. I felt bad in my mind and body for a reason. I started looking for ways to heal myself because I felt so bad. I also noticed what was out of balance in my life and sought solutions to bring me back into balance. I finally found the solutions that worked for getting back to the girl in college, but a better version of her. Happiness is a work in progress, and I’m living every day. 

As they say in ACA/12 step, “The program works if you work it.” So true. But before you can find the program, you gotta see where you’re hurting and spot the hurt so you can do the work to heal.

Sarathlete

Phones, Tablets, Other Pacifiers, and Thanksgiving Dinner: How To Be Present With Yourself and Your Family In The Moment

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I hope you have a wonderful day!

To kick off the holiday season, my husband and I went to see Polar Express last night. Afterwards, we went to look at a Christmas light display set up at a local park called Sunset Hill Farm. You drive through the light display on a paved path. It’s really cool and always puts us in the holiday spirit.

The movie was full with people. There was a set of four teenagers and one parent next to us in the theater. They were talking throughout the movie and on their phones the remainder of the time. Distracting. 

I kept thinking, “Why would you bother going to see a movie when you have no intention of watching the movie, cannot sit still and can’t be present in the moment to watch the movie?” I was distracted by them because they were distracting.

During the light show, I watched cars of people drive by and saw the glowing screens in the car. I asked myself a similar question, “Why would you bring your family to see a light display if they are watching the light display on their phone and not looking at the lights at the park?”

Sometimes it makes no sense to me, this world of multi-tasking with being semi-present everywhere but not being fully present anywhere.

I consider myself lucky because I lived through a time when there was no social media and a cell phone was called a car phone and you used it to call someone else if you were in an emergency situation or running late.

That being said, I struggle with being distracted by my phone at times too.

And I wish I could say it was just teenagers. It’s nearly all ages. Most people use their phone in the way a baby needs a pacifier to chew on when they are teething. Children need their parents phone or tablet to keep them calm, quiet and pacified. Teens need their phones to be in contact with their friends on social media and know what’s going on in their world on social media. Adults and senior citizens are no different than the teens.

Social media has created a distracted world where people want to be in the virtual world with their friends and connections they have there, along with being in real world with their family and friends.

Just because we can do both doesn’t mean we should do both.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter when you were born. We are all easily distracted by this. The benefit to being born before this technological interruption is that you are able to remember what life was like before all of this distraction entered our lives. You wanted to know what was going on? You saw your friends at school or in your neighborhood and found out the 411 there. You didn’t have a device that made it convenient and easy to see what’s going on with your friends AND be with your family at the same time…all in real time.

The older I get the more distraction I see because I’m noticing younger generations aging that grew up with a phone in their hand from their youth and they are now the upcoming generation. 

Teens, right now, seem to be the worst offenders because they don’t know a life without distraction and their phones. They want to be present online and with their families because that’s what they’ve learned growing up.

The distraction and addiction to the phones was taught to them by my generation and older, who are also addicted to their phones but remember life before distraction. 

Consider, this holiday season, just for an hour or two on the actual holiday, taking off your watch and turning off your phone and try being present with your family. This sounds easy, but it’s not. Between watches and phones present at the table, this is a hard ask. 

Try to imagine a holiday meal with no phones sitting off to the side of the plate or people checking notifications on their watches. The larger the family gathering, the bigger the ask would be. It’s hard for me to picture it.

This is what I’m doing this entire day. I’m going to take my watch off during our Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy my meal. My phone will be upstairs. I’m going to take the day off of checking email entirely. It’s small steps like this and repeating them consistently that can lead to big change. I’m going to ask my husband to do the same thing I’m doing for the meal: No watch or phone at the dinner table for the 20 minutes it’ll take us to eat our meal. I want to just be present with myself and him during the meal. I want to be present during any conversations we have, and I want him to be present with me as well.

Instead of using your phone, watch or tablet to pacify yourself during the meal, like a baby chewing on a pacifier, maybe try being present with just your family or friends instead of trying to be in a virtual world and in the real world at the same time.

If you’re having a virtual Thanksgiving, then do the opposite of what I’m doing today. Be present with your family on the Zoom Thanksgiving dinner, or the people on your discord server and just be there. Look people in the eye when they are talking and be present and listen.

If you need your phone, tablet or watch by your side as a way to dissociate and pacify yourself to get through the meal with hard-to-be-with family members, then maybe you should be asking yourself why you’re there at all? If you’re with people that are that hard to be with and you need any kind of pacifier to get you through the meal, ask yourself if you want to be there at all.

This doesn’t just apply to technology. A pacifier could be alcohol, drugs, or TV. It doesn’t have to just be tech, social media and the internet. Your pacifier could be a combination of all three.

Try being really present with your family and see what comes up for you. By being fully present in your world of choice, solely virtual or real world, you get a chance to notice your need to use your pacifier of choice. Then you can ask yourself why you need the pacifier? Why do you want to dissociate with it?

For me, this would be because my family and my in-laws are hard to be around because they make me uncomfortable. If my mother is criticizing me at the meal for what I’m eating or how much weight I’ve lost or gained, I’d want to pull out my phone and scroll or maybe have a glass of wine to numb the pain of the emotions I feel about whatever she’s projecting onto me. Notice the urge to pacify yourself and ask yourself what’s behind the need to pacify. In this example, it’s my mother. Guess who’s NOT coming to Thanksgiving this year? My mother. My in-laws either. 

Be present, notice the situation and the urge to want to dissociate with your pacifier of choice, take as many pacifiers away as you reasonably can and then take the data you collect on your own during the meal and ask yourself: How can I be more present and truly enjoy my meal next year? Are there people who really bother me that make me want to pacify myself and check out? Why did I want to get on my phone when my mother-in-law is telling me that I need to talk more during the meal? Maybe NOT having my MIL at my Thanksgiving table would make it easier for me to feel good about myself and be truly present at the Thanksgiving table. Then take steps the following year to put yourself in a better situation and set yourself up for success without pacifiers.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season! I hope you take the opportunity to see what’s happening without pacifiers present so that you can make the next holiday even better for yourself and pacifier-free (or as close to pacifier-free as you can reasonably get).

Sarathlete

Reflecting on What I AM Grateful For With My Family Of Origin and My In-Laws, A Bit About 12 Step Programs With ZERO Substance Abuse Present, and Gratitude at Thanksgiving and Beyond

I have a fraught relationship with by my family of origin (my mom, dad and paternal grandmother) and my in-laws (brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, deceased father-in-law and deceased step-father-in-law.)

Yesterday, I watched Rich Roll’s podcast interview with Whitney Cummings on YouTube.

Here’s a link to the video if you want to watch it on YouTube:

Rich Roll’s Podcast episode on YouTube with Whitney Cummings

While I learned many new resources and ideas from the video, one stuck out with Thanksgiving being tomorrow and that is how can I be grateful for what my parents gave me as a child? In my anger at them for how they treated me, I often overlook the gifts they did give me. So both of my parents are massive workaholics, and the question Whitney Cummings presents is what gifts and opportunities did your parents give you or did you learn or glean from their faults, in their case it was workaholism. 

(A super long side note for reference that should probably be it’s on blog post:

Whitney Cummings talks 12 step programs like ACA, CODA, Al-Anon in more detail than any other guest I’ve ever heard of on the Rich Roll Podcast do. Rich Roll is open about his use of substance abuse and talks about 12 step through the lens of a substance abuser. This interview with Whitney Cummings was the first time I’d ever heard him interview someone who talked about growing up in a family without substance abuse present. I loved this because I’d always assumed 12 step wasn’t for me because my parents didn’t abuse substances and neither do I. I remember the first time I’d ever found or heard about ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) and thought it only applied to my husband because he is literally an Adult Child of (two) Alcoholics. For me, the “dysfunctional family” portion of the message of ACA gets buried. I had to really dig to find out that you can identify as an ACA without alcoholism or drug abuse. That was key for me entering 12 step and recovery: hearing that you can be involved in a 12 step program without the use of drugs or alcohol present in your life or your family of origin’s life. I feel the branding and messaging for ACA programs are weak and extremely hard to find for those of us who don’t abuse substances and who didn’t grow up with the families who used drugs and alcohol. Learning that the outcome of an adult child is the same whether drugs or alcohol were present or not present was crucial to me finding ACA. I feel like I would’ve found ACA at a much earlier age than 40 if there was more of an emphasis on the portion of their message that focuses on NO drugs or alcohol being present. There are still ISMS, like workaholism for instance. You’d have to be living under a rock to not have ever heard of 12 step for alcoholism. But 12 step for someone who zero substance abuse issues? I’d never heard of that before, and it makes me want to sing the praises (and downfalls) of programs like ACA from the rooftops because I think it could help a lot of people, and the best part is that IT’S FREE. All of these points are addressed in the podcast episode in the YouTube link above.)

Back to the actual blog post:

So, workaholism was present in my family. Zero substance abuse, but workaholism was my parent’s ISM. The question is how can I be grateful for the lessons I learned and traits I do have from my parent’s weaknesses. Instead of being angry at my family of origin, how can I be grateful for the good that did come out of bad? What are the good things that make me who I am today that came from my parents working all of the time? 

Gratitude quashes anger because it forces you to find the good in a bad situation. I’m not going to even visit the toxic positivity quotient of the gratitude equation in this blog post, but I do acknowledge that toxic positivity combined with gratitude can be negative. I should clarify here that I mean practicing gratitude daily. I don’t mean practicing gratitude solely on Thanksgiving day. I think gratitude on Thanksgiving day is wonderful, but I don’t believe it’s enough. 

In ACA, it’s SO easy to be angry at your family of origin. But, what good did you get from the bad from your family of origin? I’d say if you can figure this out, take the lesson and apply it to other areas of your life where you see nothing but anger. For me, that’d be my in-laws. Ironically, I couldn’t find much to be grateful for with my in-laws. It could be because I’ve let go of a lot of the anger at my parents, but I haven’t had as easy of a time letting go of my anger at my in-laws because it’s more recent and present in my mind than my family of origin.

Here’s my list I came up with this morning while I was reflecting on what I was grateful for from my family of origin (these are in no specific order of priority or preference):

  1. My parents working all of the time taught me how to be alone and on my own, which is something I value deeply. It’s given me the ability to be able to explore my life on my own without the need to wait for someone else to be around to go with me. I don’t miss out on experiences simply because I have no one to go with.
  2. My parents were always in non-traditional jobs that they did have. I think that’s why I never fit into a traditional 9-5 office job or felt comfortable there. Now I know why-because my parents didn’t model that for me.
  3. My parents always had a side hustle going no matter what their full time gig. This taught me to nurture other interests and not put all of my eggs into one basket. This lesson kept me curious.
  4. My love of going to see plays comes from both my mother. While my parents worked hard, they did find time to play with their hard-earned money. From my mother I often got the opportunity to go with her when she went to see the symphony or see the ballet in Chicago. My love of culture and art appreciation comes from her.
  5. I learned that it’s ok to go to a cultural experience alone and not wait for your partner to go with you just because the other partner is working or has no interest in going. This is kind of a duplicate of the first point and kind of separate.
  6. I owe my creativity and imagination to my parents working all of the time. I wouldn’t have learned how to come up with creative stuff to do had they not left me alone for 12 hours a day during the summertime.
  7. I owe my mental fortitude and mental toughness in endurance sports, or the ability to sit through long operas, to my workaholic parents because I learned how to get through long periods of time alone while they were at work both in the summer and after school. 

Interestingly, this is only part of the list. There’s a LOT more and also a LOT more that I’m grateful for beyond the workaholism. My parents had other flaws like making me feel like I was never good enough, as an example, and I’m grateful for the lessons and traits I see in myself as positives that I learned from their other flaws and imperfections. Some of the things that made me so angry at them are also things I’m grateful for because of what came as a result of the negative events. Gratitude helps you overcome anger. It’s helped me a lot.

I did attempt to try this same exercise towards my in-laws. My in-laws never accepted me for being me. I’ve always been the same super shy, quiet, introverted awkward girl who doesn’t drink excessively or enjoy partying at bars or socializing with large groups of people. I couldn’t be more different from my in-laws. I learned through ACA that, when trying to assimilate into another family of ACAs that opposition can be magnified and rejected. That experience happened to me. If anything, what I found in trying to apply the gratitude lesson to my in-laws, it made me more grateful for aspects of my childhood and more grateful for what I did get from my parents, despite my anger over how badly I perceived that they treated me. 

My list for my in-laws looks like this (again in no order of preference or importance):

  1. I’m grateful I did live with my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law because I learned what it was like to be poor and live in your own filth and squalor. My parent’s house was clean as a whistle. It was maybe too perfect.
  2. I’m grateful to my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law for giving me the option to come and live with them. My parents were very black-and-white thinkers, and they gave me the option to come and live with them when my parents rejected me. I needed a place to go, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that even though I don’t love the outcome of the results and what happened after I moved in with them.
  3. I’m grateful that my in-laws were hoarders because it truly taught me to be grateful for my parents Minimalism before Minimalism was a semi-popular movement.
  4. I’m grateful I for my husband’s siblings because I got the chance to experience what it was like to have siblings as well. This made me very grateful that I grew up as an only child.
  5. I’m grateful I got to experience the chaos and drama of a family that did grow up with two alcoholics because I can see that the outcome is the same whether or not drugs or alcohol abuse is present.
  6. I’m grateful I got to experience a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner through my in-laws with the Ritz cracker casserole, dried out turkey, canned cranberry jelly thing that comes out of a can, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. This made me grateful that my parents never made that food, but I did get to experience a “normal” Thanksgiving through my in-laws.

I guess when I look at my in-laws and compare them to my parents, it makes me really grateful for my parents. I never fit in with my in-laws. My parents were more like me: quiet, thoughtful and very introverted. My in-laws are NOTHING like my parents. They are the exact opposite. What I love about my parents accepting for me was something I could never understand with my in-laws in that it was never ok to be me. This has always been present in my life, in that, I feel like I’m different than other people because I didn’t grow up in a “normal” world, and it makes it harder to find friends and people to click with. Being an only child isn’t normal because most people, even today, have siblings. So, I got exposure to what’s considered “normal” and I saw that I didn’t fit the “normal” mode, and I’m extremely grateful for that because it taught me not to conform which contributed greatly to my creativity. What I’m grateful for with my in-laws is that they rejected me and taught me I didn’t fit in and that it wasn’t ok to be myself. That made me fight for myself and know that I needed to be me because trying to conform has never served me.

This will be a very minessententional Thanksgiving. It’ll be me, my husband and our three dogs. That’s it. My parents hurt me deeply, and the first major rejection from them came at Thanksgiving when they threw me out of their house. I can be grateful for my parents from a distance. The same is true for my in-laws. I can’t stand to be around my in-laws to this day. I can be grateful for the lessons I learned from them, but that doesn’t mean I can stand to be in the same room with them.

What’s changed in all of this is me and my perception of how I felt about what had happened to me. I changed this summer. Neither my family of origin nor my in-laws have gone through 12 step work. So, while Thanksgiving itself hasn’t changed, how I feel and see Thanksgiving, in part through gratitude and in part through 12 step, is different this year than last year. And that is something I will always be grateful for. 

I may be angry that I didn’t find a 12 step program like ACA sooner because I do believe it would’ve served me very well early on, I know that I can’t carry around that anger. My gratitude that I do have for finding the program at 40 quashes the anger I have about not finding it sooner. My gratitude outweighs that anger.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know this time of year, the Holidays, can be difficult for anyone. Reach out at sarathlete@hotmail.com if you need help, are struggling, or you want someone to connect with. 

Sarathlete

Sugar, Chocolate, Emotional Eating, Addiction, Intermittent Fasting, Regular Fasting and How I See Food Now

I was addicted to sugar. I think many people are, and they may not even realize it.

I’m no longer addicted to sugar. It no longer has control over me.

I thought, at one time, I was addicted to chocolate.

This summer, starting in July 2022, I started fasting, like no food.

I started small – a 36 hour fast. I had water, and a cup of coffee with a little bit of cream in the morning.

The second fast I did was 61 hours. Same thing – a cup of coffee with cream in the morning and only water the rest of the time.

When I wasn’t on a full fast, I practiced intermittent fasting in combination with a keto-like diet. I did the 20 hour fasting window with a four hour feeding window. I started with one meal a day (OMAD). Eventually, I went up to two meals a day (2MAD) with a less strict 20:4 fasting:feeding window. Now, I do 18:6 with 18 hours fasted with a 6 hour feeding window. This seems to work the best for me as I continue the intermittent fasting practice.

Keto-like = I tried going full keto and keeping the focus on lower-carb fruits and veggies with a focus on eating more fat for satiety and sticking protein on the back burner. I say keto-like because I never tested myself to see if I was in ketosis. I have zero proof that I ever reached ketosis. Keto-like means I tried to incorporate that style of eating into my life by following the principles of the diet. I ate quality meats and fish (no, I’m not vegan anymore if you’ve read older posts), quality fats like olive oil and nuts, focused more on low-carb veggies and greens, cut out processed sugar as much as I could, and stopped eating refined foods. So, I call this keto-like combined with intermittent fasting. 

I thought I wouldn’t be able to fast because I was an emotional eater. I thought I needed food to get me through stressful times.

At one time, I would’ve even said I was addicted to chocolate.

Now, I can say that’s not true.

If you’re ever curious about whether you’re craving sugar or chocolate, try this test: go to a grocery store and check the organic or “(appearance of) healthy food” section where they sell the specialty items like vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic foods, and look for a no sugar and no sugar substitute added chocolate bar. Look at the ingredient list on the bar to make sure there’s no sugar (corn syrup, cane sugar, plain sugar, maple syrup, etc.) or sugar substitutes added (like Stevia or Erythritol). You’re looking for one ingredient on the label like Cacao, or cocoa powder, and that’s it. Spend the $5.00 on the pure chocolate bar. It’s a great investment for the lesson you will likely learn here: the difference between chocolate and sugar. Taste the bar. You will see whether or not you are a true chocolate lover or if you love the sugar that’s in the chocolate. For maximum impact, treat it like your dessert after your meal. Oh, will you be in for a surprise!

I tried this very experiment while I was changing my lifestyle while looking to find emotional sobriety from being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Family. While I was changing my life, I decided to include changing my eating and exercise patterns too.

I discovered what addiction truly was: something that altered my behavior. I also learned what I wasn’t addicted to – things that didn’t alter my behavior or have some kind of control over me.

I learned that I’m no longer addicted to something when it no longer has control or power over me, my actions and/or behaviors.

Emotional eating, I thought, controlled me for years. I thought chocolate was my comfort food of choice.

When I started fasting, I removed the need to eat completely. No more decision fatigue. When I removed the choice of to eat or not to eat, I discovered how great it was to not have to stress about food: eating it, not eating it, the clutter or mess and cleanup after the event, the shame I had over eating the foods I knew were bad for me but I ate anyways. It was all removed. It was as close to Minimalism as I can ever get: not having the thing at all AND not having it control me.

The joy of food, where I got my high from emotional eating, was in the sugar. The sweetness of food I experienced was mostly in the form refined sugars. Sugar was where my “high” came from. That temporary hit I got from eating sugary foods when I was feeling stressed.

Eating the chocolate bar with zero sugar or sugar substitutes taught me that I didn’t love chocolate like I thought I did. I loved the sugar in the chocolate. But pure chocolate itself? Yikes!!

Pure chocolate, like cacao, taste like dirt. 

Even the touted health food, dark chocolate, has sugar in it to make it taste NOT like dirt.

Just to make sure it wasn’t just me, I asked my husband, who doesn’t identify as a chocolate lover but does enjoy it on occasion (and he also was NOT on this keto/fasting journey with me), to try a piece of this pure chocolate bar and tell me what he thought.

He thought it tasted like dirt too.

Fasting for a few days two weeks in a row showed me that removing food from my life took away the addiction to emotional eating because it showed me how I looked at food: as a lens to heal me and make me feel better in the moment.

When I did go back to eating, I ate when I was hungry, not because I needed a sugary hit because of stress. I started with one meal a day and practiced intermittent fasting for the rest of the time. Now I’m up to eating two meals a day. I don’t crave food for soothing my emotions anymore. I don’t crave sugar the way I once did. Food even tastes differently now because I’ve removed refined sugar my palette.  I do have sugar, but it’s in the form of low carb fruits and veggies. What’s really funny is that I rarely eat chocolate when I do eat sugar. If I do decide to eat a little chocolate, it’s because I like the way the chocolate and sugar taste together.

I can’t say I’m addicted to chocolate anymore. I don’t think I ever was addicted to chocolate. I will say I was addicted to the sugar in the chocolate.

Removing food helped me with my emotional eating. But I had to eat at some point, so when I let food back in, I made sure it was the best food. By doing this experiment, I was able to see the power food had over me at one time to make me feel better. And when I took it away, the need for it was gone. I could survive for quite a while without food. Not forever, but for a while. 

I took the experiment even further with another addiction: sugar and chocolate. 

I’d say a true chocolate lover could devour that bar of chocolate I purchased. I ate one square and my husband ate one square. No interest. We both could see that chocolate tasted like dirt without and sugar or sugar substitute. 

If you are struggling with your diet or emotional eating, I highly recommend you try fasting or intermittent fasting. It’s not sexy. It’s free to try it. Wow, did it make a huge impact and difference in my life, and I hope it does yours as well. If you are wondering if you’re addicted to chocolate or sugar, try a pure chocolate or cacao bar and tell me what your findings are. Email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know.

Sarathlete

The Holiday Season, Being In 12 Step (ACA) & Recovery, Don Carlos and Family Drama

I went to see the opera on Thursday 11/17/22. I saw Don Carlos at Lyric Opera in Chicago. Lyric Opera has a small sign on the side of their building on Madison Street that use to send a message about what’s going on at the opera house. Sometimes it has a cheeky message on it. I should’ve snapped a photo of the sign, but I didn’t notice it until I was driving out of the city. The sign said something like, “And you thought your family had a lot of drama in it. DON CARLOS. Playing from 11/9/22 – 11/25/22.” That’s not the exact wording, but it was pretty close.

A family with a lot of drama in it. This was certainly the case for the family in the opera I saw. 

What about other families?

My family has a lot of drama in it. My family of origin = my parents and my paternal grandmother. Also, my in-laws. Drama. Chaos. Sickness. Insanity. Yikes!

Family can make the Holidays a living hell for some people. I’ve been there. I see you if you also have a really hard time around the Holidays. 

The time that spans right before Thanksgiving and the day Christmas have been some of the hardest, most depressing times of my life.

My family of origin abandoned me at Thanksgiving when I first started dating my now husband. My in-laws abandoned me in that I was usually not welcome or didn’t feel welcome in their home. If your family doesn’t accept you for who you are as a person at their table or invites you because they feel they have to invite you, then that’s abandonment in my eyes.

So, with the experience of two families abandoning me at the same time and having it start happening this time of year has made for some very depressing holidays going forward because of what happened to me and the association I make with the events that have unfolded over the holidays since the initial trauma took place.

The Holidays continued to be filled with what I can only call family drama. Maybe not in the same way as the family in Don Carlos. We aren’t tortured kings, queens, princes or friends caught in some pretty impossible love triangles, but there’s still drama there.

Drama so bad that it’s easier to NOT be around these two families because the drama is always there. The only way around the drama for me was to pull back, realize it’s torture for me to be around them and choose my own inner peace over the insanity, chaos, drama and sickness that happens every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It wasn’t until I pulled back and stopped trying to fit into these two families that have never accepted me that I finally found some peace with this time of year-the Holidays. 

I didn’t always feel this way. The Holidays used to be my favorite time of year until I graduated from college and moved home. That’s when the holidays stopped being fun, and they started having trauma associated with them.

The trauma will always be there for me around the Holidays. I’m learning to move on. The first truly Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas I had was in November and December of 2020. Neither family was going o gather during COVID-19. Thank goodness. This was a relief. It was just me and my husband for those Holidays. We had a nice meal, enjoyed the Christmas season and there were no expectations from family or having to see family or guilt over not wanting to see family but feeling like I should because it’s the right thing to do. COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown shed a clarifying light over what I wanted in my life and what I didn’t want in my life.

Turns out being Minessententional about family was crucial in starting to help heal the post-traumatic stress I have around the holidays. Minimal, essential and intentional.

Minimal-me, my husband and our dogs.

Essential-me, my husband and our dogs.

Intentional-me, my husband and our dogs

They all align into what works for me as I heal from the trauma inflicted by two dramatic, chaotic, insane families. 

Realizing how much chaos both families projected was key to healing. I didn’t realize quite how much trauma both families had inflicted and projected onto me until I sat down in 12 step this summer in Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) and started digging through my past to figure out how I felt and how my body and mind were reacting as a result of what had happened to me. It wasn’t just the Holidays. The Holidays was where the trauma began on both sides, but it kept going on and on and on for years. Hence, how I wound up in 12 step seeking emotional sobriety for why I felt so awful all of the time.

Now I see it like this: no wonder I felt so bad around the holidays and every other time in my life. I was never quite in alignment in my life in the majority of areas in it. I was a people pleaser. I didn’t know I mattered. 

I had to put the breaks on and chose myself over others. I had to break the chains of perfectionism, criticism, control, black-and-white/all-or-nothing thinking. ACA 12 step saved me. Recovery helped save me.

Realizing that I was an Adult Child of a Dysfunctional Family married to an Adult Child an Alcoholic saved me. Only in 12 step could I get some perspective, look at the stories of the past that started at the Holidays and really see what had happened to me.

No wonder I hated the Holidays.

The Holidays are marketed to us as this time of year when we should feel happy and want to be with our families. No wonder we feel guilty for not wanting to be around our families when TV commercials and religion and other entities market to us the message that we SHOULD be with our families. The very families that cause us to feel awful on the inside.

If you feel guilty for not wanting to be around your family who makes you feel awful, here’s my advice: pull away and don’t see them. You just might feel a LOT better. Go against the grain. 

What I’m NOT saying here is be alone. There’s nothing wrong with being alone any time of the year. You can still take that marketing message about being with family. The word “family” doesn’t have to be in-laws or family of origin. It can mean being with friends. Friends are family in my book. Be where you feel the most comfortable and you might find you start to enjoy the holidays instead of being around family that makes you feel chaotic and insane because tradition and branding and life makes us feel that we have to keep doing the same thing every year: be with our “family” = family of origin or in-laws.

This time of year can feel like hell for many people. You’re not the only one who feels like sh*t around the Holidays. You don’t have to keep feeling like sh*t around the Holidays. If it’s not working, try changing it up. Go against the grain of what society says we should to do, and do the opposite. Be with people who really make you feel good about yourself, especially around the holidays. Ignore the feeling of what you should be doing, and dump the guilt over not doing what everyone else does. Be your own boss and do what works best for YOU! Your mental and physical health is not worth sacrificing for a bunch of people who make you feel bad and branding over where you should be spending your time and who you should spend it with.

NO.

You do what you have to do to feel good for you. YOU MATTER!

Feel free to reach out if you struggle around the holidays. Tell me your story, and I’ll see if I can help you. Reach out at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let’s start a conversation, get to know each other and see if we can connect. I’d love to hear from you.

Sarathlete

Double Unicorn Rainbow Day At Don Carlos: Men Go To The Opera Solo, Just Like Women Do

You know when you see something that’s pretty rare it stops you in your tracks? It’s like a double rainbow, except even rarer than that. What you’re seeing is so out-of-character it feels like seeing a unicorn or even better a double unicorn! Like you thought it didn’t exist, like unicorns. When you see what you thought didn’t exist twice in the same day, it’s like seeing a double unicorn rainbow. 

Huh? You saw a unicorn? Pretty close. Possibly as close as I’ll ever get to seeing a unicorn.

Here’s what I saw at Don Carlos at Lyric Opera yesterday that amazed me: solo men at the opera. 

I’ve been using Hottix.org this year to get my tickets vs. a Lyric Opera subscription. I get awesome seats for the opera on the main floor at a price I can afford. To clarify, a Lyric Opera subscription leaves me sitting up in the heavens for a price I can afford. Using Hottix.org does mean that I never know where I’ll be seated until I pick up my ticket the day of the performance at the box office. 

In the shows I’ve seen this season using hottix.org, I’ve been seated next to solo female senior citizens. But not for Don Carlos. This time I was seated between two solo men. 

When I say solo, I mean, like me, the person is there on their own with no friend or partner/spouse there with them.

Solo female senior citizens are very normal to see at the opera.

Solo females in early middle age at the opera are pretty rare. This is me now. I’m 41 at the time of writing this post, and I don’t see many women my age alone at the opera or any other cultural experience. I do see them, but they are older than me. Closer to 50s and 60s.

Solo females under the age of forty is a double unicorn rainbow. That was me before I turned 40. I’ve been this person since I was 18 and in college. I had no one who liked to do what I liked to do, see live cultural events like operas, plays, ballets, musicals, symphonies and theater, so I went on my own. I would’ve rather seen the show, whatever show it was, on my own vs. having to miss the show because I had no one else who wanted to go with me.

It takes a double unicorn rainbow to recognize a double unicorn rainbow. Yesterday, I saw a double unicorn rainbow at Don Carlos

Side note: Don Carlos was excellent. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the Chicago area.

I was seated between two solo men at the opera yesterday. 

That may not sound like much. But that’s huge. If I had to guess, I’d say they were heterosexual. Super double unicorn rainbow. 

Let me explain if you’re lost. Most women wind up dragging their partner with them to the opera. It’s a double unicorn rainbow situation to see a straight man of any age at the opera alone. This would mean that they came on their own, AND they wanted to be there.

Don Carlos was long. It was the 5 act French version. This was the first time the 5 act French version had been performed at Lyric Opera. So, what I’m saying is that this performance would’ve attracted die-hard opera goers. 

In yesterday’s post, I talked about opera and compared it to running a marathon in your mind. That’s what Don Carlos was like. It was long. It was hard to attach to. You had to really be an opera lover to still be sitting there at the end of the show. A LOT of people left. The core fans stayed, but the non-core opera lovers got up and started leaving during the end of the third act in the first act, during intermission, and during acts 4 and 5 of the second half. These men-they stayed. Wow!

What it showed me was that there are men out there who go see cultural events without their wives or partners dragging them kicking and screaming and resisting to go see the show. For all I know, these men were married or had a partner, and they came on their own anyways because they wanted to be there to see the opera. That’s a very rare occurrence.

Because of stigmas around men and it not being culturally acceptable to do things that are perceived as “stuff women go to”, it was refreshing to see this double unicorn rainbow yesterday.

I go to the opera alone because my husband doesn’t want to go. I don’t want to miss the operas, so I go alone. I don’t push him. I’ve asked him if he’d like to go, and he shows no interest.  I’m ok with that. My husband has gone with me to some events like the symphonies and live theater and he enjoyed them. But he won’t try going to see a live opera. Again, I’m ok with that. I’d rather see a long opera like Don Carlos on my own without having to worry about the person next to me who came with me having a miserable time.

It was refreshing for me to see men in this light: appreciating a cultural event that is considered feminine. I wasn’t sure they existed. I never see them at the opera without a woman attached at their side, or a gay male partner. I’ve never looked for solo men in the past at shows because of an assumption I had in my head. I assumed the majority of men are sports-loving fans that go see football  and other sports games live or that they live and die on the Sunday football game or other sports games on TV. I’ve never been able to understand or connect with that sports-loving man (or woman for that matter). Truthfully, I see them as caveman-like. I don’t enjoy the love of watching team sports where people run into one another in a violent manner, or hit a ball with a bat or put a ball into a net. I made a generalization that all men are like this. In my mind, there were no culture loving men. Seeing this double unicorn rainbow seated on either side of me yesterday shattered my preconceived notions I had about men. They can enjoy cultural events too. It’s rare, but it exists.

What’s the opposite here? A solo female senior citizen at a football game or other sports event? I don’t know because I don’t know that world. I’m the generalization here-women don’t like sporting events. It’s true for me. I’ve attended them before and tried to get into it, and I fit the stereotype that sports are for men and that the arts are for women. 

I’d never looked for solo men at an opera before because I assumed they didn’t exist in that they had no interest in going. I love that I was proven wrong! It was refreshing to see them at the opera. I guess what I really wish is that the stereotype didn’t exist at all and that it was more common to see solo men at the arts. 

It’s good to be proven wrong because it shatters my stigmas and stereotypes that I have in my head. It shows me I have a long way to go and grow in my thinking. It shows me I still have much to learn. I love that I have a lot to learn. Learning keeps me going, keeps me alive, keeps me thinking, and keeps me on my toes. Yes, girl!

Let me know on the sports thing: do solo women go to live sporting events? Maybe I should try going to a sporting event solo. I’ve always gone with people in the past. Maybe I would appreciate the event and be able to focus on it more without the distraction of having someone there. Maybe I will be the double unicorn rainbow: a solo woman at a sporting event. Maybe I’ll shatter the stereotype and stigmas that are placed on women. 

Yes, I must do this. I will go on my own to some kind of live sporting event and give it a try. I’m hoping it’ll give me a better appreciation of team sports. I’m always distracted when I go with other people at sporting events because I have someone to talk to, and it’s acceptable to talk during the game. I never pay attention to the actual game, and usually focus on how bored I feel and wind up eating a bunch of junk food to pass the time until it’s over.

If you have suggestions for a live sporting event you’d recommend I try solo, let me know. I’d love to hear from you at sarathlete@hotmail.com. Let me know your recommendations.

Have a great weekend!

Sarathlete

Opera and Endurance Sports: Training for Your Mind and Body

I am heading to Chicago today to see a really long opera called Don Carlos by Verdi.

Let’s define an endurance sport as a marathon today and call a finishing time 4 hours. For me, that’d be super fast! The only marathon I’ve ever done was Chicago Marathon in 2011 which took me 6 hours and 58 minutes to finish. The time limit on Chicago Marathon is 6 hours and 30 minutes. I didn’t get a book time, got a DNF and barely got a finisher’s medal. They were breaking everything down when I got to the finish line. Such a bummer in some ways. But there’s the fact that I made it to the finish line and I finished that marathon for ME. No matter what any results say, I know I finished that marathon.

Opera is like an endurance sport for the mind. 

In my opinion, opera is excellent mental training for an endurance sports.

Don Carlos is a 5 act opera with a 30 minute intermission. The total run time will be 3 hours and 50 minutes. Let’s round up and call it 4 hours. That doesn’t include going to a pre-opera talk, or the hour drive up or back in Chicago traffic.

The longest opera I’ve ever seen was 5 hours. I almost fell asleep at one point, but I made it through.

There are supertitles titles in opera if you see them live at an opera house like Lyric Opera. Supertitles are used for live performances. If you see an opera through the MetHD in a movie theater, then you have subtitles to view. Supertitles, used for live performances, and subtitles, used for recordings, project what’s being sung in a foreign language int eh opera into the native language of the audience. The version of Don Carlos I’m seeing today is sung in French, and the supertitles for the live performance will be shown in English.

Four hours of listening to a story sung in a foreign language and looking up and down between a projector to see what’s being sung to know what’s going on on-stage requires a lot of focus. Plus there are many stimuli to pay attention to beyond the story. There’s what’s going on with the music, the singing, the acting, sometimes dancing and trying to make sense of all of it put together. Plus, if it’s something I haven’t experienced before, there’s the novelty of all of it and trying to get through it the first time with knowing nothing about it.

I can train myself in advance for what I’m going to see so I know the storyline before I see it. I could listen to the opera before I go. I can attend the pre-opera talk so I have an idea of what to listen for in the music, know a little bit about the composer and learn a little bit about the storyline. If I really wanted to, I could even listen to a pre-recorded version on Apple Music.

Opera is similar to the mental and physical training you have to put in to be able to cross the marathon line. Let’s say neither are requirements in our life. Opera is a luxury and not compulsory. Let’s say the same for marathon. It’s recreational and not our job. Both could be, but let’s say they are just for fun and not necessary components in our lives. 

Just like you’d train for a marathon over many months to prepare your body for it, especially if it’s your first rodeo is a lot like attending an opera. There is mental focus required in both to get you through the event. There’s a physical component more so in a marathon, but it’s there in opera sometimes just to keep you sitting up and not falling asleep because not all opera experiences are the same (some will put you to sleep). There’s the dreaded lines for the bathroom in either scenario. There’s a 30 minute intermission at Lyric Opera for a reason (i.e. it’s an old building and not exactly optimized for long lines of people who use the bathroom at the same time) just like there are porta-potties along the marathon routes for a reason( four hours and beyond is a long time to wait before needing to use the bathroom.)

If you’re looking for some mental training for your next endurance event plus a chance to flex your mind, broaden your cultural horizons, and have a treat for the senses, I recommend you try out going to an opera. You might find that the skills you’ve cultivated as an endurance athlete might help you get through the long event if you’ve participated in endurance events in the past where you had to sit with yourself for long periods of time and focus on getting yourself across the finish line. If you’re training for your first event, I recommend you give opera a try because it’ll teach you a valuable lesson that endurance is a sport of the body and the mind to cross the finish line. 

At some point, 4 hours in an opera will feel easy. Just like being on an endurance course for 6 hours will feel easy. You have to stick at it. Neither opera nor endurance sports are easy at first, but the more you do either the easier it gets. 

My husband and I are going to hear Handel’s Messiah. My husband is not an opera goer. He said that the Messiah was long. I asked him how long it was because I didn’t know. He told me it was 2 hours and 20 minutes. I said to him, “Oh, that’s nothing.” I should’ve clarified what I said by adding, “Oh, that’s nothing for me, but I understand that will be a lot for you.” 

In sports terms, a 10k feels like “nothing” when you’ve gone a marathon distance or longer. In cultural terms, 2 hours and 20 minutes of run time for any kind of event is “nothing” when you’ve sat through much longer events that require much more focus.

For a newbie in sport or culture, though? A 10k isn’t nothing it’s something. It’s hard. Same with cultural events-2 hours and 20 minutes is a lot to sit through when you’ve never heard a piece of music played for you with a chorus singing. 

Appreciate where you started. 

See how far you’ve come. Appreciate where beginners are at. 

Respect the event. 

Respect the distance and time.

Be humble. 

Remember you were a beginner too and things weren’t always easy for you. 

Know that things will get easier over time, and life won’t always be as hard as it is when you’re just beginning.

Realize if a marathon or a 4 hour opera is easy now, that maybe it’s time to do something new that challenges you like an ultra marathon or learning to play an instrument in the music you listen to in your favorite operas (this is what’s next for me in the culture department).

Always challenge yourself and try to do a little more than you did before otherwise you’ll get bored in your body and mind. Keep moving. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. If you’re not challenging yourself, then you’re never going to grow as an athlete or as a person.

Sarathlete

Selecting My First Goal Trail Race for My 5k Walk/Run Program and How Being In Recovery Has Impacted My Training 

What’s the point of doing something without having a long-term goal in mind? 

As a striver in recovery, I struggle with this question a LOT. 

On the one hand, I strive with a goal for my efforts in mind. It’s where I shine!

On the other hand, I can get pretty controlling with my training. A bit obsessive. Ok, maybe more than a bit obsessive.

Controlling things was an area of both strength and weakness I found when I was working on the 12 steps of ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families).

The thing about recovery for me is learning to face some of my demons in a more balanced way. 

One challenge for me here will be getting ready for trail race, for sure. 

There’s an added challenge for me now being in recovery. Before, I would’ve gone out, done the training and gone beyond what the training program stipulated. Overworked out depending on what was going on in my life.

So, this race means more in a way than races I did before because there’s now an extra layer of an additional challenge of trying to make sure I stay in balance with myself and not overdo the training. 

I’ll be doing the training during a typically difficult time of year for me: the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is an incredibly difficult time of year for me. While I can’t predict how I will feel this year, I do anticipate feeling some anxiety and sadness over not hearing from my mother. I’ve invited her to Thanksgiving dinner, and I doubt she will even get back to me on whether or not she can make it. I will also be dealing with the anticipation of my in-laws. There’s also my in-laws. There’s usually some kind of drama or flair-up there as well that causes some discomfort over the holidays.

One of my past ways of being was to take out my anxiety on my body and my training, even if I wasn’t training for anything.

The good things in my favor:

  • Having a targeted race and specific training plan to follow so that I can stay balanced, try to follow the program and not overdo it. I feel the training program is suitable for my body and level of activity so I am not at risk of overtraining and burning out.
  • This race means a lot to me. Seeing I can run a 5k trail race is something I’ve been wanting to do, especially seeing if I can do it coming off of such a horrible back injury.
  • I’m very aware of my tendency to overdo it. I’ve been facing my demons of exercise bulimia and overworking out/overtraining, and I’ve been ok so far. Part of recovery for me has been learning to face my old demons in a balanced way because while the are “demons”, they also make me who I am. Demons represent what makes me me and sometimes the “demons” get me through hard times and are part of my greatest struggles. 
  • I have a recovery coach who I see once a week to help me through my recovery process. When I see my coach weekly, it’s a chance to check-in and hold me accountable. I already talked to my coach about my issues with working out and that I was starting a new training program for a 5k trail race as one of my smaller goals to lead to my main goal which is a 50k trail race. 

The bad things that don’t seem like they are in my favor:

  • The holidays, stress and relapsing into old ways of controlling my emotions by taking my anxieties over family out on my body. Exercise bulimia and overtraining are not new to me. 

Final Thoughts:

Being in recovery and in 12 step has made me more aware of my old ways, and I’ve had to learn to confront them and deal with my old ways and form new habits that are more balanced and aligned with the person I’ve become. I can easily slip into old ways of being, but I have support around me to hold me accountable. Based on my list above, the good far outweighs the bad. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok with the support I have around me. I believe I can do this in a balanced and healthy way. I think, in some ways, the severe lower back injury was good for me because it showed me how out of balance I was in my life and that I needed to come back into balance with my life in all aspects, not just fitness.

Resource links:

Here’s a link to the race if you are interested in signing up and doing it with me:

https://raceroster.com/events/2023/65857/frozen-feet-5k-trail-run

If you’d like to train with me in real life or virtually, email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know. Here’s the training program I’m following:

Sarathlete

How Trail Running Went For Me

It felt awesome, a little uncomfortable and fears bubbled up.

I was stronger than I thought.

I was able to run further than I thought.

My body remembered what running felt like after 8 years of NOT running.

My expectations were so low for myself that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do the workout or not. I underestimated myself. Years of low self-esteem was detrimental to myself.

I need better support for my girls. This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the run for me.

Zone 1 training matters. I didn’t realize what a base I’d built for running. Activities like weight training, cleaning, hiking, easy cycling, walking on the beach, you name it, that I did as Zone 1 helped me build up basic fitness and a very good base for starting a beginner trail walking/running program.

This was only one run. Now, I have to get through the next run.

I did something I thought I couldn’t do.

I felt unsteady in my running shoes on the trail. I ran in a pair of trainers with barely any support. I tried on my old trail shoes when I got home (yes I know that sounds weird), and I realized how different any sneaker feels compared to minimal-like trainers. I wear No Bull trainers for gym workouts. I think I might try a pair of Vivobarefoot trail shoes. I don’t want to go back to super-padded running shoes. I might try to keep running in the trainers I have, order a pair of Vivos and gradually build up my foot strength that way with running in my trainers and starting to wear Vivos for everyday use to build up foot strength and then eventually transfer that to the gym and the trails.

I felt scared being all alone as a female on the trails. I didn’t feel that way when I ran on the roads in populated places. The siren feature on the Apple Watch Ultra didn’t make me feel safer because I doubt anyone would be able to hear it where I was at. I think the siren would be great for a woman being alone in Chicago if I felt unsafe, and maybe as a woman on the road, but I don’t think it’s helpful on the trails.

I questioned myself as to why I stopped running. I don’t know the answer even now.

It felt so good to be outdoors on the trails. I could’ve gone further, but I didn’t.

I didn’t respect the time of the workout. I went further. I’m a striver. Of course I went further and didn’t respect the time.

Training based on time vs. distance feels different. Anything I’ve ever trained for in endurance has been based on mileage. The training program I’m doing is based on time spent running and is not focused on distance. 

I ran fasted, and it was perfect for me. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting to help me lose weight. I ran fasted, and it went well. I felt good. As I grow my mileage/time base, I’ll eventually need to add a nutrition and hydration component, and I’m not sure what that will look like on a lower carb lifestyle.

I need to learn how to use my Apple Watch Ultra. I don’t have a clue how to use any of the fancy features it comes with. So, I need to do some research to see how to actually use the trail GPS features for longer runs. Better to learn how to use it first on shorter runs so that I’m used to using it for when I do go on longer runs.

I depend on my husband to lead me around the trails when we go hiking. I’m afraid to go on trails I haven’t been on before because I feel that I have no sense of direction. I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it’s a left-over story I tell myself from a trauma of being lost somewhere at some point in time. But my husband wasn’t there to lead me around today. I took a trail we’d hiked before so I knew my way, and I didn’t get lost. I am afraid of being someplace I don’t know and getting lost. 

I want to build a community of runners, walkers and hikers. I never appreciated the last time I had friends was based around like-minded activities. I miss that, but I don’t see a big trail running/hiking/walking community in my local area. So, I’m going to find those friends and build a community of runners, walkers and hikers.

I probably will never be fast. I’ve never been fast. I’m strong and resilient as ever, and I know I will try my darnedest to cross the finish line. 

I need to pick a goal trail 5k race so I have something to shoot for and a goal to achieve with the trail running program I’m doing. I always do better with a goal to achieve in my life.

Sarathlete

Avoiding Running Again, Starting My New Training Plan Today, Accountability, and Building a Like-Minded Community of Athletes

I’m coming back from a pretty big-for-me injury. I injured my lower back in February 2021. The pain first started with swimming. Then it went away after a few weeks. I thought I’d just thrown my back out from too much stress. Then, in March 2021, I was doing a resistance band workout and my lower back went to the point of pain that I’d never felt before. 

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

In all my years of activity, I’ve never had an injury that took my breath away, caused me so much pain and incapacitated me for a year to where I was afraid to move because I was in so much pain.

I stopped moving for a year because I was so afraid of this pain. I did everything the medical professionals told me to do: physical therapy, get an x-ray, get 2 MRIs, get two steroid shots, stop moving, start moving again and lose weight.

I just couldn’t understand why my body betrayed me after being active for years and only ever suffering from three injuries and only one of those three injuries was extremely painful. 

Oddly, all three injuries were on the right side of my body. My first injury was the ball of my right foot mostly near my big toe. I was doing a Jive exercise and I slammed my foot into the ground at the suggestion of my coach, and boom – injury. It made it hard to walk and to teach for a while. The injury was around for about a year, but it healed and it was gone. Second major injury was on my right calf and lower leg. I injured it running. It went away after about 6 months. The current injury has lasted over a year, but I’ve seen the pain reduce since the last steroid shot in December 2021. The injury is still there. My body can feel it in my lower back. I’m never comfortable sitting. This injury is something I’ve learned that I must accept and live with. I hope it will heal, but no one has given me a good outlook on that. The last doctor I saw was in March 2022 who told me I’d need a spinal fusion. He said we’d have to work on pain management and trying to make me as comfortable as possible. He recommended I start exercising again and lose 20 pounds.

I was 5 feet tall and 198 pounds at that point. Hearing I might need a spinal fusion got me moving again. Slowly I’ve built fitness back up, and every day I go a little further than before and I surprise myself. I still have the discomfort of the pain and the fear of the pain coming back at the intensity it was at. That shooting pain down my right leg was too much, and my body remembers that pain.

To build myself back up, I started vlogging for one of my YouTube channels with a little vlogger kit and my phone at a local park. The terrain was soft, it got me outside, it got me talking and being creative while I was “exercising.” I put exercising in quotes because it didn’t feel like exercise. I started doing it in March and it lasted until it got too hot outside for me to want to keep doing it. Eighty degrees is too hot for me, and in NWI, that means I stopped vlogging outside around the end of June.

The next step to rebuilding my fitness was going for walks along the beach with my husband. Sand was a soft terrain for me but it helped build up my core and leg strength without impact on my joints. We also started going into the water in July when the weather got warm. I would aqua jog in Lake Michigan or we’d take a walk along the beach where the ambient temperature was generally cooler than it was in the park.

I found my way to twelve step in all of this towards the end of July 2022. I started going to my recovery center and participating in their programs in very early August 2022. They had an outdoor cycling program going on, and I decided I’d try it. I was terrified of the back pain and potential discomfort, not to mention I hadn’t been on my road bike in years.

Cycling turned out to be a blast. I missed two rides between when I started in August and the last ride of the year which was end-of-October 2022.

Cycling didn’t bother my back too much the same way aqua jogging and walking on soft surfaces in the park or beach walking didn’t bother it too much either. In fact, cycling seemed to help it.

I started doing yoga again as well on Apple Fitness + in August. I started to build myself a workout routine that was low impact and had cardio and core and some easy strength.

In September 2022, I did a duathlon. It was supposed to be run-bike-run, and I thought I couldn’t run at the time. I knew I could bike the distance of the race: 12 miles. I also knew I could walk the run portions of the race. The first leg of walking was 1.5 miles. The last leg of the walking was 3 miles. I knew I could do all three things, so I challenged myself and signed myself and my husband up for the duathlon. We did it! We crossed the finish line together. We were the last finishers. That didn’t matter to me. I’ve been the last place finisher at many, many, many races back when I participated in running races, triathlons, and cycling events. 

I was so excited to see myself progress and cross the finish line nearly pain free, that I used it as motivation and kept on going.

My recovery center has a gym with dumbbells, kettlebells, TRXs, boxing bag, barbell weights and some cardio machines like ellipticals, rowers, stationary bikes, and treadmills. 

The first workout I did was mix of boxing and TRX. I walked out after my first workout with very little pain. Workouts have increased in intensity and I have added resistance training to my workout with dumbbells. I even jump sometimes. 

Impact. Jumping. I had to stop doing anything like after I first injured my back.

Jumping got me thinking about running again. 

I asked myself if I could run again?

In October my husband and I started going for hikes and they have increased with distance and intensity.

This got me thinking even more and I asked myself if maybe I could run again, but do it it on the trails this time. Running is high impact, but it would be much softer to do on the trails.

Then I bought Apple Watch Ultra to challenge myself. If I bought this watch, could I train to do an ultra trail race, like a 50k?

I bet I could.

The watch came in and we’ve been getting used to one another.

This whole time, I’ve been avoiding running.

That fear of the old pain is still there.

This blog keeps me accountable. If I put out into the world that I’m doing X thing, then I tend to keep showing up and doing X thing.

So, I’m holding myself accountable today for trying to go outside and walk/run on a trail near my home. Want to join me virtually? I’m not sure exactly how virtual walk/run trail workouts work, but I do know that I can post my training plan on this blog, and people can follow me. I can share my workouts on here, and post my feelings and you can follow me here and on my social media platforms. 

So, here is the first part of my recovery center building program planning and also the details on holding myself accountable for eventually running.

I’m starting with a trail walk/run because I think that will be easier for me than just flat out trying to run the whole time. I’m starting easy and will work my way up. I may not be near a 50k trail distance right now, and my plan is to walk/run that distance, but I hope I blow myself away with my strength and resilience like I have this entire back pain journey that’s been going on since February 2021 and is nearing the two year mark. Yuck.

I may have to live with the pain my body feels. However, if you made it to the end of this post, you will have read my physical recovery story of my body and see i’ve built my body back over time with various methods and that I’m going strong.

You’ll also be reading this line right here: I’m scared of the pain. 

I’ve been saying for a week now that I’m going to do a trail walk/run race. My first goal race is a 5k walk/run. But I’ve yet to go out for the walk/run.

That changes today.

I’m going outside to do it.

Here’s a link to the training plan I’m going to follow if you’d like to do this with me: https://www.atlantatrails.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/5k-training-plan-beginners.pdf

If you’d like to post virtually about your experience, email me at sarathlete@hotmail.com and let me know you’re interested and I’ll create a space for other like minded people to join me.

Something else I’m very bad at is social media. It’s the social part of social media I don’t do so well with. But I’d love to build up a community of like-minded people who are interested in doing some group runs both in-person and virtually. If you live in Northwest Indiana, and you’re interested in guided trail walk/runs or hikes, email me and let me know. 

I’ll build the space once I have interest both in-person and virtually.

My workout today is going to be walk 5 minutes and walk run 30 seconds for 5 intervals on the trails over by Bailly Homestead/Chelburg Farms in Porter, Indiana. I’m really scared of the running. But I’m going to try it and see how it goes. I’m hoping the pain won’t come back and be as bad as I fear it was in the beginning when I first injured myself.

Sometimes I wonder if my body holds onto the intensity of the pain to keep me from re-injuring myself. I remember how much pain I was in, and the fear of that pain holds me back. Yet, when I exercise, I don’t feel any pain at all. No shooting pain. Sure I’m a little stiff in my lower back, but nothing like before. 

I’ll post tomorrow about how this goes. Worst case scenario is that I try running for 30 seconds, discover the pain, and I go back to my car and drive home. I can always stop and go home. I can always walk it if running is too much. I’ve got this, in some form. I have to get out and try though. I hope you’ll join me in person or virtually down the road!

Let’s build a recovery community of like-minded athletes!

Have a good run, walk, hike, bike ride, whatever you do. Get out there and move!

Sarathlete

What Happens When You Do Something(s) Every Day? 

You build consistency. You learn to be kind to yourself daily. You build your life from the ground up. You never have to work a day in your life in an arduous way and you build a life of no dread because you care for your mind, body and spirit daily. These are some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life to date.

The lesson really started with ballet when I was 6 years old. Dance taught me that practicing something every day for three decades got me to a point where I was at the top of my craft. I never had to work a day in my life at it because I worked everyday of my life at it. It was my profession and my hobby and my passion for a very long time. Until it didn’t serve me anymore. When it was done, I walked away from it, and started to build new routines and a new life around new things. The lesson of building consistency went with me and served me well in the next chapter of my life when I was a total beginner and didn’t have dance to fall back on anymore.

When I left the dance world, I only had one thing in my life. It was hard to find new loves and passions because I only had nourished that one thing. I felt a huge void in my life when I chose to leave dance because I had nothing to replace it. That was another invaluable lesson that I learned: nurture many things in your life, not just one. It’s the adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. 

You’ve seen glimmers and glimpses of my journey to replace dancing and teaching on this blog if you look at older posts. Most of the activities I did then, I kept doing over the last decade, and I still do many of them to this very day. 

The differential in the equation is time. I’m not a novice at any of them anymore. 

Here’s what replaced dance for me:

  1. Fine Art
  2. Food as fuel
  3. Fitness like weight lifting and endurance sports
  4. Going to more live cultural events such as ballets, operas, symphonies, musicals and plays
  5. Writing
  6. Seeing my life as an experiment and constantly testing and trying new things
  7. Entrepreneurship
  8. Minimalism, Essentialism and Intentionalism: Minessententionalism
  9. Plants

My new hobbies are all somewhere in this blog. 

Fine Art

I saw my start of art class when I wrote about my Wine and Canvas adventures. That launched a decade of a love of doing art. Drawing, Zentangle, pastels, stained glass. I enjoy art journaling, water colors, origami, photography, videography. 

Food as fuel

You saw my love of food as fuel as I wandered into veganism and out of veganism and into got into growing my own food. I’ve also tried different manners of food as fuel in trying out organic foods and different diets like keto, low carb, intermittent fasting. I also struggled for a long time with emotional eating and got out of balance with food so that I could come back into balance with food.

Fitness

I’ve written about triathlons on this blog. I’ve explored marathons, cycling, swimming, hiking, duathlon, yoga, sitting on my butt, and injury and have come back from injury. I’ve learned to enjoy weight lifting. I love to move, and that has always been at the center of this blog.

Attending live cultural events

I got into this more heavily in 2016. I’ve gone to cultural events since I was a child. It started with going to the symphony and ballet every year with my mother, and the love expanded beyond her whether she was in my life or not. My husband even started going with me to some of these events and developing his own love of live cultural events on his own.

Writing

I’ve always had an interest in writing. I’ve always been good at it. It was one of my best subjects in high school and college. Writing and public speaking were my two best subjects in college, and dance too. Even though I didn’t go to school for any of those things. If I didn’t love to write, I wouldn’t have started a blog. Sure, life got in the way of regular posting in 2015, and I had to take a break. But writing for me has been a constant, whether it’s blogging, journaling, doing morning pages, writing scripts for YouTube videos. 

Seeing my life as an experiment and trying and testing new things

You can see many experiments that I started and failed at and repeated on this blog. This is present in the blog itself- an experiment recording my life as I go; my life on the move.

Entrepreneurship

When I first started this blog, I saw it as something I could build and scale. I thought about writing, yoga, video, the sky was the limit. Life got in the way for a long time, and I wasn’t present on this platform. But I never stopped being an entrepreneur. I launched an art business that failed. I launched a life coaching business that failed, but I’m still trying to do at saradaltoncoaching.com. I’ve kept sarathlete.com going even when I wasn’t posting. I launched a plant business at therareplanthaus.com and sold tropical plants. I came back to sarathlete, and I still have the plant business and the life coaching business going. I want to start a photography and video business. I was an ballroom dance coach for years for private business and as an independent coach. Working a W-2 job as I tried to build business endeavors crushed my soul to the point where I couldn’t do W-2 work anymore. Doing W-2 work for so long taught me that I don’t fit in there and that I can never go back to for my own inner peace and sanity.

Minessententionalism

I have always believed at my core that I am a minimalist, essentialist and intentionalism. Living my life in a way that aligns with my beliefs of the cross between living a meaningful life with what is essential and with great intention and having minimal things in my life. I created a word around it as a result of how much I love living my life this way. It’s simple. It serves me well.

Plants

Plants brought me back to the land of the living. When I wanted to die because I thought life was no longer worth living based on the realization of what had happened to me and finally figuring out why I felt so awful, plants were the first thing that made me want to restart my life. They were living things that required nurturing, but not a ton of nurturing. When my in-laws, husband and parents abandoned me and rejected me and the COVID-19 pandemic was going on and so much of what I loved to do was put on hold, this was a brand new activity I found on my own and nurtured and developed. I kept an orchid alive! I built a business around selling plants. I got on video and talked about plants. I built terrariums as home decor pieces in my house. Living things made me want to live again. I’m so grateful for that.

Final Thoughts:

Dance taught me to do one thing and do it really well over and over and over and over. Dance taught me mastery and consistency. Dance also showed me that I when I stopped wanting to try to fit into the world of dance and rejection came that I couldn’t do it anymore, and that I had no other activities to fill the void. I learned to be a beginner in my life at so many things. I had to rebuild my life. The activities that I started nurturing and was a beginner at, I am no longer a beginner at anymore. I learned to explore new things, not put my eggs in one basket and nurture many things daily with the consistency I’d built from dance so that my passions and purpose aligned and I do these passions every day so I never have to work a day in my life because I work every day of my life a little at a time!

Sarathlete

5 Items I’ve Brought Into My Life Recently As A Minimalist/Essentialist/Intentionalist: A Minessententionalist

A Minessententionalist is a hybrid word I made up for someone who identifies as a cross between a minimalist, essentialist and intentionalist. 

I even Googled the word I made up just for fun to see if it existed because Google must validate everything, right? Well, it kind of does.

Check out my four screen shots for Minessententionality, Minessententionalism, Minessententionalist  and Minessententional showing zero results in Google.

Where the lines draw out for me  when it comes to what I chose to bring into my life, is someplace between minimalism, essentialism and intentionalism. So, I get Minessententionalism. Hard to spell and say: Min-essen-tention-al-ism! But hey, the word Sarathlete is hard for other people to spell and say, too.

Minessententionalism: the minimal things I own or bring into my life with intention behind them which are essential to my me, life and my views.

What are some things (people, places, items, experiences) that are minessententionial to you?

Here’s my list of 5 items/experiences I’ve recently brought into my life, and how they are intentional, essential and minimal to me:

  1. Apple Watch Ultra:
  • How it is Intentional: Getting back on track for my fitness goals as a come back from an injury and rebuild my body. I want to be very intentional with my training. A watch that will last me on long runs that can track my sleep and get me where I need to go without having to be tethered to a phone is exactly what I need. 
  • How it is Essential: Movement is essential to me and an extremely important part of my life before, during and after recovery.
  • How it is Minimal:  One watch. Simple. No more distractions from my phone. One device that can do it all and not leave me dependent on a potentially distracting device. 
  1. Heated blanket: 
  • How it is Intentional: I needed a heating pad because my old one broke. I’m always cold. I found a heated throw and decided to try it as an alternative to a heating pad. Now I’m always warm when I’m under it, helps increase blood flow for my entire body which aids in muscle recovery for athletic performance, and it takes the place of having a heating pad. 
  • How it is Minimal: Solves two problems for me as one item.
  • How it is Essential: When it’s that time of the month, a heating pad is essential for pain management. The last heating pad that I had broke, and I needed to buy a new one for myself. 
  1. Steam mop with reusable steam mop heads:
  • How it is Intentional: I wanted a way to lessen my carbon footprint. I wanted to throw less stuff away. I want to do my part to saving the environment. Previously, I was using products that were one-time use and then throw them away for cleaning my floors.
  • How it is Minimal: Less waste is coming in and going out overall.
  • How it is Essential: To me, having a clean house essential to living. My house needs to be clean. When I say “my house”, I say it collectively and am referring my house as my body, mind and spirit. However, for the sake of this blog post, let’s roll with the physical house I live in. Clean floors are apart of having a clean house. Bonus: I get a deep clean with steam, without the nasty cleaning product smell that I had before. This change was a win for both the environment and a win for my health.
  1. Show tickets to see Don Carlos at Lyric Opera and A Christmas Carol at The Goodman:
  • How it is Intentional: I have something to look forward to doing. It feeds my mind and soul, shows me new things and I learn a lot.
  • How it is Minimal: I am gifting myself experiences and not stuff. Experiences keep me going. They feed my soul.
  • How it is Essential:  Live cultural experiences like dance, plays, musicals, operas, symphonies or even movies are essential to my mental health and well-being because they bring me to a place of peace and bring me so much joy. The joy of what is to come gives me something to look forward to, I find peace at the event and there’s peace and meaning and feeling after the event is over.
  1. YouTube fireplaces and other winter scenes to watch and listen to while I write
  • How it is Intentional: I want to create a space that I can write in that is cozy and makes me want to write for both my work and my life. I want to create Hygge in my home.
  • How it is Minimal: It’s on my TV. It’s ad free because I can’t stand YouTube ads. It takes up no space beyond the TV I have and internet connection I use.
  • How it is Essential: The fireplace creates a cozy space for me to write. Writing is part of my work and life. We all need a space.

Final Thoughts:

I thought it would be fun to exemplify some of the overlaps between the three components of Minesssententionalism. There’s a lot of overlap between the three categories of intentionalism, minimalism and essentialism.

And just for fun, we have a new word mashup along the way. You know, Straight No Chaser is coming to the area in December. That would align with Minessententionalism and me! Who doesn’t love A capella music and a good mashup?

Have a good minessententional day!

Sarathlete

Taking a Rest Day and Truly Resting

I need to take a rest day.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I wanted to share that I feel guilty about not being able to post more than this post.

So, I’m posting this tiny post, and then getting on with my day.

My brain is fried, my body is fried, my spirit is fried.

Sometimes we need to take a pause.

The goal of doing something every day is a hard one to achieve because we are human, and humans aren’t perfect. 

Deviation from what is normal is good because we come back refreshed.

Last night, I went to see the movie “Singin’ In The Rain”. The stars aligned for me last night, and it was one hour and forty-three minutes of pure bliss. I saw music, singing, acting and dancing on the big screen with barely any people to irritate me whilst sitting in a heated, leather recliner. I was so happy and giddy afterwards. That is therapy for my soul. The things I love that make me truly relax: the arts, no people and sheer comfort. Wow! 

ALL of those conditions aligning at the same time rarely happen. 

When they do align, I realize that I need a break.

Today’s dose of wisdom is to take a break. Take the rest day and don’t feel guilty for resting and enjoying yourself.

Have a great day. I hope you pause and relish in the break and do something you truly enjoy. I hope all of the stars align for you and whatever it is that makes you happy!

Sarathlete

Apple Watch Ultra Initial Thoughts and Early Review

One of my goals for the month of November was getting an Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple Watch photo that says "Start your first run".
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Quick disclaimer: None of the products or apps mentioned in this post are sponsored or affiliated with me in any way. They are all products and apps I’ve purchased with my own money that I enjoy using.

I received an Apple Watch Ultra with the beige trail loop on Friday 11/4/22. I started wearing it on Monday 11/7/22. I had trouble getting the watch hooked up to AT&T’s cellular plan. If you ever have this happen to you with Apple Watch and a cellular plan with AT&T that’s not new, call for support and ask to speak to a real person. This was a nightmare when I tried to transfer my second ever cellular version of the Apple Watch from Series 3 to Series 6. This time I tried to find a solution on my own, but I remembered the hours of frustration I spent trying to figure it out on my own and had to speak to a representative at AT&T anyways. 

The problem: AT&T doesn’t activate your ESIM a/k/a EID when they send you the watch if you order it online. You do have to deactivate AT&T’s NumberSync on their website. You also have to call and speak to a representative because NumberSync doesn’t work for Apple Watch on the AT&T site. You must set up cellular for your Apple Watch in the Apple Watch App on your iPhone. If the ESIM isn’t activated on your Watch when AT&T sends you the watch then you will get an error message when you try to set up Cellular. The workaround is to call and have support activate the ESIM on your watch and wait with them on the phone to make sure the cellular feature is working on the Apple Watch. To do this, you’ll need to turn off your phone, use another device you can make calls on and have the representative on the phone call your cell phone number and see if it comes through on your Apple Watch (without your phone being on). Then, you are set!

This was a big pain point for me because I suffered with the frustration of not being able to do it on my own. Go figure! I had to ask for help, and that’s something I struggle with anytime.

So, my gripe with setting up cellular on the watch is a gripe about AT&T and not about the actual watch itself. 

The watch has been great. Even though it wasn’t set up with cellular, I did have it on over the weekend and took my phone with me so I could use it tethered to the phone since it wasn’t capable of working completely on its own yet. 

Likes and loves so far:

  • I like the night mode. I use it during the day so there’s less brightness. I use night mode during the day to cut down on blue light. Night mode makes the watch less interesting to always be distracted by. It’s a nice option to turning on theatre mode as a way to not have the screen constantly on and being bright and distracting to me.
  • I like the bigger screen for my eyes. I can make the font bigger, and it’s just easier to see things on the larger 49mm screen vs. the former 44mm screen I’m coming from.
  • Battery life is great so far. 
  • Stat tracking has been awesome. 
  • I like how light the Trail Loop watch band is. I had a silicone band on my previous watch. The Trail Loop band is very light and acts like a seatbelt keeping my watch firmly attached to my wrist so it doesn’t slide around. The silicone band wasn’t as comfortable as the Trail Loop. The slack that I tucked in always poked into my wrist and I never liked it.
  • Sleep tracking and wearing the watch over night was comfortable and I slept through the night without it waking me up. (I’m an insomniac and a very light sleeper and fear anything waking me up during the night. I didn’t wear apple watch to track sleep for years because I was terrified it would wake me up, but it didn’t!).
  • Athlytic app. I’ve never done much with the statistics I’ve gotten from the 5 years of owning Apple Watches in the past. I like the Athlytic app so far and I’m looking forward to integrating its scores based on data analysis on how I should train every day using things like sleep analysis and heart rate variability.

Dislikes and complaints so far:

  • The color of the Trail Loop band. I chose the beige/yellow/light blue one, and it’s really ugly. I struggled to pick out a Watch band I really liked. None of the options were really what I wanted.
  • The Watch feels like it was made for men only. Yes, you can wear it as a woman, but there’s nothing feminine about the watch on the wrist of a woman, in my opinion. The watch size is a plus, but it’s also a negative. It’s huge and really sits prominently on my wrist. With small wrists and forearms, the watch really stands out and that’s a negative for me. I’m not a fashionista, but I do like having a watch that complements me and whatever I’m wearing and isn’t the only thing people see when they look at me. Like, “Wow, that’s a big Watch!”. That is what my husband keeps telling me.
  • The Trail Loop looks like a seatbelt. The aesthetics of this watch band are a negative, even though I like the feel of the Trail Loop Band.
  • The Trail Loop isn’t waterproof. I like to swim, so this was a struggle for me when I purchased the Watch. I’ve never had a watch band from Apple that didn’t dry instantly. I’m keeping my silicone band from my Apple Watch Series 6 so that I can wear it in the water when I do swim. However, for daily things like doing the dishes or showering, the band gets wet and doesn’t dry instantly.
  • The Trail Loop could stain. I’ve never had a watch band that could get truly stained because it was a fabric. My husband made spaghetti and sauce the other night. I noticed I was being extra careful when I was washing out the sauce pan to make sure I didn’t get tomato sauce on my watch band. I’ve NEVER had to worry about stains with any of the other watch bands in the past.
  • The watch face feels heavy on my wrist. I miss the lighter version of the regular Apple watch.
  • I had to purchase a third party app to do anything with data analysis that I do get from the Watch. This is a complaint about any Apple Watch I’ve ever had. If you want to build a weight workout, you need a third party app. If I want to get suggestions about my training based on the stats the watch provides, I have to purchase a third party app. I like having all things in one place, on one platform and one ecosystem. I don’t like having a bunch of different apps to deal with. I wish Apple Watch (not just Ultra) gave me suggestions for my training and suggested ways to track my training without having to purchase third party apps in order to do so. The workaround for this is to use Apple Fitness Plus, which I have and use on occasion. But if I want to track weight workouts, see the next lift I’m going to do on my watch, then I need to buy a third party app to do so. I use Fitbod for these weight workouts. I use MySwimPro for swimming workouts. I use Apple Fitness Plus for yoga workouts.

Things I’m looking forward to trying and things I’d like to see in future Apple Watch Ultras:

  • My first trail run! I got this watch so the battery life would last me for a trail ultra marathon I’m planning on running. So, yes, in a sense, I got the Apple Watch Ultra to motivate me to do an ultra trail marathon. I’m excited about this, and a little scared given the injury I’m coming back from. I ran a marathon and have done other distance events like triathlons and duathlons and cycling distance events, but it’s been a long time since my last marathon (11 years)! 
  • I’m not a diver or skier so those things on the ultra watch mean nothing to me. I paid for the trail running features for both trail running and long distance hiking. 
  • I would love to see a future watch built for an Ironman athlete and a matching watch band to boot. Doing an Ironman distance triathlon is a goal of mine. I’d love a watch that could support and was made for all triathletes for swim, bike and run and has a band to match with the waterproofness of the silicone band or like the old Nike Watch Band that was breathable, but that had the comfort and velcro option that doesn’t dig into my wrist like the Trail Loop has.
  • I’d love to see a lighter version of the watch for women (i.e. a version that weighs less). 
  • I’d love to see a watch that could integrate into your daily life and outfits that doesn’t look so masculine.

So, those are my updates so far and my review, likes and dislikes about Apple Watch Ultra after wearing it for less than a week.

More reviews to come after I do go for my first trail run and also just use the watch more and more day-to-day now that cellular is activated. I’m looking to use my phone less and the Watch more, and I haven’t had a chance to test that yet. That’s another thing I”m looking forward to trying along with my first trail run.

Hope you’re having a great day!

Sarathlete  

It Wasn’t All My Fault: The Lies We Are Told As Children, And What We Believe To Be True In Adulthood

I had one of those lightbulb-on moments at my recovery coaching session yesterday.

Here’s the conversation:

Sara: My husband said I put him in the middle of him and his family.

Recovery coach: No, you didn’t put him there. Your husband put himself there.

Sara: But my husband said I put him there.

Recovery coach: Your husband said that, but you didn’t actually put him in the middle of you and your in-laws. Your husband put himself in between you and his family.

Wow.

Lights flashing. Sirens going off. Fireworks exploding in my head.

Fireworks exploding.
Photo by Marc Schulte on Pexels.com

What???? I didn’t do what my husband said I did.

My recovery coach was right. Yet, the concept was one I really struggled to grasp because of what happened to me in my past.

I’m going to be on the lookout this week for blame that I have taken on as “being my fault” and try and determine if the event was my fault, or if I perceive it as being my fault. 

When you’re told your bad and that you’re not enough or not good enough by your family of origin, for me that’s my grandmother, mother and father, then you tend to take those beliefs with you into your adult life. I remember many times where both of my parents told me I wasn’t good enough or that I was a disappointment to them because I didn’t live up to their expectations. What a terrible thing to do to a developing mind. They did it to me because their parents did it to them. 

Alcoholism, with or without the substance, truly is a family disease. Alcoholism without substance abuse is called dysfunction in the ACA framework.

So, when my husband told me I put him in the middle of him and his siblings and parents, he believed that to be true. My coach had to drill this into me that it was not the truth. I didn’t do that. My husband put himself there. 

What else am I carrying around from my past that I believe to be true that actually wasn’t my fault in reality? I’m going to notice and figure it out! 

Sarathlete

How Marriage Changes Over The Years and How Our Language Doesn’t Always Help Us Define Then Roles We Inhabit in Our Lives

So, I’ve written several posts about my marriage and its current state.

In yesterday’s post, I was ready to cast off my marriage. My husband knows how I feel about our marriage. He has known for a while, since June 2022, that the marriage itself will not last. We’ve laid our cards on the table regarding how we both feel and what has happened to us and to each other individually over the years to know that the marriage is irrepairable. 

When I say I want the marriage over, it’s not a revelation I’m just coming to.

But something shifted in me yesterday.

I went downstairs after I was done journaling and then writing my blog post. I was writing and synthesizing my experiences for 6 hours yesterday. I thought I had it all worked out. I was going to cast off both my husband and my marriage.

He convinced me otherwise.

We talked, again.

Sometimes it seems like we talk so much and say change is coming and we end up in the same place in about 6-8 weeks: angry at one another and me expressing my frustrations with him and him saying he’ll change and then he changes a little and we are right back to where we are.

Yesterday was different.

I told him that I thought we should do things separately now, and live our lives separately while we continue to live in the same house as we pay down debt and get things in order for when we do divorce and separate our lives.

This wasn’t news to him about the impending divorce of a legal marriage between two people. We know we will move on from one another. 

But something was different. Yesterday he expressed how he was feeling and asked for what he wanted. 

He was fighting for me.

He’s a very emotionally unavailable man. He doesn’t express his emotions hardly ever. He pushes his feelings down and doesn’t deal with them or express them. 

I tried to push him away and cast him out of my life because sometimes it’s just too much and in moments of anger and rage, all I can see is my anger and rage. I don’t often see the friendship we have or the love that we do have for one another. The mutual respect and admiration we have for one another that has evolved over the years.

He does see that more clearly than I can see it sometimes.

There’s an 11 year age gap between us, in case you haven’t read my other posts. That age gap matters here. He has more life experience than me, and his wisdom benefitted us both yesterday when I was ready to throw it all away because all I could see was my anger and rage, and his wisdom won me over. 

He said, “I know the marriage is over. I used to hope it would come back, but I know it’s over and that one day you will leave and probably move out of the country. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose each other as friends. We’ve become one another’s best friend. I like doing activities with you now, and I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want that. I don’t want to live in this house with you and not speak to one another.”

He’s never fought for me like that or spoken quite that emphatically before. 

I think my age, even though I often identify as an old soul, holds me back in our friendship and relationship, and I can’t always see what he sees because I haven’t lived as long as he has lived. I don’t have the gift of that much perspective in life to see what REALLY matters at the end of the day. He can see beyond his anger at me in a way I can’t always see things.

I’m grateful that he brought it to my attention yesterday. He talked me off of the cliff of throwing everything we’ve built over the years and our friendship out of my life. At the end of the day I apologized to him for treating him like crap and for wanting to just chuck him out of my life like that. I apologized for being so mean and thanked him for his perspective. 

Being in recovery and going through it together is an emotional roller coaster at times. Sometimes there are moments of great anger. Other times there are moments where you feel like you’re getting so much better, making so much progress and you’re never going backwards in time to your old ways again. Sometimes there are hiccups and you bounce back to your old life and ways of behaving that used to serve you but you don’t stay there as long as you used to because it doesn’t serve you or control you anymore. 

So, he asked me if we could keep trying. When he stated he didn’t want to lose me, I could see that I mattered to him in a way I hadn’t seen before. He’d never expressed his feelings to me of not wanting to lose me. I didn’t believe I mattered or our friendship mattered that much to him. I didn’t realize how much he enjoyed our time that we do spend together as friends.

We enjoy each other more now and we spend more time together. We’ve settled into being companions and each other’s best friend. We both know the marriage we had isn’t coming back. 

I was watching Brenè Brown’s Atlas of the Heart show on HBOMax. I’ve seen it before, but I wanted to go back and rewatch it. There are multi-language speakers in the audience of her show that talk about how language affects the words of emotion and how the English language lacks words for emotions. Like, when I say my husband and I love each other, it’s a different kind of love than we had when we first met and when we got married 10 years ago in April 2012. The love we have for one another now has evolved to a friendship-type of love, but it goes deeper than that. It’s not romantic love anymore. It goes deeper than friendship-love, yet all we have to describe it is the word love in the English language. There are other languages that have many words in their vocabulary to describe the different kinds of love. But English is pretty limited. One word like love can have so many different meanings. Without the right language, how do we communicate our emotions properly?

I think I get confused in my own marriage about love. The word marriage, or union or partner. That is confusing to me too. Another example is marriage or wife or husband. The language around those words has changed in meaning over the years. The original Minimalists, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus both have life partners that they refer to as their wives or spouses, yet, they always say they aren’t legally married to their chosen life partners. They always use the words wife or spouse to refer to their partners because it’s easier than saying my fiancé or my girlfriend. 

It changes the way I think about the word wife, husband, partner, friend and marriage. My husband and I were the same way as Josh and Ryan and their partners/spouse/wives. We’ve been legally “married” for 10 years, but we’ve been truly “married”, or together as partners, for 18 years and have never been apart for more than a few months of separation in 2010. We called one another boyfriend and girlfriend, then fiancé, then exes, then friends, then fiancé again, then spouses, but now what? Married but friends? The words we have available to us don’t really help to define what we’ve become to one another. Even when we do divorce, we COULD still live together and have it be like we are still married. So, what would be the point in divorcing?It’s so odd. We are more than surface-level friends, but not lovers. We are best friends, but our love for one another goes deeper than that. I guess you could call us companions. Yet none of those words really describe our situation, our “marriage” or present situation, as to whatever the word “marriage” is defined as these days. There must be another word for two people who deeply admire each other but aren’t romantically involved anymore. What’s the word for that? It makes it hard to define, and sometimes can be really confusing when you’re the one struggling to come up with words to make sense of what your relationship has evolved into now and you don’t have the right words to express it because there isn’t a word to help you label your situation and say, “ok, this is what I have with this person now.”

The words may not matter in every situation, but when you’re looking for answers and trying to express how you feel and what’s coming up for you, words DO matter. The right words matter when you’re communicating how you feel to another person.

So, we told one another how we both felt as best we could. We agreed to keep going on as “best friends”. We are going to keep figuring things out and spending time together. As much as I want to cast the fighting and the old marriage out of my life, I can’t cast out my feelings for my best friend.

If you read my post about Monster and dogs and how they love you unconditionally and how I haven’t found that in people yet, I was wrong. I did find that in a person. I found it with my husband. No matter what, this man accepts me for who I am, purple hair and all. He accepts I’m shy and quiet and he’s never tried to change me at my core. Same is true for me with him. He drives me crazy, but I’ve never tried to change the person he is at his core. I may not love his need to hold onto everything he owns, but I’ve also never given him an ultimatum to get rid of his stuff or just disrespected his wishes and gotten rid of his stuff that I see little value in. I accept him for who he is, stuff and all. 

Sometimes my anger and rage and the age difference we have gets in the way. Yesterday his wisdom saved us. He got me to see past my anger and rage and he showed me I mattered to him and that he didn’t want to see what our relationship has evolved into end. While we don’t have words to describe exactly where our relationship is right now, it is still a relationship even though it’s not the proper definition of the word. 

I laid down my anger and rage yesterday. We went out for a hike. We came back laughing, happy and regulated. Nature always helps us out. Movement helps soothe us, align us and reset and re-sync us. We go from dysregulated and dysfunctional and move back to happy and best friends. 

Recovery has been filled with highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy with rage and other times it leaves me feeling crazy with happiness and high on life.

And so, I’ll let it be. Whatever it is that we have now vs. what we had in the past and how it’s evolved and though I don’t have the right words for it, I’ll just let whatever “it’ is be.

Sarathlete

The Choices We Make, Jacob Marley, The Power of Reflection and Choosing What’s Next

Christmas is coming. With Christmas, comes classic stories like Charles Dickens’ famous story of A Christmas Carol. These stories have powerful lessons. You can compare your life and what’s happening to you or what has happened to you with other stories and see how they measure up. Since stories writers write are drawn from their own human experience, they are generally relatable to our own lives.

It’s like being a world where no one understands you or accepts you. Then you find your tribe. All of the sudden you fit in and you’re surrounded by people who have things in common with you and it magically feels like they get you. They get your story because they’ve lived a similar version of your story in another time and place.

Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s deceased friend and former business partner who walked through life caring about nothing nor no one else but money. Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge on Christmas Eve night, and he is burdened by so many chains and weight of treasure and money. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a chance to change and not end up like him, carrying the things he thought he cared about through the afterlife. Scrooge gets a second chance at life, and it’s a chance Marley didn’t get. Scrooge sees Marley, reflects on his past and present and sees into the future and changes his ways. 

Side cultural note: If you’re in Chicago, check out The Goodman’s A Christmas Carol for a traditional experience. If you’re looking for a more modern version of the same story, I highly recommend checking out Q Brother’s Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare at Navy Pier. Had to say that because I’ve seen both many times and truly enjoyed both experiences!

Back to my story, I’ve been writing for two days now, very heavily in journal after a fight my husband and I had on Friday 11/4/22. Since that time, I’ve been writing and posting a blog post when I’m done journaling. You’ll see that’s why yesterday’s blog post was posted so late. Today’s post is within the normal time of when I post. I even got an extra hour of writing in with today’s daylight savings time.

I’m not so sure that’s a good thing though because when I write in my journal, I spend a lot of time getting out my anger at my husband. This is in part because I have no one else to talk to except my dogs or myself. I don’t have any close friends. My family has abandoned me, and I am over fighting with them to people please them and get them back in my life. I don’t have the desire anymore to get them back if they don’t want to be here. Slowly over the years, I’ve seen a lot of loss of the people who used to be close to me. I’ve also seen a change in me. I stopped wanting to fight for these people who didn’t support or love me and who really only cared about me when it served them best to do so.

I’m down to one last person that I’ve been fighting for and with since the beginning of our time together: 18 years I’ve been fighting for the marriage I’m currently in. 

The fighting no longer serves me. 

My parents told me that my actions have consequences, and sentenced me to a life with him that has been very difficult to get out of and detach from. It’s been 18 years of struggling to fit in with his family who never could accept me for who I am, and me fighting for this marriage and to strive to keep it alive.

Today, I finally got some clarity. 

I don’t want to keep fighting.

When I started this blog, my husband told me my writing was fluffy.

Fluffy. 

Fluff pieces.

His statement about my writing was accurate. It was very fluffy. It was fun and light-hearted and full of hope. 

His statement made me think that fluffy was cute and excessive and no one really wants to read fluffy, hopeful blog posts. Drama and sad stories are what people want to see. No one wants to read feel-good pieces when there’s no dramatic story attached.

So, 10 years after I started sarathlete.com, I can’t say my writing is fluffy anymore. 

I’ve changed. I’ve hardened. I’ve become bitter. I’m tired. I’m haggard from life. I’m angry, bitter and resentful. 

I’m done fighting for a marriage and with a man who refuses to change. 

I love my husband, the person. I always will. He will always be my best friend. But he cannot give me what I want the most: change. He isn’t capable of it. It’s not fair of me to keep expecting him to live up to his word when he’s never been capable of it from the beginning.

So, that’s not so fluffy.

I miss being fluffy. I miss being that hopeful girl knew there was a brighter future ahead if she kept on moving and searching for it.

She’s still there, somewhere. But she hasn’t been showing so brightly to world because life ran her and her plucky good attitude over. She got so exhausted from fighting and people pleasing. In 2015, she ended up in the hospital from trying to please people and in 2022 she wound up in 12 step and recovery and seeking emotional sobriety from the chaos, sickness and insanity of other people who’d been there in one of two or both miserable parts of her life: family of origin and in-laws.

This is the last fight I’m having, and I finally came to the conclusion that if my husband really wanted to change his ways, he’d already have done so. He will never change. He will never be like me. It’s not fair of me to expect him to change, or keep waiting around and trying to hold him to his word. All it does is make me angrier and more resentful of him.

I’ve started to notice over the last few years that my marriage just irritates me. The person I’m married to can’t give me what I want him to give me, and the fights we haver are always the same: me asking what I need and him resisting because it always involves him changing his ways. The truth is that we wouldn’t be having a fight if he was capable of giving me the changes I would like to see in the marriage. 

The marriage is starting to feel like a burden. Kind of like Jacob Marley carrying around those chains of the money he had to in real life and now is burdened in his afterlife.

If I Marley, I wouldn’t want that for my best friend just like Marley didn’t want it for Scrooge. I don’t want to keep feeling hardened on life, bitter, resentful, angry, sad, pissed off, about my life or at my husband. I don’t want to keep fighting with my husband and I don’t want to fight in general because it’s unproductive and becoming such a burden not seeing change.

And so I get to choose. Unlike what my parents said in hate and haste when they booted me out of their lives because I chose to start dating at 23 years of age, they warned me that there are always consequences to my actions. They were 100% right. What they failed to mention is that you can always reverse those changes. At 23, I didn’t have the life experience to know what reflection and perspective really was the way I do at 41 years old. That’s an extra 18 years of life I’ve lived to reflect on.

I wish my parents hadn’t made making decisions feel like a punishment. They implied you are stuck with the choices you make for the rest of your life. What a sad thing to believe: that you are STUCK with the choices you make at 23 for the rest of your life. 

They said that, in part, because that was true for them. They were stuck with one another. They didn’t believe in divorce. They aren’t close. They don’t have hardly anything in common. The way they see the world-they really are stuck with one another based on their beliefs.

I don’t agree with them. I think, for most things, we have a choice and we can make new changes or go in different directions than the original decisions we made at one time. “You can always go another way,” so says the flexible, creative mind, body and spirit.

I don’t have to keep fighting for change. My husband was my last fight from my past life.

When I was in college, I got a break from “fighting”. There was no one to people please except for myself. I found friends in the ballroom dance club and people who were just like me and accepted me for me. I was so happy, and I get to be happy again for more than 4 years of my life.

I have to stop expecting change from someone who can’t give it to me. I have to walk away from that and in a new direction so I can live my life without the weight of chains of past decisions hanging on my body from mistakes I’ve made in the past. I don’t want that for myself. I don’t wish the bitterness and anger on my husband either.

So, I put down the axe to stop chopping at the tree. I let it go. I release the need to fight, and I walk away. It’s so easy. I have a choice. I chose to matter to myself. My life matters to me because I MATTER! And I’ve always had the choice to make-the choice to let go of the bars that keep me stuck. There’s no door barring my way. I can let go of the bars and just walk around them. I have to decide it’s finally time to put the story to rest and intentionally walk away. There’s no malice or hate behind my decision. I just can’t keep fighting anymore.

I want to return to fluffy. I’ll never be completely fluffy because I’ve lived a LOT more than I had 10 years ago when I first started sarathlete.com. But I’m grateful for the woman who I’ve become. The experiences I’ve had have shaped the woman who I’ve become – the woman who knows she has a choice to stay and keep fighting or just simply (not easily) walk away and stop the fighting because it doesn’t serve anyone. Fighting just creates more pain. Why keep fighting if it makes your life miserable?

You have a choice just like I have a choice. I choose peace. I choose myself over the pain. I choose a better life for myself. I choose to lay down my sword and walk away from this fight because it’s really over this time. No more expectations from this man or this marriage. I know it’s over because it has no power over me anymore. Whatever addiction I had to fighting I had with this man in this marriage is just gone. I can see clearly now that I have to change because he cannot. And that’s ok too. It has to be ok because that’s what happened with my life.

But I get to choose to change and move forward and leave the fighting and anger behind and I get a second chance, just like Scrooge got from Marley’s warning.

Sarathlete

You Can Go Straight, Left or Right. Which Way Will You Go? Only You Get To Decide.

That’s right. You get to decide which way you go in life.

The best part? It doesn’t have to take your 41 years to (finally) get to this realization in your life. And if it did take you that long, or longer, then no worries. It’s happening now!

What’s the deep meaning behind the statement “only you get to decide”? The big WHY is knowing that YOU MATTER.

This is a lesson I’ve been struggling to accept this summer. It’s a message I’ve been listening to for years. Here’s a link to a YouTube video with the speech I’ve been listening to since 2019. It’s Iyanla Vanzant doing her speech entitled “You Matter” appearing on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday show.

Iyanla Vanzant’s speech on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday entitled, “You Matter”

I (truly) needed this message drilled deep into me: THAT I MATTER!

I’ve listened to this episode so many times now that I have started integrating the philosophy that I MATTER into my knowing and being daily. I remind myself in my daily morning pages and evening journal reflections. Sometimes, the message shows up in my art journal entries.

I MATTER. 

YOU MATTER.

It’s in all caps because I wish I could scream it from the rooftops. But I’m afraid of heights, so that won’t happen.

This is a message I resonate deeply with because I needed to hear it during my life, and it was a lesson I never had embedded in my brain until I first heard this speech. Hearing it changed my life.

The people in my life were “crazy as hell”. My father, my mother, and my grandmother growing up were all crazy. My in-laws and my husband-“crazy as hell”. I walked through my life not knowing that I mattered. From that stemmed me not feeling in control of my life or knowing that I could make my own decisions.

I lived my life for other people and “did what they wanted me to do to keep them safe.”

That’s not a way to live. “NOPE.”

I needed to learn “to stand in my no and for my yes.” I needed to learn “to draw my line in the sand and not back up on my line.” I needed to learn “to stand in my no and stand for my yes. YESSSSS!”

So, here’s my art journal entry for today.

While it may sound crazy to you that my family of origin and the family I married into never supported me and treated me like a piece of crap that they could kick around and attack, then you’d be wrong. But maybe you’ve had a similar experience.

Maybe you’ve felt so low that life wasn’t worth living because you couldn’t believe that life could look another way. In other words, “You didn’t know that you mattered.”

“What I want you to know today is that you matter. Even your mistakes matter. And your difficulties matter. It’s all in the way that you look at them.”

That’s where my art journal entry comes into play and intertwines with Iyanla Vanzant’s speech, “You Matter” intersect.

I wrote in my morning pages this morning that I hadn’t been living my life for me. I wasn’t making my own decisions. I was people pleasing and allowing other people to make decisions for me because “for a very long time I didn’t know that I mattered.” 

So, my photo of my art journal page reads, “You can go straight, left or right. Only you get to decide.” “You Matter”. And, “YES, GIRL!” In the center of the three diverging paths it says, “Which way will you go? Did you know you matter? Only you know. You decide for you.”

Before you can make decisions for yourself, you need to recognize that you could be living your life for someone else and not yourself and you also need to realize that you matter. This is key to getting UNSTUCK in your life. It’s the key to making your own decisions in your life. It’s the key to self-love, self-respect, self-dignity and self-worth. 

This is a lesson I learned in ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) as well. It’s not quite broadcast the same way, but the basis of the message is there in ACA just like it is in Iyanla’s stories she tells which are both funny, relatable to me and also sad when I stop and consider them. I’ve been that woman-the woman at the store with no bra on or high-water sweat pants. I walked around not thinking or believing that I mattered. 41 years of walking around like that. It took me so long to realize that I mattered to myself. That’s a darn-long-time to be walking around being told that you don’t matter. No wonder it was such a hard lesson for me to learn. It’s also why I have to keep reminding myself daily and “moment by moment” that I matter. 

Going forward, I get to make my own decisions for my life FOR MYSELF. Not my mother, my grandmother, my father, my husband or my in-laws. NO!

I decide for me because I know I matter, and I know I’m in the driver’s seat of my life. It wasn’t until I knew I mattered that I could see that I wasn’t living my life for me. I was living my life “for other people and doing what they needed me to do to keep them safe.” 

“YOU MATTER.”

Have a great day!

Sarathlete

Recovery and Religion: Can you have faith without religion?

Ok, this is a contentious subject. I’m addressing it right off the bat.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is a religious aspect in almost every 12 step program. ACA has it. ACA asks you to accept god/God as you understand god/God. 

This has been a difficult thing for me to accept, and it’s not something I always understand the WHY behind.

Why do I have to accept god/God in order to achieve emotional sobriety? I honestly still don’t know why, but I can tell you my thoughts on the matter.

I think it has to do with belief in something greater than yourself. The belief that there is something greater out there than you. The way I learned to accept that there’s something greater than me out there was to think of and accept that god/God comes in the form of nature. 

There’s something greater than me in nature that I cannot explain. That would be nature for me.

Another component to belief and faith in something meant learning to understand the concept that life is happening for me, not to me.

I’ve struggled with my faith for a very long time. I went to a Catholic school for 12 years in grade school and high school where I had god/God shoved down my throat daily. When I got to college, a state school (Indiana University, Bloomington) I saw, for the first time, that I could make my own decisions about god/God and what I believed because god/God was no longer thrown down my face every day. Daily religion and theology classes were gone. 

Like many other Catholics who have god/God shoved down their throat from a young age when they aren’t given the option until adulthood to explore what they believe in, they are just told that they must believe in this because the rest of the class does, I moved away from god/God and started to question my faith because I finally had autonomy over what I believed when I was in college. Because of this, I moved away from belief in god/God during college, and I haven’t gone back. All because I was force fed god/God for so long, and I enjoyed having a choice.

Then I land in 12 step in July 2022, and I have a program telling me that I must accept god/God, as I understand god/God in order to complete the 12 steps.

I think this is a failing of 12 step programs and also other recovery programs.

I believe you can have faith and belief without the God/god/religious component.

I think this a major deterrent to people who would otherwise join 12 step programs. It is off-putting.

The recovery center I go to has a faith night. The recovery center’s brand messaging asks you to believe in something, even if you’re an atheist. I attended a faith night at my recovery center. My recovery center doesn’t have a 12 step focus necessarily which I like. It’s like a convalescent space for your soul or spirit or being. However, faith night is a different story. There is a pastor who delivers the message on faith night. I went…once. I haven’t gone back. I dissociated during the “service”. First, they sing the Lord into you with Christian rock. Then the pastor speaks the Lord into you with his message. Their social media messaging claims that you don’t have to be religious to come to faith night. The messaging says: you should be able to look past the god/God component, deepen your thinking if you’re an atheist/agnostic, and look past the bible and god/God for the greater message. 

Why can’t their messaging match the service at the recovery center I attend? 

I believe you can have a life recovery service without having the god/God and religious component attached to the message. The pastor could talk about faith and belief without even mentioning god/God and bible passages. But the pastor doesn’t. 

I miss out on faith night because it reminds me of having god/God and the religious message shoved down my throat as a child and teenager, and I can’t go back.

I’m a flexible person in my thinking and open to trying almost anything once. That’s why I attended faith night. The whole time I was there at the service, I wanted to run out the door and I was angry. I’m flexible enough in my thinking to look past the god/God component when I want to. However, that doesn’t mean I want to be force-fed god/God. The pastor that night in his sermon mentioned the word “filth” as it relates to people in recovery. Sorry, I’m not filth. If I’d wanted to feel bad about myself, then I would’ve gone to see my parents. Or I could’ve just gone to any church.

Just because I can be flexible in my thinking, doesn’t mean I can’t make my own choices. The god/God component wasn’t what I was after. I was willing to try it out, and I found it off-putting. I also think that this is a topic that is contentious for other people. I think if you’re going to put out social media marketing/messaging that says all people of all beliefs are welcome at faith night, then you should stick to that and not shove god/God down people’s throats with a bible sermon and Christian rock.

I’ve mentioned my thoughts to the recovery center I attend, but it’s their biggest draw and many people attend. I am in the minority in my thinking here. I get that. 

I’m torn because part of me would love to attend faith night if god/God wasn’t being shoved down my throat. If faith and belief in something greater than myself, like nature, was part of a general message, I would gladly attend. But it’s so clearly not. I can look past the bible passages, but I don’t want to because I just don’t want to hear it and feel bad about myself, and it’s not what I believe in anymore. 

I have a choice. That choice is to miss faith night because it’s more about religion than it is faith and belief in something greater than myself.

PTSD, ACA, and the Stories Behind What’s Hiding in Your Purse/Wallet

One thing I found interesting this summer as I went through the 12 steps in Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA) was looking at weird behavioral patterns in my every day life and digging deep to explore the why behind the why of the why of why I behave in certain ways and what’s the deep story behind it. 

I’m a grown woman. I carry a purse. Not uncommon.

In ACA, a lot of our behaviors that we can’t often explain often have an origin story attached to them that we don’t think about because they become habits that we do as part of our every day lives and don’t really think about why we do what we do.

In July, as I worked through the 12 steps, I came across the PTSD step and had to take a look at and note odd behaviors that I have that I’d never been able to explain before. 

One place I started looking at was the extra stuff I carry with me in my purse. If you’re trying to apply this to your life, you could look at your wallet or the stuff you carry in your pockets or the stuff in backseat of your car.

A purse overflowing with excess tuff.
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

So, let’s take a look at my purse and see what I found in July and August 2022 when I did this step.

Warning: I’m going to be talking about periods and tampons, so if that bothers you, please move on.

I found that I carry an excessive amount of tampons in my purse. I’d known this about myself, but I couldn’t ever figure out what the why was behind this need for excessive tampon carrying. Another thing that’s related is that I find tampons in old purses, old gym bags, in the glovebox in my car, in pockets of winter coats, in the backseat of my car. 

Why?

The behavior I needed to figure out was why do I hoard tampons in the weirdest places. What was my story behind that? I started thinking back to the past and searching for a story that caused this odd-to-me behavior.

Let’s just say-for someone who identifies as somewhere between a Minimalist and Essentialist, I couldn’t directly explain what happened to me and why I was behaving in this way in this one area of my life.

This hoarding, like most hoarding, came from a trauma that happened in my past. It’s linked to a traumatic story from my past. Traumatic to me. 

Here’s the story:

My parents never talked about sex with me growing up. They left that subject up to the Catholic school they sent me to for 12 years instead. So, anything related to sex was also off limits, like things that happen when your body changes. I remember when I got my first period, my mother pointed me to the tampon box and told me the directions were inside if I needed help. I was 11 years old. Following any kind of printed directions, even in adulthood, is not my strong suit. Since I had to figure this out all by myself and had no idea or clue what was going on, I didn’t put the tampon in correctly, and later that day, I had bled through. I had no additional tampons with me. I was sitting in the bathroom bleeding and ashamed. I told my teacher that I was sick and I needed to go home because I didn’t want to risk more bleeding and the humiliation that I knew was coming if I didn’t get out of school. Again, I was 11 years old. That’s a young age to have no guidance and no one to help you.

That one incident led to a lifetime of tampon hoarding in my purse, car, pockets. It’s a deeper fear of being abandoned and running out of supplies and bleeding through and the fear of the humiliation that would ensue.

It was hard to look back and realize how other people’s actions, or inactions in this case, led to some of my behaviors today.

My parents didn’t ever want to talk about their feelings or any subjects they perceived as shameful, like sex or puberty. That lack of communication and the fears they had around tough-to-talk-about topics led to projection of those subjects onto their daughter. 

I can really see here how alcoholism or dysfunctional families is truly a family disease. 

One behavior, tampon hoarding, stems from a traumatic-to-me story of an 11 year old being abandoned by her parents in a time of need because my parents didn’t want to talk to me about any of it. They left that up to a Catholic school that also didn’t want to talk about the same subjects.

I’m grateful I noticed this behavior and also that I was able to look back into my past, figure out what had happened to me so I could explain the behavior behind my tampon hoarding and try and do something about it.

By recognizing the behavior and the why behind it, I can now move forward and be aware of it and also do something about it. I’m working on it in degrees. If I find a tampon in an old purse, or glovebox in my car, I remove it and place it back in the closet where I keep my other tampons. 

Awareness is key to identifying what happened to you and why you are behaving the way you are. These odd ways that control you that you can’t explain are worth addressing and thinking about because you have a chance to think on it, address it and not give it power over you anymore.

Now I carry the tampons with me that I need when I have my period. I don’t carry an excessive amount with me all month long. I trust that I have enough. I don’t have to let my fear control me anymore. I’ve been able to slowly overcome my tampon hoarding and that aligns with my beliefs about hoarding things I don’t need for just-in-case moments. I don’t believe in storing stuff for just-in-case moments. I simply don’t want to live that way in all areas of my life. Recognizing the odd behavior that didn’t align with my beliefs helped me get back into balance and back into alignment with my beliefs. It make my purse a lot lighter too!

Sarathlete

Goals for The Month of November and Staying Accountable To These Goals

This month is a goal month. I’ve been in a season of rest and recovery for the past three months, and I’m ready for a season of work. More like, I’m ready to get back to work and I wanted to explore today what that will look like.

I read 10/31/22 entry of https://feelthebyrn.blog yesterday, and it inspired me to set some goals for the month of November and see where they lead. Here’s a link to the blog post: https://feelthebyrn.blog/2022/10/31/creating-a-self-directed-life-with-meaning/

Yes, I need a three year goal, but I also just need to set some goals and see where I land. After doing the bare minimum to get by for the last three months so that I could spend the time I needed resting and rebuilding my life, I’m ready for a change.

The first day of any new month seems like a natural place to set new goals. I would say the same rule applies for a new week, new year, birthday, etc. There are natural breaking points within time, usually the first day or anniversary of an event, that leads to a natural break and time to restart and reset. It’s a natural time to assess where you’re going and where you want to go in the future.

I wanted to be open and transparent about my goals to help hold me accountable. Usually, if I write it down or post about my goal, I stay accountable to the goal. It’s like the world holds me accountable even though, at this point, I don’t even know if anyone reads these posts or not.

So, here are my November goals, remembering a few things: 1. I needed to restart somewhere. 2. These are likely going to last, in some form, longer than 30 days and are likely part of the bigger plan. 3. I’ve been off for three months doing the bare minimum to get by so that I could rest, therefore all of these goals might seem like a lot in one month. Guess I’m making up for lost time.

A striver making up for lost time? Never!

  1. Find a trail 5k locally to run and sign up for the race.
  2. Buy trail running shoes.
  3. Find a free trail running plan for a 5k trail race.
  4. Integrate the goal race and training plan into my current weight training plan so I can do both at once.
  5. Clean out my closet in my room.
  6. Have a truly happy Thanksgiving and figure out what that really means to me.
  7. Art journal everyday with watercolor journal or a digital art app like Procreate. Post the art online somewhere, like Facebook, blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere and be consistent with posting everyday. 
  8. Write a blog post 4 times a week.
  9. Meditate for one minute or do a meditate activity where I breathe deeply for one minute the first day and add a minute to each day so I meditate for thirty minutes at the end of the month. Compounding breaths should equal a calmer me by December 1st!
  10. Practice Italian every day on DuoLingo.
  11. Monetize my life and see how it goes.
  12. Do Gordo Byrn’s version of journaling in the morning and evening from 10/31/22 post so that I write less and check in with myself more often.
  13. Clean out my car.
  14. Film and post 4 YouTube videos.
  15. Do the Authority Accelerator course and finish the first step of the course: Hero’s Journey and the Niche Down to Blow Up spreadsheet. Speak to 20 ideal clients to see what they have to say, OR jump into building the course since I am around my ideal client and I already am my ideal client and see how it goes.
  16. Purchase Apple Watch Ultra and live only on the Apple Watch for 30 days.
  17. Set goals with real numbers for The Rare Plant Haus.
  18. Bake and sell baked goods on Facebook in the Chesterton Happenings Facebook page.
  19. Sell stuff on Facebook Marketplace: plants, old stuff I want to get rid of as I declutter and try to make money out of my old junk I no longer want and money out of plants I can’t sell in my store because they are too big to ship or I just don’t want to carry that plant in my future lineups anymore.
  20. Get rid of the stuff that is hard to get rid of by playing the Minimalism game.
  21. Clean out all of the hiding places stuff builds up in the house like in the closets, pantry, basement, drawers and dressers and do it daily, i.e. a little every day.
  22. Simplify the plant room and what I sell and pitch or sell off the rest on Facebook marketplace or somewhere, doesn’t matter where.
  23. Eliminate personal plant collection and sell those plants off that I no longer want to keep in my personal plant collection. Sell it off as part of the store and keep only the plants that hold meaning to me.
  24. Buy LECA for the plant shop to propagate with going forwards.
  25. Figure out how to fertilize with roots growing in LECA.
  26. Sell five plants on www.therareplanthaus.com and get off of Etsy and slowly transition back to my Shopify store that is currently on pause. Stop giving money to Etsy and put it back in my plant shop’s pockets.
  27. Align multiple businesses under one large brand with one greater message.
  28. Do one cleaning activity every day so I don’t have to do big pushes anymore in the house. Clean as I go so the house is always clean.
  29. Read a few pages of a book every day or a chapter of a book once a day so that I get into the habit of reading.
  30. Be outside everyday somehow, even if it’s just opening the window.
  31. Leave the house everyday.
  32. Go the library and sit and read the newspaper and magazines at least once this month. This will help me with getting out of the house everyday.
  33. Go on some artists dates, once a week, to start building new interests and hobbies that I can start to nurture over the next decade.
  34. No mindless Facebook scrolling. If I find myself scrolling, then stop scrolling and switch to something else.
  35. Check emails, orders and messages only once a day.
  36. Live life on my watch as much as possible and stop carrying my phone around unless absolutely necessary.
  37. Wear my contacts 15 days out of 30 days this month. Wear glasses less often.
  38. Shower less often to help build up body microbiome.
  39. Stop online scrolling mindlessly on costco.com
  40. Only go to recovery center activities that I want to attend, and stop shaming myself and feeling guilty for not wanting to attend all of the activities they offer.
  41. Do one cycling workout a week, indoors or outdoors, to keep my butt in shape so I don’t lose the progress I’ve made. Keep my butt used to the saddle so I’m ready for spring riding in 2023!

Ok, so will I accomplish all of these? Is 41 goals too much for 30 days? Aren’t you supposed to pull back and rest during the holidays? I don’t know what the right answers are to any of those questions. But I trust that I’m where I need to be and that life is happening for me and not to me, and that I am on the right track. We will see where I land in 30 days.

Yes, there is crossover in my personal goals and business goals. You can see that I want to make business and personal cross in my goal that is monetize my life. I want to integrate business with personal so I can live more and work less. So that work is my passion and my passion is my work. 

This gives me something to shoot for and keeps me accountable. It gives me something to write about on this blog and what to post about on social media. 

Remember, these are my own goals and they may only make sense to me. Your goals will naturally be different than mine because we are two different people. 

Sarathlete

Losing My Patience With The People Around Me While I’m In Recovery and They’re Not and Dealing With Change

Sometimes recovery can feel overwhelming. There are so many changes to make in the life of someone in recovery, myself included. There’s a physical shift, a mental shift, relationship shift, mindset shift, behavior changes. So. Many. Changes. While change is amazing, sometimes it can be overwhelming. With all of these changes in my life, sometimes I feel resentful as to why I have to change and the people around me left over in my old life don’t have to change. My husband. My parents. My grandmother. My in-laws. Why did they all get to stay the same, and I had to be the one to change?

Maybe this is one of my faults since I identify as having a striver mentality. I always like to dig deep and know why things are the way they are. This is both a strength and a weakness, this striver mentality.

One of the things you’ll begin to see in recovery is that you have to change, but the people around you don’t have to change. If they aren’t sick to begin with or don’t identify as being sick, then maybe they don’t need to change. But what if them not changing holds you back? Should they have to change? Should you always be the one changing? These are really tough questions to answer. I put them out there for you to ponder on and for more of a discussion rather than me seeking a direct answer and that is because the answer will be different for everyone.

Recovery is a personal journey. It doesn’t look the same way for any one person. Everyone’s recovery is unique no matter how many commonalities there may be in two different peoples’ stories. 

These questions and frustrations come up for me constantly and so does the resentment that comes up for me as a I ponder these questions. Last year I had a back injury. Yesterday, I chopped back two years worth of growth on our landscaping on the front and one of the sides of our house. It didn’t get done last year because I couldn’t have held the weight of the pruners and shears without intense pain running down my lower back and right side of my leg. Yesterday, I was fine. Sure, I was stiff afterwards, but overall I have been ok today. I’m tired and feeling a little run down, but I also did 5 hours of yard work between cutting down landscaping to raking leaves to the curb. These are things I didn’t get done last year, and, as a result, they didn’t get done. I’ve had to overcome many challenges to build myself back up to the woman I am right now. It’s been a lot of physical challenges, mental challenges, lots of tears, anger, pain, you name it. You’d think my spouse would’ve been there for me last year and taken care of it, right? Nope. I live in this world of if I don’t do it, nothing gets done. I have to change, but he gets to stay the same. This creates a lot of resentment. Yesterday, the resentment of having to cut down two years of overgrowth was too much, and today I cracked and got angry with my husband. 

This frustration of mine runs deep. We’ve always had this argument. In a way, I wish he would make changes, but I also know I can’t make him change. So, now, being the one who has changed, I can see that waiting for him to change is fruitless. My anger at him is fruitless. What’s the point in even getting mad at a person who will likely never change? That’s where me changing and him not doing any work makes a difference for the person in recovery. I see things differently now, from a new lens. I also see him for who he is and not for who I wish he was. Yet, I’m human and I still get mad. I will say that with recovery tools and skills, I don’t get as mad as I used to and I don’t let the anger fester. If I’m mad at him, I usually tell him within 24 hours. These are huge changes for a woman who would let things fester for months and not say anything. 

So, I told my husband, “I’m mad at you for letting this go last year and not bothering to take care of it. Why didn’t you take care of it?” He tells me I’m asking a rhetorical question that he can’t answer. He’s right. It is a passive aggressive question. Another question in our household is, “What did you gain from fighting me for so long on XYZ thing?” It’s not a direct question that has a direct answer. It’s a very passive aggressive question. I’m not really looking for an answer unless it starts with, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” I’m looking for an apology, but at the same time, he’s hurt me so much and so many times that an apology won’t work anymore. I want more. I want him to change. And if he doesn’t, then what? Because he’s not likely going to change. 

The answer is that I’ll have to change yet again. This involves leaving him behind, and choosing not to keep struggling with him by my side. That’s likely the only solution. It’s not a step I’m ready to make yet, but it is a necessary one for both of us. Like I said, the changes I’ve had to make in my life while I’ve been in recovery have been life altering and great. Whenever I think I’m done changing, or that I get to finally stop changing, I find out that I have to make another change because if I don’t, everything will stay the same. 

The people around you likely aren’t going to change. You’ll be the one who has to create the change you want to see in the world. Remember, like I need to remember, you are responsible for your own true happiness. Nothing external and no person can make you truly happy. Sometimes the answer is the one we don’t want to hear, no matter how much someone has hurt us or how much pain we’ve been through. Sometimes the only way out is through. For me, getting to the end of my marriage and being on my own will be the solution to happiness: me own my own not waiting for another person to change.

Scarcity Mindset, Movement, Addiction and Recovery

One of my greatest addictions is also a place where I find so much flow, and that place is movement. Movement by any name always smelled sweet to me, until it didn’t. Call it dance. Call it exercise. Call it cycling. Call it swimming. Call it watering plants. Call it weight lifting. Call it walking. Call it running. Call it yoga. Call it boxing. Call it ballroom dancing. Call it ballet. It doesn’t matter what you call it. I LOVE to move. 

Until I didn’t love to move.

I suffered from a painful lower back injury on the right side of my body in February 2021. I think I was the cause of my injury. I’m very sure that I caused my own injury because of my addiction to movement. The flow I get, the anxiety release, the dopamine hit, the mental clarity and calmness I get from moving is amazing. I haven’t suffered that many injuries in my movement history. I’ve always been very balanced in doing both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. I enjoy weight lifting, stretching and many forms of cardio. 

This injury caused me to have to ask for help in my plant business, The Rare Plant Haus. It was absolutely awful, both being in so much pain and having to ask for help. Yikes! 

The pain came in the form of shooting pains down the right side of my leg. No matter how much time I took off and rested from this injury, did physical therapy for it, got two steroid shots for it, nothing really helped truly heal the pain. Instead, a lot of little things helped relieve the pain, but my body still remembers the pain and it’s still there.

The pain was so bad that I stopped moving for a year. My husband watered all of my plants in my plant shop for a year. I didn’t move at all for a year. I was miserable because this was a place I found great flow, and also a place where I got relief for my anxiety and a place where I could work out my problems. For a year, movement was gone. The final time I saw a doctor was in March 2022. My PCP told me to get a second opinion for my condition, which has had many diagnoses from many different medical professionals over the last year, now closing in on two years. The final doctor I saw was a spine surgeon who told me that I would need a spinal fusion. He told me I needed to lose weight and move more. After a year of intentionally not moving, this doctor told me to move and lose weight. The surgeon said to lose 20 pounds of weight so that when he did the surgery, it would be easier for him.

I gained a LOT of weight over the last year. I was practicing regular emotional eating. I was addicted to any hit I could get from sugary foods. Another area exercise has always saved me was from having to watch my diet. I’d never had to worry about what I ate in the past because I was always able to work out enough and intensely enough to where weight gain due to diet wasn’t an issue for me. That is, until I couldn’t move anymore and the pain from moving became to great to continue and I stopped. Yikes!


So, the addiction I had to exercise and movement was removed for a year. I was miserable. I was tired of being in pain. Now, in March 2022, I had a doctor telling me I needed to move again. I didn’t want to go back to moving because it caused me so much pain.

What were the results? I landed myself in recovery and a 12 step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families. I had to change my entire life in order to start healing from this injury that caused me so much pain.

You see, I was in great pain in many areas of my life. I was very out-of-balance in my approach to my entire life, not just the exercise component of my life. 

So, now we are at the end of  October 2022. What’s changed for me since March 2022?

I started moving again. I started walking and filming videos in the park. Habit stacking: filming videos outside and movement attached to it meant that I didn’t notice the pain as much. I was in nature and that made me feel better. I started getting stronger. When I landed myself in 12 step in June 2022, I started to change how I lived my life. I did a complete 180 degree pivot on diet and movement. I was able to stop emotional eating and my attachment to sugar and how I saw food by seeing it as fuel. I started doing intermittent fasting and eating one meal a day. I started adding in other forms of exercise I used to enjoy beyond walking. I started doing yoga, then cycling, then weight lifting. I progressed to high intensity interval training. I was able to hike farther and further. I found myself working out less and eating less and I was gaining muscle, losing weight and my back pain started to lessen greatly. I changed other aspects of my life, as well. I started going to recovery coaching once a week. I worked my way through the ACA 12 steps. 

I had to make great changes in my life in order to get any sort of relief for my back pain.

I believe the mind and body are linked. I don’t think you can detach one from the other. It’s how I wound up with a painful injury in the first place, in that, I was out-of-whack in my life. I felt awful. I was acting awful. I wasn’t happy. Yet, I couldn’t identify why I was so unhappy.

And so, once you’re in recovery from any kind of addiction, for me that was seeking emotional sobriety, there’s always the fear of relapse. That’s where scarcity mindset comes into play. Fear of relapsing. Fear of going back to old ways of being. Fear of going back to my old life, old pain and wanting to avoid old emotions.

If it’s true that the only way out is through, then I had to deal with a lot of old stuff to move forward. 

Truth: you will relapse. Sometimes, I feel like I relapse daily. However, the time I spend in relapse is less.

I noticed this most recently with pain. I do NOT want to experience pain. No one does. Specifically, I want to avoid that pain I felt the first day and the days that followed of not being able to find any relief. Over time, I’ve been healing, but the pain is still there which tells me I’m still a little out of balance in my life. I’m no where near the level of pain I was at, but I still feel pain. 

My latest relapse came from overexercising. I thought I was in control and that I had my exercise addiction under control. The irony of this statement is not lost on me. One of the pillars that ACA is based around is to notice control, criticism, perfectionism, and all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking. I struggle daily with these four pillars. In a sense, I relapse every day. 

Movement is so easy for me to talk about, so I’ll use it as the example. I noticed I was very irritable, crabby, sore, was having trouble sleeping, and I didn’t know why. Work outs were good. Diet was good. Things in my life and business were good. I was happy and things are going well for me. Still, I noticed the feeling. My husband noticed the irritability and crankiness as well and commented on it to me. He asked me why I was so irritable. I was overtrained. I knew the feeling because I’d experienced it many times before. I didn’t want to believe, at first, that I’d gotten out of balance with exercise. I thought that because I wasn’t working out for 3 hours  a day at maximum intensity and doing super hard workouts for so long that I meant that I wouldn’t overtrain. I thought I was in control. I thought I had my addiction under control, and that I was in a health place with it.

Part of recovery, for me, has meant going back to things that used to serve me well, but at the same time didn’t always serve me well, like exercise. I needed to face my fear of overworking out. Just when I thought I had the problem solved and my addiction was “cured”, it wasn’t. 

I did what no one wants to do: I pulled back for a week. I’m taking a week off with no exercise and rest to see how I feel. I’m listening to my body this time. I’ve changed. I respect myself and my body, and I know that I matter. I’m not a pound on the scale or my latest workout. I’m a person with feelings. I’m a human being, fallible for sure, and I needed a break. Anyone who finds flow in movement will tell you it’s the hardest thing to do: pull back and rest. To know I  am enough without exercise and that it doesn’t define me has been a hard lesson to learn for me, and, yet, it’s brought me the greatest sense of relief.

I’m always battling with scarcity mindset with myself internally and externally. I battle my self-worth daily with this question: Am I enough? The answer is always yes, 100% yes! However, knowing and believing I’m enough are extremely hard things for me to come to terms with. Why? Because of what happened to me in my past, how I was raised and what I believed to be true about myself based on the past. I learned from the people closest to me that I was NEVER enough. Now, I know that’s not true. But the scarcity mindset I have has been a great struggle for me, and it’s driven my for such a long time and has affected my relationship with everything in my life, including exercise.

It took going in to 12 step and recovery and so many other changes to heal my life, which is what has helped me heal my back. Reckoning with my self-esteem, self-value and self-worth. I have to constantly tell myself that I’m enough, to the point where sometimes it feels like it’s moment-to-moment. 

I’m getting better and healing every day. Sometimes, I need to take a break. I know I’m enough now. I didn’t know that for a very long time. It’s been a difficult behavior to change, and it’s kept me stuck for such a long time. 

The antidote for healing my back was healing my life. 

The antidote for curing scarcity mindset is knowing you are enough. Knowing that you matter. Knowing that you are valued. And living in alignment with that knowledge and applying it to every area of your life. 

YOU MATTER! I MATTER! There’s so much relief in knowing that I matter.

Wanting a Not-So-Normal Life Wrong In a Sea of Normal

Sometimes I feel like I got a reset in my life. Other times I feel like I deserve a break because I was so traumatized and worked so hard for so little in my life. Occasionally I feel enraged over the past and what happened to me and how my life has turned out so far. More often than not, I feel happy, grateful for my life and like I’ve been reborn…or like a got a second chance…a reset.

It often feels too good to be true. My new life. My life in recovery. 

Is it bad that I feel guilty for having my own business and that I can work less and enjoy my life more now as a result? I’d say yes, it is bad that I feel guilty; however, no one should feel bad for wanting to work less, wanting more out of life and wanting to enjoy life. Oftentimes on podcasts I listen to or YouTube channels I watch, I hear business owners who in similar positions to mine apologize for enjoying their work and their life. Who wants to feel guilty for having fun in their life? No one. Yet, it happens. 

Why?

Because that’s what MOST people do. The majority of people do the normal thing. Doing normal things leads to normal results. Typical, right? For most people, TYPICAL is enough. For others, it’s restricting, restraining, induces a gag and choke reflex. I found myself in this typical life experience in August 2021: full time job working 32-40 hours a week at a job that caused me severe anxiety and stress, didn’t value me or my skills, grossly underpaid me and didn’t care about ME as a human being. I was another cog in a machine with no feelings working at large company with a steady salary, 4 weeks of vacation time, a steady paycheck and access to health benefits (that sucked). I was absolutely miserable. I left my 9-5 in August 2021. 

Some would say I had no plan. 

But I had to have had a plan otherwise I wouldn’t have left. That’s not me. Right? What if it was really me? Yikes!

I left my job without a plan? Oh, the wayward shame of it all.

Ok, I kind of had a plan, but mostly a deep knowing that if I stayed in this soul-sucking job, that I would waste away, in a sense, in the mundane and malaise of misery. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I am not a cog in a machine. I’m so much more than that. I’m a brilliant human being who wanted something else: something beyond what most normal people want: the chance to take risks and chances and try and fail and eventually succeed on my own terms doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to enjoy my life and 4 weeks of paid vacation, a steady paycheck (in the spring, summer and fall), paid holidays off just wasn’t enticing. It never really enticed me in the first place.

I went to college and my parents said, “Major in something that’ll make you a lot of money.” I wanted to dance. I wanted to be a professional ballroom dancer and teacher: not a profession that can make you a lot of money as a female professional dancer. If you add in the fact that my body was built so wrong for dancing, any kind of dance I’d ever tried like ballet, jazz, even ballroom, then the odds weren’t exactly stacked in my favor. So, I tried doing both for a long time. I tried having that corporate career that (NEVER) made me a lot of money, and teaching part time on the side. I learned a lot. I worked a LOT. I grew tired of it and quit.

Dance was my only interest for a long time. When I lost it, I had a corporate job. I was miserable and bored. That was the story of my life for 18 years out of college. In 2021, I started a plant shop. I started my own business. It didn’t succeed, but it didn’t really fail either. I got sales over that summer. I kept the shop open, and that was my plan when I left my corporate job in August 2021 that I couldn’t take anymore: run a plant shop. It was better than nothing. 

I made a promise to myself the day I quit: I’d never have an office job again because it doesn’t align with me. Mostly, at the time, I told myself I would never have an office job again. The alignment part of the story didn’t come until later, until this summer of 2022, when I worked myself into the ground for very little financial gain and landed myself in recovery.

Recovery from what? If I’ve never been addicted to substances, what could I possibly need recovery for? I needed recovery from what had been my life for 36 years of misery and 4 years of happiness. The 36 years was life in two suitcases: the first 18 years with my family of origin and the second 18 years with my husband and in-laws. I identify as an adult child of a dysfunctional family. It’s a real term. I’m married to an adult child of two alcoholics.  The results are the same: sobriety. Since I don’t have substance abuse in my past, I was seeking emotional sobriety, and oh, did I ever find it!

The only part of my life I ever felt happy and comfortable in was the four years I spent at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. My college years were anything but normal. I was an introverted young adult who loved ballroom dancing and the arts and culture. I didn’t enjoy partying or drinking. I enjoyed hanging out with people in the ballroom dance club and competition team. I loved practicing with my college dance partner on the weekends. I loved learning new things every day. I have the same traits today. I don’t dance now, but I love movement. I’ve grown up in many ways. In other ways, I’ve stayed similar to who I was in college: that quiet, introverted girl who had a lust for art, culture, movement and liked learning new things and enjoyed spending time on her own. I went to my first opera when I was 18 years old. I saw For The Love Of Three Oranges, and it didn’t deter me. It was a really bad opera to see as your first opera. It was long and boring, but I enjoyed the experience of it because it challenged me. I love a challenge.

So, the lesson I learned this summer seeking emotional sobriety and relearning to live my life and what life looks like now in recovery is this: I get more than 4 years of happiness in my life. Nothing magical happened I turned 41. The past stayed the same: the two suitcases of family drama and chaos split equally in time with one suitcase per family and this 4 year gap where I was sublimely happy and on my own and living my OWN life. That’s right: living my life on my terms. I can’t say that I’ve really had that in the past 36 years. The 4 years I was in college, and this current year: my 41st year, I feel like I’m learning how to live life on my own terms. I’m living my life for me.

We all deserve more than 4 years of happiness. That’s not a lot of time to be happy, and 36 years of misery and feeling sad and depressed is way too long.

I’ve always known I wasn’t “normal” and that “normal” things just didn’t work for me the way they did and do for other people, normal people: the average Jane or Joe. I’m not bashing “normal”. I believe we need “normal” in society. But we also need dreamers and doers. We need creativity, culture, art and movement. We need passionate people who can dig deep, who are quirky, quiet and introverted and shy. We need people do don’t feel like they fit into their own life. 

I got so stuck trying to fit into the mold of normal.

Now? I don’t bother with normal because I know I’ll never fit there. What normal is for someone else, is torture for me because I’ve always known that I defy what is considered “normal”.

It’s easy, now, in recovery, to see why I never fit in. I have the experience of life and the great gift that is perspective on my life and the ability to synthesize what happened to me in addition to being able to know myself really well and to recognize (finally) that normal doesn’t work for me.

Life in recovery has taught me that I matter. That I am enough. It’s enough to work 10 hours a week, and that can be enough. Will it be enough forever? No, I’ll want to grow and move on. Working 10 hours or less a week is great for me. Would it be great for everyone? No, because we are all different. 

Like the book title by Dr. Gabor Mate states: The Myth of Normal. Once I embraced that piece of information that I wasn’t normal, my life started to make sense. I didn’t feel like I was going crazy for not wanting to work two jobs. I was tired of feeling guilty for wanting to enjoy my life, and for how I looked at and experienced life as it was happening to me.

Recovery saved my life. It kept me from wanting to die. Plants saved my life. Knowing that I’m prone to just wanting to be on the move and love being active saved my life. Having my own business and seeing that I work better for myself than I did for other people saved my life. I saved my own life when I found recovery.

Recovery means the world to me, and it’s something I’m very passionate about. I’m passionate about a great many things, and that’s alright. Some people will tell you to focus on one thing. I did that for a long time, and it landed me in a place where I was lost when it was gone. Now? I do many things. Not just one thing. Somethings about me have changed since college, and some are still the same.

I still love opera. I love to go to the ballet and plays in Chicago. Hearing a symphony played live calms me down. I don’t dance anymore, but I’m still here moving. I am a passionate life-long learner. I’m an amazing teacher and coach of dance, life, art, and movement. 

I know I’m not normal. I’ve tried so hard to find others like me, find my tribe, and they are hard to locate. The strivers and overachievers who love to move and love art, dance, opera, theatre, symphonic music who are passionate, life-long learners who love to do many things, reject what is normal and who like to go against the grain in life. These other people, people like me, are hard to find in the sea of normal. But we have a lot in common if we can find one another.

That’s my mission now: to find the other people like me. I want to build a community of strivers and overachievers who are also addicts and in recovery in their lives. We matter. We are passionate. We are unique. 

If you’re reading this and you identify as anything but normal, please reach out and let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. I’m passionate about movement, dance, fitness, health, diet, mental health, art, culture, music, endurance sports, recovering from physical injury, being an addict and recovering. I go deep with the things I know, and I’m willing to spend time learning about things I don’t know. Some of my other passions include YouTube anything, writing, inspirational and public speaking, photography, videography, and plants.

Recent passions that I am nurturing: learning a new language (Italian), ultra endurance sports, recovery for the ultra passionate and ultra endurance, not-so-normal human being (people just like me), finding friends, connecting with people again and building a community of like-minded beings.

12 Tips For How to Find Inspiration and Break Through Creative Blocks: Tips For Content Creators

Are you struggling to come up with content ideas? Do you feel like you’ve hit a creative block? In this video, I’m going to show you how to find inspiration and break through your blocks so that you can create amazing content that your audience will love.

Hey everyone, I’m Sara from Sarathlete On The Move, and if you’re anything like me, you know that creativity is key when it comes to content creation. But sometimes it’s hard to get started, or we hit roadblocks that keep us from producing our best work. In this video, I’m going to share my top 12 tips for finding inspiration and breaking through those creative blocks so that you can create content that your audience will love.

Tip 1: Take a break from your work.

As content creators, we often face the challenge of feeling creatively blocked. When this happens, it’s important to take a break from our work and do something that will inspire us. This could be anything from going for a walk and admiring the beauty of nature, to watching a movie or reading our favorite book. By taking some time for ourselves, we can come back to our work with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of creativity. So next time you’re feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to step away from your work and give yourself some time to recharge.

Tip 2: Get organized.

All content creators know that feeling of being creatively blocked. When you’re experiencing a creativity drought, it can be tough to come up with new and innovative ideas. That’s why it’s important to get organized and have a plan for when those times come. 

Organization is key for content creators. Whether you’re a blogger, vlogger, or podcaster, being organized can help you be more creative and productive. That’s why I always make sure to have a content calendar. I map out what topics I want to cover and when. This helps me to stay on track and never feel uninspired or blocked. Trust me, content calendars are a lifesaver! They help to keep you organized and motivated, so you can continue creating content that your audience loves. 

Tip 3: Talk to other content creators.

Creator’s block is a very common issue and talking to other creators who have gone through the same thing can give you some great advice. They will be able to tell you how they overcame their own creative blocks, what methods worked best for them, and what resources they used. This information can be invaluable in helping you overcome your own creative blocks.

Tip 4: Use prompts within your niche. 

As content creators, we sometimes need a little help jump-starting our creativity. That’s where prompts come in! Prompts can be found online or in books, and they can provide the inspiration we need to try something new. Whether we’re feeling blocked or just need a little boost, prompts can help us tap into our creativity and come up with fresh content ideas. So the next time you’re feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to use a prompt within your niche to get the ideas flowing. It just might help you create your best content yet!

Tip 5: Take some time for yourself.

As content creators, we often have to be in “go-mode” in order to meet our own deadlines or deadlines our clients have while still keeping our content fresh. However, this can sometimes lead to us feeling burnt out and uninspired. That’s why it’s important to schedule in some downtime for yourself. Whether it’s taking a few minutes to meditate, going for a walk, or reading your favorite book, taking some time for yourself will help you relax and recharge. And when you’re feeling refreshed, you’ll be able to bring your creativity back to your work and produce content that you’re proud of. So don’t forget to schedule in some “me-time” into your content creation process!

Tip 6: Experiment with new mediums or styles.

If you’re feeling blocked creatively, sometimes all it takes is to experiment with new mediums or styles. Content creators can get inspiration from other creators in our field, but it’s also important to try new things and explore different ways of creating content. If you typically make videos where you’re in front of the camera, try creating a video using animation or illustrations or film B roll and do a voiceover. It’s important to keep your content fresh, and by trying new ways of creating content, you’ll keep yourself feeling creatively inspired while keeping your content fresh and new. The goal is to grow creatively and not get stagnant in your genius zone of creation and flow.

Tip 7: Get outside and explore.

There’s nothing like getting out of your comfort zone to jumpstart your creativity. If you’re stuck in a creative rut and you create content indoors, then get outside, start walking and get your exercise in while you create content and explore a new place. This one is by far my favorite and I always practice what I preach: I take a walk in nature, I will vlog or create content in a park, and I’ll turn on my apple watch and track my exercise while I’m walking around creating. The idea here is to try creating a piece of content in a place you don’t normally film at. Getting out and exploring can help refresh your mind and give you new perspectives that you can bring back to your work. And who knows? You might just find some new inspiration for your next project while you’re at it.

Tip 8: Set simple goals for yourself and stick to them- don’t overwhelm yourself.

Content creators often face the issue of feeling blocked when it comes to inspiration for new content. This happens to the best of us- even I’ve been there! It can be frustrating, especially when you’re under a time crunch. That’s why one of my favorite tips is to set simple goals for yourself and stick to them. When you’re feeling uninspired, it can be tempting to try and come up with a bunch of ideas all at once. But that can actually be overwhelming, and it’s more likely that you’ll get stuck rather than coming up with something brilliant. So instead, start small. Decide on one thing that you want to create, and make that your focus. Once you’ve got that down, you can move on to the next thing. And before you know it, you’ll have a whole slew of content that you’re proud of!

Tip 9: Take care of yourself both physically and mentally.

As content creators, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be creative and inspired. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to produce your best work, it’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthy meals. Find time for things that make you happy outside of work. And if you’re feeling blocked, don’t force it. Sometimes the best ideas come when we least expect them. So give yourself a break, relax, and let the creativity flow.

Tip 10: Doodle, free-write, or brainstorm ideas when you feel stuck.

All of the content creators I know can attest to the feeling of being creatively blocked at some point or another. 

One of the best things to do is to simply start doodling, brainstorming, or free-writing. This can help you to focus and to get the creative juices flowing and can often lead to some great ideas. Brainstorming with a group can also be beneficial as it allows you to bounce ideas off of others. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration from someone else to get your creative content flowing again. So next time you’re feeling creatively blocked, don’t despair; just pick up a pen and start doodling, drawing, writing down whatever is in your head or creating a mindmap of ideas to brainstorm. Write it down, no matter what it is, and you will find your next idea. 

Tip 11: Check out the internet and use paid and free apps online for ideas.

As content creators, we all know that we will get creatively blocked at some point on our journey. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to come up with anything new and exciting. That’s where the internet comes in! There are so many great sources of inspiration out there, you just have to know where to look. For me, some of my favorite places to go are paid apps like Surfer SEO’s content planner, keyword researcher and content editor, sometimes I’ll combine Surfer SEO with Jasper AI for help coming up with ideas, and I love free sites like Answer The Public or Google Trends to find out what people are searching for answers on in my niche or niches for my clients. So next time you’re feeling creatively blocked, don’t despair – just do a little internet research and you’ll be sure to find some great inspiration!

Tip 12: Watch someone else’s content for a fresh perspective.

There’s nothing worse than feeling creatively blocked. You’re staring at a blank screen or piece of paper, and no matter how hard you try, the ideas just won’t come. If you’re struggling to get your creative thoughts flowing, something you can do is take a break from creating your own content and watch someone else’s content for a while. Watching or reading someone else’s content can give you a much-needed dose of inspiration. Seeing how other content creators approach their work can also help you to come up with new ideas of your own. So if you’re feeling stuck, step away from your own content for a while and see what others are doing. It just might give you the fresh perspective you need to continue on your own content creation journey.

Final Thoughts:

I hope you found these tips helpful. Remember to take some time for yourself, experiment with new mediums or styles, set simple goals and most importantly, take care of yourself physically and mentally. And if you want more ideas on how to be creative and productive, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and like this video. I also post exclusive content that I don’t post to YouTube over on my blog at sarathlete.com. Head on over there to check out more.

Thanks for watching! I’ll see you in the next video.

Here’s The Vlogging Gear You Need To Start Today

Hey Guys! In this video I’m going to show you the vlogging gear that you need to get started with today.

Hey, what’s up? If we haven’t met yet, my name is Sara and welcome to my Sarathlete on the Move channel.

Now, I know a lot of people are interested in starting a vlog but they don’t know where to start or what gear they need. Don’t worry because I’ve got you covered. In this video, I’m going to show you everything from the camera all the way down to the tripod. So sit back and relax because in just a few minutes you’re going to be fully equipped to start your very own vlog.

1. Camera- a good vlogging camera should have, at minimum, HD capabilities and be able to take good quality photos and videos. This can be your smartphone or you can use a larger setup if you have one such as a DSLR or a mirrorless camera that records video and in addition to taking photos.

2. Tripod- this is essential for stabilizing your shots and ensuring that your videos are smooth. If you’re going to be walking around and talking, get a handheld tripod that can hold your smartphone or larger camera. If you’re going to be staying in one place, then you can use a shelf or stack of books as a makeshift tripod to set your camera on if you don’t have the real thing.

3. Microphone- you’ll want to make sure your audio is clear, so invest in a good microphone.  If you’re using your smartphone, there are many clip-on microphones that work great. If you’re using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, then get a shotgun microphone that attaches to the hot shoe mount on top of your camera and plugs into the microphone jack on the side of the camera. 

4. Lighting- natural lighting is always best, so try to vlog near a window during the daytime. Another tip is to go outside and vlog. The sun will provide you with the best lighting. Or buy an inexpensive ring light on Amazon.com. If you get a little vlogger kit like the one I use, the rode video micro vlogger setup for iphone, it comes with a tiny light I can mount on the hotshoe of the tripod in the kit. It’s a tiny but strong light!

5. Editing Software- video editing software can help you to improve the quality of your videos and make them more interesting to watch. I use iMovie which comes free on all of my Mac devices. On Apple devices, you have iMovie on your iphone, iPad and on your laptop or desktop machine. It’s a great program to use for those who are just getting started. There are paid options like Premiere Pro that can be used on Mac or PC. If you recommend a good program that be used on PCs that’s free, let me know in the comments.

6. Social media platform: If you’re going to release your content online, then you’re going to need to pick a platform to vlog on like TikTok or IG or YouTube and choose a regular uploading schedule so your audience gets used to knowing when you’ll be most likely to upload your videos.

So there you have it! These are the six essential pieces of gear and software you need to get started vlogging today!

Make sure to hit that subscribe button and notification bell so you don’t miss any of my future videos. And if you liked this video, be sure to give it a thumbs up. It really helps me out in the algorithm. 

Youtube URL: https://youtu.be/hA3TRYAxNC

Affiliate links:

Rode Video Micro Vlogger Kit: https://amzn.to/3sIMipy

Note this description contains affiliate links that allow you to find the items mentioned in this video and support the channel at no cost to you.  While this channel may earn minimal sums when the viewer uses the links, the viewer is in no way obligated to use these links.  Thank you for your support!

See you in the next one!

How I Captured the Photo on My Banner Image: I Was a Vulnerable Beginner and Had to Be a Beginner

Today’s video shows you the steps I had to take to get the photo on my channel’s banner image.

How I Took The Photo on my YouTube Banner Image

The Joby Gorilla pod is heavy for me, as a woman. Is this the case for you?

Trying to figure out what focal length to film, how to pan on a tripod, frame rates, etc. I realize that the cell phone is much easier to film on than the DSLR setup with the Joby Gorilla Pod.

My first vlog with the Nikon D7200 DSLR camera on the Joby Gorilla Pod. I didn’t bring my external monitor with me to the park because it added more weight. I had no idea if I was in focus or not when I am filming. Turns out I was in focus. I also figure out where to look into the camera lens by seeing my reflection in the lens and that lets me know where to look. I do wish this camera had a flip-out screen like the mirrorless cameras have like Sony and Canon.

I don’t understand how photographers and cinematographers like Peter McKinnon and Matti Haapoja carry the whole setup around with their cameras and handheld tripods—and they film on a One-wheel? That’s amazing! I admire both of you. I can barely stand up straight here!

I show the Rode Video Micro vlogger kit for my Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. 

I observe that the setup is basically the same for both setups: the cell phone and the DSLR, the tripod and the microphone and windscreen for the microphone. The image quality is the variable. 

I figure out that shooting cell phone footage is good for headshots, and that I can use the DSLR for B-roll shots.

I’m proud of myself for taking a risk and getting out to the park on the DSLR.

Sorry about the noise from the Chesterton, Indiana and Porter, Indiana trains! LOL! Tell the town to pay for the silencing systems for the Quiet Zones so that Sarathlete can get better audio with no train whistles in the background.

My Apple/Mac setup (iPhone, Cloud, Mac, iMovie) takes a lot longer to sync if I film a lot of footage on the iPhone. Syncing to the cloud takes forever for my computer. It’s awful. What about you? I have an old Mac from 2016 and maybe that’s why the transfer process is so slow.

Transferring video files from the SD Card on my Nikon D7200 DSLR to my Mac is MUCH faster than filming on the iPhone and waiting for the footage to sync, especially if you are ready to jump in and edit right away. I don’t have that option with iPhone footage unless I attempt to edit the footage directly on my iPhone. Yikes for me! Do you edit on your laptop or iPad or iPhone?

I’m shy and trying to build confidence and repetition with what I’m doing. Practice makes perfect. Taking baby steps and building confidence to vlog outside at the park was a big deal on 3/21/22. I was really proud of myself for being vulnerable and getting myself out there and putting this footage online to show that it’s ok to be a beginner. We all start somewhere.

And at the end you see me get take the photo that I have on my banner image on my YouTube channel. The money shot! That photo means so much for me because it represents the courage and bravery it took to get out there and try something new.

What a fun day this was!

Thank you for watching!

Sarathlete

YouTube Video URL: https://youtu.be/sS2O0Qf57hk

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How To Edit iPhone Videos In iMovie on Your Mac: Basic Tips For Beginners

In this video, we discuss how to edit iPhone videos in iMovie on your Mac. We cover basic tips for beginners, such as how to select the clips you want to edit, add transitions and titles, and adjust the length of your transitions between clips. We also offer advice on storage issues while editing and share some tips on how to keep users on YouTube engaged with your videos. Finally, we show you how to save and share your edited videos from iMovie to your desktop.  

You can use iMovie to do all sorts of fun things with your video clips. For example, you might want make a music video or film short stories that are just footage taken on an iPhone! We’ll show how easy it is when we talk about some editing tips in this lesson too–there’s nothing quite like cutting out those pesky dead spots where there isn’t any sound playing yet (it happens). As well as adding transitions at specific points throughout the project so everything feels more cohesive than before. 

Watch me edit my own video that I took on iphone with imovie.

This is for all of you who want to give your videos a more polished look and feel, but don’t have time or money to hire an expensive videographer! Here’s how: cut out every breath from start until finish (unless this part was supposed be longer), use keywords in descriptions so people search them up later when they’re looking through content online.

How to use titles in your video properly so that people who are listening can understand what you’re saying. There is a transition effect when changing clips, and if it’s too long the users will have trouble hearing or seeing how one clip ends before another begins which could make them feel frustrated with using YouTube as well as not being able to get any useful information from watching your content on their own time without interruption because of buffering issues caused by having slow internet speed during streaming.

If you’re unsure about a length for a transition, try to keep it relatively short so people don’t get bored of waiting and end up going off to do something else. Even 5-10 seconds is probably too long in most cases! You want to be sure that your viewers are kept engaged throughout the entirety of the video by providing interesting content and cuts that flow nicely into one another. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that if this is the first video you’re uploading, you’ll want make an effort to keep users on YouTube by including an endscreen with links to other videos or playlists on your channel. This will help increase watch time and encourage people to come back for more content like yours in the future.

YouTube video URL: https://youtu.be/W9GlmPij-94

Thanks for hanging out with me today!

Sara