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.

+++++++

December goals will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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

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

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

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