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

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