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

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

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

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

Thoughts on November goals:

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

Lesson Learned to Apply to December Goals:

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

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

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December goals will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Sarathlete

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

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

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Sara, which would you rather do:

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

Run a marathon.

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

Have Christmas dinner with my parents. 

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

Watch a comedy-style opera

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

Take ballroom dance lessons from a complete beginner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarathlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes girl!

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

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

Sarathlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fighting no longer serves me. 

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

Today, I finally got some clarity. 

I don’t want to keep fighting.

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

Fluffy. 

Fluff pieces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, that’s not so fluffy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarathlete

Recovery and Religion: Can you have faith without religion?

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarcity Mindset, Movement, Addiction and Recovery

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

Until I didn’t love to move.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The antidote for healing my back was healing my life. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

Some would say I had no plan. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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