Last week almost passed without me doing anything that really scared me. It was a week marked by apathy on my part. M and I were discussing our general apathy about school, even life, right now. Its not complete apathy, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I would be massively depressed if I were feeling complete apathy. No, I’m just selectively apathetic and generally anxious. But more on that later…maybe.
Anyway, it was an apathetic week. I did make a phone call to a local tutoring company to seek summer employment as an english/ACT tutor. So, that was a fear faced. I have an interview coming up. Unfortunately, there’s not much demand for tutors over the summer so its sort of a dead end (despite the great hours and great pay). Oh well, don’t know if I’ll go through with it or not. So that was a minor fear (making the phone calls, having a phone interview, etc.). However, yesterday I did something way more terrifying…and way more exciting.
I signed up for a marathon.
Yeah. Sort of a snap decision. I’ve done three half marathons before, but never the full. Normally, I would go through some sort of uber-training program before attempting a new distance, especially a distance of marathon proportions. But not this time apparently.
A few weeks ago my brother told me that he was going to switch from running the half to the full. I thought he was nuts…attempting to “train” for a marathon with only two weeks til race day. Yeah right, I said. But then I agreed to accompany him on one of his long runs. I was only going to do 12-14 miles….but at 12 I was still going strong, and by 14 I was only slightly fatigued. So, I decided to go another lap around the park, bringing me to a total of 18 miles. I was exhausted for sure, but I could have kept going. It felt great. No cramping, no nausea. I was hungry, my knees hurt, that was it.
So, that was Saturday. Sunday I was tired but feeling remarkably well. I was elated, so elated that after a brief pep talk from my dad I signed-up for the marathon. Its a bit crazy…but a really huge step for me. Not only running a marathon, but running a marathon without extensive preparation? VERY not me. But I’m doing it…and I’m excited for the race to get here (April 11th). I know I can finish. Maybe not super-fast. But I can do it. My brother and I did the 18 miler at 8:20 pace, which I know I can hold for at least 20 miles. After that, I will just gut it out to the end. 6.2 miles is nothing…right/
I figured I better go ahead and get this posted before the month is over. I can’t believe its already the last week of March. I think the combination of the stuff going on with M, my usual work + school schedule, and all the stressing I’ve been doing about finding summer employment is making the days fly by. I almost with things would slow down…but then getting this semester and M’s surgery behind us really can’t happen quickly enough. Regardless, I’m here’s a few things that I’m taking time to enjoy this month. I’m so grateful to have little things like this. It really increases my overall happiness to take a few moments and realize that some things in life are, in fact, pretty darn good. Even when life itself feels pretty damn bad.
1. I got some new kicks. That is, fabulous Brooks running shoes. Despite the fact that they’re neon yellow (or maybe green, there so bright its really hard to tell) I fell in love with these guys the moment I tried them on. They hug my narrow, high-arched feet so so well. And, they are a full two ounces lighter than my last pair of running shoes (Saucony’s, which I would have recommended to anyone until I slipped these babies on my feet). I decided to go with a lighter pair because I’ve been reading a bit lately about the trend toward minimalist running, and since I’m a sucker for anything labeled “natural” or “minimalist,” I had to hop on board. Still, no Five Fingers for me, at least not yet.
2. This is my blue smoothie cup. With all the long runs I’ve been doing lately, I need good post-run recovery meals. I usually don’t have an appetite for a few hours after my run, so I’ve been drinking smoothies. My favorite is a variation on the Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake from Kristen’s Raw. I omit the hemp seeds (cause they’re dang expensive) and I add about two handfuls of raw spinach (can’t taste it one bit). This smoothie tastes like a fudge brownie, and its a fruit + veggie power house. I highly recommend it, especially after an intense work out, when your body needs easily digestible nutrients.
3. Its March, which means Spring, which means daylight! I got these as a Christmas gift from my dad. Yes, I have a freakishly stylish dad. His taste in clothing is better than my own. So, I wasn’t shocked when he gifted me this very classy looking pair of shades (check out that awesome black and white detailing on the temple!) Now that there’s sun I finally get to wear them. Not that I didn’t wear then all winter. Its just now I won’t be mistaken for a blind person walking around in the overcast weather wearing my shades.
4. I’m also loving coconut water for rehydrating after long runs, or in the case of this photo, after a little Power Vinyasa Yoga (in a 90 degree room mind you). I’ve since decided that hot yoga isn’t my favorite thing, but that hasn’t kept me from guzzling this stuff. Its quite the expensive habit.
Dear Sara, (Fall 2006)
How are you feeling…not doing, feeling? I know you are doing well. You are running a lot, working really hard at training for the Cross Country season. I know your grades are phenomenal. Strait A’s. You’ve got extracurricular activities; from community service to athletics, to church. Really, have done a great job. As far as college goes you have nothing to worry about.
But how do you feel? On the outside you seem pulled together, like you could take on the world…but on the inside? You seem tired, worn out, exhausted. There is a sort of paleness about you. It’s in your expressions, your stillness, your complexion, your lack of emotion. It’s even in your eyes. I don’t mean that critically, we all get tired and worn down, but you see especially worn.
I know you have a lot on your plate right now. The college admissions process is rough, especially so for you. i know you put all of yourself into applying to these schools. Not just into the applications, but the past four years of all-consuming effort feels like it has been leading up to this moment. This is the culmination, or so it feels. I get that, completely. But really, this is not the culmination for you, your life is just beginning and it is so much bigger than college.
Do you know that you’re afraid? Thats why it feels like success is everything. Thats why getting into the best college and running the fastest times, and looking shockingly thin all matter so so much. I know this because I remember, and because I’m still fighting the desire to control. I remember, I can still feel, my heart suffering and my body literally aching. I remember what it felt like to clamp down so tight, to try to control everything so much, that I couldn’t think, I could hardly even breathe.
Your heart is suffering, and you can see it in your body. Physically, you are giving yourself a beating. That sounds extreme, but its true. I know you feel so much better since you lost weight, and that is a legitimate feeling. When you were younger, your eating habits weren’t so good. there was a lot of junk in the house and no one ever taught you about healthy eating. That was not your fault. The weight you gained wasn’t because you were out of control, or because your desired for food was bad, or because you were eating emotionally. Quite the contrary, you didn’t eat emotionally, you just ate, and enjoyed your food. The weight you gained was not your fault. It’s just that there was unlimited junk food around; food that is above all else unfilling and addictive. That wasn’t your fault either.
But now, you’ve gone so far in the other direction. You ration every bite that you take. You eat next to nothing. You only distrust your body and your appetite. You don’t eat nearly enough and you eat very little real food. I know you thing you’re eating right, even more, I know you’re afraid of what your body will do if you eat any other way. But, what you think is a lie. Its a whisper from Satan. Its a lie that allows you to cope, yes, but it is also killing you. I don’t mean that in a dramatic way, it’s literally killing you. You only weigh 103 pounds. I know you can rationalize that to yourself, but its not a healthy weight for you. Do you know that you’re damaging you bones?…that you will be diagnosed with the early stages of Osteoperosis in a few years?…that your period will not come back for almost three years?…that you will be put on various drugs to try and alter your hormones and treat your stomach problems?…that you will start losing your hair in the next few months? Scariest of all, do you know that your heart could fail? It needs fat, and calories, and it needs you to gain weight. At the weight you are, it’s straining to keep going.
I wanted to write you this letter to try and stop you from going any further on your own. This path you’re on, it’s deadly. You’ve cut yourself off from your heart and it will take years for you to rediscover yourself. Instead of living, you go through each day exhausted, just trying to keep your A’s and eat as little as possible. You are sinking into a hole. Either you will be consumed, or you will have to dig your way back out. I know this is true, because I’ve been there, and I am still digging. It’s hard and it’s dirty and it’s easier just to slide back down than to keep digging out.
It’s hard to see you things like grades and running and even something as basic as eating can become so messed-up. They’re not bad things in themselves, but when you manipulate them in order to control your life, they end up controlling you. Your heart begins to die because you were not made for a such a small life, nor were you made to function on your own.
You were not made for a life of calorie-counting or constant exercising or academic perfection. You were made for life, period. A life of adventure and purpose and love. the thing is, none of that can be if you are trying to maintain control. Either it’s God, or it’s nothing. Don’t be afraid to loosen your grip. Don’t be afraid to be weak, to ask for help, to get less than an A, to go out with friends, to admit your fears out loud, to face them. Don’t be afraid to give-up control. Letting go is the bravest thing you could possible do. God will catch you. You have nothing to fear. Life is right around the corner.
S. (Spring 2010)
Sean couldn’t meet me for our usual long run this saturday. I really didn’t want to miss out on the distance, but I also really didn’t want to go do 10 miles solo. I tend to lag when I do distance alone. One of the local running shops has a group that meets every Saturday morning for 10-12 mile runs. I’ve thought about going many times, but the ideal of running a long distance with a group of strangers really intimidates me. What if they’re all faster than me? What if there’s no one in my pace group? What if I have a bad day and can’t finish (I’ve never let that happen before but who knows)?
Anyway, I got almost no sleep, but I set my alarm for 6:30, scarfed down a Larabar, guzzled some water, had a few gulps of coffee and got in the car. I made it to the shop just as the sun was rising. I was greeted by a middle aged guy named Larry, one of those really hardened, ripped, running types. He’s one of the shop owners I think. He was really nice, invited me in, introduced me. I stretched a bit and within moments we were off. I didn’t even have to get in a pace group because we all just went together. There were probably about 20 people. Slowly, the speedy ones pulled ahead (some of them had already been running for an hour!) I stuck with two women who were running just under 8 minute miles. It was great to run with women! I met a really nice lady named Heidi who has done SEVEN marathons and one 50K (yeah, thats an ultra). We ran the whole 12 miles together and talked the whole way. It was such a fun morning. By the time I got back to the house, showered, and drank down my favorite post run drink (recipe to come!), I hardly remembered that I began the morning all nervous and afraid. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. Running is such fun…as are the endophins.
I’ve been contemplating a 25K…haven’t signed up yet, but I’m going to start training and see. My training schedule is in the sidebar, to keep me accountable.
At the suggestion of my counselor, J, I’m writing a letter to myself, that is my former self. The 17 year old me, an unhappy high schooler: intense, focused, unhappy, rapidly sinking beneath her anxieties, and firmly in the grip of an eating disorder. One of the things I’ve discussed with J, or rather that she pulled out of me, is that I’m not able to grieve for that struggling 17 year old girl. I don’t feel sad for the time I lost, or all that I went through. I’m not sympathetic even with myself.
Dont get me wrong, the fact that I lost nearly four years of my life to an eating disorder and lived day in and day out ruled by anxiety, frustrates me to no end. I am angry. But I’m not sad. I don’t know what it means to grieve for that lost time (and J says this is necessary for full recovery…I’m not sure I agree, but the inability to feel really bothers me). I’m angry and hard on myself for having allowed things to get so bad, so twisted, so hopeless.
I am all too aware that looking at an eating or anxiety disorder as my fault is less than helpful, if not completely inaccurate. Still, I am angry and pretty hard on myself. Other times, I don’t feel anything. Thus, J suggested that I write a letter to my former self, as if that girl were any other girl. As if the 17 year old me were someone I knew and could help. How would I talk to that girl? Would I be so harsh and unforgiving? Wouldn’t I be sad for her? I’m not really sure. But I said I would try.
Here’s a quick update on my success in facing my fears. This week I did amazingly well. I’ve been on Spring Break, so I’ve had more time + energy to dedicate to facing my fears, but STILL. I did three things that made me varying degrees of scared.
Here they are in order of increasing anxiety…
1)I learned to ride a bike again. M got me a bike for Christmas. I haven’t ridden much since then because the weather has been snowy, wet, and freezing. But now that its warm and almost spring-like (!) I had no excuse. I’m not sure why I was freaking out about this one. Probably a combination of no riding a bike since I was 12 and not having any private-ish place to practice because I live in the city, oh and the fact that most of my anxieties are irrational anyway. No matter, I rode, I wobbled, I didn’t fall once, I conquered. By my third day out riding I decided I needed a bit more of a physical challenge and did a 12 mile hilly ride. Not fast, mind you, but I did it. My butt still hurts.
2). I went to a new yoga class at a new studio. Further, when I got to said studio, and stepped into a HEATED room (thats 90 humid degrees, folks!) with a man doing a handstand (unassisted!), I did not turn around a walk out. Though I felt out of my league, and completely intimidated by my inexperience I rolled out my mat and made it through 90 sweaty minutes pretty successfully. I wasn’t the best in the room, but I don’t think I was the worst either. Not that yoga is a competition or anything. No, of course not.
3). I applied for a job…at a BAKERY! I have no idea what will come of it, but I’m more proud of the fact that I applied than worried whether or not I will get the job. The Bakery is independent, locally owned, and only five minutes from the apartment I’ll be moving into at the beginning of May. Fingers crossed that this job or another works out. I’m already stressing about my lack of summer employment.
I’ve been doing mediocre (at best) with my revised New Year’s resolutions. There’s only four of them and still I’m floundering. Despite my serious lack of volition, I want to make a change to resolution number four. Instead of doing one thing each week to move me toward making some decisions about my future, I want to do at LEAST one thing each week that scares me. After having a conversation with my dad this weekend, I’ve been thinking that I may never really know what I want to do with my life. By that I mean, there may never be a moment of clarity where I say “yes! I do want to go to law school,” or “of course, I’ll become a personal chef.” For me, this realization is equally terrifying and liberating. Its terrifying because I want to know what I’m going to do with my life and I want to know NOW. Even more, I’m afraid of messing up, wasting time, missing my opportunity (as if there’s only one). In short, I’m afraid of failing. I think I equate indecision, unpreparedness, fear, and mediocrity with failure. My thoughts run something like this:
Indecision: “I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know what I like, I don’t know what I’m qualified to do…”
Unpreparedness: “Everyone around me knows what they want or at least what they’re good at. They’re working or studying in their area of interest. Everyone has a leg up on me. They know how the world works. They know how to get a job (even a career!)….I don’t have a clue…”
Fear: “I’m behind. People, especially professors and employers, will see right through me. I don’t have the experience or know how to do much of anything.”
Mediocrity: “Be rational! Your life will be fine. You’ll just always be fearful and anxious. Also, you’ll probably always feel inferior. But thats okay, you’ll find some sort of a job. It will give you a little bit of financial and personal comfort. Life will go on.”
So when that whole mess is done running through my mind I feel pretty much like a failure. But here’s what I’m realizing a little more each day. I’m only a failure if I decide to believe the self-effacing tape running through my head. I’m only a failure if I let that tape determine my actions, and if I let anxiety and fear determine me. Thus, the revision to resolution number four. Doing something every week that scares me is a way to turn off the tape. Purposing to face my fears gives me confidence to continue facing fears. It makes me feel capable to do things that I think I’m unprepared (i.e. incapable) of doing. It gives me hope and meaning in my day to day life. Facing my fears will make me more mindful and present in my days and weeks because I will really have to focus on the moment at hand to push myself beyond those fears. I guess thats where the idea of never knowing exactly the path I should take becomes liberating. I don’t have to feel bad about not knowing. I can quit looking, worrying, and waiting. Instead I can focus on the day at hand and make the best choices in that day. I can do all I can to get everything out of everyday and life my life as free of anxiety, worry, and fear as possible. I cannot be a failure if I simply try. Try new things…Try the things that scare me most…Try and fail. I can fail and not be a failure. I just with I believed it right now. No matter. If there’s anything I’ve learned in fighting an eating disorder its that what you believe is almost irrelevant. Your actions are what matters.
So there you go…whoever you are… if there’s even anyone reading. And, I almost hope there’s not…being that I’ve suddenly started bearing my soul. Go figure.
Hopefully I’ll start posting each week on a fear I’ve overcome. Hopefully.
Here’s a hint on something I have in mind for this week…