Random Scotland Trip Photos

Here is a brief selection of photos from our trip, while I have some wifi.

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We will prevail! Outside our Hostel in Edinburgh, with the Edinburgh castle in the background.

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St. Giles Cathedral was incredible.

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We climbed that, then went even higher. The true seat is behind that. Scrambling was required!

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View from part way up Arthur’s Seat.

Scott Memorial. I love Gothic architecture.

Scott Memorial. I love Gothic architecture.

 

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A piece of Edinburgh Castle

A piece of Edinburgh Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orkney-Day1

Wow. What a day.  Today we went back thousands (and thousands) of years on our guided tour.  We had the added bonus (I’m sticking to that) of experiencing authentic Orkney weather.  Cold, crazy winds, rain, and I’m not positive there wasn’t a little sleet as well.  Our guide called it liquid sunshine (excuse the lack of grammar marks here and there, this keyboard is wacky).  With that said we still had a phenomenal day!!!

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View from Skara Brae that ignited my soul and called me to embrace the winds and fly.

We managed to book the tour today last night about 10:30 pm which was brilliant.  The Universe has really been doing great things for us when we let it.  We met our guide Clive at 9am (we were waiting at the wrong place and he almost left without us!).  First stop we went to Kirkwall to pick up the other passengers, along the way he gave us a ton of history and pointed out cool things.  After we picked up the other family we headed out on our Megalithic Masterpieces tour.  There are 4 sites that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO world site – these are the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe and Skara Brae.  We visited all of those today plus Skaill House, Unstan Tomb, Scapa Flow, and inumerable other things as we drove by them.  Despite the weather the sites were incredible.  The weather was the worst while we were at Skara Brae, but it didn’t take away from the fact that we were looking at the remains of a community that predates what historians have thou

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Peedie the tame owl. The Falconer told me they make great pets and are easy keepers. 😀

ght was the earliest settlements.  The coast was my favorite part, and while it felt like the wind and rain/sleet would wipe us off the ground it also had a wild free-ness to it.  The smell of the salty air, and the wind, and the incredible view, mixed with knowledge of how incredibly lucky I am to be on this trip made me want to dance and whirl. I think that moment was one of my favorite of the trip.  We also got to pet a barn owl, and meet some other birds used for falconry.

 

After we dried off a little in the Visitor’s Center while we ate lunch we donned our much debated rain pants, and enjoyed the rest of the day more comfortably.  For lunch I was proud of myself for trying local fare.  Sara and I both had Cullen’s Skink with Baer Bannoch.  Which is smoked herring soup with potato and leeks, and Baer Bannoch is bread make from Barley flower.  It was very tasty – and warm!

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At the Ring of Brodgar by the Chief stone. I was really enjoying my rain pants. Aren’t they fetching? There was power and peace here. I would have loved to sit in the middle on commune.

My next favorite site was the Ring of Brodgar which is part of a number of pagan sites that sit over a power line.  Between the wind, the Loch behind and in front, and the earthiness emanating from the stones I suspect I would have liked to stay there a long time… were the weather more tenable.  It quickly became apparent that Orcadians are MUCH stiffer stock than I!

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Warm laundry hugging is an under rated past time! We have never been so grateful for clean, dry, laundry.

By the time we got back around 4 we were happy, but frozen to the core, soggy, hungry, and exhausted.  We also were VERY VERY VERY tired of smelling all the time, so we ventured to the Ferry terminal to do laundry.  The Universe smiled down on us once again when the Dockmaster let us stay after closing so we could dry our clothes.  I don’t think either of us have ever been so ecstatic about warm, dry clothes.  Sara was nice enough to throw me my fleece (black cloud of warm pillowy softness!) then proceeded to huge the laundry herself.  It was a very special moment.

This evening we made plans for tomorrow, assuming the weather is better, went to dinner, and I had some lovely chats with the other hostel members.  I am truly enjoying hostel life.  If you are friendly and engage people they are almost always happy to talk and I have learned a lot about where we are going, where I might go, and just generally enjoyed connecting with other people.  With that said, having a private room with just Sara and I to sleep in is fantastic compared to the dorms.  Much easier to sleep!

Now with my brain overfull of incredible experiences, my belly full of a meal that did NOT include potatoes (they are everywhere, I’m not kidding.  The look on the waitresses face when I asked her for extra broccoli instead of potatoes or chips was priceless.  She admitted no one had every asked her for that!), and my heart and soul feeling joyful at being heard and acted upon… I think its time for bed.  This just covers the surface, but I’m excited I could figure out how to get even this up!  Good Wifi is not an easy thing to find.

Wish us luck, tomorrow we hope to find Puffins!

Getting back in the game

It has been a rough couple of weeks for me.  Due to no specific life event my brain flipped and I got really depressed for a few days, and fell off the wagon on a number of habits and projects I was working on.  That in and of itself is not the end of the world, and despite how miserable I felt, wasn’t a big problem.  I’m diving deep on some things that the experience brought up, shadowy corners of how I think that I don’t really want to face, so the experience was a teacher.  The real problem has been making the choice to get back in the game.  To choose to step purposely, to live the big life, to not shrink into the mundane, to not hide behind the things that insulate me from the vast unknown of the life of a true Impeccable Warrior.

And that has been hard.

Really, really, hard.

Even though philosophically it is one of my basic tenets.

Did I mention its been hard?

Sometimes it is easier to do things the first time, before I truly understand what it will take, and the all of the different pieces.  I find this can be quite true when hiking too.  The adventure of finding out what is behind the next hill, or around the next bend can overcome a lot of screaming legs, and aching feet.  Do the trail again later though, and it can feel daunting, and like too much, because you know what to expect, and it is almost always worse in my memory than it really was.

The same thing happens to me in life. The second (or third, 4th, etc) time I understand more, and tend to get caught up in the details, and nuances.  I also almost always have to face more of the inner dialogues and attachments I am somewhat embarrassed or ashamed by.  Now step one is always to witness but not judge our reactions to things (truth not stories!)… but I’m definitely still working on that step.  So committing to choices I have explored in the path feels like it has twice the perils.  The unknowns of moving forward along the path, but also knowledge of the perils of the past, and even more daunting the guilt/shame/judgement around the realization of what makes up many of the “hurdles” I place in my own way.

Take for instance my recent bout with depression.  In the moment it felt like I made the “best” choices I could, but in retrospect I still had all of the usual choices available to me on some level.  I could have chosen to not eat, or eat in ways I know would nourish my body, instead of giving in to the bodily cry for sugar.  I could have chosen to rest, and listen to what my body was screaming at me – that I had been pushing too hard, for too long – but instead I jumped straight into the mindset of, “What if this is the time I don’t get out of this.  What if this is the rest of my life?” A thought cycle that set up judgement, anxiety, more stress, feeling even less capable of making good choices and a lot more like I didn’t deserve to make good choices.  In essence I panicked, instead of listening, and choosing optimal actions based on my personal philosophies,  I made decisions based on how I felt in the moment.  Of course in this scenario this is complicated by the fact that I didn’t feel capable of making those choices at all in the moment, but that is something that I can change as time goes on.

So now I’ve got a week of eating quite sub-optimally on the books, and of not building desired habits, and of reinforcing habits that have kept me down.  So how do I re-capture the warrior feeling?  The desire is still there, but the feeling that I can embrace that desire is missing, as well as the feeling that I even deserve to claim the title of Warrior.  Surely a Warrior would have handled that situation better!

I think it comes down to what it always comes down to.  Am I willing to learn from my experience?  Will I be brave enough to face the truths that were uncovered?  Can I accept that I am enough, no matter what I do, but that in order to be even more “me” I need to work through these things?  Most of all, am I willing to face the vast, and amazing beauty of a life well led?  Because that is what I am hiding from.  That is what the sugar dulls – the desire for that life, and the fears of striving for it, and of not striving for it.  I am hiding in no man’s land, afraid of what I want, terrified of returning to what I had – which turns the landscape into one of fear and desolation, when in reality it is of the utmost beauty – if only I would choose to enter it freely, and drop my attachments at the door.

So how do I step back into the life I know I can have, and the one my soul cries for?  An act of will, and of faith, and of choice.

I choose to embrace the fear, hurt, and exhausted feelings as teachers, and take them with me if I must until the lessons are learned, but I am not meant for hiding in the shadows of those emotions.  I am meant for dancing in the sun, calling out the beauty, and rejoicing in the light and the dark as part of the wholeness of existence.  In order to heal, I cannot hide.

So choices must be made, once, twice, a thousand times, and rest taken when needed, and judgement set aside.

So how do I begin?  I step into the light and make true choices, no matter how difficult they feel.  Then I do it again, and again. Rest when necessary, and do it again.

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Ice Age Trail: Montrose Segment

This gallery contains 19 photos.

Do you ever have those days where you are trucking along quite well, and then all of a sudden – WHAM – your brain does a flip flop and you suddenly feel depressed, overwhelmed, sad, and a little beaten?  I … Continue reading

Rooting – Like a plant, not a pig

IMG_2567My coach keeps leveraging this great metaphor of a tree as we discuss establishing new habits.  (What? You didn’t know coaches had coaches? Oh yes! It’s vital, I wish everyone could have a coach to help them navigate their life. I also love the image that in order to do what we do, it is most effective if we have other’s helping us similar to how we help people, and they have others helping them… all the way down the line!  For us to live our best lives, we need the support – but not approval – of one another. I love that. Anyway, I digress…) The metaphor goes something like this – as you start a new habit you plant a seed.  As you continue with the new habit you feed it, and the more you tend to it, and care for it (and perform the new habit) the deeper the roots grow, and the stronger and more resilient the habit becomes.  Eventually the roots become so strong a flower blooms, or a tree bursts into leaf – metaphorically the results of having that new established habit.

I love this metaphor for a lot of reasons.  Nature always gets my attention, so its a pretty spot on attention grabber for me, but more importantly so many aspects of the metaphor stand.  Stop purposely practicing the habit too soon, and the roots aren’t established enough to survive the “lack of water.”  Approach the new habit with a poisonous mental attitude and at “best” the habit will grow deformed and sickly.  Not only that, have you ever planted a garden that turned out to be WAY too big for you?  You just couldn’t keep up with the watering, and weeding, and general maintenance?  How do you fix that?  You either continue to poorly neglect everything, or you have to let some of it go, so that you can give what you prioritize the care and attention it needs.  New habits are exactly like that as well.

When it comes to trying new things I tend to be an “all in” person once I make the decision to do it.  What this means functionally is that instead of focusing on one new habit, as the first in a series of new habits I need to acquire to reach my goal, I take on 8.  Then like the big garden, they all wither away.  Neuroscience backs this up and cognitive scientists recommend working on only one or maybe two new habits at a time. Which sounds slower to my impatient brain, but in reality, which is slower? – successfully establishing new habits one after another, or repeatedly being unsuccessful in establishing any of them!

There is another part of the metaphor – and I almost always picture a tree in various parts of its life cycle because I love trees and they work perfectly here – that often gets missed, but I think it is really important.  If we grow new habits by giving them attention and care, how do we get rid of old habits?

This is where the metaphor kicks into overdrive for me.  In order to lose old IMG_2581habits we have to stop watering the tree.  We have to stop caring for it and let it die.

Oh…… now I’m sad.

Now it makes sense why it is so difficult to transition to new habits, part of us wants to keep the old habit alive.  “Hey! Don’t kill this tree that has been a comfortable resting place for so long! Hey! Do you hear me!?”  All the while you have to walk over and tend the new tree, the new habit that will better serve you now.  If you don’t have focus, it is so easy to give in to the voice, and the sadness (at some level) of losing something comfortable.  Sometimes you chop down the tree in a fell stroke, sometimes it slowly withers, but in both cases the thoughts and reactions to the death of the tree need to be sorted, or you may be distracted and not tend the new tree as carefully.

This concept that every time we change something about ourselves we may also need to mourn the loss of what was is very challenging for me, but has also revolutionized how I think about the challenges I face while doing self work.  Instead of “What is wrong with me? I really want to give up TV why is this so hard, why am I not managing to do this!?” if I think of the tree it makes more sense, and I am kinder to myself, and more successful over time – “Ok, this is hard. TV has been a very comforting tree for a long time, and I’m sad I’m losing it. Also it has provided me with shade and leaves, and a place to hang my swing so now I have to find new ways to address those needs. Plus I need to tend this new tree, which is kind of hard, doubly because I’m still sad about the TV tree…” and so on. It makes sense, and what I can understand I have a lot better chance of addressing.

So as I think about the goals, habits, and thoughts I’m working to grow, I often think, “What am I watering right now?” as a way to help me stay focused, and as I falter from the practices I want to foster it is easier for me to understand why, and how important it is to set up clear fences in the beginning, because otherwise you may just walk by the dying tree and make yourself miserable, instead of focusing on the beautiful trees and flowers that are blooming as they grow big and strong.

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What to feed?

Have you ever had one of those days where you are going along, the sun is shining, a blue bird is sitting on your shoulder, there is happy music following you, and all feels right with the world?

North Cascade Pass, 2015Ok, me neither, but I have definitely had days that have been metaphorically like that.  Today was one of them.  There wasn’t anything particularly special that happened, but I was definitely in a place of gratitude.  I got an encouraging and very heartfelt note from a friend.  I felt incredibly thankful that it feels like I am aligning my life with my life’s purpose, that I have so many incredible people surrounding me, that I have developed such a supportive network that helps keep me moving forward.  I felt thankful for the weather, for my life, for the universe… just in general it was a very loving gratefulness kind of day.

Then I got some news that wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I had been hoping for something different.  Final prognosis – I’m officially out of treatment options for a foot injury I’ve been trying to heal for years, unless I’m ready to have a surgery that doesn’t have great outcomes.  Crap.

After I was done badgering my poor doctor with questions about wasn’t there ANY other options (for the third time), and whining to my mother, I had choices to make.  What kind of day was I going to have.  Was I going to let my frustration drive me to throw my “no sugar” goal out the window? Was I going to engage in activities that would feed the part of me that wanted to throw a temper tantrum, or the part of me that I have been working to feed that recognizes emotions come and go, and don’t have to upset the still lake they are floating over?

I decided to choose the second, and then actually did.  This is a big deal for me.  Injuries that impact my ability to move are a huge trigger for many of my deranged inner dialogues around worth, normativity, and a host of other things. Historically they spin me out for a while, and this foot injury has been a source of unending lessons about myself, how I think, and how I have related to the world over the last couple of years. I’ve let it drive me into depression, and a host of other barriers, but today, I could see clearly enough to make the choice not to compound things.  Sure, I could binge eat, watch TV and feel sorry for myself, but where would that get me?  What if, instead, I remember that lovely sunny feeling of loving kindness from earlier in the day and choose activities that feed that?  What if I focus on one of my main mantras to always seek the sun through the clouds?  It doesn’t change the current situation, but it doesn’t compound it either.  I can step aside, and witness, and learn, without the turmoil.  I can step back and look at the situation more holistically. It isn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but it also isn’t the end of the world, or anywhere near it.

Am I still sad and frustrated?  Sure.  But I’m also grateful for the lessons I have learned, and for the opportunity to see how much my thinking really has changed.  In the past it would have taken me days, weeks, or months of sitting and churning to get to the place I got in 20 minutes today.  To decide I was going to honor and observe my emotions, but choose my actions based on the outcomes I want to achieve.

I like the visual that Thich Nhat Hanh paints when he says, “Emotions are like clouds in a windy sky,” or Pema Chodron when she says, “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”  I have a long way to go to truly embody the peacefulness of the sky – especially as I picture it meaning the entirety of the Universe  – but I’m taking heart that in this instance I have taken a clear step in that direction.

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Accepting Ourselves (Yes, even our strengths)

Accepting ourselves as we currently are, as we strive to understand who that is, all while that very act of observation is changing who we are, is a big part of the Impeccable Warrior path.  Recently, I’ve been noticing something about my self-acceptance that struck me as unexpected, so I’ve been trying to dive into it.

It is far easier for me to accept, and share, my vulnerability, weaknesses, and Mount St. Helens, 2015perceived shortcomings than it is to embrace my strengths. (and heaven forbid share them!)

As I’ve thought more and more about it this became less of a surprise.  As a child I learned very early on that acceptance from my peers was not to be won by letting my strengths fully show.  The things adults valued, and that I was quite good at – academic success, good manners, acting like an adult, etc were things that got me mocked by my peers.  Add in the fact that I’ve been 5’9″ or taller since the 4th grade (in the 5th grade I was the tallest person in the school – teachers and administrators included!) and it wasn’t exactly a recipe for an easy, struggle free, orientation to my peer group (not that I think anyone had one of those!).  What I learned, despite my poor parents’ phenomenal efforts, was that other peoples’ strengths, and needs, came before mine, because I was too strong, too big, too smart, too fast (academically, not physically, I will never be a sprinter), etc. I was often asked to wait for others, to watch out for others, to protect others – at the same time the “others” were often not very… appreciative… of these acts.  So the way I made sense of that disparity was to be uncomfortable, and somewhat ashamed of my gifts, unless I could employ them perfectly.  Which is nigh impossible over time. (I figure out 20+ years later. It is definitely a journey!)

So I suppose it isn’t that big of a surprise that I shrink from fully embracing my strengths, and in this one situation struggle with a little bit of scarcity mindset. It feels like if I am very good at something, somehow that takes away from others’ experiences as they grow.  This is not true in reverse, of course. As with many things, one of my greatest desires for other people is for them to fully embrace who they are, and their strengths!  The trick is to embrace that mindset for myself as well.

Now I suppose I could continue along my path and not address these convoluted beliefs and attachments, except 1) that is definitely not the Warrior path, and 2) they hide some pretty significant dark corners that will (and do) hold me back.

Right from the start is the obvious ramification,  if I don’t accept my strengths, as well as my vulnerabilities, how can I possibly live my biggest life, and achieve the dreams unique to me?  How can I open up spaces for others to fully accept themselves if I will only accept the poor things about myself? (see poem here) Even more insidious though, is the hidden ego in all of this.  It sounds like low self esteem, or poor self worth, which it is… but it is also feeding a fragile ego. If I don’t accept my strengths and push them, I can’t find out their limits, I can’t push them beyond their boundaries and learn how to move those boundaries further out.  If I don’t engage in that my ego doesn’t have to potentially face up to the fact it isn’t as superior as it thinks.  Not to mention, who am I to believe that others could not keep up?  Possibly true in the narrow world of a grade school classroom – decidedly NOT true in my current life.  Now that is some serious ego!

So it turns into a big interlocking hairball (as a friend of mine likes to call such things) of areas I need to shine light on, and unravel, so that I can move forward.  By not doing so it remains a roadblock to my success, and my path.

I had the honor to be part of a year long leadership program a couple years ago, and the head of the program opened it up with a discussion of why we shouldn’t focus on strengthening our weaknesses – because then with a lot of effort we become moderately good at everything – but to strengthen our strengths, so that we can truly excel at them.

You have to take such advice with a little bit of salt because that decision has to be contextual, but overall the concept turned almost everyone in the room on their heads.  What would a workplace (the main focus of the training) be like if everyone was doing their exceptional things, instead of plodding along with their weaknesses?  I picture a big jigsaw of happy awesomeness where our strengths and weaknesses piece together to make a brilliant picture.  I think this holds true for our communities as well, if only we are brave enough to be ourselves!

Right now I’m being forced by the decisions I’m making, and the boundaries I’m choosing to push in order to reach my goals, to stand face to face with my fears around success, my feelings of inadequacy and not deserving to own my ironpeak_2013strengths.  Through them is the only way to climb up the mountain.  For a while they will continue to travel with me, and I will have to carry them in many places in order to continue moving forward, making my journey that much more challenging, but eventually I will have to put them down, or I will not be able to move much further.  An outcome I refuse to accept.

Identifying these “travelers” is one of many ways we can shine light into our dark corners.  The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz calls them attachments, which makes a lot of sense to me, but I also really like the powerful imagery that these kinds of beliefs are fellow travelers we either have to care for, carry, and be responsible for getting to the destination, or that we need to lovingly let go of, so that we are both free to achieve our higher purposes. (Especially since these “travelers” often performed a healthy function at some point in the past. So honor them, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry them around forever!)  I like the visual of climbing a mountain because just like trying to carry real people, at some point the extra load will weigh you down so much you can’t reach your goal. (Plus, mountains!)

In the end, the entire concept of strengths and weaknesses can be problematized by accepting that on the path there is no good or bad, just experiences to learn from, and I have to say, I think I will be learning from my strengths for quite a while to come.

The theory of weight and everything

Weight is a funny word, if you stare at it long enough.  It starts out looking mostly
normal, and then the longer you stare the weirder and less correct it looks.  Go ahead, try it, I’ll wait (haha!).

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See?

The most interesting thing about the word is that the meaning it conveys does kind of the same thing.  At first glance weight means nothing more than the relationship between an item, gravity, and a surface.  (I’m really tempted to pull out a force diagram, I love force diagrams…)  It is a number that describes this relationship.  As you stare at it longer though, you begin to see the additional meanings placed on it by the social, cultural, psychological, and whatever other categories you like.

Now this is a complex topic, and I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of  the culture around weight/fitness/health or body acceptance- at least not today –  though it is a topic I am passionate about.  Today I want to dive into a more personal weirdness around the topic.  Relativity.

When I was very heavy I was convinced I could not do many of the things I wanted to solely because of my size. People disagreed in some cases but in my world this was an absolute.  As I lost weight and gained more confidence in myself, my body, and my ability to move, more things became possible, but because all of these things were changing at the same time I could cheat a little. While most of my brain realized that it had more to do with my changing mindset and outlook on life than the actual number on the scale, I didn’t have to look too closely at what the other part of my brain was thinking, because there was no conflict.

For various reasons I have gained quite a bit of weight since I hit my lowest 2 years ago.  While I wouldn’t have chosen that it has given me a great environment to explore what parts of me really believe about weight.  One of the biggest “A-Has!” I had while having a blast in Turkey was that I’m really enjoying having confidence in who I am, and that while I may not look like most of the other people doing the things I dream of, I’m still rocking them.  Since the same things were not even possibilities to me at the same weight 2 years ago, this really shined a practical light on how much of our experience is perception.

Which made it all the weirder when not 2 weeks after I got back I found myself fairytower_echthinking, “Well I have to drop weight before I can go to Scotland this summer.”  Uhhhh, what?   I literally just proved that I can do the trip at my current weight, even that I can do what I had set as my performance goal for Scotland – to be able to walk 10 miles a day reliably. Are there skills I’d like to work on that will make the trip easier/even better?  Sure. However I know I can have a phenomenal time as I am, so I should be confident and on top of the moon!  Yet that voice decrying my current state is getting louder.

In the past this would probably have triggered some depression for me.  I would have felt like I was dealing with the same issues I did years ago, and I would have dropped into an inner dialogue of failure.  Now though, that I have this new mentality, and because I understand that working on problems resembles a spiral far more than a straight line, I love situations like this. Through this experience and inner dialogue I can get face to face with what is really going on, and I can recognize that while the general topics and dialogue may be the same, the level with which I am working with them has changed dramatically.

I can now see that, at lest in part, this is a defense mechanism of my inner critic, of the voice whose job it is to keep me safe, trying to get me to swerve off the very obviously sketchy goal of getting back on a plane across an ocean and having a fantastically awesome time.  But it is her job, so once I can see behind the curtain that the message is coming from her, I can better deal with the inaccuracies.

It is also part of my ongoing work of rationalizing some of the inequities of my expectations. With many of my dreams I had an expectation of how I would look while achieving them, and my current reality doesn’t quite match my expectation.  Summer Innanen (http://summerinnanen.com/) has a great quote that talks about how you have to mourn the loss of the body you constructed as the one you should have, and embrace and celebrate the one you do have. So I think this is one more step towards accepting that – because until that attachment to the “should” body is let go, it will negatively color the astounding experience of my current body. Not to mention give the inner voices fodder to attack with.

In the end it comes back to the simple and the complex.  The inner dialogues are complex, the way we see the world is complex, and in many ways the way we experience the world, is complex…  but the solutions are often simple.  (Note I in no way mentioned easy)  If I question my beliefs, and am willing to dive deep to understand, and let go of the ones that I do not agree are true, what possibilities arise? If I change what beliefs fuel my perception, my perception, and thus my experience changes – without ever having to change the number that describes the relationship between my body, the surface I am on/in, and gravity.  Pretty cool!

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I’ve been part of a group of wonderful women who are changing how they think about their bodies for a while now.  Here is what I wrote to them when I got back from Turkey.  Sometimes the wisdom we need to remember is in ourselves all along…

Well ladies. I did something crazy 10 days ago that really tested how far I’ve come around my self image, and relationship to my body. I bought a ticket to Istanbul inTurkey, and 24 hours later was on a plane with a friend of mine! I found an incredible deal (we did the entire trip for the usual cost of the flight) and I decided it was one of those decision points where you live the life you want, or bow to what has always been. So to Turkey I went! There were constant opportunities to berate myself for how I looked in pictures, or about how I got winded walking up a seemingly endless steep hill (that even the fittest guy in our group got winded on)… but instead I focused on OMG – I’m in TURKEY! and that I could walk up the hill, and the beautiful scenery in the photos – and that I was in them, and that was beautiful too. The last mission kept popping into my head as I embraced that even though I didn’t have the body I had always been waiting for before I did this kind of thing, I was in fact doing it, and having a phenomenal time. I feel like my relationship with my body really strengthened through that testing. I’m much more appreciative. I’m not sure what I will do to top going abroad (for the first time ever) on 30 hours notice, but I’m really enjoying this new confidence that while I may not look like most of the other people doing the things I dream of, I’m still going to rock them, and they can cope or not.  Dream following is terrifying, and oh so very rewarding!

 

When I “don’t want to”

Some days I wake up and I just don’t want to.  My body hurts, my brain is conflicted, and what I seem to want most is to crawl back into bed, burrow under the covers, and escape – no let’s be honest, hide – from my world.

That’s a big choice, and I tend to be aware of hitting the top of the spectrum where I disengage from my world entirely for a time, but recently I’ve been thinking about the middle.  The space where you are only half engaging with your life without even realizing it. My escapist preferences lean towards television and sugar, with the occasional foray into video games of one kind or another. Oh, then there is “busyness” but that is definitely another post. What they all have in common is the ability to numb my experience of reality, and kill time.  All of those things can be perfectly fine things to choose to experience, but I know for me they tend to fill time, but not address any of the buckets I need to fill to be well, and even more insidious I’m not always aware of the choice I’m making.  “Just one episode” can quickly turn into 2 or 3, or an entire evening.  Rarely do I feel more energized, refreshed, or better able to cope after going “under the blanket” of numbing agents, yet it happens, more often then I would like.  The cost of this used to seem minimal to me, so I didn’t get the house picked up, or whatever task I had on my to-do list, not a big deal. My survival was not impacted.  However as I have moved towards thriving, and believing I can have the big things I want in life, I realize the cost is actually much higher.  The things I don’t tackle now ARE the things that will refresh, revitalize, and keep the fires of my soul stoked. Not only that if I don’t engage with them I lose steam, and patterns of un-wellness tend to creep back in.  When I compare that with vegging in front of the tv… well now it feels like that is a problem that is really holding me back.

What I’m talking about here is different than purposeful rest. Rest is vital, and not something I am very good at, but it is also different.  I would feel differently about the numbing agents in my life if I came out the other side better balanced and more energized, but for me that just isn’t the case.

Even today, even though I started this post first thing this morning so it was in the forefront of my mind, then went to yoga and came back refreshed and energized, as soon as I sat in front of the TV to eat breakfast (I know, I know) I fell into the trap. 2 hours later and despite having a to-do list as long as my arm of things I *want* to tackle today, I instead watched a bunch of Stargate episodes I have already seen a hundred times.  Not the plan!

One of the tenets that I have adopted that really dumped me on my head was the concept of being responsible for myself. Now at first glance of COURSE I am responsible for myself. Who else would be responsible for me? But it goes so much further and deeper.  It gets to those deep places where we are subconsciously (or consciously) waiting to be rescued, or blaming society, or just plain think we can’t.  If I want to accomplish things I am currently not, I have to be willing to look at what I can change to achieve them.  I can’t blame my long term struggles with chronic pain and fatigue, I can’t dismiss things as simply as “I struggle with depression so there” (ya, a few sore spots there let me tell you, I know!) I have to ask myself what, within my boundaries of possibility, can I do to get closer to what my heart is calling for. What can I do, even in a small way, to let that tiny voice know that I hear it and want to honor it?  What can I learn about myself, that is hiding and driving these behaviours that do not serve my greater life? (spoiler: for me its almost always fear and self worth issues)  Here is the kicker. My experience is that once you get through the rejection that you can impact where those boundaries are, and the anger that you – who are already so tired, overtaxed, and struggling to survive yet alone thrive – are also responsible for picking yourself up, and you start taking those baby steps toward the “wall of impossibility,” the wall moves. I kid you not.  It may not even move perceptibly, but it moves.  Which means that those tiny honorings of your longings, even if it is just saying to them in your head “I hear you, I just don’t know what to do about it” can eventually move that wall so far out that you don’t even recognize your world.

Which brings me back to my problem with numbing agents. Unfortunately sometimes the answer can feel unpleasant – sometimes even implausible, in fact almost all of the changes I’ve made that have led to the greatest impacts have been kind of a struggle for me. (I’ve been told that is my fear of success rearing its head. Whatever, its annoying!) After trying to stick my head in the sand I’ve finally come to face my own responsibility in today’s matter.  So, starting Monday, as part of a great “How well can you care for yourself” extravaganza, I’m giving up television and sugar for 30 days. I hadn’t really planned on declaring that. It sounds terrifying and like something I’m not sure I can successfully do, but there you go.  Sometimes stepping out with the brave moves is terribly exciting and sexy (Turkey, ahem), and sometimes it is mundane. I find the mundane far more difficult, but usually the larger long term impact.

So there you go. I gave a keynote to a large group of grad students on finding balance in their lives, and one of the phrases I used that really resonated with them was this, “Purpose not perfection.” I’m not striving for perfection anymore, I know full well that few can travel that path successfully, but I am striving to be purposeful. If I am making the best choices I can in a given moment, consciously, even (possibly even especially) if I’m not sure I can accomplish them, then I am living the best life I can, and I can’t really desire more than that.

An IMPORTANT note to those who struggle with depression or other mental health issues: Talking about some of the areas this post ended up touching on is a little scary to me because when I first started thinking about these kinds of things the concept that I was the only person who could dig me out of the extremely deep hole I was living in did not only seem laughable, but was an incredibly strong depression trigger for me.  It brought together so many things I didn’t feel like I could cope with, that then appeared to be my only salvation. So I want to say this. Seek help. Create/find/hire a network. Know that the climb is one step at a time and that instead of it taking away from your already depleted life energy it will replenish it, over time. Please be patient. You bring a unique and needed energy to our existence. Yes, I’m serious.  

I am wholly unqualified to give advice.  I do know that some of my darkest days were pondering through this kind of thinking, and it was scary and very nearly overwhelmed me. So I want to stress that there is light, there is always light, whether you can currently see it or not.  While we are responsible for ourselves, that doesn’t mean in any way that we don’t sometimes (often) need the support of others to draw back the curtain so that we can remember the sun.  In fact being responsible to ourselves means seeking that support when desired or needed.  It isn’t easy, but I firmly believe it is worth it – at least it has been for me. 

 

Turkey Trip – Choosing to Go

This post is the first in a series of posts about a recent trip I took to Turkey.

I have wanted to travel internationally for most of my life.  It all began with reading a children’s book that had been my Mothers, Eloise in Moscow. I still love that book, and because of it I will someday make my way to Moscow.

Despite my desire International travel was not something that I felt was possible for me until recently. For one it is difficult to imagine sitting on a plane for 6, 10, 12+ hours when you weigh more than 400 pounds and flying domestically doesn’t even seem viable.  An even bigger barrier was the level of anxiety in my life.  As a complex-systems thinker I can come up with 20 disaster scenarios in 30 seconds or less at any given moment, and when that drives your life, mixed with a belief that your worth is performative… well getting in a giant tube you can’t get out of with a bunch of strangers who you think will judge you every moment and in a situation where you will be squashed and bruised and terrified you will die of SOMETHING at any moment just isn’t high on the priority list.  That doesn’t even get into what might happen when the plane landed!  There were other reasons too, like I was in grad school with no money and i did not yet have the same view of “making things happen” that I do now.

When I first decided to figure out how to thrive in my life, instead of just survive, travel was a big motivator. To me thriving includes experiencing as much as I can, and  that definitely includes travel.  So as I dropped weight, and gained confidence in my own ability to function getting on a plane became more possible.  At about the same time I started a new job, one that would require some travel, and making the choice to step out in faith that by the time I needed to get on a plane I would be ready to do so  is a choice that will someday be a post in itself, I’m sure.  That first business trip I was terrified I would be thrown off the plane, but when I returned home, successfully having gone from WI to Colorado, I felt like a new world had opened up to me.  I then promptly booked a dream trip to Seattle, WA and have been toodling around the US since. Ok, it wasn’t quite that easy, but that was the outcome!

So enter this year. I had promised myself a trip to Scotland when I had dropped 100 pounds, but never took it. I decided that THIS was the year that it was going to happen, so planning has been going on in earnest. Christmas was full of presents from my parents of things that would be helpful like outlet adapters, and noise canceling headphones. I’m mentally ramping up for my first international trip this summer, and I have a friend who has traveled a lot and is helping me with planning. Go me!  I am already feeling quite proud of myself, and how different the thought about going to Scotland feels.  Little did I know all of this prep would also make another trip possible!

One day over lunch another friend who will be traveling to Scotland for work this Spring mentions that Turkish Air is running a pretty deep fare sale and she got her flight very cheap, I should check it out. Despite my suspicion that the fares were only for spring travel I did, and what I found was that yes, the fares were only good through April (too early to go to Scotland if you want to hike in the Highlands not through snow), but that the sale was to many locations, not just Edinburgh, including a ridiculous price to go to Istanbul Turkey.

Now I had planned to go to Istanbul 2 years ago for a good friend’s wedding.  It was a big deal, and while my eventual bailing did have some rational basis in that I was in a walking boot trying to heal a “sort of” broken foot, the real reason I bailed was that it just wasn’t possible for me yet. I didn’t have the mental ways of thinking to overcome all of the anxiety, fear, and general overwhelming-ness (it is so a word) of such a trip.  I can see that now, looking back.

But now, I looked at the ridiculous fare and my first thought was – oooo, that would be fun!  I half jokingly emailed my travel guru friend to see if she might want to go in March or April, plenty of time to plan. Her response was a resounding yes, but with one caveat. Due to her work schedule we would need to go… next week.

Huh.

Here I had the first of many choices to make.  I could dismiss the possibility of such a trip on such short notice.  Which in my mind was the choice that would lead to me continuing the type of life I have been living.  Not a bad life to be sure, and by many definitions highly successful, but not the life I dreamed of.  Or I could look at ways to make it happen. To make the bold choice, to step up and live like the person I want to be, and that person DEFINITELY wanted to go to Turkey on a whim. The amount of resonance of this choice was almost deafening.

So my friend and I started a serious discussion about whether this could happen.  We had 12 hours to decide, no problem!

Over the course of that 12 hours, beginning on a Tuesday night, our tentative itinerary went from leaving the next Monday, to leaving Thursday.  We had to leave by Friday or the trip wouldn’t be long enough to be worth it, and if we were going to do that I didn’t have anything specific going on on Thursday, so why wouldn’t we just leave then?  I lost count of how many times one or the other of us said, “Oh my god, are we really doing this?”

And we really were!  We bought our tickets Wednesday afternoon and were on a flight to Istanbul just over 24 hours later.  For people that know both my friend and I they assume that she was the instigator. In the past it would have been an incredibly safe assumption. But not this time.  In the life I am creating, I do this sort of thing, and I suspect that specific choice, the choice to follow my desires and step into the life I want, instead of listening to the “safe, should” voices, will be something I am forever proud of.  It is a choice made possible only by all the other choices toward change I have made, which is awesome.

Taking the trip with so little planning required us to approach it with the mindset of “this will all work out.” Something that was tested over and over again… and things always did work out!  Did I mention we bought tickets before I could reach my Turkish friend? We had a back up plan but didn’t know for sure where we would be staying, what we would be doing… or any of that.

That night I went to bed and my last thought was, “Holy Sh*t, I’m going to Turkey tomorrow.” and a big part of me still didn’t believe it.