Friday, January 27, 2012

Cultivativing Laughter, Song, and Dance

If you know me personally, you know that I am a huge fan of Brene Brown, and you have probably been tied down and forced to watch her Ted Talk. If you haven't seen it yet, watch it. It's 20 minutes, and you can listen to it while you're cooking. It. changed. my. life.

Brene is a shame researcher, and to steal from the blurb on the Ted Talk she"studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share."

I've read all of her books (shocking no one), and actually took an online course on vulnerability that was amazing. There are many aspects of her research that have impacted me, but possibly my favorite has been re-introducing myself to cultivating laughter, song, and dance. Basically, letting go of being cool, and always being in control. (If this topic interests you, I also strongly recommend her book The Gifts of Imperfection, which is not self-helpy in any way).

I used to be someone who was "free" in every sense of the word. If I thought something was funny, I would laugh out loud, and possibly smash my eye into a music stand, causing a black eye for high school graduation (true story). When I played, if I was into the music, I danced around on the stage, even if it was a competition, even when I was getting the stink eye from my loving music teacher. I danced on tables at rest stops (not in a kinky way, just in a full of exuberance way). I sang loudly and poorly. I was connected to my feelings, and I had a rare ability to be an emotional catalyst - if I was "feeling it" the whole room would start to feel the same sense of joyfulness. I was pretty hard to ignore.

*note - in unrelated news, I had horrible teeth, which after 8 years of braces were eventually fixed. Unfortunately, I had pictures of these events, but I destroyed them all because I thought my teeth were ugly. Sigh. So, this is a pictureless post.*

The sad thing is that my superpower emotional catalysm worked just as effectively on the other side of the spectrum. If I was pissed, the hairs on the backs of people's necks would start to stand up. If I was brooding, not only was it totally obvious, but it could get ugly. I went through a rough patch or two, or many. I didn't want to feel the pain of those experiences, so I stopped playing music - my connection to my own emotions. I didn't want to color the atmosphere with my own negativity, so I stopped projecting. I stopped tapping into myself.

Eventually, I got over my rough patches, I found some peace. However, I continued to censor myself. I told myself that my emotions were too powerful, that I was a grown-up now, that people would think I was weird. But the reality was that I was afraid to feel. And by numbing the bad emotions, I was also numbing the good emotions.

Then I watched this Ted Talk, and read this book.

I've spent the last year working on my vulnerability - my willingness to feel in front of the people I care about, and not just in the shower by myself. It's been a remarkable process.

I've reconnected with a friend who I missed dearly by choosing to reach out, to apologize for something that happened 13 years ago, even though I was terrified of being scoffed at, ignored, or derided.

I've been able to establish a great connection with a new friend, who I allowed to enter my personal bubble about 5 years before admission is allowed, normally after rigorous testing, and development of trust. It's been wonderful, and fulfilling.

My hubs and I have been able to talk with complete honesty and openness about huge topics that would change our lives forever, without worry of being judged, deemed unfit, or selfish.

I've worked with a counselor, and been able to work through my relationships with my family, with my sense of self, and my fear of having to solve impossible problems.

I danced, laughed, and sang publicly during a race when everyone around me was suffering, and I know I connected with at least that guy running in the hoola skirt, and the belly dancers. More importantly, I connected with myself.

Do you ever let yourself dance with abandon? Do you sing out loud in the car, even when the people you love are in it? Do you allow yourself to feel the good stuff and the bad stuff?

Seriously, watch the video.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My First Marathon - The Long Version w/Pics

The race was awesome! The weather was perfect – started a little chilly and cloudy, and stayed that way throughout the race – which is huge when it’s AZ. There was no sun beating down the entire time. There was not a 40 degree difference from start to finish.

I had a great time throughout the race, but it was the people who really made it. I met my Mom at mile 8 (the race went right past her house), and she rode her bike throughout the rest of the race with me. She carried water and electrolyte for me, since I was afraid that as a back of the packer, the race would run out (they didn’t). She also had snacks, lip gloss, sunscreen, body glide – things I wasn’t sure if I would need, but didn’t want to carry.

I cannot make this picture go right side up, no matter how I save it. Ahh, technology.
She also met me at basically every mile to cheer me on, which was great.

The race ran past my friend KJ’s house at mile 15, and then again at mile 17. She and her husband were out there cheering me on, and made me an amazing sign.

I love that it was pink, covered in sparkles, had my name, and most of all – that she made it for me. She loves me for who I am (even if I am a person who sings Come on Eileen at the top of her lungs, in an incredibly sparkly skirt as she’s cheering me on).

Autam and J were scheduled to meet me at mile 24, and Autam was going to run the final two miles with me – which was actually quite a sacrifice, as her knees need to be rescoped . Instead, they surprised me at mile 22, which may have been the best surprise ever. I may or may not have been running in place at this point, but unlike most of the people around me, I wasn’t hobbled in pain, or stumbling around.

J hightailed it to the finish line, and caught me as I completely lost it after the race. He was so proud, and that actually made me feel proud of myself. He’s been so supportive of the entire process, and seeing him at the finish line was awesome. It was also great that he actually posted on facebook about the race – something he never ever does. Just showed me how much he cared.
I *may* have had to photoshop the "cold" part of this picture.
What went well:

- My training: I started training with a good base – about 10 miles as a standard weekend long run for 6 months or so. I was diligent in following my plan, but I also was willing to be flexible to account for colds and travel. I did all of my scheduled long runs, and I felt great the entire time. My food intake was deliberate, and I focused on making sure I was getting enough protein and some fats (which I actually struggle with).

- The right clothes: There was a big part of me that wanted to wear some other clothes for the race – accessorize appropriately, wear my @Runprettyfar blossom top that speaks to me with it’s “Find Your Bliss” message – but I was training in this outfit, and I knew it was going to work. I wound up having no chafing (which may have been a result of coating my entire body in body glide, deodorant and/or sunscreen) and I didn’t even have a blister. It was the right choice.

- Enjoying the moment: For me, the training was the hard part. The race itself was the celebration, and I wanted to make sure that I fully enjoyed the experience. I danced with belly dancers, I was chased by cheerleading wild animals who shouted things like “You look tasty!” I sang at the top of my lungs, and played air guitar as I ran around (possibly annoying the other people on the course). I fully allowed myself to BE present, and enjoy the good stuff, knowing that it would carry me through the bad stuff. Then there really wasn’t any bad stuff, and I was glad I had taken the time to enjoy it all.

- Listen to your body more than the experts: I may have read every single possible article, book, blog, and tweet about running your first full marathon, and I also sent out random questions on the interwebs, and got quick responses from very supportive people. It was great to have that info, but the running community said over and over again – listen to your body, do what works for you. For me, the smartest move was to not gorge on pasta. I had a little, and I did it two nights before, rather than the night before. However, the leftovers were possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten AFTER the race.

What I learned:

- Body glide is way better than Vaseline , and doesn’t stain your clothes.

- Wear the right sized underoos - just trust me on this one. If your undies are too big, it’s going to chafe in the WRONG places.

- I’m much stronger than I thought I was – there was no wall, there was no agony. It almost seems surreal because it went so well. There were several training runs on the tready, where I finished and then questioned myself – did I do my math right? Did I really just run for 5 hours? Cause I swear it doesn’t feel like I did… I am strong, and healthy. I am powerful. I always felt like I was strong and determined, but now I KNOW I am.

My favorite race photo – of the finish! It’s hard to tell from the back but I was crying hysterically because the medical tent people were cheering me on so enthusiastically. They were also jumping up and down and doing YMCA, which for some reason was a very emotional song at that moment.

Of course my favorite picture won't load correctly either.
Opportunities for Improvement:

- Start the race on time. I was supremely annoyed that they were going to delay the race by 30 minutes because one light rail train was running late. I was even more annoyed because they didn’t bother to tell us this until we were all lined up and the gun was about to go off. I could have hit the portapotty.

- Don’t have the final miles of the race be the hilliest. There was one hill… one hill that was in the Papagos around mile 23, where I had the following conversation with Autam:

Eileen: As long as we aren’t going up that hill in the distance, I’m going to be fine. This is a piece of cake.

Autam: You’re doing great!
(5 minutes later)
Eileen: Please tell me we aren’t going up that hill?
Autam: …
Eileen: No, please tell me the course doesn’t go up that hill?!
Autam… um…
Eileen: Shit! We ARE going up that hill. *&%$#@@%&I)(&%
Autam: ….

- When the cheer teams are more tired than you are, it’s a problem. Seriously, watching cheerleaders really dragging ass, and hardly waving a pom pom as you trot by does not energize you in any way. I would have preferred no cheerleaders to tired ones.

And finally - These are the signs that my family made for me, that my mom used to cheer me on throughout the course. She then bullied J, Autam, and three random people to hold the signs up for a picture, making sure that they knew she did NOT want their faces in the pic! :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Marathon - The Short Version

I'm going to be writing a longer post about the good, the bad, what I learned, that will be too wordy and longish, but for now, I will tell you how it went just by this short(ish) story.

One of my new years resolutions was to score 2600 pts at the Summer Series races. In order to put down a number I needed to do some extensive research - shocking no one - and while I was reviewing each of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 races, there was one woman who seemed like a good target. Her name is Adrienne Pollard (I don't actually know her, but this is the beauty of online results) and I decided to mark her this year. She's the woman I want to beat - or her times are.

Note: I'm very competitive, but I'm actually quite nice while racing. I always cheer people on, and try to be encouraging when people are suffering. I'm not like "Oh YOU'RE Adrienne Pollard? I'm going to eat you for breakfast. And then eat some breakfast." Really, I swear.
So I was just looking up my official time, which is about 15 minutes better than I was expecting (#winning!), but what made my day was the name directly below me on the results in my Age Group:

I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be a good racing year!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Mystery/Thriller Story...

During a recent run, the perceptive/hyper-aware side of me turned my run into a mystery/thriller.

I ran past a guy in a work truck, next to a power box. He sat in the truck  the entire time I was running up the block, and decided to get out of the vehicle just as I was running by. I immediately grabbed my keys and put them in 'stab eye' mode in my hand, in case he came after me.

There was an icecream truck driving around the neighborhood. This may not seem odd, except for two things:
1. The icecream truck is NEVER in our neighborhood in the summer (I work remotely, I would know that music anywhere)
2. It was approximately 38 degrees out. In Arizona.
I'm convinced he was a kidnapper. I felt an instant urge to call the police.

As I ran past the back of a neighborhood, the distinct smell of bleach overpowered me. Keep in mind, I have no sense of smell - I could taste the bleach. It was powerful enough that it made my nose sting and eyes water. It was definitely not pool chemicals (they taste different). I wondered what blood stains they were cleaning up, and if they realized that it was dead giveaway that they were using copious amounts of bleach!

I opted out of google searching "mopping up blood stains".

Finally, I saw large bags of fertilizer stacked around the neighborhood. What's that? You think it was just the fertilizer for the summer grass, and that's why the stacks were at the parks? I don't think so. I think it was to make explosives.

At least that's what I thought as I wrote my mystery story in my head - and it helped me push that last few miles as I "ran away" from the bad guys. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Things I Can't Make Up

* I solemnly swear that I am up to no good not exaggerating this in any way. Really, it needs no elaboration*

What I am going to eat for lunch today:
- 1/2 piece of plain chicken
- 1 tortilla
- handful of almonds

Except without all the colorful stuff. Just the chicken and the tortilla

What my hubs packed for lunch today*:
- 6 egg omelette with sausage, ham, and cheese
- 3 pieces of chicken
- 2 tortillas
- 2 hamburger patties
- 1 tofu burger patty
- 3 muscle milk protein shakes
- 2 containers of yogurt
- 2 packets of little kid string cheese
- 1 baggie full of shredded cheese
- 1 container of barbeque sauce**
- 1 can of diet cream soda (why bother with the diet stuff at this point?)
- 1 bottle of gatorade-esque sports drink***

I had to wade through MANY pages of skinny girls eating cake to find this picture.
*Again, I promise this is completely accurate
**You may notice a lack of vegetables in our collective diets
***Lucky for me, he may eat an enormous quantity of food, but he pays the grocery bill, and also works out enough to be able to eat this mega lunch daily.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Uncategorizing Me

*Note: For those following this blog for adoption information, that's not going away. I'm just going to be revealing more aspects of myself. No hard feelings if you're not interested!*

I am complex, yet constant. I do not fit into boxes well, though I've tried to squeeze into many - even boxes of my own creation. I no longer feel the need to pigeon-hole myself, so this blog is not about the runner me, or the prospective adoptive parent me - it's just me. The uncategorized me.

Since I've never let the interwebs truly know me, I thought I'd give everyone a chance to catch up.

I am intelligent, but I'm not a member of the intelligentsia.
I'm fascinated by quantum physics, and the Hunger Games. I read about brain science and love science fiction. I love anything to do with a cultural experience different from my own, which lures me into spending years trying to understand how Mao brainwashed millions of people during the Cultural Revolution, and also sucks me right into Harry Potter's universe.

I am a musician, but I'm not a musician.
I grew up in the house of a jazz snob, and understand music theory at a post- doctorate level, but I haven't touched an instrument in 12 years. I love jazz and the emotional places it can take me, but I also love dirty gangsta rap and everything in between (and I mean everything - ska, hard rock, and I have a special love for funk). My iPod is schizophrenic.

Random Note: I can't spell schizophrenic without help.

I am a professional, but I'm not professional.
I been with a [sorry Internet - undisclosed] Fortune 500 company for 12 years. I hold a fairly important position in their day to day operations. The majority of my peers are 15 years older than I am. Yet, my worst nightmare is wearing heels 5 minutes days a week. I abhor wearing suits. I'm not a fan of manipulation or lying. I work remotely, which is to say away from people. I like that.

I am an athlete, but not an athlete.
If I told you I could run for 5 1/2 hours straight, you might say "WOW". If I told you I can't even run a marathon in that time, you might say "WALKER!" and *pshaw* your way right to judgement. I'm ok with that. I run slowly, but I run. I am not a waif, I don't look like a skeleton, but I am at a very healthy weight for me, and I feel happy. I have "quads of steel" as @tmbrunnerfirst would say, I wear running skirts - sometimes with sparkles - and I have a blast out there with the 85 year old women. Someday I hope to be one of them. I don't run to win (obviously), but I do run for sanity, which may be even better.

I am a mother, but I'm not a mother.
I don't have (nor will I have) any biological children. My husband and I are actively looking at CPS adoption, but we have put our process on hold until we feel like it's the right time for us. That doesn't mean that I don't know kids. I've been babysitting since I was 8, I was a posh nanny 'Real Housewives of Connecticut' style for years, I basically raised my brother - he may be hopelessly flawed, but he's happy, damnit - and I have a remarkable step-daughter, S.

This remarkable step-daughter recently hit J and I up for money for a charity event, and pre-signed us EACH up on a website to donate funds (she did a really good job with the salesmanship, I'll admit). When I went on the website, there I was - listed as "Friend".

I am spiritual, but not religious.
I believe in quantum physics - that we are all connected, and we have more of an impact on our environment and ourselves than we understand. I believe that we should be kind to ALL people, that we should be tolerant, and understanding. I don't believe in organized religion. I respect people who do, but it doesn't work for me. I should note here that I was kicked out asked not to return to the Catholic Church when I was 7. Apparently, owing to my curiosity of biology at the time, I asked one too many questions about the immaculate conception, and I may have alluded to the fact that if I got pregnant, and told my Dad it was a beam of light, that he would believe me because I was a good girl. It was my own Aunt who asked me not to come back to CCD.

My biggest regret is that I didn't get the fancy white maryjane shoes with the little heels for first communion like everyone else.

I *might* have concerns that I'm going to spontaneously combust each time I step over the threshold of a church.

I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.
The only thing that is off-limits on my blog is politics. I may touch on a social issue, but I will not dissolve into Us vs. Them conversations, or talk about politics at all. I am informed, I hope you take the time to inform yourself. I believe that people allow politics to polarize their opinions society.

I make decent money, and I don't believe in credit cards. I pay my bills first, my savings second, and if there's any left over, it generally goes to a bookstore, @runprettyfar, lululemon, or target. I can say probably, because any time I spend a $1 at a location not above, my bank turns off my debit card. This generally happens around Christmas, when I buy things for other people. It annoys me greatly.

I love social media, but not ALL of social media.
If you follow me on twitter (@eisparklz), you know I tweet and retweet random stuff daily. I love it. I love the interaction, I love the pieces of info I read, I love finding people with my passions. It's a maven's dream.

If you follow me on facebook, you know I haven't posted anything on my wall in months. I do check it about daily. I do read what others are doing. I do look at cute photos of friend's kids. I post comments on people's postings, but I just never post myself. Occassionally, my hubs will post pictures and tag me, and that's how you know where I am and what I'm doing.

I am a blogger, but I'm not a writer.
Consistency, thou art a jewel (thank you Rhett Butler). I'm not making any commitments to writing daily/weekly/monthly, because I don't see myself as a writer. I understand grammar, but I don't understand the mechanics of telling a good story, or presenting information. So I'm basically just talking with my hands right now. Blogs going forward will be similarly just stream of consciousness. There will probably be pictures.

These things are who I am, and who I'm not. Who are you? Do you hide your quirky self from the world, even as you blog/tweet/post on facebook?