Don’t Let Failure Win

 

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Sometimes life seems to be one steady stream of dropping the bar.

  • The dog eats the vacuum cleaner.
  • The side-view mirror randomly falls off your car.
  • Your toenails are the color of rotten robin’s eggs.
  • You don’t front squat as much as you would’ve liked.

But the fact is: this is life.

I don’t think life has ever been perfect for anybody.

While the past is etched in stone, it doesn’t mean you have to tie yourself to it.

But you should look at it from time to time.

Read it. Learn from it. And move on. 

I’ve been SO wrong about SO many things; and I can either let mistakes sideline me, or I can write a better game plan and jump back in.

I am working towards a goal–a dream.

And anyone who’s actually ever lived a dream knows it comes with a shit ton of hard work.

I want to stay in Germany. To live here. To work here. To become fluent in the language and be part of the community. But it’s intimidating. It’s a lot of paperwork. It’s a lot of mental work. I have fears and misconceptions to arm wrestle.

This week, I stepped foot into a German school, something entirely alien to a homeschooling mom (homeschooling is illegal here for Germans–illegal, as in: people go to jail rather than send their kids to school). So, German schools must be like prisons, right?

Not so much. At least, not in our little town.

Everyone was friendly. The staff seemed happy–laughing, smiling, joking. They brought me cake and coffee. They made me, this strange American former homeschool mom with four *gasp* kids, feel welcomed.

The Principal kept shaking his head and blowing air through pursed lips while he put our information into the computer.

“I’m giving you a challenge, aren’t I?” I asked, between mouthfuls of cake.

“Yes, yes. This is a challenge, but it will be more of a challenge for your children.”

“They’re up for it,” I replied.

And they are. I know they are–even if they don’t think they are. Moms, like great coaches, know these things.

Life is difficult.

But I truly believe that those horrible, difficult times scrawled on the pages of my tear-stained journal have been for my benefit.

I appreciate the millions of good little things better than I ever have in my life: Laughter at the dinner table. Meat on the grill. Lesson plans to prepare. Someone saying, “Hey, I read your blog!” and they don’t roll their eyes.

The hard work, the hard times have incredible value. Why NOT go for the challenge? Because even ‘failures’ help shape us into better people, as long as we don’t quit.

My son told me that I need to re-write my book (I have several manuscripts in various stages) because I’m more ‘vibrant’ now.

Standing hip-deep in this strange circumstance has made me more real, more alive, and so maybe, all of this has made me a better writer. Maybe the fact that I can’t beg, borrow or steal a full-time job means I’ll have more time for writing. Maybe I’ll look back and say, “I’m glad I DIDN’T get that job with Adidas.”

Who knows?

Sometimes desperation inspires greatness.

All people fail.

Some of us fail again and again.

But the key is to never fail the same lesson twice.

Pick up the bar.

Take some weight off, if you have to.

Work your way back up.

It will be intimidating. It will require sweat and perseverance and your hands won’t be quite as smooth as they once were.

But it’s totally worth it.

Just don’t quit.

Because if you quit, then failure wins.

And that shouldn’t be an option for anyone.


Run Less and Still PR: CrossFit for Distance Runners

3 hours of running and hamming it up for the photographer

When a CrossFitter calls me crazy, I take it as a compliment.

And I have to chuckle.

These are the same people who will finish a WOD with bloody hands and broken bones. They hate burpees but still do hundreds of them–even if they’ve just had major surgery.

To be called crazy by this group is high praise–so I just smile and agree.

I am crazy: crazy for challenges, for living and feeling, for new experiences, for new milestones, for never quitting when the world goes to shit.

Three weeks ago I decided to sign up for a marathon for fun.

This was my 7th marathon, and in the past, I would run 5 days a week, building to a weekly total of 45-50 miles before the taper. My short runs were anywhere from 4-6 miles, medium runs of 8-14 miles, and long runs of 15-20.

This year was different, however. With only 3 weeks to prepare, I managed one decent long run (18 miles) and one medium run (12 miles). I did one short run of 6 miles and one medium run of 8. That’s it.

Except for CrossFit, 5 days a week.

Last year, I did CrossFit 2-3 times a week and ran a LOT. This year, I rarely miss a WOD, and run very little outside of class.

The result is that this year, I had a PR of 4:05:51, which is 15 minutes faster than the year prior.

You read that right: 15 minutes faster.

Wait, you might say…what ELSE have you been doing?

I changed my diet this year: 1) I didn’t eat cheese before the race. Cheese causes inflammation in my joints, so if I eat it (or a lot of dairy) I’ll have knee problems while running. 2) No nuts! Nuts make my body hurt. I can’t explain it other than that. 3) I adhered to a strict diet, particularly the week before the race, eating only lean meats, veggies and no sugar whatsoever. However, I DID eat toasted marshmallows the night before the race, but my kids assured me it was considered carbo-loading, and was thus ok.

Carbo loading with Noah

Carbo loading with Noah

The only mistake I made during this race was to wear socks that I’d not tested in training. The compression socks were great for my calves (which had been tweaky during my long run) but they were too slippery, and on the downhills, my toes slid into the front of my shoes. When I pulled off my shoes at the finish line, my toenails were blue. (The race doctor said they’ll probably fall off, but that I’m tough, so I can handle it–this from an Austrian is definitely high praise, even if he wasn’t a CrossFitter).Imst2

Aside from my nightmarishly blue toenails, I did a lot of things right.

  • I left my watch at home. With no numbers to scold me, I could stop and do air squats whenever I felt like it. Best of all, I was relaxed!
  • I didn’t crumple at kilometer 30. In the past, around mile 18 or between kilometers 28-32, I start to get weary. This time, I changed my mindset: Instead of thinking “Oh, hell, this is where I bonk, I thought, “Wow! I’m almost done!” Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge to Imst.
  • I wore a hat. It was an unassuming green sun hat sitting on a shelf, and I bought it on a whim. When the sun came out blazing, my eyes were shaded and my head was cool. I tend to WHITHER in the sun, so this hat saved the day.
  • I visualized kettlebell swings. During the uphill portions, I found myself breathing the same way I do during kettle bell swings. I thought about the WOD where we went heavy and did 100 of those suckers; and so, I kept visualizing myself doing KBS 100 at a time. The breathing was the same and even the muscle groups I used were the same: my core, my hamstrings and my ass. It all worked together on the uphills so that instead of fading, I ended up passing people. I could literally hear my coach’s voice saying, “Do NOT set those kettle bells down! Do NOT stop!” So I kept going when other people were walking. They might’ve been faster on the straightaways, but I was certainly better conditioned because of CrossFit.
  • I had fun. When the race is over, the bling doesn’t matter, it’s the experience that gets ingrained in your soul. What I remember is the empty village with one old lady on her balcony clapping for ME–and how she LIT UP when I waved back and smiled. I was running for her, along with the many others who’ve nestled into the cozy part of my soul.

Overall, it was an excellent day, an excellent race and an excellent run. I finished smiling and laughing with my kids, and afterwards, I soaked my feet in the Freibad. Later, I had three gluten-free beers, two steaks and a bag of peanut m&ms. My reward.

The kids took some silly pictures that I will cherish forever.

Imst3

 

Imst4

Our first camping trip.

My best race ever.

A new way of marathon training.

A new way of life.

As Rob says: It’s all good. 

 

At the finish line!

At the finish line!

*Official results: I placed second in my age group and in the top half for women overall.

Next stop: Switzerland!!

 

 

 

 


Honest Thoughts of an Estranged Wife

signmom

I woke up wide awake at 02:00.

I’d had a bad dream.

In it, the children’s father walked back into our lives, and we all went back to who we were before the separation.

I was angry.

So angry, that I woke up crying, as the hateful “Why’s?” swarmed in with their biting stings.

I was angry with myself for ever having loved him. Angry with ‘him’ for not loving me back. Angry that I wasted time not being myself, and now I have to figure out WHO I am. Angry that after all the hell and pain, I still have to rely on ‘him’ to pay bills.

I don’t regret staying home to raise the kids.

I DO regret not keeping my foot firmly in some kind of door–even a small one, wedged open just enough to let me breathe some fresh air.

Then the answer came to me.

Toughen up.

It is what it is, so deal with it. 

Be THANKFUL that he left.

Because I finally feel alive again. I even feel happy.

Stressed, yes.

Busy, yes.

Scared, often.

But content. Satisfied.

For SUCH a long time, I felt like I was waiting for life to begin.

Now life has rushed upon me with a vengeance–it has 20 years of lost time to make up for.

I feel a lot of emotions.

But the important point is that I FEEL.

This is a hard time. But it’s not even a chapter title in the book of my life–it’s just a plot point to make the story more compelling.

And who knows the twists and turns that will unfold in this narrative?

We’ll just have to keep turning the pages, one at a time.

Because after all the anger and pain, I finally have a story to tell.

And it’s mine.

 


How CrossFit Ruined My Love Life

'I loved you--until I saw your kettlebell!'

‘I loved you–until I saw your kettlebell!’

CrossFit ruined my marriage.

At least, that’s what my estranged husband might say.

Before CrossFit, I was mild, docile, and never wanted to cause trouble.

But CrossFit changed more than my lats.

It gave me the courage to do things that were hard. After all, CrossFit, like great sex, is mostly in your mind. When you apply pressure to a person through a challenging WOD, their real nature comes out–for better or worse. Quite often, how a person reacts to a WOD is how they will react in everyday situations.

There are enough blog posts on why you should date a CrossFitter, and most have to do with the body and sex and so on. But what makes a person great is the mind and soul and character.

So, what do you see at CrossFit?

  • Faithfulness: Do you want to roll your eyes when someone tells you that [INSERT ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM HERE] is just as good as CrossFit?
  • Dedication: When you miss a WOD, or go to a different class, do your friends worry about you?
  • Endurance: Do you walk through the door, having quit already? Or do you give it your all until the clock runs out?
  • Social Skills: Do you talk to the people around you? Or do you sit in the corner, hoping nobody sees you?
  • Personal Responsibility: When you screw up do you admit it or blame it on your shoes/calluses/ponytail/big blue stupid kettelbell…
  • Healthy pride: It’s okay to yell or fist bump or collapse to the floor smiling when you PR.
  • Humility: Actions make a person great–not words.
  • Attitude: It doesn’t matter how fast or strong you are; or if others are faster or stronger–but what kind of a person are you, really? How do you attack your WOD? That’s the proof of your character. That shows how you live life.
  • Strength of character is the most attractive quality a person can have–and CrossFit can help develop it.

Now that I’m discovering who I am and who I WANT to be, I think a lot about these (and other) attributes. Life should be a steady work-in-progress, where we are always striving to improve some area of our lives. Whether it’s to relax more, to have fun, to pay more attention to detail, to be bolder–whatever it is for you, these things play out daily in the box. There is a body/mind connection, nearly indescribable, that shapes our character. Nobody’s perfect, but at least in CrossFit, we’re working towards something better.

And this is why CrossFit has ruined my love life–past, present, and future.

The past, because it gave me the strength to capsize the boat.

The present, because I’m currently in a new boat, and it’s a lot smaller (like…only room for me).

The future, because I’m convinced only another CrossFitter could eventually help me paddle upstream.


First Times and Thoughts While Running

 

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

I am sitting in my tent, watching the beads of rain roll off the plastic windows, and drinking a gluten-free beer–my first in two years.

Another first happened for me last night–I slept in a tent in the backyard with the kids.

It’s funny, the things you do when you’ve suddenly become a single parent.

I also signed up for another marathon.

This is not the Jungfrau (in September) but the Pitztal Gletscher marathon–the same one I did last year. Many factors went into this decision. 1) I wanted to take the kids camping. 2) There is a campground by the finish line. 3) It’s Tirol–one of my favorite places in the world. 4) It’s a marathon ‘from the glacier to the city,’ which means both mountains and descent.

The marathon is about 3 weeks away, and I’ve been doing nothing but CrossFit training. Thus, this weekend I thought it might be good to actually go for a long run.

“Twelve miles?” my coach asked.

“I was thinking 18,” I replied.

He looked skeptical but simply said, “See how you feel.”

Right, I thought. I’ll do 18. 

I’m stubborn that way.

Some people say running is boring, and I can see how they might think that. It’s just you–alone with your thoughts.

Scary.

So what do I think about when I run?

  • I love running
  • I hate running
  • I wish these bicycles would get out of the way
  • I wish I had a bicycle
  • I’m hungry
  • I feel sick
  • Three miles already?
  • Five miles–that’s it??!!
  • Ahh…alone time!
  • I’m lonely
  • Why am I doing this?
  • I feel great!
  • When I’m done, I’m going to get ice cream
  • I feel sick again
  • Do all German couples color coordinate?
  • ________.
  • Where the hell am I?
  • I see the ice cream stand!
  • What IS the meaning of life?
  • I hope they have coconut.

The list could go on.

In fact, the list DOES go on.

Usually, my 3 hour runs are a non-stop, stream-of-consciousness narrative containing everything from deep philosophical issues to utter randomness. On this particular run, I literally zoned out for about forty-five minutes. When I ‘woke up,’ I couldn’t remember which part of the trail I was on.

It was great.

I was curious how this run would go, since I haven’t actually been running consistently in months, though I have been CrossFit training five days a week. Overall,  I felt really strong during the run. My endurance was great, and I felt like I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. The only problem was that my calves started cramping at mile 15, so I stopped, sat on the lakeshore and watched the sailboats, while I stretched and ate the last of my apple slices.

After that, I walked for about a kilometer. It felt like ages.

In the end, I finished strong, and clocked in at just over three hours, which was pretty good for me, considering the stops.

I did not get ice cream. I wasn’t hungry anymore. But I did feel good. Good that I had made it. Good that I had stopped to enjoy the setting. Good that I could purge a few issues from my over-worked brain.

Running isn’t a hobby. Like CrossFit, it’s part of the landscape that defines my life. It makes me feel more like the real me. My kids understand this, which is why they push me out the door when I get those guilty feelings.

I’m not a great runner. And you won’t see me in a CrossFit Throwdown any time soon. But these are part of my life, as much as writing or reading or parenting or breathing.

This is my real life.

And it feels good.

Now, it’s dark. The birds stopped singing. My glass of beer is empty, and it’s time to zip up the sleeping bag and rest.

I’ve got to run in the morning.

 


Happiness is a Choice

flower picking

Happiness is a choice we make every day.

We say it’s stolen, but that’s not quite true. It’s only taken if we don’t guard it.

Usually we give it away.

Likewise, happiness isn’t exactly something that appears on your doorstep like a surprise delivery of flowers.

You have to open the door and sign your name on the line in order for it to be yours. Then you can take it in, put it in a crystal vase or a beat up bucket, whatever you have available, and let the fragrance fill the house.

I’ve been worried that I was losing a part of myself that I really liked because of the recent Perfect Storm I call ‘Life.’

I kept thinking, “I’ll be happy when _______.”

  • I get a job √ (I got two)
  • My car is fixed √
  • My car is registered in my name √
  • I turn in all my visa paperwork √

But the problem is that there’s always a list.

Sometimes we have good things on it like parties or birthdays or trips to the beach.

Unfortunately, bitterness can slip into your system easily–and it can happen anywhere.

But happiness–like anything of real worth–you have to fight for that.

I went to a party without my kids, and it was a struggle for me to NOT feel guilty about having fun. It didn’t matter that they didn’t want to come with me, I still felt I was breaking some kind of unspoken Maternal law. For many years, fun has been a frivolous word in our familial vocabulary. Everything had to be practical, educational, or otherwise edifying.

But there is value in fun.

There is value in joy.

There is value in happiness.

We might not be able to calculate it or weigh it on a scale, but how we interact with the world and the people around us matters a great deal; and part of that mysterious formula includes a heavy portion of fun.

I feel like a patient who’s been in a coma for a long time. Or, as my son might depict, an alien exploring a new world, where I am ill suited and awkward, yet slowly finding where I fit in; discovering the good things the world has to offer, instead of remaining in the cold darkness above.

Life has become therapy.

Whether I’m standing at the German DMV behind mountains of paperwork or digging my toes in the sand at the lake while my kids sling seaweed at each other, happiness is there.

Each piece of paperwork is a step towards a new life.

Each burst of laughter fills the soul.

So open the door. Sign your name on the line, and make it yours.

Happiness is a choice.

 

 

 


The Real Buttercup

snatch copy

Some days, I don’t want to toughen up.

I just want to be Buttercup.

But single moms can’t afford to be soft.

It was an exhausting week, with monumental occasions and sheer exhaustion culminating in a slight breakdown where I cried in front of the kids, while baking a frozen pizza.

I had an interview Monday in Munich and walked away with a job offer.

I had an interview Tuesday in Nurnberg and walked away with a job offer.

I sold two vehicles, juggling the insane schedule of the vehicle registration & inspection offices, US and German, which were further constrained by US AND German holidays–and all of this business HAD to be completed by May 30th.

I’d never bought or sold a car in my life, and this month, I did both.

But sitting there on the cold kitchen tile, watching through the grimy glass as my comfort-food heated up, I couldn’t help but think about the woman I used to be. She was cheerful (mostly), sweet and soft, blindly ignoring major marital problems so she could keep the happy status quo.

She was quite often miserable and heartbroken, but the facade was there; and she had a sort of Pollyanna gullibility that seems endearing upon reflection.

She was Buttercup.

But that woman has changed a lot; and I find myself wondering if it’s possible to be both tough and soft at the same time.

This is a difficult time, transitioning to a new life, and a million thoughts go through my head: Will I get a life? Will I really be happy again? What will my life look like in five years? Hell, what will it look like next week?

Some days I feel alone. Utterly. Totally. Alone.

My friends and family (who just read that statement) are now saying something like, “YOU are NOT alone–I am here for you!!”

And you are.

But eventually (and rightly so) you fade into the shadows, and step back into your own lives.

And it’s just me again.

Drinking a glass of red wine and writing a blog on a Saturday night.

I suppose the utter alone-ness I’m feeling is simply because I’ve had domineering other-ness for 20 years.

I’d better learn to like myself.

I’ve taken a gamble by trying to carve out a life–a real life–here in Germany. It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.

On Thursday, I woke up two hours before my alarm with a stress migraine. I wanted to give up–to lock the door and sleep in my dark basement room and let someone else take care of things for a while.

Then I had one of those fitful sleeps where I dreamed I was in the guest room of my Grandma’s house, where I stayed after my Aunt Kathy died (of cancer…way too early); and Grandma was taking care of my kids while I just slept and slept and slept.

As my alarm chimed, it dawned on me: there WAS no one else to take care of things. And even if I WERE to retreat to Grandma’s spare room, that’s not exactly the life I envision. I have to be tough to make a life for myself.

I need the toughness to deal with bureaucracy. I need the toughness it takes to be humble and ask for help. I need the toughness to weather the emotional storms that unexpectedly drop from the sky like tornadoes.

Buttercup couldn’t handle it.

But the woman she’s becoming…as coach Rob once told me…she gets shit done.

And this is where I am. I am hanging in there; persevering and working for a life of my own. It’s not easy. I don’t like being tough all the time. But maybe someday, when things get settled. When I find my place in this little world. I’ll be able to let my guard down again. Just for a moment. To know that the world isn’t all harsh. That I can trust again. That it’s okay to be happy and not worry about things so much.

Buttercup is still there somewhere. She didn’t die.

She’s just a lot stronger now.

And maybe this new Buttercup was actually there all along.

 

 


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