Tag Archives: challenges

Capturing the Beast: No More Living with Regrets

Selfie during an early-morning run in the old landscape.

Selfie during an early-morning run in the old landscape.

My landlady, like the very good German she is, knew exactly what to do when tears began streaming down my cheeks: she toughened up–distracted me by taking me outside to help throw junk into the dumpster.

“Hear that?” she said, as a bottle crashed and broke along the inside, “There is still space, right there.”

So, we aimed our bottles for that space, heaving them over the heavy door, and listening to them crash into a hundred pieces. I don’t know why, but breaking something is usually therapeutic–especially if you don’t have to clean it up afterwards.

I told her in my broken German that she was the best landlord and this was the most beautiful house in the country. She hugged me–a first in eight years–patted me on the shoulders (which were hunched down to her 5 foot-frame) and she gave me the best compliment: Du bist eine gute Frau.

I think she had known for a while that something wasn’t quite right in my life. That normally a woman and her children are not the ones to move an entire household. Normally they have a husband working alongside. His absence and the relatively short timeframe to vacate, were probably signals to her of something beneath the surface.

Germans are nothing if not perceptive.

She was extremely pleased to hear that I was going to try to find a job–but she was over the moon to hear about German school for my kids. She’d always been concerned about their ‘alternative’ education (illegal for Germans), so I think this gave her some comfort.

We were not ideal tenants.

For three years I was so ill, I could hardly get out of bed some mornings, let alone clean my house to German standards. It was a huge house, a blessing with those four energetic kids running around, but something I wasn’t equipped to take care of. By the time I got better and found my energy again, the house was overwhelming.

Walking through the empty place, seeing the pockmarked walls, scuffed floors and being chased by rabid dust bunnies, I had many regrets. I saw ghosts of joyous times, but I also saw opportunities wasted.

I do regret not ‘toughening up’ and plunging into the community.

And that’s the thing about opportunities–they might fall into your path, but you still have to take hold of them. If you don’t, you’ll walk past, and they will vaporize.

I now have the chance to do things right. I have a second chance–more opportunities for a rich, full life. And I’m not talking money. Money is great for paying bills, but you don’t need much of it to be truly rich.

I want a life that is rich with friendships, laughter, joy, peace and adventure. I want a life that engages my mind and creativity. I want an active life, not busy with crap I don’t want to do—but active, alive.

I want these things for my kids.

I see the opportunity in front of me. But she is a big beast. There are many reasons to tiptoe past. To let her sleep. To allow myself to wander into a haze of obscurity.

But I’m not that kind of person anymore. I’ll poke the bitch with a stick. Wake her up, face her enormous breadth and tame her. Make her mine.

Opportunity is intimidating, but it is worth the struggle to take it. To face the challenge. To not back down.

To be honest, I’m frightened at the prospect. But the alternative is to continue on blindly, not taking chances, to feel less than alive.

That’s not an option.

This is one opportunity I’m going to take.

God help me.

No more living with regrets.

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Hard Things: Crossfit for a Healthy Perspective

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The softest thing about Crossfit is the floor–and even that feels hard when your body slams into it.

Most people take a cursory glance at Crossfit and think, “Oh! That’s too hard!” It’s the same with marathons. I repeatedly hear, “I could NEVER do that!”

But really, with the right training, anyone can run a marathon; and anyone can Crossfit.

It just requires doing things that are hard:

  • Giving your best effort
  • Not making excuses for a poor effort
  • Dedication to training
  • Showing up consistently
  • Having the humility to start small
  • Having the guts to dream big

Crossfit has made me stronger mentally. I don’t give up quite as easily as I used to, and when I see a challenge, I go for it.

That’s what strength is, after all. It’s envisioning a positive outcome, rather than letting problems suck you under like quicksand. 

Some of my challenges (like registering for the Jungfrau Marathon in the Swiss Alps) are self-imposed, but others are beyond my control. I am facing challenges that in my pre-Crossfit days would have seemed impossible:

  • Getting a job after 20 years of working from home & raising kids
  • Sending my kids to traditional school
  • Sending my kids to traditional school in a different language
  • Becoming fluent in German
  • Figuring out how to stay here, and the subsequent roadblocks, paperwork, assholes, and other things I won’t understand
  • Keeping a healthy perspective, so I have something to give the people who need me
  • Keeping my core strong when I get tired

I can’t say this enough: Crossfit is not about the body, it is about the mind. I KNOW that if I set the bells down, I’m not picking them up again (very easily). So I don’t set them down. Even when they feel heavy.

Challenges don’t feel good, and at times, they can be so big, it’s like standing on the edge of a canyon, only it’s black inside, and you can’t see the next step.

Then someone hands you a headlamp and guides you to the path. You still have to do the work, and you’ll probably fall down a lot along the way. But at least you’re headed in the right direction. You didn’t give up and plummet into the chasm.

There is life to be lived and experienced: and Crossfit gives you the strength to face anything. Maybe you won’t be able to lift your own refrigerator (at first) but you will be able to do things that are hard, like putting a stop to an unhealthy relationship; like making a foreign country your home; like moving into a smaller house and painting the basement ‘Papaya.’

Whatever problem is stretching out in front of you, it CAN be overcome.

You just have to do things that are hard.

The soft things will come later:

Sitting by the campfire.

Watching the stars.

Sharing a bottle of wine with friends.

Laughing at the hike from the ridge.

Contentedly, quietly enjoying the view as the sun rises.


Challenges

lean out

“Are you up for a challenge?” our coach asked.

My first reaction was to think of all the reasons why I was NOT.

  • My legs were still sore from Wednesday
  • I’m not the strongest person in the box
  • I was a little tired
  • My toes were cold
  • I couldn’t think of more reasons, but I’m sure I had some great ones

But instead of just saying, “No,” I asked what the challenge was–and he moved on to the next person.

Out of the entire group, only two people said ‘Yes’ without question–and that, really, was the right attitude.

That’s how I want to be. 

My first instinct is to avoid challenges–to stay comfortable and hide in the middle of the pack.

My first marathon was a challenge. But the second? Third? Sixth? Not so much. I KNEW I could run and finish without doing any worse than the last time. But I wouldn’t exactly call it a challenge. A challenge would have been to set a goal, and then win or lose, go for it.

Crossfit and marathons are inherently challenging, but I am also lazy.

Yes, lazy.

It isn’t natural for me to push myself.

I’m not talking about jumping out of Seilbahn and trying to fly. But I do know that I could try to add a little more weight to the bar, even if I end up dropping the whole damned thing.

Ever since I had coffee with a random German guy at the Pitztal Gletscher Marathon last June, I’ve wanted to run the Jungfrau. He said he had done it, and I could too.

Then he showed me pictures on his phone. If you’ve never looked at pics from the Jungfrau, do so. It is INCREDIBLE. That’s the kind of running I want to do.

It IS a challenge. But is it enough of a challenge? I’ve had a crazy squirrel running around in my head telling me that while I CAN complete the Jungfrau (and I know I can, even if I had to drag an Oxygen tank with me across the finish line), I should try to finish in the top half of my age group.

That thought scares me because typically, there are very FEW women my age running, and when they are, they beat the compression hosen off me.

European women my age are members of running clubs and wear matching t-shirts and collapse when they cross the finish line; whereas I like to finish smiling and holding hands with the people I love.

Women my age (who want to do something fun) sign up for the 5k or the 10k or even the half or they clack around in the Nordic walking stick group–but they don’t run marathons unless they’re serious.

If I want to be in the top half of my age group, I’ll have to push myself, or as my son and I say at Crossfit, I’ll have to “put more weight on it.”

I still want to finish well (which means without need of medical assistance) but I also want to stay focused mentally; to correct the negative self-talk that causes me to wither during a race (around km 36); and to ignore the pain. (Marathons always hurt, and so far, slowing down doesn’t help anything).

Most of all, I want to finish smiling.

My goal is to spend the next few months not just training my body, but also getting my mind to the “bring it on” level, which I so admire.

I don’t know if I’ll even get a slot at the Jungfrau (registration opens in February), but my new challenge for myself is that the NEXT marathon I do, I want to finish in the top half of my age group.

[And I’m not going to deliberately seek out a huge one just to improve my odds!]

[Yes, that WAS my first thought…see, I AM challenge-challenged].

If I don’t meet that goal, then who cares? At least I will have given it my best shot, and I can walk away proud, knowing that I went for it without question.

It’s a new mindset for me, and one that requires practice.

Lots and lots and lots of practice, I fear.

I have 10 months to train for Jungfrau. 10 months of pushing myself further and further, aspiring to meet my challenge, yet still smiling, regardless of what the numbers might be at the Ziel.