Tag Archives: mental health

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Marathon

The tent was still dark as my eyes opened, my body wrapped up like a microwaved burrito. I had shed my socks, stocking cap and flannel pants during the night. It is one of the anomalies of having a good sleeping bag: the nuclear world within and the frozen world without.

But it wasn’t because of the climatic disparity I woke so early.

It was nerves.

There are now less than 24 hours before I board the bus that will take me to the starting line of my tenth marathon.

It is my third Jungfrau marathon, so you think I would be a little calmer, knowing what to expect.

But a marathon, as I told a friend recently, is a lot like having a baby. You spend months preparing. You know basically what’s going to happen, but you’re nervous because of the thousands of unknown things that might play out.

Your body has changed since the last one–for better or worse; and you don’t know how that will affect the labor.

You don’t feel like you’re doing anything admirable. You’re still the same person who scrubs toilets and forgets to bring her own grocery bag to Lidl. It’s nothing extraordinary. You’re just doing something that you do.

However, it is exciting. It is nerve-wracking. It gives you both self-doubt and self-confidence.

It is emotional.

The first time I ran it, I cried like a baby at the end. Yes, I was glad to finish–but it was so much more than that. A friend of mine accurately described marathon running as cathartic. It is. The weights you carry when you begin are scattered across the path like a trail of breadcrumbs. If someone could read the emotions left behind on the trail, there would be enough stories to last multiple lifetimes.

What is my story this year? What will I leave behind?

I didn’t run a marathon last year. Last year, I spent a lot of time letting my health go to shit. I didn’t take care of myself. I incarcerated myself in an emotional lockdown.

Then suddenly just before my 44th birthday, my husband, my hero-turned-nemesis, died.

At age 53.

The text messages with silly animal emojis stopped.

The skype requests stopped.

The phone calls stopped.

My nightmares stopped.

23 years of history.

Stopped.

Dead. Cremated. Interred.

All I have left are medals & patches & ribbons & photos & these 4 incredible humans who bear half his DNA.

And the memories, of course. However, foggy and (sometimes) romanticized they might be.

Michael had always scoffed at my marathons–calling them selfish or a waste of my time. But he was always the first one to brag to other people about them.

During the height of his psychological problems, I signed up for my first mountain marathon–the Jungfrau.

Michael was always worried about my marathon running: “What would happen to the kids if you got hurt?” he would ask. His years in Alaska search and rescue fed into his fears like a glacial river.

I never ran marathons to spite him. It was therapy for me. My quiet time. My escape. He could never fully understand that. When you marry at age 20 and spend your life homeschooling four children, sometimes, you need a little time alone with your own noggin. Maybe it is selfish–but it is a much-needed selfishness. The type that staves off depression in a weary mom. The selfishness that gives you some semblance of control over your own body, your own mind, when you live a life in which those two elements belong to god, your husband or both–but never to your self.

I ran the Jungfrau depsite his long-distance skepticism. I ran it again the next year, though stress had already begun to gnaw at the edges of my health.

The next year, I skipped the marathon altogether.

Then Mike died.

And I was alive.

Suddenly. Completely.

A princess startled and alert, not from a kiss but by the death of a deep love.

I was alive.

Alive!

Let that word roll around on your tongue for a bit. Let it sink into your mind. Breathe it in and out.

Life means you still have the ability to choose.

You can eat more vegetables or take the dog on longer walks. You can go to the gym and lift heavy shit; or to stay home and drink two bottles of wine. You can choose with whom you share your bed; to whom you give your heart; and you can decide if those two things are mutually exclusive.

You can do the really hard things–like mend broken relationships or walk away from unhealthy ones. You can say what’s really on your mind; to be authentic; to expose your inner thoughts and weaknesses; to forget about busting your ass to be a people-pleaser.

You can make the terrifying choice to be happy, which is like jumping off a cliff, when all you’ve chosen before is to cling to anguish.

I am allowed to be happy?!

Mike’s death is not a crossroads for me–it is a trajectory. Whichever way I point the sharp end, that’s the direction I’ll go.

I am choosing a life that makes me happy, healthy and strong. I can see the person I want to be from here. I can’t lose sight of her–not now, not after going through so much.

The marathon is symbolic for me–this year especially. My whole world has changed. I am happy. On the road to health. Discovering myself along this rocky new trail.

I carry a lot with me this year. The sadness, the anger, the depression and self-loathing. Regrets.

I plan to leave it all behind; and at the end, come out with something beautiful and healthy. A rosy-cheeked bundle of joy.

Kicking.

Crying.

Cooing.

Alive.

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Arschlöcher gibt es überall: A Letter to my Critic

Dear “TonyT,”

Thank you for reading my blog. You would have received my response twice already, had you given a valid email address.

If you had come up to me on the street and uttered those comments, particularly the abusive words aimed at my kids, I probably would have pepper sprayed you and called the police. If, however, you had a rational argument, I would have been happy to discuss it.

I can understand that to the outsider my blog might look shallow at times. That is deliberate. The details of my 20-year marriage are private, and to protect our family, I chose not to elaborate. This blog is about finding peace, contentment and overall health. 

Because your IP address is from Washington, I’m assuming everything you know about my situation comes from the blog. Likewise everything I know about you comes from your comments. So, if that’s the basis of our discussion, let me see if my estimation of you is accurate:

Your marriage was perfect, until your wife became ego-centric because of Crossfit. When you asked her to stop, she chose Crossfit over you.

Here is a life lesson: there are assholes everywhere.

They are in Crossfit, they are in step aerobics, they are in Zumba, they are in line at Wal-mart, they are at the table next to you at IHOP, they leave dirty coffee cups in the kitchenette at work, they are Democrats and Republicans and atheists and conservative religious zealots, they even go to Disneyland.

Go to any country in the world, and you will find an asshole. 

A wife who leaves a healthy, loving marriage because she feels she’s ‘better than’ her husband is an asshole.

You have been wounded, and I am sorry for that. I don’t like to see anyone in pain. But if we allow anger to take over, it will ruin us. It will destroy our personality, our character and our potential for doing good in this world.

Hatred is a fire that feeds on itself–and no one should live that way.

Life should be a balanced thing: holistically healthy.

It’s what I wish for people everywhere, and it’s the ultimate goal of my writing.

Peace, TonyT. Seek it. 


A New Year: Making Potential Real

squats

Streaks of gunpowder in the snow mark a perfect ending.

Fears and worries blasted to hell with firecrackers.

2014 was like a long, painful birth. No quick push and it’s done. This labor lasted 365 days. And now that the pain is subsiding, I’m left with relief and a heart so full of joy, it has to be shared.

This life I hold in my hands, pristine and unscarred, will grow stronger every day. There’s so much to learn and experience.

So much potential.

The word makes my heart race.

I love that word because it “generally refers to a currently unrealized ability.”

Pause, and mull over that definition.

Unrealized ability.

This means you don’t have to rove the world looking for it–whatever “it” might be for you. It means, you–your soul, your mind, your SELF, contains these incredible abilities already. They’ve just not yet been set into motion.

So, I was wrong about something: you cannot become a new person. What you are inside, is the only raw material you have to work with. You can mold it and shape it and smooth out the imperfections. But what you are, what you really are, is there already.

That person who is 10 kg lighter, she’s there. Don’t make a resolution to find her–be her. Every day. Make the food choices she would make. Does she have cake on special occasions? Great. But it’s probably not on her breakfast menu. How does she carry herself? How does she react to temptation, like a plate of fresh-baked gluten-free cookies?

That woman, who squats 15 kg more, runs faster, does pull-ups without stopping–she makes time not excuses. She starts over with a lighter weight and jumps on bumpers because the plyo box still freaks her out. She spends five extra minutes after class trying to get her chin over the bar and repeatedly whips herself in the ass with the jumprope until she gets a double-under. Then she goes home.

The author, writing her novel. She’s there too. Clicking away at the keyboard every day. She makes choices. Five fewer minutes on Facebook. Five more minutes staring at her blank screen. And she writes something–anything. Even if it’s just one stupid, run-on sentence that will most likely be deleted.

What potential exists for you? What goals and dreams are inside, waiting to be realized? 

I’m not making resolutions this year. I am just being myself. Being, not doing, as some dear friends of mine like to say.

Living. Loving. Staying aware of every little thing in this crazy life. Letting the good things fill my heart and soul. Letting the bad things drift away like a dying firework.

Thank God 2014 is over.

It made made me stronger.

But you couldn’t pay me to endure it again.

2015 has arrived.

Living.

Breathing.

Beautiful.

Crying out.

Kicking with potential.

Watch in wonder as it develops. Laugh when it does something new. Gasp when it stumbles.

But cherish it.

Embrace it.

Kiss its lovely little face every day.

 

Wishing you a happy New Year! 

May you live your potential!

With love,

Keri

 


Take the Yoke

KB Snatch

I’ve been in a malaise of stress and mental exhaustion since I last wrote. And let me tell you, comfort eating does not cure a damn thing. Chocolate bars won’t help you sleep; potato chips won’t play taxi driver for your kids; and raw cookie dough won’t fix the timing belt on your retro car.

However, five extra pounds in the winter does not have to turn into ten or twenty–it can stop here. And despite the recent proliferation of lebkuchen in Germany and my lack of regimented marathon training, my weight can dial back to normal based on the choices that I make.

Laziness, negativity, cookie-dough-eating: these are choices.

So what if you don’t feel motivated (to exercise, to write, to eat healthy)? Who the hell cares? Do what you know is right–no matter how ‘motivated’ you feel.

And as long as you are breathing and thinking somewhat clearly, then it’s not too late.

Every time I run a marathon, the first five miles are spent vowing to NEVER run another one again.

This has happened eight times.

Motivation is great, but it’s irrelevant. It’s better to just get the job done.

I’m not a pilot, so I apologize if my metaphor is inaccurate; but one thing I DO know is that if you’re in a nosedive, then you should pull up.

So you’ve been smoking for thirty years.

Pull up.

You’ve been eating crap for forty years.

Pull up.

Your only exercise is getting up to use the bathroom during commercial breaks.

Pull up.

It’s not too late.

And even if it turns out it IS too late, you don’t want the blackbox to reveal you were pushing forward on the yoke the entire time, telling the copilot, ‘I just can’t help it.’

Visualize what you want your life to look like–not just five years from now, but in the moment. And be utterly content with where you are in the dangerous process of dream-making.

If you look out and see nothing but the ground rushing towards you, then it’s time to take a deep breath, grab the yoke, and pull it back.

That’s what I’m choosing. 

 

 

 


A Person of Quality

Sitting on the floor

Words without action die and go to a purgatorial lexicon where they await redemption by a different author.

So, when I say I want to lose ten pounds, I need to actually stop eating M&Ms.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to get my shoes dirty. If I want to do pull ups, then it would help to wrap my hands around the bar and pull.

Sometimes certain words follow me around like stray toddlers until I pay attention to them.

Lately, ‘quality’ has been tugging at my pant-leg.

As defined by a free online dictionary with questionable pop-ups, it can mean:

  • Character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence
  • High grade, superiority, excellence

When people talk about quality, they’re usually talking about diamonds or overpriced handbags. We’re reluctant to apply the word quality to people, because it gives the sense that some are better than others, which really isn’t true, so hold your hate mail until you see where this is going.

How can you be a person of quality?

Can you wear sweat pants with bleach stains; sit on the kitchen floor and take selfies with the dog; have a dog that shits on the rug; say the word sh**? Does a person of quality have a dent-less car and an expensive smile?

A real diamond is expensive, but that has nothing to do with the quality. If you have a fake diamond, there is no quality. It simply looks like something it’s not.

True quality means being real. And it does cost a lot: your time, your sweat, your brainpower, your heart, your emotions, your thoughts.

It doesn’t mean blurting out every poisonous idea that wafts through your head. But it does mean living by the words you write.

The people I most admire are the ones who have mastered the art of being themselves.

I want to be a person of quality. 

There.

I wrote it.

Now I just have to live it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Groundhog Day

selfie glacier

I love movies where people get to repeat a single day.

When you have babies and toddlers, your entire life feels like ‘Groundhog Day’. You get stuck in this cycle of diapers and bottles and apple juice and chicken nuggets and the only thing that changes is the laundry pile, which never re-sets, but keeps growing.

But before you know it, the kids are writing their own scripts, and all you can do is watch it play out, as your job as director diminishes.

Which day would you re-live, if you could?

I’d like to say I’d chose the day one of my kids was born, but since I often felt I was being ripped in two, it would be a sentimental fiction.

The truth is that even if your perfect day involved lying in the sun, you still have to wash the white sand out of your bikini or put aloe on your crispy spots.

Time does not stand still, and no matter how hard you wish, a single day can’t be re-played. Time rushes forward, and our attitude determines if we ride its surf or drown in its depths.

Sometimes, the greatest use of time is decorating for autumn or making pink cupcakes with sprinkles. Other days, it’s working on a novel or back-squatting LESS weight. It might be surprising a friend with farm-fresh veggies, not knowing she’ll cry as she chops them into stew. Maybe it’s drinking coffee or taking a walk in the sunshine as your friend pours out her heart; these things should never be considered a waste.

We can’t live a single day over again, nor should we want to. But with each sunrise, we can make choices for health and happiness. Choices for the people we love. Choices that will fill hearts and light the spark of life in people who are stuck dreaming of Groundhog day.

 


KnockOut

Tiff6 copy

“When I see weakness in a person, I just want to hurt them,” a friend of mine told me recently.

If she weren’t an international boxing champion, this might scare me a little.

She’s become instinctive about finding weakness in her opponents and using it to her advantage in the ring. Outside the ring, it gives her a sense about people. Though she doesn’t go around hitting random strangers, her insight helps me to stay focused on my own goals.

After all, the mind determines whether you go to the gym or stay in your sweatpants eating Swiss chocolate every day.

It’s incredible what weakness will keep you from. It keeps you from achieving that goal weight. It keeps you from signing up for that race, that once-in-a-lifetime event. It keeps you from living a life that makes you happy.

It keeps you hiding in the alley while the parade passes by; and all you can do is scour the street when it’s gone, peeling pieces of dirty confetti off the pavement, and wishing you’d been part of the jubilance.

Weakness.

We all have it sometimes.

I feel lucky I have a friend who can identify it when I’m standing so close, I can’t see it.

Then I can step back, look it square in the face and knock it out.