Tag Archives: mental health

Welcome to the Real World, Princess

This is an experiment. I literally have ten minutes to write. 

I’ve been too busy to blog.

Too busy to run.

I have to prioritize, and the kids come first.

Followed closely by CrossFit.

And…coffee with friends.

It’s my therapy.

I’ve been working all week.

At this point you might say, “Boo-hoo. Welcome to the real world, Princess!”

And you’re right.

I was a princess, viewing the world from a locked tower. And now that I’ve busted out, I’m walking around out here with the rest of the world.

It’s hard and sometimes I don’t like it. But never once have I wanted to go back into that tower. Because even the most difficult parts of this journey bring feeling. And feeling is good. Even when it’s bad.

To feel means that you’re really alive. You’re not just viewing life from afar. But you’re in it, working alongside other people and getting your hands dirty.

And for every terrible moment you walk through, there are also good moments.

No, not just good, but great.

You walk on clouds. You love life. You soak in the sunshine and revel in the rain.

It could be when a friend gives you a compliment. It could be when your child gets up early to hug you before work. It could be when you lift 115 percent of your bodyweight. It could be when you finally win over that stubborn German kid in your English class. These are moments that make up life. These should be savored.

The pain.

Well, there’s a reason for it too. You let it run its course. Let it do its job. Let it pour out and disappear.

And you take another step.

Time’s up.

I’ve got a train to catch.

Another day to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

 

 


Different is Good

bw fountain

My birthday is perilously close to Mother’s Day, which means I only get one cake. On the bright side, the kids never forget my birthday because every store window reminds them to get something for their Mom.

This year had a different feel to it; and when things have been pretty much the same for twenty years, (to quote Groundhog day): “Different is good.”

My birthday landed on a Thursday–a non-Crossfit day–which meant no birthday burpees for me. Instead, I took the kids to Wurzburg to my favorite Thai food place and afterwards for the best coffee (at a nondescript little hole in the wall) and ice cream in Germany. Interestingly, both places are run by Italians. I’m thankful they brought their beans and gelato north of the Alps.

The difference this year was that there was no spouse to take pictures of me with the kids. It was a strange feeling.

As we walked through the palace garden, it was hard to watch couples strolling along holding hands, or to see a kid riding on his dad’s shoulders. You start to ask “Why can’t we have that?”

Why do I only have a strong espresso in my hand where fingers should be laced?

But questions that don’t have answers only set you down the road to self-pity–not a good place to go.

It’s far more productive to be thankful: for the unique individuals I call my offspring; for the laughter; for the coffee; for the ability to walk and run and lift heavy.

I’m even thankful for the trials because they are forcing me to become the person I want to be.

But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression: my life is not The Notebook (which, for the record, I only saw once and could not stand it).

My life comes with tears that work my abs and moments where I have to pull the car over because my sweet little family is unraveling in the rear view mirror.

I have come to understand that my life ‘before’ wasn’t life at all–it was existence. I did not have some incredibly amazing passionate marriage in which my partner suddenly had medical problems, and I, as the ever-loving, patient wife would care for him and see him through. The hard reality is that things had been messed up for a long time; and I though I wanted things to be better, I was smart enough to have already begun the long journey towards independence, well before the medical problems complicated matters.

I AM a Taurus, which means when something isn’t working,  you either fix it perfectly or smash it all to hell and start over.

That stubbornness, a quality I had loved about myself,  had been covered with twenty years of dust before Crossfit came along to clean house.

I’m thankful it did.

I’m starting to figure out what kind of person I really am–even though I sometimes don’t like what I see. I want to be like ‘good’ people–you know, the ones who always seem happy.

My kids are feeling this too. My youngest and I were talking about how ‘different’ we feel these days–and how it’s almost painful to be around ‘good’ families. I guess part of this whole process is discovering the joy of being a family exactly like ours: figuring out how WE roll and not comparing ourselves to others and sure as hell not WANTING to be like other families.

Our scars show that we’ve been actively engaged in life, not merely witnessing it from a protective bubble.

Different is scary.

But different can be good.

So, we press on, move forward, and scrawl out the first word of the first chapter of this new life. 

 

 

 

 


When Life Gets Real, You Toughen Up

keri back squat

How does Crossfit help you in life outside the box?

I was contemplating this while sitting in a mental health facility–you know, the kind where they keep the doors locked.

I don’t quite understand how PR’ing the day before on my press, back squat and deadlift could help me through 11 hours of emotional hell, but it did.

I was sitting in a red vinyl chair, inhaling the remains of someone’s cigarette smoke, while “Thank You For the Music,” was cheerfully blaring from the stereo.

Six hours before, I had been sitting in a psychiatrist’s office with my husband, and now, I was navigating the admittance process of a German mental health clinic.

My brain was tired from being in nearly constant translation mode (I WISH I were fluent); my emotions were raw, and the tears were being bottled up and saved for a place other than the day room of the mental health ward.

The woman sitting next to me, the one I named “The Imposter,” because she had pretended to be a nurse when we had first arrived, commented on my ‘handy,’ upon which I was crying on virtual shoulders a continent away.

I set the phone down, and she and I had a conversation about cell phones, kids and (I think…like I said, I’m not fluent) sex. Then she got up and went out into the garden, where other patients were walking around or standing there smoking.

Alone and waiting for my husband to get done speaking with the doctor, I wanted to crumple. If you are going to begin an immobilizing crying jag, there’s probably no better place to do it. At least no one would bat an eye.

My life had suddenly gone from a county music song to The Notebook in a single day.

And I was done.

Emotionally.

Physically (not having anything to eat or drink in seven hours).

Mentally.

And though I didn’t know it,  I was little more than halfway through the ordeal.

It was a marathon. Only this time, there didn’t seem to be a beer and a medal waiting for me at the end.

There are times in Crossfit, when my core starts to weaken, my shoulders fold in, and the weight starts to heed the law of gravity as my form degrades. During those times, it’s not uncommon to hear the coach’s voice calling out, “Tighten up!” or “Do NOT set those kettle bells down!” It usually helps. 

This time was no exception.

As I sat in the red chair, looking into the garden through windows marked with two large, greasy handprints, contemplating words like Parkinson’s and dementia, I felt my core weaken. The weight of five worlds was finally starting to push me to the ground.

It sounds sappy and sentimental, but I could hear my coach’s voice, which can always pierce through the cacophony of groans, music and metal in the box, telling me one thing:

Toughen up! 

And I did.

The tears would come later, alone and in the car.

But there, mid-way through the worst day of my life thus far, I stayed strong.

Sometimes the world IS placed on your shoulders.

I’m glad I was ready. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Crossfit: an Assertiveness Immersion Course

weights

A sled doesn’t move unless you pull it.

Sounds simple, right?

But think about the alternative.

What happens if you’re passive about:

  • what you eat & drink
  • other chemicals you put into your body (yes, smokers…I’m nagging you)
  • HOW and when you exercise (*note: I didn’t say ‘if’ you exercise)
  • HOW and when you sleep
  • your spiritual life
  • your job
  • your relationship with your kids
  • love & romance (yes–it’s important too)
  • your finances
  • your present
  • your future

Each of those things (and probably more) requires an active, dedicated, thoughtful effort. 

The result of letting things slide means critical failure at some point. And trust me–it WILL catch up to you eventually.

I’m learning this now, the hard way.

Pieces of my life are falling down around me, and I often wonder how I’m going to claw my way out of the rubble.

But I will.

I know I will.

Crossfit (no topic is too deep for Crossfit) has loosened passivity’s grip on my life and has frequently been the impetus for change.

Being assertive does not make you annoying–it gives your opinion value. Think how your life would be different if you were assertive in the things mentioned above: your health, your relationships, using the present to shape your future. 

At the very beginning of this current personal hell I’m going through, a Crossfitter friend asked me where I saw myself in five years.

I had no answer.

I had never envisioned life five years down the road. I had simply been along for the ride, letting others dictate how the course of my life would run.

I have a five-year vision now. 

It includes relationships, joy, Crossfit, marathons, a simple life, fluency in German, a job I love, a six year-old labrador and lots of coffee.

I’ll also have a deeper appreciation for the things I have. 

I already do.

I have a LOT to be thankful for: my kids, my friends, my family in the US, my always-cheerful labrador, the cup of coffee at my side, and of course, today’s WOD–whatever it may be.

Most of us don’t just walk into a box and do a muscle-up. It takes practice, dedication and a lot of sweat. But at some point, you’ll find yourself doing things you once thought impossible.

Think about one area in which you’ve been passive–and take steps today to change it.

Your future depends on it.


The Secret to Life: Don’t Get Comfortable

comfort

I’ve been comfortable for a long time.

Comfortable, yet miserable inside.

We tend to think that comfort is something to strive for, and we’re even willing to pay a lot for it. But would you pay your soul for it? Would you really snuff the spark within you just so your life could have more leg room?

Years ago, when a family member was breathing his last, hospice gave him two things for comfort: morphine and TV.

Maybe that’s a radical way to define comfort, but when you think about it, we’re all dying. These bodies degrade (some more rapidly than others) day by day. So we need to set goals and keep striving for them. We need to put some muscle behind our dreams to make them real. Making dreams real is decidedly uncomfortable, and often, you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d do.

Nothing illegal, of course.

This isn’t Breaking Bad.

And when I say ‘dreams,’ I don’t necessarily mean things that will make your life ‘easier.’ Sometimes a ‘dream’ is simply living the life you want to live: changing careers, moving to a foreign country, making sure every relationship you have is meaningful in this world of aquaintfriendses.

Relationships are what life is all about–that nuanced give and take of ideas and energy that leaves you feeling like your life has changed someone’s world, even just a little.

My comfort blanket has been thrown back, and as I wake and rub my eyes in the dawn, I can still feel the warmth of the bed, growing cold as I rise. I can’t lay back down and pull the blanket over my head. The sun is starting to shine, and I want to get up and make the most of this life.

It is uncomfortable.

I have many fears.

But I am finally awake.

I understand now, what it means to take care of what you have, whether it’s material possessions or your own body & spirit & mind.

In Crossfit, we tangibly make the connection between hard work and results. It is a lesson that shapes how we live and work and play. But there’s more to it: the community is what makes Crossfit so rich. It taps into that craving we all have to be part of something bigger.

It is ‘constantly varied.’

It is ‘functional.’

It is NOT comfortable.

It IS a metaphor for life.

And it’s good.