Getting Back in the Saddle

Do you ever have one of those moments?

Those situations that seem somehow orchestrated? That you are simply being carried along by the situation? I’ve had a few of those, adopting our dogs definitely had that “preordained” vibe. Today was much the same.

Last week, no one showed up to teach spin class. I am certified, and I had the job application from the gym in my car all week. I even whipped up a playlist, you know, just in case. I knew in the back of my mind, I would probably not need it, but had it on the back burner. I’ve been listening to music and unconsciously determining if it would be a good sprint, jump or a recovery song. My wheels have been, ahem, spinning.

The thing is, the last time I tried this – it lasted 6 weeks and the class got cancelled. It was a huge blow to my confidence, so much so that I’ve only recently wrote about it. Should I be doing this? What if I suck? What if it happens again? What if….what if….what if…. There are also the minions to consider. They will be out of school during the summer. How will logistics work, etc. Not a deal breaker of course, but definitely some planning would be necessary.

Basically – this is all my mental bullshit. It’s real, but the bottom line? The bottom line is I’m afraid. Afraid of not doing well, not having anyone who wants to come to class and essentially getting kicked in the gut again. Rejection is HARD for everyone. I take it REALLY, REALLY hard. Having “kids/hubby’s schedules” to consider is a convenient out. I kept telling myself, perhaps in the fall. I’ll practice all summer and then be ready to really hit the ground running. (Procrastinating is another one of my favorite defense mechanisms against doing things that scare me.)

Heading off to spin this this morning, I was really hoping there would be a good instructor. I just needed to get in a good workout. I did a fantastic DB4L leg and shoulder workout before class time so I was already kicking a great endorphin high! 10 minutes after the class was supposed to start, there was still no instructor.

My stomach doing flip flops, I spoke up. “I have a spin playlist ready to go, if everyone is game…” My friend piped up, “She’s certified!!!” No one objected so I plugged in my phone, said a little prayer and got back in the saddle. After the first track, I looked around and people were grinning! (And killing it!) YAY!!

Half way through, a gym employee walked in. I hopped off the bike, expecting to be chastised and asked to leave since I am not an employee, the gym could be sued, etc. He put his hands up and said, “Not interrupting, continue!” A few moments later, the other spin instructor (whom I love!) popped in and slapped down an application. “Fill this out when you are done! We NEED someone for Saturdays!”

Class over, participants sweaty and happy, I walked down to fill out the paperwork and possibly talk to someone about getting hired. The gentleman that had walked through class earlier sat down and coincidentally happened to be the manager of the personal trainers. (Gulp.) He then introduced me to the other hiring manager and the 3 of us had a wonderful conversation about goals, what I wanted to do, a brief history, etc. and set up an interview for Monday. While freaking out that someone was going to boot me out because I jumped up and led a class, these guys thought it was fantastic! YAHOO! My feet never felt the pavement as I glided into the parking lot.

I did not know how bad I needed this confidence boost. I was shaking and in tears as I got into my car. Even if I don’t get hired, while it would be sad, I shoved my foot in fear’s face today and got up there and did it. My good friend, and fellow spin instructor, always says, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Bring on the uncomfortable – because it’s time!

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Just Say Yes

How many times do we do things from a place of fear?

“I don’t want to go to that birthday party. I don’t know anyone.”

“What if there is no one to talk to?”

“What if I join that running club and everyone is faster than me?”

“Let’s just sit in the car in the school pick up line. That way I won’t have to make small talk.”

I do – a lot more than I’d like to admit. Things like avoiding parties. Signing up for the minimum of school stuff. I’m a homebody. I like my space. But….every single time I just say yes and take a chance – I always end up having a great time and am grateful I made the decision to just go. Even when it’s hard.

Sure, sometimes its awkward. I keep thinking about these little people that my actions influence. What do I teach my kids about getting out and meeting people in our new community if I’m not willing to try? Oy. This parenting thing will make you deal with your stuff, won’t it?! How can I complain about not having adult friends if I’m not willing to be open to the possibility?

With all that vomited all over the page, here’s what I’m looking forward to over the next six months:

Saying yes. Yes to birthday parties, social invites, and even joining the local running club. (And yes, I am cringing at that!) It may be hard. It may be awkward or uncomfortable, but doing the uncomfortable is something that I have yet to regret. The bonus is that I will be better armed to teach my kids how to say yes to opportunities – even when it scares them.

Do you have to force yourself to say yes, or are you a natural extrovert? When you move to a new place, how do you put yourself out there and meet new people? If you are military, do you stick to fellow spouses or branch out?

There Was a Time

We had some painters come today to finish up some odds and ends around the house. I had just started my workout, was sufficiently sweating like a beast, ahem, “glistening”, and the thought crossed my mind to just stop the workout and sit down. I could always just “do it later”. I mean really? Work out? In front of people?

Why?

Why not continue my workout? Because it might be awkward? Because I might fling sweat in the painters’ general direction? What if I look silly? Or fall down? They’ll probably think I’m nuts. (Egads! The horror!)  No sense in confirming my status as nut job by going all Jim Carrey and beating myself up, so I settled for a mental beat down:

“Stop. No excuses. Right now. Do the damn workout. Who cares?!”

There was a time when I hated running outside. I hated it when cars would pass. I wouldn’t make eye contact with other runners as they flew by me. I thought I’d left that fearful girl behind a while ago. She apparently thought it was time for an encore. She thought wrong.

Here’s how it all shook out:

Five minutes in: I’m doing my jumping jacks, and breathing heavily. I was VERY aware that there were people in the room trying not to pay attention to me. Did I fall down? Thankfully, no. Eh, a little awkward perhaps, but I was too busy trying not to die that it didn’t really matter once I’d made the decision to keep going. The bonus: because there were people around, I grabbed the heavier weights. No sense in looking weak AND crazy! Just crazy strong!

Thirty minutes in: Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. At least there will be witnesses here to report my death to the authorities, I think briefly.

Beginning of the last set: Nearly fall in a puddle of my own sweat, but narrowly save my rear from falling on the tile floor by doing the ever graceful, “Whoa-feet-fling-out-but-don’t-fall” maneuver. I looked like I had a momentary seizure. Once recovered from the near-reenactment of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial, I contemplate mopping the floor later.

Later: Never mop the floor because I’m all jacked up on endorphins and pride in the fact that I didn’t let fear win. I did my workout as planned. I smashed it. (Or it smashed me.) IT GOT DONE. No one said a word (that I could hear, anyway). I didn’t die. My point is this. Do You. Even if it’s not convenient or ideal. Even if you think people are going to laugh. So what? Their opinions are none of your business.

There was a time when fear ruled. That time is over.

Daring Greatly

I’ve mentioned before how much I admire, and have learned from, the author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown. I am watching her on an episode of Lifeclass and am reminded again about the power of vulnerability.

After receiving a call to interview for a Spin Instructor position at a local gym, I did my requisite freak out-happy-dance-squeal-high-five-my-friend-who-happened-to-be-here-when-the-call-came thing. But shortly after that, I began having the same doubts and negative thoughts, “Can I do this?”

In her book, Brene calls them shame gremlins. And oh boy, do they rear their heads at me when I’m scared, trying something new, or putting myself out there – as in getting up in front of people to lead them in a class.

Always, always I have to remind myself that every single time I’ve been vulnerable it has never returned void. Whether it is the creativity in my writing, opening up to new people, or teaching – it never returns void when I remember the following:

1. I have to be authentic. When I stop emulating others or putting on the “armor” of what I think people want – it works. And contrary to the gremlins, the world does not, in fact, end.

2. When people continually encourage you, it’s really good to start believing them. I’m not talking about flattery and “rah, rah you got this”-type cheerleading. It’s in the trenches, empathy, gut-wrenching, hand-gripping, awe-inspiring moments when people take the time to tell you how they really feel and what they really think about you. It’s thoughtful, true constructive criticism with a whole lotta love.

3. I can’t be comfortable and courageous at the same time. Brene spoke about the moment when our hand is on the arena door, we are about to step into some hard-core vulnerability by putting ourselves out there and being seen, and all the self doubt comes rolling. It’s uncomfortable, it’s gut-churning, I call it the “transitions”. I’m the type of person that just likes to know things before I know them. A to Z without the yucky uncomfortable process of the other letters.

The thing of it is, if I skip the transitions, shy away from the door, and decide to stay where I’m at, I never get to feel the joy, the exhilaration, and the victory of the arena. I’ll stay comfortable. It would be easier. It wouldn’t be so terrifying. (Read: vomit-inducing).

My hand is on the door. I’m walking through it. It’s scary to be sure. I will likely get my butt kicked in the transition-yucky-learning curve arena. But I’m going to get up and keep walking through that door.

It’s never returned void.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”
― Brené Brown

“I can’t be paralyzed anymore by the critics. My new mantra is, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, then I’m not interested in your feedback. You don’t get to sit in the cheat seat and criticize my appearance or my work with mean-spiritedness if you’re also not in the arena. Now, if you’re also in the arena and you’re putting your ideas out and you’re owning them and you’re saying “I disagree with you about this and that, I think you’ve got this wrong” — then not only do I invite that, I freaking love that. I love that. I’m an academic. I’m hardwired for a good debate.”― Brené Brown

Dash Recap: A Day in the Life of a Warrior

Ahh, Warrior Dash day! I love the energy of race day! It’s just fun getting out there with other folks to play!

On the way down to the “battleground”, I stopped at a Starbucks to get some coffee and one of those spinach feta egg white wraps. (I love them!) I then had to stop at REI to check out their triathlon suits, as I will be needing one in a few weeks! I had a nice conversation with the lady helping me and then I was on my way. I decided that since I live nowhere near a Nordstrom, I should probably stop to check things out before the race. After perusing the Anniversary Sale, I picked up a couple of shirts and headed to the counter.

I have never received bad service at Nordstrom. But today was just a bit off. The person ringing me up wouldn’t look directly at me, was a bit curt, and seemed to want to be done with the transaction. “It was pretty busy with the sale,” I thought as I made my way to the car. Getting in, I looked in the rear view mirror and was suddenly horrified. I had the biggest spinach leaf in my tooth!

Similar to this:

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I have come to the conclusion that despite my best efforts – I will never be cool. Nordstrom is great, I love their clothing, but I definitely fit in better with mud and sweat-soaked peeps conquering obstacles and pushing past comfort zones.

Whatever. Cool is overrated. Down to the dash!

The camaraderie at these events is palpable. It really is so much fun! When you arrive, you see the warriors all clean waiting to run, and then the muddy ones that have already completed their race. You can tell they’ve done it by their swagger. A “Yeah, I did the Dash” strut. (Think John Travolta a la Saturday Night Fever, but with mud and sweat instead of chest hair and bell bottoms.)

They changed up the obstacles a bit this year, but still included lots of mud, barbed wire, and fire jumping. There is one obstacle I call the “‘Get over that wall Seagar!’ wall”. (As in Louis Gossett, Jr. yelling at a flight school candidate to get over the rope wall. Yes, most of my military references are from Hollywood.) I take a running jump, grab the rope and walk the wall. In my head Louis is yelling at me to get over that wall. Have I mentioned I’m not the biggest fan of heights? Well, I got to the top and was okay, but there were people next to me so I sat straddling the top waiting for my opportunity swing my leg over to rope climb back down the other side, you know, without giving anyone a swift kick to the head. I must’ve looked panicky because two guys came up the wall, one in front of me, one behind, and exuberantly patted me on the back and said, “C’mon girl, we got you! Swing that leg over!” Then we all climbed down simultaneously – high fives at the bottom and off we went! That’s just how it is at the Dash – everyone helps everyone and we’re all there to have a good time. And I LOVE it!

And then I saw others approach obstacles and not even try, but just decide to walk around. “Nah, forget that. I’m walking around.” Not trying. I guess you could say they “did the dash”, but do you really do something when you half-ass it? I know my nature and I knew right then I would do EVERY obstacle. I am not a quitter.

Try. Get dirty. Get messy. Get into life!

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At the cargo climb obstacle (above), I saw a woman who looked to be between 60 and 70 years old shakily sitting on the top, unable to make herself climb down the other side. Her fellow warriors were at the bottom hollering up encouragement and trying to guide her down. “One step down!” “You can do this!”. Ever so slowly she moved her quaking legs down each rope to the ground. Then immediately she covered her face with her mud-caked hands. She was crying. Probably from relief, but hollered an over-joyed, “I did it!” through her tears.

“I did it!”

At the top, we all clapped and wiped away the sweat that was suddenly leaking out of all of our eyes. Conquering fear is universal. Watching someone be brave in their life is stunning to behold.

Then there were monkey bars. Monkey bars about 10 feet over a giant mud pond. (This, other than the electrocution, is what I’m the most nervous about for the Tough Mudder race in October.) Monkey bars represent upper body strength – which is not my strength. I watched as others grab the first few bars, get into the middle, lose their grip and then plunge into that cold muddy water. (Even a few really buff dudes!)

Then it was my turn.

I climbed up to the first bar and mentally started to figure out how I was going to plug my nose when I hit the water. I started to remember the people who didn’t even try, but walked around the obstacles. I gripped my first bar, and swung out to grab my second, then the next, and the next. I kept looking up at the bars and decided that I shouldn’t look down, but instead kept chanting, “I will NOT fall into the water!” “I WILL NOT fall into that water!” I made it to the other side and practically screamed, “I DID NOT FALL INTO THE WATER!” There wasn’t anyone around to celebrate with, so I high-fived myself and ran on to jump over the fire. (More of that “never being cool” thing.)

Whatever. I did the dang thing and didn’t fall into the water! That’s gonna carry me for weeks!

Tough Mudder – I’m getting ready for you!

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Getting into life. Conquering fear. Being brave when life’s obstacles seem too challenging.

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I WILL own one of these!

Bring it!

On Transitions

I don’t like transitions. Point A is fine. Point B is great. The messiness of the in between is scary and uncertain. I don’t like the messiness. At all. And for me, this applies to multiple areas of my life.

In potty training my daughter, the convenience of Pull-Ups is great. But, I am overjoyed at the idea of being a diaper-free family. Getting from Pull-Ups to being completely diaper free: messy. Literally. Who knew you needed an ENTIRE roll of toilet paper for one visit to the bathroom. Apparently my daughter believes this as we have clogged the toilet not once, but multiple times.

Messy.

While training for my first triathlon, I’m excited about each individual portion (swim, bike, and run), but the transitions leave me feeling nervous and scared that I’m going to forget something I’ll need, or that it’ll take me too long and I’ll be dead last. (Horror of 1st world horrors, I know!)  Yes, cognitively I understand that it’s my first time doing this and there’s bound to be a learning curve, but I like to “know it before I know it”, as my mother says. I keep telling myself that if I can just make it through the swim portion (and not drown) and get on the bike, it’ll be fine! And it will.

Uncertain.

The two week period before the hubbs goes on deployment – MESSY. And sometimes ugly. We are both separating emotionally and it’s just rough. We both know it’s coming, so as a defense mechanism we pick little fights and push each other away as if that will make parting easier. Every military family goes through this transition. The first day of the deployment is better than any day within this two week transition period!

And the transition back to family life after a deployment: MESSY! (But fun, too!)

I like knowing. I like concreteness. It’s comforting.

Faith isn’t concrete, yet it’s comforting. We don’t concretely see the wind, but we feel it and know that it’s there. As much as I don’t like transitions and the uncertainty and messiness they can bring, they are necessary. Often it’s only after I’ve arrived at point B that I can look back with 20/20 vision and see just how the “messiness” of the transition served a bigger purpose than just getting to the destination. That whole “life being a journey” and all that.

While I don’t know if I’ll ever LOVE being in the messy and uncertain, I can say that I understand it’s value. Enough to grit my teeth, smile and fake it ’till I make it!  And learn to enjoy it along the way, even when I can’t see with that hindsight vision just yet.

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Dear Military Mom Facing Your First Deployment With Kids

Dear Military Mom on your first deployment:

Oh mama, there really isn’t anything I can tell you to prepare for this adventure. It is hard. Simple as that.

There are days (hours, minutes) that are going to feel like forever. Dragging so slow you swear it’s been an hour and it’s only been 4 minutes. Groundhog days where you lose yourself in the day-to-day-ness of dishes, diapers, and duty.

You’ll miss your spouse so much you’ll feel it physically. You’ll begrudge any happy couple you see, only because it reminds you of what is missing right now.

There will be days that nothing goes right and you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it. Then you’ll get that call, hear their voice, and get the recharge you need to get through another few days or weeks until you get to hear that voice again.

Believe it or not, there may even be times when you don’t want them to call. It’s normal to feel that way. They are so starved for details of our days, yet can tell us very little, it’s a very one-sided conversation. After a really challenging day, the idea of relaying and reliving it again can be just too exhausting.

There will be the days that you are okay, but the kids are hot messes asking for daddy. Those are the days that rip your guts out. But you’ll get through those, too. Those are the moments that will toughen you up so you can set your pain aside to be the soft spot for your kids to land. You’ll be able to hold it together so they can fall apart.

There will be days when your non-military friends will remark on how fast the deployment is going and you’ll muster up the restraint to keep from punching them.

Then you’ll realize you’re halfway through. Maybe it isn’t so bad. As the calendar ticks down the days, the ache begins to lessen.

There will be really good days that will have only just a tinge of sadness because you couldn’t share it with your spouse.

There will be kick-butt days when you fix that bike, fix the car, or do whatever it is that you thought you couldn’t do. And you will feel that pride.

Those pride moments are powerful. As much as the recharging phone calls, these are the ones that carry you through when you want to just give up.

You’ll wipe the tears, you’ll chat with a dear friend, you’ll laugh, you’ll go to dinner, you’ll pull up your bootstraps, and you’ll keep moving. You’ll put one foot in front of the other. You’ll take one day at a time, one moment, one glass of spilled milk, one diaper change at a time. You’ll reach out if you need help. You’ll link arms with your fellow spouses and friends. You’ll make plans. You’ll workout. You’ll make goals. Even small ones like “keep the kids alive today”, and celebrate your achievements.

You may not realize it now, but the you that starts this deployment will not be the same person finishing it.

You will be better.

Trust me.

Rosie-the-Riveter
Rosie-the-Riveter (Photo credit: SBT4NOW)