Throughout the month, I have been doing quite a bit of journaling. Not blogging, journaling with paper and pen in a place that nobody but me will ever see. Journaling lots of private stuff. Journaling in a way that I'm hoping will help me get un-stuck in a number of areas in my life. Journaling, not blogging, because some things are just too personal.
Then this week, I read a post from Diane that could have come straight out of my own head, straight out of my "private journal" full of stuff too personal for anyone else to see. And it made me feel good, that I'm not the only one who has these thoughts, these periods of self doubt where I question everything about myself; my feelings, my actions, my role in this world, my purpose in life. I thought it was very kind and very brave of Diane to post something like that for all to see. That post made me feel less alone in my head.
It got me to thinking about other people out there who use their posts to inspire others and to challenge others to live a better life or to reach a higher goal. People like Amanda
Finally, I thought that maybe its time for me to share a little more than tidbits about how I can't cook or garden or date or run faster than an arthritic 80 year old on a frigid winter morning. Because maybe there is somebody else out there feeling...stuck, like me. And maybe some of the questions I've been journaling about are the very same questions that somebody else needs to ask themselves. And maybe, like Diane, I can make somebody feel a little less alone in their head.
QUESTION: WHAT ARE THE PATTERNS YOU REPEAT OVER AND OVER IN YOUR LIFE?
I work too much. I don't know why. I always get myself into situations where I take on too much or get too much put upon me without speaking up to say no. Then I get stressed out and I neglect other areas of my life in order to work more. I don't know how to set limits. I don't deal with the overwork issues head on, but end up complaining it to people who can't help the situation. I end up resenting work and feeling unfulfilled.
Then I leave. Rater than deal with things head on, I let things get worse and worse until I feel like the only way out is to leave. And I do.
I eat too much sugar and consume to much caffeine.
And deep down, I sort of believe that this overworked, undervalued, frantic, overcaffeinated, over sugared existence somehow give me more character. Like it makes me smarter or deeper or more deserving of respect.
Which it doesn't. I know it doesn't. Unhappiness isn't a desirable character trait. It's time to give it up.
"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open" -- John Barrymore
The forecast for today called for clear blue skies and temps in the 80s. The reality was overcast, sporatic rain, humid as the day is long and in the 80s. Heavy air, sticky clothes, no real sun. I had wanted to go to the beach, but instead, I ended up doing a lot of errands...put the soft top on the Jeep (long overdue), got some more plants for my container gardens, took some old clothes to the thrift shop, paid bills, cleaned the house, had lunch with my parents, went to the movies with J.
Not the day I had planned. But a very good, productive day, nonetheless.
Sometimes happiness is a day at the beach, sometimes happiness is folding laundry.
In life, I am good at a few things. I am pretty good at a moderate number of things. I am bad at and endless number of things. In a weird way, I am most proud of the things I completely suck at.
I always wanted to have a garden. I have never lived anywhere that is conducive to gardening, however. For a long while, I moved every 3 to 4 months. (which is not conducive to gardening) My apartments in Washington and California did have balconies, but they were south facing in climates that featured temperatures over 100 degrees for multiple days in a row. (my plants got fried) My last place was really a room in somebody else's house. Though I'm sure they wouldn't have minded if I had planted things in the yard, it didn't feel like MINE. (which is really not conducive to gardening) But now, in my little yellow apartment by the beach, I have some space to garden.
I opted for containers...veggies in the sunny front and shade loving flowers in the shady back (and a few shade tolerant greens for good measure). I have had great fun trolling the nurseries and discount shops for cuttings and containers. And I've become obsessed with things like rainfall.
For the most part, I've left the existing plants alone. First of all, I don't really know what care these plants need. Secondly, they are mostly bulbs and low lying ground cover, which are pretty much self sufficient, in my limited knowledge. Thirdly, I've been gallivanting off to the far corners of the globe and going on 24 hour relay races, leaving me very little time to devote to gardening. The plants have done pretty well on their own.
So have the weeds.
So last weekend, I decided to dedicate a bit of time to pruning and weeding the flower beds, just to clean things up a bit.
I learned that even though I've never really had an aversion to dandelions (I like their sunny yellow color and puffy white snowball seeds), dandelions do not play well with other plants. The creep in and take over and crowd everything else out. So they had to go.
I pulled out wandering grass and little miniature-wheat-looking weeds and an overabundance of clover.
I also dug up and threw away a bunch of sunflowers. Because I mistakenly identified them as weeds.
I'm sorry sunflowers! Its just that before you bloom, you resemble evil beanstalks! And I really suck at gardening.
Oh, dear. Has it actually been a week since I've last posted? And here I had vowed to post more. I had a really rough week, though. Thank goodness for MamaKat and her weekly writing workshop, it forces me to post. Pick a prompt on Tue, write on Wed, link on Thur. (that's how I do it, anyway)
This week, I picked: What do you miss least about school?
A few weeks ago, I went to my 25th high school reunion. (Don't know how THAT happened!) Other than the idea of 25 years going by since high school, the thing that struck me most was how little of high school I actually remember. I remember soccer, gymnastics, track. I remember my best high school buddy, Steph, making a study guide for Biology. But for the most part, high school is a muddy blur with an overtone of "I wish I was done with this." I was the chicken and high school was the proverbial road to cross in order to get to the other side.
The other thing I remember is a sense of anxiety pervading every aspect of high school; a feeling that every little thing was a matter of life and death. Like, if I bombed a pop quiz one Thursday morning, then every other event in my entire life would be tinged by that failure. One low grade = living in the gutter and dying penniless and alone.
Of course, a good deal of this was simply because I was a teenager. At that age, everything is a matter of life and death. But I seem to remember being made to feel that way by the teachers and the school administration. I went to a private, all girl's high school, so that was very possible. A lot of time has gone by though, so I haven't thought about it in years.
Until the high school reunion.
The school had arranged for a tour of the new facilities that had been added since we roamed the hallways all those years ago. Followed by a wine and cheese reception in the brand-spanking-new foyer. At the reception, I was talking with an old classmate, Alyssa. We were talking about what we remembered and what we didn't when she said that her most vivid memory was the Valentine's Day Dance, sophomore year.
Around a mouthful of cheese, I said "Why? What happened at the....OH! Yeah. The Valentine's Day Dance."
In high school, Alyssa was a model student. Straight A's. Three varsity teams. Editor of the year book. Smart, pretty, well liked. Her high school career was flawless. Except for the Valentine's Day Dance sophomore year.
Alyssa went to the dance with a group of girls who were a bit more wild than she. They were a bit more versed in courting trouble and getting away with it. Which is probably why it was Alyssa and Alyssa only who got caught drinking in the bathroom that night. The monitors escorted her out of the dance, called her parents to pick her up, and told her to report to the principal's office on Monday morning after home room.
On Monday, the principal and vice principal told Alyssa that they knew other girls had been drinking at the dance and demanded to know their names. She admitted to drinking, confirmed that she wasn't the only one drinking, but refused to name names. She was then told that if she didn't tell them the names of the other girls, she would lose her scholarship. She again refused to give any names. Then the names of all the girls in the wild bunch were called over the intercom (clearly, they knew exactly who was drinking at the dance ), they were all lead to the auditorium and seated. They were told that they could either admit to drinking at the dance or let Alyssa take all the blame herself: "If you were not drinking at the dance, you can go back to class now." And poor Alyssa watched as every single girl got up and walked out, leaving her alone in the auditorium. Twenty-seven years later, she said it was still the worst experience of her entire life. (The next day 5 girls did go down and turn themselves in. And she didn't lose her scholarship.)
After she finished relaying the story of the sophomore Valentine's Day Dance , I said "Wow. That was really shitty what they did to you. Your friends. And the school."
At this point, a teacher who was at the wine and cheese reception said "But did you learn a lesson from that experience? Did it teach you that drinking was not acceptable and to focus on your studies? Did you learn who your real friends were?" We both sort of looked at her strangely, and mumbled a response before she walked proudly away.
Seriously? Did she just lecture a 43 year old woman on why she should still feel badly that she drank 3 beers when she was 15 years old? Did she somehow infer that actions of the the school staff from 25 years ago was completely justified? Did she basically say that punishing an otherwise exemplary student for one stupid mistake with what she would describe 27 years later as "the worst experience of my entire life" was the right thing to do? She did.
In that moment, all the anxiety of my high school experience came flooding back to me and I knew --KNEW-- that it wasn't all just teenage angst and melodrama. I remembered that high school was, to a large degree, a culture of fear and anxiety, of overstating the importance of events, and making students afraid to make mistakes. I remembered teachers with an overinflated sense of their own roles in our lives. Yes, sometimes, teachers do have the opportunity to help students through difficult periods in their lives and steer them toward the right path. Other times, they are just teaching them how to diagram sentences, a useless skill that nobody will ever use again after graduation.
One of the greatest things here on the other side is the freedom to make mistakes. The knowledge that life gives second chances. (Third, fourth, and fifth chances, as well) The understanding that mistakes are how we learn and that most of us are able to learn from mistakes without the lesson being shoved traumatically down our throats.
Oh! And the polyester school uniforms. I don't miss those, either.
Today, Serendipity hit me over the head with something soft and fuzzy. (she's nice like that)
I was driving home from work and thinking about MamaKat's writing prompts and how I haven't participated in that little party in, I don't know, a million years? That's when a song came on the radio and I thought: "That's me. This song is me. My life. My thoughts, my feelings, my frustrations. Me." And, I thought back to a conversation I had many years ago with a friend of mine who said that he thought of me every time he heard a certain song; the same song that reminded me of him whenever I heard it. Good songs are like that. They get at the universal experiences we all have but express them in such a way that they seem personal. Like they were written just for you.
Once home, I jumped on Blogger and checked out MamaKat, finding the writing prompt: "List 5 songs describe your life so far" Conveniently, I had already thought of two!
What's funny about these selections is that I thought of them as representing certain periods of my life, which they do, but they seem to represent me now, as well. Whenever now is. So they were me once upon a time, and always.
The JeepGirl songlist :
GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN --CYNDI LAUPER
This was my anthem during high school and just hearing it brings me back to days of acting crazy and having fun with my best buddies. Stil have the same best buddies. Still like to have fun. Still love how innocent this song seems.
ALL I REALLY WANT -- ALANIS MORISETTE
I hear this, I think early to mid 20's when I was struggling with the idea that I just didn't want what everyone else wanted. Sometimes that's still a struggle, but in a much less angst ridden way. (remember when Alanis was the queen of angst? I'm so glad she's more grounded now) I am, as well.
AMERICAN GIRL -- TOM PETTY
I always want to crank this song when I hear it! And I'm right back on the interstate, top down, hair becoming a giant dreadlock from blowing in the wind, cut-off shorts, bikini top, and a permanent smile plastered on my face. It was before GPS so half the fun was finding my way in a strange state with a map. (It helps to be cute when asking for directions, too!) I felt like, finally! I'm living my own life.
BOSTON -- AUGUSTANA
Moving back to Massachusetts from California was a struggle for me. I wanted to leave. I felt like I had to leave. But I think, deep down inside, I knew that M wasn't going to move with me, even though he said he wanted to move back east, too.
I remember lying on the floor of Nerd's living room and him telling me what an idiot M was for that.
Such a pretty song. I'm glad I can listen to it now and not get so sad.
I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR -- U2
Because I HAVE climbed mountains, I HAVE run through fields, I HAVE kissed honeyed lips, felt healing fingertips. And I have that burning inside me. But I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Maybe I never will.
(Now I want to put them all together in a playlist and go for a run!)
Last weekend, I experienced my very first relay. 11 people + 2 vans + 176 miles + 25 hours + no sleep + countless cookies. It all adds up to just about the most fun you can have when you purposely stay up all night. (Get ready for an awful lot of these off color remarks. When you sit in a van with 5 sweaty strangers and don’t sleep, everyone involved gets a little loopy. And the stupid comments still seem funny two days later) It was the best weekend I’ve have in a long, long time.
I’ve been a bit fascinated by the concept of the relay, ever since I lived in Oregon and heard of the Hood to Coast. But I never was able to find enough people either brave or stupid enough to join me in the endeavor. However, I was lucky enough to have a co-worker who put me in touch with a bunch of such people who were looking for one more person to round out their team. The others were pretty serious runners, so I really did ROUND OUT their team. It’s all good though, just may have given me enough motivation to start a cleanse this spring!
Does this running skirt make my butt look fat?
Two of the most important tasks in relay are to name your team and decorate your van. I was unaware of the importance of this until Friday morning when I noticed how completely out of our league we were. I mean, I was surrounded by teams like “Scrambled Legs and Achin’” , “Weapons of Massachusetts Destruction”, “RMFAO” (who were all wearing huge plastic butts over their running shorts), and “Average Joe’s” (who were all dressed up like the characters from Dodge Ball).
We called ourselves “Team I-B-pro-FUN”. And even though I certainly ingested enough ibuprofen and had enough fun to really live up to the team name, I couldn’t help feeling like we had shortchanged ourselves. Then there were the vans. At first, I thought it was pretty funny to write “My feet hurt” and “My back hurts” and “My legs hurt” all over team I-B-pro-FUN van 2. But once I saw the pirate ships and giant champagne bottles and intricately drawn pictures on the other vans, I felt like I had really dropped the ball. I was suffering from a huge case of van envy! I think I may have to take a calligraphy class before I commit to another relay.
Roll call on the van window!
Originally, I was to run one of the middle distance spots. But our longest distance runner, Elyse, got dehydrated and sunburned running Boston a few weeks ago and didn’t feel up to the task. So I somehow agreed to run 25 miles in three legs. (They not only were the longest legs, but also the ones deemed ‘very hard terrain’) Did I mention I did absolutely no training whatsoever? But what the heck! I’ve always dreamed of being one of those people who you could ask at a moment’s notice: “Do you want to go on a 3 day hike at 11,000 feet?” or “Do you want to bike 50 miles this weekend?” or “Do you want to take over the long leg of the 176 mile relay race?” and then TOTALLY deliver. Well, now I can say I’m one of those people!
Elyse was not only faster, but about a foot taller than me! (nice to hang out on the beach!)
Of course, running the longest distance in the race comes with more than just bragging rights. It also comes with all kinds of sideways comments. Like: when it comes to running, Heather likes it long and hard. (Ha, ha, ha. Give me the cookies) Since I was by far the slowest runner on the team, there were also lots of “slow and easy” comments to go along with the distance comments. (Oh, you guys! Give me the cookies) I briefly considered writing all these comment on my shirt with a sharpie and bagging me a fast runner guy at the finish line. But I was too busy eating cookies.
I also earned a new nickname: Roadkill. (Yup, that’s me. Gimme the cookies!) Roadkill refers to runners that you pass along the way. All vans had one window designated to recording how many kills they had. For instance, one of our guys, Geoff, passed 11 people on his 3.5 mile run. 11 slashes on the window. Christy passed 3 people on her 6 mile run. 3 slashes on the window. Heather, on the other hand, got passed about 12 times on her 9.5 mile run. Big goose egg! (However, I do maintain that I did my part for the roadkill count. By letting all those runners pass me, I set everyone up with lots of people to pass on their runs. It’s all about teamwork, right?)
Roadkill Count = 0.
I did feel pretty low when the dude in the wheelchair passed me, though. Did he really have to CALL me Roadkill and laugh when he rolled on by? It was 1:30 in the morning and I was trying to be careful for crying out loud! How about a little relay hospitality? Just smack my slow butt like the rest of the fast people. (Girls tapped the shoulder) Yeah, he’s just lucky that he was so fast and I was so slow and I had absolutely no chance of catching him! Jerk.
I think my favorite part of the entire relay was the finisher’s medal. It was not only a medal, but a bottle opener, as well. Fantastic news for team “My drinking team has a running problem.” They were standing next to team “Eaters with a running problem” Who I may actually join next year. I hear they pack tons of great cookies.
This weekend, I was thinking of the farmer's market, and wishing I lived in a warmer climate. Here in New England, it's going to be a good month or more before the farmer's market is in full swing. (In my new place, I'll be able to ride my bike to the farmer's market this summer. Maybe I should get a big straw basket for my handlebars!!
In the absence of a farmer's market, I hit the grocery store produce department and went a little crazy.
As spring has unfolded around me, I've been craving good veggie dishes and lots of green things.
I made some yummy baked carrots with sesame seeds.
I went on a nice long run down by the ocean. (still not nearly as much training as I should have done for the relay next weekend, but I can only do what I can do)
I had my ipod touch on me, so I had to stop and take a picture. What a gorgeous day!
And I topped the day off by making this yummy salad!
May Day! It seems like it was just January, and now its May. (Though I think today was colder than New Year's Day!) I'm feeling more hopeful than I have in a while...for the first time, I feel like I'm making ACTUAL progress in a way that makes a difference. And on the same note, I'm changing up the goals a little this month. Just to see, if you know what I mean.
1) Journal Daily: Though this month, I'm not just journaling to journal, I'm using a couple sources to journal in a specific way, with daily prompts. We'll see how that goes on June 1.
2) Bring Lunch to Work 3/4 Days or More (and try out all kinds of yummy new recipes on the way)
3) Plant the container gardens: (front and back for veggies and flowers)
4) Get 7 hours or more of sleep each night
5) Fun group activity (preferrably exercise related) each weekend
6) Swim in the ocean! :)
7) Get bike tuned up and ride 2 times per week
8) Have weekly check in meetings with (2 people) to make sure I'm keeping on track