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Friday, April 26, 2013

It's NOT A Diet (And YES You Can Too)

I never thought of myself as a runner. I never understood why people would say they actually enjoyed it! Some of you reading this are nodding your heads and thinking, "She's right, they're crazy!" Call me crazy because I am loving the amazing 'high' I get from, yes, running. It's more than that though, it is almost like a badge, to be able to call myself a runner. A badge along my journey...

Some of you reading this know that I have been on a journey for a little over a year. Not a weight loss journey, although I have gone from a size 18/20 to a 7/8 (believe it or not I still have thirty pounds to go!), but I have called it my Healthier Me Journey. I have had people ask me what diet I used to lose weight. None. I don't do diets, and you shouldn't either. Diets are fads, they don't last. We often talk about wanting to lose weight (I just said 30 lbs to go!) however what we really need to focus on is our health.

I'm no doctor, nutritionist or fitness expert, I'm not going to lecture on what you should or shouldn't do. If you have questions about the specific changes I have made in my life please let me know, but today I want to talk about challenges and successes. The challenge we all face when wanting to make a change is habit. We have to break our habit and keep consistency and momentum built long enough to create new habits. I've heard conflicting talk about how long that is exactly however I would say a month is a good benchmark.

Everyone reading this has different challenges, I will tell you about a few of mine...

At 26 years old, eight years ago, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my thoracic spine, in laymen's terms I guess you could say the center of my spine is deteriorating. There are days (fewer now that I have stayed active and yes, lost weight) when I cannot move because the pain consumes my back and any movement of any part of my body. I spend those days lying flat, with a heating pad and plenty of ibuprofen. If I can alleviate the pain enough to move than I push myself to do so, carefully. This can cause a huge break in momentum however I know the healthier I can get my body, the longer I will go between episodes, at least in the near future.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with asthma. It's quite difficult to run when you can't get oxygen into your lungs! I have trouble breathing in temperatures below forty degrees in general, if it's below fifty I can't get in a run outdoors. Last year I was training for a 5K run that I completed in the beginning of December, this air temperature challenge was frustrating but I ran up and down my hallway and in circles around my room a few times, simply to help build my lung capacity. Yes, I have heard of a treadmill, no I do not have access to one. Shocking, I know.

One of my biggest challenges wasn't health related at all, and truth be told, I still struggle with this one: I have a massive love affair with...junk food. I have learned that it doesn't impede my progress too much if I remember that when I indulge I have to keep it in moderation. I also need to remove the word "can't" from my vocabulary. If I tell myself I can't have something it is only going to make me want it more. Yes I know that's a teenagers mentality but it still works on most adults, tell us we can't and we shall show you that we can.

So yes, running is a badge, it's my personal trophy that reminds me how far I have come. I haven't just lost forty-five pounds and a bunch of inches, I've gotten in better physical shape...I've become a healthier me. I'm still a work in progress though! Now, I'm not saying I want to be a size 0, or that anyone should strive for that. I am not saying that anyone can become a runner, there are some challenges that need a work around and others that need a different healthy plan. What I am trying to say is that with determination and perseverance, anyone can create new habits.

This can be applied to things other than a healthier you! I'm talking about all changes in general here. Yet, you have to want the changes. Not because someone else thinks you need them. Not because you want to impress this or that person. Not even because you think it's the right thing to do. It has to be a want, a passion, a deep down desire for change that makes you fight for the chance to break the chains of being set in your ways. I didn't go on a diet, I changed my life...and yes...you can change yours too!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who Shall I Be?

Fourteen years ago today I married a man I was sure I would grow old with. Seven months ago that dream of a starry eyed girl came to a crashing halt. If you've been following my blog, you already know my story. You know that as a result of where I've been I am now on a journey to find me.

Most people don't like change. Change scares the daylights out of them. I'm not most people. I enjoy change. I thrive on it, yearn for it, relish in it every moment of the adventure. We are ever changing, growing creatures, we were designed that way, we should celebrate it, not fear it.

I would be lying if I said I didn't care what anyone else thinks about me, my journey, how I have and am changing. I am human. There is a part of me that will always long for acceptance and pride. I want to make my grandparents proud. I want my parents to speak of me with a gleam in their eye. I want to make those I love most in my life proud of me, I do, it's a part of me I struggle with daily.

Struggle? Yes, struggle. Here's why......at what point am I living for them instead of for God and for me? Where is the meaning in their pride if I am not being true to myself? I can't be anyone but me, right? So how can I live my life with no regrets if I am living it for other people? Simple: I can't. At the end of the day, I need to be able to face myself in the mirror and my Maker on my knees. Plain and simple. No one else's opinion matters. What's best for them isn't what's best for me in so many cases.

I have to be comfortable in my own skin. I need to have confidence in my choices, each and every moment I am breathing. If I'm not being true to myself than I'm not giving anyone anything to be truly proud of because anything other than the real me is just a facade. It's a mirage and everyone around me thinks they're drinking water when it's actually sand, grainy and unsubstantial.

More importantly, the only way I can teach my children that it is best to be themselves, even if they're different, is by living the example they should follow. Showing them that it's not only okay to be themselves, that it's something they should take pride in, no matter who they are. Society is so obsessed with fitting in, I want my kids to know it's OK to dare to be different!! If people don't understand you, don't accept you, that is their loss, not yours. If I can't instill that lesson in my own kids because of my own insecurities or misguided efforts to be what other people think I should be than that is the greatest injustice of all.

Be yourself. Be true, be real, be honest and kinder than necessary. But don't be a doormat. Live in love, that includes love for yourself.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Drive To Make Your Dreams Come True

Dreams. We all have them, right? Sometimes we share dreams with other people, we have similar or seemingly the same dream. But I believe even if we have the same goal, our dream is unique...because it's ours. When we close our eyes, we see ourselves there, in that moment, the one where we've made dream a reality. Go ahead, close your eyes a moment...we'll wait....

Did you see it? Did you picture yourself living your dream? Hang onto that! We need dreams to keep hope alive in our life. We need them so we have something to work towards, to look forward to, to give us a light at the end of the tunnel. Dreams are a part of who we are and who we want to become all at the same time. 

I have been watching several friends going hard after their dreams. It's inspiring. It's motivating.   It is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. Heartbreaking when you watch them go through setbacks but heartwarming to watch them plunge forward with renewed determination time and again. Dreams of a college degree, of getting physically fit, dreams of finding love, of working on pit road or of getting behind the wheel and racing at speeds that would scare the average person. Whether the dreams seem big or small to the outside world, they are the world to those who hold them in their heart and soul.

For instance, my friend who's working towards a dream of a college degree...imagine the determination it takes to take on school as a single parent of two active children all while working two jobs and trying to find time to make life for their family and friends in the process. Don't tell me that isn't a big deal, don't tell me it's just college...it's an incredible journey that teaches you what you're made of. I can't begin to say how proud I am of this friend!

I could break down each one, I'm tempted to...my friends who are working on their fitness dreams are all in different walks of life and would be able to easily say, "I'm just too busy" but instead they are fighting their overbooked schedules to get to the gym, to put in that effort every single day. I am honored and inspired by them daily and could not be prouder of not only how far they've come but also of their reaction to setbacks and wane in motivation!

Finding love, that's another that I have seen several friends who are dreaming of...as a glimmer of hope my heart is bursting with love and joy for a friend who recently found the love of their life and is now planning the rest of their lives together. Fairy tales can give us a false sense of what love should be and how it should happen...it's so much better to watch this dream in reality and see people overcome when the odds are against us.

The last two examples I may know several people who have these dreams but for each one I have a specific friend in mind. They have some similarities and some differences. Their dreams are related yet unique. I haven't done much in the way of interviewing for print however I am tempted to ask each of them to do an interview for some follow up blogs...since I didn't ask them ahead of time I won't call anyone out by name here. If you're a mutual friend and know exactly who I am thinking of please do not call them out in comments or shares. As a friend, a bystander who has been able to watch a small part of each of these individuals journeys, I am proud of their passion, conviction and courage. 

What stands out to some may in fact be brushed aside by others. I think part of the difference between people who say, "I wish I could go after my dream," and those who say, "I am going after my dream," is that the latter are not concerned with what others think. That is not to say they are not caring people, in fact, every single person that came to mind while I was writing this today is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off of his/her back if you were in need. I mean to say that they are not letting naysayers come between them and what they know is the one thing that is most important to achieve in their lives at this moment. 

One last thought on dreams...they can change. We need to recognize when they do because then when we let go of that dream it's not failure, it's not giving up...it's moving on. We change constantly, so it's understandable that our dreams do as well. How do we know if we're changing or if we're giving up? I think there's a simple test...if you wake up every morning with your dream on your mind, contemplating how you can move towards it today, analyzing over breakfast what's working, breaking down during lunch what other paths may take you there, looking forward through supper to the days when positive progress is made and the last thought as you drift off to sleep is a picture of you living your dream then you need to keep pushing. If it fades to the back of your mind, some days doesn't even cross your conscience thoughts and/or you go more than a day without spending time on picturing it than it may be time to move on.

Remember this: dreams are important! If you come to a time when you need to move on from your dream then be sure you know what your new dream is. Take the time, for you, to search your soul and find that deepest, inner passion for whatever it is and then put everything you have into making it become a reality! Also keep in mind, when you achieve your dream, after you take it in and let yourself celebrate the victory, don't forget to set your next goal...to dream your next dream. Life is too short to stand on the sidelines, to just go through the motions, find your dream and go claim it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Taboo Topics That Hit Close To Home

I am not sure when I will publish this but if I don't write it when it's on my heart I never will. 

I read something today that hit me hard, "Domestic abuse is not just physical, it includes verbal and emotional abuse." As I write this I am currently separated from my husband. He never physically assaulted me. In the latter half of our near fourteen year marriage however, I lived with increasing emotional and verbal abuse from him. I am not writing this to disparage him, as the father of my two amazing children I have every hope that he will seek help and move beyond his inner demons.

I am writing this because I never associated this type of abuse in the same category as physical violence because I have no scars that I can show others. I never had to hide in long sleeve blouses or pants. I never needed a pound of makeup to cover a black eye. I lied to myself that what I was going through was completely different. But the mental state you end up in is very much the same.

The fear that anything you say can set someone off, the feeling of shame that you cannot stand up for yourself, the pain of wanting to love and be loved yet simply receiving nothing but anger and criticism in its place. I think these and more truly do convey among all types of abuse. I wrote in my last blog about not knowing what my passions were until my recent journey...it was more than that...I didn't know myself. I still don't fully know who I am but I am closer. 

I think for me the big difference is that the threat of physical violence is what woke me up. When I was in fear for my children's and my own safety, I finally saw clearly what I had been hiding from myself for years. In the days and weeks that followed, I began to see signs that I didn't know why I had ignored. I felt guilty for not removing my children from the situation sooner, for not pushing my ex harder to get help, for not seeking help myself. I wanted to crawl into a hole and not come out until everything was over. I didn't want to face my family. I barely wanted to open up to my friends who I had only told parts of my story to. I felt like a utter and complete failure. 

I have been blessed with a few, select, extraordinary friends who have been my support team. They have seen me at my worst and they haven't left my side because of it. They've given me tough love when I have needed, they have listened to the same complaints time and time again, they have held my hand and gotten me through the hardest, darkest days of my adult life. If you have at least one true friend, you have the world. I have several, I am overwhelmed some days at how blessed I sincerely am.

My biggest saving grace through all of this has been my Lord. My faith and relationship with Him has been the string that gives me my last hope on the days when I don't even want to get out of the bed. I don't read my Bible enough. I have missed too many Sundays to count. But, I talk to God every single day. Most days it is an open, unending conversation from when I wake up until when I go to sleep. My friends can't be with me 24/7 but God can and He never leaves my side. Additionally, and this has been important in my journey to forgiving myself, God teaches me about redemption. "We all fall short..." Think about the powerful love God has for us...He knew we would mess it all up in the Garden of Eden. He knew sin would enter this world. He knew He would have to sacrifice His one and only Son to redeem us. Yet, He still created Adam and Eve. I cling to His love when I am finding it hard to love myself. I remind myself that if God loves me than I am worthy of love. 

Worthy of love. We all are worthy of love. Does it always find us when we want it to? No. Will it come to our lives in its true and right timing? I believe it will. But we have to know who we are before we can see who anyone else around us is. 

I haven't broken free of an abusive relationship on my own. I have had amazing people placed in my life who have helped me break down the walls that I didn't even realize I had built. I can't find the words to express my gratitude for helping me begin the journey to realizing who I am and what I am capable of. But I'm here, I'm a little stronger each day and I want you to know that you are able to get there too if you need. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Passionate Madhouse

Bowman Gray Stadium. Cars up on the rails/wall, whole field pile ups, fighting in the infield at the start/finish line, cautions breeding cautions and more cautions. GWC's, drivers showing up in the bleachers/stands, the unmistakable roar of Saturday night racing. A passionate crowd that is often louder than the cars on the track. Quarter mile chaos - enough said! WILD!!! FUN!!! Can't wait to go again!

I wrote the above a whopping ten months ago. I had titled the blog as, "They Don't Call It "The Madhouse" For Nothing!" I'm not sure what else I wanted to add to it or why it has been sitting in my drafts all this time...but I can say over the course of the last year my love for more types of racing than I had been able to experience in my limited scope has grown by leaps and bounds. But more than just that, I have been on a journey to discover myself. I had not just lost myself, I lost the path to unlock the door to where my true passions were hiding. Passions that make up who I am, that give me a thirst for life, love and fun! Let's face it, without all three of those we would lose hope quickly! 

I have always had a passion for God, for my faith, for my relationship with my Savior. Has this passion ebbed and flowed? Of course, that's why I have always liked the description that "we are ever becoming Christian." There is always room for improvement, always room to grow. Conversely, there are always setbacks, stumbles and roadblocks. I believe it is how we overcome those that help shape our personal faith and mold our character, personality and ultimately our soul. This passion I have clung to through all my trials. That is not to say that I haven't screamed out "why" and "God take this" or even "where are You?"...I would be lying if I said I had an unshakable faith. I have been shaken. However, as my head and my heart battle I remind myself over and over that God will never leave me, that He will turn every bad to good for those who love Him and most of all that He is my only true shelter. Sometimes I have to remind myself a LOT of times! At the end of the day, I'll never question my passion for God and I am so blessed and grateful to have Him in my corner.

I don't have a lot of memories from my childhood. I have been blessed with a poor memory and I trust there's good reason for that but one of my earliest memories I have is of Road America. My dad took me there when I was 4 or 5, at least that's what I remember, it's possible we went more often, I should ask him! Ha! But I remember being fascinated with fast cars from an early age. I don't remember telling a lot of people about it, maybe because I didn't grow up going to racing events often. Our weekends and free time in the summer was spent out on Lake Michigan, catching supper! I love to fish, that's in my blood. But I have a passion for racing, all forms, there is this explainable peace that comes when the engines roar and I can feel the rumble in my chest. I cannot help but smile when I close my eyes and inhale the scent of octane and race tires. If I could, I would spend every weekend at a racetrack. One definition of passion is "any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling"...ask any die hard racing fan if this is an accurate description of their love of racing. You will see big smiles and resounding "Oh yeahs!" for certain. 

I have passion for my kids, they are the center of my world right now and will always come first when it comes down to needs. I have a passion for my family, blood is thicker than water, right? Right! I have a passion for my friends, I would do anything in my power to help them, any time, any place, no questions. I have passion for singing, writing, summertime and sunshine. These are not your simple everyday favorites or priorities, they are powerful loves that I am compelled to pour my heart and soul into experiencing and having in my life. They all have upsides and downsides. They all have the potential to bring heartache, fear and tragedy into my world. Does that change my passion for them? Never! My passions may make my life its own 'madhouse' but I am learning that I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Life is too short to live with regrets, there are only lessons learned and memories. Live happy, share love, find your passion and find a way to fill everyday with a piece of it!