Friday, June 16, 2017

34,500

THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED: the number of milligrams of methylprednisolone sodium succinate (Solu-medrol) I have received over the course of the last 442 days!!

And, today was my LAST TREATMENT!!!!

To say I'm happy about this is an understatement.

The big question of "did it work" is really yet to be determined. All-in-all I'm doing MUCH BETTER than I was. In that regard (symptom treatment) I have responded to the steroids very well. I can't say right now if the put this condition completely in remission. It would be a while before I would know that.

I'm saying "would" because I am being proactive and have made an appointment with a functional medicine doctor for mid-July. I've had some strange "symptoms"* that certainly seem to correlate to steroid dosage tapering. (*Because they aren't as bad as they were I hesitate to really call the things that I've experienced as symptoms, but if I'm being completely honest, I'm pretty sure they are symptoms.)

Sure, it's pretty when it's in bloom...
...Let me tell you a story. The third house I owned had two very large green "bushes", one by the front porch and one out in the backyard. I didn't know what they were but they looked like giant weeds so I set about digging up the one in the front, GIANT root ball and all. My grandmother came to visit me not long after that and asked me about the beautiful hydrangea bush in my back yard! Turns out that weed was a very well established (and hard to grow) hydrangea bush that would have bloomed with beautiful flowers if I had just been patient enough to leave it alone!

...but so is this one!
In that same yard (after this experience) I saw what I thought was a lovely looking, berried, plant growing heartily. I decided to just let it grow so I could see what wonderful flowers would emerge.  ...until I found out it was (poisonous) "Polk Salad" when my neighbor asked why on earth I had not pulled it up.

Here's another story for you.  An athlete of mine a while back was training for a half marathon. One day she texted me to say she had been having some pain in her shin and she was going to the doctor. I asked how long this pain had been going on....weeks!! She just thought it was normal "working out"/"getting fit" pain but found out it was actually a stress reaction/fracture.

We don't know what we don't know. I don't know what I don't know. Functional/integrative doctors take a big step back from the "symptoms" and look at the person as a system of systems.  They strive to answer my all-time favorite question...WHY??!! Why did my immune system decide to attack my brain? Why does it attack my thyroid? If I'm simply treating the end result without knowing why I haven't solved the real problem. I get that sometimes you can't/won't know why things happen, but there really are answers. And if that "upstream" issue isn't solved my immune system might decided to attack something else next.  And...if it is perfectly in line now, having been beating down with the steroid treatments, then the functional doctor won't find anything to treat.

For now, I'm going to take a nap and then I aim to CELEBRATE!!!




Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cotton Row...What Do YOU Want? What Do I Want?

Race morning...(written race morning before I left)

Well, let me back up (pun intended, that will make sense after this paragraph). Last night my gut was FULL. I had not really pooped all day long. I am a fairly regular pooper so I was not feeling the best. When I went to bed I looked about 7 months pregnant. I actually prayed that I would poop well in the morning.

I should have prayed for sleep.

I woke up at 1. I don't know if I actually went back to sleep or not but I looked at the clock again at 2 and then at 3. I got up about 4. My head was pounding and my stomach didn't feel great. But when I went to the bathroom, I had MAJOR success!!!!

I'm sure my non-runner friends are grossed out about right now, but my runner friends know exactly what I'm talking about!

This morning I'm planning on starting the race with at least 2 friends, maybe 3. We are going to have a conversation before we start about expectations, needs and goals. My goal for that conversation is to be honest. I want to run well more than I want to run with friends. I really enjoy running with friends, in training. I don't really enjoy running with friends in a race. To me it's a race. I honestly believe all three of them are running better/faster than I am right now. What I'm really hoping is that they are running just faster than I am and that they can and will spit my words back at me and pull me through rough patches. And maybe I can pull them through rough patches. But some people don't want to be pulled through. I was completely willing to not race if either of them told me they really wanted company on this run, but I wasn't willing to give up my race if they didn't really care one way or another. In order to know, I need to have a conversation, an honest conversation about what I need and want and what each of them needs and wants. So that will be the first order of business.

.....

(Written today, Thursday after the race.) As soon as we got to the race, Dwayne left to do his own thing and I went off to say hello to the bathrooms! I swear, I have to pee like 20 times on race morning. I think it's just adrenaline, but it never fails!

About 15 minutes before race start I connected with my friends. Two of the three were there, and one extra, I found out later the original number three had overslept.

Let me back up and tell you how this running with friends thing all started...

Remember Bilbo? She was one of the friends. She had been running with a man she has adopted as her dad in several races leading up to this one. He ended up being hurt so she told me a few weeks ago she was probably not even going to do it. He runs much slower and she had not really trained to do this race. I told her she should just run with me. She in turn encouraged another friend who said she wasn't going to do the race to do the race after all. Then that friend talked to another friend on race morning. The night before the race yet another friend (the original number 3) posted her goal. I "KNEW" I couldn't make that goal but I told her she was welcome to at least start with us.

Back to race morning. I found out Bilbo and Number 2 had been training with run 1/walk 1. (Number 3 had no intention of staying with us, she was going to take off pretty much right after the start.). I have been playing this little game when I run. It's a little too complicated to explain, but basically it means I am running by feel. I might run several minutes before I walk, or I might run 1 and walk 3. It's erratic and not really the best thing for someone who has trained her body to walk/run to a set time. I asked them how important it was to them that we stay together. Friend 2 said she did not expect to stay with us. Although she had been running about the same pace as I had been running, it's stressful to try to stay with other people. She said not to worry about her at all.

Bilbo told me it was her NUMBER ONE priority that she not hold me back. Second to that she didn't want to cross the finish line alone. I pushed and pushed her because I really thought that deep down she really wanted me to stay with her the whole time and she was just unwilling to say that. I even told her that's exactly what I would do if she said that's what she wanted most. But she kept telling me that wasn't the case. What she wanted most was to not hold me back. I finally decided to listen to her. We played leap frog until about mile 2. I played my little game, running a couple of minutes and then walking a little. She stayed true to her training-1/1.

Fairly early on we met up with my brother. He's not my real brother, but I've adopted him as my brother. He's a race walker, and darn fast. The three of us leap frogged around each other. I think it was about mile 2 brother and I pulled a little in front of Bilbo. Brother was just ahead of me, until we got to Mountainwood. AKA "the hill". Brother said he was going to run up it, and I was NOT. So he pulled way ahead of me at that point.

Because of my little game I ended up running the foot of the hill to the Mile 3 sign and then walked the rest of the way. When I made the right turn I just kept walking, running maybe 1 minute until the turn onto Bankhead. I started running and saw Brother waiting.

He has had issues with his knees and should NOT run but he does every now and then. He came out to run the last 3 miles of a 50K I did back on New Year's Eve 2014. And he ran again with me Monday. We chatted going down Bankhead. I was talking about CPR and he was admonishing me that CPR wasn't an appropriate topic in the middle of a race. When we got to the bottom of Bankhead I remembered that I really wanted to run my best race so I told him I wasn't going to talk anymore so I could focus on running a little faster. He picked up the conversational slack and started talking more. About bacon and steak and pulled pork and bologna (yuck). He is a meat lover in case you couldn't tell. My mouth was watering and I started planning what I might want to eat after the race. Then he said "PIE". He makes the best pecan pie every year. One year he gave me one to give to Daisy. I wouldn't have given it to her except he TOLD HER it was coming!! PIE. That made me pick up the pace just a bit more. I started thinking "run faster and you can have a piece of PIE"!!

Of course I wasn't saying any of what I was thinking because I really couldn't talk at that point. I wasn't completely spent. But I was struggling and I really couldn't/didn't want to talk.

We turned the corner onto Clinton and I was sad not to see Daisy out there shaking her tambourine like she did last year. (I found out later that she overslept.) I started expecting to see Dwayne any second coming back to find me. We were getting close to mile 5 and he still wasn't there. I began to worry just a bit. But then I looked at the time. It was right at 54 minutes.

My A goal was 1:20. I realized I had right at a mile and a half to go. 16 minutes. My average pace at the moment was right at 11 minutes/mile. I thought I was going to be darn close to that A goal if I could keep running at this pace, or maybe speed it up just a hair. But I wasn't sure I could hold it. I was very fatigued and I was really struggling.

About that time we saw Brother's daughter. We passed her and Brother held back, but then I had to take a walk break at an aid station. They passed me and he told me to stay with them. I said I needed to walk a little more (my game requires me to change only on the top of a minute...it's silly, but it's helpful in a strange way). When I started running again, I caught up with Brother but his daughter was just ahead of us. She wanted to stay in front of us. And at that point all I wanted to do was catch her.

But I was on the STRUGGLE BUS.


We turned at the square and then back onto Clinton and I really worried about Dwayne but I pushed that out of my mind and focused in on my target who was still JUST ahead. I started planning my move and shared my goal with Brother who started planning with me. 

And then she did the unthinkable. She started pulling ahead. Like it was easy. Like it was effortless. Like it was nothing. Like she was out for a Sunday jog. 

I knew right then I wouldn't catch her. I was giving all I really had to give. I mean, I could give a little kick-let at the finish (maybe) but she was really pulling ahead and we had not gotten to the mile 6 flag yet. Brother told me if I wanted her I needed to pull the trigger and go for it. I told him I just didn't have it but told him he should go after her, which he did. 

Seeing them running together almost took my mind off the effort I was pouring out. And then I saw the row of flags and pictures of fallen soldiers. About that time I heard someone cheer for me. When I saw who it was, I threw the water bottle I had been carrying over to her and tried in vain to catch Brother and daughter. It was no used. They had pulled too far ahead, and I was running on fumes. 

I felt like I did that very first year coming in to that final stretch. I thought I just might pass out. I'm sure my finish line picture shows my eyes as slits. But I gave it all I had and crossed the line completely empty.

I was so thankful to see a good friend at the finish line. She congratulated me but I couldn't talk for a little bit. THAT is such a great way to finish a race!!!!! I grabbed a bottle of water and turned to go back out on the course to find Bilbo. Although I was really worried about Dwayne I had not gotten a text so I was sure he was okay. I ran down Clinton until I saw Bilbo running toward me. She didn't seem very happy to see me, but she told me she was on the same bus I had been on. She walks SO DANG FAST I had to job beside her to keep up. When we got to the finish chute, I ran to the outside of the fencing and ran in "beside" her. 

I was so very proud of her. As I said, she has been running races with her "dad" and hasn't done one by herself in a very long time. She finished STRONG and she looked really good. She didn't feel good and she wasn't happy with her time, but she had just finished a 10K, that she ran mostly alone. I was so very proud. 

I almost went back out to find friend 3 but I figured she wasn't far behind Bilbo, and at that point I really wanted to find out what happened to Dwayne. And, I had a swim lesson to get to. I found out that Dwayne had finished and went back out to find me but he made a mistake. He thought he could take a shortcut and get to me quicker. I was running a bit faster than he expected. By the time he realized it, I was way too far ahead for him to catch me. 

I'm pretty sure this was my slowest Cotton Row ever. I JUST missed my A goal (by a handful of seconds), but I never expected to make even that so I was THRILLED. I had an honest conversation with a friend about wants and needs and I listed to what she said instead of trying to figure out what might make her happy. I was honest about what I wanted and I didn't sacrifice what I wanted just to try to make someone else happy. It was a VERY GOOD RACE DAY!!!!

This is truly one of my favorite races. I am already looking forward to next year!! I'm hoping to be back in better running shape, but even if I'm not, I know I will learn another life lesson. :D

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Number 8

Tomorrow I'll run my eighth Cotton Row 10K in a row. That's shocking to me. I've been a "real runner" for EIGHT YEARS!! What's funny is that right now I'm not running a lot, but I'm still a real runner.

Well...let me be clear. When I say I'm not running a lot, I mean straight running. I walk run now and it's slow but last Saturday I ran 7.5 miles. The Saturday before that I ran 7 miles. I've run about 40 miles in the last month. On top of that, I'm teaching Spin twice a week and I've been swimming a couple of times. It's not like I'm on the couch. But it's interesting that I do certainly still feel like an athlete who has had to be sidelined a bit. All things considered, I'm really very happy with where I am physically.

I'm right at 20 pounds overweight, I'm slow as cold honey, and I'm very weak compared to my trained self...but I'm still moving.

I'm really looking forward to doing this race tomorrow. But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't also say I'm looking more forward to next year's race!! :D

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around.



PS: Steroid update--I get my LAST TREATMENT three weeks from the day before yesterday (two weeks from this Friday). I'll be so very glad to have these OVER. I still really don't know if they have worked or not. I don't always thing they have, but I am thinking so much better than I was a year ago I can't help but think they have. I'm taking big steps to try to clean up my diet and to get my gut health on track, and I'm regaining fitness, so I'm cautiously optimistic about what's to come.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Truth

People will ask me "How are you doing?" And usually I say something like "I'm going okay" or "I'm getting better all the time." And, that's true, but it's not really the truth, at least some of the time.

The truth is, I'm not doing well. I'm struggling right now. I don't actually think the steroid treatments are working like they should. I walked into the locker room at the Y the other day and I didn't know where I was. My head feels like it's going to explode a good bit of the time now. I'm struggling to find words more than I would like. I'm having to check my calendar a hundred times a day to make sure I'm where I'm supposed to be.

But...I AM better than I was a year ago.

For as long as I can remember I have been a person who tried very hard to focus on the positive. If things were going poorly I would tell myself they could still be worse. Things can always be worse.


But the truth is that things could be A LOT better right now. And the truth is I don't know how to make them better. My MO has always been to simply focus on the positive and not let the negative pull me down. But my MO has also always been to focus on making things better.

I don't think those things REALLY go together.

Let me give an example. Say I take a test and I get a 98%. Focusing on the positive would be celebrating the 98%!! YAY! But I wouldn't do that. I'd look for the reason(s) I didn't make a 100%. To spend time focusing on that 2% is NOT focusing on the positive, especially if that 2% can't be made up or changed.

I think the truth is that I would be upset over the 2% FAILURE but I would put on a happy face and tell myself (and other people) that things could be much worse, I could be a 3% FAILURE!

There's something very disingenuous about that. To feel like a failure internally and to put on a happy face about that feeling of failure. But I don't think the answer is to proclaim failure. I am learning the answer is to maybe say "I feel sad that I didn't make 100% but it's okay"...if that's the truth. If that's not the truth then maybe spending some time working on making that the truth is a better use of time as opposed to working on ways to correct that 2%??

I'm sure you can tell I'm struggling here....and it's not the brain disease causing the struggle.

I think for me when I say "I'm doing great", I want that to be true. I recognize the truth of the statement. My situation could be SO MUCH worse that I really am doing great when compared to a lot of worse things that could be happening. But there is another very equal truth I (usually) don't say.... I'm not doing okay right now.

I don't want how I'm "doing" (my state of being) to be dependent on how I'm feeling. I want to be the master of my feelings, the master of my perspective. And, I've always held the belief that my perspective determines my feelings.

Feelings are fickle. Feelings are dependent on the circumstance. Feelings don't care that things could be worse, they just feel how they feel. Like unruly children.

That feels very chaotic and random. If my feelings determine my state of being (how I'm doing) then I can't be positive. I can't make it a great day. I can't embrace the idea that things could be worse because sometimes I feel pretty darn bad.

But what happens when a child is trying to express something and they aren't heard? They get louder and more unruly. Adults who don't understand this can work to suppress the child even more and you end up with a downward spiral that doesn't serve any good purpose at all.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think I go around trying to suppress my feelings. I just try to get them to line up with my beliefs about life. Things could be worse. I don't accept negative. I work toward being better, always. Feeling sad or hurt (or grieving over how things are not the way I want them to be) is just like that 2%...it's something to correct.

It's like there's this battle. I feel ashamed for grieving over the state of my health because I have friends who have much bigger health struggles going on right now. I feel like I have NO RIGHT to be upset over the little things I'm dealing with. At the same time I want to make those little things better and I simply do NOT know how. (Depending on who you ask there isn't a way to make them better--I do NOT accept that answer!) That causes a feeling of helplessness that I refuse to tolerate. Helpless is vulnerable.

Maybe the key is just feeling the grief I have over the state of my health and being honest that things are really not good without the judgement that I have no right to feel that way. Or maybe the key is to accept that 98% is really good and to completely celebrate how good it really is without trying to make up the 2% difference??

...The problem is that I don't really have a good perspective of what percentage of failure I'm at right now. I'm not dead so I'm better than 0%. But I'm certainly NOT close to 100%.

To not work to correct the percentage of "failure" I'm living in right now feels like giving up. To not grieve over the loss feels dishonest. I think I'm being stretched to allow both to be true at the same time. Grieve and work, but at the same time celebrate where I am and rest from all the work and grief.

A goal I've had for a very long time is to bring myself fully to life. The truth is that's complicated and messy and really very hard.

Thanks for stopping in and sticking around. I realized I didn't write about the RACE I ran in February!! I'll post a recap soon. It will be nice for this running blog to actually have some posts about running!! :D

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Let's Ride a ROLLER COASTER!! (Part 4 of 4)

I can assure you this is not going where you might have thought it would...bear with me here... I'm going to take you on a roller coaster ride.

From the time my kids were probably about 7 and 5 we got annual passes to an amusement park that was a couple of hours from our house (Silver Dollar City).

There was a ride at that park called "Fire in the Hole". It wasn't a roller coaster as much as it was "just" a fun ride. (The link takes you to a youtube video of the whole thing!) Spoiler alert, I'm about to tell you all the "thrilling" parts of the ride.... There's a part where it looks like you are going to be hit by a train, but the tracks have burned out so you plummet down, you get "shot" at, and then they yell "FIRE IN THE HOLE" and you zoom down and around the tracks in the dark! Toward the end a Hillbilly up above you says "Here's a barrel of laughs for ya!" and it looks like you are going to get doused with water. It makes you look up so your picture could be taken with a look of surprise on your face (they don't do that anymore, the ride has lost the element of surprise for most people). This ride was the family favorite for quite a while. It was the first one we'd get on when we got there and it was always the last ride we'd go on before heading home.

But then one summer thy advertised the new new roller coaster that would be ready the next year (Wildfire). All three of us were very excited to ride it. We waited all winter and showed up on opening day going straight to THAT RIDE. There was one problem. My daughter was about 2 (maybe 3) inches too short. Being the excellent parent I was at the time, I let her wear my shoes which gave her the extra height she needed. I didn't want her to miss out. But, the safety police saw through the plan and wouldn't let her ride. Being the stellar parent I was, we let her wait while we rode it!! Poor kid. The following year she was big enough and a new family favorite was born. We loved that ride. But the starter and ender of our day at the park stayed Fire in the Hole.

Until a few years ago, I LOVED roller coasters. I loved waiting in line-anticipating the ride is a BIG part of the fun. I loved getting in the very front or the very back (the middle was only if the lines were WAY too long for the front or back, but it was a last resort type option). I loved the feeling of being strapped in. And then every part of the ride had things to love. The clickty-clack of going up, up, up...slowly building the tension to be released at lightning speed. I loved the coasters that have sudden changes in direction with loopty-loops and high speed. I especially loved the ones where your legs are dangling down.

Until I didn't.

I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe it was just a matter of getting older-my body can't take those things like it used to. Maybe it was the sudden realization that they really are scary to be on.

When we are little we are taught what is scary. When I was in my final year of college I was pregnant with my daughter (my youngest). I had intended to go on to get a Masters in Social Work. I did a lot of research into studies of working mothers and the impact on kids. One study talked about how much influence a mother's feelings have on their children. They had a crawling baby on one side of a glass bridge and the mother on the other. When the baby would start to crawl across the mother would either smile and look happy or she would look scared. The babies who were given encouraging looks had NO FEAR of crawling across. The other babies had fear. This fear would transfer and generalize out to other tasks. (There is a reason they don't allow these kinds of studies anymore!)

Funny, as I was looking for videos for this post I found this little gem



I love the kid at the end..."do you want to go again?" "No."

These parents are teaching their children-there's nothing to be afraid of here. ("Put your hands in the air!!") ...for the record I almost couldn't watch this video. The one baby looks like he's going to fall out of the seat-that bar is not even remotely holding him in!!!

Remember the pressure cooker? When kids are subjected to high stress when they are little, they are pretty much growing up in a pressure cooker. (This stress can be any number of things from benign types of things such as moving several times all the way to more traumatic things such as physical, mental or sexual abuse. The body becomes MUCH more adept at triggering the stress reaction in the body. It's the opposite of what happens on the outside, or what you might think. You might think that high stress in youth would create a resilience to it. Or would desensitize the child so that it would take much higher levels of stress to create a reaction. But from all I've been reading, that is not in fact the case. (Google it if you are interested, there are WAY too many resources to link even a fraction of them.)

My kids and I could recite every line and knew every move of Fire in the Hole. Just writing this has triggered the feelings I had on that ride with my kids year after year. You might say the ride imprinted reflexive emotions and reactions that are deep within my body.

There are numerous theories on why some people get autoimmune diseases and some don't. Childhood illnesses, gut permeability and dysbiosis, being born via C-section, frequent and repeated use of antibiotics, toxins...the list is long. I think this is why most medical doctors simply treat the symptoms (called "downstream treatment"). There are pills that can solve almost any symptom out there. But the disease is still there (upstream from the symptoms). One theory is the early introduction and "inoculation" of stress causes an imbalance in the immune system. I don't want to get too technical here (and I can't, I'm not a doctor) but suffice it to say the system needs to be in balance to work properly.

The biggest two parts of a roller coaster are the tracks and the cart, or whatever attaches the person to the track. Well, I guess there's really a third...the operator. Some (most) roller coasters are automated. It's not like a train where there's a conductor that has control. The operator just starts and stops the ride. If everyone isn't strapped in properly, the operator won't push the magic green button.

I could take this in any number of directions at this point. This is one reason I love analogies. You can use them in so many different ways.

Are you strapped in??

Clickty-clack, clickty-clack....

When I was little I went to church with my step sister. I remember being there one Sunday night hearing about how I was going to hell if I didn't go up right then and get dunked in the saving baptismal water. I knew I didn't want any part of this place called hell. I knew how bad things were at home and I had every reason to believe hell would be like falling out of the frying pan into the fire (pun intended). So I jumped up and walked down the aisle. I was promptly dunked and sent home. I remember thinking the whole way back how excited I was to be protected by my new Father. I had been washed white as snow and was a child of the King. I could walk through fire and not be burned.

But when I got home, all hell broke lose. It's a long story but suffice it to say things did not change for me. I remember going to school the next morning and thinking "everything looks EXACTLY THE SAME".

Remember the oven? Well, this is when the bathtub would have been a better visual, so I'm going to switch back now. I trust you get the idea well enough to stay with me here.

Being washed by the blood of Christ has nothing to do with externals. It has to do with the heart. There is no part of that washing that we have any control over and no part that requires WORK on our part. We can clean and clean the outside, but it's the heart that really matters.

When we are on a roller coaster, we have no control over where that thing is going to go. We have no control over the speed. The cart is going to (hopefully) go where the tracks take it. The operator is just pushing a button but he's really not in control.

Who's in control?? The designer. The one who built the coaster. That person made decisions YEARS before you got on this ride. That person engineered the ride to do certain things in certain ways. When we get on that ride, our trust is not on the tracks, or the cart or the operator. Our trust is in the DESIGNER and the BUILDER.

My life has been a roller coaster. Lately it's been a lot more scary. I think it's been particularly difficult for Dwayne. He never knows what wife he's waking up to or coming home to at the end of the day. That man knows my every mood by the way I BREATHE. He has had whiplash almost daily the last 18 months. I may have grown up in a pressure cooker. My outside may not be as clean as I'd like. But I (we) trust the designer of this ride. I (we) have faith in the engineer. So we'll throw our hands up and enjoy every minute.

...I warned you this was not going where you thought, I gave you plenty of hints it would take many twists and turns and change directions abruptly, but you hopped on this ride anyway...

Thank you for stopping by and sticking around. The usual running commentary will resume as soon as everyone steps off the ride. :D

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Is This Clean Enough (Part 3 of 4)

I know I talked about cleaning a bathtub in part one, but I have some decent pictures of my oven that work too well not to use so I'll just make the switch right now from bathtubs to ovens. More people can probably relate to ovens anyway.

Let me start by saying I don't cook a lot. I'm not a cook. I know I said that in part two, but it needs to be said again.

I realized a few days ago that my oven was in desperate need of cleaning. ...Let me pause here for a minute. If you regularly clean your oven, can you explain to me how that works? I mean, I use my oven to cook food I'm going to eat. It's usually still hot when I'm done eating so I can't clean it then. When do you actually clean it? I had a self cleaning oven one time but I burned up the element in it by using it; the repair man told me to NEVER use that option because the element wasn't made to get that hot. That makes no sense to me...why have it as an option if it's just going to fry your oven? But I digress....

The other day I bought some no fume cleaner (that's another lie-don't believe it). When I went to spray it, I realized JUST how disgusting my oven had become. The directions said spray in a cold oven and let it sit for two hours then wipe clean. Thankfully it had another option because I knew that was not going to really work. For tougher jobs, you let it sit overnight. Well...I decided to let it sit about four hours. Shockingly, a lot of the gunk really did come up with paper towels! But clearly I had missed some places so after I wiped it all out, I sprayed more on and let it sit over night.

When I got up this morning I was pleased to see it had worked ...pretty well. But there were still some places that weren't really clean. Okay...the oven door actually looks like it has never been cleaned, ever. (I sprayed a THICK layer of this cleaner on there last night...I think it just doesn't really work on the door.) And the top of the door had what I thought were burned marks on it but as it turns out, that's just cooking funk.

Remember what I said about the filthy bathtub...well, I think you can see how this relates.

As I did with the bathtub, I scrubbed and scrubbed. I even got out a little brillo pad for the top of the door. I don't think I can use it on the door "glass" but even though I took a Pampered Chef scraper to that burned on nastiness...I could not get it all the way clean. I decided I would just keep working at it each day.

Remember the chart of diminishing returns?? Well...I really am in that yellow section right now. A LOT of work will only lead to a little progress, but it's still PROGRESS. And having a clean oven is worth it to me. Because now that I have recognized how disgusting it really is, I can't ignore it.

Before I looked in that oven, I was perfectly happy to just cook my food and not care what awful things were on the bottom, sides and door. It's not like any of my food touched those parts.

But, I looked. I noticed. And now I've read this whole article on why you SHOULD keep your oven clean. I won't be able to ignore it anymore. (How did I get to be 47 and not know all this already? I'll say it again...I'm not a cook!)

If you read Part Two, you probably know this has nothing to do with cookign and everything to do with training.

Okay...not really (but it could if that's where I was willing to stop). More than one do-gooder in my life has kindly shown me that I'm not quite "sorted out". And, frankly it pisses me off. My "inner oven" started getting dirty very early in my life. In a perfect world, ovens don't get as nasty as mine became.  In a perfect world, kids play and they learn and they grow. In a safe environment. And when hurts happen, they are "cleaned up" and "sorted out" at the time, in a healthy manner.

If you read part one, you know I decided that bathtub was probably never white to begin with. But I know what this oven is supposed to look like. I can't pretend I don't.

I have a feeling the stuff on the door will NEVER be truly clean. There was just too much grime built up. In the same way, the hurts of my childhood were deep and wide, and they were added to frequently. Even after all the therapy I've had, there are still some remnants that have yet to be completely taken care of. And, if I'm being honest, they probably will never be all the way gone.

The bad part about not keeping an oven clean? That baked on yuck attracts grime MORE than a clean surface would.

Let's go back to the pressure cooker for a second. When you have a dysfunctional pressure cooker...the pressure either builds, but not quite enough to actually cook the food well, or it doesn't build at all.

I'm not really happy about my grimy oven. I'm really not happy about my dysfunctional "pressure cooker". I don't want to "do therapy" again. I want to clean my oven and cook my food...and ride roller coasters. That sounds FUN, right??

Three posts in one day might be enough....or maybe I'll stick with it and see this all the way through.

Thanks for stopping by and sticking around.

**I know I said I had pictures of my oven...but really, no one needs to see that!

Life in a Pressure Cooker (Part 2 of 4)


Like I said in the last post, I really don't know anything about pressure cookers. I know what I think they do, and I like the visual, but the analogy might break down if you are a cook and you really know how they work/what they do. So, I'll just ask you to bear with me here...

Without going into too much detail, I didn't have a Brady Bunch/Leave it to Beaver childhood. My parents separated/divorced when I was in the 1st grade. We moved from Texas to Arkansas. (If you know anything about their football rivalry in the mid 70s, then you know why this is included in my "I didn't have a good childhood" story.) My mother remarried a couple of years later to the man I called Daddy. (He wasn't my biological father, but he married my "Mommy" so I reasoned I needed to call him "Daddy".) He was a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde kind of man. He was not a nice man. He passed away many years ago; I'll leave it at that. I know my mother is reading this, so I'll say I know she did the best she could, and I'll leave it at that. 

When I was fresh out of high school I found a therapist to see. At my first visit the good doctor was getting some history from me (thank God) and we discovered he had gone to school with my Daddy, like 30 years before then, in a TINY town about 3 hours away. What are the chances of that??!!  He tried to assure me I could talk to him about anything, but I couldn't get out of that office fast enough! Determined as I was, I quickly found another therapist. As I was telling her my story, she remarked that I seemed very well "adjusted" and asked what I hoped to get out of therapy. I remember telling her "well, I feel confident that I can't be as adjusted as I think I am...I'm hoping you can help sort that out." I don't remember how long I saw her, but she was the first of MANY "sorters" I have seen over the course of my life. 

((To be perfectly clear, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm still not sorted out.))

Since then I have spent more on therapy than some wealthy people in third world countries MAKE in a lifetime! And don't even get me started on all of the TIME involved. When you "do therapy" it's so much more than the time spent on the couch and the travel time back and forth to the office. But even more than the time I've spent "doing therapy", I want to focus a bit on the time I've spent FIGHTING against it.

....Let's talk about the pressure cooker now. (Again...if you are cook, just roll with me here...)

You put raw food in the cooker, lock up the lid and then turn on the heat. Pressure builds and builds, cooking the food. If the pressure gets too high there's this little stopper thing on the lid of the pot that will pop up and let some steam out. This keeps the pot from exploding while the food continues to cook. The lid doesn't let all the pressure off or the food won't get done. 

Think about how we train our bodies. We over reach and push beyond our comfort zone and then we take time to recover. Then we push again. In an ideal setting, we'd push just enough (we'd let the pressure build just enough in the pot), and then we'd back off just enough (the lid would let just enough steam out) in order to make our goal (cook our food). The goal is not actually BALANCE. The goal in training is to be faster/stronger than we started; the goal in cooking is to have perfectly cooked food! If you have "perfect" balance in training you are not actually "training"...that's called maintaining. If that cooker has perfectly balanced pressure, it would be called a bowl. :D

In "therapy" the idea isn't to stay in the same state you started. That's called small talk. :D

When you go into therapy, there's something that has probably been out of balance for a while. A lot of people (myself included) will take the pressure cooker approach. The "problem" builds and builds until it's unbearable and you go to therapy to let off some steam. Once you've vented off just a little you FEEL better. In training, when done right, you feel better after a recover day/week. But you don't usually meet your goal by the first recovery day/week now do you? In the pressure cooker analogy, when the steam is let off, the food may smell really good, but it's not ready to eat yet.

I have never liked pushing myself in training. I have never been a good cook. And, I've never liked therapy. Therapy is hard. Small talk is easy. Venting is easy. Therapy hurts. 

You can't take all the pressure off until the food is cooked, and you can't halt the stress of training until you've reached your goal/peaked for your race. With therapy, a little "venting" might feel good, but if it's not getting you (me) to the goal of being "sorted out" then you (I) have to keep "pushing" and "cooking".

Are you still with me?? Thanks for stopping by and sticking around. Part 3 of 4 is coming up...


Pressure Cookers, Roller Coasters, and Bathtubs (Part 1 of 4)

Bear with me here...

A pressure cooker is a really neat kitchen tool that I have never fully understood. All I really know about it is that it has this neat top that will allow pressure inside the pot to be released so the whole thing doesn't blow up. It's one of the many analogies I use when talking about mental, emotional, or physical health. People can find themselves "out of balance" at times. If this is an acute type thing, it doesn't (usually) take long to equalize out. But if it's due to some chronic type thing, even if we"vent a little", or do a little PT, and feel better, we haven't really solved the true issue. It's like letting a little steam off doesn't truly equalize the pressure, it just keeps the pot from exploding.

Another analogy I like to use when discussing chronic type issues is one of a really dirty bathtub. We bought a house one time that had a FILTHY bathtub. It was super old and very porous. (Read: the dirt was DEEP.) We couldn't afford to do anything except clean it so I bought all kinds of cleaners and brushes and set about scrubbing to get this thing white again. After HOURS working on this thing, feeling like my back was broken and my fingers were raw, it looked so much better. ...but it was NOT quite where I wanted it. But I was just done. I knew it was going to take consistent cleanings and serious work to get this thing white. I soaked it in bleach. I tried baking soda and vinegar. I'd like to say I found the magic cure, but I never did. I finally gave up and decided maybe it had never actually BEEN a white tub. I knew it was "clean enough" because I had practically sterilized the thing.

When dealing with a chronic issue, whether it's emotional/mental or physical, you have to be committed for the long haul. That condition didn't get there overnight; it's not going to be solved overnight either (and may not ever be truly "solved". Maybe you will decide "almost" is good enough, or maybe you will be working on this thing for a lifetime because you never reach the point of negative returns. You might not be in the "most productive" phase but even with diminishing returns, if there is some forward movement, it might be worth the work.

The analogy of a roller coaster is RICH. There are so many aspects that can be compared to "real life". The feelings that come with watching someone else experience a roller coaster, fear, anticipation, being in the line, strapping in, how you ride (hanging on for dear life or hands in the air), where you ride (front or back), the feeling of the clickty-clack, clickty-clack as you go up, the feeling of weightlessness as the cart goes down but your body keeps going up, being upside down, sudden directional changes, and coming to a full stop at the end. Oh the comparisons that can be made are ENDLESS I tell you!

I'm going somewhere with each of these. Keep coming back if you want to join me on this journey!

Are you in the front with your hands up and a smile on your face, or in the back waiting for the tail to whip??


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Horizons

I love that Facebook gives me memories from the past. It's fun to see what I posted on this day years ago.  Well...most of the time it's fun.

Today was interesting.

In 2010 I posted a link to a blog entry of a "poem" I had written back in 1995. I was in therapy trying to undo a lot of the knots of my childhood and this "poem" was exactly where I was--trying to get through this raging river of memory and mess to get to what I perceived would be a better place. I so clearly remember writing that "poem". I remember the feeling triumph over the fear of confronting all those past feelings and disappointments and hurts. I felt powerful and strong. I felt fearless. I felt hopeful for things to come.

Fast forward two years. I posted a link to a blog entry about a bike race I was entered in. It was all about about how terrified I was. Why was I so scared? I was going to have to ride my bike UP A HILL (gasp!). That sounds silly, but some fears really are a little silly. I'm going to say ALL irrational fears are silly. There is no SOLID basis in reality when dealing with irrational fears. They are usually a distortion or over generalization of some real thing; that honest fear has morphed into some new (silly) thing. In the case of this race, a fear of failure had given way to a fear of riding up a hill!!

For what it's worth, I did that race and I made it up that "gargantuan" climb. I don't even think of it as a major climb anymore. Not that I could even begin to go ride it today, but I don't think I'm scared of the thought of riding it. It's hard to know for sure since it's completely out of the question for me right now. It's hard to muster fear when there's no doubt the thing isn't going to come to pass!!

Fast forward another year. I posted a link to a blog entry about staying focused on where I'm currently at, honoring the present rather than looking back or looking ahead. It was 2013. I was battling a shoulder injury and wanting to begin training for my first Ironman that fall. I had so much pain in that shoulder. (It turned out that I had a torn bicep tendon that was cut out the following January--after I had completed IMLT.) I said in part:
It's too easy to get caught up in thinking about anything other than where I'm at on this journey RIGHT NOW, mainly because it's usually not where I WANT to be!!  But...man...that's a GREAT thing.  That edge of discontentment means I'm driven.  It means I want more than to stay put. ...The thing I'm coming to realize is I don't have to give up my drive and my desire to do better in order to appreciate where I'm at right now.  In fact, honoring this moment in time is part of the way I will be able to get better.  I look at what I'm doing now.  This day.  This workout.  This moment.  If I'm giving all I have to give to make the training session what it needs to be, I can say, "YES!!  That's great..."  When I can stay focused on the task at hand I am able to give it all I have.  If I'm distracted-thinking about anything else other than what I'm doing-I'm NOT giving all I have.  It's as simple as that.

It's easy to get caught up in what I want...to be too tightly entangled with what I think I'm working toward-the GOAL. When that happens, I lose track of the task at hand. I lose focus on where I'm currently at and what the current need truly is.

I see it with the athletes I coach all the time. They work hard and get a little "injury" that's not an injury, it's just a little "thing". They don't pay attention to that thing, but instead stay too tightly transfixed on the future GOAL. They don't take the necessary steps to care for that "thing" properly. That little thing that's not an injury becomes an injury and it stops them from reaching their goal.

A lot of people do this but in different ways. I had a friend whose wife became addicted to gambling. She literally lost everything they had-all their life savings, their house, and eventually their marriage. She kept thinking she would be able to win it all back if she could just hit well "one time". The father of another friend had never taken a real vacation from work. His plan was to retire and then travel. He worked hard EVERY DAY and saved a lot of money for his future. ...he died the week after he retired. We can get so ensnared by the goal, by the plan, that we lose track of where we are right now.

Allow me to tell you a story about someone we'll call Sally. Sally had fallen into a hole. She could see the light of the "outside world" but she was pretty far down below the surface. She wasn't shaken by this, she knew what she needed to do-just climb up and get out of that hole. But every time she tried to grab the wall of that hole, it just crumbled under her hand. Sally tried everything...she called for help, she looked for anything that could be used as a tool, she even tried meditation thinking she just needed to relax her way out of the hole. She took a little time trying to become more at home in the hole, but that was NOT going to happen, she knew that hole was NOT where she belonged. But every time she tried to climb up and out to get back to the surface, she stumbled. At times she even fell a little further from the surface. Other times it would rain and with every attempt to get out she made that hole bigger and bigger as she slid on the muddy prison walls. Some days she was so exhausted all she could do was to wait for rain to wet her mouth so she could try again.

One day Sally decided that she was going to change the goal. Up until then the goal was to GET OUT OF THE HOLE and get BACK TO THE SURFACE. She decided while that was a really good long-term goal, the short term had to be something else because she wasn't seeing any progress being made. (Truth be told, she was actually getting further from her goal every day.) It also couldn't be about making "interim goals" because if she was being brutally honest with herself, she knew she might not ever make it to the surface.) She decided to make the goal all about what she was doing in the moment to move TOWARD that goal. Those actions might not produce the result of getting her closer to the surface, but that wasn't going to be the metric of success anymore. The metric was going to be "am I doing something that I think will move me closer, even if it doesn't?".

Sally had realized that she didn't have control of the hole. She knew she was not content to stay there, but she didn't know if she'd ever actually see the surface ever again. If the metric of success was about meeting that long term goal of being out, she might not ever make it. She might become very frustrated and give up on that goal. But if the metric became making attempts to move toward that goal, then ANY attempt was a win, even if it didn't actually produce measurable progress. She might move up a few feet, only to be knocked back down but she knew she would never stop trying to get out of that hole.

When we are looking ahead, we might have this vast expanse in front of us-we can see for MILES and MILES. It's an open road just begging to be traveled. But there are other times when we are trapped by circumstance. We always have a choice. Do we focus on the horizon, or do we focus on where we are in the moment? Both perspectives have advantages and are necessary for different reasons. But I believe you need the ability to do both. More that than, you need the wisdom to know which one will serve you best in the moment.




















Because, we don't have the advantage of being all knowing.



Thanks for stopping in and for sticking around.