Happy New Year!

Like many, I’m not a fan of resolutions. I don’t like putting too much pressure on milestone dates because I think life is a process and real change happens so slowly over time that it’s almost imperceptible. That said, I do think there are some benefits in setting an intention for the year. “Intention” may just be a dressed up version of “resolution” without all the cliche the latter carries. Still, I think having a guiding principle for the year can be a good thing.

I view resolutions as specific, non-negotiable goals for the year which are difficult for me because I think it’s too hard to predict what life will throw at you in a year, and I don’t like the inflexibility. Intentions are broad enough to be malleable. They can stretch to fit the situation and help keep me on track with my main focus for the year.

My intention for 2014 (though I don’t know if I realized it until about halfway through) was to take care of myself first. I’ve heard it called, the “oxygen mask theory.” You know how on a plane, the safety walkthrough (always pay attention to the safety walkthrough!) explains that in the event oxygen masks are needed, they will drop down from the ceiling; always put on your own mask before helping others. The metaphor is not subtle. You cannot be there for others in their time of need if you are struggling to breathe.

2014 was not the year of people pleasing. I made a lot of decisions that didn’t sit well with others. The most major event of my 2014 was, of course, planning a wedding. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, you can’t make most any wedding decision without bothering someone. Our families were thrilled we decided to get married, and that was about all we could all agree on. But that’s really all that matters. Keeping that in mind made it easier to make a million small decisions that bothered someone. Easier, but not easy.

In the past, I would have totally buckled under the pressure of trying to please everybody. Once I realized that was impossible, I decided that if the only person I could please was myself (and my husband of course), then I should at least strive to do that. If I wasn’t happy and neither was anyone else, what was the point? I made the decisions I wanted, and our wedding was amazing. I loved it, and everyone else had a great time too. Six months later, our families still rave about it.

It wasn’t just the wedding though. Looking back I made a lot of decisions in 2014 that I wouldn’t have made in the past based on how others felt about them. I got a dog that really only I knew our family was ready for. She’s the perfect addition to our family, and everyone loves her now, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment. Her integration didn’t always go smoothly, and I wondered nearly every day if it was the right call. Almost a year later, I can’t imagine not having her, and neither can anyone else.

I lost a friend who just wasn’t a good fit for my life anymore. Ending that relationship wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely the right choice for me. I feel happy with my decision, and I’m glad I trusted my own moral compass above anything else. Once again, taking care of myself had a ripple effect on the rest of my life. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I was spending on an area of my life that was bearing no fruit. Walking away, opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.

And then I ran a marathon. I spent 18 weeks on an inherently selfish pursuit. In the past, I would, and often did, shy aways from personal goals because they took up too much time that I could have been devoting to others. The marathon was the biggest eye opener in this year of taking care of myself first. Spending 18 weeks pursuing a goal that really only should have benefitted me, enhanced almost all my relationships. Accomplishing smaller goals every weekend in the form of longer and longer runs made me feel so fulfilled that each week was just happier. I found myself becoming more joyful and patient in my interactions with my friends and family. I wasn’t distracted by all the things I wanted to do but wasn’t doing. I was doing something great for me, and that made me more present for others.

Also, I found time I didn’t know existed. Being so busy forced me to focus on the things that mattered. It’s amazing how much time I have when I’m not wasting any of it. I actually spent more time with my husband, and the time we spent together felt more valuable.

Taken piece by piece, it seems silly. Getting married, getting a dog, ending a friendship, running a marathon. Those would have been an odd and disjointed list of resolutions. And honestly only the wedding was expected for the year on January 1, 2014. The rest just happened, but having an intention for the year guided my actions every time I had a difficult decision to make. I wanted to be able to look back on this year and feel like I really took care of myself first, and now I can honestly say I did.

I’m not yet sure exactly what 2015’s intention will be, but I think it’s time to fulfill the second half of the “oxygen mask theory.” I’ve helped myself, and now it’s time to help others. Making decisions that made me happy had the unexpected effect of making me better in my relationships, but I can do more. Sometimes, I find myself judging others based on my own insecurities, and that judgment can get in the way of a good relationship. I too often fall into the trap of thinking that another’s accomplishments are a reflection on my own failings, but it’s not a zero sum game. There is enough success in the world for everyone.

In 2014, I learned that it’s ok to be a little selfish when pursuing the things that make me happy. I want to keep doing that. I want to prioritize my own happiness, but this year, I want to rejoice in the happiness of others as well. I think the insecurity that leads to the judgement (and truthfully, toxic resentment) comes from thinking things like, “Wow I could never do that.” Or worse, “I guess I could do that, but I never would because how selfish!” It’s embarrassing to write these thoughts down, but it’s the truth.

2015 will be the year of letting go of my insecurities by continuing to do the things I’m scared to do. In letting go of those insecurities, I want to let go of the resentment that tags along. I will support my friends and family in their endeavors. I will rejoice in their successes and lift them up when they falter. I will be a better wife, sister, granddaughter, daughter and friend. I want to be a stronger member of the community, a better citizen. Lofty enough? Yeah I think so too.

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Reflections and What’s Next

How do you know when someone’s run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Are you sick of hearing about this marathon yet? I’m sick of talking about it. Actually, that’s a lie. I could talk about it forever, but I won’t. I do think it’s worth wrapping up (if only for my own selfish purposes) with some reflections on training and what I would change. First, let me just say, I think I had a great training plan. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 plan, and it was great. It was easy for me to stick with (I never missed a run), and I felt mentally and physically prepared for the day. I know I expressed some disappointment in my time, but I finished in exactly the time I trained for, and other than a few days of soreness, my body recovered very quickly.

If I were to do one again (and I’m not saying I would!) here’s what I would change:

1) Add some speed work, tempo runs and hills.

All my runs were evenly paced. It was about building distance without injuring myself or burning out mentally, and I think that was absolutely the right approach in tackling a new distance. Now that I’ve done it, my next training plan would have to include a variety of runs. The speed workouts I think would serve two purposes. The obvious being getting faster while going longer. The less obvious would be just breaking up the monotony. 18 weeks of slow and steady runs begins to feel a little like Groundhog Day: Crunch Gym Edition. The hills are crucial because almost any 26.2 mile course is going to involve at least a few, and I find hill training to be the only type of running that almost doubles as cross training. It builds muscle without wearing me out too much for my next run. Speaking of cross training…

2) I’d actually do some cross training.

This is my fault and not the plan’s. It calls for one day of cross training, and I don’t think I ever did one. I liked that my plan only included 4 runs a week as I think it kept me injury free, and it allowed me to have some sort of a life outside of training. However, I think some weight training and yoga for flexibility could have benefit me greatly in that last grueling stretch of the race.

3) I’d eat the damn banana.

As far as what’s next, I’m trying to take it easy, but I also know myself. I like structure and schedules. Saying I’ll just work out when I feel like it is sort of panic inducing for me. Not that I feel like I always need to be working out, but I like to know what days I’ll be at the gym and when I’ll get to relax. Having a schedule allows me to take days off guilt free. I don’t know how to make that sound non-disordered, but I promise, it’s less crazy than it reads. So, my middle ground is a schedule with more variety.

I’m going to aim for 4-5 workouts a week. I want to run and lift weights and spin and do yoga. I actually took my first hot yoga class in over a year! I’m going to keep my gym membership because it’s $10 a month, but I do plan on using my basement set up (spin bike and free weights) a lot this winter.

I do have some running goals. My PRs are three years old, and I’d still like to run a sub-2 hour half. I’m not focusing on those right now though. I started training the week I came home from our honeymoon. Between the wedding and the marathon, I’ve been non stop for all of 2014. There are some other areas of my life that need focus and attention…

I start a new job on Monday. It’s a big leap for me. I’ve been at my current job for only 16 months, which is not my norm (I was at the job before that for 4 years), but it’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m really excited about it. I’m going to throw some serious time and energy behind my career because I feel like I’m at a tipping point.

Mainly though, I just need to recharge. I need to be home with my husband and my pets. I want to read more and finish up house projects. I want to do more cooking and baking and knitting and other totally age appropriate activities for a 27 going on 87 year old. The marathon was a big itch, and now that it’s scratched, I’m ready for a bit of break.

That’s all for now. Bye!

 

So, what’s next?

That seems to be the most common question I get asked these days, and it’s valid. The answer is, I don’t really know. A lot of stuff gets pushed to the back burner when you’re wedding planning, so the first order of business is a triage of sorts. Just determining what needs to be attended to after being ignored for 17 months.

I cut my hair off which felt significant. Wifely.

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I’ll get confirmed after a year of preparation this weekend, and I’m ready to grow in my faith. It’s been such a meaningful, life-changing journey, and it’s really just the beginning.

Our house needs attention since we’ve been funneling all our money towards the wedding for some time now. We recaulked the bathtub and set up a home office, but we’re also saving and planning for bigger improvements like a patio and some insulation.

I came back to work to learn that my manager (mentor and friend) was moving on to new opportunities. She didn’t want to tell me before the wedding, so I only had a couple weeks with her once I returned. That threw my job into a state of flux, but it ended up working out as I got offered a new role. I’m still in the same group at the same company, but I’m now in IT which I expect will be challenging and exciting. There’s a certification exam for this new position in December, so I’ll be studying once again.

I’m tossing around the idea of going back to school for my masters, but it’s all up in the air at this point. I’d like to start in the spring of next year if I can get all my ducks in a row.

And as everyone always really wants to know, babies are (God-willing) on the (semi-distant) horizon.

All these changes and long term plans made me do a crazy thing.

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Guess which one I registered for? Yep. The marathon. I registered for my first marathon, and I’m not at all sure I’m ready. My body is still falling apart, and I’m still daunted by the distance. Chris is less than thrilled for my return to weekends of stress and soreness, but we all knew this was coming. It’s been a major goal of mine since my first 5k. If I do to back to school, I think work plus night classes plus long runs on the weekend would have been tough, so I figured it’s now or years from now. Now seemed better.

My plan has started. Things are happening. Big things. Let’s do this!

Layla

Big things are happening over here on our funny farm…

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Yesterday we picked up our newest family member, Layla. She is 3 years old, medium sized and sweet as can be. She had a pretty rotten life before she was rescued by the wonderful volunteers at Eleventh Hour Rescue. She’s a little shy and is still adjusting to her new home, but we’ve been waiting years for her, and we’ll wait as long as it takes for her to feel totally comfortable. Yay Layla! Welcome to the brood.

Ten Friday Things

Well we’re back down to a “real feel” of -1 today. Honestly though, who can tell the difference between 10 and -1? Once it drops below 20, it’s just very cold. I keep trying to tell myself, “well, imagine if you lived in Minnesota” but Minnesotans drive to work. They don’t wait an extra ten minutes on a platform for a delayed train. Ugh.

1. Everyone has reached their breaking points. See above. Seriously, it’s almost (but not really) comical to watch everyone around me just absolutely lose it over this weather. And we’ve got another snow storm on the way Monday.

2. We had an absolutely terrible experience with the first dog rescue group we tried to work with. They were so awful and basically told us they decided when we first applied that they weren’t going to allow us to adopt.

Unfortunately, they still dragged us along in the process for another 2 weeks. It was heartbreaking and probably a scam from the beginning. Everyone tried to warn me about how fishy the whole thing seemed, but what can I say? I was stupidly optimistic.

Anyway, we got burned bad and the whole ordeal ended with a cease and desist letter. It was a mess. I googled them afterwards and found some really disturbing information, so I’m glad the whole thing fell apart, but it still sucks. If you’re trying to rescue a dog in NJ, email me, and I’ll tell you who to avoid for sure.

3. It’s probably fair for them to deny us. I mean, just look at the horrendous conditions our two rescues are forced to endure.

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Horrible.

4. Enough sad thoughts. Let’s focus on the positives. March is going to be a good month! I’ve got an appointment with the doctor who may be able to solve my stomach problems, and I finally made an appointment to get my wonky leg looked at. Running, I’m coming for you!

5. March also means our annual trip to Florida! Wahoo!!

6. We got confirmation from the Deacon who’s marrying us that the church will be in working order on our wedding date! I’m not totally convinced because it wasn’t him who warned us of the construction in the first place, so I’m not sure how in the loop he is, but it’s a good omen!

7. My boss offered to take us out for happy hour tonight, and he scheduled it at 4! I love me a happy hour after work, but it’s even better when I can go for a free drink and still make it home and into PJs by 7. Wild Friday night fo sho.

8. Chris left his wallet at home today which means I get to see him for an extra minute when I drop it off on my way to the office this morning. Woo hoo!

9. One of my coworkers told me that she’s never registered to vote!! What?!? She’s been legally able to for a decade! That prompted two other coworkers to confess that they’ve only voted once!! I mean I knew voter turnout was getting low, but I’ve never actually met anyone forsaking their civic duty before! Get out the vote people!

10. Today is Starbucks latte and bagel with a side of NY Times x-word day. Best day of the week!!

Happy Friday fools!

Winter is winning

I keep meaning to post. I really do. Then I try to think of things worth mentioning, and I just curl up under another blanket instead. Winter is kicking my ass. This is something because I am not generally a wimp about winter. When we headed into the season I was really ready for the cold weather forcing everybody to stay inside and slow down. The hermit lifestyle suits me. When it snowed right around Christmas, it was beautiful. When we got a major storm every week in January, I said, “It’s winter. What does everyone expect?” And I soldiered on. I kept telling Chris (who DOES NOT LOVE winter) to buck up! Then… I lost it.

By our second week of multiple snow storms, after my 100th hour shoveling and my 1,000,000th night walking home in the dark in the street (because the sidewalks are impassable) praying I wouldn’t get run over, I snapped. I finally joined the ranks of the winter haters and just about broke down last weekend. I tried to keep my spirits up all day as I watched our third snowfall of the week descend on us. I gritted my teeth as we headed to the grocery store to stock up for yet another homebound week. Then, a man in a giant SUV honked at us for taking a hairpin left turn slowly in our little Mazda. He continued honking as we obeyed the speed limit on ice covered roads. He persisted in his honking crusade even after watching us fishtail twice. God bless Chris for continuing to drive because I just put my head in my hands and cried. I could not take it one more minute.

We finally made it home, and I unleashed the fury of 1,000 icy days. I won’t recount it here, because it was not my finest moment, but it ended up being just what I needed. Chris and I worked each other up so much we were laughing by the end of it.

For the rest of the weekend, I did what I always do when I get to the end of my rope. I pretended to be a rebel and shirked my obligations for the next day. I skipped church and stayed in bed until 10:30. I refused to clean the house and loafed around in pjs until it was time to go pick out wedding invitations. Of course, my old sensible self didn’t stay away long. By early evening, I had emailed the priest to apologize for missing my catechism, read the days verses on my own, vacuumed and done three loads of laundry. Still, it was nice to say f*ck it for a little while.

So, yeah, winter is winning, but we are surviving, and spring is in sight.

What else is new? Well, we are trying to adopt a dog, and it is terrible and heartbreaking, but I have been wanting to do this for years, and I am more terrifying when I am chasing what I want. We met a dog who meets exactly none of our “qualifications for the ideal dog,” but we love him, and I would like him to be ours very much. So far, we have made very little progress, but I’m hopefully.

I’ve been running. Sort of. I ran 1 mile then 2 miles twice. My still hurts. I don’t think the 8 weeks of rest did anything. It might be time to throw in the towel and see a doctor for some real advice.

Our wedding is in less than 5 months and it is getting REAL! We booked the last of our vendors last week, so now we have the incidentals to handle. I told my boss about the vacation time I will need, and I am so, so excited.

Bowled over

Yuck. Sorry for that title, but really how do you preface bowling?

This weekend was practically perfect save for a lack of sleep. I met up with some girlfriends for drinks on Friday night. The best part (other than the company obviously!) was that I didn’t even have to leave town! One lives in the neighboring town and the other is a native Cranfordian. Considering we met in college, I sorta love that we ended up living just blocks away from each other. Way to be, Union County!

It turns out that wine and 1/3 of a plate of nachos do not make for lasting energy, and my own raging hunger woke me up at 7:30. This is why I will never understand people who can skip meals. After feeding my face, Chris and I headed to Freehold to meet up with a potential florist. We loved all the guys there and are almost positive they’re the ones. We’re visiting another company next weekend just to compare. I never thought I’d be this excited about flowers, but I really am.

We spent the rest of our rainy (but much warmer!) Saturday shopping for some house stuff. Taking down that Christmas tree made everything feel so empty that we decided to bite the bullet and just pick up a few pieces for our dining room. I mean the table and chairs were free, so we felt ok showing the room a little love. I’ve been covering a rug for that room for months, but was really hoping to find a 7×9 for around $100. After scouring the Internet, a million home stores and a thrift store, I realized that was a bit unrealistic and went for the most affordable option I could find.

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cat toy squirrel is old; rug and potted trees are new

I’m already in love.

Back story: Around the end of November, Chris and I jointly came up with 5 date night ideas then individually wrote out 5 more each. We threw them all in a jar and now we take turns picking at random when we have some free time. I’ll admit that I thought this idea would be a little silly or might not gain traction, but it has been SO FUN! We’ve done four so far, and I’ll probably link to all the dates once we’ve exhausted our pile!

Our fourth date was bowling! It was Chris’ idea, and I loved it! We grabbed some delicious burgers beforehand since I had literally dreamt about burgers two nights last week.

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just look at that greasy deliciousness

Our first bowling alley was a total bust as they didn’t open to the public (ie not a private party) until 11:15. Sorry but I’m too old to be starting my night at 11. Luckily, the next option was still pretty close and ended up being a really fun place with lasers! And beer!

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Don’t let those stellar scores fool ya. That was by far the best game I played. I am the world’s most inconsistent bowler. After rolling two strikes at the end if game one, I went out to get 6 (!!) gutter-balls in a row! That’s three straight turns with no pins down. I scored a 33 for the game. I wish I could say I took it in stride, but I don’t like sucking at things, so after failing to break 50 twice, I was sort of over bowling.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great night and an awesome date idea, but I think next time might involve more beers and less games.