Optimisim, You Say?

"Optimism? It's a mania for insisting everything is great when, really, we're all wretched." - Candide

Monday, November 29, 2010

Birthday Thoughts, Upcoming Half Mary, ETC

So, today is (the anniversary of) my 25th birthday. I woke up about 6am with a bad asthma attack.  My chest was full of gunk because I am coming down with my first cold since March.  Now, you might call me crazy, but I’m really grateful, because it just reminds me that I almost never get sick anymore.  It’s so odd to not be ill when I’ve been that way every 3-6 weeks for years!

 

Truthfully, my birthday is bittersweet anyway, because it signals the end of a month-long celebration my friends and I call the International Month of Fabulousness (IMOF). (Everyone knows that only Fabulous People were born during November!  DUH!) Now the Christmas and New Year’s seasons loom ahead of me, and this year (again) I may not have the chance to see my parents.  (Although this isn’t the end of things; I have a plan in the works.)

 

So my thought today was kind of like . . . I feel like crap on my birthday . . .  EVEN SO, it’s a great day.

 

I race on Saturday, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I feel better fast.  This year, I’ve scored PRs at every single distance – no reason to think this weekend’s half marathon won’t be the same, as long as I rest for the first few days this week.

 

Then this e-mail came from a coworker who sends out the best inspirational e-mails daily.  I thought it was fitting.

 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Even so

Some days it may seem that your actions are not very effective.

Even so, the best thing you can do is to keep doing all you can.

Sometimes it may feel that although you care deeply about the world,

the world does not care much about you.

Even so, it is much better that you continue to care.

 

There will be times when you give all you have,

and end up with nothing to show for it.

Keep giving though, for the rewards are surely there,

even if they are too profound for you to see just yet.

The disappointments may sometimes be so painful that you feel like giving up.

Remember though, it is your caring that makes the disappointment possible,

and that very same caring will pull you up and push you forward.

Though you may be reluctant to admit it,

you can make any situation into a

valuable, successful experience.

 

You can live with love,

joy and fulfillment even

when everything seems

to be pushing against you.

The circumstances of this moment

may not feel particularly desirable.

 

Even so, there is a beautiful

treasure that's yours to give,

and yours to live in this very place,

on this very day.

-- Ralph Marston


You can live with love, joy and fulfillment even

when everything seems to be pushing against you.

 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween is Scary. Cancer is Scarier.

First of all . . . thanks for bearing with me a few nights ago while I whined my face off.  I got up today and had a nice leisurely ride with my riding buddy Lisa (instead of going the full 34 miles with the Seminole Cyclists) just to make sure I’m up to speed.

 

Sunday and Monday I’m resting, and Monday, I’m going in for bloodwork in the hopes that the endo will see me 2 weeks early.

 

And I’m preparing today for my 1st Annual BBQ to Beat Cancer! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This Year, I'm Taking Uncle Bill to Mardi Grass

I was about 6.  The giant ferris wheel at the Bay Beach Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wisconsin loomed before me.

Now, this next part you will NEVER believe.

<i>I was petrified.</i>

I have attempted 3 marathons, over a dozen triathlons and dozens more road races.  I was a public speaking ace in college.  I ride motorcycles. I work three jobs.

I am the last person anyone would expect to be terrified of a ferris wheel.

But I was.

That is, until Uncle Bill got involved.  Uncle Bill convinced me that getting on thay ferris wheel was EXACTLY what I needed to do. And I wasn't buying it, especially as we rounded that first seemingly endless drop and my stomach fell somewhere down around my toes.

And then the unthinkable happened.

WE STOPPED AT THE TOP.

Convinced I was facing certain death, I clutched Uncle Bill's hand with an iron grip. Then, as the steel terror machine creaked into inevitable motion, he giggled and looked at me, and I will never forget what he said. 

In the voice of a toddler watching fireworks for the first time, Uncle Bill pointed at the breathtaking view and cooed, "Ooooh! AAAAAHHHH!"

I burst into laughter. I haven't met a ferris wheel or roller coaster I didn't love since that day.

My mom's older brother, one of many uncles, was a kid trapped in an adult body. No one had a bad time around Uncle Bill. Everything made him smile.

Which is the extraordinary part. You see, Uncle Bill fought many battles in his life. Korea. Alcoholism.  Fatherhood. The economy.

Lung cancer was the only one he didn't beat.

I am forever in debt to this man. It is because of him that I see tasks which are daunting and even terrifying as challenges, and, more importantly, opportunities to HAVE FUN.

And so, it seems only fitting that I undertake a fundraising effort in his honor as I, also a cancer survivor, embark upon a journey to complete my 3rd marathon. For I would never be here without him.  And I cannot think of anyone who would have more fun in New Orleans with me. Because, although he may not, his spirit of fun, fearlessness and enthusiasm for life live on.

I will be raising funds and awareness for the American Cancer Society at the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 13, 2011.
I hope you'll join me and Uncle Bill in any way you can.

Love,

MAJ

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Congratulations!

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

-Dr. Suess, c. 1990


I stepped back and looked at the overall picture of this week's training, and I can't even explain how pleased I am. I see yoga, strength, bricks, long rides, babying a sore toe without going overboard on rest OR runs, and an openwater swim tomorrow. I did it all while managing a full-time job, two very part-time positions, a social schedule, a relationship, my medicines, and baby-sitting my friend's dogs . . . . and I was relatively successful at all of it.

Never in a million, bazillion years did I ever, EVER, EVER think it was possible.

I am SO amazed and proud of myself. And, more importantly, I feel incredibly grateful and blessed.


I'm even grateful for the cancer. In many ways, it taught me what I needed to get where I am now.


When I look at my recent blog entries compared to those just a few short months ago, I can't get over what a phenomenal difference I see. But when I look at my blog entries compared to those from my first few years of training, the difference is even clearer. I am more well-rounded now, as an athlete AND an individual, than I ever dreamed I could be.

Remember the girl who was so incredibly stressed about working and going to school that she feared she'd completely shut down if she had to do both? Remember the girl so afraid of her own drama that it bled all over her life, from her face to her Facebook? Remember the girl who agonized about how to reconcile the girlie-girl with the tomboy, the social butterfly with the athlete?

She stopped agonizing about HOW and just . . . . DID.


I also realized, looking back, that not only did I struggle through some awfully bitter and emotionally exhausting moments, that the pressure to report on and blog about my training became more important to me than actually putting in the training. When I took a break from triathlon, I wasn't only exhausted with trying to keep up the training and my life in general, but also by trying to keep up with reporting it!

Today my followers are fewer and farther between. My blog doesn't appear on anyone's "most read" list (largely because it's been private off and on while I decided what to share and hide.) And I'm completely okay with that. Those of you who follow me actually represent some of my best e-friends, tri-friends, and real-life friends.

I love to blog now because it's fun, and it's relaxing, and it's exciting to stay in touch with the tri-e-thletes I've come to know and love over the internet. But I don't care if I miss a few days, or even a few weeks, or - hell - a few months.

I know now that I've always had brains in my head, and feet in my shoes, and I could ALWAYS go anywhere I'd choose.


But I guess I finally, truly, realized that I am the guy who decides where I go.


And oh, the places I'll go.

Being satisifed in life is about more than just finding what you like and doing it. It's remembering that every single step you take is a step forward, and that every step forward, no matter how miniscule, moves you toward known and unknown goals. The second you realize that every step is positive forward motion, the less your tasks feel like to-dos and the more they feel like want-to-dos. And, if no matter how hard you try, they still feel like TO-DO's, then maybe you need to revise your goals.

I did . . . and it brought me right back to where I started.

And I suddenly don't care about how slow I am compared to others, or if I finish a race last, or if I make a mistake here and there. Everyone else is too worried about their own times to care about mine, I'm the only person for whom my finishes really matter, and the people who are able to help me along in my journey will know that a mistake or two builds character and teaches important lessons.

This is the beginning of a lifelong journey. This is the rebirth of a future stronger, and brighter, and more promising, than anything I have ever had or imagined having.

There will be still be challenges;I will still be alone at times. I'll still fail; I'll still falter. I'll still face dark times, and anger, and tears, and sadness. But I will face it all knowing how very far I've come.

And oh, the places I'll go.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Confession: I Don't Think I Need to Blog to Try to Be Positive Anymore

Today's a rest day.  I worked 9-5 but got home after 8.  Tomorrow is a 3-sport day and I already have water bottles prepped and in the fridge!  Wish me luck.  I've got a lot of things going on, so I'm sure things will be happening like crazy and I may need to swap workouts from time to time.  (Today I inserted my own rest day after 4 back-to-back tough days and long days at work.)
 
Just 8 months ago, I didn't know how I was handling just working and going to school.  Some days, I don't know how I'm doing what I am, and how all of this good stuff has fallen into my lap.  I'm not complaining, but it sure does amaze me.
 
I mean, for all intents and purposes, I should be a terrible failure.
 
I had this conversation with a friend of mine today who knows my story as good as, or better than, anyone on the interwebs.  He, too, faces dozens of obstacles.  So he knows, perhaps better than anyone here, that every day there are any number of reasons when I could easily, logically, understandably, give up.  I could be dejected, discouraged, negative, or bitter - and no one would really blame me. 
 
As anyone who reads my other blog knows, I've been there recently enough to know how it feels, why it feels that way, and how difficult it is to overcome.
 
But that's also how I know that it is a CHOICE.  And it's also how I know this: no matter what you do, no matter what you are, no matter what you are up against, choosing to be positive about it will ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, make you feel better.  You could have no job, home, money, or friends - but, if you find something that makes you smile in life (something to reach for, the tiniest thing to believe in) - your quality of life will improve.  And the better you feel, even marginally, the better you WILL feel going forward.  Positivity and negativity feed on each other exponentially.
 
I'm not talking about being a Pollyanna.  You won't help yourself by blindly believing that millions will fall from the sky into your bank account while you sit on your ass watching soap operas.  And no, being positive won't instantly make everything in your life perfect.  But what it will do is increase your resiliency - your ability to bounce BACK from the bad/disappointing/frustrating/sad.  This is not just me talking out my arse, here - scholarly sources suggest a significant correlation between positive affect and resiliency.
Having it all didn't get me to where I could improve at triathlons and get TA jobs and find an employer that left me alone; neither did losing it all.  You know what got me there? Me belief that trying to make things better eventually WOULD, even in the tiniest way, make things better. 
 
It was easy to be positive when I had it all.  It is NOT easy to be positive now. 
 
But that's what makes it all the more satisfying when I succeed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stressfest

Every now and then, I have a string of days filled with so many expectations, plans, obligations and deadlines that I eventually have a mini-breakdown trying to figure out how to deal with it all.

 

I think of this particular occurrence as The Stressfest.

 

It went down like this: last night I got out of work at 9 and, by the time I ate and started looking at assignments, it was midnight.  There were still 7 loads of laundry on my bed, the B kindly made dinner but the kitchen was still messy, various rooms in the house needed tidying and I hadn’t gotten anything graded.  I had to be up at 7 to get ready for work, and then after work I was planning my workout. Now, I LOVE my 8:30 - 5:30 day at work.  It gives me a chance to work out at night.  Then B informed me that he had booked us for dinner at 6, so I had no option of working out after work. 

 

And I’ve already had 2 rest days this week, so I was ready to rumble.  This unexpected dinner plan meant I had to get up at 5am to work out.  Ok on race day; not so much on a night when I don’t get to bed until after 12.

 

I set my alarm for 5; sleep through it; can’t find any of my clothes because they’re all on the bed; realize I have only 2 pair of pants to my name (1 that doesn’t really fit and 1 that has a broken zipper); the shoes I pick are a little too big, but I never gave them away because they’re just so cute I couldn’t bear to do it, but I forget every time I go to wear them; I come home at lunch to change and burst into tears.

 

A couple hours later, an unsuspecting coworker who always sends out great quotes forwarded me an email with this familiar Thoreau verse in it:

 

“I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,

and endeavors to live the life he has imagined,

he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

–Henry David Thoreau

 

Well, sh1t.  That’s exactly what the crap I’m doing. 

 

I’m not saying that this completely relieves the burden, but it sure does help.  And that won’t come without some hard work.  Some days I’m going to be tired and have too much to do.  Some days things will Just Have to Wait.

 

But I’m definitely endeavoring to live the life I have imagined.  So how about we change The Stressfest to The Successfest?

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Confession: I Finally Believe That Hard Work and Faith DO, Eventually, Pay Off

I feel like I’m living in a dream. I can’t believe I’m actually doing work at THREE different colleges. Working in academia, especially doing research and teaching, is my lifelong dream. If you’d told me I’d have been doing ALL THREE, after everything that’s gone down, AND this soon after receiving my BA, I’d have laughed at you. I am so, so, so, so, SO immensely grateful for all that’s transpired for the past few years, even the bad.

I don’t know what higher power you believe in, or if you believe in one at all, but I am firmly, eternally convinced that there is some order to the universe. (Please ask me to return to this entry when I get down in the future J ) There are a lot of lessons I’ve learned only through experience; all the advice in the world didn’t make a difference until I just struggled through it.

One of those lessons is that we all have drama. Some of us are more quiet about it; others take a BALLS OUT approach. Either way, I’ve learned that the more you dwell on your drama/demons, the more power you give them over your life.

People always used to tell me to just acknowledge them and move on; I never knew how to do that. The approach that makes the most sense to me is this: talk with a few select people about your troubles, issues, drama, demons, problems, etc. (Your therapist, your spouse, your parents, your mentor – whoever is the best at opening your eyes and enabling you to see past them). Find yourself a solution. If there is no solution, find yourself some acceptance.

Then DROP IT AND MOVE ON.

And by DROP it, I MEAN DROP IT. Don’t blog about it. Don’t Facebook about it. Don’t text about it )except to aforementioned spouse/parent/mentor). I don’t care WHAT you have to do, once you have found as much of a solution as you can find, do ANYTHING but FOCUS on it. Instead, find something else really absorbing and healthy to focus on. It will move you forward AND it will provide you with enough perspective to recover from it . . . eventually.

Eckhart Tolle put it best . . .

Wherever you are, be there totally.

If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy,

you have three options:

remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When I grow up

There's a Pussycat Dolls song that goes (pp), "when I grow up, I wanna be famous,  I wanna be a star, I wanna have groupies..."

I'm not saying all that, but I do know that what I want to be "when I grow up" hasn't changed all that much.  I've always wanted my PhD. And I've always wanted to combine my hobbies with my work.

Before my health shenanigans, I was sure I'd get involved in triathlon and coach someday.  Afterwards,  I realized that wasn't so feasible.  It's almost as if the gods slapped me in the middle of industrial psychology right around that time in order to show me something I was really capable of doing, and well.

But research and teaching positions are both hard to come by unless you're a full-time student.  So I never thought I'd make it happen. And competition for a spot at the PhD program I'm eyeing is stiff.

This fall I will begin my post-bach research and teaching in industrial psychology, and my aim is to score higher on the GRE and do two things: 1)earn entrance into a PhD program and 2)combine my loves for education, org development, sports, and research. 

It all seems So exciting and So real.

Just like this weekend's race, you never know what you're capable of until you try.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Did You Miss Me?

“Did you miss me?”

 

When I was a kid, I remember my mom coming back from errands and asking my dad this question.  The answer (“Were you gone?”) is what I’m sure you’re asking yourself, because I know you weren’t even aware I was missing.  But wow . . . I stopped blogging for what seems like a second, and almost a month has gone by.  So I feel like I need to do a little catch-up.

 

Let’s start with the big stuff: the pap test results were confirmed – no malignancy.  The chances of another cancer were so small, but it’s good to be positive before celebrating.  Turned out to be odd cells with weird nuclei, which apparently happens sometimes.  Next, I got a new job.  (YAY!)  I made myself a deal that, if I ever feel like blogging about this one, I start looking for something else IMMEDIATELY.  In other words, if a job that’s not your career takes over your personal life to the point where you have to rant about it openly, even when you’re not there, you need a new one.  Also, I’m starting some research this week – I’m helping with a driving study for one of the local colleges.  I need the experience for grad school so that someday I DON’T have to blog about my job (that is, unless I’m running a study on blogging.)

 

I’m going through this phase right now where I’m trying to figure out what’s best for me.  I know there’s no perfect job, relationship, car, etc . . . but it would be nice to feel a little more confident that there was one that was at least the BEST for ME, even at the time.  I think this goes back to making too many value judgments . . . I just need to let it go and let it be, right?

 

Thinking of doing a mock tri this weekend . . . otherwise real race NEXT WEEKEND! Baby taper . . . this is just a B race.  Have to sign up for the A still (before it sells out, I hope.)

 

That’s all I got for today.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Confession: I'm Not Scared Shitless

Today the ob/gyn called to tell me that my pap results came back abnormal. This means he needs to do further testing to determine the cause of the abnormality. There's a small chance the cells could be pre-cancerous - not a high chance that they're cancer already, because I visit him every year, and it's only been 15 months since my last visit to him when he tied my tubes in 2009 - but still.

At first, I was terrified. The last thing I need is MORE cancer. And I am waiting on my COBRA packet because I just elected that coverage yesterday, so who knows what health care costs and arrangement could even BE right now.

After about an hour of arranging things in the new office, searching jobs on indeed.com, and thinking about when to get to the pool or lift weights (it was raining cats and dogs this morning and moving wore me out), I realized. . . .

I'm really not scared.

I mean, suppose it is cancer. I have that already. That's (pardon the Butterfield reference) the familiar enemy. I know what it is, what it does, and how to handle it. I have kicked its ass once before, and I can kick its ass again. And I'm not dying from it . . . I'm living with it. There's a diffrence.

And if it's not cancer? It's just another fluke. Which I can also handle. In my life, abnormalities are normal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It Was the Best of Times . . . It Was the Worst of Times.

At least once in our lives, we have one of those luminous moments where fate, coincidence, or both completely juxtapose our previous perspectives. This past week, I was gifted with such a moment.

I've previously blogged about my laundry list of misfortunes. Indeed, that laundry list is the very inspiration for this blog, which I started because I was determined to abandon my bitterness and embarassment about the recent state of my life by exploring what was once my trademark characteristic: optimism. Yet, just last week I was presented with another such misfortune: I, and all my hourly counterparts, were laid off (some of us with severance, some without.)

Now, following the logical progression of the last few years' events, one would think that joblessness would send me spiraling downward toward despair and cynicism, especially given the nature of the events (bad pregnancies, financial ruins, elective and then cancer surgery and chronic illness). For some reason, however, it didn't.

Quite the opposite.

Maybe it was the promise of a fresh new start, of a new career, of meeting new people, of more mental stimulation. (For one thing, in this economy, the layoffs weren't really a shock.) Perhaps it was the idea of being able to reinvent myself, put pictures of my boyfriend on my desk for the first time in almost 2 years, or because I've already had promising interviews. Whatever the reason, despite my obvious initial shock and occasional depression, I cannot stop feeling overwhelmingly . . . . free.

I feel really fortunate. It really wasn't the worst thing that could happen. I still have an extremely supportive significant other, lots of friends, and a handle on my cancer. My family is relatively healthy and happy. I graduated from college. I finished another marathon. I've been hitting my workouts for weeks.

It's almost as if I've been given a chance to truly start over. And I welcome it with open arms.

To the next chapter.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Confession: I Used to Hate Weddings

Confession: I used to hate weddings.

 

I mean, think about it: they’re usually a clusterfuck.  I’m respectful of tradition and rituals – to use an example from the weekend, I don’t take communion in a Catholic church because I was baptized protestant, more out of respect for the church’s traditions than concern for myself.  But weddings are frequently more about vanity than tradition, and they’re not terribly efficient.  You spend (waste) entirely too much money on an event that lasts one day and leaves you with nothing but pictures and a big mess to clean up.  Oh, and a dress you’ll never be able to (or want to) wear again (which, by the way, is the most uncomfortable dress you’ll ever wear, and which you must size up at least two full dress sizes to purchase, and in which no one usually looks attractive unless she is a real-life size 6 or smaller).  Then you get forced to take pictures of yourself doing things you’d never do in real life, and no matter how uncomfortable you feel about how you look, those pictures are there forever and people will beg you to see them for the rest of your life.  You have to get the two families together, even if they’ve never met before, narrow down a guest list, pick a wedding party (during which process someone always gets pissed because they got left out), and nail down all these tiny details like favors and food and cake flavors and ring bearers – any one of which could entirely wreck the day, which is supposed to be one of the most important of your life.

 

It gives me the vapors.

 

But I went to a wedding this weekend that turned out pretty nicely.  I was the best man’s date, so I’d been highly involved in the planning, and to see something that had been such a drain and source of stress turn out so beautifully was really quite  . . . . uplifting (aside from the fact that I caught a guest texting IN CHURCH during COMMUNION in the MIDDLE OF WEDDING MASS.  WHO DOES THAT?)

 

It left me thinking that there are a lot of things in life which seem initially stressful, depressing, inefficient and frustrating, but that turn out inspirational, enjoyable, encouraging, and satisfying.  So, maybe from now on, instead of judging everything by how useless the process seems, I’ll try to focus instead on the peaceful image of that lovely day where it all comes together and turns out (more or less) just right.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Confession: I Try to Understand Everything

I’ve had a difficult week struggling with my demons. They’re things I’m not really proud of, but they’re on my mind and I have to get them off my chest. One of them is that I cling to the past. (That’s a demon to battle another day.) I also realized I’m sometimes defensively judgmental – on other words, I subconsciously judge because I think I’m being judged. (Also a demon to battle another day). The one that keeps rearing its ugly head, though, is that I’m frustrated about my condition. Since that’s directly tied to another demon, it makes the most sense to mention it right now.

See, it’s often hard to make other people understand that my fatigue is different than being tired or sleepy. Even when I’m so tired that my muscles ache from exhaustion, and I’ve explained the situation over and over, the compassion of those around me is limited.

In part, I can’t blame them. First of all, no one can be compassionate all the time. Second, the compassion or pity of others isn’t a necessity – it’s a luxury. Third, I’m not even sure I WANT pity or compassion. And finally, no one really understands, and I can’t even expect them to remember that I’m ill. I mean, even El Senor (who lives with me) will say things like, “Why are you so tired? You slept 11 hours last night.” Also, I work with a pretty . . . . shall we say . . . unique group of people – as I’ve mentioned before, I’d love to blog about my job. One of my issues with them is their misplaced (or lack of) concern for other human beings. I’ve seen them take bets against someone’s sales efforts succeeding and call a hospital when they think someone is staying there (because they all agree that no, there is no way this person could be telling the truth about being sick.) It’s just how they are.

But there are still times when I just wish I could make people around me understand.

I realized this morning that my frustration is as much with myself as it is with them. Even I don’t understand my cancer, my hypothyroidism, my other health issues. This has been a great source of recent anger and bitterness; as I mentioned before, I’ll often blame myself for being lazy when I’m sick. I have an issue with being over-analytical; I’m a bit anal-retentive and I’m calmer when I’m well-organized. I know even my health is better when my life is neater and simpler. So, I like to understand everything, compartmentalize it all, give it all a nice little label.

It hit me today that, not only is it impossible for me (or anyone else) to understand everything, it’s also unnecessary. Some things happen that we’ll never understand, and wasting time trying to figure them out could rob us of the experience and/or lesson. And, when I think about it, the mystery of some memories and occasions only makes them more beautiful and remarkable.

For me, trying to understand everything is often a barrier to progress, as well - because it sometimes prevents me from just accepting things as they are. It also leads me down the dark road of being judgmental. This usually stems from my need to identify, understand, and label all of the things and people I encounter.

Seems like I am spending an awful lot of energy doing this for things and people I’ll never be able to, or truly need to, fully understand.

So my goal, even if it’s just for today, instead of trying to analyze, understand, or force things into a category or compartment – is to try to accept all things as they are.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Distance, Ups, and Downs

Being without a thyroid is a pain in the ass. 

 

One reason?  It’s the major gland that controls a lot of the hormones that regulate emotions.  Right now, my body doesn’t realize I’m on synthetic hormone, so I have periods where I’m not only extra tired but also extra  . . . . everything.  Sad, frustrated, depressed, struggling – everything. 

The thing is, none of this is NEW for me; I’ve been handling it for over 7 years.  (So that means I should be an expert at dealing with it, right?)  But there are days when I just can’t get the pieces to fit.  My poor boyfriend and friends get to hear me whine a lot about how upset I am.  El Senor (literally translated, The Mister) will sometimes ask me, “Why so many ups and downs?”

 

Good things have been happening the past few days.  I’ve gotten very far into my workout schedule, and I’m training again for a mini-triathlon.  It started with a 1km openwater swim on Saturday that took me back to the very first place I ever did an openwater swim.  It was a spiritually cleansing and revitalizing experience.  I made huge progress moving things into my boyfriend’s house.  I went to watch him play paintball for the first time, since he came to watch me swim for the first time.  I got on the trainer for almost 40 minutes last night and did a hill workout, then did strength for another 20 minutes.  Last night I did a stride run.  I shouldn’t mention that I then sat around and beat myself up for 30 minutes about why I was so stiff and it only lasted 1.3 miles.  I’ll be joining a Master’s swim group again when I can.

 

There is so much that’s not under my control.  I am aware that I should not try to control all things, as I will never be able.  But it’s hard to see one’s progress when one is standing in the midst of it.  Sometimes, what is required is distance.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Confession: I Used to Have More Attitude Than Gratitude

When I first started doing triathlon, including OW swimming, everything else in my life was the best it had ever been. Then my marriage fell apart and I started getting sicker. I used to feel like I had everything in my life except my health, so when I was sick I would feel as though it was all being taken away from me. Sometimes I wondered, as things started going downhill, if it could possibly get any worse.

Now things are kind of the opposite: I had nothing I wanted, and so many tough lessons hit me, and so much bad luck just happened (all while I was sicker than I'd ever been), that I wondered if it could possibly get any better. In fact, I prayed every day for just a tiny bit of the betterness I used to know.

I'm pleased to say that, aside from my health, things are now better than they've been in ages, if ever. I'm on the verge of an exciting career change; I have an excellent education, I have a stable, dependable man in my life who's turned out to be an excellent influence and support system. After years of praying for a life where I could just "go to work and come home," my BA is done and I'm planning for my Master's. And, because of all I've been through, I refuse to let any bad luck or news take it away this time.

I used to have a theory that only people who were truly grateful for what they had received more, and that those who weren't truly grateful got it taken away.

I'll be honest: I wasn't nearly grateful enough.

I don't intend to make that mistake again.


So, while cancer is generally considered a negative, I'm sharing with you some of the random positive things it has taught me.

1. Patience. I used to have a REALLY hard time with this one. I wanted it all. Now. Delivered. And now I'm learning that there’s no use getting fired up about things because they usually work themselves out. Do what you can and relax. Sometimes, doing nothing and waiting a bit reveals more than getting fired up and demanding something immediately.

2. Priorities. These have been out of whack quite a few times. See patience. Conversely, if something is important (getting my full-body scan, for example) – sometimes you do need to get a little wound up, but don’t complain about it or worry about it. Just do everything you can. Like call the doctor two days in a row to schedule the appointment. Like tell work to f- off if you’re super-sick.

3. Karma. I used to waste time worrying about what other people were doing to piss me off. Now I've learned that energy is limited, so it's unwise to waste it on other people. They’ll get theirs. See:Ex Whose Name I Shan't Mention. I used to be jealous of his successes until he ended up with a crazy ass b’tch and he ended up having his own work problems, etc. without me. So everything didn’t magically work for him post-divorce anymore than it did for me.

4. Control. I have control issues. I want everything to fall into my neat little plans. Yet now I'm seeing that there is nothing – LITERALLY, NOTHING – that you can control except yourself, and sometimes you can’t even control that. See Karma.

5. Finally, as a combination of all the above: I used to get pissed about things that aren’t fair. If you look at my family, you would think me the last one to end up so sick. I eat good and work out. My blood pressure is low/normal, my cholesterol is borderline. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink a WHOLE lot, I wear sunscreen, I wear a bicycle helmet - and I still have cancer and all kinds of crap I couldn’t control. Some people, like my older brother, have frighteningly high blood pressure, high cholesterol, eat whatever doesn’t eat them first, drink way more than me, don’t exercise, don’t wear sunscreen, rarely wear any kind of helmet, and smoke – and don’t have shit wrong with them. It ain't fair, but that don't matter.

The diamond earring I lost? Not only did B help me find it, the other jewelry I lost appeared - buried in some of his paintball crap. I firmly believe we found it all because he never stopped believing for a minute that we'd find them.

On that note, I'm going to do some openwater swimming in the morning. I agreed with the B that I'd join him to watch him play paintball if he'd come watch me OW swim. I don't know if I still have the juevos to make it 1000m, but I know I can do at least half and turn around.

That's all I got for today.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Today's Confession: I Don't Know the Difference Between Being Lazy and Being Sick

It’s been a few days of relatively serious confessions, but I shan't spare you without mentioning last night, which included such momentous events as: curling up into a ball on the bed, unsuccessfully trying to find a diamond earring, and spilling a cup of near-boiling tea on my lap and our gorgeous hardwood floors. (To make matters worse, it was Marco Polo from the renowned Mariage Freres tea company.)

(Really Big, Mr.-Movie-Announcer Voice): It was the night FROM HELL.

Cancer is exhausting. I know what you’re thinking – thank you, Captain Obvious – but I have what I refer to as “the wimp of all cancers.” I’m not diminishing the difficulty of cancer or thyroid disease, but ThyCans (thyroid cancer patients) don’t have to undergo the extensive treatments endured by patients of other cancers. It doesn’t typically metastasize (spread far), the survival rate is high, and doctors will tell you, “If you’re going to have cancer, this is the best one to have.” (Har, har.)

However, it is still tremendously difficult; partly because it’s cancer, and partly because you have to deal with surgery, radioactive iodine therapy, AND being completely hypothyroid. I‘ve been sub-clinically hypothyroid for over 7 years, so I’ve dealt with fatigue. Through it, I worked while going to school, doing triathlons and marathons, etc. But nothing I’ve experienced before compares to this. Cancer (and having no thyroid at all) have officially promoted me to the upper echelon of exhaustion. Just call me the Senior Vice President of Drag-Ass.

I guess I should be pleased about where I am. Some ThyCans with my hormone level are not even working full time, yet I'm working, dog-sitting, trying to work out, entertaining out-of-towners, looking for new jobs, going to 4-hour graduation ceremonies, cleaning the house for 4 hours and planning for another race. (You get the picture.) I, however, am ROYALLY PISSED. My exercise for the week was a mini-weight-workout (1 set each of about 4 exercises) and an hour of golf.

That’s it.

To me, that’s NOTHING.

And I realized, after several hours of berating myself and wallowing in guilt, that I don’t know the difference between being sick and being lazy. In fact, I never I have.

Looking back on my training logs from the past few years, you see semi-legitimate excuses (couldn’t swim because of lightning), but you also see a lot of illness. The problem is, I lump it all together with laziness (and, ultimately, failure). Instead of looking back and thinking, “I did all this with cancer and asthma,” [which I’ve tried to tell myself, (I’ve even tried publicly declaring it)], I look back and think, “wow, I was a total slacker.” And people I respected and admired didn’t know how sick I really was, so they were constantly reinforcing this dysfunctional belief by saying things like, “If only you had half the fitness that you have determination,” or, "I really don't know if you can accomplish all that. Are you sure you want to try that? Are you really able?"

Now, to be fair, almost all my friends are my friends because they challenge me to consider things I would never consider on my own. And none of them are scared to say what's on their mind. Which leads me to what another friend asked me last night during my meltdown: “Don’t you realize that you pick all the biggest goals? PhD, Ironman, etc.”

She was kind of right. I mean, I DO have lofty goals. Part of this is because I’ve developed this semi-conscious belief that the two worst things in the world are failure and mediocrity. I want to be the best of everything, at the top of everything. That isn’t to say I haven’t re-evaluated my goals along the way (if I can teach with a Master’s, cool; I liked Half Ironman and don’t care to shoot for 140.6 anymore, etc.) But she made a good point – if I’m constantly reaching for something that is BETTER, how can I ever be happy with ANYTHING I have/achieve/etc.? Is it possible that I'm constantly thinking I (and nothing I do) is ever quite good enough, and thus I need to reach for the next/bigger/better thing?

It hit me on the way home today, and not just because this blog is about finding the strong, positive side of even the darkest, most bitter moment: it's not that I think I need to prove that I'm better that I reach for the highest thing I can achieve. It's because I know I can.

And then an even more important revelaton hit me: just because I know I can doesn't mean I always have to.

That's today's confession. Stay tuned for such side-splitters as Exercise Makes Me Feel Fat and I Lose Jewelry.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Confession #3: I Have a Hard Time Paying Attention

One of my favorite expressions from the internets is the term “Attention Whore.” It means exactly what it sounds like– someone who’ll do anything for attention.

Occasionally, I like attention. I may even be an Attention Whore at times. (And anyone who says they don’t like at least a little attention is full of shit.) But there are varying levels of attention: I like it when people laugh at my jokes, flatter my intelligence or looks, and invite me places; on the other hand, you’ll never catch me wearing Coke-can-rollers in my hair a’la Lady Gaga. (Horrified stares from complete strangers? Not my bag.)

This whole entry was about how attention and drama are not one and the same. About how some people spend an awful lot of time creating drama. And then I remembered that I’m trying to find something positive to say, here – or, if not something positive to say, then a way to take something positive from what is going on around me.

Whining about drama-mongers is a waste of positive energy. They suck. We don’t like them. ‘Nuff said.

The conundrum I face on a regular basis: I care so much about what other people think about me that I focus on myself until I can’t see the big picture. Then I get so annoyed at the details of other people’s drama that I forget to pay attention to myself.

One thing I do every day is read my horoscope and some news in Spanish. (Spanish is my second language, and God knows my communication skills could always use some polish.) One of my favorite horoscopes from Walter Mercado, Latin astrologer to the stars, told me (translated) “Don’t give anyone the permission to offend or humiliate you. Repeat a thousand and one times to yourself that no one in the world is better than you. Develop a second skin where everything negative bounces off you.” I’m trying to tell myself, every time people get to me, to worry more about myself than I worry about them.

Which leads me to today’s confession: that doesn’t always work. I get so overwhelemed by the big picture that, by the time I reach my goals (if I do), I just loose sight along the way. Life overwhelms me.

It seems contradictory, but if I could stay in the moment, I know I could see that the steps I'm taking toward the big picture are paying off.

I don't have a lot of followers, but if you'd like to comment, I'd appreciate tips or antecdotes on staying realistic and in the moment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confession #2: I'd Really REALLY Love to Blog About My Job

Let’s be honest – who hasn’t had one of those days where work makes them want to pull their hair out? There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t wish I could have an anonymous forum for screaming, venting, bitching, etc. I mean, virtually no one reads my blogs, anyway – so it’s not like I could do a lot of harm.

But let’s also be realistic. These days, employers troll the internet. And they don’t do it because they’re bored – they do it because they want to see what you’re doing. Not just at work, when you’re supposed to be working, but before and after work, in your personal time. Electronic communication and accessibility have virtually erased the line between personal and professional life. It used to be the case that only high-profile employees, like Vice Presidents and CEO’s, would be scrutinized for their personal activities – and, if they were, it was only because they made the local news with their hijinks. But now you can be a sub-middle-class, paper-pushing schlub and be unknowingly “followed” on the internet for virtually anything from not wearing panties to voting Democrat. I personally have been Facebook-stalked by a company’s wannabe P.I.’s for everything from my drinking habits to the scoop on who I’m dating, which prompted me to adopt my current internet policies: private profile, semi-anonymous blog, no current coworkers or bosses on Facebook, no Tweeting, and keep work business on LinkedIn.

And even anonymous blogging isn’t safe. On a national level, more than one employee has been fired for airing the company laundry in the blogosphere, and those employees didn’t even use their real names, locations, or company names. The problem is, no matter how well-disguised it is, if you share enough detail – and, to really expose a situation’s humor/ridculousness/sordiness/etc., you usually have to – someone can put two and two together, combined with the length and time of your post, and expose you. Then your funny/cute/cathartic rant becomes slander.

So, I will NOT blog about my job, even though I’d love to do it, because the details would surely entertain and horrify.

Instead, I will leave you with the following thought, largely lifted from McGregor and Maslow’s research in Organizational Psychology. According to McGregor’s X/Y theory about managers, what you can expect out of employees is, inevitably, what you put in. (I also apply this to workout/school/life/diet). The theory states that employers who are constantly suspicious of employees or expect the worst from them will, indeed, receive the worst – whether it’s because they were coincidentally right or because the spirit of suspicion, fear, and intimidation they’ve fostered encourages the exact behavior with which they are concerned. Saying or believing statements like “she’s off 10 miles on her mileage log, she must be trying to cheat the company out of $.40 a mile,” or “he’s clearly late because he doesn’t like his job,” or “you used too much vacation time – it’s not possible that you misunderstood how your time accrues, you were clearly just being careless,” can eventually turn the most dedicated employee into the dishonest, disgruntled, disobedient type. Conversely, expecting and encouraging the best in employees has exactly the opposite effect.

Think of it this way: if you expect to lose weight on a diet, you usually do – whether it’s because the diet works, you try harder, or the placebo effect just makes you feel better – expecting the best usually yields better results. Why do you think successful athletes visualize their perfect win before every event? Because that increases their chance of achieving it.

I’m now going to visualize my perfect job. Granted, I’m going to do it while I’m working on this one – but, I still have to pay the bills in the meantime.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Confession #1: How I Got Here

You may recognize me from somewhere.

And then again, you may not.

This will actually be my third attempt at setting up a blog. Different though they were, both blogs presented me with the same three dilemmas. The first: neither of them were about my entire life. (One was about my life as an amateur athlete; the other, about my life outside sports.) I was either one thing or the other. I could never write about being both. I could never be comfortable with both.

The second was that I had to filter myself too much. I liked to curse. I can be opinionated. I liked to share sordid details from time to time. In periods of high drama, I was forced to censor my story so much to tell the truth while not offending that I just as well have lied about it all. And, let's not forget - the internet used to offer a certain amount of anonymity; but now, thanks to Facebook and smartphones, that is no longer the case. Employers, boyfriends, parents and baby cousins can (and will) find your blogs, social networking sites, etc., leaving no real outlet for uncensored expression.

The third and final problem with both blogs is that I got sick of hearing myself talk. Every time I’d read an entry, I’d look back and roll my eyes, embarrassed - or close my web browser muttering “bitter, party of one, your table is now available.”

So, this blog is about solving all of those problems.

But that's just a small part of it.

Voltaire’s famous satire, Candide, chronicles the adventures of a paranoid pessimist, Candide, and a persistent Pollyanna, Pangloss. Not less than 7 years ago, I was a Pangloss: everything in my life was going good, so I had no reason to be anything but optimistic. In fact, everything had gone good for me my entire life. As far back as I can remember, my grades were great, boyfriends were plentiful, jobs got consecutively more challenging and lucrative - you get the picture.

And then everything just . . . went wrong. Through a serious of events both in and out of my control, my life and my health spiraled downward. Everything from divorce to illness to joblessness to homelessness to financial ruin to cancer - basically, everyone's worst nightmares - happened to me . . . all at once. I suddenly found myself broke, sick, struggling, and incapable of maintaining any of the elements that once made my life so amazing and adventurous and positive. I became petty and sad and tired.

I became a Candide. In fact, my motto was, as Candide once told Pangloss, "Optimism is a mania for insisting everything is good when we're wretched."

The truth lies somewhere in between.

This part of my life is about trying to reconcile that dichotomy. The optimist and the pessimist; the athlete and the party girl; the responsible adult and the petty brat. I've written too many blog entries about this to count. But it's also about trying to get back that positivity, openness, sense of adventure. It's about getting healthy again, being happy again, and learning how to like myself and my life, no matter what choices or circumstances affect me.

To that end, the ultimate, absolute, final goal of this blog is to take every experience, every feeling about which I blog and make something constructive and positive of it - no matter how bleak, bitter, or dark it may seem.

Confession #1: this is not going to be easy. It's going to be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.