As soon as I woke up on Monday, my banana journey began.
For a week straight (Monday, October 23th to Monday, October 30th) I aimed to ingest only bananas as a calorie source. Coffee, tea, club soda, and water accompanied my little yellow friends into the caverns.
No salads. No grains. No sweets, no peanut butter.
I shot for about 20 bananas per day to match a 2,000-calorie diet, which, yes, is a ridiculous amount of anything. I didn’t quite make this each day, simply because bananas…well…they fill you up.
It was miraculous. I felt amazing.
The bananas gave me an enormous amount of energy and an almost supernatural recovery speed from athletic endeavors.
I ran the G.O.A.Tz trail 50k around Lake Cunningham in Omaha, NE this past Sunday and I was definitely feeling the 31 miles on the drive back home to Kansas.
Monday morning, I woke up early and went out for a rather pathetic shake-out run. Then, you know, banana banana banana banana etc.
Tuesday morning, I woke up early and went out for my regular 6.5 mile-loop and felt 100% recovered–and!–ran faster than usual. Definitely not on purpose, it just happened!
Wednesday-Friday featured similar energetic morning runs. I was in a brilliant mood; I was running strong and in good purposeful form.
I’ve been running long enough to be really aware of changes in my body regarding running, and there was definitely some kind of hidden commander lurking in my joints shaping up the little soldiers for battle.
General ‘Nana, as he came to be called.
I’ve been racing long enough to know that a week after a hard run such as the G.O.A.Tz 50k deserves special attention regarding recovery; but my body simply didn’t need it.
On Saturday I ran 16 miles with spot-on pace. On Sunday, I treated myself to a trek out to the trails for a 20-mile jaunt. Again, spot-on pace. Spot on nutrition, spot on mood, spot on podcasts, spot on everything.
Work was better this week, too, because I couldn’t keep still. Seriously, ask my coworkers. They had to raise their voices to tell me stories about their day as I power-walked around the aisles in Nature’s Paradise in efforts to burn off some of the energy.
Homework was more focused and efficient; I slept harder because I did more during the day. I woke up earlier and in a better mood.
I found I had so much more brain capacity because I wasn’t thinking about feeding myself during the day.
I love cooking, it’s a stress-relief for me to get to control the kitchen and ebb and flow my way around good hearty ingredients. But I find myself thinking a lot about what my next meal is going to be; do I have all the ingredients? Do I have enough time? What do I actually want to eat? What do I actually have? I have to go get food, then? Can I even afford LIFE?!
It can get stressful.
This past week I hardly thought at all about meals. I just ate bananas when I was hungry. What was for breakfast? Bananas. Lunch? Bananas. Snacks? Bananas. Dinner? Nanas. Dessert? NANAS.
I also saved quite the hefty penny this week. 30 bananas cost me about $4, so I spent a total of $11.60 this week on groceries. That’s one meal out in a restaurant, folks.
I’m not sure if I lost weight, but weight definitely resettled around my body. I feel leaner. I feel…clean, if that makes sense. My skin feels better, too.
Now, perhaps some disclaimers. Especially for you ultra-runners out there who are tearing out your hair because of the lack of rest days and proper nutrition.
This is an average amount of running for me; last week was 10% lower in mileage and the week before was only 10% lower than that and etc., etc., proper increase in mileage.
Instead of taking days off from running, I use Friday and Wednesday runs as recovery runs; super super slow and methodical. They clean out the cave better than taking the morning off does.
For those concerned about the mere 1300/1500 calories I consumed on Saturday and Sunday relative to the 1600/2000 calories I burned while running; I used running nutrition (not bananas, don’t be sad) both pre-run and while running.
It was a moral debate: what about the long runs on the weekend?! I want to eat ONLY bananas for an entire week….but. I only have a certain number of long runs before race day in February. I need to use them to practice my race-day nutrition.
I decided that my nana-goal needed to be sacrificed for my continual exploration of race-day nutrition.
Pre-run intake: half a pop tart, banana, cold brew coffee.
Every 20 minutes: sip of Hammer Perpetuem Caffee Latte drink mix.
On the hour: 5 ritz crackers OR 1 pickle.
Pre-run intake: the other half of the pop tart, banana, and cold brew coffee.
Every 20 minutes: sip of Tailwind Mixed Berry drink mix.
On the hour: 5 ritz crackers.
Half-way: sips of veggie broth. Bottle change back to water. Banana.
Every 20 minutes: sip of water and a Stingers organic energy chew.
On the hour: one Stingers organic honey waffle (which was DELICIOUS).
Post-run: remainder of the broth; pickles, Nanas.
So, I suppose if I’m being honest, I didn’t eat ONLY bananas for an entire week. But the vast, vast, vast amount of my caloric intake came from those suckers.
While there were so many benefits: there were also some hardships, as one can imagine.
I am quite tired of eating bananas.
I would like to eat something else. Really, anything else. Anything at all. What’s that? Is that a rotten carrot laying on top of the trash? Yeah, I’ll take that. Hmm? What you got? Oh, that’s some pre-chewed tofu sauteeing in the pan? Yes please, right into my gullet.
So what was the point, actually, of doing this to myself?
I want to throw off my body in as many ways as possible to get it to adapt. I also just really love challenges and explorations.
Eating only bananas for an entire week will not kill you, even if it might stop you up a smidge. It improved my athletic performance enough to convince me to employ General Nana for the week before my 100-miler in February.
It also serves as good mindset training; training yourself to believe you can do anything for a time period.
Peace and Blessings,
“It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance.
Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.
If a child is inclined to be grasping, or to cling to any of his or her little possessions, legends are related about the contempt and disgrace falling upon the ungenerous and mean person…
The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have–to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return”.
My mother sent me this quote from Charles Alexander Eastman of the Santee Sioux, writing that “when I read this…you came to mind because you are generous with your things”.
I danced my head a little higher and gave a nice soft smile–approachable enough that if my roommate were to walk past the door she would maybe think, “this is a chick I can borrow something from!”
My parents made sure that we were taught lessons of generosity–that giving feels good because it is good. We were taught to whom to give, how much to give, when we should give (everyone, more than you think you can, when you don’t feel like it).
But End-Product Josie (who will never really stop growing up, but at least the end-product of the first 20 years) is not as stoic as I would like her to be. Putting on the glasses of reality to look a little more at the quote, she doesn’t actually align all that well with this quote.
I understand how good it feels to give. I also understand that a day spent in pure self-servitude is usually a miserable kind of day.
There is a correlation between happiness and giving; giving strengthens community and communitiy blankets environment and a “healthy” enviornment (whatever that means) is the envelope which houses your official invitation to happiness.
I don’t have many useful things to give; I don’t have much money to give. So I like to think I’m void from the necessity of generosity.
Charles Alexander Eastman doesn’t say, “they are taught to give money and food and car-rides, that they may taste the happiness of giving”, he says, “they are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving”.
My car doesn’t work at the moment. I don’t prize the stuff I have; partly because I’m not very sentimental and most of it is second-hand, anyways. I really don’t prize money; if it were up to me, we would ditch this whole capitalism thing and return to the good-and-inefficient days of trade and barter.
Second most: my freedom. Freedom from the box, freedom from labels, freedom from expectations and stereotypes and limitation and social pressure and time restraints and monotonous schedules.
So how do I take the intangible that I prize most–time, freedom, personal theories–and give them away? Give them to those “from whom [I] can hope for no return”?
Good question to mull through a blog post, I’d say.
What is the point of giving money? So that someone in need of money will have it.
What is the point of giivng away clothes/shoes/dishes/couches? So that someone in need of those particular items will have them.
So then what would be the pont of giving away time/freedom/theories? So that someone in need of these particular items will obtain more of it.
Time is perhaps the easiest of the lot to imagine giving. “Sacrificing” my introvert-time for others so that they can be filled even if it leaves me empty. I can give my time; I can slow down, I can listen when someone is talking to me instead of rushing away to jump to something else. I can give time so that others can gain time: working shifts, doing more of a group-work project.
Freedom…I have expectations of freedom for myself. Other have entirely different expectations of freedom. Oftentimes I like to thrust my expectations upon others; but this blocks their sense of freedom. So perhaps this looks like giving up my freedom of constant movement to serve someone else’s freedom of being secure within a community.
How can I give my sense of life theories so that someone else increases in their life-theory? It’s such an abstract concept, it really doesn’t make sense housed in a sentence like that.
I develop theories on everything through two fundamental actions: being curious and verbal processing. Curiosity is something that has to be fostered within the individual: but verbal processing is an external action.
If I give my chance to explain a theory of mine in favor of someone else processing through a theory that they have, that is me sacrificing my “what I believe is the right answer” to let someone process through a thought on what they believe is a right answer.
Again, sorry for the massive level of abstraction going on with these examples.
So reflection upon the above quote: generosity, like the human spirit, is individual. It is not a formula, it is not a one-and-done, it is not weakness. It’s giving when we think we can’t anymore. It’s giving what we think we can’t live without.
It is giving what we prize most.
It is giving all that we have.
It is giving to those from whom we cannot hope for return.
Perhaps generosity is the antithesis to insecurity. If I am to give away something precious to me, I have to be secure enough in myself that I can trust I can deal with less quantities of that precious object.
The more we let go of our materials–tangible or otherwise–the more we free ourselves to whatever it is that remains. I have no idea what would remain if I stripped myself from my love of time, freedom, and theory.
Perhaps that’s where the happiness of giving lies.
Peace and Blessings,
“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing something, usually you can’t achieve it”.
Thus speaks David Goggins, my fitness hero and constant mental companion to each hard run.
The past year in Austria showcased a host inconsistent running as a result of constant traveling; this current school semester has yielded a tighter schedule than I have ever experienced before. I’ve got quite the laundry list of excuses which might stand in the way of doing something great with running :
I’ve got no time.
I’m coming into this year without a strong foundation.
I eat entirely plant-based; what about “”protein””?
The furthest I have ever run is a couple 50k races.
There are no trails to train on here.
There is no hills to train on here.
There are no people to train with here.
I don’t even have the appropriate gear.
But none of those things matter.
I am going to run 100 miles on February 23rd through the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas.
20,000 feet of climbing. This will probably take me 25-30 hours.
And yes, this is a nonstop sort of situation featuring sleep deprivation, bowel movements, eating on the run, and a score of broken toenails from jamming feet into rocks and roots that layer the trail.
I have no idea what I’m going to find rattling around in the recesses of my mind and soul after running for so long.
When I say that I am going to “run” 100 miles, I should probably adjust that to say I am going to “go” 100 miles. With trail ultras, you PACE. There are strategies, techniques, methods.
This, for me, includes power-hiking up hills, striding down hills for free speed (but not in a manner which might blow out the thighs and obliques), and easy SLOW running on the flat sections.
I’m not a fast runner. I’m not “genetically blessed”.
The only thing that qualifies me to do this is the fact that I can really see myself doing it. Going 100 miles. Going 100 miles.
This literal vision is what wakes me up at 5 each morning to go for a run before classes. It’s what ties my shoes for back-to-back long runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It’s what makes me daydream while mopping the floor at Nature’s Paradise different local trails on which to do long runs.
All I want to do is talk about running; form, nutrition, racing, pacing, shoes, other gear, weather conditions.
Half of my own mind sometimes cries, “could we think about something else, for the love of God?! We’ve got other passions here!” to which the other half of my mind sticks out it’s tongue and flaps a raspberry and continues to think running-thoughts nonetheless.
It doesn’t matter that I’m not the fastest runner. It doesn’t matter that I’m not ultraman Dean Karnazes or Scott Jurek or Kaci Lickteig or Ann Trason or anyone of notable ultrarunning significance with massive ability in endurance and speed.
When my trail shoes are laced up and picking their way up Mt. Ida on February 23rd, it’s going to be the vision that runs alongside me, not any notion of significance.
My training is relatively simple at the breakdown: get to the point (through the 10% rule, a cycle rotation of high/low mileage weeks, strength training) where I can run as many miles per week as possible. Sign up for as many lower-distanced ultras (50K races mainly) as I can afford to serve as supported long runs (so two, I can afford two of them).
At all times, fill the cookie jar.
It’s going to take showing up each morning to put in the miles. It’s going to take reinforcing the vision. It’s going to take filling up my mental and emotional cookie jar with as many moments of “JOSIE IS A BADASS” as possible, whether those moments spawn from something great or something horrendous through which I exercised resilience.
I have no idea what going 100 miles is going to feel like. What I do know is that there are going to be moments of extreme mental low; distract yourself as much as you want with music, podcasts, audiobooks…but it comes down to the fact that it’s you and your mind for a little over a day.
When it comes to that, I will rely on those early-morning miles, slogging through the damp darkness away from my cozy body-heated bed. I will rely so hard on the vision of why I am doing this when I could be not doing this.
I am going to reach into that cookie jar and I am going to pull out a slip of paper that reminds me that even small young insignificant Josie can be great, too.
I didn’t want to publish this blog post.
What if I comes to February 25th and it turns out I wasn’t able to run the race? I DNF-ed? I failed? How viciously embarrassing it would be to post such a display of confidence–nay, arrogance!–and have the expectations of dear readers on my shoulders alongside my own?
I reach into my cookie jar.
I pull out a slip of paper with a quote from Rich Roll’s book, Finding Ultra.
“Pursue what’s in your heart, and the universe will conspire to support you”.
Endurance running is in my heart, dear reader. For this season of my life I am going to avidly and voraciously pursue it with every tool that I have in my arsenal.
Whatever drives you; whatever lights you on fire and makes you long to wake up in the morning; whatever fills you with thoughts of curiosity and improvement. Hobbies, relationships, life goals… please, I beg you, for your own sake pursue it with whatever you have.
Peace and Blessings,
“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing something, usually you can’t achieve it”.
“Should we stay in the cave or should we find a new spot for tonight?”
Thus launched Saturday’s conversation between my dear beloved pal Lindsey and I as we sat cross-legged in our wonderful soft-earthed cave floor sipping Stanley french-press coffee from blue tin mugs. The Arkansan air was timid and peaceful, stooping down to caress the little creek which contained Buffalo River nestled just outside our haven.
We had journeyed our own voyages many miles to meet each other at Steel Creek Campground in northern Arkansas the previous Thursday; the last time I had been in the presence of the perspicacious Lindsey had been more than half a year ago in Austria.
Our reunion was exquisite, featuring Josie slow-motion jumping into Lindsey’s open arms, both eruptions of giggles echoing around the bluffs which towered over the campground. Immediately we clambered past the traditional camping grounds into the woods marked “do not camp past here” towards the river.
We found a great bellow of a cave snug in a half-moon ring of trees and set up our hammocks amidst the trees. The gentle rippling of the creek serenaded our work and the benevolent breeze breathed through the golden leaves.
My soul had craved this sort of adventure for many moons. This relentless forward progress. The majesty of meaningful conversation. This “whoops-I-forgot-soap-and-we’ll-be-here-four-days” sense of release.
Our cave was faultless; we called it our “PB Cave of Wonder” in honor of our mutual love for the great goddess Peanut Butter and how much verbal wondering we did while hankering over a propane stove of beans and veggies each night.
I would love to share with you the exfoliated details of each hour, for each hour meant something incredible. But for the sake of your time, I will simply skip to Saturday. A day and a night of infamy that shall not be long forgotten.
It began with a question:
“Should we stay in the cave or should we find a new spot for tonight?”
It was decided that we would venture back out into the unknown; we had capitalized our PB Cave of Wonder for too long anyways.
We spent the day hiking through quintessential Arkansan beauty, the weather as immaculate as could be hoped for; stopping for a capital lunch of avocado and chips and salsa, reading in the shade of fall-pigmented trees.
After working up a gentle sweat in the afternoon warmth, we took off for a section of swimmable creek and dove in. The dirt flaked off my skin as tiny fish paddled around my toes, clearly visible in the crystal creek.
For the first time in what felt like a significant portion of time, we were clean.
And it felt amazing.
On top of the world, we took off for a site we thought would welcome our hammocking selves for a night; only to arrive at a clearly posted “DAY USE ONLY: NO CAMPING”. We ate dinner under the shelter, and decided to head back to our swimming hole at dusk to risk camping in the woods by the creek there.
The sun was falling fast indeed as we drove back to the creek, again to be met with a friendly: “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING”.
We were running out of options as quickly as the sun was falling.
In a moment of unprecedented genius, Lindsey took the reigns and started writing a note for any kindhearted Park Ranger who might stumble upon our illegally parked, unpassengered cars.
We grabbed our hammocks and flashlights just as the light was slipping and tucked into the woods.
Much stumbling and scrambling later our efforts were rewarded with four decently paced hammockable trees. It was almost completely dark by this time and unlike at our cave positon, the mosquitos here were much more friendly.
Both of us wrapped ourselves in the stuffy hammocks to ward away the bugs, and to conquer the insecurities that we felt about being in this location about which we knew barely anything–except that we weren’t really supposed to be here–we began tossing back things to be grateful for.
The stars peeked out at us from above the canopy of trees, and the last shivers of pale horizon was emersed by a deep indigo. I yawned widely.
“What time is it?” I asked. Linds looked at the clock on her phone.
“7:30”, she said plainly.
I burst out laughing.
“7:30?!” This whole “circadian rhythm” thing fashioned a mind of it’s own in the purity that is dusk and dawn.
A third long, full day of relentless forward progress had rendered me exhausted. I snuggled down further into my hammock; we told stories for a bit and then gently tapered off to silence.
It was a rough night.
Lindsey didn’t sleep much at all (a doze here or there), and my normally-coma-like sleep was tossled by bad dreams and mosquitos.
At 3:32 I awoke with a start; my hammock had picked up it’s swaying velocity and the wind which propelled it was suddenly 15 degrees colder. The night sky above me was a milky orange color and gone were the twinkling indigo stars.
“Lindsey?” I called. No response. “Lindsey?!” I called again.
“Yeah?” came the sleep-deprived response.
“I think it’s going to storm!”
We scrambled out of our hammocks and began wildly to untie the black straps which latched them to the trees. Fat drops of fast-falling water began pattering all around us, soaking into our scalps and fingers as we clawed at the knots.
Quickly we gathered our belongings into a large bundle and took back off down the slope of the woods, slipping and sliding in our sandals against the wet leaves and branches.
After what felt like years we reached the cars parked below; very fortunately still where we had left them. I fumbled with the key fob to unlock the car, and we both threw ourselves into it as the rain turned torrential.
Safe inside a watertight container as the elements raged around us, we turned towards each other–
–and broke into maniacal laughter.
“Did you sleep at all?” I asked Lindsey. She giggled deliriously, shaking her head.
We decided to peace out of this sketchy “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING” lot by the rising creek and drive to the parking lot outside of the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca.
We spent the next few hours eating peanut butter and telling more stories, both of us in hyper-adrenelene mode. With the dawn came a misty, foggy mountain scene and our time for departure.
Long, slow, drawn-out hugs ensued as we bid each other a fond farewell, until the next adventure.
Until the next adventure.
Relentless forward progress.
Peace and Blessings,
There are times–like this morning–where I wake up underwhelmed by my own goals and ambitions.
I look at my watch to see the time, and I think to myself: these little numbers are trivial, and unwrapping myself from the safety of my covers is trivial, and tip-toeing across the unrelinquishingly squeaky floors to clamber into my cold running clothes is trivial.
It’s the funk. The unjustified blues. The melancholy damper.
I find myself–against my better judgement–still slogging out the door for a run. Because it’s not about being motivated, it’s about being driven; and that is a stronger force against these raging internal dialogues.
In these moments, disassociation is my best friend.
I snuggle the bluetooth earbuds into my ears and podcast that puppy out, allowing my feet to dance and bounce from step to step without ouvert instruction or attention, my arms swinging rhythmically on their own account.
I zone into the podcast; I get lost into other thoughts besides my own. My tumultous mind is exfoliated and replaced with a clever host and a clever guest walking me through what it is to be great. Telling me stories. Talking to me. Talking to me so that I don’t talk to me.
I am betting that the funk, blues, damper–whatever you refer to it–happens to you sometimes, too. Maybe when you’re struggling to eject yourself out of a toasty bed on a frosty morning. Maybe when you’re sore or the internal demons are particuarily vocal.
I have a top-nine list of recent funk-reducing damper-rejecting podcast episodes. These are such that have encouraged me, empowered me, enlightened me–in some way, any way, to get myself out from my own mind.
- 5/25/16: Lewis Howes talks about surviving, thriving and ‘The School of Greatness’ | The Unbeatable Mind Podcast with Mark Divine
- “Lewis Howes, former football player, currently on the US Olympic handball team and an entrepreneur, speaker and author of the bestselling book based on his own podcast, The School of Greatness…Lewis and Mark speak frankly about the role that adversity can play in success in addition to determination and an underlying dedication to principle and gratitude”
- Howes is an incredible storyteller. He crafts his past into visual and relatable moments to latch onto and follow closely. His voice is filled with energy and excitement, and he has a profound belief in what he is saying.
- Aug 20th, 2017 : Ben Gibbard | The Forward with Lance Armstrong
- “Ben Gibbard is…best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie….he talks his music career…and trading in alcohol for running trail ultras.”
- Ben has a raw passion for running trails, and he’s not afraid to openly voice struggles getting to the point in running that he has. Him and Lance have an open and beautiful conversation about music, about life, about living free.
- 10/09/2017: Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire | The Tim Ferriss Show
- “Sir Richard Branson founder and chairman of The Virgin Group, is a world-famous entrepreneur, adventureer, activist, and buisness icon.”
- This conversation is riddled with stories of adventure and the brash tacks of living life as fully as possible without regard to fear.
- 10/01/2017 : Chris Guillebeau On Why You Need a Side Hustle (Even If You Love Your Job) | The Rich Roll Podcast
- “Chris is a widely acclaimed author, blogger, entrepreneur, and modern-day adventurer. Ripe and wanderlust after a 4-year stint as a NGO volunteer executive in West AFrica, he embarked on a multi-year quest to travel to every country in the world, all 193, before his 35th birthday.”
- Guillebeau is authentic; he tells stories of success that make one believe anything is attainable. He is positive and hopeful–but realistic at the same time to make it plausible.
- 04/23/2017 : Louis Cole is Living the Life of Adventure | The Rich Roll Podcast
- “With almost 2 million subscribers on his “Fun For Louie” YouTube channel, this brittish-born dreadlocked globetrotter was one of the first daily travel vloggers to break out — and internet personality so sensational, YouTube crown prince Casey Nesitat dubbed Louis the godfather of daily vlogging”.
- He screams attainable adventure. It’s brilliant.
- 09/12/2017 : Brene Brown: Create True Belonging and Heal the World | The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
- “Brene Brown has changed the face of emotional intelligence, relationships, and self-acceptance for millions of people. But her area of expertise is one that not many people are willing to talk about — shame and vulnerability.”
- Again, a level of authentic conversation that actually matters.
- 03/05/2017 : Jesse Itzler | The Forward with Lance Armstrong
- “Jesse Itzler is an entrepreneur, author, endurance athlete, former rapper, and one of the owners of the Atlanta Hawks in the National Basketball Association.”
- This conversation between Jesse and Lance was fluid, and empowering, and mesmirizing…really everything necessary to take one out of one’s own mind.
- 09/01/2017 : Who is Dean Karnazes? | Trail Runner Nation
- “Many of us owe Dean for informing and encouraging us to get into Ultra or Trail Running via his books and adventures”.
- Dean Karnazes is CRAZY. He has finished the Western States 100 Mile Trail Run 15 times, the Badwater 135 10 times (those two races being only WEEKS apart). He has run on every continent, across the entire country of America, through Greece, around the South Pole….he once ran 350 miles in 80 hours. The best part is how much he genuinely love running; this podcast made me want to keep going for ever and ever.
- 01/02/2017 : Navy SEAL David Goggins Is The Toughest Athlete On Earth — Thoughts and Mindset, The 40% Rule & Why Purpose Always Trumps Motivation | The Rich Roll Podcast
- “When you think you’re done, you’re 40% done”.
- If ever you have ANY problems getting out of your head or knuckling down to some discipline, just listen to this podcast and then imagine Goggins running besides you. You will never stop. It is the only motivation you need, really.
I hope these help you as much as they helped me.
Peace and Blessings,
Today it is Fall. More Fall than some can bear.
My breath exhales diamonds against the dawn, and I clamber into my car; snug in my sweater and thick woolen socks tucked inside thick rubber boots.
My classes were canceled today and I have no work committments to speak of on Tuesdays, so I find myself chartering for a spontaneous adventure. To remain still is to remain. Motion is the oil to my joints; the practice of which keeps me moving at all.
The sky is fashioned from slate this morning, serious and surreptitious just as I like it. The grass I pass by at an unfathomable speed has turned heather and dark chocolate and the dandilions stand efflorescent against the hoarse wind.
This is a psuedo-Scottish world into which I am hurtling.
Nostalgia introduces herself to me and takes me to the place stored deep and permanent; the sacred space within me.
I unleash my mind and feel a felicious moment of markable happiness.
It is April 21st, 2017.
I find myself in black running tights and my constant Patagonia sweater, a chunky green woolen hat insulating my mind. I am on a NationalExpress coach from the Highlands of Scotland to Glasgow in order to spend a weekend with my childhood friends.
The side of my head rests against the frosty window, speckled with droplets from an earlier shower. My knees are tucked up and resting lazily against the green trekking pack perched in the seat beside me. My index finger beats halcyon against my left knee to the Bon Iver murmuring through my mind.
The sky is fashioned from slate this morning, serious and surreptitious just as I like it.
The tires of the bus whoosh into my soul as they make gallant contact with the sopping road; inside our voyager the faint aroma of fresh cream mingles with strong black tea.
I direct my attention to the contents of the window.
We are slogging past crags; amorphous crags of dusty orange and cinnamon, juxtaposed sharply against the deafening skies. Heather and gorse chrysalize the crags, glowing deeply.
I am the moment and the moment is in me.
We breathe together, this world and I; a deep inhalation for each bead of rain that trickles down the pane of glass.
We are more than inertia; we are more than driftwood caught in streams of dull and malignant monotony. We are motion and movement, ethereal and unrestricted.
We may be prompted but we are not issued.
We may be benighted but we are not disinterested.
We may be relentless but we are not tired.
Diamonds and sweaters and droplets and socks. Breath and life and continuous applications of oil.
Peace and Blessings,
Dear Sir or Madam Who is Currently Seated Behind Me,
I would like you to know that the vertical pieces of metal reinforcement upon which your converse-clad feetsies are “gently” resting carries the tiniest vibrations from your shaking legs and oscillates them into my soul at roughly 500 times the velocity.
I would like you to either tap rhythmically, thereby encouraging a good song-pairing, or cease your tapping all-together. The latter would be preferable.
I would like you to know how hard it is to pay attention with the vibrations from your appendages.
I would like you to look down at your feet, then glance at what they are resting on, then notice the earthquake-cadence you are producing.
I would like you to see my hair blowing in the wind of the quake. I would like you to see my quivering obliques struggling to counterbalance the roller coaster. I would like you to see that the notes I am taking are side-ways and upside-down and vertical and squiggly as a result of my currently penduluming body.
I would like you to notice that I have casually hiked my feet out in front of me and have used them to propel myself outside of your reach.
I would like you to not exude that grunt of frustration as your shoes clunk to the earth, the resting spot suddenly unavailable for purchase.
I would like you to not also propel yourself forwards. I would like you to not regain your footholds against the undercarriage of my sensitive perch; to not regain your leg-shaking inertia.
I would like you to notice the little teeny tiny side glances full of shade that I am pitching to you from around my right shoulder. I would like you to appreciate how subtle I am being relative to how annoying this experience is.
I would like you to know that I am a woman of many chances, that I am willing to extend friendship again despite this hiccup in our current status of interreacting human beings.
Above all: I would really like you to stop.
But not to apologize, because then I would turn to you and I would give you my biggest smile and laugh, patting you warmly on the arm saying, “no worries, really! Didn’t even feel it!” because I know that you know: passive-aggressiveness is king.
Peace and Blessings,
I get scared a lot.
Scared that I’m spreading myself too thin; that I’m sacrificing quality for quantity. That I am trying to be too much for too many things. That I have too many priorities. That I have too many habits, too many rules.
Scared that if I am not doing enough; I’m simply wasting time and potential. Scared that soon I’m going to get bored. Scared that I’m going to get burnt out with “recouperating” and that parts of me are atrophying.
I’m scared that the shiny, endless rocket ships of dreams I have are launching towards the moon without me.
Scared that my dreams are too endless, too vast, too cavernous and too expansive. I can’t hope to control their raging tides; what if my own dreams are too much for me? What if I am kidding myself? What if I expect too much from myself?
Even worse: what if I end up hating my own dreams?
I’m scared I’m not eating the right foods. Reading the right books. Listening to the right podcasts. Drinking the right tea. Writing the right words. Thinking the right thoughts.
So I sit myself down. I curl up into my Patagonia sweater and my black flowy pants with mint ginger tea and a fuzzy blanket. Some slow Ebony Quartet plays from the speaker on my desk; low and slow.
I open up my ipad and sync my bluetooth keyboard. I pull up a blank google doc: title it, Gratitude.
I begin: words flow out of my mind in a numbered list, I cycle through and through the enormous amounts of positive reinforced memory storage rattling around in my mind, having a disco party waiting for me to call attention to it once more.
Austria. My running shoes. This apartment. My flatmates.
My fingers fly across the keys; nothing can stop me now, not the whooshing of the cars outside my window, not the humming of the music from the apartment above me. Not the squeaky floors, not the pounding of the air conditioning unit.
I am a gratitude machine when I want to be.
Gratitude helps things. It really does. It helps with loneliness, anxiety, sadness, boredom, fear.
I spend the next fifteen minutes pounding away, hitting well into the double digits of items out of which radiate goodness and pureness. I don’t stop to justify them, I simply let them exist on the page.
Breathless, I push myself out of my cross-legged position and inhale deeply. I close the lid of my ipad, and observe.
I feel…a little better.
But just a little.
I am still restless. Unsettled. Like I have both too much energy and not enough.
Gratitude does help. It helps to get out of the pity-party-for-one-please. It helps to get out of the cycle of internal demoralization. It helps to gain perspective on one’s own life.
But in this specific situation: what I needed…what I need…is simply not to fix everything.
Much of my fears have to do with the underlying panic of not being in control. Fear of the future; fear of becoming bored; fear of becoming burnt out; fear of not doing/saying/thinking/writing “correctly”…all of these fears oscilate around the theme of control.
What does it even mean to be in control?
The optimal state of control is the ability to be accepting of not being in control. From there–from that mindset–one is free. And when one is free, they are in control.
So I take a deep breath. I snuggle further into my Patagonia sweater and my flowy pants and my fuzzy blanket. I let the whistles of the distant train outside my window wash over me. And I let myself be scared. Be scared of whatever pleases me to be scared of at the moment.
Control is a myth. And when I accept that, I realize that I am in control.
Peace and Blessings,
I crossed my legs, the smooth black leather sofa on which I was perched rubbing against the back of my left calf. He was actually brilliant in many ways. Captivating in certain distinct areas.
His level of dediated towards his athletes was mesmirizing; he took them seriously, he treated them with the respect that many deny to high school athletes. He would high jump a building made of razor blades and broken light bulbs in order to give his softball team what they needed to succeed.
That much was very, very obvious.
Then…then he told us that he does it. The thing.
The thing that so many coaches do. So many high school coaches especially. Right at the pivotal developmental peaks for athletes.
He began to describe his technique for instituting discipline: for tackling practice tardies, disrespect to officials, litering in the fields…anything really regarding punishment. His tactic?
Make ‘em run.
He’s not alone: running as a punishment is common. Common because it’s effective, right? You make ‘em run, you better believe they’ll be early for the next practice. They’ll buy the Ump’ flowers. They’ll scrap the gum off the bleachers.
Anything to not have to run.
Football…volleyball…tennis…swimming…bowling…hell, debate. You screw up, kid, you’re going to sweat for it.
Do you want to venture a guess, then, on why it is that so many people abhor running?
I got incredibly lucky. I had coaches growing up who didn’t hate running. Who actually enjoyed runnng! Who didn’t use it as a form of punishment, who didn’t reinforce it’s “awfulness” but actually reinforcing the benefits.
This influence has lead me to where I am right now. At this moment in life one of my top three greatest passions is running. It brings me exuberant amounts of happiness and joy. It has given me opportunties to face internal demons, to practice delayed gratification, to work for something that I want, to be humbled over and over again.
If, during my peak of development, I had instead had role models who reinforced the suckiness of running for me, who knows where I would be now?
My critique is not intense.
I’m not asking for any kind of action. Any kind of attempts to reinforce the joy in running.
I’m just asking coaches everywhere–and parents and grandmothers and cousins and accountants and grocery store cashiers–just don’t reinforce running as a punishment. Don’t tell someone running sucks.
Let them figure out their own opinion on the matter.
Peace and Blessings,
My mind is a cage; the rhythm of my feet against the trail the key. I plant a sole, I turn the key a little further. A little harder. A little closer.
See that hill? That looming hill?
That’s two turns.
That deep rivet in the grass from the rains of last season? The misplaced rock? The balancing branch?
Two more turns.
Here progress can be endless. Can be.
It’s not disassociation. It isn’t focus. It’s neither but it’s both and it’s marriage and it’s flight.
Conscious allowance. Conscious nonjudgment. Conscious acceptence that here and now is where I am yet there is more if I reach the place of recognition.
What even is freedom? Is it so concrete as we define it to be? Is it absence of subjection? Is it self-power? Whom does it concern? From whom does it come? Who are we fighting?
My soles caress the uneven earth, gliding across stones and leaping across small craters. A strand of hair sticks to my brow; I swipe my bare arm across my forehead, halting a bead of sweat.
My right fist tightens as I fly to the side to avoid a large boulder, the waterbottle in my clutches exuding a small spit.
What is it to not have freedom? To be enslaved by whom? To be restricted by what? What is dependency? Liability?
I raise my knees high and dance through a stretch of long grass, tall stalks of wheat tickling against my thigh. A purple butterfly erupts from the grass in front of me, swirling around my neck and kissing my shoulder before snuggling back into an uninterrupted world.
The cicadas are loud today. With every pulse of their song the grass beneath me vibrates, oscilating my bones.
How do I hold on to this freedom? This independence? This resilience? The cage within me has been opened fully, the breeze whistling through my ponytail invites clarity of thought and instruction from the world around me.
I bounce and jostle from stone to stone, up hill and across ridge, past trees and across streams: this is home rule. This is autonomy. This is deliverance.
I observe what is around me: the steady beating of my heart, the swaying of the distance stalks in the breezy morning, the smell of crispy grains baking softly in the sunlight. I see the soft press of a deer hoof in the creek sand, the splayed grass where a fawn has laid to rest.
I take in everything that is being given to me and I find: I have no power here.
This is not my world. I am not in charge of this; I am not the leader.
I am but a functioning part of this world; I am a participant and a citizen. I am an observer and a learner and an apprentice and a responder.
How do I let my rapturous desire for self-concerned freedom go? How do I let my mind resume it’s participatory stronghold within a realm of encompassing goodness? How do I give up my desire for complete control? How do I replace a tight-fisted mindset with the peace that resounds from allowance?
I take a deep breath; I inhale my judgments and my insecurities and my harmful desires. They swirl around my empty cage.
I exhale, making peace with these thoughts; clearing the cage. My soles push off against the soft earth as I glide down the hill.
I come to a rest at the bottom; I wipe my sticky brow with my bare arm, halting a bead of sweat. I close the cleared cage gently.
I turn the key and place it back upon the shelf.
Peace and Blessings,
There is nothing quite as serene as being slung between two trees on a bed of nylon woven cloth; the gentle breeze providing a cushioned sway to the beat of the Universe pulse. It is as if all forest dwellers sign a pact with my intelligent hammock to stay away, simply to observe and not to eat.
There has never been a time when I have felt unsafe in my hammock.
Instead it is my rocking haven; as if the Universe has dipped in it’s dimension to cut me out of visible sight alltogether. Time is different when I am nestled in here. Consciousness disapparates. No one can see me, I am in my own Unit of Time.
I love sleeping in a hammock, a practice I affectionately refer to as “hammocking”. Not only does it contain a made-up verb form of my favorite object, but it also aligns quite well with my plant-based lifestyle.
I like the idea of me sitting in front of a small piece of dry ham, making it feel even smaller.
Last particular weekend I decided a good bout of hammocking was in the cards. Not even a full day of dark, thundering Saturday storms could stop me from popping over to Aldis after work to grab camping grub for the night.
I left the apartment at 6:30pm on Saturday evening, the car loaded with blankets and books and adventure.
The sky was in post-thunderstorm mode, electrified with bright blossom pinks against deep cobalt blues. One could the steep line between cumulonimbus and sky, illuminated clearly by the setting sun.
My destination was Clinton State Park just outside of Lawrence, KS. Eta: 8:16pm.
I had been a bit nervous by the forecast for the day, calling for “high tumultous thunder storms”. But I figured these predicitions had been fulfilled already by the gait of storm that had happened throughout the day. Indeed, the frizzy levels of intense humidity rank through the morning air had subdued to allot for a less charged evening.
I was going to hammock whether it was storming or not, but I definitely had a preference.
I pull up into shelter A43 in Campground #3 just as the sun has set, the beautiful golden dusk at it’s height. The shelter is really just a lop-sided picnic table edging against the forest and sprouting a little iron-ringed fire place.
I park the car and jaunt into the forest merrily, tossing my hammock straps around two perfectly-placed oak trees, and set up the majesty. Just in time, really, because not fifteen minutes later I have to pull out my headlamp in order to see at all.
I wiggle into my Patagonia sweater and thick socks, the temperature now significantly cooler than when I had left Emporia. I grab Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and the avocado and bread I had packed for dinner.
I snuggle into my duvet and pillow that I had laid in the hammock and spend the next two hours eating and reading and swaying; the bugs blissfully staying away (for the most part) from the beam of my headlamp. I fall asleep with my book tucked under one arm and wrapped securely in my blankets.
I don’t stay asleep for long.
An hour later, big frog-sized drops of rain begin to fall through the canopy above me; the cymbals of thunder jolt me awake. The Universe is having a disco party. Flashes of brillant lightning rake through the sky and the air around me is charged.
The rate at which I am tossing back and forth is that of a mother training for an Ironman and trying to get in some extra strength training with her child.
I stumble out of my hammock in a zombie-state of mentality and begin to gather the books and sweaters and hammock and run to the car.
I shove everything in the trunk and follow it in, just as the fat drops turn into hail and the lightning gets even angrier.
The car was stuffy, but the blast of cold air upon opening the trunk relieved it’s unpleasantness, rendering it a cozy-warm. The temperature outside continues to drop, and the car gets colder.
I am beaming now. This is a proper adventure, this is.
The world is discoing around me as I spread out the duvet in the trunk of my Subaru, the passenger seats folded down allowing me to properly stretch out. I curl up in my covers, safe and sound in this insane Universe.
Peace and Blessings,
I am cross-legged on top of a tie-dyed blanket, my bike leaning against the tree behind me. The sound of the lapping waterfall churning through the pond enfolds into the whistling of the birds and the distant train.
The breeze chatters its way through my loose curls, tossing it away from my face. The grease stain on my inner right calf left from the chain of my bike combines with my crazy hair and isolated geography to make me feel like a wild woman.
To my immediate left rests a glass bottle of kombucha; to my right rests God’s most perfectly ripened avocado and a generous hunk of Radina’s sourdough Pain Ordinaire.
In front of me, staring eagerly with it’s simplistic white cover, perches Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
Issue one: I really want to read it. Right now. I picked the book up this morning at the Emporia Library and the fifteen minute window before my next class had resulted in too tantalizingly a teaser.
Issue two: I am starving. Not literally, obviously, because one never seems to be anything but liberal with that kind of adjective in this day and age.
I had had an episode with my beautiful steadfast companion of a bike after my last class ended at 2, which lead me to spend a good hour leaning over the aluminum counter of the local bike shop watching the front derailleur get it’s act together, prolonging caloric intake.
So now I find myself almost literally growling at the food in front of me, the peanut-butter-oatmeal from the morning having made an executive decision to fully vacate the stomach and leave me in a lurch.
These two issues combine to lead me to:
Problem one: I am the worst sorts of multitasker.
Part of this is because I have declared to myself that no one truly is a multitasker, leaving my “get better at this!” life-goal permanently obliterated. Part of this is because I believe the most joy and pleasure in life is reaped by being fully 100%* aware of each and every moment.
*I would normally write “1000%” in that situation, except that my magical introverted computer-science flatmate in Austria would absolutely abhor it when I used “obscure and completely ridiculous” statements like saying something is “1000% of anything”. This edit is for you, V.
This problem then leads me to:
Dilemma one: which do I do first?
This dilemma then leads me to:
Blog Post one-hundred-and-one: “On Eating and Reading: Perfection of a Simultaneous Sort”.
First, I split open the avocado with my spoon, reveling in the perfection of it’s flesh. I tear off a hunk of pain ordinaire and generously lather it in avocado. I take a breath and my taste-buds explode in fresh-sourdough-creamy ecstasy. Slowly, very slowly, I chew: letting my teeth work their way over each and every crevasse in the little sandwhich.
Once I have swallowed, I take a sip of kombucha, letting the bubbly chia seeds act as refreshment.
I exchange the spoon for Outliers, and I read four pages or so.
Then, I slowly set the book down, and reach for another hunk of bread and sliver of avocado. Again, my mouth floods with saliva, ready to escort the magic to a safe resting place.
Chew, chew, cheeeeeeeeewwwwwwww. Swallow. Set down. Pick up book. Read five pages. Set down. Pick up spoon. Chew, chew, cheeeeeeeeewwwwwwww. Swallow. Set down.
And the cycle repeats, covering about forty pages of Outliers and thirty minutes of slow, mindful eating.
When I do it this way instead of just shoveling in the food so I can go on to do some thing else, I find that I am so much more satisfied gastronimically. After eating in this manner, I am so aware of the fullness of my own stomach and that the needs of my body have been met on a gastronomical basis, that I am completely 1000%* satisfied.
*Can’t win them all, sorry.
I also find that I have absorbed my reading material better because it is untethered to doing any other kind of activity. Simultaneously, I find that the avocado and crispy sourdough tastes infinitely better because I am aware of each and every sensation.
One might argue: I just don’t have time to do that! I got places to be and things to do so ergo let’s do everything at once at the same time at a breakneck speed at the speed of light if we can manage it!
I might respond: that doesn’t sound very enjoyable. Or effective.
Total time of meal: forty-five minutes. An episode of Orphan Black.
Level of satisfaction (both on an appetite and an intellectual level): 100%
Peace and Blessings,