Recently, I have gotten super into running memoirs (ask anybody that I have forced into conversation within the last two weeks, they’ll tell you), especially those that feature plant-based endurance athletes. Reading these memoirs have had unsurmountable effect on my psyche; reading about how others are so incredibly passionate about the things that I am also incredibly passionate about swells my heart with inspiration, motivation, and the validation that I am profoundly passionate indeed over what I think I am.
And that’s comforting, you know?
In honor of how these memoirs have made me feel, I would like to put forth a version of my own running memoir, in hopes that it inspires, motives, and validates.
Because this is a longer post, I have split it into three parts. The first part is how I was introduced into running and also how I began to develop endurance. The second part will be my reintroduction to running. The third part will be a compilation of all the resources that I utilize in which I have developed a passion and a love affair for running; essentially, how I officially fell in love with running.
Act One: The Beginning
Scene 1: Josie enters middle school.
In this scene, Josie decides that she wants to invest in her middle school (she is the daughter of the tourism manager of the city, of course she was raised to do this). Her best friend from elementary school signed up for the cross country team, in order to keep in shape during the off seasons of soccer. So what did Josie do? She decided that it would be a grand idea to join her friend, not only getting to spend more time with her but also making new friends within her team and being a part of her school.
Scene 2: Josie gets “good”?
Here, Josie begins to realize that she has a knack for working hard, and finds that essentially, that’s what cross country is about; the work you put into it. The farther the distance, the less talent you actually need. So Josie gets fully into cross country, falling in love with her teammates and the team aspect of the sport that also enables her to not be dependent upon others to perform the sport. Consequently, Josie began to get good; like real good. Like middle school girl competition level good, so obviously that means a lot.
But in all seriousness, Josie begins to place in her meets, and beat her times, and becomes an overall good runner. The better one is—measured relative to those around her—the more fun the thing becomes. Josie falls in love with improving and running is the perfect catalyst.
Scene 3: Josie joins the track team
Josie enjoyed her newfound hobby so much, that she decides to join the track team, distance specifically (there was this brief love affair with hurdles, but Josie quickly realizes her seemingly innate inability to do these well).
Here, Josie falls even more in love with the 800m race. Specifically because other people seem to fear this two-lapper, and Josie enjoys feeding off other’s dislike of something. And also because Josie develops a strategy that enables her to win, and win often. Like first place win.
What Josie does is take off well and hard, and merge in directly behind the leader. For the next 600m, Josie hangs on to the heels of the leader, focused almost entirely on those heels, not even dipping into her own mental pain or fatigue, but only allowing herself to concentrate on the runner in front of her. Then, at the last 200m, Josie pulls ahead of the leader, who is by now so absorbed in her own pain and fatigue that she in unable to retain the same speed as Josie.
Scene 4: Josie joins the summer track team
Inspired by success, Josie finds the Manhattan Track Club, a summer track club that coincidently meets only a mile away from her house each weekday morning at 9am. Josie joins, and finds herself qualifying for the Junior Olympics in Des Moines Iowa to run the 800m, the 4×800, and for some unbeknownst error, the hurdles. Josie does well in these events (obviously excluding the hurdles, but she had fun here, so that’s a win, right?)
Scene 5: The Peak
Josie enjoys success in 8th grade, but unfortunately begins to realize that she might have peaked already, because suddenly, she isn’t improving and doing as well as she was previously. She still enjoys the sport and still places in meets and competitions, but it seems that the rest of her teammates are catching up and then exceeding Josie in talent. Which frustrates Josie a tad.
Josie joins the Manhattan Track Club again during that summer, but is less dedicated to it in exchange for volunteering at a bible camp during the summer. So consequently, she does not put forth the effort needed to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
Act Two: Running becomes a chore
Scene 1: High School Running career
Josie joins the high school cross country team, not fully because she loves running, but more because she knows that she will regret it if she doesn’t. Josie is more into the sport for the enjoyment of the team, she prefers practice to meets, and while she places well in most junior varsity meets, she is not by any means an exceptionally gifted member of the team.
Track goes about the same, Josie is fully reconciled in the idea that she peaked in middle school.
No summer track club; volunteering at the bible camp all summer.
The fall of her sophomore year, Josie again joins the cross country team. It’s just “meh”.
Scene 2: The Best thing that happened in high school
In this scene, Josie and a few friends form an intramural basketball team the winter of her sophomore year. Josie proceeds to bloody rip the ACL from her femur completely. Josie then is obviously unable to join the track team for obvious reasons.
Josie then begins to weekly participate in physical therapy and absolutely falls in love with it. Partly because PT features circuit workouts, not just pure running and running drills, partly because she commands the sole and full attention of her PT “coaches”, as she did not in high school cross country. And also partly because she discovers cycling (she cannot run on an ACL injury). And also partly because she attends PT with the elderly crowd, and she can outperform them, which is a confidence boost.
Josie is “good at PT”. She is extremely dedicated to it, exercising her muscles and developing strength even outside of schedule sessions. She sees results; instead of the typical 9 month healing time for an ACL reconstruction, it only takes her 4 months before she can fully remove the brace and be “normal” again.
Josie passes on running, and begins to cycle and do circuits almost exclusively.
Act 3: Cycling and the development of endurance
Scene 1: 4 years of base building
For the next three years, Josie utilizes the stationary bike stand to cycle for about 20-30 minutes and then do circuit workouts about 5 days a week or whenever her brother and his friends aren’t over at the house. When Josie begins college and discovers the university rec center, she increases this to cycling for 65 minutes with following circuits.
Because Josie spent a significant amount of time in “zone 2” (longer, slower workouts that remain below the anerobic threshold), she did what she now realizes as “base building”. Namely, training her body to be efficient with fat-burning. This means that her body began to become efficient at relying on fat storage to find calories for exercise instead of needing the constant intake of glucose in carbohydrates to power her. This is the foundation for endurance. A body that is efficient at fat-burning is a body that can “go” for a long time without needing to be rested and refueled.
The main way to build base is by doing long, slow exercises that do not exceed the anaerobic threshold. Namely, if one wakes up sore the next morning, that means that they did exceed this threshold and the muscles produced a residue of lactic acid, which then correlates to the muscle fatigue. So that’s not what one wants if they want to increase endurance capabilities.
Alright. This was part one, my beginning story. Hang in there, team, it gets better. Part Two will feature my reintroduction to running, and part three will feature a full compilation of the resources I have found and the strategies that I maintain that have made me fall in love with running.
Peace and Blessings,
I am the first to admit I am not the most disciplined person to ever walk to Earth. There are so, so many areas that I need to improve upon in my life, I don’t even know where to begin. But there are a couple of things in my life that look a lot like discipline, and that I am proud to place in the realm of discipline. Such things include:
- Waking up pre-sunrise to immediately run far and fast.
- Running hill repeats or a speed interval workout, with no one telling me how far to go or how many reps I should do, but yet sticking to a predetermined amount, no matter how difficult it becomes.
- Eating primarily a plant-based diet and forgoing pleasure-inducing food items such as junk and fast food.
I believe it to be part of the human nature to set lofty goals; lofty almost unattainable goals. As a species, we are seeking the thrills of improvement. It’s unsatisfying to stay stagnate, even if our stagnation is rooted in something positive, like a well-balanced exercise regime or diet.
My personal goals for improvement resonate under the blanket of “have more discipline” and specifically include the following:
- Eat less peanut butter. (I am ashamed to admit this, but often, all I want to do is attack a jar of organic, fresh-pressed peanut butter with a spoon and go to town. Sometimes this is exactly what I do. I like to tell myself that it is my primary protein and caloric source, but it’s me “not having discipline”.)
- Get on Facebook less.
- Stop objectifying customers and/or judging them on what kinds of coffee-esque drinks they order for me to make.
- Eat less bread. (Mostly because this makes me feel sluggish and lethargic, not not not because I am “anti-carbohydrates”. Carbohydrates should be the bulk of our diets, unless one is absolutely not about movement or activity. Although I firmly believe that vegetables and fruits are a greater source of carbohydrates than breads, starches, and potatoes. But another day.)
Do you see a theme to these goals? They are centered on “what not to do”.
Folks, this is setting goals up for complete failure.
It’s like when people decide they “won’t eat after 8pm”. What happens? The only thing they think about after 8pm is food.
When we focus on the negative aspects, the “can’t do”s and the “shouldn’ts” or the “do less of”, our brain doesn’t fully comprehend subconsciously the “can’t” part of it and instead focuses on what comes after. Don’t eat peanut butter by the spoonful? Brain translation: [eat peanut butter by the spoonful!!!!]
And then inevitably I get frustrated by failure and give up.
So here is a new perspective on achieving goals and obtaining discipline.
Introducing: tricking yourself.
Instead of saying, “I am going to eat less peanut butter and obtain more discipline”, instead say, “for a snack today, I am going to eat these fresh cut apple slices”. There isn’t anything inherently stated about peanut butter, but nevertheless, you have achieved your goal of eating less peanut butter.
Instead of saying, “Today I am going to get on Facebook less”, transform that to “During those brief moments of awkwardness between classes and I pull out my phone, I am going to click on Josie’s blog and read an article”. Your brain isn’t enthralled by suggestions of Facebook, and you achieve your goal.
Oftentimes, in order to achieve discipline in a certain area, you must replace the negative behavior and then focus on what you have replaced it with.
Steps Toward Achieving Goals:
So here are some briefly outline steps toward achieving goals and getting better at discipline:
- Identify the negative behavior that you would like to change [example: judge customers less on their drink orders]
- Identify the times that you most struggle with this [when I hear the door bell ping open, or when the customer comes up to the counter and sighs wearily]
- Come up with ideas of positive behaviors to replace the negative behavior with [as soon as I hear the door open, I am going to think of one thing I am grateful for. As soon as the customer walks up to the counter, I am going to take the time to notice something that I like about the customer.]
- Remind yourself of your positive behavior substitute. [ask a co-worker to do it with me so that it will stick].
The more times you can switch something negative to a positive, the more likely you are to succeed at it and also succeed better, faster, and easier. When I do hill repeats, I don’t think “Ugh, I’ve got 10 more of these to go”, I think, “I’ve already done 2, and I feel like I just started!” or “I’ve already done 2, I only have 5 more sets to go! That’s nothing!”
When I wake up early in the morning, I don’t allow myself to think “gotta get this over with”. I think, sometimes very loudly, “YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHH I LOVE RUNNNNING!!!” (Is it bad to start the morning with a lie? No, I think not.)
I think that’s how discipline is obtained. Choosing to see positives and replace negatives with pleasing substitutes that are easier to entertain.
Peace and Blessings,
“Many men go fishing all their lives, without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.”
–Henry David Thoreau
If you know me at all–if you have ever overhead a conversation I have had–you will be familiar with my obsession of The Box.
I abhor, absolutely loathe everything that The Box represents. Perhaps that’s subliminally the reason why I am vegan, I believe so strongly that nothing should be contained in a box.
There is one misconception about The Box that I would like to expand upon;
It’s not a “comfort zone”
I understand the Comfort Zone, absolutely no problems there. I am good friends with my personal Comfort Zone, we share a lot of kicks and giggles; there is unquestionably nothing wrong with a Comfort Zone. It’s part of what makes us human.
The Box is not a Comfort Zone, don’t equate the two. There are key aspects of The Box that render it ineligible from functioning as a Comfort Zone:
Your Role and Your Choice in the Matter
We are able to put ourselves in our own zones of comfort; we make the choices here. Do I want to put forth effort into stretching my bubble of comfort? Do I want to perhaps retract the volume of my zone a bit to pursue structure? How do I operate within my Comfort Zone? How do I feel when I go outside of the boundaries?
The Box is something that we don’t have much control over. Others place us in The Box; they categorize us, they trap us within the confines of societal normatives. There is nothing individual about a Box. Indeed, there cannot be. Those who place us within the Box do not know everything there is to know about us, they don’t understand the way that we personally interact with our world or the thoughts that we struggle to either suppress or express.
The Box is literally containing. Once inside a Box, we are faced with suspicion and frustration when we attempt to operate outside of the code of The Box. We are objectified. We cease to become agents. We begin to let others dictate our rules; those very same people who do not know us like we know us.
How To Avoid Getting Put in The Box
If The Box is so frustratingly restrictive and objectifying, how do we avoid letting others place ourselves in one? There are so many preexisting Boxes available to be placed into; The Health Nut, The Studier, The Partier, The Diva, The Slob….how do we avoid the labels?
Definitively and firmly decide to not be placed in a Box. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
It’s hard to objectify someone without their consent. Refuse to be treated as an object or as a standard. Oftentimes we accept our labels, and we almost strive to fulfill them. We want to be The Partier, so we refuse to let people see us studying, in accordance with the true Partier label. We want to be The Health Nut, so we refuse to let others see us eat junk food. It can be comfortable to be categorized, so that we don’t have to think for ourselves or make decisions. Should I eat this or should I eat that? Well, this is what people in my category would do, so I guess that’s what I’ll do, too.
But don’t mistake this for the Comfort Zone; you don’t have control, here. You aren’t the decision maker. It’s not about what you personally are comfortable with, it’s about what other’s have determined that you should be comfortable with. It’s a false blanket of objectified security.
Don’t worry about conforming to labels, and don’t even worry about constantly defying labels. Seek introspection; ask yourself what you want; treat yourself as the agent of change and decision that you are. Ask yourself how you are designed, individually, to interact with your world, and recognize the potential lost when you neglect that unique way that you work.
How to Avoid Putting Others in the Box
I put people in The Box, too. It’s awful, and I hate it, but I find myself often seeking to categorize those I interact with so that I can understand them. I think that’s why the first question we ask when we meet new college friends is “What’s your major?”.
“Oh, you’re a Business Major?” Now I know you are only interested in making money.
“Oh, you’re an Art Major?” Now I know you don’t really like to learn.
“Oh, you’re a Psychology Major?” Now I know you would be a good person to tell all my problems too.
This is unbelievably selfish. We don’t want to spend the time to figure out the individual, we want a quick and broad understanding of someone so that we can understand them. I think we lack the awareness that it truly takes years and years and thousands of conversations to ever understand anyone. We are constant works in progress, how can we be understood, even fully by ourselves?
So to avoid this unfortunate habit of boxing people categorically, recognize when the drive to categorize someone arises, and then swallow it. Ask individualistic questions. If you want to understand someone, it’s going to take work.
I recognize how much work this takes, and it can be a daunting task. So if you are unable to fully devote the time necessary in order to understand someone, that’s okay, really. Accepting that you probably won’t ever understand someone is infinitely better than placing them quickly in The Box, and it’s the most selfless step you could take.
Next time you meet a new college friend, dodge the inclination to ask them what their major is. Ask them, instead, what kind of town they grew up in. What kind of family they have. Are they introverted or extraverted.
I’m not The Vegan. I’m not The Blogger. I’m not The Girl With The Box Obsession. I’m not The Girl Who Takes Everything Too Personally.
I am a planner. I do well with structure, but for the sake of spontaneity. I strongly dislike routine, but I depend upon a routine to be in place in order that I can disrupt it. I love to know my options, I feel comfort upon the dependency of others.
Above all, I love to “earn things”. I feel so much satisfaction in going for a long run and then slowly savoring a peanut-butter-oatmeal breakfast, or working all day at some dirt-infused job, only to come in, sunburned and slightly blistered, to a wonderful, majestic bubble bath with some Miles Davis serenading me from the background. I am a big fan of the rewards of delayed gratification.
This is what they tell you to work towards, isn’t it? Becoming obsessed with delayed gratification.
“Sonny!” they shout at you. “Sonny, no no no, learn to work before you learn to eat” as they swipe the toast right out of your freshly washed hands and thrust a dirty shovel toward you.
“Oh, child,” muses the wise. “Child, true satisfaction comes after true trial”.
“Girl, you will eat your vegetables before you have your dessert.”
Learning to appreciate and chase after delayed gratification has transformed both me as a person and my life as an entity. I have become someone who values discipline and hard work, and am afraid of neither in the pursuit of my goals and dreams.
However, this has come with a price.
I have this newfound tendency to look at each day like a vertical line; a never-ending summit to reach some expectation that will yield disappointment, because it isn’t as exciting and special as I imagined. Allow me to explain.
Verticle Line Day
START: a good, hard run
Go to classes to learn
Eat a delicious, well deserved lunch
Hang with residents
Eat a delicious well deserved dinner
Read, homework, relax
Get ready for bed
Go to sleep
I run so that I can eat a delicious breakfast so that I can pay attention during class (and so that the learning process is as relatively pain-free as possible) so that I can eat a well deserved lunch so that I can think about my homework and learn some more so that I can finish and be with residents so that I can eat a well deserved dinner so that I can have options so that I can get ready for bed at whatever time I want so that I can go to sleep, so that I can…repeat?
Do you see? It’s this never ending “so that” attached with every part of my day, leading up to the great finale of…repeat. I’m not truly enjoying any of my activities, instead I am mindlessly waiting until that activity is done, because my primary motivator for the activity is to progress to the next one.
This model renders it close to impossible to maintain the moment and to appreciate each aspect of the day for what it is worth. And yet, while I know this and am fully aware of this, I am nevertheless often trapped in this mindset. And with this mindset, I have no other option but to be inevitably disappointed, because there isn’t anything satisfying in simply” repeating”.
If you find that you are like me in this aspect, and that you struggle with maintaining the moment, I propose for both you and I that we train ourselves to look at the day from the horizontal line approach.
(I’m going to go ahead and casually copyright that now, so that if one day I lost all hope of obtaining the career I desire, I can fall back on inspirational novels and write a non-fiction. I think it would look something like the following:)
Horizontal Line Day
|Enjoy Run||Enjoy breakfast||Enjoy learning||Enjoy lunch||Do homework||Enjoy time with Residents||Enjoy dinner|
|Relax and/or be productive||Get ready for bed|
In this way, I am able to separate and individualize each moment of my day. The purpose of my run ceases to become for a better breakfast, likewise the motivation for hanging out with my beautiful residents and friends and doing homework ceases to become “in order to eat a better dinner”.
Above all, the “height” of my day ceases entirely to become repeat, deeming it a much, much less disappointing day where I truly lived in each moment each activity.
Steps To Achieve this Perspective
I’m a visualizer, so it helps for me to write out the plan for the day literally in a horizontal fashion. Planners, with good reason, give the day vertically, so I simply turn it to the horizontal and write my day likewise, the time of day being the x-axis.
Being mindful also helps. Recognizing when the urge to not be present in each moment arises, and then talking yourself down. Describe to yourself the current moment, and pay special attention to it. Don’t neglect the current moment for the next, instead, treat it as a child. Give it the attention it deserves.
Delayed gratification is a marvelous, beautiful thing. It has the ability to open one up to a myriad of newfound satisfaction with life, because truly the struggles of life are what make the pleasures so great. However. Allowing delayed gratification to rule and shape your day could lead to an inability to be in the present; one begins to always look forward to some reward or some event, and miss out on the moments that shape us.
Above all, don’t let your plans for the day dictate your actual day; spontaneity is what wiggles into our concrete and unyielding lives and makes us the playful humans that we are.
Let me know if you have any other tricks or perspectives shift that have helped you with the dilemma of staying present in the moment, I would love to hear about them!
Peace and Blessings,
I am a self-proclaimed “hopeless Surrealist”.
This reaction is okay, I understand completely. Surrealism isn’t a widely-recognized term. Unless you’re an avid art major or have seen a work of Salvador Dali, it’s hard to put together the term with a piece.
So here it is, my reasons for my fascination with Surrealism.
- a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.
I love that “irrational” is included in the definition. If I could say that I strive after one thing in life, it is to be irrational. Not dramatic, not someone who exaggerates. Simply not always logical or reasonable. Adventure doesn’t happen with rationalism.
Surrealism, for me, takes life and shakes it out a bit. It shakes it free from stereotypes, from labels, from categorizations. It wrinkles the projected smoothness of racism and sexism and capitalism. It calls Life out on it’s inability to actually be organized, to actually meet expectations, to actually be figured out.
Surrealism is a moment, it’s infiltrated with curiosity. It catches one off guard, it rubs–sometimes painfully–against the comfort zone, against any and all previous knowledge and understanding. It can go without saying, because it is completely personalized.
We are individuals.
Okay, that’s a tad oxymoronic.
You are you. I am me. You and I are both individuals. We should interact with life in this manner, we should appreciate our uniqueness and our variety. This is surrealism to me. It is the encouragement to stop taking Life so seriously, to accept that Life only follows the rules we heap unnecessarily upon it.
So the next time you feel caged within categories or labels or expectations or rules…muse upon some Surrealism art.
Irrational juxtaposition can be beautiful.
A release of the creative potential of the unconscious mind.
Peace & Blessings,
“People ask me constantly, ‘Now, what do you think about during those long runs of yours? How do you not get bored?'”
Note the use of quotations. This is something that I think most–if not all– runners say to both each other and to non-runners. I find myself expressing this often as well. The actual truth of the matter is that very few people ask me this. Runners simply lead themselves to believe that people are fascinated by what goes on in the mind during a run, but in actuality, few people care.
My mind most likely fascinates myself more than it fascinates others.
But in case any of you are curious–actually curious, not just politely curious–about what could go on in a mind during a run, this is for you. Mostly because I was pondering this very question for myself, and during my Saturday morning long run, tried to be as observant over what passed through my thoughts as possible. So here is a condensed look at the goldenness that is my mind during a 14.6 mile run this past Saturday:
|-00:15||Alarm goes off; 6:43.||Urghhuh|
|-00:14||This really isn’t even that early.|
|-00:08||Eating the pre-run Fig Newton and drinking water.||Off-brand Fig Newtons (or shall I say, Fig Bars) are actually quite terrible. Note to self: splurge a little when it comes to the Newtons next time.
New favorite to add to the list of “Favorites”:
My favorite song to listen to when I’m eating Fig Newtons: Ed Sheeran’s Give Me Love
|-00:06||Putting on shoes||Man, my two toenails are getting really black, there. I’m conflicted, because I’m so very proud of earning them, but I acknowledge how socially unacceptable this pride is.|
|-00:01||Going officially out the door||Okay, okay. Start “Gone Girl” audiobook, check. Start “Map My Fitness” app, check. Lezzz doo thus!|
|Crossing the first street||Why is it that every time I cross a stress, there is inevitably a car?!|
|Upon coming to the first stoplight||Yay! The stoplight is very rarely red, this signifies it’ll be a grand run!|
|On the Linear Trail, developed a rhythm||Okay, Jos. You know that once you reach 5 miles, you can literally run forever*. You’ve already gone 1.2, which is almost to 2.5 which is just shy of 5 miles when you can run forever. Dude, you’re doing so well!
*this is a lie that I tell myself, but I’ve told myself this for so long, that it’s actually become somewhat factual.
|Such a beautiful, gorgeous morning.|
|Hey! Look’e’there! Just 1 mile until 5.Dude, a mile is nothing!*
*That’s a lie. A mile can be a significant distance.
|Just passed a guy walking with headphones in;
Apparently scared the daylights out of him.
|Bro. Sorry that I couldn’t wheeze out a louder “on your left!” to combat the pumping Drake that is harvesting your brain through your headphones right now. No need to get angry.|
|Turn around point: ingestion of a GU Espresso Love Gel||I don’t understand why anyone would want to run with another person. First of all, I feel like the beauty of a run is getting to escape reality and expectations and one gets the sole opportunity to control everything around them; direction, pace, time, etc. Not so when worrying about keeping pace and time with someone.
Secondly, I would not have very many friends if people witnessed the way that I attempt to consume gels while running after 7 miles. For reals, more of it is plastered on my left cheek and mangled in my hair than actually makes it into my mouth.
|Unexciting part in Gone Girl.||Man. What should I have for breakfast? I do love oatmeal. But this is a friggen’ long run, maybe I should treat myself more.|
|I could run forevvvvver!|
|Lies. I could not run forever.|
|I wonder what my blog post should be about. Maybe about what I think during a long run. Oh gosh, that would be a terribly boring blog post. Most of my thoughts are thought for me, that’s the point of a podcast.|
|Officially longest distance I have run to date.||Ayyy! This is the longest I have ever run, and I feel good! I wonder if my toenails are going toofficially fall off after this.|
|Okay, the excitement is a bit wearing off. I’m ready for some peanut butter and oatmeal.|
|House is in sight.||Yayayaya! Breakfast is coming soon!|
|Through the backyard door.||Whoopholla. That was fun.|
So if you didn’t think that was exciting, then I don’t trust your judgment of what is.
Most of what goes on in my mind during a run is a lie. I convince myself that if I reach this distance, I can go forever! Or hey, you’re at .6 miles, which is almost 1.2 miles, which is just a step below 2.5 miles which is halfway to 5 miles, which is the point where you can run forever! It’s also a lot of telling myself how much fun I am having, how well I am doing, how much I am enjoying the day. The more I repeat these things to myself, the more I tell myself, “Why yes, I do love hills! Give me allllll the hills!” the more it actually comes to happen.
See, running is so much more than a physical exertion. It’s a mental game. I fully believe that anyone can be a runner, regardless of most medical history, most physical abilities. It’s all born from the mind. If one can convince themselves that they are having actual fun during a run, than that’s when that person becomes a runner.
Life often is a mental game.
Peace and Blessings,
Goal setting is important. We should invest in a future that features a better version of ourselves, and goals are the host for such a vision.
This is not to say that I believe the only way to accomplish such a happy future is to make lists upon lists of goals, categorized chronologically, with specific and in-depth instructions on how to go about achieving said goal: I respect that some–okay, most–people don’t operate that way. But the goals should be at least explicitly understood if one really wants to achieve them. Even a goal as simple as making the bed every morning or as ambitious as planning to run an endurance race.
Let me tell you one of the things that absolutely kills a goal: like, wiggles in and drives the screwdriver right into the heart of the goal. It’s a sneaky devil, it’ll spring up on you before you are aware of what is happening.
Say your goal is to make the bed every morning. Your vision is that you would like to de-clutter your physical environment, so that your headspace can be clearer. You believe that the simple act of making the bed every morning will not only decongest one section of the physical environment, but hopefully will also kick start motivation to de-clutter more throughout the day.
You’re diligent. Every morning, you roll out of bed, you take the effort to grab all the pillows and throw them on the ground, and you pull taunt the covers. You reach down, grab the pillows, and shove them back in place. While this doesn’t take a whole bucket of effort, it does take some and the effort it takes is further dramatized by the earliness of the morning.
You’ve been good at doing it each morning, and you’re pretty proud of your one-month-anniversary that just rolled around. But oh no! Guess what happens. A Monday. A particularly rough Monday. You got to sleep late last night and tossed and turned all, thereby rendering you a less-than well-rested individual with less-than beautiful bedhead and no aptitude for doing squat. The only effort you want to exert in morning is the effort it takes to go to the bathroom and knock back some coffee. So you decide that, despite your resolution to make the bed, just this once it’s going to be okay if you skip it.
There really isn’t anything inherently wrong with not making the bed that morning. It doesn’t signal you as a lazy, undisciplined individual who isn’t able to stick to anything. It doesn’t imply future and impending doom for the rest of the day. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with letting the bed go unmade for a day.
But making an exception subconsciously deteriorates the part of your brain that houses discipline. It says to your brain, “resilience has exceptions”. And how much easier will it be to let the bed go unmade the next time you had a less-than perfect morning? It happened already once, what’s the harm in letting it happen again? There weren’t immediate consequences the first time, it’ll be fine a second time. Three times isn’t really that much more than two, and four isn’t that drastic of a step from three.
See the pattern?
Forcing ourselves to stick with goals when we “aren’t in the mood” creates and strengthens resilience. Honestly, “not being in the mood” is the most important time to stick with a goal, because that’s where the real magic happens. I have learned to almost* look forward to the parts of my running where it really begins to hurt, or were I lose interest in the moment, because I have found rather immediate gain in resilience when I push through this.
*(please note the use of the word “almost”)
So if I can offer you any advice at all in goal planning, it is simply to press through the “pain” and the moments where you “aren’t in the mood”; exceptions rarely just happen once. Pause, acknowledge the conscious urgings to make an exception, evaluate future gains that will occur if you persevere through this moment and resist the urges to make exceptions.
Peace and Blessings,
“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No Exceptions.
“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Alright. Real moment here.
Time terrifies me.
The idea that someday, if God wills it, I will be rendered incapable of doing the activities that I love independent of assistance, such as running or exploring, because of time is an idea that stalks me. It’s an shaggy, oversized lab-dog, bred to remind me to not stop running. The mangy canine growls in my ears constantly, telling me: “Bark! Bark bark bark!” (which roughly translates to, “Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t last forever!”).
I don’t mean any disrespect to our elderly, or those who are unable to fully perform the tasks they were once able to without help. I honor you, and I support you.
It’s this; that I spend so much time thinking about the future, while simultaneously trying to hold the past, that I miss out on the present. I miss moments.
What would our lives be like if we stopped thinking about the future? If we let go of the past, and stopped trying for control?
Every time I spend 5 minutes planning out my day tomorrow, every time I spend 5 minutes reflecting on my favorite moments of yesterday….those are 5 minutes that I don’t spend in the present. That’s huge. Can you imagine how much time we spend thinking about either the future or the past? Can you imagine what it would be like to live an actual 24-hour day?
No wonder we spend so much effort exclaiming, “Wow! Time really seems to be flying!” It’s like when I accidentally forget to start my GPS running app until after I’ve gone half a mile, and then suddenly the quirky British lady who narrates my run every kilometer informs me that currently I’m maintaining a 2:40 min/mile pace.
As much as I like to pretend that I could kick some serious butt running the mile in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this summer, it’s simply because I didn’t press the Start Workout button until after I had started.
That’s what we do with the Moment, too. We rush into the present without pressing the Start Time button; namely, we don’t take an active role in being fully present.
Here are what I believe to be two of the biggest obstacles that keep us from our Moment:
The major player in rooting us in our past is the presence of so many pictures. Pictures can draw us away from King Present into the seductive clutches of Lady Nostalgia. They have the ability to say, “Look at how much fun you were having! Do you remember this? Oh, if only things were like this now. You two used to be such great friends. Remember when you were still dating that toxic boyfriend? Sure, he cheated on you, but see how happy you look here!”
I hope that you are reading between the lines in order to see what I am truly conveying.
Down with all Pictures!! Let’s go Fahrenheit 451 on their glossy pixelated butts!
Pictures can be a beautiful thing. They have the ability to surround us with comfort and remind us of our connections to things outside of ourselves. They give us the opportunity to travel when we could otherwise not afford either the money or the time. The past is important in helping us understand who we are in the present, and pictures can be an aide.
But they also, if we let them consume us, have the ability to suck us back in time and not allot escape. They have the ability to trap us into comparisons with others, and a cycle of discontentment.
I include the word “over” because the planning part of the dynamic should not be inherently frowned upon. Much like the pictures. It’s the practice of over-indulgence that can be so toxic and function as a barrier from the Moment.
Planning is grand, goal setting is stellar; these are two things that I would function poorly without and both are a cause of great comfort for me. It’s beneficial to have structure in one’s life, and planning and goal-setting is one outlet for establishing a grounded structure.
But I find myself getting so wrapped up in it all. I engage in this cycle of simply “looking forward” to the next thing. This Spring Break. The summer. Next year when I study in Austria. The year after that when I get to student teach. The year after that when I go to grad school. When I finally get to thru-hike the Appalachian trail. When I get to be married and have dogs. I mean kids.
All of these things take me from my Moment. They render me discontent with how things are right now. I’m not able to appreciate fully what I have at the Moment because of the impossibly high standards I am comparing it against.
So what are some practical ways that we can practice immersing ourselves in the Moment?
I am a proud journal-er. I have a beautiful, dusky un-lined Moleskine journal that I write in every morning in order for my brain to meet the world in a non-confrontational space. One way that I can practice appreciating the Moment is by starting each entry with “Today is Monday, March 14th. That is the day that I am in right now, and the day that I will return to after this entry”. This declaration of my intention to return to the Moment gives me space to travel away from it. Because it helps my state of mind and being to process the events of the previous day and to goal-set for the future. Ultimately I must return to the present, and by stating my intention it becomes much easier.
I believe also taking time to describe the Moment is beneficial. When you find yourself becoming distracted with thoughts of either the future or the past, take the intentional, mindful time to describe your surroundings. What things do you hear right now?What are some smells? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite part about right now? Call yourself out on your inability to remain in the present. Keep yourself accountable. Find the balance between past and too-much-past, and future and way-too-much-future.
Take heart. The Moment is here and real, and waiting for you. You don’t need to stay in your Past, you are the reincarnate of your Past. You take it with you, there’s no need to cling to it. Your future is going to come inevitably, however prepared you are for it.
Press Start Time when you start the Moment; don’t wait until you’ve already begun.
Trust me, it’ll just render you hopelessly confused about why you’ve suddenly gotten so fast.
Peace and Blessings,
If I had a peanut for every time someone asked, “Is it hard being vegan?” I would probably be able to fill about 20 jars with organic, hand pressed peanut butter. Crunchy, because it’s my favorite.
I understand that this question comes from a good place. It’s either from genuine curiosity or some strange quasi-compliment that is supposed to respectfully acknowledge my “discipline” in my diet and lifestyle choice.
But I promise you. Discipline is not the front-runner of what drives my vegan-ness. Honestly, discipline plays a very minute part, because my motivation doesn’t derive from wanting a hot bod (as everyone knows vegans have) or to live to be 113. It’s almost entirely compassion mixed with passion and sprinkled with contribution. You don’t need discipline if you whole-heartedly believe in something.
So the question of “is it hard to be vegan?” is, to me, equivalent to the following questions:
- “is it hard being Jewish?”
- “is it hard learning Spanish?”
- “is it hard to have a sister named Julia?”
- “is it hard to vote for a democrat?”
Again, I acknowledge that the question comes from a good place. It’s just a tad tantalizingly fruitless to me. I’m not a martyr; it isn’t hard to follow something I deeply believe in.
It also helps that I have some delicious and preferable vegan-friendly substitutes to vegan-unfriendly goodies. I want to share a few of my favorites with you, whether you are vegan, thinking about it, or in the habit of burning every vegan cookbook you can find.
Banana “Frozen Yogurt”
I sincerely believe this trick is the Lord’s good gift to vegans. You take a banana, chop it up, freeze it for a while. Once it’s nice and frozen, put it in a food processor or blender, and puree it.
It tastes almost exactly like vanilla frozen yogurt, and the texture is the same. It’s wonderful. And it’s not super filling like frozen yogurt, or too sweet. I add either PB2 powder to the food processor to make it peanut butter flavored, or instant coffee to make it coffee flavored. Sometimes I go crazy and add cocoa powder to turn it chocolate.
Chocolate Banana Avocado Pudding
1 part banana: 1 part avocado: 1-2 tbs cocoa powder (or however chocolate-y you want to make it). The fat content of the avocado (mind you, an avocado is entirely composed of really really good fat, not the saturated fats of regular pudding) with the texture of a banana make it to be the exact same texture as regular pudding, with a deeper and richer tone. A banana and an avocado are both relatively flavorless, or at least devoid of intense startling flavor. So they pair really well. And then the cocoa powder gives it a definite taste of chocolate.
Peanut Butter Banana Granola Bowl
People tend to be very worried about how vegans or vegetarians will get enough protein. Peanut butter, my friends, the magical peanut butter. This is one of my favorite things to do with peanut butter. I take a banana and slice it, then put in peanut butter and then top it with a healthy serving of granola. And stir it around. Sometimes I add honey or cinnamon (I do loads with cinnamon) or chia seeds and call it good. It’s hearty, filling, and filled to the brim with enough protein to last the entire day. Sometimes, if I’m feeling really sassy, I use Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead of granola. I know. Party hard.
Vegetables and Potatoes
This is a good recipe for the microwave-dependent dorm cook. I buy a bag of frozen vegetables from the store and a potato. The potato can be either sweet, white, or russet; they’re all full of nutrition and benefit you greatly. I scrub the skin of the potato, pierce it a few times with a fork for good measure, and then stick it in a microwave bowl and microwave it for 4:21 minutes. Then I turn it over and microwave it for a tad longer. I ‘wave the frozen veggies according to their directions. Then I chop up the steamed potato and mix the two together with a little seasoning, a little salt, a little pepper, and some vegan butter (not necessary, but delicious). This is honestly one of my favorite meals. It’s warm, hearty, meat-free, and easy.
I’ve always been a fan of substitutes and getting creative. I would much rather follow a crazy applesauce-chia seed oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe than a standard chocolate chip. And not just for the health benefits; I took a certain pride in producing a baked good that required a few dozen adjectives in order to describe it’s mastery. So the task of substituting in order to respect my diet appeals greatly to me, while I could see that being a frustration to others.
For some, being vegan seems arduous and unfortunate. “Heck, being vegetarian sounds difficult, and them Carrots are asking me to forgo pizza rolls?! Too far!” I’m not poking fun at you. I’m really not. It’s not hard to be vegan, but it is hard sometimes to enjoy being vegan.
One purpose of this blog post is to encourage those who are feeling as if they are eating the same vegan things for every meal and to give ideas on how to spice up life for vegans and non-vegans alike. But it also works two fold; now I am able to refer someone when they ask me “Is it hard to be vegan?” and I don’t have to answer it to their face.
In light of that, I hope I answered the question.
Peace and Blessings,
“It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution. It’s also a very clear path to happiness.”
I don’t have ground to rant about how you should “get your act together and be a real American citizen by voting!”; I’m not the greatest citizen ever spawn from the American clutches. I’m not the biggest fan of American capitalist economy, and I’m not the biggest supporter of some of the American “ideals”. So I don’t want you to hear “vote, or you’re not a real citizen” or even “vote, or you can’t complain”, because both of those reasons are lacking.
Simply put, however American it may be, I claim that the act of voting can lead to happiness.
Happiness can come from feeling significant and important; indeed, humanity is driven by a need to feel momentous. It’s hard to deny that we do strange things in the pursuit of significance.
The voting system was integrated into American democratic ideology in order for our government to help us feel like we have some part in the political system. I do genuinely believe that our Founding Fathers were not corrupt money-men who wanted to shove the American public in a dark water-closet and simultaneously shriek, “Well, peasants you voted for this!!” The founders of our government were among those who clawed from the womb of British rule, emerging in the stinking afterbirth of colonizing oppression. If that image puts you off, just imagine how passionate they probably were about the right to be free. The ability to vote was centered around the intent to allow the general public to voice their opinion and “‘ave a say in da way things ‘re dun ’round ‘ere!” –James Madison*.
*not actual quote
The fact that we choose to view our ability to vote as something that “doesn’t even matter; I live in Kansas, it’s going to be republican”, is completely missing the mark. So what if that’s probably true?! It doesn’t matter! The fact that you are acknowledging that there is power in what you have to say, that’s the real money maker! Friends, candidates are paying the big bucks for your vote. They are tossing free bumper stickers from the rooftops, firing free t-shirts through rented t-shirt guns (which you know are expensive, I know you’ve looked into one). Whether you support him or not, Bernie Sanders is doing much to emphasize bringing massive uncorrupt public funding back into the campaigns and the other candidates (for the most part…) are following suit (no wonder the hipsters like Bernie); there has been a noticable shift from appealing to only congressmen and Big Business to including the public.
You are important. You have a voice.
Wait, let me rephrase this.
You are important. You have the ability to have a voice.
So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to choose to let a chance to be significant slip through your politically-neutral clutches, you Switzerland?! Friends!
You really are significant. So go ahead and bask in your significance and cast the ballot.
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
Peace and Blessings,
I hold profound respect for Harper Lee. The ideas that leaked from her mind and her morals onto the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird leave me bamboozled every time at the exactness of the essence of human kindness that they capture. Written in this legacy are scores upon scores of essential quotes that, if taken seriously and by enough people, could mean an abrupt and drastic change for the better in our world of jealousy, pride, and anger.
This beloved author passed away at age 89 on Friday, February 19th in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. My sorrow over her passing is lessened by the hope of a Michael Jackson-esque revival in reading and immortalizing her prose.
I feel there is no better way to tribute the author than by contemplating on the power of her own words, and how applicable they still are towards humanity.
First off, my favorite quote from To Kill a Mockingbird:
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch”
I believe sincerely in the power of peace. I believe that it is more effective to listen than to talk, and to whisper rather than shout. I believe these things, because I believe them to cut to the core of the aggressor. Atticus Finch is one of my heroes, because his tactics for dealing with aggressive people is so effective that it goes to the extent of not just dealing with the aggressor, but also inspiring others. Essentially, this quote is valuing perseverance and integrity above the use of something other than yourself.
“I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year.
I very much wanted to be Scout the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird; I loved her ferocious spirit, and her distaste of being socially confined to what is appropriate. It wasn’t that she was a die-hard tomboy, she was simply undefinable and therefore infinite. Scout as a character had an extensive personality and impeccable individualism.
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”
I wish that I could make a t-shirt of this quote to wear every day of the year. So often we go through life causing pain toward each other simply by misinformation and misunderstanding. Actually, I wish that I could tattoo this quote to the inside of my eyelids, so that I could remember constantly how the truth and embellishment contradict each other.
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”
This is a harder one to grasp, I’ll admit, mostly because in our society, pride is analogous to confidence and both are considered acceptable–nay, encouraged. But there is so much truth to this quote. Why should we take pride in our talents? First off, most likely we did nothing but simply inherit them, which in that case is more on our parents for having the good graces to reproduce and create a great kid. Secondly, we undermine and cut down the potential of our talents to influence the rest of humanity when we use part of the potential to brag about ourselves and raise ourselves up. If our talent is as good as we think it is, then it will do the raising. Ultimately, talents exist to benefit the world around us, and not to benefit ourselves. What is the good of going through life self-centeredly, only to arrive at the end with a list of achievements and no one to share in the departure?
There are many, many more stellar Harper Lee quotes from not only To Kill a Mockingbird, but also from her “new” novel Go Set a Watchman that I would be honored to share with you. But, for the sake of space and your own mental attention, I’ll end with this one:
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
Can you imagine? Being so well-respected and so valued for your justice that people who society deems as “lesser” and who have been oppressed for so many years and so many bad reasons exhibits this kind of respect toward you? I feel like that is the height of what it looks like to be kind to others. You know that you have become a kind contributor to humanity when people afford respect like this to you.
I hope that the memory of Harper Lee provokes desires in you to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird or to go pick up a copy of Go Set a Watchman. Or that you spend just a smidgeon of your time thinking about the effects of your kindness and your own personal legacy.
Always remember that humanity flourishes when watered with kindness.
Peace and Blessings,
I am a person who enjoys pretending that I am not, in fact, a human, but some kind of Herculean Alien from a planet where multitasking is actually possible and the days exist in 43 hour segments. I am sure many of you can relate to this, especially with the piles upon piles of exams to study for, social lives to maintain and the care of the poor little martyr we call Sleep.
Essentially, we are in the same U.S.S Life steamboat, friends, and some days it feels like it takes all of our strength just to bail out the water.
With this in mind, I would like to share with you a few rules that I live by in order to prevent the capsize. I say rules, as opposed to guidelines because I really do mean rules. I believe that we all need a little self-inflicted structure in our lives in order to keep track of ourselves, so these are rules that I follow every day whether I’m feeling the mood or not.
1. Make the Bed
This might seem trivial, but the first thing I do every morning after I swagger out of the beautiful enticement of my Calypso-covers is pull my duvet taunt and re-stack the pillows. This is a mental game. My room could be a disaster– there could be piles of laundry strewn across the carpet, or orange peels scattered haphazardly, or The Great Wall of Dishes littering the sink– but if I can make the bed, then no task is too small. (Plus the fact that it isn’t cluttered with bundled up covers, I can move the laundry from the floor onto the bed, and therefore free up the floor).
So making the bed every morning helps set the tone for the day. Furthermore, when one’s environment is clean and tidy (relative to one’s own standards, no worries) one’s mind is free to be clean and tidy.
2. Move Every Day
In some way, whether it be a good early morning run, a bike ride, a stroll around the campus, a session of either Group Fitness yoga or YouTube Yoga (I recommend Yoga with Adrienne), I move. Every day. I would love to make it every hour but those 90 minute classes–what can you do, you know? Movement is so… beautiful. There is no other way for me to describe how I feel about it. One of my favorite parts of my day is the first movement. After my swagger from the covers and my taunten-ing of the duvet, I set the kettle to boil the precious water that will seep into the industrious grinds of my dark roast coffee. While I wait for the water to boil, I lay on the thick carpet and move around. I wish that I could say it was graceful, or that the image of my first movement for the day is somehow what makes it beautiful. I go through some cat-cow combinations to loosen up my back, and swivel my hips around and open up my shoulders. Then I flow from upward-facing dog, to child’s pose and hit up some hamstring stretching. While this all sounds relatively structured and potentially organized, it’s mostly me flopping clumsily and unpredictably through these movements in a way that would make any yogi convert to a corporate career. But despite what it looks like, I can’t express how good it feels to move. I find that the days when I am confined to a chair are the days when I am the least happy. My body wants to move, it yearns to move. It’s like an ADHD child whining, “Mommy, mommy! Let’s go swimming! Watch me run!” over and over again in my ear. It tends to happen that when we treat our body to what it wants, it treats us back to an influx of endorphins and other pleasant neurotransmitters.
Again, this serves to just slow the sinking of the U.S.S Life that much further and maintain a little sanity.
3. Puzzle All Day Every Day
I love puzzles. Oh gosh, the satisfaction of the little pieces snapping together and creating something beautiful… After classes get out, the last thing I want to do is plow into my homework. I’m tired from having my mind opened for so long, and overwhelmed by the information that I need to transcribe into homework and studying. My instincts are to pull up some Lost while I dip carrots in crunchy peanut butter, or take a good half-hour power nap before hitting the books. But here is the dilemma: I just spent so long opening up my mind with classes and learning, that when I settle into some Netflix or collapse into a Power Nap, my mind closes right back up. And then I have to spend an enormously inefficient amount of time re-opening my mind in order to do homework.
That’s where puzzles come in!
My rule is that my stress relief from classes comes from doing puzzles. Yes, oftentimes I have Lorelei Gilmore’s quirky narrative voice from Gilmore Girls playing on the side, or I’ll have Nina Simone whispering sweet jazz-nothings into my ears. But mainly, I’m doing a puzzle. I’m figuring out which pieces go where, and using my pre-opened mind to search for it. When I am doing a puzzle, I am using my mind in such a way that is keeping it open. But, at the same time, I’m not doing learning which is really the thing that I needed a break from anyway. In some ways, perhaps, searching for the puzzle pieces is fine tuning my brain and preparing me better to do homework. And with the Netflix or the heavenly Ed Sheeran playing in the background, I am still afforded what instincts desired.
By no means am I suggesting that if you don’t immediately implement these three rules into your life, inevitably your feeble attempts to maintain homeostasis will capsize. I mean, you are welcome to take these suggestions and apply them to your own reservoir of rules. I am merely encouraging you to bring intentionality to your life, especially if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
If you have a few of your own rules that work really well for you, please comment and share them! I believe that humanity was intended for co-existance and that we should share constantly what makes us experience happiness and a sense of security.
Peace and Blessings
“Impact is never about knowing all the steps ahead, but about taking one intentional step after the other.”
~ Bidemi Mark-Mordi