Last night I climbed Schloßberg–the picturesque “mountain” looming over the city of Graz, Austria–with my beautiful Ukrainian roommate, Vika, to watch the sun set behind the mountain ridges surrounding Graz and eat some fresh-baked Austrian Pita Brot (pita bread) with Grecian hummus and sautéed Roma tomatoes.
(View over Graz from Schlosßberg)
Vika is a pretty magical, wonderful human. She currently sits at 18 years of age, graduating from Ukrainian high school a year early at 16. With zero prior knowledge of either German or English (the only languages that are actually helpful to know in a German speaking country), she moved to Graz to study medicine at the Technical University.
Yeah, um, study medicine in German.
She came to Austria alone, at the age of 17, and had to register with the city, find a bank account, get a visa, find her way around, find housing–all of this that has taken about 4 years away from my life span–alone and without being able to speak any languages that people here know. And then she goes on to study medicine.
I don’t know how you are feeling currently, but this blows my mind. As much as I really deeply love Graz already and as much as I have intensely bonded with the beautiful friends that I have made, it has been no picnic to get everything sorted and accounted for.
So when I asked her, “Liebe Vika, how in the world were you able to go completely out of your comfort zone and move to Austria of all places?!” To which she stared at me for a while (half because her English isn’t very developed and I speak too fast anyways, and half because the question struck her as absurd) and replied,
“Vat are you talking abut? Dies ist not out of my comvert zone. Dies has been my dream forever. I am nut so gut at going out of my comvert zone.”
Translation: she honestly didn’t believe that any of this constituted as her going out of her comfort zone. She went on to explain that she has a home here and running water and showers and she likes her routine….she believes that she is in her comfort zone because she is so intune with miscommunication and adapting to things. All of her friends and family have done this, once they graduate high school they all move to different parts of the world for studies.
But for me, even though I have it much easier than she did, moving to Austria has put pressure on the circumference of my own zone. I am thrown into situations daily that I feel are out of my comfort zone–having to navigate through the safe parts of the city to get home alone at night, being paired with a far-superior-German-speaking-international-student for an oral German placement exam in order to be placed in the appropriate German intensive course level, going to sleep at 2:30 and waking up at 6:30 multiple nights in a row in order to both make friends and also make it to class the next day, having to deny my own pride in order to ask so many people to help me because I don’t understand how to do so many necessary things…
It’s easy to listen to Vika and think, Wow. I was only kidding myself when I thought that I was doing such a great job at expanding and going out of my comfort zone.
But then some pretty neat-o realizations began to take place. I started to talk about my intense passion and drive for Ultrarunning, the feeling of pounding through long, long distances alone and then finishing and wanting to immediately do it again. I started to talk about how I want to do a 100K and eventually work my way up to the 100-mile distance. I told her about my dream to thru-hike the entire Appalatian trail. I told her about my weekend plan to spend the day hiking Austrian mountains with a friend.
She began to get the same look on her face that I did when she was telling me about herself. “But VY? Vy vould you want to do dies? Do people do dies? Dies 100K running? Do they actually hike for 2 months straight vivout any showers or comverts?”
Translation: she was asking me how on earth I could enjoy going out of my comfort zone like that. Pretty much the same question that I had asked her.
Those things aren’t really out of my comfort zone, though. Running a half marathon or even a full marathon is just another weekend run, it doesn’t seem that long to me anymore. I don’t say this arrogantly, or at least I hope you don’t take it as such, none of these distances are run even remotely fast. It’s very within my comfort zone to stick to my well-thought-out plan of running increasing distances every day, by myself, with the pleasure of my podcasts and the pleasure of my gels and mid-run fueling. It’s out of my comfort zone to give this up because it has become so familiar to me and so comforting of an activity.
I have read so many memoirs of Appalatian thru-hikers. So many memoirs of intense ultra runners. I have listened to so many podcasts. I don’t think that my 50K race is anything super special (I mean, it is super special to me, but in the greater scheme), because I have listened to so many accounts of people running far greater distances with far faster times.
I came to realize this very important fact: the comfort zone–like almost everything else– is also completely relative.
Vika does not have a bigger comfort zone. Her comfort zone isn’t greater or more adaptive or more expansive than mine. Likewise, I do not have a “better” comfort zone than her. There are some people that I have met who tell me fantastic stories about the adventures they have gone on, things that are normal for them but extreme for me. But these people that I have met are older than me by quite a few years or they have lived in places that afford them these opportunities, so in no way is it justifiable for me to compare my comfort zone with theirs. We are different people.
You’ll go nuts. You’ll lose the plot, as my Aussie friends call it.
Some personal takeaways from this potentially obvious-to-you realization:
- The only comfort zone that I need to be mindful of is mine. All I can do is work diligently a little each day to expand my own comfort zone.
2. Stomaching the urge to compare myself with others, I can definitely gain perspective from listening to what other people are comfortable with. I come back to the flat after a long day of running around trying to figure Austrian life out and plop down on the floor in a state of being semi-defeated. Vika, noticing my obvious distress, talks me down and tells me everything is going to be okay, that she went through this too and that it wasn’t that big of a deal. That it’s going to work out.
3. Maybe I haven’t gone cross country skiing through the Alps. Maybe I haven’t been cliff diving off the coast of Indonesia. Maybe I haven’t moved to a country where I am 100% unable to communicate. But because I am an individual, because there is no one like me in terms of age, nurture, passion, tendencies, flaws, regrets, schooling, pet peeves, observations, processing abilities…because of these things, I have something to offer, too.
4. Just because it’s not about “anyone else” also does not mean that it is about me.
So, update from Austria:
I can’t believe it’s only been one week; honestly, I feel as if I have lived a couple of years in such a time. There are so many memories that I have already made and so many wonderful things that have happened that I want to share. But I’ll narrow it down for you:
Top 5 Highlights from the week: September 5-September 10th:
• Going to an organ concert with Vika in an Austrian cathedral in the middle of a thunderstorm was BOMB.
• Every Wednesday most of the international students go to an Austrian pub called The Office and my first experience of an Austrian pub was being surrounded by now-familiar faces and friends with whom I have become very bonded and close with. That was pretty tight.
• In a registration session reserved for only students studying in Austria for the full year (featuring some pretty disheartening news about FBI background checks and also more fees concerning not being deported from Austria) I met Rodrigo from Brazil. He asked me where I was from, to which I replied “Kansas”, to which he got excited and told me that for 5 months he lived in Manhattan, Kansas with his uncle who is a professor at Kansas State University. I go all the way to Austria to meet a new friend comes all the way from Brazil and has shared my hometown of MANHATTAN KANSAS. How insane is this world that we live in.
• A British tourist couple asked me for directions when I was on my way home from the university. Perhaps the first time that someone has told me, “I’m glad you speak English!”.
• Went out this morning for my first solo-run (I have found that I infinitely prefer this to group running) and found these pretty sweet trails that snake along the Mur River. Just me, early Austrian morning, leaping over roots and rocks and trying not to fall in the river.
Peace and Blessings,
My plane leaves the bustling metropolis of Manhattan, KS bound for Graz, Austria in t-minus 8 days; before this time, I need to solidify financial matters with ESU, settle bank affairs, find documents, figure out logistics of living in the EU, revisit Austrian-German basics, contact with the Austrian girl meeting me at the airport, and 23 other check-list items. Oh, and pack. I’ve got to do that.
People chant “Josie! Are you excited?!” at least five times a day, to which I reply, “Uh, yeah. Excitement is one of the thirty million emotions raging through my body”.
I am excited. It’s kind of a given. These things are almost by definition exciting. I am also a smidge overwhelmed. And perhaps a dash anxious. And maybe a sprinkle of petrified. But you know what? I have a plan on how to spend these next days in order to not only ensure I don’t get kicked out of Austria but also to do it without losing my mind.
I introduce you to: single-task days. I have created a master giant list of all of the things I need to accomplish, and then have split that list into 8 clumps. Each day is a different clump, and each day the entire clump of tasks is checked off to completion.
For example, yesterday was Bank Day (as shown by my Bank-themed blog post that I published). Yesterday I payed for ESU tuition and figured out my budget for next year. I researched the cost of living in Austria. I called the bank to tell them I will be out of the country. I researched the currency exchange and how credit cards work internationally. I spent the day devoted to checking off only the things on the Bank Day list. Because of this focus I was able to accomplish much more in a shorter amount of time than the alternative of running around overwhelmed by the length of the list and rendered incapable of doing anything productive because of how stressed I am.
I think this tactic can work for any daunting, lengthy task one might face. You have a weekend to complete a novel-long list of homework? Friday is Writing Day, Saturday is Math Problems Day, Sunday is Reading Day. It doesn’t have to be the whole day, it just needs to be all the items checked off the list.
This ties back to my post on Living Without Commitment to the Unfinished Laundry quite nicely, offering evidence of how much I have been relying on the single-task tactic in order to maintain sanity lately.
In case you are curious, today is Writing Day. Sorry for the back-to-back posting; just following the check list.
Peace and Blessings,
It’s not that I find bank people incompetent or slow or somehow lesser than I, it’s simply that my English-major mind doesn’t comprehend money matters. So as one might imagine, the biggest problems I ran into figuring out how to get to Graz and stay there were in the “figuring out banking” categories.
Specifically when it came to sending a deposit to my Austrian apartment. My task seemed simple:
1. Take the receiving account information I was provided with.
2. Drive to my bank.
3. Point at paper, ask for international wire transaction.
I honestly thought this might take, what, 15 minutes tops? I mean, I even left my dog in the car when I went in.
No, no, no. Friends, it didn’t take 15 minutes. It took upwards of an hour the first trip to the bank, 40 minutes the second trip to the bank, and then a grand-daddy of an hour 15 the third trip.
It didn’t come down to incompetence on anyone’s part, it was simply that international wires are tricky processes. I should have expected this. And I’m glad, in some pretty deep hindsight, that something as “simple” as wiring quite a few pretty pennies from my account in the States to an account far away from my current location takes more than 15 minutes. It should.
What happened was the following:
Josie: “Uhm, hi. Yeah. Hi. Uh, I’ve got to, wire some money…to this account in Austria.” *nonchalantly slides the banker a piece of paper with handwritten account details scrawled in a spotty ink pen across the plastic wooden desk, while simultaneously glancing around to make sure thieves haven’t overheard.*
Banking Man: *rolls eyes* “Okay! Yeah, for sure we can do that.” *click clack* “Identification, please?”
Josie: “Oh, yeah, Uhm, yeah. Here. That’s me. In the picture there.” *hands driver’s license to banking man and smiles to match the tiny frizzy haired picture. Points unnecessarily to the tiny picture.*
Banking Man: “Yes, very good, that’s you.” *checks watch*.
…Banking Man spends a lengthy amount of time with this, while Josie stares intently at his face trying to interpret every visual queue for signs of success. There are very little.
He tells me everything worked, that I will be charged a $45 “transaction fee” on top of the money leaving my account for the wire, but that everything should be taken care of. Great. Grand. Stellar. I would pay $45 to never
have to go back to a bank.
The additional wiring fee didn’t bother me, what bothered me was the “failed wire transaction” fee that I found in my account the next day, along with a second $45 “incoming transaction fee” and the sinking feeling that I would have to make an additional trip to the bank.
My second trip involved a lot of time listening to the phrase “well, it should have worked”. Ultimately I was told to come back again, because “I really don’t know why it didn’t work”.
The third time I got the chance to speak with a Banker Lady who very thoroughly checked the reasons why the wire failed the first time, and spent a lot of time calling the “higher-ups” to ask questions. She figured out that the money has to be converted to Euros before wiring it over to the other bank, because the international account in Austria can’t recognize or receive a wire that’s in dollars. Once she figured this out, she quadruple checked with
everyone and their mother to make use that it would work this time.
Then, a whopping one month later, I received an email from the account in Austria saying “Dear Student: We have not received your WIST payments. Please wire the money as soon as possible. Love, Austria”.
*internal organs rupture simultaneously*
I frantically, with obvious and extreme panic, emailed every person I knew in Austria to ask why the heck-fire it didn’t work. Two days later I received:
“sorry we r mistaken. Ur good. Love, Austria.”
Consequently I now fully believe that I can conquer anything. If the bank is something that stresses you out, too, dear friend, just remember: the only thing standing between you and the sunrise waking up the eastern Alps is the cold faux-wood door of your banking establishment. After you rough that, you’re home free. That and maybe a purchasing a plane ticket. And maybe a job that would pay for the plane ticket. And some social skills.
Peace and Blessings,
I love watching a play-by-play of the day from someone. I love watching the face twist in the initial confusion over being asked what they did that day, the eyes roll up toward the right hand ceiling as the narrator remembers the minute details of the morning. I love to watch the light click on and the smile appear when they conjure forth the pleasant sensation of crunching into peanut butter and honey whole wheat skillet toast and washing it down gently with a glass of Minute Maid orange juice. I love watching the narrator then launch into either an extremely animated account of the day–the highlights, the frustrations, the craziness–or shrugs a bit in defeat of forgetfulness. Or disinterest.
Not everyone is into this question, and to those to whom I have asked it and have had no interest in answering, I am terribly sorry. My belief on the reason why some aren’t ever in the mood to give an account for the day is threefold; either they,
A). Don’t think that I truly care about how the day was. That I’m just asking for the sake of being polite.
B). They don’t remember the day, and it’s frustrating to try and recall the life of a day that was lived on auto-pilot.
C). They’ve got better things to do.
I genuinely believe that life was meant to be remembered and recounted. That’s the point of living out a day. To remember what was good so as to emulate that goodness in the future and to recall what was humbling so as to challenge our integrity and growth. To recount and pass on the knowledge of the day that we lived in order to further human progress.
It’s been said to me that if you speak out loud the dream that you had as soon as you wake up, the information will be stored in the hippocampus and you’ll remember the dream long-term. I think the same might apply to the memory of a day; if you repeat it, it becomes stored.
So if you don’t want to recount your day to me if I were to ask it from you, that’s chill. We’re chill. Do yourself a favor and recount it to yourself, though. We waste too many days to the automatic life.
So on that note, can I tell you about my day?
I suppose it started three days ago, on the worst Saturday double-shift of all time. I won’t go into detail but just leave it with a blanket, “it sucked”. The horrid mess crescendoed to an even more horrid Sunday shift, which then finally peaked on a “has-the-apocalypse-begun-without-anyone-telling-me” Monday shift featuring my first ever mid-shift anxiety attack.
So anyways. We come to Tuesday. The most blessed Tuesday of all summer, because it is one of the first Tuesdays that I don’t have to work on my off-day. I actually get my off-day….off. Glory.
So I woke up, kind of just popped out of my fluffy, pillow-laden twin sized bed at 5:03am. Good start, am I right? Made the bed, shimmied into my favorite Janji racing singlet and Nike black shorts, pulled on Ann my Trusty Trail Shoe, mixed Justin’s natural peanut butter with some raw honey and sliced up a banana, made pour-over Columbia coffee, and headed out the door around 5:26am.
I loaded into my Outback and headed, pre-dawn with a Rich Roll Podcast on the Pursuit of Wonder serenading my waking ears, to the Milford State Park.
I love a good pre-sunrise. There’s almost nothing that matches it, it’s my absolute favorite time of day. No one is speaking, no one is working, no one is doing anything other than listening. I pseudo-park by a rather sketchy information sign and hit the Eagle Ridge Trail. The sun is just beginning to rise, and the rays of the dawn light the clouds on fire. The weather is perfect, a 70 degree morning with a lazy wafting breeze that keeps the humidity tolerable.
And I take off.
I run alone, without a middle-aged entitled customer verbally pelting me with hate for not making her grande-skinny-half caf-caramel-macchiato-with-whip-on-that-please iced. There is no bread to slice, there are no sandwiches to make, there are no tables to bus. There is just Josie and some good August sunrise and some empty woods.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of angry MASSIVE spiders of whose webs began to stack upon my face. I love the woods, I live for the woods–I would live in the woods if that were socially acceptable–but I’m not such a fan of constant head-to-heads with the sticky invisible strands of spider web. So after about 5 miles, I turn around from the woods and decide to run towards the marina.
The sun has struck the lake in fire by the time that I reach the docks, and instead of running, I stop. I stop and I scramble down the rocks and I adventure to the shore and I take off my socks and Ann my Trusty Trail Shoe and I dangle my feet in the cool lake waters. I take off my sweaty bandana and dip it in the lake, washing off the grass and mud from my ankles and massaging my sore toes.
For the next forty minutes I sit on my new best friend of a rock, listening to the delicate splashes of the fish and watching the water lap against the rocks I am on. I feel the sun creep higher in the east, caressing my skin with tingles of warmth. I feel the cool morning breeze whisk away the sweat from my run. I whisper to myself, I have nowhere to be. I have nothing for which to rush.
So I don’t rush. I take my time.
What a contrast to the constant movement of the past three days, of the relentless beating my feet and ankles have taken from running an 80 mile week on top of the panicky jerking movements of scampering to make people coffee.
Beauty in the juxtaposition.
Finally, after a gentle power nap, I lace Ann back on and run around Milford State Park for another 5 miles. I stretch out lazily after I finish my run, feeling good and strong, and then drive to a grocery store where I purchase a massive tub of fresh fruit, coconut water, and this dark chocolate peanut butter organic and vegan mock-Recess cup. Which was absolutely tasty, and which I enjoy while I drive home with the windows down and my hair flying everywhere.
I got home around noon and washed off, then cleaned things that needed to be cleaned and hit the errands. Now, present-moment, I just finished baking oatmeal coconut oil triple chocolate cookies for my beautiful coworkers with whom shortly I will join for dinner at our favorite cafe with a couple rounds of Scrabble to conclude the evening.
These kinds of summer days don’t happen often, of which I am glad because beauty does indeed exist in the juxtaposition; “Sometimes you have to work a little…to ball a lot”. (Tom Haverford).
I wish you a good Tuesday.
Peace and Blessings,
There exists a fallacy that a fulfilling life requires extravagant amounts of daily adventuring amongst the Redwood Forests of California followed by short hang-gliding rides to the lake pockets surrounding the volcanoes of Hawaii for quick dips. That a fulfilling life requires scores of decently behaved biologically-related children spitting out more and more genetically-similar offspring, that hopefully return to the old family farm at least once a year, maybe twice if it’s Christmas and the year ends in an even number.
One day you are going to run the Western States 100, heck, you’re going to win it. You won’t even be wearing shoes, pioneering the art of barefoot running all the way to the elite endurance field.
One day you are going to finish that science fiction novel that has been formulating in your mind, featuring the angsty, misunderstood adolescent Warlock skater-boii who just wants to be accepted by Jahja the popular Warlock at school.
One day you–yes you!— are going to power through Winston Churchill’s four-volumed A History of the English Speaking Peoples without so much as a bathroom break.You will reach literary Enlightenment signified by your carefully worded email to the publishing firm announcing your discovery of an incorrect comma usage on page 657 of Volume III.
It tends to go that we put satisfaction and life-fulfillment on hold. The experts tell us that it’s important for us to set goals, right? They even tell us to have ones on standby, so that we never entirely finish a goal without having another one firmly Sharpied on a crisp blank sheet stolen from the local library printer and taped securely on the mirror in front of which you brush your teeth every morning.
But what does this foster? We tend to be left with ultra-inspiring and far-reaching goals that we don’t fully believe ourselves capable of obtaining and that leave us with a sour taste in our mouths for the current state of our lives. How could popping down to Aldis for some fresh, $.29 sale bananas possibly excite us when we are planning on maybe someday moving to Napa Valley wine country and opening a bustling local chicken farm?!
Furthermore, we are being encouraged to “dream bigger” and “reach higher”. The goals we set for ourselves are to be beyond our reach so that in striving for what we want, we somehow grow and change as people?
I have nothing against far-reaching goal setting for self-improvement, I feel as if these kinds of goals are what makes being a human so enjoyable. But I do have a slight issue with ultra-reaching goal setting which is beyond our personal attainment, inhibits our own ability to individualistically contribute to the good of the world and which leave us dissatisfied and disillusioned with our present.
I have found that while goal-setting and future planning allot for blankets of hope for a passion-filled life, the life satisfaction that we all seem to be reaching for is actually obtained by the simple art of living moment to moment.
Living moment to moment is simpler than making the most out of every moment. It’s easier than living today as if it were your last. It’s not as technically challenging as live laugh love. It’s a little bit less vague than just do it.
“Living moment to moment” comes down to this:
Finish what moment you start, every time.
It’s getting closure with the moment you are in, it allows you to catalog that moment under the “done!” portion of your processing system and then move on with your life instead of letting it float in the subconscious jumble that then haunts your dreams at night with images of unfolded laundry and the check that never got sent to the recycling center.
When you wake up in the morning, finish waking up. Get out of bed, turn off the barking dog alarm snooze that you’ve jabbed at three times, make the bed. There, you have finished this moment, you are successfully “awoken”. You have closure with the moment of “waking up”.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I indulge in the mid morning power snoozes after early morning long runs. But by taking 13 minute naps at 9:47 after a delicious breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter and pomegranate seeds dusted with a conservative layer of agave nectar, I reopen the moment of “waking up”, and I dismiss that closure. I regress to a part of my day that should have already been done. And I teach my subconscious that this is okay, that regression is what brings satisfaction, when in fact it means that I have to start all over again.
When it hits Tuesday, your designated laundry day, do the laundry. Wash it, stick it in the dryer, fold it, put it away. Don’t dally, friends. You opened the washer, you opened the moment. The moment doesn’t end until the laundry is put away. Then you get to file it in the “done” category. Don’t wait until you’re scrambling before work on Wednesday morning to pull out your incomprehensibly wrinkled blouse with the cute, now almost unrecognizable black skirt that always gets a compliment from the cute mailman.
Sometimes I have to be pretty intense with my morning schedule. If I have a shift at the Bakehouse from 9-4, I wake up around 5:53, hit the roads by 6:11, run my 11.5 and if all goes well be back by 7:40. If my goal is to have a nice, relaxing 8:00am hour before my shift, that means I have 20 minutes to close down the moment of my run that started when my own barking-dog alarm sounded at 5:53.
I peel off the moisture-wicking running shirt that has somehow sweat-fused with the first layer of my epidermis and shimmy out of my black running shorts . I grab my towel and wash cloth and get to work removing the layers of me that are just sweat and dirt from the trails. It’s all-too tempting to leave my sweaty running gear in a heap until I come back from work hours later, obviously not thrilled about the idea of molding sweaty odorous running clothes laying on my floor. To place my handheld water bottle, still containing traces of the Skratch Lab Pineapple mix that I drank partially on my run, on the counter by the dishes and hope that my mother goes ahead and does the work for me.
But if I give in to this temptation than I’m not closing the moment. So instead, I go and rinse out my clothes under the cold bath faucet, wring them out and lay them to dry, tuck away Ann my Trusty Trail Shoes back into the perch where she spends her days, log my miles and pace and times in my Running Diary, throw away the sucked-down GU gel packet, and rinse and drain my Ultimate Direction handheld running bottle. This thereby seals the moment, I file Daily run! Yay! under the “completed” section of my brain, and I don’t waste precious amounts of the remainder of my day revisiting it.
I have lived this moment to it’s finality and this finality brings me satisfaction.
So dreams and hopes and aspirations and desires for what our lives could be and the goals that we set for ourselves in order to reach those…that stuff is important. It’s important to pump your mind up with hopes of someday maintaining this awesome dream life.
But for the mean time, seek out the satisfaction that comes with living in the present and closing down every moment that you start. Don’t let things dangle; that then commits you to something that could have already been done. When you start things without finishing them they still have a hold over you. They still have you committed.
Ain’t nobody got time to be committed to the laundry.
Peace and Blessings,
Friday, July 22nd: Pre-Race Day.
5:30pm- Full body massage
7:41pm – slow, mindful dinner of almond-toasted quinoa, pan-seared sweet potato, lemon-pepper avocado and fresh grated Parmesan quesadilla on Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortilla.
8:37pm- pre-race day prep: gear packed and double-checked, Scratch Lab Raspberry mix in bottle put in the fridge, PB2-banana-honey-white-tortilla wrap made for mid-race fuel, cold-brew coffee for the morning started, road-trip podcasts selected and downloaded.
9:29pm- head meets the pillow.
Saturday, July 23rd: Race Day.
4:21am- full body stretch routine, roll out essential muscles, throw in a few sun salutations, you know the drill.
4:38am – listen to the Trail Runner Nation Podcast: How Bad Do You Want It? as I gather last minute items, shimmy into my moisture-wicking trail clothes and lace up Ann, my Trusty Trail Shoe.
4:47am- blend 6 spears of frozen bananas, a cup of almond milk, a few squirts of agave nectar, two spoonfuls of PB2 powder and a handful of ice for a smoothie of champions.
4:51am- double check list, remake the list, double check the remade list.
4:58am- load drop bag, load race basket, load race directions, load parents
5:01am- hit the road, Killers wafting through the car speakers. Breakfast of Toddy (cold-brew coffee), banana smoothie, Cashew Cookie Lara Bar and a whole bucket of water.
7:07am- pull into Wyandotte County Lake Park Shelter #2, pick up race packet for the 20 mile.
8:00am – countdown finishes, race begins.
This was my lead up into the Psycho Psummer 10, 20, and 50K race this past Saturday, July 23rd. The 20 mile race that I have been training for since my second half marathon in April, the race that all my other races led up to. The forefront of my mind, the prefrontal cortex of my running life if you will.
A half-marathon is already a long distance to run, how am I supposed to finish a half-marathon, and then run another 7 miles?
I’ve done two 20 mile training runs, both took 3 hours and both wiped me clean. Both were also on road, how am I supposed to not die doing 20 miles on hard, single-track trail terrain?
I’ve never run during the heat of the day during the hottest month of the year. What if I can’t do this? What if I begin to suffer too much?
I had my doubts.
But, as I came to find it, I begin to really enjoy what I was putting myself through during the first lap of the Psycho Psummer run (the course is a 10.3 mile loop, run once for the 10-milers, twice for the 20, and three times for a 50K). I met some stellar people during the first loop that shared in the notion of how truly enjoyable it is to move the body in this way for such a long duration of time.
So during the first loop, I decided that I wasn’t going to stop after two loops around the course, that I would go for a third. What better time? I was in this state of running euphoria, the zone, amidst other ultra runners that have such a palpable passion for the run, completely supported by my crew of wonderful parents, completely supported by aide stations every 2-ish miles. I was well heat trained, the heat wasn’t affecting me other than unleashing the full force of my hyperactive diva sweat glands. I was well-hydrated, I had my Camelbak, I had my race plans.
Furthermore, it’s going to be easier to do a 50K when you’ve already run 7 miles than when you are starting at 0.
So I went for a victory lap. No need for music, no need for podcasts, no need for entertainment. I ran with two wonderful people for the first lap and a half, found myself with hilariously entertaining people for the last half of the second lap, and then ran my own solo race for the third. And all of it was fun. All 6 hours of running were honest-to-goodness pure joy.
The reception I received from the aid-station volunteers, most of whom were ultra runners themselves, my parents, and then finally even the race director was almost inexplicable. These people displayed such a passion for running that when they glimpsed the same passion in me they stoked it and made me feel 1000x cooler than I already felt.
(The race director presenting me with the 50K finisher Trucker Hat)
Upon reflection, I have some very key things to which I need to attribute a spontaneous ultramarathon finish.
First and foremost: Since I started serious endurance running back in October, it has been a dream of mine to become an ultramarathoner. After every running memoir I read–Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run, Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra, Bill Rodger’s Marathon Man, etc–I found myself in a state of overwhelmed awe, rocking back and forth humming “I want to do that with my life” over and over again.
So I attribute my 50K finish primarily to the following:
Having a repeated, constant, verbally-reinforced dream.
My initial plan was to start small and build up to ultra running; start with a couple of half-marathons, do some trail half-marathons, then graduate to running 20 miles on trail. Throw in a marathon or two, do a trail marathon, then finally, finally do an ultra.
But as I was running, I couldn’t help but think:
What is actually stopping me from just doing an ultra right now?
Secondly, I attribute my finish to the massage that I received from a beautiful soul the night before the race. I mean, yeah, it was quite grand to have a licensed-someone break up the lumps of stress I’ve placed on my body from running and work, but that physicality of the massage is not what I attribute the finish to.
It was what it did to my brain; namely it reminded me that:
When one can get outside of the head an endless labyrinth of possibilities becomes accessible.
At one point of the massage my masseuse had a smooth and a rough stone that she was alternately pressing against the palms of my hands. The sensation was such that all that was going through my mind was:
Smooth stone. Rough stone. Smoooooooth stone. Rough stone. Smooth. Rough.
The reason why I found so much enjoyment out of her massaging my palms was the fact that I was completely externalized. I wasn’t multitasking, I wasn’t contemplating the finer things in life, or planning out the rest of my day or even thinking about how good it felt. I was simply concentrating on the sensations I was feeling and allowing my body to do the rest.
That’s what happened during my run, too. I got to a point where I wasn’t thinking at all about how I felt, or how much further I had left or even how far I had gone. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was running an ultra marathon, or taking into consideration the people around me.
I was thinking; smooth trail, tall rock, pretty lake, downhill, ooh! Tree! Big hill, long root, rough trail.
I located the “zone” that Scott Jurek talked about in his Eat & Run, this ability to tap out of all physical sensations and focus singularly on the external. If you can do this, if you can get completely outside of your head, outside of the sensations of pain and the desires to stop running and your awareness of how hot it is and how technical the trail is and how much the people around you are struggling so naturally you should be struggling, too…if you can free yourself from these fixations, I genuinely believe one could run forever.
It’s almost completely mental.
This leads me to the third attribution.
I had mentally braced myself for suffering.
From the moment I signed up for the race I knew it was going to be difficult. Probably the most difficult race I have ever run so far. The heat of July, the technical trail, the distance…these things worked threefold to convince me that this race was going to be something that I both needed to prepare for and needed to expect to suffer during.
Channeling my inner Prefontaine, I began the race weeks before it started with the following mindset:
Let’s see my breaking point; how much can I suffer?
By telling my brain that this was going to be hard, that this was going to be long, it jumped to attention and didn’t give me any of those wimpy how much longer!? thoughts that sometimes plague me during a casual training tempo run.
And suddenly, when I found that I wasn’t actually suffering all that much, my brain allowed me to run further.
This is what I mean by the race being mental. This is what I mean by how important self-talk–positive self talk–is, and how important it is to coach yourself.
If you read my previous post on the nature of control, I believe this ties in with it. You can almost trick yourself to do things that you never realized you could do. Or could do so easily.
20 mile training runs are hard. They are solitary (which I personally enjoy, but which tends to make the run seem longer), unsupported, long, unpredictable. Going for a 20 mile run is something I have to talk myself up to the night before, something I have to prepare physically and mentally for.
But, as a result of the complexity of the brain, I promise you doing a 20 mile run is infinitely easier when you convince yourself that you are actually going to run 22 miles.
If you tell yourself the run is going to be 20 miles, once you get to 20 your brain is going to shut the process down. You reached 20, right? That was the goal? Okay, now you are done. Time to recover.
Bracing yourself is just another way to mentally prepare for something. You have to respect that running is hard and that it’s not something you are able to do without effort.
If you respect it and allow it to humble you to where you begin to completely externalize, then it’s going to open you to a myriad of possibilities.
So in summation, the ability to spontaneously run an ultra is attributed to having a relatively high-reaching and often-reinforced dream, completely externalizing, and bracing myself pre-race.
But I would really, truly like to thank the runners that allowed me to pace with them, the out-of-this-world-amazing aid station volunteers and bomb-dignity race directors and my crew of selfless serving parents. This race has humbled me in ways that are probably not externally obvious.
I have a respect for running and for the sport of ultra that I didn’t have prior to this. I feel incredibly blessed by the opportunity that was afforded to me by the run, as if the run itself were an outside entity passing judgement and permission upon pleading individuals.
So this is my Psycho Psummer 50K race report, hopefully the first of many ultras that I will reflect upon.
Peace and Blessings,
I’m not quite sure when the connotation of “control” became so negative, but it seems to currently provoke images of raged, hormonally middle-aged humans with heat-damaged straight hair, unnaturally taunt facial skin and a noticeably viscous outer-layer of spray tan shouting nonsense about unfair prices in the co-op Whole Foods Market to the poor dreadlocked employee.
(Furthermore, due to the nature of our unfortunately patriarchal society, these humans tend to possess the ability to physically bear children. This serves to instill further opportunities for assertive or self-controlled women to be criticized as being “demonic” or the inevitably descriptive “bossy”.)
The “ability to have control” has blossomed into “to be controlling”. This to me is like equating “I used to run the 100m dash in middle school track” with “I have the opportunity to win the Western States 100 mile trail run”. It’s simply not the same, despite the having the word “run” in common.
I am not afraid of control, or having others associate me with it. For the most part, I try my hardest not to let my inclination toward control affect others–here, it would cross into the realm of “controlling”–nor do I “obsessively control” areas in my life.
I do openly recognize that control, like many other qualities, can become negative very easily with over-application. But I also openly recognize that this is typical of many other qualities. Control should not be the taboo that society has turned it into.
The kind of control that fascinates me is a three-fold combination of awareness, self-control and self-efficacy. Let me walk you through this.
Awareness: the ability to recognize what outside stimuli make you actually happy, satisfied, positive, understanding, patient, angry, frustrated, unfulfilled etc. The ability to recognize the doses which benefit you the best, and the ability to balance without toppling over into the realm of “over-indulgence”.
Self-Control: the application of awareness; the ability to say no to certain impulses that are negative.
Self-Efficacy: the application of self-control; proving you to yourself enough to instill the belief that you can function as a developed and beneficial member of human society.
You are 1000% in control of how your life is going, I firmly believe this. I believe it’s definitely harder for some than others but that it is nevertheless attainable. Life is more than where you live, the activities you do, the person you are married to…”how your life is going” relates to your capacity to enjoy the situation you are in and how you feel about yourself.
I believe in an immortal Creator, but this fact doesn’t disrupt my theory that we are in control, because I believe that our Creator has given us choice. The ability to be aware of our surroundings, to choose to react certain ways; there is choice in everything that we do. Choosing lends hand to control.
What happens when you don’t believe that you are in control? What happens when you give yourself over and convince yourself that you have no choice in anything you do? The tier topples significantly. You may have awareness, but because you don’t convince yourself that you have self-control, you aren’t able to do much with the awareness you do have, which then just leads to sadness and discontentedness. Furthermore, you lack self-efficacy, because without a firm belief in your ability to control yourself, the ability to achieve whatever goal you want is left entirely up to chance which is entirely unpredictable.
Contrastingly, what happens when you become in-control? You possess awareness, obviously, because this is where is begins. You allow yourself to explore what makes you happy, what makes you sad, what creates longing and what provokes satisfaction. You do this without judgment of yourself, without hatred. A playful curiosity over the nature of you.
What does this look like in application? It starts small. For a while I had the final scene of Fight Club, my all-time favorite movie, as my desktop background. It features a silhouetted figure standing stark against a night-time cityscape. While it made me think fondly of my favorite movie, it also did nothing to add to my happiness; it was a dark and somewhat foreboding picture leading to images of a dark and somewhat foreboding thematic movie. So I changed the image to one featuring the Austrian mountains that I am going to live amongst this upcoming year. Channeling awareness, I realized that this minute change subconsciously would instill hope and swell my sense of adventure when I glanced at it.
Then you take this a step further. Maybe you have found that positive self-talk, for example, makes you a more patient person whereas maintaining relationships with people who gossip often tends to make you grumpy and dissatisfied. So you do something with this information. You don’t hate yourself for partaking in gossip with these people because then it disrupts positive self-talk and thereby disrupts the ability for self-control. You simply take decisive actions toward preventing the furthering of this.
Okay, so awareness and self-control are present. Next comes self-efficacy, the belief that you have the ability to reach the goals you set for yourself. It’s pretty logical that this comes most naturally when you prove to yourself that you are in control, right? Of course you’re going to be able to obtain your goal of being an ultra-marathoner, you have proven to yourself that you can run half-marathons and full-marathons. You have this confidence in yourself because you have done it before. First, you were aware of how you run and how to run better and how not to run. Then you exercised self-control by disciplining yourself to run and enter into half-marathon and full-marathon races. With this foundation, of course you are going to be able to obtain your goal.
It’s a dangerously unpredictable life you will lead when you don’t believe you are in control of yourself. Every situation you are thrown–and you will be thrown a lot–you’re going to emerge hopeless and rattled. What happens if you want more than anything to be a professional baker, but you don’t get along with the manager of the bakery you are working for and this tense relationship leads to your termination?
I can’t seem to get along with anyone. Because I can’t seem to do this, I’m never going to get re-hired. I’m never going to be able to be a professional baker.
I wish that I could lose some of this excess weight, but I can’t because I can’t seem to control myself around chocolate. I just overeat, that’s what I do.
I don’t know what I want to do in life. Nothing seems to be making me happy. I don’t have a desire to go to college, I don’t really want to choose a career. Nothing makes me happy.
False! False to all of this! I hope that you see the same issues with these statements that I do. The only thing that is disabling you from getting along with anyone is that fact that you are labeling yourself as someone who doesn’t exhibit this ability. You are putting yourself into a tightly packed box labeled “people hating” and you are sealing the lid.
The reason you “can’t seem to control yourself around chocolate” is because a). You are putting yourself in situations which make it easy to over-indulge, which, by the way, you control and b). You are categorizing yourself as someone who can’t resist chocolate. Your body sees chocolate, and it says to you, “Well, brain, you keep telling me that I can’t resist chocolate, so I guess I gotta do it”.
“Nothing seems to be making me happy”, maybe because things don’t make us happy. We make us happy. Truthfully. Your best friend goes on a trip to Canada and brings you back a jar of pure 100% Canadian Maple Syrup. This syrup does not make you happy. You recognizing the gift, attributing it toward a show of love from your friend, recognizing the effort she or he had to go through to get this to you and then affirming that this proves that you are loved…that’s what creates the happiness. And this comes from you.
You can’t assume that situations are going to come along and suddenly you are going to be happy. You don’t know what you want to do in life? Your life purpose is not going to waltz up to you and hit you in the ear with a loud, “Here I am!”. You find your life purpose by trying a whole bunch of things and by awareness.
So, my friend, my pal. You are in control of your future. You are in control of your happiness. Please, please, if you have any inclinations toward leading a satisfying life, please stop attributing your negative feelings with things you “can’t seem to control”. Because you really can.
Of course nobody seems to understand you, they don’t seem to understand me either. It’s not their job, it’s mine.
Awareness leads to self-control. Self-control leads to self-efficacy. It starts small and it builds well if you let it.
Peace and Blessings,
If you are in the market for some wholesome life motivation, I highly recommend checking out The Happy Pear‘s YouTube channel. These Irish twins are fostering a movement for wholesome living in Ireland, down to the bare bones of feeding your body with things that makes it happy from a neurotransmitter level. They spend their days leading 4:30am sunrise dips in the Irish Sea, creating vlogs on sustainable living featuring my heroes such as Rich Roll and Julie Platt, and hosting whole foods cooking sessions that show how easy it is to eat a plant-based diet and the pleasure of Nature’s candy.
Best, and perhaps most importantly, the videos they create are so full of happiness and joy. It’s goes deeper than just a naturally optimistic personality, the lifestyle they live yields this kind of joy.
After a long, early run this morning and making my way to one of my favorite coffee shops for a brunch of toasted, flakey Veggie and Feta Quiche with a steaming cup of Columbia coffee, I settled in to watch a couple of their videos.
I was in a contented state of mind, stemming from a combination of a much needed off-day from work, a paycheck reaffirming the need for a day off, and a long run tucked under the belt. I have projects in mind for the day but no timetable or commitments, which suits my very flakey commitment-abhorring self.
Today, to put it in culturally idiomatically terms, this world is my oyster.
In one of The Happy Pear videos, Stephan Flynn casually uttered a phrase that resonated with my soul and gave me the shivers. It was the point in the video after they had led a dawn swim session and were powering through recording hours of podcast material. Still smiling, still full of joy despite being awake for ions longer than the people they had to interact with, Flynn said:
“But it’s daylight and it’s today”.
Whew. I got the shivers simply typing that.
It’s daylight and it’s today…
It’s so beautiful; this phrase captures the essence of living a motivated life that is full of the pursuit of passion and full of hope. It’s a less cliché and more personalized version of the idiomatic “make the most out of every moment”, but essentially reiterates the principle of purpose-driven life.
After listen to the Irish-accent-laden phrase reverberate a couple times in the depths of my soul, I suddenly sat up and thought to myself, “This would make a stellar tattoo!” This was very quickly shut down by the rational side of Josie, who then reminded the sporatic “live in the moment” side of Josie of the silliness of this quote during those 12 or so hours in which it is not, in fact daylight. Also, spontaneous Josie, what would Mother say.
I often wake up pre-dawn in order to go out for a run, not so much because I am pressed for time or am trying to beat the morning traffic, but more so because there’s something about breathing air that has just began to wake up that brings stillness to my ever-rushed mind. There’s something about witnessing the sleepy stumbling of rabbits and the stretching of squirrels, preparing for a day of darting into traffic and scaring the soul out of pedestrians and park-frequenters. In these moments I am part of the process.
An unfortunate side-effect to this preference for early mornings is that by the time the run is complete and breakfast is over, it’s 9:30, I’ve been awake for 4 hours, and I am suddenly extremely sleepy.
Mid-morning naps are so temptingly easy when one doesn’t have to work for a couple more hours. But it really is a waste of time, because it’s daylight and it is today. The world is open to me, how dare I frivolously splurge my time on slumber!
Not only does this phrase give me motivation to pursue what makes me happy as long as it is daylight and it is today, it also gives me reassurance of rest. Honestly, it can be exhausting to continually feel obligated to “make the most” out of everything. Sometimes I just want to lay down and prop my feet on the wall, let the blood drain from my ankles, and read The Lost World by Michael Crichton, letting my mind wander from thoughts of progressive rationality and musings on the status of humanity to thinking about why the stupid dinosaur hunters think they can go against a raptor unprepared and live.
With the mindset of it being daylight and it being today, there is promise that once the sun goes down and the day begins to set, there ceases to be an obligation to make every moment be extremely worthwhile.
Beauty exists in juxtaposition, and this phrase captures that beauty on a implied level.
Don’t waste your daylight; don’t let your day be dictated by impulses such as sleep or laziness. But find rest in knowing that those things will come, too.
Peace and Blessings,
I hate rant-y posts. They make me feel uncomfortable, as if the blogger were a seven-headed, scimitar-wielding, morning-breath Dragon Demon coming up against a voiceless butterfly. It’s not a fair fight. The blogger gets to say whatever the heck fire they want, without any challenge or without any feedback. Who wants to read that?
On that note, I prefer to refer to how this post is attempting to come across as as more “instructional” than “rant-y”.
Today has been a wonderful, beautiful, blissful day. For some reason, loving Mother Nature decided to penetrate the horrid Kansas humidity with a high-70’s, breezy kind of day. Making the absolute most out of this anomaly, I strapped on Ann the Trusty Trail Shoe, loaded The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared, and powered out the door for a Friday morning long run. I decided to just run how my body wanted me to run, respecting the sore spots in my joints from my last Friday night trail half marathon and being aware at the autonomic processes taking place through my body. This is a wonderful way to run, it has the tendency to transport me to an almost different reality.
The stretch between my house and the trails runs along a pretty busy street, but I’m almost entirely oblivious of the enormous amounts of cars whipping past me (in a safe way, don’t worry Mother). I don’t feel self-conscious, I don’t feel as if there were pitying, sweat-free eyes tumbling over my slightly-sweaty, running self. I’m listening to a British man narrate a story about a crotchety old man named Alan, of course I have better things to do than worry about what I look like.
My bangs are slicked back in a sweat-plaster to my forehead, my blue-and-pink bird bandana has slipped down my head a tad, my cheeks are over-glowing with the exhilaration of exercise. But I really could care less, because imaging how I look is the least of my occupation.
I’m in the zone.
So yeah, I’m plugging away on this wonderful breezy run, listening to tales of geriatric mastery of Swedish con artists. I hit mile 10 and come back to the home stretch from the trails to my house. I’m still in the zone; smelling the breeze wafting scents of rose and baking bread, matching my heart beat with my stride, concentrating on my form and challenging my arms to be as parallel as possible. I’m driving the thigh, I’m relaxing my shoulders, I’m lengthening my stride and increasing stride turn-over for a last mile surge.
When what do you know.
Some crazy kid honks at me.
I’m sure this car, traveling much too fast for me to catch the identity of the honker, contains a person of immense love to me. It’s probably some one who I love and respect, maybe even my best friend in the entire world. But it doesn’t really matter who it was, because the only thing I felt was intense and severe hatred for this honker. It scares the daylights out of me, I lose my rhythm, my stride goes to crap, and I miss the part in my audiobook whereupon Alan and Jonas open the suitcase and reveal the contents of the swanky drug dealer.
It wasn’t that I was in the way, or doing anything stupid. I was running with concentrated form on the sidewalk, the pedestrian safe zone. They simply recognized me and then…what? Wanted me to recognize them, stop my run, start running after them in order that we could have a nice lovely chat about the weather and the tide charts?
I can be a “touchy” runner, I have accepted this. This is a combination of a). being in a zone and being so disinclined to being interrupted from said zone b). being a tad hungry, because I run on an empty stomach before a meal and c). because running makes one uncomfortable, that’s the point of running, and therefore my needs are never being met when I’m running. I’m sweating, I’m usually thirsty, I’m usually hungry, I usually need to slam my legs up a wall and let the blood drain from my ankles…the point of running is to get to this state of discomfort.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to smile at other runners or acknowledge the cyclists that politely race past me. I am a polite runner. But I still reserve the right to get frustrated when I have to stop every 1/3 of a mile at a stoplight, or when a car pulls waaaaay over the crosswalk to wait for the parallel car to pass, such to make me have to step off the sidewalk and pass behind the car. I’m in the zone, and I love the zone and I cherish the zone. And it makes me really frustrated to be ripped out of the zone so carelessly.
What did honking even do? I am not at this fancy cocktail party, where I will get subconsciously upset if someone I know doesn’t acknowledge that they don’t know me. I am running. I don’t care that I know you. I can say hi to you in a better situation.
I apologize for the undercutting rants (they might have been more surfaced than how I envisioned this going). I hope you can sympathize with my frustration over being out of the zone. But much more so than simple empathy, I hope that this was instructional. If I weren’t a runner, I probably wouldn’t know that honking could be so bothersome. It wouldn’t have been something I would think about if I hadn’t been on the receiving end of the honk.
I don’t hate the honker for his or her (the identity still remains unclear) ignorance over my abhorrence of honking. I hate that it happened, but I don’t hate the person. Heck, it is probably some super jolly pal of mine who might be reading this post right now, feeling like the scum of the earth because they just wanted to offer a friendly wave.
Look, dear beloved anonymous honker, I don’t hate you. I don’t understand you, but I definitely don’t hate you. You are a wonderful, good-hearted, well-meaning human being. I’m just in the zone. Please, please, please, please, if you have any respect for me or any love at all, please refrain from honking the living daylights out of every part of my soul next time we pass shoe to tire.
Unless I’m doing something unknowingly stupid, the horn is not my friend even if you are.
Peace and Blessings,
Alright, so it might not be the greatest gift you can give someone…I mean, birth, salvation, a new puppy, a copy of Fight Club on Blu-Ray…those are probably greater gifts. But there is something that ranks pretty closely.
Before I give you the answer, let me show you how I arrived at this conclusion and dangle you through this post. Sorry, friend.
As a highly-analytically-minded individual, I often enjoy shouting “WHY WHY WHY” at myself whenever I observe something troubling or unsettling in my mind, or simply whenever I feel like there is a better, deeper answer.
I was at the bank the other day trying to wire EUR 550 from my account to the account of the place I will be living in Austria. Because the phrase “wire euros from dollars internationally” don’t seem to resonate with any part of me, I ended up having to go to the bank three times after failed wires, additional wiring fees, and unreadable accounts.
The wire wasn’t going through, and to my absolute horror, no one was able to tell me why.
“Hmm…well, the numbers are all correct, it really should be working”
“Yeah, we checked the numbers, it’s all here. It should have worked.”
“Well, there is one spelling mistake, maybe that’s what happened. The numbers were correct. Should have worked.”
Well, dearest new-bank-friends, it obviously didn’t work no matter how correct the numbers were. I don’t think one spelling mistake will make it all appear. So I got really frustrated, especially after the second time.
Coming home in sloppy tears, I sat down to observe the feelings that were raging beneath my not-so-composed face. Was I sobbing because I was just frustrated it didn’t work? Was it because I was stressed that the deadline is in 9 days to get this transferred? Was I angry because I didn’t want to pay the additional fees that result when things fail and I have to resend things? Is it that money means that much to me? Was I anxious because I didn’t want to be a burden to my Austrian landlords and have this stigma of “inadequate American fool” attached to me before they met me?
After a couple more bouts of shouting “WHY WHY WHY” at myself, I arrived at the conclusion that It was because I didn’t feel as if I were being taken serious. This was not just the bank’s fault, or the billions of people I was emailing in order to figure out the problem, although I didn’t feel as if they were taking me very serious. It was that I wasn’t taking me serious.
My self-talk went something like this:
“Josie, you aren’t old enough to know how to do this.”
“Josie, this is wayyyy over your head, you don’t know anything about finance.”
“Josie, you’re not a professional, how could you argue with these people?”
“Josie, you shouldn’t bother your Austrian landlords, they have enough on their plate to deal with Americans who can’t figure things out.”
It wasn’t that I was tearing myself down, I wasn’t hating on myself or despising myself, I was simply being what I thought was “truthful about the situation on hand”. But it was me not taking me serious. I had been subconsciously treating myself like a poser, so that’s how I felt.
And I realized something; one of my main motivators in my life is to be taken serious. And one of the greatest gifts someone can give me personally is to take me serious. On the same note, the greatest insult someone can pay me is to make me feel small and insignifcant and not taken seriously.
So much feeds into this. I don’t get frustrated when things don’t work; I get frustrated when people don’t take my problems at face value, when they make me feel as if I were inadequate.
I used to think that all I wanted in life was to be independent. Why do I sometimes feel claustrophobic in the house I share with my parents? Why do I sometimes take it out on them? My parents operate on a laissez-faire parenting style now that I am in college. They let me be independent, they don’t make me check in with them, they don’t tell me what to do (besides the dishes, which I can respect). I have independence, but yet I still sometimes feel frustration and I sometimes feel restless.
“WHY WHY WHY”
It’s because living with my parents while my friends live on their own in their own apartments that they spend hideous amounts of paychecks on rent for, if I’m not careful and mindful, it can make me treat myself like a poser. It can make me say, “Jos, you’re still a kid”. And that makes me antsy.
The desire for independence is a mask; I don’t think that it is the fundamentally core motivator for anyone, I don’t see people wanting, desiring whole-heartedly to be entirely left to their own devices and to only rely upon themselves all the time. I see people who, yeah, want to be able to make their own decisions and live their life without being dependent upon others, but more want it to be believed that they can do this if they wanted to.
So here it is, what you’ve waited for since you first laid eyes on the title of this post; ranking just behind giving someone Fight Club or the gift of life is the gift of taking someone serious.
I think that’s why “playing pretend” and “playing house” is such an appealing past time for kiddos. We all want to be treated with respect, we all want to be treated as if we can do life if we want to, on our own terms. We want to be believed in. But we want to stop telling ourselves we’re just playing.
So I have to be really cautious, and you should too. Because I know, I really know how devastating it can be to deny someone this. To wave someone off as being too needy, or too emotional, or too dependent.
Don’t do this to people. Especially don’t do this to yourself.
You and I are both adequate for this activity of being human.
(also I got the EUR 550 wired to Austria [insert heel-click here])
Peace and Blessings,
“Over-Preparation + Prioritization = You Can Do Anything” sums up this entire post, so if you have anything better to be doing with your time–feeding the cat, swatting the mosquito off your arm, returning your books to the library–I recommend you go ahead and take one more final glance at the title of this article, feel encouraged, and then proceed onwards to accomplishing your tasks.
But if it is a lazy summer Friday for you, with nothing better to do than pitter through my somewhat lengthy musings on humanity, dear reader, I say read on.
There is a weird phenomenon that occurs in my life that I have recently been made aware of. The day sometimes tends to go better for me when I work a double shift at the Bakehouse, say 10am-8pm, then when I have a normal shift, a 1pm-8pm. A 5 mile run sometimes is monstrously more difficult and taxing than a 13 mile run. Reading a long, long Ken Follet Pillars of the Earth-esque novel tends to go a lot faster than the 150 paged Death with Interruptions book that I am reading currently*.
[*attempting with difficulty to read currently]
What? Why is this? Mentally, clearing tables that customers should have cleared themselves* and refilling the napkin dispenser because people tend to take massively unnecessary amounts of napkins when they really just need one is easier to do for 7 hours than for 10.
Physically, a 13 mile run is more difficult than it’s impish cousin, the 5 mile jog. Intellectually, it’s going to be harder to digest hundreds of more pages of complex plot.
So why is the day better, the run easier, the reading shorter?
I’ve come to believe it’s because of the amount of priority I am putting on the task.
When I have to work a double shift, I go to bed earlier. I make sure to have a reward waiting for myself at the end of the shift, a delicious dinner or long, bubbly bath with an episode of Game of Thrones and my Moonlight Forrest candle powering away next to me, which illuminates the bubbles in this glorious scent of washed pine. I am mentally prepared, I have the expectation that the day is going to be a long one.
When I have my long run waiting for me for the next morning, I eat a higher-carb, nutritionally dense dinner. I do yoga circuits and roll out before bed, making sure that I’m as loose and stretched out as possible. I download all the podcasts or audiobooks I need for the 2 hours that I will be engaged with nature and my ‘buds.
When I check out a 900+ paged book from the library with the stubborn desire of finishing the novel within a satisfactory amount of time, I make sure to mentally set apart large chunks of time in the upcoming weeks to attack it. When I sit down at these chunks of time, I have a fresh brewed pot of French-pressed coffee keeping me company and my feet snuggled into a mountain of pillows.
This phenomenon of the harder thing is easier occurs for two possible reasons:
1). I am mentally over-prepared for the arduousness of the task, therefore it is easier than expected.
2). I am prioritizing the task.
Therefore, I have devised a simple yet profoundly effective formula for you, dear reader, on the nature of accomplishing great and mighty things:
Monstrous amounts of over-preparation + prioritization = unbelievable success on overwhelmingly lofty goals.
I never, ever thought that I could run half marathons and enjoy it at the same time, despite being a runner since middle school. I mean, heck, I remember when we went from racing the 1 mile in 7th grade to the 2 miler in 8th grade, and that was a huge deal.
But then suddenly, I made running a priority in my life. I read books on running, listened to podcasts on running, watched videos of running. And I personally overprepared, too; I followed training plans until they became too easy and generalized, and then I devised my own to see how much I could push myself. I over-prepared as much, as much as possible. Why stop at 6 hill repeats, when I could go just one more? Why stop at 10 repeats, when I could do just one more? Because of this marriage of priority with over-preparation, I really, truly enjoy running 13.1+ miles, and I am able to run them relatively fast*
[*I once was given $50 for winning the female half marathon in Leavenworth, KS. I think this qualifies me to be a professional half-marathoner**]
[**I have just been informed that this is not true in any sense of the phrasing.]
I am going to spend a year of my life living on my own in Austria, taking German classes and managing my own finances. Despite the insurmountable uncertainties, I decided it’s something I wanted to do, so I have been over-preparing myself as much as possible in order to accomplish this seemingly lofty goal of studying abroad in a foreign, other-language-speaking country. I independently filled out all the necessary forms before the due dates, obtained permits and visas and passports and checks and all the whatnot. I enrolled in German classes and German programs and the like. I wired money, and rewired money when that all failed; I contacted the necessary people and found the necessary tickets. This is not serving to brag about how independent I am, namely showing how I have been over-preparing for full independency next year by practice.
And I prioritize. I am committed to learning German, because it’s going to make my year much better. After a shift at work, I sit down and work on German for 30 minutes. Before bed, I again work on German. And while I am doing this, my phone is put away, the music is off, the distractions are limited.
Over-prep + prioritization = you can do anything.
Do you want to be a yoga instructor? Do you want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail? Do you want to write a novel? Do you want to become more socially aware? Do you want to become a better reader? Find what you want, the sole thing that you want this present season of your life to embody. Search for what you want, and then apply the two principles to it.
If you prioritize it for long enough, put enough pressure and stress and make it so important to your life, then you have such a chance of success.
Peace and Blessings,
I hate rest days.
My rest days usually fall on Saturday after my Friday morning long run. It works well as I have to work most of Saturday, so going for a run isn’t very feasible anyways. Even though I’m not just lying on the couch eating Kale Chips and watching Game of Thrones, I still feel…unaccomplished. Lazy. And when those feelings arise, I tend to lose touch with myself fully, I become slightly disconnected. When this happens, I eat more than I’m hungry for, sleep more than is productive, have less energy than I usually do. It’s because going for a run is my chance to connect with myself and tune in, and then those good practices and habits fall into place afterwards.
There is definitely a correlation between going for a really hard, challenging run and having a kick-butt day for me. One can get into all of the “rise in neurotransmitters” or “metabolic producing hormones” (which I just made up) or “anti-inertiatic diplomacy” (again, made up), but it can just be summed up in the like: most times you gotta suffer a bit to ball a lot.
You are welcome to use that if you want, it’s public domain here.
So, as a general rule, if there is an opportunity to go for a run I am going to take it, because I know how wonderful it feels afterwards. Because I have shown myself and told myself and reinforced for myself the rewards of discipline.
Discipline looks like making yourself go for a run after work when it’s 100000% Kansan humidity despite having steamed milk chunked on your elbows from pouring lattes all day, right?
Discipline is saying no to hanging out with your friends after work because you have your long run scheduled for the next morning, right?
Discipline is denying yourself a third helping of campfire s’mores because you know that it’ll just slow you down for the next day, right?
…not no, but definitely not always.
During my last long run, after much musing (because there’s not a whole lot else to do) I realized something important: in a way, it can take discipline to say no to running after a long shift. It can take discipline to hang out with your friends until the wee hours of the morning when you know that you have a long run in the morning. Not sure that discipline really applies alllll that much to the s’mores example, but the basic principle is still present.
It is acknowledging the consequences of an action and then making an informed decision that will benefit you in someway, whether it be the harder choice to make or not, that the practice of discipline enforces.
It actually can take discipline to not go for a run after work. Let me explain:
I have found that the more time I take off between each run, the harder the next run will be. A Monday run will be much, much easier if I also have run on Sunday. But I also know that my body is unfortunately not infallible, and it needs rest and recovery. Ultimately, if I run every single day, it’s going to decrease my pace times and my performance simply because my body needs time off to rebuild.
I know that by taking this run off, the next one will be harder. I have acknowledged the consequences of my actions and have concluded that it will benefit me more to take a rest day because my body will be able to rebuild even though my next run will be a bit sluggish.
The morning long run will be easier if I go to bed earlier. For me, the “easy way” is simply saying no to my pals and hitting the hay early. But by going through with hanging out with my buddies, I acknowledge that I’m going to have to work a bit harder in the morning. But I am also going to improve my social intelligence and happiness levels. It is more important to me to have strong friendships than a really easy morning long run. So I guess discipline also revolves around prioritization.
I think there are many, many possible outlooks for discipline. This pressure on what it really means to be disciplined is not an excuse, however. I can’t tell myself, “Oh, I’m going to skip this run for the third day in a row because I’m disciplining myself to hang out with my friends”; I’m more posing the idea that one shouldn’t beat oneself up for “not having discipline”, because discipline can be found in a variety of things.
Acknowledge the consequences of the action and also what it takes to choose either option
Select which option houses the most benefit, whether that choice be the “easier” or “harder” to make
3. Stop beating yourself up because discipline is not everything.
Maybe this entire post is heresy and I’ve got it all wrong. But I love placing pressure on societal norms and perspectives, so here ya go.
Peace and Blessings,