Last week, I spent a long weekend in Salem, Massachusetts with a group of witchy women called The Sisters Enchanted. It was one of my many “let’s make a leap right now!” moments, where I threw myself wildly out of my comfort zone in hopes of growing and learning something new about myself.
I’ll probably post more about the trip in the days to come, but the reason I mention it now is this: I spent a lot of time reflecting during the trip.
The drive from Pittsburgh to Salem (and back again) is over 9 hours, and my carpool companion and I spent a decent chunk of it quietly watching the road go by. It’s been so long since I’ve let myself be silent. With podcasts, audiobooks, Facebook, Twitter, the world is so full of input. You can consume something every minute of every day, and I realized that I had been. I’d filled all the quiet spaces with voices, information, music, the works. And while I love this easy accessibility, it can create distance from that core, inner self.
I found her there, hiding in a corner, wondering why we weren’t writing anything anymore. The full answer is complicated and may take time to unpack. But when it comes to this blog, part of the answer comes easily enough.
I started this blog, and so many blogs before it, with a topic in mind. I wanted to talk primarily about my journey towards my first half marathon and about the healthy lifestyle shift that went with it.
In the back of my mind, like always, was a whisper–this isn’t just writing, this is content. This is your brand. You, whoever you are there on the other side of the screen, became an audience, not just another human being looking to connect. So from the start, the writing felt a little stunted, a little unsure–tripping along looking for the voice for the brand for the audience, rather than being me, a human, writing honest words at you, another human.
The other, simplest reason, is this: that half marathon? It didn’t happen. Or rather, it did happen, but it happened without me.
About a month and a half into my training, the right side of my back and shoulder started hurting. I eased off and remained hopeful–a week off will heal, this surely. Two weeks off will do it. Three? Four weeks… I can barely get out of bed for the pain, so okay, time to see a doctor. The doctor will have a quick and easy solution for me!
The doctor didn’t. Weeks of appointment after appointment passed by, a new opinion every time, two weeks following that treatment plan, only to be handed a new one the next time I went in. It was exhausting, sucking up the time I’d imagined for training.
Worst of all, no one could tell me what was wrong, exactly. No clear cause, no clear diagnosis, no clear solution. Eventually, I decided to call up a physical therapist myself (the doctors still kept saying that they’d refer me eventually but eventually never came), and began a treatment plan that actually seemed to help. Slowly but surely, I got back to running, back to stretching, back to yoga.
I still don’t know exactly what was wrong. My mid right back and shoulder still feel off, though I can do the things I want to do again now, as long as I keep up with my stretches and exercises. But May 5th, the day of my half marathon, came and went right by without me. I was able to defer my registration (Flying Pig 2020, here I come!), but it still wasn’t easy watching the posts flood in all around me about first half marathons, first marathons, personal records.
On top of it all, the discouragement and mandatory “rest” from my typical active lifestyle made it hard for me to stay on track with WW. My Fitpoints totals dwindled and my points totals increased as I got discouraged and #treatyoself’d myself to soothe my disappointment.
This is a truth about me: I do not do well when plans fall apart. I get discouraged easily, give up at the first stumble. As a perfectionist, if I can’t do something perfectly, I lose the will to do it at all.
These are things I want to change about myself, the reason I started a blog about my health and self care journey. These are the reasons I disappeared when I had nothing new, nothing fun, no progress to share about my half marathon training.
Except that learning to let go of expectations is progress. Life reminds me, time and time again, that you can plan all you want, but plans shift and fall apart. You have to adapt, shift, learn to flow into the new reality. I struggle with letting go of what should happen or what could have happened, if only…
Whenever life reminds me of this, I think about a specific moment:
Shortly after I graduated from college, I was on the phone with my then-boyfriend after a day of shopping for my first grown-up apartment. The pride and joy of this particular trip was a shadowbox frame for a dictionary print I’d recently gotten from Etsy. Earlier that day, I’d taken the frame out of the bag and inserted the print, featuring a quote from my favorite T.S. Eliot Poem, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”
I re-wrapped it and returned it to its bag, which was lying on the floor of my room.
As I paced around chatting with Nathan, I stepped on the bag and heard a sickening, unmistakable crunch. Tears welled up immediately as I fell to the floor and ripped my frame from the bag, pulled off the wrapping. Time slowed in those in-between moments, when the frame could have been whole, could have been fine. But of course, I opened the package to find shattered glass.
Instantly, I was inconsolable. I could see the moment before I stepped on the bag playing over and over in my mind–if I just stepped in a different spot, my brand new frame wouldn’t be broken. If I’d just put the bag up somewhere earlier, the broken thing would still be whole.
“It’s just a frame,” Nathan said, calm as always. Understandably, he didn’t understand the twisted-up panic in my mind, determined to make broken glass in a frame into some larger, deeper wound. I don’t do well with the irrevocable, with how an instant can shatter something that was just there, being whole, mere moments ago. “It’s not that big a deal,” he said. He was right, and I knew he was right, but the panic remained–how can something be whole one moment and beyond fixing in the next?
Once I settled down, I scraped the glass away and realized the frame itself was still intact, as was my print. It hangs on my wall, without glass, to this day.
It’s a small moment, but I think about it often because it reminds me how easy it is to spin out of control over a small mistake, a small setback, a tiny but unchangeable thing. It reminds me that sometimes you just have to dust away the debris and move forward with what’s left. It’s a lesson I seem to relearn time and time again.
So here I am, dusting off the debris yet again. From this blog. From my journey to a healthier, happier weight. From the time off from running. It’s time to stop seeing shattered glass and focus instead on what’s left in the frame.
I hope you’ll continue to read along with me, whoever you are. I’m going to try and be more honest, less filtered. You aren’t an audience or a page view–you’re you. And I’m trying, trying, trying to be me.