(Love) Withdrawl

9/14

(For You)

While I’ve never had a substance use withdrawal, I’ve had it described to me enough that I can imagine what it must feel like.

And I think I’m in a love withdrawal.

I understand why there are so many songs about drugs that sound just like love songs.  My song is in reverse.

I’m sad and in pain.  I’m numb.  And for a little bit I’m free.

This plays on repeat several times a day.

Looking back, I only remember the good times.

The laugh shared over coffee and a board game in Ned.  Our first 14er summit.  Lying naked in bed.

I remember the times he made me feel beautiful.

I forget the bad.

The evening arguments.  Crying down mountains.  Sleeping on opposite sides of the mattress.

But my body is yearning for those few times of coziness and warmth, the two of us snuggled beside Pacer.

I crave the dopamine surge of a text of Facebook message saying “I love you.”

I resist my own urge to text “I miss you.”

I want the highs but not the lows.

Finally, my dread of the lows surpassed my want of the highs.

I didn’t like myself anymore when I was with him.

And so I quit.

So we could be ourselves.  So we could be happy.

My stagnant refusal to relapse isn’t just for me.

It’s for him, because I still love.

The withdrawal pains slowly subside.

Each hour, each day, brings a little more relief.

But his taste, his essence, will never leave me.

 

Finding My Way: My Trail through Society

This blog started with a Facebook post, written shortly after returning from a (1-day) trip the mountains (Leadville/Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert):

Every time I come back from the mountains, I ask myself “Why the F did I come back?” (In reality, I know the answer. Society asks that I have a job and a physical place to live). I’m tied between wanting to contribute to society, to make a difference, and the want to escape the complicated and busy structure of our world (of course, it isn’t all bad). Does anyone else face this dilemma?

I have my own further thoughts on this topic (perhaps a future blog post), but I’d love to hear the insight, questions, and wisdom (not necessarily advice) of others who also question this dichotomy.

*I added in the not necessarily advice part later.

I got quite a few replies, some advice, some various perspectives, and mainly a “I feel that way too”.  Which upon reflection, was really what I was looking for.  A sense of universality, that others both felt and questioned (society/life) the way I do.  When I realized the post had gathered some heat/interest and that I personally had more exploring to do as well, I decided to write a bit more.

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8/17

Living in the world, being part of the world, making a difference in the world does not mean, at least for me, living in the confines of society.  That, for myself, is the answer that I have come to, but my conclusion is not so easy to put in words, though I can not say it is complicated either.  It’s just what is.

The dilemma I mention in my Facebook post is not so black and white as it seems.  It is not between being a hermit in the mountains and praying for a better world or living in the city and working in an office for 9 hours.

And, while I do believe energy, prayer, and intention does have an impact on the world, I am not so ethereal to believe that is all that is needed…that I could just live in a cabin and meditate and play outside all day.  I am a big believer in action too.

My work as a (wilderness) therapist will involve both, the energetic and the physical manifesting.

So if I choose to live in the mountains, can I be a giver of both as strongly as if I lived in the city (or in a small city like Boulder)?  Really, that is the heart of my question.

While I believe that the answer is very individual to anyone who asks the question, I’m starting to figure out my own truth.  Admittedly, part of my answer might go against the simplicity I crave (I’m reminded of a particularly sarcastic blog by Dakota Jones on car camping), but modern technology and transportation might help solve some of my conflict, or help me find harmony in the dichotomy.

Then there’s the bigger question.  Despite the fact that humans are living closer than ever before, that wifi and cell phones let us connect to hundreds of people, even across the world, are we becoming more lost, more disconnected? (For more on the topic, read Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections) And not just from other humans, but from the land that bore us too, to our Mother Earth?  Are we supposed to live in apartments, or with the land?  I could go on and on…and on with questions like this.  But I’ll save you my words and ask that you have this conversation with yourself.  And if you don’t find an answer, that is okay.  Just keep questioning, stay curious.  Because while it is the mountains that make my soul sing, and often the cities that make me cringe, I’ve also found profound beauty in the mass humanity of the city street as well.

 

[The Boy just got done finishing the Kodiak 100, a 100 miles race in the San Bernardino mountains, and we were reflecting on his journey on the drive back to the airport.  He said is favorite part was nearly 80 miles in, when he was running down Sugarloaf Mountain and the 50k runners, who had just started, were coming up.  People were smiling, hi-fiving, and struggling, all together.  That, I thought, might be the best of both worlds, the crowds and mountains.  People connecting and encouraging each other while journeying through the wilderness.]

And maybe all this girl really needs is her dog.

 

Tips for returning from the mountains/wilderness:

  • Before you depart from your adventure, ask yourself “What am I bringing back with me?”  Are there any reminders from being in the wilderness that you can bring back with you into everyday life?
  • Create extra awareness on the drive back.  Don’t speed out as fast as you can.  Choose your pace/speed wisely.
  • Use your phone with awareness.  If possible, give yourself sometime before checking your inbox and text messages.
  • Practice self-care.  Take extra time (space) to do things.  Get enough sleep.  In other words, don’t just jump back into the hustle and bustle of life.
  • For long trips, and trying to communicate your experience with family and friends, consciously choose what you share and who you share with.   It is often difficult to communicate the sacred.  (It also often helps to ask what others have been up to first, before diving into your experience.)
  • Remember, continuing change takes time and practice.  If there is something you want to bring back with you, like journaling or slowing down before dinner, create action steps to make them a habit.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Your going to forget.  It will seem like the mountains have left you.  But they never leave you.  They are in you.

Thoughts on Thirty: Home, Family, and Adventure

8/3/18

I’m currently sitting on the couch at my dad’s house in Parma Heights, Ohio.  He’s on the other couch, doing a word search/snoozing.  It’s summer, not a time of the year I usually come back to visit.  However, when my older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer before Christmas, I’ve been back three times: the yearly Christmas stay, a few days in April during her chemo, and now 2 weeks after her double mastectomy.  I’m trying to find harmony in my life between family, grad school, and living a 2,000 miles away.  I ponder my choice to live in Colorado, where the mountains call to my soul, versus being with my family in Ohio, a place I like and enjoy but currently does not feel like wind I need underneath my wings to fly.  I question myself, I question society, and I do so over and over.  In terms of choices, I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong one.

Are these the questions that come with being 30?

************************************************************************

I turned 30, with my twin sister, on June 28th in Chamonix, France.  My family had sent cards from Ohio to Colorado before we left.  To celebrate my 30th in France with my sister was a dream I couldn’t even have imagined as a child from a suburb 20 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  Actually, living in Boulder, CO wasn’t even something I imagined, with seemingly never-ending mountains and adventures starting just a few miles from “home” with Pacer…which brings me to my first question.

Home.  There’s so many different ways to define home.  I’ve tried to define it before.  I’ve leaned towards the saying “home is where the heart is” and turned that into “home is where Pacer is” in one of my first blogs on this site.  So even though I’ve only lived in temporary spaces with Pacer in Boulder, not all exactly “homey”, I guess I could call them home.  I’ve also referred to the mountains as my home, as well as the Colorado Trail, where Pacer and I slept for a month (though always miles ahead from our last camp spot).  Actually, whenever I go back to the Colorado Trail, it feels good, like home I guess, though I can’t define it.  And when I go back to Ohio, to my family, and still to the homes I grew up in (my parents are divorced), I say I’m going back home too.  Are all these places my home?  Or are none of them home?  Does a home have to be permanent? I have an answer I’m leaning toward, despite it not being correct according to the dictionary’s definition of home.

The second question has always been on my mind, though it has increased its intensity with the number three at the front of my age and with my older sister’s health.  But for this question, I need to back up a bit, as I can’t fully put it into words.

I left Ohio over three years ago.  My main worry then was my dad’s health, though he was doing well before I left and currently remains to stay steady.  And the mountains, adventure, and grad school (though I didn’t quite know it at the time) were calling.   I believed that, for the most part, my parents wanted me to follow my heart and to be happy, so I left.  Still, I knew that in that choice, I would be missing family birthdays, watching my younger cousins grow up, and not be there in family emergencies.  That part still isn’t easy.

Now my older sister is still undergoing treatment for cancer, and while my parents are still relatively healthy, I consider their future.  I’ve always admired cultures that take care of their elders and bring them into their home, rather than sending them to a nursing home.  One of my sister’s doctors is moving to PA to be closer to her parents.  A friend of mine moved back Colorado to Ohio to help her mom.  And a few weeks ago, the Boy and I met a couple in their 80s who were selling the gorgeous cabin they had built together because they could no longer take care of it, especially with their kids out of state (albeit, it was the parents who moved back to Ohio after years spent in Colorado).  When the time comes, I don’t want to just send my parents to nursing home unless it is something they want.  Nor do I really think it would be fair to move them across the country to be closer to me.  But could I have them live with me?  I’d like to think so, though the world we live in makes all the options difficult.  Unfortunately, society values our time and money, rather than the preciousness of our lives and those of aging parents, our wise elders.  Again, it seems like there is no right answer, though I do know each answer is individual to each family.

A dear friend called my the other day while I was shooting hoops in my dad’s driveway, just like I did as a kid.  My friend offered me praise that I did not ask for or want to accept.  They said they admired how I was handling my life in CO and family, that I was doing what I needed to do.  Before their call I was questioning “but is this enough?”  not far from my old question (that I always think I’ve squelched until it pops it’s ugly head back up again) of “am I enough?” But their words seemed so confident and sure.  They believed in me more than I believed in myself.  Their words made me feel a bit more confident too, that I had made the right choice, at least at this moment in time.

I realized that maybe things aren’t so black and white.  Maybe I’m not choosing adventure and myself over my family (plus, my twin, uncle, and cousin do live in CO)…and even if I am a little bit, maybe that is okay too.  Maybe that/this is just where I am in life, and maybe it is all okay.

(The “home court” and Brandywine Falls, CVNP- a place where I spent most of my time during my last years living on OH)

And as things change, I’ll evolve, and continue doing the best I can and try to make the best choices with the tools I have.

Tomorrow, I fly back to Colorado.  I’ll be back with Pacer, in the mountains, and I’ll be at home.

*********************************************************************************

The goodbyes have been said, emotionally, but no tears have been shed.  My heart just beats a pang of sadness.  I realize that is beautiful too, that I am lucky and so grateful to have a family that I am going to miss and love so deeply.  Everyone thanked me for my help, though I told my mom “I feel bad that I can’t be here more.”  But no one seemed to judge me the way I judge myself.  The lesson revealed?  To be grateful for the time I do have, with family, in the mountains, lying in my bed with Pacer.  All of it.  Because time is ticking.  We’re all changing, growing, moving.  The same yet different, just like Brandywine Falls.

Are these the thoughts that come with 30?  I was going to say that my 20s came with more freedom, but that’s not true, as I believe my freedom is my choice, which includes my move to Colorado.  Care-free may be a bit more accurate.  I’ve inherited the “worry gene” (not scientifically accurate, though there is a gene that relates to sensitivity) from my mom, so I’ve always worried about my family (though I’m really trying to re-frame my worry and use my energy for things I can do something about, and surrender the rest).  Now,  the concerns are just a bit more at the forefront.  I could brush the away, but I rather confront and explore them.  Because I think they have more to tell me about life, it’s beauty, even if it comes with a bit of sadness.

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‘Til next time Cleveland.

The Birth

In Mother Nature’s birth canal

I find myself once again.

Small, vulnerable, naked.

Needing to be nurtured.

Her waters rock me gently,

to the lullaby of the land.

Soon, I will be reborn.

I am waiting.

This may be the hardest part.

Awaiting to be.

I can tell that I am full of promise.

That with me I carry the wind, water, fire, and earth.

I will be a healer among the people.

To the elements I give myself.

I think I almost ready.

Once more, I inhale the sacredness and comfort or my surroundings.

Then the wind picks up.

It is time.

I am being pushed out.

To the opening of the canyon, into the world.

I am ready.

I carry with me the love and strength of my Mother.

She will never leave me.

Together, we will heal the Earth.

Fleeting Beauty

6/29

Yesterday, I turned 30 with Sandi in Chamonix, France.

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Already, the day is nothing but a nostalgic moment. A beautiful memory.  I want to cling to the moment, but as soon as I grasp, it is like a cloud escaping my clenched fist.

I want to go back to the moment, standing on alpine ground with the wildflowers all around.  The marmots hiding behind rocks.  The avalanche in the distance with its powerful sound cracking through the sky.  Witnessing all this with my sister by my side.

Or that moment where we stood inside the glacier, surrounded by icy blue, magical walls.

But those moments, the ones I want to last forever, like when I am in the “land of in-between”*, or on Christmas Eve when I’m surrounded by love ones and joy, that go by so fast.

I try to stay on the mountain top, but the sun moves, the clouds come in, and I grow cold.

It is all impermanent.

I realize all I can do is be present, accept the present that I am in.  To soak it in, and move on with the precious moment now inside of me, part of me.

And I let myself be sad.  When I let the sadness come in, I realize I am also rejoicing.  Rejoicing the blessed and beautiful life I am living.

36296979_10156890937501412_5171647894381395968_o
Me and my other half on our 30th birthday in Chamonix, France.

*The places between Heaven and Earth.

A Better Way: Competing without Comparison

 

(A few old racing pics from my early running years)

In one of my previous blog posts, The Thief of Joyous Running, I questioned whether comparison and ego improved running performance:

“I’m sure there is someone out there thinking “But comparison is a motivator, it makes you want to get better.”  And maybe it does.  My issue with comparison in running is the “beat the other guy/woman” piece.  The ego steps in.  I’m not enlightened enough to say that comparison and ego are always bad, but at least from what I’ve witnessed, ego and comparison might help get you ahead for a bit, but it doesn’t last…”

If I were to add to this now, I’d include that this is a more painful way to compete and live.  Each win or loss proves how one “measures up” to others on some arbitrary scale of self-worth.

I thought about what I wrote in my previous blog long after I wrote the words.  I knew my bias and what I wanted the answer to be, and I figured that because I did not compete on an elite level, I might not have the answer.  Scott Jurek almost turned my bias in his new book, North: Finding My Way on the Appalachian Trail.  In one chapter (and as I researched this I found out he has said this before) he mentions that when he feels his drive is coming back, his want to push through the pain, is when he felt his ego coming back.  I was hoping he would come back to this at the end of the book, after he broke down and became a shell of his former self, 19lbs lighter and barely cohesive. Vulnerable. But he doesn’t mention it again.  What he does mention are the times he wanted to quit, but his friends urged him on.  He had made a commitment to his wife Jenny, and he wanted to reach Katahdin with her.  Did ego push him through?  It didn’t seem like it, it felt like something deeper, but I can’t say for sure.  If I run into him in Boulder one day, I’ll have to ask.*

Then, I was listening to the Run this World podcast, where Nicole DeBoom interviewed  confidence coach, Christen Shefchunas.  At one point during the conversation they start talking about ego and Christen says “The bigger the ego, the more there is to hide.” Bam. Let that one sink in.  There’s probably a few ways to look at that statement, but the direction I’m inspecting is the fear part.  What is it that one is trying to hide and why?  In competition, that answer I’ve heard most commonly from those willing to be open is a fear of not being good enough.  Or, put in another way, the ego finds a way to get bigger, identifying most with which one has been prove successful at, because of a fear of lack.

In a bit of a sidetrack, I also want to state the obvious:  I have a blog.  Doesn’t that seem a bit egotistical?

Maybe.  But there are two parts.  When I started this blog a little over a year ago, my primary reasons included a want for a creative outlet, catharsis in sharing, and hope that I could use my words to help others.  The last part could also be looked at in another way, that in my “special-ness” I had something important and worthwhile to say that people should read.  Honestly, that part is still in me.  I can feel its leaden weight in my chest as I write this.  But when I re-read the words I laugh at them, it seems silly.  There is a sense of detachment.  Awareness of the ego is often the first step in overcoming it.

So then the question turns to “Can a full-filled person, a person secure in oneself, race fiercely? Or, out of the race scene, be competitive and succeed in other areas of life?”

In her book, On the Wings of Mercury,  Olympian Lorraine Moller tells a story of how she “threw love bombs” at her fellow competitors.  Now these love bombs were obviously imaginary, but essentially she was wishing the best to her competitors while racing as hard as she could.

And with Moller’s example in mind, I propose a better way.

I call this better way, a way in which racing and achieving is not grounded in ego or comparison, compassionate competing.  No, not revolutionary, but let me break the words down for you, which I hope will set off a little spark.

As my sister Sandi and I have both mentioned before in previous blogs, the Latin meaning of the word compete is actually to seek together.  What I recently discovered is the  Latin meaning of the word compassion is to suffer with (by observing another’s pain).  So when we put the words together to form compassionate competing, we get to suffer with while seeking together.  In my own interpretation of this, what I have come to conclude is that when we see another runner working hard, suffering as she pushes her own limits, we are inspired to push ourselves harder.  And together, we push past barriers that take us beyond our perceived limits and onto the possibilities of our true potential.  

On our grander level, we can compete compassionately in the same way.  When we bring in our own true selves and personal fierceness to our everyday lives and the communities in which we live, we are no longer fighting against each other but a world that has become too complacent.  We can have the strength to look honestly at another’s pain, recognize any injustice, take action, and transcend beyond the (hateful and negative) perceived limits of the world we live in.

***

In my first draft of this blog post, I wrote that I still didn’t have the answer to whether or not ego played a necessary role in competing and winning.  Then I realized that wasn’t true.  The idea that I couldn’t have an answer because I am currently not competing was also my own, scared-of-not-being-good-enough-ego planting false thoughts in my head.  Intuitively, and I having an flipping strong intuition when I’m courageous enough to trust it, I always knew the answer.  Ego and comparison do not enhance but limit our best performances, our best selves.  They create pressure, fear, and take away our energy.  Heart, and a desire to explore the spectacularness of the human spirit (in the midst of group), is the answer.

 

 

(Supergirl and I climbing together, reaching new heights, and discovering places of beauty not always found in the flat land of complacency.)

With Compassion,

Ray

* Scott on my rollerblades on the Boulder Creek Path while he was running and pushing one of his little ones.  Totally missed my opportunity!

 

 

The Wander Years

5/29/2018

This is another throw-back post from my old blog, several years old.  While my writing has changed (and hopefully gotten a bit better), the message is still powerful and I’m amazed at the wisdom I had in my early 20s.  Looking back at this now, one of the great part is that I have had the chance to study what I call “the wander years”.  Common terminology calls this the liminal phase, or the phase between who a person once was and who they are becoming.  In case you want more, I did add my academic response to a discussion forum on this topic below. 

The Wander Years
I am in the middle of a forest. The trees are thick with a vibrant shade of green, but peaks of sunshine still manage to seep through. Purple, pink, and orange flowers line the either side of the trail. To the east I can hear the gentle babble of the sparkling blue river I just crossed. To the west, large purple mountains clash with the clouds, dotting an azure sky. When people talk about things being beautiful, a day being perfect, this is surely what they mean.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to fully appreciate all the natural wonders around me. I’ve gone mile without picking my head up.The constant chatter in my head blocks out the chirping birds, the light wind brushing the leaves, and even the crunch of my footsteps on the soft dirt trail scattered with twigs. My vision is skewed, not because of a lost contact, but because I am too busy searching for another trail.
I passed another trail a few miles back heading towards the south, and another a few miles before that heading toward the east. Neither felt quite right, so I kept going. Now I am second guessing that decision. I know there are a few more side trails coming up ahead, but will they lead me in the right direction? Where am I going anyway? I think I am…
Lost.
Well, maybe no quite lost.
I am….Wandering.

 

The term “wander” probably best explains the past 2 years of my life. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means to:
1a : to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal
b : to go idly about
2: to follow a winding course
3a : to go astray (as from a course) : stray <wandered away from the group>
b : to go astray morally : err
c : to lose normal mental contact : stray in thought <his mind wandered>

Aside from 3b, I’d say, yes, that is about right.
After college, I thought I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. How quickly that all became blurry. For starters, things happened that I couldn’t have predicted. Then I began to learn more, read more, and do different things. My thinking began to change. This took effect on the ideas I had for myself and my future.
Many times, I became frustrated. I knew I was on this Earth for a purpose, but what the heck was it!? Too many times, I let my frustration turn into disappointment, bringing me to tears. Running was not the answer, nor were the two jobs I tried out. Life satisfaction was a far off concept for me.
So, I wandered. And I’m still wandering. But I think I’m getting closer to that one path, that one trail that was meant for me and me alone.
Funny thing is, I’m getting there because of all the things I’ve learned along the way in these past two years. I’ve learned I hate driving an hour to work, in a busy and crowded city. I also hate dressing up and wearing heals. On the other hand, working with kids in an unstructured environment isn’t for me either.
I’ve learned people can’t read my mind. Sometimes, I just need to say how I feel, even if that’s not that natural thing for me to do. Communication is key.
I’ve learned to be me, and I’ve learned what I value. I like to be warm, happy, and well fed…but I don’t need a whole lot. I don’t really like BIG things, just small, simple things…and things that are as eco-friendly as possible.
I’ve learned I love running…but not when it becomes my forefront. Then it becomes work, and with that comes unnecessary pressure. I like running for its serenity, and how it enhances who I am.
I’ve re-learned what my values and my morals are.
The list goes on and on.
All these things have helped shape who I am, and expanded my horizons.
If only I would have slowed down, picked my head up, and enjoyed the views along the way…
Yes, I was wandering. But, as it turns out, wandering is what I needed to do. I may have gotten a few bumps and bruises along the way, but my wandering wasn’t really such a bad thing after all.
I haven’t done too much research on the subject, but I don’t think I’m alone in my experience of these “wander years”. Actually, I think the majority of the population goes through the same thing. Usually though, it’s given a negative connotation.
For adults, it’s most often known as a mid-life crisis. For teens and young adults, they’re either lazy or “dreamers” who need to come back to “real world”.
There are the exceptions of course…
There are the child prodigies and young entrepreneurs, some millionaires before they reach adulthood, who know exactly what they are born to do. Then there are those who have a calling so strong that they know, even when still playing in a sandbox, that they were meant to lead, preach, or heal.
It’s hard not to be jealous.
But truth be told, we are all meant to be on this earth for some reason, and most of us have to do quite a bit of digging to get there. And that’s okay! Because it is when we wander that we make mistakes, fall, and learn. It’s a time of exploration, self-discovery, and beauty…if only we take the time to pick our heads up and enjoy it.
[Again, it’s unfortunate that our society looks down on wanderers, instead forcing many people to take on jobs that they really don’t enjoy (yes, you can find meaning in those jobs too, you can find mean in your life in anything you do, but that’s another blog!). Recently, I listened to an audio CD, “Thrive” that listed Copenhagen, Germany as one of the world’s happiest places. A huge reason for this is because people have the freedom to try different job without fear of debt or others opinions – the sacrifice is that the majority of a person’s income goes to taxes, but hey, who cares if your happy!]
My hope in writing this blog is to encourage others to embrace their “wander years” because they are important parts of our lives. It takes a lot of trust in oneself, and maybe a Higher Calling, but there is no point in worrying or getting down on yourself in these years. Our wander years having meaning and purpose, whether they are spent exploring the mountains or working at a restaurant just to get by. As long as we don’t give up and believe in ourselves, we will all find the direction we are supposed to be traveling in and reach our destinations…or destinies.

So wander on my friends, and enjoy the adventure.

Image may contain: Ray Nypaver, smiling, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature
We wandered A LOT during our 2017 trip to Montana.

From February 2018:

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

“Not all who wander are lost” is a line from one of my favorite poems by J.R.R. Tolkien* from his Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  It’s become a common bumper sticker (or in my case, a car air freshener that lost its smell long, long ago), but it has always held great meaning for me.  I was able to put words to that meaning as I read the assigned readings for the week.  Bridges (2004) calls the gap between one life phase and the next the neutral zone, while Stein (1987) describes the phase of a person’s internal structures from a former identity being dissolved and new structures constellated as the liminal phase.  Personally, I can going to call this “the wandering phase”, a phase that seems aimless at first, as if one is lost in the woods at night, grasping for direction by the light of the moon, and finally begins to find purpose at the approach of sunrise.

Further building upon the work of Bridges (2004) when he describes surrender as a time when “one must give into the emptiness and stop struggling to escape it” (p.140), I liken it to the hiker who must give into the darkness, make camp, and wait until morning to find help, also acknowledging that help may come in many different ways.  Four pages later, Bridges speaks of the “wilderness”, which he reveals in Hebrew also means “sanctuary”. To extend this analogy (or truth?) one more step and call upon the work of Brene Brown when she says “there are times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty…this is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself “I am the wilderness””. In that sense, we are both our own wilderness and our own sanctuary.  The gap between phase of one’s life is not an abstract place, but a place when one needs to go inside oneself and seek one’s own truth.

The Hine (1987) reading reminded me of my own ceremony during a transitional phase in my life a year ago, though at the time I did not call it such.  It was just something that I felt called to do, which, when reading, alleviated my anxiety in being creative enough to create a ritual.  During this time, I was doing my best to surrender my identity as an competitive athlete.  In the year and a half previous to my ceremony, lots of tears, frustration, and anger ensued. Finally, after a lot of praying, journalist, and soul searching, I was able to begin to let go. I wrote a letter to my “old legs” and then, on Christmas Eve at dusk, I buried the letter into one of my favorite trees in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  This ceremony, like the ones described by Hines (1987) helped me to begin to find gratitude for my past self and embrace who I was, and still am, becoming.

 

References

Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Hine, V. (1987). Self-created ceremonies of passage. In Mahdi, L. M., Foster, S., & Little, M., Betwixt & Between: Patterns of masculine and feminine initiation (pp. 304-326). La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company.

Stein, J. O., & Stein, M. (1987). Psychotherapy, initiation and the midlife transition. In Mahdi, L. M., Foster, S., & Little, M., Betwixt & Between: Patterns of masculine and feminine initiation (pp. 287-301). La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company.

https://themarblejar.com/products/i-am-the-wilderness-print

*

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

A Lesson on Love, From the Dog: How Pacer has Taught Me to Love Unconditionally

5/29/2018

This is actually from my old blog and is about 4 years old.  However, it seemed fitting to share again on this blog.

[I’ve written other blogs previously on lessons we learn for dogs, but I believe the greatest lesson these four-legged and furry animals (or should I say sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, grand dogs, etc.?) teach us is about love, and what it truly means to love.]

“Dear God, please help me to love myself as Pacer loves me.”

I wrote these words in my journal, not very long ago.

I was in the middle of reading Marianne Williamson’s “Return to Love” and I realized that I never truly thought about what it meant to love. I also realized then when I did love, it was often with conditional terms. “I love him, but not when he does that.” “I love her, but I can’t stand it when she’s acts like that.” Etc. Etc. But never were the terms of conditional love truer as when it came to loving myself.

My self-love and self-worth came with what I succeeded in, and often not succeeded in. At one point in my life this dealt with weight, grades, and basketball. More recently it dealt with my running times, job(s), and whether or not I thought I was doing anything worthwhile/making a difference in the world.

In other words, everything depended on the “if”. I only loved myself “if” I did this, I only loved myself “if” I achieved that.

Of course, I knew that kind of thinking wasn’t healthy. I tried to stray away from those thoughts. It helped a bit when I reminded myself that my family and friends loved me regardless.

However, it was until I thought about Pacer that I truly understood what it meant to love, and to love unconditionally.

With her, we fell onto that path naturally. From the moment she laid on my lap as we drove her home from North Carolina, our relationship was pure love, and that love went both ways. In fact, I love her so much, where I have nearly been in tears by just the thought of something bad happening to her.

I loved her despite the fact that on that trip home, she threw up in my lap.

I loved even though as a puppy, she nearly drove me insane.

I loved her even when she chewed my good running socks and I chased her for 20 minutes around the house, finally giving up in tears. And still when I let her outside to do her thing then wouldn’t come in back in, making me later for work, I still loved her.

Then there was the time I left the homemade veggie burgers on the counter, which she grabbed, ran, and devoured.

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Who chewed that?  Not me!

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She also has a protective and aggressive side, common I later learned, in herding dogs. With that, she bit someone (not a full on bit, but more of a bite you would give a sheep to get them in a circle). Instead of being mad at her, I cried at the thought of someone trying to take her away from me. (I decided a would run away with her before that would ever happen.)

She has surely cost us a small fortune, especially with “doggy boot camp”. (Once we had workers at our house, and I came home to my house set-up like a barricade…We forgot to put Pacer in her “place” and the workers shunned her off with plastic lids, closing doors, and putting couches in doorways. When I got through, Pacer was just sitting at the top of the staircase looking at me.)

Now, at 2 years old, things are much better, but she is still mischievous, rebellious, and full of energy.

For example, a few months ago “someone” left the garage open (which we never do) and she chewed my new pair of running shoes. (That “someone”, despite owning a running store, has still not yet gotten me a new pair.)

Speaking of running, I probably waste half of my energy on the trail telling her “No!”, “Pacer, back!” and “Leave it! (Squirrels are our friends, not food)”. And yet, she is still my favorite running partner.

Each time I get upset with her, the anger subsides minutes later. I forgive her, without even thinking about forgiving her.

I love her so much that any feeling of anger melts away. Lesson: Love is the only thing that matters, and should take precedence over everything else. (Reminder to self: Keep this in mind during next “difference of views”)

I love her, simply because she is my Pacer.

Thinking about it more, I realized she loves me unconditionally as well.

Never once when she was a puppy and I put her in her crate did she shun me when I came back home. I was, and still am, greeted with a wagging nub (her tail was docked) and much licking.

She loves me even when I accidently step on her paw.

And last year, when I accidently cut the skin on her ear while trying to get a knot out of her fur, she still forgave me (actually, it took me much longer to forgive myself.)

She loves me despite what job I have, if I had a bad day, made a mistake, and…despite how fast I run (however, she does prefer fast).

She simply doesn’t care about all those exterior things… She just loves me because, well, I am me.

And that’s enough.

A few months ago I wrote about my mom’s dog, Annabell, who has an incurable disease affecting her kidneys, causing her to piddle everywhere. Still, she is as energetic and playful as ever, plus the normal puppy mischief. My mom always tells everyone “all she wants it to be loved”.

That is so true!

And it’s true with all dogs.

Love is at the very essence of their being. And isn’t it so with us too? I think so.

Because of Pacer, I am learning what unconditional love is, and to bypass any imperfections in others, and in myself. (Isn’t perfect boring anyway?!?) It is definitely not easy. It takes practice.

But, it is worth it.

Even despite those chewed up $100 pair of shoes.

Love Letters to Mother Nature: # 4

Dear Mother Nature,

Spring.

Again you change, switching from a cover of white to dawning* a rainbow of colors.

In the past, spring simply meant the coming of summer, my favorite season.

But now…

But now I appreciate spring on its own, for the beauty, aliveness, and the scents.  Oh, the scents!  Especially the petrichor, the smell of the Earth after it rains*.  Mother Nature,  your perfume swoons me to another world.

I rejoice at spring’s first flower, bursting with color from the moist, snow-melt earth.  Daily, new colors spring forth with shades so exotic I don’t even have names for them.

And the green, oh the green!  The electrifying hues of just-born plants pushing through the soil, made only more stunning with the darker shades of Evergreens around us.

I too feel like I am being reborn.  Blossoming like a wildflower, reaching for the sun.  Fresh and new, I enter the world, ready for a new cycle of life, a fresh start.

Mother Nature, I am open to your love that nurtures and heals my soul.  I am ready to re-awaken.

Love Your Daughter,

Ray

 

*Intentional play on words.

*Thanks to my friend Morgan for teaching me this word!

The Thief of Joyous Running

While this blog strays away a bit from my usual posts for this site as it is running related, I chose to write this anyway after 1) my sister suggested I write this and 2) running is often a microcosm and metaphor for life.  So even if you’re not a runner, I trust that you will find some meaning in my words.

“Hey Sandi…?”  Followed by a slightly awkward glance as the runner passes in the opposite direction.  In the brief moment our paths cross, I usually give a nod or small smile.  Should I say “hi”, tell him I’m not Sandi, or not say anything? By the time I think this over, I usually end up with the third option and just let the runner go by.

Usually, when someone calls me Sandi on the trail, I take this as a compliment.  You see, my twin sister is badass.  I mean, she is fast.  And strong.  Like about to represent the USA in the World Mountain Championships in Poland next month strong and fast.  And sometimes I just leave it at that.  Other times, I let my joy of trail running be stolen.  Who’s the thief you ask?  Myself and my habit of comparison.

2018 Salida half (2)
Me, Sandi, and her partner Sage after her win at the Run through Time Half Marathon in Salida.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” *

Those words have held true for my most of my life.

Here’s a look at my thought process and downward spiral:

“I must not be that slow if they thought I was Sandi.”

“And maybe I’m not that much heavier.”

“Or maybe they think Sandi got slow and gained weight.”

“Why can’t I be as fast and skinny as Sandi?  We have the same genes!”

And so it goes.  Ugly right?  Makes one feel kinda crappy.

Why does this make me and, probably you, feel crappy?  Well one, my guess (or at least my hope so I don’t feel totally alone in this habit) is that you’ve had similar thoughts.  Second, when we compare or judge, it is usually a reflection of ourselves.  It has to do with our own lack of self-worth, feelings of not being good enough.  (So please, give yourself some compassion here!  You mostly have a wound from a past trauma or situation that made you feel like this.  Comparison and judgement are often the ego’s idea of self-protection.  It’s of course a false form of protection, but it helps to know this so we can learn and change the habit.)

I can’t tell you how many times comparison has been a dark cloud in my life.  I’ve compared myself to my classmates in grad school ‘They’re so smart! How did I get in?”, relationships “He’s so intelligent, handsome, and skinnier than me.  Why is he with me?” (that lead me to unconsciously act like a jerk that lead to the breakup), and even to all of the pro-athletes in Boulder that work out for hours each day and have bodies of gods and goddesses.

The funny thing is, when I truly reflect on where I am in life right now, I’m happy with where I am and with who I am.  I’m about to enter my 3rd year of graduate school in Naropa’s Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy program and work for SAGE Running part-time.  I don’t have time or energy to work out for hours and have 6-pack abs.  Which is totally fine! I rather be working to become an awesome therapist! I also have a wonderful partner who loves me and will call me out when I start to become “Judgey, McJudgey” (his words, not mine). My body is still exhausted from the extreme exercise and dieting in my younger years, but now I can still run for a few hour in the mountains with my dog.  That is happiness for me.  Life is truly amazing!

salida 2018
All smiles (and tongue) running with my best friend in Salida.

So recently, when I went on a 3-day solo as part of my Rites of Passage journey for my Transitions class (I know, I know- I did that for school! Again, totally awesome.) In addition to going into my 3-day solo with two intentions I wanted to honor for myself, I also considered the piece of me that I wanted to let go of.  I decided the piece of me that I wanted to let go of was my comparing self.  It may have served me in some ways over the years, tried to protect me, but I was ready to say “thank you, but I never want to see you again.”  I can’t say what went on during my 3 day solo, as I feel it is a bit too sacred to write in a blog, but what I can say is I focused on loving and honoring myself.  I found my beauty, deep within in me and in my body-including my curves and touching thighs.  Part of what I found was love for myself, which pushed out any need to compare myself to others.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that my comparing mind is gone for good.  It likes to sneak back in here and there.  But I’m on the lookout and ready to call it out when it rears it’s ugly head.  Like today, when I was beginning a run with my pup at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  We were headed up a rocky trail that had a lot more vertical than I expected, and I was hiking.   There was an instant where I thought “I’m sure a lot of other runners could run up this.”  Then, the magic came.  I said to myself “Who cares?  Let’s just enjoy this time in nature with your best friend.  If you end up hiking a lot, then you just get to spend more time outside!  And I did hike a lot.  And I smiled a lot.  Which I actually think helped me save some energy to run at the end, in between my pup’s creek baths.  It was a beautiful, joyous morning.

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Pacer, distracted by another dog, while I try to take picture at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

I’m sure there is someone our there thinking “But comparison is a motivator, it makes you want to get better.”  And maybe it does.  My issue with comparison in running is the “beat the other guy/woman” piece.  The ego steps in.  I’m not enlightened enough to say that comparison and ego are always bad, but at least from what I’ve witnessed, ego and comparison might help get you ahead for a bit, but it doesn’t last.  In looking at elite runners, the ones who continue to win are the ones who have an internal motivator, the ones who continue to find joy in what they do.  Looking at all runners, the ones who are often able to run for years are the ones who can do so with less comparison and with more focus on the process.  They have an inner drive, a gratitude for their own ability, and a sense of play whenever they get outside.

With that being said, I’m definitely not perfect.  But when those clouds of comparison begin block out my light, I’m learning to see the thoughts for what they are and bust my rays right through them.   Then I get back to playing with my dog.

With Joy,

 

Ray

 

*Okay, maybe comparison isn’t always bad: https://medium.com/thrive-global/roosevelt-was-wrong-comparison-is-not-the-thief-of-joy-9e490cd6225