It Takes a Village

I’ve said it before, and probably will continue to say it a lot….Many of us struggle in all aspects of our life, especially when we are injured, sick or depressed and are not able to get out and do the things we want to do. It takes a village to help us through.

When I received my diagnosis in 2003 of Ankylosing Spondylitis, and then Lupus, my first thought was, what the **** is that, and why me?! I’m sure so many have said the same thing with any diagnosis they have received. What is important is what do you do with that news, what is next? Many fall into depression, often severe and they just can’t seem to get out of it. Others, thrive in a way many of us wish we could. They look the diagnosis in the face and say, not today, you will not get me. I honestly, didn’t know what to do because I didn’t understand any of it. No one in my family, that I knew of at the time had anything like that. And it didn’t end there, from 2003 to 2009 I was diagnosed with multiple auto-immune conditions. I considered myself pretty healthy and active, so what was I doing wrong? My family wasn’t sure what to do with it either. The more I talked about, the more I tried to describe how I was feeling or why I couldn’t do something, especially my daughter, they had a hard time hearing it, and many times didn’t want to hear it, because it sounded like excuses. Those famous words ~ but you don’t look sick. Honestly, please don’t ever say that to anyone with a hidden disease ~ autoimmune, cancer, depression, PTSD, anything. It is a gut-wrenching painful thing to say to someone. You have no idea the internal struggle that is faced.

As I read more about what my conditions were and what could be potential causes, as I listened to the doctor’s about treatments, I continued to question, why me. This isn’t my life. As I lay curled up in a ball most of the time feeling sorry for myself, I had that ah-ha moment while my daughter watched me struggle. Nope, this is not how my life is supposed to be. This is not what my daughter is going to think her life is going to be. I found a new doctor that would listen to ME, helped me on the path I wanted to follow and I was on the road to a new “normal” life. I changed my diet and began walking more – just keep moving. The more I moved the better I felt. My family and friends were my village, my support system cheering me on every step of the way, and they continue to do so. I am forever grateful for them. Eventually I started running and from 2010 to now, I’ve run numerous races including four full marathons. Currently, I am training to complete my first ultra marathon. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days, but I learned how to handle them better and how to help feel better both physically and emotionally. Even if people don’t want to hear it, I verbalize it. I share my story in the hopes it can help even one person handle what they are going through.

It’s not easy for those not experiencing what you are experiencing to understand. We try to educate them however it is hard for them to grasp. More and more though conditions such as depression, PTSD, addiction, etc are being brought to light so that family members and friends can learn to understand and find ways to help you through the darkest days. It should no longer be shameful or be kept a secret. Embrace it, understand it and just be kind for you do not know what others are going through. Just keep moving.

It truly does take a village. Whether you are an injured runner and you are down, frustrated or depressed because you are not out doing the things you want to do, you can form a group such as my running group, S.W.I.F.T. (www.swift4running.com) did. They basically created an injured reserved meet-up where those unable to run or walk at the time can meet with others and just get out of the house for coffee or a drink and socialize, boost the mood and provide support.

When an individual and their families are depressed and struggling to pay their bills due to cancer treatments and depression, it takes a village to help them through this process. There is an organization in Philadelphia, Legacy of Hope, that does just that. https://www.legacyofhope.life/ “Because we believe no family should lose their home or go without food because a loved one is fighting cancer and no promising cancer research should go unfunded.”

Life throws us a curve, all the time. It redirects when we least expect it. We allow it to suck the energy and sometimes the life out of us. It becomes toxic. We get lost and our life spirals out of control and we just don’t know how to get out of it. We find others in the same or similar situations and together, you unfortunately become toxic. We convince ourselves that we can’t. You can’t because you won’t. I know that sounds harsh, but you can, if you just try, one step at a time. It won’t happen overnight. But if you continue to allow yourself to stay stuck, to settle that this is how your life is supposed to be, you will remain stuck. You have a choice. You can say to everyone that is trying to or has tried to help you, that they can’t help you, that life sucks and there is no way out. You have a choice to at least try, to tell yourself one positive thing each day, or in each moment that you are struggling. I truly believe a positive mind leads to a positive life. Life can be unfair and shitty, but you don’t have to allow it to win because you will miss so many amazing moments that are wonderful. Remove the toxic self defeating language and feelings. Do me a favor, just keep moving. Find your village, even if it’s just one person. Because whatever your pace is, forward IS a pace. Others believe in you, just believe in yourself.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!
Carol

What, no vacation!?

You’re thinking of skipping your vacation again this year? How do you keep moving forward if you are burnt out?

I believe we are among the hardest working people in the world, and I also believe we receive the fewest vacation days from our employers. So why is it that every year we tend to throw away an estimated 415 million vacation days by skipping vacation! Personally or professionally, not taking time off from work can prove to be more harmful than beneficial for you or your organization. Why should you be going on vacation?

1. Revive your productivity and with it, your team’s – and remember, your family is also your “team”
We all know that small breaks throughout the day help us over the short term, but it’s vital that we take longer breaks from work to sustain and even build our creativity and productivity. Being away from your work environment for a longer period of time will help you gain a fresh perspective about your work, as well as providing you with the opportunity to pursue your other interests. By skipping your vacation, you can have a negative effect on the organization’s morale, as well as that of your family. It creates frustration and resentment and the desire to move forward in your goals. Professionally, your team may think that if the boss isn’t taking a vacation then maybe they had better not take one either.

2. Vacation time is a part of your compensation; it’s not a job “perk”
Remember when you applied for the job? Weren’t you allotted a certain number of vacation days per year as part of the compensation package? Vacation time should not be viewed as “perk”. It’s an investment. An investment in your health, the well-being of not only yourself but that of your family. Would you not accept a monetary bonus at the end of the year? Of course, you would! That’s how we need to think of vacations. Bonus time to relax and rejuvenate, build bonds with family and friends.

3. Serve as a role model for others
Whether you are in a leadership role, an employee and/or a parent, you need to take a vacation! Employees, and children will look to you for guidance on what is allowed and what is frowned upon. What you model at work will determine what your employees do. Despite the workloads that may be building on your desks, it is still very important to take time off work in order to maintain your effectiveness in your role. Same concept personally. Your children look up to you for guidance. Showing them self-care allows them to know that it is okay, even important, to take care of themselves mentally and physically.

4. Whether a stay-cation, traveling within the US or internationally, show your team they can manage without you!
While we all like to think that we’re indispensable, the reality is we need to encourage overall morale and wellness. Taking time off from work will encourage team members to develop strategies and abilities that will help them learn how to effectively hold down the fort while you’re away. And the best way we can encourage this is to make sure everyone takes their vacations so that they might bring a fresh perspective and new ideas on how to attain their shared goals.

Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it! You’d be surprised who’s watching your journey, be an inspiration and just keep moving! Your employer AND your family will be glad that you did!

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!
Carol

80 % of Success Is Showing Up

Trail Running

I don’t even know where to begin! What’s more fun then taking on a new challenge or adventure?!

I will begin with an expression of gratitude for the opportunity to take on a new challenge being healthier through diet and exercise.

Then there’s always the challenge of my health and the risk of flare ups if I’m not mindful of the challenges I take on. Always, be mindful of how you feel and be smart and know when to stop. It is not weakness, it is necessity.

In the past few years I began trail running and find it extremely peaceful. But, don’t let that fool you, you have to be on your game watching your footing while absorbing the beauty that surrounds you.

One of my goals for 2018, in addition to enjoying running more trails, was to run a trail race. I decided go big or go home apparently! I understood taking on this goal it would be a challenging course – that was an understatement for me!

I didn’t take pictures while on the course because I wanted to enjoy the beauty that surrounded me. The terrain, between the mud and hills, was very challenging. Most of the elevation was extremely difficult, for me , but would not be for more experienced trail and ultra runners.

Uberendurance Sports hosts a 20 & 40 mile trail race called the Naked Bavarian at Blue Marsh Lake in Leesport, PA. They are a well run race organization keeping costs low while providing challenging, yet fun races, little swag complimented by great volunteers and food.

By the end of the race, I truly exceeded my own personal physical limits, but the high of completing my challenge, while being mindful of my health, was exhilarating!

I finished!

Fast forward to 2019, I decided I needed to do it again! Why you ask? Because I can! As long as I can keep moving forward, I will keep going. This year proved to be the biggest challenge yet, as it had snowed prior to race day. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I certainly wasn’t going to try to beat my time from the previous year. Snow, mud…and ice! Whoa, what did I get myself into? I did great just moving forward at my own pace (and had not yet fallen thankfully but I did slip a lot!). Stopped at the aid station at mile 10 (the volunteers are amazing!) and was met with – be careful, it’s really messy up there. Did I not mention after the mile 10 aid station, there is quite the climb and descent. Oh, and I’m afraid of heights! Climbing in 2018 was a feat in itself for me, but now to do it in snow, mud and ice. Ugh, do I drop out now?? Nope, just keep moving. Safely of course.

I think my face says it all!

So, off I go, but after I hear from another runner, “hold up, I’ll head out with you”. Thank goodness because at this point I had been running completely alone. I still kept my pace, as did he, but I felt much better knowing there was someone else out there in case I had any issues, like falling off the side of the mountain (well it was a mountain to me, a “hill” to most ultra runners). And although it was not easy by any means and I did slip backwards a few times, I finally decided to take in the view at the top (last year I did not…did I mention FEAR of heights? Wow, what a view! (Nope, I did not get close to the edge)

View from the top of the “hill” after climbing

Trudging along just moving forward and hoping to finish. I was exhausted from the efforts it took to stay on my feet, especially the descent down the other side of the “hill”. After awhile I, along with the other runner close by, decided to walk a bit. Our conversation got personal about tragedies, challenges and struggles. Depression, drugs, ptsd, you name it, the conversation flowed and the time passed. Next thing you know, we were nearing the end. Phew! The kind gentleman I shared the last 10 miles with proved to me, once again, that there are many people out there with similar, or more, struggles than I. He’s an ultra runner who’s goal was to finish today. He ever so kindly dropped back behind me to let me finish the race ahead of him, even after I insisted we finish together. We did finish together, and I am forever grateful for sharing the miles.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

John Muir

What are some of your challenges for yourself?


Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!
Carol