Thursday, February 26, 2015

A milkshake toast to the strangeness and awkwardness

One benefit of this viciously cold winter is that it's making me want to stay inside where it's warm, and consequently I've gotten into a regular routine of strength training and yoga. I know it is good for me and will make me a stronger runner. Yet, there is this underlying sense of discouragement I have been unable to shake. I don't feel like I'm making any improvements. I mostly just feel awkward, inflexible and uncoordinated. You certainly wouldn't be able to tell from looking at me that I even have any muscles at all.

This frustrates me because I don't want to care about results or how I look. Those things are unimportant and I know that, but I still get stuck in that self-critical place sometimes. And yet, I keep going back to class. I think it's only because of the music. Especially at the end of  Centergy (a weird pilates/yoga/tai chi mash-up class) when they play this amazing cover of The Proclaimers' I'm Gonna Be (500 miles). That song, it gets me every time. And it reminds me who I am and why I do what I do. Despite the fact that I can be almost recklessly relentless in the pursuit of goals, I'm not actually a goal oriented person. As soon as I achieve a goal, I'm like okay what's next? It's not the achievement I care about, it's the effort to get there, and finding enjoyment in that effort regardless of the outcome. Sometimes I'll say something like I need to run 12 miles on Saturday. Whereby I really mean that I have 12 miles on my training plan for that day. But I also mean that I need it in the same way that I need food or water or air. Not 12 miles per se. I just need motion, exertion, effort. I need to try, experience, learn, grow. I need runs and adventures and meaningful relationships. Those things are as essential to my life as breathing and eating and sleeping. And yes, I'd like to be better at all those things, especially at relationships. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is to do those things for the love of doing them and not be attached to any particular result.

I finally got to that place in running, where I just run for the joy of it, where it makes me happy whether I feel good or bad, whether I'm going fast or slow, whether solo or with friends. It didn't happen overnight. It took years. So maybe someday I will get there with yoga and with strength training. Though I'm a little skeptical. When I run I have this feeling like this is home, this is what I'm meant to be doing (even though I'm way more lumbering elephant than graceful gazelle). I never feel that way about contorting myself into yoga poses. But I guess you never know. Stranger things have happened. Actually, my life has been a series of strange and wonderful things happening. So maybe I should milkshake toast to the strangeness and keep on awkwardly keeping on.

Lyric of the moment: "When I come home, oh, I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you. And if I grow old, well, I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you. But I would walk five hundred miles. And I would walk five hundred more. Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door..."

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Robot's guide to happiness

Over the weekend I accidentally punched myself in the eye while trying to tear apart a cardboard box and I spilled Dr. Pepper inside my purse. It feels like I have been shoveling for 2 months straight. I think the Chinese zodiac got it wrong. This isn't the year of the sheep, it's the year of the shovel. Isn't it the best? I'm the happiest I've ever been in my whole life. 

Maybe you're thinking um, those don't sound like positive things. Does not compute. But to me, happiness is a state of well-being and enjoyment of life that is unconditional and always accessible. It's not about everything always going perfectly well and feeling fantastically wonderful all the time. It's about embracing all the twists and turns and ups and downs as part of the entire experience of life.

The most important thing I've learned (the hard way, of course) is that it doesn't matter what happens to me, it only matters what I do with it. And I realized that all the times I felt bad, I also felt happy. When I felt sad to lose someone I cared about, I also felt happy to have had the chance to know that person and to let go and move on to other adventures. When I felt disappointment at failing at something, I also felt happiness at learning from my mistakes and finding a better way forward. In hindsight, it's all the moments I thought were terribly embarrassing at the time that turn out to be the comedic relief.

So yes, I did feel like an idiot for not realizing sooner that the certificate for free Sauconys that I won at the last MedVed Harrier games had expired in January (and that it was now slightly soggy and smelled like Dr. Pepper), but I also had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I figured it couldn't hurt to ask MedVed if I could still use it (but I did ask Pete to come with me. Because it's easier to be happier about feeling like an idiot if someone is standing next to you who knows how ridiculous you are and loves you anyway). And the MedVed employees were totally cool about it and didn't even hesitate in saying I could use it despite the expiration date. I still felt a little bad, so I did buy some new socks to go with my free shoes.

And yes, I'm as sick of the snow and cold as you are. But I love that Niagara Falls is frozen and I totally want to see it in person. And I want to see that Eternal Flame thing in Buffalo. And sing The Bangles' Eternal Flame at it. Winter is a jerk, but he's a loveable jerk. And he makes the best playgrounds.

Lyric of the moment: "Let's dance to Joy Division. And celebrate the irony. Everything is going wrong but we're so happy. Let's dance to joy division. And raise our glass to the ceiling. 'Cause this could all go so wrong, but we're so happy. Yeah, we're so happy..."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Staying positive when the temperature is negative

The weather widget on my phone was broken the other day. It had an error message that said something like WTF with this weather? I can't even. I quit. I was like, Dude I know, it's like a cryogenic freezer out there.
But you can't let the weather limit your awesomeness. So here are some of my secrets to remaining positive when the temperature is negative.
*Complain. Hey, sometimes it feels good. And when you live in a place where the air hurts you're face, you're allowed a certain amount of complaints. Just don't be annoying about it. Bonus points if you hide your complaints in jokes:
One of these pictures is from the apocalyptic movie The Day After Tomorrow and one is from my front yard. Can you tell which is which?

*Change your perspective. The thing about the weather is that you can't change it, though if you wait long enough it will change itself. And in the meantime, you can change your attitude towards it. For example, it's not a face biting, extremity numbing cold -5 degrees Fahrenheit, it's 252.594 Kelvin. Balmy.
*Layer on the clothes and the humor. Today I woke up to a dark, depressing, -10 degree potential suffer-fest of a morning. I decided to run outside anyway. Was that a terrible idea? I don't know. Probably. But I just thought, eh, I've run in worse. And it's a good day to shake and stuff the Little Hotties. It was a slow run but a not altogether unpleasant experience. One of the benefits of running in muscle numbing cold is that you can't feel the soreness from the previous night's strength workout. And I didn't fall or get frostbite. So I'm considering it a success.


*Have a party. Nothing beats the winter blues like good friends and good times. Though hosting a party on Valentine's Day during a winter weather advisory probably wasn't my brightest idea. I was afraid that no one would come. But people did come. We looked fancy while eating desserts and pizza and laughing until our cheeks hurt. And no one will ever think about marbles in the same way again. Plus I ended up with 3 different kinds of chocolate milk in my fridge, which is the apex of my adult achievements. (Thanks to the Lopatas for the Intense Chocolate Milk, which had only a short layover in the fridge until its rendezvous with my stomach the next morning).
I only like winter on a very limited basis. But since it insists on visiting me every year and I haven't yet realized my ultimate goal of being able to spend winters somewhere a hell of a lot warmer than here (but hopefully not in, you know, actual Hell), I might as well make the best of it. I hope you'll join me. Whatever the weather, let's weather it together.
Lyric of the moment: "Use the sleeves of my sweater. Let's have an adventure. Head in the clouds but my gravity's centered...'Cause it's too cold for you here and now. So let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater..."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Be my funny Valentine

Hi Loves!

There are no words awesome enough and no hugs awkwardly long enough to fully convey how much I value your presence in my life. Thank you for being the best parts of my days. I don't say it often enough but it's always true. I am happier for having known you. Let's be friends forever and have lots of conversations and adventures! If you can't stick around for long, that's ok. I get it. Best of luck and most excellent wishes wherever you go. Just know that my door and my arms are always open to you. Come as you are. Anytime.

Like tomorrow. For pizza and cookies and dresses and friends. Because Valentine's Day, like any other day of your life, is what you make it. Make it awesome.

From Robot, With Love. Forever and for always.

Lyric of the moment: "You'll be given love. You'll be taken care of. You'll be given love. You have to trust it. Maybe not from the sources you have poured yours, maybe not from the directions you are staring at. Twist your head around, it's all around you. All is full of love..." (Because it's the truest thing I've ever heard.)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Win some, lose some, awesome

Win some
For the past month or so, some dude who lives in one of the apartments across the street from my house would frequently park his giant SUV right next to my driveway. It was slightly annoying, but I know that on-street parking sucks and on-street parking during the winter really sucks. I kept thinking he would eventually see the big No Parking sign on the light post indicating that it's illegal to park between the light post and my driveway. But he did not seem to notice or care about that. Pete offered to write a note and put it on the guy's car. I was tempted to let him but I decided I should really learn to fight my own battles. So I did nothing for a while. (I am terrible at confrontations, you guys. Even when it doesn't involve direct contact). Then one day, the dude's SUV was parked so close to my driveway that I had a very difficult time getting in and out of it. I called Pete, trying to work up the nerve to write a note. And then I wrote a note, signed my name and address, and left it on his car. The note said "Hello. Your car is parked very close to my driveway and it is hard for me to get in and out. If you could park farther back, that would be awesome. Also, technically where you are parked is an illegal parking spot and you could get a ticket." The note did the trick, as he started parking farther back, though still illegally. Then last night when I got home, I saw a Parking Enforcement person writing him a ticket. On the one hand, Karma, right? But on the other hand, that dude is totally going to think I called Parking Enforcement on him. I guess this is a win since I achieved my desired outcome and can now enter and leave my driveway unimpeded. But I didn't want him to get a ticket, which is why I left a note instead of calling Parking Enforcement. Sigh. This is why I don't like fighting battles. Winning never feels like much of a victory. Next time I have to write a note, I'm going to write it in icing on a cookie cake. Then everybody wins.

Lose some
Yesterday at work I had one of the worst ever conversations with a candidate. I know that looking for a job sucks. It's frustrating and rife with disappointment, even more so if you've been out of the field for a number of years. I was trying to be helpful yet still honest and realistic, but this person kept getting so defensive and angry about everything and then eventually hung up on me. My favorite placements are the ones where I've helped entry-level candidates get their first job in the field, but those placements are not the norm. And I can't even begin to try to help anyone who refuses to send a resume and then hangs up on me. Eight or nine years ago, a conversation like that would have been a serious dark cloud over the rest of my day. But now I'm a little better at letting things go. I told Bill about it, then I told Pete and we went to yoga. I still felt bad for this person and their situation, but I didn't take their comments or anger personally. I think this is a good thing but sometimes it feels like a bad thing.

It was Tuesday night. I was on the treadmill. Which was my second mistake. My first mistake was having gone to a strength training class the day before, where I think we must have done a million repetitions of everything. My whole body hurt. And this run was going nowhere good, agonizingly slowly. Even my arms hurt! I don't think my arms have ever hurt while running before. I had run 12 miles on the canal with friends on Saturday and that was a piece of cake compared to a measly four miles on this torturous treadmill. I felt like it would never end. But it also felt good in a way. Because I know it's good training. For races and for life. If everything always goes well and you always feel great (please tell me your secret!), you never learn how strong you really are, how much longer you can keep going when you think you can't keep going. You have to learn how to embrace discomfort if you want to get to all the very best places. It's in those no good, very bad moments where awesomeness is forged. So I focused on the body parts that didn't hurt, put in my headphones and kept treadmilling. Early this morning I ran 5 miles on the roads. It was quite peaceful, just me and the snow and the dark. And one angry honking driver. Which is sad really. My heart goes out to anyone who is in so much of a hurry and so irate as to take it out on innocent bystanders (byrunners?) at 5:30am. But I think I'll stick to the trails and canals from now on. No one honks at you on the trails.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm not a fighter. I'm not a man who balances gold. I'm not the lying. I'm not the mining kind...I won't be the kind of lover who takes your hand and holds another. No I won't be the kind of lover who takes your hand and holds you under..."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Live each day as the 24 hours of awesomeness it is

That whole it's the journey not the destination thing is starting to make sense to me. I know the ultimate destination of my life. Spoiler alert: I don't make it out alive. But I have no idea when that will be or what will happen in the meantime. I hope that meantime is really freaking long. I hope it is filled with adventures and runs and Pete and you. But the only thing I know for certain is that the future is uncertain.

Sometimes I find this incredibly frustrating. Because how can I plan for the future when I don't know what I'm planning for or how long it will be or who will be in it? And that whole live each day as if it were your last is terrible, terrible advice. Do you know what I would do with my last day of life? Call into work dead, call everyone I know and tell them I love them, eat all the ice cream flavors (except for mint chocolate chip because mint is for toothpaste, not dessert), run a bunch of miles and spend all my money flying everyone to someplace tropical. But it would be highly imprudent to do that. Because the probability that today is my last day of life is very low and the probability that I have decades of days ahead of me is pretty high. So I think the key is not to live every day as if it were my last, but to live every day as the not entirely unexpected but very welcome 24 hours of awesomeness that it is. Some days that will mean be running all the miles, some days that will mean getting on a plane to somewhere warm, some days that will mean hiding under blankets on the couch. Every day will be a different flavor of awesome sauce.

I don't know how to plan for a future where anything can happen. The best I can come up with at the moment is not to plan at all and instead get really good at being flexible and resilient and excited about everything. I'm not Punxsutawney Phil or Miss Cleo. I can't predict the future. But I do get to decide what I think about it and what I do with it. So I've decided I'm going to love it.

Lyric of the moment: "Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me. And when I lose my direction I'll look up to the sky. And when the black cloak drags upon the ground, I'll be ready to surrender. And remember well we're all in this together. If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die..."

Friday, February 6, 2015

A funny thing happened while I was shoveling

Last night I was shoveling and a man who was walking down the street asked me "Don't you have anyone you can call to help you with that?" Admittedly, I was a little indignant at first. All sorts of responses flooded my brain. Like "Oh, you mean like someone with testes? I hear it's near impossible to shovel without them" or "This is the second driveway I've shoveled today. And I'm about to go run 4 miles in the snow. So, no I don't need any help, thank you." But I didn't say any of those things. I just laughed and said "I'm all set, I've got it" and he complained about having to shovel his driveway and his mom's driveway and his sister's driveway and we exchanged some small talk and went our separate ways. Probably his comment was not meant to be sexist, probably he was just trying to help or maybe he was bitter about his own shoveling agenda. But even if he was trying to insinuate that I can't do something based solely on my gender, there's no point in letting it upset me. I don't know this guy. I don't care what he thinks of me. I'm perfectly capable of shoveling snow. I'm perfectly capable of doing a lot of things. Those things are true even if someone else thinks otherwise.

And the thing is, I actually somewhat enjoy shoveling. I mean, at first it's a little daunting. A whole driveway full of snow, packed in all tight near the road and sidewalk thanks to the plows. But then I just dive in and, shovelful by shovelful, it gets done. It's almost meditative in a way, and quite gratifying. I feel like I'm carving out my own little space in the mess, creating a bit of order in the chaos. It's a good reminder that little by little, I can do anything. And it's a time to be grateful. For health, for strength, for all the goodness and abundance in my life.

Lyric of the moment: "Love yourself, give 'em hell. You can take on this world. You just stand and be strong. And then fight like a girl. Oh, with style and grace. Kick ass and take names..."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How to repair hurt feelings

So there was this thing that happened and my feelings got hurt. I knew that it was unintentional. I knew that I was reading too much into it, that it probably didn't mean what I was afraid it meant. I knew this and yet I still felt hurt. Stupid chemicals, making me have feelings.

I'm a pretty easy going person. I try not to take things personally or too seriously. (Correct me if I'm wrong on that. I won't be offended.) But there are still certain things about which I'm too sensitive. Faulty wiring I guess. So sometimes the feelings get hurt. (They are old and not the most coordinated of feelings.) And this is what I've found helpful in those situations:

*Feel the feelings. Even the negative, embarrassing, uncomfortable ones. Figure out what they're trying to tell you. I've found that the things that upset me do so because they hit a nerve - they point out something about myself I don't like or they hit upon one of my fears or they open up a greater truth I haven't been ready to accept.

*Try to halt your immediate reaction to the feelings. Pause before you say or do anything you might regret. Your feelings are valid but not necessarily the truth. If you're going to say anything, stick to the facts of what happened and how it made you feel.

*Do something that gets you out of your head and gives you space and/or a wider perspective. Exercise is good for that. Run, shovel, move your body in some way. Fight chemicals with happier chemicals.

*Admit what you were seeking: reassurance, appreciation, comfort, etc. And give it to yourself. Sure, you can try to get those things from other people. But usually, doing that is what led to your feelings getting hurt in the first place. You're an adult. You're responsible for your own emotional well-being. Don't expect anyone else to do this for you.

*Continue being awesome. Everyone has negative, embarrassing, uncomfortable moments. Accept yours and move on. You've got a lot of amazing things ahead of you.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm talented with reason. I cover all the angles. I can fail before I ever try. Try to understand there's an old mistake that fools will make. And I'm the king of them, pushing everything that's good away. Won't you hold me now? I will not bend, I will not break..."