run

run

 

run through the pain

both the ache and soreness

coursing through your legs

and also the searing flame

burning through your heart

 

run to remember

every good moment

the love, the joy

and every bad time

the heartbreak, the anger

 

and run to forget

every victory won

because they do not define us

and every failed attempt

for reasons same

~

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

 

Ideas for a Better Us

I’ve been ruminating on my trip, thinking about the lessons I took away from it. I gained a lot of new ways of viewing things, but I also recognize I have a long way to go in terms of understanding. There’s no way of knowing everything there is to know on this planet, but the more we grow, learn and understand, the closer we get to AN understanding, and the better off we all are.

In pursuit of that, I know I have to make changes in my life to allow that growth and change to occur. Namely, ridding myself of some of the toxic behaviors and generally neutral actions I have in my life. Things that add nothing to my life or take time away from things that I do deem important.

But what things do I value? That’s what I dove into and uncovered, and I think a lot of them could apply to most people. The ideas and stories aren’t always unique, but sometimes it takes hearing them in the right context to allow them to sink in. I’ve known, on a conscious and subconscious level, a lot of the things I needed to change. But it’s only now that I’m actually attempting to get serious about them. We are all on our own journey, and we’ll get there in our own time.

All that being said, here are the things that I’ve chosen to focus on going forward. I’m going to do everything I can to spend my time on these things, but I know that there will be slipups. Time’s where I drift back to the things that aren’t as valuable. But when you become aware that you’ve taken the wrong path, you backtrack and rejoin the correct route.

Consume Health

I worded this very intentionally. It started with wanting to eat healthily, something I’ve always struggled with. Even when eating a primarily plant-based diet, I ate a lot of junk food. But it goes beyond that. We consume every day with all of our senses. We taste, touch, smell, hear, and see thousands of things every day. How many of them are toxic or don’t provide value? I want to minimize that. I want to eat amazing, healthy food. I want to listen to beautiful music and high-quality podcasts. I want to see and watch stunning plays, art, films, etc.

I know these are grandiose plans I’m laying, but it’s not about being perfect. It’s about the attempt. If everyone just attempted to be better, how much better would we be?

Travel

This is a big one for me. And it doesn’t have to include travel plans across the country or internationally. I do think it includes time out in nature, much more than most of us get. Additionally, instead of your regular routine, go to a different gym, grocery or coffee shop. Experience different things. Even if you only go to one Starbucks, go to a different location. You can get your regular while experiencing something new. And that’s what this is really about: new experiences. Our bubbles don’t just exist online on social media. They include the people we encounter, the places we visit and the businesses we support. If we open up to these new experiences, how much can we learn?

Connect with Good Energy

All of that being said, we should use our intuition to connect with good energy. This is different because sometimes good energy can make us uncomfortable. There are many people I’ve met and become close to that I value for that reason. They push me out of my comfort zones and have allowed me to go further. Experiences I never would have had otherwise were opened up by choosing to be around their good energy. Good energy will look different for everyone, but if you’re listening to yourself when you’re around people and in different or new situations, you’ll know what it feels like.

Physical Effort

A lot of times, people conflate being physical with going to the gym or doing what most people deem as “exercise”. Putting that kind of pressure on it is a good reason why people don’t stick with their New Years’ resolutions or workout plans. I find a plan to be beneficial, as I struggle with less structure. But things like walking, hiking, gardening, chores around the house, etc. are all examples of things we can do to be physical without needing new shoes and gym clothes. And aside from the physical health benefits, exercise helps fight mental health issues as well, so it’s a win-win.

Create

Another misconstrued idea is that we either aren’t creative or don’t possess the “right” creativity. We are all creative. We are all capable of creating. Because whether it’s writing, art, dance, cooking, organizing, photos of the dog, bedtime stories for our kids…the point is, anything we make is an expression of creativity. I intend to tap into that, beyond just writing. I want to learn different types of art, and I think I’d be good at the more physical arts that you use your hands for such as pottery or sculpting. But I won’t know unless I try.

Learn

The final piece is the one that ties everything together. I want to learn. I’ve always been curious and attempted to learn the things that interest me, but I’ve gotten away from that wonder that I had years ago. I got comfortable, but it’s time to go back. Any time I think I’ve figured something out or started to understand something, I learn new information. We live in a grey world where very little is black and white. Understanding that opens us up to an endless supply of learning opportunities. Capitalizing on those leads us to evolution and that’s what I’m most in search of, for everyone.

~

Some of these ideas are things that some people may not be concerned about. As I said before, I do think everyone is on their own path. But I know there’s some crossover and I think these are things that would be beneficial to most. I’ve got some concrete goals that I want to layout later, but I think these general goals are good avenues to start down.

~

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

 

therapy

the oak doors loom heavy

large gateways to clarity

the therapist will see me now

my turn to lay prone

and stare through the perforated ceiling,

into the light, I begin

a babbling stream of consciousness

the trees providing counsel

when I stop, the wind starts

the leaves rattle but hold on

for every roadblock, a route around

every obstacle, a solution

and when my mind is at ease

and my debt paid

I leave, to experience more

for our next session

~

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

 

An Ode to my Hometown: Happy Again

I’m back from a short break of preparing to leave. It was a great weekend with friends and family, and it was much needed.

To wrap up my series on my hometown, I’m jumping ahead a half-decade. The healing process was so crucial, but it was also slow, plodding, and frankly, not that interesting. It was a lot of painful days, nights, weeks, and even months. Dips back into depression and learning how to cope and pull myself back out of it.

And this is in no way to minimize it. I still go through these spells and struggle with my past. But I handle it differently and know myself better. It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.

Parklands Two Suns

So, I’m jumping to the last few months. In hindsight, I can say that I didn’t smile for nearly a decade. Not truly. It was always a fake smile or a smile drawn out by the pain of another. A mask meant to portray a feeling of wellness when all I felt was unease.

Society, generally, doesn’t handle unease well. We want everyone around us to be ok because it makes us feel ok. We are all more empathic than we realize, and when someone is sad or angry around us, we reflect that. Hide those feelings, because you don’t want to make someone else uncomfortable.

And its all bullshit. The saying growing up was, “Don’t talk to people about sex, money, politics, and religion.” The four taboos. The irony, now that I’m an adult, is that I see people, particularly those older than me, struggle with those topics. We were never taught how to handle talking about them, and now we’re too embarrassed to admit we don’t know enough about them. It’s a vicious cycle.

Regardless, after years of putting on the front, it took my being completely broken again to bounce back to a new level.

Parklands Bridge

About six weeks ago, I had my heart broken for the third time. And this one hurt in particular because, for the first time, I hadn’t felt like I had done something wrong. In the past, even as I was deflecting, I knew I was in the wrong. So, I handled this one differently.

I didn’t eat for two days. I cried, sometimes for overthinking things, sometimes for no reason at all. I couldn’t do anything as part of my regular routine. That was on a Thursday. By Monday, I had to rejoin society. I wasn’t ready, but we rarely are. And all week at work, it was fake smiles. I could barely focus.

Parklands TreeBut then came the weekend. I needed to clear my head, and being in nature has always been the easiest way for me to do that. One of my favorite places to do that is a place just outside the city called The Parklands. Eventually, it will be a 100-mile loop around the city of walking and biking paths. I mostly go there because Jefferson Memorial has always been much farther away.

I started walking. And walking. Poem ideas sprung to mind, I was able to take in some of the amazing views, and my heart rate got going. But no vision, no epiphanies, no final puzzle piece. I walked about four miles, feeling ok, but not having the moment that I so desperately needed. And then, I felt happy. None of the fake feelings I had over years of struggle. I was genuinely happy.

I thought it was because I was in nature. It was the only thing that made sense in that first moment. But the longer I walked, the more I realized that I had been in nature many times. That wasn’t it. It was the awareness that I was going to be ok. An assurance I hadn’t had for a long time.

Since my early twenties, I had always felt on the edge of disaster. Always on the edge of backsliding or blowing up completely. But I don’t feel that anymore. I went through something painful, felt it fully, processed it, and came out of the other side largely within a week. There were additional feelings I had to process after the fact, but if that first week had been the end of my experience with those emotions, I would have been ok. It’s more than I can say for myself at any point in my past.

I’m not sure how much of this revelation and elevation of myself I chalk up to The Parklands themselves. But I know that that was the place where I finally accepted myself. Where I was able to grow my worth beyond other people and where I decided that I deserved a life that I was capable of living.

Parklands Me

Thank you for reading this series. I really enjoyed writing it, and while I feel like this was a new beginning for myself, I also feel like I can finally close the book on this stretch of my life.

An Ode to my Hometown: Healing

If you’re from Louisville and haven’t been to Jefferson Memorial Forest, you’re missing out. It’s just outside the city in Fairdale, and it’s absolutely stunning. There are parts where you can see downtown from the trail, but it’s still far enough out that you can get lost in the natural silence.

JMF Sun

It was also my healing place. Shortly after my rock bottom night, I was searching for something, anything to make sense. I struggled for a bit, but it was actually a podcast that opened my eyes a lot.

My boss at the time was a runner. Specifically, trail running. This was intriguing to me, namely because I hadn’t done any sort of sports since I was in high school. I was out of shape and had heard of all the health benefits, both physically and mentally, of running.

But I’m an over-planner. I needed more information, and podcasts were something that I had gotten into as an excellent way to digest information and keep up with current events. I went to the running section, and it was, to say the least, limited. It was 2011, after all. But one stuck out. The Rich Roll Podcast.

Rich Roll is an ultrarunner. He runs distances longer than a marathon, which at the time was an insane thought. But the running was last on his background that drew me to listen. Rich is a recovering alcoholic. He was overweight, struggling to get upstairs in his own home. He changed his life, including going to a plant-based diet. If Rich could do it, I could do it.

And in a lot of ways, I copied his blueprint. I learned more about plant-based diets and eventually adopted one. I started training, putting in the slow miles and short distances, building myself up. I learned about meditation and delved into that. I wanted to do everything I could to stop a backslide. I also acknowledge that it was my addictive personality manifesting itself in another outlet.

I was getting better. But I still had lessons to learn. I have been, and I would argue, still am to a lesser extent, a control freak. I didn’t like the feeling that I don’t at least have a say in what’s happening with my life. And being that we are literally specks on a giant orb hurtling through space, I suppose I was going to have to learn how to be comfortable in that existence. And that’s what the trail taught me.

By this point, I was running pretty strong. Not in any sort of race shape, but I could get up the hills without stopping. And there are a lot of them at Jefferson. I digress.

JMF Trail

I was nearing the end of a ten-mile run, and I honestly felt great. But my legs were heavy.  I’ve always been bad at picking my feet up, but that quickly changed. I knew the trails pretty well at this point, where all the awkward dips and steps were. But I wasn’t ready for the root that I stubbed the front of my shoe on.

Usually, when I trip, I’m able to catch myself and carry on. But this was a full-on front tumble, face in the dirt spill. I literally had dirt in my mouth. And once it was determined that I was ok, I felt something else, something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt alive.

That momentary loss of control, when I was at my most vulnerable, I was finally able to feel the weight of everything in my life. Every terrible and good thing, flooding into my senses. It’s probably not unlike having your life flash before your eyes.

I was energized. I felt like I could get up and run another ten miles. It’s such a tiny moment in a life to have that sort of impact, but I remember it vividly. I know there were other contributing factors, but the shift I experienced from before and after this moment was so clear and defined. It was the first time that I felt I had repaired some of myself.

I started living my life in search of these moments. I’ve been slowly relinquishing control ever since, empowering the universe to guide me where I am supposed to be, rather than where I want to be.

This upcoming trip will be my big jump. My freefall into the abyss. I have a general idea of where I’m going, but there is no plan. No hard set date on when and where I’m stopping. No ties to anywhere. Just me, the road, and the universe.

JMF Trees

 

An Ode to my Hometown: Rock Bottom

I’ll cut to the chase. This one is rough for me to write. As I wrapped up my last post, I was spiraling out of control. I was deflecting and refusing to look my demons in the face. I was scared. But I was still arrogant.

The drinking had become my escape. I wasn’t an alcoholic in the sense that it is portrayed in movies and television shows. I was drinking 2-3 nights a week, which now seems like a lot. But I was in college, newly 21, and wanted anything to make me feel better.

I ran out of anti-depressants, but the damage had been done. I needed to keep feeding that beast. And at the time, my job was located two blocks from the downtown nightlife scene. Perfect.

I know most of this probably sounds like normal early 20s behavior, but the problem wasn’t the drinking. I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol. But it was that removal of my mind from reality that I became addicted to. If I was conscious, I wanted to be thinking, doing, being anywhere else, but where I was. And to compound the problems, I was hellbent on trying to figure this out alone.

I was drifting between work, the bars, and home, and I got lost in the haze that had become my life. I was staying busy at work, going to the bars and drinking, and then sleeping, none of which involved me thinking about my own issues. And I existed in this bubble for a couple years.

It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom, a drunken night with friends that I decided I needed help. A group of us had gone downtown, my usual spot, and were having a good time. My friends decided they wanted to leave, but I wanted to stay. They left me with someone I had known for a minimal amount of time, and the next thing I knew, I was alone.

No problem, I’ll just go back in and keep drinking. It wasn’t like I had never done it before. But there was an allure. I wanted to meet back up with my friends. And, in a moment of drunken decision making, I tried to drive myself to them.

Now, I was fortunate that night. Not because I made it to the next bar safely, but because I didn’t even make it out of the parking garage. I had started to drive but wasn’t coherent enough to figure out where the exit was. Finally, a security guard stopped me. And to this day, I have no clue how I wasn’t arrested. He took my keys and told me to call my friends.  There’s part of me that wishes I could ask him why that had been his decision. The more substantial piece of me wants to stay as far away from that night as possible.

But my night wasn’t over. I sat against the wall of the parking garage, calling my friends with no answer, drifting in and out of sleep, while getting sick on myself. I was a complete embarrassment. I sat surrounded by those stone walls, thinking about my life to that point, a prisoner in my own mind.

What felt like an entire evening passed before my friend came to pick me up. In reality, it had been a couple hours. And the real twist of it was, I knew I could have called someone else to come to get me, and they would have been there in a heartbeat. Much quicker than what had actually happened. My parents, the woman I was dating at the time, other friends, and family, all could have gotten there ASAP. But I was ashamed. I couldn’t even muster the courage to do the right thing, after doing the wrong thing all night. I was a coward.

I still drank after. Still do. There have been low points and rough days when the willpower hasn’t been there. And nowadays, I can drink without delving into those negative emotions. But I’m careful. I rarely have more than two drinks, because two turns into seven very quickly for me. And I never drink if I’m not in an appropriate mental headspace.

Eventually, I’ll stop drinking altogether. There are social circles, especially in Louisville, where it’s hard to not drink. And I haven’t figured out how to tackle that. I don’t believe this an acceptable excuse, especially given my past, but I’m working on it.

The good news is, this is my rock bottom. Which means from here on out, it’s much happier. There are significant things that happened to pull me out from this stretch in my life, but it took roughly five years to get to where I am. No matter where we come from, we can always be better and do better. But we have to want it for ourselves.