Monday, February 15, 2021

Courageous Patience -Getting to Katahdin


I am not afraid to die. Nothing in this world is lasting, including our bodies.

People often ask me if I’m afraid to hike the Appalachian Trail, as if I’m Dorothy headed into the woods with lions, tigers and bears—oh my! Yes, I understand that there are risks going out into unknown territory, but I am so stuck in my comfort zone right now that I bore myself. My life is starting to feel more cashmere than cowboy boot. After listening to David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me, I looked into my own accountability mirror and realized that what was once his truth is real for me now. What if I “am living in a life so comfortable and soft” that I could “die without ever realizing my true potential”? To me, that would be a true tragedy.

That being said, there is one fear that is starting to creep up in my reality. What if I don’t have the patience to pull this off? I’ve been told that nature’s secret is patience—a gene I apparently did not inherit. I’m so impatient that I get road rage just walking behind slow people at the grocery store.

Being impatient is a recurring problem for me in my life. For example, let’s just say you were to come over unannounced and take a sneak peek in my bedroom. You would find last night’s towel on the floor in my closet, a pile of sweaty gym clothes by the shower and makeup scattered across the bathroom countertop. You would wonder how I could write anything with a desk in such disarray, and the sheets on the bed would be crumpled in a messy ball. I’m pretty sure this trait comes from always rushing from one task to the next, like the Tasmanian Devil whirling through life leaving a trail of dust and disarray.

A couple of months ago, I tried to “Marie Kondo” my closet, but it turns out that the eight pairs of running shoes scattered about on the floor do “spark extreme joy” in my life and ,when I put them away, they always seem to end up back on the living room floor.

I’m a “Where’s my phone? Have you seen my keys? Did I leave my wallet in the car?” kind of girl. The sunglasses I’m looking for are always on the top of my head, and my hair is messy bun chic 90 percent of the time.

My mother tried to teach me to sew, and my daughter tried to teach me to crochet … all to their dismay. Building, puzzles, chess, cutting a straight line, gluing, stacking, sorting… forget it. It’s not going to happen. In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott claims that “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people,” so I’m going to roll with that.

While backpacking does not require perfectionism, it does require an extreme amount of patience. You must be extremely thorough, because everything you need to live your best life for the next six months is strapped to your person. If you leave your raincoat to dry on a tree 20 miles ago, you are really going to be screwed when those rain clouds roll in and the temps drop 30 degrees. Forgot your lighter or matches? There goes your hot dinner you have been looking forward to for the last 10 miles. Dropped your spork? No soup for you!

My sport of running for the past 12 years has been put on your shoes and go, but hiking requires a slow, methodical heaviness, like a sloth sauntering through a river of peanut butter. Will I be able to slog through the famous mud in New Hampshire or endure eight days straight of rain? Will I be able to let the mosquitoes carry me off like a helicopter lift in the heat and humidity of the summer?

Then, there’s my body. I’m almost 50 for Christ’s sake, and I’ve had two surgeries in the past three years. Will I have enough patience to be kind to myself? To notice the symptoms, rest or even stop the hike if I need to? And finally, what if I get stuck hiking with someone who grates my nerves like Bill Bryson did in A Walk in the Woods—droning on about politics or religion, neither of which I have desire to analyze or argue.

Patience means to being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity. To wait. CALMLY. My biggest fear going into this endeavor is that my inability to slow the fuck down, be careful and deliberate, and to get my shit together in an organized fashion so I can do what I need to do.

I did not inherit the patience gene, but fortunately for me science shows that patience can be learned. According to a 2007 study by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, with two weeks of “patience training,” subjects were able to decrease depression and negative emotions, and increase mindfulness, gratefulness and an overall satisfaction with life. The patience training included:

1. Identifying feelings and their triggers

2. Regulating emotions

3. Empathizing with others

4. Meditating—or making yourself wait.

This is what patience training looks like for me:

1. (Identifying feelings and triggers) “Where the hell are my sunglasses? I’m always losing them. I’m such a fuck-up that I don’t even deserve to have a pair of expensive sunglasses.”

2. (Regulating emotions:) “Dude. It’s OK. You’ll find them. You always do. When did you see them last? Oh! You were about to get in your car. Silly me! They are on top of my head!”

3. (Empathize with others) “What? You can’t find your sunglasses? I do that all the time! Usually they are just on the top of my head!"

4. (Meditate—or make yourself wait:) “Slow down, take a breath, remember this is not a big deal. Carry on.”

There are also other ways I am practicing patience in my life to prepare for the trail.

1. At my coach Carly Moree’s suggestion, I put all of my trail equipment in one bucket so it is easily accessible. Brilliant! I’m also trying to put stuff away, to make my bed more often and to find routines that help me to be more organized.

2. I’ve been working at a running shoe store. I work four hours three times a week finding THE PERFECT shoe for my customers. This requires going back and forth between the showroom and stockroom, even going upstairs several times a day. I tie and untie shoelaces approximately 12-15 times an hour, and listen with genuine interest to peoples’ stories about marathons and bunions. When they ask me if I have the shoe in a different color, I don’t try to shake the sense into them—I show them how to order them online.

3. I carry my backpack every time I get a chance, even in snow and 12-degree weather. My neighbors think I’m crazy, but my dogs love it.

4. I meditate. I notice. I take the pause and remember all of the times I have come through both emotional and physical suffering. I remember my strong.

5. I plan, as much as I can … understanding that much of this will be out of my control.

Goggins would tell me to start realizing that dreams “will take courage you don’t realize, so you don’t die a fucking pussy.” Courageous patience will be my mantra all the way to Mount Katahdin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Lessons, Laughter and Ladybugs on the Appalachian Trail

Hi, I'm Jennifer, and my purpose for going on this trip is to feel empowered to go out camping on my own by the end of the weekend.”

This was what came out of my mouth when our guide Jenn asked us what we would like to receive from our three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, and it was the truth; but what I really meant was “Hi, I’m Jennifer and I want to hike this whole trail some day—all 2,190 miles of it from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Katahdin, Maine; and I want to see if I really have it in me.”

Five of us, all women, circled up to explain why we wanted to spend three days living out of the packs on our backs. I, a strong grandma, an activist mom and a business woman from Long Island all came with a similar want — to feel confident and strong, and to get away from the “stuff” happening in the world today. What we didn’t know at the time is that we would come back three days later with different names, and new perspective on life.

Before the trip, we were sent a suggested list of what to bring, and on arrival at the “Trail-er,” we were each given a loaner backpack, tent, and sleeping pad, as well as snacks and food for the weekend. Now the “paring down” begins. Paring down is tricky. You lay out all of the stuff that you think you will need for the weekend on the floor in front of you, and your guide gives you gentle “suggestions” on what to keep, and what should stay back. She reminds you that you will probably be wearing the same clothes for more than one day. You think this is gross, but you trust her because she looks strong and knowing, and she currently smells pretty good. I chose to leave behind an extra sports bra, long-sleeve shirt, pair of leggings and shorts—and honestly the only thing that I really missed this particular weekend was the shorts. Deodorant was considered a non-essential, but I brought that anyway.

We learn to pack in a scientific and orderly manner, and to my bewilderment I am able to fit everything in my pack. You start by lining your pack with a garbage bag in an attempt to keep wet stuff wet and dry stuff dry. Next, you stuff your sleeping bag into a pill-shaped sack, magically making it about the size of a medium bag of chips, which you then place in the bottom of your pack. Then you shove your tent in, filling all of the empty spaces. You place your gallon baggie with all of your clothes for the weekend, and your sandwich bag of toiletries in next. Finally, you top it off with your food bag and your toilet paper, trowel and hand sanitizer. They go last, because they are the most important. Other various things will be in the pockets of your pack, like your tent stakes, sleeping bag cover, etc., but you get the main idea of the art of packing a backpack. We split up the other essentials that we will share and cinch everything up. Strapping our sleeping pads to the back of the pack, “Voila!” There you have it! Twenty-seven pounds’ worth of everything that we will need to spend three days in the woods. (Quick side note: our guide also carried the first aid kit, a knife and the propane for the stove, among other things. She was a badass packrat.) “Are we ready?” We all nervously decide that we are. Because I am in a lovely pre-menopausal phase where I never know when I’m going to get my period, I run back in and grab four tampons. This would later prove to be a wise, but inadequate decision. And our hike begins …

Starting in the parking lot just below Max Patch in North Carolina, Jenn teaches us to haul our bags safely to our back, which buckles to click and what tabs to pull. As we take a starting line picture, I notice that a ladybug has landed on my wrist. “A ladybug for good luck” I say to myself, and we are off.

 Hiking is way different than trail running. It will take me a whole day’s worth of hiking to feel comfortable with this beast on my back; to finagle it so that it fits my body without digging into my hips and shoulders, and to settle into the slow and steady pace of endurance. But I am doing it. Once again I tread the sacred ground of the AT, marveling at the 360 view of patchworked trees of the fall mountains. As we officially enter the trail, the crunch of slippery leaves makes it evident that we will face challenges today, but I am giddy with excitement and, after wearing a mask all day for six months, a bit intoxicated by the fresh air. Except for the fact that my 10-year-old capris running tights keep slipping down to my butt leaving the pack to chafe my lower back, hiking the 6.7 miles to the Walnut Mountain Shelter is a success for all. The warm, golden hour sun sets on the horizon as we settle in to camp, each staking our claim of space for the night. Jenn patiently helps each of us to wrangle our tents into some shape of balloon animal, then, turning on our headlamps, we all start to gather sticks and branches to build a fire. I watch Jenn gather leaves and small branches to get the fire started, and she teaches us how to tent the sticks. My headlamp sucks. I have three headlamps at home and I chose to bring the one that barely spits out light, but I volunteer to help Jenn go get water, because my desire to learn EVERYTHING camping is so strong. I’m surprised to see that the water source is a very small, slow flowing puddle. We used a cup to try to get the most amount of water and least amount of sediment into the cup so as not to clog the filter too quickly, and then poured that water into a bladder to be filtered. It was a very slow process. “You have to be patient and gentle when getting water,” Jenn told me. What she was actually telling me was “you have to be patient and gentle if you want to live with nature.” That became my theme for the weekend. I was impressed that we were able to take creek water and make it delicious—and disappointed that as many times as I have been out running or hiking in the woods that I have not utilized this process. To run trail races you have to be patient for sure … but waiting for your water to slowly drip into your Nalgene bottle was never something I experienced while trail running. We came back from our water trip to a smothered and dead fire. Again, Jenn patiently and gently taught us that a fire needs air to burn, and how to make a wind tunnel to get it going again. Childhood memories of burning palm fronds in Florida began to flood my brain. “I remember how to do this!” I thought to myself, and decided that my job for that evening would be fire keeper. Keeping a campfire burning is pretty much like keeping your relationship hot. It takes consistent effort and hard work. It takes patience and gentleness. But man … is it warm and cozy.

We were all pretty much starving at this point as we read that our dehydrated food choice would take 20 minutes to “cook” in boiling water. While waiting for my “chili” to cook, I scarfed down about six Trader Joe’s super sweet mini peppers. I was surprised they tasted so delicious. When our dehydrated bean chili magically became a dinner, we silently scarfed it down like hungry wolves, and I let the fire die down as we all headed back to our tents.

From experience, I knew that nature would present its lessons during the course of the weekend and, crawling into my coffin-like tent, mine were about to begin. Did I mention that my headlamp sucked? I could barely see to try to organize my stuff, but changing my clothes I notice that I have indeed started my period. Thank God I brought tampons. Deciding that it’s a bit chilly and I need to start piling on some of the clothes I brought, I slide into my sleeping bag and instantly feel nauseous. Damn those peppers. Noticing I have a cell signal, I try to text Greg.

“Hey- are you there?” I ask

“Hi!” he responds. I feel a bit relieved. “How was your first day?” he asks.

“Awesome- except I really feel like I’m about to puke.”

“LOL” he responds as I manically unzip every zipper I have just methodically zipped, and run behind the nearest tree to throw up my dinner. Sometimes nature teaches you what you need to know. Scarfing down food = bad. I send one final text to Greg.

“I just threw up- but I feel better now. I think I better just go to sleep.

“Good idea” he concludes. “Goodnight. I love you.”

 I do actually feel better—so I settle into my sleeping bag. The goddamn zipper is stuck and I go into full-on panic mode. For Christ’s sake, how am I ever going to hike this whole entire trail if I can’t get the zipper up on my sleeping bag? What was I thinking that I could even be a person who camps out overnight? My immediate thought is to ask someone for help, but then I remember “patience and gentleness.” I slow down, realize that the fucking sleeping back is inside out, zip myself up like a mummy, and fall asleep on the hard, cold ground. I asked for empowerment, and sometimes that means figuring it out by yourself.



I awake on Day Two to a magnificent sunrise filtering through the trees. The nausea is gone and it’s a new day. I am able to eat grits, and the instant coffee tastes as good as it was made from any expresso machine. Life is good again, and as we confidently pack our bags to set out for Day Two, I notice a ladybug on my backpack again. Now, according to the website World Birds of Nature, the ladybug is a symbol of happiness and positivity. “Most importantly, you accept her as a powerful ally making important changes in your life and you know that transformations are on the way. Now is the time of fruition for your dreams and wishes.” After six months of COVID, feeling lost and several crazy-ass health issues, I could use some trail magic. I hope that the ladybug means I will find some today. We leave Walnut Mountain shelter with the plan to hike 6.5 miles to Garenflo Gap. We start together, and see our first thru hiker heading south. With about 200 miles left in her journey, she is “almost there!” She looks strong, but seems a bit sad that her journey will be coming to an end. We head on to a steep downhill where Grandma slips on the fallen leaves joking that she has “fallen and she can’t get up.” We deem her with a new trail name, EMA- which stands for Emergency Medical Alert! Business gal and I opt to hike up to Bluff Mountain at a pace that is a bit faster than the rest of the group, resting halfway in a green patch of grass. A continued climb takes us to the top of the mountain, where we snack on cheese, salami and olives, and find out that Joe Biden has just been named President-Elect as the 46th president of the United States of America. Activist mom is in tears, as we find out that in the past six months, her father died of COVID in an Atlanta nursing home, and she and her daughter have spent their time going to poor neighborhoods encouraging people to vote. We are happy, and the meandering downhill is easy. The introvert in me decides I need some time alone, and I pick up the pace a bit, but then gently and patiently I decide to wait for the rest of the group as Jenn chooses a campsite so we can set up for the evening before it gets dark. I proudly put up my own tent and my equipment is much more organized than the scattered mess the night before. We eat another magic meal from a bag, this time a kale-and-bean mix for me, while Activist Mom seduces us with stories of homemade hot chocolate and the pastries that she bakes at home. Her new trail name becomes Little Debbie. Closing up shop pretty early, we head for our tents. I can text, but have no cell signal, so even though it’s only 8 p.m., I roll over to go to sleep.

 At 1 a.m. I realize that I am bleeding all over myself. I’m down to one tampon, and I have no choice but to use it. I’m so filled with worry about what I am going to do that I can’t sleep. Patience and gentleness, I think. What do I have on me that I can use? I use the last tampon, shove a Buff into my underwear and pray that my youngest daughter is still awake talking to her friends on Snapchat since its only midnight Central Time.

 “Hey- are you still awake?” I text.

“Yep- just about to go to sleep” she replies.

“I need you to google something for me,” I plead. “Google- what do you do if you are in the woods and you don’t have any feminine hygiene products.”

“Like tampons?” she asks. “Yes, like tampons.”

After a few minutes, I hear back from her. “It says to take a sock and wrap it in toilet paper.” Oh thank God. I have an extra sock, and I have toilet paper. “Ok. I can do that,” I tell her.

“Ok…..good luck. Have a good night mom.”

“You too sweetie….go to sleep.”

Even though my right hip is lying on a bumpy root, I think about all of my friends who would give anything to be in the position I’m in right now, and fall asleep.

Day Three

On Day Three, I stay inside my tent to pack up my baggies of supplies, and to survey the damage, then head into the woods with my brand new Injinji sock, trowel and roll of toilet paper. I roll up the sock and wrap in a few layers of toilet paper using it like a maxi pad. I have no idea how I’m going to keep up with this for the day, and my waste bag (which I have to pack out) is beginning to look like evidence from a crime scene. “Everything is figureoutable “I say to myself, and go to join the others for breakfast. Over peanut butter tortillas and coffee, we laugh as Little Debbie shares her encounter with animal eyes as she was squatting to pee last night, and I share that my crotch is toasty warm from the sock. There are no boundaries in our conversation anymore. We have become a team.

I send the team a quick reminder that it is 8:20 a.m. and we said we would leave by 8 a.m. to get back to Hot Springs. “Are you ready to be home? EMA asks.

 “No. That’s not it at all” I say. “I just really need to get to a tampon.”


The final 6.6 miles back to Hot Springs starts with a climb. Business Gal has what it takes when it comes to climbing–and as she leaves us in her dust, we deem her The Energizer Bunny. EMA, Little Debbie and Jenn (who now shares that her trail name is One Day) and I cruise for three hours. Jenn has been picking up things that she finds on the trail during our whole weekend, not limited to a romance novel that claimed “you won’t be able to put it down” so she didn’t, a machete, and a bag of jerky someone left behind. As she bends down to pick up yet another piece of trail trash, we joke that she has everything in that pack of hers. “I bet she even has a needle and thread!” Little Debbie joked.

“Yeah … everything but a tampon I say.” Jenn’s eyes get wide.

“Oh my gosh Jennifer! I bet I have some in my first aid kit. As a matter of fact I know I do.” She opens her first aid kit to find five tampons and three pads of various thickness and saves my day. I clean up, add the sock to my bag that I’m using to hide the evidence, and we carry on, passing two more thru hikers before our last rest for lunch. Energizer Bunny climbs out of a creek with two bags of water and we are set for our last supper.

Jenn (One Day) wins the food award for the weekend. Everything we have had to eat has been fresh, and delicious. We’ve munched on various cheeses, cold cuts, olives, fruits and vegetables, as well as hot breakfasts and lunches —nothing like what we thought our trail choices would be for the weekend. We celebrate our final meal with a toast, and with full bellies we head out for the final three-mile stretch.


Seeing the town of Hot Springs in the distance, a familiar wave of excitement mixed with a touch of depression rolls through me. I’m always a little sad to get off of the trails and back to civilization, but I can imagine how uplifting it must be for a thru hiker to have the possibility to eat a cheeseburger and sleep in a bed.

I was pretty excited for that cheeseburger myself, but oh my God was I ever ready for a shower! I’m pretty sure I have never been this rank, not even after my ultra-races. As I approach the Hot Springs trail head, I am honored to see etched in stone that this part of the trail is maintained by the Carolina Mountain club, and there my ladybug is, waiting for me on the rock.


Jenn nicknamed me PG, for the patience and guidance that nature taught me that weekend was so much more than could be taught by any guide. It’s cool to accept the name given to you by others, but you are also allowed to make up your own.

My trail name is Ladybug.

Here I am, making changes in my life. I believe and trust that nature will teach me all I need to make my dreams and wishes come true.

It’s time to start planning 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Forty nine

Feels like timidly dipping your  manicured toenails into the pool of acceptance, not quite ready to dive into the embracement of change. 

Just as you start to count your gray hairs and wrinkles, ads for the latest cream or injection show up on your Facebook feed and you wonder hmm.... is that my miracle?

It tastes like medicine and vitamins that promise to fix you; and sweet red wine that helps you forget what hurts in the first place. 

Forty nine smells like sweat.  Is it coming from your hot flash, or perhaps in an attempt to keep working out like a banshee to prove you are still strong after the surgery?  Either way- you’re not hot in a good way anymore.

It sounds like denial- as you order the sexy lingerie pretending that your libido did not slip out like a thief in the night, and  tell yourself that he still thinks your “sparkling personality” is sexy. 

49 is a grieving goodbye to the  “ultra, controlling me” and a bashful hello to "go with the flow."  

There is no choice.  It is what it is…..and the river flows on. 


Thursday, October 22, 2020

My Third Eye Needed a Contact Lens

It happened one fateful night about 5 years ago.  I was driving to a work event on a dark and stormy evening, my hands a vice on the steering wheel as I squinted to see the road ahead of me.  I was overcome with deep sense of fear and knowing.  Dammit! It was time to make an appointment with the eye doctor. 

Now I have a pair of glasses, and contacts as well.  You would think that I would actually wear them since I spent a small fortune to get the ones I thought made me look cool, but the reality is that I can see things up close really clearly. It's further away objects like signs and screens that are pretty fuzzy, and its such a pain in the ass taking the glasses on and off, or wearing them when I'm active.  

The contacts were pretty much a complete bust. Once I finally figured out how to put them in without poking myself in the eyeball, I couldn't see things close up at all.  My doctor suggested that wearing one contact in my right eye should do the trick- and to try that. I tried it, but I couldn't see my phone (to read Facebook posts), so my contacts have pretty much been in the cabinet under the bathroom sink for the last three years. I throw my glasses on every once in a while when I need to see a presentation at work, or want to watch a movie, but that has been about it.  

One day last week, while peering in the mirror and contemplating Botox, I heard a voice whisper.  "Try putting the contact in your left eye you dummy." 
My first thought was "but that's not what the doctor said to do!" 
Fortunately, my second thought was "What the hell, it couldn't hurt." 
So I spent a good 20 min trying to make it stick to eyeball on the left, BUT WHEN I FINALLY GOT IT IN IT WORKED!  I could see far away AND up close! I did a John Travolta- 70's style happy dance that should never be spoken of again, but wow!  I could see! It was an Oprah "aha" moment. Apparently my THIRD eye was showing me how set in my ways I had become; coaxing me to see things a little differently for a change. " Is it possible that you are looking at it from the wrong angle?" it asked.

According to the website, "The 3rd eye chakra is the sixth chakra.  Located on the forehead, it is the center of intuition and foresight.  The function of the 3rd eye chakra is driven by the principle of openness and imagination.  It is the chakra of seers, motivation, intuition and creativity.  Imbalance in this chakra causes feelings of being stuck, not being able to realize a vision for oneself, not being able to see the bigger picture, and lack of clarity."  

It turns out that I've been needing two contact lenses after all- one for my left eye, and the other for my third eye.  Feeling stuck and doing the same old boring thing because it felt safe, I was lacking a sense of purpose.  With faulty vision, I tried a few things that up close seemed to be the clear choice; but life was still blurry, and not what I envisioned.
That's when I hired Donna to be my wellness coach.

Donna Thomas has a very clear 6th sense and her third eye chakra is wide open.  She reminded me to put a lens back on that third eye, and to look inward and observe my soul.  At her advice, I began meditating again, where I imagined myself not only getting back outdoors, but also helping others to find the healing power of nature that I so strongly believe in. I also saw that it was time to create- take my brain off of the shelf, dust it off and open it up!  And as I look to my future with 20/20 vision, I know it's time to start writing again.  

I'm getting older, but not to stubborn to admit that my eyes need a little help to see.  Thank you Donna for being my gentle guide on this path of self realization and discovery.  Is it time for you to go see the eye doctor too? 



Monday, October 19, 2020

Get out Girl! - On Sisterhood and the Magic of Water

 "Women who support women are confident, generous, visionaries." - Mariela Dabba

From the very moment that I climbed up on my paddleboard taking in the lush, rolling greenery of the hills above and the sparkling reflection of the clear water below, I knew that I was in for a day of natural healing.  Instead of getting out on the lake alone like I usually do, I would be be joining a tribe of strong, beautiful women. What I didn't know however, is that by the end of the weekend, nature's medicine would restore my faith in sisterhood.  

A group of us from DFW surfs women's group went down to Austin last weekend to participate in the 7th year of the Get out Girls PaddleJam;  benefiting Operation Get Out! ,and in honor of two first responders Kristin McLain and Jessica Hollis. According to the Get out Girl website: 

“Kristin Travis was a County Star Flight rescue nurse, and part of starting the first Get Out Girl Paddle Jam in 2014.  Shw was a true Get out Girl who spent most of her off time paddling, wake surfing, skiing and boating on Lake Austin to reset and reconnect after tough shifts as a flight nurse. Jessica Hollis, Travis County Senior Deputy utilized our local lakes similarly, spending family time on them for fun, but also personally benefiting from the calming effects of what being on the water does for your mind and emotions.  Both of these inspiring women shared a commind mind and heart of “blue” that is now being passed forward to touch the lives of other first responders on the water.” 

We will travel 5 miles down the Colorado River, not only to honor these women, but to honor the strong in all women who thrive in the outdoors, and are brave enough to try something new.   Before we start this two hour journey, Cindy- the “Get Out Girl” herself, asks us to close our eyes and to set an intention for what we would like to receive along the way.  I shut one eye in distrust.  What if I float away from everyone else and embarrass myself?  What if this paddleboard has a mind of its own?  You know any time you ask your mind to quiet itself, the smack talk begins….but I do close my eyes, and with a gentle wind blowing on my face I ask for inspiration and joy.

The event itself is relaxing and well organized.  Every mile smiling volunteers are waiting for you with coffee, water or snacks; and tacos, beer and mimosas are waiting for you at the finish.  For me, the event in itself was enough reward.  Everyone was encouraging, funny and easy to talk to.  They are also extremely strong and confident (which I find to be magically appealing) and most importantly- FUN!

Admittedly, it has always been hard for me to be real with other women.  Sure, there are AMAZING women who I have worked with, or who I am friends with, but the truth is that I have always had some feeling of distrust.  I’ve always kept one eye open just in case.  In my brain I’ve used the excuse that I “just don’t like to deal with the drama,” but in my words I taste the bitterness of judgement and jealousy, and a rancid fear of rejection. 

As our group sips on mimosas with our feet dangling in the chilly water to celebrate the end of our 5 mile journey, we hear a sobering sign of distress.  One of the members of our tribe is barely hanging on the side of the pontoon boat at the finish line yelling “Help me!”  Her paddleboard has somehow popped up and under the boat with her foot still attached to the leash.  She is hanging on, but the current is pulling her under.  In an instant, our group leader Tina and another woman (who we later would find out to be a firefighter) jump off of their paddleboards and go into action.  A strong man from the boat holds her arms while Tina swims under the boat, setting her foot free from the leash so she could be pulled up on to the boat.  We all realized that this was truly a dangerous moment….but I SAW what this event was all about....women, those first responders who live their lives to help others KNOWING in turn that they are risking their own lives.  I saw in that moment that we are here to lift each other up, to balance each other out, to remind each other how capable we are, and to encourage each other to live their best lives.  This group would not reject me, they would jump right in and save me if needed. 

We end the weekend eating tacos and watching the sunset over the cliffs at the Oasis restaurant.  Circling up and telling stories, we laugh, celebrate and applaud each other.  Tina leans over and asks me, “why is it that we are all so different , yet get along so well?”  I tell her that I think it’s because we all get it.  We know that nature is the medicine that makes us happier, heather and more connected.  We are brave and strong enough to be a “get out girl”!

I recently wrote for a wellness class that I am taking that “My mission is to use my knowledge, experience and passion through writing and travel, to inspire women to get outside and play so they can be mentally and physically healthy, and have a strong sense of well being.”

I get it now.  How can I inspire other women if deep down I don’t trust them?  I purposefully came to this retreat to try to figure that out- and in my intention to find inspiration and joy, I was welcomed to a tribe of bad ass women.


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Running with Tessa

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles Schultz

My husband says that she is me in a lanky dog's body.  Our new puppy Tessa has boundless energy, no fear, and an adventurous spirit. A mixed breed, she is longer than she is tall, with melting brown eyes that convince you to fork over your last piece of steak, or to rub her squishy belly.  On the flip side though, she is also a garden digger, a shoe connoisseur, and has been known to devour a paperback book in less than 10 minutes. We let our guard down, and now have three guard dogs for God's sake.  What were we thinking? 

But for as much as she is me when I'm healthy.....lately a series of health issues have left me a fluttering bird, physically weak and mentally fragile.  I pacify her with silly catch games and short walks, and she continues to tear up my meditation garden and chew the corner of my new rug.  God dammit she's a puppy and she wants more!  Finally,  one day I wake up and realize that I do too.  

Even though I am still not getting a full nights sleep due to my "periodic limb disorder" (i.e the feeling that someone is poking you with a cattle prod all night long), I realize that the ONLY way I can get going again is to actually get going again; so with my physical therapists permission to run I latch Tessa's leash to her carefully chosen rainbow-unicorn collar, and out into the forgiving fall air we go.  

Now, I've seen this dog run off leash.  She is cheetah fast with the endurance of a horse.  I am just getting back to running after bunion surgery.  I am banana slug fast and feel like a grizzly bear coming out of hibernation.  I have taught her to sit and stay, so when I open the door so she does not run out of our front door like a prison break.  We walk calmly out to the front sidewalk, and I rub her sweet head as if to say "Today is special.  Today is our first run together."  

I start to jog and she instinctively pulls excitedly.  I tug her back as we have been working on. "No sister. I'm not that fast. Yet."  She slides in beside me knowingly.....proud to be my new running coach.  When I stop for a walk break she rolls her eyes at me and takes up a trot, and my body starts to remember that I can run.  That I am a runner.  

We finish 2.5 miles at a twelve minute pace. I try not to compare that to the runs of my past and declare that a win.  And you know what?  Tessa doesn't give a shit how far or fast we ran.  She's just damn happy to finally have a running buddy.  I hug her in gratitude, for she will want to run again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that....and I know in my heart that there is a chance that  I too will once again become that girl with the boundless energy and adventurous spirit.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Whether you THRIVE or just survive- the choice is yours

"Woe is me is not an attractive narrative." 
Maureen Dowd

I've had some WTF moments in my life,but none quite as bizarre as the day I received an email saying they were shutting down the workplace, because people in America were no longer allowed to gather together.  It's been three weeks since that day, and I have since danced with all stages of grief. could this be happening?
Denial....just a few weeks and everything will be back to normal. know I can't sit still, and why the hell is it raining every damn day?
Bargaining....well, I guess I'll apply for unemployment benefits.
Depression....I miss my job, and my friends. What the hell do I do now?
And finally can I regain any sense of passion in my life.
Friends, I KNOW we can get through this, but I've discovered that it's going to take a real sense of remembering our purpose.  It's going to require drive.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink tells the story of Harry F. Harlow, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin who in 1949 set up an experiment on learning with monkeys.  Using puzzles, he was able to discover that the monkeys not only had a biological drive, but they also had an intrinsic drive.  "The joy of the task was its own reward."   The joy of the task takes us beyond our needs for human survival.  The joy of the task is what helps us to THRIVE!

So, how do we find purpose in times like these?
In his article "How to Find your Purpose In Life" Jeremy Smith suggests 6 simple ways to get back on track.
1.  Read  It's easy to get lost binge watching tv or browsing social media.  Sit in the sun, escape with a novel or learn something new!
2.  Cultivate Gratitude and Altruism  Catapult your default position of griping and negativity by focusing on the positive.  If I were to force you to admit it, I bet you do have very much to be grateful for.  Let that energy to inspire you to do something nice for someone else. 
3.  Listen to what other people appreciate about you.  Maybe you're like my friend Abrea who can make a killer playlist.  My friend Daina led a "Raise your Vibe" ride last week to help to get us out of our funk.  Maybe you made a mean pot roast last night.  Whatever people say that you do well- do more of that!
4.  Find and build community- your people are still there.  Send the text or make that phone call.
5.  Tell your story.   I love, love, love people like the Holderness Family who make funny videos on how they are surviving at home.  Their willingness to be vulnerable is a gift that brings us all together.  In our story, we find our truth.

Today, I am not doing the depression tango.  I'm sure we will dance another day.... but MY purpose has always been to inspire.....and so I set to seek real solutions.
We can get through this, but we must refocus on what really drives us.  Choose love over fear
Choose to THRIVE.