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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Aim for Growth, Not for Perfection

“Aim for growth, not for perfection”

Recently, a friends Mom passed away. It became a full circle moment for me. I saw my Father’s funeral a few years ago through another set of eyes. I was able to place my Dad’s funeral in a more circumspect manner. I remember being upset -- how could everyone else function almost so normally? Yes, they were upset, but my life was being turned upside down. I didn’t know how to live. 

But now, seeing a close friend go through the loss of a parent and able to differentiate but also relate to my own experiences, I see how everyone did. Others are not consumed by the grief as much as those directly affected it. I saw myself in this role, I guess you could call it grieving from a distance for lack of a better word. It still changes your life, but when it is your parent, it can change every aspect of who you are and how you identify yourself.

I saw myself in the grieving from a distance role. I understood why others acted the way they did around the time of my Dad’s death. Not they acted badly; they didn’t. It was just a catastrophic change to my life when my Dad died, and less of a change in theirs.
I reference quotes quite a bit..I reference them to guide me, and to help me through this journey called life. Even the title of this post is part of one, one that came from a random discussion with a friend.  It was one of those that came up in conversation, and I wrote down to hold on to, without really knowing why. As I wrote this post, now a few weeks later, I now know why I held onto it. It was waiting for the need for this post to enter my head.

Another favorite quote of mine is the advice Jor-El gives to his son in the original Superman movie, as he protects him and  sends him off from Krypton.  Part of which reads:
You will make my strength your own,
And see my life through your eyes,
As your life will be seen through mine.
The son becomes the Father,
And the Father, the Son.

I was asked, and then agreed, to give a eulogy for my friend’s Mom. Initially, I hesitated but I thought on it, slept on it and then agreed. Like with my Dad, it was the last way for me to say what I wanted to. I had a chance to express my feelings and show my love. You could also make an argument I was partially in denial and agreeing to speak was forcing me to face the fact I was going to lose someone close to me. I felt this was a full circle moment for me…I felt my Dad’s strength supporting me, as I was supporting someone else. It is one of many ways the Superman quote above has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I practiced my Dad’s eulogy 4 or 5 times before I ever gave it. I was scared I was going to lose it and I figured if I practiced enough, I would get numb to my words and be able to make it through. I never made it through during the practice readings without sobbing. When I finally gave the eulogy, I somehow made it through. It may have been my Father’s strength starting to become my own.

This time though, I wrote the eulogy, I practiced it once and then I pretty much left it alone until the morning of the funeral service when I changed and added a few things.
Although I still have a smaller fear of public speaking since my Dad died, it still exists, but yet I had no fear again at giving this eulogy. I was honored. Throughout the service, throughout the couple of days we spent with my friend and his brother, I felt nothing but strength. I felt this need to be strong, It came naturally. I’ve been there before, but I am also an Empath. You take care of the ones you love, and you worry about yourself later.

There was an episode of Grey’s Anatomy a few years ago (another quote) with this one from Meredith Grey:
Will you be strong or fall apart?  Its hard to predict.  So, don’t worry about it. Enjoy the time you have before the news comes.  Yeah, ignorance is bliss (Meredith Grey, Ellen Pompeo, on “Grey’s Anatomy”)

I stayed strong as long as I had to. I took care of everyone else. 

By the time we got on the plane back home, I began to feel exhausted and attributed it to a long day, including the funeral. I thought I was just over tired.
The following morning, I slept in (a whopping 7 hours of sleep), we went out for breakfast and had talked about going to a movie or spending the afternoon out. I just couldn’t. Now that I didn’t have to be strong, I began processing everything from the past few days and the emotions began to surface that I kept at bay. I stayed strong the entire time we were there so that we could support my friend and his brother.  I was mentally and emotionally spent and tired. Instead of our original plans, we went back home, I took care of myself and I crashed for another 2 hours.

Even so, this is still growth. 

To a point, I fell down, but I did not fall apart.

This is all part of my journey.

I aim for growth, not for perfection.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Its About the Journey, Not the Destination

Must be a benefit to getting older and appreciating more "little" things.

Instead of battling the flights as a standby this holiday weekend, and since we were travelling on two of the busiest travel days of the year - the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Black Sunday after...we drove to our Thanksgiving plans this year.

While it also gave us the opportunity to stop and pick up an Apple Annie's Apple Pie on our way, it also made for a relaxing travel experience. I did not have to, nor did I, spend our time checking flights, wondering if we would make it, coming up with more back up plans in case anything unexpected happened..It was so nice not to worry, and just spend the time enjoying our time with in the "today".

Our drive to El Paso was uneventful, and we made good time.

Two years ago, we made the same drive, just a few months after my Dad had died.
Although I wanted to get away from home, and be with family, it was one of the toughest drives I have ever done. I expected to be emotional, but I cried almost the entire 6.5-7 hr drive. I was caught off guard by how every little thing along the way was a trigger for me - the places we stopped at for coffee or a snack every few hours, seeing the trains or the views of the mountains. 

This time, however, it is now 2 years later. It is not the first time we have made this drive since then, but it is the first Thanksgiving since that first year. Time has passed. I was able to enjoy the and cherish the drive, and what the drive allowed me to see. With my Mom asleep, I had some time to myself.  I was able to process this weekend, and life in general. I thought. I got in my head, which is sometimes dangerous for me. LOL.

A few years ago, when we drove the Road to Hana in Maui,during my research,  I kept seeing "it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey."

This weekend, and yesterday in particular, was very similar. I mentally broke up the drive into smaller, more manageable pieces. El Paso to Las Cruces, 1 hour. Las Cruces to Deming, 1 hr. Deming to Lordsburg, 1.5 Hours, and so on. By breaking it up and treating the pieces separately, it didn’t seem as long. Think of the small pieces that make up the pie, not the whole pie. It add me wonder even though I hear and read this often, I don’t implement it more. My anxiety says "everything must be dealt with and fixed right now" before anything else goes wrong.

Breaking up the pieces seems to be the way to do it. I felt like I accomplished more, even though it’s still the same amount of miles. It’s akin to doing something not on your list, but then adding it to your list do you can cross it off, something I am guilty of as well. 

Anyhow, back to the drive.
One of the ways I taunted my Father about his driving was to make fun of his "fakakta" (Yiddish for crazy) driving shortcuts. He was infamous for finding shortcuts that didn’t exist to highways that didn’t intersect (that’s another post LOL)
Driving back home from visiting family, the highway was shut down about an hour ahead of where we were. Since Indiana Jones (Dad) wasn’t in the car with us to whip out his maps from AAA, I used Waze in its Cookie Monster voice, to direct me through my own fakakta route. I am certain he was smirking at me and giving me an "I told you so" loud and clear from Heaven.

I was calm and relaxed even though I was driving on a route I had never been, through towns and roads I have never seen in the 19 years I've been in Arizona. There was not much traffic which makes it easier. Sometimes, you just have to go off the plan and let things roll how they do. Sometimes, I even surprise myself. Without Indiana Jones and his maps, I had Cookie Monster and his Waze to keep me occupied and giggling at his commentary. Like "Accident ahead. C is for Caution! and Cookies!"

When we got home, the power had gone out during our time away and I needed to reboot our cable modem. When I flipped it over to reach the power plug, a dime dropped from somewhere. Hi Dad ❤️

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Stepping it Up: The Power of Competition

I have always performed better with some goal hanging in front of me to to work towards..Generally, a race or 5K. I need something to work for to keep me motivated.
Wasn't it Wile E. Coyote that used to dangle the carrot on a stick in front of the Roadrunner?  That's me.

At work, I am in a 5 week step challenge. 
The way it works is, you are on a 5 person team, and you are matched each week against another 5 person team, and the goal is to get more steps than the other team and win the challenge.

My team is composed of 4 of my work friends, and as things progressed, we found our managers had also created a team. We are "slightly" competitive, and I hoped we would get matched against them so that we could kick their butts!

We even joked with them during the 1st week, before we were even matched up.

We won our first week by a landslide and demolished the other team.
The managers also won their first week.

We are now in Week 2, so on Tuesday mornings your new match up is announced.
I am generally one of the first in at work, so I signed in to look.
We were matched against the management team! Holy Crap!
We are the Navy Broncos and they are the Teal Unicorns.

Immediately, I started a group text with the 5 of us to tell the others.
Because great competitive minds think alike, the leader of the Management team did something similar with their team.

"Let's kill them"
And so the trash talking began.
It was like the Giants playing the Cowboys in my family. 
A family divided.
A workplace divided.
The trash talking wasn't limited to just via group text messages, 
We trash talk in person at work too.
It made the week a lot of competitive fun.

There is definitely a power to competition among your own teammates and your opponents. We want to kill those unicorns. Even from before we were matched up, we went in for the kill and they knew it. There is even competition among our own team as two of us keep vying for the top spot (number of steps and keep switching places).

I was called out for competing with someone on my own team, only to have this person text me and ask how many steps I had one day so she could outstep me. 
Whaaaaaat?! I'm not the only competitive one apparently..LOL

Win at all costs. Go in for the kill when the opposing team is part of your own work team. 

A little friendly competition...
--threatening to trip people
--tell them you will hit them with your car as you see them walking outside
--wishing them to get muscle injuries

...goes a long way to motivate. 
Yes, this was from both teams.  

We are all really good at taunting each other, all in good fun. 

I seriously stepped up my steps.
My step goal before this challenge was 8000, but I generally would try for 10000 steps daily.
It was a psychological thing.
I feel better getting 10000 with an 8000 goal then I did setting for 10000 and thinking I wouldn't make it. Underpromise and overdeliver at its finest. 
I'm learning I really am capable of more than what my brain tells me I am capable of doing.

Then the step challenge started and even though my Fitbit was set for 8000 - This thing set a daily goal for each of us for 10000 steps. Well seeing that in writing every day makes me crazy and sets my bar higher. To get less than 10000 is to admit failure, in my competitive mind.

This week, going in for the kill, I stepped up my A Game.
In the mornings before work, I generally walk before it gets too hot, but I increased there too - from 2.5 miles to 4 miles every morning.

I went from an average  of around 12000 steps and began shooting for 16,000-20,000 daily.
One day I got 21,000 by walking another 3 miles after work one afternoon. I definitely crossed the crazy/dedicated line that day. To be honest, I am doing that every day.

There were multiple comments made on both teams to the effect of so what if we kill ourselves trying, at least we will win. So what if we end up in traction after the week is over, no big deal.

Because I increased my steps so quickly, I developed blisters on my left foot, but I figured out how to get around them. Ignore the blisters and pray you make it to the end of the challenge and can get your steps in without having to stop. 
Talk about letting your pain be your rocket fuel!

I began pregaming each night since: 
Popping ibuprofen and 
using an ice pack to reduce the inflammation
so that it returns to a level I can live with by the following morning.
Treatment of Champions!!

We motivated each other as a team and began walking together on short walks during the workday around the building.  Plus, it was added motivation and opportunity to taunt the Unicorns as we did so. As they did to us, too.

Throughout the week, I found there are easy ways to get steps in that I hadn't thought about before this challenge.

I heard one of the managers at the copy machine behind my desk.
Where they couldn't initially see me until they went back to their desk, 
I stood up and began walking in squares/circles around my desk until spotted by them. 
It was a wonderful passive-aggressive opportunity to taunt them.

I went down the the lunchroom to cook my lunch (microwave) for 4 minutes.
Normally I stand there and play on my phone or chat, but I thought 4 minutes is enough time to do a lap around the building. So I did. I got  some more steps in that way, easily. By the time I finished, my lunch was ready. I think I'll keep doing this.

Yesterday, Saturday, I flew out for a daytrip and did not have time to power walk before we left (I was NOT getting up at 2am to go walk 4 miles outside!), so I got creative. We were early to the airport as planned and I had about an hour to kill, so I put on my earbuds and walked around the airport concourses - From Low A's to High As, and then back through A, B, C and D, and then back, which got me what I needed - around 5000 steps. It was a good workout.  I got my laps on courtesy of the complimentary American and Southwest Airlines exercise program (The Terminal 4 Almost 5K)

While it’s important to know your limits and live within them, there are also times you need to push them in order to fly and surpass them.

I'm glad I only have today and tomorrow left of this craziness.
This week's challenge ends Monday night.
My feet will be thankful for some rest after that before they decide to kill themselves.

Monday, August 19, 2019

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide

You can run but you cannot hide.

One of my friends posted this statement over the weekend:
“Feeling the need to be busy all the time is a trauma response and fear-based distraction from what you’d be forced to acknowledge and feel if you slowed down.”

I admitted to her, and to myself really, that was exactly what I was doing this weekend, what would have been (on Friday), my parents 49th wedding anniversary.

Friday, I took a vacation day. Part mental health day, but mostly to spend the day with my Mom and keep her company (and both of us occupied).
We went out to breakfast, did some shopping, to the movies, to lunch, and then met a friend for dinner and then bowling.

Saturday, we flew to El Paso to spend with my Aunt and Uncle and so that I could participate in the “Tour De Tolerance,” on Sunday, an annual event put on by the El Paso Holocaust Museum.
I have participated every year since 2011.

Last year, the route changed and it went from the typical 5K route to what I call a desert trail route – It goes through the desert of New Mexico, away from the road, up and down sand dunes as if you running along the beach, surrounded by wilderness. I for one, was hoping not to see any snakes or other critters.

Since I walk and train on pretty solid and non hilly ground, the race is fun, but is also a challenge for me.
Where I normally set a time goal, for this one, I knew my limits and I decided to remove the time limit – I had no goal as far as time.
My goal was just to finish the race under the power of my own legs, and not on a stretcher!
Half joking, but half serious too.

I took a few breaks along the way, snapped some pictures of the gorgeous scenery – since I wasn’t going to set any time records for the race or for myself, the pressure in that regard, was off.

I waited up for my Aunt and her friend every so often, helped all 3 of us up some pretty big (for us) hills of sand and rock.

After climbing one of the hills that was particularly steep (there were two of them), we needed all the help we could get.
“Help me, Moishe”
“Moses, take the wheel!”

By the time we saw the sign that stated “OH HELL!  You’ve come this far…you  may as well finish!” We all laughed and found our second wind.

Ironically, around the same time, playing on my MP3 was “Heaven Helps the Man” by Kenny Loggins and I thought, oh yeah…Heaven is definitely helping THIS man!

Part of the lyrics of that song
“Heaven helps the man who fight his fear…”
“Running away will never make me free.

“I’m shaking the past making my breaks
Taking control, if that’s what it takes

The song talks about a man facing a fear and taking control of his life.

I just love it when songs I hear during a race match what I’m feeling or experiencing during those times.

Shortly thereafter, when the trail running part of the race was complete and I was back on the road, “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar Mellencamp played.
Oh let’s talk about what “Hurts So Good!”

My Aunt and I modified the words to the Sound of Music to “the hills are alive with the sound of pain” and my personal favorite: “The dunes are alive with the sound of oy gevalt, oy vey es mir, OYYY everything!”

I have read how multiple 1s such as 1:11 or 11:11 on the clock, are signs of angels around you.
As I crossed the finish line, my official recorded time from the race, was 1:11.

In a weird coincidence, I started the MapMyWalk app on my phone late – a couple of minutes after I crossed the start line.
As I normally do, I got distracted after we crossed the finish lined, and forgot to turn it off.
By the time I remembered, it too registered 1:11 as my completion time.

After the race was over, I no longer had to think about “let’s just survive this” and my mind began wandering.
I unfortunately, had time to think, maybe for the first time all weekend.
I wanted to share the moment, share in the moment with my Dad.

He would have been so proud, going out of my comfort zone, and completing another race.When he was able, he would sit and wait for me at the finish line, my proudest and biggest supporter, just as my Mom was doing.

I began to think and miss him.
Friday was their anniversary and we stayed so busy all weekend, I did not allow myself time to think.
My goal was to stay have a great time, which we did, but in a way, I ran away.

I felt this wave of emotion (a grief wave) approaching.  To gain some peace and clear my head, I left the sitting area, and walked around the school complex we were in...It was a huge sprawling campus, a complex of separate buildings. I found some peace in walking alone among the buildings, enjoying the scenery and the quiet. I felt particularly spiritual, a spiritual presence even. I heard the sound of the wind move across the school fields. It was the sound of calm. I communed with nature and I took my time, just cherishing the experience.

When we returned home late yesterday, the nonstop flurry of activity of the weekend finally caught up to me.
I was exhausted – not only physically, but mentally.

For the first time in a while, I noted my Dad’s missing presence at home upon our return.
I know some of this is in part because we are approaching the 2 year mark next month.

Actually, I noticed it even before we left El Paso.
I did not want to return home, I wanted to stay.
Returning home meant I would have to acknowledge and face reality.
We both would.

The more you run, the more you can’t hide.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Back to the Past, and Back to the Future

This may be the first piece of fiction I believe I have ever written. All of my my writing, at least what I can remember, comes from my own thoughts, and feelings. My release from writing, comes from writing about my own experiences.
The below piece is homework from a recent therapy appointment. 
I have seen a therapist since my Dad died in September, 2017. 

Just as my grief has evolved over the past almost 2 years, so has my anxiety. I have reached a point in time where by my choice, I was ready to deal with some of my underlying anxiety that I have never dealt with before. I addressed and admitted to, for the first time ever, eating my emotions. 

I felt my grief change and this metamorphosis start to take shape a few months ago.

My therapist has given me homework before, but she never followed through to the point of "did you do such and such" .. She always left it up to me whether or not I did what was suggested. In the end, it was I who would either remain where I was stuck or be helped.  

I told my therapist, and some others I confided in, I could pinpoint the beginning of my emotional eating journey, even down to the exact conversation I had with my Mom. I explained some breakthroughs I had discovered about when I was in school, where I could trace the beginning of my emotional eating to the 4th Grade school year, down to the conversation I had with my Mom.
"I am going to eat now to comfort myself and I will just worry and deal with it later" 
-- I was 10!!
The homework was to interact with the younger version of myself, the one that began emotional eating and comfort him. She said since she knew I could write, she was looking forward to seeing what I wrote the next time I see her (in a month). It terrified me and made me want to panic. In fact, I told her I was panicking and anxious during that appointment when she gave me this - I did not want to revisit that time nor that anxiety.

Back to the Past, and Back to the Future
I walked up to the front door, and even though I lived there for many years growing up, I felt like a stranger. I saw the unpainted wood colored screen door that I once slammed to scare the bejeesus out of my Dad and I smiled. Some things never change.
I went to knock, and then decided I didn’t need to – I wasn’t a stranger, I was returning home.
Everything was as I remembered it – my Dad’s desk and his green office chair directly in front of me.
The faux wood oval shaped dining room table.
The kitchen and the bedrooms, down the hallway to the left.
This young man, perhaps even a boy was there as I walked in, sitting and eating some cookies.
He smiled, but I could tell something was bothering him.
It was me.
“Hi, Jeff,” I said.
You don’t know me, yet. But you will.
I am here from the future to tell you it will be OK.
Things will be OK.
I know you worry about a lot of things, about your Dad and his health.
About school and those bullies.
About your grades and wanting to do well.
You are going to survive.
You will not be the loner, the outsider like you are now.
You will be respected for the knowledge and empathy and compassion you share with others.
You need to care of yourself.
You don’t see it now, but you are starting to develop the strength that is going to carry you through your years.
I know you told your Mom you were going to eat your emotions, and deal with it later, but its OK.
Its ok to be upset.
Its ok to cry.
Its ok not to be OK.
In the end, it will all be OK.
I promise you, you are going to survive things you don’t think you are capable of.
But that inner strength you are developing will carry you far.
You see, Jeff, I am you.
And you are me.
I can’t disown something that is myself, so I am embracing everything that makes me, me. Including you.
The younger me, got quiet.
“You’re Me?”
“Like Back to the Future?”
“Yes, Exactly. Remember that part where Doc Brown tells Marty that he can’t change the past and disrupt the space-time continuum?”
“Well, that’s true. I know you are lonely, and scared, and those kids at school don’t make you feel welcome. But I don’t want you to change a thing. You see, because part of what are going through, and will go through – will make you and me who we are today. We will grow from this.  And although you might not get all of this now – one day, you’re going to be the man that comes to this door and comes in and has this conversation with a young boy.”
You’re going to help that young, boy, as I am helping you.
“You’re me?”
“WOW! Its like the older brother I always dreamed of wanting!!”
“Yep, you can definitely think of me in that way”
“Will you be back?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you – that whenever you need me – I will always with be you. Just put your hand over your heart, and think of what you want or what you are having trouble with..and know I will hear you and know what you need”
I kneeled down to young Jeff’s level and we hugged, as I rubbed the back of his head and told him we were both going to be OK. It was going to be ok to let things go. 

After writing the above, I wrote:
I was terrified at the idea of writing this. It took me a few days to build up the nerve to write. Sundays for me I call Soulful Sundays. I am pensive. I tend to write, reflect on what I miss more about my Dad. He died on a Sunday. One Sunday morning, I sat at the computer and the story poured out. 

As I began to write and interact with the younger version of myself, I started to cry as I felt his pain, his pain was my pain. It was awesome to be able to put into words my love of time travelling and to see our apartment as it existed back then, in every detail. Then, it changed along the way as I continued to write. I discovered I wasn’t writing to him – I was writing to me. I was telling myself its OK to let things go, and not hold on. What I was scared of, I actually ended up enjoying – helping the younger of myself. ME Helping ME.  

I enjoyed it so much, I am hoping/planning to write more along these same story lines.

I am generally a perfectionist, and I feel my art is painting a picture with words. I write something, and then I go back and add "this" or change "that" to make it "perfect." However, this piece of writing was different..The story itself, I decided (and refused) to make any changes. I left it as is, in its raw and untouched form. It is exactly as I initially wrote it. I had no urge to change anything. It was perfect the way it was written. It made me realize - so am I.