Let It Happen

I joke around about how I have the attention span of a two-year old, but there’s quite a bit of truth to that. I always bring my Kindle with me on airplanes with the good intention of reading but almost never can focus on it and end up with headphones in my ears, thinking over things I’ve had on my mind. Small stuff like recent things I’ve been up to or what I have on my to-do list. And big things like the person I want to become, what the next step of my personal evolution might be and what I need to do get there. I think a lot about the people in my life and if I’ve been a good friend, daughter, sister, aunt, colleague, boss, neighbor, human. What can I do to be better? How can I get out of my own way and connect with those around me in a more meaningful way? My brain seems to run as fast as the plane I’m sitting on, propelling towards the east coast at 500 mph.

At the same time, while in flight, the world seems to sit still for a couple of hours. No internet, TV, texts to distract me. No gym to run off to. No emergency calls from work. It’s a time to just sit and be, which is something I am terrible at doing.

Even now, I feel this urge to reach into my pocket and check my phone, even though I can’t. I have a really hard time focusing on just one thing at a time, which is something that really bothers me about myself. And it’s not just with technology. It’s with everything. I can’t stand still, for example, when I brush my teeth. I will walk around my house and pick-up things out of place or brush while rinsing my hair out in the shower… depending on what time of day it is. I’m constantly figuring out the most efficient ways to do the stupidest things. Laundry, dishes, you name it… what else can I do at the same time in order to make the most of my time.

Before I go on, some news: I started writing my “book.” (I’m still not taking myself too seriously with that.) Finally. Ok, ok. I’ve written five paragraphs… but it’s taken a LOT of days and nights over the past few months spent staring at a blinking cursor to get that far. While it’s barely a start, the short part of the story I’ve typed so far has opened a lot of doors inside me that I’ve kept closed and locked for a long time, which in turn has given me some insight to the road still ahead of me. (Thanks, 10-year-old self.)

I’ve written before about how now, at 32, I finally feel like I’m coming into my own after spending most of my existence sitting and waiting for life to come to me. And while that’s true, I realize that I still have things to surmount. Like how I tend to keep people at arm’s length, rather than let my guard down and really let people in. Or live in the moment rather than constantly thinking ahead and strategizing every mundane thing, like I touched on briefly in a recent post.

Sitting here in this plane, I realize those two things are completely related. I’ve stayed single on purpose because I’m comfortable alone. I’m not bothering anyone and am accountable only to myself. It’s predictable and I can control it. And although it’s comfortable… how boring is that? And didn’t I just write about how comfortable is boring?

I’m a big, fat hypocrite.

This may be perhaps the hardest thing for me to conquer yet, as it’s not something you can control or force. It has to happen on its own. The part I struggle with is letting it happen.

I read this article recently that talks about the regret and ‘what ifs’ we all may face one day.  It’s an evocative reminder to live life RIGHT NOW.

One line in particular struck a chord with me:

“It’s the missed opportunities — when we could have acted but didn’t – that sometimes are the most haunting.”

Hiding in comfort is easy. But how sad will it be if I live my entire life alone, passing up something awesome with someone even awesomer (it’s a word, you guys) just because I’m scared of getting burned?

Take the time to evaluate your own life.  What do you wish for?  What do you really want in this life?  How can you make (or in my case, ‘let’) it happen?

The evolution continues…

Slow and Steady

The past few days I haven’t been feeling my best. My Sunday morning workout with my trainer really pushed me in ways I haven’t been pushed before and Monday I hobbled around like a decrepit old woman. I forced myself to take a day off from the gym, as I realized I hadn’t in quite a while. My body needed to recover.

I’ve also been struggling with some intense RLS, which has been majorly affecting how much I sleep. When it strikes, I get it bad. My legs, my arms, my entire body it seems. There’s no way to describe what a bout with it feels like to someone who has never experienced that aching, crawling feeling in their muscles. If you haven’t, you’re lucky. If you have, I feel for you. I’ve had it my entire life.

To top it off, I haven’t been drinking enough water so I feel humongous. The scale is showing a number much larger than it should because my body is hanging on to every ounce of H20.

In other words: I’m officially in a mental/fitness rut.

This isn’t new. I’ve been stuck in many of these throughout this journey to becoming healthy and fit. It happens to all of us. It’s important to handle it in a way that doesn’t throw us completely off course.

Feeling uncomfortable and a little irritable, I went through the motions yesterday and completed my training session before work. I powered through my workday and hung out with my friends last night. I kept telling myself that this feeling would pass and focused on making healthy decisions to get me back on track and feeling my best.

It would have been easy for me to go face down in a pile of nachos or something else unhealthy while watching the local hockey team skate their way to a victory. Or skip the gym for another day and wait until I was feeling more like myself. But I didn’t. I kept at it, even though my head wasn’t in it and my body was screaming at me to quit.

This feeling typically strikes as I’m about to turn a corner in my progress, which I hope is the case. I feel like it’s already starting. Last night I slept for seven hours straight. I’m downing tons of water while at work today. I’m psyching myself up for a cardio session at the gym tonight.

And I have AWESOME people in my life who kick me in the butt when I get like this (you know who you are) and that also keeps me going forward.

I think the toughest part of any change you’re trying to make is staying focused when progress seems to hit a slow patch. It’s hard to see how what you’re pushing yourself so hard to do is making any kind of contribution towards your goal. But we have to keep going. Keep believing and pushing towards what it is we want. And before we know it, we’re there.

The following photos show my progress from when I started this amazing journey. It was really important for me to see this today, as it reminded me of everything I’ve gone through. I remember how I felt when each of these photos were taken and I was reminded why I need to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s so easy to get stuck in our heads and focus only on the tough parts. Sometimes we need to back up and take in more of the bigger picture.

beth-progress-april-2013-b

Accountability

photoAbout two weeks ago, I invested in Jawbone’s UP Band after being introduced to the concept of activity trackers by a customer service rep at a local mobile shop. It’s just a simple, black, electronic band I wear around my wrist that tracks my steps and sleep. At first, I was a little underwhelmed but what it did… but the more I pay attention to it, the more eye-opening it has become for how I live my life.

For the first week I wore it, I was working in NYC, so I was getting in tons of steps. Between running from meeting to meeting and walking to get lunch or dinner, it was awesome to see the numbers rise each time I synced it up. (It connects easily to your iPhone via the headphone jack without need for any additional attachments) I was hitting the recommended 10,000 steps per day without a problem.

Then I returned home, where I work from a home office. There’s no walk to and from my car. No walk into an office building. No stairs to take. The first day I checked it at home shocked me. Literally shocked me. I barely cracked 3,000 steps. For an entire day.

How could that be possible? In comparison to the average person, I’m pretty active. Between workouts with my personal trainer and my own cardio schedule… I’m in a gym 6-7 days a week. Sometimes twice a day. But it isn’t enough to offset the hours I sit at a desk, working. Or the nights I curl up in my big chair and read or watch a little TV. It made me panic a bit. I’ve been borderline obsessed with measuring what I put in my body and making myself accountable for what I eat, I completely neglected to accurately measure my movement.

Now, there are some factors to consider. My cardio workouts are primarily on a bike… which doesn’t register “steps” on the band. I do keep track of my workouts using other apps, so I have a realistic view on my activity level. Even still, it’s pretty eye opening and is motivating me to make it a point to get up and be more active throughout the workday.

The other cool thing about the UP Band is that it tracks your sleep. How long you sleep, how deep you sleep and how many times you get up at night. Sleep is key to a healthy lifestyle and is perhaps one of the easiest things to do… however I am TERRIBLE at it. The UP is making me accountable.

I’m often asked by people starting out on their own journey to a healthier life, what the key is. And that’s just it – accountability. I didn’t start seeing results in myself until I kept myself accountable. No doing it halfway. If I have a bad day, I make record of it and learn from it. I don’t pretend it didn’t happen, because before you know it, you aren’t realizing how many “bad” days you are having. And one bad day eventually turns into a lifestyle.

The good news is that the flip side is also true. One good day can turn into another and into another. Before you know it, that one good day becomes your lifestyle.

No one else can do it for you, though.  No one device is going to be that magic solution.  People and things can help you along the way, but YOU have to keep you in line, no matter what.

Go get it.

Change the World

I can’t begin writing without first acknowledging what happened in Boston yesterday. Like so many of us, my first reaction was anger. How on Earth could someone inflict such pain on fellow humans? It’s something I can never, ever comprehend and each time these all-too-frequent tragedies occur my faith in humanity dwindles a little more. I’ll come back to this.

After a long week, I finally found myself on the ground back in the Midwest late this past Friday night. I couldn’t get out of the airport fast enough.

The air was freezing and there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground as I stepped into the large cement parking ramp where I’d left my car nearly a week before. Did I fly back to December? No. It was April. But I didn’t care. I was just happy to be home.

It had been an exhausting week for a variety of reasons, the parade of airline delays being just one of them. I stood in my shower and let the hot water and steam melt away the tension in my body, even if only temporarily.

The past week didn’t even seem real. It felt so incredibly ‘off’ in almost every way, that I wasn’t quite convinced it wasn’t some elaborate dream. Or nightmare, depending on how you want to look at it.

After five hours of delays, I was able to get onto a small commuter jet on Friday evening. I snapped up literally the last seat and was pleasantly surprised to find it was the first row behind first class. Things were looking up, I thought to myself.

I climbed into the window seat next to a business man who was unsettled in his seat. He kept sighing loudly and changing which leg was crossed over the other.

DING. He hit the call button for the flight attendant. DING. DING. He hit it again and again.

A man dressed in Delta blue came over to see what the man wanted.

“I want to know why I didn’t get upgraded to First Class,” the man snapped, “I was first on the upgrade list.” He sighed loudly again, sounding like a toddler who didn’t get a cookie.

He was incredibly rude, but the attendant kept his composure. He explained how the crew was not employed by the airline, so he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t been upgraded, but he’d look into what happened.

“We’ll move you up to First Class as soon as we’re airborne, sir,” the attendant told the man a few minutes later. He was overly apologetic and nice and part of me hoped the man sitting next to me felt a little ridiculous about his behavior.

He was eventually moved one row ahead into the last row of first class, sitting next to a man who was at least twice my size and I’d venture to guess he had less leg room than we had in the first row of coach. It’s all about status in his eyes, I suppose.

I contemplated that for awhile. That’s something that has never, ever been important to me and I always wonder how or why it motivates other people. What is lacking in their lives that expensive things or status symbols fill? When you really take a look, almost always there’s something more genuine missing.

I know, I’ve been there. I used to hide from things that scared me. I was lacking confidence and filled that hole with food. It wasn’t until I faced things head on that I started to feel like a complete person. It was then that I was able to push ahead and become a better version of myself.

Before becoming better, we have to be content. You have to be okay with who are. Know yourself. Then push yourself to be better.

That’s what motivates me. As yesterday wore on and I read stories of incredible bravery… of people who ran towards the chaos to help others… I was reminded that all of humanity isn’t lost. That the good outnumber the bad. The anger drained away and turned into hope. I was more motivated than ever to go forward and be good to the people around me… and hope they will do the same to those around them… and so on.

My hope is that one day we can all embrace each other, even if we disagree. Where fear of things unfamiliar doesn’t manifest into hate. Where people aren’t discriminated against based on race, gender, sexual orientation. Where violence doesn’t seem like the only option to those struggling with their demons.  Where we just accept and love each other simply as humans.

As soon as we become civil with each other, friends, no matter what… the world will change.

So let’s change it. You in?

Patience, part 1

“Son of a…” I said under my breath this afternoon as I turned away from the gate agent who told me I was at the wrong terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. I was fighting back tears. I’m not that girl who breaks down under stress and I wasn’t about to become her. Frustrated by the agent who sent me here to begin with, I made my way back to the leaky shuttle bus to go back where I had just come from.

I packed myself in with strangers on the old rickety bus. I had recently discovered the bottom of my carry-on was soaked with an unknown liquid and that my flight had been delayed for a third time today. The universe had been testing my patience from the moment I had arrived on the East coast last weekend.

I made my way out of the terminal this past Sunday night and could see a line for the cab stand as I approached the glass doors. Not unusual. As I stepped through the exit way, the reality of the situation came into full view. I followed the line of people down the length of the terminal and around the corner. It kept going.

I found the end and stood there, thinking a million miles a minute on how else I could get into the city. I texted a couple of local friends for ideas while I contemplated what to do. It was late and I was not dressed to stand outside in line for several hours.

There were people chasing down already-full city busses as they approached the terminal and any gypsy cabs that arrived were immediately swarmed by a mass of people. It was a chaos I’ve never experienced at an airport before.

One of my friends suggested one of the various shuttle busses that run from the airport into the city and at that same exact moment I overheard a man in an exchange with a worker who was selling tickets for one of those shuttles.

“I need a ticket to JFK not the city,” the man told the worker. The man selling tickets explained that they can’t do refunds but that he could try and sell that ticket to someone and buy another one. I made the decision to jump out of line and take a chance.

“Hey man, I’ll buy that off you,” I said as I approached them, “It’s headed to the city, yeah?”

By this time there was a horde of other people behind me ready to jump on the opportunity if I passed it up.

“Yeah, one way,” he said with a southern accent. I handed him some cash and took the ticket, at which point the man running the bus service informed me it could be another 2 hours before I could get on an actual bus.

Rather than get pissed, I smiled, said it was cool and stood there assessing the situation. I watched people interact with the man selling tickets and listened to him communicate to the bus dispatch through his walkie-talkie.

“I can make myself really small, you know. Just saying.” I joked with him as he stood on the curb awaiting the next bus that was supposedly oversold. He laughed and shook his head. But he was smiling, I knew that was good. I wasn’t going to push him.

When the next bus pulled up, chaos erupted again. He worked the crowd, checking tickets so he only boarded those people in the order they had bought tickets. I stood there calmly, watching the situation unfold. I felt bad for the guy. He had a tough gig that night.

I caught his eye as he loaded the last of the passengers for that bus and he nodded his head towards the door.

“Thank you,” I said to him quietly, almost in a whisper, as I hopped on board the packed shuttle bus.

“I got you,” he said as I passed him. I truly was grateful. Packed in like sardines, we traveled into Manhattan and I jumped off the bus at Grand Central Terminal. I walked swiftly across the historic hub, jumped on the train to head to my hotel and prepared for a couple days of meetings before heading back home to the Midwest.

“Ummm,” I said as I read the email alert on my iPhone while at lunch with some colleagues on Wednesday. My flight home was delayed. While there was snow predicted back home that evening, I wasn’t worried. It happens often and I usually still get out. The airline gave the option to change my flight and I mulled it over. Changing it meant staying in the city for additional meetings the following day which wouldn’t be a horrible thing… but it also meant missing a workout with my personal trainer and a meeting I had committed to being at Thursday night. I decided to head to the airport and go for it.

In the hour and a half cab ride, my flight was delayed twice more. I settled in on the floor and leaned against a frosted window behind a stairwell in the terminal where I had located an unclaimed outlet, a valuable thing in a crowded airport. The departure time stayed steady for the next hour or so and I was gaining confidence that I’d be sleeping in my own bed that night. I got excited for my workout the next morning and stuck buds in my ears to drown in some music while I waited.

Then the dreaded announcement. Delayed again. And then again. And again. Four hours into my wait, I knew in my gut that we weren’t going to get into the air that night. I approached the ticket agent and asked him to change my ticket. There was a weather waiver and I knew I was allowed to do that at no charge. I’d rather hang out in the city with my friends than sit in a filthy airport for a flight that wasn’t getting off the ground.

“The crew is right there, they’re ready to go as soon as the aircraft arrives.” the extremely overweight man said while perched on a stool behind the counter, pointing at two pilots and two flight attendants who were leaning against the wall. They had that unmistakable look of exhaustion smeared across their faces.

“At what point will it be too late for them to fly?” I rebutted. “Can’t I just rebook now?”

“You’re going to get out of here tonight,” he said arrogantly.

“Fine.” I conceded, walking away and parking myself back on the floor. Legs crossed, I pulled out my laptop and hotspot to look up my options. Two more hours passed and then the wave of red ran down the flight status screens. All flights cancelled.

I jumped in line immediately at the gate to rebook. I could really let this guy have it; I was tired and frustrated enough to come unglued. But I took a deep breath and kept my cool while we rebooked my flight for two days later.

I’m typing this as I sit once again at gate 23, listening to delay after delay being announced over the PA system. There’s a mutiny forming around me made up of fellow passengers who have had similar experiences, sharing their stories with each other.

I just took a chance and took a standby ticket on a flight that’s still scheduled for on-time departure.

Will I get home? And what have I learned from these challenges this week? That’s still to come…

Make it Happen

In my “real” job I manage operations for a fairly large media company. I get paid to plan, anticipate and anticipate again… and make adjustments on the fly when things go sideways.

In a lot of ways, this influences my personal life too. My days are usually pretty scheduled, with windows of opportunity to move things around should something unexpected come up. Seriously, it’s pretty sick how much I think about potential scenarios and how I would shift things to accommodate. When something messes with my routine to the point where I can’t adjust and have to start skipping or delaying things, it can be really frustrating for me.

During the week, I will typically go to the gym over my lunch break to bang out some cardio and get it done for the day. When it became clear yesterday that I wasn’t going to get a lunch in, I shifted my plans. After work, I’d stop by the mobile store and pick up my iPhone that’s been out of commission for the past few days, then hit the gym with the after-work crowd. Good, I thought. I had a plan. I always feel better when I have a plan.

I ended my work day getting into a heated disagreement and was in a less than stellar mood by the time I set foot outside my office. All I wanted was my phone and a workout before settling in to watch the only two shows I make it a point to watch anymore (Law and Order SVU and Chicago Fire – judge away).

“Sorry, this isn’t connecting,” said the guy working the counter at the mobile store. He was trying to transfer all the data off the loaner phone to my replacement iPhone and the device wasn’t recognizing the old beat-up Android. Awesome, I thought. I had already been waiting for over an hour while he set-up the new phone and transferred my number. I watched my watch tick around another hour as he tried to figure out a way to make it work.

“You know what, it’s cool,” I said with a calm smile, not thrilled with the idea of having a wiped out phone but more tired of sitting there while he messed with it. I was convinced I could restore it myself and headed home to give it a shot.

It was already past seven when I set foot inside my little two-bedroom abode in the city, SVU would be starting in under an hour. I shook my head, frustrated.

I know, I know. It’s just a TV show and I could catch it on Hulu the next day. But it wasn’t really about that. I also had to factor in dinner somewhere and didn’t want to eat too late… and didn’t want to eat too close to a workout. (I told you, I strategize EVERYthing.)

I got dinner started as my laptop transferred all the missing data to my iPhone and came to grips with the fact that I was just going to miss my workout that day. After all, I was tired, still a little cranky and still dealing with a cold bug that will NOT let go of me. I’ll go hard tomorrow, I told myself. Make up some ground over the next couple of days.

About halfway through SVU, I started getting angry at myself. Mentally, I wasn’t okay with missing a session at the gym. I’ve been working so hard, I wanted to keep the momentum going, especially since I was headed out on a business trip in a few days. Bad food and drinks were inevitably in my future. I had to get it in.

I changed into my workout clothes in between SVU and Chicago Fire and curled up in my big chair ready to go. Jacket was on, gym bag was on the floor in front of me. I was out the door the second the show was over, which gave me exactly an hour before the gym closed.

I know what you may be thinking. If I was truly dedicated, I would have skipped the show and gone right then and there. But, hello, an hour filled with firemen?  After the day I’d had, that was happening.

“Let’s get this done,” I said under my breath as I walked into the gym. Other late nighters were peppered among the cardio machines and I jumped on a bike to log some miles.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection in my iPhone screen that was propped sideways on the little shelf in front of me on the bike. It was just a reflection of my eyes staring back at me. I saw determination. With every drop of sweat that ran down my neck, the stress of the day melted away.

Was a 10pm workout ideal? No. Did I want to go out into the cold air at that time of night? No. Did I need to organize the chaos in my brain? Yes.

Order had been restored and I felt f’n awesome as I walked back out to my car in the chilly night air.

If you are really committed to something, you find a way. No matter what it is. Big or small. You make it happen.