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Putting Words To The Things That Are Working In My Life

Some of my therapy has actually been discovering things I’m doing right, or things I already knew but didn’t really know that I knew it…if that makes sense. One of those things is the Power of Vulnerability. I’ve interacted a little bit with the concept through BrenĂ© Brown (hence capitalizing it because it’s like HER THING and I can’t help it) but I never really connected with it until when my therapist pointed out that sometimes when we make ourselves vulnerable in front of other people (like crying in front of them) we can create better connections. Something about how we were talking about it, or maybe when made it click with me: YES. THIS IS SO TRUE.

I have built a lot of friendships through this blog by being vulnerable. Back in the early days it was openly talking about my struggle to have children. But I’ve also opened up about struggles parenting kids with their own emotional challenges, and then we’ve bonded over grief, and lately we’ve connected a lot over my move to seek out a therapist. All of these steps along the way I’ve been vulnerable and many of us have seriously connected over it, making me closer to some of you guys than I am to people who I see every day.

But then lately she also sent me to Robert Waldinger discussing the power of strong relationship in defining happiness and it hit me again: I AM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.

Since 2010 I started putting myself out there in the real world to meet people and the more true connections I make, the happier I feel. It may seem silly to be like, “I’m the happiest I’ve been in years!” at the same moment I’m seeking out therapy for the first time. But the thing is, I feel like lately I know what happiness feels like. There have been years before that I didn’t know what I was missing out on, in any consistent level. But since 2010 I’ve really gotten a feel for the power of joy and I’ve also become less scared of reaching out for help so when my darks got so dark in February and March – knowing how light my life can be now – I had to get help.

But in general I have really been happy with my relationships and I truly feel a lot of them are built on mutual vulnerability. Even if it’s something silly like admitting you’re terrible with names, that allows someone else who also has the SAME PROBLEM to admit the same thing and then you have this really strong connection over that things that makes you feel really ashamed sometimes. I’ve built so many friendships on the mutual disclosure of social awkwardness. It’s amazing, really. It seems so silly but when you admit to someone you are socially awkward, it’s like immediately giving yourself permission to relax because YOU HAVE ALREADY WARNED THIS PERSON. And if something awkward happens? You can bond over it instead of falling into a shame spiral.

I highly recommend having “Text Friends” who you can send “MAYDAY! MAYDAY!” messages too when you’ve done something stupid. It immediately lets you put that Thing Out There that is embarrassing you so you stop (or maybe just slow down) that terrible Rumination of Shame thing we all do where we replay embarrassing moments over in our head for years. STOP RUMINATING! It’s so bad for you.

(This is something I shout at myself 100 times a day.)

So I’ve learned that when I started putting myself out in the world, I started feeling happier because I was making connections based on vulnerability. AND I NEVER EVEN REALIZED I WAS DOING IT.

I’ve been thinking about the ways I’ve been making this happen and not realized it. I think a lot of it is thanks to Facebook, honestly. I post a lot on Facebook. I fangirl on Harry Potter articles and admit crying over puppy videos. I share stories of humiliation in an entertaining fashion and I share information about mental health and grieving. All of these things allow me to open up about being vulnerable in an assortment of different ways, without having to do it face-to-face. So when I get face-to-face with someone I know on Facebook, we can connect over things maybe I’ve discussed before. I’ve had so many wonderful encounters with people who said, “I’m not religious either, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in Alabama.” Or maybe, “Thank you for being so open about LGBTQ issues. I don’t have a job that allows me that freedom but it’s nice to see your support.” Or even, “I AM TOTALLY AWKWARD TOO! YAY!”

Facebook has allowed me to establish vulnerabilities in a type of “safe place” so that I don’t have to be freshly vulnerable in person.

I also find myself only spending time connecting with people in environments where we can actually CONNECT. I have two women’s groups I meet once a month and they are both very conducive to opening up. We meet in people’s homes and we are all vulnerable together and it’s wonderful. And then there’s my running friends and the WONDERFUL thing about running is you don’t have to look people in the eye so it makes it THAT MUCH easier to be vulnerable. My running friends know more about my personal history than some of my family probably does. It’s amazing how safe you feel opening up to someone who knows you just peed in the woods.

I get overwhelmed with all of the things in my life I feel like I’m doing wrong, so it’s really nice to uncover things I’ve been doing right. Being vulnerable here has allowed me to be vulnerable in the real world and I’ve made connections in both places that have given me a foundation of happiness to build upon. Pre-2010 Kim didn’t quite know this kind of happiness was possible, the kind you feel when you have an arsenal of friends fighting a war with you. Thank you for being in the trenches with me. You have shown me what happiness feels like and given me the strength to reach out when I need help.

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Avoiding The Low-Hanging Fruit During Political Season

This entry is for TWO types of people. If these qualities do not apply to you? Come back tomorrow.

If you:
1) Have a complex sphere of relationships with people from all different sides of politics and you
2) Would like to maintain those relationships past November, then this post is for you!

Here is my prediction:

I predict with 100% certainty that at least 99% of the political Facebook posts between now and November will be framed in the “Why Your Candidate Is Worse Than Mine” format.

And I get it. It’s easy. The “Things Your Candidate Has Done/Said That Make Them Terrible” fruit is hanging very low on both sides and it’s the REALLY EASY one to grab. I see it every day and think, “I COULD TOTALLY GRAB THAT. IT IS RIGHT THERE. IT IS SO EASY! LOOK!”

But I’m asking you to stop for a minute and think about that.

One thing I know we all agree on is that politics have gotten divisive and ugly. It seems it has all boiled down to TWO SIDES and we must ALL CHOOSE ONE OR PERISH. Not only must we choose one, but once you are on that side you are required to think everyone on the other side is either bigoted and ignorant, or un-American and entitled.

And that Low Hanging Fruit Of Terrible Qualities is there for all of us to grab.

But, here’s the problem: Any time you share a Facebook post with a “Why Your Candidate Sucks” type of link or commentary, you are closing the potential for dialog before it even starts. You are putting fuel in the fire between the two sides so that no one can even look at the other side without burning off their eyebrows. You are starting in attack mode. And I get it, I really do, attack mode is SO VERY EASY. And no matter what side you’re on, you see the negative qualities of the other candidate and you are VERY FRUSTRATED as to why anyone with their RIGHT MIND would want that person as president.

The problem is? BOTH SIDES THINK THE SAME THING.

Trust me. I am a blue dot in a red state. But this is NOT going to do ANYTHING to help put out the fire in between that divides us all.

So I challenge you instead to post the POSITIVE things your candidate has going for them. If you post an article titled, “Why I’m voting for Trump,” and it includes arguments about his tax plans or his foreign policy plans that you support, then you are not starting off in attack mode. You are starting off as SUPPORTING your guy which means the chances of a good dialog are much better. Whereas if you post something that says, “Why I’m not voting for Clinton (or Sanders),” then any of your friends or family who are voting Democrat are immediately bristled against you.

Posting POSITIVE support for your candidate is more likely to help you maintain relationships through November. Take it from someone who has been writing online as a blue dot in a red state (and a red family) for the last three elections. I learned the hard way.

Of course – if you have no desire to maintain relationships with people on the other side of the aisle, then please! Post the negative attack stuff all day long!

But if you want to survive through November with relationships intact, then I encourage you to avoid the low hanging fruit. It’s there. It’s easy. I have to resist eating it every day. Instead, climb higher on the tree. Do some research on your candidates policy proposals. Share out stats and numbers and reasons why you’re voting FOR the person you’re voting for and not why you’re voting AGAINST the other guy. IT IS VERY HARD, and honestly why I’ve not posted much about candidates on Facebook. It’s too hard for me to resist that low-hanging fruit so I’ve just been avoiding it so I don’t damage relationships. I can’t resist the low-hanging fruit so I’ve been avoiding the orchard all together. I’ve just focused on posting about issues and not about candidates.

Of course, if maybe you’re ONLY making your decision to vote AGAINST the other guy? Maybe just stay of Facebook until December if you want to continue being friends with the people who are voting for the person you hate.

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Praying To Myself

I was looking up at a post-storm blue sky yesterday and just breathing in the smell of Spring and trying to deliberately think about breathing in love so that I can exhale it to the world around me. I closed my eyes and really tried to reflect on soaking in some energy as it was that point in the day where I tend to collapse emotionally since I get up so early. I really struggle with post-work energy. I thought about filling my heart with love and joy and so that I could reflect that to my children instead of entering ZOMBIE MODE which is what I tend to do in the evenings.

As I was having this moment, so to speak, it occurred to me: This is my prayer. And I’m directing it inward.

During my religious years I prayed a LOT. God was basically my therapist. I would cry to him and confide in him and I have often thought that the praying part is what I miss the most about religion. I miss not having a concrete format for praying to someone or talking to someone out in the universe somewhere. I know some agnostics have abstract ideas of a God-like being that they pray to, but I don’t really have that. I don’t deny there’s a chance that there could be a power greater than me in the universe; but if it exists, it’s beyond comprehension of my feeble mind so it’s not a source of comfort in the way I need for “prayer.”

But lately I have just been turning my thoughts inward to reflect, and then outward toward the universe. Just almost talking to the world around me. Thinking about the energy I want to give out and the energy I want to soak in. I keep a bullet journal page open on my desk now that says things like, “Breathe, walk, stretch…” to remind me to take a moment and FOCUS on what is bigger than me. I had noticed I was getting wrapped up in the mundane daily to-do lists and forgetting the bigger picture of who I want to be and how I want to influence the world around me. So, I’ve been taking these moments to re-center myself and remind myself that the energy I put out in the world stays there, so I should try to make it positive.

And that is basically what I used to pray for. “God, help me be a better person.” Constantly. I begged for help with everything from lying to abstinence. I would beg for help to stop gossiping and I would pray for discipline for attending mass. I was constantly looking to my God to help make me a better person which is now what I’m doing by turning inward upon my own heart. I’ve essentially started praying to myself. And it feels pretty good.

I AM MY OWN GOD, BOW BEFORE ME, SELF!

(Kidding.)

I do enjoy the feeling I get though, when I remind myself in those reflective moments to focus on the energy I’m putting out into the universe. It’s like a reboot when I’m dragging through my daily tasks. I actually do this several times a day lately, this praying thing, and I hope to keep up the habit. Especially now that I realize the connection to what religious me used to do. Prayer was a stabilizing force when I believed in God, it only makes sense that it be stabilizing again as I learn to believe in myself.

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Lessons Learned During A Stage Race

This is my third year doing the Grand Viduta Stage Race and I have learned some lessons and have some take-aways, y’all. Sit back and soak up the elite-runner knowledge.

HA! I made myself laugh at that one. Sit back and soak up the knowledge of a crazy girl who talked about boob chafing for 3 days.

  • You never know what kind of aid you will love with all of your heart until you get to the aid station. Last year my friends who rarely drank coke found themselves drinking it at every aid station. For me last year it was Powerbars. This year? Pretzels. I am NOT a pretzel person. Unless it’s a Combo you will never see me eat a pretzel by itself but this year? I COULD NOT GET ENOUGH. The very last aid station on the very last day did not have any and I might have cried.
  • Surviving the same 3-day trail race with someone can help you surmount any past social faux pas. Whether you thought someone was in their 50s who was actually in their 30s, or if you called someone by the wrong name, or if you called someone’s dog by the wrong name…you will still be besties by the time the 3 days is over. Just knowing you fought the same war and survived eliminates all past awkwardness. This is a treasure for someone like me who does embarrasses herself regularly.
  • I will offer strangers drugs at some point. The first year it was a guy who had rolled his ankle and was going to quit. “I HAVE DRUGS!” I always say. Because I do. I carry ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Excedrin with me. This year I offered them a guy who was just trying to survive past day 3 after an injury. “ARE YOU SURE?” I emphatically said when he declined. I am the back-woods drug pusher, I DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.
  • I am best friends with all aid station workers. Without fail, every year, every day, every aid station, I show up and want to just bond with the clean people on the other side of the table. They’re like mystical humans and they’re offering me food and sodas and water and I just profess my love and appreciation like some sort of stalker ex-girlfriend. My group always points out, though, that we are aware of the difference between us and the racers at the beginning who probably don’t even stop. We stop, we chat, we take pictures, and we hang out. WE ARE NOT IN A HURRY, NEW BEST FRIENDS WITH THE PRETZELS!
  • I will break my No Sending Facebook Friend Requests after every Grand Viduta weekend. I set the rule in place because I’m obnoxious on Facebook. I post a million times a day, everything from Harry Potter memes to Trans Advocacy articles. I am a LOT to take on Facebook so it makes me feel better knowing that I did not push that on anyone. But if we survive Grand Viduta together? I’m probably going to send you a friend request. If you didn’t push me off a mountain by day 3? You can handle me on Facebook.
  • There’s always things to learn about your friends. I made new friends this weekend, but I also learned new things about old friends. Like engagement stories, or favorite music, or the fact that we know the same church camp songs. (“I am a C! I am a C-H! I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N!”) There’s never a shortage of conversation topics and since you’ve lost your mind, there are no taboo subjects. “I poop at the same time, every day!” Might be something I said 14 times over the last 3 Vidutas. Would I ever even talk about my regularity to my family? HELL NO. But someone running 3 days with me through the woods? You’d better believe you’re going to know all about my digestive health by the time we cross the final finish line.
  • You can never love your trail running friends enough. I end every year feeling so blessed to be a part of this amazing community. These people are my family. I love seeing their beautiful faces and cheering them on and laughing with them, and maybe sometimes crying with them. I want to greet them all with hugs every day but I don’t because that’s weird and I’m just now getting them to look past the fact that I forgot their name that time at packet pickup. But I love them, and every year after this wonderful weekend, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

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A For A Different Kind Of Therapy…(SHOT!)

11182720_10153748071728496_3882568604493266364_oToday is the start of THE third as well as MY third Grand Viduta Stage Race. My friends Chelsea and Colleen have also both done it every year and our goal is to be the first (maybe only if our plan to knock out the other contenders works) (just kidding) to the 10-year jacket. And if there is NOT a 10-year jacket we will make them ourselves. WE LOVE THIS RACE, is what I’m saying.

Three days of running all over our mountain. Huntsville has more than one mountain, but this one (Monte Sano) has two different groups managing areas – the state park and the land trust – so there’s the biggest collection of trails and therefore the mountain we run on the most. Most of these trails we know mostly in ONE direction (because of how they are run for whatever race we are training for) but this race does a great job of making us go the OTHER direction on most of them. Running the opposite direction on a road doesn’t disorient you but running the opposite direction on the trail? You’ll be like, “WHERE IN THE HELL AM I?” because everything looks different.

It’s also currently very green and everything also looks different for that reason. Of course, this is also why this will be my last long trail run until October. I don’t like the green stuff. It usually contains poison ivy (of which I’m highly allergic) and snakes (of which I’m deathly afraid if they’re poisonous). This is like the party at the end of the school year, the last time we’ll all be together in one place until Fall.

Because it’s three exhausting days, I have opted to always just try to have fun and not stress about PRs or time goals. It’s nice to have a group because you can kinda hold each other up when one of you is feeling down and – luckily – we tend to alternate those moments. Until the last day when we’re all just delirious and tired and taking selfies with Powerbars at the aid stations. It’s so fun.

I was telling Colleen Wednesday night, this weekend I have two cups. One representing my physical energy and one representing my emotional energy. This weekend as I drain the one representing my physical energy, I’ll be refilling the one representing my emotional energy. Three mornings in a row of seeing the faces of some of my favorite people first thing, running through the woods with my friends, soaking up the energy of Spring and playing in the mud.

See you on the other side!