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Be Better.

Hank Green did this video about “Why Are Vegetarians So Annoying” and while I didn’t like the premise/title (I really don’t know any annoying vegetarians, I know way more annoying meat eaters, honestly.) I do like part of he explored about how we all kinda make shitty ethical decisions every day because our joy outweighs our momentary ethics. (He phrases it much better of course.) And I think about that a lot in terms of my eating and why I do not like the word vegan. I am 100% vegetarian but I probably only eat vegan 90-95% of the time, depending on the day. Partly because I don’t research pre-packaged food, partly because I like donuts, and partly because I still haven’t found a good substitute for my coffee creamer.

But if I even PRETEND to use the word “vegan” people suddenly take the defensive like I’m attacking their edible morals or something. I guess because no one chooses to be vegan without at LEAST a little moral motivation. It’s never 100% health related. And because of that, non-vegans feel like you’re immediately judging their lack of morals. Just like on the days I forget my reusable bags and the lady in front of me has hers and I feel the need to explain: I USUALLY USE REUSABLE! I PROMISE! Because I assume she’s judging me. And often I’m so paranoid I’ll buy more reusable bags.

But you know what else I do a lot? Hit the drive-thru at McDonald’s for French Fries and Diet Coke. Not only am I putting my money towards a huge conglomerate instead of a local eatery (we normally restrict eating out to local haunts) but I’m also eating REALLY SHITTY FOOD. I also buy super-cheap clothes at Target which were probably made by some small child in some poor community on the other side of the globe and I’m all, “Please put those pants in my reusable bags because I care more about what I put in the landfill than I do about the kids who made the pants I’m buying for $7.”

And maybe there are people out there who eat entirely local and plant based and make their own clothes and buy local wares and are 100% ethical with their spending and their eating and if they exist? GOOD FOR THEM. But my reality does not allow for that. I was overhearing someone talking about some deal on baby clothes and they mentioned some sort of something (a brand? A style?) on Etsy and the pants were only $10 and I was thinking, “Oh, man. This person is spending more on their baby’s pants than I do on my 8-year old’s pants.” And their pants were probably way more ethically made but I could not afford to put my baby in $10 pants.

So we all fight our own battles and sometimes we make the easy decision because it is – in that moment – easy.

But every year I try to start making harder decisions. The carrying of reusable bags, the trips to the recyclery (our curbside doesn’t take glass and we drink a lot of beer), the mostly pant-based diet, the rule about only eating out at Local Restaurants…but I still buy cheap Suave conditioner because I tried to be ethical about my cosmetics but I got lazy and it got expensive.

I guess the point is to just make sure at any given moment in time I’m trying to be BETTER about something. It’s overwhelming if you think of all of those things at once, but 10 years ago I wasn’t doing any of them. And my kids are growing up HOPEFULLY thinking about these things too. Of course I’m 99% certain my oldest is not recycling in college…but I try not to think too much about that.

So I’m going to try to do better. I’m going to just really think about my decisions in how I spend my money and consider if this is TRULY the only option or if this TRULY makes me happy. (The donuts and french fries make me happy – I PROMISE.) But that $7 pair of pants? Eh. It was a really good deal but I’m not sure it was worth it, honestly. And then I wonder, but if that factory cranking out those cheap pants didn’t exist…where would those kids work? I DON’T KNOW. Just like how I don’t eat at Jimmy Johns because the owner brags about hunting big game in Africa and it freaks me out but I know people who worked there and honestly – if it closed – where would they work? I don’t know. It’s all kind of a mess and sometimes I think my Dad had the right idea that if we could get along and not be assholes, commune living was really a good set up. Someone sewed, someone cooked, someone taught the kids, someone fixed the plumbing etc. But Dad didn’t like a lot of people and he had a tendency of being an asshole so he knew he’d be the one to spoil it for everyone.

So, I’m going to try not to think TOO big picture or I get overwhelmed. But I would like to try to be more ethical with my spending. I’ve tried before and failed but it took us awhile to make recycling a habit, and reusable bags, and veganism. So maybe I just try again. Try to be make the steps towards “BETTER” more than the steps towards “SHITTY” because then at least I’m moving in the right direction…no matter how long it takes me.

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Hindsight.

This week’s lesson in parenting: It is very hard to help a child cope with their extreme emotions when you are feeling your own extreme emotions. It works that with grief and depression and anxiety and most…importantly: anger.

I’ve mentioned the problems Wes has with his anger and with tantrums in the past. We went through a bad couple of years where I felt like there was no end in sight. We got some outside help, he got a little older, I learned a lot and things and it seemed to be better overall.

Except for a few incidents. Last night was one of them. And it was terrible.

Part of me thinks maybe it’s time to get some outside help again. But if you’ll recall our insurance debacle from before and then the insurance completely uprooted us and the clinic that was covered closed down. We have found another doctor that is now covered, we went to her for Nikki’s anxiety, but she would NOT be a good fit for Wesley. But – ever since that other clinic closed down – there have been random doctors from that clinic popping up in other offices and still taking our insurance so I think I’ll try find someone else.

BUT MAN. There is also a part of me that kinda blames myself. I reexamine last night’s downward spiral and see many moments where I could have handled it differently. In retrospect, I see I didn’t do what the previous counselor suggested because I was too busy coping with my own anger. I was doing my best not to lose Which is VERY HARD TO DO when he is being so disobedient and mean. It always starts so benign. He’s just being disobedient and contrary and rude as hell. So, I tell him to do something: He has to quit playing screens, go to his room, stop watching TV, put up his Pokemon…SOMETHING. And he refuses.

A lot of time – like last night – me sending him to his room is the first step to a horrible tantrum ending in aggression. He never seems to want to obey that one and I go back and forth: Should I quit sending him to his room since that’s the one that seems to always start the spirals out of control? But here’s the thing: If I stop doing that thing that makes him angry, he never learns to deal with the anger. As we talked last night after the bad stuff was over I pointed out, “If you had just gone to your room that first time when I said it, none of the rest would have happened.”

But he refuses. And refuses. And I make threats and then I have to follow through and HE STILL REFUSES. I threatened to throw away his stuff (which I’ve done before) and he said, “I don’t care. You bought it all so it would hurt you not me.” And he refused again and I tried to physically carry him to his room but he’s big and that’s hard and he was really angry and it just escalated fast and I had to focus all of my energy on staying calm (it’s really hard to do when your kid is trying to hurt you both emotionally and physically) and stopped even trying to figure out how to cope with his meltdown. I couldn’t even respond to him anymore because I was just trying not to lose my own shit. And then Nikki got involved because she worries and doesn’t like it when Wes gets angry with me and then he just got even angrier and it just was terrible.

Eventually he broke, he always does, and he starts getting angry with himself and we haven’t had an episode like last night in a long time and I forgot how exhausting it is for everyone. He cried. A lot. I cried. Nikki cried. We talked a lot about how apologies are great but they don’t erase what happened. “I will always forgive you Wesley, but I can’t forget the things you said or did.” He cried so hard and this is always oddly reassuring because when you see your child demonstrate such terrible anger (which I hadn’t seen from him in awhile) you feel oddly better when you see remorse later. It’s like the small token of reassurance that the demon that came out for that brief moment doesn’t have full control of their personality.

It’s just hard. In so many different ways. It’s hard because I was very angry and while I didn’t lose my temper, I also didn’t do anything to diffuse his because I was so focused on not losing mine. I know for SURE I did not handle it exactly how his last doctor would have recommended I handle it. Now, I also know I didn’t make it worse. Years ago I would yell and scream in response to his terrible tantrums and I don’t do that anymore. I know that is wrong. But getting it “right” is very difficult in the moment. “Seeing Red” is very applicable, I was just so angry all I could focus on was staying calm and not ANY of the diffusing or even redirecting techniques we had talked about before.

So…part of me says, “Call for some help!” But the other part of me says, “Yeah – but – you didn’t apply the techniques the last doctor taught you, so why don’t you still use those first before you see more help.” I do feel like when I’m focused one some of the diffusing techniques and when I focus on directing him to cope with his anger instead of focusing on coping with my own, I can keep him off the wrong path. And last night I couldn’t do any of that because I was trying to make sure that I stayed on the right path.

Parenting is hard, yo. Especially when you’re trying to learn the same lessons you’re trying to teach your kid. It’s hard to be a teacher and a student at the same time.

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Clean Slate. Happy New Year.

It’s very common after a big race for the average person to go entirely off the rails with health and eating. You’re supposed to be “recovering” so you’re not getting that exercise every day that you’re used to, but you’re also hungry all the time because you burned all of those calories training and racing so you’re eating double and exercising zero.

But since this is me we’re talking about – we all know that I left the rails and then took the train off of a mountain-top and sunk it down at the bottom of the ocean.

Without exercise to help me with stress, I eat more.

Add that to the fact that our renovations are done so I’m stressing about getting the house ready for market again so I had a high-stress week without my normal anxiety coping mechanism.

THEN we had an office party. And I call myself a “lazy herbivore” because in social situations when there’s not a lot of vegan options I’ll sometimes just choose the most vegan thing I can. I’ll ingest some dairy or eggs on those occassions where I don’t want to be rude or I’m just lazy.

But y’all? I ATE MEAT.

I don’t want to discuss then whens/where/hows/whys…just know I ate meat for the first time in YEARS.

And then I had Diet Coke. SEVERAL. ON SEVERAL DIFFERENT DAYS.

And I drank beer SEVERAL (all?) of the nights. I’ve been trying to keep that to the weekends BUT NOT THIS WEEK! It was beer-thirty every night.

OFF THE RAILS, I tell you.

So. I’m being kind. I’m giving myself that week of chaos and I’m trying to A) Not feel too guilty about it (Even though I can’t help it. MEAT. I ATE MEAT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?) and B) Look to this week as the REAL start of my New Year since it’s not really ideal to start it the way I did. With a week of post 100K recovery. NO ONE CAN EXERCISE OR EAT WELL THE WEEK AFTER A 100K.

But I do have another race in 2 weeks. Its a really tough 50K. I need to be in top form because I’d really like to PR that baby. So I’m starting my New Year TODAY. January 11th. 9 days after my 100K. I didn’t even exercise on January 1st like the rest of the world did because I had a 100K on the 2nd so I was taking it easy. I didn’t do ANYTHING like you’re supposed to!

So. Jan 11th. The start of my new year. My clean slate. I’m going to pretend the last week didn’t happen, okay?

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Resolve Simply To Make Progress.

Sometimes I feel I’ve failed at things. A few weeks ago I made it down to race-day weight and then the holidays happened and my race is on Saturday and I’m 3lbs over my maximum desired race-day weight. And I feel like a failure.

But then I soften the focus on that one small attribute and widen the focus on my life.

Resolutions are often concrete goals that we either achieve or we don’t. Pass or fail. Black or white. With most resolutions, there is no gray. And when you set up goals that you either pass or fail, your chances are very good to fail.

I have failed at losing enough weight to get myself in that “race-day weight” window where I feel like I perform best.

And while that type of goal setting is necessary on many levels, it should not be how we define our success or our failure.

I have this category on this blog called “A Better Me” because I like to remind myself – THAT IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL. The goal is not to hit that magic 5lb window of “race-day weight” – the goal is to just be better than I was X amount of time ago. I don’t even like the arbitrary year marker because sometimes we have REALLY SHITTY YEARS. Honestly? 2015 was high-stress for me. I didn’t start getting my healthy/fitness back on track until September which is 9 months in.

But I’m confident that – every day – I’m making progress towards being better person. Progress. Forward progress measured on a VERY large scale.

Maybe you set a goal to run a half marathon but then you get sick and don’t run for a week and then you can’t get back on track again and you never reach your goal. But you know what? YOU STARTED. You trained for X amount of weeks more than you would have if you HAD NOT STARTED. That is progress. And that totally describes my first attempt at running in 2006. By April 2007 I had given up. Trained crappily for several races. Swore off running forever. BUT IT WAS STILL PROGRESS. I still ran a lot while I was on track. More than I would have if I hadn’t even tried. So did I fail at the specific race goal in 2007? Yes. But I made progress. And that progress was there to build on in 2011 when I gave it a try again.

Have we downsized our house yet? No. That’s been our “resolution” for 2 years now. BUT HOLY CRAP, we might as well have. The fact that we are VERY EASILY living in half of the house right now while the upstairs gets paint/carpet/renovations tells you how much we’ve downsized. There’s not much furniture up there and a few of the pieces we’re only keeping for staging purposes. We have purged so much stuff that when we do finally sell this house, downsizing will be a breeze.

PROGRESS.

I’m still not the Mom I feel like my kids need. But compared to Kim when Wes was 3’ish – Kim who had never dealt with a child with behavioral issues – I am a much better Mom. I used to just deal with my anger with yelling and I very rarely do that anymore. And even when I “yell” it’s nothing like the Yelling of Yesteryear.

PROGRESS.

And progress doesn’t always mean that you don’t fall backwards. You may travel a mile towards your goal and then falter back 9/10s of that mile. But you know what? Everything you did to travel that mile initially is still PROGRESS. Just because it feels like you’re not much further away from where you started doesn’t mean you didn’t take steps in the right directions. I’m always trying to break my stress-eating habit and I’m still not close to feeling like I’ve conquered that beast. But I’ve had some really good stretches of success. I’m not in the middle of one right now (I ate 17lbs of peanut brittle yesterday) but I’ve had some good weeks/months where I’ve kept it in check and every time there’s a week I deal with stress without eating, I know that’s a foundation for a better habit. Those decisions get easier the more you do them. I may not have dealt with this week’s stress well, but the fact that I dealt with stress well 3 weeks ago gives me a foundation to build on for success later. SO IT STILL COUNTS AS PROGRESS.

Set goals. Goals are great. But don’t lose sight of the big picture of your life. Maybe you didn’t lose that weight, but did you discover a few healthy food options you didn’t know you liked before? Maybe you didn’t run that 5K, but did you walk more than you did before you set that goal? Setting goals pushes you towards progress. They are great. But remember that every step you take in getting to that goal – those steps have value EVEN IF YOU DON’T REACH YOUR GOAL.

And sometimes a year is not enough time to really measure progress towards a Better You. Sometimes it takes a few years just to know what direction you want to travel. Sometimes you start out down a few roads and then change your mind. I’m still not convinced multi-sports are my thing. Someone asked me recently if I’ll do a half-Ironman this summer since I did an Olympic Distance Tri last summer and I’m like, “Nope.” I went down that road as far as I care to go at this moment in my life. At one point I thought a 70.3 would be a goal, but nope. Not right now. Maybe not ever. I just think my cycling anxieties are like my driving anxieties, a permanent fixture. I have to deal with the driving anxieties because I have to get around, but I hate driving. I don’t have to ride my bike unless I’m training so I’ve decided I’ll maybe do another Oly in 2017 but in 2016 I’m just going to stick to Sprints. I traveled that multi-sport road as long as I wanted and even though I didn’t reach that goal, I still consider it progress.

But the miles I put on that road still counts as progress. Even if I didn’t make it to the 70.3. Going down a different road is not failure. That progress still counts. Life is not one road. Don’t forget the progress you made down the other roads simply trying to find the one you’re on now.

Be kind to yourself as you start the new year. Soften your focus a little if you misstep. We all just want to be better versions of ourselves, right? As long as you are trying to make improvements in your life, you are making progress. And you should celebrate that progress no matter where you ended up as compared to where you started.

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On Friendship.

Since 2010, I’ve slowly emerged from the haze of social anxiety induced agoraphobia that started 10 years earlier, and now I’m blessed with a multitude of people who I feel would come to my aid if I truly needed them.

But I’m still currently learning how to nurture those friendships and have even been thinking lately about how to rekindle those flames of friendship that I’ve maybe let smolder. A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook recently and it’s just been filling in all of the gaps between my thoughts ever since.

…show up even when you’re “busy,” because friendships often start by accident, but they are maintained on purpose. Show up even when you’re tired, because you know that your support—if only for a single drink, or an episode, or the first-half, or until you can’t keep your eyes open—is meaningful.

This is something I’m trying to think about more. It’s scary because – what if I think a friendship is worth pushing through the “busy” for but then I find out that the other person is too busy? But then I remember, how many times have I said “I’m busy” to an invitation? At least a million times. And often to someone I’d really like to push through the busy for – but I just get in my head about it. I need to NOT get in my head. They’re busy or they’re not. I UNDERSTAND BUSY. And I can’t do it all. I’m still going to probably decline 10 invitations for every 1 I accept, but nothing gets nurtured if I don’t try.

So I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to try to – in the new year – make time for friends. I was thinking about how we all have to eat, right? What if maybe I invited people over for dinner sometimes to my messy house? Tucker Carlson (YES. HIM!) has this habit of going to lunch with a new person like almost every day, but definitely often, because he likes to learn from new people and get to know a variety of people and I LOVE THAT. Sharing meals is so easy because it’s something we all have to make time for OR! WE! DIE! I can’t really afford to meet people for dinner all the time, but I can invite people over for dinner, right? And that should work, as long as they’re not allergic to animals or filth.

BUT IT IS SO SCARY.

But I really want to try it. I’ve done a great job enriching my life with people and I have a great support network – but I think I need to foster deeper connections and maybe try to rekindle friendships I let die because I was “too busy”.