the summer s l o w down

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Like a slow tide, I’ve experienced an emerging realization over the last couple months, or perhaps years, that something I’m doing, some aspect of how I approach my life, isn’t working. It is a realization that has made itself known in virtually every part of my experience, in my relationship with friends, in my relationship with William, in my relationship with self, in my slow realization that I’ve lost the ability to just simply stop, lay down on the cool summer grass and do nothing, for even a moment and perhaps hours, as I was prone to in childhood and as a teen. This inability to relax has shown itself in my hormones, in my mental anxiety, physical aches and pains, digestive disturbances, in my rush to chronically add more and more, to say no on the one hand and then say yes to two additional things on the other, to develop a never-ending to do list that’s grown to multiple lists in various regards, to six email accounts separating the differing entities I’m involved in and subsequently floundering through answering most of them, and on.

I know my experience of overwhelm is not unique. I know it’s now more the norm as we all scramble about adding on to our presence on social media, to our physical possessions, to our feelings of incompleteness and subsequent filling the space with things, physical and non-physical.

A year ago, almost a year ago exactly, I actually felt the exact same as I do now, and I took action by downloading Jason McGrice’s meditations. The small sum I paid for those meditations when there’s a plethora of free ones floating about the interspace proved to me well worth it. There are some individuals that I especially associate with Jesus and his qualities as teacher, authority, and healer, in the most sacred way. Jason’s meditations, practiced for this past year more days than not, have been one way I’ve experienced the presence of Jesus, and of attempting to navigate excess stimulation and the generally just too much of our time.

In the past month and more, I’ve written about this slow awakening to the havoc of stress on my more personal blog, in addition to what I’ve shared here in past posts. For whatever reason I also sense the need to share here what is helping me navigate through.

The slow tide of hearing the message to s l o w down, to make it a priority to shut off, to rest my whole system, to notice the constant physical tension and seek whatever activities that guide me to re-learning to relax is coming in strong these days, almost like I’m being hit over the head every which way these days to LISTEN AND SLOW DOWN AND REST.

 

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  • Specifically, I’ve been doing a free-write journal by hand every morning lately. This practice is less like an indulgence and more like a necessity to ground and settle my mind into the day. For example, one morning I felt so overwhelmed by my to-do list and schedule (neither of which should have been causing extreme stress) that I wrote about my exact physical sensations, and how I was watching the shadow of my pen move across the page in the morning light as I wrote down each word. Doing that, and writing it in that way was soothing and helped me slow down my thinking and realize I had nothing to stress over, nothing too pressing, no reason to rush so much.
  • Jason’s meditations, as mentioned above.
  • Re-reading (and actually attempting to follow!) Renee’s self-care recommendations on removing excess stimulation.
  • Gaining more awareness from an eye-opening podcast on self-care with Yarrow Sarah Magdalena Love
  • Maribeth’s Helen’s latest newsletter, which was yet another driving home the message.
  • Returning to the forest. After months of no desire to go trail running, I took my first run back after the marathon to the trails on one of those days that I needed to calm my racing mind. As usual, it was insanely therapeutic.
  • MUSIC! My playlist lately, the birds that soothe me, and chakra healing!

 

Perhaps you’ll resonate with some of this and some of the links will prove helpful. I encourage you to try to slow down with me and take some time to find what works for you in terms of self-care, if you haven’t already. Otherwise, stay tuned for a new recipe coming soon in which I’ll finally share a sourdough loaf!

Delicata Squash, Rosemary + Cranberry Flatbread

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Like many people, I struggle in winter and it usually hits full force in early to mid-February. This year, it hit along with our first snow/ice storm before winter had technically even begun. This time around, I think the combination of having to set aside plans repeatedly due to weather, feeling trapped at home, and the end of a successful training cycle and race (my first marathon), all culminated in a bit of feeling glum and fearful about the what’s next–as I inevitably tend to be fearful that there’s no way I can possibly live up to my own expectations in each new year.

To be sure, I’m slowly working my way out, and coming up with colorful, yet seasonal meals is one outlet for doing so. Along with this super tasty flatbread, I’ve got a few links to share that have been helpful in this “season.” Enjoy!

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In this New Year:
Trust the light, face the darkness, and live with the questions.
The One Thing.  Absolutely love this video.
17 Recovery Goals for 2017
I don’t have a resolution for the new year, per se, as I’m continuing what I’ve been working on for the last couple years. One of the little things that feeds into that process is Filtering Out the Noise.

Nutrition:
Sugar is the ‘alcohol of the child’, yet we let it dominate the breakfast table
Big Sugar’s Secret Ally? Nutritionists

Social Skills:
Tired and not wonder woman. Applauding and nodding along to Emma’s frustration about the blogging world these days. I’ve had similar experiences. And while expecting and/or demanding instant replies is endemic in our current culture, I’m glad Emma was willing to speak out against it.
On having conversations with those from a different perspective. And progress.

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A good book:

The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones by Annemarie ColbinLike her previous book, Food and Healing, this one calls into question our skewed reliance on dairy for bone health. As an individual who was allergic to cow’s dairy as a baby, “grew out of it,” and then had many symptoms come back in my early twenties, I’ve long been taking calcium supplements and have been fearful that I’m not getting enough, even as I’ve researched and constantly questioned whether I need to take a supplement. After reading this book, which is supported by all the research I have read, I finally feel comfortable and confident that my calcium supplement is not necessary and may be doing more harm than good. This is an individual journey for sure, but if you’re interested in nutrition and bone health in particular, it is a great read.

To Eat:
Grapefruit-Roasted Beets with White Beans– I made this with a cashew cream thinned with additional grapefruit juice instead of the pistachio butter. Yum!
Moroccan Butternut Squash, Wild Rice + Garbanzos
Moroccan Quinoa Salad– This was the meal that fueled the before and after of my December marathon. Add a little kale and garbanzos (my go-to’s) and it becomes a full meal. The best.

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Delicata Squash, Rosemary + Cranberry Flatbread, serves 2-3
There are three components here, but they’re each easy and can be made ahead. Combined, they make a nutritious post-holiday meal that tastes like winter should, in my opinion. Sub out any other type of winter squash but if you do, you might want to remove the peel. If you can no longer find fresh or frozen cranberries, dried can be used, but you’ll want to use less and add more liquid. 

Cranberry Chutney:
1 tsp. good quality canola oil
1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sherry, vegetable broth, or water
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

1 large delicata squash, halved, deseeded, and chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced

Flatbread:
2/3 cup garbanzo flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbs. good quality canola or other high-heat oil
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup poultry seasoning or combination of dried sage, oregano + thyme
1/4-1/3 cup water

  • Make the chutney by heating the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 more seconds. Then add in the remaining ingredients, bring to a strong simmer and then turn down to low and cook until it becomes thick and chutney-like, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • While the chutney is simmering, roast the squash on a parchment lined baking sheet with a little water added at 400 degrees F. It should take 20-25 minutes to become soft. Remove and set aside.
  • Then make the flatbread dough: Mix the flours, oil, baking powder, poultry seasoning, salt, and water. Add enough water to make a dough that can be handled and rolled. Then allow the mixture to rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Transfer to a baking pan or pizza stone and top with the cranberry chutney. Depending on your preference, you will likely only use half of the chutney.
  • Then top the dough with the roasted squash and minced rosemary, and bake at 400 degrees F for 16 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, slice, and serve.

a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons

a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons
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I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.  – Kurt Vonnegut

 

I’ve shared little snippets about my running injury over the last year or so, and even more about the upheaval to do with my eating disorder which came to the surface when I stopped running. My thinking about my body and my relationship to running was exceptionally anxious, fearful, obsessive, and controlling, and it took me a while to become aware, accept, and then work on that. At the same time, I feel less anxious and obsessive, and much more connected and active in my faith through running. This is a continuation of my processing, and I’ll share a summary at the end of this post:

 

Something changed one day. Or perhaps it was a gradual transition and one day it came into awareness. I was running in Alton Baker Park. It was mid-February and I was on the outer edge of Pre’s Trail and I had this thought: What if it all just doesn’t matter? What if all these things I’ve been worrying about and building up are not big deals? What if I set them down and walk away? What if this were my last run and tomorrow I go back to riding horses instead? Immediately, the response was there. It was a very noncommittal shoulder shrug saying, Sure, that would be fine. 

The manic part of my brain fired back, You’re thinking that because you’re in the middle of a long run, in your happy place. You won’t be so happy tomorrow when you’re not experiencing this. There was fear in that thought, the fear of the what-ifs related to my body and my desire to control it. Those fears have plagued me.

But over the next several weeks, I kept circling back to that shoulder shrug, that lets not give such a fuck attitude. And I think right there I set down a little of the load, the attachment to an outcome, and there has since been a little space between where I’m at in the moment and what I wish for the future with running.

I am a little less attached to it, and certainly less anxious. On days when my feet or legs or body hurts in ways that are unexplainable, I’m often able to set down the pain and feel it only in the moment, not worrying so much about whether it will be there in the next moment, in the next day, in the way of the things I want to accomplish out there. I’ve stopped printing my weekly training plan and some days I have no idea what the next day will bring, nor do I overly care so much. I used to know every detail of what the week ahead would hold. 

I really don’t know what led to the change in my relationship with running, but because it was important, I prayed about it. I prayed for well over a year, often desperately. In January and February of last year, when I was not running, I was at a low point. William tried to console me one evening, It’s just a little injury. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be back to normal. You’re fine. 

It’s not, though, I responded. This is major. This is going to take a very long time. I don’t know how but sometimes I just know things. I knew the ‘little’ injury no one could explain was not so little, that it went way beyond the physical, that it was going to change me. That I had a long climb down before I could start climbing back up. In my desperate conversations with Jesus, I asked him to make it obvious if the answer was no, if I needed to set down this running hobby. I asked him to slam the door shut in my face and please, oh please God, just take away my desire to run. Help me find other hobbies. Help me find balance that is healthy. Help me not trade one obsessive, addictive tendency for another, i.e. food for running and vice versa.

 

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He did not slam the door shut in my face. There was a crack, and I cautiously, fearfully tip-toed through it, all the while expecting it to still slam closed. Even so, I’d catch glimpses of affirmation, out of nowhere, often on days that were otherwise real downers. One came sometime in the fall. I was in the middle of a run, in pain, frustrated, and a little depressed about the situation. Even so, I was like an earthworm; I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, even if I could not see it. That little gift of His affirmation was enough to keep me trudging upwards through the mud. 

At some point, months before that February run in ABP, I stopped praying about running or physical healing without even realizing it, and my conversations with Jesus were more friend-like, not so tied to an outcome, and more in line with asking for direction with the big-picture of life, and not some non-essential hobby.

It’s often hard to say where one story ends and another begins. I don’t know when I began identifying myself as perpetually injured, or not good enough, or not worthy enough to go after goals. Or when I decided to set down that story and begin another one. It probably doesn’t matter. And I can’t really explain it, not even to myself. Why running? And why share about it? Why write and have an often too-personal blog? During the past year of prayer, several things became clear: It’s not really about me and there’s a purpose here that I don’t get to understand right now. I have some unsettled, fuzzy, too-big-to-understand running dreams that won’t go away, no matter how much I try to make them. The door keeps quietly opening, little by little, and though I’m afraid to try, I hear Him asking me to keep walking with faith, a few steps each day.

Like that day in Alton Baker Park, more recently on another run that wasn’t going all that well, I had another flash of realization. I realized I feel in a very powerful place these days, truly as if there is an energy in my physical and spiritual self not entirely of me, as this unexplainable journey I’ve been on, with all its painful, difficult, individual traumas is part of the transition upwards, out of the mindset of I can’t, I don’t get to, and I’m not good enough that I’ve been carrying around during this lifetime. In that moment, the journey itself sparkled beautifully before me, with all its ups and downs. I realized then I want to explore a concept I haven’t explored in a while: What if I can? What if I get to? What if I am good enough? What if I stop worrying about whether the door will slam in my face and instead concentrate on finding out what’s on the other side of the door? 

 

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I want to find out what I’m capable of; I want to find out what He is capable of doing in me. I want to do His work. I want to walk to the edge where He leads and see what He has for me to see. Right now, for whatever reason, running is part of that. And even though I feel in a powerful place, there are still doubts. There are days and little moments where I take a step back, look at the bigger picture of how I currently feel physically and what quiet affirmations I feel in my heart, and tell myself, lady, you’re either really fucking crazy, or on to something. I prefer to believe I’m on to something.

 

Reflection: I want to make clear this is my journey, and I’ve had a whole slew of professionals advise me. I do not recommend running through an injury unless under the supervision of a professional. I also have explored, in depth, my relationship between running, my eating disorder, and other behaviors that allow me to gain control. Running has always been intricately linked to my eating disorder, as I began running shortly before I began controlling food, and it likely served as a catalyst for the ensuing food and body image problems to surface. With that being said, those problems were there long before I began running regularly, and running has become one of the ways I deeply connect with my faith, with where I learn about myself, with how I finally came to love and feel comfortable in my body, and where I let go of other life problems. Two great articles I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks include Gena’s reflection on How it Feels to Leave an Eating Disorder Behind and When Exercise Becomes an Addiction. I believe there is a place for endurance and/or competitive sports in the recovery process, and really enjoyed Julia’s podcast interview with Rich Roll on How to Take Ownership of Your Evolution, especially his thoughts on how athletic endeavors can fit into the recovery journey.