Blogs tagged with "life"

When Hurricane Patricia hit the west coast of Mexico,
San Jose del Cabo had amazing surf for two days.

I've been struggling with this post for a long LONG time. Not on paper, but in my head. Something happened in Mexico. And I can't shake it.

In a word: I changed.

I changed from the person I was into the person I keep wanting to be. I started to ask myself those deep soul-inquiring questions. Why? Why are you doing this?

I had no answer.

For the past several years, I've become a slave to Triathlon (capital T) and the Mdot. These are the Lifestyle Corporations that induce me to shell out enormous amounts of cash chasing something that is supposed to make me feel good about myself. Yet, the more I tried to be a Triathlete, the worse I felt about myself. And the more Triathlon friends I surrounded myself with, the more I started to hide from them.

It comes down to one "ism": "Comparison is the thief of joy."

All I've done is compare myself to others and I keep coming up at the bottom of the list. Never good enough. Never fast enough. Never cool enough. Never good-looking enough. Never having the best gear. The newest gadget. The fastest clothing. I was afraid to talk to any of the Triathlon people because I would seem like the "low-income ugly red-headed cousin who ran in cotton sweats." (Why this is bad, I have no clue, as I used to embrace that part of me, the part that was different and unique.)

But I kept trying - if I was faster, people would like me, right?

The problem is, I didn't like myself. I didn't like what I'd become. I resented the Lifestyle Corporations that existed only to take my money, and sell me overpriced races and stuff that would make me "faster" or look "cooler" and tout my accomplishments. Triathlon is all about gear and bodies (note, please don't hang me, Triathlon friends, I'm interpreting the 95%). I found myself in forums where people said things like "how many bikes is too many bikes?" walking around at races with too much skin on display (which, obviously, always looked better than mine), and being on a team where my cohorts say things to me like "going to Kona is great, but how does it help our sponsors?"

I spent a lot of time with my mouth agape at things Triathlon people said, a lot of time being disgusted with the commercialism of the whole thing, and a lot of time worrying that I would never measure up.

Most importantly, I forgot the Number One Fundamental Reason For Doing Something: because I enjoy it.

This past weekend, I watched a movie called "The End of the Tour." It's basically one long conversation between two men: acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace (one of the people I am apt to name when asked "If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?") and Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky. They spend five days together in 1996 during the last week of Wallace's book signing tour for Infinite Jest. It begins with Lipsky learning of Wallace's suicide in 2008. I don't know why this movie affected me so much, but it precipitated an almost four-day soul-defining time-out. It made me realize I have become a drone. I've defined myself by outside standards instead of inherent inner value. I've stopped caring about making a difference and started accepting failure. This has happened in life as well as sport.

I was reminded of a time when I never needed to race. I could go swimming or biking or (especially) running just because those things gave me myself. When I challenged myself with additional miles, I did it not because someone else was doing it, but because, simply, I wanted to challenge myself. Seriously, the reason I started distance-running in the first place had everything to do with self-help. It cleared my mind. It gave me peace. It just felt good. And I never told anyone I was doing it because I never cared what anyone thought about it. I even liked doing it alone.

Now, I read everyone's daily updates on Facebook and rate myself. I stopped doing sport for the pure joy of it and started doing it for external affirmation. Getting the medal became important. Winning was important. People would like me more if I won, right? I started (harshly) judging myself by everyone else's accomplishments. Daily. I would, and will, never measure up.

I've been fighting against this attitude my whole life - this hypocritical dichotomy. Deep down, I believe people have worth just because they exist, and I deeply value my friends because they're my friends, whether they have achievement medals or not. But, over the years, my OWN worth has stemmed from my school grades, my swim finishes, my track finishes, how prestigious my college was, how prestigious my job was, how much money I made, whether I was married, whether I had kids, how many marathons I did, how many Ironmans I did, and finally, the dream I've been chasing for a few years, whether I can finally make it back to Kona and have a good race there.

Why?

I've nothing to prove. Lately, it's not like everyone hasn't done an Ironman. I've become a drone to the Triathlon Lifestyle. To the Corporations who know how much money I (don't) make but will find a way to make me fork it over. I do it year in and year out, and nothing changes. They get richer and I'm still the same person I was. With more stuff. And less worth.

Something has to change. I have to change.

I was smiling during and after the rough IM Los Cabos swim.
I was sad it ended so quickly.

And now, I can say without doubt, that instead of learning nothing in Mexico (note: I started Ironman Los Cabos, I didn't finish), I learned everything in Mexico. I learned that I love Mexico. I love the food. I love the people. I love the landscape. I love the water. I LOVED the water. Not the drinking water. The ocean water. While I was out there fighting the chop in the 2.4-mile swim of Ironman Los Cabos, I was having the most fun I've had in a race. Ever. And now, I want to do that. For no reason but because it's fun, I feel challenged, and I want to.

I think I want to swim. In the ocean. Long. Distances.

Thus, I may have something new to write about. Let the adventure begin.

Here are some of our photos from Mexico.

First place we ate in San Jose del Cabo was a little hole-in-the-wall
called El Mesón del Ahorcado (The Hangman).
The tacos were to DIE for. Look at all the salsas!!

Cabo Pulmo National Park

Coastline of Cabo Pulmo National Park, we snorkeled here.

Again, with the food..
this was Mexican street corn, so so SO great
(I know, it's only a cup of corn scraped from the
cob with sour cream and queso blanco, but OMG, what more do you need?)
It's also coincidental to note that someone in Cabo San Lucas
compared my dress to a dorado (fish).

And here's a video I made of snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo 
(we somehow figured out how to rent equipment from the non-English-speaking Carlos who has a little shack on a tiny beach and lets you take "showers" with a hose - amazing reef right off his coast):

Recently, I came to the realization that my 50th birthday was less than a few months away, and I've completely stagnated (mostly at work but somewhat in life also). Coinciding with this realization was a series of what seem to be cosmically-related events:

  • My path crossed with several people I greatly admire who are working as artists. They've encouraged me to consider doing the same - that I "have what it takes."
  • I've been welcomed into a group of self-employed creatives - artists, designers, writers, musicians - who share information, tips, help and support on their work and business at  Morning Inspiration 1

    Morning Inspiration 2

Recently, I came to the realization that my 50th birthday was less than a few months away, and I've completely stagnated (mostly at work but somewhat in life also). Coinciding with this realization was a series of what seem to be cosmically-related events:

Nothing much is going on in my world that's worthy of writing home about, but here's an update (like anyone cares).

My daily drawing has been a fail because I stopped doing it while I was feverishly preparing a talk on my latest project (the Cleveland Museum of Art's website) for the Cleveland Drupal Users group. The talk went well, despite my struggles with stage fright.

My training has been another fail because my physical therapist still can't fix what's wrong with my left hip and the torn labrum in my shoulder is back to its pain-state after the cortisone shot wore off. But this past week, we got a little closer to fixing my hip - a new stretch seems to have freed up the tendency to pull my foot inward on the left side. I have some new stretches and a less pessimistic outlook on the future. I've given up hope of running all 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon and begun to look at this trip as just a way to satisfy my craving for New England clams.

I will be having periodontal surgery tomorrow - three teeth will have gum grafts and then I am told I must give up two weeks of training to recover. This will probably kill me (another reason for writing this blog just in case it's my last). I will attempt to focus on my art in (strangely still-optimistic) hope that I may get good at something before I die.

The only thing I did conquer recently was making pie crust.

And I learned something that I always knew about myself - that I was a fish in a former life. There's no other way to explain how I feel when I'm in the water and not focusing on swim training. Sometimes it feels like it's the only time I'm truly at peace with the world and myself. It also might explain why I've almost gone crazy living in places that are land-locked.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I got, and some pictures of the goings-on in my life...

Latest drawings (the first two are hip pain, the "lightbulb" one was during the Super Bowl when the lights went out in the Super Dome):
There were two new Play-Doh disasters (autobiographical): 
And we took a trip to Pittsburgh to eat, shop, and visit my favorite Edward Hopper painting: 
We saw a special exhibition of art from the World's Fairs at the Carnegie Museum of Art:
Then we went to the galleries - and once again checked out Hopper's Cape Cod Afternoon:
We got lost in Pittsburgh for the 50 billionth time (note that at one point, the GPS thought we were smack in the middle of the Monongahela River)
I went running on a very snowy morning along the north shore riverfront trail (one of my favorite Pittsburgh running spots)

Nothing much is going on in my world that's worthy of writing home about, but here's an update (like anyone cares).

I don't have anything to write a long blog about, but I want to stay in practice so I'll write about a few little things. Most of my time lately has been spent either at work (because we've had some really big things going on at the Zoo), logging miles and/or soul searching.

As an athlete, I'm always looking for that one thing that will make me better - whether that means faster or stronger or more durable (always a plus for someone known as the Disaster Magnet). The most recent thing I'm in the middle of is changing my nutrition both in and out of training and racing.

I've become a huge fan of

She even had time to pose
with the photographer *sigh*

About a week ago, the Zoo had a famous visitor, Betty White. I'm sure you know that Betty's popularity has soared recently for many reasons. One of the reasons she's ultra-popular in Cleveland is because of her TV Land show "Hot in Cleveland." She was in town with her costars from the show (Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick) to accept the keys to the city from the Mayor. A well-known animal lover, Betty took a side trip to the Zoo for a personal tour from the Zoo Director.

I was "commissioned" to tag along as the official photographer. (What that means is my supervisor said "Betty White is coming to the Zoo tomorrow, do you have time to take some pictures?" Um... what kind of question IS THAT??? My answer? "I'll clear my schedule.")

My world changed that day. Through simple observation (and my camera lens), I got an insight into a woman who has often been called the "Animal Whisperer." I'm convinced Betty White's longevity has something to do with the peace she has with animals and people. I think she left an indelible mark on everyone who met her that day, and I'm now convinced that it may not be all about eating healthy and exercising, but that happiness and peace are essential in keeping us alive and well for many years.

One of the most amazing things Betty White did for us was a one-take 30-second video telling Cleveland about their Zoo. Being behind the video camera for that was one of the most thrilling and nerve-wracking experiences of my life. As the Disaster Magnet, I was SURE that I did something wrong like forgetting to press "play" on the camera.

But I didn't.

I hope that means my disastrous luck is changing.

I don't have anything to write a long blog about, but I want to stay in practice so I'll write about a few little things. Most of my time lately has been spent either at work (because we've had some really big things going on at the Zoo), logging miles and/or soul searching.

I recently followed a twitter link to an interesting article: A Question for You Triathletes... by Ben Greenfield. He asks: "What motivates you to do triathlons?" and then goes on to mention he's not buying the obvious cookie-cutter answers involving rational things like fitness and stress relief. Instead, Greenfield reasons that if we are completely honest with ourselves, triathletes will find we "do triathlons for emotional and irrational wants and fears."

Ok. I'll bite. I don't even need Greenfield's exercise for determining how to figure out my irrational wants. I can delve that deep all by myself with the help of a long training session. It all starts with childhood (come on, did you really think it would be something different?) I was born into a family that worshipped athletes. Football players. Hockey players. You name it. Athletic achievement was valued above all else except, maybe, school grades. And I grew up in the shadow of two superstar athletes -- my brothers -- who garnered all parental attention. First irrational want: to be a superstar. I chose to do it by joining the high school swim team. I was 14.

Despite great success at swimming, then track, AND school, I continued to believe I would never be fast enough, never smart enough,... never pretty enough, never popular enough. Irrational? Yes. But I was young. When I became a "more rational" adult, would the irrational motivators still drive my athletic achievements?

I started running after college. I ran because I loved running, and I needed a break from swimming. Why did I run marathons? I suppose it could have been to address the lingering irrational desires. The pinnacle of my running "career" came when I qualified for the Womens Olympic Trials in 2000. The strangest praise came from a friend of mine who told me I had become a sort of "hero" to all the local runners who were not born with natural talent. (I am NOT making this up.) He said that my achievement was amplified by the fact I was NOT your typical "runner" (by that, I think he meant small, thin, fast, and genetically gifted). I imagined myself the running version of Salieri in the closing scene of Amadeus -- had I become the patron saint of running mediocrity?

Cue the irrational motivators.

I switched to triathlon after ten years of marathoning and several injuries including stress fractures. The rational reason? To avoid more injuries. The irrational reason? Because I was a good swimmer once and I would never be as fast as the "runners." I desperately needed to be good at SOMETHING, anything. I was 36. My fourth triathlon was an Ironman. Irrational? Absolutely.

Now that I'm 44, I find the most interesting motivator may not be irrational at all. It is the one that got me back into triathlon after 5 years off following a bike accident. I never expected to WANT to do another Ironman, because, during that time off, I landed in a job that finally lent meaning to my life -- a job I loved at an organization I believed in. After more than a year of sinking my passion into work, the unimaginable happened. I found out something I already knew from previous experience: in the workplace, hard work and dedication may not be rewarded - the simple truth is that I'm no good at playing office politics.

I responded by re-dedicating myself to Ironman. If there's one thing I WILL get out of being an endurance athlete, it's the satisfaction of knowing that all my hard work pays off. I train hard, I get faster. I race smart, I win. I answer to myself only, and I am responsible for my performance. There are no arses to kiss. And I can live with that.

As I get older, I find myself reminiscing more - I guess that's really what writing memoirs is all about. For instance, after my swim the other day, my mind focused on the lock on my locker that belonged to one of my high school running friends and I realized I will never be able to tell her I still have her lock because I've not heard from or seen her since graduation. However, I WAS fortunate enough to find someone ELSE I thought I had lost, my best friend from high school, Jo-Lynn. Is it just a coincidence that Jo-Lynn popped into my head while I was lying in that MRI machine last week listening to the James Taylor song "Fire and Rain"?

Before I say anything else, I just want to say that there are only a few people in my life that I am or would have been willing to die for. One of them is Jo-Lynn. If I had a sister, I would have wanted it to be her. The last time I heard anything definitive about her, she had left her husband of two years - they lived only three hours away, in Dayton. This was sometime around 1990. He wrote to tell me. Why did HE write? I'm not sure - he was actually a friend of mine from college who pursued her (she went to a different university). I thought he just wanted to meet her because I talked about her all the time and how much I missed her.
The last time I saw HIM was when I moved to Cleveland in 1987. I visited him in Dayton. During that visit, he showed me his "scrapbook" -- containing things he had collected from years of relationships with different girlfriends. Scarily, he had stuff of MINE! Stuff he took from my college dorm room. Stuff like, my earrings (!) and some drawings! He was reluctant to show me anything after MY "entry" in the book, but when he left the room, curiosity made me look. It was then that I realized what he didn't want me to know: he was obsessed with Jo-Lynn. He pasted her college ID and other stuff of hers in there. Years before, she had told me they had a brief relationship, but I thought it had ended. (For some reason, HE never told me about it.) 
The whole episode scared the daylights out of me -- I felt like I was browsing through the belongings of a psycho/serial killer. I didn't sleep that night, and I was very happy to finally get home the next day. After that, he wrote and called often. I just let him talk. Imagine my surprise when he told me, in a letter, that he and Jo-Lynn were getting married! 
I should have done something. I should have called her and pleaded with her to get away! But it was her life, and I didn't want to get in the way. I was also afraid that if I said anything, the two of them would think I had feelings for him and was trying to stop the marriage for selfish reasons. So I did nothing. I NOW know I made a terrible mistake. She was my best friend and I loved her, and when it mattered, I did nothing. I do not know the hell that she went through with him, but from only a few statements she wrote, I know it was truly a "hell," and I feel partially responsible.
So now, over 20 years later, I found her on Facebook. I didn't know if she wanted to hear from me. I was scared that her feelings for me might have changed even though mine for her have not. Over the years, I had Googled her name over and over again and never found any information (my mistake was not using her married name). And the past 20 years could never be described as "water under the bridge." We're 44 years old. We have different lives. We travel in completely different circles. But we're only 3 hours apart. Is there a cosmic significance to that?
When I saw her photo on Facebook, I cried. She was the same. The same smile. The same hair. I sent a friend request. She accepted. She said that I looked the same. I told her I never had a friend like her. She told me the same. I read her "25 random things about me" only to find that all the things I loved about her in high school are still traits she carries to this day. I realize now that some of her best characteristics are the very things that make me the person I am today. Jo-Lynn was one of those rare people who just told you the cold hard truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not. She was never about lying or schmoozing or stroking people's egos. She is the reason I resent people who bullsh*t, lie and backstab (things that make it difficult for me to be in the marketing workforce). But she is also the reason I work so hard at being truthful and honest. It may not "get" me anywhere in life, but I can live with that. I have few regrets, but letting Jo-Lynn go is one of them.
Writing all these feelings out may not paint a nice picture of me as a friend, but it IS honest. And although it's not sports- or technology-related, it's still another life-lesson learned. I hope not too late.

As I get older, I find myself reminiscing more - I guess that's really what writing memoirs is all about.

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