Self-actualization

I’ve learned a hell of a lot about myself in the past few months. Summer was a lovely time of watching sunrises, reading books (check out my Goodreads on the side bar), namely, getting back into fiction and even fantasy. I’ve been really connecting with who I am at my core. And also getting shit done. (That last one is vague but still hopefully conveys a strong message.)

Running has taken a back seat, though my most recent ink pays homage to my hobby-turned-natural-antidepressant. In fact, I’ve been pursuing this hobby, and PRs, for ten years now.

Ten years of running, of training, of actually only a couple of injuries. This past year held some roadblocks, like the month I had to wear a walking boot for plantar fasciitis, or the time I fell on concrete going downhill and gave myself a painful elbow sprain.

After the bout with PF, I achieve a couple PRs this year: the 10K and the half marathon. And I worked my ass off for those PRs.

Throughout this decade, running has been an outlet for all the self-guessing and -doubting from not being able to conceive. It was damn near necessary for my mental health while my husband was across the big blue ocean in the Army. It has helped me process a lot of life’s quandaries.

Now I’m no longer surviving, folks. Life is now not a struggle. That sounds quite melodramatic, right? But when you’re kind of wired to be a person who looks at the glass half empty (and at the same time don’t like what’s already in your glass), this is kind of huge.

Most people just go from day to day protecting themselves and making sure nothing goes too wrong…they see life as a threat. A good day means you made it through without getting hurt.

The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for a good chunk of my adult life. I moved in and out of this way of thinking, but now I’ve crossed “survive!” off my list.

When you’ve been doing this for so long, it’s hard to know where to go next. So I’ve been letting my heart lead me instead of my brain.

I’m reading, sitting in silence, going for a kayak, doing some yoga, exploring my faith and spirituality in a much deeper way, opening myself up to new relationships and opportunities.

And guess what? I’m thriving, yo.

Anyone who’s studied education or any related field knows about good ole Maslow. I’ve moved past the bottom two rungs and now I’m thriving in relationships. I’m doing a pretty good job in esteem, and mostly concerned about how I esteem myself. And I’ve been doing a lot of work in self-actualization.

I’ve been focusing a lot of energy here, and also in being mindful and aware. I’ve needed to slow down and take everything in. Instead of getting my views from the road, I’ve been getting them from the porch or the water.

And now that I’ve moved up to the upper echelons of this pyramid, my question is, how can I help others do the same? I have some ideas….

Running update.

I haven’t posted here about my running in a really long time. I’ve posted about running getting me through infertility, but I think this was the last real post about training. We (my husband and I) had signed up for the IMS Arizona Marathon because it was super cheap, and relatively close to where we used to live. Well, Valentine’s Day weekend came and went without us running that race, mostly because we live in Maryland now. So there’s that.

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View from a neighborhood run

I decided after the move that I needed to get back into training. For my body, for my mind, for fun. I don’t want this to be a post about infertility because honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about it, but I gained 25 lbs in the past two years due to stress, taking time off of hard workouts, overeating, etc. I was starting to wallow… anyone who’s dealt with depression/anxiety knows how this works… and I was close to signing up for therapy again.

But, I’m happy to report that I’m out of my funk, thanks to running and a change of life circumstances, and God. Aaron’s no longer leaving for months on end, or working unexpected nights or 24-hour CQ shifts because now he has a ‘regular’ job. It’s fantastic. And amazing. And I’m so glad we got through the past 6.5 years with the Army for him to have this opportunity. I’m also working, but part time, and really enjoying the time it allows me to have to clean, cook, take care of things, but also to use my ESOL expertise. At first, moving to Maryland in the middle of the academic year was not my first choice, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful decision.

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Trails at Susquehanna State Park

So, with all that said, I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in May. Not officially, as I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s on my calendar. Last week was week 3 of training, I think, and I ran 15 miles total. A Yasso 800’s workout, just a plain old run, and a long run of 6 miles. We bought new shoes this weekend so hopefully that’ll help some of the stiffness I’ve had in the first couple miles of my runs. Overall, I’ve been happy with my paces and my motivation to do each run. And the endorphins, you can’t forget the endorphins!

After the half, I’d like to train for a fall marathon, and then set my sights on a spring 50K. I’ve had this goal for most of my 20’s to do a 31-mile (50K) race before my 31st birthday, which will be next April. Barring injury or other crazy life circumstances, I don’t see why that can’t happen. And the Mid-Atlantic area is full of wonderful races to choose from.

Thank you.

I wanted to post this on Facebook, but it got too long… so here it is. My emotions are running high this week (and today I’m hopped up on Sudafed, because of course I would get sick this week), but you can be assured that I mean every word.

As this deployment comes to a close, I want to thank everyone immensely for all your support and prayers throughout this time. While I’ve stayed busy and managed to hold down the fort (sometimes it felt like just barely), I could not have done it without your support.

A special thanks goes out to my adopted El Paso family who have taken me in as their own for holidays and just because, laughed with me, cried with me, run with me, served youth with me, enjoyed a coffee, lunch, or sushi date, prayed with me, gone camping in Ruidoso, taken me to or picked me up from the airport, come for me when I got lost in the New Mexican desert on a trail run, inculcated me into Mexican culture (always a dream for this former Spanish teacher), and taught this huera some border slang. 😉

When we moved here three years ago, it was the first time I’d moved more than 15 miles away from both our families. I knew that we’d find a church and make friends, but I never could have imagined the amazing relationships that would be grown as brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have gone (even more) crazy without my church family. And that’s why I encourage anyone who moves away to find a church right away. If anything, it’s just a great place to find great people who will surround you with optimism and encouragement.

Thank you also to my sister Leah (and nephew Benjamin!), my friend Jackie, my Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Anita who spent time and money to visit while Aaron was gone.. I enjoyed counting down to your arrival, and the airport became one of my favorite places in El Paso. Those times are unforgettable. The best part? I got each of you all to myself. 😉

This separation has been rough, but adversity can build character if you let it. From my perspective, it’s been the most difficult of all the separations, and I pray to God it’s the last, at least for awhile. I’ve learned to take things to Him in prayer right away. I’ve learned to dive into His Word and intercede for my friends and family. As amazing as friends are, no one can be everything to you all the time. I’ve learned to put my trust in God, the only one who can really comfort us.

I just could not imagine this journey without you all, especially those in El Paso, suffering together in the desert :p. No matter what the future holds, my life has been forever changed by your obedience to “love each other deeply” as the Lord commands.

Approaching homecoming

Shoot, guys. It’s coming up fast. According to my nifty countdown app, we are at 4% left. However, do not be fooled by my technological prowess, friends. I do have a calendar on the wall and I’ve been crossing off days with a Sharpie since I hung it up January 1.

Before we actually went through a deployment, I had all these media-fed ideas of what it would be like. Some of it has come to pass, like the uncertainty of dates, dropped Skype calls, and crazy math to figure out differences in time zones. But some of it won’t be like what you see on TV, or even from homecoming pictures and videos (which, btdubs, make me bawl my eyes out). For us it’ll be different because of the nature of his mission over there. There won’t be a huge ceremony or large formations (thank GOD)… we’re not hiring a photographer… he didn’t wear multi-cam… no skanky dresses (at least not for me!)… I’m not making glittery signs with questionable verbiage about the nature of the first night together. The moment will be more private and mostly ours. I keep thinking I’ll pick him up in the middle of the night, but who knows.

I’ve been in an emotional vacuum for these last couple months as far as the anticipation of homecoming. After you’ve been through long separations like this, you learn to shut off that part of yourself. It’s good, really, because anything else is just a roller coaster, and you save yourself from potential disappointment. But now that we’re getting so close, my emotions are sputtering to life.

For us, and for lots of military couples out there, life will be all different but the same all at once. I can’t just drop my whole life in order to reacclimate my husband to our life stateside. It’s a strange feeling, because I had always pictured being able to just fall off the face of the planet during block leave. But that’s not even an accurate picture of life. Life has been going on despite the distance… actually, lots has been going on since he left in May… daresay the most important parts of the past few years that we’ve lived here. It’s hard when you realize that there are large chunks of your marriage that you haven’t shared with each other. I can barely put in words what it’s like to be married and be “one” and all that, but at the same time not be “one.” It’s a very strange feeling. Like phantom limbs.

In the end part of reintegrating into life together is accepting that the other person has had experiences, good or bad, that have shaped them throughout the separation… experiences that you will never get to go through with them. Another part is for me to realize that I won’t have to do everything on my own anymore. I don’t have to take out the trash all the time, or call customer service, or vacuum (can you tell which “jobs” are his?). And while from the outside it may look like it’s easy to let him do those things again, there’s a defiant and resistant part of me that says, “I can do it myself!”

I like the woman I’ve become throughout this deployment. I’ve become more stable emotionally (we’ll see if that sticks…), I’ve learned to take things to God in prayer right away… I’ve learned to just take most things in stride. I’ll be 28 in April and I feel like I’m better, more of who I’ve wanted to become. If that makes any sense. I feel different this time around; definitely more at peace and less anxious.

I want to be able to be that woman when life is complete again. The problem with love and marriage and relationships is that there are emotions… a lot of them. I’ve been so used to being alone, living alone, that sometimes I just don’t react to things that I normally would have if he were here… there’s no one to immediately react to my reactions (unless I call or text a friend), so then it seems silly to react, ya know? And the dog, well, she just looks at me with her enormous, ridiculously buggy eyes and she just gets it. No explanation needed. But even though there will be someone here with me, the someone, I hope I can still have self-control about certain things.

March is going to be a busy month, and we won’t even be together for half of it. That’s right, not even half. He needs to see our family, and I will still be in the middle of the semester and then traveling to Portland to present my research. April and May will also be busy months.. but I’m hoping that after graduation, things can settle back in to normal life, whatever the eff that is. That is, of course, unless we move. 😉 See? Always on the go. Never a dull moment.

Anyway.. I just needed to get some thoughts out so I can go to sleep in peace. There were far too many voices in my head. And now I’ll get all comfy in my bed with the dog… poor thing doesn’t know what’s coming, and I don’t have the heart to tell her. 😉

Hello, my name is Elizabeth and I’m a control freak.

With winter break behind us, I’ve had some time, weeks even, to ponder things… events, ideas, prayers. So far my year of no resolutions is going great thankyouforasking… and I have to tell you that my one resolution was to make the bed every day. And as of Day 22 of 2014, I’ve succeeded. 😉 It really makes me feel like I have control over the day so early on…

I’ve really been pondering and mulling over this idea of self-control. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, but it never really stood out to me before. I always thought that maybe things like love and patience and goodness were more important or something. But lately I’m beginning to think that self-control is the key to all of them, and it’s the key to a full life that can manifest Jesus’ love on earth.

And really, it’s not self-control. Lord knows I cannot, I repeat can NOT control myself at Orange Leaf with all those delicious flavors of fro-yo, let alone the toppings. It’s a crap shoot, guys. He also knows that sometimes I just can NOT control my tongue on Interstate 10. I mean, seriously. It’s just offensive. So in all truth in a slow process I’ve been letting my self-control become God-control.

Self-control is a good thing to learn how to cultivate, but if you’re anything like me, you learn things the hard way.

Story of my freaking LIFE.

I have spent most of my 27.75 (as of today actually…) years on this earth being anxious, controlling, worried, planning anything and everything, and that’s my own personal version of lack of self-control.

I have spent a good portion of that 27.75 years letting my emotions get the best of me only to feel regret or embarrassment later. I’m like Kristen Bell; “If I’m not between a 3 and 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying.” Can I get a witness?

I spent a few years of my 27.75 overweight because of my lack of self-control with eating and concurrent lack of exercise.

I’ve spent a different good portion of my 27.75 years saying things that just seemed to roll off my tongue only to be begging for forgiveness later.

There’s no doubt that running has helped considerably with my self-control. It takes patience and determination to train for a race, to get up when that alarm rings so so soooo early, to reject that second (or third) cupcake in favor of being fueled properly.

The Army has also been a fantastic teacher of patience and self-control… and just life and marriage in general. Early on I’d let myself get all worked up about where we would move… looking up maps and races and interstates and houses to rent and jobs.. I bet you’re exhausted just reading that. I was exhausted, wrought with anxiety over many things I had no control of. I couldn’t even control my own actions or emotions and that quickly leads to a downward spiral which for me ends in depression. And that’s a dirty slimy pit. So dirty. And slimy. *gag*

The thing is, I asked to learn this particular fruit of the Spirit (ughhh silly me!), and I learned a few more fruits of the Spirit in tandem with self-control. And boy was I brought through situations where I was taught how to let go. I think for a Christ-follower to have self-control really speaks volumes of his or her sincerity of faith and growth in relationship with Jesus. With self-control you learn to control the following but Lord have mercy not limited to:

your reactions to things (ahem, crazy drivers on I-10 or Army ridiculousness),

your reactions to people (you know, that one person that just reallllllly gets under your skin),

your eating,

your working out,

your interactions with people at work,

your emotions when in a precarious situation (this I’m still working on),

your parenting (I have yet to encounter this),

your Internet usage (heh),

your Bible-reading,

your praying,

your relationship with your spouse (also working on this, I’m sure my husband is thankful).

If I let Jesus deal with these things and guide me throughout my days, that means that I trust Him 100%. When we start taking back control, we stop trusting. I want to trust 100%. Who wants to take their burdens back? I sure don’t. I wouldn’t wish my past anxiety or worry on anyone. ANYONE. I guess what I’m getting at is that all of this is connected as deep heart issues generally are.

Something I’ve been mulling over is that self-control leads to obedience. To be obedient means that you sometimes have to lay aside your plans, your worries, your anxieties, your wants, your desires, in order to pick up your cross and follow down the straight and narrow. It’s hard because we as humans think we gain something by staying in control. My friends, it’s quite the opposite. Believe me. Congratulations, you gain something alright; you gain back your burdens.

But I want to be obedient. I know God knows when I wake and when I lie down.. He knows my past, present, and future.. He knows what lies deep in the abyss of my soul and longs to take those burdens and control freak tendencies. I could easily be tempted to start controlling the next several months (despite the fact that we are in Army limbo [or purgatory??] right now) and apply to jobs, take teacher tests, and generally freak out. *Gulp*

(Aside: My ten-year PCHS Class of ’04 reunion is this year and everyone’s all “Do you want July 19 or August 2?” and I’m all “Hell *ahem* heck if I know what state I’ll even be in then! Must be freaking nice to know where your LIFE is headed in six months!” See?? Prime example.)

But when I am free from my control-freakness (hey, I’m a budding linguist so I can do fun morphological things like that ;)) and cultivate God-control, I can be freed up to be obedient… and that is the life in Christ I long to live. With the beginning of my 29th year of life and 7th year of marriage quickly (oh so quickly) approaching, I knew something needed to change. I should be better by now, less reactive, more proactive. Less anxious, more sure. God-control is the only way.

The year of no resolutions

As I get older, or maybe it’s just as I get wiser (ha) I realize how much I don’t like committing to multiple things for a really long time. Obviously I’m committed to my marriage, that’s kind of a big deal, and I’m committed to Jesus, grad school, and a lifetime of fitness. But pretty much everything else is up for grabs.

Something I’ve really been working on during this deployment is taking things day-by-day. I’ve always been a planner, a ridiculous, meticulous, INSANE planner. In some parts of my life it’s been a blessing to be that way, but in the rest of it, it’s just a pain in the butt. Like, a big one. Being that way has caused me to plan away all my vacation time, with a lot of the reason being that I’m afraid people will be mad at me if I don’t see them. Well, sorry, but I shouldn’t have a guilt trip complex on freaking vacation!

It’s caused me to overcommit to races in my head that I never ended up doing (Bataan last year, a few marathons, etc). And that only leaves me feeling like crap when I’m not running an insane amount of miles for a race I didn’t even sign up for in real life. Again, ain’t nobody got time for a guilt trip.

It’s caused me to get through things instead of enjoy things, as if my life were one giant checklist. Now, I love lists. It’s part of being a planner. But I’d like my lists to become more of a gathering of ideas rather than a “do or DIE” sort of thing.

I no longer want to be overcommitted to things, whether it’s church stuff, social stuff or just…. stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I totally believe that people should follow through with commitments, especially Christians. The world needs less flakiness. My goal is to not say “yes” to things I will have to say “no” to later, and to say “maybe” to things that I’m just not sure about. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’,” ya know? I mean, it’s totally socially acceptable to not be sure about some event happening in a month. A lot can change in a month, especially this thing called life. But if I do commit to something, I will follow through. I think it sets a good example to myself, to others, to children, to people who have known only flaky people. Let’s just stop with the flakiness.

I’m gonna be honest; this week kinda sucked. While I’m glad to be back in El Paso because it means the semester starting soon and a returning husband on his way, I also miss life in Illinois. Having your heart in two places is just… painful. This week I’ve had nothing but time to myself in my house (I know you wives with full-time husbands and mothers, just any mother, is wishing you could have so much time to yourself in your quiet house) and so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, introspection, and prayer.

This year is the year of no resolutions. I’m not going to commit to not eating certain things, or running a certain number of miles a week, or plan out all of 2014. About the eating, I love eating, and I even like high fructose corn syrup and I can’t promise I won’t eat it sometime in 2014. So there. I’ll get to the running in a minute. And it is impossible for me to plan out all of 2014 because as we’re approaching our 3 years here in El Paso (and husband would like to transfer out of his unit) I don’t even know if we’re moving this year.

About the running. I signed up for the El Paso Marathon as soon as registration opened, because who wouldn’t want a $60 marathon?? I’m about 85% sure I’ll be dropping down to the half. I used so much mental toughness training for Transmountain. I’d never been so diligent and consistent in training for a race before. I kicked butt on that one, and then PR’d my 5K time, which was a 2013 goal. Since then, the holidays happened (need I say more?) and I did keep up with running (10 miles is kinda my fave long distance now) but I have lost all motivation and even guilt to do anything over 13-14. And it gets lonely out there on those long runs, ya know?

What’s more, the other night on the holiday fun run organized by Farrah at Fairy Healthy Life, I felt some weird tweaks in my right leg, things that have annoyed me a little in the past few months. I definitely don’t want to push my luck and end up injured.

Aaron and I are signed up for the Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50K in May in northern New Mexico, and training for that will pick up at the end of February. I have to have motivation for that; a 50K is no joke. I mean, it’s a freaking ultra in the mountains!

So those are the races I’m committed to for 2014. Only 2. At least 2…

So my New Year’s Resolution? To not overcommit to things. And if I’m gonna commit to something, I’ll make good on my promise. I want to be reliable, not flaky. Oh and the other thing? I’m trying to make my bed every day. So far, so good. 😉

Fighting fire with fire.

How do you overcome depression and anxiety, let alone when your husband is deployed? It’s not easy, and if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, so much that it’s starting to affect your every day life, you need to take it seriously. Maybe you’re like me and have dealt with mild or situational depression or anxiety in your life, and it comes and goes depending on your health and stressors at that particular time.

For me, it most recently hit me during my trip home. I have been treated in the past for depression/anxiety, both with therapy and meds. Both were needed at the time and both helped me a lot. Let me say this: there is absolutely no shame in finding help. This is the first time I have considered going back to the doctor since I stopped meds and therapy in 2008. I have a lot of situational stressors going on, so as of right now I’m going to do what I can to control it with lifestyle changes and reevaluate after my husband returns (soon!!!!). By that time, many of the stressors will be gone so I will probably not have to seek professional help. I have dealt with this since I was in junior high, so I know myself and my body very well.

The point of this post is to give some tips to help you if you’re dealing with mild depression or anxiety. I am not a mental health professional by any means; I’m a woman who has a lot of experience with these illnesses and have found little things to do in my life that help me cope without continued therapy and meds.

How do you know if you’re dealing with these illnesses? There are many online resources such as questionnaires that can informally assess your current mental state. If you choose to see a doctor or therapist, they’ll go over your personal and family medical history during your first visit. Be honest; no one is there to judge you. I have mental illness on both sides of my family, so that tipped my doctor off that I might need more than just cognitive behavioral therapy. Biology is hereditary.

1. Take a deep breath and don’t take yourself so seriously. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to cry because it seems that everything is going wrong all at once. Remember that you’re not the only one going through this and that you won’t feel like this forever. Mentally step away from the situation.

2. Make your home your sanctuary. It’s really important that when you come home from work or a night out that your home is comfortable and somewhere you can relax. One way I do this is to make sure the house is cleaned on a regular basis. Ask my husband; I can’t relax unless things are picked up and dishes are done. Buy some candles and light them when you get home. Buy pretty towels for the bathroom. It may sound silly, but little things help.

3. Give yourself “me” time. The amount of “me” time depends on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, but since I’m the former, I need “me” time to recharge and feel refreshed. I know this all too well, so I try not to plan too many things with friends on a weekly basis. At the most, I’ll reply with a “maybe” if I’m just not sure about doing a particular activity. And it’s okay to say “no”! The night my husband deployed, I had just started final exams; I left my final early to see him off. That night I relaxed with a hot bath and a glass of wine. I made that time for myself and it made the first night alone that much easier.

4. Get a pet. My pit bull mix Missy is my companion when my husband’s not home. She offers protection and companionship, and she’s not too shabby of a running partner either! Of course, pets come with vet and boarding bills, but this time apart from my husband has showed me that it’s worth it!

5. Visit friends and family, or have them visit you. I have been blessed to have both my sisters visit at different times (and one with her new baby!), and my aunt came right after finals were over and we flew back to Illinois together. I just got back from a two-week visit with family. Visits, whether here or there, help you reconnect with family and friends from “back home” and give you something to break up the duration of the time apart.

6. Develop a few close friendships. We’re not meant to go through life alone. Being far away from family can be difficult, but it is possible to find amazing people to go through life with you wherever you’re stationed. Put yourself out there and meet people. Don’t write people off because you might be stationed somewhere new soon. We need each other. And when you get to know people in your community, you’re not just “passing through” anymore; you’re now a part of that community.

7. Set short and long term goals. This could be goals with a hobby, or goals for school. If you have kids, it could be places to see or things to do with your kids. For me, it’s running. While my husband is away, I train for races. Running keeps me sane, fit, gives me an endorphin rush and time to process things.

8. Lower your expectations. Part of my anxiety stems from things related to time. I’m always 5-10 minutes early, to EVERYTHING. It’s just the way I grew up. But in my 27 years I’ve learned that not everyone is like that. My anxiety also is tipped off when I expect to get somewhere in a certain amount of time, and unexpected traffic or a forgotten errand gets in the way of that. Another thing that gets me is when I expect to chat or Skype with my husband and he’s not available. Just take a breath and stay calm.

There are a million more tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, but these are the ones that have come to mind recently. Every day down is another day closer to homecoming! You’re going to be stronger than the day you started.