Bravery takes time

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about the lessons that I’ve learned from my negative relationship experiences. It took me a while to share this post on social media, partly because I was worried about coming across as damaged and bitter in some way, and partly because I was worried about how the people who I was friends with at the time of said relationships would judge me for sharing the information that I shared publicly. Then with a push from my friend, and fellow writer, Naben Ruthnum, I stopped worrying.

I tried to write a really honest account of some of my most painful mishaps and pitfalls, and how they helped me to learn and grow as a human. I was not prepared for the response that it elicited.  It didn’t GO VIRAL or anything, but it did receive over 500 more page views than any other thing that I had ever written, and I also received so many kind messages, or distressed messages, or thoughtful messages from different friends and acquaintances thanking me for writing it and telling me how much some of the things that I wrote had resonated with them.

One of the other things that people said to me was that I was brave for having written and shared this, which is such a nice thing to hear. Who doesn’t want to hear that they are brave and courageous? While I agree that it was a little bit brave – just like sharing anything personal and creative is brave – what I want to say about this is that all of the bravery in the world would not have mattered, if I hadn’t also done an incredible amount of work on myself over the past few years. This has involved therapy, yoga, meditation, forcing myself to do things that challenge me even if they are terrifying, and taking a really serious look at the behaviours and habits that have manifested unhealthy relationships in my life. And I’m still putting in more work all the time.

I grew up in an extremely unhealthy environment (which I’ll leave for a whole other series of blog posts, and likely one day a book), and it took so many years to even admit to myself how deeply this had impacted my ability to have real healthy intimate relationships with other humans. But more importantly, it has taken me even longer to recognize my own value in relationships with other humans. All of these steps and lessons learned from my marriage, and other relationships that followed, were actually steps along the path to believing that I was worth it. I sought out emotionally draining relationships with people who weren’t present or available, because I just did no believe that I deserved anything better. I threw myself into one-sided relationships in which my feelings were regularly undermined, because deep down I believed that if I could win the affections of someone who was largely uncaring, that this meant that I was finally enough. I didn’t have “daddy issues”, but I did (do…) have “family issues”. And these issues meant that the more I had to work to win over and woo someone who was emotionally distant, the more inherent value I had. I simply did not believe that an already whole, healthy, kind, creative, smart, attractive, ambitious person who I was really impressed by and swoony over would ever be able to show even a tiny glimmer of interest in me. So in order to find love, I would have to go through the back door; I’d have to wade through drama and damaging behaviour; I’d have to put in my time as non-girlfriend therapist. Only then, when I had paid my dues in some wreck of a relationship, would I finally have earned my keep. Because if I proved myself to that person at their worst, then I would have earned the value to be with them when they became their best. Only what if that person never became their best? Or what if they never would have been the best for you in the first place? Of what if they DID become their best, only I’d taught them for so long that I was not worth the time and respect to treat well, so that the closer they were to their best, the more likely they were to leave me behind?

Anyways… I guess what I am trying to say is thank-you, but also that bravery takes time to build. There were a million sappy sad sac blog posts before this one, and a million journal entries exploring my feelings, and a million lonely moments where I wished that there was someone out there who could tell me what was wrong with me. And so as a writer, I can’t not share. And if the response to my original blog post made one thing clear, it’s that we need more sharing like this happening all the time. Because it is too easy to feel so alone. And there’s no reason why we can’t feel and work through that aloneness together.

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Mental health and community

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Photo by Academy of Lions

Thank god for community.

If you’ve read through a few of my blog posts, you probably know that I am a person who lives with a generalized anxiety disorder. And that every now and then, this is also coupled with depression.

Under usual circumstances, I am very careful about balancing my life so that I can mitigate the negative effects of these mental health issues. But over the winter, I was unemployed, and broke, I let my gym membership lapse, I got a month long severe sinus cold – which further interfered with seeing friends and physical activity – and I fell into a depression.

For me, and I’m sure for many people, my anxiety and depression manifest themselves as a complete withdrawal from the things that matter the most to me, and incredible amounts of insecurity and self doubt. From a logical standpoint, I know that the things that I am thinking about myself are irrational and untrue, but this doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

When I’m in the depths of depression, every venture outside of my house feels like a farce. Every interaction with anyone who matters (whether friend or colleague) feels like I am putting on a one woman show of “someone who is ok”. And when I do let it slip that I am not coping all that well, I get so incredibly nervous that I am coming across as needy/incompetent/a mess, that I completely fumble my thoughts and words, so that I am met with confused head tilts, which only makes matters worse.

I wouldn’t consider myself spiritual, and I don’t believe in THE SECRET, but I have had enough experiences where “the universe” gives me exactly what I need, that I do believe in serendipity, and also the general goodness of the humans around me.

I was sitting at home yesterday thinking to myself, I NEED TO GET A REGULAR WORKOUT SCHEDULE AGAIN, OR MY MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ARE GOING TO BURY ME. Then later that afternoon, I got an email letting me know that Academy of Lions would now be offering Community Classes; I immediately signed up for three this week. Just knowing that I would be having a solid workout in a gym that I really love, and that I would be able to access classes regularly even in my incredibly broke state, took such a burden off my shoulders. I went to class that afternoon, and a few minutes in, I could already feel the fog lifting. For me, really serious exercise is not an option – it is literally what keeps me alive.

Once I get working again on a regular rotation, I will be very happy to pay my monthly gym fee to go and work out. But while I am going through this transition, I am so incredibly thankful that community classes are a thing that exist, and that my community offers them.

So if you’re a gym owner, or yoga studio manager, or whatever, I know that it might seem counterintuitive to offer regular free classes when you could simply be registering paying clients, but the loyalty and positive word of mouth that you will garner from giving back will be well worth your while. And in the process, you might actually save someone’s life.

the 100 day project – day 14 – keep on running

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Photo by Jess Baumung (www.jessbaumung.com)

Yes, it’s another running post. As previously mentioned, running seems to be becoming a larger and larger part of my life at the moment. And so there will be more and more posts about running.

photo (16)Today was the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, and it was great. I did not have a goal time in mind, and until the starting line, wasn’t even sure that I was going to push myself at all. I went to find the bathroom with a few run crew ladies just before start time, and we were heading back to the corral looking for the rest of our crew; unsure if we would find anyone, we then stumbled upon a big group of pals, and snapped this quick shot just as we began walking up towards the start line.

At the last minute, I decided to do my best to keep up with Mark Sawh (far left) for as long as I possibly could, and take things from there.

I stuck with him for the first KM, and then kept his hat in view up ahead until about the 5K point, and then it was just me and the course. I didn’t have headphones in like last year, and I wasn’t paying attention to my pace at all, and it was strange to have no real idea of how I was doing – hoping that I was running at a good pace, but also accepting that it might just feel that way.

ANYWAYS. Like last year, around the 7K mark, I started to falter a bit, but then I tried something that is going to sound suuuuuper cheesy in order to keep pushing. I imagined being out on a Tuesday night crew run. I recently ran an easy breezy 10K run with the group that felt effortless and light. So instead of thinking of being in this race, and the space left ahead of me, I pictured being light on my feet wolf packing through the nighttime streets with the Parkdale Roadrunners crew. And it worked. I suddenly had a smile on my face, and felt less effort as my feet hit the pavement. Despite being by myself on the course, I was not alone.

I don’t know why it surprised me that this worked so well, since visualization is consistently a tool that coaches, and just successful people in general say to use. Sooooo… use it. It works.

As I hit 9K, knowing that the cheer squad was coming up ahead carried me home. I cannot describe the feeling of rounding that last race corner, and having a whole crew of people who you’ve been training with for months and months, all cheering and giving you high fives, and showering you with confetti. It’s fucking magic. I kind of want to cry just thinking about it.

My favourite part of races is, and always has been, that last sprint to the finish line where you push yourself until you feel like your lungs might break, flying by waves of other runners who are too spent to kick it one gear higher for that tiny home stretch.

It was a good run.

photo (1)I missed sub 50 for the course by TWO SECONDS, but still PB’d my 10K time by just over a minute (the actual course is 10.2K).  It felt good.

Just past the finish line, it was amazing to look around and see other PDRR folks who had finished either just before or just after me, and to feel the love of the community, as we congratulated each other on PBs and first races, and giving it our best. I feel like that sounds too self congratulatory. But WHATEVER. It’s awesome.

We slowly made our way back to the cheer squad station to say hello and thank-you, and to cheer on those remaining, and talk about our races with those who finished before us.

Then slowly trickled out to little pockets of team brunches, and then finally home.

Today’s race made me realize that with a little pushing, a little speed work, and a little more cross training (and maybe a speedier than me pace buddy?) that next year’s TYS10K could be much MUCH faster. I can’t freaking wait.

Good job out there today, everyone. You’re the best.

the 100 day project day 6 – always on the run

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(photo by Parkdale Roadrunners)

Just as Tuesdays nights are for full group Parkdale Roadrunners runs, Saturday mornings are for ladies runs followed by a class with City Yogis, a coffee from Capital, and a smoothie from Bolt.

It is one of the best, and healthiest weekend rituals I have ever held. The women who I run with are strong, and encouraging, and smart, and funny. They are loving and wonderful. I’m not sure what to say about running at the moment other than that lately it feels amazing, and freeing and like a year of putting in time is starting to pay off in so many ways. The Toronto communities that I am a part of are feeling more and more like home, and what better feeling is there in life?

Earlier this year, I was pretty much feeling like my running had plateaued, and then in the past month everything has changed. I upped my weekly kilometres, and allowed myself to connect more with the other runners on my crew. There’s been more bonding, which for me, makes the whole experience more meaningful.

And not that this is the reason that I’m running, but I am FINALLY starting to notice a real difference in the way my body looks, which is hugely encouraging for me. Running is feeling more like a sport and less like a burden.

I don’t know. I don’t want to come across as all OMMMMGGGG RUNNNNIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGG. And all fitness preachy or whatever. Or just all FEELING ALL THE FEELS (like many posts that I write maybe?). But on days when I am feeling stressed or bummed, running helps. And running as part of a community and having that as another venue to connect with other humans who I respect and admire and draw inspiration from is a million times more helpful.

I know that running is not for everyone. And yoga is not for everyone. And sports are not for everyone. But if you’re not currently physically active, I’d like to express just how much it has the potential to truly and deeply transform your entire life for the better. It might take time. It might take a LONG time where you’re gruellingly dragging yourself out the door, but one day out of nowhere, you will notice that somewhere along the way you began to love it. I promise.

the 100 day project – day 5

Sooooo… it’s pretty late, and I’m getting up early to do a long run tomorrow morning, so I’m going to keep this post pretty brief. This morning was my 4th event hosting CreativeMornings Toronto, and I love it so much. Despite my nerves, or the fact that I know that we still have so far to go before we’re where I’d like us to be, just as they are right now, there events, and this community are so great. I’m surrounded with the most talented, caring, hard working people, and I am so fucking lucky.

And for today, that is all.