On Princesses and Running (but really on the freedom of failure)

I have been thinking about this post for a few months now, and I have been trying to formulate my words and thoughts on the subject at hand. I even considered not writing about it at all, despite having put my life all over the internet. I still subscribe to the school of thought that I should never feel obligated to owe anyone anything, including an explanation. But I have decided to write about my experience with failure today because I am a writer. It’s how I process, and I think I have something important to say on the subject.

So on with the story….

A little over a year ago I made a huge commitment to run a half marathon. The half of my choosing was the Disney Princess Half Marathon that happens this weekend. I am not sure if I had ever been more motivated about anything in my life. I had one of those moments where I didn’t just hope something would happen, but I KNEW it would happen. Those are always amazing feelings, and they are there to keep us going. I started a “journey” (if you will excuse my cliche phrase) to be intentional about my health and I made the highest goals. 13.1 miles is a lot. But I was ready to do it. I felt like someone who has switched to conquering mode, and I was fully empowered to conquer the beast at hand.

So began my journey, and I started losing weight (20.2 pounds to be exact) and running. I used Weight Watcher (which I highly recommend) and a couch to 5K app (which I highly recommend). I ran a 5K with my mom at the beginning of March in 2016 and was prepared to run many more that year. Life was great. My goals were high, but I was reaching them. My mindset was positive.

Nothing bad happened in my life to hinder me. No bad breakup or break down or death or anything like that to keep me from my goals. In fact a wonderful thing happened in the form of an amazing new job at a place I really wanted to be. Nothing was holding me back, but I felt a mindset switch happen. I started to reach a plateau with weight loss and plateau with running. Many days I would push through but other days I wouldn’t. I just started to lose my motivation. There are a lot of things we could say about this. Perhaps I didn’t give my new habits time to sink in or maybe I should have tried harder…but speaking all of that over myself is discouraging. I’m just going to call it what it is and say that my motivation went away. I’m not the first person in the history of humanity to experience this. In fact, I would venture to believe even the most motivated person on the face of the planet has experienced this. It’s called being a human, but I felt very disheartened that the motivation had run out. And it started to sink into my goals.

There were also a few unforeseen factors:

  1. My heel. This was the biggest factor. Around summer time I started to experience some real pain in my heel when I was running for a long time or when I sat still for a long time. I went to the doctor to find out that I had (have) planters faciatis. At the time they said it was still ok to run on, but that I needed to continue to monitor it and see if it got worse. They also sent me over to physical therapy to work out some of the issues. I broke my foot twice in the same place in high school, and much of the weakness in that foot I found out is probably attributed to that. Upon continuing to run on it, the heel just kept getting worse. I just wasn’t able to up my mileage. After another doctor visit and a little introspection, I decided running the half wasn’t in the best interest of my body right now.
  2. My new, wonderful job. When I made the high goals in February of 2016 I didn’t dream that a year later I would have landed into the Cadillac of choral directing positions. This was a huge accomplishment, but along with it can more responsibility. I musical directed a show that started rehearsing in October and went up at the beginning of January. Even though it was musical directing and not full directing this time, I was still being consumed by it. I love directing so it was a joy in my life, but going all day from 7am – 7pm is not conducive to a full training schedule. I’m sure some SuperWoman somewhere does it, but I value rest and my sanity more. Finding time to train got a lot harder than I expected, especially when it was getting dark at 5pm.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and I had to make a hard decision not to run the race. When January hit and I was only getting up to about 5 miles, I realized that I needed to be honest with myself. It just was not going to happen this time. And when I reached that conclusion, I was honestly devastated. I felt like I had failed. Please do not misinterpret me in that I think that taking care of your body, energy, rest and sanity is failure. It is not. I am actually proud of listening to myself and my needs to accurately. But I was so incredibly disappointed because I had been so fired up about the whole process. I wanted to accomplish this huge feat, and, by not getting there, I felt like I’d failed.

And you know what? I did fail in a way. That is really hard for me to say, actually. Yes, I made connections within myself and listened to my body! Yes, I ran up to 5 miles which I had never done before! Yes, I lost 20 pounds! But I didn’t make it to the finish line, and that, by definition was a failure.

BUT (before you go thinking I am a self deprecating crazy person….here’s the kicker and the point to this who she-bang….) I HAVE NEVER FELT MORE HAPPY ABOUT IT!

I have struggled with perfection my whole life. I like being good at things. I like doing the best job. I like being successful and “on top”. I am not going to say those are wonderful or terrible qualities, but that is just honesty. I tried to be perfect. I tried to push through and get there. I forced myself to run on a bum foot and with a body that still needed to continue down a healthy path. I mentally dreaded it and kept trying. And then that was enough of that. And I stopped and listened and prayed and put that goal away in a safe place for the time being (to be returned to eventually in some form or another).

And I gained freedom in failure. I actually kinda love that I didn’t make it because I gained this new sense of freedom. I am 100% crazily and awesomely human, which is exactly what I am meant to be. Like one of my favorite fictional characters, Elsa, I had to let me hair down and let it go. And, not that I think about it, I ultimately conquered my Disney Princess status in a much different way than I imagined.

My mom read me this great quote that went something like, “The greatest failure is not not accomplishing the goal but not trying at all.” I’ve gained more understanding in this process about what it means to be on a journey. There really isn’t ever an end point, but the journey is continual.

So be free to fail, folks! Journey strong! And if you cannot lose that weight, love yourself anyway. If you see yourself as not beautiful or desirable, know that that is a lie. If you cannot get where you want to be going, realize that your headed somewhere better. And please, because we need more acceptance in this world, love every imperfect part of yourself. Because it means you are alive. And human. And you have more time to be who you are meant to be. And (shocker) perfection doesn’t exist.

So now, in true, Glennon Doyle Melton style, I am not editing this post but just pressing publish.

Peace out, perfection.

 

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On Spiral Staircases

I am proud to say that I recently had a significant birthday. Not to give my age away or anything, but it has a 3 and a 0 in it and I’m not turning 300. Throughout most of my 29th year I owned up to the fact that thirty was coming sooner than later, and I generally didn’t put much time or thought into the change of decade. In the last month of my twenties, though, sure enough, like a final cry, I started to have some anxiety about leaving my twenties. I found myself asking questions, the most prominent one being:

“Have I done everything I was supposed to do in my twenties?”

I find myself comparing with the “supposed to” phrase often, and I know many people who do the same thing. I’ve heard “supposing” about so many things:

Isn’t my marriage supposed to look like this?
Wasn’t I supposed to be married ate this point?
Aren’t I supposed to have a child at this age?
Aren’t I supposed to want children?
Wasn’t I supposed to be financially secure at this point in my life?
Aren’t I supposed to know what career I want?
Aren’t I supposed to have life figured out by now?

These are all things many of us have thought from time to time. We all have a picture in our head of how life should turn out, and more often than not, it doesn’t end up going as we planned. We like to think that we accept this, but when the unplanned-ness happens at our very own doorstep, we often don’t know how to deal with it.

I tend to think that “supposing” is rooted in a fear of the unknown. Life that doesn’t turn out like it is supposed to is uncomfortable. Sometimes this is because of negative things that happen to us (and they surely will to us all) but sometimes the unexpected good things make us uncomfortable also. Change is scary so we “suppose” to set our mind at ease.

Let me be clear- dreaming about the future is never a bad thing. Goals, dreams, wishes, and hopes are roots that run to the very depth of humanity to contribute to our human experience. We are wired to plan and seek a stable homeostasis. But it is important to be wary of being so rigid about our life mapping that we break when we should have bent.

The western mindset of life is very linear. We see life as a timeline, and we presuppose that certain events should happen on that timeline. Westerners believe in a clear beginning and an end, and they understand that to be the nature of the universe. This is where supposing comes in. We have decided that in order to get to point D we must first go through A, B, and C. The reality of life, though, is that event D could pop up out of nowhere, and then we have no idea how to deal with it. Positive or negative, when the winds of change take our lives in a completely different direction, we become unsettled for a while.

When I was 19 I had the opportunity to study in Asia for a month. After China, Thailand, Cambodia, lots of pad Thai, and a nose piercing later, I came back to the states with knowledge of a very different mindset and way of life. Easterners view life to be entirely cyclical. Their worldview is based around a constant cycle of life. I can remember one of my professors saying something to the extent of, “An eastern person considers time as a river in which we all go swimming.” In other words, they view time as a constant flowing concept in which we dive in and out of sometimes. Life is centered around rebirth, and the self is unimportant. What’s important is the constant flowing cycle of life in which we partake in.

Upon the dawning of thirties, I have been considering both of these world views and decided that we all might sit somewhere in between those two thoughts. Life is not quite the perfect timeline we are comfortable with. In fact, we need the discomforts of life sometimes because, like a scab that itches, they help us to heal and grow. Life will not end up being a perfect timeline, and, dare I say, if it is, you might be doing something wrong. But I’m also not sure that I buy into my life being entirely cyclical, although I have found rebirth and death giving way to life to be constants in our world.

So where did that leave me? It hit me towards the beginning of this school year when I started teaching at a new school. I started in an entirely different state, at an entirely different school, with an entirely different age level. I felt like a new teacher all over again, even though I had been teaching for six years. I remembered the very first day that I started teaching in 2009. I kept telling myself to cherish the moment because it was something I would only experience once. But I realized on the first day of teaching this year that the feeling came back. I was a new teacher again having to figure out how to navigate the choppy waters that are elementary music and keeping kindergarteners engaged. Despite my years of teaching high school, this was an entirely different experience and I was new all over again….to a degree. I just had a little more prior knowledge. It was the same feeling, the same “place” essentially, but it was on a different level.

Are you getting where I’m going with this? Perhaps life is not a line or a circle but a spiral stair case. Events, emotions, and experiences come back around just as sure as they go, but, hopefully, when they do, we will have climbed to a different level of wisdom.

It is important to not get too caught up in “supposed to” because life will come back around and the supposed to’s will happen in their own time and in their own way. We will have joy just as sure as we will have sadness. We will have love just as sure as we will have fear. We will have pain just as sure as we will have ecstasy. To be Ecclesiastical about it, there is nothing new under the sun and to everything there is a season. Like fruit, we cannot pick at the supposed to’s until they are ready to happen. Anything before ripening is bitter. We should, however, be mindful of always moving up the stair case. We must learn more, seek more wisdom, ask more questions, gain more experiences, and seek what we are meant to find at all times. Humans are an equal balance of heart and mind, and we must be looking into both to seek out that from which we came. When the experiences and emotions of life come back around to us, let us strive to go up a floor and have more wisdom.

I’m getting philosophical in my thirties, huh?

Here’s to my thirties where I’m sure there will be laughter, heartache, joy, sadness, fear, frustration, love, and excitement. Everyday we wake up there is another step to climb on the spiral stair case; we must be willing to move. My sincerest hope is that we all keep learning how to keep going up and around.

Squash-tastic

I recently came into some wealth…wealth of gardening that is. A friend of mine brought me an abundance of produce from the heart (aka northwest) of Arkansas. We’re talking heirloom tomatoes, jalapeños, okra, ghost pepper (DO NOT ATTEMPT) and, most notably, a Yokohoma squash and Tatume squash. As one who isn’t a gourd specialist, I was at a loss as to what to do with the squash(es) of the group. Cut them up? Fry them? Bake them? Put the whole dang thing in the oven on 350 and hope for the best??

I got creative the other night and decided to try a twice baked sort of deal. And, boy, was I ever thankful that I did. The creamiest twice baked squash was the result and I’m still craving it. So you all get my recipe. Go forth and find a strange squash to twice bake into the sunset.

Twice Baked Squash

1 Tatume ( or Yokohoma or Acorn or Butternut) squash

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter (more or less according to your taste/diet)

1/3 cup Tilamook white sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

1 clove garlic, finely minced

Salt and pepper to tast

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash length wise and scoop out the seeds and pulp, only leaving the remaining meat. Evenly spread the olive oil over both halves, and salt and pepper each half to your liking. Place each half in a roasting pan and bake in the oven for 40 minutes (you will probably need to cook the halves for about 50 minutes to and hour for bigger varieties).

After the squash has cooked and cooled a bit, remove the meat from the inside of the skin and place it in a bowl. This can be tricky as the skin will be fragile so work carefully. Mash the squash up in the bowl and stir in the butter, garlic, and cheese. It should resemble mashed potatoes. Evenly spoon the mixture back into the squash shells and place back in the roasting pan. Bake on 400 for another 20 minutes. If you prefer s crispy top, broil them for about 2 minutes before taking them out of the oven.

Voila! I suggest keeping a watch for the first leaf of autumn to fall then run yourself to the market and dive into some twice baked happiness in squash form.

New teacher training was not so bad

This week has been filled with new teacher training. As a not-so-new-teacher but rather a new-to-the-county teacher, I was hoping for a break from this. Alas, it didn’t happen, and I ended up having to attend. I was prepared to be bored out of my mind while listening to the same educational lingo that I have heard time and time again. I was pleasantly surprised, though. Not only was the training informative and useful, but my group had an explore Tusla day!

For those of you who have had the joy of sitting through core related trainings as a non-core teacher, you can understand my excitement. This was a totally creative and fun way to not only get to know the people that will be teaching Fine Arts in the county, but it was also a great way to see the city. It was also not sitting still in a desk for 8 hours so I would have been fine with it no matter what.

So all you readers get a re-cap of my day. Be prepared for lots of pictures. And if you ever come to Tulsa, you should hit these places up. All of them.

We we started the day at Pancho Anaya, a local Mexican bakery.

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The pastries were amazing and ridiculously cheap (like $0.67 cheap). And fresh. And did I mention amazing?

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I also ended up spilling a large amount of hot coffee on the crotch of my jeans. That may not be the best way to make first impressions, but I ain’t gonna let no coffee get me down. Too much information??

On to the Philbrook, Tulsa’s treasure of an art museum nestled in the heart of the town. It is a mansion turned museum (if you want to know that story, you should read this: Click me for Philbrook info ). We visited an exhibit going on there right now that explores the human figure and features the likes of Worhol, Rodin, Pollock, Degas, Dali, etc.

I loved these pieces in particular- a Rodin and a Pollock. Both were equally mesmerizing and featured mediums used by the artists that they aren’t necessarily known for.

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Here are some details of the Jackson Pollock. This particular work was an exploration of Pollock’s psyche after he underwent psychotherapy. It’s so delightfully Surrealist.

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By the way, I think Jackson a Pollock is my spirit animal. I just get splattered paint on a canvas. I really do. Does someone want to analyze that?

In another part of the building I also hung out with the Virgin Mary.

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In the back of the museum, there is a huge, lush, sprawling garden that is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It is not only delightfully peaceful and well-maintained, but it also has sculpture installations around the lawn that make the area unique. Fun fact: this is where Issac Hanson got married.

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Our music teacher game is strong.

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The PE guys’ game is strong also.

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Next was Guthrie Green park where it was food truck day! Who doesn’t love a food truck?

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I had had a pulled pork barbecue sandwich on a cornbread bun from the Head Country truck. Surprisingly, considering I photographed practically everything else, I did not get a picture of this. Or maybe it was because I was too busy consuming it’s deliciousness.

Next was the Zarrow Gallery downtown where the featured exhibit by Charles Addams. Those who are unfamiliar with his name are surely familiar with his work as he was the inspiration behind the Addams family. The pieces are delightfully dark and macabre. We also got a free Fester mask so don’t tell me it wasn’t worth it.

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Post Zarrow center we went to 108 Contemporary, the Woody Guthrie Museum, and the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra office. Unsurprisingly, my phone died so there is no picture proof of all that. Our group was absolutely exhausted in the best way by the end of it all. Lots of eating and art brings about new teacher bonding.

And that was my long, exciting, non-sitting-in-a-chair day. Don’t you feel like a family member just showed you tons of pictures from their vacation? It’s ok. I own that.

This will make your read through my adventure worth it:

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I came came home to the most gorgeous sunset. This was taken from my apartment complex believe it or not. There’s just nothing like a Tulsa day with an Oklahoma sky to end it.

Today I went to Wichita…

I woke up super restless this morning. I’m not sure what it was; I was just extraordinarily antsy. Anyone ever feel like this? I saw in my email that I has a $15 off coupon to World Market, and decided to head to the closest one, which is in Wichita, KS and a good solid three hours away from Tulsa. Call me crazy if you want.

I got about an hour and a half down the road before I realized I was about 1,500 miles overdue for my oil change. Sometimes I don’t think things through.

I plowed ahead anyway, listening to podcasts by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are unfamiliar with either of those people, one is an astrophysicist and the other is a spiritualist/ author, and they are two absolute different sides of the same cosmic coin. I highly recommend listening to both of them.

By the way, Kansas looks like this…

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And this…

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And then I got to Wichita. And there was this!

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Y’all, I wandered around for an hour and a half, drooling over furniture. My bank account slapped my hand. A girl can still look. I did pick up my favorite coffee and olive oil, and my coupon went to good use. It’s the little things.

Then I went home. Well, I actually stopped to get an oil change first. Don’t worry, Mom.

I know some might find it crazy to drive a round trip six hour trip just to do something simple, but to me, it’s fuel. I wonder sometimes about traits we inherit from our family. My granddaddy was one of the two most influential men in my life. He bought and sold cars for a living, and he had gone to every single state in the continental US. He had that sort of wanderlust that is unencumbered by the burden of the traveling itself, and I have it also. Maybe it is hereditary, maybe it was learned, or maybe it is a combination of both, but he and I share that need to drive and think. I could drive to California and back and be just fine. And I’m pretty thankful to have inherited/learned this personality trait.

Who wants to go to go California??

P.S. I also seem to have inherited my Grandaddy’s ability to talk to anyone/ have anyone talk to us. I had a full on breakfast conversation at the Waffle House with a truck driver named Roy about his English mastif named Loki (as in the God of mischief and fire). His girlfriend gave him the dog then she left him. According to him, she is, and I directly quote, “a whole lot more of a bitch than the dog is.”

Happy Friday.

The Adventure Begins…

Over the past few months, upon telling people that I would be moving from Atlanta, GA to Tulsa, OK, there have been two consistently overwhelming responses. 

1) You know they have bad storms out there, right??

2) Why would you want to move from Atlanta to Oklahoma??

The first question is usually filled with genuine concern. The second is usually full of genuine confusion, and sometimes is accompanied with “the hell” between “why” and “would”. 

I understand both responses. 

Having come from an area of the country where all inclement weather is deemed apocalyptic, it’s safe to say I’m not entirely prepared for the first cell sighting. Tornados, severe thunder storms, ice, snow, etc. are all feared around the Deep South and for good reason. Since it is a milder climate down there, when there is an actual severe weather threat, we often go unpracticed and unprepared. The only thing the South knows how to to do well weather wise is tolerate 100% humidity on a 101 degree day. Seriously, I could handle the tropics like a boss. 

So, when I told people that I would be willingly moving to a place where worse weather is an actual reality for people during big chunks of the year, I think images of me clinging to a pipe a la Twister style flashes before my friends’ and familys’ eyes. I get it. I really do. Let’s all be comforted by the fact that my Oklahoma friends laugh at the thought of Tulsa tornados because apparently they don’t happen here often. Maybe the anticipation is worse than the actual thing. Maybe.

To the second question, there are a lot of reasons for my move. Sometime during the beginning of this year, when I was trying to make a decision about if I should move or not, I sat down and made one of the oldest decision making tools in the book: a pros/ cons list. The list on both sides went on and on, and to be entirely truthful, each column was about the same size. This made the decision even harder because there seemed to be an equal amount of good and bad on both sides of the argument. I deliberated over it for quite some time, feeling that weird tension-filled pull inside of me that happens to people when they are on the brink of a decision. The pulling lasted for weeks. I went back and forth in my mind trying to make a decision. I became exhausted  with the stress of the whole thing. 

Eventually I got the list back out of my journal and reassessed. I read back over it several times, deliberating as normal, and then, thank God, got this peace about the whole thing. I took the whole list, drew a big line over it, and wrote in huge letters “WHY NOT??” 

Why not?? When I looked at the situation, that ended up being the only question. Yes, I have payments to pay. Yes, my whole family is in the south. Yes, I had chosen to teach at a place that I had invested a huge portion of my time/life/soul in. Yes, Oklahoma teachers get paid less. Yes, there are tornados. But when I really looked at my life and realized that I was a single woman without children on the brink of another decade, the only question became “Why not?” And to that question, I had no answer. 

When faced with a decision to stay or to go, I decided to go. I felt pulled out here, and the fact that new possibilities are on the horizon awoke a part of my adventurous side that had been dormant for a while. Isn’t that enough reason in itself?? We have to take care of who we are, and sometimes that means that we have to create a new chapter for ourselves. Sometimes the new chapter is small like taking up gardening, but sometimes it is moving across the country. Either way, we must submit to it and do it or else there may be parts of who we are that lay asleep for the entirety of our lives. 

Which all leads me to here, sitting in my Oklahoma apartment, assessing everything that has happened over the last six months. This whole move may be the best thing to ever happened to me. There is a chance it could be the worst. Or maybe it’s just another point on the road. I don’t know, but right now I am settled in that unknown, and it’s good.