Flawed but Still Thankful

I am not always good at being Solution-Focused, or positive for that matter. I can easily focus on my disappointments and let them overshadow everything great in my life. And sometimes I am a downright brat. I can be cranky and moody with some of the people I love the most, who do not deserve to be treated that way. Add in female hormones, past trauma, and insecurities and sometimes I am a hot mess. This past weekend, I was not at my best.

Maybe each week, I need to spend some time publicly thanking and being appreciative of the important people in my life.

This week, I will start with the two people who are in my closest circle and deal with my flaws in an up-close-and-very-personal way: my sister, who I live with (god bless her), and my partner.

Katie: thank you for being my sister. I know we have had our struggles but I am thankful that you are here with me. You know me better than I know myself sometimes. You challenge me to be my best self and cheer me on toward my crazy dreams. Thank you for the note in my lunch bag last week. Your words meant a lot to me and the note reminded me of our mom. I know she would be so proud of you. You are a survivor and a strong, smart, beautiful woman. I’m thankful that when I just need to cry, you let me. You believe in me, and I am thankful for your tireless support, even when I’m being a brat. I am thankful that we both have a love of cats and can laugh through the craziness that is our lives right now. I have no doubt you will be an incredible nurse, and I’m thankful to be able to support you in achieving your dreams. I love you and am grateful that you are my sister. Thank you for taking a risk on me and moving to Boston. Though I am not always good at showing you, I am very thankful you are here with me.

Eoghan: I know life is not always easy being with a crazy ginger. I have a temper, I need constant assurance that you love me, and I do not always make sense. I am thankful that you work so hard to show me you love me in actions, like taking time off work to spend time with me because you know that time together is important to me. I am grateful that you know how to make me laugh and smile. I am thankful for your kind heart and your willingness to help the people in your life. I love your ingenuity and your boldness in life, and that when you have a dream, like the PaddyWagon, you seize it and go after it with all of your heart. You inspire me to go after my dreams. I am grateful that you try to encourage me to see the positives in my life and in all of the people in my life. No matter what else, please know that I love you.

I love you both.

And to everyone else in my life, I love you too. I am blessed to be surrounded by courageous, amazing, hilarious, smart, beautiful (inside and out), and down right awesome family and friends.

On this Monday, however you are feeling, know you are loved and that there is always something to be thankful for.

Anyone can be an Ironman

I do not consider myself to be an exceptional athlete, but I have successfully completed two Ironman triathlons, which is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, which is concluded with a 26.2 mile “run” that all has to be completed within a strict 17 hour time limit, otherwise, you do not get a medal and you are not an official finisher. I have been an official finisher twice in my life. I finished because I am stubborn and wanted the goal so bad I could taste it. That desire carried me through pain, doubts, and ultimately kept me moving forward to the finish line. I do not think I would have had such a strong desire to finish an Ironman had I not believed that I could do it. Sure, I doubted, but ultimately, I believed I was capable. Again, I am not a stellar athlete, which is why I strongly believe that anyone can finish an Ironman…IF you believe in yourself and WANT to finish an Ironman, then yes you can (this desire has to be almost a laser-like focus, cutting through all the pain and making training a priority in your life). Do not get me wrong, an Ironman is one of the hardest things I have had to physically do in my life, which is why I got the Ironman logo (the mdot) tattooed on my left wrist as a reminder that YES I CAN do anything when I believe in myself.

I am now trying to apply this same philosophy to getting in shape and healing my relationship with food. I do not think I have ever really believed in myself. I love food. I love the comfort I have felt while eating food that is rich in processed carbs and sugar. As a kid, I used to sneak junk food into my room after school and watch TV while eating a whole bag of Cheez-itz. I knew I was not supposed to eat the junk food because it would spoil my dinner, but I did it anyway. The secret became a sort of private comfort, and twenty plus years later, I still go to food as my comfort during stress or boredom. Did I already mention that I LOVE food?!

But this relationship is addictive and does more harm than good. I want to change my relationship with food. I want to eat foods that are good for me and provide fuel and nourishment to help me be my best self. I want to melt the fat off my body by making healthy choices so when I do my track workout with the Quincy Running Dawgs on Tuesday nights, I can push hard and not feel the pain in my knee from the impact my heavier physique is having on my joints. (By the way, I have pushed through excuses and gone to the track workout two weeks in a row! The workout is hard, I am the slowest person in the group, BUT I love how I feel afterwards.)

Slowly, I am starting to believe in myself.

Losing weight has always seemed like a mystery to me. I remember my first time doing Weight Watchers, I would do my best to stick to my allotted points and when it came time to weigh myself, I was terrified. I knew the program worked for others, but I did not believe the program would work for me. Then I had the opportunity to be a part of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Study at Framingham State University. While eating the foods provided for me on the study, I lost weight. Cutting calories works. I am not an exception.

But beyond just cutting calories, I want to eat nutrient dense foods, like fruits, veggies, sprouted grains, etc. I want to build muscles. I want to scale walls, run faster triathlons, and see what my physical best can be.

And slowly, I am starting to believe in myself. YES I CAN!

Solution-Focused Check-In: What has been going well since starting this fitness goal?

  • I have successfully gone to two track workouts over the last two weeks. Track workouts will help me become a faster runner, which will help me to beat my 3 hour triathlon goal.
  • I am on week 2 of meal prepping and eating clean foods. I FEEL GREAT! I look forward to the food, am not tempted by junk food as much, and am even starting to see the scale go down. Meal prepping is a ton of work, but after only a few hours on Sunday, I have all my meals done for the week, which is making life so much easier overall!
  • I am sticking to my triathlon training plan so far, which will help me to build endurance, which will eventually lead me to work on building speed.

The Plight of an Overachiever

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of failing or being “less than” some set standard. These are just broad observations and maybe because I am an overachiever, I attract other overachievers into my life, but I am noticing that overachievers create a lot of stress for ourselves that probably does not need to exist. Ok, nothing earth shattering here, but sometimes I forget that I have done a lot of great things and I focus on what I am not doing well instead of celebrating my accomplishments. And I know I am not alone with this behavior.

For example, today was the first day in a long time that I was only negative 4 points at the end of my week on Weight Watchers (WW). Negative points mean that I have eaten all of the points I have been allotted, or earned, through exercise and then some. I have overspent my bank account, so-to-speak. For months, I have ended my weeks at negative 130 points, which is like maxing out your high interest credit cards with no repayment plan in sight. I have toyed with the idea of giving up and quitting WW (why keep paying each month if I am not working the system), but I did not give up and I am now getting back on track (I had a two pound loss today for my weigh-in!). I posted about this fact on the WW Connect community and got a ton of responses. People are discouraged and want to give up. I was there too because I would see people’s success stories on WW and feel both encouraged and discouraged. The stories only highlighted how unsuccessful I was at this whole weight-loss business, which made me feel pretty bad about myself, which made me want to eat more junk food, which made me feel even more like a failure.

Some of the most frustrating and disheartening moments are those moments when we just feel like we are failing at life.

Failure sucks. But why does it suck?! We should celebrate failures for what they teach us about ourselves.

The above picture was taken on my cell phone around mile 16 or 17 of the Portland Marathon (for New Englanders, that’s Portland, Oregon). I had completely blown my training and was in pain before crossing the bridge. I was in a downward spiral of self-hate because I knew better. I knew how to train and I didn’t. I failed at this dumb race and was mad at myself, which reminded me of other past failures, like the Honolulu marathon where I had to quit at mile 5 because of knee pain, or how I never really applied myself fully to my Ironman training (I was a midnight finisher each time and felt I could have been faster if I had properly trained). But what I neglected to focus on was the fact that I showed up for the race in the first place. With a lack of training, I still made my way to mile 17 and I had a lovely trip to Portland to see family and friends. With the Honolulu marathon, I failed the race but still raised over $4,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and with the Ironman triathlons, I still FINISHED both races.

In each instance, I would compare myself to others and see only my weaknesses, my “less than” moments because my friends were finishing the marathons, running faster triathlons, and losing weight successfully week after week.

High standards are a blessing and a curse. Being an overachiever is both a blessing and a curse. Being an overachiever means I work full time at a great university, I am pulling straight As in my graduate program and just earned a spot in the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, and I am signing up for triathlons, trying to be fit, and above all, I’m working hard to be a good partner, sister, friend, family member, coworker, etc. I have traveled the world, finished two Ironman triathlons, and so much more. But instead of being content, I focus on what I have done wrong: the fact that I did not summit Mt. Kilimanjaro over a year ago, the fact that I gained weight back after losing 22 pounds, the fact that I failed to finish two marathons that I started, etc. I am not saying that I should give up goals and be content with failure, but maybe I should be a little less hard on myself. Maybe we all need to be a little less hard on ourselves.

Instead, let us focus on what a failure teaches us. Let’s celebrate the times we have fallen short, or been “less than” because as an overachiever, that means we will correct our mistakes. We will work hard until we find a solution. We will keep setting goals and moving forward because that is just what we do. But in the meantime, we need to be a little bit more forgiving of ourselves. Failure is just “U r a Life.” A life that is full of positives and negatives: Yin and yang, balance. A life that is full of blessings and opportunities to grow. We fall, but we learn how to walk in the process. When we realize we do not have wings to fly, we build airplanes. Good can come from crap (seriously, flowers bloom in manure).