Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures in Dating (Part 3)

So let's talk about women in this crazy world.  Hopefully not the crazy crap I have done because we all know that I'm not one of thoooose women.

I know that most of the women I associate with are brilliant, wonderfully talented, sensitive women.  They're hilarious, they know how to laugh at life and possess a wide variety of talents.  One of the 'talents' they seem to possess that is missing the in online dating world for women is tact.

Crazy shit girls do:

Post pictures of yourself in your wedding dress on a dating website.  I'm sure you looked fantastic, but seriously????  What the Hell!  Why would you do that?  Is there some subliminal message you're trying to send here?  I did this whole wedding thing once and I'd like to do it again.  So hurry the F up and propose already?  Seriously, it's just dumb.  Don't do it.

On the other end posting on pictures of you with a group of girlfriends is less than helpful.  Do you just want the guys to guess who you are?  Because they're not going to guess you're the hottest girl in the group they're going to assume you're the least attractive.  At least all the cynical men I know would.

Pictures of you falling down drunk, or sitting on the lap of another dude sends a certain message so unless you're looking for someone with zero intentions for relationship I wouldn't recommend going this route.

Of course there's always the possibility that you are not looking for a relationship at all, in which case you could send one of my guy friends a message filled with grammatical errors that says you're looking for some adult birthday fun.  Ummm ok?  And perhaps if you're even more forward you'll send a guy a message asking to sit on his beard.

I mention this not to gross my readers out.  I apologize, I know, I want to gag too.  But rather because those women right there, those are the ones we have to thank for all the X-rated pictures we have received over the years.  For years I just assumed it was a mental defect present in some men's brains that made them do that and while we all know that defect is quite possibly there, apparently there are also women who are just as foul and stupid and offensive.

Online dating isn't for the faint of heart, I've quit and gone back more times than I can count.  I have received more than my fair share (whatever the heck that means) of messages asking just for a strictly physical connection.  Delete, delete, delete.  But it would be great if all of those involved or even a measly half of them could start acting like mature adults.  Yeah, that'd be great.  Can we work on that ladies?  Please.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tough Mudder

I have been thinking about how to sum up my Tough Mudder experience since before I even left the course yesterday, but I can’t take you there without taking you back a little further. 

I was never an athlete growing up.  I practiced Martial Arts for a few years and was pretty good, but I didn’t compete, or race or play in sports.  It wasn’t my thing.  My very athletic siblings and coach Father contributed to my feelings of inadequacy athletically, through no fault of their own.  I was the smart one, or the creative one, and always the determined one.

Almost three years ago now I left a hellacious marriage.  My ex tore me down and was abusive.  I left that marriage overweight and a shell of a person.  But I was determined to survive for my children and provide for them.  Since then I can not begin to tell you what I have had to do to survive, how close to not surviving we have been, how many times I cried at nights thinking about what I could sell so we could eat.  But we have come through that.  My children and I, my family in tact.   I don’t tell you that for pity, we are doing great now.  I tell you so that you can understand I know what it means to fight hard for something and that spirit is what I have brought into my physical journey.

In the beginning of this year I began to focus more on my physical journey.  I had lost quite a bit of weight since my ex left (plus his 190lbs) but I needed an outlet to fuel the emotional frustration I was experiencing.  I began working out consistently and quickly got hooked.  Shortly after I found a supportive online community committed to health and physical fitness and loved the atmosphere I found there.  I found people who believed in themselves the way I wanted to believe in myself.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that the same belief I had in my ability to survive for my family I could also translate into belief in my ability to accomplish anything physically. 

My determination and focus has only increased.  I brought that and all of my support network with me to the Tough Mudder course.  I could not wait to start.  The high in the beginning was huge.  Once we started, I was off.  Occasionally slowing down to help another Mudder or wait for a teammate.  I had no trouble running as much as I possibly wanted, although I walked a decent portion of the course. 

By mile 2 or 3 it became clear to me that I was just going to need to keep going on the course solo.  Not because of any fault of my teammates but this challenge was between me and the course and my mind.   I had survived the Arctic enema and lost my inhaler in the process, which was disconcerting.   I was so thankful to round that bend after that obstacle and see my parents cheering me on.  A truly great moment for me.

Who smiles like that after swimming through ice? Me, apparently. 
Ahead were miles of obstacles where the spectators wouldn’t be.  At this point I’m going it alone.  I’m alone on this course with hundreds of other people who are all in teams.  Just me and my thoughts and about 7 miles to go.  The Tough Mudder people know what they’re doing; they set mile markers really obviously up at mile 1 and then again at mile 2 and then even though I started vainly looking for where I was on the course at some unknown point I never so another mile marker until mile 9.  Because after all, you’re tired, you’re wet, you’re exhausted (and if you’re me you’re alone) what good is it to know you have 6 more miles to go and you’re not even halfway there?

I trudged through mud and ran slowly through the little hard ground there was and talked to many other fellow mudders along the way.  I finally made my way to the Funky Monkey.  I had practiced the hell out of this sh!t I knew I was capable on a normal day.  But today was not a normal day.  I kept looking at my hands, totally wet and caked with mud, and then looking at the rungs, also wet.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a solid grip. I tried in vain to dry them off on my clothes, which was utterly pointless because they were also drenched.  But I stepped up and it was my turn, a volunteer turned to the guy behind me and said

“Listen I want you to step up close behind her and if she falls, push her so she goes in the water.”

And that pissed me the f#ck off.  I had trained hard for this, I was ready and I knew the volunteer was right; I wasn’t going to make it.  I didn’t.  Swinging to the second rung I lost my grip.   I was disappointed.  I swam out of the water but I won’t lie, it bummed me out that I had failed that obstacle I had worked hard to make sure I could complete.  

There was more course to go.  Never once after I stepped onto that course did I  doubt my ability to complete it.  There were two thoughts in my head the whole time: avoid injury and keep going.  That’s all I thought about, how do I complete the obstacles without injury and what is next. 

No idea, just a random badass moment on the course
I would get to each obstacle and often times you need a team or a partner.  I ran up to the Warrior Carry and I knew I didn’t have anyone to carry but I also didn’t want to skip it.  I didn’t want to skip any of them.  So, I waited and sure enough a big guy named Kevin said, “Does anyone need a partner?”  I said “yep” and looked at him thinking I have to carry him half of the way?  Of course we did it.  He outweighed me by at least 40 pounds of solid muscle and insisted he could carry me the whole way, but I have never been one to punk out and I didn’t this time either.   I said thanks, and never saw him again. 

I can’t tell you how many times I lightly touched a mudder on the shoulder to keep them from falling into the mud or someone offered me a boost that I had never seen before and I didn’t ever get to see them again.  The feeling of camaraderie even going it alone was amazing.  You also incidentally end up touching a lot of butts, I promise you no one cares.    

The Tough Mudder people made the Pyramid Scheme more difficult by digging a trench in front of it to make sure we were all nice and wet before we could get on it.  But I completed it on my first try.  Everest was awesome; I definitely felt a rush conquering that one, first try again. 

After that something shifted.  It could have been because I was running it alone, or the mixture of exhaustion and muscle fatigue, or the fact that we were now running through the woods and I was cold, but around mile 7-8 everything went silent.  No one was talking or joking around it was quiet.  I’m longing for that shirt I threw off before we started.  We were in the woods running, trudging through mud and everyone was fatigued.  We couldn’t see the sun.  Here is where my demons came for me.  I don’t want to imply that the battle wasn’t intense but this was my mental ground that I needed to fight and what they kept saying was “You’re alone” it was these little whispers in my ear for about a mile straight.  “You’re alone, Shannon, you’re alone.”  I kept thinking, yeah ok, I’m alone; I know I’m alone.  “But you’re alone, don’t you realize, you’re alone.”  And that’s when I realized I had won the battle.  Because going at a challenge like this alone didn’t scare me.  I came out of those woods and thought, “Yes, I’m alone and I am more than capable of completing this course alone.”

The Tough Mudder gave me more than just the confidence in my physical capabilities; it reminded my internal make up is able to overcome anything I want to, even if I have to go it alone.  

I’m so thankful for my online community.  I’m thankful for how you all have believed in me.  I hope you can feel my belief in you.  And I cannot wait to run another Tough Mudder, to be with my friends cheering them on, beside them, helping them beat back their own personal demons.  Because even while I was alone, I carried all of you with me.

Thank you

- S

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Told the Truth (part 2)

I want to write a fun little blog post.  I'm stocked up on ideas on what my next adventures in dating one will be and have even started drafting it.  But to write about that today is to lie and a while back I committed to telling the truth so I'm going to do that again now.

As a 20 yr old, I was a highly sensitive individual.  I remember crying regularly about the pain that this world experienced.  I remember feeling on a deeply personal level the pain of those I cared about.  I also remember feeling the pain of those I didn't know, the horror and tragedies that were part of this world, I remember grieving when I saw those things happening. I remember thinking; I can't wait until I'm older so that I will stop crying about these things so much.  There's so little I can do, surely time will pass and my heart will harden and the pain will lessen and the tears will stop.

In a word.  Naivety.

Time has passed, 14 years give or take.  And I was so wrong.  I guess I could have chosen a path that deadens the heart and the tears would have slowed to a stop.  But that's not in my make up.  There was certainly a time in my life where I stopped crying or showing emotion in front of my ex husband.  But I never stopped grieving for others.  If anything time has increased my sensitivity.

About a week ago our family received some tough news that rocked our world for a while.  The kind that makes you stand up and pay attention.  But unfortunately life never stops for those things does it?  You still have to go to school and work and bathe children and make meals.  So in the midst of hearing all of that there was little time to process.  I found myself crying at my desk on a Friday afternoon for no apparent reason.  And my standard response to my tears?  Annoyance and confusion.  Where were they coming from?  Why now?  I don't expect being 34 rather than 20 to dull that kind of personal pain but sometimes I wonder why it still has to catch me so completely off guard.  It does every time.  I forget I'm not made of stone.  

On the heels of that a few days later I hear about a woman being murdered that lives quite close to me.  She's a friend of a friend and the daughter of a teacher at my daughter's daycare center.  It appears to be a murder-suicide of a domestically violent nature.  All of that hits close to home and my heart wants to pound out of its chest cavity for the pain of their family.  At the injustice of domestic violence.  At our futility in the face of it all.  It's too much. Too much to carry.  It's wrong.  God please come, I can't carry this anymore.

You'd think that grocery shopping would be a safe mind numbing activity in the face of the pain.  Go do something routine.  Just don't think.  Make a list, cross off the list and fill the cart, buy the groceries and go home.  But this heart, this God given one that I carry around in my chest is on full alert now.  I see an old man in his late 80s I'd guess navigating this crowded store on a Sunday afternoon in his little motorized cart.  I think kindly of him, his presence isn't annoying to me or slowing me down.  I'm grateful for the opportunity not to rush.  I think about 20 other things about him and the other shoppers, even the ones annoyed by him, as I fill my cart and then it happens.  He misjudges a turn and sends 100s of cans of pumpkins down the aisle, rolling all over the place.  I catch his expression for the briefest of moments.  Humiliation.  Frustration.  I wonder if he's thinking about how he used to be the young manager, capable and strong.  I wonder if he thinks that life is cruel for taking part of his capabilities from him.  I wonder if he's sorry for embarrassing his still able-bodied wife or frustrated for her obvious annoyance with him.  Doesn't she understand?

But all I really see is his pain.

And the pain of a family soon to be burying their daughter.

And the pain of my family navigating confusing waters again.

And the pain of officers who wish they would have made it there just a bit sooner to save her.

I can't carry all of this.  When I try to bad things happen.  I make terrible decision or cope poorly.  I know that I can't stop feeling it.  I actually don't want to stop feeling it anymore.  But I also can't carry it.  I have to lay it down and hand it over and let it go.  None of that is easy or makes any sense or is even possible sometimes.  But holding on to this pain will suck the life out of me and make me sick, whether in heart, spirit, body or mind, it will infect if I allow it to fester.

But right now, it feels like I can't let go either.  I'm sitting with it at the moment because I need God to come and take it and I hope he does soon.  I know that having a heart that feels is a gift, but it can be a burden too if I don't learn how to manage it.  This heart is part of my calling but it can become my stumbling block if I am not careful with it.

Perhaps I'm alone in this, the only one who walks around seeing and feeling the pain of all the other humans that inhabit the earth but somehow I doubt that.  In so far as I am called to mourn with those who mourn I will continue to do so, but I'll also be thankful for when the laughter returns.