Thursday, October 20, 2011

Goals, part i

What do you do when you reach your goals?

You realize they weren't big enough.


I've been so focused on my short term goals and needs for myself that I have failed to find anything bigger to dream for.

Go to school.
Go to more school.
Go to school until you get enough degrees to get a job.
Get a job.
Get health insurance.
Have heart surgery.
Check, check, check, check, check, check.

Now what?

Still figuring that part out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another lesson I didn't want, but I'll take.

Do you have those people in your life, that you just can't be around? Come on, you know who I'm talking about. Maybe its a smelly guy who works at your gym. Maybe its a person who is always making excuses for not getting a job. Maybe its even someone closer to you than that: and you can't stand them. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't feel that way towards some people. More people than I care to admit.

Have you given up hope on them? Do you and the rest of your family, friends, or coworkers just assume nothing is ever going to change? Do you tend to pray or wish that you don't have to deal with them?

Ah. There we go.

It finally dawned on me this weekend that I've been failing to pray for these people. I had always been so focused on myself, and how these people made me miserable that I never could move beyond my own annoyance, frustration, or anger.

I find it oddly fitting, that after a week of focusing on 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, that it's verse 14 that hit me over the head:

14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

I'll be honest. Praying for the people I don't like to be around is much much much harder than praying for people I really enjoy being around. In fact, I'm having a little trouble, but I found this verse to a good start. Verse 14 seems to be a call for us towards those people that bug us. Can you think of a person for each of these? Warn the idle. Encourage the disheartened. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. Combine this with our command to be prayerful, joyful, and thankful, and it seems clear instructions on how we are to handle those people we just can't handle.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Attitude in Circumstances

My mom told me a sad story that happened to a coworker recently. My mom works in a hospital that is making some big organizational and management changes, and has shifted all levels of management and staff around. People who had been very used to the old workplace dynamics found themselves needing to adjust to the new personalities and organizational structure. One of the new staffers was working a shift with an original staffer, and some minor disagreement arose. New staffer went right to the now-also-new manager with her version of the event, and new manager immediately accused the original staffer of wrong doing. The new manager didn't step back to see the situation from both sides, and the problem quickly escalated beyond the original minor issue. HR and legal got involved, and the original staffer shortly quit - unwilling to work in such a hostile environment.

I thought about my mom's coworker as I found myself in the middle of a similar situation this week. I confess I get so stressed out at these things. Everything that went on in conversations seemed like personal attacks; maybe I just took it all personally. The only thing that calmed me down coming out of that meeting today was reading the passage below. It had been following me all week, but it took me walking through my own troubles to begin to understand it.

I Thessalonians 5:15-18
15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Paying back wrong for wrong is perhaps one of the biggest temptations that arise out of these situations. And yet when you find yourself backed into a corner, we are told to look out for the other party, even to do what is good for them.

I want to skip down to verse 18 for a second - what is the "this" he's talking about? I think part of what the author, Paul, is trying to tell us is that "this" is that situation where you're tempted to pay back wrong for wrong. "This" is both our troublesome situation, as well as our prayerful, thankful, rejoicing reaction to it. Meaning it both God's will that we go through these circumstances, and it is also His will that we react in a loving way to them.

Why should we??

Let me tell you about these circumstances - they have a greater and bigger purpose than we can ever see while we're still in the midst of them. The bible is full of passages that tell us and show us how troublesome circumstances are actually working for our benefit. James 1 for example:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What about Joseph who was sold by his own brothers into slavery, only to rise to great prominence in Egypt, enabling him to later save them and a nation? (Genesis 37:12 to 48) Or David, who fought Goliath, battled constantly against enemies, and then friends who became enemies - and then became the king of Israel? Or Jesus himself, crucified - but who is our Savior who sits in Heaven?

So the Bible is full of stories and passages that tell us how God uses our circumstances for a greater - and to us, unimaginable - purpose. What Paul tells us here in 1 Thessalonians is about our attitude as we go through these circumstances.

He calls us to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Injured List Lessons Learned - part ii

I'm not ready to continue my "Runner's Stages of Grief" from yesterday yet, but I'm realizing I've got more lessons to learn.

I went through heart surgery just over 11 months ago. Besides the healing my body needed to do, I don't think I went through the emotional and spiritual healing I needed to do, too. I was completely in denial that I needed anything other than physical healing.

I wanted to share my story of literal heartbreak rebounding to run a marathon, but I came to the realization that I wanted this story shared for my own glory, not for God's.

I stopped seeing running as the glorious gift that it was. It became a distraction from my other problems. It became a justification for my other problems. It became all-consuming and painful. I did nothing in moderation, and convinced myself that if I could run, than all my other problems could be solved. I did not admit or consider that my problems could be solved without running, especially since they'd always been the answer before.

Now I find myself in the position of having running taken away from me again. But this time, I'm determined to learn a lesson from it that I did not before. I am not invincible. I am not patient. I still require all kinds of healing. I only practice moderation in moderation.

I need to stop running like there's no tomorrow, because I need to finally admit to myself that I will have a tomorrow. That my disease and poor health tend to limit my focus to my immediate needs - I don't think about how I'll be doing or living in 5 or 10 years. I need finally make goals that span that long and longer, and stop planning like I won't be around to achieve them. I need to trust in God that He'll provide my health for me down the road.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Injured List Lessons Learned - part i

It's been well over a week now of broken foot. I'm beginning to think that running injuries might follow something similar to the stages for grieving...


Step One: Denial.
"It's just a little ache! That's what the foam roller is for. Just a few more tylenol, sleep it off, you'll be fine for tomorrows long run."

Step Two: More Denial.
Saturday morning's long run rolls around and you can't walk to your shoes, let alone put them on. In this phase of full-blown denial, you complete the Saturday morning pre-run ritual in its entirety, limping all the while. It's not until you're on the trail, three miles away from your car, that you let the truth finally sink in: there's really something wrong here.

Step Three: The World Revolves Around ME!
Three miles away from your car, you're stuck on the trail - in the rain, wind, and cold - and you're weighing the options between taking an hour to limp back to the car, run as fast as you can through the pain because the weather out here stinks, or call your Mom and beg her to come pick you up. You eventually settle on a 50/50 and run track-pace miles in between limping pathetically. You call mom once you're back to the car anyway. "Mom, can you please cancel your Saturday plans? I'm a grown up now, but I'm acting like a three year old who was just told he can't have a puppy." You spin the ER trip as "quality time" and drag her there with you. When you arrive, you make sure you let everybody know that you're running a marathon at the end of the month.

Step Four: Whining.
"What do you mean no running for a week?! Maybe longer??" With a strict no-running rule (and the threat of further damage to your injury), you're disgusted at everyone enjoying running while you can't. Your previous running clubs, dailymile website, twitter - you're struggling unsuccessfully to resist the temptation to whine about how unfair and heartbreaking it is that you're not running your race. To everyone who inquires about your injury, you insist on reminding them that you were running a marathon. In fact, whenever anyone says anything that is REMOTELY related to a running activity (e.g., "nice weather!" or "I hear there's a sale at REI", "want to go camping?", or "Hi."), you begin monolog-ing on how you've got this heartbreaking running injury, and you can't do anything, whine, whine, whine...

Step Five: Bargaining.
Your race date is fast approaching. Will you still try? You worry about losing all that careful training you've painstakingly built over the past several months. Ok, you admit there's no way you're running it... but what if you walk it? Can you walk 26.2 miles in an aircast? Is there any reality in which that is a good idea? But this was going to be a big race for you! You fundraised for it! Maybe you should try anyway. But what if you make the problem worse? You contemplate the options while you've got an ice pack on your elevated broken foot.

Step Six: Dawning Realization.
With all of this new-found free time, you are inexplicably getting more sleep, are less tired, and have more time for other things that you remember you used to enjoy. You're slowly getting out of the habit of "I can't eat that, I'm going to run in an hour/tonight/tomorrow morning." You have lost the superpower of eating carbs on par with the national output of rice in China, but surprisingly you're not half-starved all the time either. You have time to read now?? And suddenly all that time with the foot immobile has turned into a pleasant excuse to read all afternoon. Instead of heading to the track or gym, you find yourself very satisfied at the prospect of dinner and beer/wine with friends.


I'll have to pause my Runner's Stages of Grief here, as this is about the step I'm on now. I suspect this stage might segue into paranoia (I'll never run again/miss more races/am dying, etc.) while I'm still hopeful and eagerly anticipating a glorious pain-free run in the future.

Have you been injured? What steps would you add?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thankful for: Friday

There are always lame things that happened in your day or your week. Keeping these lame things from making you lame means not focusing on your problems, and refocusing on what you're thankful for. I had a lot of opportunity this week to continue my focus on how 'everything sucked'. Instead, what I was so upset about last week has turned out for my benefit this week. I'm going to keep this simple tonight, and just write on my lame/gain:

Lame - I was stuck working on somebody else's project all week, doing less-than-glamourous work for them, while my own projects fell behind.
Gain - Turns out, I learned a lot about the people and processes that were important for my project by working on someone else's project.

Lame - Stress Fracture. No Running. Sad face.
Gain - I've had tons more time and energy. I would normally be worrying about my Saturday long run on a Friday night, but instead was able to enjoy pizza and wine with some friends.

Lame - Did I just break my nose?? (again???)
Gain - But it was giving my little 8-year-old a cousin a kiss good night (and his forehead tried to help..). <3

What was your lame to gain this week?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Three Things Thursday

Taking a cue from blogging/running/tweeting/hilarious/awesome friend Carly, I'm making this a Three Things Thursday. I'm thinking this will be Three-Things-I-did-today-because-I-couldn't-go-running Thursday.

1) I slept in (till 5:30am... ) and went right to the office. Had a working lunch, instead of a workout during lunch. And instead of working out from the end of my business day till traffic opens back up, I just kept on working. I MISS my runs, but I'm thankful it's been an intense productive period the past couple days at work, instead of lame and stressful. I haven't needed the running as stress relief like I did last week. (Fyi - therapy is dark chocolate and fast running. No claims on effectiveness, but it's rather amazing at bringing on the zen).

2) I'm usually in this very predictable routine of work-run-eat-sleep-repeat. The no running allowed this week has at least been good in giving me time to spend doing other things, such as a soup, salad, and wine dinner with my BFF Althea. Cheers to taking time to slow down and appreciate red wine, company, and conversation!

3) I wrote down a very, very simple prayer list at the beginning of this week. Literally, just a bullet list of 5 items. Not that I don't pray - although I'm not great lately about doing it consistently - but this no-running thing has finally brought me to my knees in prayer. I went back to my list today, and suddenly realized that God had been at work in each of those over the past several days. It's such a simple exercise, to keep a prayer journal. I've done it off and on over recent years. But I have not made it a consistent exercise to look back and purposely reflect on how He's answered my prayers.

Do you keep a prayer journal? How do you use it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

(No) Running (Allowed) Update

It's been about a week since I first injured my foot. And I'm going crazy. Nutso. Insane. Three fries short of a happy meal. Bonkers. Wacko. (You get the idea).

I'm sad to say I don't really think it's getting better. Every time I think its on the mend, I have to remind myself how much tylenol I've just had. I can't even walk without limping. I confess to pretending I'm a doctor with a degree from google, especially when I read things like this:
What causes stress fractures?
  • Over use! (check)
  • Too much training, too soon without enough rest! (check, definitely the without enough rest part)
  • Overpronation (ehh, I pronate a little)
  • Oversupination
  • They are common in army recruits (often called a march fracture), runners, ballet dancers, and gymnasts. (double check)
What are the symptoms of stress fractures?
  • Foot metatarsal pain which comes on gradually. (check)
  • Pain is located towards the mid/front of the foot. (check)
  • Pain is aggravated by weight bearing activities such as walking, running or dancing. (check, and #sadpanda)
  • Pain to touch the bone at the point it is broken. (Check. Hello third metatarsal!!)
  • Swelling is often present. (check, and it's gotten worse this week)
  • An X-ray will often not show the fracture until two or three weeks after it has started to heal. (uhh what???)
Here I was thinking my x-rays from my ER visit this weekend were relatively conclusive. Unbeknownst to me, they may not show anything for another week or so!

I'm usually not the diagnose myself type. I was prepared to let this foot have some well earned rest for 7-10 days, and I confess I was expecting it to be much better by now. It's been 4 days of no running and limited walking. But maybe this internet diagnosis will get me back to Dr. Fleeter, who 'scoped my knee after a fall two years ago. (Turns out, he also specializes in sports and running injuries, and supports the local triathlon group).

Maybe most scary of all, I need to revisit my Marine Corps Marathon aspirations. After an intense training summer, my attitude towards running has shifted a little. I get wrapped up in the training and the goals, and I forget what a gift it is to be running and moving without the fear of my heart blowing up. This enforced break - short as it is already - has already reminded me that running's not a chore. I literally wake up and my body is already craving that freedom of movement, seeking that predictable meditative momentum of the trail.

"Whatever you may be missing right now - a person, a place, a feeling, maybe you are injured and missing running - whatever it is, have peace and take heart - remember that any goodbye makes room for a hello." (Kristin Armstrong, Author and runner)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big H is for Hospital

Big H is for Hospital, and they know me oh-so-well here!

At this moment, I'm at Johns Hopkins, hooked up to an IV for a 3-hour infusion of life saving medicine into my body. This might sound dramatic, but I do it every 8 weeks to keep my immune system from eating itself. I have an auto-immune disease called Takayasu's arteritis. Basically, my immune system thinks my large and small arteries are bad, so it actively tries to destroy my large and small arteries. (That's bad, FYI.)

Without medicine, my blood pressure goes up as my arteries become inflamed. All this internal pressure leads to poor circulation throughout the body, less oxygen and nutrients circulating, and increased stress on the arteries. The decreased circulation means I heal super slow, more tired than the average 20-something, and am much more clumsy. Which is a great combo: I clumsily run into things, and then it takes forever to heal from the bruises I get! Under all that pressure, these arteries balloon out in places to attempt let the pressure out. This is how I got the (very life-threatening) aortic aneurysm. Or at least this is my 5¢ understanding and summary of the medical factors at play.

But thankfully, I have medicine! We (and by we I mean my team of doctors) usually have to tweak the medicinal cocktail from time to time to suppress my immune system. The heavy hitter is this infusion I'm getting now. Thank you Jesus for health insurance!! Without health insurance, this treatment would kill me - or at least my pocket book. This medicine is about $9,000 a treatment. At 6 times a year, this treatment alone would come to $54,000 annually. That's more than I make before you even take out taxes, and that's not including all my other medical treatments.

Aside from coming to the hospital every other month, I take a slew of medicine and supplements every morning:
  • Coreg CR for blood pressure (ugh, and it's about $50 a month)
  • Prednisone for inflammation and immune suppression
  • Cellcept also for immune suppression
  • Asprin as a blood thinner and for pain
  • iron, folic acid, calcium, potassium (all the medicine drains these out of my system, so I have to actively replace them.)
  • 2-3 Emergen-C packets a day to restore electrolytes. I've found out since this summer and spring this makes a HUGE difference in my lymphatic return (big word for circulating fluids throughout your system).

So this is why when I get headaches I worry that I have a brain aneurysm. Or why when my heart starts to thump too hard I worry that it's exploding. Or why when I see a bump on my skin I think I've got cancer.

I'm not normal. But I like it that way. My health keeps me humble.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Duh. Or D'oh?

My positive and determined outlook did not last as long as I'd hoped. I made it 4 hours (into my 12-hour work day) before melting down again. I'm not even sure now why I keep melting/breaking down. Maybe I got my expectations raised too high with this promotion - and I'm still being treated like the intern. I confess I yet again indulged in a fair amount of self pity. (Oddly enough, I am very productive when I am so pitiful!)

I went outside to run some lunchtime errands (and by run I mean walk, and by walk I mean limp). It was a pleasant dry brisk day outside...but at least the urge to run off through the hills was tempered every time I stepped with my left foot. Had some time to get away from my computer and think though. I was rattling my brain, "What can I do to fix this? What can I do to mend these relationships?"

Duh. I kept thinking "What can I do" - when I realized I can't do anything. I can't do anything but pray and let Him fix the situation, soften the hearts, open the doors.

I confess my prayer life has been abysmal of late. (And of late, I mean for at least the duration of the summer, and if I'm honest, probably about a year). I felt like a prayer superstar going into surgery last year. Now, I've somehow turned into a person who earns things, instead of remembering they're all freely given. I've turned into a person who relies on human conventions and distractions, and not a person who relies on prayer and hope.

How did I get here? How did I go from that emotional apex and physical trauma to an almost marathoner who's an emotional basketcase? That's probably a much longer post that I'm still figuring out. But I clearly need to be broken again to remember that I rely on God and not myself. Maybe this is the 'D'oh!' part: more brokenness to come.

Is it lame that I thought heart surgery was easier than this? Don't answer that.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thank you - even for the crappy stuff

I couldn't have had a worse week. Job felt like it was falling apart. My body felt like it was falling apart. Couldn't sleep, couldn't eat. I was beyond frustrated and in general outraged at the perceived injustices I was facing and the unfairness of everything that had been steadily contributing to my growing misery.

I picked up "Mere Christianity" again Friday night, after a really, really, really lame totally awful, depressing, exhausting, soul-crushing day. I opened it up to the first chapter, "The Law of Human Nature." "Everyone has heard people quarreling... [Man] is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about." Lewis, the author, goes on to explain how we quarrel over 'unfairness' or 'injustice' - we "try to show that the other man is in the wrong." He ends the first chapter with this direct conclusion: one, that humans everywhere have a concept of how they should behave; and two, that they do not in fact behave the way they think they should. Lewis, in the succeeding chapters, goes on to postulate that this universal sense of Right and Wrong is evidence of God.

Amidst my constant internal litany this week of how unfair work and life were, this first chapter seemed to sum it up. But even inside this awful week, it was evidence of God. No matter how much I had been avoiding Him lately, or felt that He had been avoiding me - He was right here the whole time.

I calmed down over the weekend - which strangely should not have happened. After injuring my foot this week, I attempted an 18-mile long run on Saturday morning anyway. This turned out to be a terrible idea for several reasons. One, between my left foot incapable of completing a toe-off while just walking, and my right knee incapable of going down the stairs, I was a complete mess and should have known better. Two, it was raining, windy, and below 50ยบ out. Three, I was still really upset and stressed, and in no shape to make sound decisions - like turning around in the first half mile.

But this ended up being an opportunity to spend some quality time with my mom, which we both sorely miss. Albeit, this quality time was spent in the ER making sure I didn't have a stress fracture, but it was oddly comforting quality time nonetheless. We've spent so many days in emergency rooms or hospitals and it reminded both of us of how we've supported each other in these situations over the years. Saturday, my foot issue seemed almost pedestrian in comparison (hahahaha foot issue.. pedestrian! Come on, funny, am I right??)

Sunday morning I went with my aunt to her church for the first time - and was totally surprised that I really liked it. I found myself caught on a prayer leading into the worship. "God, thank you for your gifts this week." It reminded me of a clip of Pauley Perrette - and how when she didn't know what else to pray, she'd pray "Forgive me for everything. Thank you for everything." It hit me like a truck - I should be thanking God for my crappy, awful week! Yes, I realize this doesn't make much sense. But clearly He's provided me lessons and opportunities this week. And for sure they were difficult, but equally were they important. I'm not even sure what all the lessons from this past week were, although I'll be continuing to face their consequences for much longer. But I've got to believe the pain I'm suffering now is to spare me from worse in the future. That by putting me through trials, He strengthens and teaches me. I pray that I'll learn.