Books, Fitness, Running

Reading and running

I started reading Running With a Police Escort, which I’ve really enjoyed so far. It is also the end of week 3 of my restarted C25K. I don’t know that it’s making me any faster. In fact the only thing that I can think of that’s made me faster is longer distance. Maybe that’s the key. First I think I need to get my knee checked on though and make sure there’s nothing wrong with it that some stretches and weight training can’t fix.

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Week 3

I am currently in week 3 of C25K. This sounds kind of silly to me because I can easily run a 5k. What I’m actually trying to do is see if I can increase my pace any using the program. And then I went and downloaded the marathon version by the same company because goals. So far I’ve earned 2 of my virtual medals though Potterhead Running Club which is part of Random Tuesday (which you should check out if you are into anything geeky and running).  I have 1 HP medal on the way and 1 Doctor Who medal to earn and a second on the way.

Vegetarian life is going well. I’m getting better at being creative and not just eating lots of salad, which is helping. I’ve also found a bunch of recipes that are inspiring, so that helps.

I am on my second class for my bachelor’s which is going to be a task, I can tell. I have to figure out which classes I still need that are not in the nursing program and register for those at the community college so that they aren’t as expensive.

Now I’m going to go grocery shopping and contemplate my life choices. I have been thinking about public health as a field choice… I need to connect with people who do that. If you are in public health and happen to read this, send me a message! I’d love to talk to you about your job!

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Do something! (Or strokes and Luke Perry)

Seeing that Luke Perry died after having a stroke was an enormously sad thing for me. I remember when Beverly Hills, 90210 first aired. It was a frequent subject at the lunch table in high school. In the wake of his stroke, I’ve seen tons of posts from people who are posting similar things including (sources excluded to protect the innocent):

“Tragic! Strokes can happen to anyone!”

“OMG! You never know who will have a stroke and there’s nothing you can do.”

“Wow, so young! So scary!”

So, yes, there is likely going to be a lot of discussion from this about recognizing a stroke. From what I’ve read though, Luke called for help early on. And yes, recognizing the signs and getting help quickly is critical. That’s not what I want to address here. I will add briefly if you have symptoms like:

slurred speech/numbness of the face, weakness on one side of the body, unusual and severe headache, vision loss, numbness/tingling or, experience unsteadiness walking

please seek medical help, ASAP – especially if you have more than one of those symptoms.

That said, I want to address this idea that there’s nothing you can do about having a stroke. That’s not true at all! There are lots of things that you can do to reduce your risk of having a stroke.

  1. Stop smoking! For the love of all that is good, please stop smoking. I still see people daily who smoke. I get it. It’s hard to quit. Quitting an addictive substance is no easy feat. But smoking is something that we know does real and severe damage to your body in multiple ways. Don’t do it. Don’t start. Find a good treatment program if you are addicted. Keep trying.
  2. Lower your blood pressure. Seriously, blood pressure is a big issue. This is another thing that I see daily at work. Take your meds if you need them. Lose weight. Change your diet (especially the salt!). Do what you need to do to get your blood pressure down.
  3. Exercise more. Again, this has a huge impact on your health in more than one way. Exercise will not only decrease your risk of stroke it can also increase your HDL or “good” cholesterol. Exercise will also decrease your weight and help lower blood pressure. Find 30 minutes a day and go for a walk.
  4. Change your diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Decrease your salt (again) – if you decrease how often you eat out, your salt intake will likely plummet. Start using low salt items. Use spices to flavor your food instead of salt. Also, increase fruits and vegetables (again!). Order a side salad if you eat out. Make a salad. Roast veggies in the oven. There are so many ways to increase fruit and veggie intake and it will make you healthier.
  5. Decrease alcohol intake. Optimally, don’t drink at all but if that’s not you just drink less alcohol.
  6. Finally, treat any medical conditions. Diabetes contributes to your stroke risk. Atrial fibrillation can contribute. Atrial fibrillation is something that a doctor needs to treat with medications. Diabetes can be diet controlled and if you start doing some of the things above, type 2 diabetes (insulin resistant) will start to improve as well.

Honestly, every day, I have the privilege to help people get better when I am at work and I enjoy what I do but I also see people every day that could do a lot to help themselves get better. It’s not easy but it’s far better than the alternatives.

Mourn Luke Perry’s loss. It’s a sad thing to see someone die so young. Get healthier, work towards a better you. One step at a time. See your doctor to get some help. Visit your local gym. Go for a walk. Add a salad a week to your diet.

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School slows down the writing…

So, the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to sit down and blog but I also had a paper that I had to write for school. It kind of took over everything with editing and all that good stuff. The good news is that I turned that paper in today so hopefully, I’ll have a little time for blogging now. There’s a couple of weeks before my next class starts. I really need some time to get a bunch of blog posts done so that I can post stuff even if I get really busy. Working on that…

Books, Life

Audience, meet anxiety.

I have been overwhelmed recently with people talking about their “OCD” or how they have “such bad anxiety” and I have had to refrain from screaming. The current attitude around mental health is both good and bad because it seems like anxiety is the new IT thing. Everyone has it. That presentation at work making you nervous. It’s ok, you have anxiety. You question if your life is on the right path? It’s ok, it’s just anxiety. And hey, everyone has it!

I have recently started reading Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. If you haven’t noticed, I am on a streak with his books because I have a) recently discovered them and b) he’s an incredible author. I love to read authors that I can learn from and I feel like I’m learning a lot from his books. That’s not really the point of this though.

I started crying as I read the book. And it’s not a sad story. I started crying because for the first time ever, I saw myself, on a page in a book. It was as if he had read my mind and typed it onto a page. The intrusive thoughts, the obsessing, the feeling that you’re going crazy inside your own head and you have no idea how to get out or if there even is a way to get out and what the heck are you going to do if you’re trapped here forever, never normal? Audience, meet anxiety.

I’m not kidding. If you don’t have anxiety, you should read it. It will give you an insight into the brain of real, actual anxiety. You aren’t feeling the emotions that go with it of course (and there are strong, powerful, scary emotions that go with it) but it will give you an idea. If you have anxiety, you should read it because it will make you realize, if nothing else, that you aren’t alone. That’s probably the biggest thing that has helped me with my anxiety. I’m not alone. I am not the only person who feels like this. I am not the only person who has thoughts like this. Maybe not exactly like mine, but similar.

There is a calmness that comes over you when you finally see that it’s not just you. Other people may hide this feeling too. I have had my anxiety tamed for a long time, although recently, I have felt it creeping back in a way that it hasn’t in a very long time. I may just be at a point where I need therapy again. Or as Aza’s therapist points out in the book, it may just be because there is change in my life right now. Whatever it is, I can feel it, which is why I started crying reading the book.

There is a secret world out there. It contains real anxiety. And that’s why it’s so frustrating when people talk about their nervousness as if it’s anxiety. Nervous is not anxiety. Nervous is normal. Anxiety is ending up crying on the floor of your closet because you can’t decide what to wear because people will laugh at you. Anxiety is a panic attack because someone looked at you funny on the bus and you just know that they are talking about you (never mind that they don’t even know you). Anxiety is counting on your fingers over and over to try and calm your mind but it never works because every time you stop you have to start again.

Please know that if you have anxiety, it’s ok to get help. There are medications and therapies that you can use to make things better. Things can get better. If you think you have anxiety, please see someone. And if you’re saying that you have anxiety because it sounds better than saying you’re nervous, please know that some people have a very real mental disorder and that’s what anxiety is. It’s not a catch phrase. Organizing stuff is not OCD. Butterflies in the stomach is not anxiety.

Life

It’s not about smart

So for a long time, I have heard the same thing over and over. It can be in reference to so many things and yet it seems such a useless thing to say. People love to say it to me when I talk about how I find something frustrating or difficult. I have heard it since I was very small and I have grown to hate the phrase with a passion, even though I know those people saying it mean it in a good way. What is it?

“You’re so smart!”

I have heard this phrase, in all kinds of variations, a far back as I can recall. And I know that the people saying it aren’t trying to be mean. They really aren’t. They mean it as a compliment. Unfortunately, it has grown to become a phrase that makes me cringe as I wonder why I can’t live up to the expectations of the people around me.

People mistake “smart” for a lot of other things. For example, upon learning that my bachelor’s degree is in chemistry, many people will sigh and tell me “Wow, you’re so smart.” Except that I worked my butt off for that degree. I failed a class and had to retake it. I cried tears of frustration as I tried to learn something that seemed so far beyond me sometimes. Yes, there were parts of it that I loved or I wouldn’t have stuck with it. It was also partly a way to stick it to a teacher in high school who once told me I’d never be any good at science. Ha! I showed him. Well, not really, because I never saw him again but honestly, it still feels good knowing that I did it. I have always preferred my psychology, sociology, government and art classes. And I’ve taken a lot of those.

Which brings me to my next frustrating moment. I struggle to write papers sometimes. I love to do it. Researching something I’m passionate about and then composing that information into a solid argument based on that research makes me feel accomplished (anyone hiring for that?). Whenever people read these papers, I get that same gush. “This is so good! You’re so smart!” Am I? For compiling other people’s information and using it to write an argument? I didn’t do the studies. None of this stuff is published. It’s all classroom papers that are a result of a lot of formal education. I am doing something I love but I don’t see it as something that requires a lot of intelligence. There are many people out there who can write papers.

I pay attention to the information presented to me in the world. I will tell you, without hesitation, that I have a very analytical mind and am very good at figuring out if something makes sense or looks like a valid source. I questions everything that I come across, especially in this age where anyone can mess with editing a picture or video to make it look like what they want. Is that what smart is?

Here’s the thing. I don’t feel smart. I have spent my life feeling like I’m trying to catch up, live up to the adjective that keeps getting placed on me and making me feel like I haven’t done what I should have. After all, smart people are successful, right? I have struggled my whole life to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, always feeling like I’m reaching for something that I haven’t found yet. There are things I want to do but haven’t found a way to do yet. Like write my book. It seems like life just keeps getting in the way and all I want to do is sit and find a way to make it happen. I guess that’s what is meant by you find a way for the things that are important? Except that can be hard when life keeps throwing unexpected curve balls at you. I mean, after all is said and done, my kids have to eat.

So what’s my point? Probably stop telling people that they’re smart. Find a better compliment to describe what you’re thinking.

Books, Life

Musings on writing

So I just finished reading Paper Towns by John Green. I have recently started reading his books after having read his brother’s book. Which sounds horrible because I’ve known about these books for awhile and for some reason I never started to read them. I should have or at least this one.

I have fallen in love with this book. If you’ve not read it, I won’t give away the plot but there are two main characters, Quentin and Margo and honestly, you only see Margo at the very beginning and end of the book even though she’s the center of the story. Initially, as I was reading, I felt that I was a lot like Quentin, disregarding the fact that he’s male and I’m female. Our personalities are very similar and I can see some of the journey that I have taken. To be fair, Quentin’s journey happens over a very short period of time where mine took years but he’s also fictional so I’ll give him a break.

As I read though, I realized something. The more Quentin really saw Margo, the more I realized that I’m much more Margo. This is not simply because of gender but rather because of a deeper and more complicated story. Margo it turns out, is not who everyone thinks she is and probably has some depression or anxiety at the root of her. And that journey that she goes on, which is literal and figurative, shows a complex person who hides a lot of who she is from the rest of the world because everyone wants to see her one way.

Margo’s solution is to escape from her small town. That isn’t an option that I have but as I have grown, I’ve discovered that there is more than one way to escape. Perhaps I can take a page out of Margo’s book and start to show people that there’s slightly more to me than what anyone has seen. Why we hide parts of ourselves is an interesting question and one that I’ll certainly be giving some more thought in the next week. In the meantime, I’m going to start another book and see what kind of a journey it takes me on.