Friday, August 28, 2015

Just Because You Believe It Doesn't Make It True: How Beliefs Shape Our Reality

A week or two ago I watched The Theory of Everything for the first time.  This movie (which by the way is the saddest thing ever), documents the early life of famed physicist Stephen Hawking, but is more a heartbreaking love story about the relationship between him and his first wife, Jane Wilde.  It was heart wrenching to see Hawking's demise and to imagine what it would be like to be in Jane's shoes, watching the person you love suffer from a debilitating and degenerative disease. 

Something Hawking's character said about halfway through the film stuck with me, as it had been something I had been thinking about lately.  It was this:  "What one believes in irrelevant in physics".  (I have no idea if Hawking himself actually ever said this or if was just a line in the movie.)

I have been thinking a lot lately about what one believes and how much our beliefs shape our reality.  That is to say, what we believe creates our world and our reality, but may not actually be reality.  Am I talking in riddles or does this make sense to you!? 

As humans with incredibly evolved grey matter, we have the luxury of taking in information from external sources, and then choosing what pieces to retain, what pieces to reject and what pieces to shape to fit the unique network of ideas we have constructed inside those brains of ours.  Unlike lesser evolved animals who simply intake information and process it exactly as is, we color what comes in.  Which is why people hold such vastly varied and different beliefs on so many things.

But, I think what we often forget to realize is that just because we believe something doesn't make it true.  Or untrue for that matter.  Some things simply exist whether we believe in them or not.  Heck for centuries people believed the Earth was flat, or that the Universe revolved around our little blue planet (Narcissistic much?!), but just because everyone on the planet held these beliefs at one point didn't make them so. 

It kind of makes you think, doesn't it? If the entirety of the human race has held false beliefs at one time or another, how many of yours may be faulty?

I know personally, many of my beliefs (about myself, the world, about others) have changed over time, and continue to change as I grow, read, learn, and explore things out of my comfort zone.  This is not to say I'm a weak willed person (quite the contrary, in fact I can be QUITE stubborn) and I do have strong opinions and values, but as I've gotten older I've come to see some beliefs I held as a younger person were simply all in my head. 

I'm not trying to break down any of your beliefs, but I think it's important to go through life with an open mind, and a knowing that the reality we create in our own minds is not always representative of the reality in the outside world.  I think its worthwhile to challenge our own beliefs and question why and how we came to the conclusions we did.  If a man like Stephen Hawking can continually push boundaries against all odds, surely each one of us can too!

Have you ever changed a belief over time?

What made you do so?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Weekend-y Things

It's Tuesday and somehow I'm just getting to my weekend updates....Better late than never

I started off the weekend Friday by being the victim of a hit and run in the YMCA parking lot.  WHO does that?!  Not cool dude.  Or dudette.  Even if you don't believe in karma do you at least believe in DOING THE RIGHT THING?!

Apparently not.  I do not understand humans sometimes most of the time.

I needed some WOOSAH after that, so I went home and took my first ever one of these baths:

I soaked in the tub for the first time in months (a year maybe?!) which was nice and relaxing (I even turned out the lights and lit a candle.  ROMANTIC, PARTY OF ONE), but I can't say that I really felt much of anything from the Epsom salt.  Perhaps it's more for sore muscles than injured tissue, but I'll give it a few more tries.  

I then settled in for a night of takeout and watching movies I've seen a hundred times.  SO EXCITING.  Including This is Where I Leave You.  Which I've seen at least a half dozen times now and love.  I actually checked this book out of the library earlier this summer, but never got around to reading it before it was due.  Anyway, if you haven't seen it, I'd recommend.  Also, Jason Bateman.  SOLD.

On Saturday, I lifted my exercise ban because it was gorgeous outside and I just couldn't take it anymore.  6 days.  That's how long I lasted.

Went for a little hike with my friend and her dog:

And then went out for tapas and DANCING!!  All the dancing.  The 'lawnmower' and 'tossed salad' moves made an appearance and I didn't care who was watching.  We were in a giddy mood and I have not acted that ridiculous in quite some time.  I blame the entire week of self imposed rest and pent up energy. 

After all that wine and dancing, I woke up with an intense craving for this Sunday morning: 

Later, I went for a 4 mile walk.  Anddddddddddd yesterday I totally paid for all that time on my feet.  My leg, hamstring and now hip (?!) are all sore.  You win some you lose some. 

In other news, 3 MORE WEEKS UNTIL I'M ON THE WEST COAST!  I'm bringing my dance moves with me.  WATCH OUT!

When was the last time you shook your groove thang?

Do you watch the same movies over and over like me?!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Any Action is Better Than No Action

I procrastinate, a lot.  I think there are many different reasons people procrastinate, and I don't believe laziness is at the top of that list.  I personally procrastinate out of fear and indecision.  Or most often, fear of making the wrong decision!

A recovering perfectionist, I have always been terrible at making decisions.  I'm constantly worried whatever I choose will be 'wrong'.  So in the past, I've often prolonged decisions for so long without taking action, that my inaction then made the choice for me, and it wasn't pretty.  You see, I often thought if I didn't do anything at all, it would be better than making the 'wrong' choice.  WRONG-O!

By not acting, you actually put the power of your choice in others hands.  Without being an active participant in your life, you allow the environment to choose for you, bending this way and that according to the needs of others. (*See my entire 9 year career in Finance for reference!)

I've come to learn that taking action, ANY action, is better than doing nothing at all.

Sure you may fail or make the wrong choice sometimes, but that's how you learn.  You may also make the RIGHT choice sometimes too. 

I see this in children all the time.  Kids are most often naturally fearless.  They are uninhibited and uncensored.  They take life as it comes without fear of failure, because they don't really know what that means yet!  It is often social conditioning from those around them that teaches them to be fearful.  And in certain amounts and situations, they do need to be taught to tread lightly.  ie. Don't blindly run across the street because you could be hit by a car.  But in others, say learning to ride a bike, they've just got to go for it. Sure, they may fall off a few times, but it won't be deadly, and each ride they'll go a little further, and a little further, without falling, until they're sailing off into the sunset.  I think it's our responsibility to make sure we keep the spirit of adventure and fearlessness alive in children, and not teach them to approach life with a fearful heart.  #endnannyrant

Another big thing that keeps me from taking action, besides fear, is that I can't see the end result or the big picture, so I often don't know where to start.  But that's the thing, you can't predict the future, and you can't see the end until you actually get there.  The key is TAKING THE FIRST STEP.  And somehow, that will lead to the next step, and so on and so on.  You most often find your way just by starting.

Case in point, my California trip in September.  I had been hemming and hawing for weeks about booking the tickets because I didn't have the entire thing planned out in my head.  Dates I'll be gone, stops to be made on the road, rooms to book on Airbnb.  There's so much to plan and planning is not my forte.  (Seriously, whenever I get married, I want someone to plan the entire thing for me.  Just let me pick out a dress and tell me where to show up.  DONE.) 
I didn't really know where to start.  So I stalled.  And procrastinated.  And meanwhile, ticket prices kept creeping up!  So I finally just bought the damn tickets!  And now, all the steps I need to take are becoming clearer.  I finally have concrete dates and now I can go from there.  Booking rooms, getting a car, etc etc.  One step just leads to the next.  

Health and fitness operate on this same schema.  Doing SOMETHING, anything, is better than DOING nothing at all.  That line that says even if you run slower than molasses in January, you're still lapping everyone on the couch is true.  Any movement is better than no movement at all.
Nike's had it right all these years - JUST DO IT.  Anything.  You may try and fail, but you'll never know what could have been if you just sit there and stare out the window.
And also, the longer you procrastinate on buying airline tickets, the more money you'll lose.  Just FYI!
Are you a procrastinator or do you take action?
Do you have a hard time making decisions?
Have you ever delayed taking action and then learned the lesson the hard way?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Self Diagnosis and Who Am I?

And just like that it's another week.  Where is the summer going?!?!  Don't answer that.  Summer is going to last forever, just like my cats.

I finally decided to stop being an idiot and take some time off from exercise to allow my leg to heal.  Obviously, cutting out running but still working out rather aggressively 5-6 days/week was just making things worse.  That was further evidenced when I went for a long bike ride back in PA this weekend and then could barely walk afterward.  Sometimes I really need to be shouted at to get the point!

I am still convinced that what I have is tendinitis of one of the tendons/ligaments in the back of my leg.  Either something connected to the hamstring, or after some Googling around this weekend, possibly this:  Popliteus Tendinitis.  There's a mouthful.  In all my years of AP Bio and Anatomy, never once had I heard of the popliteus muscle.  You learn something new every day.  If you are in the same boat here's a visual for you:


I was reading a bunch of threads from injured runners on Let's Run and the symptoms sound similar to what I'm experiencing.  Unfortunately, the only cure for any kind of tendinitis  (or any injury in general!) is rest.  If you come back too soon, you just prolong the injury.  So rest it is.  And now, if anyone ever asks you where the popliteus muscle is you can tell them!  I hope you win Final Jeopardy one day because of me :)

It's disappointing that I won't be able to run the trail half I had planned to run with my friend, but as much as I was looking forward to it, this race is about her.  It is her first half marathon EVER and I think it's more important that I be a spectator instead of a participant so that I can really support her.  She has been at the finish line of MANY of my races and now I can't wait to be at hers!

Being an injured runner has a way making anyone who's experienced it feel a little down, a little lost, and a little unsure of who they are anymore.  I was pondering why this is, which got my head spinning off a complete tangent.  So get ready.

I think the problem becomes when we define ourselves as "A Runner".  Or anything for that matter. 
A Teacher/CEO/Banker/Janitor/(Fill in your occupation here).  A Wife.  A Mother.  __________'s Girlfriend.  A Homeowner.  Someone who drives a BMW.  Someone who wears designer clothes.  Etc, etc.

The issue arises when you attach WHO you ARE to something external, rather than internal.  Because what happens when that thing, person, hobby, etc are suddenly gone?  You are left questioning who you are. You are left feeling that who you are is gone.  But that can never be the case.  Who you are deep inside, your soul, will always be there. 

You are not any more or less a person, a human being, by having or not having any of the above things.  I think it becomes dangerous when we tie our identity to other people or things.  Whether that be a spouse, material objects, or even talents.  All of those things can be taken away in an instant and if you are not grounded in who you are, you can become lost. 

But I think we all feel this way sometimes, especially when the rug gets pulled out from under us.  If a relationship ends, or we lose a job, or we have to sit some time out due to illness or injury.  I can't run right now, but I'm still Jill.  Vegan ice cream may not always be my favorite food, but I'm still Jill.  My body will physically change over the years, where I live, who I love, and what I do for work will no doubt continue to change, but I will always be me.  And so will you. 

My popliteus and I will continue pondering more of life's great mysteries during this downtime.  I hope to bring you more words you cannot pronounce in my next post. 

P.S. I just saw a commercial for A Walk in the Woods the MOVIE on TV!!!!!!!!! It's apparently coming out in theaters in September.  Life is grand.

Have you learned anything new or interesting lately?!

Share some of your favorite vocabulary words with me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The State of My Leg

Hello, Welcome, and Good Evening my Fellow Americans.  Tonight we gather to discuss the State of our Union.  J/K.  I'm here to discuss the state of my currently gimpy leg.

Addressing Congress...

As you may or may not have noticed, there has not been much mention of RUNNING on this here running blog the past few weeks.  In fact, it has indeed been nearly 4 weeks now that I've abstained from running in the hopes that whatever this twinge/strain/inflammation on the back of my leg was would make a hasty retreat.  I'm sorry to report that has not happened :(

Truth be told, I have not really been resting my leg.  I've maintained my normal workouts, save for running.  My weekly workouts have generally looked like this the past month:

Monday:  Strength or HIIT workout (Bodyweight only, at home)
Tuesday: Strength workout (Weight lifting at the gym)
Wednesday:  BodyCombat (Les Mills kickboxing class)
Thursday: 4 mile walk (outside)
Friday: Bicycling + Rowing workout (gym)
Saturday: REST or Hike outdoors
Sunday:  4 mile walk (outside)

Throughout all of this my leg has not been in pain, but it didn't really feel like it was getting much better.  To be clear, this is not a knee injury.  It is an inflammation/pain of the tendons, ligaments or muscles in the fleshy part of the back of my leg behind my knee.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and let me tell you, I have been dying for a run.  So, last Thursday I turned that 4 mile walk up there into a 3 mile run.  Bad news bears.  1 mile in I felt GREAT!  I was RUNNING for heaven's sake.  The wind in my hair, finally breaking into a real sweat, endorphins starting to kick in, and then I felt it.  An ache.  A twinge.  A pinch in my leg behind my knee.  MOTHER F#$*(&^@!!!!

I convinced myself it wasn't that bad and continued to run.  Another mile.  It was definitely there.  Pain.  Mile 3.  Ok time to stop.  And I definitely paid for that drug-induced endorphin-induced relapse right there, because my leg has been sore ever since.  I've been getting some strange numbness up and down that leg now and into my foot/arch as well.  It comes and goes.  Very strange.

I still don't know where this mystery injury came from.  Is it because I'm wearing running shoes that are far past their prime?  Could be.  My shoes are 9 months old.  Way beyond their lifetime at this point.  Is it because I've been doing 2+ mile walks daily in flip flops with my charges at work?  Probably a contributor.  Did I strain something in my new kickboxing class and continue to aggravate it each week?  Also a possibility!

I had planned to run this trail half marathon with my friend November 1st, but now it seems that may not be a possibility.  Even with the very abbreviated training cycles I do, I still need a minimum of 8 weeks to adequately up my mileage for a half.  That means I would have to start training Sept 1st and that just doesn't seem a possibility right now.  I guess as a last ditch effort I could try to abstain COMPLETELY from all physical activity for the rest of August and attempt a run come September 1.  But who are we kidding.  If you got me to sit still for 2 1/2 weeks you should buy a lottery ticket because you're definitely a miracle worker.  I think at the very least, I will cut out as much walking as possible, as that seems to aggravate it the most. 

[PSA:  I'm somewhat making light of this but if I was in extreme pain, if I felt something may be broken, or if my daily activities were being hindered in any way, I'd obviously abstain from physical activity and possibly see a Dr.  I'm not advising anyone take my advice regarding overuse injuries right now!]

Any suggestions, commiserations, pity parties are welcome!  If you are running right now, LUCKY LUCKY you.  I want to be you.

You haunt my dreams

The State of our Union is strong my fellow Americans (mmm, debatable), but the state of my leg is not.  Send good vibes.  And I'll send some your way :)

When was the last time you suffered a running injury?

What was it and how long did it last?


Friday, August 7, 2015

Recent Reads (Book Review): Hiking Edition

When I went to the library a few weeks ago, I was looking for some 'outdoors' books.  Not field guides, but just some accounts of people adventuring in the great outdoors.  Something about the summer makes me want to immerse myself not just physically, but mentally, in the natural world as well.

Back when I read Wild (which if you recall I LOVED), I heard about another highly recommended  hiking account and put it on my reading list.  I forgot about it for awhile, but then it seemed to be checked out of the library every time I remembered it.  In fact, when I went to check on it again a few weeks ago, the system said the book was in, but it was not on the shelves and the librarian said it was 'missing'.  [Do people steal library books?! I wondered]  She told me she would go "in the back" because there was one more place she could check for it.  As an aside, I'd love to know the deep, dark, secret places that are off limits in the library.  Ha.  Anyway, she came out a few minutes later, with the book in hand:

This has quickly become one of my favorite books!  If you are a serious/semi-professional hiker looking for specifics and intricacies of hiking the Appalachian Trail, then this may not be the book for you.  But if you simply love the outdoors, humor, or both, I think you will LOVE this account as much as I did!
This was the first time I've read anything by the author, Bill Bryson, and I immediately found him so endearing and hysterical.  I now have more of his books on my reading list.  Bryson is an American author who spent most of his life growing up and living in Britain.  He's no pro hiker but after moving back to America he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail as a way to get to know the American wilderness.  He had done some recreational (day) hiking in England and was in fair shape, but he had never done a thru-hike like this.  His plan was to hike the entire extent of the Appalachian Trail over the course of several months, which stretches from Georgia to Maine and is more than 2,100 miles.  He put notes in his Christmas cards before he set out, inviting friends and family to hike with him, hoping to find companions for at least part of the way.  Only one person responded, and it was a long-lost (incredibly out of shape) college friend named Stephen Katz, who said he'd do the whole thing with him.  The hilarious dynamic and misadventures between these two guys is what made the book (and I'm sure their hike) so entertaining. 
There were so many laugh-out-loud lines in this book, like this:  "What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children's parties - I daresay it would even give a merry toot - and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag."
What I also liked about this book was that Bryson gave a lot of historical context about the trail itself, the National Park Service, and the sad state of deforestation and (lack of) ecological conservation in this country.  His comedic retelling of the journey is often interspersed with a lot of important facts and back stories about parts of the trail or wildlife contained therein.
This was one of those books I read so quickly, but made myself put down a few times to make it last longer!  I won't give you any spoilers as to their success rate on the trail but if you're interested in the outdoors at all I would absolutely recommend this book! I almost want to read it again right now...
After that stunner, I picked up another autobiographical trail account.  This one:

This was a first hand account of the Pacific Coast Trail hike on the opposite coast of the US, written by Gail Storey.  The PCT runs from the California/Mexico border to Canada on the west coast and is over 2,600 miles.  This one paled in comparison to the book above for me.  I don't know if I just enjoyed the male perspective in A Walk in the Woods more, and/or Bryson's humor, but I Promise Not to Suffer was much more instrospective and it became a bit annoying at points for me.  I realize Wild is a hugely instrospective book as well, but Strayed drew me in more and made me feel more connected and concerned with her struggles. I didn't connect as much with this author, although it was still a fair read, and I started to enjoy it the more I read. 
Storey and her husband, a hospice care doctor, have done some long-distance bike rides and similar adventures together.  When her husband quits his job to hike the entire PCT over a 6 month time span, she decides to tag along, even though she defines herself as not much of an outdoors girl.  Her husband is knowledgeable and does a lot of prep leading up to the hike.  If you've read Wild, then you might remember how much gear and preparation is required for a hike of the PCT (Strayed was admittedly not very prepared.)  They have to plan out their needs months in advance, and pack up supply boxes to be shipped to various posts along the hike to replenish their food/hygiene products/clothing.  Unlike Bryson who was not into gear or gear talk at all, Storey's husband Porter did an immense amount of research into their gear so their packs would be as light as possible. 
Despite all of this, Storey herself had a difficult time physically on the trail, and despite eating 6,000+ calories a day, she ended up losing 20 pounds throughout the journey! Hiking 20 miles/day will do that to you I suppose.  The dangers she talks about on the trail are almost unbelievable at points.  I really can't fathom crossing flooded, high current rivers wearing giant packs on your back, scaling mountains with 5,000 foot elevations only to have to go right back down the other side, this time in ice, sleeping with bugs and rodents literally crawling all over you, facing down mountain lions and rattlesnakes daily, and hiking nearly the equivalent of a marathon day after day, week after week, throughout all of this!
I won't give any spoilers here either regarding their success/completion of the trail, but reading both of these accounts of people hiking as duos on the trail just makes me more in awe of Cheryl Strayed (Wild) being able to accomplish this ON HER OWN.  I guess that's one reason I loved that book so much. 
It's still absolutely a bucket list item of mine to plan out and do one of these thru-hikes someday before I die.  After reading accounts like these, I wonder how long I could actually manage out there.  Would I make it out alive? I hope one day to find out.  
Despite all of our modern advances, I think deep down most people still long to return to their wild roots.  To seek that from which we originally came, before shopping malls, cars and cubicles became our way of life.  I know I do!

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books."  ~ John Lubback

Also linking up with MamaKat today!

Have you read either of these books?

Do you have any desire to do a thru-hike of this magnitude?


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's in my Fridge?!

Oh hiiiiiiiiii!  I've seen a few posts where the author gives you a glimpse inside their fridge and I thought, what better time to share what's in mine, since it's brand new and probably the cleanest it will ever be!  Lucky you!

Without further ado, here are all the secrets contained in a single cat lady's refrigerator!

Let's start with the freezer:

  • Frozen treats:  Fruit bars, Cashew milk ice cream (vegan)
  • Frozen veggies: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Frozen seafood: Shrimp, Mussels
  • Frozen fruit (for smoothies): Pineapple, Strawberries
  • Cool whip (non-dairy topping for summer fruit)
  • Random frozen dinner rolls from my mom!
  • Ice packs (for running injuries!)

On to the main fridge.  Here's what's on the door:

  • Condiments:  Salad dressing, mustard, cocktail sauce, horseradish, lime juice
  • Jelly: 1 store-bought, and 2 jars of homemade strawberry jam from my Aunt
  • Vegan butter alternative: I use Smart Balance (light)
  • Hershey's syrup (dairy-free!)
  • Real maple syrup
  • Almond milk

And the Holy Grail:

  • More almond milk!
  • Brita pitcher (couldn't tell you the last time I actually changed the filter in that thing)
  • Iced tea
  • Gatorade
  • Coconut water
  • Various Bolthouse and Naked juices
  • Random 'natural' energy drink someone gave me, and I have yet to try
  • White wine (Moscato)
  • Champagne (I have zero recollection of when/where/why I got that champagne!)
  • Natural/brown eggs
  • Hummus
  • English muffins (I keep my bread in the fridge thinking this makes it last longer. I have no idea if this is true.)
  • Pickles
  • Ground flaxseed (for smoothies)
  • Takeout (from Carrabba's)
  • Fruit: Currently grapes, oranges, and plums
  • Veggies: Currently corn-on-the-cob and baby carrots

Andddddddd that's all she wrote.

After typing all of that out, I realize about 60% of the contents of my refrigerator are beverages! What can I say, I'm a thirsty girl, especially in the summer.

I'd say this is pretty representative of what's in my fridge most of the time.  The only things currently missing are some greens and some kind of meat, which I'll pick up fresh later this week when I run out of those leftovers up there.

I haven't seen the inside of a ton of other single peoples' refrigerators, but I feel like I probably have more food than average?! I think this is due to the fact that I don't eat any meals out any more on a day to day basis.  I used to buy lunches out a lot when I worked in an office, but I can't just peace out on the kids now and go for lunch!  So I pack food all week and eat dinner at home almost every night.  I only eat out or get takeout once or twice a week, usually on weekends, and it's pretty much always one of these 4 things:

- Sushi
- Panera
- Chipotle
- Carrabba's


Tell me what's in your fridge!!  (Especially if you've got some weird things lurking back there)

And have a marvelous Tuesday.