“You are my best and worst patient all rolled into one” said my doctor as she took a seat across from me. She’s right on three hundred different levels and has the ability to tell it like I need to hear it. I knew what she means, and she knew I knew what she meant.
It’s been a rough stretch over here. I lost a friend suddenly and it shifted the foundation upon which I stand. It’s difficult to articulate how people touch our lives and how they are so interwoven into what you do, that you don’t even realize it. Then I lost another friend and I damn near lost it. It’s been a rough week on that front….. but it’s part of the cycle of life. When I hear myself say out loud “please don’t take anyone else from me” I then think….. you have it much much better than others have it. You will handle it. But that doesn’t make the hurt sting any less.
What led me to the doctor this week was 18 months worth of … as people like to say… overdoing it. I thrive on having my plate the fullest. I like when I fall into bed at the end of the day feeling like I accomplished ten thousand things.
For many years I overdid it in training, the Ironman years. That landed me in an MRI machine with vision loss in one eye… and no explanation of how it occurred. So I scaled back on the training and worked to build an identity that was not just through athletics. Until 2 years ago if I had lost sport completely I would have fallen apart. I didn’t have a separate identity, one that I could see.
So I scaled back, began working in nursing education, started grad school. This year my husband left corporate america and began working for me, which put me officially as “head of household”. That was awesome and terrifying all in the same. His joining me on the coaching front alleviated the nuances of owning a business and I can focus on the coaching part, and share the load with someone, as I have been a one woman show for 12 years.
SoI added 3 more credits of grad school.
See what I am getting at?
After a 6 day migraine I got sent home from work and right to the doctor. Who gave it to me straight. I don’t like to call it stress….. we all have stress. Stress is part of life. I am not going to go float on a raft in Costa Rica with a ring of fire around me and try to come home stress free. Doesn’t exist.
When my doctor reminded me that I do too much… I told her I do everything that I love to do, and nothing that I have to do. I told her I take care of myself…. I am fit, healthy, I eat well, I meditate. My heart rate is 43 (which freaked her nurse out, YEAH) and my blood pressure is awesome. I am at a healthy weight and I don’t take any medications.
She reminded me that overloading oneself…. doesn’t always manifest itself in high blood pressure. I know better than anyone that an overloaded life will come out physically….. somewhere. For me…. it’s my vision again. My right eye specifically. And migraines. Not ones that are bad enough to keep me in bed. Just ones that do require Immitrex and Zofran and a whole lot of Motrin. But I always carry on.
And that right there…… is my defining fault. I always carry on. I always get back up. I always get it done. These days I am getting a lot done, that’s for sure….. but it’s not my best…. at least not to my standards. The training is never hard to get in. It’s when the fatigue of training bleeds into the rest of life. Now that I have reignited my nursing career in education and clinically…. I can’t let that happen. As a grad student I need to be sharp to write paper after paper and execute the research. I can’t allow the quality to fall.
If there is one person I won’t defy and won’t argue with…. it’s my doctor. She was placed in my life for a reason. When I try to see the NP instead of her, she will find me, call me, chase me down the hall and call me out on avoiding her. She understands exactly how I tick.
So when she speaks…. I listen. I have to see a new eye doctor to make sure I don’t have retinal detachment, then a neurologist to make sure things are all taken care of in my brain. I had an MRI of my head in 2013 and it was clear. Except he couldn’t tell me why my swim math is so bad.
My husband also saw the opportunity to lend his advice…. actually he does all the time. When he says “I don’t know how you do all this.” I feel a sense of pride. I always tell him that old saying that goes something lie this…. when I die I want to slide into the grave with a bloody and bruised body, claiming “What a ride”.
But really…. it’s not a rite of passage what I do.
I have this bucket list of things I want to do, things I want to learn. When I was 40 I learned how to speed skate. When I was 41 I learned how to snowboard and XC ski. This summer I took up stand up paddle boarding and fell in love with it. I have been saying all winter that when the snow falls I need to take an actual downhill SKI LESSON instead of hacking it on the slopes and saying I will.
Traditionally…. all of those activities have been on the back of a 2-3 hour ride and a run. When we go XC skiing it’s… after I have already done 3 hours of something first…. because I am an addicted triathlete and god forbid I don’t get those miles in.
I was asked…. what happened if you stopped all that and began to tackle that bucket list right now? What if instead of hitting the bike for 2 hours and then go skiing…. I just went skiing.
It felt like nails on a chalkboard and exciting all at the same time.
Why don’t you go get yourself a nice pair of skis…. and ski? The sales are hot right now, and with all the rentals….. and HEY…. they are so much cheaper than a bike.What if you stopped at the top of the mountain and looked around….. what a novel idea?
Ski lesson…. scheduled. Ski’s obtained. Actually 2 pairs. Downhill and telemark. I want to learn that.
I agreed to using the month of February as an experiment. Mostly running with some swimming, Time off the bike. 60-90 minutes of cardio a day and a little strength every day. Skiing every time I can (it’s on the way home from work). Skiing in place of… not in addition to. can I even DO THAT?
Step out of triathlon life…. for one month. See what happens. On March 1st we reevaluate. How is my vision? Migraines? Quality of work? How is my mojo? Have I skied my brains out and learned how to do it properly? Am I falling asleep while I am helping our son with his homework? Will I actually be fitter because I am not spreading myself so thin that I can’t make gains?
Then we decide what path I will take for the rest of the season. Take a season off triathlon and go exploring on my SUP with Luc? Run through the trails with Luc? Convince him to get on the mountain? UM…. this seems like it’s a no brainer.
Writing this all down is tough for me. It’s making a shift that I am not sure how to make and scared to admit I need to make. I don’t know where this path is leading, but I do know that the current one is not leading me there in one piece.
So here goes…… we actually started this on Wednesday…… one month. Less training….. more exploring…… and no more spreading myself so thin that I end up in neurologist’s offices. Slowing down from 100mph to 60 mph. I am willing to try this.
And my first downhill ski lesson! No more hacking downhill skiing. This is something I have always wanted to master. I have adventure in my heart and uncertainty of how to channel it.
It has been a rough few weeks. Bookended by loss, but teaching me self care and following dreams outside of the structure of what I know… and stepping WAY outside of my comfort zone.
This morning I will close with this quote from “Into the Wild”. While I don’t live in unhappy circumstances…. what I am doing to myself needs to change. It will. I am not seeing the world as beautifully as I can…… I know it’s out there and I have been too afraid to step off this beaten path to look for it. Until today.
“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
~ Jon Krakauer