Running with my thoughts. Again.

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This blog was originally designed to reflect the many ideas and thoughts that came to me while running.

I started running because I had been afraid of doing so since I was a little girl. Running was something I thought I was incapable of doing, but somehow I decided to try it anyways. I started with a couch to 5k program.  I  was more than capable of running. I was doing something I thought I could not do, and I saw myself transformed in more ways than one. Running became a coping mechanism for me. It was one of the few times in my day where I said nice things to myself. Eventually, it became a time to practice self-care and to generate solutions to problems I was thinking about.  From personal problems like relationship issues, ideas for school assignments, solving or helping with social justice and human rights issues, to tackling the purpose of my life, I pondered it all while I ran. But then it all came to an abrupt halt. I had to stop running when I injured my back in Crossfit shortly after running in my first half-marathon in August of 2015. I was in physical therapy from October 2015 to June of 2016. Sometimes I could not even stand up straight or walk without immense pain and stiffness.

Running became a coping mechanism for me. It was one of the few times in my day where I said nice things to myself. Eventually, it became a time to practice self-care and to generate solutions to problems I was thinking about.  From personal problems like relationship issues, ideas for school assignments, solving or helping with social justice and human rights issues, to tackling the purpose of my life, I pondered it all while I ran.

But then it all came to an abrupt halt. I had to stop running when I injured my back in Crossfit shortly after running in my first half-marathon in August of 2015. I was in physical therapy from October 2015 to June of 2016. Sometimes I could not even stand up straight or walk without immense pain and stiffness.

 

During this time period, I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science degree after nearly ten years of working towards that goal. I got accepted into my dream graduate school program, in which I now study Humane Education. I got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects my thyroid. It seems to deplete me of energy, motivation, and I now eat a gluten free (in addition to vegan) diet because of it, which let’s be honest, sucks the joy out of eating sometimes. Without running, which had become the way I processed my emotions, thoughts, and achievements in life, none of these milestones seemed to matter to me.

At some point, I was so frustrated with the lack of running in my life, that I decided to convert this blog to be more general and not focused on my thoughts while running like it had before. I deleted all the posts I had written as a response to my runs. Because I couldn’t run. At first, I enjoyed the new writing that I was doing. It felt like it was helping me process just to write. Then I stopped that too.

I started feeling a little better this Summer with my pain and could run a very small amount. Unfortunately, I had to focus on my body so much that I was not able to focus on my mind at the same time. It was frustrating.

I was starting to realize I had no way to really channel my emotions and thoughts anymore. I felt bottled up.

And then my grandmother died on September 14, 2016.

Earlier, in the Spring when she wasn’t doing so well, I visited her and spent some time with her coloring and talking to her. I told her I loved her even though for some reason I was afraid to say it. She said it back. Then in the Summer she got even worse. It wasn’t a good situation. I was afraid to see her again because I knew that if I did, it would change how I felt about her. I wanted to have a positive memory of her as my goodbye. And then, in September, she suddenly changed again. She was a person who was afraid of a lot of things in life. But suddenly she wasn’t afraid anymore. She wasn’t trying to fight anymore. She was more at peace. We were told she was going to die soon.

Somehow I found myself there, despite my own fears of facing death, by her side, watching her life come to its end, and I did not want to leave.

I realized while I was there, how much my grandmother and I are alike. It is scary to liken myself to her because she had such a hard life. She tragically lost three of her children. She went through a divorce from her mentally unstable husband. And she dealt with this pain in unhealthy ways sometimes that negatively affected our family. Yet she died with an unmistakable sense of peace. Though she had many fears, she never gave up because of them. She persisted. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to experience all the pain she endured. But I can imagine that I can keep going through my own fears like she did.

One of the things my mother kept saying to the hospice staff was that my grandmother had told my mom one of her biggest fears was that she would die alone. My mom was going to great lengths to ensure that wouldn’t happen. The hospice nurse seemed to doubt my grandmother was really afraid of dying alone. She told us that people will die the way they want to. She said if a person doesn’t want someone to be there when they die, they will wait until they go to the bathroom, and then die. We were only able to stay with my grandmother during the day time. She died at 2am when we were not there. She conquered the fear of being alone in death. I am so proud of her for that.

I need to be proud of myself for facing my own fears. I have done all kinds of things I’m afraid of. In fact, I am starting to think everything meaningful I have done in my life so far, I have been afraid of.

Here is a small sampling:

I kept living even when I didn’t want to.

I sang in public in a band that had formed three days prior.

I spoke publicly about my struggles in life.

I graduated college.

I drove nearly 6 hours, by myself (I hate driving), to my graduate school residency in Maine. I even swam far out into the ocean while there, even though I tell myself I am afraid of swimming in open water.

I taught myself to run. And even though it’s a pain to start over from scratch again, I’m doing it.

The past few months have been really hard on me. I haven’t been able to tell people how I really feel. I’m afraid that if I start talking about the pain I’m in I won’t be able to stop, and it will be unfair to them. I’ve been wondering about the lessons I should be learning from my grandmother’s passing a lot. I feel like I am unable to move forward, weighed down by despair. I feel like a failure for not picking up where I left off before she died. But my life seems different now.

For the past 4 weeks or so, I’ve been forcing myself to go out and do another couch to 5k program. I’m smack dab in the middle of the program, and it really sucks physically. Today I was afraid that I could not do the whole workout as described.

But all of a sudden the British voice recording that is on the app told me I was ready to cool down. I had not given up on the entire workout. I did it. And not only had I not given up on the physical aspect of the run, but I ended my workout with this blog entry in my head.

 

 

 

 

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NaPoWriMo Day 12

I thought this poem about the beauty and wonder of nature would be longer, but I think there’s strength in its simplicity.  

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Natural Wonder

The leaves rustle around me

The birds chirp and tweet

Yet I am…

Still

Calm

Present

 

Field Trip #4, Tuesday March 8, 2016 Norman Bird Sanctuary

On Tuesday I met my friend Rachel at her house in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. We planned to go to the Norman Bird Sanctuary, in Middletown, which she lives close to.

First I got to meet her dog, Stella who is adorable and so sweet! She also has one beautiful blue eye, and one darker brownish color eye! I was really excited to interact with a dog, since my parents are not dog people…which means I don’t have much experience with dogs, but I do love them when I get to meet them.

Anyways, the Norman Bird Sanctuary is also an educational center. Here is their website for more information: http://normanbirdsanctuary.org/

It has many trails. The welcome center guide said that the trail we chose to take would take us about an hour and a half round trip. Somehow we did it in less than an hour, but I think we are fast walkers. Or maybe we didn’t follow the map correctly, who knows. But it was beautiful and a lot of fun!

This was the first time I went with a friend, and I really enjoyed having company to discuss what we were seeing and other random ideas related to nature, art, music, education, life, etc.

My favorite part of the hike was climbing some steep areas and getting to this rock! (It’s also a perk to have a friend with you so you can take pictures of yourself when you climb tall things! haha)

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Anyways.

The journey through the grounds started here with nothing much to see.

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However, far off into the distance, you can see the coastal area.

We obviously headed down the path in that direction. There were two choices though, one led away from the water.

Shortly after making that decision, we stopped to admire this pond. I asked my friend what one of the emerging buds of a plant might be. We decided it was probably skunk cabbage, which I remembered from an assignment in my Environmental Ethics course, was one of the first plants to come out in Rhode Island towards the spring season here.

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This is a picture of the plant in question. It’s in the middle of the frame.

I was curious about these trees. I wasn’t sure if they were Birch trees or if something happened to them and the bark fell off or something. It looked peculiar.

These curly vines fascinated me.

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We started to get towards a higher elevation:

And ended up here:

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This is where we took the picture of me on top of the rock with my arms outstretched further up on the page.

We made our way down, and came across a big pond with geese screeching quite loudly. I never realized how big the geese were seeing them swimming in the water. Something felt out of place…I have probably been quite close to geese before as a child, but suddenly they looked even bigger than I remembered…usually it’s the other way around with memories of animals as a kid. I was confused by that–maybe I had never seen a goose in the water and that was why.

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I had a hard time capturing the geese, but they are there way in the back if you look closely.

As we made our way back to the Welcome Center, we observed these chickens. I was enamored with the one that has speckled type feathers and fluffy feathery feet (which you can’t see in the photo). The hen was curious about us too.

This was a beautiful day, the first real warm day of the pre-spring season. It was at least 60 degrees! I was hot in my cardigan and lightweight fleece jacket! I took off my sweater and just wore the fleece and was still hot!

I want to come back to this site again soon when more plants are blooming. Hopefully I can also see more birds, as we didn’t see many…it was said that we might somehow see some owls (although they’re nocturnal, and we were there in the middle of the day, so I’m not sure how…I kept looking in some of the trees to see if I would spot one hiding/sleeping).

I asked about volunteer opportunities, but I’m not 100% sure I will follow through because of various reasons. I’d love to though if I could.

This is technically my last field trip required for the class, but look out for more photos and posts about my adventures, as I think I’m going to start being out and exploring nature places more often this Spring and Summer. I am going to aim to do so at least twice a month. Whether I’ll blog about it always is another story.

 

 

Field Trip #3 Saturday, March 6

Field Trip #3 Saturday, March 6

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When I was given the task to go on nature field trips, in my mind I had quite ambitious goals for where I’d go when the weather improved. I wanted to go to all the prettiest, coolest, most challenging locations I could find. Some would require a bit of driving. But then in practice, something else happened once I started doing them. I wanted to find the cool trails and nature areas, without having to travel much at all. Last Saturday, I drove less than five minutes to an elementary school I had attended as a child that has a nature path behind it that I had never once explored. I could have walked there instead of driving, it would have been better for me and the environment, but I was somewhat short on time.

I couldn’t figure out the name of the nature trail until I visited it again yesterday, and took the picture above. It’s called the Hampton Meadows Greenbelt, located in the town of Barrington, RI.

The first thing I noticed was the duck pond. There were lots of Mallard ducks being quite vocal actually. I wish there was a way to attach the video of their noises I took here. This picture will have to suffice:

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I first focused on exploring the area with trails directly behind the school, but there wasn’t much there really.

Then I found a longer path on the other side of the pond which was quite nice. There were so many bird sounds, aside from the ducks off in the distance.

The trail was pretty well kept. In the muddy areas there are wood paths to cross over as pictured in the picture to the right above.

One thing I noticed was a lot of downed trees and some that looked like they were chopped to clear a path when the trees would be otherwise blocking the trail. I wonder what the rules and regulations for this sort of stuff is, because I know you can get in trouble for disturbing the trees, but I don’t know if that applies to when they’re down.

Here’s a series of photos I took of fallen trees. We have had some severe weather over the past few years that has probably contributed to this issue.

I also came across a tree branch that was in a perfect arch shape, and wondered how it got like that:

perfectly round

 

I was intrigued by these patches of green:

There is a stream that runs alongside the trail for part of the time:

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I was sad that I was short on time, because I was enjoying my walk in these woods so much, and the trail seemed to go on indefinitely from what I could see, that I was wanting to explore more.

I ended up doing so a few days later, on Wednesday with my mom who had also never been here before.

I was in awe that there are such beautiful places to explore so close to me, and I can’t wait to visit more frequently and see the changes the seasons bring.

 

 

Nature Field Trip #2 Saturday February 27

Nature Field Trip #2 Saturday February 27

On Saturday, February 27th, I planned to go to a Yoga for Athletes workshop by a vegan couple called Yogi Triathlete. Since it was a bit out of the way from where I live, I decided to go exploring in that area. I don’t know North Kingstown, Rhode Island well at all, so I googled some stuff and decided upon a nature trail I could explore that was convenient to the yoga studio. I arrived at Wilson Park, and at first was a bit nervous because it didn’t seem very natural at all. It had a grassy field, lots of parking lots, a softball field, playground equipment, etc. I gave it the benefit of the doubt though, and after I parked, started walking to the wooded area visible to my eyes.

This led to a bike path, which led to a path through the woods. I saw another path through brush and vines and started following it, but it became too thick and I wasn’t sure where it’d even lead to. I kept getting stuck in thorny vines too and it wasn’t pleasant.

I turned back…and followed the paved path for a bit. It looked like this:

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Eventually I found another path, which took me here:

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I stood here for awhile, taking it all in. It was windy and I could hear birds and the rustling of the grass and trees. There were also wind chimes and other human-caused noises I could hear. It’s not pictured but I could see several buildings and boats from where I was standing if I turned around a bit.

After awhile of being there, I went back out to the path and eventually came to a place where there was another big parking lot. It led to the shore and quite nice:

I explored a bit more, there were some boats turned over and a boat filled with ice that I saw. The only other people there were a father and his boys exploring as well.

After staying for a few minutes, I turned around and took the walk through the path back to my car. I was a little fearful I would forget the path I took like I did with my last field trip, but I was paying more attention this time.

I only documented one blatant piece of litter…

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Overall, this area seemed pretty well kept. I even saw this sign by the water:

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There weren’t many people here, but I became a little nervous that I was so far away from my car and all alone. I started wishing  I was at least with a dog like most of the other people I encountered, if not another human. In fact, I let myself daydream a bit too much about one day having a dog. But, I tried to calm myself and enjoy the nature. Maybe I had difficulty with being present because it wasn’t as beautiful and interesting as my first field trip and I was sort of disappointed. I certainly got plenty of time to be mindful in the yoga class later on that day though!

 

Nature field trip #1

Nature field trip #1

Hey! So I just revamped this blog that used to be about my thoughts I had while running. I decided to turn this into something less specific with a focus on sharing my own journey to caring for myself in the hopes that people can relate to it.

I got this idea, partly because I wasn’t keeping up with the blog because I can’t run right now due to an injury, and partly because I am a new graduate student studying humane education…and self care is what I found myself surprisingly needing to focus on first to do well and be a productive student. I am also always thinking about how I can teach others about self care, but I realized I need to take my own advice.

In one of my classes, environmental ethics, one of the assignments is perfect for self care. It’s to find a place in nature and to be mindful of the surroundings and to pay attention to it all. I am unsure if taking pictures can be part of this, but I feel like without pictures I am unable to remember what it was like as well. You will see these shortly.

This first trip was taken at the Claire D. McIntosh wildlife refuge and Jacobs Salt Marsh, in Bristol, Rhode Island and Warren, Rhode Island respectively. They are a short walk on a path a way from each other, and right near the border of the two towns.

I started at the wildlife refuge.

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I went down the path, over a pond (there’s a wooden structure that passes over it) that was still partially frozen but also had bulbs opening up.

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I stopped on the path and looked around and listened. I realized I was hearing some ducks. So, I went around the corner to see a large group of Mallard ducks.

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Then I started walking to the bike path, heading over to the salt marsh area. I took note of this sign.

jacobs point salt marsh restoration

Then I slowly walked down the path I had taken in the past through the salt marsh and over to the rocky, sandy coastal beach area.

I was met by a bunch of different birds. There were various gulls, ducks, and a single swan.

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The swan was hard to capture without it’s head in the water.

I walked across the shoreline, trying to observe what I was seeing. I became mindful of the material we are learning about plastic litter and trash in the oceans, and started to look for evidence of it here. I took photos of it. I wanted to take it with me and throw it out elsewhere, but there was a little too much and I didn’t have anything to put it in. I also don’t know what the rules are if any about cleaning up the area.

I sat on a rock for a bit right by the shore and watched the tide come in and out in front of me. It was quite relaxing and I tried to breathe in sync with it.

I slowly tried to make my way back to the path that brought me to this secluded area (it was just me and the birds) but I kept walking past the entrance to the path. I started to panic a bit because I was getting a little tired of going back and forth and still couldn’t find it! I guess I hadn’t been aware of my surroundings as much as I could have. I eventually found it and walked back to the bike path where I followed it to make one last destination.

Across from the wildlife refuge entrance, there is a boardwalk that goes into the middle of the marsh grass that grows all around it. I was admiring the grass, but then I realized I don’t even know the name of the species it is! If anyone knows, please comment. I tried googling it but had some difficulty identifying it. Here is a picture of what I mean:

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I walked to the end of the boardwalk, that shows off a view of the ocean. It’s supposed to be impressive, but it didn’t compare to views I had when I was directly on the shore. I didn’t bother to take a picture there…I thought the houses and boats you could see in the water would tarnish the beauty of it.

On the walk back towards my car, someone past me and said “it doesn’t feel like it’s 50 degrees yet!” I laughed and said no, except to myself I was thinking I was so happy it was warmer out and that it had to be at least 50 degrees. I checked the temperature, and it was 52. The cool ocean breeze must’ve confused the other person.

When I got back to my car, I felt really warm. I had been walking a lot. In fact, when I checked my Fitbit I had stepped 8,000 steps. Considering I’m lucky if I get 10,000 steps by the end of the day, and this was before 1pm, it was a lot! But it felt so good. The salty air was so refreshing and I didn’t notice how stifling and stuffy being indoors felt for a little bit.

The assignment was to spend at least a half hour in nature. I told myself in the beginning that I would keep the first one short and to the point, but I got a bit carried away and spent over an hour there.

I had also never been here by myself. I had always gone with someone else. It was nice to be by myself and go at my own pace and only have myself as my company and internal conversation partner.

I think I’ll go back again soon, especially with spring on it’s way!

 

 

 

To spring forward I must slow down first

 

IMG_7044The winter has always been my enemy. I have always dealt with frustration and lack of inspiration during this time. Every time this season comes along I long to plot an escape from the dreary darkness and move somewhere consistently warm and bright.

I like palm trees a lot…I envision those in my head frequently. I feel a warm sun beaming down on a body that is considerably less bundled up than I am now. It is so tempting to dream of getting up and moving that sometimes it feels like that’s all I can do to survive.

The funny thing is that although I start dreading the winter at the end of fall, I don’t really feel hopelessly frustrated or a lack energy to do things until the end of winter. I knew this was a pattern for me but I had never paid enough attention to the actual month all this seems to happen until now.

I realized that this happens every February. February is usually the last month of the season that really feels wintery. Sometimes we get some “spring previews” of unpredictably warm weather that makes me long for spring even more.

A few weeks before February rolls around, I slow down a lot. I am stagnant. I feel the need to take care of myself above all else. I feel guilty for not being as active as I am the rest of the year and assume that means something is wrong with me or my choices. It can be especially hard when I’m in school and letting my work take a backseat to self care. It’s as if I am a bear hibernating.

When February comes, I am frustrated by this slowness. I am restless. I am suddenly much more aware that I have not been as active as I would like and it triggers some discomfort. As a result, I feel the need to make drastic changes. I want a rebirth of sorts.

The problem  with that is that I seem to get confused by the type of rebirth I need to experience. Instead of seeing the winding down I do in winter as a natural cycle, I typically see it as a sign something is wrong with what I am doing and that I need to change that instead. But that is not the case. In fact, I need to realize that, when spring comes, I will be back to my normal organized, busy, focused, dedicated and active self. That is the rebirth I long for, not this other stuff I fantasize about.

 

I had never thought about it this way before. Now that I have I feel much more relaxed and can be easier on myself. It is OK that I have slowed down. In fact, it is necessary and good for me. Come March, I will feel a lot better about most situations. I will be able to focus on things other than myself again.

And when I realize that it’s February 12, that there are only a few weeks left of this historically crappy month for me, where I always seem to feel better soon after it ends, it makes me hopeful. Just a few more weeks. I can get through it even if I do feel restless and annoyed with myself sometimes. I need to stop feeling guilty for not wanting to do as much, because I know I will want to do it all and more come the beginning of Spring.