Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coasting Along

It’s been awhile since I rode my bike. Years ago I rode it all the time, but lately it just isn’t something I’ve done much of. I can blame it on parenthood or working or whatever, but really, it just hasn’t crossed my mind much. The other night though, the weather was great and I was heading over to a friend’s house just a few blocks away. I thought that rather than drive, I’d bike.

I hopped on, and started down the street. I instantly felt about 5 years younger – it was invigorating. I pedaled, speeding along, even yipping a little bit with the sheer joy I felt. It took me back and I wondered why I didn’t do this all the time. I was riding along so completely joyfully, and about 3 blocks in I hit a pothole and blew my front tire.


Life is like that, I guess. And you can’t let it completely take the wind out of your sales, though when you’re trudging along through the night pushing your bike since you can’t ride it anymore, it’s hard to flash back to the joy you felt just a couple minutes earlier.

But hey, no real harm done. And I was reminded about something I love. Today I dropped my bike off to get the tire fixed and rim checked, so I’ll be ready to hop back on this week.

Whether in life or in the road, we can’t always avoid the potholes, but that’s no reason to hold back. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beyond Empty Spaces

I was reading a book yesterday and a piece of it struck me intensely. The character talked about living in between the empty spaces left by other people. Squishing herself in to fit the areas of the world unoccupied by others. Limiting herself to the spaces, to the experiences that others aren’t already using.

This resonated for me in so many ways. For so long I’ve thought that I couldn’t share the gifts or strengths of my siblings – my sister is the artist, so I’ve never even attempted anything artistic. My brother is the smart one, so I’ve never pushed to excel there either. And in the larger world of people outside my family, on some subconscious level I think I’ve tried to work around the lives of others. Thinking I was only allowed to exist in those empty spaces. I’ve realized that the success of others often affects me negatively – but I didn’t think that the reason might be because my brain saw their success and added it to the list of things that were now "taken". The space where they succeeded became already occupied with no room for me.

So I’ve been limiting myself to the empty spaces. I’m not sure whether I’ve been living in those empty spaces out of a desire to leave experiences and choices to those who clearly excel? Or whether it’s been out of politeness, an “excuse me, pardon me” kind of approach to living, not wanting to step on anyone else’s toes. Regardless of the reason, last night I realized that the limits I’ve put on what I can do and who I can be are illusions created by me. And because they are simply illusions, they can be shattered.

I envisioned myself as a pliable mass, contorted and squished into the odd and uncomfortable shapes left between others, like play-doh smashed down into tight spaces. But now, instead of staying there, I rise up above those spaces let myself stretch, experiment, play with whatever shape might feel right to me. It was a completely liberating vision. I want to stretch so far beyond those empty spaces I’ve been restricting myself to.

Because I finally realize, there ARE no limits.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Remembering Dad

2 years ago today my family and I stood next to my father and held his hand while he took his last breath. His illness, bile duct cancer, was asymptomatic until 3 weeks before his death. While I’m so thankful he didn’t suffer long, the shock of such a quick loss, with no warning, hit those of us left behind powerfully.
For my part, losing my dad so unexpectedly set me onto a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions. It’s made me think hard about the uncertainty of life. About the impact his presence, and now the lack thereof, has had on my behaviors and choices. About the meaning of this life and what we leave behind. About how I will be able to raise my son with the memory of a man he only knew for the first 4 years of his life.

I know he wasn’t perfect, but my dad was a great father and a kind and successful man. He taught me calm in the face of a storm, and how to think through problems. He taught me tolerance, particularly for those we love, and that as hard as it sometimes can be, to always love your family. He taught me a strong work ethic and how to be professional, and in later years guided me through my career. He was strong and quiet – he has as much impact with his silence as he did with his words. Which he chose wisely and carefully.

So today, more than other days, I wanted to pause to think about him and remember. I miss him.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where's the Damn Mute Button?

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been lucky enough to be working out with some amazing coaches at Crossfit Central. And in general in my life, have met some amazing, motivational people. They’re so good at pushing you to go further than you think you can, to stay on task when you want to give up, and keep you moving. There is one thing that I haven’t been able to get though – and I’m not sure its something someone can help me with or something I need to figure out myself. But beyond all the urging to “dig deep”,and “push through” and “don’t quit” – there’s a part of me that prevents me from success in some areas of my life. It’s a part that thinks I don’t deserve it. None of the great coaching so far has been able to help me overcome that one.

It’s pretty typical for me to go into things with gusto – tons of motivation, a clear goal, lots of drive. After a bit of time though, I start doubting myself, getting in my own way. It’s less a voice saying “you can’t do this” and more a voice saying “why bother – you’re never going to be good enough anyway.” That’s a tough one to overcome. This quiet, nagging little voice that I can drown out sometimes seems to keep winning out in the end, just by being constantly present and eventually wearing me down. I start feeling useless, even guilty for thinking that I can accomplish something. I’ll start undermining myself - skipping workouts, eat like crap, stop writing. The irony is that the voice is my own – what I’m missing is the access to the remote control for it so I can mute it. Or better yet, turn it off completely.

I hate to be all Stewart Smalley about it, but there’s some truth to those old Saturday Night Live skits. I need to somehow realize and accept, on a genuine level, that I AM good enough, deserving enough. I already am happy, already am successful – I just can't see it sometimes. In the moments when I do see that clearly, it fills me up to the point where my heart is bursting. There are more things I want and more goals that I have, yes, but those are also possible, and I deserve not only to try for those thing but achieve them. Without guilt. Without thinking that those accomplishments are for people other than me.

So in closing, note to self: Get out of your own damn way. Love, Beth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Peace and Perspective

What a week. So when I last wrote, I had friended my old junior high bully on Facebook. She accepted, and then after some thought I decided I wanted to write her. I didn’t want to give the impression that events of old had been the focus of my life all these years, but I did want her to know the impact that her actions had on me and the fact that I still thought of her when I read stories of bullying. So I sent her a note. And not only did she write back – she apologized. And she alluded to things that had been going on in her life at the time that weren’t so great. And it gave me two things I that made me feel better – peace and perspective. I think that much of what happened back then simply wasn’t really even about me. I was just caught in the crossfire of other things swirling around in the world. Now, while it doesn’t make it right – there’s never a good reason for bullying – it did give me perspective that for whatever they put me through, the girls who bullied me might have been going through something equally bad or worse. Maybe at home, maybe at school themselves. It feels good to have some closure there, and to know that the girl who has been this two-dimensional evil figure in my head, and the shy, demoralized, fragile version of myself, have both become strong, compassionate, and accomplished women.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


So, I just accidentally invited my old junior high bully to be my friend on Facebook.

Here’s the thing. I was invited to join a Facebook page for someone I had graduated with who suddenly and tragically passed away this week. I didn’t really know him, but I was scanning the page and reading all the posts. Honestly, it freaked me out a bit – reading through the page it seemed everyone in my graduating class knew each other and maintained all these friendships from high school and remembered all these shared moments. Maybe I blocked it out. Maybe it’s because my parents moved after I started college so I never went back to my high school town for summers or breaks. But reading through the page felt like somehow I had missed out not only on high school, but whatever seemed to have transpired socially after that.

Of course I went into self-therapist mode, thinking it was probably due to the bullying I endured. I know that I pretty much spent every moment after 7th grade trying not to be noticed, so no one would attack me. It was a matter of survival. And then as I was scrolling down this memorial Facebook page, there it was. The name of the girl who, along with 2 others, emotionally destroyed me for a whole year. Who screamed at me down hallways, gathered her friends to do the same, toilet papered my house, and on and on – and there’s her picture staring at me 25 years later. Again, how odd is Facebook.

So I clicked. I guess I was surprised, reading over posts to her wall and her photos. She seems pretty cool now – a big runner, diverse friends, married. I’m not sure what I expected – but she kind of looked liked someone I’d be friends with now. I thought about it and was curious if I could send her a message through Facebook even though she wasn’t a FB friend. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say exactly, but I did want to say something. That she hurt me. That I think of her and the other 2 every single time I read a story about kids who are bullied, or who take their lives because of it. That I turned out to be a successful, generally happy person, but that what they did to me absolutely impacted and shaped me. Some for good, some for bad. Anyway, I was looking to see if I could just send a message without friending – but apparently you can’t. But while I was exploring the possibility the mouse accidentally clicked (or WAS it an accident?). So this person now has an invite from me asking her to be my friend on Facebook.


I guess now I just will see what happens. I have no idea if she’ll remember me at all. She certainly won’t know my married name, but will she recognize my picture? Will she just ignore it, assuming I’m some stranger? We’ll just have to wait and see what, if anything, happens now. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Facebook, Please Stop Making Me Feel Like Poop

Facebook can drive me up the wall. Of course I use it and have no plans to stop. But here’s the thing. Sometimes I can’t keep myself from looking through the “people you may know” list. That list contains tons of information about people and places I totally forgot – some of which I kind of wish had stayed forgotten. Like seeing the names of the 3 girls who bullied me through middle-school and who single-handedly led the “cool kids” charge to attack me and drive me home crying every day for over a year. No Facebook, I really don’t want to “friend” them, thanks. Sorry if that makes me immature. The girl who brought the guy I went on a few dates with to beach week to stay at the house where I was – which is how I found out, incidentally, that he wasn’t into me. I’m sure you’re a much nicer person now, but I just really don’t care to find out. And the girl who I am still pretty sure slept with a boyfriend of mine while we were still dating – not to mention the ex-boyfriend himself. Yes, this is the stuff Facebook dregs up from my far off past and wants to reacquaint me with. And then I have to have this little conversation with myself. “Why are you upset at all? I mean, that was AGES ago! And you have a great family now, so its good that all that happened to get you here, right? You should rise above, don’t let it bother you. You’re more mature than that.” And yet I still feel icky for a bit afterward. Seeing some of these names takes me right back to whatever age and emotional place I was in all those years ago – and I still want to kick them in the shins.

So despite all this, there are still people who I’ve friended who fall into this list of those who have done not so nice things to me. And when I see a status pop up for them, it STILL triggers some kind of icky feeling, even if it’s tiny. So I finally just did it. I purged my friend list. And it felt GREAT.

So onto my next Facebook issue. I know a lot of people who use Facebook in a way that works well for me – posting what they’re up to, funny things that happened, etc . But I know a bunch of people who seem to use it only as a way to force a clearly pre-thought out image to the world. I shouldn’t judge, I know. Like most people, I pause and think about what I post and wonder how it will be interpreted. “Is this funny enough?” or “Do I really want people to know that I did that/ate that/said that/etc.”? or “Do I want the people from my gym/office wherever to know that I just ate a whole cake/complained about that aspect of work, etc.?” Yes, we all do some bit of editing – it’s natural and inevitable. But it does seem like some feeds are more wholly aimed at being a resume to let me know how great and cool someone is. Again, I hate that sound so judgmental here – I mean, I’m writing a blog that is all about me and totally selfish, so who am I to talk? But I’m kind of tired of those posts that seem to have a “here’s something great I did that you didn’t” tone, or “this post shows what an expert at food/wine/music/whatever I am”. Even if you are, there is a way to write it that doesn’t rub people’s face in it, isn’t there? I’ll preemptively say that yes, I’m sure that a psychologist would have a field day with me on this. My own psyche and list of inadequacies probably imposes a lot of emotion on top of these types of things. But moving on.

So I can’t figure out how to handle those feeds. People are legitimate in writing about things they did/like/whatever. They aren’t people I’ve had a problem with generally speaking, and some of their posts give me great info/links/etc . But I wish there was a way for Facebook to “learn” about the kind of posts that I describe above and leave them out of my feed. I already know that I’m pretty much a big dork, and I really don’t need other people’s posts to tell me that they are way cooler.

So Facebook, I love you, but sheesh. Can’t you only surface up things that make me feel good? Give those IBM guys who built Watson a call. Maybe they can help out.