If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Decluttering life and letting go.

There was a grieving process for me a few days ago that started when the realization that I am a woman of a certain age (actually, by the strike of "luck", in my case, I am a woman "past certain age"). I've been struggling with keeping up The Great Training and The Awesome Racing while constantly digging for the answers why my recovery takes so much longer. I've been cheating my body into it with wonderful care (as much as I can consider myself deserving it), good food, various healthy eating adventures, vitamins, supplements, even prescribed medications, I've been doing yoga religiously (thankfully I love it), lifting weight, even getting massages from time to time (I know, right?), and backing off training when needed. I can listen to my body, I kept saying, and kept wondering why that "backing off" is being required to be longer and more stringent. Well, there is no denial. It's time to back off in a smart way, in a way when I stop comparing what other peers of mine in my age group are still capable of, because my biological age skipped a decade or so over my birth certificate, and I need to respect that.

While I was wallowing in this, I somehow opened my email box where it says "All Mail" - and realized it contains 2,503 emails. Holly shit! And that is me, who prides herself in de-cluttering everything I get my eyes and hands on! And I do go through email on monthly basis - how did that happen? Things gets pushed down, but for the most part, I held on to things because I thought they were important to me, they defined me. And suddenly an urge to clean my mail box - my life - out of it overwhelmed me. I spent a better part of a day yesterday between experiments clicking through, getting from oldest (some 5 years old plus) forward. AT first I actually if not read, then at least scanned what it was. The process of letting go began. I said goodbye to some old friends I don't hear from anymore - and some I was surprised to even have had. I said goodbye to the words of encouragement from random people, and words of congratulations. Words of "We love you and support you" and words "You are wrong". I started deleting emails from my ex and his (then) girlfriend, at first gingerly, then in packs. Emails that said you are a good mother and was a good wife - and emails that said what a horrible person I am, how everything is my fault. Emails that were swinging from side to side in pendulum of the biggest tower clock I've ever seen! Emails from my kids and about my kids on insignificant things - and then those that seemed to be significant...but with time happened to prove they, too, were lies. Emails from old coaching clients, from schedules to thank you's "What would I do without your help". Emails from friends who, thank God, are still friends and stood the test of time - and I know and I don't need an email in my inbox to tell me I am a good friend. Emails from friends that still mean a lot to me, but our paths came apart slowly - I kept them because I was trying to tell myself I deserve their love and approval...but it was OK to let go, it doesn't mean one of us is a bad person, it just life, it flows...Emails on old houses I owed, their purchases and sales, "just in case somebody is after me" - well, it's all in my credit report, right? Emails from my own coaches, emails I sent to myself with websites I wanted to make sure to check on. I didn't need that anymore. As a woman of "past certain age", I want to believe I posses a certain amount of wisdom to know things by now I need to have learned, and to be open-minded enough to keep learning things I am still yet to know. I didn't need even my Russian family's approval of being a good daughter/mother/wife/sister or not so much - we each have our own definition of those ideas. I know where I stand, with respect, dignity, and yes, love...

Down to 353 and I am not fully done yet, just a little tired. It is not easy to have such a baggage, and apparently, letting go off it is not that easy either. Freeing, exhilarating, but not easy. In fact, I was so afraid that I'll try and hold on to something, I would go to "Trash" mail box and empty it every 200 or so emails. Especially when my deleting became "in bulk".

But there was a light in it too. There were emails from Larry, my sweet husband, then just a long-distance dating prospect. I managed to save his very first email, way before either one of us was divorced, when he just asked a question on training. I managed to save an email where I offered him a shoulder as he was going through his (at the time unknown to me, but turned out to be that very divorce) difficult time - and an email where we realized we are both grieving same loss of a marriage of 18 years for each. I had an email from our "official" meeting race, and his surprise visit to Oregon...and then a whole amazing numerous string of emails as our relationship was developing. Re-reading those was absolutely worth every minute of my time. He hasn't changed. He stands by his words, loyal as he said he is, loving as he expressed he was, supportive and accepting of how I am...

And that made a lot of letting go easier too. Not only of the past baggage in terms of emails or emotions. Letting go of concepts of what I need to continue to be when it's not really where I am. And I've been at these stages of my life already, and if you are a reader fo the blog for years - you''d remember that. As much as I am a runner, my life is not defined by it, it is enriched by it. I keep promising myself to step back - and keep luring myself back in. I love running - for emotional reasons, and I love competing - for my own personal reasons. Thus running comes as two-fold: to train (and I truly do love training) and to release emotions. When it's neither, it becomes a chore, and the last thing I want in my life is for something I love to become a chore. Where am I going with it? At the beginning of this year I promised myself to try a running streak. The definition of it is to run at least a mile every day - and it was side-tracked ahead of time that if I am injured, sick or in need of recovery, it can be a continuous walking mile instead of running. I made it all the way through my Spring season. I ran a mile after San Diego 100. I hobbled here and there, I threw some walks in. The longer summer lasted, the more my body demanded a break - physical and mental - from running, the more "walking miles" were showing up (once a week on Friday was set since mid-August). Rough Creek 40 miler, as much as I hate to call it a "race" for myself as I walked so much of it, was a race in a definition of effort I put into it. Between the fast first loop, hard power-walk and zapping heat and humidity that my body refuses to behave in, the whole first week shuffling a couple-few miles was simply disguising. It didn't feed my body, nor my soul. I threw a solid hill run on Monday and was almost excited that I am back - and yet the last 3 days was back to shuffle, not one where you are injured, or slow...I could have run faster today, but I simply had no interest. And that lead me to a decision to end my streak - on my birthday in 2 weeks. What I announced to Larry as soon as I walked in.

As I was standing in the shower, it dawned on me: why birthday? Why those artificially-imposed timelines that nobody really cares for? Nobody even cares whether or not I am running. And everybody, or, hell, definitely I , know that I am not any lesser of a runner for skipping a day, and I am not going to stop exercising and letting myself go if I don't run. But if I do continue right now, I either end up in another bout of what happened last year, or dislike the process of running and DNF at Grindstone (as I did at Tahoe Rim 100 in 2010, when I was simply fed up and quit). I don't want to risk either! I want to do thing in a long haul, and I want to finish the Grindstone 100, regardless whether or not I even apply for Hardrock 100 lottery, yet along get in! I want to go there because I absolutely love what running 100 miles in the mountains offers to me, opens to me, discovers in me, lets me grow, lets me shut things down, lets me be primal, be real, be tough, be broken down, be so much more! SO, here, you go, tomorrow, I will not go for a run.

But I will go for Power yoga:) I love my classes at Breath and Body yoga, and I am squeezing every possible time of day to put as many classes in as I can while on a 1-month intro card. It, too, offers me growth - and offers me introspection, a look inside myself, and a way to improve my health and my body. My Bikram is not behind either.

Come to think about it, my life is just on yet another spiral, and I need to honor it. I need to do all those things I want to do, without over-scheduling myself to the point when I hate doing each and every one of them, even if I started them exactly because I love them. When running needs to come - it will come back, it always did, on its own terms.

And same goes for blogging. Between that very over-scheduling of my life lately, the fact that I can't write about everything here anymore due to complication of my (former) personal life and yet not being one of those "I'll write about what others want to hear and cut the rest", taking a break from hard training and a lack of comments, it'll stay as my running, without pressure, only if and when I have a desire.

But I am still going to Virginia in 1 week (gasp!) to run Blue Mountain range and still have some kind of goals (or hopes). And yes, I am still running behind Larry 4 weeks later at Ozark 100 in Missouri with scissors in my Ultraspire pack and girl's panties in his mile 85 drop bag, still thrilled about opportunity to finally be at Hellgate 100k on December 14th at midnight and hear Horton's hell - and yes, absolutely looking forward to Veteran's camp in November, where I will be crawling around 5 days after Ozark with the slowest and least able-bodied group of soldiers helping Liza integrate our heroes into community.

Life is good. Very, very good. It is what we make of it, how we look at it, how we separate the chaffs from the weeds. Amazingly, I never stop re-learning this lesson:)


amy said...

I could identify with so much in this post. Thanks for sharing. And have a great time in the mountains of Virginia next week. Those mountains, especially at this time of year, still call to me loudly, as do all of my running buddies out there.

Anonymous said...

Olga....I generally don't read allot of blogs but i read this one as I too am getting to that "age". Ha..... I love my body and mind slowing down and the fact that i have no choice but to accept it. It grounds me in the reality of right here and right now. I'm not the runner i was even 5 years ago but i am the runner i am today and thats just perfectly fine. Our paths have been crossing for the better part of 10 years now and it looks like to me we have both come a long way in the right direction. You are so right, life is not just good, it's pretty much ideal. Sure, i could live in a prettier town or whatever but this is what i know......my happiness goes in direct proportion to my acceptance and inverse proportion to my expectations. Billy

Sarah said...

I hate the physical effects of getting older, but I love the insight and self awareness that it brings. Keep on keeping on Olga! You are definitely more than just running. Many people look up to you for that, but for so much more too. And even if they didn't who cares? Being content with yourself and your loved ones is what matters. :)

Candice said...

great post! Thanks for your honesty. I have 2,050 in my inbox with no plans to delete...haha

Will Cooper said...

Olga, thanks for sharing so much about everything. This post kind of says it all...running, life, getting older...even blogging. It sounds like your feeling a bit guilty about not running or continuing your streak. Not running is the best thing that ever happened to my running. As you have so eloquently pointed out, sometime life just gets in the way! I guess the alternative is to not have a life. I've known those types and while they might have a better marathon time than me, I'm not hanging out with them at the finish line. Anyway, thanks for letting it all hang out and have fun in the mountains!

Anonymous said...

You continue to inspire with your candor and courage. Good luck in Virginia.


Unknown said...

There is so much in this post about what I've been tossing around in my head and heart about running and my life-long relationship to it, wow. So thank you from a first-time reader.

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