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

Monday, January 09, 2017

Hello, 2017.

"The beauty of your life is that you get to create it in any way you want. But in order to create the sort of life that feels truly fulfilling and deeply aligned in every way, life will always require you to let go of something before the next thing is in sight."

It's a very difficult skill, letting go. But that quote, which popped at me recently in one of my followed websites, is definitely ringing right about now. January 16th, 2 years ago, I walked out on my biochemistry research "career" of 20 years. As I left University of Texas on that date, I didn't turn my head around to look back even once. Now, 2 years later, I still haven't "turned back" with any kind of sadness. I let it go. Now, it didn't happen overnight. Not only I never meant to be working in science - as a graduate of Medical School in Russia, I followed my passion of helping people get healthier, yet my coming to US in 1993 to follow my then-husband and his career made a choice for my passion too far out of reach (not impossible, but surely not nearly at the top of my list of things to do to survive with a family to feed in a foreign country). The last 5 years working under the most monstrous boss ever seeing or heard of, self-serving, brutal, dishonest, demeaning, and all the things I don't want to type here, were so hard, I eventually fell into depression (whether that played a role in my "over-training syndrome", a.k.a. I suddenly wasn't able to run anymore, or that was accelerated by my inability to run and deal with my depressed state for the reasons of work-related causes as well as kids-related, is a chicken and an egg question). Luckily for me, I knew the path in science for me is temporary (sheesh, 20 years!), and as soon as I had gone through a divorce with my first (Russian) husband (who adored science and all brain-stimulated high education vocations), I applied to and started a massage therapy program back in Portland, OR. With the unwinding support of my dear Larry and my subsequent move to Austin to be with him, I graduated with an LMT degree and began "putting my foot into the door" of my future life as a health professional. 2 years ago I finally made that change - for good. And while the uncertainty of being paid per hour worked (vs a salary), unpaid vacation and sick time, no medical insurance, and generally more hustle to find "work" (as opposed to sit in the lab and have it all handed to you), I am the happiest I have been in decades. And yes, numbers don't lie - numbers of income, numbers of clients, numbers or requests - without details, let's just say it's all sky-rocketed. I love depending on my skill, my passion, my emotional involvement - and get a real straight-forward feedback: I deliver - they come back. I am in my place...

January 16th managed to be also a date I "officially" let go of my first marriage of 18 years, 9 years ago. It haven't been easy either. As a Russian-born, female's existence is geared towards serving her husband and family, and while we are not in 18th century anymore, in a way that's what we still do. Being a failure, and especially being a failure in a country with no relatives to support you or roots to lean on, was scary. It took years to try and hold on - but indeed, it (the marriage) was falling apart. A year in the making, back and forward, a stamped postcard was all I got - as of January 16, 2008, I was no longer married. As someone who was in a legal relationship since the age of 20, that was all I knew. Here I was, alone (with 2 kids), no money, starting my life anew. Looking back, there was so much to let go - and it took years, even as I met Larry, fell in love, moved, got married - to completely cut the ties and comprehend just how much that "letting go" was. But as I sit here now, I know - what a great step it was, healthy, full of life and dreams, and words can not describe how overwhelmingly calm and happy I am now, open to my new relationship - one I can see myself growing old in, forever.

That growing old part, of course, is not easy. The year started (or has it continued from last) with my general health declining. Whatever is that we can call my (and apparently many others') non-running status of no-reason, has gotten worse. In the last 3 years I thought I got used to the spirals of "I can run again, gain speed and distance, then slow down and shorten", yet with each year those "I can" get shorter, and "I can't" much longer and worse. Since my summer backpacking trip, it technically never came back. Despite that, I am not giving up. I lace my shoes 3-4 times a week, early in the morning, and plod along, somewhere between 4 and 7 miles, at the paces I am not even sure about as I ditched not only any kind of serious devices, but even a simple watch. I just go, submerged in a simple movement, listening to my feet fall - and to my thoughts process. And I still hope, one day, I will have that air in my hair...I learned to not look at the races, results, I am lost with all the new names, and I don;t feel even remotely jealous. At times I still dream of finishing a 100 miler - or a 50 - but the morning comes, I lace up - and reality sets in.

There is, of course, gym, so I can keep the fitness level, and I am an avid member with my 4 x weekly showing up. Lately, though, that, too, seems to be a bit more tasking, and I wonder if my condition spreads, as I pant through workouts that used to be a breeze. I don't give up that either. I have things to do, plans to train for, and pants to fit into...

In line with letting go and new year resolutions I finally stopped hoping to teach yoga. Yes, it's been almost two years as I graduated, and being back to the yoga world since my teaching gig back in NYC was part of my new life creation, it never materialized, yet I kept being unsure if I should. That uncertainty made me resentful practicing as much and as fully as it (and I) deserve. This year I let it go for good, and feel the lifting of that weight making a big difference. 

Resolutions. I love New year and a clean sheet of paper in front of me, setting up goals, dream large, make plans, and hope to make it all happen, being optimistic and cheerful. For the most part, since I fell off the wagon somewhere in the last quarter of last year, my goals are about the same regarding the eating habits, the intensity of exercises (both of which seems to drop after big goal is reached). I am also on the same page with taking long breaks from FB (which I am on right now) since it leaks my time and resolve and leads me to live somebody else's life instead of mine. 

And read. Read more. As of these first 10 days, I had just finished an amazing 600 pages book Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes. I picked it up at the library on the merits of someone recommending it to "an American spouse", but as I dove into the chapters, I figured that, first of all, nobody but Russian-raised (or someone with deep knowledge) would get through the maze of all the names and happenings, and secondly, I managed to learn (or be reminded of) so much, it blew my mind. It made me be even more proud of my heritage - yet also be ashamed of my "people" as well, my customs, my culture (in a deeper way than a simple word can explain). With all that, as book states page after page after page, "One can take a Russian out of Russia, but not Russia out of a Russian". The last paragraph is ended with the words by Stravinsky, one of our composers, who, as many other writers, poets, composers, artists of all trades, had fleet home country at various times through the history for various reasons (and either returned later or wished they did so on their death bed):
"The smell of the Russian earth is different, and such things are impossible to forget. A man has one birthplace, one fatherland, one country - he can have only one country - and the place of his birth is the most important factor in his life. I regret that circumstances had separated me from my fatherland, that I did not give birth to my works here. I did not leave Russia on my own will, even though I disliked much in my Russia, and in Russia generally. Yet the right to criticize Russia is mine, because Russia is mine, and because I love it, and I do not give any foreigner that right". 

...Amazing. Not only can I sign up under it, it just hit me, that in light of all the news that are happening, there couldn't be more truer words (last sentence) spoken - oh, the mastery of timeless brilliance.

As part of continuing on Mother-Russia theme, January 16th also marks 12th anniversary of my dear nephew Misha's death. My homeland, the land that carries a final bed for my beloved and only nephew, is now given a final bed to my Father as well. Those things alone will assure that I will always be coming back...as long as I can, and as long as both countries let me...

But back to reality and dreams for a bit. Last post I mentioned I almost forgot I did this huge thing last summer, that 450 miles of PCT in 15 days, alone. Indeed, it faded away - but somehow, with the calendar turn a new leaf, and new ideas materializing, that is brought to life - I day-dream of moments I lived through as I tend to people on my massage table, in the darkened room with a slow music. My mind flies back and forth on what was and what might be, as I work on details of two (yet slightly shorter) backpacking trips this summer. And I pray I make those dreams a reality, yet again. As only in the mountains do I feel truly alive.

Mountains. Both Larry and I are in the count-down, and while we do our best to be in the present moment and live fully, we can't stop talking about that time when we make our final move to our home for good with the views on the mountains within reach and blossom. We bot have been waiting for this for so, so long, and now it is becoming a very visible future, indeed. We'll be visiting our "future" in a couple of weeks, just so we can touch it, yet again, and keep on striving to make it happen.

I am still in my re-knitting old items spur, although I am also working on a big project for my mother-in-law. Belinda asking me to make that for her was the biggest praise I could hope for and a validation. We spent Christmas holidays in Oklahoma, where I finally got "squared away" all Larry's aunts and uncles, and at last felt comfortable and accepted. We are not fake anymore, we are a real deal - a family, a married couple with a full intention to last forever. It was mostly a quiet time, and probably for the first time in my years visiting I longed for exactly that - sitting on the couch, eating lots of home-made food, doing nothing in a little town in the middle of nowhere. We attended a church service, had 3 gatherings with relatives, drove to Tulsa once, knitted, read, walked around the streets, and drunk a whole lot of coffee. A time well spent for the occasion.

On that note, may be monthly updates to my blog could be on my resolution list as well:) I also would love to get back to cross-stitching framed pictures, may be make a baby quilt even, poke my fingers into piano once in a blue moon, keep my "one day a week off!" firm and not give in to temptation to work  more hours. Be real with my friends, make an effort to see those who cares (and I care for), and cut ones who are phony. Most of the trips for the first 6 months of this year are set - I am visiting my girlfriend Eman, we are flying to HI (wow!!) for Larry's sister's wedding, and of course another visit of my mom and sister is in order (sucks I can't help my fading away family more by being there). Summer is tentative, yet super-exciting. The Autumn is wide open - but seeing real fall colors is a must, so you better believe I will come up with ideas!
And I will keep letting go of things that do not serve me, so I can open up for the ones to fulfill my life.


Kim said...

Happy new year Olga! Glad to see an update from you. Sucks a bit getting older. I have Grade 4 arthritis in my right knee after arthroscopy, so I'm delving into other activities such as swimming and biking and trying to accept gracefully that I'm not "just an ultrarunner" any more.

Olga King said...

Happy New year to you too, Kimba! Yeah, I call myself "used-to-be", sort of like "wanna-be" but backwards:) I tried swimming, but I am no good and bored easily (I never liked water very much), and as far as biking, I am petrified of traffic - but I do take spin classes. Good for you to have options and use them! Here is to not giving up!

Thomas Bussiere said...

Sometimes we need to let go to move forward. With age, our desires, motivation, and goals change. Change is good and keeps us moving forward. Great post Olga.

Olga King said...

Change is inevitable part of life. We just have to look closely to find the good in every change:)

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