For the last five years or so I’ve taken a two week vacation straddling the last week of the year and first week of the new year. I don’t often travel during this time. If I do, it’s only for a few days in the middle of my break. My initial goal for the time off was to enjoy my home and local attractions because vacations and weekend trips always took me away. After years of using all my time off traveling, visiting, or generally moving around and realizing very little to none of my limited time was spent being still, resting, refreshing or reconnecting with myself, I began shutting down at the end of the year.
During this years’ break I’ve been much busier than I wanted to be, but it is also a pivot time in my life. That being said, a few days ago I simply stopped the busy work, picked up my Bible and allowed myself to sleep in.
This last year has been all about being enough for my life, refreshment and grace. What does it mean to be enough? What is refreshment? How does one embrace grace?
For me, being enough for my life means everything I need to function, grow and excel in my endeavors is within me. I am complete. I am equipped. I able, capable, ready and willing to do what needs to be done to move forward in life.
Refreshment comes from rest. It’s not just about doing nothing. Resting is willfully stopping and choosing to be still. Breathing. Recalibrating.
Embracing grace is about accepting your vulnerabilities, shortfalls and weaknesses. In relation to my year-end shut down, grace is present when I reflect on last year. How have I fallen short on my goals? What did I want that wasn’t achieved? Did I do what I am able to do and let go of the things out of my control?
There’s also grace in planning for the next year. How can I progress on last years goals? How can I move any ball forward? Do I still want what elluded me last year? How have my priorities changed? How do I allocate my time, energy and resources? What do I let go of or put on the back burner?
Reflection, self-evaluation and goal-setting have long been part of my year-end process. What’s new is showing myself some TLC while allowing myself time and space to process my life.
Here’s to hoping you’re giving yourself time and space to recalibrate and start of fresh in 2018.
Bike the Boros: Staten Island First ride event of the 2016 season April 17, 2016
The primary motivating cycling goal for this year was for me to ride in the 5 Boro Bike Tour on May 1. The 5 Boro is a 40 mile ride that winds through all five boroughs of New York City. That was going to be my kickoff event for the cycling season. Unfortunately, I missed registration. I was a bit bummed, but there was still the opportunity to volunteer for the ride which meant I would still get some mileage in.
A couple of weeks ago, however, I got an email about the approaching registration deadline for the Bike the Boros: Staten Island ride, with 35 and 50 mile routes around Staten Island. It sounded like a great replacement event for the one I missed even though it’s two weeks earlier than I was planning and my cycling training has almost been non-existent.
This is an event journal for my first cycling event of the 2016 season.
Today is the day. I got up, got prepped and got out.
The ferry ride to Staten Island was uneventful and now I’m just waiting for the day to unfold and see how I handle the 35 mile route.
Made it to registration before they closed down at 9:30. Hit the road at 9:40.
Rest area 1 @ 12miles Already exceeded my expectations!! I was ready to exit the route by mile 3. Staten Island is hilly! Who knew?!?!?
I am super proud of myself for pushing through the hills and making it to the first rest stop. Making it to the first rest stop usually means you can make it to the second. And once you make it to the second rest stop you’re pretty much done. #crossingmyfingers
Second rest stop @ mile 24. Made it. I was seriously looking for the exit 4 miles back. This hill was literally the last straw. Then I looked at my route sheet and saw that I was only 4 miles away from the rest stop. I sat on a retaining wall for a while catching my breath and gathering my strength to tackle this steep hill. Ended up walking my bike up the hill. Then got back on. It’s important to always get back on.
The downhill on the other side of this hill was a mix of reward and terror, like: a lil’ bit of “Oh yay! Downhill!” with a lot of “Oh shit! This is treacherous!” It was a steep, winding downhill road with no shoulder to speak of, two-way traffic with a lot of pot holes, a couple of stop signs peppering the decline and a couple of hairpin sharp turns coming off the hill thrown in for good measure. Not for the faint of heart. But who knew that was coming?
@Mile 12: At the second rest stop – finally getting some confidence!
@Mile 29-30: A group literally flagged me down on the last leg to take their picture. I was extremely annoyed because I was pysching myself up to finish and I had a good cadence going. This was about 5-6 miles from the finish line. I asked for my own photo in return.
@Mile 19-20: Doesn’t look like much here, but this is the hill that had me ready to throw in the towel. Photo taken from halfway up.
Another angle of the hill from the incline to turn into it.
@Mile 31: The final stretch was along an amazing red sand beach. I wanted to stop and enjoy, but overhearing someone else snapping that she “just wanted to finish this thing!” kept me pedalling.
@Mile 35: I paused on the final incline overloocking the finish line party. I won’t say how I cursed this incline before I saw the finish line….
I did it.
Pretty much from the beginning of this ride, I was ready to give up. Even before the ride. I had to talk myself into showing up. I didn’t prep the night before as I should have. Prepping in the morning delayed my departure, so much so that I thought I would miss registration and riding with any group of riders. Getting to the start line required a forty minute subway ride, a mile and half of cycling and a half hour ferry ride.
The commitment is certainly in the start. Perhaps that’s why starting is so hard. So I am most proud that I started. By starting and not giving up when the course proved to be harder than I expected, I achieved my first goal of the ride: making it to the first rest stop. Achieving that first goal propelled me to achieving the ultimate goal for the day: finishing the course.
At no point before I started, did I plan on or expect that I would finish the 35 miles I signed up for. Even at the first rest stop, I was telling myself I could stop at 20 miles and I would be okay with that. I was about to throw my hat in when I saw the crazy hill. When I looked at my cue sheet I realized I was only four of miles away from the second rest stop. I knew I could do four more miles. The rest stops are where cyclists are able to get off their bikes, use the restroom, refill on water, eat (usually fresh fruit, bagels, and granola; sometimes PBJ sandwiches and other goodies; or bagged lunches). And of course, take a breather. The rest stops are crucial for all the refueling you need. When you get back on, you’re better than fresh – you have the second wind that isn’t hindered by heart palpitations and your movement is more fluid from the prior “warm-up” round(s).
As I got up from my breather at the bottom of that hill I was ready to call a taxi from, I knew if I made the second rest stop, I could finish the course. I didn’t see the end until I was close to it. Focusing on the step in front of me is what got me through the whole challenge. I think this is true for most things in life.
Last week, I did a consultation with a personal trainer at a new fitness center. My weight is abysmal and depressing. Even when I was at a comfortable, healthy and attractive weight 15 years ago, doctors thought I was overweight. Now, some 70lbs plus later, I must say I finally agree with the doctors. Although I don’t look at myself as some blob of fat, as a couple of doctor’s looks have suggested thoughts along that line. To the contrary, I see my best body to come inside of the frame I’m walking around in now. So I look at myself with curiosity. And wonder. Is this as big as I’m going to allow myself to get? How did I get this large, round and wide? What would it take for me to get motivated to get moving on a consistent basis? Have I had enough of not feeling like myself?
I’ve had some good excuses over the years for not keeping to an active schedule. This year, I’ve left them all behind. This year is the year I focus on my body. On my health. On my energy and stress levels.
Last week, during the consultation, the personal trainer asked about my eating habits and workout routine. I’ve been cleaning up my food intake for years. That’s not the problem. Though I do have an incorrigible sweet tooth. I’ve been sporadically active over the years. Working towards a goal isn’t a problem. I told her, “I used to be an athlete. It’s just a matter of getting back into a routine.”
To her credit, she didn’t look doubtful. She said only, “We’ll schedule an assessment for next week. I would like to see how your body moves.”
So, this morning, I surprised myself by waking up before my alarm and getting out of bed an hour earlier than my norm. I got ready in record time. Remembered to pack work clothes and grabbed a water bottle. I made the 8:00AM appointment on time – with energy. The biggest shock was that I wasn’t dragging.
I used to be a morning person, too.
Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, it has become harder and harder to drag myself out of bed in the morning no matter how much sleep I’ve gotten the night before. My days have offered very little to look forward to. Today was different.
My new personal trainer – I had committed to a package by the end of the assessment session – lit a fire in me. She recognized and connected with something in me that very few people see and acknowledge. “You’ve proved that you used to be an athlete,” she said at the end of the session, “I can see it in your form and the way you move.”
Early on when she first commented on my form (I’ve received compliments on my form and posture all my life so I didn’t take it as false flattery at all), I said, “Luckily for me, the body remembers. Muscle memory – I just have to get myself moving.”
“Yes, muscle memory. The body does remember. Working out is just like riding a bike too.”
Halfway through the assessment, she observed, “You need a sergeant. Someone to push you. You are capable of so much more than you think. I’m really impressed with you.”
**Cue warm fuzzy feelings**
Her physical assessment was a full body workout for me which included: various lunges and squats with and without weights, deadlifts (from bar only to 20 then 50lbs added), push-ups, sit-ups, planks and deep stretches. I’m not a profuse sweater, but she had my forearms and forehead dripping in the 35 minutes I was with her. She impressed me.
I’ve been achy all day, but it’s such a great ache to have.
In sharing this, I would like to highlight the importance of committing to yourself. We all have goals for some improvement in our lives. Some of us try to do everything at once. I would like to encourage you to concentrate on one priority for a set period of time. Whatever time period feels right for you. Last year was my “Most Wonderful Year Ever!” I named it before the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Day. It was a high energy year with a lot of bumps, but by the end of it, it had indeed proven to be a wonderful year. This year is not only a focus on my body, it’s a focus on my activity. It’s a cycling year. My goal is to do distance rides and destination rides. In order to achieve those goals, I have to prepare my body to perform the activities I have planned for it. If I know myself half as well as I think I do, I will live and work up to the challenges I have set for myself.
I challenge you to challenge yourself as well in whatever area you feel stuck in. Find a way to jumpstart and get reinforcement encouragement. You can do anything you set your mind to. All you have to do is envision it; make a plan; and go for it!
In June 2011 I purchased a hybrid bike with the intention of training for a 100-mile bike ride at some distant point in the future. During that autumn season, I began riding my first few “long distance” rides of 10-12 miles along the Hudson River through the New Jersey Palisades. The Palisades are mountainous in my view and I was riding with a sprinter. Those first couple of rides had me doubting my ability to train for any real distance. During our second ride in the Palisades we noticed the route was marked with mile markers. During one break, we saw that we had only gone eight miles… and it felt as if we had done twice that!
I stopped riding in November for the season and got back on my bike for a failed 18-mile qualification ride in Central Park in March 2012. I had psyched myself out and over-dressed for the ride wearing fleece sweatpants and a fleece pull-over — both over multiple layers of clothing and topped with my light-weight winter coat. I was sweating buckets in under a half-mile and hyperventilating within three miles. I truly struggled to finish the first six-mile lap around Central Park at which point I despondently exited the qualification ride because my time for one lap had been twice what it should have been to finish well.
I didn’t touch my bike for two months after that sad ride. I had a 100-mile goal in my mind and a 18-mile course had stumped me. I admit to feeling like a failure. But even with that failed performance, I knew achieving my goal was only a matter of committment and focus. And I am okay with taking steps to reach any goal.
In May that same year, I completed my first 38 mile course in the 5 Boro Bike Tour (it should’ve been 40 miles but the course had been adjusted for a bottleneck snafu). I had perhaps made it out for one or two 10-16mile rides before the 5 Boro ride. I tell’ya, putting a 38 mile ride under my belt gave me confidence to see the possibility of going further distances. Suddenly 50 miles felt doable by the end of the season…. I did another 30 mile ride the following month and two months after that, in September, I did a 55-mile ride in the NYC Century.
The 55-miler takes my breath away because having completed that, my goal is more than visible – it’s doable. And just think, six months prior I had been ready to give up on myself and my goal.
One thing about low expectations: one great performance can take you to soaring heights!
Today’s lesson: No, I’m not a sprinter, but I can still finish – and finish well.
“Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” ~ Proverbs 4:4-7 KJV
The last few months have been emotionally difficult for me – for a number of reasons. As with all low points for God’s elect, Satan struggled for a toe-hold in his effort to keep me down. I thank God for His strength and discernment, for His guidance and teachings and most especially for the great measure of faith He has graced me with. Even with Satan circling me, trying to block my Light source, I was never in total darkness and was well able to see my way clear of his schemes. But the tests were needed. And they are greatly appreciated! I’ve emerged with a perspective and insight greater than ever before. My mirror is a little less foggy. My purpose is a bit clearer. And I realize the well of my hope is deeper than I knew. Indeed, hope does spring eternal!
In the last few months I’ve changed church homes (the separation from my first church was more difficult than I expected) and my dad died (I was less affected than I would have imagined). In both instances, I’ve been able to see the changes the Life of Christ and the Love of God has wrought on me, in my thoughts, my heart and my life. I understand more than ever that my relationship with God is the only thing in life that truly matters. And it is only through this primary relationship that all I can possibly desire will be added to me. That knowledge is humbling, yet so very empowering!
My friendships have pretty much gone up in smoke over the last few years. One by one, the women I used to call to talk through my problems and minor issues with have been removed from my life. Having no one to talk to over the last year – “talk to” as in, digging down to the minutest detail, exposing, exploring and pulling up roots – has been the most difficult part of my loneliness. I’m used to not having a life partner; not so used to not having a friend. The absence of those supportive friendships highlighted a deeper desire in me for a supportive mate.
For a number of years, I was emotionally “stuck” on the” ideal” person for me. In my imagination, he was a perfect match. He has a visible walk with the Lord and great conversation. We are both creative, independent, entrepreneurial, adventurous, and we both have a heart for people. The one glaring difference that I’ve finally been able to see is: I had a heart for him, but he didn’t have a heart for me.
When my dad died, I realized that I had been subconsciously waiting for him to want a relationship with me. With my hope turned on low, I still hoped he would one day reach out to me in response to all my pass efforts. He had the desire to rally his mother and siblings around his death bed, even his illegitimate son whom he didn’t raise, but he refused to send word to me, to request my presence, to offer reconciliation. That saddened me, but I realized he preferred to go to his grave before reconciling our relationship. Building a relationship was of no interest to him. And I’m okay with his preference. Understanding that about him put my interactions with men in a whole new light. My intolerance, my harshness. My hope, my repeated efforts. My exhaustion and frustration. My desire to build a relationship and lack of understanding of how to go about it. My ineffective communication and my inability to get what I want – a husband and family of my own.
I can see the parallels in the wished-for, but non-existent relationships.
Seeking and accepting help
The stress of it all overwhelmed me. Over the holidays I sought time with both a therapist and a spiritual counselor. The conversations that followed, has had me thinking from yet new perspectives.
I met with the therapist first and she suggested I hadn’t truly healed from the damage my dad did to me early in life. I told her that I had indeed healed. That through my friendships and my faith I had worked through all the main and related issues related to his abuse.
I walked out of her office asking God if I had missed something. If there was some remnant of fear or pain holding me back in life? I immediately followed that question with the pronouncement: I am healed in the name of Jesus! Absolutely! Completely!
The next day I met with the spiritual counselor and mentioned this portion of my conversation. I asked him if I had missed something. If I believe the Word and the Word says I am healed and I have worked on my recovery, am I not then completely healed?
He said something rather profound to me that has been rattling around my mind and spirit since: “You are completely healed to the best of your understanding.”
Pause and think about that….
Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12
My whole life is a dedication to the quest to understand. To learn. To acquire knowledge. To experience and share love and compassion. I know my understanding isn’t complete, nor will it ever be in this life. But I hadn’t looked at my evolution as being limited by my understanding.
So, I am healed to the best of my understanding.
I love and am loved to the best of my understanding.
I repent and accept repentance to the best of my understanding.
I forgive and am forgiven to the best of my understanding.
I give and receive to the best of my understanding.
I need and want to the best of my understanding.
I communicate to the best of my understanding.
I am faithful to the best of my understanding.
I live to the best of my understanding.
I evolve to the best of my understanding.
This tells me there are other levels, other dimensions and consciousness that need attention in each area of my life.
Embracing the next phase of life
My primary project for this year is finding and securing a life partner – to the best of my ability and understanding. I’m going about achieving this goal in the same way I operate in all other areas of my life (including problem-solving or project planning):
Write down my needs and desires
Calculate costs and requirements to achieve each (this includes things I’m willing to compromise on)
Prioritize by either importance or ease of achievability
Organize a team and pool resources
Outline my needs and end-goal to my team
Manage the project with follow-up and progress reports
Attempting to be any less analytical or pragmatic does me no good. That’s the way I think. It’s the way I process and understand. It’s the way I take action. With every goal I have had in life, God has worked through others to help me achieve them. It hit me last month that I wasn’t doing what I know to do in my desire to evolve from a single woman to a married woman. I was being far too passive. Passivity caused me to be inactive (for far too long) rather than proactive. I wasn’t working with others on my goal, so God wasn’t working through others to help me achieve it.
Now that I’ve visualized and verbalized my goal, achievement is only a matter of time. That’s the process through which God has always worked in my life. So I call it done, in the name of the Lord – to the best of my understanding and more reliably, to the best of God’s ability!
Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. Sing to Him; yes, sing His praises. Tell everyone about His wonderful deeds. Exult in His holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. Search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Remember the wonders He has performed, His miracles, and the rulings He has given, you children of His servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, His chosen ones. He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. He always stands by His covenant — the commitment he made to a thousand generations. ~ Psalm 105:1-8 NLT
Parting thought: Relationship is everything. Without it, even love does you no good.