The One Thing That May Be Holding You Back

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“Ding Ding Dong Dong Ding Ding D-ZZZ!!” That’s the “Bell Tower” alarm from my iPhone in the morning, and me promptly shutting that thing up. This is how I begin every weekday, and the routine repeats itself about 4 times every morning.

Why is it soooo hard to get out of bed? Some mornings after hitting the shut-the-fuck-up button I will just lie on my back and think about that question. I never have many problems getting up on the weekends or when I’m on vacation? Why is it so hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday? Friday I don’t seem to have quite the same trouble.

Well one reason in my particular case is that I am setting my alarm for 4:50am when I don’t really have to be up until 7:00am. Crazy right? Why would I get up before I have to? I ask myself that question just about every morning too. But actually, it’s not really that nuts.

When I can get up and work on a project for myself before I give my day to my employer, those are my very best days. I’ve discovered that when I can get up at 5:00am-ish, devote an hour or two to writing or whatever other project I have going on, I am less frustrated that I am spending 9-10 hours at the office on someone else’s agenda. I’ve already made time for myself and have made progress in my own life. I’ve taken care of myself and I’m therefore more available to give to others.

But no matter what, it is a struggle to get and keep the ball rolling. To stay motivated. To get up even though you are sleepy but you know how good it’s going to feel to have accomplished something towards your own self-fulfillment. Then why is it a challenge when you know how happy you’ll be?

I’ve discovered a possible answer. “Many of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” And thus begins the powerful book I’ve been fortunate to get my hands on called The War of Art. It is a witty, straight-to-the-point, kick-in-the-ass book that I’m fairly certain was written just for me.

“The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

1. The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art…

2. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3. Any diet or health regimen.

4. Any program of spiritual advancement.

5. Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals…”

What writer Steven Pressfield does so well in this book is points to a reason why we can’t get out of bed. Why we are so afraid of sitting down to write, paint, start that business. Why we are so terrified of failure. Why we are so terrified of success. It’s a reason that makes perfect sense to me, as with every page I turn, this monster that hates success gets more developed and becomes something that I can point to.

And like any good war strategy, when you can define and understand the enemy, you can defeat it.

Is it spiritual mumbo-jumbo? I think not. I have been around the church circuit a few times in my day, and while there may be such thing as demons and spiritual warfare, I don’t think that’s what we are talking about here. I don’t think you have to subscribe to any kind of religious doctrine to elicit Resistance, but rather, it’s a common plague that affects not only myself, but the people around me.

I am starting to understand why I see wonderful, talented people around me absolutely wasting their time and not pursuing the greatness in them. I am not talking about people who are perfectly happy doing what they are doing – those are the people we want to be. I am talking about people who have said to me, “Joni, I want to change my life.” Instead, they are staying at a job they are way too over qualified for, staying at a job they hate, out drinking every free moment away, talking about going to school but just won’t take that first step, complaining about a rut in life but not doing anything to change it. While I am understanding, it still kills me!

And I want to help. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but this plea is not only for me to win that battle with the Bell Tower alarm. This plea is for you to get up and win your battle over Resistance too. Life is way too short to let your dreams stay in your head.

So what I do when I’m lacking inspiration is I look to those who are doing what I want to do. I have several friends that have overcome Resistance and I love them for it. I want to be like them. For example, while I complain about my boss’ antics sometimes, that guy is out there making his dreams happen, running 2 businesses and having fun while at it.

I’m “friends” with an acquaintance on Facebook who is, I’d say by any margin of measurement, a successful photographer. Before I decided to get up and win too, I was very jealous of her amazing life. She’s photographed people from Clint Eastwood to Courtney Love, and seems to have so much fun photographing everyday people even more. She’ll give herself a break every now and then and go to Costa Rica and enjoy a yoga retreat. She truly seems to get up everyday and enjoy what she’s doing.

Sure I’m sounding a bit creeper right now knowing what this chick is up to and don’t really know her that well, but I’m going to take inspiration wherever I can find it. Because my battle with Resistance is pretty tough right now as I am very distracted. Then when things start going well and new opportunities present themselves, I get overwhelmed and recoil, apparently in fear of either success or failure. I’ll instead give in to the TV, laziness, or partying carelessly.

But every day is a new day. Have you been avoiding taking that first step towards starting your own business? Do you want to lose weight, promise you’ll start tomorrow, but tomorrow never seems to come? Are you a silent artist who knows you have talent, but haven’t picked up your guitar, camera, paintbrush, or pencil?

“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives.” I encourage you to take even the tiniest step today and do something toward your goal. If it’s choosing the low-cal dressing at one meal, writing down a to-do list, calculating how much it would cost to do that trip around the world, researching what new job you’d like to have. Just do something.

As for me, today I won my battle. I got my ass up and made it to the most challenging place to get to – my desk to write.  “All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.”

Being Honest: This is Why I Write

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One of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes is, “Be who you are and say what you mean [feel], because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I tell you, while this fellow wrote children’s books and poetry, I find his words just as inspirational as Tony Robbins’ and as comforting as chocolate chip cookies. This one in particular is a healthy reminder that people are going to say things to you and sometimes it’s going to be painful, but you can’t stop saying what you mean. I know, I really reached deep for that one.

Yet I point out this quote today because lately, I’ve been letting it all get to me. An important individual at work is pretty ferocious with attacking words these days, and I’m growing weary (hence the slow down in posts lately). Additionally I’ve mentioned in a previous blog some of the struggles I’ve had in wedding planning and realizing that I’m just not going to make everyone happy. Which is kind of a bummer.

But most of all, I’ve been learning a lot from you, the readers of this blog. I want to thank you. While I realize this is a relatively small audience in the grand scope of public writing, it matters to me what people think and I care about your opinions and thank you for sharing them.

With all that, I’m learning why occasionally Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno will talk about a celebrity’s latest Twitter outburst after they’ve been heckled, put down or argued with one too many times. It’s challenging to put yourself completely out there and then realize that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. What?!

To just about everything I’ve written so far, no matter how benign I thought it was, it’s been met with opposition in some sense. I am a novice in this whole public writing thing, but I have learned quickly that voicing an opinion means putting a target on your forehead. I am asking directly for comment and to be totally honest, it’s thrown me on my back a few times.

I wonder…is that what progress looks like?

I think so, but only if I can get back up and keep going. One of my grad school professors once said that “Rhetorical criticism is society’s homework.” And to simplify what that means is – pay attention and think about it! Why did Wendy Davis stand for 11 hours? Is it helpful to society that Justin Timberlake’s new video is a boob-fest? What’s going on in Syria and should we intercede? Why would someone eat 69 hot dogs on the 4th of July?

Then comment on it. Say something about it. I have opinions on all of those items, and trust me I’ll get to them.

My point is, what I’m trying to accomplish on this blog is to get you to think critically about what’s happening around you. You deserve a raise, why won’t you ask your boss for one? Are you intimidated or are there social constraints that are causing this stymie? Why are you (or your partner) changing your (her) last name after your wedding? Isn’t there some kind of importance to a female’s family name too? Or why can’t you ever be taken seriously in a meeting with people 20 years older than you, even though you’ve proven that you can keep up with similar work?

I spend a lot of time thinking about these things and about a bzillion more. I’ve counted once, and I actually got to a bzillion and one. So I use this blog to talk it out, and hopefully get some constructive feedback that will help us all understand our world a little better.

That said, I realize that there are things I have said, and am going to say, that are offensive. I’m not out to offend but if it’s going to bring more understanding or alternative thinking, then so be it. I can’t be intimidated.

(yes, this is just as much a pep talk for me as it is for you)

I have had a lot of people in my life who have genuinely tried to control my life, my mouth, and my body. I realize that sounds like an exaggeration but it’s absolutely true and I won’t let it happen anymore. One time when I told my Dad I wanted to be a doctor, he said, “Why can’t you do something more lady-like? Like be a nurse?” Another time, my slim 13-year-old self reached for a candy bar and my older brother grabbed it and put it on my skinny thigh and said, “You might as well just put it right here. Pretty girls don’t eat candy bars.”

You’ll see that I have a lot of opinions with regard to gender equality. Another thing to note is that I was born in Texas in a mostly white community. One time the black boy in my class wrote me a love letter and I showed it to a family member who said, “I don’t ever want to see you talk to that boy. White girls don’t talk to n——.”

Therefore, I have a lot of opinions in favor of racial equality. I have stories with regard to religious oppression, political nonsense, and animal rights too. And if I am paying attention, would it be right to stay silent so as not to rock the proverbial boat? Should I have just gone along with what I was told to do? I say no, and my words are my most powerful asset and therefore I will use them to try and make this society a better place.

I realize that some of you will not like what I have to say, but my point today is that I want to express that it’s coming from a good place. I try to keep it light with humor, but even that can bring further offense. Yet at least I’m out here trying, and I encourage you to do the same.

While I’ve ranted a little about how I’ve been affected by some of the responses, please don’t misunderstand me and think I don’t want to hear it. I encourage your feedback no matter how sharp (or friendly!) it is. We all have a voice, and my point here is to get those of us who are traditionally silent to stand up and really be who you are and say what you mean.

After all, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” (Dr. Seuss)

5 Reasons You Love ‘Murica

ImageIt’s hard to pick a favorite holiday, but the Fourth of July is certainly on the top of my list. Who doesn’t love grilled corn, flowing BBQ sauce, pool parties and blowing shit up. It’s a glorious day to celebrate and reflect on how rad it really is to be an American.

So in respect to Old Glory, I bid this list of why we fucking love it here so very much.

#5 We Invented Hot Dogs

Throw it in a boiling pot of beer, slather it in cream cheese, douse it in ketchup. Whatever you want to do, the hot dog is as American as hot dogs. Sure, the Germans may have been the first to come up with a phallic shaped meat product, but sausage has nothing on the hot dog. The hot dog is the hero of easy dinners and a savior after a long night pub-crawling.

Not only that, but the hot dog cares about your environment. A mash up of left over pork flesh, the hot dog is the ultimate way to utilize otherwise inedible pig. So really, it’s an environmental super hero, making sure that we don’t waste any part of that little fat animal. Forget the Prius, if you want to make an eco-friendly American statement, eat a hot dog.

#4 We Made the Red Keg Cup An International Symbol of Fun

I have been stopped many times whilst holding a keg cup by someone unfortunate to not have been born in the USA, and they say, “Wow, you all really do drink out of those red cups.” The first time I was told this, I asked them to elaborate. “Well that’s what’s in all the American movies. All the kids drink out of those cups.”

That’s right. Us kids really do drink out of red keg cups. And what better instrument to play flip cup? Beer pong? Quarters? You’re welcome world.

#3 It Really Is Sexy Everywhere You Go

I have not been to all 50 States, because dammit, that’s a lot of states. But of all that I’ve been to, they have been fucking amazing. New York? California? Florida? Washington? Hawaii?! Come on. We really don’t need to leave our borders to get all that you could ever want. I’d immigrate illegally too if I didn’t start here.

#2 Every Holiday Is For Eating

Our title of fattest nation in the world is not a thing we take lightly. We work hard for that. When we are thankful, we eat an entire turkey. When Jesus gets up from death, we eat so much chocolate that we make animal shapes out of it to legitimize the feast. 4th of July? We BBQ, but it doesn’t stop there. We have giant hot dog eating contests, wherein contestants have eaten up to 69 hot dogs in one sitting. I may be a vegetarian, but I can salute such dedication to America’s favorite pastime – eating.

#1 Dubya gave us “’Murica”

Ah, our 43rd President. Author of such phrases as “I didn’t grow up in the ocean.” Or “Thank you, your Holiness. Awesome speech.” Or “I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be — hold hands.”

With the economy healing and one of his wars ended, you can’t really be thaaaat mad at him anymore. But if you are, here’s one of my personal favorites to make you feel better.

But best of all, he didn’t call us America. He called us “’Murica.” And that, America, is something to be grateful for today on ‘Murica’s birthday.

Agree to the Party, But Not All It Represents

I don’t know what happened. I was in a pretty good groove. Writing, exercising, budgeting, things were going pretty well. Then, I went and got engaged and literally the entire situation that is my life changed.

All of a sudden, each and every of my thoughts have changed to the singsong of fairytales and hummingbirds, blissfully cheering “Weddddding, wooooo!!!” The books went from Lean In and Awakening Your Inner Giant to Bridal Bargains and The Big Book on Weddings. My budgeting goals have shifted from, “budget to get rid of student loan debt fast,” to “budget to have a beautiful wedding and fantastic honeymoon in Italy.”

What is wrong with me?! I’m progressive! I don’t like princess fantasies! I’m an independent woman whose education, attitude and work experience prove that she is self-determined, goal oriented, and committed feminist.

So what IS it about weddings that is the great equalizer, bringing women to the same altar of veils and flowing dresses, sparkling rings, promising that she will be the most beautiful bride that there ever was? I’m no damn princess, and I wasn’t the kid who always dreamed of her wedding. I had soccer practice to go to.

…Although I do know I’m going to look dashing in a casual beach wedding dress and a flower crown….

Anyway, back to my question. What is it about weddings that is so enchanting? I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, but in all honesty, there has been a lot about this experience that is very annoying. All of a sudden, people assume that I will follow the marching orders of brides before me. I am asked if my Dad will “give me away.” Really? Am I held captive somewhere and unaware of it?

Or how about the naming of the female attendants on the bride’s side, “bridesmaids,” or “Maid of Honor.” Am I the only one who hears how ridiculous those names are? Are they going to go milk a cow after the ceremony? Or perhaps hide back in the maiden’s quarters hoping and praying that their time too will come when they are rescued by His Highness?

My point is I have been sucked willingly into the world of white, which includes being assaulted with some troubling truths. While the whole institution of the wedding is steeped in tradition, most of the tradition in this world is steeped in patriarchy. And for some crazy reason…women LOVE it. This is their “one chance” to be a princess. Come on ladies, have you never really paid attention to those Disney films? Those princesses were often slaves of some kind or even locked in dungeons.

DUNGEONS! I myself have never seen a dungeon and I hope to God I never will. But even if they weren’t in the dungeon, they were slaves to their parent’s, often father’s, wishes for their lives, with little to no self-determination. They had zero rights or means to get themselves freed from their bondage and were dependent on Prince Charming to get his shit together and save her. Wouldn’t you rather have the opportunity to save yourself?

I digress. But I think a lot of women fall victim to the dangerous thinking that, YES, I finally found some guy who is going to take care of me and financially sponsor me for the rest of my life. While I know few of us would really say this out loud, that’s very much a huge female fantasy these days.

Don’t believe me? I have some examples.

I was watching a Modern Family re-run yesterday, one of my favorite shows. In this particular episode, Gloria was one of the main characters. Born in Colombia and from a life of poverty, beautiful Gloria met and married her American husband, a man twice her age with a bank account that could make Wall Street bankers blush. Her life is depicted as a dream. She is spirited and free, has a no nonsense attitude and speaks her mind at will.

In this episode, Gloria and her husband Jay just had a baby, and Gloria’s Colombian family came to visit the new infant. Gloria’s sister, also beautiful, never found her prince and is still living in Colombia. When said sister visits, she behaves like a slave – doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and is clearly oppressed. However it is explained that these chores makes her feel good and normal in this rich country. Gloria feels bad for her sister, and offers to give her some of her clothes. The two walk into what looks like a small designer boutique, which in reality is Gloria’s expansive closet. The sister is overwhelmed with awe, and clearly jealous that her life isn’t as wonderful as Gloria’s.

Later in the episode, Jay gives a speech at their son’s christening, and decides to talk about when he met Gloria. He mentions at the end of the story that the beautiful woman he first saw and desired from behind wasn’t in fact Gloria, but he later learned was her sister! This was news to everyone, and the sister filled with rage and jumped from her pew to strangle Gloria, shouting, “You stole my life!!”

Poor Gloria’s sister. She wasn’t picked up by a dude who thought she had a nice ass to spend all his money on her. What a dream to sit around married to an old guy and his money. Do you see what I mean?

What I am finding is that the wedding seems to be a symbol of many things, but a very strong idea is that men are the moneymakers, women are the fair helpless maidens. One other show I’ve gotten into lately is called, Rich Bride, Poor Bride. I like it because it is all about the budget for the wedding, and I like to see how couples choose to spend their funds.

But sometimes I am ready to slap those brides. So many of these women fall into the role of, “this is MY wedding,” and “I’ll talk him into paying for it,” and “he always gives me what I want.” I even heard one bride say, “I have no respect for a budget or saving. That’s for him to worry about.”

!!!!!!

I realize that television is an exaggeration intended to shock audiences. The words and behaviors of these women are appalling and that’s why they made the cut to be aired. But these attitudes are not locked in our televisions. They are deeply ingrained in our society and they are, in my opinion and experience in planning thus far, most prominent around a ceremony like a wedding.

My point is, when planning a wedding it is important to not get wrapped up in the hoopla. Everyone tells you what you “have” to do. May I remind you, there is almost nothing in this world that you HAVE to do!

Sure I am excited and a bit wrapped up in planning this big beautiful day, but that’s because I like planning parties, being a host and can afford it myself. I refuse to get an attitude over it or demand that someone else foot the bill. If I didn’t have the money, Vegas isn’t that far and I could run up there and get ‘er done around $100 with a sweet Elvis pic to boot.

I’m a woman who is going to take advantage of this opportunity to throw a bigger-than-your-average-Saturday fiesta for my friends and family to celebrate Scott’s and my love. Yes, I’m going to look damn good in whatever dress I choose. And while it will probably be white, long and somewhat traditional, that does not symbolize submission. Wearing it and participating in the cultural tradition of a wedding does not mean that I buy into everything it could be perceived to represent. Tradition can often be a very bad thing, and in the case of weddings, the bad thing is the tradition of the helpless bride – which has now morphed into the bratty, selfish, spoiled bride. She was traditionally a piece of property, the currency transferred from father to husband in the wedding ceremony. Yeah, I don’t celebrate that.
By wearing my white dress, I am wearing it because I like it. I have olive skin and it will be August so I’ll have a great tan. Besides that and a few other items I’ll borrow from the weddings of yore, Scott’s and my wedding will only represent one thing. Love….as celebrated by the best party you’ve ever been to.

Mission Accomplished: Challenge Accepted

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About a week and a half ago, my world turned upside down. Actually, it turned right side up. It was Sunday morning and I woke up at 3:30am, excited, nervous and energized. I had all my clothes laid out the night before and semi-quickly threw them all on. I popped my sprouted wheat bagel in the toaster and a minute later slathered it with peanut butter. By 4:15am I was out the door and headed to the train that would take me to downtown San Diego.

Sitting on the train, I munched away at the peanut buttery pastry and gabbed with fellow passengers about the event of the day. “I see you’re doing the full,” stated the woman who sat in the seat facing mine, “how many have you done?”

“This is my first,” I replied with nervous yet confident energy.

“Wow! What time are you going for?” asked the friend who sat next to her.

“Honestly, I’m just hoping that I don’t die.”

We laughed. That joke was my standing reply to just about any question regarding the marathon I was about to take on that day. Along the train ride to the event, I was comforted by waves of strength, allowing my muscles to assure me, “We are ready.” Conversely, I was assaulted by waves of concern, as I recalled images of marathoners collapsing from years before.

But alas, I arrived at Balboa Park, where behind the starting line 30,000 participants in the ½ and full Rock and Roll marathon were collected. Music was blasting and the buzz in the air was exhilarating. Everyone was friendly, from the medics dressed as Elvis-es, to the lady wearing a garbage bag to keep herself warm in the porta-potty line.

I eventually found my boyfriend, who 6 months earlier had agreed to follow me in training for the event. We made way to our corral, 4, and met our two other friends who we had done our training with. All of us had the same look on our faces – unbelievably excited but also realizing 26.2 miles is crazy…so a bit mad-hatter.

At 6:15am, the gun went off and we finally hit the pavement. .2 miles into it, a man dressed as a court jester was dancing in the middle of our path. He was dancing and cheering, holding a huge sign that said. “.2 down, only 26 to go!” My friends and I all looked at each other and laughed.

About another mile in, we hit Hillcrest, and in the center divider 8 or 9 men were dressed as female cheerleaders, donning short skirts and having stuffed their shirts with huge boob-like balloons. They danced and flailed their pom-poms, cheering louder than probably any of the many, many groups of cheerleaders along the way.

Just after mile 7 we were headed out of Little Italy, and into a tunnel under the 5 freeway. A DJ was blasting just outside the front of the tunnel, and as I descended into the cave, her beats cascaded through the hollowed concrete like enveloping sound waves. The air was pulsating all around me as I ran through the normally dark tunnel. The darkness was no longer, as instead lines of LED lights flashed everywhere, whose coordinated movement made that Sunday morning feel like the late night hours of San Diego’s hottest club.

I was feeling great. The streets were lined with supporters, and around every mile there was a band or DJ blasting music. The bib pinned to the front of my shirt had my name on it, and supporters often took the time to read my name and cheer, “GO JONI!!!!” The support from complete strangers was honestly one of the driving forces that kept my legs moving.

And that was very needed by around mile 16. Up until then I had no trouble flying up and down hills, but somewhere around Clairemont I was starting to feel my legs. That’s when the real mental games began playing, as I came to realize there’s another 10 miles to go and I was really nowhere near finishing.

But that particular wave of fatigue passed, and I made it to Friars road. Friars is a long stretch of garbage nothing in Mission Valley, so that’s when I realized I had better put in my headphones. After a few songs in, the My Chemical Romance song Welcome to the Black Parade came on. I promise my taste in music is normally more sophisticated than that, but I do love that poppy-ass song. It very anthem-like and epic, so I let myself get into the lyrics and forget that I was still running:

We’ll carry on,

We’ll carry on

And though you’re dead and gone believe me

Your memory will carry on

We’ll carry on

And in my heart I can’t contain it

The anthem won’t explain it.

It took some effort to stop tears from falling down my cheeks, as I looked up and knew my Dad was somewhere in the clouds watching me run the greatest physical challenge of my life, cheering me on as he had all the years before. What can I say, I was on mile 19, anything was going to make me emotional. I instead channeled that energy and put it into my legs, stepping it up to hasten my pace a little quicker. I am confident he gave me that extra boost, with his hand on my back urging me to press forward.

At last I made it to the end of Friars but knew what was next…mile 20 and the 163. For months I had been dreading the 163, the portion of the race that covered the steep freeway, and the biggest hill of the marathon. This was certainly my monster to be reckoned with, as I really, really ridiculously am terrible at running hills. My hips lock up, my knees really start bitching, my breath quickens to the pace of gasping and my heart threatens to explode.

But dammit I made it and found myself in the last stretches of the race. Around mile 23 people started cheering that I was “Almost there!” I was ready to stop and slap each and every one of them, as I knew damn well there were 3.2 miles to go. But they handed me water and Gatorade so I let them yell their nonsense.

At last, I saw the jester from mile .2…but this time he was at mile 26. He was cheering and dancing with just as much energy as he had 26 miles ago, but this time I was happy to see that instead his sign said, “26 down, only .2 to go!” I smiled and laughed, and am pretty sure I have ever been so happy to see anyone again.

I looked up and in a small crane directly above me, cameras were flashing. I spread my arms wide and made peace signs with a giant grin. One of the cameramen gave me a thumbs up in approval, who I saw got the shot.

The crowd was now densely thick with people, as I learned later that 90,000 supporters turned out to line the streets with colorful signs and good will. Music was pumping, the commentator was screaming, and I could finally see the finish line. I reached deep into my now heavy wooden legs and with fury and exhilaration I stepped it up to a sprint. Complete strangers cheered me on those final steps as at last I crossed the finish line.

“I FUCKING DID IT!!!” I gasped to myself. One volunteer heard me and laughed as she handed me a water. I allowed another volunteer to place the coveted medal around my neck, and somehow I mustered out a “Thank you.” The area was absolutely packed with volunteers, supporters and runners. Everywhere I turned someone was trying to hand me something to hydrate or feed me, from Powerbars to chocolate milk to more glorious Gatorade. Camera people were frigging everywhere asking to take my photo. I realize they worked for the race and would try to sell me the shots later, but I decided to pretend I was a famed athlete and they were ESPN trying to get a good shot from my race. I posed and enjoyed the attention.

I decided I should try and find my friends. I knew from a Facebook invite my boyfriend had created weeks ago that many were going to turn out to support us. When I arrived at the family reunion section for letter S, I spotted a couple of my friends – one who did the marathon and one who did the half. “We did it!” I shouted as I approached. They turned around as quickly as they could, which wasn’t quick at all, and were both beaming smiles of pride. I learned the one who did the marathon had PR’ed (runner speak for Personal Record) and the other who did the half was handed beers that he accepted for the last few miles of his race. I was equally proud of both.

As the minutes passed, more and more of my friends appeared, congratulating me on my run. I was often asked my time, which I proudly could say was 04:18. Not too shabby for a first marathon in which you were hoping not to die. I chatted and bantered, but was anxiously looking for my boyfriend. He was nowhere.

“Where’s Scott?” I kept asking. I learned he was at the finish line and had wanted to see me cross. It was nice to realize that I ran faster than other people’s expectations.

“He’s on his way over here,” one of my girlfriends assured me confidently. So I chugged some more Gatorade and considered if I would ever bother doing another marathon again. While I was arguing with my exhausted muscles who pleaded with me never to put them through that again, I saw my tall, sweaty boyfriend approaching. “Finally!” I thought.

He was making his way through our now large group of friends and I couldn’t help myself but squeal, “WE DID IT!” I had my hands up in the air and gave him an awkward high five that somehow morphed into a hug.

He nodded, “Yeah” to my comment, but then didn’t seem to really want to talk about the race when I asked him about his time.

“Joni, there’s another reason why all our friends are here.” He said somewhat loudly and clearly nervously. All our friends heard and backed into a very neat circle around us. “Joni, we have been through everything together, highs and lows, we have now even run a marathon together.”

This is when I realized what was happening. My eyes widened and my already fatigued heart completely stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friends reacting similarly, holding up their phones to take pictures and slapping their hands over their mouths. A man with a giant camera was also filming, and I decided not to let my mind wander into what and who the hell that was.

Scott said some more words I honestly can barely recall, and then got down on one knee. All around me men were cheering and whistling while women were cooing, as I stood there with my jaw dropped and my legs about to collapse. Scott opened a box, exposing a gorgeous diamond solitaire, simultaneously saying the iconic words, “Will you marry me?”

I swear that I searched and searched for my voice, but it must have run off to the bathroom or something. Giving up I nodded as quickly as possible a “yes,” smiling and determined to make sure he knew how excited I was. Now for every other girl in my situation that’s not very difficult to muster, but I had just run a marathon and I was just trying to see straight.

My now classic head nod was accepted and he placed the ring on my finger. My eyes were still locked on his as he somehow was able to stand up and we hugged the greatest embrace I have ever felt. I forgot that there were other people in that general area, and when I came to, I realized that a crowd had formed about us. I started waving and stammering, unsure what to say but wanting to say it all.

Turns out the guy with the giant camera was a newsman from NBC, and I was happy to learn that the little snoop had caught the whole thing. Trying to hold back Anchorman jokes, I accepted when he promptly requested an interview. I am confident that I sounded like a complete moron, but I was thrilled that my emotions and moronic-ey were captured to always remember.

I am fairly decent at being able to articulate myself, but I will never be able to describe the cocktail of emotions I felt that day. After the newsman had left, my friends and I went to celebrate downtown. Somehow later I was at a rooftop pool, surrounded with amazing people, a diamond on my finger and a medal around my neck. In the same day I had met my greatest physical challenge and accepted the greatest love of my life as my lifelong partner. I don’t know how I have become so lucky, but all I can say is…YES.

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The Secret to Lifting your Mood No Matter What

Kasia and I getting our sing on

It’s been a stressful few weeks.  Work has been crazy busy. I’m stressed about my first ever marathon on Sunday and praying I don’t do anything like trip and fall off the 163 bridge. I’ve also decided to put my whole self out there and truly live my dreams –  but with that comes the risk of failure…a stressful assertion indeed. Then you can add the average life stresses like sibling quarrels, bills and landlords. Frankly, I’m tired.

So I was driving to work yesterday and I was trying to decide what to listen to. I’ve lately been listening to a lot of talk radio and inspirational speakers. I have a pretty solid rotation of NPR, Dave Ramsey and Tony Robbins going, who normally cheer me right up. But that morning I was all….”Sh. Stop talking.”  I just wasn’t in the mood.

Fussy and a bit annoyed to be driving to work anyway, I plugged in my iPhone and started scrolling through the music. I drive a piece of shit car, so I use a cassette tape adapter that plugs in my MP3…that being said the sound quality is about as good as tin foil being stuck in your ears.

But I came across some music I hadn’t listened to for a while. I hit play, turned it up and to my surprise the little speakers-that-could actually reached the decibel level I was looking for without sounding like the aforementioned tin foil ear. And that’s when my inner Tina Turner let the air around me have it.

It was just the song I needed to hear – semi-pointless, included electric guitars, some yelling, a bit powerful, and gave me the platform to simply belt it. Loudly as I drove 75 mph on the 5, I sang:

“I’m tired, so tired.

I’m tired of having sex (So tired)

I’m spread, so thin

I don’t know who I am…

 

I’m beat, beet red,

ashamed of what I said (What I said)

I’m sorry, here I go

I know I’m a sinner

but I can’t say no (Say no)”

(Weezer, Pinkerton, 1996)

I’m not tired of sex, but I was tired that day, that’s for sure. I made the choices to be where I am and I’m not sorry, but I need to vary my outlets for releasing the pressure once in a while. And turning up a song I listened to in high school brought me back to those formative years of reckless freedom, unsure where I would wind up or what I would do. That whole Pinkerton album can do this.

So what I am saying to you is – sing! It is the one trick that I always forget about, but once I rediscover it, my world is healed.  I am by no means a great vocalist, but I do come equipped with a voice. And that’s why the best place for me to sing with all my soul is in the car. There is nothing like it in the world to turn up the volume, and give that song everything you have.

Now there is a risk…people might see you. I think that is one of the benefits! Don’t be afraid to be that person. First of all, being concerned with what strangers who zoom by on the freeway think of you is a problem, and overcoming it can bring a new sense of freedom. Self expression doesn’t need to happen in a vacuum.

I’m not the only one who believes in singing. In fact, there are real health benefits to it. Some of these include boosting immunity, alleviating stress, lung benefits and breathing easier. Fantastic, right?!

There is a caveat – you can’t just sing with your throat. You have to, in order to get these benefits of release I’m talking about, sing with everything you have so that the air comes from your belly. Your diaphragm should be moving up and down as you take in and release air. Open your mouth wide and enunciate.  There’s likely no other time in the day that your lungs will fill with so much air as taking in those deep breaths and releasing those exhales. That’s why smoking and yoga have been found to calm people – it’s not the carcinogens or the downward facing dog, but it’s breathing deeply. Singing provides the same benefit, and is in my opinion, more fun.

So friends, I challenge you today. Sing! You may have already arrived at your destination for the day, but you will likely be traveling somewhere else at some point today or this weekend. Find time to sing in your car. Turn on a song you haven’t heard for a while but you know all the lyrics to and makes you feel good. It certainly picked up my week, and gave me the momentum I needed that day. And today is an easy day to get your sing on, it’s Friday, so here’s the perfect song to get you started.

Powering Through…Even When You Don’t Wanna

Scott-Cheering

Getting traction going for anything is absolutely impressive. I realize it’s unbecoming to pat oneself on the back, but why don’t you go ahead and do that right now. You got up today. You made it to work. Or you finished school and you get a minute to relax before you join the ranks of real world bosses and bills. Or your kid was crying and you were up at some ungodly hour only sea monsters should be awake for.

But you did it! You’ve accomplished something already today. And I think we need to spend more time celebrating our victories.

A teeny tiny victory in my humble little life is right around the corner. Hopefully. I have spent the last several months training for my first ever marathon, and this Sunday I’ve surrendered myself to go ahead and make that 26.2-mile trek.  I was never a long distance runner, but I was a sprinter and I played soccer. Cake, right?

NOPE. Long distance running is an entirely different game than sprinting. Getting started is the worst part. You have all of the 15-mile Saturday run ahead of you. Then after about 2 miles you get into a groove.  You’re jamming, feeling great, but then around mile 6…owie! Your body decides this is far enough, aches, it’s thirsty, and starts with the complaining.

“Can we stop pleeeease?” cry the knees. But you take a swig of water, tell your griping body to shush, power through and get into a groove again. And it ebbs and flows like that, in and out of grooves, each more difficult than the last all 10, 15, 20 miles.  It doesn’t matter because you can’t stop – that’s not an option. You paid $120 dollars to run this damn race and you are going to get your money’s worth. You will have that medal, you will hang it in your living room, you will show it every person that walks into your house, and they will like it.

Life is exactly the same way, except we don’t always get medals for our accomplishments. We do however get in and out of grooves. Think about whenever you have set your mind to accomplish something. You’ve submitted yourself to writing regularly in a blog as well as a side manuscript <ahem>, it’s going well, but that’s when the proverbial “knees” decide to kick in. Your car starts acting up, your dog needs to go to the vet, half of your friends are having career or relationship crises and you want to help. You need to stop for “water” and it’s difficult to get the traction going again.

I swear there are angels up above that watch over and guide us. Then next to them are their freckled step-cousins who never grew past 4’ feet tall. They are sneaky little buggers, armed with an arsenal of distractions to throw at us just for their entertainment. You may have had the biggest breakthrough at work and your boss just gave you an accolade in front of everyone, but that’s when your tire goes flat in the middle of the freeway and the officer who shows up to help serves you a ticket for having tinted windows.

Like I said before, when you are training for a marathon, those crazy long runs are a persistent ebb and flow of strength and weakness. It is a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. Now, all of that is just in reference to flat land – when things are going fine and your car is running smoothly and all your friends are getting along.

But then, up ahead, you see Torrey Pines. For San Diegans you know what I mean, but for those who don’t, Torrey Pines is a state park in between Del Mar and La Jolla up on a bluff. And by “up” I mean high enough to reach those angels and slap them for throwing shit at you all the time. Now to get to that bluff there is a hill.

Did I say hill? I meant massive hill. And by massive hill, I mean the gods of the earth combined all of the steepest and longest hills in all of San Diego county and tied them together for this incline. I ran this blasted hill once in my training and am proud to say I did it, but it was a bastard and I am really not sure I ever want to do it again.

But hey. I did it!  Now, there is the second largest hill – in my opinion, don’t quote me on that – right by my house that I am required to run up anytime I go train. It’s called Lomas Santa Fe, which in Spanish means “God Hates You.” (Don’t quote me on that either.) Every time I approach that hill it is a mental and physical feat to work myself up to make that climb. I don’t get up it fast and it always burns with so much lactic acid that I’m certain my sweat turns to acid rain.

But hey. I do it! I always remember something when I see a hill that one of my running buddies told me in the beginning of our training. He knows damn well how much I hate hills (can you tell by now?), and he reminds me when we’re running, “For every uphill, there’s always a downhill.”

Sweet, right? Well, he is also charming enough to also mention on the down hills, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll be paying for this downhill with an uphill soon enough.”

Dammit.

But such is life. Getting traction going to make it the long distance is fucking difficult on it’s own. That’s without the hills. But you know that there are always hills and you don’t have a choice but to climb them if you want to get to where you set out to go.

I struggle with motivation in every capacity of my life, some days more than others. But somewhere along the way I either bully or sweet-talk myself into continuing the climb. Today I have to do that and work a little harder, as it’s been a difficult couple weeks and I just feel like lying down and eating a burrito in bed.

But not today – I got up. I’m going to do this. I’m going to run a marathon on Sunday and it scares the hell out of me. People have died doing that!  Or my writing…what if it’s not interesting or I don’t ever get anywhere with it? People have died from depressive failure!

Welp, I’m going to have to find out if either kills me. I’ve worked too hard to get here. Likewise, you’ve worked too hard to get where you are. We can’t give up now.  It’s time to power to the top of the hill so that we can get to that glorious downhill, knowing we deserve every ounce of success – because we earned it.