Nature's Course.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The intense winter's of my childhood as a Midwestern girl were simply part of life.
We were in Minnesota, after all.
Where come December, sometimes even by late November, there were already a few inches of snow on the ground.  
The winds howled and rattled our front porch screens. 
The metal railing outside the front door was frozen to the touch and our walk to and from school each day was nothing shy of an Arctic adventure, as our little legs toiled the old tree-lined streets of St. Anthony Park in snow up to our knees.  
It was brutal.
But we didn't complain nor question it.  This was winter.  This, was Minnesota.
The unadulterated glee of that first snow fall, whether it fell before we'd gotten our pumpkins carved or after all our Christmas presents had been played with and flung aside, didn't matter.  It was the stuff dreams are made of.  
Each promising weather prediction on the news was eagerly met with our little noses pressed against bedroom windows where we longingly awaited a new season.
And when it started to come down?  It was as if we were seeing snow for the first time as we watched the heavy flakes fly.
We rushed downstairs elbowing and jockeying for first hands on the bucket of mittens, hats and snow pants.
Spent hour upon hour wedged in to cheap, plastic red sleds with our dad down College Hill.  Gripping the yellow rope between mittened hands, terrified and elated all at once as we flew down the St. Paul hills at lighting speed.

Those long, winter days when traveling outside a four-block radius was too great (and risky) an effort, so made our own adventures and tapped in to the steep hill we lived on.  Never mind the line of cars, their tail ends hanging over the sidewalks to make room for the snowplows coming through.  Kajsa Larson and I straddled our sleds atop an icy sidewalk, glanced at the Minneapolis Skyline off to the West and shoved off, only to be brought to an abrupt stop a quarter of the way down when half my young but stout, Norwegian frame got wedged under our neighbors' parked car in the driveway.

Did I think I was going to just skate right by the wheel well unscathed?  We rolled and shook, crying with laughter.  Literally peeing our snow pants giggling as my tiny friend tried to pry me loose and haul me out like a sled-dog pulling a steamboat.

Winter's weren't a burden.  They were magic.  We knew, even as kids, they wouldn't last forever.  So we soaked up every second.
We ENJOYED it despite the temporary discomfort, knowing the excitement of ANOTHER new season would be upon us in no time.

The shifting of each season as a child was met with, well, child-like delight.
We didn't begrudge the cold snap of wind in our faces.  That was a minor detail.  A simple reminder to dress warmer.  And what made that cup of hot chocolate plum full of marshmallows taste even better.  What allowed us to see Spring's beautiful blooms and another of Minnesota's summer tropical heat waves to be even more appreciated.

I'm not sure when or how I lost that. . .that beautiful connection to nature.  
The childlike ability to just be where I was, no matter the weather.  It seems to have been a slow, subtle undoing.  Maybe as a teen when the reality of winter requiring MORE clothing went against my idea of wanting to wear less. 
I seemed to have gotten distracted along the way.  That love, appreciation and presence in nature lost to a sea of teenage angst, boys, college classes and trying to figure out life.

Even when I became a mother myself, oddly, my connection to nature and the outdoors, welcoming the beautiful change of seasons, only seemed to be stymied more.  
I was outside a lot.  But I wasn't. . .there.
I was exhausted.  Scrambling after fearless toddlers and counting down the minutes until nap time.
Too tired to see straight, let alone the wilderness beckoning me to surrender to it.

I even remember not too many years ago, watching snow fall outside our living room windows and being overrun with anxiety.  Panic bringing up the rear.  Never before had I felt that.  The unadulterated joy and elation of my childhood for the falling of fresh snow and whirling winds outside suddenly an impossible thing to imagine.  

Instead, I felt only fear.  Fear of being stuck.  Of not being able to escape.  Of the cold pressing down on us, the snow barricading our doors.  (Ah, CLEARLY an indication and signpost my life and current mental state was in need of some repair:)  

How had my perspective and view of life shifted so dramatically?  And seemingly so far from where it began as a child?

I knew, despite the fear, I had to find my way back.  Back to the wildness, the WILDERNESS of my youth.  
I couldn't RUN from the winters of my life.  I had to go back IN to them.  Completely.
An unexpected but much needed "deep-rest" period forced me to slow down and take to the woods.  To relearn to BE with what was, but also practice ALLOWING and ACCEPTING the changing of seasons and all the beauty and lessons they brought with no matter how hard the winds whipped, the rains poured, or how strongly the sun beat down.

I had to willingly fall in to the most valuable and painstaking work of learning to work WITH nature instead of against it.

The winters spent hibernating I engaged in as a young mother of three, over time, fell away.  They opened up to a new found freedom and passion to adventure in and enjoy EVERY season, no matter WHAT.
I know they say winter is a time of "rest."  I suppose it is. . .for the shrubs and the trees.  For the flowers of our summer months.  But for me?  It's now another season to PLAY in.  

An invitation to dive in to another world outdoors (with more layers, of course) and an even greater appreciation for the warmth of fire, (good mittens, durable long underwear,) and the changing over of life.

(Now just waiting for the snow to fly!!!)






Deeper in to Presence.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

I sat on the hard gym floor, resting my chin in my hands, shifting side to side uncomfortably, trying to find a soft place to land, but failing miserably.
Yet keeping my eyes glued on my 9-year-old, running drills at his first basketball practice.  
The screeching of new shoes on shiny floors and the coaches hearty claps and shouts of encouragement more than enough to keep me distracted from my physical discomfort.
Besides, I have to show up for this one, my youngest. 
He LIVES for my attention.  LOVES for us to see him.
(Which, really, is what we all want, right?  To be seen?)

He's the kid that waves to me from the bus window until I'm out of sight.  The one that kisses me on the cheek and hugs me unapologetically as many times as he can before leaving for the day.  Literally watches and waves to me the whole entire way as he walks in to school after drop-off, until he's entered the building.

Seriously, kill me now.  The sweetness of this little boy.
So shame on me if I don't give him my utmost attention, no matter how mundane the event or how numb my butt cheeks are from sitting in the same spot for too long.
As he struggles for big lay-ups on his little legs, I return his waves and give him big thumbs up for doing his best and trying again.

And for a second I peer down the line of parents sitting alongside me with their backs against the wall, heads down, faces buried in their phones.  No doubt lost in a sea of social media, text messages, never-ending emails, likes, dislikes, comments, emoji's, opinions, facts. . .
"Jesus Christ,"  I think.
Not one person watching their kid.
"What the fuck are we doing here?" I wonder.

In defense of all parents everywhere, elementary-school age basketball "practice" isn't the most thrilling thing to witness.  And clearly I'm only making assumptions about what people are doing on their phones.  I really have no clue.  They could be doing life-saving things on there.  Working.  Organizing schedules.  Texting encouraging words to someone in dire straits.  

After all, I too, had my phone in my right hand, poised and ready to distract when things got to be mind-numblingly boring.  Yes, willing to sacrifice my son's happiness and joy in having an attentive parent that cares about what he's doing.  Simply to look away to peruse my Instagram feed for the 756th time that day.

Why?  What's there that's not here?  
What's more important than where I am right now?
What am I missing in my life that I'm going to find hidden in a little glowing, electronic square? 

I already know the answer.  
Nothing.

Right next to me, was this OTHER mom.  No phone.  No iPad.  
She sat with a BOOK.  READING to her older son.  READING A BOOK.  He was clearly old enough to read, but she just sat and read TO him.  And when he said, "Mom?  Let's stop.  This is boring."  She replied, "Yeah, let's move."  And they got up to shoot hoops together on an open net.  Oh my heaven's, I haven't seen anything like that in. . .forever.  Filling time BEING together versus drowning in a sea of emotions triggered by Facebook rants.

I was in total awe of her.  Going against the grain.  Seemingly not at all appeased by the allure or temptation of the gleam of digital images, the latest news or most recent tweets.  

THAT'S what I want.

I was quickly overcome with complete and utter sadness.  An odd and unexpected heartache and disgust that infiltrated my bones and brought tears swiftly to the surface.  And I looked past her back down the line of parents with their heads bowed, lost in screens and a life separate from what was actually happening in front of them.

I saw myself in each one of them.

"Oh my God.  What am I doing?  What have I missed?"

This isn't the first time I've had this thought or these powerful feelings, but I've been ignoring them.
And then I looked back at the woman, chasing her oldest son up and down the court, laughing, playing, TOTALLY PRESENT to life and what was in front of her.  The most important thing on the planet earth, her child.  Despite what her life might look like outside those gym walls, she was HERE.

And my gaze went back to my son.  My son.  Oh my gosh.  He's 9.  When did he get so big?  So. . .old?  It was like years of blurred vision coming in to incredible focus.  
I see him everyday, but I felt like I was REALLY seeing him.  
And I felt like I hardly knew him even though he is my son.  
He's been growing this whole time?  What else have I missed?
And I started to daydream.

HE was nestled in my hands once.  
Until he was too heavy to hold and before the hard plastic and the cold, rose gold composite took his place.  
He was resting in a cocoon of blankets, fast asleep.  
Tuckered out after a long journey from my belly to his new life outside the womb.
The nurse gave me a wink and a smile as if to say, "I'll leave you two alone."  She turned the lights down low and clicked on a woodwinds CD in the stereo before she left.

I've had some pretty incredible moments in my life, but this has been one of the most beautiful thus far.  The night after he was born I told my husband it was okay to go home and get some sleep and be with the other two.  
It was so quiet in the hospital.  I laid with my baby on my lap facing me, in a sea of blankets and I swear all I did was take turns staring at him and out the window in to the night sky, as he slept.  Only moving to nurse him or move to adjust my legs.  
But TOTALLY PRESENT.
Nothing else to do.  No where else to be.  Nothing to report.  Just doing my job.  Being present in my role as mother.

Until the sun came up, this is what I did.  It was one of the most spiritual experiences I've ever had.  It is the most present I have ever been.  

I KNOW that level of presence is there for the taking, whenever I want it.
And I don't think it's impossible to reclaim after years of conditioning in a world behind screens.
Although social media is an incredible way to connect to others, promote businesses, art and inspire well-being, for me, it has become a hindrance.

I have to now ask myself, 

"Who are you?  Who are you without all of that?
Without all the carefully crafted images?
The well-thought out words?
What can you do with the HOURS.  LITERALLY HOURS of time you'd otherwise spend gawking at the lives of others, rather than living your own?

I have to see.

Get a job?
Cook more healthy dinners for my family?
Learn to slay on guitar?
Write an ACTUAL book?

Something more concrete my children can pull up and read one day?
Who knows?!

I've been feeling this incredible urge to go back to what it was like before iPhone's and Instagram and Facebook.  Gosh, it feels impossible.  But I love walking in to what I see as impossible in my mind and experimenting.

I'm craving simplicity and an even more quiet life of sacredness shared between my family and I.
To go back to basics.  Writing for myself.  For my kids.  Sharing my art but without self-promotion or an agenda.

This will no doubt require some serious self-discipline and have to be made a daily practice.

But my gosh, I know it'll be worth it.

My attention had been brought back.
And there he was.  Racing up and down the court, a smile from ear to ear.  Waving and skipping.

I don't want to miss any more of this.  Almost a decade has passed without my noticing.  And another one will end in a heartbeat.

Seems like reason enough to drop it, huh?

If you'd like to connect or stay in touch, feel free to email me at ewesterhaus@gmail.com.
Or check in here for future writing and photography.
Peace,
Love,
Liz



Fall in to it. . .a bit on Trail Running.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I was running along on my merry way.  Heading down a slight incline on a well-worn trail with my dog at the helm, strapped to my waist by her leash.  
I was smiling internally at the pure joy and bliss of being outdoors alone, with not a care in the world.  No husband.  No kids.  No responsibilities (I pretend) for a brief time.  
Which is what my weekly runs have offered me. . .freedom.
I was enveloped by happy thoughts and the sheer pleasure of running and miles of space to traipse along on two strong legs (despite their aching.) 

And my foot caught on a root I didn't see.  

Normally I can catch myself.  
You know, how when you see someone trip hard over a crack in the sidewalk?  
And they stumble gracelessly forward but recover?  And it's hilarious and embarrassing?
But they somehow, can keep from spilling over?

Yeah.
That didn't happen here.
No.  I flew.
The root held the tips of my toes strongly in its grip before releasing me in to straight horizontal flailings as my dense body dropped hard to the dirt like the compact boulder of a woman I am.  
And, considering I was heading downhill, I ACTUALLY SKIDDED along the dirt, on my face, a few more inches from where I landed, you know, just to reassure me there was no recovering from this fall.
Gravity solidly in control.

Shit.

I had so much air-time that I actually had a minute to think in mid-air, "Wow.  Didn't see that comin'.  This is gonna' hurt," before I hit the ground with a clamoring thud and all the breeze against my face fell silent.

"Mommy?"
Man that hurt.  Ok, I didn't call out for my mom, although I wanted to. 
I wasn't dead.
I wasn't even unconscious.
But I was on my back, in a matter of seconds.  
From frolicking joyously to laid out like an injured rhino.
My sweet pup licking my face and anxiously prancing over, on and around my head, unsure of what happened.
(She doesn't handle distressed humans well.)

As I flipped over on to my back (I was face down, no less,) expansive sky still hovered above.  
"My eyes are still in my head," I thought.
I bent my knees, gingerly.  Nothing was broken, far as I could tell.  And I could still breathe.
Ok, then!

I laughed out loud in the stillness of the woods.  GRATEFUL no one was there to see.
But also feeling clumsy and moronic for continuing to choose to run alone, with only the aid of a cell phone and a fluffy puppy.  (Not very helpful when you're miles in to the woods with no cell service and only four paws to assist you.  

This was nothing, in the grand scheme of things.  Nothing.  Hardly a scrape.
A few weeks ago an elite trail runner, Hillary Allen, fell off a trail on a mountainside in the Tromso Skyrace, sustaining serious injuries.

I thought of her.  
For me?  Just a wake-up call and a bruised ego (both necessary lessons,) and a check to my level of humility to help me to keep going in the right direction towards greater self-awareness, presence and daily gratitude, no matter WHAT I'm doing.  

Wilderness trails and trail running (my newest passion,) have forced me to keep one foot in front of the other.  And pay attention to the moment.  
This sport has awakened something in me that keeps me aware but also in great surrender to all that is.
Humble to my limitations of the day, my powerlessness against nature.
It has helped me to train better.  Run smarter.  Plan the best I can.  And know the only way I can continue to ENJOY ANY of it is by dropping any or ALL expectations I have for myself and be flexible.


It was a hard thing to feel alone in the world for a spell. 
Trapped in my own mind without a way out.

But through the internal work and re-awakening I continue to experience, running has become a moving meditation for me, as it is for many.

I've done the Yoga school thing, spent years "learning" to meditate and trying to "master" the art.  
But the most grounding, humbling, soul-reaching activity for me has been to run.  
To head out, feet first.  
IN to the storm.  
UP the hill.
Slide DOWN the crevasse in to darkness.
Willingly and wholeheartedly.

It continues to teach me to learn to trust my body even when my mind is telling me otherwise.
Most importantly, that our greatest falls, can be our biggest saving grace.
Wake us up to new perspectives and show us things we never would've seen otherwise.


More on trail-running coming up. . .


Just do it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

I DREADED the Presidential Physical Fitness Testing in grade school and junior high.
DREADED it.  I know I'm not the first to admit this.  A lot of kids did.
It was twice a year and I HATED having my level of fitness of the moment called in to question and compared to that of my classmates.  
Thank you Lyndon Johnson.  
I see where you were hoping to go with that, the initial quest for motivating and helping to improve the health and fitness levels of children across the land?
But the annual test, for MOST of us?  Was dreadful.  
And did little to nothing, in propelling or motivating any of us forward in to greater health.
For me, it mostly began and ended with sweat, tears and a more diminished sense of self-esteem than what I began with.

I saw it as another moment of total embarrassment and shame of trying to suck in fat rolls in my flimsy, unforgiving gym shirt and drawstring shorts while striving to achieve unattainable goals.
Touching my toes?  Please.
Flexed arm hang for more than three seconds?  Forget it.

And God, how many times I ripped ass trying to complete the "required" number of sit-ups in a minute.
(That alone, was humiliating enough.)
Needless to say, I never received the Presidential Fitness Award, nor got an A for effort.  I was functioning more at a D- level.

Naturally I did what I could each time the testing rolled around to get out of it.  
Fake illness or injury, proclaim I was not allowed to partake in the fitness festivities because it was against my religion (pretty sure Catholic's can engage in physical activity.)

Like most 13, 14, 15-year-olds, I didn't love and appreciate my body yet nor have ANY desire to push myself past what I perceived to be my absolute physical limits.  (Which included the aforementioned pull-ups, touching my toes, sit-ups and/or running.)  
For years, this was my general attitude towards fitness.  Dread, fear and shame.

Until 8th grade, when I'd had just about enough of myself.  I was tired of running away from these brief and temporary moments of discomfort.  This "running away," I was coming to realize, required and expended more physical and emotional energy from me than the actual exercise events!  
Even when it came to the mile run.  

"Liz!  Why don't you just run the damn thing?  Just try it.  See what happens!"  I told myself.

This little voice, one I hadn't really heard from yet in life, chimed in from somewhere deep inside.
Encouraging me to do something TOTALLY different from what I'd always done.  
Not run FROM but run TO.

"What?!  Hell no!  That's ridiculous!  Why would I do that?!  Run?  Phft!"
I nearly laughed out loud at the urgings of this new part of my conscious mind never tapped in to before.
But when this voice arrives, you'd better listen.

And for whatever reason, for the first time in my life, my urge to do the opposite, was far greater than my fear.

"Fine."  I responded to myself.  "I'll try it."

In mental preparation and to relieve some pressure, I allowed myself the leisure of walking if my legs stopped working or if I could no longer breathe.  Or maybe just running for a few minutes, assessing how I was feeling, and THEN determine if running the whole thing was doable.
But I'd at least TRY to run the WHOLE thing without stopping (my ultimate goal.)

I DOUBLE-knotted those little white Keds that day.
Tied extra SUPER tight the drawstring on my red Umbro's around my belly, to ensure if I DID die or pass out, at least my shorts would stay attached.

When Ms. Dunne's whistle blew, I ran.  (Well, more of a dragging, slow jog.)  
FULL of doubt and fear at what I was about to attempt, yet somehow knowing the only way I'd see what I was capable of, was by simply TRYING.
Not looking ahead, but just putting one foot in front of the other.

I'd never run an ENTIRE mile before without stopping to complain or whine, chat with my friends or gawk at the athletic prowess of my comrades who lapped us slower (less motivated,) kids with undeniable ease and grace.  Jerks.

This quietly became my 8th grade Mt. Everest.  It required all my attention.  A feat never before attempted by me.  And one I didn't think I'd survive, to be honest.

As I rounded the half way point, feeling not too bad nor having yet stopped, I looked up to see my gym teacher off in the distance standing with her stopwatch to clock the super fast track kids effortlessly sprinting through.  And for a second, I looked behind me at the slew of kids I'd passed, doing the thing I'd always done; dragging themselves along, begrudging this day and life itself, fighting the torture that is running, every step of the way.

"Holy shit!  I thought.  "I'm really doing it!  I'm running this thing!"
And I kept slogging along.  "Now all you have to do is finish," I thought.

My feet were killing me (Keds are about as pliable as 2X4's,) my legs were on fire, my lungs had never known physical fitness such as this, but it didn't matter.  I could see the finish!  And I was actually doing it!

I picked up speed as I approached the final stretch.  My gym teachers' mouth (as well as those of the fast track kids,) hung open.  A few kids clapped awkwardly, still unsure if what they were witnessing was real.  Some yelled my name.  Ms. Dunne rubbed both her eyes exaggeratedly with her fists.  Scrubbed at the screen of her stopwatch with the back of her sleeve.

"SORENSON!  WHAT IN THE SAM HELL GOT IN TO YOU?!  WHAT IN THE WORLD?!  DO MINE EYES DECEIVE ME?!"  She bellowed and balked, in total disbelief of what she was seeing.

Sorenson.  Me.  Running the damn mile.

Ms. Dunne was rough around the edges.  A tough-love type of woman that rarely laughed or smiled or allowed good cheer and joy to enter her being, at least publicly.  She was perpetually crabby.  But that day, the hint of a smile appeared across her face, lingered for a second.  

"Well, I'll be damned, Sorenson.  Good work," she snorted as I heaved past the finish line to the click of her stop watch.  "Sorenson?  9:40.  'Atta girl."  She gave me a hard slap on the back and continued her yelling at the slower kids coming in.

And that was it.  I was hooked.  I didn't stop running after that.  
I dove head first in to the sport or running that summer.  

I ran the sidewalks of my city in crap shoes as much as I could, with no real goal other than with the plan to go out for my high school's cross country team in the Fall.
You know, because clearly I was a runner now:)

I was too short to play volleyball (the only other sport I'd really known and enjoyed) and there were no try-outs for cross country, so I was a shoe in.  I couldn't fail or be denied.
  
And I proceeded to be an average runner for the next four years, which I was always okay with.
I grew and developed, not just as an athlete, but as a human, under some of the greatest coaches, alongside the greatest friends and learned to challenge my body and mind every day.

I learned that pain is temporary.  That we ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (if we allow it,) will learn something from it even if it slows us down or halts our steps completely.

I continue to learn we are FAR more capable of anything our minds tell us.  That our minds and thought patterns are just a thin layer of our being and not who we really are and DEFINITELY not the end-all-be-all of how we THINK things are going to go.

What an immense joy it has become to re-immerse myself in a sport that not only, I'm realizing has been a huge part of my upbringing, but naturally moves my body and frees my mind in the beauty of nature.


Stepping on to a new path has reminded me, although exciting and exhilarating, does not ensure ease or grace.  
Often close behind is fear, doubt, and trepidation.

Only from commitment to the process of experience and surrendering and accepting whatever happens on any given day, do these things start to fall away, or become mere background noise to us achieving our dreams or simply enjoying the route along the way.

In my own recent personal journey towards fearless living and greater freedom from the ramblings of my mind, (refer to, well, every post prior to this one,) this re-learning something I've always known continues to launch me in to greater understanding of this human mind and body.  And the idea that discomfort, pain and heartache can be used for good.  It is ALL in service for you.  More on that to come. . .:)









This could kill you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

I walked mostly.  Around the block at first.  My God, I was so damn tired.  And it's not like the tiredness you get from losing a few nights of sleep or the natural tiredness that comes after a crazy-hectic week.  This is like, a bone-weariness that makes you question whether your legs will carry you to the kitchen from the couch.  And it's constant.  Depression is nice like that.  Really slows you down and cramps your active lifestyle:)

But I knew I had to do something.  And I KNEW it was a nervous system that needed a rest from my mind but also gentle movement to keep the blood flowin'.  
I live in a neighborhood that is tucked in to high riverside cliffs, with steep incline's on either end of town and in between.  I had to avoid these.  I didn't think I could get up them.  I was that tired.  But there was a little voice inside that said, "Keep going anyway.  Just do what you can for now.  This is enough."

And I walked.  And walked.  And walked.  Mostly in a few-block radius on flat pavement.  

A renewed love and deeper level of self-compassion for myself was born from that small voice on those simple, daily treks.  A greater level of acceptance for myself on ANY day, no matter how low, unmotivated, ugly, chubby, judgmental, irritated or lost I felt.  Just self-love and acceptance.  I know now without a doubt, this is the place from which all our own personal healing and the WORLD'S healing stems.  We really can't be of any service or good use to others if we're not caring for our own minds and body.

I discovered more about my inner strength and wisdom on that quiet, lonesome trudging along than I EVER could have lost in a sea of cushions in the comfort of my own home.

Until I found myself standing on a small square of concrete on a corner, staring up at a huge hill ahead.
I'd gotten sucked in to a podcast while walking and had meandered downtown without really thinking about where or how far from home I'd wandered.
I've walked this hill countless times before.  Plowing upward pushing two kids in one stroller even, without giving it a second thought. 

But this is what can happen.  When your adrenals have been wrung dry, fear has robbed you of all confidence and memories of what you USED to be able to do don't even matter nor are strong enough to propel you forward.  That is where my mind resided for a time.  Most of my daily thoughts were permeated with the idea that anything I tried to do outside of the norm, would lead to death.  Mostly because of the onslaught of physical symptoms that arrived with any THOUGHT of doing something out of the ordinary.  That's anxiety, folks.  And it's ridiculous.  But EVERYTHING I used to know looked threatening and perilous.  

And according to the response I was getting from my nervous system, you'd have thought I'd just arrived at Base Camp of Everest with a 50 lb. pack attached to my back.  Staring up towards the peak.

"Shit.  I thought.  I don't think I can do it."  I stared up towards the top.  I knew I was being so stupid.  But that's how warped my sense of perception was.  How far I'd strayed from the physically and mentally strong woman I USED to be and thought I was.  

Fortunately for me, there was no way around it.  The only way home was up that hill.  I couldn't turn around and go back the way I came.  It would take me twice as long to get there.  There was no one I felt I could call to come pick me up without being totally ashamed by my having to throw in the towel on an uphill street climb.  After all, I wasn't in a wheelchair.  I had two, totally healthy, working legs.  How the hell would I explain this to anyone?!  "Ah, yeah.  Could you come get me and bring me home?  I just got to this hill and I don't want to walk up it."  I couldn't do that.  


My legs shook, my heart was already racing before I even took a step.  I felt dizzy and nauseous.  I knew I was panicking from the fear of having to face something so big.  What I THOUGHT was so big.  But I knew past all of that, my body was just responding to my thinking.  And that maybe if I could WALK THROUGH it, UP IT, I'd come out the other side eventually?

"This could kill you," I thought.  (And have thought so often since.)  

"This could kill you."  This thing you're about to do.  This thing that is invoking so much fear, doubt, trepidation, reservation, kicking your nervous system in to high gear at the slightest provocation. . .it could kill you.  For sure."  

Like going to the dentist, having to attend a social event, facing someone from your past who brings up a lot of pain, climbing a mountain, going in to a war zone.  The external circumstances vary, but the fear response is all the same. 

"Girl, this could kill you."  (That's what my thoughts told me.  Which I've learned are separate from who we ACTUALLY are.  Thoughts are just words.  Letters of the alphabet.  Whether we think them consciously or they float in to our space subconsciously, they don't have to MEAN anything.  WE give them all the meaning and attention.)

This could kill you. 
But I knew BEYOND that, on a deeper level. . .

IT COULD ALSO BE THE THING THAT SAVES YOU.

It just might be the thing that rescues you from yourself, from the memories and attachments of your past that have held you back.
From the imaginings and projections you've created in your mind of a dreaded future and 
INSTEAD, launches you in to a freedom from your mind, a release from your fearful thinking, like you've never had before.  

It could just do that instead.
And I had to see.

I trudged up that hill certain my heart would explode out of my chest and I'd die before even getting to the top.  "How embarrassing," I thought as I took each step.  On the brink of tears.  "They're going to find me laying in a heap halfway up this hill in these horrific sweatpants.  Un-showered, unshaved, sweaty and killed by panic.  And I'm going to miss my son's baseball game because I tried to walk up a hill.  Tragic."  As I inched forward my vision blurred and adrenaline coursed through my body, tightening my chest and ability to take a full breath.  

But I did something different this time.  I smiled at it all.  Invited it to kill me.  Right there.  "Go on then.  Do it.  Take me.  I'm done fighting you."  This body is not mine to keep anyway.  And these sweatpants?  I'm pretty sure my husband has intentions of burning them at some point too."

There was no anger.  No cursing.  No tensing against.  Complete surrender WHILE moving forward in to the intensity of the feelings.

And that was it.  It dissipated in an instant.  All my nervous systems vanished.  My vision cleared.  My heart rate slowed.  My breathing returned to normal.  I was at the top.  Heaving and panting, but I had arrived.

Once you've faced panic, allowed it to sweep over you, what is left to fear?  When you no longer are afraid of fear OR yourself?  You are free.


I've stared in to the eyes of deep depression.  Held hands with some of the greatest of my fears.  And I've learned most importantly, first hand, that "disruption in our lives always leads to greater freedom, inclusion and complexity," as Rob Bell says.

It's true.  

And after a lot of struggling in my life, I realized this minor "disruption" was going to be my greatest teacher.  

And I welcomed it in more willingly after that.  Hill after hill, climb after climb.  Not only did my physical strength grow but so did my mental strength.  One day I found myself jogging.  I don't even know how it began.  It had been so long. . .years since I'd run a mile even?  The XC and track career of my high school days long since vanished.  My new life had given way to the stress of motherhood, extra weight and too many excuses to count.  I lost interest and FEAR, including the fear of pushing myself too hard, became stronger than any quest towards any greater physical strength.  

But I suddenly found myself running again.  And ENJOYING it.  WITHOUT FEAR!  And hiking for hours on end.  I couldn't believe it.  But also knew the work I put in, in learning to accept myself at my absolute worst, paved the way for me to regain the inner confidence, wisdom and strength that I really could do ANYTHING if I could do it without expectation, ego, let the fear do its thing and just see where it took me.

And it's taken me to new heights of acceptance and understanding that I look forward to sharing. . .stay tuned:)
Living WITH fear. . .it's way more fun. . .