Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Perfection vs Bravery

I listened to the TED Radio Hour episode this weekend entitled "Nudge". As always the show had some extremely thought-provoking TED talk excerpts, but I was especially attracted to a few nuggets of brilliance relating to parenting, and specifically parenting girls. (I'm in particular talking about the sections highlighting Carol Dweck and Reshma Saujani). In her talk about parenting girls, Reshma Saujani talked about how parents often teach girls to be perfect, rather than teaching them to be brave (watch her full TED talk here).

This struck me as particularly interesting because one of my parents impressed on me quite firmly that I should choose one thing, whether it be garbage collecting or astrophysics, and become the very best. While I can appreciate the lofty goals of achievement, dedication, and single-mindedness wrapped up in the pursuit of 'being the best', I think this was an awful message. Why? Well, what my parent failed to mention explicitly, was what it would take to *actually* become the best. Of course as a kid I assumed hard work and perseverance were required, but there was no mention of struggle, of failure, of mistakes, of burnout, of doubt, of fear, or any other realistic bumps in the road. Just 'you should be the best at whatever you choose to do'. Ultimately I feel that it was unhelpful because it set the biggest goal first, 'be the best', instead of an achievable goal, like,' practice diligently for a month'. Not to mention that 'be the best' seemed to convey 'be perfect'. To bring this idea back to running, it's like saying 'win a gold medal in the 5k' to a new runner instead of 'run 20 minutes without stopping'.

But this message from my parent really comes down to semantics. Did my parent mean, "be YOUR best at whatever you choose to do?". Probably, but as a child I didn't necessarily understand the importance of that distinction. Likewise, is setting a loft goal bad? Of course not, but there are so many benchmarks, as well as setbacks, on the way to the lofty goal, that the ultimate goal must be in the back of your mind, not the forefront.

To bring this back to the TED talk about bravery vs. perfection. Perfection is putting too much weight on the end result, while not putting enough weight on trying in the first place (bravery) and then trying some more once you fail (courage and grit).

Monday, June 27, 2016

Patron Saint

Do you have a personal Patron Saint in your life? Someone who is able to guide you, be the voice of reason, support you, and is overall "on your team"? I have a couple of those, and I am grateful for them on a daily basis, because they are very instrumental to my happiness and well-being.

I've also been thinking a lot lately about the opposite, Patron Satans, if you will. These are the people that you feel at odds with. They feel against you. They cause you angst. They may be your biggest source of anger or sadness. They may destroy your self-confidence. They may make you feel crazy. They may make you feel confused and frustrated.

As though to balance out my wonderful Patron Saints, I have a Patron Satan that irks me to my core. Every time I interact with this person I can feel my emotional reactivity rise. I don't feel like myself around them, instead, I feel like the worst version of myself. After almost every interaction I feel like my self-confidence has been drop-kicked to a distant shore.

BUT, I'm calling these people Patron Satans (some may call them arch-nemeses) because they have a 'patron-type' quality despite being huge pain . By that I mean they still guide and inform us, but in a different way than our Patron Saints. They help us clarify our antithesis--who we never want to become. They might also help us notice our greatest weaknesses and biggest struggles, if we can can manage to step out of the emotions and look at the situation halfway objectively.

I feel fairly certain that the 'wisdom' (i.e. lessons learned) from a Patron Satan comes long after they are out of our life, or are at least distanced. I feel this way because I suspect the emotion involved in dealing with my own Patron Satan clouds my judgement and perspective. I try so hard to step outside of my situation to peer back in to see what's really going on. It's so damn hard. The 'wisdom' I hope to glean from it all is like a jumbled up puzzle. I can't even find all the corner pieces right now, let alone see the final image.

Intellectually, I know that interacting with my Patron Satan is an opportunity, and that if I can *embrace* the challenge, then there will be growth. Perhaps I can even transform the relationship so that they become just another person. My Patron Satan is here to teach me the ugly lessons (or so I tell myself), lessons that my Patron Saints can only help guide me through.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What are you totally obsessed with right now?

This is the blog post where I pretend for a hot second that I am being interviewed by the one and only real talk guru Nicole Antoinette. If you have not already discovered her gritty and down-to-business long form podcast called Real Talk Radio, go take a listen! If you're a big enough fangirl/fanboy, then you can support her podcasting endeavors through Patreon (link is on her podcast page).

Just for funsies, I'm answering a conglomeration of the questions that she likes to ask her guests, most of which are pulled from her  "community questions". These questions were dreamed up by her listeners, then hand picked by Nicole to include in her podcasts.

So here is a glimpse of what it would be like if I were on Real Talk Radio!

Q1. What are you totally obsessed with right now?
A1: The 4 hr work week by Tim Ferriss. Although I cannot execute his recommended plan as a grad student (aka indentured servant), I LOVE all his thoughts on effectiveness vs. efficiency, how to manage your work affairs (e.g. do not check e-mail before 11 am), and his guidelines for creating "dreamlines". I'm a total sucker for this kind of book!

Q2: One habit that you would love to break, or one habit that you would love to build?
A2: Right now I'm am trying my best to build a meditation habit. I'm getting help from two different iphone apps, Breathe and Headspace. I'm not sure which one I like better quite yet, so I'll keep using both of them for a while. I'm trying to do a short meditation (3-10 mins) both morning and night.

Q3: What does self care look like for you?
A3: Respecting my bedtime and the time around my bedtime. I am a SUPER light sleeper and have always had sleep issues. When I am intentional about my bedtime habits, I can somewhat improve my sleep.

Q4: Who are your favorite 2-3 people to follow on social media?
A4: Oooo, this is a tough one, but I have some clear favorites! I'm a big fan of instagram,  so I'm going to stick to that platform for this answer. I love @pumpkintheraccoon. If you haven't seen this already, you're welcome. I also love @gymnasticbodies. Damn, the human body can do amazing things! So inspiring.

Q5: When you look ahead at the next couple of months, what are you most excited about?
A5: I suppose I am most excited about prospect of feeling fit and strong again. I've been in such a slump for so long, and I feel like I'm finally taking the actions to dig myself out of the hole. I'm also traveling to the west coast to see my family this summer--excited to see some real mountains!

Q6: What is one thing in your life that is no longer serving you that you need to let go of?
A6: This is a tough one. This answer might fall under the label of habit breaking, but I would say my attachment to my phone. I know I spend >1hr/day doing totally mindless phone browsing. While I love parts of it (e.g. selecting my insta filter), I know that I use it as a crutch at times. So maybe the answer to this is really 'phone time where I am purposefully avoiding something else'.

Q7: Which 2-3 books have had the biggest influence on you?
A7: The book Quiet by Susan Cain is one easy one. I talked about this in a blog post earlier this week. Amazing book. My other top books are Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, which I feel like is cliché to say, but I read it a couple years ago, before all the hype. I also love this book called Meditation by Eknath Easwaran. He does an amazing job explaining the benefits of mediation, how to do it, and he tells great stories along the way. I've read it several times.

Q8: What is your guilty pleasure?
A8: LA CROIX!!! I love the coconut and passion fruit flavors!!!

Q9: What's your favorite thing to give as a gift?
A9: Handmade jewelry. Either from a local studio, Etsy, or made by me.

And that's a wrap! Readers, I would love to read a similar blog post from YOU!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

My favorite summer smoothie

Hot, hot, hot weather is creeping in, so my Vitamix is commensurately getting more and more use! I thought I'd share my current summer smoothie obsession with ya'll. It is divine! It has a nice tang thanks to the kefir, and unlike a lot of smoothie recipes, there isn't an absurd amount of sugar. Likewise, there is a nice balance of overall nutrients with the fat from the coconut cream and protein in the Osmo protein.

Ingredients (shown above):

~3/4- 1 Cup TJ's low far Kefir (Hellooooo cultures!)
1/4 Cup TJ's coconut cream
1 Scoop Osmo Protein for women, Honey and Spice flavor (Use other powders at your own risk!)
1 Cup frozen blueberries
Optional: a dash of some other sort of milk (almond, soy, whatever) depending on what smoothie thickness you prefer.

For best blending results, order your ingredients in your blender as follows: Kefir, (optional milk), coconut cream, protein powder, frozen blueberries. Blend until sufficiently pulverized! Although the smoothie is immediately cold from the frozen blueberries, I usually make this in the morning and refrigerate it until lunch time so it's extra cold.


Please share with me YOUR current fav summer smoothie recipes! I'm always looking for new ideas!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Birdcamp (and why I don't want to go)

I'm sure that all 6 of you reading this blog know that I run for Oiselle, and have for 7 (!!) years now. But I didn't go to birdcamp this year, and I haven't gone in the past. For many ladies, birdcamp is the pinnacle #runfamily experience, and many pinch pennies and bargain with their families to be able to go. I am reflecting today on why birdcamp is not for me, and probably won't ever be for me.

One word sums up why I have not wanted to go to birdcamp: Introvert. The idea of spending several days doing non-stop social activities with a big group of people (albeit a fun group of runners) sounds slightly nightmarish to me! In the past, I may have felt more pressure to go just because everyone else was going. But I know better now, thanks in part to the book Quiet -- The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain. I read this book a couple years ago and it was a game-changer. I used to think that I was just fiercely independent, and that's why I needed so much time to myself. While I definitely have an independent streak, I also crave silence and alone-ness. Note: I didn't say 'lonliness", alone does not equal lonely! In a world that rewards and encourages extroversion, it is easy to feel "not enough" as an introvert. But ultimately, when I embrace my true self (introvert), I am happier, healthier, more creative, and probably a lot nicer (haha).
That is why, my friends, I will probably steer clear of birdcamp indefinitely. While I'm sure some introverts have gone and had a great time, it's just not for me, and I'm not afraid to admit it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Confession: I started doing something that if you asked me 3-5 years ago if I'd ever even *consider* doing it, I would've scoff and said, "No way! I can't do that and run seriously at the same time!".  Well, newsflash, I don't anticipate seriously training for the remainder of 2016.

So, at the encouragement of one of my best friends and Groupon, I decided to jump into Crossfit. I know, I know. It's a divisive thing. Either you're saying to yourself, "Hell yeah! Get it girl!" or you're absolutely appalled. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

But if I'm honest with myself I've been MAJORLY slacking in the strength training department for a long time. I feel noticeably weaker these days, and I wasn't super strong to begin with. I've always wanted to be able to lift heavier and explore that aspect of fitness (Will it improve my running? Will I feel fitter? Will my muscles get bulky?). Crossfit is filling that void for me right now, and it's fun! Since I'm in the beginner phase (like, so bad at everything) I can see improvements every time I go.

Now a question from all you runners out there that have dabbled in both running and Crossfit-like activities. Did it help your running at all? Did your speed improve? Any unanticipated consequences of mixing the two together? Any surprises? DO TELL!

Monday, June 20, 2016


One of my favorite parts of yoga at my studio is the moment where we all set an intention for class. All of our eyes are closed. We are all breathing deeply. Since I usually take evening classes (read: wound up from work), I end up with a lot of calming intentions: "patience" "acceptance" "peace" "balance" and the like. But sometimes they are more like a call to action: "focus" "strength" "fluidity".

What I like about the practice of setting an intention is that my intuition (?) steps up and takes the wheel and tells me what's really up. Somewhere inside I automatically know what I need in the moment for myself.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mental chewing gum -- 3 flavors

Those of you know me IRL know that I spend a lot of time at a microscope for work (#nerdalert). Lucky for me (??) my microscope work is fairly tedious a relatively mindless, so I can consume A LOT of media during this time. Although I could listen to books on tape, I have gotten into a podcast habit that I have no intention of breaking. I prefer podcasts that are like mental chewing gum, by that I mean ones that I mull over even when I'm not at the scope. I gnaw on them all day.  

Here are my current favorite 'flavors':

1. I LOVE RunningonOm! I'm even one of her Patreon supporters now (read: major #fangirl). She does long form conversations and my favorite episodes are often those featuring Lauren Fleshman and Nicole Antoinette

2. Do you miss having a podcast like the first season of Serial? The fine folks at Reply All just finished a mini Serial-like podcast series called 'On the Inside'. Be sure to start with Part 1! It digs into another fascinating murder case...I won't say any more, go listen! 

3. Although not all the The Tim Ferriss Show podcast material is of interest to me, I am a total sucker for all things relating to habits, productivity, and the creative process. Most episodes are long form (some are 3 hours!!), which is awesome, but it's a bad sign when I make it through a long one and I'm still at the scope...ha!



Saturday, June 4, 2016

On feeling fit

We all know there are many kinds of fitness. however the majority of people reading this likely think about distance running (endurance). To feel fit in disparate realms of sport simultaneously is essentially impossible, which I find both maddening and fascinating.

Every time I go to yoga I remember that 'yoga fit' (flexibility and strength) is vastly different than what I've trained my body for in the last many years. I try to remember this as everyone stretches past me, twists deeper, and holds for longer. I try to keep my eyes on my own mat. But it's hard not to feel "unfit" in the moment, when I am the biggest beginner and my other athletic strengths are not apparent (except perhaps when we are asked to hold a lunge for an extended period of time). 

What makes this feeling hard isn't the fact that I feel unfit in yoga, it's that I feel unfit in everything right now. Running, which was my shiny athletic gem (although gem makes it sound like I was exceptional. Perhaps 'crystal' or ,'stone' would be more accurate) is dull and dusty. But so is everything else. I'm not proficient in anything, thus mediocre in everything. As a type-A neurotic this feels unacceptable.  But, like a gem, my running can be polished into a state of "beauty" once again. Likewise, my yoga crystal has been unearthed for the first time, and it can become translucent and glowing with time given enough practice and dedication.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The tack hammer parable

I don't actually know the official "name" of this parable, or where it originated from, or if I have the story right. All I know is that I learned it from my Dad who learned it from his Dad and it made an impression on me as a young child. The rock shown above was given to me by my grandfather and is a physical reminder of this story.
Two miners are tasked with the challenge of building a tunnel through a section of rock, and they are given the option of two tools. The first option is the mighty sledge hammer, and the second option is a modest tack hammer. The first miner strides up and confidently takes the sledge hammer, proclaiming that the strength and power of the sledge hammer will surely break through the rock faster than the puny tack hammer. The second miner walks up and looks down thoughtfully at both hammers, and gingerly takes the tack hammer. The following day they begin digging their respective tunnels. The man with the sledge hammer vigorously strikes the rock, becoming winded quickly and taking breaks frequently.  The other man chips away at the rock with his tack hammer steadily all day. As night falls and the first miner gives up for the day, exhausted and sore, claiming that tomorrow will be more fruitful. The second miner feels indefatigable, and diligently tacks away through the night, slowly but surely tunneling through the stone. By the end of the week the first miner has made progress, but plagued by blisters and fatigue, has not finished. The second miner, although tired from his consistent effort, has broken through the mass of rock, thus the victor in the challenge. 

Is there an area of your life where you are using a sledge hammer where a tack hammer would better serve you?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Small steps

We all know a cliché quote or five that I could put here. I'll spare you the sap. What I really want to talk about is the celebration of small steps in the right direction. Of course we all want the big breakthroughs, dramatic improvement, and over night successes. And we also all KNOW that the world doesn't work that way. In the day-to-day tedium of completing a big goal, whether it be injury recovery, honing a skill, or perhaps just making it through the week, there is value in acknowledging the small wins. Here are some from my day:

"I got out the door to run."

"I didn't get in a car wreck despite someone swerving dangerously on the highway."

"I finished all my lab work (and results look decent)."

"My hamstring didn't scream bloody murder during yoga."

"I packed some boxes."

(I live a thrilling life, I know.)

But really, some of these small steps felt like big steps because of mental resistance or the fact that they haven't happened for the last few weeks but did happen today. I am trying to hold these small wins in my mind to help me through more small steps tomorrow. Without a little celebration each day, the bigger goal seems way too big.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Season change

We are approaching that time in the year where sweat is easy to come by, as are sunburns and chaffing. But that's not the season I'm talking about. I'm talking about a season of my life. I have been a "RUNNER" for many years now. It's been an integral part of my identity, my social life, my stress relief, and competitive outlet. But I need to face the facts. The facts are telling me that I cannot compete at the level that I wish to compete (lookin' at you hammy). The facts are telling me that my motivation has been spotty over the past 1.5 years. The facts are telling me that I'm in grad school and sometimes training stress and grad school stress are too much for me to handle at once.

What does this all mean? It means that I'm temporarily moving out of a "Running Season" where I live and breath running, and into a new season which I will call "New Moon", because that sounds like a blank slate to me. I'm trying my best to embrace New Moon, but is a major challenge for me to let go of my tight grip on "RUNNER". I'm trying to be a beginner and experiment with different types of exercise (like hot yoga), and I'm trying to figure out how to make my body and mind feel as good as running used to make me feel.  I need to do *something* while I work through this injury (and finish grad school for that matter).

Honestly, this New Moon season feels awful right now. I don't feel fit, strong, or capable like I used to while running 50+ miles per week. But I imagine any time anyone completely mixes up their exercise routine, there is a period of clumsy discomfort while the body catches up. I also feel as though I am still processing the intense work-related stress that engulfed the entirety of 2015. Yeah, yeah, I know it's June. It was a bad year.

So, here's to embracing New Moon and accepting that "RUNNER" just can't be front and center right now. Do I need to wave around some burning sage to seal this or what?