What Running Taught Me About Body Positivity… It’s All In the Mind

The prompt for National Running Day was “I run to _____.” I actually just had a little wave of anxiety as I typed, thinking about sharing the reasons that I run. The reasons are deeply personal, however publicly I talk about running. Personal, and innumerable, so maybe I’ll try to distill it all down to one basic idea. I run to connect my body to my soul.

I grew up an incredibly confident girl on the inside, with incredible self-loathing for her outsides. I hated my body. Hate is a strong word. Not strong enough. I developed at a young age in all the wrong ways according to a hormonal pre-teen. Big butt, thick thighs, flat chest. Boys didn’t like me, girls didn’t relate to me. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t skinny. I wasn’t necessarily fat either. I was the word I’ve come to hate more than almost any in the English language – chubby. I was chubby. And it’s not cool to be chubby as a kid.

So I grew up hating my outsides and wishing for new ones, while simultaneously loving life, being social, feeling creative and insightful, and in general enjoying the human soul that was developing as Becky Sigl. I was very conscious of this strange dichotomy. How could I be so confident and so insecure at the same time? Mind-body disconnect. You’ve all felt it.

Along came running. I began running as early as 6th grade but didn’t stick with it in earnest until my college years. During that time I felt more pressure than ever to somehow achieve the body that I THOUGHT would match my awesome inside self (don’t believe everything you think). Safe in my college incubation bubble, I knew that once thrust into the “real world” the clock began. It’s tough for women in Hollywood and if you don’t jump in the Hollywood Double Dutch game when you’re a kid, then you better be ready again when you’re a young twenty-something still young enough to play high school and college. If you miss THAT turnoff and you’re not “smokin’ hot” or super charactery then you may as well wait around until you’re old enough to play the Mom. I realize I sound very cynical and no one is obligated to subscribe to these silly rules. You can pave your own way and you should! But the pressure. It’s brutal.

So there I was, 21, getting ready for the real world, and I thought to myself constantly “I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” The only time I didn’t think these thoughts was on the running trail. Interesting. I didn’t all of a sudden feel satisfied with my body. I just didn’t give a crap. I was running.

Along comes the real world and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t magically transform into a 5’10” lithe supermodel or a cute little pixie girl in a size zero. Huh. Go figure. The real world arrived nonetheless and I started to realize how much I truly disliked this game of Hollywood Double Dutch. But I thought I’d still play anyway. I’d still attempt to achieve a body that would match my awesome, spunky, confident, inner self – still repeating the mantra “I have to lose weight” – I started running more consistently.

A funny and unexpected thing happened. I fell in love with my body. The body that in the past 10 years has run 13 half marathons, one marathon, and 2,000 miles to Tahiti. That body. The body that is actually 15 pounds HEAVIER than it was 10 years ago when I started running to lose weight! I love that body. I love it so fiercely. Sure I get a little itchy when I feel a few pounds of new jiggle after the holidays or if I haven’t run for awhile, but I still love the jiggle, however unwelcome. I love it deeply because I’m grateful for it. I know what it can do.

In college I took a philosophy course that focused heavily on the ideas of Iris Murdoch. One of our textbooks was “The Sovereignty of Good.” (I highly recommend it). It is the act of focusing on the Good – art, service, love – that effectuates transcendence. This focusing and taking action lures us outside ourselves. You can’t simply try to be grateful as effectively as when you focus on giving to others which results in a sense of gratitude. You can’t try to understand humanity as well as seeing a great play – the pathos of which evokes an understanding of humanity as a result. A focus on good things brings about Good. The actions make us Good. It’s not so easy to be good for Goodness’ sake. Someone alert Santa.

I couldn’t try to love my body in a vacuum. I just couldn’t. I did try. Hard! I simply did not love it. 10 years of running consistently – focusing my mind on something healthy and active instead of the outcome on my appearance – changed me. It works this way in acting. You want to get out of your own head? Focus on your scene partner. What are you doing to him? Do it. Voila! No more in your head. So too with body positivity as it turns out. You want to love your body? Focus on doing things with it. Be active. Put your body to work. You’ll discover that it’s Good, EXACTLY as it is.

I started running because my 6th grade teacher told me to. I stuck with it in high school and college to try and lose weight, when I suddenly realized it had this potent by-product of making me feel sane. I keep running today not to love my body, but because I love my body. Running, as it turns out, is the bridge between my sparkly, glitter-spackled, spunky, soulful, introspective, confident, awesome, self and the physical vessel I was given to get through life – my body. You get one boat to sail the ocean. Don’t scuttle it. Name it. Take care of it. Decorate it. Love it. Have fun sailing.
I run to connect my soul to my body. I run because it’s spiritual. I run because it’s physical. I run to get out of my head. I run to focus on the Good.

Why do you run?

sparkly self

Little Facts That Make Me

Do you ever stop and think about all of the tiny idiosyncrasies that make us who we are? It’s pretty extraordinary. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing more fiction lately and character development is top of my mind, but lately these funny little Becky-isms have strongly come into focus. The last play at Theatre of NOTE, Niagara Falls, (one of my all-time faves) was largely about identity. There was a part at the end of the play where one of the characters remembers who she is suddenly and she’s overwhelmed by little details, like her enjoyment of eating grapes in the grocery store. I love that. It’s really the little oddities that make us. I thought perhaps I’d make a similar list, if nothing else but for posterity. If ever I need to recall myself, this should help:

I like walking down the street reading a book.

I hate driving behind buses. Not just because they stop all the time, but it’s so hard to see and feels claustrophobic.

I love sunrises more than sunsets but hate getting up early despite how much I love the morning-time so I’ve learned to love sunsets even though the moment right after makes me very blue.

I love peeling clementines. The way the peel comes off so easily, it’s like opening a present.

I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it aired but this year I discovered it and now I’m kind of obsessed. I really really really want to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I tend to be a somewhat messy person when it comes to housekeeping but I’m very anal about crumbs on the table in restaurants. I will clean up all of the crumbs. Servers love me.

Once I was sitting on a bench reading in the McKinley Park Rose Garden in Sacramento, and two photography students asked if they could take my picture because I looked somehow romantic. That still may be the best compliment I’ve ever received. Wish I had that picture.

I have a very true and serious dislike for speaking on the telephone. It’s probably cost me friends over the years but honestly the thought of it makes my skin itch. Nothing to do with the person I want/need/should speak to. It’s a fear of the medium itself. I think it’s an introvert thing, which brings me to…

I’m a massive introvert. I don’t think people believe me when I say that because I’m generally gregarious and not horrible at speaking in front of large groups of people. I am though. I go inward, not outward. I think you can tell what you are by getting stoned. I don’t smoke pot anymore but when I did, if I smoked too much, I literally lost the ability to speak. My mind would go so inward that I’d lose the function of speaking to other humans, animals, or even inanimate objects. I think if you smoke pot and go outward, getting super chatty and interactive, then you know you’re an extrovert. So yeah, the marijuana test will tell you which way your mind is pointed. You heard it here first.

When I first started dating my now husband, within two weeks I knew I would marry him. I remember sitting in the car after a date and he paused in the middle of a sentence. I had no idea what he was going to say but the lead-up sounded like a question and then he paused. I remember repeating over and over in my head “ask me to marry you, ask me to marry you, ask me to marry you.” It’s like I couldn’t control it. A chorus in my brain. The rational half of me thought later “What are you nuts? You’ve been dating for two weeks!” My heart was just screaming it though. It only took five years after that to get engaged. The rational part of me is in fact very strong, but the heart wins.

My wedding day truly was the happiest day of my life. The cliche is true.

I don’t like shoes with bows on them unless the bow is big and silky or hard and sparkly.

I love horror movies to a level you could describe as addiction. I can’t get enough. There aren’t enough great horror movies in the world to satiate my need. Make horror movies! I’ll watch them!

When I was in first grade I won a writing contest at my school and was chosen to read my story in front of the entire student body. I remember exactly what the story was about but have since lost the text. My dream is to rewrite that story and have it published, but I’m scared.

I love being a blonde. When I finally started highlighting my hair blonde I felt like I discovered an important part of my identity. Hair holds a lot of power.

The other hair color that I feel may be part of my true identity is red. I’ve always wanted to be a redhead, but I made the mistake once of telling Brad that I’d heard a statistic on Stuff You Should Know that women who dye their hair red often want to cheat on their significant others, so now I can never dye my hair red for fear he’ll misinterpret my motivation. Oh bother. Beware the information you share.

I love good bluegrass almost as much as I love horror movies. Especially when they play at farmer’s markets on Sundays. Bluegrass bands, not horror movies. Though that would be interesting.

I love westerns almost as much as I love bluegrass and horror movies. If someone could please make a horror film set in the wild west with a bluegrass soundtrack, that would be my favorite movie.

Our wedding had a Victorian Western theme. Because I love it to so much. My husband looks hot with a pocket watch and a cravat.

Although I love Victorian and Western aesthetics, I haven’t adopted the steampunk look. Perhaps because that veers into nerd culture, and I don’t feel a part of that.

In my heart I feel like a mermaid, but I get horribly seasick. It’s tragic. So really I’m more like a fairy. I belong in the woods. Hmm, a fairy who wishes she were a mermaid perhaps. Interesting story.

I love The Beatles in a way that’s hard to talk about.

I swear that I remember when Princess Diana married Prince Charles, even though I wasn’t born yet. This makes me consider reincarnation.

I was a vegetarian for 12 years, and although I’ve started to eat a bit of meat (free-range, humane as possible), I have the heart of a vegetarian and I miss identifying as one. I mourn my lost vegetarianism, but the occasional steaks and turkey sandwiches are delicious.

I can be really dumb sometimes, and really smart others. I’m just as surprised as anyone when one or the other strikes me.

I wish I could download a better vocabulary into my brain. Having more words is like having more colors on your palette. But my palette is my brain and it’s terrible at remembering.

I love naming things. I love names. When I backpacked through Europe I collected rocks from every country I visited and I named them all. The rocks. Mostly I gave them Euro-centric names like Octavius and Bernard. I even named the shag rug I bought from IKEA for my freshman college dorm room. His name was Rupert.

I love quotes more than I love names, but sometimes I’m sad that I love quotes so much because the truth is I love them because I feel like everyone else can say what I’m feeling better than I can, and then I realize that my love of quotes is a response to my insecurities as a writer.

I think too much.

When it comes to color I’m like a moth to flame. I have very strong emotional reactions to different colors. I could spend hours in an art supplies store, paint swatch section of Home Depot, makeup and nail polish aisles just staring and loving all the different colors.

I organize my clothes hanging in the closet by the colors of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. It makes sense to me.

I think that’s enough for now. This will be an ongoing list. Hopefully by exercising this desire to document my personal idiosyncrasies, I’ll get better at making them up for the characters I create. Like the blonde rainbow fairy who lives at the top of Temescal Canyon, looking out at the sea wishing she were a red-headed mermaid. Hey, start with what you know, right?

If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear some facts that make YOU. Please share!

What Running a Marathon Taught Me About Coping

Yesterday I had a panic attack. My heart raced. I broke into a sweat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. The attack hit me out of nowhere. Pretty sure I actually muttered to myself “Oh my, what’s this? What’s happening to me?”

It’s not that I’ve never had a panic attack before. I’m all too familiar with the phenomenon. It’s just that for me they are almost always preceded by some direct and identifiable psychological turmoil, but lately I’ve been y’know, happy. I suppose I could connect the dots. Stressful week at work? An unfamiliar feeling of optimistic ambition relating to my writing career? (I’ve never been so pro-active about a personal goal and while it’s all very exciting, there’s a scared little girl inside me no doubt trying to shake me up out of fear of failure.) Ongoing family crisis? (Which is currently a sleeping dragon but I’m waiting for it to wake up again.) Maybe I just let my blood sugar get too low. There are truly any number of things that could trigger an anxiety attack but none of them have been front line lately so it surprised me to experience a physical manifestation of the fears. Whatever the reason, panic took hold.

I’ve never been great about dealing with these pesky attacks. I suppose that by definition they encroach your senses beyond reason, so an inability to deal sensibly is kind of the point. This has always been inconvenient as it’s forced me to rely on the support of others to get by. I’d call my mom or my step-dad and they’d talk me off the edge. These days my husband fills the role nicely, holding me and loving me until even the panic feels cozy and at home. While it’s crucial  to have people in your life who can save you in a crisis, self-reliance is something for which I always strive.

And that’s where the marathon enters the picture.

Running the Walt Disney World Marathon left me with innumerable life lessons, but perhaps the lesson that surprised me the most was a deepening of the phrase “it gets better.” Sometime around mile 14 things got really hard, and I thought to myself “Oh crap, if it’s this hard now how am I going to survive 12 more miles?” The logic being that an increase in distance should correlate to an increase in fatigue and thus difficulty. Logically speaking running a marathon would look something like this:

Marathon HillIt makes sense right? The longer you run the harder it gets? See, though, here’s the thing about endurance running. It doesn’t really make sense. Does it make sense to train for four straight months at the expense of a clean house, social life, and free time? Not really. Does it make sense to pay $200 to do something you could theoretically do on your own for free? Not really. Does it make sense to voluntarily put yourself in pain or at the very least extreme discomfort for 4-6 hours straight? Definitely not. Nothing about marathon running makes sense, including the experience of running it.

So there I am at mile 14, incredibly concerned that if it’s this hard now I simply won’t be able to finish. A funny thing happened. I just kept running, and it got better. It gets better.

Then it got hard again, and better, and really hard, then easy, then impossible, then doable, then great, then transcendent, then I finished. So running a marathon actually looks more like this:

Marathon realnessHow can mile 20 be easier than mile 14? And what kind of sense does it make for mile 5 to be harder than mile 25? No sense at all. That’s long-distance running for you. Reason #673 why running is a giant metaphor for life. It does get better. But then it gets hard again.

The It Gets Better campaign is beautiful, and important. In the darkest hour we all need someone to look in our eyes and promise that it DOES get better. It does. But let’s talk realness for a sec. It will probably get hard again. Really hard. And then it will get better. Undoubtedly. Life is not a long walk up hill. It’s a marathon. It’s the high school mile being harder than the college mile. It’s the quarter-life mile being harder than the thirty-something mile. It’s the family mile being easier than the work mile and oh, wait a minute, now the family mile is the hardest yet. Each challenge paid off with a nice stretch of joy. The joy inevitably followed by a new challenge. Somewhere there is a finish line that makes it all worth it.

Even once we’ve finished the marathon, we’ll probably do another one. We’ll get right back on the course of ups and downs. Extreme highs and lows. We’ll cope. Because it doesn’t make sense, a marathon or life. The one thing you can count on is that it will change, and for better or worse you’ll be wiser once you’ve endured.

I highly recommend running a marathon to exercise this radical unpredictability of life. It’s cathartic. Years of emotional ups and downs will be condensed for you into a 5 hour physical metaphor that you can take with you into the big, bad, beautiful, chaotic world. You will know in your muscles and bones what it feels like to cope, to endure, and to be rewarded with a strange sort of peace. (Which you will forever project onto the medal they hand you at the finish line. You will cherish that cheaply made trinket endlessly. God help the poor soul who ever tries to take my bling away!)

Last night I’m lying in bed, my husband sleeping peacefully next to me. I’m fitful, fighting the remains of this pesky panic attack. My insides feel dark blue, my thoughts are glum, my breath is shallow. I read. I watch TV. I try to breathe in calm and exhale chaos. It’s not really working. I’m in it, a tough mile. But I think back to the marathon. I think about how mile 25 was easier than mile 5. Suddenly I feel, not calm, but confident. It will get better. I will also have another panic attack someday. I will cope.

Now it’s tomorrow. You know what? This mile feels great. It’s a beautiful day with no panic in sight. It got better. For now. And that’s enough to keep me running.

Mile 25. On top of the world.

Mile 25. On top of the world.

Patience, not-so-young Grasshopper

I’m too impatient to think of a clever way to begin this post. Gah! So impatient! The cat is out of the bag. I’m impatient. It’s a toxic state of mind. The overwhelming desire to have something extraordinary happen overnight often thwarts the possibility of that extraordinary something happening over time. This is why it’s essential to enjoy and take meaning from the journey. Not because it’s so wise, because it’s 95% of the process. You may as well enjoy it. You can’t drive from California to New York overnight, so if you don’t find pleasure in staring out your window at the Oklahoma prairie or Missouri’s rolling hills, it’s going to be a long and painful drive. Learn to savor the journey; something I’m discovering about my endeavors as a children’s book author.

Earlier this year I actually, truly, really, actively, once-and-for-all began taking steps toward becoming a published children’s picture book author. I’d dreamed of such a thing since I was 6 years old, but other than a library of ideas messily cataloged in my brain I’d never pursued it. All that changed with the new year. Knowing NOTHING about the publishing industry I began with as rudimentary a step as possible. I bought Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. Hello, dummy. *Proudly points to self*

Not even knowing how to format a manuscript properly, I needed the basics. It’s actually quite a good book. I recommend it for publishing preschoolers like me.

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I read this book. I joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I launched a personal website. I finished my first manuscript. I researched publishing houses accepting unsolicited material. I wrote a cover letter. I signed up for my first conference. I’m ready now! Do you hear me universe! I’m ready, so can this happen now? Oh universe, I know YOU waited patiently for 30 years for me to accept this as my life’s calling, but now that I’m ready let’s do this thing.

I don’t know if writing for children has led me to think like a child, but I am impatient with a capital I. Impatient. IMpatient.

So what has led to this impatience? Well I’ll tell you. Obstacles. There are numerous itchy realities that have put a little bee in my bonnet since I started actively writing. Here are the discouraging things I’ve learned since I’ve gotten myself in the game.

On average it takes 3-6 months for a publisher to respond to your manuscript submission. Most responses will be a rejection.

Many publishers require an exclusive submission so while you’re waiting SIX MONTHS for them to read your three page manuscript you can’t really even submit it to anyone else. This isn’t always the case but SOMETIMES. SOMETIMES!

If and when a publisher wants to buy your manuscript, which you can almost guarantee won’t happen with the first submission, it will then take 18+ months (at least) for your book to be paired with an illustrator, art directed, produced, and published. It can and does take years.

Once your beautiful book baby is born and there you are on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, unless you’re among the incredibly rare breed of New York Times bestselling picture book authors, your book will probably go out of print in 2 years and you’ll net maybe $5,000 of royalties once you make back your advance. It will most likely be 10-15 years before you’ve published enough books to quit your day job and write full time.

So here I am, eager as a little beaver for my life to begin, and all I see are obstacles and “Turn Back Now” signs. I’m not old, but I’m not young either. I’m considering children in a few years. I’d like to start saving for a home, and for kid’s education, and for retirement. I want my life to begin NOW. Now, do you hear me universe? I’m ready! Do I really have to wait years for my three-page manuscript to make it to bookshelves, if it ever makes it at all? There are no guarantees. This could all be for naught. I could be a hack. I could be delusional. I can’t wait years to find that out.

I’m realizing I’m at this point in the story:

leap-of-faith

There are many things I don’t know but I’m fairly certain of one thing. For the first time in my life I feel that I’m on the right path. I’ve started my journey down that path feeling prepared and enthused, only to now come across a chasm of unknowns, of long periods of waiting, of inconveniences and obstacles. There are signs that say “Wait here for 6 months, then proceed… maybe,” and others that read “Please pay $500 to advance,” while still others read “Congrats, you’ve earned $5,000! Now make that last for three years!”

A famous actor can indeed make millions. As can a famous author. However the majority of actors are not famous. They work. They struggle. They hustle to make $2,000 for one week on a show they don’t even really like that much and pray they’ll make enough money in their careers for health insurance and maybe a pension. It’s hard. For most, it’s very hard, so if you don’t love it, if Jiminy Cricket isn’t whispering in your ear, “Yes, this is right,” then maybe don’t do it.

Who knew writing would be just as challenging? Well, probably everyone who ever tried to be a writer, but hey I’m new at this. The difference now is Jiminy Cricket is talking to me. I’m starting to sound a little crazy but you know what I mean. It’s there! Some sort of warm omniscient speaking heart telling me that it will all be worth it somehow. This is my story. This is my path.

Okay. I accept. I will wait. I will make the leap. I will stay on the path no matter how hairy it gets. I will employ patience by enjoying the view from the window of this moving train. And while I wait, I’ll keep writing. I’ll see what I see out the window and it will inspire me and I’ll write it down. Even if I’m never published and they line my coffin with rejection letters from Random House, someone will one day clean out my desk and they’ll find what I wrote and they’ll say “Hey, look what she did.”

Hey, look what I did. Look what I’m doing. All you need is patience, young grasshopper.

Or should I say… cricket.

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Marriage… House… Kids

As a mildly angst-riddled teenager I loved movies like American Beauty and Ordinary People that deconstructed the so-called American Dream and exposed it for what it really is, which I believed to be a false security blanket we hide under to escape our failures in achieving our true bohemian passions and desires. I can’t be the only teenage artiste who felt destined to transcend society’s expectations. Following the blueprint of marriage > house > kids seemed like a cop-out. Sentiments spoken like a true angst-riddled teenager.

This weird thing happens as you get older, which my mother of course told me would happen as I’d get older but I didn’t believe her. Your perspective changes. I would crow to her that I’m too different, too unique, to do something as prosaic as have children by the time I’m 33. No no no. I’m an artiste. I have dreams first. Then suddenly you turn 30 and you really do care less about being the world’s most fabulous actress, not because you doubt yourself any more or less. It just doesn’t seem to matter as much any more. Other things start to matter. Things like marriage > house > kids.

Whoa whoa whoa. What’s happening to me? I denounced that path at 16! Am I really going to deviate from my iconoclastic destiny by being… predictable? Suddenly I’m looking at listings on Zillow and taking school districts into consideration. Am I allowing myself to be sucked into the smokescreen of the “American Dream?” Or is this just, y’know, growing up? And how do I tell the difference?

I do what’s worked for me before. I stop. I breathe. I think. I deconstruct my preconceptions and try to see my situation from the outside. Maybe I should distance myself from conclusions I made about life as a teenager and allow room to grow? Just a thought.

*CUE angry teenager voice*

No! You weren’t wrong! You’re getting sucked in just like they want you to. “They.” “The man.” The daily grind. You’re better than that. You’re SPECIAL! Being responsible is code for being AVERAGE! It’s a trap! IT’S A TRAP!

Pause. Thank you self-aggrandizing teenage Becky. Noted. Now let’s get back to our present situation.

Teenage years, for better or worse, can be defined by one word: ego. It’s an important time in life. No longer children, our egos are finally sprouting legs to walk around as the person we’ll continue to become the rest of our lives. Puberty takes a grip, our hormones rage, and our egos blast off at full speed with an impenetrability and entitlement needed for things like surviving high school and leaving the nest. These broad strokes of “becoming” during our teenage years shape our goals and set our sails on a path to achieve them. Looking back I’m realizing that my teenage self was very important to me, it doesn’t mean my teenage self was right. Shifting my perspective now at age 30 doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

I’m stubborn. It’s hard for me to admit I may have been wrong, even if I’m referring to lofty ideas of self that I had at 16. A stubborn patch of coarse soil will never leave room for new flowers to grow, so let me take a look at this situation again.

Marriage > House > Kids.

I’m going to solve this problem very quickly because the light bulbs went off in my head very quickly once I stopped, breathed, and meditated a bit on the subject.

What is a marriage. Marriage is many things but the heart of it is love.

Love.

What is a house? We can easily get tangled up in the trappings and materialism of home-ownership but at its core a house is safe shelter.

Shelter.

What are kids? Well, I really have no idea what it’s like to actually have kids but I remember being a kid and I like kids. What are kids? Kids are family.

Family.

So what is this Marriage > House > Kids pathway? Let me translate.

Love > Shelter > Family

Is there anything more important to our survival than that? Anything more fundamental? More pure?

Love. Shelter. Family.

Teenage Becky was too embroiled in the development of her ego to do that nifty bit of translation of the American Dream. Adult Becky may be a bit wiser.

Love. Shelter. Family.

Yep. Those are definitely things that I want. Got the first one. Best decision I ever made. Got the second one except I’m spending every month paying off someone else’s mortgage so I’m understanding the allure of ownership.

Family. Well that’s a topic for another day.

sweet-couple-love-illustrations-art-puuung-21__700

This is pretty darn close to what my family currently looks like. And I love it with all of my heart. Click on the image for more illustrations of the little things that make love grand.

Walt Disney World Marathon Review, as told by Piglet and Eeyore.

Walt Disney World Marathon 2016 registration goes on sale next week. While I would absolutely love to go the distance at the World again I’m afraid my pocketbook does not allow. The trek to this event will have to remain a rare occurrence until I’m stinking rich, or some other stroke of fate lands me in Florida in early January. In honor of this fantastic marathon it’s time to share our official yet incredibly casual review of the 2015 race.

Brad interviewed Neiman and I the day after the race to capture our thoughts, good and not-so-good. I got super smiley sitting here at my desk re-watching this video. That day in Epcot, the day after the race, had to be one of my favorite days I’ve ever had on this earth. Fresh off the victory of finishing my first marathon, glowing with accomplishment, and spending the entire day in Walt Disney World with two of my favorite people. That was a good day.

Without further ado, here is our review!

What Running to Tahiti Taught Me About Money

I’m not bad with money, per se. Not horrible. I pay my bills on time, always, and keep a very organized record of my accounts. My problem is that I have bills in the first place. My problem is that I enjoy spending money and usually on things. I love things. Aren’t things awesome? I love shoe things and clothes things and book things. Yay things! Then I run to Tahiti, and I realize that things are not actually purchased with money. They are purchased with units of my life. Yikes. My life is made up of a lot of running shoes.

Money is just an invention, right? It’s a placeholder, but for what? For time. So when I spend $80 on a pair of discount Asics that I don’t reeeeally need I’m not giving away $80. I’m giving away approximately 4 hours of my life. You may be willing to trade cold heartless cash for cool stuff, but are you willing to trade your time?

Five days a week I trade in my time, eight hours a day, for money. Why? The marketing machine that is commercial capitalism wants you to believe that you trade your time in for money so that you can go out and buy things. Things will give you meaning (false). Things will fulfill you (false.) Things will make you happy (ok SOMEtimes). Then the rush of those things wears off and you have to go out and buy more things to feel that false sense of fulfillment. You have to work harder to get more money to buy more things, but you’re working so hard to buy those things you barely have time to enjoy them so their meaning diminishes even more but the quest for happiness does not and so you do it. You work harder, you take on another job, you trade in more of your lifetime, (Think about that word. Life. Time.) to acquire more things that continue to fail to give your life meaning. You’ve given away the precious time of your life for the acquisition of ultimately meaningless things.

Is that what I want my life to be? Running shoes and book bags? (Dammit if I don’t LOVE a good book bag). Not if I don’t have time to go running or to read the books I’ve put in my bag. I’m incredibly grateful to live in a country and a time that afford me the ability to work for a decent income; one that gives me a roof over my head, a steady stream of food on the table, a car to get around, cat food for the furry babies, and a little extra for a new hat. Good lord I’m practically royalty. Grateful grateful, I’m very grateful. I have just what I need to be comfortable, and then some. The trick is to not spend the “then some” but earmark it for an investment in a meaningful life.

This all seems rather logical but we’re brainwashed in the western world from such an early age to value things. Toys, video games, treats, presents. These are the epicenters of many an American child’s world. I don’t necessarily believe in complete deprivation of material goods to combat this. I truly loved my Teddy Ruxpin doll and Little Mermaid sleeping bag. At some point it’s an important lesson to learn however that these things did not make me who I am. What made me who I am are the friendships I cultivated at the slumber parties where I used my Little Mermaid sleeping bag, and the imagination sparked in my mind by talking to a teddy bear who could talk back. Friendship, imagination, kindness, play. These are the elements of my childhood that made me who I am, despite the fact that Disney and Toys R Us would have me believe it was the things themselves.

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And so no, I do not completely discredit the value of things. I am more likely to write a better story in a beautiful journal with a fancy pen than I am on a boring black and white composition notebook. I will walk with more confidence in an outfit that makes me feel beautiful than an ill-fitting dress I’ve had for 10 years. Just remember it’s the story that matters. It’s the confidence. The things are just tools.

A light bulb goes off as soon as we start planning our trip to Tahiti. This four-year endeavor has been its own form of internal currency trade, but I never realize the weight of that until I begin to think about giving the currency away. Each dollar we put into savings represents a hard-earned mile. So a couple of months ago as I research the cost of a diving expedition in Bora Bora, I feel this overwhelming resistance to lay down the $200 to pay for it because it’s not two hundred dollars I’m giving away. It’s two hundred miles! It takes us a lot of time, sweat, and energy to run two hundred miles and come time to give it away I have to make absolutely certain that it’s worth it. And that’s when it hits me. ALL of my money should be this precious. Why is it so easy to justify a quick afternoon blowing $50 on Zappos when it is so difficult to put down $200 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience we’ve been saving for years to have? Damn, my perspective is OFF. In that moment my paradigm did that shifting thing it sometimes does, and I no longer saw the numbers in my bank account as just numbers. I saw them as units of time; of my life. Very precious.

So what IS the point of money? Can’t we just get rid of it and all live in a utopia where money is obsolete and we help each other do what needs to get done? Then we don’t have to worry about all of this trading of time and money thing and we’ll just get straight to the happiness and meaning part. It’s a nice idea, but it’s not the way our world is set up and frankly I’m not interested in changing the structure of society. What I am interested in is a meaningful life. Stripping away things for only a moment brings quickly into focus what gives my life meaning: My family. My friends. Art. Connection. Travel. Animals. Books. Sunsets. Spirituality. Great stories. Adventures. My husband. My cats. Service. So what do I need money for? I need it for the security it affords me to spend time with my family. To see the rainforest before I die. To be with my community. To make art. To insure that the last 20 years of my life won’t be spent stressed out and panicked about debt but relaxed, and enjoying the people I love and cherish. Just the right amount of money can give me the security to infuse my life with an abundance of meaning. Too much (or too little) can make me mistake the money for meaning itself.

So thank you, whatever inspiration visited my brain and gave me the idea of Running to Tahiti. Not only has it been an incredibly fulfilling journey unto itself, it’s given me perhaps the most important life lesson I’ve encountered. Money can buy you happiness… if you spend it on a hard-earned plane ticket to Tahiti where you’re sure to have a truly meaningful adventure.

But only if you don’t blow it on running shoes first.