January 3, 2013

Where I am, and where I'm not

Today is a somewhat bittersweet day for me.

Just about a year ago, I got an e-mail from one of my blog heroes and weight loss inspirations, Katie. She proposed a really interesting idea: someone had reached out to her, one of her blog readers, about putting together a team for a Ragnar relay. The relay, which I was already familiar with from friends and blogs, is a race, usually around 200 miles, from one point to another. The one I'd heard of went from Madison (WI) to Chicago. The one Katie proposed? Miami to Florida Keys.

The race was about a year later, but they wanted to get the team together early in order to not only secure our spot in the relay, but to encourage team bonding. The team, ideally, would be made up of a dozen strangers, folks we knew from blogging and other online outlets. We'd be from all across the country, with a common thread: we'd all have lost a significant amount of weight.

The idea was brilliant, and exactly what I needed in that lonely stretch of California winter between visits to Chicago. A community, full of excitement and energy. Support from people like me, people who knew what it was like to struggle like I had, people who understood my feelings of despondency on a deeply personal level.

It was a very exciting project to be a part of, but a year to plan an event is also a very long time. And as days, weeks, and months went by, details of the project changed. It wasn't just going to be us completing a race now, but there'd be a documentary film crew following us. And one of the people chosen to be on the team wasn't just a common everyday so-and-so, but someone who'd lost weight on a television show, a name possibly already familiar to potential viewers who was brought in to "stack the team," according to one of the producers, a term that really never sat well with me.

And suddenly, the pressure was on even harder.

I'm a horrible perfectionist, and this was a very difficult situation for me. I was the team member who'd lost the most weight, but I was also still pretty much the heaviest. Unlike the rest, I wasn't at my goal weight. The film crew is coming to interview me? Let the weeks before be full of several hour long bike rides and daily laxatives, I *need* to look good for this.

I'm also intensely introverted, which is part of why I think I fell in love with running and exercising - even if you have someone there beside you, the work you do is by yourself, for yourself. I don't do well with my own self-inflicted pressure, and now, I had people counting on me.

As the months passed, everything in my life changed. I turned down my job offer, finished teaching my summer course, and flew back to Chicago with two suitcases the very same day. I was unemployed, but had enough money saved for the trip to Florida. By this point, I was almost entirely unexcited - in fact, practically dreading it - but I'd made a commitment, and I wasn't about to let anyone down.

Meeting Katie in early August was wonderful. We'd grown closer over the past few months, texting one another when we were struggling with binges, offering advice and wisdom and a friendly ear when we needed it. And sitting with her and her husband in a little bar in Wrigleyville, I felt reassured. We talked about the project, the team, the movie. And so many of her concerns echoed mine. I had the same feeling that day as when she'd sent me the initial e-mail: you are not alone.

Then, about four weeks later, Matt and I got our positive pregnancy test results.

The first few weeks were flooded with panic, anxiety, worry, and concern. I told my sisters, my mother, my best friends. Without fail, after questions about money, about health, about Matt, they all asked the same thing: what about the Ragnar?

I held off telling the team as long as possible. Waiting to see what was going happen. To see if the baby remained viable through the first trimester. To see if I could keep running and have it all, the Ragnar and the child. But mostly, to see if I could come up with a way to let down the team without infuriating them or the filmmakers.

Since day one, despite all the stress and nervousness surrounding him, I've seen this baby as nothing less than a miracle. The doctor said I wasn't supposed to get pregnant, but I did. And it happened at a time when my health was incredibly improved over its state a few years earlier. And now, he was helping us again - him growing inside me was a way to step back and walk away with as much grace as possible from a project I was having a hard time still believing in. I've been able to process the situation not as me quitting, but as more of a health-related resignation, which I'm at peace with. Had he not been on the way, my stepping away from the project would have been yet another thing for me to beat myself up over - another thing I gave up on, another thing I failed at.

Because that's the thing: if I hadn't become pregnant, I still don't think I would have made it down to Miami. I wasn't feeling hopeful and enthusiastic like the rest of the team. I felt like I was bringing everyone down - their stories were success stories, and mine was still a work-in-very-slow-progress. They had the means to drop everything and travel here and there for the bucket list races they wanted to do. After being unemployed for four months, then settling for a retail job making a small fraction of what I'd made before, I worried about being able to afford even local races, or my next pair or running shoes.

The team needed someone as positive and enthusiastic as they were. And I truly hope the girl they brought in to replace me is just what they needed to be complete. To be honest, I really wouldn't know, because I've made almost every attempt I can to distance myself from everything. They'd kept me in their online chat group as an "honorary team member," but as the other concerns in my life right now began to overwhelm me, getting rid of any little stressors I could was necessary. That meant not seeing a million updates a day about running, about racing, about weight loss - all the things I covet and crave right now. It was just too tough to face day in and day out.

Today, the last of the team members should be arriving in southern Florida for tomorrow's race.

And today, I'm in Chicago.

I am not upset. I have no regrets. I know I am where I am supposed to be right now - not in California, not in Florida, but right here, where I belong at this time. I thought it would be a lot harder to accept this, especially as I broke the news to the team a few months ago. But right now, in this moment, I feel nothing but peace.

January 1, 2013

7 Things x 2013

I set a lot of fitness/wellness goals for myself in 2012 - many of which I fell short on. The biking one was cut short when I sold my bike and relocated back to Chicago; the running one ended when I learned it was the baby growing inside me that made running so uncomfortable. I had also calculated that, at a rate of loss of a pound a week, I'd be in my healthy weight range this year.

The most wonderful thing: I'm absolutely not upset about any of this. They're not failures. I gave it my all while I could, and I know I'll pick right back up with my health and fitness goals as soon as Nugget is born and I'm given the okay to work out again.

It's also not upsetting because in the eight months that I was actively working out and making progress with weight maintenance/loss, I accomplished an awful lot.

Like running my first half marathon.

And running a sub-30 5K (and at my lowest adult weight, too!).

And having incredible experiences with other people who support and encourage healthy living.

And having the courage to leave a situation I wasn't entirely satisfied with.

And moving back to a place I love, to be with someone I love, 8 pounds lighter than when I left in August 2011 - a small loss, indeed, but given the stresses of my time in California, maintenance was a success for me.

And now, starting a family with my beloved.

It's been an exceptional year. My main goal for 2012 was "do less, better." I think I still have room to improve with that, but overall, I'm quite pleased with where I am right now as a result of the last 366 days, and I'm looking forward to 2013.

To continuing to work on creating a strong relationship and wonderful life with Matt.

To meeting our son.

To hopefully finding a teaching job.

To moving, either within Chicago or elsewhere, depending on job offers.

To losing the baby weight.

To running again.

To having a healthy and happy family.

The Day Zero Project (the folks behind the 101-in-1001 lists) have issued a resolution-based writing prompt: seven goals for 2013. I've decided to do two, one here for health and fitness goals, and one over at Kosher Lasagna for my pregnancy/parenting/religious goals. Here are their prompts:
  • Learn how to... [A new skill or hobby]
  • Start [Develop a habit]
  • Stop [Break a habit]
  • Take a vacation to... [Where would you most like to vacation to?]
  • Find [What are you looking for?]
  • Try [One new thing you want to try]
  • Be more [A personal characteristic to improve]
Here are my answers:
  • Learn how to run again.
  • Start eating better, and eating more diversely.
  • Stop fixating on the number on the scale.
  • Take a vacation to Madison, WI, where Matt went to college, and go for a lakefront walk with Baby!
  • Find a good balance between health and obsession.
  • Try completing a Whole 30.
  • Be more aware and mindful.
Now, I challenge you to complete one yourself! (If you do, I'd love for you to share a link [if you blog!] in the comments!)