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Category Archives: dealing with stress

Surviving Mile 21

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I’m an avid runner. Those who don’t read my blog on a regular basis, well, now you know too. Because of this fact I often correlate life to running and visa versa. From pacing yourself, to pushing yourself to the affects of stress, I find countless times when my life and my running regiment seem to go hand in hand. So it should have come as no surprise when a recent conversation with a dear friend of mine who’s been walking this journey with me for a while helped me discover yet another example of how life emulates running and it goes a little something like this:

When you run you’re first marathon, the first couple of miles feel pretty good. You’re pumped. You’re full of energy, a little scared and nervous, but confidence is high and you’re ready to roll. You aren’t really sure what to expect having heard stories from other runners. You know there will be difficulties to encounter, but you’re positive and prepared to meet the challenge head on. People around you are very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “If anyone can do this you can,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc. All in all, despite the knowledge that this is going to be a tough road ahead, you’re full of piss and vinegar and brimming with confidence. The same holds true of the divorced dad. Despite a feeling of complete and utter fear of what’s to come, you’re prepared to meet the challenge head on. Everyone around you is very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “You’re a great dad,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc.

At mile 5 you’re like, “I got this! Look at me, I’m running a marathon! Holy Crap!” You wave to people along the course, there’s a spring in your step and you’re beaming with pride because YOU are a marathoner. For a divorced dad with kids, the feeling is the same. You’re past the initial shock and starting to recognize that the world isn’t completely falling apart. You’re getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being a single parent and are proud of yourself for managing to figure out how to get the kids fed, clothed and off to school without a need to take them to the emergency room. You haven’t missed a softball game or recital yet. All in all, you’re rockin’ it.

Around mile 10 the honeymoon isn’t quite over yet and you’re actually feeling yourself getting into a good rhythm. You’re determined and feeling good. You think to yourself, “I can do this. I feel alright. Not sure what all the fuss was about.” It’s also a point where you start talking to yourself more. You find yourself giving yourself little thoughts of encouragement, telling yourself to “Keep it up!” and, “You’re doing great!” and “Just ignore that nagging stabbing feeling in your little toe, it’ll go away. Probably just my toe nail falling off.” For the divorced dad, your confidence grows every day as you figure out more and more and get more comfortable managing the kids, work, the house, the yard and everything that goes along with it. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Can you believe what I accomplished today?!” It’s all still kind of fresh and you’re feeling a rhythm that has you starting to think “Father of the Year” award and do your best to ignore the nagging pain in your lower back.

Around mile 12 you start to go over numbers. A lot of numbers. Things like, number of miles, average mile, splits, how much further, etc. You start to calculate in your head nonstop and begin attempting to count the number of steps you take in each mile. It starts to become a mental game as the monotony of stride after stride after stride starts to take its toll. It’s similar in a divorce with kids, only the numbers are more like, how much is in the bank account today, how much will be in the account tomorrow, how many cereal bars are left in the pantry, how many lunches have you made for school in the past month, how much money is in the bank account, how much will be in the account when the mortgage is due, was your daughter’s game on field six at seven or on field seven at six? Can you believe gas is almost $4.00 a gallon? That’s just crazy. Do I have enough money in the account for gas? These are all tactics used by your mind to help you avoid the fact that it’s starting to hurt.

At mile 15 you’re like, “I’ve run fifteen miles and I’m still going! I am AWESOME! Look what a great runner I am!” A divorced dad is like, “I just finished three loads of laundry, we had dinner at the table, all the dishes are clean and put away, the kids’ homework is finished, they’re bathed and we still had time to watch an episode of Good Luck Charlie before bedtime. I am an AWESOME DAD!”

At mile 15.25 miles you suddenly realize you aren’t finished, get a cramp and have a sudden craving for beer. For dad the cramp is replaced by a kid who has a bad dream at 3 am and crawls into bed with you placing their foot directly in your face for most of the night.

Then around mile 20 or 21 it happens. You hit a wall. You’re cussing at yourself for signing up for this experience convinced you will die before mile 22. It hurts and you’re noticing pain in places you didn’t even realize you had. People around you are too busy dealing with their own crap to be encouraging and don’t even bother to acknowledge you as they basically walk past you. You start convincing yourself it’s ok if you quit. I mean, come on, look how good you did. You went pretty damn far. No one would blame you for giving up. The numbers in your head are overwhelming and never come to the same total twice. You’re freaking out convinced you won’t have enough to finish and immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium. Divorced dad is in a similar place. The exuberance you once felt for having a handle on everything is waining. It’s now a matter of survival. You’re tired, overwhelmed and spent convinced you won’t have enough money for Christmas. The routine is old and the energy it takes to keep up with work, three kids, the house, the yard and your blog is taking its toll. This is where you’ve determined, and will say with conviction, that you meant to leave your shoes lying in the middle of the kitchen and that the clutter gives the house an appealing “Lived In” look. You’ve decided that the kids will get peanut butter sandwiches and a slice of cheese for lunch and like it. Making the bed equals cleaning the house. You secretly hope it rains to avoid driving 45 minutes to a softball game and start to wonder what you’ll look like selling newspapers on the corner when you’re homeless. One of the kids comes down with a fever and you immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium.

But the marathon runner and the divorced dad have an innate inner strength that few will ever understand. Both recognize that all of these negative thoughts are the antithesis of what they truly feel. They love to feel the burn. They crave the aches and pains because those pains make them feel alive. They love the 45 minute drives to softball games because it means some serious one on one time with their kid. And a fire from within pushes them to keep going.

I wrote once that there really is no grand finish line when you’re a parent. But I’ve discovered that honestly that’s not true. Like the marathoner, you eventually cross a finish line you never thought you’d be able to reach. Somehow you reach deep within and find the strength to get past mile 21 and muster through mile 22, mile 23 and eventually mile 26.2. You recognize mile 21 was just a moment and you got past it. You revel in your ability to overcome the negatives and the adversity. It’s hear that you determine how much you love running. Or, how much you LOVE being a divorced dad. There is something special about it. It has its own unique hurdles and it’s own unique victories that only others who have traveled this path will ever truly understand.

The reality is, we’ll all live through many mile 21’s. And some will be harder than others. But you’ll make it. And you’ll revel in crossing the finish line every time. Then you’ll start to prepare for the next marathon and be a little more prepared for the next mile 21.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in dealing with stress, Divorce, pacing yourself

 

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Who Knew Divorce Was Such Hard Work?

Trust is one of the cornerstones of a successful marriage and for some, the lack of it is often what leads to the end of the marriage. The reality is that trust is also the cornerstone of a successful divorce. Stop laughing. If you’re divorced and have kids, you already know divorce is as much work, if not more, than marriage. Especially if that divorce involves kids and a co-parenting plan. Even if you had trust in your marriage, maintaining it as two single parents can be a struggle at times. It’s hard enough to build trust when both parties are living under one roof and building the same life together. Now you’re in two separate homes, living two separate lives, and reaching for different north stars as individuals. While you’re still very much focused on raising the kids together, other aspects of your lives are changing. Circumstances are going to change and a certain amount of distance will continue to expand between the two of you as your lives take you in different directions. Knowing in the back of your mind that your ex will have less and less concern for your own personal needs, wants and visions, it’s natural that defenses will go up any time there’s a sign that one of you is pulling away or acting more independently.
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This works both ways.

Finding that balance between starting a new life while still managing essential parts of the old one is, in my opinion, the hardest part of divorce. The amount of thought, effort and consideration it takes to ride the waves of two separate lives that are intertwined through parenthood can be hell sometimes. I’ve stated before and it bares repeating; the death of a marriage is a slow arduous process that continues even after the papers are signed. Even as a divorced couple there are still elements of our old relationship that you’re naturally going to hold on to and attempt to maintain. Let’s face it, change is hard. Even if that change is a positive one. Learning to coexist under a different set of rules is backbreaking.

The reality is, your divorce isn’t unlike any other relationship you have. There will be ebbs and flows on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Elements of your new lives will influence decisions and actions and you’ll wake up some mornings wondering, “what the hell just happened?” I promise you that for every freak out moment you have, your ex is having three. If you both truly care for your children, you’re both going to get your dander up on occasion when you don’t feel a fluid, even keeled, co-parenting plan in action. You’re also going to go into a mental tailspin any time you see your ex make a move that may or may not indirectly affect your own life. As much as you’re living separate lives, as parents it’s no secret that your own tides are influenced by your ex’s moon from time to time. Try to remember; your lives are likely going a mile a minute. You’re both juggling a LOT as you attempt to be both the mom and the dad at home. You’re going to go through financial waves that influence your mood and your decision making. From time to time the lines of communication are going to breakdown. There will be misunderstandings and misreads. When they happen, do your best to stop and scan the current landscape. Certain cornerstones have likely been knocked out of place and you and your ex are going to have to reset them properly. That may take a bit of time and effort but it has to happen otherwise everyone loses.

So stop. Breathe. Shake it off and get back to focusing on the kids. Then when you’re ready and the dust settles, regroup and rebuild.

It’s all a good lesson in trusting the cosmos.

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Daily Life, dealing with stress, Divorce, trust

 

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The Wall!

I typically like to write when all is green and I feel enough internal fortitude to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight. To stay positive and take the high road. I’ve also believed, and have promoted the fact, that we can accomplish anything we put our mind to no matter how difficult the challenge or how overwhelming the scope of the landscape.

So, a new challenge today as this week I believe I reached a point I had not hit. A new limit as to how much I was mentally and psychologically capable of handling. I had been going like gang busters, pushing toward several new goals. Making progress buy the minute. At some point I found myself standing in the middle of the hurricane I had created. And then, at the peak of momentum, I stopped. Not sure why. But I stopped and found myself questioning so much of what I was pushing for despite the fact that I was on a good course. And getting started again has been truly difficult. Perhaps I’d been pushing myself too hard both mentally and physically. I had accomplished more in the past two weeks than I had in quite a while. One week in particular I looked back at what I had done and was convinced a team of magical elves had visited me overnight.

Then one evening I caught myself becoming remarkably edgy. Snapped at the kids a couple of times, felt like I was flying blindly and that I was getting reacting to things more than I was being proactive. I consciously stopped myself as I could tell it was becoming too much. I pulled imgres-1back on one or two projects and decided to just stop for a moment and catch my breath and my sanity. When I woke up the next morning, the motivation was gone. I laid there in bed, completely uninterested in getting up. This then happened for three more mornings. And there I sat, convinced I’d failed. More than anything it felt like hitting the wall so many marathoners reach. You’re going, going, going, pushing and then out of nowhere WHAM!

Does it mean I’m done? Nope.

Does it mean you’re done? Nope.

Just means your body is hitting a new plateau you haven’t experienced yet. You’re reaching unmapped territory. You’ve simply pushed yourself farther than you’ve probably gone before and your mind and body are like, “WWWHOA there partna!”

When you feel that kind of momentum, stopping can be a real shock to the system. Call it a mental concussion. And getting started again can be a bear. If you need to stop and recharge a bit, OK. But don’t sit too long. You got to the point you got by focusing your energies and pushing toward a north star.

But the race is far from over. Take this moment to regroup but at some point you’re going to have to force yourself to start moving again. You’re going to have to remind yourself of what motivated you to get started in the first place. It may take a stronger boost to kick back into gear, but find the strength both mentally and physically to do it. If you don’t you’re apt to get down on yourself for not getting things done which is even worse.

Today’s entry is therapy for me as I write to encourage both of us to take it one step at a time and start moving again. Just remember, the next plateau awaits.

 

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How To Eat An Elephant

I’ve been told the best way to eat an elephant (although I’m not sure I would actually wish to do that) is one bite at a time. How many times have you looked at your day the same way saying to yourself, “Perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.”

The mass of tasks that surround us from time to time can appear overwhelming and undoable when you look at it as a whole. If you’re like me, you see twenty things that need to get done and your system initially shuts down out of an inability to comprehend how you’re going to get it all completed. I actually find it odd that the more we have tohow-to-eat_an_elephant1 accomplish, the less inclined we are to attack any of it.

As a video director I work off of the same philosophy when filming. Often we attempt to capture too much with one shot which makes it impossible for the viewer to know what they’re supposed to be focused on. The best thing to do is to choose one subject, focus on it and blur out everything around it so you can keep your attention on just one thing for a while. Then move to a second shot when you’re ready. Eventually you end up with everything you need to put together the perfect story.

Same holds true in life. When you’re attempting to focus on too many things at once, the reality is you focus on none of it. It’s just a mass of information and your system simply can’t register it all at once. And so it shuts down.

So, make a list of things you need to get done. I know, “Really? A List? Who are you, my ex-wife?” But it works. Write down EVERYTHING that needs to happen. Pick a couple of small things, focus on them one at a time and then move on to something else. You may not get to everything in one day, but you’ll start to see things getting done which will motivate you to keep going. Before you know it you’ll look at all of the crossed off items and realize you’re capable of more than you gave yourself credit for.

The payoff, btw, is huge. The accomplishment of each task gives you a sense of moving forward and getting your life under control. Progress of any nature is empowering and it all starts with the first small bite.

 

 

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The Unniversary

It was 16 years ago today that I said I do to my ex. As I look back on our wedding, marriage and subsequent divorce it would be easy to say, “what a mistake,” “wish I’d had known then what I know now,” etc. But the truth is, we were ready. We had the tools. We had what we needed to have a successful marriage. I think we simply didn’t know how to use them or failed to see the need to use them. We made a lot of assumptions and a lot of mistakes. Both of us.

Ultimately I grew from all three events. I can still see her entering the church and can still feel that moment of immense overwhelming emotional power. Daily I live through specific moments of the days that followed. Some victories. Some defeats. All steps forward in one way or another. Honestly, I think the important thing is that every day we reflect on our lives, not with regret, but with a goal of learningRING and recognizing what worked and what didn’t so that we grow as individuals from the sum of our experiences.

Each rep that a running back takes, is a step toward becoming a better back. You gain confidence through first downs and tackles for a loss, victories and defeats. Sometimes you miss the hole while other times you hit the seam and break it for a long gain. Each day is the same way. And unless we put ourselves in a position to take those reps, we’ll never learn. We’ll never get better.

I emerged from my divorce smarter, wiser, stronger and calmer. I see things very differently than I did on the day I said I do. I have an amazing family and despite the hardships, the pressures and the stress; I have a different outlook on life that keeps me moving forward. My children challenge me to be a better man and I thank God for them every moment of every day. And for that I’m eternally grateful. Sure I look at other families at times with envy or longing for what might have been. But that wasn’t meant for us. Dwelling on that fact isn’t healthy nor does it make any sense. I made my choices as did she and tomorrow I’ll make new ones. It’s how this works.

Whether you remember your anniversary or not I’m sure you have moments when you look back at what was and what could have been. But promise me you’ll never look back with regret. You made choices at the time that felt right. They felt right for a reason. And perhaps they were the right thing for you at the time. We have no way of knowing where life is going to take us. In a marriage, your life is directly affected by your partner. It’s part of the journey. You may not completely understand why, but chances are you followed your instincts. And at some point either you or your spouse followed your instincts to exit. In each case, you did the best you could with the information you had available to you. And each decision took you forward, never back. I believe that focusing too much attention on the past and dwelling on the why keeps you from moving forward. And that’s what you need to do. Put the past behind you and recognize that it helped shape who you are today.

You are where you are for a reason. Take the day. Take the rep. Look for the seam. Make your move. Don’t worry if you get caught in the backfield today. Tomorrow is another rep and another chance to find the hole and find your legs.

Bottom line; if you ask me if I look back on my wedding day with fondness, the simple answer is, “I do.”

 

 

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