Tag Archives: New Me

Maui’s Awakening…How One Week Away Woke Me Up

Sunrise at Halekeala 10,000′ elevation above the clouds – image owned by Tracey Yeager Blackburn

February is always a terrible month for me. It marks the anniversary of Ed’s passing on February 3. It’s hard to believe but this year marked four years of his leaving us. Four long years. The first year, I just got through things thinking that after the first year, things will get easier. Joke was on me as I learned that the second year was actually harder than the first, and much too popular belief, this is somewhat normal. The first year you are in a bit of a fog. Disbelief mostly, but as the fog lifts, reality sets in, and that is mostly in year two. They are still gone. Still not here for holidays. Still not here to mow the lawn, fix a leaking faucet, and all of those other things that was “their” job. So February is always a bit tough for me, and this year, I decided to do what I had said I wanted to do the past few years. I went to Maui to forget about my day-to-day. I needed a vacation from myself 🙂

Maui was an incredible trip for so many reasons. I was on a tropical island with two very dear friends and we just had an incredible week. Sun, sand, ocean waves, shopping, dining and exploring the island. I can’t imagine having done this trip without them! I am so thankful to have them there with me at such a challenging time. That itself is incredible, but this trip provided more than just a respite. I actually learned a lot about myself in a very short period of time.

I loved how I lived life in Maui. Granted, it was vacation, but I think the further away we go away on vacation – and by that I mean actually “check out”, the more we learn about our authentic selves and what makes our souls sing. I used to refer to this being “vacation Tracey”, that in comparison to “work Tracey” which are two different people (note, I hate when anyone refers to themselves in third person vernacular, myself included :-)). Removing myself from my day-to-day and truly disconnecting gave me a good reset and not only showed me, but made me “feel” some things that I now realize are important to me. I think the biggest thing was how in Hawaii, the day is received with gratitude and it is done so by welcoming the sun-rise and honoring sunset daily. When the sunsets in Hawaii, most people stop and bear witness while many blow the conch shell as the sun hits the ocean. Every. Day. Push the pause button to respect the beauty, the nature, and something bigger than ourselves. It is amazingly beautiful and a reminder of how I take this for granted daily, adhering to a tight schedule and letting one day drift into the next. Getting the right balance of “real world” responsibilities so I can live the life of leisure on a tropical island for a week, while striking the chord of what makes us tick internally is not easy. But I remembering how I was in Maui and I want to live more like this. I don’t think I’d actually do well living there full time, but how can I bring a bit more of this balance into life to serve the person I am today? The person that has changed, for the better I hope, in the past four year?

Facing this when leaving Maui proved to be incredibly difficult. The obvious reason of course is living on a tropical island for a week is pretty nice. 80 degrees, sunshine, listening to the soothing sound of the waves in the ocean – you get the picture. What became very clear the day I was leaving, though, was asking myself, “What am I going home to? How am I really living my life”? I had to take a good, long look at that answer, and I didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong – I have so much gratitude for my life –my home, my children, my dogs, my family and friends, and my job which affords me a great deal. All of it. I genuinely do. But when looking at how I spend my day, I didn’t like what I saw. And that is on me to change and no one else.

I had also pushed away a lot of feelings and things I needed to deal with as the proverbial “I’ll deal with it when I get back from vacation”. Guess what? All of it was waiting for me and pushing it off didn’t make it go away. Dealing with the grief that comes with the realization my husband has been gone for four years and by the way – he’s still not coming back – was merely delayed for a week. It was waiting for me and one lesson I thought I had already known – one cannot side step grief and the feelings that come along with it. We must walk through it, work through it and then and only then will it pass. Kind of like surfing a wave in the ocean. If you get caught in a wave, it has the ability to completely take over. I call this the “spin cycle” as the wave can knock you over in such a way all you do is tumble over and over not knowing which way is up until it’s over and you come up for air. If however you actually dive into the wave directly and sail through it confronting it head on, it’s actually a very smooth and gentle ride. No spinning. No upside down. No fear of not coming up for air. You just sail through it. My traveling friends taught me the beauty of this, amongst many other things during our vacation.

Diving into the wave voids the tumble of the crashing wave itself. Fear and anticipation of the wave paralyzes us from moving forward.

One month later, where does all of this self-awareness take me? How can I shift the sand under my feet? For now, just some small changes really. First, I had to be compassionate with myself allowing the grief that I had pushed away come for a visit. It was brief, but it was allowed. Second, I’ve asked myself what is a small thing I can do each day to keep me as grounded as I was in Maui? I don’t need magnificent sunrises and sunsets to receive the day with gratitude and open possibilities. I have accepted that I won’t get these rays of beauty in Seattle in February or March (some years even April), but I can hang pictures of my moments in Hawaii and go back for just a minute and connect with my own happiness daily. And the last one I’ll share here, but certainly not the last on my list of things I am shifting, is being more flexible with the time in my day. For as long as I can remember, I have been on a schedule. My calendar rules me. In the office by a certain time, out of the office by a certain time – I am a time management freak. I, like most, have a job and responsibilities, which I adhere to daily. I also have a very flexible work environment, and so I am going to take more advantage of it. For the first time I think I am managing my calendar filling in my “want to’s” and then my “have to’s”. This doesn’t mean I am not getting my job done. It just means I am prioritizing things differently. Balance? Maybe, but old habits are hard to break. Time will tell.

All is a work in progress, so before I make any other small changes, I’m going to try to get good at these.  I liked the person I was on vacation. Ed always used to tell me the he really liked “vacation Tracey”. I like feeling relaxed, laid back and just happy. And for the week in Maui, I was. It was a reminder of how I want to be. Every. Day.

What are you doing to make every day happy?

Thanks for “listening” J

XOXOXO,

Tracey

 

Sunset in Wailea, Hawaii – image owned by Tracey Yeager Blackburn

Looking Back and Aging Gracefully

The only time you should ever look back, is to see how far you've come
Image from http://www.searchquotes.com/viewimage/Only_Look_Back_To_See_How_Far_You’ve_Come/1249/

My 30 year high school reunion is coming up this Saturday. While I was walking the dog — generally my time of reflection every day — I thought to myself, “Wow. A lot has changed in 10 years. How did I get this old”? I got to thinking about my 20 year reunion, which of course was 10 years ago. Where I was in life at that time, and what has changed since? What have I really accomplished in that time?

My first thought naturally was that I have lost my husband. Within this 10 year time period, I went from married to widow, experiencing the worst thing I could have ever imagined. And something I could never have conceived happening 10 years ago. Also, with his loss, is the overall sarcoma cancer experience, becoming a care-taker and everything that went along with this over the course of 18 months. 18 months across 10 years. A short amount of time in context, but probably the most impactful thing that has ever happened in my life. Upon further reflection, I looked at the entire 10 years of what has happened in that time:

  • My children have gone from young adults to slightly more mature adults. They’ll always be kids to me, but they now live alone, have their own relationships and lives. We’ll always be a family, but in 10 years, they have become responsible adults with their own experiences.
  • I have moved across the country embarking on an amazing adventure both professionally and personally. The move to Seattle was one of the most positive things that has taken place in these 10 years. I could not have done it without Ed.
  • Along with the loss of my husband, we also lost our first pet together – Sadie the Rottweiler. She was only 5 when we had to put her down in 2008 – our first experience with sarcoma and loss.
  • In 10 years’ time I have held jobs at three different companies. I am proud to say one of those is one of the most recognizable brand named companies, if not the most recognizable brand named company in the world.
  • My physical self has ebbed and flowed in 10 years, and I can finally accept this. If memory serves, I was my worst physical self I have ever been 10 years ago. In the past 10 years, I achieved a peak of my physical best participating in not one, but two triathlons in 2008 and 2009. Today, I can say that physically, I am not at my best, not at my worst, but my mind and body are connected. I’m not longer at odds or struggle.

I then started to think, “What do I want to look back on in the next 10 years and be proud of”? Not quite a bucket list, but at the 40 year reunion, what will my list look like. Here’s what I think the pages of my story will include:

  • Another move. There is a great chance that I will make another big, physical move to someplace new. Where? I have no idea, but I do know this will happen. And this time, it will be without Ed unfortunately, but he has given me the strength to know I am capable of doing it on my own.
  • My career will shift as it has in 10 years. I am no longer on the corporate ladder, nor do I define myself by my career or “day job”. My slow, corporate decline will likely lead me to something completely new. I have no idea what, but it will be with purpose and combine what I know with what I am good at and passionate about. I still don’t know what that is, but am determined to know in the next 10 years.
  • Become a published author of articles, and most importantly to me, a book. I don’t care about becoming a best seller. I just want to achieve this, and now I have put it out there.
  • There will be marriages, children and family growth. With two kids at the 30ish age, I will likely be called Nana at some point in time J I will also continue to watch my friend’s children grow, get older and blossom into adulthood. This brings me such joy!
  • There will be loss…I now understand this and know this is a reality in the next 10 years. I have learned to be present and have gratitude for today and not think into deeply into this one. Just take each day as it comes.

I’m not sure where 30 years went from what everyone describes as “the best years of our lives”. And I’m not sure those days really were the best. As long as we keep writing exciting pages in our stories of life, we are living the best days of our lives each and every day.

Looking forward to going back in time this Saturday – a little older and a little wiser than my younger self.

Who’s with me?

Tracey

Moving Beyond Grief: My 12 Week Fitness Program Challenge – I’ve Gained More than I have Lost…

I consider myself to be an idiot savant when it comes to losing weight. How can I not be? I have gained and lost the same 30 pounds more times than I care to admit. I am really good a losing weight. But like most, I become a statistic when it comes to keeping it off. When I have lost this weight, I have done so not on crash diets, rather, the doctor recommended program of Weight Watchers (WW), which is considered to be a relatively healthy program to balance calories with healthy foods. WW is great for losing weight, but I think something gets lost in helping continuing the program to keep it off. Makes sense actually because the program is designed to pay to lose weight – not to keep it off.

The last time I participated in any such program was 2008. Once my entire lifestyle changed when moving to Seattle, I fell into the “statistic” of gaining the weight back. It’s happened before. Why should it surprise me? I swore I’d never do it again, and I haven’t. Like all of the other times, I came to accept my failure as just something that will be with me forever. I’m not meant to be thin and maintain a “perfect” number on the scale without starving myself or fanatically working out to burn calories. I’m good at a lot of things, but this would not be one of them.

When Ed got sick, the last thing I cared about was how I looked. I remember one day he told me how nice I looked and I said “Cancer doesn’t care how I look”. His response was, “that’s fine, but I do, and I think you look beautiful today”. I felt like an asshole (because I was being one), and realized that my husband loved me no matter how I looked – fat, thin, made up or not – it had nothing to do with the physical me. It had to do with the whole me. I also had to learn this hard lesson watching him physically change when he was sick. No matter how sick he looked, I only saw him as my beautiful husband. Even the night before he passed away as he stood in front of the mirror shaving (something I always enjoyed watching him do). He was thin, weak, frail, and a version of himself that I could not ever have imagined him being. But he never looked that way to me, even at that moment, which is one of the last memories I have of him before he passed away. He was my strong, brilliant, beautiful man that I loved with all of my heart. I loved the whole him as a person. After he passed away, I realized how much time of ours I wasted counting calories, foregoing foods and wine that otherwise might have been immensely enjoyed because I was “dieting”. I realized that skipping all of those photo opportunities because I didn’t like the way I looked was something I’d regret because now all I have left are photos of memories of experiences – many missed. I promised I’d never do it again. And I haven’t.

Fast forward though the days, weeks and time that can now be measured in years, that I am learning how to live this new life that I didn’t ask for. When Ed first passed away, I had no appetite whatsoever. I was eating enough to not lose weight, but was not eating healthy at all. As time progressed, I started getting back to “normal”, however, I hated to cook for myself and worse, and I hated eating by myself. That led to foods that were easy to make and mostly packaged, and they had to be easy to eat while sitting on the couch in front of the TV. I wasn’t alone if I was with my Real Housewife bitches 😉 (Thank you for Andy Cohen and this gift). Eventually, as time passed, this caught up with me. I put on a few extra pounds which made me uncomfortable. I was no longer comfortable in my skin, which I actually had finally accepted. I also felt like shit all of the time. Something needed to change, but I would not “diet”. Never again. The definition of insanity is doing something the same way over and over again, expecting a different result. I am not insane. In order to find peace physically, spiritually and mentally, I needed to figure this one out once and for all. And let’s be clear – the answer to how to be physically healthy has never changed. Being physically healthy (which technically I am – low blood pressure, low bad cholesterol, high good cholesterol, good blood sugar levels), really boils down to balancing a checkbook – debits and credits of calories in and out. But what I realized is I needed to figure this out mentally – and not by way of willpower not to eat certain foods. There was more to it, but I didn’t know what that lightbulb was. Clearly, it never was switched on. In fact, I think there was duct tape over it in the “off” position.

Through my widow community, I was introduced to Michelle Steinke-Baumgard, who lost her husband in a small plane crash and has detailed her journey since he passed and living her life to its fullest. She found solace in her grief through working out, and since has created a community called OneFitWidow which recently rebranded as OneFitLife. One of the many reasons I enjoy Michelle so very much is her beautiful writing which has the ability to connect deeply in the soul providing validation of many of the feelings I have experienced, not just in losing my spouse, but in her life prior to her losing her spouse – corporate job, stressed, overweight, prioritizing everyone and everything but herself. I was looking at a mirror image of my life. So when a newer program that OneFitLife was offering came across my Facebook feed, I said, “why not”. It was called the “12 Week Fitness Challenge” and it was based upon clean eating, building lean muscle mass and NOT FOCUSING ON THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE. This was different than what I have done in the past as WW programs are all about the scale. Under the WW program, every week you check in on your progress in front of someone else, so you need to be accountable. And when you reach your “goal” weight, you celebrate and then you’re “done”. Over the course of the 12 Week Fitness Challenge I would realize how wrong this approach was, and likely one of the crucks of my prior “failure”.

So I started the 12 week fitness challenge on April 1, 2016. As part of the program, you do have to weigh yourself and take measurements (and no, I am not sharing what those numbers were) because this is one measure of progress, but only one, and checking in on this one measurement takes place one time per month. I was “all in”, which is normal for me when starting anything. I followed every instruction, read every article, did everything that was asked, tracked food intake, did the workouts etc. The first three weeks were considered “detox” from sugars and processed foods with this being a more strict time (or so I thought). At the three week mark, I had a business trip to Chicago, and of course, a certain level of planning had to take place. How could I follow this program but not go back on my promise to not deprive myself of some of the things I love to eat while in Chicago? I was going to “blow it” which now I have come to understand in my mind means “I’m not being perfect so why should I even try”? So I evened my mind out and decided I would do my best, however, my life will never exclude Lou Malnati’s pizza :-). And this is a decision I made. The trip turned out fine, I didn’t go ape shit crazy eating bad foods all week, and I made good choices. Small steps to a better life, which is the actual basis of this particular program. I wouldn’t understand how important this realization was until about a month later.

So month one, or the first four weeks into the program – 1/3 complete, I wasn’t doing too badly. A week away however, threw me off a bit, and while I didn’t fall “off the wagon” while I was away, I did a bit when I returned. I had not been perfect. I was now in the “why bother” mode. It was “here I go again” – I’ve failed, but not completely. I was however still making better eating choices, but I was not really tracking, not working out, and basically getting lazy. In the spirit of “go big or go home”, if I wasn’t going to be perfect, than why bother? I was just failing again.

But then something happened…

My Facebook memory feed started showing my past triathlon pictures. I remembered that feeling of accomplishing these races as something I never thought I would be able to do. It’s not something I can describe but something that connects in your soul. I thought to myself I’d like to have that feeling again. So I looked up what events might be coming to the area, and found one in early August. The negative self-talk started: “You’re not in good enough shape to do this”, “You can’t be ready for this in such a short amount of time” etc. etc. Then a different voice spoke and said, “what if you just go for a bike ride today and see how that feels”? Not perfection. Not training. Just get out on the bike and enjoy the ride. And so I did. It was hard – I couldn’t believe actually how hard it was to ride a short five miles. After all, as a triathlete, I crushed 15 miles in 45 minutes AFTER a ½ mile swim. How could this be? But it still felt great. I was moving again. A shift was happening.

The final light bulb went on one day when I was on yet another bike ride, which was becoming a regular occurrence, along with some attempted running. I’d never get to a triathlon again without this, although I don’t get nearly the enjoyment from running that I get from bike riding. Anyway along this bike ride, I saw a woman on the trail that had a beautiful, natural, healthy looking figure. I said to myself, “I would like to look like that”. In the past, there has been much negative self-talk response that said, “Why bother? You’ve never looked like that and will never look like that. Your body isn’t built that way”. For the first time ever I did not hear this. Instead, the voice in my head talked back to me and said “Well why can’t you”?

The duct tape was now off of the light switch, it was flipped “on”, and the bulb burned brightly. Mentally, I had taken a turn in “getting it”. The failures I’ve experienced have not been physical. It’s because of where the focus has been; how we appear physically to others; what that magic number on the scale should be; being accountable to everyone other than myself.

So in the first 12 Week Fitness Program, here’s what I have gained:

  • The realization that for years, I lost the same 30 pounds over and over in an effort to look good. The weight loss was a goal and destination – not a way to live my life. My brain has now caught up. I can only do this for me and only me. I have to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see. I am responsible to create my own happiness. Me. No one else. And when I do this, I feel great!
  • The comprehension that the people you love see you as you are as a person. The physical doesn’t matter. Love shows you the person in all of their beauty and not just their physical appearance. I believe Ed saw me the same way I saw him; our better halves.
  • I am a perfectionist and it is not a strength; it is a weakness. I continually fall into the trap of if it’s not done perfectly, then I’ve failed. Here’s what I’ve learned. Even doing a little something right is better than doing nothing at all. Not measuring, tracking food, or working out for one day, does not mean failure. It does not mean “why bother”. It just means do it right at some point. Some of the time. But the more you do it right – and not perfectly – the better you’ll feel mentally, which will lead to the physical results. Every day is not perfect. Every hour is not perfect. But make them all good and make them all count.
  • Working out does not have to mean hours of cardio and sweat, or a very structured program. Just get moving and for no reason other than to move. I sit at my desk all day long, and just riding my bike – not for a certain number of miles or any kind of goal other than to get out, enjoy the sunshine and nature and just moving my body is enough. The goal is to move every day – not to burn calories or lose weight.
  • Being a perfect number on the scale has nothing to do with participating in life and being happy. Period. Hard stop. Participate in life every day in every way and only in ways that lead to happiness.

What I have learned over in those past 12 weeks weighs more on me than any loss on the scale. And in the best possible way. I’m participating in the next 12 Weeks Challenge can feel my mind shifting in even greater ways. That’s a story for another time J

Thanks for “reading” 🙂

Wishing you all Strength, Courage Wisdom….Faith, Love and Hope,

Tracey xoxoxo