Where We are, Where We Want to Be: Accepting Your Current Circumstance May Help Get You to Where You’d Like to Be

I’m a baker. I have been for a while now. But I started schooling for a variety of different occupations. I began my college career as an aspiring social worker. After social work, I tried my hand at design and went to architecture school for a semester. Then when I heard that architects worked an 80 hour work week, I decided to try my hand at writing, and earned my degree in English with a communications minor. The plan was to become a newspaper writer. I hadn’t given the idea a lot of thought, otherwise I may have looked around and realized that maybe that wasn’t the most stable career choice. With newspapers becoming part of a bygone era, when I graduated I didn’t have a backup plan for what I’d do if my career of choice didn’t pan out.

In my defense, I didn’t have a lot of guidance. None actually. I was taking stabs in the dark at what I thought might bring me a sense of satisfaction. I realize now a lot of the choices I made were ways of keeping me locked in a trauma cycle. Reliving parts of my past, but that’s another story for another time. I still needed to find out how I was going to pay back the federal government for supporting me through my extended college years!

So I baked. It was easy because I was already doing it, and I was pretty good at it considering I had fallen into the job. What got me thinking about it is that I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing in the next five years and where I’d like to be in my career and also that I had to recertify for my “serve safe” certificate. I enjoy some aspects of baking, for example when you have a good bake, and the ears, those pockets of dough that rise up during the bake, leaving almost and elegant envelope of smartly creased crust, pop up all in a row down the length of the oven in a symmetrical pattern, it’s a good feeling.

But there are some aspects of the job that aren’t so pleasant as well. For instance, the Serve Safe certificate I had to recertify. In the online course I took, I never heard the term, fecal-oral route, used so many times in 8 hours. Then I was tested on it!

It’s situations like these that are the drive behind my wanting to change careers. And it’s not that I’m squeamish. I just don’t have the memories associated with baking that, I imagine most people do. I never watched my grandmother lovingly labor over baked goods. My grandmother was more the type to slam your thumb in the car door of an old Buick Regal at the tender age of 5.

Which brings me to my most current iteration of my career outlook. I’m planning on going back for social work. I know the pitfalls of growing up in a family that is unstable at best. I feel as though I may have some wisdom to impart and the ability to tolerate horrific stories, more than most. But to make it from bread baker, to social worker, it’s going to take some maneuvering.

When I was getting recertified for the serve safe certificate, I had to take an eight hour long course before I could take the test. I found myself getting a little restless. As though I deserved to be elsewhere, instead of stuck in front of a computer. I should be doing work that matters, but instead I heard the term, “fecal oral route” more times than I could count, and I just wanted to be done with the whole experience. Not just the test, but the early, cold mornings, the stressful environment, not getting any holidays off save for Christmas day, all of it. I was a little grumpy.

Then I took the test and got in the 95% and crossed the task off my todo list, brought the invoice into work to be reimbursed for, and told the GM I would give him a link to the site so we could get other employees trained. In short, I took care of myself, took stock of the small accomplishments I achieved along the way, and helped a few people in the process. It felt good to know that I could count on myself and achieve goals, no matter how small they may seem.

Because it’s in these moments, of understanding where you are, and what needs to be done to move yourself forward, that we build accountability to ourselves, knowing that we are the resource that is going to get us to where we want to be. I could have kept putting off taking the exam, but knowing that I will take care of business, no matter how unpleasant the task may seem, and move forward by accepting where I am and pushing through, makes me feel as though I’m capable of achieving greater things. And I feel that it’s this mind set that ultimately will guide us to the places we’d like to be, while navigating through the here and now.

This may seem common sense to most, and I honestly hope this is the case. But I’ve seen to many friends, people, loved ones, stall in their lives because they had no one model the mindset of accepting where they were by using wise discernment to devise a course of action and follow through with the plan. God knows the role-models I had all complained about how so and so was doing them wrong, or how unfair life is, rather than take some accountability for it (life). That said, when we’ve experienced abuse, it’s difficult to navigate the waters of accountability, and being in that category, I have empathy for those making an honest go of moving forward regardless of how difficult it gets. And it gets weird at times, that’s for sure!

And it may seem a little cheesy, but if you’re constantly wishing things were different, you may miss out on some of the tender moments along the way. I used to bake in Salem MA, so every Halloween, there would be swarms of people descending on the city. My shift was the 3-11pm bake shift, so at the end of the day, I’d be sitting in the bakery waiting for my loaves to finish in the oven, with the door cracked open to let the crisp autumn air in along with the sounds of merriment from the festivities happening around the city. Drunk people would stumble by, asking for bread, make-up smeared in unintended ways while struggling with gravity. It was nice. If I stopped to think about how I didn’t want to be there in the first place or all the negative things that happened during the day, I may have missed those relaxing moments, or how good my bake looked.

Never give up on your dreams, no matter how crazy they may seem, but don’t forget to make room for the present while you’re chasing after your goals, because that’s where life is ultimately lived. Accepting where you are leads to accountability, leads to trust, leads to ease, which leads to living in the present. Long story short, pay attention to your surroundings while you’re on your way and you may have some good stories to tell.

peace, and thanks for reading :]

Image Credits: “Winding Path Draped in Mist” by Moose Winans is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Reparenting-Resistance to Training: Why Working Out Builds More Than Just Strength

I’m an avid runner and yogi. I love the feel of being out on the road, ending my fourth mile at the top of a hill. Also knowing that the ocean and its breeze is just ahead of me, waiting on the other side. I love the calm on my mat right after we finish our vinyasa. And when I’m lying prone in savasana, letting the energy from the workout settle over me. But it wasn’t always that way.

For a long time I avoided exercise at almost any cost. Even though I played baseball and soccer in my youth and also took taekwondo lessons, I’ve struggled with any form of physical activity since I started middle school. With the exceptions of when I decided to lift weights for stints of two months every five or so years. So it was to my complete surprise when about four years ago I took to running as a hobby and practicing yoga fairly regularly.

I’m not sure what got into me. But I took to both yoga and running so quickly that I was running half marathons in a little under a year’s time and I was doing yoga twice a week. Making great strides in my overall health and fitness levels.

I attribute much of my motivation levels to my quitting smoking, drinking and playing video games. But also as much credit goes to my living situation being the most stable it has been since my early childhood. Probably around the time I stopped playing all the sports I used to engage with in the first place. I had been so worried about my survival first, and belonging second, that any energy I had went to those two efforts. These thoughts consumed my thoughts and actions.

As I would come to find out I had been hyper vigilant due mostly to my past abuse that lead directly to my developing PTSD. I didn’t realize it then but I was expending great amounts of energy keeping my feelings guarded and isolating from others. I was so guarded that I was dissociating from both my feelings and body almost constantly.

Once my living situation stabilized and I was able to take stock of what personal resources and achievements I had to build from, I realized I didn’t have many. I had spent so much of my time running from every aspect of my life that I had maybe two friends that were well adjusted and stable. I had loads of debt and was pretty unhealthy as well. So I suppose it was only natural to use something like running (because it was already second nature to me) to get in touch with my body and take control of my health. Yoga helped to slow me down enough to feel what was here as well as getting acquainted with the parts of my body I had been neglecting for so long.

Running specifically was a source of pride and accomplishment for me. I could track the progress in mileage in time and with tangible results. As I said above I was running 13.1 miles from 2 miles inside of a year. Also the neighborhoods and scenery I was running in and around were beautiful. It helped that I had some running buddies along the way as well.

I remember running my first rely-marathon with a friend of mine from Vermont. The course carved through downtown Burlington and the views of Lake Champlain while running up and down the city’s hilly roads were lined with rows of vibrant green conifers. This was set behind the clear, glassy lake which was reflecting the sapphire sky and its low lying supple clouds. It was beautiful. And along with so many people running along side of me which was more supportive than I would have thought. There’s always an excitement on race day, like this run REALLY matters. No matter how many times you’ve run the course or the race, it feels special knowing there are so many like minded people gathering to achieve the same goal.

The feelings of support and community are also true of yoga classes. The dimly lighted room, the open space filled with yoga mats politely distanced to give room to the people surrounding you. And soothing music softly playing as people prepare for the class by coming to stillness and quiet on their mats. The quiet flow of synchronized movement while each person follows the instructors direction to the best of their ability with focused intentions and minds. And finally the release of the session’s work as it melts away from your body leaving you feeling relaxed and filled with life, as you finish your day’s practice in savasana.

These two hobbies have been a large influence of my healing path as well. From the time of my abuse till I was in my early thirties, I had no real goals or aspirations to rise to in my life. I was listlessly floating around from situation to relationship to circumstance, completely uncertain about what was going to happen to me or my future. I didn’t feel as though I really had a future to speak of. After I woke up into my emotions, running and yoga were the two ways I was able to give some structure to my life.

Running was a way for me to understand that I could achieve something, however small. The distances I ran and the connections I made with the people I ran with were markers for me. Markers that allowed me to cultivate a sense of accomplishment. Even if it was only making the jump from mile six to mile seven, I was proud of that mile. As though that mile showed me I could overcome something. Achieve what I never thought I was able to accomplish. Or the five mile buddy runs I used to run with my friend Jenny, around the neighborhoods of my past. The unconditional friendship and feelings of accomplishment of consistently running five miles that accompanied me through the streets that I had so associated with past failures. They gave me the strength to feel better about the choices I was making. Instead of the choices I had made.

And with yoga it was a way for me to feel comfortable around people again. Something I was having trouble with while being present in my body. I had been so used to drinking and using medication to soothe myself while around others that I forgot how to be around someone while in an unaltered state. Yoga with its comforting setting and gentle flow while being a challenging workout, showed me how to be in my body. And to experience these emotions not only in my body, but while being surrounded by supportive, like minded people.

As I’ve mentioned above I had maybe two friends who stuck with me and were supportive. Most of the people I had surrounded myself with before I woke up emotionally were critical, angry and viciously mean. Both my friends and especially my family were very cold and very cutting. It was no wonder that I was so detached from my body and feelings. Every time I stepped foot inside myself I felt as though I was under attack!

Running and yoga were also ways for me to know I could achieve physical health goals if I committed to them. And that they were ways of being in my body and surrounded by people and feel safe. Furthermore, I felt that I could choose to make these healthy choices and choose to surround myself with people who felt safe to be around. That helped to show me that I had the agency I felt I lacked for so long. I could choose how my future would unfold. I could stop wandering so listlessly and find some focus. Some footing to regain control of my life.

I suppose this is why sports are so important for some young people. Something to give them the stable, supportive, community that they may be lacking elsewhere in their lives. A younger me would have scoffed at the idea. But looking back on what the self-driven, dedication and support from loved ones has given me, I could only imagine what it would do for someone who was hanging on by a thread. Who felt like they were just trying to survive.

Fortunately for us we don’t have to be experiencing some great trauma to develop a new healthy hobbie like running or yoga. The benefits are equally as gratifying either way. The more we make showing up for ourselves a habit, by way of commiting to our workouts and physical health, the greater the trust we nurture in our own lives will be. Tara Brach a Buddhist psychologist who I’ve mentioned before on this blog, gave a talk related to this subject. It’s about how “it’s not the survival of the fittest, it’s the survival of the nurtured.” And for me the more often I reflect on this piece of wisdom the truer it becomes.

So if you haven’t started a hobby like running or yoga, or maybe swimming has always appealed to you, I urge you to pursue your interests. Be inquisitive and explore your personality some. Maybe hiking has been in the back of your mind waiting for the time to be right to pick it up and see where it takes you. Make the time for yourself and show up. But be kind to yourself on the way and be consistent. One of the reasons yoga is so healthy is that there is no competition, no judgement. You show up just as you are. And that’s always be enough. Whatever interest or predilections you have, foster them. Who knows where they’ll take you but wherever it is it will be satisfying. And you’ll be building confidence and trust in yourself along the way. Happy trails and Namaste :]

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