Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

Who Needs Sleep, Hygiene, or Sanity?

tirmonumentSo I just completed another overnight relay race and it was wonderful. Was I sleep, hygiene, and sanity deprived? Yes. Did the lack of sleep and frequent running make me weary and light-headed? Yes. Did I bond with like-minded runners exploring new terrain and learning a lot about myself along the way? Yes. Yes, all of that happened.

My husband and daughters greeted me at the finish line and my husband said what he says each time I do this: “I just could never do that. I would go crazy without sleep and a shower.” I can certainly appreciate that sentiment. I mean, sleep and common creature comforts are what help to make the world go round. It is truly the little things in life that make us comfortable and secure. One thing that strikes me as incredibly interesting; however, is that when we take ourselves out of our day-to-day existence and deny ourselves of our beloved creature comforts, we learn more about who we truly are as people and what is important in life.

So, since I’ve been back from my relay race, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly that appeals to me about a race of this magnitude, and the following is what I came up with.

  • It’s like an adult sleepaway camp or some sort of spiritual retreat.tirgirlies

I don’t want to say that an overnight relay race is a spiritual retreat exactly, but it really kind of is. Think about it. You’re out communing with nature, devoid of excessive technology and creature comforts, focusing on your passion and your community with like-minded people. You are learning about other modes of thought and perspectives and there’s really no way you can walk away from an experience like that without feeling inspired and transformed in some way. I believe this, right here, is the single most important reason I love participating in the overnight relay race.

  • You are offered a unique experience.tir finale

Participating in an overnight relay race affords a runner unique opportunities. You get to do things you wouldn’t typically get to do at home. Run down the shoulder of a highway at 2:00 a.m. with volunteers present and a van full of supporters? How unique is that of an experience? Run a prepared course that takes you through some really interesting areas full of history and beauty? Yes, please. All of the legwork has been done for runners all so that they can have a special experience. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  • It forces you out of your comfort zone.darktir

Were you all snuggled into your comfort zone? Well, this will get you quickly out of it. First and foremost, you’re out of that normal day-to-day grind that you are so accustomed to. That load of laundry, sink full of dishes, carpool drop off, etc.? That’s all being handled for you. You’re nowhere around. Being away from home and with new people allows a runner to focus solely on running. Additionally,  there is no home court advantage. Runners are all thrown in this together and must work together exploring new territory. This intimidating setup gives you confidence to try new things, and I believe confidence is a key component to living a fulfilled life.

  • You get to act like you’re 12 years old again. name tags

It’s so much fun to get to act like a kid again. No responsibilities, nowhere to jet off to, you really are only responsible for yourself … not your children, not your spouse, not your animals, not your home. You are FREE! There isn’t the hectic schedule to adhere to. Runners get to be totally selfish and it’s wonderful.

  • You are having old fashioned fun. tir2017

A race set up like this takes away a lot of the distractions. It disconnects you a bit from technology and puts you in touch with good old-fashioned fun.  Looking at things from an unconnected perspective can have a profound impact on how we approach things in life and it allows us to be more open to learning new things. But, above all that, hilarious conversations and one-liners among teammates abound an overnight relay race, and it is fabulous. It is so much fun to be silly with other runners, and being around other runners as they share their experiences is a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, and I am always most appreciative of this aspect of the relay race.

  • You make fast friends.tirgirls

I would venture to say that relay runner friends are friends for life, experiencing a connection like no other. It’s a deep engagement forged through shared experiences.  The experience is unique not only because of the quantity of time with which a team is together, but because of the quality of the time teammates enjoy. Again, this is time away from creature comforts and the day-to-day grind, so it’s uninterrupted bonding time and it’s wonderful. I so enjoy the friendships created on an overnight relay race, and even though I may not be able to visit with these relay friends in person that often, I enjoy a connection through social media with them that I cherish.

  • Self-exploration is inevitable.fly girl

An overnight relay race is a chance for you to really explore yourself. To stop being so hard on yourself and to truly think about how you can grow as an individual. It opens you up to different possibilities. My goal is always to take home things I learn along the way, and every time I do this. I learn a lot from my fellow travelers and I learn to relax and trust my intuition and to just be happy. Above all, be happy.

So, what’s not to love about an overnight relay race? If you’ve never done one, it’s time to change that.

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

What do sports teach us about life?

As I was watching my daughters play soccer this weekend I started thinking about the spirit of competition and how organized sports help mold individuals into lifelong leaders. Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the ins and outs of the sport and to forget about the way that sports give people many outstanding attributes that they might not otherwise possess. I am happy that my girls play a competitive sport, and I started listing in my head the positive lessons I’ve noticed my girls learning. This also made me think about my sport of running and the positive changes I’ve made in my own life through my involvement in my sport. So, what do sports teach us about life?

 1. How to win and how to lose.emily dickinson

Obviously, one of the first things learned is how to lose and how to win. A competitor should be graceful when he loses as well as when he wins. When we lose it’s easy to become upset, and honestly, a bit of upset after a loss is a good thing. For, the goal is to come out on top; to perform well; to enjoy a victory. Often times; however, despite our best efforts, we lose. In these moments it is important to remember the bigger picture. To remember that a loss should not deter us from continuing to work hard for what we want. It is important during losses to continue to honor the spirit of competition; to respect your opponent and to allow them to make you better. Conversely, sports teach us to win gracefully. Nobody likes a gloat. The truth is, as trite as it sounds, we win some, and we lose some. It’s certainly more fun to win, but we must always remember that we cannot win every time. Besides, if we did win every time, would the victories be as sweet? I think not. Emily Dickinson in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest,” asserts that “to comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.” In other words, to truly appreciate victory, we must experience defeat.

2. How to handle criticism.

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Perhaps one of the most beneficial things one learns from playing sports is how to handle criticism. This is something that I, to this day, struggle with. It is important to realize that it is not humanly possible to achieve perfection. We all have things we need to work on. If a person criticizes the way we do something, it does not mean that we are not good. It simply means that someone has made an observation about the way we do something and offered their opinion regarding it. That’s really all it is. An opinion. It may or may not be relevant to us, but people are entitled to their opinions. In a sports situation, if a coach offers an opinion regarding the quality with which we are performing, the opinion is relevant to us. It is not as if we are perfect; we have coaches nearby observing things about the way we perform that we might otherwise never have realized. If a coach takes the time to articulate an observation he has regarding our performance, we should take that as a compliment. If the coach didn’t think we had it in us to improve, he wouldn’t waste his time on us. In sports, it’s important to take criticism in stride and to avoid getting our feelings hurt and getting emotional when someone offers us criticism. Additionally, handling criticism from coaches ensures that we won’t let mistakes define us; instead we will learn from them.
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3. How to persevere.

Playing sports teaches us how to work hard, deal with discomfort, overcome obstacles, learn from struggle, push our body’s limits, get back up after falling, and to never give up. In short, sports teach us to persevere. These qualities are obviously necessary in athletics, and they certainly spill over and apply to the rest of our lives. In any given situation, resilience and determination are great contributors to success. When we fight through hard times and push past discomfort, we get to the good stuff. All great things worth having in life take effort and don’t come easy. The good things are worth fighting for and require perseverance, right? Sports teach us to develop that part of the brain that is in charge of perseverance, and the sooner we learn to fight for what we want, the more successful we become.

4. How to share, work together, and celebrate others.

Playing sports also teaches us how to share, work together, and celebrate others. One cannot hog all of the limelight and never share. There is enough room for all of us to shine, and instead of trying to prevent others from shining, we should cheer others on and motivate them. By cheering on teammates we are building them up and celebrating them. The simple fact is that one person cannot do everything. When we share and work together we achieve so much more than when we attempt to do everything on our own. In order to share the limelight and work well with others, we must be willing to ask for help and receive it, and we must trust others. The ability to share, work well with others, ask for help, trust others, and cheer others on are all integral attributes of leaders. They are also attributes of great community members. Truthfully, they are simply good attributes of human beings.

5. How to set goals and have a positive attitude.

Playing sports teaches us to set goals, and this builds confidence and a positive attitude. Achieving an athletic goal we’ve set for ourselves requires us to believe in ourselves, and each time we succeed, we become more confident. Naturally, we will fall short of our goals at times, but we learn to take those losses in stride, soldier on, keep a positive attitude, and keep fighting. Setbacks will happen, but good athletes do not let those setbacks destroy them. A good athlete takes every experience, good or bad, and learns from it. It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success. A positive attitude, even when we are struggling, will keep us working toward our goals.

6. How to make sacrifices.

Sports teach us how to make sacrifices. In order to pursue our passions, we must prioritize our lives and carve out time to dedicate to them. This might mean that we sacrifice idle time in order to squeeze everything in, and making sacrifices requires self-discipline. As an adult, how many times have you had to sacrifice sleep to squeeze all of your responsibilities in? How many times have you had to turn in early in order to be prepared for the following day? Playing sports forces us to get accustomed to making tough decisions regarding our schedules and our priorities if we want to accomplish our goals. Isn’t that the nature of being a successful adult? If we lazily retreat from responsibilities will we achieve all of the things that we aspire to? Most definitely not.

7. How to show respect.

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Sports teaches athletes to respect authority, not because they fear authority, but because they realize that their coaches want what is best for them. Showing respect is not limited just to coaches, either. A well-rounded athlete respects their teammates, opponents, officials, and themselves. Let’s face it, there comes a time in every athlete’s life where he doesn’t agree with a decision a coach, official, or teammate makes. It’s bound to happen. A respectful athlete, even when he is displeased, will show courtesy amidst frustration. Clearly, this spills over into the athlete’s off-field life as well. There will be a time when the athlete will face a spouse, boss, coworker, etc. with whom he disagrees. In sports, athletes are placed in this position with regularity, and hopefully they learn to maintain their composure and remember their manners.

8. How to hold yourself accountable, keep on learning, and take care of yourself.

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Athletes are privy to team practices, strength training, and a wealth of professional coaching knowledge, but it is up to the athlete to apply all of the knowledge they gain through these experiences. A successful athlete puts in extra work on their own time. He practices on his own because he wants to improve and he does not want to lose any momentum he has gained through his practice sessions. When athletes put in extra work they are learning to hold themselves accountable. They are learning that if they want something bad enough, they must work for it, even when no one is watching them. Every single time an athlete takes a coach’s instruction to heart he is learning and becoming better. He is conditioning his mind and body and developing himself immeasurably.

9. How to see the bigger picture.

Athletes know that there’s more to life than just the game. They know that family, friends, faith, and education are what holds the true meaning to life. Athletes; however, have an intense passion for their sport. Engaging in their sport brings them great happiness, purpose, confidence, and health. The sport certainly enriches their lives, but it should not be the be all and end all of their worlds. It is important for athletes to be completely engaged in their activity and to take the necessary steps in their lives to accomplish their goals, but they must remember that there is more to life than the sport. Involvement in sports enhances our lives, but it shouldn’t run our lives.
I am intensely proud that my daughters are involved in a competitive team sport. I truly feel that they are learning lifelong lessons out there on the soccer field. They are confident and poised and they don’t allow themselves to give up. I know that their involvement with their soccer club has been a huge contributor of the fine women they are becoming.
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