Tag: life lessons

Almost 40…

getting-old

So this week I turned 38. That means I’m almost 40. Wow! At least I’m not actually 40 but it’s coming! I can feel it!

I am not one to moan and groan about my age but it does kind of shock me that almost 40 has come so fast. Where did the time go? 2018 marked 20 years since I finished high school. That makes sense because that feels like another millennia ago. But other stuff like the end of my mission in 2005 seems like it just happened. Even something like moving into my home has somehow ballooned into 6 years! Mind blown.

Luckily I can’t feel to badly about turning 38 because I’ve had such an amazing year. Currently I am busy covering the Sundance Film Festival and you can find my reviews on rottentomatoes.com! My podcasts/channels are both doing well and I’m super proud of them and things are going well with my job. So life is great. I am very blessed.

So I’m not really sad about turning almost 40 but it is a little sobering. I certainly thought I would be married and have a family at this point but it just hasn’t been in the cards for me. (If you know anyone who might be interested please let me know 😉 ). It makes me a little sad to think about that but there’s nothing I can do about it so oh well.

38

The other day I was thinking about the people in my life who didn’t get to be almost 40 (my cousins Lisa, Riley, Raquel RIP). A family and spouse may not happen (I’m aware it could happen but it might not) but think about the many experiences I do get to have which they did not? It reminds me to be grateful for the gift of life and another year on this planet. Even in the bad times I am growing and changing into the person God wants me to be. He is behind all the lessons of my life, and I’m confident He has something special in store for the almost 40 version of me.

If January is any test 2019 is shaping up to be a very memorable year and I’m ready for it! I’m a little overwhelmed and wish I had more time but I’m as ready as I can be. Fortunately, I have tons of support both in real life and online for which I am truly grateful.

So to almost 40: Bring it on!

GSL 2014

Another amazing open water swim race has come and gone.  Honestly I’m so exhausted I don’t know how much I can write but I will do my best.

I’ve often said I race partly for my swim family, partly for nature, partly for fitness but mostly for life.  Every swim teaches me something profound about life and this was no exception.

Here I am before the race:

before raceI was really nervous as I always am.  Great Salt Lake is so unpredictable and my last 2 years have been very tough for me, even 2012 when I was so well prepared was a beast. Both of those years there was wind advisories and the races were nearly cancelled.  I was praying so hard that we would get smooth water for once…

And my prayer was answered. Smooth water!

When you enter the Great Salt Lake it is like no other experience I can describe.  Your whole body screams with all the salt.  Your tongue swells up, your nose burns, and any soft skin let’s you know quickly it doesn’t like it.  All this adds to the challenge.

But luckily I decided to go for it and this year my friend Anna came with and she did amazing! A lot of my other friends weren’t in town or didn’t swim for one reason or another.  In fact, it looked like over half the swimmers were new to GSL.  There was one group from California that flew in for the race.  They go to races as friends all over the country.  How fun is that!

So they started the race in an odd way.  We had to climb over all these rocks and I had flip-flop sandles on.  I felt like I was going to slip and break my ankle.  It was kind of nuts.

Here I am trying to get down to the start:

DSCF5601Then the race started and within the first 5 minutes all the sudden my whole right side cramped up.  I felt like I could hardly move.  It seemed like I would have to pull out with that much pain so early on.

Luckily there was an awesome kayaker who helped me calm down and encouraged me to try another stroke so breaststroke it was. It seemed to strain my side less and after about 3 sets of 100 the cramp was mostly gone. (I count strokes in batches of 100)

I was still doing a lot of breaststroke but then worked in 100s of freestyle and even got a 150 in.  It was so shallow that it was hard to do a freestyle stroke for a lot of the race.

There’s me in all that water. Surrounded by nature and all that water.  It will never get old.  So beautiful!:

S0015609See how close the kayaker was?  He was a lifesaver and was so encouraging.

I also decided to not worry about sighting and just swim.  The current was very light so I didn’t have to worry about getting pulled inward like I did last year. I was confident enough in the kayaker that I knew I could just swim.  With my lazy eye sighting is not my strength but it’s especially hard at GSL because there are no trees or big objects to sight on so it’s sort of a fruitless enterprise.  I’m glad I abandoned it all together.

So, I kept going in batches of 100 strokes.  Another one and then rest 20 seconds, and another.  Finally I got to the spot to run in and it was probably 200 yards.  I actually speed walked because I was worried about turning my ankle on that type of rocky/sandy beach. (Plus I was exhausted).

Eat your heart out Bo Derek! 🙂

DSCF5621Here’s the crazy thing- cramp, stops, breaststroke and all I finished in 1 hr 4 minutes.  Last year it took me 1 hr 23 minutes!  Almost 20 minute faster this year!  I still can’t believe that!

It just goes to show a lot of obstacles can be in your way at the beginning of your goal but if you keep going, do 100 more, and then another, and another, you will finish.  Like I said, swimming teaches me about life. And what a perfect lesson to learn this week starting a new job for new company, doing something new!

I will never forget crossing the line and knowing I did it!  Cramp and all I did it! Please take my story and set a bold goal.  People of all shapes and sizes can do awesome things.

Thank you to the organizers, kayakers and my friends for cheering me on both at the race and away. I might not have done the race at all if it wasn’t for all the wonderful encouragement.

It feels good to be Rachel today!

DSCF5638
A brick of salt for a salty race. Love this photo
DSCF5636
My awesome kayaker. Such great support
DSCF5632
Anna did amazing. 35 minutes first GSL/open water race!
DSCF5630
We did it! I love my open water family

Why Stories Matter

storytellingI’ve been thinking this week about stories.  Why are stories so important in our life?  Why do they matter?  And why do some stories create such an impact on me and do nothing or the reverse for others?  Why do we care so much about these stories?

Of course what made me ponder on the topic was my disappointment at the end of the story for How I Met Your Mother.  A story I had invested 9 years on and did not end the way I wanted it to.  It is after all just a TV show.  What’s the big deal?

Well let me tell you a story and maybe it will make a little more sense why it was such a big deal.  After my mission I got a job working in a cubicle, entering data and printing checks.  It was supposed to be a temporary position till I could find something else but a year stretched into two and then I started school so two became three.

I wanted to quit everyday, and I knew that God wanted me to quit, but I lacked the courage.  The courage to dive off into an unknown while going to school.  At least the horrible job was something and the unknown could be even worse?

I was scared and fear is an evil little sucker.  I was also unhappy but I saw no break in the unhappiness if I quit.  It seemed like I should be happy.  Other people were unemployed and had no job so what was my problem? Why couldn’t I feel happiness any more?

I did have a manager who was extremely manipulative and treated me like a bug that needed to be squished, but even if she would have been a saint, I would have been unhappy.  I usually am when I am scared and not doing what God wants me to do.

So I kept going, and going, and the anger and resentment built up inside me until I was scared I would explode.  Finally, one day in Feb 2007 I kind of did.  I grabbed my purse and I ran out of the office.  Then I called my head boss and let it all out.

I proceeded to then have my first panic attack.  I felt like I would lose control and all those feelings would come out and I would embarrass myself.  I couldn’t breathe or speak and for a second I wondered if I was going to die.  It was awful. One of the worst days of my life.

The next Monday at the office things were awkward but I made it through and things started to be better.  I had a new manager, less assignments, hours and even a desk by the window.  I made it through the summer and yet the nagging feeling of unhappiness didn’t leave me.  It was less a boiling point and more of a steady simmer.  It still wasn’t what God wanted me to do and I was still afraid to take the leap.

Finally in September, I made the decision- I quit.  I gave my notice and helped them train a new person and December 21, 2007 I walked out of the office with a box of desk nicknacks and shouted in the air ‘I did it!’.  I had quit my job.  I was diving into the unknown and looking for work in 2008.  Only crazy people quit their jobs in 2008, but I did and it was one of the best days of my life.  I knew it was right.  I knew for sure.

That day my friends and I went and celebrated my freedom at Bucca di Beppo’s and a weekend at the Marriott in SLC.  This isn’t the greatest picture but it is one of my greatest memories.

bucca

But you know what happened after I took this great leap?  It took me 6 months of interviews before I found a job, and even then it was only because of the mercy of my Dad letting me manage his properties I found anything.  I knew I had done the right thing but it was scary nonetheless.  God does not always iron out all the wrinkles when he gives you a new shirt to wear. At the end of 2008 I said on this very blog (I started the blog in May 2008):

“It has been a year of healing and growth, and I am immeasurably stronger as a result.  It all started last December with my taking the big leap of faith and quitting my job.  I knew I needed  a change and that the Lord wanted me to be doing something else, so I left everything in His hands.

Not knowing where life was taking me I entered the job hunt- interviewing for nearly 40 companies over 6 months.   There were so many jobs that I thought for sure I would get and then I wouldn’t.  The Lord definitely made me wait and show my faith before helping everything to work out.”

So, you perhaps can understand why it was so meaningful mere weeks after quitting that I saw this:

Someone got it.  Someone understood my story.  That’s why I stuck around for 9 years.  That’s why it meant so much to me.  It was the story and just like my story ended well, I wanted to see Marshall and the gang’s end well.  I’ll get over it.  I promise.

We all have our stories, and they all matter.  Stories matter.

Friendship at 10, 20, 30

I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long.  Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life.  Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend.  I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships.  Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.

Let me explain…

When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others.  For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen.  At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports.  We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.

These were my 3 best friends from high school
These were my 3 best friends from high school

It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices.  Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).

Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends.  No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.

Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people.  You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities.  Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens.  However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).

Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class.  The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual.   This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds.  Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.

College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)
College friends (my cousin Julia, me, my sister Megan and Emily)

 

My roommate Heather and friend.
My roommate Heather and friend.
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Miriam and I are still friends from college
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.
My friend Joni from college as she left for her mission.

I have such warm memories of that time in my life.  It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time.   Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that.  How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys?  All part of the learning experience.

After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry.  Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2).   This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure.  At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time.  We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.

There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time.   For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days.  So great.    I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office.  For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together.  I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again.  That certainly tells you the influence of friends!

This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school.  I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort.  The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward.  Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends.  It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends.  People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.

During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people.  Or I should say my roommate and I did.  We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions.  Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories.  I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.

fair dance gifts new years girls party tracey dinnerThen my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough).  Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends.  This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).

While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to.  No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing.  It takes work but that work can be a joy.  It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities.  I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them.  Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.

In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was.  https://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party:  “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends.  It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low.  I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”

The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes.  Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times.  It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t.  People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.

Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them.  Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life.  That’s what work tends to do.  Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship.  When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others.  That is a great gift not a burden.

Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process.  I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc.  It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.

In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.

It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends!  To a fun day tomorrow!

 

Existential Dread and Bologna

So I laughed harder today than I have in many years. Yes, years. The kind of laughing where you can hardly breathe and your side aches.

What made me laugh?  Well, lately the website buzzfeed.com has been doing a bunch of surveys to determine all kinds of things like ‘Which Jane Austen Heroine are you Like?’ or ‘What superhero are you?’ etc.  They’ve become popular with my friends so I mozied on over to take a few as a lark.

The first one I got was quite the ominous survey ‘How will I die’.  I mean who doesn’t want to know that?  Would certainly help when purchasing life insurance.  So I filled out the survey and the results pop up. I am not altering this in any way.  This is what it told me:

“You will be suffocated by existential dread. An unbearable sense of the sheer pointlessness of it all, once tamped down by booze, drugs, and the occasional, ultimately meaningless sexual release, eventually becomes too much for you”

That’s rough…Who knew I was both so thoughtful and such a rebel. So existential dread is defined by our friends over at wikipedia as “It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety, or inner turmoil. In other languages…. it is used regularly to express fear.

Also existential philosophy is the brainchild of Soren Kierkegaard. The idea is you use your brain to perfect yourself and separate from the empty, meaningless world. (Catcher in the Rye with all the ‘phonies’ is an example).  Anyway, who knew that it had such a hold on me enough so that it would suffocate me and lead to my death’.  No more deep thinking for me! 😉

‘After sitting alone thinking about the earth and all the shallowness and emptiness I thought ‘why not take another survey? I mean it won’t mean anything but I might as well’…

So I found one that seemed pretty innocuous ‘What sandwich are you?’  Perhaps I was eating lunch and needed some guidance but you won’t believe what I got as my sandwich.  Again, I am not making this up.  It said:

‘You got the Sad bologna sandwich. Look at your life. Look at your choices” Now I’m really experiencing some existential dread.  Look at my choices?  Look at my life?  I never knew I was so off track.  And it’s not just a bologna sandwich but a sad bologna sandwich.  Even my bologna is sad. Now that is existential…

What’s a girl to do?  Existential dread, a sad sandwich.  Look at my life choices…I’m a mess.  A bit of an academic mess that likes cheap mystery meat but a mess!

But then I found some comfort in an article in the Huffington Post and again I am not making this up.  It said:

“New research shows Tylenol may have the unseen psychological side-effect of easing existential dread….We think that Tylenol is blocking existential unease in the same way it prevents pain because a similar neurological process is responsible for both types of distress,”

Phew!  What a relief.  I’ve got to stock up on tylenol.

But what do I do about my sad sandwich?  And my life choices? When I see bologna in the stores it’s going to have a  whole new tragic appeal to me.  How can a sandwich be sad?  Evidently if it is my sandwich it brings on all kinds of anxiety, distress and sadness.  Perhaps the poor life choices have something to do with the tylenol too!  Maybe that will help me get a happy sandwich?

Anyway, I thought it was hilarious, but I implore all of you to watch out for any existential dread posts or if you see bologna in my fridge give me a hug and ask me how those life choices are going.  You may be my only hope!

existential dread

Exercise and Weight Loss Success

Many of you know I believe in a healthy lifestyle or the Health at Every Size Movement http://www.haescommunity.org/. 

How do you determine the success of a health regiment or diet? I would wager that 90% of you would answer “weight loss”  or if you didn’t you probably would be thinking ‘weight loss’ in your head but saying something more socially acceptable.

Here’s the thing- THAT IS WRONG!!

Every day there seems to be more evidence that the link between weight, even obesity, and actual health is not as strong as we once thought.  This defies the logic of the ‘war on obesity’, Michele Obama, scores of trainers/dieticians but that doesn’t mean it is not true.

Read this book.  It will BLOW YOUR MIND

health at every sizeThink it is just one woman’s crazy enabling antics?  No.  The book has 7 pages of detailed recommendations from doctors, leaders, scientists etc.  (see articles for more back up

US News World Report 

New York Times, and New York Times

The Today Show

To start the book Dr Bacon (I know ironic last name) shares her testimonial.  Here it is directly from the book:

health at every size 2This quote might lead you to believe the book is merely anecdotal but its not.  There is real science to back up what she says about eating healthy, being happy and not worrying about weight.  She leaves no stone unturned answering questions about diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, bone density, and even has the most brilliant defense against gastric bypass I’ve ever read. I’m telling you it will change the way anyone, not just the obese, look at eating, health and exercise. Here is my favorite (this is also quoted in Amy Farrell’s brilliant book Fat Stigma):

UC Davis.

“In this study, a group of fat women was divided into 2 groups, one receiving coaching in restrictive eating (diet) and exercise, the other being encouraged to eat a healthy diet, listen to their bodies cues, to foster ways to engage in fun exercise and take part in a fat acceptance discussion group.

Significantly group 1- the traditional diet/exercise group- initially lost weight, but by the end half had dropped out; most had regained weight; blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures had not improved and self-esteem levels had dropped.

In contrast, group 2 hadn’t lost any weight, but most stayed with the 2 year program; their blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures had improved dramatically; their self-esteem levels increased substantially; and they exercised regularly.  Encouraged to pay attention to their bodies, to stop restricting calories, to fight the discrimination they experienced as fat people, and to enjoy their bodies through physical movement and eating well- the non-dieters showed significant health improvements.  But, and this is the key point, they never became thin.”

Doesn’t that blow your mind?

One of Dr.  Bacon’s patients describes her battle and realization of her own worth so beautifully:

health at every size 3

I recently have become aware of the activist Jeanette DePatie, otherwise known as The Fat Chick.  She gets it.  I wish someone had explained this to me when I started exercising (instead I went into it expecting to lose 100 lbs in the first year. Sigh…)

I am happy most of the time. I love  my life most of the time.  I have times when I’m more fit than others but I’ve basically looked the same since I was 17 years old and I was always ashamed by that, like it was this big failure I could never overcome.  Now I just make sure I have clothes that fit me in lots of sizes and work out at least 3 times a week.  Would I like to be skinny?  Yes, but I’m finally not convinced I’d be any happier if I was (or healthier).  The guilt is for the most part gone.

I hope this encourages all of you.  I started my journey saying I was the Only Happy Fat Woman in America and I had friends who fought me on it.  They thought I was just being patronizing or disingenuous but it was true then and today it is still true (I really had someone argue with me saying I was basically full of crap.  Not true).  TV will make you believe you have to be miserable if you are fat (biggest loser sorry)  but its a lie! Be healthy, be happy, be human, have bad days, eat cake and then work out for an hour the next day, find stuff you love, therapies that work and live the best life you can.

Every time Tanya and I swim together people look and have a surprised expression.  I know they think ‘I’ve never seen a girl that looks like do what they are doing’ and that makes me so happy.  It may be my greatest legacy of all.

So thats what I have to say on that.  Get active.  Be happy.  Love life and Follow God.

And just keep at it.
And just keep at it.
Do something you never thought you could do.  I love MMA (kick boxing) and I'm not too bad at it!
Do something you never thought you could do. I love MMA (kick boxing) and I’m not too bad at it!
Do a fashion show when you find a cute pair of jeans.  Who cares!
Do a fashion show when you find a cute pair of jeans. Who cares!
Find something you love.  Even after all the swims I've done it still makes me smile
Find something you love. Even after all the swims I’ve done it still makes me smile
My trainer who has stood by me for 4 years. She is why I go to treehouse and she is one of my rocks.  I really love her.
My trainer who has stood by me for 4 years. She is why I go to treehouse and she is one of my rocks. I really love her.

I would also just add that my times in the water when I’m at my thinnest and best trained is about 3 minutes faster than when I’m not.  My recovery is much better but my time really isn’t.  Funny. It just goes to show what your definition of success makes such a difference in achieving it.  If I was only focused on times I’d never be successful.