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Some people look at me and see someone who finds maintaining positivity and fitness a breeze. I fondly refer to myself as ‘obnoxiously optimistic.’  I believe that optimism and physical activity enrich my life and I practice this perspective to motivate myself to maintain my physical, emotional, and mental health. The mental aspect of wellness is both the most challenging and most crucial element.  Just like reeducating my muscles to move properly after any of my numerous injuries, I am constantly working to improve my stress reaction pattern.  I think it’s only logical that as I grow and change, so must my coping toolbox.

I think that most people would admit that they wrestle with fear or feelings of misgiving about something.   I don’t think that fear is inherently evil or bad.  Like anger, I believe fear serves to tell me something about myself.  For me, strong emotions are like the pivotal decision in a pick-a-path adventure novel. While I know the odds of actually being swallowed by a three-headed snake are minimal, I do feel like I am being swallowed alive when I continue to feed my fear.  On the flip side, I can choose a quest of self-analysis and become a warrior for positive growth and a skillful slayer of three-headed snakes.  Did I lose you?  In essence, getting to the root of my fear helps me to recognize why it exists and how I am using it to tear myself down or grow stronger.

We just returned from a visit with my husband Brian’s family in Michigan. As some of you know, Brian’s dad had a massive heart attack about two years ago.  I was on a run a few miles away at the time, and received the news over the phone from Brian.  By the time I returned to the house, an emergency response team had already arrived.  This past visit, I found it challenging to not to revisit the helplessness and fear I felt over that emotional week.  My anxiety compounded as I thought about how my dad had just recently been to the hospital, and I was overcome by grief for a good friend who had just lost his father.  I totally freaked out and cried a lot.  When I was calm, I tried to recollect by rethinking my viewpoint.  I knew that my real underlying fear had to do with my inability to control these events.  I had chosen to see Michigan as the place where Brian’s dad almost died, and a place where I feel powerless.  I was allowing my empathy to feed my fear instead of using it to grow me into a better friend.

“I have the power!” Say it, you know you want to.

He-Man, you’re great, but can we give Battle Cat his due?  I mean, he provides you with transportation and totally has your back in like 99.9685% of situations.  I feel like I relate a lot to the transformation of Cringer into Battlecat.  Sometimes I want to slink away and take a nap when I feel confronted with overwhelming circumstances, but I know that the universe needs me even in my limited capacity.  Putting on my Battle Cat armor involves practicing gratitude.  When I am truly grateful, my fear takes a backseat and I find the strength I need to be at my best.

Putting this into practice, I went on a run past the spot where I had been when I received the call from Brian that his Dad had collapsed.  I took in the view of beautiful farmland on a near 70 degree day and hints of Spring.  I allowed myself to admit how beautiful it looked, and see beyond my anxiety, fear and grief.  I allowed myself to be grateful for the beautiful weather, grateful for the fact that Brian and I both still have our parents, grateful to have the opportunity to travel and spend time with family and friends.   With a grateful perspective I can make the most of my life, regardless of circumstance. The act of being thankful reminds me how much larger the world is outside myself.  It’s disarming to be truly thankful.  When I am truly grateful, I let go of the petty aspects of my anger and pity that detract from my interactions with others.

We have no control over the actions of anyone but ourselves, no power over death, nor are we anyone’s savior.  However, we have the ability to allow these limitations to grow our perspective, and share what we learn with others.  I challenge you to choose to look at the beauty in life alongside the ugly, see victory alongside defeat, and be optimistic alongside your despair.  I advise you to feel your feelings, and pursue your journey as a master of your emotional universe.  You have the power to control if an experience will ultimately be used as an excuse to wallow or as a catalyst to evolve you into a better version of yourself.