I want to choose happiness

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I can say that I was busy, but I suppose I didn’t make the time either. Over the summer I worked as a CEO (Chief Experience Officer, essentially a tour guide) leading overland tours through the U.S. and Canada for G Adventures. I was very busy. I met some absolutely amazing people and had some amazing experiences. I worked usually 17+ hours per day and was utterly exhausted for most of the summer. I drove a van/trailer and had to set up camp and teach passengers how to camp.  I researched areas where I was touring and found the best routes and stops between destinations. I often had to choose between taking a shower or calling my boyfriend. I only showered every 2-3 days and called my boyfriend less than that. My boyfriend hurt his back over the summer and I feel as though I jeopardized my relationship with him between not calling him often and not being able to come home right away when he hurt himself.

Overall working in the tourism industry was an interesting experience.  I truly did love meeting all of my passengers and getting to know them a little. It’s funny that when I went on tours I always figured that the tour guides probably wouldn’t remember me and I’d be lost in the sea of other tourists in their mind. For me that isn’t so.  I remember all of them.  Meeting all of them and the other amazing CEOs that were my colleagues over the summer was the absolute best part of the experience and I lucky to have had the opportunity. Now the summer is over.

I’m back at home. I have picked up some veterinary work since I have returned. I’m not excited about it, in fact I dread it. I dread it more than is likely reasonable to do so.

The bottom line is this: Working in the veterinary field makes me despise the human race; working the tourism industry gives me renewed faith in humanity.

I was sitting at home looking at the veterinary classifieds when I got a message from my friend, who is a veterinary technician.  Her message was as follows: “We had a lady call in saying her dog was bloated. When it came had to carry it on a gurney, because it was completely unable to walk due to a steak knife in its abdomen.  The lady stabbed her dog 3 times to relieve the gas. We took it to surgery, it was a complete cluster fuck.  We euthanized the dog this a.m. of course.”

That is only one example of the many things that make life in the veterinary field difficult. My friend’s text was a bitter reminder of the world I will re-enter if I go back into veterinary private practice. I had the urge to burn the classified ads that I was looking at.

I ended up picking up some work in a small clinic last week, filling in for a veterinarian on vacation, then I returned to looking in the veterinary classified ads. Today I found out that a prominent and talented veterinarian, Dr. Yin Continue reading

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Hot Yoga? People Actually Like This?

So I guess I unconsciously have a wish to torture myself.  Yesterday I ran my first 5k, and I did better than I expected and apparently didn’t suffer enough, so I imagine it was a subconscious effort to inflict torture upon myself when I agreed to take a hot yoga class today with my friend, Jordana.  Jordana has been telling me that she likes these classes and she has been encouraging me to try it.  “Eh, being hot and sweaty isn’t really my thing.”  I would tell her, and she insisted that she loved it.  So today I agreed to go.  

I have never taken a yoga class before, ever.  I tried a few yoga DVDs at home previously and have heard other people talk a lot about yoga and I’ve done some yoga moves with friends before.  I know a few of the moves.  I know “down dog” and “up dog.”  I know “child’s pose” and two of the “warrior” poses, but really that’s about it.   Overall I would say that I’m a beginner.  

I arrived at the class today and Jordana was waiting for me.  She helped me set up my mat and a towel to cover the mat (for the sweat.)  The room was quite hot and I commented on it.  The doors to the room were open and she said that it wasn’t hot yet, it’s going to get a lot hotter.  She had told me prior to class to wear a sports bra and shorts to class and I did, but I was wearing a shirt too, and she told me I’d probably want to take my shirt off.  I did as she suggested.  

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The class was very full, there were probably 20 women in the class and two men.  The instructor was a wiry looking blonde and she asked who was new to the class.  There were three newbies in the class including myself.  She announced to the class that with this many new people that she unfortunately could not heat up the room as hot as usual.  She told us that the goal of the class is to enjoy it, and if we start to feel dizzy or unwell that we should attempt to stay in the room, but if we needed to we should just lay down on our mat for a while.  The class was going to be 80 minutes long.  

The instructor closed the doors to the classroom and I could feel heaters in the room pouring heat onto my body.  It was like standing near three electric heaters set to high in a humid room.  The class did a series of sun salutations, which I did my best at, and I watched Jordana and the women in front of me so that I could learn how to do them.  I guess this wasn’t a beginning class, there was no explaining of the poses.  I started to sweat profusely.  By the end of the series of moves, sweat was dripping down my face and started to soak my towel.  In the moves where my head was upside down sweat actually dripped into my nose, and I thought that if I sweated much more I would drown.  

As the class went on it became harder for me to do the simplest things.  It was so hot.  There came a point where I was supposed to be stretching with my arms above my head while in a standing position that I thought I may pass out.  I became the first person in the class to lay down on my mat.  I laid there for a little while and tried to focus on breathing.  My whole body was drenched in sweat.  I have never sweated so much in my life.  I felt a tiny bit of cool air over my body and realized that the instructor opened the door slightly.  I almost immediately felt better.  

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In a little while I managed to get back up and try to do the moves with everyone else.  The women in this class were so hard core.  I watched them do all these crazy moves, balancing on one leg with the other in the air above their heads.  One lady actually did a handstand while doing some moves on the floor.  Everyone was sweating profusely.  The woman in front of me was a total beast, she was super muscular and doing incredible moves.  She was literally sweating a puddle on the floor.  I watched sweat drip off of her elbows as she held a balancing pose:  drip, drip, drip.  I felt like I was struggling just to survive in the heat.  I exerted supreme effort while attempting to achieve lame, mediocre versions of the poses the class was doing.  I honestly think that if my only task were to stand in one place for the duration of the class, that I would have had to lie down occasionally to keep from passing out.  I couldn’t believe these people could do challenging yoga poses in this heat and humidity.  

Throughout the class I alternated trying to do some of the yoga moves with laying on the floor and drinking ice water.  Occasionally, when I must have appeared to be near passing out, the instructor would open the door slightly for a moment, and even the slightest bit of cooler air caressing my body felt like a dream come true.  Jordana kept up with the class and never had to lie down like I had to.  I wasn’t the only one who had to lie down during the class, but I was the one who had to do it the most.  For a moment, when I was laying there, I glanced up at Jordana doing successive sun salutations and thought ‘Holy shit, I had no idea she was so hard core.‘  I had just gained newfound respect for my friend who I already thought was pretty bad ass.    

For the last 20 minutes of the class I did very little.  I was just hoping time would pass quickly.  The heat seemed to be bearing down on me from all directions.  It seemed like there were a thousand heaters in the room.  My yoga mat and towel were drenched and squishy.  My hair was soaking wet.  I laid there and tried to remember all the times in my life when I was hot.  There was never a time in my life when I had come even remotely close to sweating this much, and as much as I tried I couldn’t think of any other time when I was ever so hot.  I was the hottest and sweatiest that I have ever been in my entire life.  I felt as though I was again near the point of passing out.  I had no desire to move ever again.  I wondered it this is what it feels like to die.  I almost thought that death would be a welcome escape.  

Then the class was over.  The doors opened and cooler air washed over me.  I thought that maybe I would live after all.  I still didn’t move and stayed in my supine position.  Jordana asked me if I felt ok.  I think I mumbled something about maybe being ok in a minute, or maybe I told her I wanted to die.  I don’t remember.  She told me she would meet me outside the room.  I laid there long enough for everyone else to have packed up their mats.  I looked around the classroom and noticed smears of sweat, pools of sweat, and water condensation over the entire classroom floor.  I mustered up enough energy to gather my stuff, pick up my sopping wet towel from my yoga mat and roll up my mat. 

I met Jordana outside of the room.  She looked energized and excited.  She optimistically and expectantly asked me “So, what did you think?”  It was obvious that she loved it, she was happy, and she felt great.  I didn’t feel good.  I felt guilty for not loving it.  Maybe it would be great if it didn’t make me want to pass out from heat exhaustion.  I could probably even tolerate the sweating if I didn’t feel so lightheaded and short of breath.  I didn’t think I could ever become accustomed to the extreme heat.  I thought maybe I needed some time to reflect on the experience.  I told her I wasn’t sure yet how I felt about it, but I thought that it was an interesting experience.  

I have now had the rest of the day to think about.  I decided I didn’t like it.  

 

Ran my first 5K. Didn’t Die. Life is Beautiful!

 

 

 

Today I ran my first 5K event ever!  Being able to finish a 5K race without stopping has been on my “bucket list” for a long time.   Today I achieved this goal.  Today was a good day and I’m very happy! 

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I have always felt as though I was never a good runner, by this I mean that I never managed to run very fast or very far.  I was planning to take running more seriously last year, and I actually agreed to train for a half marathon in January with my friend Jordana.  But as fate would have it I broke my foot the morning after making the pact to run the half marathon.  I broke my foot in August of 2013, and the healing process has been long and slow.  My foot is mostly healed now (it still hurts a little, but I can do almost everything on it.)  In December I signed up to run the 5K course in the Sedona Marathon Event with some friends, and I decided that I’d walk the course if I have to, but I would at least try to run it.  

I trained for the event by running around in my neighborhood as my foot would tolerate it.  My goal each time I ran was to run as far as I could without stopping.  At first I couldn’t run much more than a mile, but I improved as time went on.  Earlier this week I actually ran 3.7 miles (a little over 5K) without stopping.  That was the farthest I have ever ran without stopping in my whole entire life.  I know that it may not be much to some people, but I was very proud.  

I felt confident that if the race was flat and at sea level that I could finish, but in Sedona, I wasn’t so sure.  Sedona has much higher altitude and it also has hills.  As a bonus added challenge to my goal, I have also been fighting a cold over the past two days.  I decided that I’d try to do my best anyway and see how it goes.  

Today the race started at 9:15am.  Me and three friends, Eric, Jordana and Carolyn, all carpooled up to Sedona last night and spent the night at a cute, locally run motel.  We woke up early this morning and had a light breakfast and then went down to the race.  

The “Sedona Marathon Event” consisted of a marathon, a half marathon, a 10K race and a 5K race.  Everyone who had registered in the race got a t-shirt and a “bib” with a number.  The bibs were color coated for the four different races, and every runner needed to pin their bib on their clothes in a visible location on the front part of their body.  

The full marathon started at 9am and everyone in the race had to herd themselves into a “corral” in front of the starting line before the race started.  At nine o’clock the runners for the marathon began their race.  Immediately the half marathoners corralled themselves at the starting line and their race began at 9:05am.  The 10K racers started at 9:10am and then me and my friends and the other 5K racers shuffled into the corral like cattle and waited until we could go at 9:15am.  

At the start of the race, I was jammed pretty much at the back of the corral and had to walk for the first few yards just because it was so crowded, but by the time I made it to the official starting line it was less crowded and I was able to jog at a slow pace.  There was a large mix of people in this race and the backdrop of the scenery of Sedona was very beautiful.  It was about 45 degrees fahrenheit and it felt quite cold.  

I concentrated on jogging a slow and steady pace that I thought I could maintain longterm in order to not ever walk or stop if I could help it.  There was a large variety of runners in the 5K.  Fit young adults were running, old people were running, disabled people were running, teenagers were running, even kids were running.  Little kids who had entered the race with their parents ran excitedly as moms and dads ran more steadily after them.  Some people were running with strollers.  Some people were wearing shirts or signs stating that they were running for cancer, or running for a loved one, or running some other cause.  I wondered what my cause was.  What was I running for?  I never really thought about a cause: just good health, I guess.  Yeah, that seems like a pretty good cause.  

My friends Eric and Jordana ran ahead of me pretty quickly, and they briefly looked back at me as though they expected me to keep up with them.  Yeah right!  Jordana kept the pact that she made back in August to train for the half marathon, and she ran it and finished it last month, and Eric, well…  Eric is a guy.  Eric entered today’s 5K on a whim.  He doesn’t even own jogging pants, and he was running the race in hiking pants.  I, however, did not for one second think that I would be able to keep up with Eric.  In all of my past experiences participating in active sports with guys, I have found that they annoying do great even if they don’t train, and they usually do better than me, even if I trained my ass off.  I supposed he would have no troubles in this race.  Of course he didn’t have any troubles, and he seemed to breeze through it, even beating Jordana to the finish line in the end.  My friend Carolyn ran more at my pace, which was nice for me, not that I really felt like I required a running partner.  For me the race was more about my own personal goals.  

The layout of the course for the 5K was sort of a circle.  The start and the finish line were in the same place.  The course ran down a paved path and then merged with the main highway.  After a short way along the highway, the course turned left onto a side road.  After a stretch on the side road, the course doubled back on itself at a turnaround point, and then turned right onto another road that circled through a hilly neighborhood.  After circling the neighborhood, the course headed back along the original path to the start/finish line.  

Along the first section I was getting passed by all sorts of people.  I got passed by old people, I got passed by people who appeared athletic, I got passed by people who did not appear athletic, I got passed by kids overflowing with energy, and I got passed by people pushing strollers.  I got passed by super skinny, 20-something year old girls, whose legs were so tiny I wondered how they carried themselves.  

By the point of the race where the course turns onto the side road, the shear numbers of people passing me seemed to decline.  The super high energy levels of some of the children were starting to visibly fade.  One kid lost his shoe and limped backwards along the course towards it.  Another girl, approximately 8 years old, sat crying with a skinned knee on the side of the road.  Two boys who looked 12 years old had stopped and were doubled over and panting, and another boy who looked 10 years old announced to his mom that this was really hard and he was going to run really fast so he could just get it over with.  

I kept up my slow and steady jogging pace and I began to pass up hoards of exhausted kids.  I also started passing several people who had begun to walk.  I made it to the turnaround point and doubled back.  Generally, people everywhere seemed happy.  There were people standing along the sidelines of the course cheering on the runners: “Good job, nice work, looking good” etc.  It started to seem warmer and the sun was shining and the day was really beautiful.  The views of the surrounding area and the big red rocks of Sedona were gorgeous.  I was actually enjoying myself.  

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The course took a turn and went into the hilly neighborhood.  It went up a fairly steep hill.  I kept jogging, at a very slow pace, however I didn’t stop, and I didn’t slow to a walk either.  I passed several more people on the hill.  I found that I was one of the few people in my vicinity actually jogging up the hill and not walking, and it made me feel proud.   I passed the skinny legged girls on the way up the hill.  I had had my suspicions that their legs couldn’t really take them very far and now I was glad to know that I was correct.  

I made it up the hill, and by then Carolyn was behind me; she had to stop at a “porta potty.”  I didn’t want to wait for her because I was on a mission to see if I could finish without stopping or walking.  

People continued to cheer me and all the runners on.  I passed water stations without getting any, because I was worried it would break my pace.  I didn’t think I was skilled enough to jog and drink water at the same time, and I usually didn’t drink water on my practice runs at home anyway.  The downhill part of the course through the neighborhood was really nice.  I passed a boy and his dad; the dad was telling the boy that we were about 2/3 of the way done.  I actually felt pretty good.  I thought maybe I was going to make it.  I was amazed that I felt so good.  My foot was doing really well, although it was a little stiff, and my lungs were actually doing ok too!  

During the last third of the race I was passing numerous people who were walking, and it felt good to be passing people instead of them all passing me.  It was a nice feeling to know that some of the people who had smoked past me earlier couldn’t actually keep up that pace the entire time.  It made me feel more normal.  

It was really nice to see all the different people running the race.  It was inspiring to see people of different physical abilities working toward their own goals!  It was nice to know that my goal of running a 5K wasn’t necessarily a small goal, and although I sometimes felt like it, I wasn’t the “last person on the planet” to do it.  

As I rounded the last corner of the course, I saw the finish line in the distance and started to run faster toward it.  I felt really good.  I never would have guessed that I would actually HAVE FUN running a 5K, but I was having fun.  I was actually really enjoying myself.  I sprinted toward the finish line and felt so happy to know that I was completing another one of my “bucket list” items.  A group of people at the finish line were handing out medals to people, and a woman handed me a medal for finishing the race.  I thought maybe this was in error; I thought perhaps she thought I was finishing the 10K instead of the 5K.  Surprised, I asked her “I get a medal for running the 5K?” and she responded “Of course you do, good job!”  It was so cool, and it was nice to know that others understood how important these personal goals can be!  It may seem small to some people, but it is a big goal to those who have never done it before.  

It’s funny, now that I have checked “running a 5K” off my bucket list, I still don’t feel “done.”  Now that it’s crossed off, I think I might add “running a 10K” onto the list.  

The Mammogram

A few days ago I went to get my first mammogram.  My grandmother had breast cancer and those who have a family history are recommended to get their first screening in their mid 30’s.  Ok, so I’m old enough to get a mammogram.  Ug.  

I made an appointment and went in.  I ended up going to get the mammogram in a place that was a breast cancer treatment and research center.  The staff there was so overwhelmingly sweet and nice.  I entered the lobby and was immediately warmly greeted.  I was offered water as I waited in the waiting room.  Then I was called in and very very nice lady came and got me.  She asked if it was my first mammogram and I said yes.  She told me not to be nervous and she’d go over everything that needed to happen.  I was shown to a small changing room.  There were robes and lockers in it.  She told me to undress from the waist up and put the robe on, and put all of my belongings in a locker and keep the key in the robe pocket.  I did this and she was waiting for me in another small waiting room when I got out.  

She led me to the room with the big machine meant to squash and scan breasts.  She told me to take one arm out of the robe and position myself to the machine and set my right breast on the machine and hold my arm up on the top of the machine so that my boob could stay in there.  A machine squashed it between two paddles.  The lady tightened it into place.  I actually expected it to hurt more.  It really wasn’t that bad.  She went over to the side of the machine to begin scanning in that position.  I was told not to breathe for about 4 seconds while it scanned.  It wasn’t that bad.  She moved the machine and paddles to two more angles and repeated the scan.  Then I swapped arms and did my left boob.  Pretty painless.  The lady was so nice.  She cheerily told me “That’s it, you are done!  One big step for womanhood!” and I got to go home.  I felt good.  It was nice to feel like I was being proactive with my health. It’s good to get a baseline mammogram.   

The next day I got a message from my doctor: “I need to speak with you, please call me as soon as you can”  Deep breath, ok.  I called her back, she wasn’t immediately available and I had to leave a message.  I turned up my phone ringer volume and stuck it in my pocket.  I was just going to calmly wait, don’t freak out.  I went to my bedroom and took off my top and immediately started doing a self breast exam.  I laid on my bed with my arm up and started scrutinizing every square centimeter of my boobs.  I didn’t really feel anything unusual, but started to think maybe my two boobs didn’t feel exactly the same.  I have been told by doctors in the past that I have fibrous breast tissue.  My right boob seemed to feel a little more fibrous than the left, is that normal?  What does that mean?  Is that how cancer starts?  I never felt anyone else’s boobs before, so it’s not like I really have a lot to compare with.  

Within 15 minutes my doctor called me back.  She told me that some of the images of my right breast were a little difficult to read and it could be fibrous tissue, but they need to send me back for an ultrasound.  I scheduled the ultrasound the next day.  Ok, it’s probably nothing, I thought.  Surely I can’t actually have breast cancer.  Can I?  Nah.  Can I?  Nah, just stop thinking about it and go to get the ultrasound tomorrow.  

I told my boyfriend about it.  He was really nice.  “Nah, no way…  I feel those titties all the time and they feel healthy to me.”  He tried to make me feel better, he told me that it was really good that I scheduled the mammogram to begin with and it’s great to check things like that.  He did make me feel better.  

Still there was some nagging, spinning, circling thoughts:  Could I really have it?  People do get it, you know.  My whole life could be turned upside down.  Shit, I was thinking my right boob felt different, and that’s the one they said needs to be rechecked.  Maybe what I’m feeling is cancer.  I like my right boob better than my left boob.  What if I need to get it removed?  Should I get implants?  Should I get a big cool looking tattoo over the scar site?  If it’s there I hope it is caught in time so that I don’t die.  What if I’m only given 3 years to live?  What if it’s even less?  Oh my god, RELAX.  Just fucking chill, dude.  Just go to the appointment tomorrow.  

I went back to the breast cancer and research center the next day.  It was really crowded.  The lady at reception was so nice.  I checked in at the front and looked around the lobby.  The entire waiting area was jam packed, I only saw one chair available.  I asked a middle aged lady with curly brown hair who was next to the chair if it was taken, she said no.  I noticed that the lady had bloodshot eyes.  I sat down next to her, she was with another older lady with long grey hair who sat on her other side.  “It’s really crowded here today.”  I said.  “Yeah, that sure is unfortunate.” said the gray haired lady.  The brown haired lady sniffed and said nothing, but she stared at me with a mix of suffering and compassion.  I could tell she was wondering if I had been diagnosed with cancer.  She had a horribly pained expression on her face and it was obvious that she was having one of the worst days of her life.  

I looked around the waiting room.  Jeez there were a lot of people.  I wondered how many of them had cancer.  I picked up a brochure and looked at it.  The brochure contained lists of free classes available to people undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  There were yoga classes, cooking classes, dance classes and support groups.  There were meetings and classes for people who were newly diagnosed and meetings and classes for people with advanced stage cancer.  There were support meetings for men whose women were undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  I thought these were all good things to offer.  

The staff called people from the waiting room back cheerily and joked with people.  A nurse came and got the brown haired lady and the grey haired lady with her and took them to the back.  I waited a little longer.  

Finally a very nice nurse called my name.  I followed her to the changing room area.  She looked at me and smiled.  “Looks like we invited you back here again, huh?”  I got my robe on and locked up my stuff and made my way to the other small waiting room.  The brown and grey haired ladies were there.  The grey haired lady was wearing a robe and the brown haired lady wasn’t.  The brown haired lady’s face was pinched and swollen, her nose was running and her eyes were puffy and red.  I didn’t dare speak to them because I figured the brown haired lady would burst into tears at any moment.  She stared at me.  Her eyes bored into me.  I looked away.  

The staff called her companion to the back to get tests.  She was gone a long time.  I waited.  There was a Mexican woman seated in the room to my right and she was having a conversation with an interpreter.  The interpreter was explaining how procedures worked, but was also joking and telling stories and both women were laughing.  It was nice to see how nice the staff was to everyone.  I could see from the corner of my eye the brown haired lady staring intently at me and also at the Mexican lady. The grey haired lady came back to the waiting room and sat silently sat down.  Within a minute a chipper nurse came back for her:  “we are going to need to borrow you again, c’mon and I’ll show you why, but we need to get some images farther back.”  The grey haired lady followed the nurse and I saw the brown haired lady’s face contort with newfound pain.  She seemed to disappear into her self.  

I got called to diagnostic area.  A very friendly nurse looked at me directly in the eye with a caring face “I’m Beth and I’ll be doing your ultrasound today.”  I followed her to the ultrasound room which was right around the corner from the waiting room.  I laid on a table and got my right arm out of the robe as directed.  Beth told me that ultrasound may be enough diagnostic to figure out what we need to know, but it is possible we may need more mammogram views today too, but there is a doctor here to read the ultrasound images and she will read them while I wait so that I can know right away.  I thought that was awesome.  I laid on the table and stared at the lights which had images of the sky and tree branches and I could almost pretend I was outside on a pleasant day laying in the grass.  The ultrasound didn’t take long.  Beth left the room for a moment and I still laid there because it was nice.  When she came back into the room she didn’t shut the door and I knew what she said could be heard by people in the waiting room.  She told me the ultrasound showed fibrous tissue and that my breast appeared healthy and that I should get my next mammogram when I’m 40.  

I felt so relieved.  I walked out of the room and saw that the brown haired lady had heard what Beth told me.  She looked at me with a happy yet tragic expression on her face.  I could tell that she was happy for me, she was relieved that I didn’t have to have breast cancer too.  She also looked deeply pained and saddened to her core at the same time.  Her expression pierced directly into my soul.  I walked past her quickly and got dressed.  As I got dressed emotions overwhelmed me.  I left the building by walking a long way around the waiting room to avoid the brown haired lady.  I couldn’t bear to look at her or have her look at me again.  I started to cry.  I felt lucky.  I could walk out of here and go and live my normal life, cancer free.  There are others who cannot.  I want to make the most of my time here on earth.  You never know when that time can be taken away.