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Hiking My Feelings

“Man it’s been awhile since I’ve written here…”

…starts every post ever when a writer comes back from a particularly trying time for creativity.

But seriously, it’s been awhile since I’ve written here and I’d like to get you up to speed before we dive into some new stuff happening ’round these parts.

In the event we aren’t friends on Facebook, I recently stepped down from my position as Co-Founder and CMO at From Molly With Love. Ultimately, I had the chance to work with a woman who is fearlessly pursuing her dream, and in doing so, I realized I could no longer ignore mine.

So here we are. For the first time in my life, I’m not planning the next chapter. I don’t have another job lined up. No safety net. I thought my last gig was THE PLAN so I don’t even have a backup plan anymore. This is it.

And when I’m grounded, centered, and in tune with myself, none of that scares me. Then, as I drift further and further away from myself, the nagging voices of my past experiences, inner critic, and societal conditioning get pretty loud, and my lord, they are bossy.

This period of limbo isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Not one bit. While I’m triumphantly cheering myself on for recognizing where I needed to establish boundaries, establishing them, and holding true to them, I’m also having sob fests because I have been suppressing my dreams for so long and the weight of that is heavy.

The way this decision manifested itself wasn’t pretty, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I left my swanky corporate marketing job to take a risk on a company and a human that I adored, and I will never fault myself for that. I learned a lot about myself in the past three months, lessons which are still unraveling to be seen.

And I survived. Startup life is chaotic and exciting and terrifying and so rewarding and exhausting. As a recently diagnosed diabetic, I had a hard time keeping my blood sugar levels consistent, and I didn’t want to undo all of the progress I’ve made since September of last year.

Coping Mechanisms

I don’t have the same coping mechanisms that I usually deploy to get through a hard patch or a patch of dramatic change. Thanks to my diabetes, I can’t bury these feelings in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s anymore. I know better now than to think I’ll find the answers at the bottom of a wine bottle.

(as an aside, I’m really excited that I don’t WANT to cope that way anymore!!)

So what got me to the point of making the decision to leave and what will get me through this limbo part?

The Seed

At the end of 2016, right before we hiked the Trans-Catalina trail the first time, I swore to myself (at my heaviest) that starting with this hike, and moving forward into 2017 and beyond, I would do my best to ensure that I honored my inner athlete. I knew I was overweight, I knew I was unhealthy, but I hadn’t been diagnosed as Diabetic yet. I just knew that when I got the biggest size pants that REI offered at the time (squeezed my way into a 16, now they have a LOT more options), that I couldn’t continue down that path. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I wanted to change that.

On the first day on the trail, I had to literally tell myself:

“I can do hard things.”

and

“Right foot. Left foot.”

And I made it. 15 miles up and down 5 peaks. In the worst shape of my life. I did it. In that moment, I knew that the intention I set for the hike and my health was heard and was starting to be put into action.

In March 2017, three months after we got home from our TCT trip, I went shopping with my BFF and for the first time, the experience of shopping was enjoyable, instead of traumatic. I hadn’t done any additional exercise, I hadn’t lost any weight, but mentally, after that trip, I knew I was WORTH IT. I knew that I was worth investing in, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I finally, FINALLY felt comfortable in my own skin and walked out with new clothes that I felt absolutely fabulous in, a feat I hadn’t yet accomplished.

In May, I went to Paris and everything shifted. Not speaking the language meant I didn’t understand background conversations and quite literally the chatter in my brain slowed way down because of that. Something happened in Paris and when I got home, I had a much clearer sense of who I am, where I’m going, and what I want. Paris gave me the tools I needed to start to reclaim my shine.

Come June of last year, a hike to Potato Chip Rock taught me that I can validate myself. This was a lesson that would register, but would need to be repeated a few more times to fully sink in.

In July, my friend Jess and I started a video podcast called Unf*ck Yourself, which woke me up to the fact that hey, wait a minute, I LOVE being on camera and sharing stories and interviewing people.

In September, and through the end of 2017, walking up and down the “hill of death” in our neighborhood would help me get my weight down quickly and in a healthy way, so I could start to better manage this my new Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.

Throughout my tenure at From Molly With Love, walking meetings were a thing. We’d take laps around her apartment complex and Mission Bay to keep the energy moving. I was so high-strung and everything was moving so fast that I literally needed to keep moving to keep the energy moving out of my body.

This is when things started to click.

In the midst of the most stressful professional environment I’ve ever been in, little signs started showing themselves that this wasn’t my final destination after all.

An Awakening

I started to learn about how my day and energy naturally flows. Since I was working crazy hours, I had the opportunity to see when I felt active/inspired, and when I felt like I was hitting the wall. There was a two-week stretch where I was having panic attacks near daily and had 2 or 3 massive ones that almost took me out.

The last massive panic attack I had while working there happened when I was walking to get lunch for the team. I was on the phone with Barry and thought I was going to fall down, so I hung up so I’d have both hands free. I kept walking, slowly, toward the restaurant so I could go sit down. It took me actual minutes to text for help. It was horrifying. After that day, I started to realize that I didn’t want to die for this. I don’t want to die, period, but I certainly didn’t want to die for this.

I started to realize that my reactions to (and resistance to) work stuff were largely steeped in my inability to process what I was feeling. I just didn’t have time to sort through this shit when we were in it. I know now that I was reacting the way I was because I was witnessing a woman I admired going for her dreams and I was just there, doing the damn thing, almost killing myself, while ignoring MY dreams.

And once you see that, you can’t unsee it.

I had booked our next trip to Catalina to backpack the Trans-Catalina Trail before I realized that was what was happening at work. I just knew that I needed a vacation after the big orders we were filling and requested the week off, as it is positioned around my 33rd birthday, and I’ve known my whole life that my 33rd year on this planet is going to be special.

Now, it all seems to make sense.

The Choice Is Yours

The song, “Choice is Yours” by Stick Figure, was the soundtrack of my Diabetes documentary shoot. Anytime I needed to get from point A to point B, this song would come on. Check out the lyrics here, listen on Spotify here.

After my diagnosis last year, I realized it was my choices that got me to that place. I had been neglecting my health and treating my body like absolute shit for most of my life. I made the choice to change my situation and started exercising, eating proper foods for my new reality, managing my stress, and taking my medications. Suddenly, the weight started melting off. This choice was made from a place of love (for myself) instead of fear (of getting fat). I chose myself, and I chose to be healthy so I enjoy as long a life as I possibly can. I didn’t do this to get smaller for an event or bikini season or for some man, I did it for me.

I made choices that were unhealthy, and I corrected them with choices that were healthy, and I was quickly getting a grip on my health and managing this disease. I could do it. I believed in myself.

TAKEAWAY: I am capable of making healthy decisions.

And if that was true, what else was true? What other choices have I made along the way that got me to where I am right now, present moment?

In that reflection, I realized that I wasn’t happy professionally. I was a creative soul stuck in spreadsheet land. I’ve been some weird-ass hybrid role my whole marketing career, and in this particular instance at that agency in that role, I was a budget gal. If I knew then what I know now, I might have advocated for myself harder and pressed a bit to get more creative assignments, but I didn’t so I didn’t. 🙂

I chose to leave that swanky ass job to join a woman I admired at her new venture.

And once I got to the new venture, everything else started happening rapid-fire.

Areas of my life that I had been neglecting became the richest sources of inspiration – my health continues to improve, my social life is back and flowing, and I finally feel like I’m getting closer to my center. Barry is always my constant, and he really stepped up, more than I even knew was possible (I’m not kidding when I say my marriage is the best thing in my life always). My improv class saved my damn life, and that’s a whole different post in itself.

I made the choice to change my situation again.

And here we are.

Permission Granted

Holy smokes it’s scary to leave a job with nothing lined up. I used to be a competitive skydiver so the phrase “jumping without a parachute” is absolutely true here. That is exactly what this is. However, unlike in skydiving, this jump without a parachute doesn’t scare me. I know I won’t collide with an oncoming planet at 120+ mph. This time, I’m ready. I’ve been training for this.

The days since I made room for whatever comes next have been filled with a lot of cyclical emotions: have a realization, feel empowered, my empowered feeling scares me and brings up old shit, and repeat. I am constantly granting myself permission to ride this out, to feel the feelings, to process them, to honor them. Constantly telling myself it’s okay that I’m still obsessively refreshing emails and social notifications for accounts that don’t exist or are no longer my responsibility. I’m twitchy AF, especially today because it’s Monday.

But when I think back to the first time we hiked the TCT, in essence, that was the ultimate permission: admitting to myself that I knew I was unhealthy, that I’m capable of making better choices, and knowing that my inner athlete was CRYING SCREAMING BEGGING to get out. Each step, whether I had to physically pick up my leg on the last summit before Blackjack Campground, or if the steps came easily, was a step closer toward the woman I am here today.

Hiking My Feelings

I know the idea of “out of your head into your body” isn’t new. I know I’m not the first person to realize that clarity is often found on the trail. But when I was thinking about my lack of usual coping mechanisms (Ben & Jerry’s, bottles of wine), I thought about how I was coping. And lately, I’ve been walking it out, hiking my feelings. Once it warms up a bit more here in SD, I’ll paddleboard my feelings.

I move my body (hike) to process my feelings.

The insights I gain from the hikes are distilled when I write about them.

And hiking my feelings, so far, is way better than eating my feelings. Or drinking my feelings. Or otherwise not facing them.

So What’s Next?

Today, I’ll publish this post.

Tomorrow, I’ll write some more.

Wednesday, we’re doing the 5-Peak Challenge at Mission Trails Regional Park – a 15-mile, 5-peak hike, similar to the first day on the TCT from Avalon to Cataline. We’re continuing to break in our new gear, Barry’s giving KT tape a try for this go-round, and we’re exploring different pre- and post-hike recovery CBD products, as I believe that CBD has been instrumental in my weight loss so far and am encouraged by the CBD topicals I’ve tried for menstrual cramps. I am excited to see how they aid in post-hike muscle recovery.

We’ll do some more training hikes between now and the Trans-Catalina trail in June for my birthday, and when we get back from that, we’ll likely transition into paddleboarding as our primary activity for the summer since it’s hot AF on the trails out here (no cover).

Barry alerted me to the World Wildlife Fund Panda Paddle (a paddleboarding race happening at Mission Bay in October) so when we get back from Catalina, we’re going to start training for that. I’m so grateful that Barry has encouraged me to pursue these kinds of activities AND that he is my adventure buddy for all of it.

I also spoke to the company who produced my diabetes documentary and we are going to be working together on a pilot for a new way to extend their patient’s stories. We have our next call before we leave for Catalina, and it sounds like they’re interested in coming down to document the race in October!

In July, I’m going on a cruise with my dad from London to Bergen, Norway, through the Fjords, Arctic Circle, and into the midnight sun. I am beyond excited about this trip – it just got confirmed today, so I’m digging into the itinerary and excursions tonight, and I’m excited to capture some landscapes outside of San Diego and possibly explore some day hikes and paddleboarding (if available) throughout Norway.

When I get back from the Norway trip, I’ve got a big list of collaborations I want to do, and that’s where I’m going to start as far as exploring next steps in this new chapter of my life.

I’m excited to see where my creativity and inspiration take me. This next chapter is already off to one hell of a start!

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