When I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in September 2017, I had to make some changes.
The choice was mine to make:
Keep doing what I’m doing and eventually let this disease start claiming parts of my body and life.
Make some radical changes to the way I exist in this world, coming from a place of love (for myself) versus fear (of what this disease could do to my body).
I quickly realized that my normal go-to coping mechanisms were no longer available to me.
I wasn’t going to be able to eat my feelings anymore. The answers were never found in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s anyway.
I wasn’t going to be able to drink my feelings anymore. Shocker, the answers were never found at the bottom of my wine bottle either.
So I chose the radical change route.
When I say “radical change” what kind of imagery does that rustle up for you? Are you imagining grilled chicken and broccoli? Egg whites? Exercising obsessively? Something that takes a lot of time? A lot of effort?
Because if it does, that’s not what I did.
In fact, that’s what I did every other time I tried to lose weight. Historically, it goes something like this: Sydney needs to lose weight for (INSERT REASON OTHER THAN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING). Start restricting diet immediately. Hate myself when I slip. Work out like a crazy person. Hate myself when I miss a day.
This time? This time I loved myself through it. I had already made the commitment to myself before we set out to hike the Trans-Catalina Trail for the first time at the end of 2016. In that REI dressing room, I swore I’d honor my inner athlete.
Honoring My Inner Athlete vs. Hating Myself Skinny. Hmm. Guess how this worked out.
As the months went on and I lost weight, improved my A1C readings, and generally started feeling AMAZING, I was like OH SNAP. I had a new coping mechanism!
I had been walking up and down the “hill of death” in my neighborhood 5 days a week, then we started doing our training hikes for the TCT. I realized that instead of eating or drinking my feelings, I was hiking my feelings.
On June 2, 2018, we set out on our second adventure on the Trans-Catalina Trail – this time we were determined to finish the trail. As I put one foot in front of the other during that 40+ mile trek from one end of Catalina Island to the other, stars and planets and souls aligned. With each vista, I had a little bit more visibility on the context of my life, how everything was connected.
For all of my life, I’ve been told to not make any major decisions for the first 24-72 hours after a life-changing event. That anything that happens there is crazy jumbled “this isn’t real life” brain.
We got back on June 7th. The days between the 7th and the 17th were some of the longest, darkest, weirdest days I’ve experienced so far. I haven’t been formally diagnosed with depression so let’s call it a funk. The funkiest of funks.
I was at risk of repeating this in the latter half of June, as we had some action-packed weekends coming up to round out Birthday Month celebrations. But I realized I find meaning in damn near EVERYTHING and I can’t turn that off, so if I am in this perpetual waiting period after an event that drives my inspiration, how do I ever create?
And for years, DECADES, I’ve shut this part of me down. No more.
Armed with this insight, I let go of that mindset and tried on a new one.
On June 17th, I graduated from Level 3 at Finest City Improv. The second I got on stage and in my first scene, I was snapped out of the funk I was in.
The following weekend, we saw back-to-back concerts in Vegas and San Diego with @pepperlive, @stickfiguremusic and @slightlystoopid. It was an incredible experience, I detailed it on Instagram here. And if THAT level of epic was possible, what else is possible?
Instead of running from the inspiration I usually find after a life-changing event (like I did for those 10 days after we got back from the trail), I chose to lean in.
I finally gave myself permission to relax, to let go, to be inspired.
I put the entire Stick Figure catalog on a Spotify playlist, from oldest to the latest release, and listened. I Googled lyrics to the songs I didn’t know yet.
Knowing what I know about my own story and my own growth, I put myself in the brain behind the band’s shoes: Scott Woodruff. What would it feel like to create something that can impact someone so much? What would my life be like if he withheld that gift? What if I was too scared to create? What if I wasn’t? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I leaned in, listened, and sat with what came up. Took my time.
On Thursday June 28, I woke up with an appointment for a very important call on my calendar at 12 pm. That night, our next adventure was born in our living room.
On Tuesday, July 3, 2018, one month after my 33rd birthday, I started writing my first book. Not surprisingly, it’s inspired by this concept of Hiking My Feelings and my experiences on the Trans-Catalina Trail. In just a few hours, I had written 17 pages. This book is POURING out of me.
Now I know that what I feel when I have these kinds of experiences isn’t “crazy” – it’s inspiration.
Now I know to listen.
Now I know why I’m here.
Time to get to work.
And looking ahead to the rest of the month, I’m so excited to be able to continue this journey with the hilarious and inspiring company of my father, Chris Owen.
On my first cruise at the ripe age of 16, I fell in love with sea days, being surrounded by nothing but ocean as far as the eye can see. We grew up in Kansas, so 360-degree views of the water were a spectacle to behold. I had visions of writing books on the deck of a cruise ship some day.
17 years, 18 cruises (this will be #19 for me), and what feels like at least 20 lifetimes later, all of my dreams are coming true.
Stay tuned to this space, I have an exciting project in the works that I’ll be announcing when I get back from Norway! And if you’re interested in following along on my Viking journey with my dad, follow me on Instagram, I’m @SydneyUnfiltered!