Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Facing the Past and Forgiving it. For Good.

I'm in Seoul, visiting my family.  After some years in the US together, my family eventually moved back to Seoul when I was in college.  I used to visit every year until about 3 years ago, which coincided with the timing of my so-called evolution into a happier, healthier person. 

Without getting into much detail, and I write all this out of tremendous respect for my family, I don't meant to insult them in any way, but writing about this is important to me because I think I am here, after years of absence, because it is time for me to close the loop and move forward. 

Old habits live at home.  Bad eating habits, an environment discouraging towards exercise and active lifestyles, and excuses prevail on how to NOT improve what's not right.  My family, in general, is comfortable with where they are.  Their views are completely different than mine, which is why I had to keep my distance for years and years and years... 

They are aware of my athletic pursuits.  However, they are not fully aware of my fibromyalgia condition and how it relates to my athletic and lifestyle choices.  I am usually made fun of and looked at with odd wonder as to why I am who I am.  Even the kids in the family (my brothers' children) ask:  "If it is so hard, why are you doing it all the time?"  My compassionate suggestions as to how to manage back pain and leg pain via exercise (pretty much every adult in the family complains about some kind of pain all the time), how to eat right, why exercise is important, etc etc etc...usually get dismissed with every excuse and vehement denial in the book.  The absence of individuality and enforcement of strong group mentality encourages "safe" decisions and actions, not necessarily the best for each individual, but usually the most mediocre for the group. 

I see this, and I feel this - and it really leads me back to so many of the old habits I had and i lived with that unfortunately contributed somewhat to my current condition.  It is almost hard to forgive myself for having accepted them in my life before, which resulted in some serious low times of my life.  And that is probably why it has been so hard for me to come home for a few years.  I was still trying to let go and forgive my past for the poor choices and decisions I made.  I still wasn't sure what I was to expect during this trip.  

This morning I woke up way early thanks to jet lag.  The minute I opened my eyes, however, a thought hit me.  "I am who I am, they are who they are."  Suddenly, i realized that my life now and my life in the future, could never be threatened by my past just because my past happens to still be my family's present.  And if they are "happy" with theirs, who am I to tell them they need to change, when they don't see the need?  I don't agree with their beliefs and excuses, but the blessing in disguise is that somehow and in some way at certain points in my life I've made the choices to get out of the old and find whatever was new that could pull me out of my state of doubt and limitations. 

I may never find that special connection with my family that I always believed existed and should exist in every family.  However, I have ultra special connections in my life all over the world that I have never expected before.  Seeing my past, until now, was seeing shame.  However, now, seeing my past has become seeing the amazing present and exciting future I fought so hard to create with one blind vision of what it is supposed to be, for me. For that reason, I can now forgive my past a little more. 

I am running on the treadmill in my parent's house (it is only used when i'm in town, which means for the past 3 years it was just sitting around collecting dust), and everyone looks at me funny.  Well, keep looking at me funny, because I'm going to keep doing what I believe is right.  I will do my first marathon in March that you think is so meaningless, I will keep finding changes and challenges in my life that you think are risky, and I will keep working on the awesome and beautifully amalgamated future of work/love/charity that you don't believe exists. 

Who I am doesn't make me better than anyone else.  I don't think at all my family is any less than me - they are different.  We were the same before, but a split happened over time - as much as i had hoped that they would not judge me for who i have become, I have to do the same by not judging or criticizing them for what they are not doing.  When I feel upset about it, it is only because I care about their health and their future and that I want so badly for them to see the changes in their lives that became apparent to me when I took my first steps.  But I cannot control their choices, I can only control mine.

I have faced my past, and that is what it will be remain as for the rest of my life, The Past.  As a financial professional, I know that a value of a company is the sum of its FUTURE cash flows.  If i apply the same principle, really, the value of my life is the sum of my FUTURE decisions and choices... the past has NOTHING to do with it.  So why not just look forward as I fully let go and forgive my past, and be ok with seeing some if it when I see my family very infrequently.  If i am strong enough, I definitely should be able to.  So I will, because I am now stronger than ever.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Five Simple Principles I Live By

Last Saturday, I enjoyed a 7 mile run with friends by doing a Christmas 10k run in Venice and then running an extra mile after completing the race. I felt good, not much soreness to complain about, which was great. I followed up with an easy 4-mile run on Tuesday, during which I felt my right leg was caving inwards a lot. I pushed through, felt ok, and 2 days later the right hip pain started seeping in... and had me limping for the rest of the week.

As some of you may have read before, my right hip has been such the culprit of my problems and now I have a sick sense of fear develop inside me whenever my right hip (front side, connecting to the upper quad area) starts stiffening up and I feel the pain radiate all the way down my leg. I spent the next three days stretching, massaging, doing Yoga, and giving my hips alternate ice-heat treatments. I was doing everything i can to prevent any further injuries, including re-alignment of the hip (my hip tends to rotate forward a lot, because of all the sitting at work, so i have to do adjustment work to tilt my hips back, i know, how weird).

Yesterday I was supposed to do an easy 4 mile run again but something told me that i just shouldn't do it. I was running errands all day practically limping everywhere i walked. Whenever I didn't move, the heating pad was on my right hip. Uggggghhhh the level of frustration and fear of my worst nightmare rearing its ugly head (12 months of physical therapy!) just sent my mind to a dark place. But I was focused on managing this pain and resting, and therefore had to perk myself up often. The rainy day of course didn't help the pain elsewhere, but I didn't want to dwell on it. I kept myself busy, and i kept myself filled with exciting thoughts of what's coming ahead (holidays, seeing family and friends, training, making career changes, etc...). Spending time with friends and keeping the laughter going also helped me - just had to stay positive.

This morning I woke up feeling pretty decent. My right hip wasn't as tight, there was still pain if I really dug deep...i learned that the pain was coming from my hip flexors, also leading to my right oblique muscle. I massaged them, stretched them out, and did some conditioning exercises to firm them up. Then I did my usual 15 minute dynamic stretch/warmup, got dressed for the wet weather and headed out. 9 miles was the goal.

It wasn't raining when I walked out the door, just quite windy and really really gloomy. A good enough reason to run outside...the first 2 miles were a bit of a warm up (always the hardest!), then I really got into a rhythm, feeling pretty awesome as I reached around 4 miles. Meanwhile, I was feeling really great - the run felt strong, yet effortless, well hydrated, etc... the only wrinkle was that it started to sprinkle a little... but that was fine, running in the rain felt quite good. The rain wasn't getting any lighter developed into a full-on storm! I was laughing when the weather reports from the night before warned of it, because it always seems like people in LA make such a huge deal out of rain. But today was pretty intense! I was laughing as I was running by the beach, as I found no one but me on it, running through hard, thick rain against a massive headwind.

As I passed through mile 6, my running pants started dripping, my running shoes were squeezing out water every step i took. My hip definitely started feeling it, it got harder and harder to lift my right leg up, but I didn't stop...for some reason, running in this storm felt so exhilarating that I wanted to keep going. In order to prevent any serious injury, I started mixing in a minute of walking intervals between 5 minutes of running...the walking helped me stretch out my hip and recover the muscles, and it definitely helped me run longer too! I kept saying "a little more, a little more", and next thing you know it was 7.5 miles and my right hip was really hurting, and my body started shivering from being a little too cold. It was pouring rain and brutal wind...ha ha ha what am i still doing out here? I loved it though...until it got too painful to run anymore. 8 miles. I stopped. Immediate hot shower and icing my hip afterwards.

Spent rest of the afternoon seeing friends and running some more errands, my hip was feeling very tired, but I focused on stretching it out, keeping it moving. Now i'm writing this blog with my heating pad practically burning the area. I can't let the fear of being badly injured again keeping myself from achieving my goals of getting my miles in while getting enough rest. This weekend was a successful one in that regard - i rested yet I got my long run in. I ate well, i stayed hydrated, and i felt awesome for most of the run. I feel great!

Pain sucks. The mental stress coming from pain is even worse. With fibromyalgia, pain gets complicated, as it is not only a physical phenomenon but it also has a significant psychological angle to it. Pain is not something we can get rid of by taking an anti-inflammatory like normal people...pain is sometimes uncontrollable, and that inability to control it gets us discouraged, makes us feel the world isn't fair, and that we're victims...all that crap. That's when we have to stop ourselves from thinking too much and take action to stop the pain - by nursing it, managing it, waiting for it to end with a positive, "ive been there before, so this too shall pass" attitude.

If so much of it has to do with the balance of substance-P vs. serotonin, then we all know, we gotta get the serotonin levels up. Now, i don't run to the pharmacy or my medicine cabinet for it, but i eat right, I move my body, laugh a lot and get my head out of the unhappy trap. I've taken the medication route before but what happened was long-term weight gain, more stress on the joints from the extra weight, more stress on the psyche from feeling fat and therefore absolutely no healing. I've freed myself from the vicious cycle. There are *naturally* natural ways to feel less pain - so many natural ways. It hurts me every time I read about those who go from one prescription medication to another - and live in endless cycle of pain and suffering and self-victimization. Yes, it is an awful illness. It is a very real and very strong condition. BUT THERE IS A WAY TO MAKE IT BETTER. Instead of crying about getting acknowledgement for the validity of fibromyalgia, if it is so real, why not show that it can be improved??? Isn't it our constantly negative and helpless attitude about our illness that gives fibromyalgia such a bad name?

There is nothing I want more than for this pain i'm feeling to become unreal. Because, man, if that were the case, I can't imagine all the things I can do in addition to the things i'm already doing. I learned how to make my pain more manageable and how to do more with the limitations I have. In fact, they are no longer my limitations, they are my source of empowerment and newfound abilities. We can turn every negative situation into a positive one, if we so choose.

Eat well, sleep well, move well, laugh well, and love well - my simple five principles in life. These simple things have enabled me to do so much in my life and more.... i'm so grateful, and I wish to share my experience with anyone that needs that push to make their lives better. We are not placed in this planet to live a life dominated by pain. We ought to dominate our lives with joy. No physical pain can take away this joy. and it is our job, our individual responsibility, to make it happen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Anyone Hit a Wall after a good First Week? I Did!

This is week 2 of my LA Marathon training.

I only ran two 3 mile runs, one 4 mile run and then one 5 mile run last week.

This week so far, it has been even lighter - only two 3 mile runs. Last week, I felt so strong running the 3, 4-milers that I felt so hopeful about my first marathon. This week, i've been so tired - and my runs were stiff, heavy and just painfully slow.... WHAT IS GOING ON????

Fortunately, before I started beating myself up for feeling weak and slow, I read a brief article on Runners' World that it is common that Week 2 could feel like a challenge, because the body needs time to adapt to the physical stress of the initial training runs, no matter how short and easy they may be. Of course then I recalled that I suffered a 10-day flu leading up to the first week of training! The first week, tho, still having the accumulated strength in the legs from resting for a few weeks after the Big Sur Half Marathon, the run felt pretty good. I was excited about shedding the flu and just starting off my first attempt for a full 26.2 miler!

Every day this week has been bit of a challenge, which was a total 180 from last week - I felt like I could sleep forever every morning, I felt exhausted in the middle of the day during work, and completely depleted by the time I got home. I was eating well, taking my vitamins, etc..., but my body just got tired. I still ran my 3-milers, but those 3 miles felt like 13. I was tempted to get frustrated, but I had to tell myself that it was just part of the process, which will inevitably taking me to week 3. It would be really interesting to see how i feel next week!

I am sure I'm not the only one feeling like this sometimes - with not just training, but with a lot of other things - just starting a simple exercise regime, changing your diet, working, etc... the first week seem exciting, strong, smooth and successful, then the second week comes, you're doing the same thing, keeping the same excitement, but for some reason, things are not working out as well as it did last week...and then you go, "what am I doing wrong?" or "is this not meant for me?"

I don't think I'm doing anything wrong - if anything, this is a sign that i should stay more focused than last week, to keep my mind strong not to give up this week (and get enough rest and eat well) ! And yes, it did pass my mind that maybe this full marathon thing could put me at serious risk given the conditions I have, but there was no way i could choose the thought that this was not meant for me, especially without even trying running any longer than 13.1 miles (the longest distance i've ran in one setting so far). Usually, from the lessons I learned in life to date, it is always the challenging and doubtful times that we NEED to face and overcome that will lead us to achieving our goals. In fact, not that i'm promoting suffering (i'm not a masochist, altho some of you may disagree), but it is really those tough times that make our achievements so much sweeeeeeeeeter. :)

It is too early to tell. If you just started walking, exercising, eating right, etc. recently, and you feel like it's not changing things much, or in fact feeling worse than before, don't let that frustration throw you off. Just keep doing what you're doing, believe in the positive outcome you can take a little break too (just don't let it last). The minute we start complaining and doubting and nagging about why it CAN'T be done, then we all know...then we go back to square one. Then we start dreaming about it again...from far away...just dreaming a distant dream....then feeling bad about ourselves for NOT doing anything about it! We don't want to feel like that, do we? Just look ahead, keep going... our body takes time adapting, but then when it gets to a certain level, we usually take leaps! Just wait for that moment, while keep working at it.... nothing feels better than feeling that moment... it will come.

Tonight I will rest my tired body, then get up early tomorrow for a quick 3 mile run. I will not be afraid of how tired I could feel again....i will just go.... then enjoy every quick or slow, fun or painful, smooth or tight moment... because i know that all this leads to...that one day I feel everything is running right, smoothly and....then I finally can start seeing the finish line of LA Marathon, and me crossing that thing.

week 2 has been a bitch, but I'm not going to turn into one.