A Year of Gratitude

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Dear Universe:

What an incredible year it has been. Thank you for arranging for me to return to Missoula for an entire year.

Thank you for my safe arrival in January, after driving through three days of treacherous winter weather.

Thank you for helping me through those difficult first few weeks after my arrival. I was so scared and full of doubt about my decision to return to Montana and I’m so grateful that you gave me the strength to overcome that.

Thank you for my sweet, cozy apartment with the wonderful radiator heat that kept me warm and toasty.

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Thank you for my landlady Bernice, who took care of any issues quickly and efficiently. Thank you for Beverly, who did such a wonderful job keeping my little condo clean and tidy. Thank you for Robert, George, Petra and everyone else at the Wilma for being so warm and welcoming to me.

Thank you for the most spectacular view I could have ever imagined. Each day I looked out my window with amazement at the beauty in front of me.

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Thank you for the most beautiful sunrises, the snow topped mountains glowing white and the clouds turning pink with the first rays of the sun.

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Thank you for the stunning sunsets and how those sunsets traveled across the sky during the entire year.

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Thank you for Caras Park and all the events that took place there this past year: Wednesday Out to Lunch, Thursday Downtown Tonight, Brewfest, Symphony in the Park and countless other events.

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Thank you for the beautiful sounding church bell at St. Francis Xavier Church that strikes every hour and half hour. It’s one of the most comforting sounds that I hold in my memory.

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Thank you for the Clark Fork River right outside my building, and for how clear and refreshing it was. Thank you for providing a playground for all the boarders, kayakers, boaters, paddlers, tubers, and fishermen. Thank you for how it sparkled in the sunlight and the moonlight.

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Thank you for my countless hikes up Mount Sentinel, for the magnificent views it provided, for all the spectacular wildflowers that appeared in the spring. For all the deer I’d see on my way up the mountain. Thank you for giving me the health, ability, and strength to climb the hill easily.

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Thank you for every single one of my wonderful hikes in the surrounding Missoula area, next to the pristine rivers and creeks that provided the most stunning postcard views.

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart for leading me to the Good Food Store. Thank you for giving me the courage to apply and thank you for providing me with a way to support myself in a job with great coworkers. Thank you to Dan Berger, who was such a kind, understanding and flexible boss. Thank you to Rebecca Canfield-Perkowski for everything- how incredible to reconnect after so long ago at University of Michigan! I enjoyed working there more than any other job in my whole life.

Thank you for the safe flight back to Louisville in April to visit my VOICES family and attend their concert. And for the safe drive that same week up to Naperville to spend time with my mom.

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Thank you for my dear friend Patti’s visit in May. Thank you for the beautiful weather so that we could really enjoy the beauty of our hikes.

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Thank you for leading me to the Self Publishing School writing program so that I could finish and publish The Trainer’s Big Book of Bootcamps. Thank you for guiding me to my editor, my awesome cover designer, and my exceptional formatter Debbie Lum. Thank you for helping me overcome so much self doubt to create such a beautiful product for which I am very proud.

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Thank you for that beautiful hike up Lolo Peak in June, and to experience snow on the first day of summer!

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Thank you for a glimpse of a moose at the end of my drive along Rock Creek!!!

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Thank you for my DEAR friend Laura Bender and her incredible mindfulness meditation classes and community meditation workshops. I cannot imagine not being a part of her spiritual circle. Her generosity of spirit, knowledge and love was priceless. Her classes provided me with a connection to a wonderful spiritual practice, as well as a connection to some really awesome people. I feel blessed to have shared so many wonderful conversations about life with her before each class. She’s a rockin’ cool woman and I’m so lucky to have her as a friend.

I am so grateful for my friend Rebecca. Her unfailing cheery disposition and optimistic outlook in the face of her past adversity is truly one of the biggest inspirations of my life. I’m so appreciative to have a friend who reminds me of my spiritual principles and practices, especially when I’m down. Thank you Rebecca, for always reminding me when I have needed it the most.

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Thank you for my friend Amanda. Although I didn’t get to spend alot of time with her over the course of this year, I will be ever grateful to her for introducing me to Laura Bender. And I will forever think of her fondly after meeting her for the very first time two years ago in bootcamp wearing a shirt like this:

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Thank you so much for my friend Josie. Not only did she keep my hair looking fashionable and sporty all year, she was a fellow traveler down a similar spiritual path. I’m so grateful to have been able to share my experiences and spiritual ideas and values with such a beautiful soul.

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Thank you for all my colleagues, friends and fellow coaches in my QSCA Life Coaching program: Justine, Rick, Alyssa, Monica, and Catherine. You are some of the most caring people I’ve ever known, and we’ve never met!  The knowledge and tools I have gained through this program are invaluable to me and have helped me navigate so many of my challenges this year.

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Thank you for leading me to the Missoula Community Band and the Missoula Concert Band. Those ensembles gave me the opportunity to pick up and enjoy my horn again, and to practice acceptance and non judgement of my return to musicmaking. I’m grateful for everyone I met in the bands: Gary Gillett, who had me in stitches all summer long, the friendly and welcoming horn section – Steve, Ross, Merrill Lee, Susan, and Jay, and Amanda, who I enjoyed spending time with as we set up the room for each rehearsal. Thank you for the summer band concerts which took place in beautiful bandshell in Bonner Park, with a great view of Mount Sentinel, in perfect weather all summer.  I’m grateful for that evening we played the Star Spangled Banner for the Osprey baseball game and sat in the stands on a perfect summer evening drinking Cold Smoke and listening to Gary Herbig tell corny jokes all night long. After so many years of not playing my horn, I felt like I was coming home again. I actually think I will keep it up from now on.

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Thank you for making it possible for me to sing with my VOICES family at GALA in July. Thank you for a beautiful safe drive to Denver. It was an incredible treat to spend time with my dearest friends. I was thrilled to perform the bourbon song alongside my dear friend Peggy, overjoyed to sing such beautiful music for such an appreciative audience, and so thankful to spend a few days with my sweet Kat.

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Thank you for my trip to the stunningly beautiful National Bison Range, where I saw all sorts of wildlife on the two hour drive thru.

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Thank you for all my challenges with Kat this year… after parting ways last November and struggling to maintain a friendship with her to developing a more honest, trusting and authentic relationship. Thank you for helping me to focus on unconditional love rather than on the possessiveness of my ego. Thank you for those experiences so that we can now have a strong and healthy relationship. Thank you for Kat’s visit in August. It was one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. To have my true love with me in the city that I love more than any other was truly precious and I will cherish that visit forever. Thank you for the great hikes we took up Mount Sentinel, up Rattlesnake Creek and Rock Creek, for the visit to the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, for the safe drive to Glacier National Park and the fantastic yet frosty Red Bus Tour.

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Thank you for TV and cable so that I could watch the Cubs FINALLY win the World Series! Holy Cow!

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Thank you for leading Melissa of FiTOUR to my book and the subsequent interview with her. I was honored to speak with her about the genesis of my book and share our passion for group fitness.

Thank you for making it possible for me to go to the Farmers Market on Saturdays where I enjoyed the best coffee on earth!

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Thank you for leading me to my spur of the moment decision to go to a Griz game and watch them win!

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Thank you for the change in my travel plans Christmas week, which allowed the gathering of Amanda, Stacey, and Whitney, the original MUSTfit 9am club!
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Thank you for the physical challenges I’ve faced this year. Those challenges have given me the opportunity to practice allowance and acceptance. I’m also so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with Tara, the best physical therapist ever who also became a friend – and she coached a mean spin class!

Thank you for the delayed but safe trip back to my mom’s for the Christmas holiday. I almost thought that I might miss it. After being out West and away from them all for the whole year, it was all the more special to be with my entire family.

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Thank you for leading me down an incredible path of spiritual awakening. For giving me the courage to challenge myself by stepping outside of my comfort zone, taking personal responsibility for everything I do, and trying each day to be better than I was yesterday. Each year since 2014 I continue to uncover and shed the habits and limiting beliefs that caused unhappiness and no longer serve me. I feel like with each year I’m becoming a more magnificent version of myself. I can’t wait for what 2017 has in store!

A Lesson in Detachment

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My family has been planning Christmas Day for well over a month. For the first time in a couple of years, we are all planning to be together at my mom’s – my siblings, in-laws, and my niece and nephews. My plan was to leave Missoula on Sunday and arrive home at my mom’s by Monday or Tuesday. I had meticulously planned the last days before my departure: last day of work Friday, get laundry done and everything packed, load the car on Saturday with all my belongings and my bike, then leave on Sunday morning and take two days, three at the most to arrive in Naperville. I would enjoy the days leading up to Christmas with my mom and spend Christmas Day with my entire family.

But sometimes my plan is not the Universe’s plan.

Last week it started to snow. All day Monday and Tuesday. It kept snowing. Thursday the snow was predicted to end by 11am…but it kept snowing and was then predicted through Friday at 11am…but it kept snowing throughout the day. The temperatures dropped dramatically below zero, and all the snow that had fallen became packed on the roads. Saturday I forged ahead with my plan and packed up my car, but as the day progressed, my anxiety increased as road conditions deteriorated to the point that I-90 shut down in central Montana and a Sunday departure became impossible.

I wasted that day consumed with worry. Worried about when I could leave. Worried about which route home I should take. Worried about the road conditions that would be along the drive.

Totally miserable and at my breaking point, I decided to sit and meditate on why I was worrying and what was at the source of my worry. I worry the most when I feel powerless and a loss of control. Worrying makes me feel like I have some kind of control, as if catastrophizing prepares me or helps me in some way. But it doesn’t. Next I realized that the source of the worry was the attachment I’d placed on getting to my mom’s by a certain day. I had become so attached to that outcome that I’d developed huge expectations. But the reality of the current situation dashed those expectations and caused me incredible disappointment. It’s risky to place so much attachment on a certain outcome, and it’s wiser to practice detachment and surrender instead. Marianne Williamson says in A Return to Love that we surrender more easily those things that aren’t important to us, but things that are REALLY important to us, that we are most attached to, are the most difficult to surrender. The attachment I have to my family and even more so FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS makes surrendering this difficult for me. But I am choosing to place this in the hands of the Universe and have faith that everything is working out for the best (even if it’s difficult to see it in the moment).

Saturday night I allowed myself feel all my emotions and I cried and cried, disappointed that my trip was not going to happen as I planned. But as I cried, I suddenly felt all the resistance melt away, and at once I felt at peace.

Yesterday, I woke with an entirely different mood and mindset. I talked to Kat and she asked me “what can you do to make today great?” So, I made a conscious choice to enjoy the day. I had a couple of cups of coffee at my favorite coffeehouse, I talked to my mom twice, I watched a great Bears game, I started this blog, and I watched BOTH The Sound of Music and Oliver. I kept smiling through the entire day, relieved to feel peace instead of anxiety.

At this point, I’m not sure when road conditions will improve enough for me to head East. Hopefully I’ll make it home by the end of the week. But I have come to a place of acceptance. In fact, I’ve even faced the possibility that I’ll spend Christmas here in Missoula and actually…I’m ok with that!
I’m lucky to be learning that it’s ok to have a plan, but then surrender the results to the Universe. And that, my friends, is the difference between feeling powerFUL, and powerLESS.

Acceptance

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In mid-August I carried a full 5-gallon bucket of mayonnaise at work and tweaked my back. It was sore on and off for two weeks, but I just dismissed it as muscle soreness and assumed it would eventually pass. One day in late August, I got out of bed and my back exploded in pain. Desperately I tried to find a position that offered some relief, with no success. For the rest of the day I could not get comfortable or escape the pain. Thankfully, as the next few days passed, the pain subsided, but as the pain decreased I became aware of numbness spreading down the outside of my leg into the heel of my foot. I also realized that I was unable to raise up on the ball of my foot, which led to an uncomfortable borderline painful limp as I walked. After a visit to the doctor, I started regular physical therapy. Reluctantly I put my gym membership on hold for the month of September, but was optimistic that I’d return to my daily gym routine by the end of the month

September passed, and despite twice weekly physical therapy the symptoms persisted, so I tearfully put my gym membership on hold for another month. October passed with little to no improvement so I set aside my gym membership indefinitely. At the end of October my physical therapist, concerned with the lack of improvement, urged me to request an MRI. The MRI indicated a bulging disc which, albeit small, was situated such that it impinged on the S-1 nerve root, leading to the symptoms I was exhibiting.

Almost 4 months have passed during which I have not been able to work out. I honestly thought that I’d be out one, two months at the most. I haven’t taken more than two weeks off from the gym for the past seven years, and this unintentional break has been one of the biggest lessons in acceptance that I’ve ever faced. Those of you who know me well know how big a part of my life that fitness is. I’ve gone from disappointed to self-pitying to angry to depressed to scared. I have never had an injury that has kept me out of the gym until now. My recovery has been so painfully slow that I’ve been terrified that I won’t get better; that this numbness and decreased muscle strength will persist and keep me from the activities I love.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things I’m really lucky. This is not life-threatening. Fortunately, except for the first couple days of the injury, I’ve had no pain, and my sleep hasn’t been affected at all. I haven’t had to miss even one day of work. I know in my heart that the Universe gives us challenges to learn from and to grow, so I must trust and have faith in Universe’s plan, even if I think that it’s not MY plan. There is a line in the text of A Course in Miracles which has given me great comfort: One of the most difficult temptations to recognize is that to doubt a healing because of the appearance of continuing symptoms is a mistake in the form of a lack of trust.”

Over the past three weeks, the strength has SLOWLY started coming back to my calf muscle and my limp is significantly less pronounced. Last week I saw a spine specialist who was extremely heartened at how well I was doing given the MRI results taken at the beginning of November. My physical therapist has just given me the green light to carefully start working out again: perhaps a spin class, the elliptical, or weight machines. I’m a long way from doing any hill sprints, crossfit or powerlifting activities – perhaps never – but hey, I’ll take it. Up until this event, I’ve taken for granted what my body has been able to do. I know for certain that I will never take it for granted again.