Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who are you?

It has been a while since I have posted, a long while. It has been a while since I felt like myself, a long while...

So today, on a rare day off in the middle of the week, I find myself silently asking "Who are you?" and realizing that I do not like some of the answers coming back from my internal-self.

Excuse me for what is about to sound, perhaps a little melodramatic, but sometimes getting things out is the best way for me to deal with my emotions. Speaking the obvious forces me to deal with it, acknowledge it and move forward.

When I was 28, I was miserable with my life. I was 298 pounds, I was in debt, I hated my job, and I was making bad decisions on a daily basis. It was that number on the scale that broke through to my subconscious and prompted a dramatic shift in the direction I would take my life. I made a deliberate decision to change and turned my life around 180 degrees. I found a new job, I moved further south (from Delaware to Northern VA/DC), I dedicated myself to getting out of debt and I focused all my energy on losing weight. By the time I was 30-years old, I had lost 120 pounds, stopped looking to my "final weight goal of being 145 and a size 8," and redefined myself instead as a long-distance cyclist. I was debt free, building my professional career, and a building a solid network of friends. I was confident, happy, and healthy and was on the verge of discovering triathlon and meeting my future husband.

Looking back now, I am amazed at how much my life changed within two years time. When I think of how long my husband and I have been together, 15 years total (married just 5 of those years), I realize that he met me just as I was redefining who I am.

In 2005, my perception of my "self" was redefined again, this time by outside forces (although it was really 'inside'), as I was diagnosed with cancer. I took it upon myself to choose, as much as I could, how that would redefine me. While there was not much I could control about the treatment and outcome, I could define for myself what kind of "cancer survivor" I would be. That brought amazing opportunities to learn many things about myself, positive and negative. And while it is not a definition that anybody seeks, I did my best to make it a "positive" in my life.

In 2011, my husband and I moved to the deep South. I came with the idea that I knew who I was and what was important to me, but I moved without having developed the skills that I would need to "define myself" in the context of this new environment. Immediately, I felt lost and some day, still do.

Things are most assuredly different in the deep South. Different...in wonderful ways, in strange ways, and sometimes in hard ways. And I find myself older and not really willing to be the chameleon of "change" that I was in my late 20s. I want to be the woman that I transformed myself into while living "inside the Beltway", here in the deep South. However, our life has changed and I struggle to find balance in all this change, even four years after the move.

I left my job for our move, and had already been slacking on my general health and fitness (moving is stressful) and the freedom of being home, it turns out, is more like having "no direction" than "being free" to my personality. I was lost and no amount of "race goals" could seem to help me find my way back to the answer to the question "Who are you?" because who I am, here, is different because "here" is different from "there."

I thought training for another Ironman-distance triathlon (IMFL 2013) would help me "find myself" and it certainly gave me focus and direction for a short period of time but once it was over, I was struggling once more. So I jumped back into a full time job in my professional career and the change in schedule and focus was so dramatic that I have backpedaled to far in the wrong direction, away from who I want to be. Work is all consuming and stressful instead of a creative and busy way to spend the time between workouts and time with my husband and our slow-growing network of friends. (slow-growing by choice, we choose quality over quantity these days when it comes to relationships)

With work all consuming, I tried to find another dramatic way to redefine myself and threw myself into training and fundraising for the Ulman Cancer Fund and Mission2Vine 700-mile Team Relay Run/Experience. In my mind, the Mission2Vine experience would reinforce my "athlete" and "cancer survivor" sides. I pushed hard, working full-time, training full-time and fundraising full-time, "full speed ahead, body be damned", until I was injured but still steadfast and stubbornly determined to go to California and be part of the UCF Mission2Vine experience. The experience was very good for my soul but very hard on my body physically, and the time away from work - which should have been a break - unfortunately just made for more stress when I returned, now behind the curve and injured.

There has been a transformation in me over the last year, physically and emotionally, and in my personal opinion, it has not been a healthy one. My weight is up, a lot. I can no longer rest on the laurels of "I once lost 120 pounds" and "I am a two-time Ironman triathlete" and I must face the reality that I have gained 60 pounds back. I have pushed my body, hard, to attempt to maintain my fitness in spite of the weight gain and my body has paid the price. I am injured more often than I am healthy, because of the additional weight. I am stressed more often than I am happy at work, and I am unhappy a lot because I look in the mirror and can not abide by the woman staring back at me.

So the time is here again, to answer the question "Who are you right now?" with honesty and clarity and then answer the more important questions "Who do you want to be?" and "What are you going to do to get there?"

Life is Good. LiveSTRONG! Be BRAVE!


Debbie said...

Holly, I'm sure that your clear and honest look at your footsteps through life will help you pick a wonderful direction to go next, even if it doesn't look the same as where you've already been. Best wishes always.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I hear your story loud and clear. I am now "back on track" to hit the stage for fitness competition, but I am also a runner. I soooo know that drive and desire. And the fall back, and the weight gain. You'll get it back. No doubt. Put yourself first. Remember, 80% diet. You cannot out exercise a bad diet. You are STRONG and AMAZING. And, btw, we share cousins - Jeff/Jamy Gannoe. I am Sue's niece. We have a lot in common, from chub to athlete to confused. You have this, mama!!!