Monday, November 24, 2014

Gratitude Circle

Eight and a half months ago, I found myself wearing slacks, a blazer and office-appropriate footwear and entering a building built to accommodate 950 workers, 98% of whom have direct access to natural light. The building is LEED Gold certified; there are a lot of windows. Eight and a half months ago, I took a calculated risk and accepted a position at a company that sounded cool; it seemed like this company made a legitimate difference in the lives of others. The position - an internship - came with no guarantee of full-time employment at the end of six months, and it paid less than what I made as a barista. (Side note: barista-ing was never supposed to be long-term for me. I reluctantly allowed it to turn into a medium-term thing that served as a band-aid for my somewhat directionless mid-twenties.) So, I quit barista-ing, spent two months skiing and looking for a job, took Anatomy & Physiology I, and was offered this intern gig. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I knew very little about the company where I was about to begin my first sort of official 9-5 something or other.

And yet I took that leap and began a combined Communications/Corporate Social Responsibility internship with DaVita HealthCare Partners because thank Godness an employee on the Communications team thought I was worth their risk, experience be damned.

It is now three days before Thanksgiving, and this morning, we held a gratitude circle in my Monday morning homeroom meeting. Everyone sitting around the table expressed their gratitude for something in their world. "My health;" "my growing family;" "Colorado..." The energy in the room shifted. It changed from "Ugh, Monday morning meeting ugh," to something more positive, more reaffirming. What struck me the most was that all of the individuals in the room and on the phone said they were grateful they worked for this company, that they were a part of this team. I have never seen or been a part of such positivity in a work environment. I forgot to mention that this Gratitude Circle was actually a directive from our CEO, an instruction that every team around the country take some time during their Monday morning meeting this week to reflect on what they were grateful for in their lives. I told you this company sounded cool.

This year has been an absolute whirlwind of emotions and uncertainty and self-doubt and self-confidence and pretty much everything else that could happen short of popping out a baby. There's actually very little likelihood of that happening. But in all seriousness, as of November 10, eight months to the day of my walking into that beautiful, sunny, happy building as an intern, I am officially a full-time employee at DaVita. My position is incredible - I get to work with nonprofits across Denver and coordinate volunteer opportunities and design sponsorships and attend a huge variety of events that celebrate philanthropy in Denver and Colorado.

I am grateful. I am beyond grateful that I am still alive, still kicking and screaming and running and here to greet the Colorado mountains every single morning. That gratitude has been a part of me for a long time, and I know I will never lose it. But I am grateful, now, for this job and this opportunity to grow. I am shocked and awed that it has worked out like this - I work for a healthcare company while serving the nonprofit community in Denver. How freaking sweet is that?

The past eight years of my life have taken me down some crazy paths. It is not possible to predict where your choices will lead you or how certain decisions will shape your future paths and future self. I really have learned, though, that there is nothing more important than being grateful for at least something at any given point in time. Life's circumstances will necessarily change and shift and move in all sorts of unpredictable ways, but it is so important to recognize that there is always something to be grateful about.

I am grateful for life and for right now and for where I came from and wherever tomorrow takes me. How about you; what would you say in a gratitude circle, today?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Turn up the bass

When last did you do something with utter abandon?  Anything!  Run, play, laugh, cry, love with abandon?  Danced like you're wearing jazz pants from eighth grade and you're home alone and what do you care if you're bothering the neighbors?  You're just dancing, hair flying all around, spinning chaînés around the chairs and tables in the living room and then the beat drops and you drop into a split you can still just about do...  When I was a kid and into highschool, I used to dance around in my bedroom, utterly uninhibited.  Mostly, I'd just practice pirouettes and the splits and whatever I could fit into my small, square room.  But I would dance so hard - I can remember collapsing into my giant green papasan chair, out of breath and laughing and loving the fact that my body moves like that, can move to music and for a few brief minutes, absolutely nothing else matters.

I was never a great dancer; I was always a little chunky and off-balance.  I loved ballet, envied the grace and ethereal beauty of prima ballerinas, such that I even danced en pointe in high school.  But I was better at jazz and lyrical, and my favorite was jazz a la Bob Fosse: sexy, deliberate, each movement loaded with meaning and feeling.  More of my personality came through when I was onstage than perhaps when I wasn't.

And then what?  Life changed everything, took me in an utterly unimaginable different direction.  I haven't danced with any instruction in over seven years, haven't danced on a stage in almost nine.  I'm not even that old!  How does one's life change so abruptly that everything you thought made you "You" just fades away?

Perhaps, though, that isn't quite true, either.  I no longer perform, but that doesn't mean I don't still want to.  I am less goofy but more joyful.  And tonight, dancing by myself in my living room, I was reminded just how amazing it feels to let go.

Life should be less about the things that stress us out, the daily wear and tear that brings us down.  Jobs, the weather, our relationships or lack thereof - we put so much emphasis on certain things and expect them to fulfill us.  Shouldn't life be more about dancing and laughing and enjoying the moments you have with people you love?  I think so, and I am going to try and embrace that sentiment once more, and dance, once more.  So, please, go blast your music and let your endorphins and inner child dance freely for a few minutes.  And have fun!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January "reset" button

How many times can a person stop and start running again?  I've probably taken more extended breaks from running than any other person who runs.  Yet, I persist in considering myself a runner.  Mostly because when I don't run, especially for an extended period of time, I start losing my marbles.  Anxiety kicks in, sleeplessness, an overwhelming urge to eat nothing but cereal and ice cream.  It appears that I am one of those people whose moods can be regulated by frequent, consistent exercise.  It is fascinating how our bodies respond to exercise.  If you don't believe that exercising can make you feel better, take a look at me.  I'm not even talking about Working Out, but even just walking around the lake down the block or getting outside to do Anything for some period of time.  There must be some physiological reason why our bodies respond so well to being outside or elevating our heart rate a bit.  I feel considerably better about myself and life in general when I've spent lots of time outside and enough time of it running around.

It's interesting how we have evolved from hunter-gatherers into mostly sedentary folk.  Still, though, when we do elevate our heart rates, a whole slew of chemical reactions happen, not the least of which is the release of endorphins, those happy little chemicals that make Us happy.  Or at least feel better for a little while.

So, I went for my 30-minute run today, did some planks, wall sits, 6 pull ups, and I feel better.  And I feel like I'm starting this whole game over again.  Struggling to breathe through a 3-mile run...  It does get easier with time; I've done this enough times to know that.  But it's still hard restarting.  It's still something I am going to keep doing though, pushing through until it's easier, until I can run 6, 13, 26.2 miles once more.  Here we go!  And did I mention the 6 pull-ups?  I think so.  Cheers!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And... I'm back again

On a grey, unsettled, chilly January day in Denver, I have retreated to an eclectic coffeeshop with the students, the self-employed, the unemployed, the musicians, the artists.  And me, falling somewhere in the middle of it all.  I remain undefined while consuming some of the best tomato/spinach soup I have ever had, all creamy and tomato-y and cheesy without having any actual cheese in it.  I am scalding my tongue and the roof of my mouth, thanks to a nice barista who seems to be chronically undercharging me.  Maybe I already look destitute, in my mismatched pink and navy flannel shirt and fleecy purple plaid scarf and jeans ripped clear across the knee.  I'm pretty sure no one ever has paid only $8.35 for soup, a large almond milk chai, and a giant chocolate chip cookie (Giant).  The price is still boggling my mind.  Don't worry, I tipped my newfound best friend.

As of January 10, I am fully and so weirdly unemployed.  In the middle of November, my boyfriend and I took a week-long trip to Virginia to visit family, and I decided I couldn't come back to Denver and continue working at Starbucks.  I was done; it was time.  The Philadelphia Marathon came and went, and it didn't include me.  I spent September and October fighting a sickness I couldn't shake until finally, a week before the Marathon, I crumbled, called in the antibiotics, and called off this marathon I was supposed to have been training for.  Who knows if there's a correlation, but my training started suffering and my health started failing right around the time I started opening at Starbucks consistently.  Opening, for me, meant falling out of bed around 4 a.m. to bike 3 miles to work by 5 a.m., including a few sub-zero mornings.  School, caffeine, fatigue, constant coughing or sniffling or "coming down with something..." I couldn't do it.  My body paid a wicked price, and I wasn't able to join my friend in her very first, amazing marathon.  My boyfriend and I are still dealing with the after-effects of the prednisone the doctors put me on for a second time this year.

So here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, worrying about health care come February 1, sipping chai, not yet doing anything to find employment.  I have skiied a lot and all over since leaving the Bucks - Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, A-Basin, Steamboat Springs, an impromtu, ridiculous weekend trip to Jackson Hole this past weekend.  Needless to say, I'm ripped, now.  (Sort of kidding, but no, not really kidding.)  Skiing is a whole lot different from running, especially the slow, long runs I'm used to.  Skiing is short, intense, and quad-thrashing.  Ski in powder, and it becomes all of those things amplified plus the sensation of floating down the mountain in silence.  There were a few runs I found myself alone in trees, snow sparkles drifting all around while the lower sun illuminated my life, and the lactic acid disappeared, and the heavy powder disappeared, and the wrench in my knee disappeared, and it was just me, floating in a forest of crystals and sun beams.

I have learned and believe that nothing lasts and everything changes.  Life, changes, and you can help it change how you'd like it to; you can adapt to the changes; or you can drift along and watch everything shift and grow and die around you and remain encapsulated in whatever bubble you've created of fear and comfort.  I've been doing the latter for over 4 years, although I started tearing down my bubble and finding my footing when I moved to Denver on a whim and a prayer.  Now, it's time to kickstart my life, to jump in and make my own changes.  To finally embrace everything I am and the person I am growing into.  I am so many things, and while I was a barista for a while, I want to be so much more.  2013 sucked pretty badly in my world.  So, okay, time to make a giant change.  Time to ski and run and sip chai and eat delicious, gluten-y cookies and heal.  It is time to Live.  Here we go!