How to Fight Fire with Fire

I lead a very fast paced life. It’s been described as nuts, crazy, too much and has been described as “intimidating.” When running obstacle course races (OCRs) and attending heavy metal concerts is considered your down time, yeah I guess I would agree with that statement.

The concern I get from others is honest and real. I take it seriously and I know they are looking out for my best interest. Sure, I think some are truly concerned but, it’s possible some are just uncomfortable.

Making people uncomfortable has been a constant thread in my life, but we’ll talk about that another day.

It might appear like these activities are fueling the fire and I am certainly aware of the possibility of burnout. I have noticed, if I’m unbalanced in other areas of my life, there is danger in this fuel if everything else is spinning out of control. However, if other areas of my life are balanced, the flame is contained and these activities serve as a release. There is no spillover.

Describing what these activities do for me has been difficult, because at first I didn’t fully understand it. Running 10+ races in 6 different states (some of these races lasting 11+ hours) this year has given me some time to think and now I get it.

It has everything to do with the task at hand.

My life is busy. It’s loaded with things to do, places to be and things to create. Nearly all of these activities are susceptible to interruption and distraction. (Even as I write this, I have two dogs getting in my face and trying to lick my hands. Like why?) Aside from OCRs, I can’t remember completing a task from start to finish without some form of disruption. I have a young family and a young business – it’s just the current season of my life. I accept it.

Racing provides me with a task at hand. I pack my bag with the necessities: water, fuel, mustard (for cramping), chapstick and likely an extra layer for unexpected weather. The clothes on my body is carefully chosen, right down to the socks that cover my ankles during rope obstacles and hopefully prevent poison ivy (yeah, right).

The night before a race is when I turn inward. I get my game face on and my mindset in place. It’s all about laying out the gear, packing and stretching out. Oh and the obligatory Instagram photo. My busy life fades away and it’s shear focus on the upcoming event.

I’ve done enough Spartan races to know where to go and what to do that even those actions become part of my pre-race prep. It’s methodical and routine. I enter the starting area and the MC gets the crowd going. I participate and go through the paces, but I’m still turning inward and preparing for what I’m about to tackle.

Before I know it, we give our final “AROO!” warrior call and we’re off. This is where the magic happens.

It becomes all about the task at hand.

There are no emails or phones to answer. No questions asked. No interruption. It’s about the Here and Now. Right Now. What’s right in front of you, what lies ahead and what you’re about to overcome.

This is where I find peace. Ok truthfully, after the race is where I find the peace. Certainly there were courageous attempts, successes and failures. It’s an accomplishment no matter what happens. I might be bumped and bruised. I may walk like I’ve ridden across the country on horseback, but I am lighter.

I am lighter.

I am lighter because I have left everything out on course. I’ve pored my heart into the task at hand. I’ve sweat and grit my teeth. I’ve experienced thirst and hunger. Pain and pure victory. And that fire jump finish ignites my heart. It solidifies, “I can and I will.”

Peace lives at the finish line.

Things I Have Learned as a Volunteer

To say this year was full of highs and lows is an understatement. My heart has soared and it’s had a bit of heartbreak. I could’ve fill many pages about both, but this post will serve only to cover the things I’ve learned from volunteering for a youth sports organization.

I wish I could say there were equally positive experiences and benefits from donating my time, but there weren’t. Frankly, I met a few cool people and had some fun, but if I had to sum it up; it mostly was a soul sucking experience.

Here is the list I wrote in just a few minutes, right after sending in my resignation letter. So here we go…

  • People with the loudest voice, often put in the least effort.
  • No one gets to decide what level of expectations I should have, but me.
  • People with a pack mentality, often have more support because people want to be “in the club.”
  • Often the pack mentality will turn sour and eventually turn people away.
  • Don’t ever take a board position (even if you can offer them lots of help) if you are not a politician.
  • I am not a politician.
  • No amount of effort will appease everyone. Yes, you could quit your job and be at everyone’s beck and call, but someone will always have an issue about something.
  • Those who are not in the arena don’t get to pass judgement. They can and will, but you shouldn’t care.
  • I care to freaking much.
  • I put everything I’ve got into my commitments.
  • People won’t always be grateful or even know what’s being done behind the scenes.
  • It’s easy to know it all from the sidelines.
  • Big mouths that are approached with a “put up or shut up” option will suddenly get nervous or disappear.
  • Most people will always take the easy way out.
  • They will also do only what benefits themselves.
  • Some people will forget that this is about the kids. Not about position or power.
  • I’m confident every choice and decision I’ve made was in the best interest of the league (even if it didn’t benefit me personally or often even my kids sadly).
  • I shouldn’t let this sour my outlook and attitude on volunteering.
  • It has and I’m going to need to work through that.
  • I should only volunteer in ways that fill my bucket.

Please don’t let this sway your decisions about volunteering. Not all organizations or people are the same. This was just my experience at this point in time. It’s too soon to tell if I’ll ever put myself in a position like that again, but having this list will serve as a reminder to make better choices and to put my energy toward things that really matter.

The Final Crescendo.

Last year, I wasn’t prepared for it. Now that I have some experience, I should have been prepared for it.

But I wasn’t. 

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It’s the end of another dance season and I’m surprised how sentimental it makes me. To see the hard work for months on end wrapped up into a neat little bow is not really a gift you can prepare for. And I’m not even sure it can be explained.

But I’ll try. 

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For months, I’ve been packing dance (and snack!) bags, tying shoes, doing hair, and working my business matters around various schedules. The dance schedule being one of them. For months, my daughter has been learning new moves, practicing “just because I want to,” and growing as a dancer. She may have even cast me in a show or two as a mermaid. Our kitchen shows are quite spectacular.

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But it’s not just us.

Countless hours have been spent orchestrating a fantastic show (in this case FOUR shows). Everything needs to be mapped out; lights, choreography, costume changes, music, times, dates, locations, photos… and that’s not including the patience required when dealing with wee ones that might not feel like dancing that day…or are just feeling cuddly or silly.

 

Finally, it’s showtime. The backstage and dressing areas are complete madness. Costumes are tossed, hair is whipped up into perfect little buns, and it’s likely you’ll slip on a pile of broken crackers if you’re not careful. Echoes fill the stairwell and doors are shut silently. Backstage with its special lighting and the voices are hushed as the crowd applauds the previous performance.

Then, the music starts. 

Fear, fatigue, and all that chaos falls away. Another beautiful performance flows in and out. Seamless. Then a silent rush downstairs for another costume change. The audience unaware of the circus that lay just a floor below.

They are also unaware of something else. 

It’s not something that can be measured or dressed up. There are no lights or glitter to illuminate the displays of kindness or human interaction that aren’t always found in day-to-day life. In fact, they might be so simple – and so small – they might go unnoticed altogether.

You’ll find it in the sharing of bows when one goes missing. It’s in the lending of bobby pins. It’s the stage moms volunteering their time to keep the flow of traffic moving and putting in the extra effort to make sure your kiddo looks their best. It’s as simple as the mom that stands ready to intercept your child for a quick costume change in case you can’t make it back to the dressing room fast enough. Or the one who doesn’t wait to be asked and comes over and says, “what do you need me to do?”

These are moments you don’t see everyday. 

And before you know it, it’s over. The memory is made. And that’s when this unexplainable feeling comes in. If I had to pick only one word?

Gratitude. I have so much gratitude for everyone that puts their whole heart, sweat, and tears into productions like this. I’m so thankful to have strong women around my daughter. They are helping to shape the person she’ll become and I couldn’t be happier to have such dedicated and caring people in her life.

It’s hard to see it all end. But I know next season is approaching fast. And then we’ll begin this circus all over again.

The crowds always part, but I’m so grateful to be with my girl and witness this final crescendo every year.