The look of a woman entirely in her own head and in desperate need of an attitude adjustment...
When I was in high school, I had an experience that really stayed with me. I was at a Denny's late one night eating pancakes with a friend, her older sister, and her friend, Carmen. (Funny, the pancakes and Denny's are not significant, except that they are so a part of this memory for me!) The four of us were talking, I don't remember about what, but I do remember this: well into the conversation, Carmen stopped and said, "Have you guys noticed what a good attitude Diane has? And how when we are getting really negative or down on people, Diane is finding the positive?" I remember being shocked--shocked that she pointed it out, but more so that she saw me this way. I wasn't aware of myself like that, but I began to pay attention and it was true--I kept a pretty damn good attitude, and a positive one, at that. It became part of how I identified myself.
Well, fast forward 35 years to this photo. Life had happened to me, and I had been through some things. I had woken up and begun the rebuild of my physical life, but I didn't know that my good attitude needed restoration, as well. It was broken in pieces and lying on the floor, and I had noooo idea. I think, because I was basically a nice person--I was nice to other people and "I did the right thing"--it was harder to see that my attitude needed an adjustment. Furthermore, I am not really a complainer, and I work hard, and those qualities really helped to hide the fact that my attitude was kind of in shambles.
Enter the 10 Mile Bluff Run in October 2019...The race wound twice through a 5 mile loop, starting with the first half mile up the bluff, followed by ups and downs, through fields and forest, and back down into the festival area, only to go back up the bluff to do it again. The photo above is of me starting the second loop. Reluctantly starting the second loop. I had decided during the first loop that one was enough, and when I ran down into the festival area I was going to keep going, right to the car. It was cold. And wet. The course was hard. I had forgotten my music. My shoes were heavy and my legs hurt because of them. I was way behind my projected pace. And the course was actually a little longer than 10 miles when all was said and done, which was the icing on my pissed off cake.
As I came into the festival area, people were cheering, which irritated the hell out of me. But there they were, in the cold and rain with their warm ciders, waiting patiently for runners to come through so they could cheer them on--and not to their cars, onto the next loop. As I ran down into the crowd, I also flashed on having to tell my coach that I bailed after the first 5 miles, so to my astonishment I stayed in the loop-back-up-the-bluff-lane for another round to finish the race. My attitude never shifted, and that second loop may possibly be the hardest 5 miles I will ever run in my life. And, possibly, the most important.
By the time I finished, I was desperately worn out and defeated, as one is who carries that attitude up and down a bluff for 10 miles. In retrospect, I took it out on my coach, who wanted a break down at the end of the race. Instead, I texted one, bratty expletive, and then took another 5 hours to send an actual race account. In my mind, I had waited until I was level headed, and then stated the facts--you know: the cold, the wet, the shoes, the bluff, the wind, the mud, no music, the trees, the birds, the pumpkins, the tall grass...those damn, supportive onlookers. Oh, and that extra quarter mile. But I did it! I wanted to stop and I didn't! There, another race in the books. A rough one, for sure, but I completed it and it was my first 10 miler on a tough course. A little while later I get a text from my coach, saying "Sounds like a rough go. Thanks for the transparency. My first thought? You need a f**king attitude adjustment. Big time. I'm proud of you for going to the race, sucking it up, and pushing through......" Ummm, WHAT?!! I need WHAT?!!! Are you kidding me? The next hour (or two) was a series of texts, and a phone call, involving a hard conversation, and some tears, and the difficult realization that I needed a time out, essentially. I needed a rest. These hard truths and hard conversations are not easy to navigate, but my life changed because of it. CHANGED. The next morning I was fully broken open and I knew he was right about my attitude. And the day after that, gratitude had already begun to rush in.
And that's why this is Thanksgiving Part 2. Thanksgiving Part 1 was about telling people how I feel--not letting any dust settle on making sure they know I'm grateful for their presence in my life and the impact they've made. Thanksgiving Part 2 is the immeasurable gratitude for those people who care enough to tell us the truth. That day, October 19th, 2019, is like a birthday for me. A rebirth day--the beginning of the restoration of my attitude and outlook; the flooding in of gratitude into all that broken open space. My attitude was holding me back. It was fine the way it was. Fine. But not awesome. And I want AWESOME.
That conversation didn't just happen and then I was "better." It's a practice for me, a daily practice. It's not about denying my feelings. It's not about pretending the sun's out when it's raining. It's actually the opposite of that. It's searching around and finding the gratitude, especially when things are hard. Especially when it's raining. It's a choice. It's choosing to not sit too long in what is hard. It's choosing to see what I have, what's working, what's right. It's reminding myself of what I get to do. It's the same for me as hard workout days, when I have 12 intervals and I'm on number 7 and it's so freaking hard and I feel like I can't do any more, but instead of slowing down I tell myself I'm strong and I have it in me, and I push the pedal down harder and faster and I fly through the last 5 intervals. And unbeknownst to me, when I do that I've raised my fitness bar, because when that interval workout comes around again I get through number 9 before I have trouble. I grow my fitness, little choice by little choice. And I grow my attitude and gratitude the same way.
I practice when it's easy to be grateful and in good spirits, and I practice when it's hard to do so.
And then one day I realized that raising the bar on my attitude made my gratitude stronger and more overflowing than it ever was before. It's a grown up version, grown out of one person's care and courage to say "Diane, you need a f**king attitude adjustment." And I am so, so thankful.