Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Hi, my name is Ann, and I am a therapy junkie.


Don't worry - I haven't reached a What About Bob? level of dependence, and don't plan to. But I have logged quite a few hours on the shrink couch within the past year. (Thank God for good health insurance.)

I know everyone has her own opinion of counseling. On one extreme, some people are fanatics who consider weekly sessions religious experiences and their therapist their spiritual guide. On the other are those who write off counseling as a self-help crutch for the weak, or necessary only for those with "real problems." (Or perhaps they're just scared to confront their personal demons.) Today I lean more toward the former than the latter, which wasn't always the case.

I grew up attending church regularly, at least twice a week when accounting for small group Bible studies or youth group. Going to a Christian college only doubled my church/chapel/small group quota each week. And then marrying a youth pastor perhaps tripled it. (I think I ODed on church.)

Although today I am not a church-goer, I still believe in the power of community that healthy churches can create. For me, one of my favorite aspects of church was the connections I made with other people when we shared honestly about our lives and took the risk to be vulnerable about what was really going on in our heads and hearts. Unfortunately, I think such authenticity isn't easy to find in many church communities. Too often fear of raw doubt and real questions stands in the way, and pat, cure-all answers from Scripture take the place of active listening and empathy. 

And thankfully, in the absence of church community, I have maintained and developed friendships that are my lifeblood and provide some of the truest community I have known.

But in my experience, church - and even my dearest friends - can't quite touch me the way an hour of rigorous personal examination guided by an objective, insightful third party does. It can't move me the way questioning long-held beliefs about myself and the world around me, unveiling misconstrued assumptions, and slowly transforming old behaviors and patterns of thinking can...and has. Truthfully, individual counseling has helped me to become a more mature, healthy, and whole version of myself. 

It's OK, you can be skeptical. I was, too. When my counselor invited me to join a women's support group, I nearly laughed. "Me? In a support group? Aren't those for addicts and abuse victims?" I thought. As If I am better than they. (I'm not.) Despite my pride, curiosity got the better of me, and I went for it. And I went back again. And I'm going to keep going.

Because it's nice to know that I'm not alone. It's inspiring to talk to three other women with a variety of life experiences and personal struggles, again led by the questions and outside perspective of a caring and trained individual. It's encouraging to know that although we're each very different, and our baggage comes in different shapes and sizes, we're joined simply by our humanity: the desire to love and to be loved, to know lasting joy, and to suck the life out of life...and not allow ourselves to get in the way of realizing the achieved moments of those pursuits.

We all have our issues, rocks in a bucket that we carry around with us throughout our days. We can blame these on our tramautic childhood, failed relationship(s), or unfulfilled career dreams. Most likely circumstances beyond our control have added some weight to that collective baggage. But I've learned that it's what I decide to do with my "stuff" and how I choose to live through it and beyond it that will make me or break me. 

Counseling has been a "make me" experience. So for now, I'm sticking with it.

How about you - thoughts on counseling? Good experiences? Bad?

(By the way, if you need a good therapist, let me know.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Turning 29

I turned 29 three months ago. So this post is a little delayed. It's been sitting in my draft box for weeks, and I'm finally taking the time to get my thoughts on "paper." Get excited. ;)

Your 20s are a decade when you're "finding yourself" - finishing school and entering the real world, figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life, and discovering what it means to be an adult. And in the midst of all of that uncertainty and change, you still feel young and invincible, as if you've got all the time in the world. You're enjoying the freedom of living life for yourself, carving out a little piece of the world that you call your own. You're beginning to make decent money and buy nice things and take fun trips with friends. You feel healthy, energetic, and carefree.

And then you turn 29.

At least that's what happened to me. I know 30 is traditionally a tough birthday for most. But I had my "I never thought I would be this old" epiphany on December 7, 2012, when I realized this is the last year in my coveted 20s, the last year it is socially acceptable for me not to have my shit together.

Suddenly I feel old. Because the older I get, the more my life seems to unravel a bit at the seams. At times I feel like I'm living life in reverse when compared to my peers, and then I get a bit panicked. But I have to remind myself that this is my life. I have to own every decision and step I've made along the way because those choices and moments have made me who I am today. It's all about the journey. And I'm really starting to get that.

So this journey continues, and days and weeks and months go by, and all of the sudden I'm 29. If I told 15-year-old Ann where I'd be at 29, she may have laughed in disbelief. Twenty-two-year-old me would probably say, "Get your shit together." Ha. She was so young and naive.

And that's when I not only feel older (as in I have more wrinkles and my skin is losing its luster and I get a hangover after three beers older), but I feel wiser. When I compare who I am today to who I was five years ago, I see a marked maturity, a shifting perspective, and a crossing of the threshold into adulthood. With this rite of passage comes some dashed dreams, a loss of innocence and idealism, and the mourning of the end of an era. But there also comes a fresh and seasoned view of the world and people and a deeper understanding of the beauty of both grief and joy, pain and hope.

Because I'm beginning to realize that as difficult as it is to say good-bye to my 20s (clearly I need 12 months to do this), I think I'm gonna love my 30s. I already feel more comfortable than I ever have in my own skin, I know who I am and what I want out of life, and I don't care (as much) what other people think of me. I also better understand my strengths, and equally my limitations. And I'm OK with both. I can "own" those characteristics and be honest with myself - and others - about them.

So as traumatic as it was to turn the big 2-9, I'm beginning to dig this getting older thing. I may have been in bed before 10 p.m. Saturday night, and St. Party's Day weekend no less (to my credit, I did run a half marathon that morning), but I wanted to feel good the next day, and not hungover and useless...

...Wow, I'm old...

...But also so much wiser. :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New PR!

I'm ending this blogging hiatus and bringing a little something "lighter" to the table than some of my posts of late. I've written about running several times before on this little online space. I chronicled my first race four years ago, and more recently shared how much I appreciate my running community. Yesterday I set a new milestone in my running "career." I finished my third half marathon and PRed (by less than a minute, but I'll take it!). So 1:56:08 is the time to beat.
The DC Rock and Roll Half was less than stellar, in my opinion. It was fun to run through the city, but the race was disorganized and understaffed from start to finish. We waited in 15 minute lines for gear check and more than 30 for porta potties. This put us at the back of the pack, in the last corral, which was 10 corrals behind where I was supposed to start. I had trained for this race and was hoping to PR, so dodging and weaving the entire 13.1 miles was not ideal. Also less than ideal were the water stations, where often runners were forced to fill their own dixie cups or wait in small lines to get those coveted few sips. But every race has its unforeseen circumstances, so no excuses! :) I felt like I gave it my all, and my legs are aching today, which is confirmation of that.
And just as much as I love to run, I love my "running friends." In fact, I don't think I would keep racing without them. I'm a loner when it comes to running, but racing is a whole other ballgame. It's opened me up to a community of people who motivate and inspire me to set goals and keep training. And beyond that, these people have added such joy and cherished memories to my life.

And these are the moments that make up the good life: a memorable race, dear friends, and a cold beer (even though Mich Ultra is not real beer).