Life advice from someone who may not be completely qualified to give it.

What makes someone qualified on giving life advice, anyway? It’s not like we all don’t have experience..

Through my adventures so far this week I had some thoughts that lead to these small pieces of advice being formed.  Whether or not their relevant to anything but my crazy little world, I don’t know. But most of them are what get me through my craziest hours (weeks, months). There are many things I could have written down, but these are the ones that came to mind during my short period of time in which I had to write them down. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section!

1. Socks. Always have a pair handy.
The number one thing I get stuck without is probably socks. Or food. But mostly socks. This is why I have a pair always in my car, my purse, and my room. This might not be a big deal for you if you don’t live a life that requires socks. But putting on paddock boots and riding with no socks, while completely doable, is not comfortable. Neither is being the sock-less employee at a facility where socks tend to be highly regarded in daily apparel.

2. Know your schedule, plan ahead, and have snacks ready. 

The only thing that has gotten me through this week is the fact that I have made a point of eating properly (well.. better anyway). Eating healthy isn’t a problem for me.. but eating enough is. I had a good system going for meal planning.. but then my schedule had other plans. I’ve had to get creative- but creativity is very necessary when you work 9-5, 5-10 or 9-5 followed by the rest of the evening committed to the barn. As much as I love everything about food, it just takes too much time sometimes. I get impatient. And my bad habit is to not make enough time to actually eat real meals, but rather sporadic bits and pieces of this and that where I find time. Planning out meals for the week has become my saviour. Cooking when you do have a spare hour, and cooking enough to pack meals for the next day or so. You have to eat, you feel better if you eat the right things and regularly- so make it happen.

3. Being able to small talk is a valuable life skill. 

And I suck at it. Or I used to (still do). Unfortunately I also suck at improv (ask anyone who attended the 2010 Miss Manitoba Pageant). What I’ve learned through my various jobs and experiences this past year or so, though, is that small talk can sometimes lead to big talk- which can lead to things you might not want to miss out on. As challenging as it is, just make a comment about the weather and see where it takes you. Hell, make a comment about anything- start a conversation. You might brighten someones day, or you might learn something. Maybe both. Try it. It’s one of those skills you learn to do by doing.

4. Technology is great… but get away from it once in a while. 

More and more I am finding I like to just have stretches of time where I’m not staring at a computer screen, answering texts, or checking emails. I’d much rather be talking to someone in person (small talk, maybe?), doing something productive like riding my horse, going for a run, or lifting heavy objects and putting them back down. Maybe it’s because of my constant on the go lifestyle, but those quiet moments are what’s kept me sane the past few weeks (relatively). Take a breather, your phone will still be there when you catch your breath.

5. Appreciate what you have, and find inspiration in the little things. 

Cliche, much? But for actual, look around you and find something to be happy about. Even on the craziest day of your life, something awesome is happening- you just have to look in the right directions. Maybe it’s something that isn’t directly related to you- like another bus passenger seat dancing like no one is watching (even though everyone is). Worth a smile, isn’t it? Maybe it’s not the biggest inspiration ever, but if it makes you smile, and a little bit cheerier, motivation towards every other aspect gets a little bit more achievable. What I’m trying to say is just spend a few moments letting yourself appreciate the happiness you have around you, because it’s always there. If you can’t find it, then smile and make small talk with someone- maybe they’ll return the favour!

6. Know when to say no, and that you can’t make everyone happy.

In contrast to what I just said, sometimes you just have to say no. Or hold your ground. This will make people upset. Or disappointed. Or indifferent. Well.. sh** happens. They’ll live. I have a problem with saying no, often, which is why my schedule fills up so fast. Whether its saying no to others, or to myself. I can make a day off look crazier then a double shift day in 3 seconds flat. I am, however, working on it. Furthermore, I’ve learned that people will do many things to try and make things work out perfectly- and from what I’ve experienced, sometimes the more you try to please everyone, the less people end up happy. Make a decision and stand by that decision. Yes, be open to new ideas and alterations- but don’t flip flop back and forth. There is nothing worse then trying to satisfy two sides of a losing battle.

 

I’m not me

Okay, so last week was one thing. I described it as topsy turvy. This week was just hard to handle.

I’ll start off by reiterating that concussions suck. Also that I am the worst at taking time off. Like, officially the worst.

When I wrote last week it was pretty close to when I started noticing initial symptoms of a concussion. Loss of concentration, sleeping more than usual, fatigue, headaches, etc etc. I had been to a doctor, who gave me not much instruction or useful advice. He suggested I maybe take some time off and then re-assess. Standard procedure for a concussive event is to take at least 7 days off (no work, no school, no exercise, nothing. Off off.). I know this. So my brilliant self decided to sort of take the weekend off (I saw the doctor on Thursday night) and then try and do half-work days throughout the week, as well as classes and practical exams. I managed to keep myself away from the barn, though, so high five for me? No. No high fives. Throughout the week, I noticed many new symptoms. The most predominant being going from sleeping WAY more than usual to not sleeping at all. 18hrs down to 3hrs. Not okay. Mood swings. Oh my goodness mood swings. Losing my patience with everything much more quickly then regular me would. Feeling sad. Feeling anxious. Feeling great. Feeling awful- in a time frame of under an hour. My concentration and focus has yet to return.

Trying to work was the worst idea, as my job is all computer focused and requires a high-degree of concentration. I can’t read for more than 5 minutes without getting distracted, dizzy, or having to look away. Class is the other thing that was an awful idea this week. Tuesday was the worst, coming back after missing the previous lecture. I absorbed approximately nothing from Tuesday’s class. I sat there in a fog for the entire time, and skipped the lab because I just couldn’t handle being there any longer. Physically and emotionally. Thursday’s class was better. My focus still wasn’t good, but the class was a little more engaging and less reading focused. Thursday I was also required to do two practical exams (one make-up and one new), both which required me to understand, teach, and guide a “client” through two different types of workouts while being video-taped. Anyone want to wager a guess at how well those went? Understanding what I was teaching wasn’t there, and I couldn’t concentrate long enough to really remember what I was doing through the tests. So not expecting good things on those reviews. Friday I saw another doctor. A much better doctor this time. One who has a concussion specialization, not one who was working a walk-in. I knew she was good, because she gave me news I didn’t want to hear- even if I knew it was coming. At least another 7 days off of my life. Serves me right, I guess, didn’t reeeeaaaaally take the first 7 days off.

I know, guys, it’ll end up being 14 days. Why am I getting all weird about it? Who wouldn’t want a break?

If you’ve had a concussion, or know someone who has- you know how important it is to rest. You’ll also know how hard that can be sometimes. With other injuries there is usually a physical, visible disability that comes a long with it. It’s quite obvious why you are taking time off. To you, and to those around you. This is a very invisible and mysterious injury. You can’t see it. You can’t predict it’s healing process. You can’t push it.

The perspective of taking time off now, so you don’t have lingering symptoms for months down the line that interfere with your life further, makes a lot of sense. So what is it that makes it so hard?

Part of it, I think, is that this sort of injury tricks you into viewing yourself as fine, and thinking others will view you as fine too- and by taking time off when you’re “fine” people might think you’re just being lazy. This isn’t true, of course, but it’s really hard not to see it that way. Concussions come with messed up self-perceptions. Those who know me know that I would never just take time off unless it was well-deserved. I like to be busy. I take on as much as I can because I love to. When time off is necessary, I try every trick in the book to convince myself that I don’t need time off. I know, ridiculous. I know other athletes to this too. That attitude towards life is what makes what we do possible. Never stop. But when it comes to flipping that determination around to successful recovery.. sometimes we get a little mixed up.

I’m blessed with being surrounded by people that constantly remind me to slow down when I’m doing too much. Rather then support my irrational decisions to push myself harder when I need to be taking pressure off the gas they constantly put things into perspective for me, or attempt to anyway. Do I listen all the time? No. Should I? Probably, yes. Do I try to? Yes. Always. There is no way that I would be as far and as successful in my endeavours if I hadn’t listened to the advice and wisdom coming from these people at least most of the time. When I have thoughts like “people will think less of me if I don’t do this…” or “my life is falling apart because I can’t do all this at once..” (that one was an exaggeration.. I don’t ever think that… do I??)- I am only met with acceptance of who I am, and reassurance that I am doing just fine. Usually I am given exactly what I need for that moment. What more could you as for in friends and family? 

Another difficult side to this, that I’m noticing, is that I don’t feel like myself. Partially because I’m not able to do many of the things that make up who I am. My normal motivation for everything is feeling a little tired (that is probably a good thing- a little easier to take a break with this mentality) and my frustration levels are much higher then they normally are (probably not a good thing). Also because the symptoms of this concussion like to play around with my emotions, making it hard to handle things I would normally not even blink at. It’s comforting to know that these are just symptoms, and they will pass. However, it’s also scary to not have control over my own head- and not knowing what is coming next a lot of the time. This feeds into the challenge of being able to perceive how those around me are viewing me. It’s a little confidence shaking.

On the plus side, I have a fantastic excuse for pretty much any stupid thing I say– Nobody can argue “concussion” as reason for not knowing something or those everyday face-palm moments!

What are your concussion experiences (personal, or someone you know)? How did you handle them?

I am hoping that next time I write I’ll be a little more “me” and a little less “concussion”! Until then, wish me luck at not concentrating (hopefully the only time I’ll be asking for luck in this) and “staying zen”.

 

 

Find that rhythm

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” -Nick Caraway, The Great Gatsby.

That variety of life. Do you ever look around at what you fill your life with and wonder how you’re lucky enough to be where you are? I do. Sometimes I have to pause and breathe- taking in everything that surrounds me. As you will have picked up by now if you read my posts even on a semi-regular basis, my days could use a few extra hours in them majority of the time. I’m surrounded by amazing people who inspire me, support me, and keep me on this planet. Sometimes all the different shoes I fill can cloud my focus. I can get lost in it all, forget to slow down and take that breath.

This weekend thankfully I had a few different opportunities to do just that. With my first show of the season coming up next weekend, as well as a midterm, I am so glad this weekend turned out the way it did. Whether it was sitting on the floor of the gym or in an Olive Garden over Sangria (technically not supposed to have alcohol yet- but seriously, a little Sangria never hurt anyone), or anything else in between- I got the chance to just slow everything down for a little while.

A phrase often used by C in our lessons is “find that rhythm and stick to it”. Put into a riding context, finding your rhythm or pace is imperative to getting around a course, or doing anything really. You definitely notice when you aren’t on it. I’ve had rides where I can’t find that rhythm if my life depended on it. But when you find it, things happen for you. You see distances, you make lines, that single oxer on the diagonal is amazing. I’ve been translating that to my daily life lately. Sticking to “that rhythm” is how I make my schedules aline. My different lives, and the goals that go along within each of them, instead of colliding and crashing into each other- they work around one another and often even compliment each other.

Sometimes, like the past week, I fall off that rhythm and get a little lost in everything. There was less “enchantment” to life and more just flat out exhausting. It’s like getting into a combination at an awkward distance and then getting stuck in the middle because you lose your momentum. It’s not a good feel. Re-organization, a deep breath, and “riding positive” (man, m&c are full of philosophical quotes) are what is needed to get through that combo successfully. That’s exactly what I’ve been able to do the past few days.

Something about this upcoming show in Brandon is a little bit nerve wracking for me (besides it being the first show of the year). I have a lot going on right now. It’s really not surprising my focus isn’t always where it needs to be. Between two.. three jobs, completely reworking my eating habits (which is still amazing, btw), spring courses, and training myself and my horse for competition… things can get jumbled sometimes. Some of the weird feeling about next weekend is probably because it’s the first show in a long time that I’m going into with no chronic injuries to speak of. Those ongoing issues almost became a comfort zone for me, even though they were far from comfortable. When something is with you for that long, it becomes a habit and part of who you are. While I’m very excited that I have been able to move past that pain, it’s a little weird not having it still. And of course, there is the fear that it will come back. I don’t write about this often because its a scary thing for me sometimes, and I have struggled with it and worked on it for a long time. However, it’s also something that I’ve gotten through, learned from, and improved from. I’m in the best shape of my life, and never been more able to handle whatever life throws at me. I’ve always said that life begins when you step out of your comfort zone. This is just another piece of that comfort zone I’m stepping away from, onto better things.

The other new thing for me is heading over to jumper land. It’s not exactly new, I’ve been there before. But it feels different this time. Maybe because I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been. And it’s one step closer to some big goals of mine. Things are starting to happen for me, hard work is paying off. It’s exciting, and it’s terrifying. Finding that rhythm with my horse isn’t as elusive as it used to be- and I have much more confidence in myself as a rider to know that even if things don’t go perfect- I can fix them. I can get out of that combination. A little leg, positivity, and a lot of determination is all it takes.

Up until this weekend I was having a hard time visualizing myself riding around a course and something not going wrong. My focus just wasn’t there yet. Then, this morning, while hacking Willard as a rain storm pelted the tin roof above us, things started to clear up for me. All I could hear was the rain, all I could feel was the rhythm of my horse underneath me. No conscious thoughts, other than knowing that this is my rhythm. This is where I need to be right now. Things clicked back into place somewhere in those moments. I’m back on a rhythm. Thank all the things. Not being on a “rhythm” is frankly exhausting, and a lot more work than it should be.

Had enough philosophical musings? Okay. Well here is a quick update on Week 4 of my diet! It’s been good! I had a few days where I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I think that was because I overdid it on the fibre side of things- which can cause some GIT discomfort. I’ve been feeling much better the past few days and more back to my normal. I made some amazing meals over the past week, as well as some cookies. I’m interested to find out how this new eating style holds up over a weekend of competition. I’m really, really hoping that it goes well and I have just as much energy as I have had while eating this way and that carries over to my riding. That would be amazing! It will definitely take planning. But that is something I am getting very good at.

This upcoming weekend will be a good trial run on many fronts. I am hoping for good results in all aspects, but it’s one of those things you just have to take as it comes. No sense worrying about it until something happens worth worrying about. Although at this point I’m wondering if we should do some anti-rain dances. That might be something to think about.

As usual, here are some photos of my delicious food creations (and one just for fun selfie)!

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Hummus, anyone?

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Breakfast “pasta”

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COOKIES! I love cookies!

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Look at how much my hair is growing!!!

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