Friday, July 31, 2009

Threat Level Orange

One thing I have noticed in all of my travels over the past few years is that no matter what is going on in the world, the DHS Threat Level is always seems to be at Orange (high)- or so the announcements always say at the airports. It seems to have been stuck on Orange since the September 11th attacks and I wouldn't wager that that fact will change anytime soon. Even so, that is a long time to be on high alert, nearly 8 years.

I am a very introspective person, a sensitive and someone who has committed myself to my own continuous self improvement and evolution. I have faced down some of life's biggest challenges and come through them with many lessons. Even so, for the past 4 years since my return from living in London, I have more or less existed in a state of semi or complete existential crisis or quarter life crisis or crisis of confidence, whatever you want to call it, I have been at least ankle deep in it since then. I have been living in my own Threat Level Orange. That is not to say that every moment of every day is crisis, it is more that no matter how good things are, the crisis, the doubt, the searching, the hopelessness has never left for long enough to feel confident it is not coming back. In a way, despite all the learning, all the searching, all the self work, all the life in between now and then, nothing has really changed. Or has it?

While I was running today, I was reflecting on the above mentioned "crisis". I was thinking about it because I know a lot of people who are all going through their own permutation of such a crisis. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to accept something that I have "known" for a long time: Life will always have challenges, problems and issues. When we finally accept that there will be both good times and bad times and we will go through them and come out the other side, we can find inspiration and motivation to face things head on instead of just wallowing around in our own mucky. At this point in my life, I have probably already been through worse (or at least things on par) and have come through still alive, still kicking, still with my face upturned towards the light. Oh bla di Oh bla da life goes on. I spent so much time trying to figure out the right path I should be taking, instead of realizing that I am on my Way already. Somewhere along the line, I gave up my personal power and just started waiting for things to get better first, for the time to be right, for me to know all the steps before proceeding. And so, I have maintained my Threat Level Orange state. Maybe I got use to it, like Americans have gotten use to the DHS level or maybe I gave into the feelings/crisis for so long that now I am too petrified to move. Like standing on a diving board, it doesn't get easier the longer you stand there.

I have "looked" for long enough, it is just time for me to leap.

Before my run, I was reading Zen Habits' blog about Two Questions to Help you Gain Perspective. His second question: Based on your current actions and behaviours, where would you expect to be in five years? is something I have been actively thinking about for the entire month of July. I have realized, as I mentioned above, that I let myself become paralyzed, waiting etc. It is no wonder that nothing has changed- my actions of the past few years have dictated it to be so. This entire month I have not only been actively thinking about it, I have been DOING something about.

My training for TransRockies is the embodiment of this mentality. I don't think I have ever trained this hard for a race before. Of course, that is really saying something since I have trained my ass off for all of my races in life. But this time is different. I have not allowed myself to cut corners, to opt out when things get hard, to wait until I felt good or motivated, etc.
Today I was on my run, a rough 23 miler in the Headlands on a super windy day, doing lots of hills. My legs were feeling rough, my energy down because I did 27 miles on the road yesterday. Neither yesterday, nor today was I particularly rearing to go on my run, but I just got out the door and put one foot in front of the other. And in the end, while not the best running I have ever done, I did the work that is a part of the bigger picture of what I am training for. I did not take the easy way out. I stuck to my training schedule and dug in. I faced down the hard stuff and got through it. That made the last two days of training so valuable. And all of my training for TransRockies has been this way. I went into this month of training, after recovering from WC100k, feeling very unsure of myself as a mountain runner. For my entire career, I have never met a hill I didn't want to walk. When training, I rarely pushed myself on hills unless I felt good that day (and thus, I never felt good on hills). But now, I am pushing myself up 5,000 feet of elevation (each) in back to back 30 milers (like this past Sat/Sun) or back to back to back 20+ milers (like the week before that). Suddenly, I am a force to be reckoned with on the hills and how long did it take? 3 weeks of committing myself to it. I do not feel intimidated by the thought of 6 brutal days at altitude, running 113 miles at race pace. I have been doing the serious work to achieve my goal of being fit for this race.

Every year, I make a list of goals of things I want to accomplish and about 6 months later, I examine the list (which I keep with me) and go, wow none of these magically became true. I feign surprise but I know it is because I was not committing to it. Thus change or achieving those goals was not really something I wanted to see happen or was actively cultivating. But this month, now, I am realizing that all that wading through the mud was in fact slow steps forward, it was progress. I have been taking the long road and sabotaging myself all along, but I am starting to feel the reins back in my own hands. I am starting to understand truly that I am not stuck slowly walking up the hill of my own life, I am fully empowered to learn to run up the climb, to sow the seeds of which I desire to reap. Now is the time, for the first time in a long time, I am an active participant in my own life, instead of passively waiting for life to come to me. I am eager to see what I have in store for life, instead of waiting to see what it has in store for me.


  1. Just my opinion -- you are too hard on yourself and demand the highest of high perfect expectations. That's a tough way to live sister!

  2. Danni-
    I respectfully but completely disagree with your reading of my post. I try not have expectations of myself (& am much more successful than most), that (I do agree) would be a hard way to live. In fact, there is nothing in this world that I am attached to other than living the best life I can.

    I was saying that being in a constant state of personal crisis was/is a bad way to live and that I am understanding how to not sabotage myself. Nowhere did I say that that means I should be harder on myself, work harder, etc...instead I was saying that I was empowering myself to live my life, be an active participant in my life and stop waiting for the right moment.I am trying to just live, instead of thinking so much about it.

  3. Ah. Well I'm glad that you're on the right track towards pleasanter living :-)

  4. What a great blog passage! It sounds like you finally know what you want in life and you're ready to make it happen. There's nothing wrong with going about it slowly and cautiously every now and then... maybe you were just uncertain of your own capabilities and so you slowed it down a bit. But during the times in life when you are fully confident and aware... go for it! It's all cyclical after all. When you're feeling the way you are now... just go with it and make it happen. Confidence, friend, confidence. EMBRACE IT!

  5. Part of the issue I think is the introspectiveness you mention. Introspective people are more likely to see their flaws/doubts/uncertainties more clearly than their non-introspective counterparts. I've always found it really irritating that the mindless thoughtless idiots of the world do so well and are regarded with respect and admiration sometimes (for their confidence and apparent togetherness) while the thoughtful people who are the real deal suffer doubts and are not given the respect they deserve.

    All I can tell you is you've got what it takes to have a great life. At a young age you've already inspired many and achieved more than most of us could ever hope for. We believe in you, and you help us believe in ourselves! So thanks for being there and doing what you do Devon!

    Feel free to come run on the south side of the peninsula sometime too! The weather has been great down here of late.


  6. I needed this post, so... thanks. I lived crisis to crisis until stress wore me down; having to care for a dying parent was actually a stress release (!) as I had to slow down, accept a smaller horizon for a while, stop thinking about myself.

    When asked which runner I'd most like to meet, I surprised myself by saying your name (and then had to explain who you are). Philosophically compatible, I guess.

    Now I have 2 weeks to train for my next 100 and three more for the one after. I'm guessing your Trans-Rockies will go better...

  7. Thanks you guys. I love all of your responses and really do appreciate all of the support and feedback. I am working at being back in the moment, forgive myself and realize that this IS it, this is life and worrying/stressing/crisis-ing ;) over a future life I may have is simply destroying the only life I do have, this one right now.

    Life is a beautiful journey, with ups and downs, storms and calm and there will always be something to do and work on or address, but that doesn't mean I can or have to control it. I am just continuing to learn, discover and roll with the punches.


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