Originally posted on The Viau from Here on September 10, 2017.
I am not, by nature, prone to worry or anxiety. And I’m pretty highly skilled at diverting nervous energy and/or ignoring any fears that are creeping in so that I can focus and work a plan. But I have some physical manifestations of stress that let me know when I need to pay attention to that inner world a little more.
I want to sleep. A lot. And when it’s really bad, I get a rash on my ribs that is almost like shingles. That rash popped up yesterday. And so it was time to name what’s going on.
Back in the summer of 2004, we decided to sell our first Florida house and build a newer home that was big enough for Mom to move out from Texas and join us. We were scheduled to close mid-August and house-sit for a friend until the new house was finished around the first of October. That meant packing for a move and an extended stay, making all the decisions that come with building a new home and staying in communication with Mom about all of it from half a continent away. Stressful enough.
But then, the week that we closed and moved into our temporary summer home, Hurricane Charley ripped right across Central Florida. Right over the house. And while Charley was much smaller than many of the storms we have seen since, the rain and wind was intense and lasted most of the night.
It doesn’t take effort at all to remember exactly how I felt that night.
And how it felt to wonder when the power would come back on.
And how hard it was to keep our kiddo from freaking out when we experienced two more direct hits, moved into the new house, and started attending a new school (between storm breaks).
By the time Hurricane Season was over, I was a wreck- emotionally and physically. But we had to get back to work and keep moving forward. It has been quiet here since, until last year when Matthew gave us a scare. But he wobbled out to sea enough that we were spared all but a couple of hours of wind and a few lost shingles.
So I didn’t really realize how much I had shoved aside and not dealt with until I started seeing my friends post about their experiences as Harvey rolled into Southeast Texas. I literally couldn’t read about the sound of wind or the water coming in, or even how worried they were, without my own heart rate rising. I had to limit my engagement until the storm stopped and the (horrible) extent of the damage was clear.
And now, here we are, waiting for Irma. Right now, for as ginormous as she is, we’re in a pretty good place. We’ll have some serious winds and a fair amount of rain, but not for nearly as long as our neighbors in South Florida or on the gulf coast.
So…a year older and maybe slightly wiser, what am I going to do differently this time?
First, I’m doing something Brene Brown calls “embracing the suck”. Actually feeling the feelings that I don’t want to feel, rather than running past them. When I sit with the feelings, I can untangle what they really are. Then I can deal with the concerns and fears I can actually do something about, and I am aware of the (yes, totally reasonable) fears that will only go away once the storm is past.
Second, I went running. Not walking, but running. Yesterday, I did my usual interval workout- a shorter walk interspersed with running. Today, I was just going to do a short walk, since it looked like rain was about to start.
At about half a mile, though, I felt like a little running, so I thought maybe I’d do another interval run. But as I ran the back half of that first mile, I knew that today was different.
I needed to keep running.
I needed to see how long I could sustain a pace that was faster than usual.
I needed to know that I could persevere, not just physically but mentally.
And so 1 mile became 2 miles.
And 2 miles became 3.
And three miles became 3.6.
I ran a full 3.1 miles (a 5K) after that half-mile walk.
Because I could.
Because I have transformed my body over the last 18 months.
Because I have transformed my mind over the last 18 months.
Yes, I am stronger and leaner and more fit than I have been in decades. My running intervals added up to just under half of the 10-mile race I completed last weekend. But the hardest part of getting stronger and leaner has been mental – taking on the habits and lies that used to keep me in bed or on the couch.
I ran a full 3.1 miles (a 5K) after that half-mile walk.
Because I believed I could.
I know today that I am mentally strong enough to push toward big goals,
to believe that yesterday’s personal best doesn’t dictate today’s
to face challenges that have nothing to do with running, walking, biking or swimming.
I can do the hard things – like lead my congregation, face conflicts head-on, make decisions I’d rather ignore.
And wait for Irma.
I will be ok this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow, when the worst of the storm is here.
I won’t like it (because who would???)
I’ll be scared.
But I will be ok.
Laura Viau is a pastor, writer, mom, and wife living in Central Florida. At 49, she found her stress level, weight, and blood pressure were way out of control. Admitted to urgent care, she found herself signing papers so her family wouldn’t sue if she was admitted to the hospital. This was a wake-up call that led to some real changes. She started by walking 1-2 miles a day and signed up for a 5k a few months later. She’s seen drastic changes in her body but the biggest change has been learning to take an honest look at herself, setting a direction and creating sustainable change in her life. She has lost 1/3 of her body weight but more importantly, learning to be honest with herself has made her a more whole-hearted leader.