Mind Over Matter—Matters

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Once a week I go to the local track to do speedwork. I have a love hate relationship with speedwork. I’m a distance runner, not a sprinter. So to me, speedwork is dreadfully painful. But you can’t be a better distance runner without regular speedwork.

I usually run first thing in the morning, but that’s been kind of difficult the last couple weeks. Milo is teething so we’ve had some rough nights. To maximize my sleep, I’ve run several afternoons instead of in the morning. But I always feel like when I run in the afternoon my work is sub-par; I run at my best in the morning.

So when it’s been my days for speedwork and Milo has been difficult, I’ve told myself I would just do the workout another day. On those days, I would head out for a usual run and reschedule the speedwork for another day when I can do it in the morning. I come up with all sorts of reasons to support my “need” to postpone the speedwork: it’s too hot, it’s too windy, I’m still tired, I need to be more hydrated, etc.

So every week Nick gets home from work, and I head out for my run. I run by the high school and start thinking about the speedwork I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not that tired, you don’t get to order up perfect weather on race day, I don’t want to dread this workout for another day or two, and what if the next few nights are even worse. Every time I end up caving and doing the workout my coach has scheduled.

Here’s the crazy thing: despite all of my reasons on why I shouldn’t do the work that day, I always complete the workout and even faster than my coach has prescribed. I think I’m entirely incapable until I’m doing the workout and then I realize I’m more than capable.

It’s the fear of failure that gets my mind reasoning me out of my responsibilities. It’s the fact that to grow and improve, you have to push yourself past your comfort zone and that’s, well, uncomfortable. But none of it is possible if you first can’t find the strength to believe that you can.

I have felt defeated for a long time. I’ve faced a lot of obstacles over the last couple years from 2 foot surgeries to my pregnancy and delivery. These obstacles have left me weaker, both physically and emotionally. I desperately want to get back to the condition I was before all of this, to be as strong and fast as the Melinda I remember. Right now the only thing standing in my way is me; the voice inside my head that says it’s impossible.

And it’s not just about running, is it? How often in life do we feel defeated in our work or relationships? We set a goal, map out a plan, and yet still fall flat? I’ve worked with a lot of clients and I’ve seen it time and again. We have a vision for the future, but we fail to believe it could ever be a reality.

This fall I want to run a sub 3:30 marathon. There once was a time this would be a cakewalk for me, but I haven’t had a sub 4:00 marathon the last 3 I’ve run. I’m ready to do the work; I’m getting out there everyday logging the miles and I’m being more disciplined in what I’m eating. This will all be in vain if I can’t discipline my mind as well. But years of self doubt don’t get erased over night.

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Does Balance Even Exist?

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I’m tired. I’ve been tired for several weeks now. At first, it was trying to manage a 40 hr work week, maintaining my home, and training. I kept telling myself it would get better once I was at home full time. Then it was the move. Spending what felt like every free moment packing, the rush to get everything moved, and then the long hours unpacking. I told myself things would get better once everything was unpacked.

Not that the house is completely settled, but it’s feeling more like home. There are fewer boxes laying around, I finally have a counter cleared in the kitchen for cooking, and the laundry is getting done on a regular basis. Life feels a little more normal, but I’m still tired.

Nick was talking to me the other night about trying to find balance with work and home. As a pastor, the job is never really done. There is always another person who could use a visit, a sermon to outline, vision to be cast; considering it a 40 hr work week is kind of a joke. It’s hard for him to come home and not be thinking about the church. And it’s hard for him to emotionally invest in the church all day and come home motivated to work around the house. I listened to what he was saying and sympathized. This is new territory for him compared to working at Starbucks where, when he clocked out, he could come home and not be on the job.

After that conversation, I was able to see how much I was struggling with that exact same issue. My job is now my home. I am a full time caretaker of my child and house. For me, the work day starts when I wake and finishes when I go to sleep. I never leave work, not in the physical, emotional, or mental sense of the word. And when 5pm hits, it just means I’ve entered the nightshift. There is still work to be done.

I’m so tired from trying to work all the time. My home is no longer a place of rest for me, but a place where there is always something to be cleaned, prepared, or created. Each job that I’ve had, there was a clear sense of when the day was over. Either I would complete all of my tasks or I would reach the time my shift was scheduled to end. That’s no longer the case and I have no idea how to adjust.

So this morning I did something that felt uncomfortable. I resisted the urge to start tackling my long to-do list and, after I put Milo down for his nap, I sat down with a cup of coffee and a book. I did something out of sheer pleasure, not necessity or boredom but because I wanted to. It felt weird. The struggle will be to maintain this kind of balance each day. To carve out time of leisure in the face of all that could be done.

It’s a struggle I know I’m not alone in. And it’s one that is not isolated to stay-at-home parents. This search for balance does not discriminate, it just looks different in each of our lives. On my quest for balance I’ll be praying for yours as well.

From Bread Winner to Bread Maker: Part 2

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(If you’re just joining me, read Part 1.)

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, just before Milo was born, I repeatedly told my friend, Nancy, that I would be itching to get back to work from my maternity. I would be bored at home and longing for work. I would never want to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m publicly admitting: Nancy, you were right. You told me I might change my mind once Milo was here, and I did.

But it was about more than just Milo that changed my mind. It was the health and wellness of my household that concerned me. I feel called to care for a space that allows my husband to relax after a long day at work. I feel called to prepare meals that will keep us healthy and ward off sickness. I feel called to maintain a space that our church family feels comfortable in. And that they feel secure that we will not do anything destructive to the house they’ve so generously given us.

I also want a job that allows for me to have a healthy work/life balance. That might sound crazy considering that my work and life co-exist. But I was trying to accomplish these things while also working full-time. It wore me ragged. I was exhausted all the time but couldn’t rest because “there was too much to do.” I knew this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and given the choice between working outside the home full-time and letting my home be my job; I chose my home.

While it catches me off guard that this would be my choice, I feel like it really shouldn’t. Hands down the best job I’ve ever had was working as a waitress at Ike’s Fish House in Monticello. I wanted to be at work as much as possible because I loved it so much. When I was serving a table, my attitude was that for whatever the reason these people needed a break. They needed to take a time-out from life and just be cared for. I felt like I was giving them a form of therapy. The same goes for my other jobs in the food service industry. I have a passion for taking care of people, especially in terms of meals. How does that not relate to caring for a home?!

I never realized how those jobs, those passions, would be preparing me for a life as a wife and mom. It wasn’t until the opportunity presented itself that I realized God had been preparing me for this job all along.

That doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. I worry that I won’t measure up. That I was never really equipped to be at home full-time. But the reality is I’ve been more than equipped; I’ve been called. Just as Nick has been called to the church as a pastor, I have been called to the home to be the caretaker. And I take my calling just as seriously as I take Nick’s. I’ve come to realize that it’s no less of a calling that one to work outside the home, it’s just different.

So here I go. Forsaking the paycheck and the identity that I’ve held so tightly to money and embracing the job that has no monetary value.

It’s All Connected

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For the last week or so I’ve had this discomfort starting in my right hip and traveling down my leg. My foot will feel tight, as if someone’s pulling the muscles out of my foot through my leg. I’ve tried the usual stretching and strength training but nothing was helping. So yesterday I went to see my massage therapist.

I get there and Jeff asked me what’s going on. I tell him about my hip/foot issue. I press my right glute and say “I can feel something right here.”

“We’ll see,” he responds.

The thing about Jeff is he never jumps to any conclusions. He’s been doing this long enough and is wise enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem. So just because you feel something here, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t over there.

He works on me for some time trying to get to the bottom of what could be causing me so much discomfort. I’m worried about all of the possibilities: I’ve developed some strange gait from the surgery on my right foot two years ago or that my hips are a complete mess from having Milo.

After working on my back half, he tells me to roll over and starts to work my abdominal area. He hits something and all of a sudden I could feel my foot release. What on earth? The muscle he was working on was my iliopsoas: one of the major hip flexors. How was this muscle in my front causing so many problems in my back and down my leg? Because it’s all connected.

Muscles don’t work in isolation; they work in movement patterns and groups. So when they hurt, they also hurt in groups. And a lot of the time the muscle hurting isn’t the actual problem, it’s hurting because it’s having to pick up the slack for the real problem. My iliopsoas was out of whack causing my glute muscles to need to compensate. Then every other muscle connected to my glute had to react.

So why do I share this with you? Because I think we experience this same concept in other parts of our lives. We think we are able to compartmentalize issues; work problems stay at work just like home problems stay at home. But we’re not as successful as we might think.

Have you ever left a long day at work and as you’re driving home every other driver on the road just annoys you? Did every idiot driver really just start driving down the same road, or are your emotions from work getting the better of you as you drive. Have you ever lost sleep at night and then felt irritable all day long for “no reason.” Or have you ever argued with your spouse and then struggled to find the energy to get through your workout?

We can’t separate our lives into neat categories that don’t bleed into each other. It’s all connected, so if one thing is out of sync you’re going to experience it in other areas of your life as well. I’m certainly no expert, but I think there are plenty of times we need to slow down, step back, and ask ourselves what’s really going on.

So back to my iliopsoas. While it’s a common muscle to strain from running and it was certainly causing problems while I ran, what was making it aggravated in the first place? The way I was carrying Milo. My mommy life and habits had bled into my running life.

Go figure.

Sometimes I Miss Melinda Dragonuk

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Most people get married, take some time to adjust to married life, and then have children. Nick and I aren’t most people, so we cut out the adjustment period and went straight to having a child. We were married in the beginning of 2013 and had Milo by the end of the same year.

The whirlwind of that year didn’t give me much opportunity to consciously adjust to married life. I went from being single to being a wife to being a mom so quickly, I didn’t have time to reflect on the loss of my identity as Melinda Dragonuk.

I didn’t realize how much I missed being Melinda Dragonuk until this past weekend. Saturday was the Steamboat Classic in Peoria, IL. It’s a race that I’ve run several years in a row. I missed last year’s race due to pregnancy related illness, so I was really looking forward to running it this year. Nick was going to be on call at the hospital that morning, so I made plans to have my family watch Milo while I ran. Then later that afternoon we would go to my niece and nephew’s birthday parties.

But days before the race, I began to realize how flawed this plan was. I would have to get Milo up by 5am, drive over to Peoria with him by myself, spend all day out and about with no sufficient place for Milo to nap, and then drive home that evening with what would have to be a mess of a child. I sacrificed the race for the sake of my child. To be honest, it was an easy decision and at the time it didn’t bother me too much.

It was at the birthday party that I really noticed my grief over the loss of my maiden self. Here I was at a Dragonuk family get-together, except it wasn’t really the Dragonuks. It was the Dragonuks, Daghfals, and Jordans. I love my ever growing family, especially all of the new babies, but for the first time I realized I will never be a Dragonuk again.

It’s not just about the name, although I really do miss that. The name Dragonuk is intense, which is also the best way to describe the people. Whenever I gave my last name, people would comment on how cool of a name it was. Never has anyone told me they how cool the last name Jordan is.

But more than that, Melinda Dragonuk was independent. She went where she wanted, when she wanted. Melinda Dragonuk could run any race she wanted to; she never had to sacrifice a race because it would be a long day for someone else. Melinda Dragonuk had no one else to support, so she could spend as much money as she wanted on traveling to places like Seattle, Boston, and New York City.

Melinda Jordan missed the Steamboat Classic because her young son would not be able to handle the long day. Melinda Jordan has not traveled further than Cincinnati since her honeymoon. Melinda Jordan cannot frivolously spend money on whatever her heart desires.

I was driving home from the birthday party reflecting on all this loss. For the first time since I was married and had Milo, I really did not feel like myself. I was Melinda Dragonuk for such a long time, I just missed her and had no idea who this Melinda Jordan person was.

I came to the point of being absolutely overwhelmed with grief when God offered me some grace. I realized Melinda Dragonuk was pretty selfish. Being able to do whatever she wanted, she often did with no regard for others. Melinda Dragonuk would have chosen running over relationship any day. But Melinda Jordan was able to see the bigger picture: there would be other races. Melinda Jordan is better at loving others.

There is a loss when going from a maiden name and identity to being married. For the first time, I was able to experience that loss and see it for what it was. I miss Melinda Dragonuk. But I really do like Melinda Jordan the person. I guess I just need more time to adjust to the name.

The Many Sizes of Me

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My husband and I are very excited to be moving to the Peoria area later this month. It’s the perfect time to go through our belongings and get rid of the extra stuff in our lives.

I decided to start with my clothes. It was a really hard process for me, not because I loved the clothes so much, but because of my attachment to the body that fit those clothes.

Five years ago, I was a size 0 and weighed 115 lbs. I never had an eating disorder, let me be clear about that. But I was guilty of disorderly eating. I counted every calorie, ate fat-free everything, and only used artificial sweeteners. I was paranoid about everything I ate and honestly didn’t enjoy food much.

I was thin and that felt great. I never worried about how I looked in my clothes. And I could run fast, which only fueled my obsession over food.

But that kind of life isn’t sustainable. As someone with depression, I entered into a rough patch of life and turned to food for comfort. I would eat in hiding out of shame for my lack of discipline. I put on weight month after month until I was up to 150 lbs and a size 8. The extra weight made me self-conscious, ashamed, and even more depressed.

Things were able to change when I got married. I found the discipline I had been lacking, I could open up to my husband about my relationship with food which added a layer of accountability, and we started cooking healthy meals together. I finally felt like there was order back in my eating. Then I found out I was pregnant.

It was a really difficult time for me. I was tired of gaining more and more weight and was ready to lose it, but knew that this season of life required weight gain for the health and wellness of my son. I also was really sick, so I often had to eat whatever would stay down not what I knew was nutritious. As I watched the scale keep going up and up, I had to constant remind myself this was a good thing. At the end of my pregnancy, I had gained 22 lbs; a healthy amount for both myself and my son.

Which brings us back to now. At 6 months postpartum, I’m down to 137 lbs and a size 4. More than just the numbers: I’m fitting into clothes I couldn’t wear leading up to my pregnancy, I’m eating healthy and enjoying food, and finally have a good relationship with food. I eat cheese and peanut butter without fear and have kicked the artificial sweeteners.

So back to the clothes. I was sorting through the piles and piles of clothes in my closet. The ones I had held onto for years in hopes that one day I would fit into them again. I was tempted by them. I thought about the ways I could restrict my diet and how hard I could exercise in order to fit back into them. But as I stared at it all, I had an image replaying in my head. It was my younger sister standing in front of me with tears in her eyes telling me she was afraid to hug me because she thought she would break me. I love my sister and I love hugs. I never want her to feel that way again.

Those clothes were a reminder about a time in which I was not kind to myself. A time in which I caused a lot of concern for my family. A time in which I compromised my health for a size on a tag. It was time for me to give them up if I was ever going to truly reconcile with myself. So I bagged up the clothes and the emotions that were so heavily tied to them.

My body is still a work in progress. But whatever size I end up, I will be healthy–emotionally and physically. It takes time, and I’m facing things one step at a time.