Anyone who knows me know that I’m am an obsessive planner. I have always been of the mindset “failing to plan is planning to fail”. I plan out everything: my days at work, my meals for the week, my marathon training, my weekend errands, my vacations. When it came to my wedding, I planned all activities down to the tiniest detail. I’m not always perfect with my plans because, you know, life happens. But for the most part, I’m able to stay on track and accomplish my goals.
I feel that with a plan, I can accomplish more. There have been chapters of my life where I didn’t plan and looking back, I feel like I just wasted time. I literally can erase about 3-4 years from my life because I was just floating around and making terrible choices. Having a plan also allows me to have control. And isn’t that what most of us want in life – to have control over our lives?
I always tend to plan for the worst possible scenario. By having the worst case scenario in mind and planned for, I cover all my bases and know how to respond when something comes up. So what do you do when you lose control and really can’t do anything about it? Run and scream in terror? Fall to your knees and break down in tears? I would be lying if I said I haven’t contemplated or actually done most of these.
My life is recently just flipped upside down. Everything that I’ve known and grown accustomed to has just shattered, like a glass falling to the floor. You know how you have visions of how people are and how things will be, but then something happens to expose what the reality is? That’s the current situation I’m living in. It’s jarring and depressing, to say the least. What do you do when this occurs? Some people drop into despair or depression, not sure what end is up. Some people refuse to acknowledge it and numb themselves with various methodologies. I tend to latch onto my routines with all of my might, just to have something “normal” in my life.
At this stage in my life, the two most stable routines I have are my eating/cooking and my running. They’re the two things I have control over and can ensure won’t be screwed up by anyone else. And over these past few weeks, I’ve tried my best to keep them in place. I’ve continued planning out my meals and trying new recipes, just as I’ve been doing for the last 3-4 months. I have also stuck to my running training, rising early to beat the sun 5 days a week as I count the days until my first half-marathon. Keeping these two routines and adding some new routines (meditating and incorporating yoga) have helped me stay relatively calm. Up until earlier this week, I felt as if the world was still stable underneath my feet and that I was going conquer this minor bump in the road.
But then another unexpected event occurred – Hurricane Matthew. Living in Florida, hurricanes come and go. There’s always a chance of them, but in the last 13 years I’ve lived here, rarely does it amount to what the media hypes it to be. Maybe I’ve just been in the right place at the right time, but I tend to shrug off the mass hysteria of these storms. This could also be largely due to my father’s nonchalant attitude towards them when I was younger. One moment stands out in my mind where this occurred. I couldn’t have been more than 10 and I was having an absolute panic attack that we weren’t boarding up our windows like The Weather Channel recommended. I was so worked up that I made myself sick. I vividly remember stumbling down the hallway towards my parent’s bathroom to get sick when everything went blank. I awoke to my mom holding me above the toilet because she was sure I was going to throw up. I had flat passed out from fear and anxiety as I walked down the hallway. I had an awesome rug burn scar above my lip for a good two weeks after that.
So the news of this hurricane really didn’t phase me much. But my parents are visiting St. Augustine Beach from North Carolina (great timing, right?) and it was my dad’s turn to go into hysterics. I kept reassuring him that this storm would slow down, turn east, and just give us some extra rain and maybe some wind. No need to panic, Dad. He was insistent that this one was different and obsessively watched The Weather Channel Monday & Tuesday. When I came home for dinner Monday night, I was informed that we had reservations beginning on Thursday and that we would be planning to evacuate. I kinda rolled my eyes and said, “ok, sure”. I refused to be sucked into the anxiety; I had enough anxiety and stress going on without the storm.
Wednesday rolled around and I was told we would be evacuating. My vehicle was loaded up with extra boxes and items that they couldn’t fit in their vehicle. I went on my way to work, but I admit I was beginning to stress. Once again, though, I was more concerned about keeping my routines in check because at least that way, I felt I was in control. I knew we were checking into a hotel, so that meant no way to cook except via microwave (yuck). I also knew that meant I wouldn’t have a ton of options for fresh foods since hotel fridges are tiny. Thankfully, my parents had 3 coolers which could keep most of our fridge contents on ice. While my dad really wanted to go out to eat, my mom and I were insistent that we didn’t need to and that we had plenty of food (which was true).
Another factor that has made this scenario stressful for me is that I’ve been hosting a clean eating group this week. With everything going on, it’s been very difficult for me to practice what I preach. I meal-prepped most of my meals on Sunday just so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything all week. This turned out to be a great blessing because we now have meals to eat in case the power goes out. My plan throughout the week was to share my daily meal photos, provide feedback and tips to my groups, and show others on how easy it is to stick to eating clean. But adding the elements of dealing with a life crisis, not being in a home, and dealing with a hurricane has definitely tested my willpower. Like most people, when I get stressed I tend to eat. I have ate more than I should of some food groups (surprisingly fruit and protein, not starches) and it’s been difficult to find clean choices when away from home. For example, we opted to eat at Cracker Barrel yesterday (a sort of final good meal before hunkering down) and it took all of my might not to order country fried steak.
And to be very honest, another reason I’ve had anxiety is my running. If you’re shaking your head in disbelief right now and thinking “what is with this chick”, I don’t blame you. But if you’ve been following me even for just a few weeks, you know that I’ve been training for a half marathon since early summer. I’m in the final month of training and every day counts. Sundays are my long run day and all I keep thinking is, “where am I going to run during this storm?” At least at my parent’s beach house, I had mapped out my daily run routes. I had even completed them in the rainy days earlier in the week. But I wouldn’t be able to run outside once the hurricane begins to make landfall. Which means I was faced with two options: skip running or run on the treadmill at the hotel. Neither of these sounded like pleasant options to me, but I decided I really had no choice. If I didn’t run, I would feel guilty and I knew my anxiety would rapidly advance. And although I loathe treadmills, it was better to get some sort of run in than none at all.
This is what I’ve been telling myself is this: I am in control. Life is about balance and choices, and it’s up to me to determine what choices I will make. When I wake up, I make the choice whether to start it off on a good note (following my running or yoga routine) or to be anxious and angry. At each meal, I make the choice on what to eat. Granted, I am limited to what we have on hand, but it’s better than not having anything. I can choose to be positive and make the best of the situation God has placed in front of me, or I can wallow in despair and cry “woe is me”.
I’ve probably made this situation slightly more stressful for myself than necessary. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done this either; my husband likes to point out that I could go with the flow more often and I wouldn’t be so stressed. I honestly feel that I am being tested and taught the lessons of trust and faith more than ever. A good friend of mine recommended this calming technique to me on earlier this week and I’ve found myself resorting to it several times. Place your index fingers to your thumbs and slowly touch each finger to your thumb (working towards your pinky) while repeating Peace Begins With Me. For such a simple movement, it’s surprisingly calming. And while I’ve not been able to follow my daily routines to a T, all is not lost. I still have the ability to run; I still have clean eating options; I still have power and a roof over my head.
And that’s all one really needs at times like these, right? So I leave you with this: Take a moment today to be thankful for what you do have. It only takes one moment, one action, one conversation for things to drastically change. Remember: tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so be thankful for today and try to be present. Those amazing plans you made can be picked up another day and the world (surprisingly) won’t end.