As I get one year older its all about candles and bucket lists

As I approach another birthday, I am more than ever keenly aware of all the changes in me. Parts of my body seems to be embracing gravity and I seem to be fighting stiff achy joins with fatigue and a few grey hairs along with few more wrinkles. I was wondering how I am going to make it to half a century, which will be here soon if this is how I am feeling now?

Of course as I get older I can say that I have more life experience under my belt in a hindsight kind of way and pass it on my younger relatives or friends who will choose to ignore it anyway.

In the last few weeks as my birthday was looming in front of me, I have been trying to look back and see what changes I have made and maybe what changes I need to make to my life. As much as I have tried to ignore the aging factor, it seems every time I look in the mirror I notice a few more grey hairs making its appearance. It seems my hair follicles are telling me to accept the inevitable. I never thought there would come a day I would see so much white hair, which is more obvious because of my black hair. I guess I could always patronize myself with the thought that this grey hair equals being distinguished or more experienced.

Looking back I realize that I had assumed that by the time I get to this of stage of life I would have a career that I loved, a chunk of change in my bank account, house owner and basically living the good life. But instead here I am trying to get be self-employed, chasing the crazy dream that I have always had.

Sometimes I questions myself, if this a much delayed mid-life crisis or is this my life?

As I sit here trying to recall the bucket list items I had a few years ago, all I can remember from the list is  running a marathon.   I can look back and be happy that I can tick that off my list now along with the 25 plus half marathons I have run. It seems forgetfulness should be added to the aging factor.

Maybe I am one of those late bloomers, who starts everything later in life. While most of my friends were getting married and having kids, I was chasing a different dream of wanting to be a journalist/writer (which I did) and traveling the world. I have no regrets of not sticking to the norm and doing those things, but at the same time I guess I wish I had made different choices.

Maybe now is the time to sit down and make another bucket list, even though I am not ready to kick the bucket.

Procrastinate less is gonna be the number one item on my list. For some reason as I get older, I am turning out to be more of a procrastinator than I ever was. I was one of those people who always thrived under pressure, but I seem to be taking that to a whole other level. I should add write/blog more to my list, but words just seem to be fail me lately.

I could focus on the negative aspects of my life, the wrinkles, the grey hairs and aches and pains and make lists, but instead, I will blow out the candles on that cake and be thankful for the experience I have had so far and for all that I have achieved. After all the past is gone and the best is yet to come.

 

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2 steps forward and 5 steps back

I have sat staring at my computer for days trying to write.  But days or even weeks seem to go by and words just fail me.

Between being in an accident where my car was totaled and training and running a marathon and a few half-marathons, one would assume that I would have a lot of stories to share, yet I still seem to be at a loss for words.

The last few weeks have been challenging! Trying to buy a car and come to grips with everything that was happening and constantly trying to fight that feeling that every time I take 2 steps forward that somehow I end up taking 5 steps back is overwhelming.

I get it,  I maybe being a tad dramatic at this moment, but it is all perspective and trying to find the right perspective sometimes is hard, even though I walked away physically unscathed from it. However, even a month later, I still seem to have a hard time sometimes when I am driving, I see a car swerving towards me and I have that moment flash in front of me of being hit.

The hardest part for me was going to the junkyard and seeing my car all torn apart that I barely identified it. I never thought of myself as someone who was attached to a car, after all it was and is a mode of transportation, but at that moment, the tears came flooding and it was hard to control.

I realized that I had this sentimental attachment to this particular car, because someone I care and love had helped me pick the car.  We had a lot of road trips in this and despite the fact that he moved away, this was the one thing that I had that constantly reminded me of him.  Staring at it all torn apart at that moment, made it feel like the final nail was hit in that coffin.

But fortunately for me, I had a marathon looming ahead and that gave me something to focus on. All that miles and energy and dedication towards it kept me sane and saw me through some difficult days.

Race day was finally here and I was nervous.  So many questions going through my head, will I be able to finish it in time, beat all the deadlines they gave and most importantly will I cross that finish line standing up?

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I stand there among the thousands and because of all the uncertainty  in my head, I felt like a fraud and that I did not belong there. But the race starts and I keep going mile after mile.  I was thankful that my brain nor my body was giving up on me. Of course there were times I was questioning my sanity for doing this and telling myself this would be the last marathon I would ever run. But between my music and my random thoughts about everything, I made it across that finish line.

Now that the race is run, the finished line crossed and a car purchased life seems to be back on track.

Even though I know it is the norm  for curveballs to be thrown in your direction and that is life, sometimes it is hard to deal with. Like most people I too, bury my head in the sand for a while, but I typically always pick myself up and continue on to the next challenge.

At the end all these curveballs and challenges is what has made me stronger and wiser (some people might not agree with the wise part) or at least I tell myself.

 

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Sometimes saying no is ok

My friends or at least most of my friends always tell me I am very nice. Then again there are those who probably think I am not nice….those people better take a number and stand in line.

I have time to think about random things when I am out for a 10 or 15 mile run, I need something to focus on besides breathing, trying not to trip on the sidewalk or the music that’s playing. So I typically pick a subject and try to analyze the heck out of it while running.

I always wondered what makes me nice?  Is it that no matter what I am always there for them ? Or maybe it is that I try most often to do the right thing and be considerate about people.  But I realize all of this seems to stem from my inability to say no.

Therefore, Would they still think I am nice if I were to say no from time to time?

There is no doubt that being called nice and thoughtful is great, but sometimes I honestly don’t want to be nice. I want to be selfish and self-centered and do things that just make me happy and not worry about anyone else’s feelings.

I tend to be one of those people who will be at a stop light and give money to the homeless person standing there with a sign or fall for the most gullible story, even though I know that they are probably lying. Plus I am the one when a restaurant gets my order wrong, will point out that it is  wrong but still refuse for it to be remade and walk off unhappy that I didn’t get what I want. That maybe due to the fact that I worked in the food industry and just don’t want the other person to feel bad that they made it wrong.

However, I decided that the time has come to take control and learn that saying no is ok.  I want what I ordered and paid for…see thats easy right? At least typing it was easy, I will have to take it out to the real world and see how I do.

Even with friends, I need to learn that sometimes I have to say no….No I cannot watch your dog, no I cannot give you a ride at midnight because you drank too much, no I cannot lend you a 100$ and no I cannot let your kids/grandkids help me in the kitchen when I am baking for an order.

But it turns out saying no comes with a price. A friend recently asked me to come over and do my baking on a Friday while watching their 4 dogs and 3 cats, because they wanted to go away for the day. As hard as it was, I had to say no! Lugging all my baking pans, sugar, flour, nuts, eggs and baking in an unfamiliar kitchen was not something I was willing to do. I spend most of my Friday baking to get ready for the market on Saturday.

However, after I explained myself as to why I cannot do it, she has chosen to no longer talk to me. Now our friendship has been destroyed,  merely by the use of that 2 letter word.

I question myself about it.  Could I have been more accommodating? I really don’t know the right answer to that. I mentioned my dilemma to one of my best friends and he supports my saying no, but then again he is one who constantly tells me that I have to say no, because he claims that people take advantage of my niceness.

While I want to continue to be nice and do the right thing and help friends or strangers, I am going to continue to say no from time to time and  try not to feel guilty about it. I can only hope that the rest of my friends don’t get offended by that.

And that food I ordered that was wrong, I did go back and get it corrected.

I understand that saying no is very tough for most of us and the struggle is real, but I believe that we can still be nice and decent to one another and yet exercise our right to say no from time to time.

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Trying to be perfect is my shortcoming

It has been a while since I sat at my favorite coffee shop to write and people watch. But it has been a while since I even had any down time for anything that was not working or running.

While running my last half marathon a few weeks ago I was trying to go back in time to how things have changed in my life. One year ago I quit my dead-end job, even though there are moments that are challenging and I just want to give up and get into a another dead end job, I have no regrets of quitting it. It was one of those jobs that was mind numbingly boring, only positive aspect was my coworkers who made it tolerable and  the paycheck.

Of course now I have to work twice as hard for the paycheck, but I find it more satisfying. I may at some point throw in the towel and decide to be a slave to a 9-5 job, but for now I enjoy pushing myself and testing my limits and seeing how far I can go.

The most exciting part for me is that I can obsess about things being perfect and experiment and do things the way I want and know that it is appreciated. Trying to buy best quality ingredients and offer a decent product may not be business savvy, but I want to be proud of what I offer.

I have mentioned before that my friends constantly tell me that I am obsessive about things being perfect. While that might not be my strong suit, then again it maybe my strong suit, because it forces me to push myself even more.

When I read the reviews written about the items I sell,  I realized that my wanting it to be perfect was so worth it.


Most often no matter what I set out to do, I want to give it my all, even with my running, considering I have never been an athlete or consider myself athletic, I challenge myself. Running a marathon has become a huge undertaking on my part, the time that goes into the training has been unbelievable. However, even though I know I will not be one of the first crossing that finish line, I know my determination will get me to the end.

However, I have to confess that sometimes I dislike that part of me and wish I could change. Trying to get everything right is not a good thing. There are times I just wish I could say ‘oh it is not up to my standards, but it is ok’.

Learning to say it is ok is a constant struggle, because most often when someone says that to me, I roll my eyes and walk away, mumbling under my breath that it is not ok.

I understand that there are times it is ok and that there are times it is not ok, but learning the difference and when to say it is my battle. In my opinion it is a fine line between the two and I am taking baby steps in that direction and towards learning to step back and enjoy my hard work and appreciate the compliments I get.

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Things end, but memories last forever

Four year ago today, I ran my first ever half marathon. I remember standing at the start line feeling anxious, questioning my ability to do it but yet telling myself I could do this. I turn and see him standing right there next to me and I felt reasured that I would be able to do this with him beside me. After all I had paid to be here and trained really hard for this moment and having the person I loved by my side, everything seemed possible. I put my music on and keep going, afterall my goal was being able to cross that finish line and I did it and I had never felt so proud of myself. Of course half way through it, I was ready to give up, hang up my running shoes and find a sport that required less energy and maybe more sitting around.

However, fast forward through the 4 years, I have run numerous half-marathons, a marathon and now getting ready for another marathon and a few more half marathons this year. I no longer question my sanity nor my ability to do it or have the desire to quit. Running has become this huge part of my life. If I am planning a vacation, running gear is always included and time to run is always in the schedule.

It seems without a doubt I get a little sentimental and emotional around this time of the year. I run this same race every year, because it has so many memories attached to it. The struggles, the accomplishments and how running saved me. Maybe that statement sounds dramatic, but when I first started running, it was as a way to cope with a broken heart.

My broken heart was healed only to be broken again.  Despite that, this race reminds me of my ex. We may have gone our separate ways and not spoken to each other in years, but how could I forget the person who was there with me and ran this race and supported me and encouraged me the entire time. Without a doubt when I stand there again at the start line, my thoughts will go back to that first race.

It has taken a lot of sweat and tears to get to the point where, four years later I can run this race and think of the positive influence he had in my life, because I have realized that feeling  bitter and resentful is a waste of energy.

Sometimes life takes us in different directions, but I believe that every person comes into our life for a reason and sometimes as the saying goes for a season.

Times does heal broken hearts and life goes on, some memories start to fade, while some remain strong and I am glad that despite all the challenges I have faced, that I have learnt that it is better to hold on to the good and let go of the bad memories.

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I finally call myself a runner

I never called myself a runner, at least not until recently. Despite the fact that I run miles and miles and have run numerous half marathons and a marathon  and training to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year, I felt uncomfortable considering myself a runner. My runs depended on my mood, the weather, free time and I could find every excuse to not run. But recently that all changed.

Maybe the fact that I am trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone to do things that has made me change my mind. I wake up at 6 am on a daily basis for a run, its raining outside, I still force myself to lace up my shoes and go run a few miles at least. It has been challenging to push myself beyond my comfort zone, but I am trying to force my mind to corporate with doing things that make me uncomfortable.

 

The fact that I am trying to embark on a journey of working for myself, to chase this dream I have had for years has not been easy either, but despite the fact that I get disheartened from time to time and ready to throw in the towel and crawl back to a 9-5 job, I am still holding my own trying to make it work out.

If someone had told me that working for myself would leave me with little time for anything besides working, I would have pooh-pooh the idea. However, even though everything I do, leaves me little time for writing, reading or fun stuff with friends, this is turning out to be quite a journey. I am learning my strengths and weaknesses and that my obsession for perfection is not always in my best interest. There are times I bake something and I find myself so unhappy with the end product that I remake it. My friends who have been my support system through all this, tell me that I am being too hard on myself, while they enjoy eating what I think is not up to my standards.

I feel that I have set a standard for my customers and I have to constantly strive to maintain that. If I have a catering gig, I drive myself crazy for days, about what I will make to how I will transport it and how I will ensure that it all comes together at the last-minute. Fortunately, my customers have trusted me enough to leave all the decision-making to me.

My best friend who lived out-of-state has moved back to try to help me get things off the ground. I have to confess my obsessive nature in the kitchen makes it hard. However, she has worked with me before so she understands that I am like a drill sergeant in a kitchen and want things to be right and perfect. I am working on learning to let go and learn to trust what she will do. But it is a natural instinct that I have when I am in a kitchen.

In order to distract myself from this obsession and just working all the time towards my goals, I decided to train for a marathon. I have wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon for a very long time and since I seem to be on the road of doing things out of my comfort zone, this seemed like a good goal to add to my list.

Running has been my therapy for years, it will continue to be my therapy. But I am no longer a fair weather runner, I am a runner because I run no matter what. Running helped me heal my broken heart, but now I am hoping it will help me learn to enjoy this challenging journey I am on and not over working or over thinking. But no matter what happens, I am finally a runner and I run because I want to.

 

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Training my mind to overcome everything

Finding the time to put on my shoes and going for a run recently has been challenging. I wake up with every intention of going to run a few miles to clear my mind, however, when the time rolls around, I could barely muster the energy to put my shoes on and step outside. The same could be said for writing, I grab my computer to read and write, but my energy seems to be sapped making it unable to focus.

The fact that I no longer live near my favorite coffee shop, probably does not help either.  But just maybe, I have found a new place to sit and have a great cup of coffee with a little people watching thrown in to inspire me to write.

However, in order to stay on track with running and finding some down time for myself, I decided to start training for a full marathon. I set off this morning for a longer run than usual and I realized that more than training my body, I have to train my mind to stay focussed and keep going.

My mind seems to want to quit by the time I get to mile 5, however, in order to push myself and train my brain for 26.2 miles, I force myself to keep going.

Training to push myself beyond my limits and out of my comfort zone seems to be the new  norm for me. I talked endlessly about wanting to move, but it doesn’t seem to be the right time for that right now. I have been inspired to finally start chasing my dream of working for myself. I have to say it has been challenging and sometimes making me want to throw in the towel and go find a job and be a slave to someone else, however, that’s where my mind comes into play and I force myself to stay focussed.

Getting something off the ground seems to challenge me more than I have ever been challenged. The easier thing would be to walk away and not worry about it. However, considering I have been having a lot of new customers who appreciate my hard work and out of the box thinking, forces me to stay on track. The catering gigs seem to be rolling in, keeping me busy in the kitchen.

I have been pushing the envelope with new ideas and using more spices such as saffron for desserts and rose petal jam to add a different dimension of flavor.

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Lemon Bar with strawberry

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Strawberry tart with saffron cream

 

Pushing myself beyond my limits is new, setting goals and trying to achieve it is hard because I am one who gets side tracked easily, but I am trying to reel myself in and stay focused and force my mind to go beyond my comfort level.

Is it gonna be worth it? I don’t know yet. But I know that at the end I’ll be grateful for the experience and for learning that sometimes you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve dreams.

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Exploring new places

My heart was racing as I was driving towards the airport to pick him up. It has been two years since we last saw each other and so much has happened in that time that I was not sure if this was a good or bad idea.  But here I am now and there is no turning back.

I met him 2 years ago at an airport waiting for our flights to different destinations, where we had a long layover in the same destination. We spent all that time talking and laughing over dinner and drinks.  I wrote about him then. ( (click here) However, even though we had every intention of meeting again, life got in the way and the plan slipped by. However, we did talk, text and exchange emails occasionally.

When I got back to the US after my trip, he suddenly decided it was time to come visit. Considering I had plans to drive to Asheville NC, this seemed like a good time for a road trip.

After an 8-hour drive, we finally reached the quaint B&B in the outskirts of Asheville on a rainy evening. We spent the next few days exploring downtown Asheville, hiking and drinking beer at some local breweries and even made a trip to Carl Sandburg’s house.  However, by day 3, I decided that maybe this was not the place for me. I can’t say what it was that made me make that decision, but I had to trust my gut feeling.

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Now that Asheville was off my list, I had to check out the next place, which was Colorado. So despite all good intentions of me thinking that I wont be getting on a plane or stepping into an airport anytime soon, here I am again, sipping on over priced coffee listening to people talk loudly about their trips on their phones.

I stumbled out of my flight in Denver, CO on a late night, groggy from the night flight and the 2 hour time difference to see him again standing outside the waiting area for me.

The next day we drove around Wyoming admiring the open wide roads I had heard so much about. We took a drive towards the mountains and explored some of the state parks, during which we drove on dusty country roads with trees making its attempts to spring back to life and from time to time a stream would flow in between. I was in awe. Had I finally the place that might work for me?  After all I did say I wanted a place with a lot of outdoor activity, open space and not a big city and this seemed to be all of that and more, despite the fact that it even snowed one day.

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We drove around different cities including Fort Collins in Colorado and I was absolutely captured by my surroundings.

During all the road trips as should be, we listened and sang off-key to country music on the outskirts of the country roads.

I even had the chance to experience elk, moose and rocky mount oysters (if you are unsure what it is, I will let google explain that to you).

Driving to Denver was my favorite part. The sun was beating down on me and glistening on the snow-capped mountains as we drove on the open roads South on I25,  as I sat admiring the big blue sky and the endless open space.  The endless cattle you see seems to outnumber the people. We were lucky to see Elk, Moose roaming the prairie too.

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The snow-capped mountains

We made a stop at red rock amphitheater and explored and hiked around there too.

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Is this the place for me? I wish I had answer to that question, but for now, this place has captured me.

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The fine line of friendships

 

It is 2 am and I am suddenly woken up by a dream. I lay staring at the fan go round and round. I keep counting the blades, one, two, three, four, five, and on and on I go, trying to recall what it was that suddenly woke me up. But my mind remains blank and the fan blades remain at five, continuing to whir slowly.

As it is common for me, I tend to think of strange things at 2 am and this is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately – ‘Friendships’!  What makes someone a good friend? Most often I think I know the answer, but to be honest, I really don’t and it is something I have been pondering about a lot during my runs as well.

I have touched on this from time to time and have had numerous discussions about it with a couple of people I consider my best friends.  My friend D says he thinks someone is a good friend if they put the same effort into friendship as you do. “When you need them are they there for you?” is what another says. The debate continues because it is obviously a matter of opinion. But at the end I think we all can agree that friendship is a two way street and effort is needed to maintain it.

Recently my list of friends have been dwindling down rapidly and most often not on their part but because I have been over thinking the idea of friends and what it means and therefore putting distance between me and some friends. It does hurt to put distance between friends who were once important, but I have accepted that it is more important to cherish the people who chose to make an effort to maintain the friendship as well.

It is such a fine line between all the different types of friendships and it’s always a case of some crossing over from acquaintance to friend or vice versa depending on the circumstances.

In life if people who want to be friends with you, will make an effort to stay and never think of you as clingy at the time you need someone to talk to. They will always be there for you, the same way you will be there for them. You can tell them any type of problem and they won’t judge you or call you emotional.

Those who drive 2 hours in the middle of the night and spend hours waiting for me to land at an airport, without doubt probably falls into friends category, along with those who live across the country but who offer to open their home and let me stay till I figure out where I am going or what I am gonna do, as is the ones who offer to help me chase after a dream or help me with my job hunt.

I have realized that it is important to make friendships that are deeper than gossiping or going out. I want friends I can get breakfast with, who I can cry with, if necessary and whose who support my life goals and believe in me. Isn’t that what friendship is about?

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PICKING UP THE PIECES ISN’T ALWAYS EASY

It has been a few weeks since I have been back in the US and I have to say adjusting to being back has been harder than I thought it would be. Maybe it is the fact that I am still confused as to where I want to go or what I want to do or maybe that I just don’t want to live here anymore. I thought I would be able to pick up the pieces right where I left off. However, 6 months away didn’t give me any clarity as to where I want to go or what I want to do, but instead it has made it more complex.

I still dream about my months in Europe and in Sri Lanka and I wish I could pack my bags and just move there. But unfortunately reality is far different from dreams.

In order to try to get my mind back to being here and in hopes of adjusting, I sit sipping coffee at my favorite coffee shop, after which I go for a long run around the area trying to accept the reality of things .

I am trying to cling onto every ounce I have to stay focussed and adjust. I finally signed up to run a half marathon, one that I have done a few years in a row, hoping against hope that these little things that are familiar to me would be what would help me get my mind on track.

Running 13 miles is a great way to force your mind to think about everything besides running for miles. My mind drifts from one thing to another, but I finally just listen to my music and let my feet do what its supposed to.

Despite all of that and support from my friends, the struggle continues.

Maybe it is the fact that finding a job is taking its toll on me. I am trying to hold onto finding my dream job and writing 500 words as to why I should be hired is harder than I thought, even though I consider myself a writer. Apparently writing “I am awesome” does not count, not even if it is adds up to a 500 word count.  :))

Even though I continue to say that I don’t want a job in a restaurant or food related, it seems those are the offers heading my way. I reluctantly turn them down, but take on some private gigs as a personal chef just to keep my sanity intact, because at the end writing, running, cooking/baking is what keeps me sane to a great extent.

My friends tell me that I am being hard on myself. I have to reluctantly agree, it has only been a few weeks since I have been back and adjusting takes time, after all I am only human. My lack of patience makes it hard to sit around waiting for things to happen. Maybe this is a lesson on patience and for me to accept that I am only human and most often things do work out at the end.

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