Repost from my first blog Pushing Boundaries (slightly edited) that ran from 2016-2017. At the time when I worked on completing the “challenges”, it was stressful and exhausting. Now that several years have passed, I look back at that time fondly. This blog post was written, I believe in July/August 2017, best encapsulates what I learned about myself while I completed Pushing Boundaries.
This Is Not Me = Go Pug, Polar Plunging & Paintball Welts
If you look to a well-manicured lawn and garden, you will see the calmness of emerald-green grass while appreciating the beauty of flowers that burst with color. Flowers that may include any number of red roses, purple chrysanthemums, pink and red peonies, white or orange lilies, to the far off and most of the time separated—blue hydrangea.
Underneath the grass and around the flowers, you will find the odd weed that grows. To those that are merely passing by, they may not notice. But for the conscious gardener who tirelessly works to keep it flawless, it’s all they see.
I began a blog called Pushing Boundaries in October 2016 with a commitment of spending half the year completing a change. This worked out to roughly four changes per week, and by the end of the blog, I expected to reach 186 changes.
At first, it was invigorating when I woke each day and considered what the next “change” or “challenge” would be. Should I swap my daily earl grey tea for coffee? (Yes, I did it a few times. And overall, I seldom enjoyed the experience.) When Halloween crept up on me in October, I forfeited the old reliable witch/ghost ensemble that I donned throughout my grade-school years and did something completely different: enter the PUG. Did I try the limited-time offered Tuxedo drinks that Starbucks featured at the beginning of this year? Yes. Eat seaweed salad? (Yes—and NEVER again.) In February when the wind howled, and snow and ice crunched beneath my feet, did I spend one evening painting my nails red in Kingston, ON and the next morning curling my hair to best impersonate a flapper girl from the 1920’s so I could dive into Lake Ontario for the Polar Plunge? (Yes! It was fun. TBD if I will do it again.) Did I climb all 1,776 stairs of the CN Tower? (Yes, and more importantly, I did not die!) Wear purple nail polish? (Yes.) For me, the list was endless….
I am vanilla: Otherwise, known as Routine Girl. But I don’t enjoy the routine most of the time. I like to believe that I have imagination and inclination to do different things—to live on the wilder side. (Although, perhaps, not that far on the wilder side.) The problem with me is that I become complacent with life; opportunities that are at my fingertips waste away as I fail to commit the time, money, and energy to make them happen even when they cross my mind, sometimes, repeatedly.
Life is challenging with new jobs, financial concerns, and most catastrophically—facing either your own health concerns or the health concerns of those you love. In the past, when I’ve lost someone I loved, I felt as if I were standing alone in a desert waiting for someone to arrive; or, for something magical to happen that would transport me away from it all. In front of me, there was nothing but a sea of endless yellow sand that when it was carried on the wind, it would whip against my face stinging my skin. To me, it felt that impossibly lonely, that empty.
But what I didn’t realize is that if I turned around and looked in any direction, there were cities that surrounded me that bustled with life; friends and family that I could chat with or hang out with, new foods to try, people to meet, and new adventures that awaited me. All that I needed to do was to turn my head and start moving again in one of those directions.
I lost two people I loved very much in less than three years. Both of them were 42 years old when they passed. In September 2016, I turned 42 years old. I started Pushing Boundaries in October of that same year.
I don’t know if the blog was tied to the number 42. I’ve always had a sense that time was ephemeral: that whatever you planned to do, do it now because there are no guarantees of what tomorrow will bring. For me, Pushing Boundaries may have been my answer to ensure that I didn’t stop living. It forced me to continue to move in some direction.
Living life to the fullest is a cliché. But we keep clichés around and use them sometimes ad nauseam because they are true. Pushing Boundaries has helped me to continue to enjoy all that life has to offer, sometimes reluctantly. It forced me to get outside and try new things: restaurants, food, or to attempt a physical challenge that I’ve never done before such as the Polar Plunge or the CN Tower Climb. The blog forced me to revaluate things that I decided a long time ago I disliked (e.g., coffee), and make an attempt to try them again to see if my taste buds evolved. (Answer: Overall, I still hate coffee. Mostly.)
I open the blog with this:
“Change happens. It can be chaotic, but it helps you expand your mind and shapes the person you will become.”
I stand behind that statement to this day. But the other thing change does: it gives you heart palpitations in both the literal and physical sense. After a few months, I found myself waking up at 3:00 AM, worrying about what four changes I would be tackling that week. Blonde hair? Wear make-up for 30 days in a row? Streaking 21 days straight? (Ahem, that’s running 2 KM for 21 days; NOT running naked through the streets for 21 days.)
The stress of coming up with four changes per week was exhausting. Also, I found that some challenges required me to do them longer than one day. Cumulatively, this meant I could already be participating in several changes before adding new ones. For example, at one point, I had blonde hair, was wearing make-up every day, and I was also eating and drinking things that I didn’t want to consume. The blog, Pushing Boundaries, I started to help me become less bound by routine—started to constrain me more tightly.
And I missed my routine. I missed having time to sit and read a book without worrying about how long it would take me; to inhale the aroma of that first cup of tea and enjoy each sip without feeling guilty that I wasn’t trying some other beverage; I missed running when I wanted to run and exercise in general. I missed the routine and the calmness of knowing what was coming next.
A few months ago, I decided to scale back the blog posts. I no longer held to the requirement that I had to complete four changes in one week. In truth, I decided that to try to reach 186 changes in one year was too many. I needed time to breathe, to savor, do chores, to go to work, and to visit with family and friends without worrying about what my next blog post would be, or when I would write it.
I made another change on Pushing Boundaries. Did I feel bad? Yes. Did I feel like a failure at not meeting the challenge, I built? Absolutely. But I knew I needed to take a step backward, to regroup, and make time to do the more significant challenges that I wanted to do. To be more selective about what I was changing.
At the time I write this, the last “change” I did was paintball. It was a steamy, July 22nd day when that finally happened a few weeks ago. I went with my hubby and friends, and we received our instructions, pulled the paintball suit up, and yanked down the mask that suffocated us in the scorching heat and sun.
I never played paintball before and was warned that when I got hit by a paintball, bruising might occur. The very first ball that hit me exploded in a shooting pain through my upper thigh. It was excruciating. So much so that a few days after the event, new bruises appeared where I hadn’t even noticed I got hit. That first direct hit was the one that stayed with me. Despite the pain, I loved paintball. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I learned some things about myself that day. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 9 months while writing Pushing Boundaries. I’m not a gardener, never have been, never will be. (I used Google to look up each one of the names of those flowers at the beginning of this post and selected images, so I knew what the flower looked like.) With my garden, I do what needs to be done so I can step back and say, that’s ok now. But even I know the grass needs to be cut, flowers need to be planted, and weeds need to be pulled.
I need to tend to relationships, savor meals and drinks, enjoy conversations with family and friends; while also making time for adventure. After all, there are only two months left for Pushing Boundaries—bowling, laser tag, and indoor skydiving still awaits me. My life is this messed up bit of craziness—and I love every piece of it.