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Life Stuff

Crisis and Anger

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“It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

Madeleine L’Engle

When things happen in life that pull the props out and put us into “crisis” mode–after the initial sorting of the sand and rock under my feet–I start to feel angry.

I feel angry because it seems like everyone is suddenly acting as if bad things are happening and people are dying when in fact there have been awful, evil, things happening and people dying painful, heartbreaking, physical and spiritual deaths all around us, every moment of our lives.

I feel angry as if I’ve realized it the whole time and others have been carrying on obliviously. I bitterly think ‘why are they only now realizing it?’

Even as I type those words, I am just becoming aware of the true source of my feelings.

What am I really angry about?

Now I know that the real reason I feel so frustrated is because I myself have been living as if everything-and everyone–is “just fine”.

Maybe it is. Maybe we are.

But I believe that there’s a reason each of us is here and it’s not merely to make it through every crisis–poverty, addiction, mental illness, family conflict, injury, disease, job loss, pandemic. *side note: I do believe that making it through any of these things is indeed a major victory.*

I believe that there is a larger purpose for my being right here, right now, and that it’s not just to “get through it” or “hang in there”.

Therein lies the root of the angry feelings bubbling up.

I feel angry because I know that I am guilty of presupposing that life for one more second is something owed and promised to me.

I feel angry because there are provisions and passions and gifts that I’ve been storing up, ignoring and keeping to myself.

I feel angry because I’ve been squandering time, turning a blind eye to the reality of death that awaits at any given hour.

I feel angry because I’ve been misusing energy on things that are not important–allowing my focus to dwell on untrue, judgmental, and anxious thoughts.

I feel angry because I’ve been wasting resources. I’ve been putting off multiplying gifts that I’ve been given, expressing gratitude, and blessing others.

It feels good to vent this frustration through my fingertips.

What do I do with this anger?

When I acknowledge my feelings of anger, I feel empowered to release them and surrender them to God.

I remember that this bitterness might be rooted not in what’s going on around me but in what’s going on inside of me.

I feel grace toward others, recognizing that when I start to judge someone else’s response in a crisis, my criticism is perhaps misplaced.

I feel grace toward myself because God sees me in my broken state and loves me. He isn’t afraid of my negative feelings. He can redirect them and redeem them.

I remember that if I believe in life and death; good and evil; in God’s purpose to redeem a broken world, then my reality is in a sense a “crisis”. I must respond by pursuing life proactively, with passion and urgency! I can no longer postpone this purpose for the sake of a false external or internal peace.

I remember that while the world may be confused and caught-off-guard, God is not surprised by what’s happening at any hour or location. God is not limited by my perspective of time and space.

He gives us access to His perfect peace through Jesus; He is constant; He is reality.

 He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[b]

James 1:17

Life Stuff with Mike Shaffer

By | Fitness, Life Stuff, Swimming, Triathlon, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how fellow athletes have overcome adversity in this Life Stuff series, you are in for another treat! Mike Shaffer is a lifelong high-performing athlete with an impressive competitive resume in swimming, triathlon, and aquabike. His journey has not been without its share of valleys, though.

In 1994, Mike was nearly killed when he was struck head-on by a drunk driver during a training ride. After hitting the hood and going through the windshield of the Ford Escort, his injuries included a severed left quad, broken right foot, and knees that required reconstruction. In a 2006 interview with USMS Swimmer, Mike recalls that he returned to the pool 3 months after the accident using a one-legged turn and buoy to keep his legs afloat.

From there, he used small, realistic goals in the pool to keep himself motivated and incrementally improving.

“I was determined. I kept setting goals: 40-second 50s today…It refreshed me. I think it helped to light a fire again. Every week I was trying a new challenge.”

The following month, he completed his annual One Hour USMS swim relying almost entirely on his upper body. Another 6 months later (10 months post-accident), Mike completed Ironman Canada, setting a personal best time and a race swim course record of 43 minutes and 54 seconds. During the same season, he was awarded the USA Triathlon Comeback Award as well as gold and silver medals in the FINA Masters World Swimming Championships.

Mike claims a positive outlook and refusal to give up were the key ingredients in his return to competition. “It may take time, but stick with it” he says.

About a decade after his “comeback” into triathlon, Mike was all but forced out of the sport again. In 2004, his doctor told him to ‘stop running now or we can go ahead and schedule your knee replacement surgeries.’ Mike’s triathlon career ended soon after that discussion. However, just a few months later USAT would announce an aquabike pilot program starting in 2005. “It was a perfect transition for me” he recalls.

Mike claims 1st Overall at Aquabike Age Group Nationals in Miami, 2016

Since aquabike’s official launch, “Aquabike Mike” has earned national and world titles in the sport. At the same time, he has remained competitive in the pool where he regularly wins national titles and sets national standards on the way. As someone who has witnessed many of Mike’s training sessions and competitions first-hand, I can say that to observe him in the pool (and ocean) or on a bike is to see a masterpiece being painted. His chosen canvas is the water and the road.

Life Stuff with Mariel David

By | Coaching, Fitness, Life Stuff, Triathlon | No Comments

I dig real stories of real people doing real things (hard things). Thanks to my friend Mariel for sharing one of those stories– her “life stuff”– with us. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Mariel since 2013 when she took on Ironman at Arizona (and gave all of her everything, and crossed that finish line!). I could go on, but she tells her story better than I could…

“The Imperfect Athlete” by Mariel David

If you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever find myself being endurance athlete, I would say that you (1) are joking, (2) are crazy, or (3) have lost your marbles. I was a single mom of three – two of which had medical challenges (one being a leukemia patient and another being a special needs child), a working professional putting at least 50 hours per week in the office and traveling around the globe up to 60% of the time, and a student trying to finish her master’s degree. When I received a postcard in the mail advertising a fundraising event for leukemia research, I had no idea how much this event would change my life–it sparked my journey as an endurance athlete.

For years, I found myself busy, slow, emotionally drained, and not looking like the typical triathlete. It’s difficult but it is also through this sport that I found the ‘true’ me – an athlete who will perform with her heart no matter what. I held on to this identity as my children became my inspiration and sources of strength through the years. During a particularly memorable triathlon season, I incorporated one of my daughters – “Rochelle”- my special child who had been terminally ill with multiple needs. It’s amazing what you can do when you run with your heart; I found myself realizing this as we crossed our first finish line together at Rock n Roll Marathon LA in 2014. It was my vision that one day we would be the next “Hoyts”. Unfortunately, that dream will never be realized as she passed in March 2017.

Rochelle’s memory will continue as I race in her memory and in honor of my children. As imperfect as my training schedule is, I will always find my strength through the heart that connects me to them. This is “my why”. I hope inspires those who think that they are too busy, too slow, too fat/skinny, etc. that your someday can be today.

Life Stuff with Laura Callen

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If you are fortunate enough to know Laura Lynn Callen, then you understand how deeply her smile penetrates your heart. Laura lives joyfully and selflessly. Ventura locals may recognize her as one of the energizing red carpet emcees at Mission Church’s annual “Night to Remember” prom for special needs guests. She also sings like a sparrow and composes ad lib melodies which she calls “Laura Lynn Callen Originals”.

In addition to her musical talents, Laura is an accomplished endurance athlete. When I first met Laura, she mentioned to me that (at the time) she had finished “one triathlon”. I pried a bit and found that this “one triathlon”, Laura’s first triathlon, had been at Ironman Louisville in 2013. Having competed in triathlon for over 10 years myself, and never having finished a race longer than 70.3 miles, I was astonished that a “beginner” would sign up for–and complete–140.6 miles in one go. Just last year, in October 2017, Laura finished her second ever triathlon–yes, it was another Ironman event. Laura recently took the time to share with me what endurance sport means to her: a therapeutic outlet when “life stuff” happens.

“When I was at the University of Kentucky, I worked with a man who became my good friend. He supported me as I moved from Kentucky to Ventura (to work for Mission Church) and our friendship continued to grow. After the move, I felt even more connected as friends. But then I learned that he had some unhealthy behaviors and was making unwise choices. It hurt me that he was making these choices, and I realized that if I kept being his friend it would impact me and I would end up being hurt even more. So I had to make one of the hardest decisions in my life: I had to cut him out. One night I Facetimed him and told him that although I cared so much for him but had to step away. He completely understood, which made it even more difficult for me to let go. So I ended that friendship and I was so, so sad. My heart was hurting. 

The next day, I was feeling very out of sorts– emotionally drained. I didn’t know what to do. I thought ‘you know what? I am gonna go on a long bike ride.’ I had no plans on where to go. I didn’t even bring food. I had a water bottle and my phone.

On the bike, I was pedaling and processing and talking to God and crying. I ended up biking for over 60 miles. I wasn’t even training before that. It was just a spontaneous ride. I let out all the burdens, all the hurt, and all the frustration. I felt like I was just pedaling it all out. At the end of the ride I felt so relieved. I felt lighter. I was a little tired, but I was so grateful to be able to process and release stress by moving my body. I was thankful that I had a bike, a place to ride, and a body with the ability to do so.

Training has been a huge outlet for me. Whenever I’m working out –running, swimming, biking–I find this is a space where I get to really unpack anything that I have pushed down deep and thought ‘I’ll get to that later’. The things I’ve been holding in, I can let them out. I feel like when I workout I am overall becoming more complete as a human–spiritually, physically, emotionally.”