Asking.

Isn’t it funny how our greatest strength often functions as our greatest crutch? This seemingly oxymoron is quite true in my own life. One of my strengths is embracing adventure and new life experiences. However this sense of independence has not always been positive in my development.
My independence is a mask.
It took me awhile to face that unnerving fact. Hidden behind my adventurous, “can do” attitude is an unhealthy combination of fear, pain, and pride. One of the hardest things was realizing my vulnerability and need for others. Asking for help has never been something that comes naturally to me.

 

But we weren’t designed to have it all together and be invincible. Uniquely equipped with different skill-sets, we were built to rely on and help one another. This give-and-take model balances our inherent need for relationships and community. It took me a longtime to discover this truth and realize it was not healthy to continue to keep others at arm’s length.

 On my first 18 mile run last year—I just wanted to quit. It hurt. I was hot, tired and unmotivated. I needed support. I finally spoke up and admitted to my friend and running partner, Steven Rexroth, that I was struggling. Instead of running ahead as he so easily could have done, Steven stayed right by my side, attempted to distract me from my momentary pain and gave me the encouragement I needed to finish. He was also the first person to high-five me with congratulations when I completed an awesome 20miler run the next week.

There is an African proverb Team World Vision uses often simply states “If you want to go FAST, go alone. If you want to go FARTHER, go TOGETHER.” While this clearly applies to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, we have to recognize it also clearly applies to LIFE. Life is a journey, far more like a marathon than a short sprint. We all need each other as we face life’s hurdles and valleys.

 

So I’ve done one marathon.

I’m learning how to ask for help and support.

It doesn’t mean either are easy or a breeze for me.

This marathon season I went for a life goal -$10,000, 200 lives. Not only am I challenging myself physically, I continue to challenge myself to live vulnerably, humbly, honestly. I can’t run 26.2 miles without the cheers of the crowd and support of my team. I can’t raise $10,000 wishing on a cloud. So here I am on a journey of growth—and guess what?? I am continually blown away by the generosity and support of others who have already helped me raise 28% of my fundraising goal! With $7200 left to go, will you help me complete this goal? Let’s bring clean water to each and everyone!
Search teamworldvision.org->Leah Nichols. I’ll be there waiting, training, and asking.

 

 

An honest thought

In my last post I talked about breathing. We often ignore this powerful exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxid–until that is, a moment occurs. I mentioned a recent moment of knee pain, when my attention returned back to basic physiological processes to help me maintain composure. Other examples of moments scale the spectrum from delightful, to thrilling, to gripping, to sorrowful, to enraging. The past month the world’s attention has closed even more closely into the stories flashed about on TV screens and social media newsfeeds. In the past month we have all felt moments in some way, shape or form. We have all been reminded of the pulse of our heartbeats, the rhythm of respiration in our lungs as we grapple with emotions surrounding the seemingly never ending succession of tragedy.
In the past month entire communities have been singled out, ridiculed, attacked. Black, blue, rainbow and religiously covered blood has been spilled in the name of justice or “duty” but the true undertones ring of hatred, vengeance, fear. Our world is broken, our cities are crippled by the ignorance, hatred and lack of appreciation of the reality each life is PRECIOUS. 
The truth is we are all different. From the lifestyle we choose, the beliefs we value, the uniforms we wear, the texture of our hair, the shape of our eyes, the span of our hips, the pigmentation of our skin–WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. Somewhere along the way we have stopped appreciating the colorful attributes of diversity. Somewhere along the way we forgot each of our uniqueness was divinely designed. 
Underneath all of our differences lays the similarity that we are all creates to BE loved and TO love. These INHERENT truths level whatever playing field we allow societal values of worth rank up. May we never grow so preoccupied with comparing our differences that we lose sight of the fact each of our hearts pulsate blood through our bodies roughly 80-100beats per minute. May we never forget each set of lungs exchanges oxygen 16-20 times a minute. 
This societal attitude of discrimination and indifference cannot change unless WE do. In order to change we need to consciously examine the emotions of our hearts and thoughts of our minds to realize our own prejudices preventing us from valuing the life of another. I have spent sometime this past week examining myself and am quite disturbed by my judgements of others in my soul. It’s embarrassing. It’s discouraging. Change is not possible without honesty however, and so I would like to share with you my prejudices and apologize for my thoughts and actions.  
I am sorry for playing into the belief that I must be alert and cave into anxiety when an individual dressed a certain way sits down next to me on a plane. That is wrong. The truth is, this ethnic and religious community practices teachings of love, kindness and generosity- a far cry from the radical mindset of torture and terror I am guilty of assuming about them. 
I am sorry that I assume stories of selfishness, conceitedness, and general horribleness on individuals who carry themselves with cocky, materialistic airs. I, myself, am a prideful person and have been selfish and horrible on multiple occasions. My negative assumption of you leaves me guilty of cocky, conceited airs. While we may have different priorities and definitions of success, I should not make accusations of your character without getting to know you. And regardless if you are cocky or not, I should concern myself with looking for the incredibly cool parts I can appreciate about you.
 I am sorry for judging individuals who struggle to love, accept and appreciate individuals with any disabilities on the physical, emotional, mental and cognitive spectrums. Just as I struggle to appreciate the overly confident, ego-centric personality-type populations, so must I also recognize others struggle to appreciate certain populations. That being said, just as I am going on a hunt to appreciate the uniqueness of the populations I struggle with, I urge you to look for the beauty in this population. I don’t think you will have to search for long. 
We are all imperfect humans with individually awesome characteristics. Time to embrace that truth.
 

Breathe

Breathe. In. Out. Breathe. In…Out. ..Just breathe. Sometimes I must consciously live moment by moment with this dialogue playing in my mind. When stress is high and it’s hard to manage, I resort to mindfully engaging in the rhythmic exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

 Inhale 1-2, exhale 1-2. Breathe. 

Focusing on this life-giving transaction has always calmed whatever storms rage on in my soul. 

Last week my inner storms were ignited by the possibility of outcomes from the hypothetical question of “What if–” During my run last Monday a sharp pain in my knee stopped me mid-stride. As I hobbled home my attention was fixed on maintaining an even chest rise-and-fall movement, attempting to distract myself from the achy pain shooting around my kneecap and the overwhelming stream of alarming thoughts muddling my brain.

In one instant it appeared as though my world had come crumbling down. My slowly-building confidence in my marathon training and physical abilities were crushed as my mind became riddled with thoughts of doubt, anxiety, fear, catastrophixing. 

I hate being injured. 

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who enjoys the experience, nor the painfully slow process of healing and regaining. My past injuries have built this potentially debilitating fear of getting injured in my spirit. Last year this anxiety almost prevented me from signing up from the marathon. While I have been striving to conquer this fear, I got to a point early last week where I began questioning my knee pain as a sign I should quit, questioning my ability to complete 26.2 miles, questioning my ability to raise $10,000. 

Last week however, 3 individuals received access to clean water and 7 individuals separately contacted me with words of encouragement and perseverance. This marathon is so much more than MY knees, MY marathon, MY momentary pain. This marathon is NOT about MY finish line. This marathon is about 200 OTHERS and THEIR water lines. I am forever grateful for the prayers, inspiring words and generosity of others who helped me regain this perspective. 

Training and fundraising is growing me as an individual on physical, mental and spiritual levels. I am being stretched outside of the comfort zone of preoccupation with MY life, MY needs, My desires and realizing to a greater extent the needs of OTHERS. Because regardless of WHEN or HOW I cross that finish line–millions all over the world are struggling to MAKE IT to the water line. So it’s time to stop being scared of a little pain, stop worrying about my prideful desire to beat all the guys I train with, and start concerning myself more with the 200 individuals I have set out to bring clean water to. Currently I am at 15% of my goal. 12 weeks left. 170 lives still in need. This week my goal is to bring 20 more individuals water. $1,000. Will you consider donating??

Numbers

 Numbers dictate much of the coming and going of our lives. Alarm clocks ring us awake at specific, preset hours of the day. We log commute minutes to later commiserate and compare with friends over. We start work, break for lunch, and head home for the day within specific time intervals between which we gaze at clock minute hands, wishing them swiftly onward. Some of us keep track of the numbers we pump at the gym, some of us keep track of the numbers of our nurishment. Some of us critically compare the hourly or salary wage we are given–it seems no amount suitably credits the talents and abilities we offer. Numbers creep into our social interactions, dictate our anxiety levels, and contribute to our productivity, activity, and self worth values. The interplay between numerical values is fascinating. There is a comforting element in realizing the definite solution to each addition, subtraction, multiplication and division equation. We plug-in and manipulate pieces of our lives-our environments, external supports, personal characteristics- into equations, hoping the absolute of mathematics can discover the perfect timetable for happiness, effectiveness, efficiency, perfection. Numbers give us a false sense of control.
 My life was consumed with numbers for several years. The sense of security and peace juxtaposed with the anxiety and maladaptive thought patterns the numbers I obsessed over gave me made sense in my brain. I lived in shattering glass box with an illusion of health, control, freedom. It took years for the pieces of glass the reassemble, for the veil to be lifted and for me to believe real was real, fake was fake, and the numbers were nothing more than a dangerous, vile game. Last year when I signed up for the marathon, I experienced some fear over whether my old obsessive habits would once again appear. I put specific checkpoints on myself as safeguards against history repeating itself–I ran less, ate more, and participated in many things outside of training. No matter what I did however, numbers crept back into my thought patterns. Numbers motivated me in training, numbers were frequently exchanged in conversations I had with family, friends, strangers. Numbers were back in my life. This time however, the numbers I concerned myself with were detached from my physical performance or physicality. 78.3 million people do not have access to clean water. 443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related illnesses. Over half of primary schools in developing countries do not have access to water or sanitation facilities, most girls drop out at puberty due to embarrassment. These numbers are just as dangerous, just as vile as the numbers previously consuming my consciousness. The difference however, is that these numbers are REAL. Glassboxes are shattered when water sources grow contaminated–entire villages shrink as dehydration, disease and death plague their worlds. 1/2 of children under the age of 5 years worldwide die from lack of clean water. I want nothing more than to shrink these numbers into nonexistent decimals where X in fact, equals 0. 
Before I finish, I will say I believe numbers in moderation are a beneficial thing. I get excited when I finish an awesome run or go up in weights at the gym. It feels fantastic when I wake up early and get things done–but I also have three separate alarms and fully appreciate the “snooze” button for days when getting things done are not my sleepy brain’s priority. I try and monitor how many glasses of water I drink each day, ensuring I am hydrated enough to run in that summer sun. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a goal time for the marathon–I have three actually–one for a bad race day, one for an okay race day, and one for the best race day. However, my lifestyle supports a much more flexible and detached stance on numbers and I no longer look to personal numbers for security, confidence, self-esteem. The numbers suffering worldwide from lack of clean water however are numbers I cannot separate myself from, I can’t accept in moderation. So I’m gonna go get my training run in on this beautiful 4th of July day–because I am grateful to live in a nation of freedom, clean water and snooze buttons…and because I am determined to help ensure ALL individuals have access to clean water. Peace, love, and watermelon.

Citations-

http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/water_use/index.stm

http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45481.html

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wsh0404/en/