Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Many Hats

Every year around this same time, instead of thoroughly enjoying the gifts of summer, the laze, the relaxation, the slower pace of life, I feel driven to frustration and stress over my overly-packed schedule. Inevitably I feel like I am falling short everywhere, seemingly not being appreciated. Does anyone know how hard I work? Does anyone have any idea the responsibilities I carry?

I shake my head at the vision in the mirror.

The weather-worn Suzanne reflecting back at me is wearing (or rather, juggling) ten hats, all at the same time:

1. "Single Mom"
2. "Full Time CSU Employee"
3. "Girlfriend"
4. "Daughter"
5. "BR100 Volunteer Coordinator"
6. "Friend"
7. "Ultrarunner"
8. "Housekeeper"
9. "Gardener"
10. "Person who almost always says Yes to More."

It is a contrary vision, myself in that mirror. There is fatigue, but there is strength. There is insecurity but there is confidence. There is floundering, but there is direction. Most of all, there is yearning for understanding, but there is self assurance of knowing myself.

I am the first to admit, this dichotomous challenge is my own payment for taking on so much responsibility. I am a do-er, a helper, with a high work ethic, gaining energy from the enthusiasm and camaraderie of good people who give of themselves to make an event work.

I would not wear these hats if I did not love the folks for whom I wear them.

But I am not unusual or outstanding. I dare say that most of my friends, most of the folks around me, see the same reflection of hats piled upon hats, weighty responsibilities they shoulder every day.

Today's post does not serve as a complaint, but rather as a point that we all need to stop and look around at all the extraordinary people, wearing many hats, who go above and beyond for each of us every day. There are some amazing people around you -- do you see them? Do you acknowledge them?

This weekend, July 28th and 29th, is the Burning River 100 Endurance Race -- a point-to-point 100-mile race which begins in Willoughby Hills, Ohio and ends in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I am proud to say this is my fifth year serving as Volunteer Coordinator. Between race directing, volunteer coordinating, course planning, marking, supply organization, delivery, registration, manning 18 aid stations, and clean up, our volunteer total nears 350 to 400 folks.

Heading up that group of volunteers are directors -- for the volunteers, the race, the course marking, the supplies, the timing of runners -- as well as aid station captains. None of these positions is a paid position, even though the hours we log are way overtime.

Let me assure you, though, that each director acts as if he is paid a high salary. The amount of behind-the-scenes communication, preparation, planning, real WORK that goes on for this race in particular amazes me.

For example, were you aware that our race director Joe Jurczyk personally responds to every email he gets, even the "general information" online response forms? Yep. And did you know that Mark Shelton, our supply director, will reformat an entire food plan to include watermelon if a captain wants it? And Paul Romanic, our course marking king, sends out detailed emails and directions to the planning committee and his helpers -- even with pictures of what the course marking flags will look like! Yep.

And, did you know that most all of my aid station captains have an event page created on Facebook where they recruit between 10 and 40 (no kidding) volunteers each -- and then follow up with definitions and assignments of each job that needs to be performed on race day. Elizabeth Hiser does that. And they have themes, with props! Michelle Bichsel has made smiley face signs galore for Happy Days. Yep.

And then there are folks like Dan Horvath -- already race directors for other races -- who step up to take on a major (pain-in-the-butt) role like generator pickup and delivery. Or Lloyd Thomas who has assumed duties like assistant to the race director on race day.

And they do it for no money. They do it out of love... and out of dedication to the group that is joining an effort. For the runners, for the sport. Because they love the people for whom they wear the hats. What an outstanding team we have for BR100.

Yesterday I admittedly felt overwhelmed, beaten up, and unappreciated, bemoaning my willingness to readily serve.

Today I see the opportunity to appreciate the effort others are making, too, and to point out the extraordinary people I am fortunate enough to have beside me, not hasting at the mirror, but busily creating windows or doors with me.

I thank you.

"Volunteers are love in motion." ~ unknown

Monday, July 9, 2012

What is he worth?

Have I taken vacation from blogging? Not intentionally a vacation, although it is 9 days in to July, the Summer season is moving nicely by, fairly drama-free, spurring no rants or emotional postings... much to the shock, I am sure, of my faithful constituency (of two). One of the faithful asked me yesterday how my "writing" is going; not my running, or my job... but my writing. He implied that my posts actually mean something to him. I felt in that moment quite valued, and thought it time to conjure up something "meaningful." On what topic?

My blog dashboard has in it various "drafts" which I started and then just have left uncompleted, for lack of purpose or just purely lack of time. "Drafts" stand as a small sign to me that my mind is jumping all over the place, my attention is a bit fractured -- or, on a more positive note, I am considering various facets of life, seeing how the light looks from different angles. The topics haven't come to a meaningful fruition yet.

I have, however, been thinking quite a lot about what makes a person have "value." Which leads me to ask, is summing up our worth measured by what we as a people put value into -- and, if so, how to know when we are worth enough? Moreover, is it about the total dollar value of our possessions, the quantity or quality of what we own, how many credentials follow our signature, or maybe simply our intrinsic value to others?

Perhaps this is giving away the ending, but the reason this particular blog post has remained to date in "draft" form is because I have not yet made a distinct conclusion... I really don't know how to value one's VALUE. What is he worth, over there in the costly suit, or that homeless guy I pass on the stairs with arms (and pants) loaded with plastic bags? The man with the bags seems to fatter with them every day... does he consider more better?

Years ago I got into a collection frenzy of Beanie Babies. Ah, I was indeed one of those convinced women flying around from store to store in order to secure my "hard to find" blah blah blah tie-dye bear. A few of them actually were displayed in my curio cabinet -- I was so proud of my nearly complete list, which I was sure would be valuable "one day." Tubs were filled and they now sit in a basement somewhere, collecting mold, maybe. And there were Precious Moments, and music boxes, and later Pandora beads -- each $35 Murano glass bead represented an ultra I completed in a year's time (which served as a grand conversation piece until I couldn't afford to keep up with the per-race bead purchases).

I cannot tell you how much money I spent on all of that collecting, and yet I assure you that the "stuff" is adding NO real value to my life today.

Over the years only one collection-binge has survived: my beautiful but mighty limited array of carnival glass pieces. It started with depression glass turned pressed glass turned carnival glass. These days the collection is increased as I find a piece I love to look at, not because of some high book value, but because each piece actually brings me joy, to have and to hold, dollar value no matter. These purchases are only made with "extra" cash, after the real needs of life are covered. Clearly, my carnival glass collection would not rank high on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Due to life circumstances that demand smarter living over the last few years I have really studied and analyzed what I "want" and what I really "need." Isn't that a good question for any of us to ask, though: "What do I need?" It is amazing how little we can live without when we have to. I have lived without a drill for over a year now, despite it being on my "need" list. Basic needs being met, food, water, clothing, shelter, the rest is just stuff.

And here is where the theme ties together. I know many folks, myself included, who liken the value of their "stuff" to personal value. They display collections that speak "value" to others. For example, there are the material objects that I believe, in my limited opinion, will be "worth something"someday, which I hold on to... somewhere. Granted those "valuable objects" are scattered in Bob's basement, in my basement, in the garage. I hate to admit that some of those boxes moved from Euclid to Roshon to Alexandria, never even opened. Do you (do I) realize how much of my energy is sealed into those boxes? And more energy is wasted each time I remember that I have to sort that stuff yet, and pare it down to a manageable amount. I now consider that those valuable things are actually devaluing my life. If I were to die today, my poor children would have all that junk to sort through and sell or toss.

Speaking of dying and leaving junk to my kin to fight over, I know this guy who makes his living shopping Goodwill, re-sale shops, garage and estate sales and re-selling those purchases in an antique mall booth, or to friends with collections. For a few depressing winter months I had him keeping an eye out for Swarovski figurines to add to my small collection (only those with the original boxes and paperwork, to ensure value maintenance). It was sort of satisfying the thrill of the chase for me. But then, the guilt set in.

You see, my "guy" is a pro at boxing up a bunch of "things" at these sales, where he offers one price for the lot... which is negotiated back and forth until a reasonable agreement is met. Unfortunately, quite a lot of these sales are of folks' treasures that they thought all along were worth great fortunes. The boxed lot which is now being sold for pennies on the dollar. A lifetime, minimized.

It is truly sad if you think about it. What I value is valuable on my own scale. I am worth only as much as I believe I am worth.

Moving to West Friendship forced me to take with me only what I "needed" to live. The rest is sadly still sitting, waiting to be parceled out and trashed. What makes this stockpiling bad is that I wrap memories around "things" and fear that if I throw the items away, I will lose the memories too. Which is absurd. But still I do it. One flood and it'd all be gone. One estate sale after my death and it's sold to the highest (low) bidder. What do I really need?

So many of my friends unfortunately have faced or are now facing divorce. Splitting up the "valuables" can literally take years. Some things may be intrinsically valuable, like photo albums... but other things are literally worn out objects tied to a valuable memory, or a point that "needs to be made" to our offensive spouse, items better off trashed and not taking up space in our new lives. A friend of mine was finally ordered to move items from his ex's house that had been boxed up and left to rot in her basement. The woman didn't need those things -- but she held on to them to inflict emotional pain and control. And no matter what, my friend was determined to secure his stuff. I doubt he even realizes the junk is worthless.

We hold on to things like we need to be holding on to each other.

And yet we do it. More is better. We hoard. We protect, we stand firm to a point of pride, we hang on to and cover memories in basement boxes that take up space in our houses instead of in our hearts.

I know logically that I should go through my life and clean out the space-takers, the dust-collectors, the less than valuable "collectibles" like a tub full of Beanie Babies with the tag protectors sill attached. Does that mean I am willing to throw it all out? Get a dumpster and haul it away? No. I am just pointing out the fact that the analogy is becoming clearer as this post progresses: what is it I value -- "things" or people? My dusty memories or making new ones? My past, or what I have right at this moment, who I have next to me? Why not collect friends? Why not fill space with love and life?

Not that I have come to any distinct solutions, or affirmations or answers -- and certainly I will continue collecting little glass shiny objects that make my heart feel happiness when I look at the different angles of shining light. But with the writing and processing of this blog, I have come to consider that a man's worth might just be summed in the number of lives he has positively affected -- and the KNOWING, the AWARENESS of that value to others.

Look at the people you pour energy in to every day, look to your left, to your right, what is he worth? What is he worth to you. How many people are leading better lives just because you exist?

When you are able to say-- to believe, to know -- that you have added value to someones life, then THAT is when you are worth "enough"... even with nothing, you have everything.