It’s July—one of my favorite months—and things are looking up. My foot is finally making measurable progress and I’m even beginning to slowly add some running back into my life. Like a B-12 injection, even little bursts of running infuse me with such pure joy and energy. It percolates into all of the little holes of unhappiness or anxiety and restores all of my waning mental strength and resilience. It’s very humbling to feel how far my fitness has slid over this extensive break, but I’m enjoying the soreness and the novelty and easily attainable improvements that come with such a green starting place. My wild and exuberant stride reminds me of my early days of running as a pre-adolescent, since I haven’t really taken so much continuous time off since picking up the sport.
In addition to the gift of some amount of running, I love the warmth and radiant sun that graces us on these summer days. It seems to not only ease my physical tension, alleviating some chronic pain, but it also melts some of my emotional pain as well.
My birthday also falls in this month, which is always one of my favorite days because it lends itself well to taking stock of the year that had passed and the ones before it and also plan and dream for the year ahead. Because I feel simultaneously old and young in different facets of my life, I seem to be at a place in my life where I don’t care about my age either way. Instead, I mark time by events, emotions, mindset, and growth.
This month will also be exciting for me because I’m traveling alone to Las Vegas for a fitness conference in the second half of the month. I’m not a very seasoned traveler since I am not usually fortunate enough to have the financial means to travel, and I also find that some of my traits as an autistic person make traveling uncomfortable and stressful, such as my near inability to deviate from my routine, severe sensory processing problems, poorly managed anxiety, and my notable confusion navigating new social situations. Still, I find that nothing catapults my emotional growth, self-efficacy, and gratitude like travel. I’ve taken just two trips to speak of in the last three years: Portugal and Puerto Rico. Aside from these, which are admittedly quite big adventures, I have not even taken an overnight anywhere; I’m that much of a homebody (and that poor!). I’d certainly love to return to NYC for more than a rushed day trip, but adding the expense of even a single overnight, moved the trip into a range that’s beyond our budget. Our trip to Portugal was chock full of some of my best memories as a YOUNG adult. It was a trip I won from a road race that we had to initially postponed for six months because I was still physically healing from the attack (and had not even taken my first step towards emotional healing) when our first scheduled dates rolled around. When we finally went in April, I was still much a shell of my former self and broken with the deepest inescapably pervasive emotional anguish. That trip was my first respite from that suffocating pain, like a sandbar in the middle of the treacherous ocean for a drowning swimmer lost at sea. I experienced something strange and unsettling after the trauma. My ability to see colors was radically altered. Instead of the brightness and boldness of my “normal” pre-attack color vision, every color looked muted and dull, as if the rods and cones in my eyes had grown a film of cloudy filth, enshrouding everything is a gray translucent cloak. I could discern the colors enough to correctly identify them, but they were markedly different and constantly dulled. Portugal was the first hint of restoration in what seemed like a permanent loss in my color vision ability. I distinctly remember a specific moment on our second day in Madeira. After winding up what seemed like endless switchbacks to the top of this lookout, we stood on this glass tower and gazed at the panoramic view afforded by our altitude over the cliffs below. As if lifting a gauzy veil from obstructing my sight, the brilliance and fullness of rich colors infiltrated every aspect of the vista around me. I watched as glimmers of sun danced on the deep blue waters and the dramatic cliffs adorned with crisply green grass gave way to silvery and brown rock faces with a myriad of stunning details, only apparent with the full spectrum of visible hues. I felt such an intense relief that tears stung my eyes and I fought them for the sole reason that I wanted to soak up every second I was able to see the colors again, lest that ability become compromised again. My arms are speckled with goosebumps as I relay this memory because the emotional weight of that moment was so powerful. (The colors did fade in their intensity and luster and returned to their muted shades after that moment but that trip was peppered with many hints of their previous and natural brightness. It took another 18 months for them to fully return.)
My upcoming trip to Las Vegas will push me outside my comfort zone. I will need to network, converse and celebrate with people I don’t know, take care of all of my needs myself, navigate an unfamiliar city, and be flexible in mindset and routine. I will have to quell my travel and social anxiety and PTSD and also sleep alone in an unfamiliar place. Despite the numerous challenges, the perceived personal and professional benefits are so appealing and potentially positively impactful, that I’m very much looking forward to the experience. I’ll have the opportunity to meet some of my new esteemed colleagues, take cutting-edge fitness education classes to keep my certifications current, and attend an offshoot two-day blogging conference for healthy lifestyle and fitness bloggers. I’m a little concerned about this latter programming because although I’m a former fitness blogger, my current blog has little to do with fitness, but I guess it’s tangentially related to mental health and wellness.
Fortunately, the actual class offerings at the blogging part of the conference seem to have relatively little to do with the isolated niche of fitness and more to do optimizing the success of your blog and honing your writing craft, so I’m very excited about that. I’m just nervous to face the other likely gregarious bloggers who all have the unifying common interest of fitness blogging. What am I going to do? I can just see it now: a bunch of lovely, sociable women gabbing about their chic fitness and nutrition blogs and I’ll sort of hover avoidantly in the corner. When asked about my fitness blog, I’ll sheepishly confess it’s more about my experience as an autistic adult with various other mental health challenges. That doesn’t sound like much of an appealing elevator pitch to attract readers (or make friends!). It’s like entering the party with a tattoo of the word weirdo stamped across my forehead in bold font. While intellectually I know that there is nothing shameful about my blog and I find writing for it tremendously helpful for my sanity and mental clarity, I’m also finding myself increasingly interested, and almost longing, to add some fitness and overall wellness content, almost like a hybridization of my former and current blog. I’ve strived from the beginning to not place limits on what I write about on this blog, as long as it is content I find helpful or interesting for me to work on. Perhaps my avoidance to add more clearly fitness-specific posts places an unconscious (or conscious?) stipulation and restriction of this freedom. I will try to listen to my inner drive and just write about whatever I desire in that moment—autism, depression, PTSD, running, fitness, motivation, gratitude, challenges, success, growth, or otherwise.
No matter what, I think this will be a month of opportunities and gifts to take advantage of, positive changes, and moments that remind me of the goodness around me, and the progress I’m trying to make in many aspects of myself and my life.