Breathing Room, September Edition

“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating an emotional clearing to allow ourselves to feel, think, dream, and question.” ~Brene Brown

These monthly reflections are slowly becoming a favorite. I’ve had moments this month were I’ve come unraveled. I’ve had a few moments when the world was just too much. Work is picking up momentum. Chet is in a difficult phase. School is back in session. Christian is still commuting for work. Something has been off with my body. It’s easy to let those few moments of unraveling define my own perception. I can get lost in my own head. And then I take a moment to look through the photos I captured when I was taking a moment to breathe. There aren’t a few of these moments. There are a lot. They far outweigh the unraveling. It’s just that the unraveling is noisy and demands attention. As the collage comes together and I see all the quiet moments, I realize that I’m actually living my life just right. It’s actually balancing itself out.

The first and most import step for me in September was figuring out my own body. It’s been fighting itself for months. During the beginning of the month, I had my yearly physical. Blood tests were done, and the results showed that I was/am severely deficient in Vitamin D. A supplement has been added to my weekly routine, and I’m amazed how much better my body already feels. Progress.

The rest of the month was about embracing exactly where we are at as family right now. I want to make the most of Cole’s last year in elementary school. As hard as the terrible twos can be, I don’t want to wish away the toddler years (oh but the tantrums can go away!). And there is hope in the near future that Christian won’t be commuting for work anymore.

Another month has ended, and I feel like I deserve a high-five. We gracefully survived the transition back to school. October is here which means cool temperatures, pumpkins, and lots more to fill my weekends.

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Chasing the Sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

As I pulled into my driveway after a busy day at work and a last-minute visit to the doctor (that trumped my plans to go to my first boot camp class), I could see the sun beginning to flirt with the tree line. The thought of seeing the sunset over the river is all it takes these days to get me out the door in my running shoes. Cole, home with a clean bill of health, had an art project to tackle. Christian was grilling. Chet and I decided to chase the sunset. I ran as fast as I could to catch the setting sun. The river is less than a mile from our front door, but leaving for a run with a two-year old never happens quickly. Running while pushing a two-year old never happens quickly. We made it to the river just as the gorgeous reds were leaving the sky.

My running buddy

My running buddy

We missed the sunset, but the river was still waiting. I always let Chet run with me for the few blocks along the river. We bird watch. We check out the crane that is building the new boat ramp. After some begging and pleading (and protesting), he returns to his stroller (or tractor or lawn mower or dinosaur – whatever his imagination determines each night) to take the long way home.

This is why I run. My reasons for why I run change with the seasons of my life. During this season, I run for the sunset and the sunrise. I run to see the world wake up and fall asleep. It refreshes my soul. It hits the reset button.

Running has become less about pace and personal bests and more about connecting with my body. It’s become my way to keep my body, my mind, and my spirit free. It has become a time to explore the wild imagination of a two-year old and to listen to the rambles of a ten-year old. It’s become my way to catch up on conversation with my husband. There are nights the whole family joins me on their bikes. My running can be selfish at times. I run for myself, but my evening hours at home are limited. My time with my boys is limited. So I selfishly bring them with on my runs. I don’t think they mind.

Everything in life has a season. Right now is my season to bask in the glow of sunshine. I want to take in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can. I want to celebrate the promise of new beginnings, and I want to celebrate what has been offered as each day ends. I’m excited about running again for no other reason than I love to run. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

Fall race season is just around the corner. I won’t be trying to run my fastest times or to push myself to new levels. This season I want to carry sunshine with me on to the race course. I just want to run. I just want to shine.

Chasing the sunset

Chasing the sunset

The Magic of Retrospection

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

As a spectator at this years Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I was in awe of every runner who lined up at the start line. The race lived up to its reputation with brutal heat and humidity. This race is never an easy race.

How did I do? How did I run this race three years in a row?

The summer of 2010 was a typical summer for me. I never ran more than five miles. I only ran when I felt like it. I never trained. I had decided to ignore my race entry. I was going to let the race go because my body wasn’t ready. A few days before race day, I got a call from my aunt. She had breast cancer. I had to run. I lined up with runners not know what to expect. I’d do my best. I had to. I cried through many of those miles, and yet I finished in a respectable time. Somehow I ran that race. I felt weak. I felt unprepared. It felt hard.

I returned to this race in 2011. I was six months pregnant with Chet. As I trudged along on the race course, I struggled. It felt hard. I felt weak.

In 2012, when Chet was a newborn, I trained hard. I ran every Saturday morning. Some nights I only had two hours of sleep, but I always showed up to run. Race day came, and I ran through all the same feelings. It was hard. I felt slow. I struggled.

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The common thread between all these races was my perception: I always felt like I was struggling to make it work. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life and running. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life, motherhood and marriage. I’ve always felt like I’m struggling to stay afloat.

But something magical happens when I cross the finish line. It was all worth it. Today when I look back, I am in awe of myself. I’m in awe of what I was able to juggle. I’m in awe of the balance I maintained. Looking back, I feel like I was a superwoman.

How did I do all of that? How did I balance it all? How did I make it work? Because right now I feel like I’m fighting for that balance. Right now I feel like I’m fighting for that strength. How did I do it then?

While I watched the Rock n Roll half marathon from the sidelines this year, I saw something in those runners. I saw love. I saw passion. I saw sacrifice. I saw so many people who were doing it, and I realized I’ve been doing it all along. It’s the fight for balance and it’s the fight for strength that fuel that love and passion in my life. How I feel today is no different from how I felt two years ago.

I’m doing it today just like I was doing it then. I don’t need to wait two years to be in awe of what I’m accomplishing today. I can appreciate myself now. I can be grateful for what I have right now. I don’t want to find my happiness through retrospection. It’s waiting for me right now. The only difference between today and two years ago is that I’ve already crossed the finish line for the events in my past. I haven’t crossed today’s finish line yet. I haven’t felt the magic of today’s finish line.

When I look back, nothing in my life was lacking. This message applies to today too. The magic isn’t really at the finish line. The magic is in the process of getting there. I doubt the finish line would feel like such an accomplishment if it was easy to get there.

Sunrise on Race Day

Sunrise on Race Day

 

 

 

Breathing Room, August Edition

“Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating an emotional clearing to allow ourselves to feel, think, dream and question.” ~Brene Brown

August is ending on a high note, on a simple note. As I’ve stripped away layers of clutter, I’m sitting in the messy, real, simple core of life. Love. Yes, it is still messy. Yes, it is still hard. The difference between this mess and the clutter of life is that this matters. Love matters. It’s not filler. It’s not a bandaid. It’s not numbing. This is life, and I feel like I’m learning how to live my own version.

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You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!

 

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Running and life: always a reflection of each other

Heartbeat

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where our dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” ~Lisa Bu

After I wrote these words on a post a month ago, they have followed me. I have shared so many of my dreams in this space – to run Boston, to work for Operation Smile, to practice yoga with Blissology in Bali, to raise boys that feel connected to the world, to love and live with a whole heart. Some of the dreams are concrete. Some of them are abstract. There isn’t a scale to measure if I’m loving with my whole heart, but Boston has a very specific number attached to it. There isn’t a report card to validate my parenting, but producing at work proves my worth in the organization.

During lunch this week I sat in a room with my coworkers. We watched Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk.

The conversation that existed after we watched this talk hasn’t left me either.

“What you do simply proves what you believe.” ~Simon Sinek

This Ted talk, working in environment that allows me to lead with my heart, has brought clarity to dreams.

Why do I want to run Boston? It’s not because I want to be fast. It is because I want to run the streets of Boston with individuals that have poured their heart and soul into their training. I want to stand at the starting line with individuals as our dreams come true. I want to feel the energy of the town at the finish line. I want to be part of the heartbeat of the marathon.

Why have I always dreamed of working at Operation Smile? Because it’s an organization that believes in healing. It believes that our planet is small, and its our responsibility to care for our neighbors. It’s an organization that cares about individuals and sees beyond appearance, religion, and politics. It is an organization that leads from the heart. You feel it when you walk in the front doors. There is a heartbeat in our building.

Why do I want to practice yoga in Bali on a Blissology retreat? So many of my beliefs have been defined from my time on my yoga mat. There is a heartbeat in the Blissology community that echoes in my own heart. I want to be inspired. I want to absorb the energy it has to offer. I want my heart to beat louder.

Will I ever run Boston? I hope so. Will Operation Smile always be part of my life? I plan on it. Will I ever board a plane to Bali with my yoga mat as my carry on? My heart says yes.

“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead.”  ~Elizabeth Gilbert

While these dreams are all tangible, my real dream, the real passion behind why I want to live my life this way, is a heart beat. To run Boston, to work at Operation Smile, and to practice yoga in Bali are all a result of what I believe. They are all a reflection of my real dreams – to raise boys who grow up grateful and aware of their world and to live my life from my heart.  I want to be surrounded by people whose hearts beat as loudly as my own. I want a community of people who love as much as I love.

My family and the things that I do root me. My heart keeps me dreaming. As long as I’m listening to my heartbeat, I’m going to end up where I belong.

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Understanding Need

I sit in front of my computer screen starring at medical companies and emails every single day. All of them are filled with potential, but on my side of the screen, I sit feeling needy. The information I need to make things happen doesn’t exist inside my head. I have to ask for help. The resources I need aren’t readily available to me. I have to ask for support. The people I need to reach are not defined. I have to search until I find the right person. My job at Operation Smile, an amazing organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities for children around the globe, is to ask for Gifts in Kind. I ask companies to donate medical supplies so we don’t have to purchase them for our medical mission.

I have tunnel vision right now. We are spending thousands of dollars on acetaminophen for every mission. No one donates this simple drug. Bottles of Tylenol are in nearly every household in America. There has to be a way to find a donation. I know I can find the right company. While I researched acetaminophen, while I researched companies, and while I reached out to anyone willing to accept my call, I sat in my chair feeling desperate.

“I’m going to have to get used to feeling needy”

This is the thought that kept echoing in my head. Needy is not a comfortable place for me. Needy is not a character trait I strive to embody.

In the middle of a development conference, I sat in a small room with all my coworkers and our co-founder, Dr. Magee. Tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat is a normal part of my work day. Every single story touches my heart. As I whipped away a tear, a realization washed over my body.

“I am not needy. The children, the adults, the families, and the communities that need acetaminophen as a very small piece of what it takes to make a surgery a success, they are in need.”

I can’t perform the surgery that will fix a child’s life forever. I can’t teach them to speak years after most children have muttered their first words. I can’t provide them information on nutrition so their bodies can thrive. There is a lot I can’t do, but there is even more that I can do. I can carry their need for them. I can sit in my chair at work and turn that need into an honor. I have the privilege of asking. I have the privilege of bringing the mission of Operation Smile to corporations around our global. I get to connect these two worlds.

When I started to feel needy, I could feel myself shrinking. If continuous online searching and dozens of asks to unresponsive receivers could make me shrink in my desk chair, imagine living a life where you’re not accepted or received because of the way you look. That is a real need. When I was reminded that I was advocating for an authentic need of an individual, I sat up a little taller in my chair.

“Love by definition is self-sacrifice. Love is a decision to make someone else’s problem your own.” ~ Dr. Bill Magee

Every single day I love what I do. I love the children around the world that are kept hidden from their communities because of their cleft lip and cleft palate. I love the mothers, the fathers, the caregivers who sacrifice so much to give their child a chance at a normal life. I love every single person who makes this possible. What I do each day is an honor. I will find a company that also feels honored to provide acetaminophen to our patients around the world. I will ask and ask and ask again because this is a real need in our world.

This isn’t needy. This is love.

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