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.

rnr

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

 

 

 

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.

IMG_3018.JPG

Whole Hearted.

“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 dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.

rooted2

Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand dunes. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.

rooted1

There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.

rooted

 

 

Defining Quiet

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” ~Zen Proverb

It happens often. I feel the spaces around me growing quiet. The noise from the outside world becomes mute. These are my favorite moments. These are the moments when I hear my heart the loudest. These are the moments when I know I’m doing exactly what I am meant to do. My world has been quiet lately.

I used to wait for the quiet moments to find me. I used to crave them and beg for their return. I would long for the calm after the storm. After moments of intense happiness or whirlwinds of sadness, the quiet has always been a welcome surrender. Instead of waiting for the quiet moments to appear, I’ve been intentionally creating the quiet lately. I’ve removed facebook from phone. I’ve left the garmin behind on my runs. I’ve removed myself from chatter that doesn’t have meaning. None of it matters, but yet I can get caught up in the noise. I can find validation in a few new likes on my facebook page. I can feel success when my garmin shows a run that was faster than yesterday. I can feel validation when I feel like I’m accepted by everyone around me. None of this matter. There is a shallowness in all of this, and lately it has become too noisy.

I always struggle when life gets too noisy. Maybe it’s my introverted heart that causes me to crave solitude. I know it’s my heart that causes me to crave meaning in all my relationships. So this is my focus right now. Quiet spaces and meaningful relationships with everything I love: my family, work, real friends old and new, running and yoga.

Inside this new quiet space, I’ve gained awareness. It has brought me so much perspective. (I think the unexpected two week break from running has helped too.)

My running has been a struggle since the Richmond Marathon. I’ve dissected the pieces every way possible. What was I missing? What had I forgot? In many ways, I had a lot of success on the road, but I also had a lot of heart ache. Every run has felt like a gamble. Would today’s run feel like a success or would I come up short? With more quiet, more space to absorb my own life, I can clearly see the picture now. In the past two years, running has become my coping mechanism. I used it to heal my heart while grieving. I used it to find my identity after the fog of having a new baby. I used running to heal everything. Every single time I put on my running shoes, I asked it to heal me. I showed up feeling hurt, sad, lonely, and broken. I left all this energy in my running shoes. I would walk away from each run refreshed, but my shoes still held the puddle of my broken self. And my broken self still lives there. I am no longer broken, but the energy is still in my shoes. I still show up to every run looking for a problem. My heart and head search (or create) broken pieces. Every time I wonder if the run will be a success, I’ve mentally given myself permission to fail.

It’s time to redefine this relationship. I have to fill my running shoes with a new vibration, a new energy. I have to transform my runner heart. As observed by one of the meaningful friends in my life, can you imagine what my running can become when I’m coming to it with a light heart? Can you imagine what it can become when my shoes are filled with the magic of running again?

My relationship with running is no different from any other relationship in my life. What I bring to the relationship, what I leave behind, is exactly what the relationship becomes. It is okay to move through all these emotions. Every single one of them is normal. What isn’t normal is residing in these places. I have to learn to pass through them without getting stuck. This is what these new quiet spaces are showing me.

I’m letting the quiet guide me. I’m letting my heart pull me into these spaces. I’m intentionally seeking quiet spaces in my heart, in my head and in my life. I am creating meaning instead of seeking validation. It’s taking me down a path I didn’t imagine but one that feels like home.

Life is a constant balance. I hope by falling off the radar in some aspects of life, I create space for my heart in many other directions. I hope that by ditching false forms of validation, I recognize the real value in the quiet places. I am transforming my own energy.

It’s the quiet, the depth of life, that makes my heart come to life. This is the place I’m residing.

IMG_0476

Fear.

Fear. Google it and you will find many different definitions. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. Pick one that works for you.

I’ve been taught by the world that fear is a bad thing. Fear is something to avoid. When I’m feeling afraid, I tend to ignore it. In all honesty, I usually don’t identify the emotion until it has spilled over into another aspect of my life. In my body fear translates itself into anxiety. It manifests itself into stress. It hides behind the illusion of depression. I feel the anxiety, the stress, and the depression long before I’ve identified my fear. This is my reality.

When a spot on my back wouldn’t go away, I decided it was time to visit a dermatologist. It had been months. I no longer believed it was just a hot spot caused by the rubbing of my sports bra. It wasn’t healing. It was getting bigger. And it was starting to make me nervous. The biopsy results confirmed that it wasn’t a hot spot. It was basal cell carcinoma.

Carcinoma. Google it and you will find one definition. It’s a noun. Cancer. This definition doesn’t work for me.

I’ve been taught by the world that cancer is a bad thing. The logical part of my brain knows that basal cell carcinoma is common. The logical part of my brain knows that basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread to other organs. I know it is not life threatening. I know it’s really not that big of deal so I made my appointment with the plastic surgeon to have it removed. No big deal.

Except the word cancer feels like a really big deal. While the logical part of me knows the only inconvenience of having this spot on my back removed is two weeks of no running or yoga while the area heals, my heart is afraid. Fear has creeped it the space left by the cancer on my body. I’ve seen cancer in action. It’s taken two people I hold close to my heart. My heart has led my brain down the dangerous road of what if. What if this is indication of future health problems? What if this means my body welcomes cancerous cells? I wish this spot had a different name.

This morning I set out for a sunrise run knowing I wouldn’t get to run tonight (but not knowing it would really be two more weeks). Mile repeats were on my schedule. When the miles got tough, the fear I’ve been feeling took over. The miles were harder than they needed to be. My fear of cancer became suffocating during the run. That’s the thing about fear. It creeps in. It doesn’t care what the source is. It doesn’t care if it belongs or not. It takes advantage of the empty spaces, and it fills them up. The same is true for cancer. It can consume every aspect of your life.

Today when I walked into the plastic surgeon’s office to have the spot removed, I didn’t choose the easy route for removal. I decided to be aggressive. I didn’t want to tip-toe around the spot on my back just to avoid cosmetic scarring. I wanted it all gone. I wanted to rid my body of the fear I was feeling from this cancerous spot.  I didn’t want to wonder if it was coming back. Once my back was numb, I had a few minutes to myself to wait for it all to sink it. My lip trembled from fear and tears that wanted to spill out.  I know logically I have nothing to fear, but fear isn’t logical. Fear is emotional.

While the world has taught me that fear is a bad thing, that it is something to avoid, I no longer agree. Fear is a good thing. It is a good emotion. It is the fear of cancer that allows me to choose the aggressive route of ridding my body of the basal cell carcinoma. It is fear that gives me the courage to stand tall knowing the timid route isn’t right for me. It is fear that propels me forward instead of hiding in the shadows of the unknown.

When fear takes over whether it is logical or not, I have to remember it is a chance for me to rise to the occasion. It is a chance to propel myself forward. It’s an opportunity to grow. Fear is just an indicator that something amazing is waiting for me around the corner.  Fear isn’t something to fear. Fear is something to be embraced.

sunrise

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chadron

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

On Thursday afternoon I sat in a room with all of my coworkers and Shawn Achor. Shawn Achor was just on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday for two weekends in a row. He has one of the most viewed Ted Talks. There is a reason for all of this. What he has to share with world needs to be heard. He is a happiness researcher. His words echoed into my heart, and I’ve been trying to hold on to them.

Happiness is our choice. We choose which lense we use to view life. Why not train our brain to find patterns of happiness instead of patterns of stress, depression or pessimism? During the two hours he spoke with us, he repeated this phrase several times, and I quickly reached for my pen to write it down.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

I took these words to heart. I interpreted them to fit my life. If I focus on my now, if I take the time to pay attention to my inhales and exhales, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I take the time to move beyond living life on the surface, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness. If I do things that give meaning to my life, this allows me to view life through a lense of happiness.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Today I headed to the CHKD 8k Run/Walk. My intention was to carry these words with me. I was running on Operation Smile’s Team World Care. We were running to say thank you to the children’s hospital for taking such amazing care of our world care patients. Running is a privilege I don’t take for granted.

The race took off, and I fell into a comfortable pace (except it was too fast). I had no goal for this race except I wanted to remember why I was running. I wasn’t running for a race clock. I was running to say thank you. I forgot all of this in the third mile when things got hot. I forgot all of this when I started to hold the tension in my hips. I forgot all of this when I started to think I wasn’t capable. My brain shut down. My body gave up with it. I got irritated with myself. The negative self talk took over.

Just past the fourth mile marker a girl ran by filled with optimism. She was cheering for everyone. It was the reality check I needed to get my head in check. It was the reality check that got me to the finish line pushing instead of giving in.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Not too long after my finish, I was joined by more coworkers. We were joined by our world care patient from Haiti. We walked the 1 mile fun walk together and celebrated the importance of life. This young lady that joined me on the race course has spent her entire life hiding behind a four pound tumor that had grown on her face. Thanks to some really amazing people and this amazing Children’s Hospital, she will see another birthday. The tumor has been removed forever. I ran one bad mile. Life was put back in perspective.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

chkd1

During Shawn Achor’s talk he reminded us that choosing happiness isn’t about being naïve. It isn’t about turning our backs on the real sadness and heart ache in our world. It’s about looking for patterns in our life, patterns of gratitude and appreciation for what we do have. I am lucky enough to live in a culture that encourages me to chase my dreams. I am lucky enough to have the chance to grow as a person. Every single day I get to work on fine tuning my well-being because I live with a healthy body.

I have work I want to do. It’s not work that I have to do. It’s a privilege. I want to learn to be strong in the middle of my race. I want to learn to hang on when things get tough. I want to learn to fight for my potential. I’ve got work to do. This is my privilege.

Breath. Depth. and Meaning.

Grow into it.

(Today I forgot)

Race Results:

8k – 46:23

Garmin: 5.04 in 46:25, 8:34, 9:02, 8:53, 11:05, 8:45, 5:37 across the finish line (talk about potential!)

When I crossed the finish line today, I viewed my race as a failure. I was done racing for a while. The one mile walk with our world care patient changed that. I was using the wrong lense to view my run. Today’s run wasn’t a failure. It was a chance to see where my weaknesses exist. It was chance to see where I have the potential to grow. This is how I want to view my life. This is the lense I’m choosing.

Gorgeous Finish Line View

Gorgeous Finish Line View