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

 

 

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

Grow into it.

Grow into it.

These words have echoed in my head for a month now. Sometimes I hold them closely to my heart. Sometimes I whisper them out loud. Sometimes they are the roots that keep me from crumbling. Other times they are the stars that keep me dreaming. These words have become my mantra.

Grow into it.

On my first day at Operation Smile I was greeted with the warmest welcome. As I introduced myself to people and told them the role I was taking on in the organization, I started to hear a trend in people’s responses. My job is a big piece of the puzzle. In that same week I stared at a spreadsheet with 840 line items. It is the template that serves as a packing list for every mission. Every single item that is needed to create an operating room in remote parts of the world is on that template. I need to know it all. As I read and organized and compared the template to catalogues from medical suppliers, my head spun. I was using parts of my brain that had collected dust for years. I dreamt about sutures and anesthesia medication. It all become a puddle of muddy knowledge.

Grow into it.

Summer is here in Virginia. When I set out for a six mile progression run in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, I knew the heat and the paces would challenge me. I knew it would be a hard run. 9:00, 8:40, 8:30. These were my goal paces. At the turn around point, I wanted to give in. It was too hot. My body hates summer running. My legs wanted to run, but my head was spinning. On the route back to my car, I turned my run into a game. I used land markers to tackle sections of the run. I focused on keeping my hips under me (instead of in front of me where they naturally like to land). I focused on my foot placement and my stride. The first five miles were challenging, but being able to run a 7:58 minute mile for my last mile gives me hope.

Grow into it.

Chet has started school two days a week. Today is his third day. I’ve worried it would be too much. I’ve wondered if the day would be too long. Was he happy? Was he missing me? I’ve cried at every drop off. I count down the minutes until the end of the day, and I squeeze him way too tight when I see him. He adjusted well, but he is still adjusting. His sleep patterns are a mess. His nose won’t stop running (hello daycare germs). For all the sniffles he’s brought home, he’s brought home ten times the happy stories. He talks about his teacher, his blocks, playing outside, taking a nap. He’s happy.

Grow into it.

On Sunday our family started a new adventure. Instead of talking about it, we decided to do it. We planted a backyard garden. We’ve started small to test out the sunlight and the containers. We’ve planted herbs, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Once we find the right combination for our yard, we will add squash and zucchini. We will plant carrots and cucumbers. Beans are a must for the fall. The boys need sunflowers to run around. We don’t know what we are doing in our garden. We’ve planted the vegetables. We hope they will grow, but they will never grow, we will never eat out of our own backyard, if we don’t plant something.

Grow into it.

garden

Chet fell asleep early Sunday night. Cole was content playing. I sat on the couch enjoying the quiet. It’s been a month since I turned our world upside down by chasing my dream job. For every new change, new layer, new obstacle we’ve encountered, I knew there was only way to approach the situation. I can’t panic and resist the change. I have to grow into it. The really good stuff in life shouldn’t feel comfortable from the beginning. The really amazing stuff exists in the spaces when we challenge ourselves and when we stir up our normal. The things that are worth it require growth.

I don’t know everything about my job. I will learn it. I am not running my goal pace. I will get there. Chet isn’t used to going to school twice a week. It will become his normal. We are all like the garden we planted this weekend. Inside each one of us is a seed that is willing to grow. When nourished, when rooted in love, amazing things can blossom.

“When tended the right way, beauty multiplies.” ~Shannon Weirsbitzky

Grow into it!

garden1

 

Carry Me Home

Sunday’s Run Plan: 8-10 miles, race stimulation. Miles 1-4 at a 9:15 pace, miles 5-6 at a 9:00 pace, miles 7-8 at a 8:50 pace, miles 9-10 (if I felt good) at sub 8:50 pace.

This weekend was busy. With tons to juggle (picking up Cole half way from Nashville, bringing him home, and Easter), my real objective for running this week was no stress. If I ran five miles, great! Ten miles, great! If I missed it, it wouldn’t impact my next race so no big deal. My coach kept focusing on no stress.

I woke up Sunday morning after hitting snooze a few times at 5:00 am. It was Easter. I wanted to be home when the boys woke up for Easter basket fun. Even closer to my heart was the reminder that today is my aunt’s birthday. Today she would have celebrated her 47th year. I needed to be near the ocean. I needed to see the sunrise.

Sunday’s weather: 50 degrees with 22mph winds coming from the northeast

I didn’t check the weather before I left. I just knew I needed the ocean. I needed the sunrise.

20140420-181233.jpg

My plan was to run 3.5 miles north along the ocean. I’d then return and added a bridge crossing on to the end of my run and determine if I was running 8 or 10 miles.

The run north was brutal. I quickly left the boardwalk and ran behind the hotels on Atlantic avenue. It didn’t help much. I braced myself, fought the winds hitting me from the northeast, and ran as fast as I could.

The entire time I was running and fighting the wind, I was fighting my emotions too. I’m sick of being sad. I miss my aunt, but she would yell at me for being sad. She would tell me to lighten up. I fought for 3.5 miles.

9:43

9:41

9:35

The half way point was welcomed. Carry me home wind! It was what I was looking forward to the entire first part of the run. When I turned around, pain shot through my left ankle. It stopped me in my tracks. I think I used all the strength in my left side to fight the winds coming off the ocean.

I walked a few blocks to let it calm down. Panic started to creep in. What if I just set myself back to where I was in February? What if all my slow recovery was just tossed out the window? What if, what if, what if?

As I was having all these thoughts, the sky was coming to life. The earth was waking up. I can’t sit in the middle of these what ifs, this sadness, anymore. In the sixteen months since my aunt and Christian’s dad passed away, I’ve learned that life just keeps going. I’ve learned that it’s easier if I smile along the way.

The pain subsided in my ankle, and I ran again.

9:17

By the time I hit the boardwalk again, my ankle was pain free. My heart ache was gone. The wind was literally carrying me home. I quit thinking. I quit analyzing my feelings. I just existed in the moment. I absorbed the beauty of the sunrise. I embraced the push of the wind.

8:15

7:56

7:38

I got back to my car after seven miles. I decided that was enough for today. I wasn’t willing to risk my ankle by fighting the winds again.

Today’s run: 7 miles in 1:01:08, 8:44 pace

I got back to my car feeling new. My legs were tired. My breathing was labored. But I felt brand new. Something happened in the 3.5 mile journey back to my starting point. Something lifted when my brain finally got quiet. For quite possible the first time, I finished my run feeling complete. I was excited or sad or disappointed. I just felt at ease.

The past sixteen months of heart ache, the last few months of injury and recovery, all of it has taught me that I will make it. If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, if I quiet my brain, if I absorb the beauty of our planet, everything is going to be just fine.

Today’s run quietly healed my heart.

I miss my aunt. That will never change. I still cried a few tears in my husband’s arms when I got home. I celebrated her with a coffee followed by a mimosa. I still really miss her, but I’m starting to feel her in the happy spaces instead of the heartache. I’m starting to smile when I think of her.

My heart feels quiet. It feels at ease.

20140420-181344.jpg

Step by Step (Ohh baby!)

“Stairs are climbed step by step” ~Turkish Proverb

Over a decade ago (yes! that makes me feel old), I walked across the stage and received my diploma from Old Dominion University. I graduated with a degree in English with a concentration in education. I thought I wanted to be a teacher. During those (ahem!) five years I spent studying (and working and abusing a fake ID), I sat in many development classes. They all fascinated me. They all made sense. We studied Freud and Erikson, Bandura and Vygotsky. I was ready to conquer the world.

My life plans got altered and before I knew it I was living in Alabama while my then-husband was studying to be pilot. I got pregnant. I became a mom. I started to observe all the life changes I studied in those classes in the small baby I had created. I was still fascinated. I remembered learning about life stages and charts that looked like stair steps. Now I was seeing it play out before my eyes.

As I watched Cole grow, I noticed the stair-step pattern in his behavior. For weeks, I’d have a happy baby. Then the tides would change and I would  have an irritable difficult baby.  Cole would eventually hit his peak in these difficult times, and my easy baby would return along with another new level of development. He became content with life again. New challenges would arise. Cole would discover a new level of skill that he would want to master. The difficult baby returned while he mastered the new skill. This upward climb of development always equaled having a difficult baby. When he would reach the top of his climb and conquer his skill, the easy baby returned.

This pattern has carried Cole through his life so far. I’m also seeing the same pattern in Chet’s behavior.  As a mom, I’ve learned to find comfort in the difficult times by acknowledging that they are going through a transformation of their own. They are struggling to get to where they are going. The are desperately trying to make that next step. The trying times, the times filled with bad behavior and pushing boundaries, are always rewarded by peace and a sense of accomplishment that comes from reaching the plateau of the next step.

It’s easy to recognize these patterns in my children. It’s not always easy to see them in my own behavior.  It’s easy to be understanding of the climb in young children because they have so much to learn and accomplish. I sometimes forget this applies to adults too. Fighting for what we want to achieve comes natural to children. At what age do we outgrow that fight?

“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.” ~ Dean Karnazes

As I travel down this quest towards marathon #2 and ultimately a marathon that will get me to Boston, I’m making sure I carry this awareness with me. I am on the upward climb of a stair step right now. My 10 mile run this Saturday at a 9:03 pace certainly doesn’t put me in a position to qualify for Boston TODAY, but the run is on the right set of stairs. I’m going to have to struggle, work hard, and fight my way to the next step, but I will get there. I will reach the landing of the next step, and a 9 minute mile paced long run will become easy. This is already happening. Every moment of struggle and fight will be rewarded by a moment of peace and ease. The cycle will continue. I will then climb the next step, and I will keep climbing until my stairs runs out.

Recovery Run with my Family. At Sunset. Along the Lynnhaven River.

Recovery Run with my Family. At Sunset. Along the Lynnhaven River.

Saturday’s Long run: 10 miles at a 9:03 pace

8:48, 8:56, 9:20, 9:29, 9:18, 9:09, 9:04, 9:06, 8:41, 8:16

A little all over the place while I rediscover my new comfort level in running.

I’d love to be..

Sometimes I can get stuck in my own head, daydreaming about where I could have ended up, or another life I could have lived. What if I went away to school? What if I was brave enough to study abroad? What if I got that MFA in Creative Writing I really wanted? What if I followed that calling to run off with the Peace Corps? When I’m done wandering down that road that never leads to this life I love, I start to wander down the road of real what-ifs? What if we have another baby? What if we decided we are done with just two? What if I became a doula? What if I focused more on yoga instead of running? What if I left my flexible job for one that was more fulfilling? What if I wrote more? What if I could find a way to stay home? What if we moved to Utah?

I’d love to be..

  • a mother who raises children who grow up without wounds from my parenting choices
  • a mother who raises children who are comfortable in their skin and a desire to explore life
  • a writer
  • a really fast marathon runner
  • a Boston Qualifier
  • a yogi who practices every single day
  • a teacher of yoga
  • a career woman who has an inspiring profession
  • a career woman who educates the world on health
  • a student studying nutrition and holistic health
  • a stay at home mom
  • a wife who greets her husband at the door every day with a smile, a kiss, and a well prepared meal
  • a provider for my family
  • someone with a clean and organized house
  • a gardener with a huge vegetable garden
  • a handyman who can build all the furniture I wish I could buy
  • a world traveler who lives out of a backpack (for at least the summer)
  • a volunteer at my boys’ school
  • well-read (and the stack of t0-read books would slowly disappear)
  • found meditating every single day
  • a doula who gently guides moms and babies in childbirth
  • a really good friend who never forgets a birthday or an important date
  • someone who always remembers to send a card or a thank you

My list doesn’t stop there. All of these things are a part of who I am, the things that I love, and the things that I value. I want them all. Choosing one over another always has consequences in life. Putting a check next to one box makes another thing on the list impossible. Today I have chosen family over wandering around the world. I have chosen a less inspired career to focus on other things. I choose running over yoga on most days. I choose reading over a clean house. I choose parenting my boys with a full heart over everything else. I may not greet my husband at the door with dinner, but I do greet him with a smile and a kiss. I don’t know where I would end up had I chose another path. Had I packed up my bags when I was young and left, had I saved the world instead of having a family, where would I be today?

I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore. ~Cheryl Strayed

There’s nothing to do but respect that that sister life was not meant for us. That life was not my life to live. This life is my life, and I’m going to live it with a full heart. I’m going to honor all the things that I love. I don’t know the final outcome of my life. I don’t know what things will get checked off my dream list. I do know I’ve been give exactly what I need right now.

I suppose this is what I meant when I wrote what I did, sweet pea, about how it is we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there…grateful for the smallest things. ~Cheryl Strayed

Post Run Bliss

Post Run Bliss

Vote for Cole

Every night I tuck Cole into bed. Now that he is growing up, I kiss him on the forehead. When did I quit kissing him on the lips? After he is asleep, I sneak back into his room to say good night one more time. I am always amazed at how grown up he has become. His long skinny legs reach the footboard. His even longer arms dangle down to the floor. Behind his crazy curly hair, his face is maturing.

So much of Cole is me. Physically he looks like my child from the long and skinny limbs to the expressions on his face. Emotionally he is my child too. So much of our personality is the same. I often struggle to separate him from me. I assume his response will be the same as mine without giving him the chance to react on his own. Often times it is the exact same. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes I do too much to try to protect the child in him. I shield him from the world because it’s my way of protecting me. It’s not good for Cole. I’m learning to step back.

Last week he came home with a packet to run for SCA treasurer. He was committed. He worked on his speech. He went through the yearbook to guess who would vote for him. I found myself wanting to protect him. Two years ago he was uncomfortable with the attention he got while we sang Happy Birthday that we never sang to him. His nerves can get them best of him. In my mom-brain I wanted to ask so many questions: are you sure? you have to get on stage in front of a lot of people? you may not win? chances are you won’t win since seven other kids are running. I kept quiet.

New Image1

Prespeech Smiles

That Thursday he turned in his speech. I got a phone call from his teacher. Another boy had already turned in a speech almost identical to Cole’s speech. They wanted him to rewrite it. I just knew he would be crushed. I knew he would throw in the towel and decide he really didn’t want to run for office. He would be crushed. When I picked him up from school that day, he was sad. He was sad that he couldn’t share the speech he had worked so hard on with his classmates. That night he surprised me. He wrote another speech.

Over the weekend, he created campaign posters. On Monday night I asked him to practice his speech. He got two sentences into his practice, and he decided he didn’t like it. He wasn’t going to run for treasurer anymore. It was his bedtime at this point so I sent him to bed. On Tuesday, he was ready to try again. He practiced his speech. He decided he did like it.

This morning, in front of the 3rd and 4th grade, Cole got up on stage and gave his speech. While he waited, he chewed on his nails. His legs bounced up and down. When he got up for his turn, his nerves seemed to disappear. He didn’t read it too fast. He didn’t use his crazy nervous voice. He delivered his speech, he sat back down, his eyes found mine in the crowd, and he smiled. He did it.

New Image

Not Cole – I was too busy filming his speech to take a photo

I’m spilling over with pride. I won’t know if he won or lost until this evening, but I really don’t care. My Cole, a child who has struggled to find a place of comfort in his world, shined today. It took a lot for him to get up there, to be brave and conquer his fear, to risk failure, and to let all of his classmates see him. It’s these moments in parenting where I feel like I’ve done something right. I’ve made all the right choices for him. I’ve given him the love he needs to have the confidence on days like today. It’s these moments that remind that the best way I can parent Cole is to step back and let him guide me. He isn’t me no matter how much we mirror each other. I’ve given him roots and a foundation for life. I’ve passed on DNA for his appearance and his personality. But he is his own person. He is Cole.  It’s time for me to let him shine too.

New Image2

I love this kid