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

 

 

 

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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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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!

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Standards of Success

Forth grade has been a hard year for Cole. For whatever reason he hasn’t been engaged in his school work or his learning. Maybe it’s puberty. Maybe he is bored. He has mentioned not feeling liked by his teacher. It’s been a hard year.

I understand. Sometimes we find ourselves in a chapter of our lives when we aren’t invested. Sometimes we have to learn to stay afloat. Sometimes we get stuck there. I’m trying to teach Cole to survive fourth grade.

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I don’t know the context, and I wasn’t in the classroom, but the other day Cole came home from school upset. His teacher had told him he was going to fail his SOLs. While I wasn’t there, I can imagine what happened to spark this comment. Cole was careless on an assignment. Cole didn’t listen when his teacher tried to help. I’m sure she got frustrated. I know he wasn’t engaged. Her threat was meant as a gentle warning.

Her words hit a place of insecurity in Cole. He doesn’t like to fail. After we worked through the tears and sorted out the facts, we talked about doing our best for no one but ourselves. We reminded him that it’s his responsibility to show up and try his best. Not trying, not caring, not investing aren’t options because he’s only hurting himself.

Monday was the start of the Standards of Learning tests. More than anything, I want Cole to walk away from fourth grade feeling accomplished. I went through the list of reminders:

Pay attention to the details

Read slowly and carefully

Read twice

Check your work

Check your work again

Be confident

You are smart

You are capable

And….you aren’t going to fail!!!

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And then I couldn’t help but hug him and whisper more words of encouragement before the bus arrived.

My dear Cole. The world is full of people who will tell you that you can’t, that you won’t and that you shouldn’t. People will think you aren’t capable. People will roll their eyes when you are brave enough to say your dreams out loud.

Prove them wrong.

Go do it. Try and try again. You will never fail if you are trying. Don’t do it for them though. Do it for you. Do it so that you never have to wonder what you’re capable of achieving.

The world is your world to conquer.

All week his world and his conquering has come in the form of testing. He got home from school on Monday and whispered I proved her wrong. I know I did good.

Fourth grade is almost over. Fifth grade will bring with it new successes and new lessons to be learned. I hope, if nothing else, Cole learned that only he can determine if he will be successful in life. It’s up to him and no one else.

The world is his world to conquer.

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