As I ran towards the park on the Cape Henry Trail, my goal was simple. With every stride I took, I wanted to feel my foot hit the ground. I wanted to feel the connection between me and the earth. Reach. Connect. Absorb. Push forward. I was there to feel my run. Every other thought was left behind me.
I have found myself sitting across from my therapist on a frequent basis these days. In this space I bring my thoughts with me. My goal is simple. I want to feel myself existing in my world. I want to feel my connection between me and my world. As I sit quietly in her peaceful room, the goal is the same as it is when I put on my running shoes. Reach. Connect. Absorb. Push Forward. In this space my thoughts comfort me. My body is left behind.
The year of waking up delivered me to a place of observation. With my eyes wide open, I am seeing everything. I’m seeing my light, my wounds, my joy, my hurt, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I’m seeing myself.
I’ve discovered a pattern in my life. I crave safety, yet safety is the one thing that feels suffocating. My need to feel safe and protected has driven me to tuck myself away. It’s a basic human need. We all need to feel safe.
The more I’ve observed, the quieter I’ve become. My own words have failed me lately. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a full story to tell that I’m looking to find comfort in the words of others. My moments are filled with devouring books of women who like me are trying to fly free. I feel clumsy in my own being knowing that I’m outgrown the cage I’ve created for myself.
I crave freedom.
“The psyched and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
So many people have asked me what comes after the year of waking up? Maybe I finally know the answer. Maybe the next chapter is knowing I’m safe when I fly free. I don’t have to remain small or rooted to be safe. There is safety is soaring. There is safety in taking flight.
Reach. Connect. Absorb. Push Forward.
This is how I make sure I’m safe. It’s through reaching and connecting that I’m able to absorb all I am. It’s how I push forward. It’s how I fly.
For an entire year, I set out on a quest with one intention. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to live life with an exclamation point instead of a question mark.
But what exactly does that mean? What does it mean to wake up? I don’t have an answer to that question for you, but I found it for me. I found it by not asking. I found it by existing. I gave up questioning and doubting. I charged forward. I pretended to know what I was doing until i believed my own actions.
2017 ended. 2018 began. I feel myself existing and living.
We belong awake.
I’m at the start line of a new adventure. In April I’ll attempted to run a 50K through Kentucky. I have so many questions. How do I train? What’s it like on the trails in Kentucky? Can I do this? I’ve asked them to myself and out loud. As I received answers, I realized something.
I am my own answer.
I’m not asking questions to learn or to grow. I’m asking questions to validate that I can do this. I’m asking to reassure myself that I already know the answer.
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the questions when you are the answer.” ~Joseph Campbell
I think this is how I become stagnant in my own life. When life becomes comfortable, when I feel confident in my answer, I settle in. The more I settle, the less vibrant life becomes.
We belong awake!
And this means we have to be our own answer. We have to live our own answer. An answer can’t exist without a question. We have to ask questions? Maybe out loud, but definitely to ourselves. We have to do things that makes us wonder what is possible. We need question marks just as much as we need exclamation points.
There is a fine line between questioning and asking questions. One includes doubts. One includes curiosity. One includes questioning yourself and the other includes believing you are the answer.
In my quest to wake up, to find the exclamation, I found my answer.
Ask questions but do not question. What do you need to live life awake? Be your answer. And Repeat. Over and over and over again.
As 2017 comes to an end, one thing has become crystal clear. If you want magic in your life, you have to create it. Magic doesn’t find you. You have to bring it to your life.
Living life awake doesn’t just happen. Every day you have to deliberately make the choice to wake up.
It’s risky. Sometimes it hurts. It leaves you exposed. And it’s magical.
Maybe that’s what makes New Year’ Eve and the New Year so appealing. It’s an ending and a beginning all within one second of each other. The ball drops, and you get a brand new year.
That’s the magic. That’s being awake.
Within one second of everything in life is being alive. You never know when your one breath away from your best or your worst. When the ball drops or things fall apart, you get to start again. If we never let the ball drop, we never get a new beginning.
As 2018 approaches, I have one goal. It’s to observe life without judgement. It’s to allow myself (and others) to exist as I am.
I belong awake.
We belong awake.
The only way to live is to allow ourselves to be one second and one breath away from our best or maybe our worst.
Cheers to a life of magic. Cheers to being awake.
“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
Cheers to 2018, a year to let go of judgement, to observe, and to participate relentlessly in living life awake!
Just observe. Do not judge. These words have become the echo to all my thoughts and actions. I didn’t know it when I went to that yoga class a month ago that the practice would become the welcome mat to this next chapter in my life. I didn’t even realize on that night I was turning the page to a new chapter.
When life is challenging, how do you feel? How do you react? Our instructor asked us these questions? I answered them. During my practice, when it got hard I judged myself. I’ve done the same in life. I’ve felt weak and not strong enough. I’ve questioned my mind and my heart. I’ve forgotten to welcome it all. I’ve forgotten that there is no right or wrong. There is just being.
You can’t exist in the present if your not observing what your feeling.
You can’t exist in the present if you’re judging your reactions.
This practice doesn’t just apply to the times when life is challenging. It also applies to the times when life is good, when you feel alive, and when you feel awake. Just Observe. Don’t judge. My year of waking up started as a goal for my spring race season. It twisted and turned and become less about running and more about living.
It’s a simple practice, yet it is nearly impossible to implement. Since that yoga practice, I have craved more. I’ve felt myself being drawn back to my roots and all the thing that ground me. I feel myself being pulled towards my yoga mat, the trails, and movement. I feel myself existing in my body and through my body.
When asked what is next, I’ve answered over and over again that I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. But I do know. This new chapter is less about what and more about existing.
Existence comes from observation. Existence lacks judgment. Existence happens when we embrace who we are.
This week I placed my rooted mala around my neck. It’s been a long time since I’ve reached for this set of beads. I was feeling unsteady and unsure. When I bought this set of beads, I wanted a reminder to stay rooted in my life, in my family, and in my community. I was creating a foundation. This time it feels different. This time the roots are not things, this time the roots are me.
Life can be so complicated and noisy. Marriage gets hard. Parenting is never easy. It’s easy to fall away from who you are.
But then something happens, and your invited back to who you are. It can be something as simple as unrolling your yoga mat and a simple movement of your body. Just Observe. Don’t Judge. If you don’t, you’ll miss the invitation to exist in your entirety. You’ll miss the welcome mat to your life.
In a yoga class a few weeks ago lead by Jessica Johnson, co-founder of the Bhav Brigade, my body felt unsettled. I was unsure before I even arrived in class. I convinced myself to show up, to walk inside and to unroll my mat. Unsure of my place in the class, feeling unsettled in my body, pushed beyond my physical comfort zone, I wanted to flee. And then Jess guided us. Sharing the words of Glennon Doyle, she created a welcome mat for my practice.
we’ve got it all backward down here. We want to be on the mountaintops, but we’re not called to be victorious. We’re called to be wise, strong and kind. We are admired on the mountaintops, but we are beloved in the valleys. All the magic is in the space between mountains, where we have to unbecome everything we thought we were and start from scratch. This is hard to do, because when pain comes in the form of uncertainty, our instinct is to scramble out of it, to grab blindly for the familiar. But when we rush out of the valley, we miss gathering all the wisdom, strength and kindness we need for the next climb. We have to learn how to sit by the river and be still enough to claim its gifts. ~Glennon Doyle Melton
So here I am again. I’m in the middle again, the middle of the mountain. This is where the magic happens. But this is also such a hard place to exist. It’s a daily battle to not give up or give in.
The yoga practice that night challenged me. With sweat rolling down my back, I wanted to retreat to child’s pose. It’s always available, but did I need it. I knew I didn’t need it. I just wanted easy. I stuck with hard.
I was still unsure when I left class that night. I still didn’t feel settled, but that practice has remained a constant in my daily thoughts. Jess asked us in the moments when our legs want to give up, when our hearts are straining, to observe. What we are feeling doesn’t matter, but making note of how we are feeling does. When we are challenged, how do we respond? There is no right answer. There is only our answer.
What is my answer? I scramble. I flee. I feel panic. I become unsettled.
I sat with my feelings of being unsettled that night. I used my breath to calm me. I used the flow of my body to feel alive. The more I felt graceful and powerful in my movement, the more my anxiety disappeared.
Yoga is more than a class. It’s called a practice because it’s something we do every day. It’s something we practice in every aspect of our lives.
This Saturday before sunrise I drove to the trails. As I drove passed the Chesapeake Bay, I found my mind wandering. How can I feel so alive and so unsettled at the same time? This is the best I’ve felt mentally, physically and emotionally in a very long time yet part of me is still so unsettled. My thoughts wandered some more. I was drawn back to my yoga practice. If the movement of my physical body is what settles me, I need to move more. I was headed to the perfect place to move my body. The trails are my yoga practice.
That morning the trails were flooded with light and frost. They were flooded with fog and mist. They were alive, and my body carried me to a place of feeling settled. My running feels fluid again. It moves with ease.
As I ran with the trees I was reminded of all the shared stories and dreams I’ve whispered to these trees. I’ve spent so many years and miles wandering through these woods they are part of who I am. The trees with the greatest reach also have to strongest roots. To reach high, you have to be deeply rooted.
I feel myself reaching higher and higher every single day. I can’t help but wonder if my roots are a little shaky? For the rest of December, I’m returning to my yoga mat and the trails. I’m returning to the relationships that nurture me. Instead of glancing up to the top of the mountain, I think I’ll take a few steps back to the valley. Dig in, get dirty, and allow the movement of my body to settle me.
In my roots, at the base of the mountain, I am reminded that I am small. When I am small, I am reminded that I’m part of a much bigger journey. I am much bigger than myself. I am small, but I matter. This is the space that feels like home to me. This is were I become settled.
On Sunday I frantically hit refresh on my phone as I watched the live results of the California International Marathon. I knew my friend would cross the finish line in any minute. It’s a story only she can tell (and i highly encourage you to read it HERE), but I’ve have a seat on the sidelines over the past few years as I’ve watch her do everything possible to qualify for the Olympic Trials! Her resilience, her determination and her heart are something I truly admire. She made her wildest dreams come true. I burst into tears when I saw her finish time pop up on my screen. She did it!
As I hit refresh over and over again, I felt something refreshing inside of me too! It’s easy to dream big. It’s really hard to make those dreams come true. A fire was reignited inside me. I can do it too!
One month ago I crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon. It will always be one of the greatest days of my life. It was friendship and community, but it was rooted in overcoming! Life put so many hurtles between me and that marathon, and somehow I conquered them all.
I love the marathon. I love the miles it takes to get to race day. I love the ebbs and flows of every training cycle. I love race day.
One month later my body is feeling better than it has ever felt. I’ve found the magic combination for me!
My magic combination has come in the form of massage. I’ve found someone who understands how my body works (and how it doesn’t work!). I’ve got life back in my legs!
The week before I left for New York I laid on the massage table talking about dreams and life and the path I’ve taken leading up to that race. My massage therapist said to me you’re ready for what’s next! I can’t wait to see what comes after the year of waking up!
I almost cried on the table. What’s next? Running makes me feel alive. It has brought me everything I have ever wanted. Running is my dreams in motion. It’s how I connect with myself. It’s how I see my strength and discover my weaknesses. It’s how I overcome. Running is my heartbeat.
What’s next? I don’t know! I’ve let go of some of those big dreams to make room for other things in life. Life is has ebbed and flowed. But there is one thing that has never changed. My greatest fear is not living up to my potential. I fear I’ll sell myself short in life and in running. In my heart, running and life belong together.
What’s next? I don’t know, but I do know there is magic in the air. After the New York City Marathon, my entire world gained a vibrancy I didn’t know it was lacking.
What’s next? In April I’m running my first 50K trail race. I’m going to see where the miles take me.
Whatever is next is going to be magical! And I know my running shoes will get me there!
“There is no need to search; achievement leads to nowhere. It makes no difference at all, so just be happy now! Love is the only reality of the world, because it is all One, you see. And the only laws are paradox, humor and change. There is no problem, never was, and never will be. Release your struggle, let go of your mind, throw away your concerns, and relax into the world. No need to resist life, just do your best. Open your eyes and see that you are far more than you imagine. You are the world, you are the universe; you are yourself and everyone else, too! It’s all the marvelous Play of God. Wake up, regain your humor. Don’t worry, just be happy. You are already free!” ~Dan Millman
I don’t know where to begin, so perhaps I just need to start. This theme of not knowing but also moving forward became a thread that ran through my entire marathon journey, so it’s no surprise I find myself feeling the same way 4 Days Post Marathon. Don’t search. Just go!
This journey started with a simple yes! When a friend I’ve always admired asked me to join her at the New York City Marathon during her chemo treatment, I screamed yes. Would I fundraise too? Yes! Every time she asked, I said yes. It lead me here to this place of pure joy and satisfaction.
This weekend was magical. Every moment. Every detail. Every mile. It was all magic.
But how do you explain magic? You can’t. You have to see it and you have to believe in it. That is what this race has been for me. Seeing and believing in team, in community, in dreams, in friendship, in myself, in a cure, and in achieving. What started as a dream of a friend conquering cancer ended as a dream come true. She did it! We did it! I see and I believe!
The way the details unfolded can only be described as magical. My job at J&A Racing granted our team Race Director credentials. We were given VIP race bibs, VIP transportation, and access to the VIP pre and post race accommodations. Karen’s story of survival allowed our team to be invited to walk in the parade of nations. We shared dinner with our favorite Olympians, Ashton and Brianne Eaton. We were invited to run the first 10K of the race with the Eaton’s in the first wave of Runners.
When you defeat cancer you deserve every ounce of magic. Karen deserved every bit of happiness that was showered on her this weekend. As her supporter, I ran beside her in disbelief that this experience belonged to me too.
In all my weeks of training, I felt insecure. My running has slowed down. My team mates are fast. Every time I heard them say they wanted to run as a team, I secretly wished they’d run their own race. I didn’t want to hold them back. I didn’t want to be the weakest link.
They wouldn’t let me run alone. That wasn’t what this weekend was about. We are a team. We are friends. We are unit. We got to New York together, and they would not let my insecurities get the best of me. We were running together.
The race cannon went off. A few minutes later we were running across the Verrazano Bridge. It was magical. Our group of 20 Team In Training member were running with the Eaton’s. We ran together for the first 10K at a pace that was faster than I have run all season. I didn’t care. I felt alive. My pace dropped into the 9s. I felt alive. Karen, Steve and I kept glancing at each other. Our faces all said the same thing. This is really happening!
Go Team! Go Kristy! Go Karen! Go Steve!
We were flooded with cheers!
My race plan was simple. Run the first 10K with the Eaton’s. Cool down for 20 Miles. Have fun. Share the miles.
The first 10K flew by. We said goodbye to the Eaton’s. We didn’t slow down. The energy on the course was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It propelled me forward.
We hit the half way mark. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Our friends were at mile 17. I couldn’t stop smiling.
There are very few times in my life that I’ve felt so alive.
Those fast early miles and my lack of training caught up to me around mile 18. I didn’t care. I didn’t want the race to ever end.
Running through The Bronx was the toughest spot for me. I was in a lot of pain, but for the first time ever I didn’t doubt myself. I knew it would be tough. I knew I would hurt. But I also knew I could do it.
There is no joy without pain.
For the last few miles I experienced both at a magnitude that can only be described as magical.
This journey was for Karen. Every mile, every dollar raised, but I was rewarded with a priceless gift. I was given magic.
I got to witness the magic of conquering cancer.
I got to witness the magic of team.
I was given the magic of friendship.
I gained the magic of belief. I saw my strengths. I saw my teams strengths. I saw our strengths magnify as we worked together.
This journey isn’t over. In my heart we haven’t crossed the finish line yet. We are just beginning. There is so much more magic waiting for us to see it. I don’t know where to begin. All I know is I’m getting started.
I wish I could bundle it up. I wish I could gift the entire world the words I heard last night. I wish I could take all the words I heard last night as I sat in the auditorium at George Washington University listening to Brene Brown speak about belonging and sprinkle them on every single person. We need her work and her words. I need her work and her words.
It all made sense. As she spoke, I understood the sadness, the fear, the loneliness that has manifested itself into hatred in our world. It doesn’t matter who you voted for or what religion you practice (or don’t) when we look at this humanitarian crisis we are facing.
We’ve forgot we are human. We’ve forgot we are all connected. We’ve forgot that degrading one woman, dehumanizes them all. We’ve forgot hundreds of years of history where we dehumanized people because of the color of their skin. We have to rehumanize ourselves. We have to rehumanize each other.
For 90 minutes Brene spoke about her work, her new book, and the current climate of our country. It all made sense. We have forgotten we are all human.
The evening ended with an auditorium filled with 1500 people and not one single empty seat joining together in a moment of collective happiness. Through music we united. We sang. It was silly and awkward and joyful. Together we shared joy. Music and Brene’s brilliant work gave us this.
This morning after getting home sometime in the early morning hours, my 13 year old woke me up to tell me there had been another shooting at a concert. 50 were dead. Hundreds were hurt. They came together for collective happiness, and this happened. I asked him to turn off the tv.
I feel asleep filled with hope. I feel asleep understanding how we got here, and a small glimmer of hope of how to move closer to being human again. Waking up to another attack of terror (because that’s exactly what this is) made it all confusing once again. How did we get here?
I haven’t turned the news back on. I don’t need to. I can feel it. I can feel the sadness in my heart and in my head. It’s lingering in all the spaces that surround me. We’ve forgotten we are all connected. A mother grieving for her child is felt by every mother. It’s up to us to acknowledge it.
In those 90 minutes that Brene spoke last night, I heard clarity in so many of our issues. My brain is scrambling to piece them all together so I can logically take the next step forward. While my head scrambles to find facts and reason, my heart aches for no reason other than there is a lot of sadness around us. There is a lot of hate. There is a lot of fear.
As I walked to my car last night, I said to my friend I wish I could ask Brene one question. I wanted to ask her what do I do now. As a member in the audience who sought out her research, what do I do now? How do I move it forward?
Today I saw her answer as I opened my eyes. It’s my children. It’s the people I touch. It’s my reach. Tonight, instead of watching the nightly news, I asked Cole how he felt about the shooting. I asked him how he felt about kneeling during the national anthem. I asked him if he had friends at school who were transgendered or gay. He awkwardly answered while I patiently waited. The more he talked the more his awkwardness disappeared. I listened until he asked me what I thought too.
Thanks to last night and the amazing research of Brene Brown, I could easily articulate my answer. I believe we all want to talk long enough until our awkwardness disappears. We want to protest or fight back until we are rehumanized. We want to be seen.
I kissed my boys good night a few extra times this evening. Maybe just maybe raising them will help bring humanity back to our planet.
We have to talk about these things. We have to talk about the hard painful things in life. We have to talk about the things that feel awkward to us because it’s not our normal. We have to reconnect ourselves. We have to share our ugly truth.
We have to be human. We have to remember we are all human.
“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
There’s a reason why the word full is part of fulfillment. In order to be fulfilled, life has to feel full. Your heart has to feel full. This weekend I came head on with the meaning of being full. If you’re not careful, if your perspective isn’t right, fulfillment can feel heavy.
My alarm went off Saturday at 4:20am, and I contemplated sleeping in. I knew if I did I’d be robbing myself of my Sunday, so I woke up. I headed towards the beach to tackle another long run in this training cycle. I was tired. I’ve had a full two weeks that included travel, working a race expo, racing, and a charity gala on top of my daily duties of self, wife and mother. As Saturday approached my full week was tipping the scale towards exhaustion instead of fulfillment.
I ran predawn miles with a new friend. I met my training team for more miles as the sun rose. As the miles ticked by, I felt heavy. I felt tired. I started to feel overwhelmed and burden by all that I’ve been carrying. I knew it was time to let my pack run ahead of me.
As I slowed to a walk, my running partner Jaime slowed down too. With nothing but compassion and encouragement in her eyes she said to me I’ll slow down if you need me, but I’ll let you be if you need that too. In that moment I knew I needed to turn inward, and I needed to do it alone.
I moved forward. Slower than my new normal pace, but I was moving forward.
Our team ran trails on Saturday. When I came time to head towards the exit of the park, I made the decision to turn left. I still had at least 7 more miles to conquer. The moment I turned left to head deep into the woods on the back trails, I knew I was going to be okay. I didn’t give up. I didn’t give in. I kept moving forward.
I walked most for those 5 miles in the woods. I walked, and I sorted things out in my brain.
Things can be hard, and I can be okay.
A run can be slow, and I can be okay.
It’s a new concept for me. When things have been hard, it’s defined my entire life. Hard things equal a hard life. Turning left into the woods was a defining moment for me. I realized while wandering through the woods that sometimes to get out of your head you have to be willing to go into you head. Hard things simple equals a hard thing.
I’ve been busy. I’ve been tired. I’ve also never been happier. My new busy and tired has forced me to reprioritize my time and where I place my energy. It’s made me more intentional at home as a wife and as a mother. It’s made me reflect on how I take care of myself and my body.
Never in my life have I felt more fulfilled. That fulfillment, that feeling so full, can be quickly twisted into exhaustion and being overwhelmed if you forget to approach life with gratitude.
After my five miles of walking, a little running, and a lot of thinking, I left the woods feeling renewed. I was greeted by my Training Team the moment I emerged. They sent me off to finish the last 2+ miles of my run with a smile on my face.
The moment I finished I knew it was worth it. I had my Sunday back to spend time with my boys. This particular Sunday was better than most. It included squeals of delight as Chet experienced flying through the sky for the first time. It included Cole experiencing freedom as he wandered Busch Gardens with a friend by himself for the first time.
Life is full, and my heart is so incredibly fulfilled. I may just need to go to bed a little earlier to fight off the exhaustion.