Breathing Room, December Edition

December has felt very much like the past few months: a lot of gratitude, time spent on the things I love, and still very little sleep (oh Chet!). As the year comes to end, I feel confident that it’s time to let go my 2014 mantra to find breathing room in my life and time to embrace my new mantra for 2015. It’s time to for me to thrive. It’s time to push out of my comfort zone to new areas of growth. I’m ready for new goals and new experiences. 2015 already has amazing things planned. For the first time in possibly my entire life, I am overwhelmed by the sense that every detail of my life has been significant to getting me to this place. The memories I’ve wished to erase are now memories I’m grateful for in my life. The good ones, the bad one, the ugly ones, the embarrassing ones, the silly ones, the magical ones…

I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

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Breathing Room, November Edition

During the month of November, I had the opportunity to sit around the table with nine Operation Smile foundations from around the world. Countries from Cambodia to South Africa to Brazil were present in the week long meetings. In the list of the millions reasons why I love my job connecting with people from other walks of life is high on the list. Every day the world feels smaller and smaller. At a dinner one of the evenings I sat across the table from a colleague (now friend) from South Africa. She took my mala in her hands and told me it need to be cleansed. It was cold. The conversation flowed and we talked about my boys. She asked questions. I shared stories. As we talked more and more, she told me my boys are here for a reason. My heart sung as I heard these words. I’ve always believed that our children bring with them a lesson for us to learn. Cole taught me to love. Chet is teaching me to let go. My new friend has a different perspective. Cole is my healer. Chet has something even greater to teach me. He is my root.

This conversation has echoed in my heart in the days since we have met. I believe with my whole heart that Cole is a healer, but how in the world is Chet my root? He is the chaos in my world. He brings out the ugly in me. At the end of the day when I am exhausted and he refuses to sleep, he knocks me out of comfort zone. If anything he has uprooted all normalcy in our household.

This past Saturday I ran my favorite trails. As the miles went by I felt myself shed all thought. It was just me, the sound of the leaves under my shoes, and my breath. I felt free. My heart was floating in my body. As I ran, I stretched my arms out wide. I wanted to fly. I ran down the path and pretended to be plane. I high-fived the Spanish moss. I felt like a child again. I felt free. As I lifted my head to the sky, it started to rain. In that moment, the world and I were one. I understood. Life is about keeping your heart open and spreading your arms out wide to accept all that life has to offer. It’s also about opening up and letting go. My heart continued to soar as I ran down the trail. Why can’t I carry this feeling around with me always? Why can’t my heart always be this open?

It was when I asked myself that question that I understood the words of my friend from South Africa. Chet is my root. In his chaos, in his determination to own his own world, he is teaching me to stay true to my core even when the world spins around me. The lesson isn’t to teach him to sleep or to contain his temper tantrum. The lesson is to trust. The lesson is to know that it is safe to stay open and free in the midst of chaos. I don’t know how to do this yet, but I now know it is my lesson to learn.

It has nothing to do with late bedtimes or two year old tantrums. That is life. That is a normal transition of a child. Learning to remain open has everything to do with me being uncomfortable when I don’t have a solution. It has everything to do with me holding on to tightly to something I can’t control. Hasn’t he been teaching me this since before he was born? Chet’s exploration of life isn’t a problem. How I react to these moments is where I have room to grow.

“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

November

Thriving

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ~Maya Angelou

These days I find myself pinching my own arm. I start every day feeling grateful – grateful for the work I get to do every day, grateful for the smiling eyes that wake me up every morning, grateful for exactly where I’m at in life. My heart is full.

As temperatures drop and the leaves fall off the trees, I’ve been drawn to the trails more and more. Running through the leaves, up and over sand dunes, and around the trees, my love of running has come back with a rush. I’m not worried about pace or mileage. I’m running until my legs burn and then I’m a running a little more. I’ve had a hard time finding words to define this new space, and then I read an article in Women’s Running Magazine where Lauren Kleppin reflected on her experience at the New York City Marathon.

I was hoping to be an inspiration! I definitely survived, but I wanted to thrive.” ~Lauren Kleppin

That’s when it hit me. I’ve been in survival mode for so long. I survived five years at a job I didn’t enjoy. I survived my running slump this summer. Now I’m thriving. As I look forward to life and running, this is the space I want to exist in. I want to thrive. I am thriving. If I back myself into a corner where I’m just surviving again, I know exactly what I need to do. I need to step back. I need to find breathing room. I need to change paths.

I’m so thankful for this year, a year I decided to focus on finding breathing room in my life. I could never imagine the opportunities that currently exist in my life. I never knew my heart could feel so full.

The new year isn’t here yet, but this fall feels like a new start for me. It’s time to embrace the breathing room I’ve created. It’s time to thrive. Welcome to my new year!

Happy Heart
Happy Heart

Breathing Room, October Edition

“Child, you have to learn to see things in the right proportions. Learn to see great things great and small things small.” ~Corrie ten Boom

I think fall and winter are my two favorite seasons. I seem to wilt in the summer heat. Just like every other year, October brings me back to life. My head and heart have felt so engaged lately. I can feel the current of excitement building back up inside my body.

The month kicked off with a much need reset. I got to spend five days with a fabulous coworker in New Orleans sharing our passion for what we do at the Annual Meeting for Anesthesiologists. The trip also included a few wonderful laughs along Bourbon And Frenchman Street. The rest of the month was sprinkled with pumpkin festivities – cutting pumpkins from the vine, hanging up spooky ghost lights, carving a jack o lantern, and trick or treating.

While my life feels like it’s building momentum towards something really great, I’m ending the month with a heartbreaking reminder that none of it really matters if my boys aren’t smiling next to me. I’ve been really great at nurturing my two little guys, my career and my own heart. I need to make sure I’m nurturing the man who loves me most because life is always too short. I want to love him as best I can every single day.

In all my months going forward, I want to make sure my days are filled with the great things. The small things can be noisy and loud. They can demand attention. They are great distractors. But the great things, those are the things that are worth my attention. There is nothing greater than the love I receive daily and the love I can give back.

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Breathing Room, September Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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Chasing the Sunset

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

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

My running buddy
My running buddy

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

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

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

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

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

Chasing the sunset
Chasing the sunset

Breathing Room, August Edition

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

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

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ECSC 5k – Race Recap

“Light tomorrow with today.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This morning I lined up for a 5k knowing I’m not in racing condition, knowing that I’ve struggled all summer to find space in my runs, and knowing that 3 miles now feels like a long run. I know all of this, yet I was excited. The timing of this race just felt right. I was ready to test my new running philosophy: accept where I am at today.

But old habits die hard. I did my best not to speculate about finish times, to analyze the few runs I have worn my garmin on this summer to predict my outcome, or to stress that a PR wasn’t a possibility (24:50 for those of you who are curious, 7:59 pace). I only let my brain wander as far as setting a few loose goals for the race outside of enjoying myself and pushing myself on the course.

A perfect day – 27:xx, 8:59 pace (I am well aware that I ran this pace for 10 miles in April. Another true test of my new running philosophy. Could my ego let go?)

A solid run – Low 9s

Crap that sucked – anything over 9:20

I lined up next to a few friends and told them that who ever was having a solid day running was required to run.

Laura and I stuck together for Mile 1. I had previously told her my plan was to hit a 9 minute mile. At some point she kindly told me that if a 9 minute mile was my pace, I was running way too fast. We slowed down, chatted, and had some fun.

Mile 1 – 8:28

In mile 2 I encouraged Laura to go ahead. My stomach was telling me to slow down, but I knew I was in a good spot if I could just hang on. Panicking mid-race has been my weakness this year. When I saw 8:28 on my watch and my stomach started to rumble, I felt panic taking over. My focus quickly become to sit in a pocket that felt comfortable. Don’t panic. Relax. Don’t panic. Relax.

Mile 2 – 9:35 (I may have got a little too comfortable this mile)

Mile 3 was about hanging on. My hip flexors are tight lately. I like to lead with my pelvis when I run. Instead of focusing on the miles or the finish line, I focused on my body. I did my best to keep my hips under me. I did my best to keep my upper body relax.

Mile 3 – 9:16

In the final stretch I found a familiar face. Teresa, the overall female winner today, came back to run me in. She helped squeeze out the last bit of energy I had left in my legs. She reminded me to lift my knees and to use my arms. She took over my thinking since my brain had shut off.

Final stretch – 6:58 pace

Official Finish time: 28:00, 9:02 pace

Finish line fun with some great friends
Finish line fun with some great friends

Am I happy with this run? You bet!

It’s no secret my ego has been attached to my running ability for some time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the race to run further or to run faster. I got stuck in a place that let the pace on a race clock determine my level of success. Today that ego didn’t show up. I hope it’s squashed for good. I ran each mile as best I could. I have happily accepted exactly where I am at right now, not last year, not last month, but today! Coming to terms with this has been hard. My ego put up a good fight. But man, it feels good to kick that ego to the curb. It feels good to enjoy the run!

Today’s run was perfect! It makes me really excited about the fall races I have coming up!

Cheers to a very happy start!
Cheers to a very happy start!

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