The entire month of February has been defined by five simple words.
Take a Leap of Faith.
It became the time for to jump. It became the time for confidence. When asked about choices, next steps, or why, the only answer I can come up with is that I’m taking a leap of faith. I know there is something great waiting for me. I don’t know what. That excites me. I don’t know where. That is empowering. This entire process has filled me with gratitude. It’s striped away nonsense. It’s brought clarity to my priorities. It’s be a refreshing period to take inventory of my worth.
I don’t take it lightly that I have the ability to reassess how I want the next chapter of my life to look. Because I am lucky enough to explore this space, I want to do it justice. I want to do it right.
“She took the leap and built her wings on the way down.”
My intention is make choices that feel empowering. My intention is to make choices that bring strength to my family. Every day is an act of catching myself, and using my strength to take flight.
“You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness.
“Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it life?” ~Mary Oliver
The past month I’ve felt myself standing on unstable ground. I’ve felt alive. I’ve felt afraid. I’ve felt engaged. I’ve felt committed. I’ve felt lost. My thoughts have wandered down so many paths.
When I made the decision to walk away from Operation Smile, a good friend wrote four questions on a piece of paper for me. I tucked them away into my journal knowing I’d revisit them when the timing felt right. Today was that day. Each of the questions is meant to guide your thoughts towards defining a life purpose. I let my thoughts wander some more. I wrote down everything. A common theme quickly emerged.
These words kept finding there way to my paper. If you were to ask me what I want to be be when I grow up, my answer is simple and complicated. I want to be a safety net. I want to provide my boys a safe environment to explore, to succeed and to fail. I want to be there for Christian when he needs someone to catch him. I want to be someone people can count on to lift them back.
As all these thoughts took shape on paper, there is one moment that came rushing back to me.
My heart always wanders back to Utah. During our canyoneering adventure, Christian and I faced so many obstacles that have defined our marriage. This past month isn’t an exception.
Later in the day on that life changing adventure, we approached the edge of a waterfall. There was one way down. We would lower ourselves using our own strength to get to the pool 30 feet below us.
I was paralyzed. Taking a step down, trusting myself to support myself, froze me in tracks. I sat and stared. I cried. I couldn’t make my next step. In that moment Christian wanted to save me. He couldn’t. I needed to do this on my own.
I don’t know how long I sat there. I don’t know what convinced me to take the first step. But I do know the fear that I felt. I do know the relief I felt when I made forward (or downward) progress. I do know the rush of satisification as my body was submerged in the pool below.
The past month I’ve been sitting on the edge paralyzed.
As I filled my journal with words today my vision became clear. If I want to be a safety net, it has to start with myself. I have to catch myself.
“…there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
This journey has been messy and inspiring. It’s been confusing and reassuring. It’s reminded me of everything I already know.
Today I unrolled my yoga mat while Chet indulged in a nearly extinct nap. The moment of quiet was a rare treat after a freezing cold weekend kept us bundled up inside all weekend. My heart needed quiet, and my body needed a good stretch. My body is still recovering from the 100k relay. It was harder on my body then I ever anticipated. As I move through the opening sun salutations, my body felt heavy. In Warrior II my arms felt like they weighed a ton each. Everything was being pulled down by gravity.
Saturday’s running was a mirror image of today’s yoga practice. My legs felt heavy. My body resisted. I forgot that it was well below freezing and that the north wind was whipping in off the ocean and the bay. I forgot that the streets were frozen. Every step I took was a reminder that I have been working hard, and my body is feeling it.
Physical my body’s is that space I’ve come to recognize and know so well. I’m in the middle.
“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown
I used to fear this middle space. I used to see it and runaway in fear. It is hard. It is ugly. While my entire body feels weighted and like it sinking, every doubt and insecurity is floating to the surface.
But I’ve been here before. I know this space well. Instead of collapsing on my yoga mat in defeat, I kept moving. My body loosened. My heart lightened. I returned to myself. On Saturday I kept running. Surrounded by my running family, my heart stayed engaged. A tough run was a badge of courage instead of sign of defeat.
The middle isn’t winning anymore. I’m not giving in or giving up anymore. I’m plowing ahead.
When you’ve done something so many times, you start to see the pattern. Now that my runs are hitting double digits again, I’ve felt depleted at mile 9 every single time. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve been tempted to quit. Instead I keep running, I let my running partners pull me, and a half mile later I find a new gear. My energy comes back. My strength is renewed.
While I am grateful to have this awareness as part of my running, I am even more thankful to have this awareness as part of my life. There isn’t a lot of life to live in beginning and ending. Life is lived in the middle.
Eight years ago today I started an amazing new beginning. I meet Christian for margaritas on a Friday night, and I fell in love with him before we even said hello. The beginning was amazing, but now we are in the middle. It can be tough. I run out of energy. Somedays I feel like I have nothing left to give. But I keep going because my love for him is always renewed. I’ve asked a lot of him the past few months. I needed him to be my anchor.
Three weeks ago I closed a door on a dream. Another door is about to open, but I’m living in the middle of the transition. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve doubted myself. I’ve questioned my next steps. I’ve searched for answers and strength outside of myself. My entire body has felt heavy. The answers won’t be found anywhere but inside of me. The answers are mine to find. It’s for me to discover.
The only way to find the magic in the middle is to keep returning to me. As I finished my yoga practice with my forehead placed on the mat, I made a simple promise to myself. I will trust my strength. I will trust my ambition. I will trust my ability to move forward gracefully and courageously.
“The truth is that falling hurts. The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.” ~Brene Brown
With every day that passes in this transition period, with every run I complete, with every gym workout that is accompished, and every time I unroll my yoga mat, I feel more alive. I feel more engaged. I feel my strength and my strengths rising to the surface. With an open heart, I’m moving (or running) forward. This next chapter is already a good one.
Saturday’s run: 12 miles at a 9:30ish pace (my garmin turned off in the middle somewhere)
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin
A month ago I sat down in a tattoo studio.
The story of the tattoo is simple: strawberry blossoms and cherry blossoms for my two boys.
Cole was born during strawberry season. Picking strawberries was our first adventure out of the house, and it brought back a flood of childhood memories. I remembered walking along the wooden planks that seperated my grandma’s lawn from her strawberry patch. I remembered the pinwheels I’d get from the grocery store to place in her garden. Having my own baby in a strawberry patch felt like home.
Chet has always been my cherry blossom baby. Upset that I was sidelined from my first marathon with a stress fracture, I bought myself a road bike. Shortly after I heard that lululemon was hosting free yoga in front of the Washington Monument during the blooming of the cherry blossoms. A weekend getaway was born. With our bikes and yoga mats packed, Christian and I went out of town for the weekend to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. A few weeks later, we realized we brought home a very special souvenir from the trip. A cherry blossom baby was blooming in my belly.
When I fell in love with the art of a local tattoo artist, I knew exactly what I wanted tattooed: strawberry and cherry blossoms. I gave Abby no other instructions. I let her work her magic. Every time I glanced at my arm to check on the progress, I became more and more amazed. She crawled inside my head and created a piece of my heart on my arm.
Every phase of blooming in captured in my tattoo. As a late bloomer in life, I feel like I’m always growing, always blossoming.
Woven throughout the tattoo are bursts of yellow. The tattoo is literally shining.
While the intention of this tattoo was a celebration of my two boys, it has evolved into a celebration of my love. It feels appropriate. My boys have been my greatest life lesson. They have shown me who I am, what I value, and what I need to embrace. Because of my boys, I have the courage to stand comfortably in my own skin and to take ownership of who I am.
My boys are the reason I bloom. My boys are the reason I shine.
As I started 2016, I knew this was the year to let go of everything that was holding me back. It was the year to show up and proudly say this is me. It was the year to walk away from everything that makes me feel less than towards everything that makes me feel complete. This tattoo is just the beginning.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ~Herman Melville
Round and round we ran. On Sunday, I joined forces with three badass ladies to make up Team NoPainNoChampagne at the Virginia Distance Series 100k Relay. For 62 miles, we ran loops on a 2.3 mile path around a golf course. The day started well before dawn, and it got colder and windier as the day got later.
This race had nothing to do with paces. It had nothing to do with finish times. It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about heart. It was about finding mental strength to endure hours of sitting in the cold and running on repeat for almost nine hours.
Muscles warmed up, and they got tight again. Mentally I tuned in, and I tuned out again. Every single time I thought my body was done giving its all, I kept going because never once was I alone on the course. There were seven relay teams, and dozens of runners individually conquering 50k (31ish miles) and 100k (62ish miles) on their own. Witnessing a local rockstar runner complete her first 100k at a lightening pace of 8:45 minute miles made it impossible to not give it my all.
Every time I passed an individual runner, I offered words of encouragement. I was truly amazed and inspired. Every time I was passed by some of the most impressive runners I know, I received praise. Regardless of time and pace, we all were running the same race with the same heart.
There was a pulse and an energy in the air. You could feel it. Every time I ran a loop and approached the aid station/handoff, I knew I’d be created by cheers of support.
As I finished the 27th lap for our team, my three amazing friends joined me on the course. We all ran to the finish line together. Not long after we finished, the first 100k individual runner finished. Then our very own local rockstar finished her final lap. Cheering her into the finish line brought tears to my eyes.
I needed Sunday’s run more than I realized. I needed to tune into my own strength more than I realized. I needed to feel the pulse, the heartbeat and the connection of our running community more than I realized. It’s never about running. It’s about giving and receiving. It’s about supporting. It’s about feeling supported.
Sunday was a day for my record book. My tired and heavy legs carried me to the finish line where I was welcome and embraced by three amazing teammates and equally amazing friends who collectively exude ever quality I admire.
2016 is a year to do more of the things that just feel good. The Virginia Distance Series puts a big check next to that objective for the year.
“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” ~Paulo Coehlo
Six weeks until the Shamrock Half Marathon means it’s go time for this training cycle. I have four weeks to being intentional with every workout. I have four weeks to push myself before I allow my body to recover. Then I race.
This week’s training plan is a nice reminder that it is time to do work.
Warmup, 4 mile time trial, Cooldown
Since I’m currently unemployed, I’m determined to make every workout happen.
I haven’t run a time trail since high school. I had no expectations going into this run except I knew I was going to hurt.
Mile 1 – My head was filled thoughts. As I wrestle with letting go of the last chapter in my life, I become energized about what is next.
Mile 2 – If there was any chaos in my thoughts about life, they transferred to thoughts about the run. Make it half way. Beat the wind. Make it half way.
Mile 3 – The hardest part is making it to turn around. All I have to do is finish.
Mile 4 – crap. The wheels are falling off. Relax. Relax my shoulders. Even out my breath. Relax. Relax.
Finish: 4.01 miles, 33:39, 8:24 average pace
I ran this entire workout based on feel. My garmin was on my wrist, but I never looked at my watch. When I finished my cooldown, I was shocked at my negative splits. I felt myself coming undone from the moment I crossed the Rudee Inlet bridge. I gave myself permission to simply do my best. I need to fight for my finish, but it was okay if it was my slowest mile. I worked out hard this morning. I ran hard for the duration of this run.
And then I saw 8:11.
It was my fastest mile. When I felt like I was falling apart, I held myself together. I didn’t panic. I trusted. And I finished stronger than I started.
This past weekend when the ladies from #jogandblog were reunited by the river, we took to the country roads to run hill repeats. While I don’t recall any of the conversations on that run (I was too busy huffing and puffing and sweating out alcohol), Kris made a simple statement and it’s stayed with me: it’s hard to not panic in the middle of the run.
Perhaps this is what I’m learning the most in this transition and this training cycle. I’m learning to take ownership of the process. I’m learning to stay relaxed when the wheels fall off. I’m learning to finish strong.
Today was the right moment to push myself. Today I embraced the obstacles on my run. I finished stronger than I started.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
When Christian and I first started dating, he laid his head in my lap. As he listened to me breathe, he brought it to my attention that my breath was shallow. I wasn’t breathing fully. I wasn’t breathing deeply. In that moment, time froze. My thoughts raced backwards as I remembered every moment in my life when I couldn’t breathe.
These moments were big life moments. They were moments I had a choice to make. I could take a deep breath, I could make a hard choice, and I could start a new chapter in my life.
When Christian brought attention to my breath, I became aware of the stress that I was holding. As I pulled my breath deep into my abdomen, I felt myself letting go of the burdens I carried around with me.
Two Thursdays ago, I came face to face with a moment that took my breath away. While physically gasping for breath, I knew I had a decision to make. It was time to start a new chapter.
Two Fridays ago was my last day at Operation Smile. It’s been a little over a week since I walked away from my dream job.
Walking away from a dream isn’t easy. Letting go of something I’ve wanted my entire adult life isn’t easy. But when I sat in my bosses office physically gasping for breath on the verge of a panic attack, I knew it was time.
Not all dreams are meant to last a lifetime. Walking away is actually walking towards the next dream.
While I don’t know what my next chapter will look like just yet, I am trusting this leap of faith. I’m trusting the universe will catch me.
Last week was my first full week since I walked away. It was hard. It was filled with every emotion. I was heart broken, and I was filled with hope. I did nothing last week. I let myself feel it all. I ran when I needed to. I hugged my boys when I needed comfort. I sat quietly when my heart needed it. I followed my breath. Whatever brought depth and fullness to my breath, I did it.
Just when I needed it most, my sweet friend invited me and a great group of gals to her river house for the weekend. It was a weekend filled with no agendas, lots of laughter, and sunsets on the river. As I got in my car to drive home, I felt the chapter closing. I felt myself letting go of everything I felt about leaving Operation Smile behind.
I’m ending this chapter with nothing but gratitude. I was able to revisit regrets from my youth, and I was able to live out those dreams thanks to Operation Smile. I’ll never have to wonder what-if again.
When I’m ready for the next chapter, I’m now equipped with a newfound strength, a newfound appreciation for my worth, and a stronger sense of my priorities. But for now I’m enjoying today. I’m enjoying my breath. I’m enjoying ever deep and meaningful inhale. I’m enjoying every intentional exhale.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” ~Sylvia Plath
This phrase has left my mouth so many times since the calendar changed to 2016. After all my group runs with the J&A Racing Training Team, I come home filled to the brim because regardless of time each on the clock, each run just feels good. As I sat in the tattoo studio on Tuesday, it felt so good (besides the physical pain) to get a tattoo I’ve wanted since Cole was born. After I leave Evofit, I always wander one block over to smell salty air and to sneak a peek at the rising sun because it just feels good.
I’ve talked to friends who are on the same journey, and every single one of them has used the same phrase when talking about life and choices.
This year is truly of year of filling myself up with what feels good.
As I read the blog of the leader of our training team, he posted 16 goals for 2016. As I read Ryan‘s goals, I found myself thinking – that feels right for this year. Megan jumped on board and posted her goals too, and again, it just felt right. I’m jumping on board the 16 for 16 goal train. I’m making choices based on what feels good
16 Goals in 2016
More of “it just feels good”
Meal Plan! Meal Plan! Meal Plan!
Pack my lunch before I go to bed
Half Marathon PR
Get Chet excited about sleeping in his own bed
Take my boys to Utah
Plan a day for just me and Cole
Mountain Bike More
A new fence
Buy a picnic table
Read more. Less Phone.
Date my hubby more
Sit on the beach one day without children
Reclaim my house – take all those baby toys to goodwill
If something doesn’t create the response “it just feels good” there is a good chance I won’t be doing it this year! Less energy on nonsense, more energy on the good stuff.
“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.” ~Rainer Marie Rilke
Sunday morning I woke up early. I had more miles I wanted to run. Shamrock Half Marathon training/ Northface Endurance Challenge Marathon training is officially underway. Between now and April, I’ll be following up my J&A Racing Training Team Saturday runs with more miles on Sundays, but this Sunday was different. I had received an invite to do something a little more exciting than just logging eight miles.
As I drove towards the boardwalk, it was the first time in along time I let my brain wander towards the cherished finish line. I visualized that final mile. I could feel the strength in my legs. I remembered last year’s celebration as I rounded the corner to cross the finish line on the boardwalk with an unexpected personal best. This year is different though. This year I have expectations. This year my goal is to own the back half of the race course. I’m chasing down my strength this year. I’m ready to let my fire burn.
As I drove towards the oceanfront Sunday morning emotion washed over me as I visualized a finish line with my husband and friends waiting to celebrate the success of this season. While I have a goal for this race, I’m already succeeding. This training cycle is already a success.
After I logged four solo miles while the sun rose, I meet three other ladies who I deeply respect and admire to run four more miles. I received an invited from Jess at The Fit Petite to be part of her blog celebration. To celebrate the birthday of her blog, she brought us all together to #jogandblog.
These ladies are fast. As we ran along the boardwalk, I held on tight. I promised myself I wouldn’t question my ability, and I’d just run. I could have (and six months ago I would have) come up with a million reasons why I don’t belong in this pack. They are fast. They are far less socially awkward then me. I ramble too much. My brain works faster than my mouth. I am way too aware of myself. My legs were already tired from Saturday. The list could go on and on, but on Sunday I never let the list begin. I’m done with that story.
As I held on during our run, something shifted. As we shared stories of why we all run over coffee, something happened. As we talked about priorities, life, and dreams, something formed.
We all had our own unique story, yet we had a collective story to tell. We all are deliberating choosing to be our best to live the fullest life possible. Running is part of that puzzle piece, but it isn’t the whole picture.
I went into this training cycle with one intention. I wanted to feel ownership of my body. I wanted to find my strength. I expected to find it through Evofit and through miles in my running shoes. I never expected to find it through a team. I never expected to find it through friendship.
My greatest success this training cycle has nothing to do with miles or pounds lifted. My success is in these three ladies. It’s is in the J&A Racing training group. It is in the friendships at Evofit. My strength is my connections.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~African proverb
Being part of a team, a pack, a group of genuine friendships has given me more than I can ever imagine. The more I give of myself to all of these amazing people, the more I get in return.
It isn’t my anticipated finish time at shamrock that make me teary and filled with pride. It is the celebration with friends. It is the joint success. It’s knowing that every step of this journey has been supported by hundreds of giving hearts.
What started as a simple conversation in Peru has turned into one of the greatest momentum changes of my life.
Read more about our #blogandjog on their sites too