Courage: the Path to Thriving

I thought 2015 was my year to thrive. I thought my focus would be on thriving, on blooming, on flourishing. I feel myself thriving at work. I focus on thriving in my relationships at home. I desperately want to thrive in my running. But another word keeps finding its way to my heart: courage

The Shamrock Half Marathon is twenty-two days away. Every single time I re-engage with my training, a curve ball happens: snow, lack of sleep, higher intensity at work. A focused training plan constantly gets moved to the back-burner. At the end of each run, I look at my garmin to see my running pace. A pace in the mid-nines doesn’t feel like thriving. I want eight minute miles, but I can not possibly thrive in all the areas of my life right now if I have a strict focus on my running. It’s not the balance I want in my day-to-day. As the days get closer to race weekend, I’ve felt anxiety about my own ability to run.

I have a competitive spirit. I like to thrive. I like to do my best. I like to push myself. I like to feel like I’ve overcome my self doubts. I like for my spirit to win the battle when my head says I can’t. Will I be happy running a race in the mid-nines when I have much bigger (and faster) running dreams?

While I’ve been desperate to thrive in my running, a different word keeps finding me. In order to thrive, I need to have courage: courage to let go of the race clock, courage to not let my success be defined by a finish time, courage to show up and to push myself out of my comfort zone, courage to show up with an open heart, and courage to go in with all my heart no matter the outcome

“Courage, dear heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

Running is never about running for me. Running is about my heart.

Today I ran six miles before our town gets buried by more snow. I was joined on my run by only the sound of my feet as I navigated snow-covered paths, sandy trails, and shoreline. As I ran, I couldn’t get this quote out of my head.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” ~Terence McKenna

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I came to my blog to find it. I wanted to read my own words. I needed to see the story that belonged to this quote. When I found it, I smiled.

One year ago yesterday, I typed the same quote. One year ago yesterday, I was rejected by Operation Smile. I was told no when my heart was screaming yes. I thought my dream job had just slipped away. The lesson that I learned through that whole process is the one I try to live everyday. I will always show up with an open heart. I will always show up with my heart exposed. I will always give my whole heart to everything I do, because there isn’t anything that I want in my life that doesn’t deserve my whole heart.

I have to have courage to trust the process.

In twenty-two days when I show up at the start line, the only thing that matters is keeping my heart exposed. I will push myself. I will find the courage to trust my own strength and my own story. One year ago yesterday when I was told no, I knew without a doubt that I would never give up on my dreams. I refused to let it change my heart.

“There is one thing I won’t let today’s no stop me from doing. I refuse to stop dreaming. I know, without a doubt, that I will leave my finger print on our world. Maybe I’ll never see it. Maybe I’ll never have that dream job that reaches into the forgotten corners of our planet. Maybe I’ll never get the chance to nurture someone back to health. But maybe I will. Just maybe I will.” ~me

Neither my heart or my story care about the time on the race clock. My only goal is to cross the finish line feeling like I’m thriving. My only goal is to finish this race knowing that my running dreams can still come true.

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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!

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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Open

Round and round we ran: 800 repeats on Tuesday evening. It was my first speed workout in a month. My legs weren’t used to the request to go faster. My hips held on tight. Speed work felt foreign. The mental stubbornness to not give in didn’t come naturally. It was an exercise at quieting my brain instead of pushing my body.

This run would have never been a success if I was running solo. My brain’s natural response to pushing my limits on a hot summer night with humidity hanging in the air is to quit. My brain would have won if I wasn’t surrounded by friends who silenced my head. My support system held on for me. I chased them. Stay with them. Stay with them. Hold on.

It was during the fourth 800 that my friend Bridgette said to me, “Open up.” She was offering words of encouragement to help pull me forward. Her words were simple yet they spotlighted my struggle for the season. I had reverted back to old habits. I wasn’t trusting my body. I wasn’t opening my stride. I was timid. I was ridged. I was closed in and guarded. The tightness in my hips was a reflection of my lack of trust in my body. They are a reflection of my lack of trust in myself.

Timidness. Lack of trust. My protective barrier. It creeps in whenever I lose my awareness of myself.

The last month has been full of change. It’s capitulated me out of my comfort zone in the most amazing way.  Yet I’ve apprehensively approached the shift in my daily schedule with fear that it would negatively impact it my family. It hasn’t. I’ve worried that my boys would feel my absences in the one hour I’m now missing in the evening while losing sight that they gained that hour in the morning hours. My new job is stretching me. It’s allowing me to expand into my potential. This is what my boys will feel. At the end of the day, I am full. This is what I want my boys to witness. This is what I want them to learn.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen

I know exactly what I need. Open Heart. Open Stride. These were the words that carried me through 26.2 miles last November. These are the words that carried through a hugely emotional time of my life. Those are the words I’m going to hold on to right now.

I’m bringing my awareness back to myself. I’m trusting the vulnerable spaces of new, the spaces of the unknown, the spaces out of my comfort zone. I’m opening back up. My heart, those tiny whispers I’ve learned to hear, know exactly where I belong. It’s running that allows me to hear them. It’s running that gives me the gift of knowing who I am. Now I have to learn to trust it and to grow into it.

Elizabeth River Run

 

Healing a Bruise

When Chet turned two, I decided I was ready to start exploring what I want to be when I grow up. We are done having children, and I’m currently withering away at my current job. With Chet turning two, I am ready to put him in preschool so he can interact with other kids. I’m also ready to dust off my degrees and return to the work I’m proud of on my resume. There is only one catch, I’m not willing to change jobs just for a change. I want to be invested in my career. I need work that is fulfilling and rewarding.

At almost thirty four years of age, after earning a bachelors and a masters degree, after a divorce, after being a single parent, and after my own version of happily ever after, I know a few things about myself. I have a lot of passion to give. When I love something, I love big. There is no containing the things that make my heart sing. If something is lucky enough to make it on to my list of loves, I give all of myself to it.

When I set up a job interview at Operation Smile, I knew I was all in. It’s already a company I feel passionately about. The mission of the organization falls perfectly into place with my own life mission. I knew that the only way for me to approach the interview process was to allow myself to fall in love with the job. Through the entire process (and it was two long months), I let myself be vulnerable. I allowed myself to envision how perfect this job was for me and for my family. I didn’t hold back. I gave all of myself to the process.

Today I found out I didn’t get the job. They hired an internal candidate.

Disappointing news is never easy. Sad doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about not getting the job. My brain had gone back and forth from the cheesy optimistic “it will be okay” responses to tiptoeing down the path of unhealthy “I suck” self-talk.

Neither one of those thoughts feel productive right now. Of course I know everything works out in the end. I have a loving husband and two awesome kids. I don’t need more than that. I also know I don’t suck. They hired someone internal, and I can’t compete with that.

This leaves me somewhere in the middle of wanting to cry and wanting to pour all of myself into another project. It also leaves me wondering so many questions. If things always works out exactly how they are supposed to, and I firmly believe “nos” happen because a even better yes is waiting for me, then exactly what do I need to learn from this process.

Is my whole hearted approach appropriate for a professional environment?

When I interview for another position, I plan to tackle it the same way. My whole hearted approach is nonnegotiable for me. If if doesn’t fit the company, then the company isn’t right for me.

Do I place too much value on career choice?

This is probably the hardest question to answer. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer. I firmly believe a job should not define your life. I also believe that your life passion should become your career. Both contradict each other.

Why isn’t motherhood enough for me?

This is probably where I am the hardest on myself. Why isn’t raising two amazing boys enough? Why can’t I be satisfied collecting a paycheck and watching my children grow up. Why do I need to leave a bigger impression on our planet? I don’t know why. I have so many amazing mom friends in my life. I admire them all. I see what they do every single day, and I know they all are contributing amazing things to our world. I wish I knew why I needed to do something more.

The no I got from Operation Smile today hurts, but I think it hurts more not knowing exactly where I’m supposed to go from here. This job was perfect. It put a check next to every box. Now I’m left to wonder more about what to do with my unused passion.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” ~Terence McKenna

There is one thing I won’t let today’s no stop me from doing. I refuse to stop dreaming. I know, without a doubt, that I will leave my finger print on our world. Maybe I’ll never see it. Maybe I’ll never have that dream job that reaches into the forgotten corners of our planet. Maybe I’ll never get the chance to nurture someone back to health. But maybe I will. Just maybe I will.

I can be a mother and a wife. I can be a dreamer. I refuse to give up on either one of them. I know without a doubt that I am meant to help heal the bruises on our planet. If my boys are watching, if they ever read this one day, I hope my unwillingness to give up on my dreams gives them the courage to tackle their own. After all, my children are the finger print I will leave on the world.

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I’m Injured.

I’m injured.

Those two (or three) words are hard to say. I’ve avoided them for a year. My hips are acting up. My ankle isn’t happy. My knee is angry right now. I’ve sugar-coated it every way possible.

Sixteen days ago I finally said those two words:

I’m injured.

I took a break from running.

Something positive happens when you label something appropriately. When I finally admitted that I am injured, my mentality shifted too. I quit tiptoeing and waiting. I quit expecting my body to feel better the next day. I quit waiting for a miracle. Living in the space between injury and health is exhausting. It is living in limbo. One foot is in. One foot is out. I was really just waiting for it to get worse. By accepting my injured status, I took the power back both physically and mentally. I put myself all in. It gave me permission to attack recovery instead of waiting to see if I’d heal.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit when injury happens. It is part of running. I demand a lot from my body. When healthy, 40 miles a week can be my normal. Double digit runs are something that happens almost every weekend. Accepting that I’m injured is the easy part. Going from running 25 miles one week to zero miles the next week is the hard part. Somehow writing I’m injured in the blank space makes the zero feel okay. It gives me permission to not run.

Maybe, just maybe, that is the best gift we can give ourselves. We can give ourselves permission to sit out. It’s okay to miss a run. It’s okay to take time to heal. It’s okay to miss a goal race or a goal time. It’s all okay.  At the end of the day, we are our own worst critics. We are human. We have faults and injuries. Putting myself on the injured list has given me permission to enjoy the entire experience. It’s not the success that I am chasing, it is the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my all. Right now giving my all means I need to heal. By sitting out right now, I’m giving all of myself to the entire experience of being a runner.

one mile test run on Tuesday: no better, but no worse

one mile test run on Tuesday: no better, but no worse

Injury Update: I had two appointments this week with my Chiropractor. My ankle muscles are getting stronger, it is just far from stable right now. I’m being treated with active release and graston technique. I’m doing lots of exercises to get things balanced out. Racing Shamrock is no longer my plan, but I’m still hopeful I can take part in the race. Next weeks appointments will help me decide what is best for me. A healthy ankle is my only priority right now.

Welcome it, and Let it Go

We all have them: crappy days that come when they are least expected. I woke up this morning ready to get back into my normal life routine. I have been off from work since last Wednesday. A hiccup up or two occurred in my normal plan, and I found myself in a puddle of tears. I just want to be a stay at home mom.

The overwhelming sense of longing to be home happens in waves. It’s not out of the ordinary since Chet was born. The cycle that follows is always the same too. I cry. I hug and kiss my kids enough times that they start to think something is wrong with me. I question my career choice. Would working be easier if I liked my job? The back and forth debate begins in my head. Is the flexibility that my unfulfilling job provides worth the sacrifice of not having a career I care about?

My logical self knows that if I did have a career I was passionate about, the back and forth debate that goes on in my head would still exist. Is having a career I love worth missing out on all the extras I get to enjoy from having a flexible job?

I cried on my way to my mom’s house like I always do. I cried on the way to work like I always do. I sat at my desk like I always do wishing to be home.

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My third week into my course with Brené Brown on wholehearted living stumped me. We were being asked to identify stressors in our lives. What triggers our stress? When we begin to feel these stressors, how do we numb ourselves? Do I drink too much? Do I hide behind my computer?

I don’t numb. If anything, I feel things too deeply. I dive right into my feelings. I splash around in them. I make sure everyone around me gets wet from my feelings too. I do not numb.

I stared at my blank journal page. I watched and rewatched the class videos. I discussed it with a friend. Then it hit me.

I may not use things to numb myself, but I do detach myself from the things I love to avoid feeling good. I sit in my sorrow. I avoid all things that could possibly make me feel better. I quit engaging with the world.

Journal Work - The bubble I create and the world I avoid

Journal Work – The bubble I create and the world I avoid

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While I sat at my desk feeling overwhelmingly sad this morning, I knew I had a choice. I could sit here and feel my sadness. I could sit in it. I could stare at our family budget to confirm that my income is needed. I could balance our check book to reconfirm that my income is needed. I could google for jobs that would inspire me. I could stare at pictures of both my boys and long to be home. This is what I do. I detach, and I am really good at feeling the sadness.

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My Tuesday night yin yoga class began with a reading:

The Guest House

by Jelauddin Rumi

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

These words have followed me since I sat in that yoga class. I’ve welcomed my feelings. I felt each and every single one of them. I didn’t shy away from sadness. I embraced comfort. I opened my arms to happiness. I didn’t overthink the feelings. I allowed them to arrive.

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When sadness showed up this morning, I reminded myself to welcome the feelings. I cried the tears I was holding onto inside of me.

But then I held on to them.

I have to learn that once I welcome these feelings, I also have to let them go. They are a guest in my house. They are meant to pass through. The feelings aren’t meant to linger.

Instead of sitting at my computer and reworking budgets and balancing checks and job searching, I forced myself out of my detached bubble. I reengaged with my real world. I told my friends I was in a funk. I welcomed chatter with coworkers. I forced myself to spend my break at work on week five of my Brené Brown course.

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These are the words I found when I started the week 5 video:

“When you have a crap day, and you are thinking I have to be grateful for today, I don’t feel grateful today. Here is a huge distinction that I want to make: there is a difference between feeling grateful and practicing gratitude. It’s during our darkest times when we don’t feel gratitude that practicing it makes a difference.” ~Brené Brown

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I woke up today feeling very sad. I felt overwhelmed. I felt cheated. I had a moment where I didn’t feel grateful for life because I just want to stay home with my boys. I’m welcoming the sadness. It is okay to feel sad, but I also choosing gratitude. I had five amazing days home with my kids. It was filled with walks, runs, brownie making, movie watching, Christmas decorating, outdoor play, and lots of other joys.

“Joy is additive. When we practice gratitude, we fill our joy reserve” ~ Brené Brown

The sadness will come, and it will always be welcomed, but I also have to let it go. Holding on to it casts shadows on all the joy that life holds.

Brothers making (or eating) brownies

Brothers making (or eating) brownies