Living the Layers: Approaching Change

In one week, I am going back to work. After taking my time to find the right team, the right role, and the right environment for both my family and myself, a few weeks ago I accepted a job offer from Eastern Virginia Medical School for the role of Donor Relations Specialist. Everything feels right. 

As any type of change approaches, I can started to feel shaky in my footing. I worry about loosing myself, my passions, and my priorities as something new is introduced to my life. Change brings growing pains. Change brings discomfort.

 “The ego says ‘I shouldn’t have to suffer,’ and that thought makes you suffer more. It is a distortion of the truth, which is always paradoxical. The truth is that you need to say yes to suffering before you can transcend it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

When I read this quote for the first time, I immediately thought of my running. This is what I try to accomplish every time I attach a race bib to my shirt. Can I transcend the suffering? 

To grow into my potential, I know I need to push through discomfort. I need to stay rooted in myself to find success at the finish line. 

Running and life always mirror each other. This quote doesn’t just apply to racing. It applies to living. 

As my family drove home today from an amazing little getaway, the realization that I’m going back to work in one week hit me. The familiar feeling of nerves and anxiety surfaced. Familiar habits presented themselves. 

My brain works in compartments. It often times feels like my mind and my emotions are a dresser – each dresser drawer careful containing one aspect of my life: mother, wife, employee, runner, athlete, writer, and friend. If more than one dresser drawer is pulled out, the world can feel overwhelming. I panic. I scramble to find order and control. In one week, I’ll be pulling out the employee drawer. 

I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to absorb. A lot of my time and energy will be given to defining this new role in my life. My natural tendency is to neglect the other aspects of my life – to keep the other drawers neatly tucked away until I organize the employee drawer. 

This tendency makes me feel safe. It helps me feel like I’m in control. But it leaves me unfilled. It leaves my life off balance. 

The truth is I need to say yes to suffering so I can transcend it. 

During our car ride home, I messaged back and forth with my good friend Heidi. Our brains are wired the same way, so I know she always understands what I’m trying to say. How do we embrace the suffering? How do we transcend? 

Maybe, just maybe, the trick is to let it get crazy. Maybe, just maybe, I need to embrace the crazy. Maybe, just maybe, the crazy isn’t really crazy at all. The crazy is everything I love. The crazy is what defines me. The crazy is the pieces of living that I love. 

What do I need in my daily life to be the best version of me? With my roots firmly in place what do I need to layer in to help me transcend life. 

my roots and my layers

On a daily basis, I need to commit to my roots. Then I need to add layers.
Right now I need to focus on my roots and living the layers. 

In many ways this is what I (we) have always done. From the beginning of this blog, Heidi and I have tackled 40 day goals together. We have set annual intentions. Living the layers is just another evolution of what has always helped me live my life. 

in Gettysburg

It may feel chaotic. It may hurt. But by pushing through, by embrace the discomfort of change, I’ll arrive at my finish line knowing I transcended this new beginning. Every day I will know I’m striving to be the best version of myself. 

Today, you have the opportunity to transcend from a disempowered mindset of existence to an empowered reality of purpose-driven living. Today is a new day that has been handed to you for shaping. You have the tools, now get out there and create a masterpiece.” ~Steve Maraboli

Standing on the Shoreline

Shortly after the sun rose, the boys made their way up the stairs to enjoy breakfast with an ocean view. Beach play immediately followed. As our caravan of kids made their way to the crashing waves, one kid was left behind. 


Four is hard. Four is no longer a baby, but it isn’t quite a child. 

In the pack of four kids, Chet is the only one who can’t swim. He is the only one was left on the shoreline watching waves as the other three kids caught waves. 

Four is hard. 

The first three days on the beach, the waves were aggressive. The shore break churned up the sand. Chet wasn’t ready to make his way past the crashing waves, but he wanted to be included in the fun. 

Four is hard. 

Digging holes and chasing crabs kept him happy for a moment, but his eyes kept gazing to the ocean. He wanted to be with the big kids. 

Four is hard. 

Some mornings we made our way back to the beach house. Some mornings we watched the waves from the deck while eating goldfish. 

On the third day, I asked his brother to pause for a moment before swimming out into the ocean. Maybe he could spend a few minutes with Chet jumping waves before he caught waves of his own. This changed the rest of the day on the beach. Chet didn’t feel left out or alone. 

On the forth day When Chet woke up, he said he was ready to go home. He didn’t want to go to the beach. He didn’t want to stand on the shore line for another day. But the current had changed. The waves were gentle. The water was glassy. When he realized he could surf too, his eyes revealed his happiness. It was his chance to be one of the kids. 


As I watched my boys play during our beach vacation, I couldn’t help but wonder. How many times are we all the four year old stuck on the shore? How many times do we need someone to stand beside us because we aren’t ready just yet to catch our own wave? How many times do we miss the perfect wave because the days before left us disappointed? 

If parenting is teaching me one thing over and over again, it is that being stuck in the middle is one of the hardest places to be. 

Four is hard. 

The middle is hard. 

Whether we are stuck on the middle of the mountain or on the shore line, the lesson is the same. To truly live life, you have to embrace the messy middle. Beginning may be the hardest step and the finish line may be the moment of shining success, but the middle holds the magic. The middle takes work. The middle takes commitment. The middle produces results. 

“The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens. ~Brene Brown

Parenting these two vastly different and equally awe-inspiring boys of mine is a continuous test of the middle. 

Exploring my life, constantly reaching for my potential, is a continuous test of the middle. 

Four days with my boys and our dear friends in the Outer Banks was the perfect reminder of the lessons my heart needs while living in the middle. This chapter of my life is closing. In 18 days I will enter a new chapter. I will begin a new career. I will ask my family to join me in this journey. 

We will find ourselves in the middle, and we will know that we are living. Some days we may watch the waves crash  along the shore, but some times we get the chance to ride the wave. No matter what, we have to keep showing up while standing besides each other while looking for the perfect conditions. 

Guilt or Gratitude

By now we have all got used to the stories of hate and violence that fill the nightly news and our newsfeed. 

It’s heartbreaking. It’s unsettling. 

As I watched the news last night, I saw the video of an innocent man being shot by a police officer. I had been avoiding this video because I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to feel it. Then I heard the voice of a young girl telling her mom it was going to be okay. Tears openly fell down my face. 

Could it be me? Could I be the woman in the car? Could that be my husband and my child? 

I turned off the news to head to dinner with two of my favorite guys. Taking advantage of a rare night with just Christian and Cole, we had dinner on the water and stayed up until midnight playing monopoly. 

But it could have been me in the car. It could have been my husband and my child. 

It wasn’t me. I’ve experienced hate. I’ve been victimized. But it has never touched my children. How lucky am I that on a 100 degree day I can sit by the water with the breeze keeping me cool while I sip on a summer drink. 


I started to feel guilty. Should I be endulging in such silly things when people are grieving? 

I have a choice to make. I can choose guilt or I can choose gratitude. The magnitude of the tiny moment isn’t lost on me. 

This morning more hate filled the news. Police officers lost their lives. Their wives and their children are grieving. 

My biggest concern right now is can I run faster at my next race. This feels trivial. This feels self endulgant. 

Again I can choose guilt or I can choose gratitude. 

In moments of strength, in moments of grace, I can choose gratitude. I can choose to continue to grow. Running faster at my next race has nothing to do with running faster. It has everything to do with exploring my potential as a human. It is about overcoming pain and pushing through discomfort. It’s about conquering doubt and self-hate. 

It’s the complete opposite of self-endulgant. It’s living. 

One day it could be me. One day tragedy can show up on my door. 

We all need something that roots us to our world. We all need something that shows us our strength and our potential. For me it’s running. It’s raising boys to be compassionate loving men. It’s enjoying dinner as a family. It’s playing monopoly. It’s running my next race. 

Today I’m choosing gratitude over guilt. I’m choosing to feel alive. 

But I’m not settling. I’ve had enough of the hate and the fear and the violence. My heart is searching for a way to ensure everyone can also make the same choice to feel alive. Where can I lend my voice? Where can I give my heart? What can I do to bring about change? This is an answer I can’t seem to find. 

My Gift from the Sea 

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.” ~Anne Morrow Lindenberg

How many times can I return to the same book? Every summer Gifts from the Sea calls my name.  Some summer I read the entire thing. Some summers I read a chapter or two. Every summer I read it. 

This summer has been special. This summer I am home with my boys. I’ve been the beach Mrs. Lindenberg so gracefully describes. I’ve lied empty, open and choiceless. The sea hasn’t left me disappointed yet. 

I’ve received so many gifts from the sea, and not one of the gifts has been tangible. 

I’ve been gifted time -time for myself, time for my family. 

I’ve been gifted strength – physical strength and emotional strength. 

In this moment of pause, I’ve had time to process one of the deepest scars of my life. 

I’ve gained a clear vision of what I want and what I’m willing to welcome into my life. 

While I cherish all the gifts I’ve been given, the greatest gift is one I’m giving myself. I’m letting myself off the hook. Mom-guilt is something I’ve always carried. 

If I didn’t work, my house would be less cluttered. Our home would feel less stressful. 

If I didn’t work, Chet would have a better bedtime routine. 

If I didn’t work, I could shower Cole with the one on one attention he craves. 

If I didn’t work, I’d have more of myself to give to my marriage. 

If I didn’t work…

The list was endless. 

During this moment of pause, I’ve realized that none of that changes based on my employment status. 

Working or not, I’m the exact same mom. Working or not, I’m the exact same wife. Working or not, I am exactly me. 

Perhaps the greatest gift is knowing that being a working mom or a stay at home mom doesn’t change who I am. What influences my ability to give to everything I love is how well I take care of myself. Boundaries are important. Environment is important. As I begin to transition back to being a working mom, I now know how important it is for me to continue to hold on to the gifts I’ve been given. 

Taking time to care for myself is important. Taking time to care for my family always happens. 

My journey to continually find my strength is one I cherish. I’m holding on to it tightly. 

Healing is a process. 

Having a deep sense of what I’m willing to give myself to will always guide me to where I belong. 

And the mom guilt, it’s no longer welcome. It’s the one thing that holds me back. My boys are loved. My home is my refuge. 

“I want first of all… to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact–to borrow from the language of the saints–to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and inward man be one.” I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.” ~Anne Morrow Lindenbergh 

Soon this new chapter will begin. As I begin to navigate this new space, the best gift I can give to other is to take care of myself. 

This next chapter is going to be a good one. It is my gift from the sea. 

Chasing dreams forward

“I knew I was going to fall short of greatness. So I had to rewrite the story of what greatness was. I had to figure out how to measure success differently. And I also had to figure out what purpose dreams served, if they served them at all. Maybe part of what, you know, was getting in my way was those very dreams. Don’t Let your dreams ruin your life. … The truth that rose up at my humblest, lowest moment was basically that I had to write a book. And that was it. … I had to surrender to the idea of my own mediocrity.”~Cheryl Strayed 

I listened to Cheryl Strayed give a talk on how her dreams could have ruined her life. Her words etched themselves into my heart. 

This isn’t the first time it has happened. Three years ago I read a collection of letters from her advice column, and her words have never left me. Lately I’ve been thinking about them a lot. 

All those what-ifs, all those unfulfilled dreams, all those aspirations from my youth, where do they go when they are left hanging in space. 

“I suppose this is what I meant when I wrote what I did, sweet pea, about how it is we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there…grateful for the smallest things.” ~Cheryl Strayed

The last five months have been some of the most restorative months of my life. After years of chasing a dream I held so close to my heart and choosing to let it go, I’ve come face to face with those what-ifs, those dreams and those aspirations. 

I’ve run a marathon through my hometown. I sat in a room full of people who are single handledly making a global impact on healthcare at a conference down the street from the hospital I was born. I flew to Peru. I watch hundreds of lives change on an operating table. I visited sacred temples. I trusted strangers to guide me down unmarked trails. I lived the dream I wished I had always chased when I was twenty one. 

And then I trusted myself. I trusted my heart. I trusted my thirty six years of living. My miracles will never be found by chasing a dream backwards. I let it all go. 

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” ~Cheryl Strayed

Life has a way of ebbing and flowing. Everything we need finds us when the cycle is right. It also leaves when it no longer serves our purpose. 

Today I’m standing on my shore line confident that it belongs to me and confident that it is mine to live. The tide is bringing me everything I need right now. 

I’m not chasing the dreams that are behind me. 

I’m chasing the dreams that are in front of me. 

I’m letting the dreams come to me. 

I’m surrendering to this amazing life I live. 

I’m here on my shoreline grateful for it all. 

(Watch Cheryl Strayed’s talk HERE)

Focused and Free, Shamrock Half Marathon 2016 

In a million ways yesterday was a perfect race. I ran to my potential based on what race day had to offer.  I felt strong and engaged. Mentally I found my sweet spot. 

In one way yesterday’s race fell a little flat. The race clock doesn’t match my potential. 

The story of the race clock goes back long before this race. My quest for a sub 2 hour half marathon started two and a half years ago. At the crawlin crab half marathon in 2013 (Read it here). I lined up ready to break two hours. I failed miserably. When my miles started to fall off pace a few miles into the race, I threw in the towel. I quit, and I finished the race feeling miserable about my ability. 

My second focused attempt at breaking two hours was at the Flying Pirate Half Marathon (Read it here), I showed up more than ready. Again I failed miserably. When my paces fell off, I gave up on the race. I gave up on myself. 

A few injuries, a few marathons, and a few life changes have happened over the last two and a half years, but the one thing that has remained consistent was my quest for sub 2. My training runs resulted in sub 2 13.1 miles, but it’s never translated to race day. This year felt like a no brainer. I showed up at the start line with three goals in my head:

A Goal: 8:xx pace overall 

B Goal: Sub 2 

C Goal: Do not give up on my race. 

For most, the C goal would have been a PR. For most there would be a drastic difference between Goal B and C but for me, it’s what I needed. My head tends to be all or nothing. I knew if I saw sub 2 fading away, my biggest challenge would be to keep my head in the game. Could I fight for a finish that had nothing to do with the time clock? 

Sunday delivered a day that was the perfect test of my strength. A Nor’easter by the name of Winter Storm Regis showed up on the first day of spring. It poured until about half way into the race. The winds fought back with gusts averaging 35mph. This was the day we were given to run, and I embraced it. Everyone was running the same race. 

I started the race with a few of the runners from our training team and the 2 hour pacers. For the first 4 miles I sat comfortably at the back of the pack (note to self: race day pace groups are not for me). There was way too much nervous energy and anticipation in the large pace group for me to feel comfortable settling into my own run. I could feel everyone’s emotions but my own. 

8:56, 9:18, 9:14, 9:16

By mile 5 I knew I needed to let the group go. I was using too much energy to stay attached to their pacing signs. I also needed to adjust my sock since my foot had started to bleed. I used the waterstop to adjust both my sock and my place on the race course. 

9:49

I let the pacers go knowing they would come back to me when the wind was at my back. I kept running north embracing the wind, and I finally felt myself mentally settle. 

9:19

Fort story can be a beast. The winds blow hard, and there were many times I felt myself stumble. I focused on the little things for the next three miles. Get to the water stop. Find the lighthouse. Get off the base. Go see my husband. 

9:20

9:34

9:44

I didn’t look at my watch once during the race for many reasons, but I knew this race was a race that wouldn’t be defined by the race clock. I knew I needed to focus on my C Goal. I needed to fight for my finish regardless of time. I needed to fight just for me. 

As I made the turn back on to Atlantic Avenue, I knew Christian would be there. Having just mentally conquered the hardest part of the course, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was proud of me. I knew at this point the 2 hour group wasn’t coming back to me. No excuses. No reasons to quit. I arrived to Christian a puddle of tears. I mumbled a quick “I’m okay,” and I kept running. He biked beside me for a block or two. He updated me on my friends. I then sent him on his way to the final turn. I needed to own my mental space on this run. I needed this race to belong to me. 

9:09

9:36

10:13 

I ran as fast as my legs would let. After a long stretch of focusing on one block at a time, I made it to the boardwalk. The finish line was waiting for me. 

Focused and free, I fully embraced the last mile of this race. As the finish line got closer and closer, my sweet friend Catrina popped out with open arms ready to support me. It was the best surprise of the day, and I welcomed a congratulatory embrace. 

Without a doubt, I had just finished one of my best mental races. 

Official finish time – 2:04:03

“Ask nothing from your running, and you’ll get more than you ever imagined!” ~Christophet McDougall

  

Take a Leap

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.

You were born with wings.

You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.

Learn to use them and fly.” ~Rumi

   

Flying through the fog

So far this leap year hasn’t disappointed! 

 

Safety Net

“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. 

Home. 

Engagement. 

Safety. 

Support. 

Love. 

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. 

Utah. 

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. 

 

My facial expersion: fear and relief
 
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.”

~Mary Oliver

This journey has been messy and inspiring. It’s been confusing and reassuring. It’s reminded me of everything I already know. 

It’s time to start living it. 

  

Finding Magic

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. 

 

Every Saturday (and every day) i know i they are there for me
 
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. 

 

Conquering miles and fun
 
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. 

Wednesday’s 8 miler: literally stuck in the middle of no where

Saturday’s run: 12 miles at a 9:30ish pace (my garmin turned off in the middle somewhere)