Plotting my Course

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, my thoughts wander to my running for the next day. Where should I run? My neighborhood, the park, the boardwalk, along the bay? The sunrise draws me to the beach. The sunset keeps me in my neighborhood. It’s a simple choice, but it’s a choice that brings motivation to my run.

Thursdays Tempo Run in Harper’s Ferry, WV

Saturday night I laid in bed wondering where my run would take me Sunday morning. I had 14 miles to tackle yet again. I decided to run the same route as last week. It allows me to leave my water bottle at home, I have bathrooms available if needed, and it touches so many portions of Virginia Beach that I love.

Sunday morning did not go as planned. Chet wet the bed. He woke up with a fever. Christian and I let the little things bother us both. I left the house later than I hoped, and the sun was already high in the sky. One mile in I let the excitement of Chicago pull me into my run. Two miles in I let the excitement of the boardwalk pull me forward. At mile 3, my brain shut down. I ran straight into a wall of heat and instantly felt sick. It was too much.

Some times life is too much.

I considered running forward. I ran a few blocks and my stomach was turning. My head shut down. I just didn’t have it in me to push forward. I turned around, fell apart for a few miles, picked myself back up, and finished my run. It was enough for that Sunday.

In the midst of my falling apart and picking myself back up, it all felt familiar. I’ve travelled this road before. When I trained for the Richmond Marathon in 2013, I hit a road block at this same place.

I’ve plotted this course before.

I’m rereading my own words. I’m rereading every post I wrote during my training cycle for Richmond. I already know what I need.

Shine On: I give myself permission to live with a light heart.

Redefining Perfect: Race day may not be perfect, but I can make it perfect for me. My marriage with my husband is real. It’s not perfect. We argue. We nag. We forgot that our relationship is perfect for us, but he loves me better than anyone and I absolutely adore him. Motherhood is hard. I forget to sign homework papers. I forget to put money into lunch accounts. I count down the minutes until bedtime. My running is never perfect. Runs rarely go according to plan, but I’ve learned to run what my body is asking for on every single run.

(Fill in the blank) HeartWhen I embrace each day from this place of self acceptance, there isn’t a need to guard my heart. I don’t need the armor anymore.

Reaching for Richmond: I’m drawing a heart on my hand on race day to remind me that this race is about running from my heart. It’s about lifting myself up during the hard miles. It’s about being my own cheerleader. It’s about running each mile. I won’t be chasing a pace on my garmin or on the finish line clock. I’m not even sure I want my pace showing on race day. I know what I’m capable of running when I allow my body to run. I know when I’m giving it everything I’ve got. 

As I talked to Jerry today, he brought my perspective back to a place of gratitude. He was quick to remind me that I’m not running for Chicago. I’m not running for the next marathon or the marathon after that one. I’m running to bring out the best in myself. On Saturday night’s when I’m plotting my course for the run the next day, I’m not plotting the course to a finish line. I’m embracing where I’m at. I’m celebrating the process.

Potomac River. Floated down on Wednesday. Ran beside on Thursday.

Richmond has made me stronger for Chicago, and Chicago will make me stronger for where ever my course takes me.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow I’ll be tackling 12×400 repeats while the sunrises next to me.

82 days until Chicago!

Perhaps plotting my course has nothing to do with plotting at all - perhaps it is all about navigating the current.

Perhaps plotting my course has nothing to do with plotting at all – perhaps it is all about navigating the current.

Grow into it, still growing. 

A year ago I realized the importance of growth, the comfort of growth, the necessity of growing.

Grow into it.

It’s been almost a year since I changed jobs. It’s been almost a year since we enrolled Chet in school. It’s been almost a year since our family learned to adapted to so many new changes. During that time I found myself me    ntally coaching myself through most life moments.

Grow into it.

Very little has changed since last May, yet everything is different. I find comfort in the challenges of my job. I cherish the time Chet spends thriving in his school. Our family has gained so much since last year.

Grow into it.

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View from my Run

 

Yet we are still growing. I find myself adjusting to a child maturing into middle school. He’s growing and stretching. Finding comfort in this middle stage of development is a challenge. He’s loving and caring one moment. He’s withdrawn and abrasive the next moment. I want to whisper in his ear grow into it, but I know it’s me that needs to grow. I need to grow as his mother to support him.

Grow into it.

Teenage years and toddler years are a lot to manage. At the end of most days, it my connection to Christian that becomes neglected. Many discusses have ended with the conclusion that this is a phase in our relationship that we have to trust, that we have to embrace and that we have to grow through. The moments in life when our children need us most don’t last forever, so we are trusting the growth. We are focusing on small moments for just us. We are growing.

Grow into it.

A year ago I asked my husband and my children to trust me, to trust that the change I was making would make me a better wife and mother. They held my hand and cheered me on. Now it’s my turn. Nicole at My Fit Family wrote of her marriage, and it has inspired me ever since.

“Marriage is about falling into pace with each other.  When one person chooses to grow, the other person cannot be left behind.  Feelings of jealousy have no place in our hearts towards each other.

Sometimes, people grow.  And because we are individuals, we can’t force one person to be ready to grow with the other at the same time.  But here is what I’ve learned–from my own marriage of 10 years, seeing my own parents marriage of 39 years, my grandparents marriage of 64 years: When your partner grows, you must pace along with them.  Be an encourager and supportive–not bitter or resentful.

Because your turn will come.  And your partner may be the one that is holding back–and you will need his support.  It’s almost as if the person who is growing has no choice but to grow and the other person must be the supporter and encourager.  Being left behind will cause too big of a separation.  A great divide–and if you aren’t careful, it may never be filled–it may be too difficult to build the bridge to connect the two of you.”

It’s now my turn to watch my husband flourish, to pace beside him, and to let him grow. This year belongs to him.

Grow into it. 

It has been a year since I used these three simple words to motivate myself. It has been a years since I relied on these three simple words to anchor me in my own growth. A year later I know this: growing isn’t something to be feared. It isn’t something to resist. It is something to be embraced, celebrated and encouraged. Growth is the direction I am headed.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” ~Glenda Cloud

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View from my Run

 

 

Celebrating 35

For the first time, I’m celebrating a birthday that feels like a real bench mark in life. 35 feels established (a very nice word for old). It feels significant. So many of life’s big moments are behind me: happily married, full house, satisfying career, happy home, and satisfied with my education level. There are no more “what’s next?” moments on my life plan because what is next is simple. What is next is simple enjoy this life I’ve created for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my voice this year in nearly every facet of my life. I’m writing my own story. I taking ownership of every step I’ve taken. I’m finding that the stronger I become in owning my own story, the more I have to offer those around me.  Finding peace in the memoir of my life has changed my perception of the world.

Understanding my story makes me want to know your story. I want to know the story of the person running by me on the trails. I want to know the story of the mother in line behind me at target. I want to know the story of the mother half way around the world who brings her child to our surgery site. Our stories are all so unique and all the same.

I find myself wondering how much compassion we would give if we all knew each other’s stories. Would we get mad at the man who accidentally cut us off in traffic if we knew what he was feeling? Would we get mad at the cashier who moved a little too slow if we knew what was going on in her home? Would we demand so much from those around us if we knew what they had been through? Perhaps its age or perhaps it’s my exposure to just how fragile life and love truly is this year that makes me want to embrace the world more. We all experience heart ache. We all experience loss. We all are doing our best to live our best possible life. Life is rarely easy, but there is so much magic in living.

“Today is your magic moment. Whatever you do will be there for the rest of our lives. We can’t relive it, so give it all today.” ~Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co Founder of Operation Smile

This year I will use my voice. This year I’ll tell my story. This year I will remember that we all have our own story, our own experiences, that are bigger than any one moment. This year I will embrace the magic of living.

 

The perfect gift from my parents: a yellow bench for our backyard

 

 

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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In the Process

I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.

There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.

This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.

Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.

I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.

When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.

 

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Collide

“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.” ~Ram Dass

Last Friday after a week-long global planning conference that I organized and attended for Operation Smile, Christian and I drove to Operation Smile’s founders’ home for a final dinner celebration. As we drove, the pattern of turns was familiar. It was a well-worn path in my memory: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. The road to their house was my running route in college. Nearly every day I ran by their house.

I remember the moment well, the moment I abandoned myself during my junior year of college. I wanted nothing more than to be free: free from my past, free from my story, free from the life I had lived up until that point. I wanted to rid myself everything and everyone. I just wanted to be free.

I used to wish I could go back to the moment. I used to wish I could choose differently. I use to wonder what would my life look like if I chose a different path. What if I didn’t get married my senior year? What if I didn’t move to Alabama? What if I didn’t have a baby at 24? What if I could go back and instill all of the lessons I’ve learned since than inside my heart and inside my head. The what ifs have all dissolved away. I no longer want to hold my twenty-one year old self closely. I know longer wish I could whisper in my own ear instilling the lessons I’ve learned in the fourteen years that have followed.

As we drove that familiar running route, I felt myself colliding with my past. I felt the desperation in each run during my final years in college. I felt the rush of independence I used to feel as a plowed down a path in quest of my own freedom. I felt it all, and as I pulled into the driveway and walked in the front door of a place that now feels like home, I held all those emotions close to my heart.

There are moments in life when I collided with myself. These magical moments happen when I’m living from my heart. It happens when who I am as a person is perfectly in sync with my actions. There are the big moments: falling in love and child-birth.  And there are small moments: finish lines, observing my children coming into their own, conversations with best friends, and work dinner celebrations.

This spring I’ll be boarding a plane with my passport in hand. An Operation Smile mission will be my final destination. When I used to ask myself “what-if” my mind always wandered down a road that lead to this place. Instead of whispering in the ear of my twenty-one year old self, I want to remind myself every single day to trust: to trust my choices, to trust my intentions, and to trust my heart. I’ve been on the right path the whole time: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. It’s been waiting for me all along.

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Seeking. Striving. Thriving.

A year ago I posted these words on social media. (Timehop is my favorite app.)

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

I posted these words after spending a weekend with my Aunt Beth, a weekend spent in celebration of the memory of my Aunt Amy. These words embodied how she lived her life, and they are words that echoed into my soul this morning on my run. My heart whispered, “and I am thriving too!” as I hit the unmarked trail a half mile into my route.

The trail is one of the hardest trails to run in the park. There is a lot of climbing (for us folks who live at sea level). Because it is an unmarked trail, it isn’t maintained by the park. Trees have fallen. Areas have been washed away by the rain. It’s quiet, secluded and challenging. My miles are always slow. I normally walk up some of the climbs. Today I had one intention for my run: Thrive. I don’t need to walk. I just need to dig into the run.

My dirty little running secret is that negative self talk has creeped into my head. I’ve convinced myself that I need to walk on short runs. I’ve convinced myself that because my running pace isn’t where it was or where I want it to be, I’m not strong. Sometime between last summer and today, I’ve beat myself up at some point on a run. Today was different. Perhaps it was because I was defeated by a spin class this week, but I didn’t quit. Perhaps it was the release of so many emotions I felt after that spin class. Something shifted. I refused to be mentally defeated today. I became my own advocate on today’s run.

It’s okay for it to be hard. The hard won’t last.

Focus on the step in front of you. Quit looking for the finish. You can take step after step after step.

All of a sudden hard was no longer my enemy. It was something I wanted to get through. This is when my heart opened up. I understood. I push through the hard, and I carry my struggle into the down hills and into the flat sections. I carry defeat with me.

Today was different. I allowed myself to open my stride. I allowed myself to enjoy the easy sections. I let go of all the struggle. Today I thrived. Today I trusted my run.

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Two years ago I ran with my running coach and his team, Bernard Distance Project, and during every run he would remind me of the same thing. One single mile wasn’t an indicator for my entire run. Just because mile 3 was a struggle didn’t mean the rest of my run would be hard. I had to trust the ebb and flow of running. I had to exist in the moment. I had to give what I could give in that moment.

Today I remembered the lesson he taught me. Today I ran in the moment.

While this makes today’s run extra sweet, I’m more grateful for the lesson. This isn’t just a running lesson for me. This is a life lesson. I have to live each moment. I have to get through the hard stuff, but then I have to let it go. I can’t bring the heartache, the stress, and the struggle with me. It’s okay to leave it behind. Just like running, no single moment is an indicator of what is to come. It’s about existing in each moment.

I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart. I am thriving.

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