Go Dance.

My dance instructor thinks I’m a complete idiot. I think he does, anyway. In fact, I’m so confident that he does that I would bet Bread and Butter on it.

I’m taking swing and two-step lessons right now. I started one month ago and have taken eight group classes and three private lessons. There’s a lot I can do now that I couldn’t do four weeks ago. I can do turns and spins. I can get into and out of what they call a “shadow” position. I can modify my three-step swing movements into a jitterbug. I’ve learned a lot of mechanics, but I’m not terribly smooth at them because I have no balance. I have no rhythm either, but my instructor tells me that I don’t have to have rhythm. I only have to worry about the lead’s rhythm. Balance, on the other hand, is my responsibility.

So tonight, we worked on balance, which meant we spent much of the hour doing “simple” pivot turns down the dance floor. My instructor is incredibly graceful at them. Me? Not so much. I can’t keep straight which foot my weight is supposed to be on and which direction I’m supposed to turn. I kept having to ask.  Our conversations went much like this:

Taline: So which foot am I supposed to be on?

Instructor: The Left.

Taline: Which way am I winding up?

Instructor: To the Left.

Taline: So I’m turning to the right?

Instructor: Yes, to the right, over the right shoulder.

Taline: So what we’re doing now is the opposite of what we just did?

Instructor: No. It’s exactly what we just did. It’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last half hour.

Oy. What am I doing? Why am I putting myself through this dance business? Why am I subjecting myself to the embarrassment and subjecting my instructor to the torture of dealing with a complete incompetent on the dance floor?

Because I have to. I have got to get more comfortable in my own skin and learning to dance is the only PG rated way I can think of to do that.

I remembering being a kid and taking tennis lessons from a coach who didn’t understand me one bit. One night, Jack and I were working on my serve, and he demonstrated what he wanted without tossing the ball and without actually striking anything. He just demonstrated the motion. Then he told me to show him the motion he’d just shown me.  I stood there for at least a half hour refusing to pretend to serve, and he got more and more frustrated with me with each passing minute. What he was asking me to do was quite simple. But I couldn’t do it.  What Jack didn’t understand was that I wasn’t comfortable enough in my own skin to mimic a motion with my body while he watched.

That’s what dance feels like to me. Sober, I don’t feel the music, and my movements feel artificial and forced. So it’s hard for me. Anytime there’s dance involved in a social setting, I spend much of my time sitting on the sidelines while the person I’m with gets more and more frustrated with each passing minute.

That needs to change. I want that to change. So I’m taking lessons, and I will get comfortable on a dance floor. I will get comfortable in my own skin. It might take me months or years. It will most certainly take a ridiculous amount of patience on my poor instructor’s part. But I will get it eventually. I know that because I’m an Ironman, which means that I don’t quit and that anything is possible.  And maybe I’ll even manage to convince my instructor that I’m not the idiot I initially appeared to be.

Back in the Pool.

In England and Germany, I ran almost every day. I didn’t run the day I landed, and I didn’t run the day we ventured to Heidelberg. But every other day, I ran, always in one beautiful park or another.

Coming home, it’s been nice to get some variety back in my training and, in particular, to get back in the pool. On Friday and then again today I swam outdoors at my gym. Today, I was fast. I did some sets of 300s, pushing hard for 100 in each set and hitting good numbers for me – 1:49, 1:48, 1:50 and 1:50. Two weeks ago, when I did a similar set, my times were 1:57, 1:53 and 1:56. I’m happy to see that I’m finding my feel in the water, but I know I still have lots of work to do.

Years ago, when I was swimming at the Courtyard at least five days a week as part of a Masters program, I got really fast. I was doing 10 100s on a 90 second interval. I remember doing that exact set on my birthday one year. It was tough, but I did it. Right now, I’m certain that I couldn’t hit even one 90 second 100. I’d love to see my times consistently drop down in the 1:40s and then maybe the 1:30s. I’m feeling ambitious.

But, for me, swimming isn’t necessarily about being fast. I love swimming and even swimming alone because I love the sound of the water. It’s not silence but it’s quiet and soothing. I’ve enjoyed times when I’ve had people to swim with and effectively race against. But I love a solo swim in a way that I don’t a solo run. I especially love swimming alone in the outdoors with the sun on my back under a blue, blue sky. It’s delightful.

Swimming also makes me a good kind of hungry. One of my favorite forgotten traditions is leaving work around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, picking up someone whose company I enjoy, going to Deep Eddy for a swim, showering in its outdoor facility, and then having a big meal at Magnolia Cafe just up the road from the pool. I enjoyed everything about those nights – the cold of the water, the thrill of racing, the openness of the sky above me while I swam and again while I showered, the sweetness of the company, and the food that I ate with no guilt. I haven’t done that in quite some time, but I have good memories of those nights. Really good memories.

Deep Eddy was closed for a while, but it’s open again. I haven’t been back since it re-opened some time ago, but I’m going to have to go back soon. That’s another pool that I am ready to get back into.

The Way, Way Back.

I haven’t written since coming home from England and Germany where I spent time with my extended family, some of whom I’d never met. I’ve had a lot rolling around in my mind about the trip. How much I loved the travel itself. How much I enjoyed being in the homes of my aunts and uncles who cared for me just as they would their own kids. How strange it was to be around so many people who look so much like me. How much I loved learning about my mom and dad from people who’ve known them much longer than I have. It was an incredible trip.

What surprised me on this trip was that I felt alone at times even though I was surrounded by people I love and who love me. I realized that, for me, companionship isn’t just about being loved. It’s about being known too. Over time, I know that I will develop relationships with my extended family where I know them and am known by them. The trip gave me that certainty, and I’m so grateful for what I know will happen between and among us. But the experience with my family – spending day and night with dozens of people who would do anything for me but still feeling lonely – hit home for me how much I need to be known in order to feel genuinely loved.

That’s a hard thing. It’s hard for me to allow myself to be known. It seems weird to type those words on something I’m going to post publicly, but the reality is that the self that comes through on this blog is as artificial as the image I create for myself on Facebook. It’s not a complete picture of who I am or what’s happening in my life. You see the bits and pieces that I choose for you to see.

A truth about me is that I’m slow to enter relationships where I allow myself to be known. I’m slow because I’m fearful that people won’t like what they see or that they’ll take all the things I don’t like about myself and wrap them up and give them back to me as all the reasons why they don’t, won’t or can’t care for me. I have reason to be fearful. That’s happened a few times in my life in friendships and relationships. With each experience, I have wondered if I can be brave enough to try again.

But I think I found a little courage today. I saw a movie called The Way, Way Back. It’s a beautiful story about the power of one person’s belief in another.  I laughed and cried and responded, almost physically, to what was happening on the screen. And I realized that there is nothing more beautiful than two people bringing out the very best in one another by loving one another as they are. They didn’t enter the relationship trying to change one another. They just loved and believed, and through that love and unwavering encouragement, the changes happened.

I’ve been isolating myself a bit. I’ve been trying to change all the things about myself that I don’t love. Generally, that’s a good thing. It’s good for me to lose weight and work on my speed and take dance lessons and be more adventurous in travel and put myself in environments where I don’t know people and where I have to adapt myself to an uncomfortable situation. Those are all good things. But I’m wrong to think that I need to fix myself before I can let another person see who I am. If I’m trying to prepare and present a “better” version of myself to the next person, then I’m going to feel lonely because they won’t know me as I really am. But if I am willing to step out and love and be loved as I am and make those and other changes with the help of someone who wants to love me through them, then I can become a better or even best version of myself and be known. I want those two things for myself, and I want to offer those two things to someone else. Obviously, I can’t do that in isolation.

I am good – really good – at believing in other people and offering them unwavering love and encouragement. I think I’m ready to look for someone who will offer the same to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop the efforts I’ve been making in this period of isolation. I like what I’ve been doing. I’m back in the 120s in terms of weight. I am running and biking faster than I ever have as an adult. I’ve learned how to two-step and swing. I’m going to Africa of all places later this year. These are all good changes that I’ve made. But I’m ready to step out of isolation, even though stepping out is a bit scary.

I will proceed cautiously, trusting my own reservations if I have them.  But I want in my life the beauty that I saw on the screen. I believe in it. And if I tell you that I don’t believe in it, know that I’m lying to you out of my own fears. Because I do.

Traveling Again.

I realized last year that this would be a year of travel, but it has involved and continues to involve much more travel than I originally planned.

So far this year, I’ve been to Barcelona, St. George and Coeur d’Alene. This week I leave for my England/Germany family reunion trip. The week after I get back, I’m heading to Minneapolis and Ames, Iowa, to catch up with some friends from my childhood and a friend from my Whidbey Island writing workshop. A few weeks later, I’m heading to Portland to run Hood to Coast with some friends. In early September, I’m heading to Colorado for some hiking in altitude and to Connecticut to catch up with my high school doubles partner and hopefully one of my favorite former lawyer friends who moved up there with her husband a number of years ago. In October, I’ll head back to Portland for a marathon and possibly time with another Whidbey Island friend.  In December, I’m heading to Hawaii for another marathon. Then at the end of the year, I’m heading to Africa to ring in the new year climbing Kilimanjaro. And somewhere in there, I’d like to hit the San Francisco Bay Area to see my cousin who just moved there from Boston, and I’d love to make it to New York to see my high school roommate, though I don’t have those plans just yet.

That’s a lot of travel for me. I’ve made a point of trying to do fun and adventurous things to celebrate my fortieth year. I have to say that I’ve done a damn good job of it so far. Next year, I’ll sit my happy butt at home a bit more, but I’m loving the journeys this year has brought.

I’m particularly excited about connecting with family in England and Germany. I’m going to spend time with uncles, aunts, and lots of cousins, many of whom I’ve never met. Will they like me? Will we feel a connection? Will we communicate more going forward after a bit of time together? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.

It’s a short trip – just over a week long. When I made the plans, I was trying to be back for a weekend commitment I was expecting to have. Those plans fell through, so I’m coming back early unnecessarily. But still, it’ll be good to spend time in two countries I’ve never seen and to get to know family from all over the world. I’m even looking forward to good reading time on the plane.

I’ve decided against taking a computer, so I will be disconnected a bit.  But when I get back, I hope to report on good books read, many solid runs overseas, and precious time with family that I will not soon forget.

Wednesday List #20 – Reasons to Smile Today

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wednesday list. Today, I’m thinking about all the good things that are going on in my world.

  1. When I woke up this morning, I read a beautiful post by a former classmate whose blog has become a regular read for me. Her thoughts on the ability to course correct were timely for me.
  2. I’m wearing pants I bought this weekend from REI when my friend Rey was in town. We went shopping because the pants I was wearing were so loose I could pull them down even when they were buttoned and zipped.
  3. When I walked out of the house this morning, I saw that a package from Tusker Trail sat on my porch. The package is paperwork and information for my Kilimanjaro trip.
  4. I had coffee this morning with a dear childhood friend who moved to my little town last summer.
  5. At coffee, one of the first things out of my friend’s mouth was, “You look like you’ve lost weight.”
  6. I had a fun brainstorming session this morning with a lawyer who has given me a ton of work during the last year and whose support made it possible for me to spend extended time in Portland last summer.
  7. Erin and I made plans to attend a Pose clinic on Monday night. I’ll get to refresh what I learned earlier this year about running form.
  8. My big boss (the man I’ve worked for most of my adult life) told me today that I’m getting too skinny.
  9. Marion Winik will be at Book People tonight, and I’m going. I’ve loved her writing since the early 1990s when her work appeared in the Austin Chronicle.
  10. In one week, I’ll be on my way to England and Germany for a family reunion. I’ll be hanging out with uncles, aunts and cousins, some of whom I’ve never even met.

It’s not all sunshine and roses in my world, but I shouldn’t complain. I’m very lucky, and I’m starting once again to be hopeful about what’s to come.

Still More Progress.

I did a timed 5K this morning. In late April, I ran a 5K in 28:53.  Today, I ran it in 29:18. I was slower, and for a split second when I looked at my watch, I was disappointed. Then almost immediately, I caught myself thinking, “Next time.” Not, “That was awful.” Not, “What a failure.” Not, “What the hell happened?” Just, “Next time.”

As I walked to cool down, it occurred to me that I need to talk to myself that way all the time, not just on the track.

I’ve been walking around for months being really hard on myself. I got my heart broken, and I’ve been letting that heartache make me feel small and unworthy. I can walk around beating myself up about all the things I did wrong, or I can say simply, “Next time.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could offer myself the grace in my regular life that I offer myself in my training?

I’m not the fastest person out there. I don’t compete to win. I race because I enjoy challenging myself, and I relish in the thrill of doing something that doesn’t really make sense – something I and others didn’t think I could do. That’s what Ironman is for me. I suspect there’s not a person in the world who knew me as a kid who ever thought that I’d do an Ironman one day. When I signed up for the first one back in 2007, I wasn’t at all certain that I could do it. But I was willing to try. I was willing to believe in myself enough to sign up and start training and see what happened. That willingness has paid off now four times over, and at nearly forty, I’m more fit than I have ever been.

In my training, my expectation of myself is to do the best I can and to not quit, even when I’m 80 miles into the 112-mile ride and can’t imagine finishing the ride much less continuing on to run a marathon. I focus on taking the next step and not giving up.

In work, in relationships, and in life, I should have the same expectations of myself – to do the best I can and to not quit. That doesn’t mean I won’t mistakes. That doesn’t mean I won’t make choices I regret – that I won’t need to ask for forgiveness at times. I will. But how would I feel if I applied that same standard to where I am right this minute? Would I be saying, “That was awful. What a failure. What the hell happened?” Or would I be saying that I did the best I could, and I didn’t quit?

Someone deciding not to love me or deciding that, regardless of the love, being with me isn’t worth the trouble is not the end of the story. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a great deal to offer. It doesn’t mean that I won’t find someone who believes in me and in us enough to stay. I do, and I will. I just need to learn from my mistakes, give myself a little grace, and be willing to try again.

Next time.

More Progress.

I’ve been amazed at how well my body has taken to my TriDot training program. I’ve mentioned that I’ve gotten faster since starting the program in January and even hit a personal best at my last Ironman, but I’ve also lost a bit of weight – almost fifteen pounds. I haven’t been focusing on the weight loss, but it’s been an easy by-product of my training. I’ve been somewhat aware of what I’m eating, but I’m not depriving myself at all, and I’ve even indulged in my occasional pint of ice cream here and there. As someone who has always had to pay attention to my weight, I appreciate the ease of this loss.

I started my second TriDot program last week. This time we are emphasizing running since I’m running a couple of marathons this fall. I’m still doing all around triathlon training, but the goal is primarily to improve my running. We’ll see how the new program goes, but I’m liking it so far.

This morning, I did a track workout. I did 3/4 mile repeats on 7:03, 6:56 and 7:06. I could definitely feel myself fading on the third one. It’s been a while since I did a speed workout, and this was my first to involve 3/4 mile repeats. I think that speed workouts are much harder than just going out and running six or seven miles, but I’ve gotten to where I enjoy them. I even look forward to them. That, too, is progress.

In the Company of Friends.

Have you ever heard that people who love you turn up when you need them? I have and that happened this week. My friends Yolanda and Owen and their four kids visited unexpectedly from Mississippi. I got to spend one evening in my home enjoying the company of my dear old friends and their amazingly polite, funny and sweet children. We shared a meal and caught up on years — far too many years — that had passed since we last sat face-to-face and talked. I loved every moment of it. I loved that the friendship felt familiar. I loved that we spoke openly as old friends, concerned only about catching up and not at all about impressing one another. And I most especially loved the voices, laughter and understanding that filled my home for those hours. Thank you, dear friends, for calling and showing up and listening and loving. I’m crazy about you and your clan. Yolandaandowen

Another Reason I Love Natasha.

This morning, I emailed my coach Natasha my workout results and included a reference to what I thought was a problem with my replacement watch – a watch I was given when the original watch seemed to be having issues recording my pace. It showed my heart rate for a four mile run at 104, which seems at least 20 bpm low for me.  Here’s the exchange we had:

Taline: That heart rate seems really low, and my calories seemed really low too. Think they could be right? This is a replacement watch.

Natasha: No. What’s weird is my watch has never had issues. Let’s see what it does next few runs before sending it back.

Taline: I’m having the sort of week where I feel defective. Maybe I’m defective?

Natasha: You just did an Ironman. Stop.

A Plastic Bin.

Last night I packed a dream into a $13.99 plastic bin that I picked up at the Container Store. I know it was the right thing to do. It was the only thing I could do. Leaving little reminders of what might have been all around my house did nothing but sadden me. I probably should have packed things up months ago, but I’ve been holding on to that dream, thinking that maybe, just maybe, it would come alive again. Yesterday I had a most vivid realization that it won’t.

So today, this first day of July, I try again to look forward. The last 24 hours have been harder than I expected. Over the last nine months, I’ve had moments where I felt strong and moments where I felt completely broken. I’ve had days when I couldn’t imagine what would come next and days when I was determined to build a future that I would want. I’ve made a point of traveling and racing and scheduling more travel. I have focused a great deal on training, which has paid off and helped me feel stronger physically and mentally. Just this past Saturday, I felt so hopeful. Then a hard reality sank in, and I’m back to being raw. I think of those geometry toys that are interconnected collapsible links that you can build into shapes and then with one pull, you can collapse them again into a pile of sticks.  Some moments I’m a pretty shape and some moments I’m the pile of sticks.

As much as I’d like to crawl into that plastic bin and sleep the day away with all those little things that I still love, I can’t. I won’t. I will work. I will swim and run after work. And I will trust that life really is wise, even when I don’t understand it.