Wednesday List #24 – Rediscovering Austin Continued

My weekend of rediscovering Austin really got me thinking about things to do in Austin. It’s a great town, and I know I haven’t taken advantage of all that it has to offer. I’ve been forming a list of things I’d like to experience in the near future. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Do a trail run at Pedernales Falls State Park, which I’m scheduled to do on Saturday with Trailhead Running!
  2. Hike or run through McKinney Falls State Park.
  3. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and have lunch in their cafe.
  4. Spend a Thursday night (or two or three) at the Broken Spoke.
  5. Visit the Dripping Springs Public Library and get a library card.
  6. Visit the Blanton Museum of Art.
  7. Visit the Harry Ransom Center.
  8. Visit Donn’s Depot on a Monday night. (Mac? Join me?)
  9. Watch some improv at New Movement or the Hideout or both.
  10. Try a session at the Hot Lava Obstacle Course.  (Valerie, this one is all you.)
  11. Try stand up paddle-boarding on Lady Bird Lake.
  12. Go back to Uchiko. (Erin and Joe, I’m counting on you to do this with me when Erin visits!)
  13. Go to a show at the One World Theatre.
  14. Join Ride Like a Girl for some mountain biking. (The one and only time I’ve tried mountain biking about ten years ago, I looked terribly battered afterwards but had a great time. I need to get my bike tuned up.)
  15. Visit Travaasa, a cool-looking spa, preferably on a weekday as a reprieve from the regular work week.
  16. Participate in the activity that I’m still code-naming “Pedicures With Poppe.”

These are ideas. I’m always game for more. Feel free to pass along your suggestions!

Old Friends, Inner Lives and Psyches.

I’m a reader. On my flight home from Connecticut last night, I made good progress on the book I’m reading right now – The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan. It’s a novel about a group of former Harvard students gathering for their 20-year reunion. It’s timely for who I am and where I am in life right now. I read along and was forced to pull out a pen when I read the following:

People aren’t cars to be traded in and up. They’re people. With complex emotional inner lives and filial ties and psyches that are far too easily bruised.

I believe this, and I believe it more and more as I get older.

This weekend, I caught up with two old friends, one from high school and one from my early days as a lawyer. Today, I had lunch with another friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years and years. My conversations were lovely, and in each one, I realized again just how well I picked my friends long ago.

I love people who are willing to share their emotional inner lives. In Connecticut, my friend Sarah spoke openly about her days in boarding school and the more than twenty years that had passed since then. She didn’t sugarcoat her experience or tip-toe in any way around the hard stuff. She stated her experience matter-of-factly and, by being genuine about the good and the bad, invited me to do the same. I appreciated that about her because I’m not always willing or able to talk about the hard stuff.

At lunch today, I tried my hand at being open about the hard stuff and acknowledging things that aren’t perfect in my life. And you know what? Lunch was lovely. I didn’t feel the need to perform or to make myself seem like anything more than who I am. I felt like I caught up with an old friend in a genuine way. We couldn’t touch on everything in ninety minutes, but it felt good to talk and laugh and communicate without a need to paint a picture of rainbows and sunflowers all around.

I’m at a point in life where I’m ready to invite people into my inner life and to be willing to expose my psyche that is far too easily bruised. I think the trick is being smart in selecting people to trust with those things. The old friends – the ones who cared for me as a kid and have continued to demonstrate a genuine interest in who that kid became – give me a really good place to start.

Partners.

I arrived at the Austin airport ridiculously early this morning and ran into Alicyn, my doubles partners from my days of junior tennis. What are the chances that I would run into Alicyn on my way to New Haven, where I am going to visit my doubles partner from my boarding school days? Those sorts of coincidences make me think I’m doing the right things with my life these days.

Heading out to see Sarah and running into Alicyn totally got me thinking about my days of playing tennis. I spent hours and hours, both before and after school on the tennis court. I was living in Corpus Christi at the time, and Mom and I travelled constantly on the weekends for tournaments in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Wichita Falls and eventually to California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and elsewhere, as I became a national player. We were always on the go. I regularly packed and unpacked, always hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything important, like my tennis racket, shoes or bloomers. (Yes, I wore skirts and, therefore, had to wear bloomers. Tennis clothes weren’t terribly cool back in the day.)

I realized that, in many ways, I’m still living that life. I workout before and after work. I travel lots across the country, and many times, Mom still travels with me. I’m constantly making lists so I don’t forget my bike shoes, gloves, race belt, lucky hat, or lucky socks. The differences are that I’m doing triathlons and running, rather than playing tennis. I’m making the plans instead of playing whatever tournaments Mom signed me up for. And I’m competing only with myself. (The clothes are still pretty uncool, except for the finishers’ clothes. Those are super cool.)

I wonder if I would have embraced the races I do now if I hadn’t been an athlete as a little kid. I’ve always juggled my activities. I’ve always loved being physical in some way. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and then putting my feet up with a good book. As a kid, I put my feet up in the back of the car while Mom drove me home from tournaments. These days, I’m putting my feet up in hotels.

Then and now, I’ve made incredible friends through my sports.  In my youth, tennis was about Alicyn, Sarah, Michelle, Teri, Anne, Heather, Jennifer, Tina, Ericca, David, and others. Today, triathlons and runs are about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin, Catherine, Kerry, Poppe, Jenny, Fred, MJ,  Judy, Betsy, and so many more. My tennis trophies are in boxes in my garage. I suspect some day, my race medals will be too. (Maybe not the Ironman medals!) But the people I met along the way remain in my heart as the best part of what I did then and what I do now.

I remember being in Hurst-Euless-Bedford are playing a match with Alicyn. I had just screwed up a point, and we stood at the back fence trying to rally one another’s spirits. I stood with my back to the fence, and I got so angry at myself that I banged the edge of my racket against the fence behind me. Little did I know that we stood right by a pole. I heard the crack of my racket when it hit the pool. Oops. That broken racket would be a tough one to explain to my mother. At that point we laughed so hard. I don’t remember if we won or lost the match, but I remember that we laughed.

That I recall laughter that took place more than twenty-five years ago tells me that I was doing something right then. And that I see my friend today and still feel the same warmth towards her that I did when we were kids trying to find our way on the tennis court tells me that what came out of tennis for me was not a skill or a drive to athleticism. I ended up with sweet and wonderful friendships. Lots of sweet and wonderful friendships.

I remember the day Jeanie called me in 2007 and told me to log onto ironman.com. I remember the cheerleading she did. When I reminded her about the size of my ass, she quickly assured me that it was the size of my heart that mattered. I remember the shock and the joy of registering for that first Ironman, and I remember all of the laughter and the occasional tears shed along the way as we trained that first year. I remember the race, but mostly, when I think about Coeur d’Alene in 2008, I think about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda and Robin and the friendships that grew out of that race.

I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met along the way. I’m so grateful for each and every partner through my adventures. Then and now.

13 Mile High Club.

Since I’m leaving town this weekend, I did my Sunday long run today. I ran 13 miles around Lady Bird Lake. It was awesome.

The first loop, I ran with my friend, Kerry. We’ve been running together for over two years now, and though I’ve worked with her many, many years before that, our friendship really developed through our running. I’m grateful. She’s an incredible friend to have – loving, accepting, thoughtful, a good listener and really funny. And she makes me show up for my runs, which is always helpful. Even this morning, I was tempted to sleep, but I knew Kerry was expecting me.

After our loop together, I ran a second loop alone. I found myself singing (in my head, of course) various country songs on the loop alone.

It’s over when it’s over
Ain’t it, baby, ain’t it?
Rips ya like a dagger,
Can’t it baby, Can’t it
Wish we could do it over
Damn it, baby, Damn it
We had it in the air, we just couldn’t land it

Love me a little Eric Church at times.

I also found myself thinking about how lucky I am that I can run until 9 a.m. and get to work at 10:00 a.m. I know not everyone can do that. The flexibility I have in my work is astonishing sometimes. I’m completely supported by a wonderful office and completely independent to manage my schedule and do other work, like the writing I love. How many people have that kind of flexibility?

It’s been a while since I did a long run that I really enjoyed. I’m so glad I showed up for it, and I’m glad I got my long run in for the week. I have the Portland Marathon coming up in about four weeks, and I want a personal best. I think I can do it. Plus, I’m glad I get to visit Portland again soon. I’m glad about lots of things today.

Yesterday, I wasn’t so glad. But the ups and downs of life happen, no? The rough days make me appreciate the really good ones. Like today.

Off in the Wilderness.

I’m having one of those days when I don’t have time to write, but I need the clarity that writing often gives me.

I’m leaving town this weekend. I’m going to Connecticut to see my high school doubles partner, with whom I reconnected ever so briefly at our 20-year reunion last year, and to see another friend from my days of clerking at a big law firm. I haven’t spent real time with either of them in years and am relishing the thought of shared company and catching up on who they are and how they’ve been.

In the meantime, I’m earning my days away. I suddenly have lots of work that needs to get done before I leave town. It’s all good stuff, and it’s satisfying to knock things off the list, but it’s stressful to also be adding things to it. I’m trying to figure out if I can get it all done and stick to the commitments I’ve made (dinner, a Toastmasters contest, and a writing session) these next few nights. I think I can. I’ve gotten so selective about giving up my evenings, that when I am booked, it’s lately been stuff I really want to do. This week is no exception.

I’m a little heavy today though. I think what’s got me down is that I don’t know if I’m capable of getting what I think I want. And I don’t know if I want the right things.

I want to share life with someone. But I don’t know if I can. It takes so much effort to find someone and to get to a point where I think I want to know more. Then it’s so much effort in getting to know more. And there are no guarantees. Months or years into something, it can fall apart. And then what? Do you start over? Or do you just accept that maybe this life – my life – is not meant to be shared in that way?

I had dinner last night with one of my dearest friends from law school. She is married, but she’s always found time to spend with me, either over a run or dinner or sometimes both. Last night, we cooked up some plans for a race, a spa day, and something else that I’m calling “Pedicures with Poppe” though it’s anything but. (I’m still simmering on the idea and am not ready to reveal it.) I laughed so much during dinner. It was delightful, and I didn’t feel like anything was lacking as we shared a meal and planned some future shenanigans.

Maybe my life is not about one person. Maybe it’s about lots of people. I have some of the most amazing friends. Like this woman, these guys, this girl, these folks, this girlthese ladies, and this crowd. Life with them is rich.

Maybe I’ve got my heart set on the wrong things. If Maria is right and life really is wise, then maybe I need to crave less and just be more. Be here. Be in Connecticut. Be on Whidbey Island. Be in Africa. These are all good places to be. Can I do that? Should I do that?

I’m not sure. On the one hand, it feels like giving up, and I don’t give up easily. On the other hand, it feels like embracing who I am, which I don’t do terribly easily either. But as I’ve gotten older, I do like myself more and more. I no longer take on the hobbies and interests of the people I date. I have my own, and I love them. I no longer rush to be a part of someone else’s life. I take my time in figuring out if they have a place in mine. I like nearly 40-year-old me far more than I ever liked 25-year-old me.

I’ve never been one of those girls who was always in a relationship. I’ve never gone from one right to another. My relationships have never been about needing/wanting someone. They’ve always been about needing/wanting that person in particular. I think of the line from Say Anything when Diane is wanting to get back together with Lloyd and he says, “Are you here because you need someone? Or you need me?” He pauses and then says, “Forget it. I don’t care.”  I do care. I care very much.

Maybe we aren’t all wired for relationships. Maybe the person who is supposed to care about me – and love me fully – is me.

If that’s true, it makes me a little sad. It also takes the pressure off. I trust me. I know I’m good at loving others and building them up and helping them believe there’s nothing they can’t do. Maybe I’m the one who is supposed to do those things for myself.

I just don’t know.

A Guy Who Helps Me.

Last April, I went on a retreat in Round Top put on by my dear friend, Jeanne Guy. I’ve been going to her workshops and gatherings since my friend Rey and I did a  fourteen-week workshop with her in 2007 on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I love her. Time with Jeanne always leaves me feeling more hopeful.

Last night, I went to what she calls a Re-Story Circle. Twice a month, she offers these gatherings of women that are intended to help us re-story our lives. When I’m in circle with Jeanne, I always learn something about how to process my experiences and maybe change the way I look at what I’m facing. Last night was just such a night. The gem I uncovered during the circle was actually a list I made during the last retreat I went on with Jeanne. I came across the list as I was scanning through the notebook I use for all of her workshops.

We were asked this question at the retreat: “If I were to give some good advice about being fully me by loving and taking care of myself, it would include…” She called this “tending to ourselves.” Here’s the list I came up with last April. I think we had maybe ten or so minutes to write.

  1. Keep up the training because you love it.
  2. Eat well because weight loss improves your health and your confidence.
  3. Sleep more.
  4. Write every day. No excuses.
  5. When you are feeling alone, write about something you love.
  6. When you are feeling down, write about something that makes you happy.
  7. When you are feeling hopeless, write about your dreams.
  8. Don’t guard your heart quite so much. Be willing to give it to someone who proves worthy to receive it.
  9. Clear your house of anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
  10. Save money right now. Not forever, but for right now.
  11. Spend time with Mom and Dad as often as you can.
  12. Rest at unexpected times. Take a half day here and there to just be.
  13. Limit your time on Facebook. Focus on creating a life you love rather than a Facebook profile that makes you appear to love life.
  14. Take chances.
  15. At every opportunity, choose love.
  16. Have the hard conversations that you need to have.
  17. Seek God.
  18. Stop waiting and start building the life you can see for yourself.

In my notebook, I put asterisks next to 5, 6 and 7.

April was a hard month for me. The weekend I spent in Jeanne’s company and in the company of genuinely kind women gave me such hope.

During that weekend, we took this photo with each of us wearing bracelets that Jeanne gave us:

IMG_4554

Since then, I’ve been wearing my bracelet every day because it reminds me of the support and love I received in that community.

I hadn’t looked at this list since I wrote it in April. I’ve done some of the items on the list.  I haven’t done them all. But every item on the list still rings true to me. And those that are marked with an asterisk still are practices that help me to lift my own spirits through something I love to do.

Thank you, Jeanne, once again. Thank you for a wonderful evening in the company of kind women. Thank you for helping me discover for myself how best to tend to myself over the next couple of weeks and perhaps even months. I appreciate you always.

Rediscovering Austin.

This was a throwback weekend. Last night, I went to a concert at the Cactus Cafe on the University of Texas campus, and this morning, I ran the ten-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake. Years ago, I did both frequently, but I can’t remember the last time I did either.

BruceElizabeth suggested the Cactus Cafe, and I was quick to jump at the opportunity when she said Bruce Robison was playing. I’ve loved him since the mid-1990s, and I used to go to his shows regularly, but in my older age, late nights are harder for me than they once were. So an 8:30 show at the Cactus was right up my alley. And even better than being early, it was just Bruce and his guitar. I love, love, love a man and his guitar. And when that man is Bruce? That’s a damn fine evening.

He took requests and played songs of his that I’d never heard. In some instances, he was surprised that people knew particular songs, and in others, he hadn’t played them in so long that he had to ask the audience to help him remember what the first lines were. It was incredible. I can listen to him sing for hours and hours.

I had intended to leave his show around 10:00 pm to get home for an early run the next morning, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had too good a seat and it was too good a show to walk out early. What a gift of an evening.

Then this morning, I met Erin for a run. She suggested we run the 10-mile loop, which I hadn’t done in over a decade since my days of training with Austin Fit. I had been meaning to ask someone to show me the route because I remember it involved some turns that weren’t obvious, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. So this morning, I jumped at the chance to run it with Erin.

Erin is faster than I am, so she pushed me pretty hard. It was fun to work and fun to run a “new” part of the trail. Riverside Drive has definitely changed since I last ran over there. It’s far more developed, and the trail along the lake was prettier than I remembered it being. I’m excited to add that longer route into my rotation of options for long runs.

It’s been a rich weekend. It felt like I was re-discovering my town, if that makes sense. And it made me wonder what else this area has to offer that I haven’t tried or that I haven’t done in a long time. I haven’t been to Pedernales Falls or McKinney Falls since probably college. I haven’t been to the Wildflower Center or any nurseries in a long time. I haven’t been to the Broken Spoke in a long while, and I really should go considering the recent lessons I’ve been taking. I’ve not ever been to Wimberley except for a visit a year or so ago to Blue Hole, which was stunning. I’ve been meaning to check out the Dripping Springs library.

There’s a lot I can do here. This weekend was a good reminder that I live in a wonderful place. I just need to get out and enjoy it.

A Pool of Thoughts.

This morning, I saw a post that said, “Workout. When you don’t want to, you need it the most.” That was 100% true for me today. It’s not that I had a bad day. I didn’t. In fact, I had good day. But as I was swimming after work after nearly having bailed on the swim altogether, I thought of something that I needed to be reminded of.

I had lots of different things running through my head.

  • Does Diana Nyad look at a swimming pool the way runners look at a treadmill?
  • I have always joked that, given my fish phobia, if I ever say that I’m going scuba diving, my friends should know that there is a man involved, and it is serious. But would I actually put myself through that kind of discomfort because I was interested in someone?
  • I’ve never wanted to be with someone I can live with. I’ve always wanted to be with someone I can’t live without.

The last one came to me, as I was swimming an easy 100 after my first hard set of four 300s, and it stayed with me through my easier set of three 200s. As I thought about that, I remembered having a conversation years ago with a dear friend of mine who was struggling with being in a relationship with someone who didn’t want to get married. She felt like she was trying to convince him to marry her, and she got to a point where she said, “I don’t want to convince him. I want him to think that marrying me a really good idea.”

I have spent too many months trying to convince someone that a relationship with me is worth the effort. Why have I been doing that for so long? I’m not saying I shouldn’t have fought for the relationship. It was wonderful – more wonderful than any other relationship I’ve had – and I believe in fighting for what you believe in. But for how long? One month? Three months? Six months? Nine months? One year? Shouldn’t I want someone who thinks, without my insistence, that marrying me is a really good idea? And if I want someone I can’t live without, shouldn’t I have someone who feels the same way about me?

What I had can’t have been what I have always wanted. One of us has moved on. And no, it’s not fun to be left behind. It’s not fun to start over. But it is good to realize that, at my core, what I want is someone who has no interest in doing life without me. I just haven’t found that yet.

This is pretty simple stuff, but the heart – my heart, at least – doesn’t always remember the simple stuff when it’s hurting. I’m glad I remember it now.

Good night, everyone. I think I’m finally going to get a good night’s sleep.

A Whole Night’s Sleep.

Sleep has been escaping me lately. My body doesn’t seem to understand that the hours between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. are meant for sleep. Currently, it thinks they are for staring at the back of my eyelids, reading, watching television, doing dishes, and otherwise thinking about the one thing I want most right now. Last night, in my wide-awake state, I noticed that my children were oddly quiet during those hours. I think even they feel compassion for my lack of sleep right now.

So what’s going on? I’m training lots. I’m eating well. I’m not stressing about work. I’m in the comfort of my own space. So what’s the problem?

To answer that question, I started thinking about the last times that I slept especially well. Most recently, I crashed hard the night after running Hood to Coast. I slept so hard that my right eye crusted shut. It was wonderful, but I’m not about to stay up all night and run in an effort to get one good night’s sleep. Before that, I think the last time I slept easily and well was last December on Whidbey Island where I did a Peerspirit writing workshop called “The Self as the Source of the Story.” Each night, I went to bed relatively early, usually before 10, and I woke with ease around 5 in the morning without even needing an alarm. The one morning that I “slept in” was the morning that we had the entire day to write on our own in silence. I think I was a little intimidated to start that effort.

I slept well on Whidbey Island because I was spending day and night doing things that meant everything to me. I went for walks, read, spent days in sessions with women I adore, and wrote. That was it. It was simple on the outside, though I was struggling with and writing about things that were anything but simple for me on the inside. What that tells me is that I don’t need things to be easy, but I do need them to be meaningful.

Right now, I’m trying to fill a void. I’m filling it with good things, like movies, travel and dance lessons, but even good fillers are fillers. And I don’t want my life to be about fillers.

My big boss at a law firm where I sometimes work likes to say that there are three choices every person needs to make: who you love, what you do, and what community you live in. According to him, some people only get one or maybe two of those right, and the people who experience the most satisfaction in life get all three of them right.

A year ago, I thought I had the love piece down. Now, I have an incredible community, and I’m mostly doing work I love. There hasn’t been a time when I had all three at the same time.

I want all three. I can’t control the love piece, and I think the community is, at least in part, something you build with the person you love, so, for me right now, that means focusing on the piece about what I do. That’s part of why I’ve been writing so much. Writing is definitely therapeutic for me, but it’s also what I love most, whether I’m writing in my journal, this blog, an essay, an article, or content for someone else’s business. I enjoy it with my whole heart.

I’m going to continue doing what I enjoy and trust that I eventually will find a person I can love with my whole heart who will love me and who will join me in building a community we can love together with our whole hearts.

I want a whole heart, and I think it feeling far away is what’s keeping me up at night. But I’m hopeful. With each passing day and each passing (sleepless) night, I’m more and more hopeful.

Wednesday List #23 – Kind Words

I’m an affirmation junkie. Nice things said about me fuel me. Here are some of the things I’ve heard in the last couple of days:

  1. On Tuesday, two of my friends posted something on Facebook where they included me in the same sentence as Diana Nyad, as though we are somehow woven of the same cloth. I have a hard time believing that, but the association means the world to me, as I adore Diana Nyad and am thrilled for her success.
  2. Today, a friend of mine from Toastmasters commented on my appearance and followed her comment up after the meeting with an email in which she said, “Taline, you look spectacular.” It does a broken heart good to hear those words. I can tell I’m losing weight but the acknowledgment from someone I haven’t seen in a while confirms for me that I’m doing the right things for myself.
  3. I acted as the Toastmaster for our contest today. After the meeting, our area governor sent an email saying that I was “efficient, organized and graceful.” I’m always nervous getting up in front of a room, so hooray for doing a good job.
  4. And speaking of good jobs, I circulated something I wrote to one of the lawyers in my firm. It’s something I worked hard on over the weekend. Today, he sent back some small edits with the note, “Reads well. Good job.” Does he have any idea how much those words mean to me, especially in the context of my work? don’t know that he does, but I appreciate them so much.
  5. I saw my big boss in the hallway, and he said, “Hello, little person.” I know that was a reference, not just to my height, but to my size. And since I’ve been around him since 1996, he knows my ups and downs in every respect. Again, hearing the compliment on my appearance meant something today.

For me, kind words make a huge difference in my spirit and my energy. When things aren’t perfect, something sweet said by someone I care about and respect can do wonders for my outlook. I don’t forget the nice things people say. In fact, I return to them again and again when I need a little boost.

So many times I wander through my days without telling people what’s really happening in my heart. I suspect others do the same. Maybe they’ve had a fight I don’t know about. Maybe they are worried about paying a bill that’s about to come due.  Maybe they’re feeling alone or unsure of themselves. Don’t we all sometimes?

Words are powerful. I appreciate those who pass kind words on to me. I hope I offer the same to others.