Out of the Overflow of His Heart.

It’s been a busy day, but in the midst of the frenzy, I found a few moments here and there to settle more into my new office. Here is a picture:

OfficeIs it pretty? I really like it. It feels good to me. It will feel even better when I move my couch in this weekend.

The hard part of the day came when I unpacked two boxes from my old office that had been sitting in my living room for the last two years and then some because I didn’t have a permanent office to call my own. Continue reading

Happy New Year!

I am celebrating my personal new year today.

The day began perfectly with a fun run with Kerry and Jenny on the trails. Jenny just ran the Marathon 2 Marathon in West Texas, so we got to hear all about it. She had a wonderful run where her mind felt loose and happy. Like my experience in Portland, she never hit a wall. A success! I am always inspired by the successes of my friends.

Then, as I enjoyed my post-workout smoothie at the gym, I happened upon an article by Garrison Cohen that upped my peace of mind. The article appeared in an online journal called elephantI recommend reading the article in full here.

The gist of it is that life at its richest is found “in the pits.” The analogy the article makes is in reference to a peach. There’s the juicy fruit and then there is a pit. Some people love relationships as long as they are enjoying the juicy fruit, but when they reach the pit, they quit and, as a result, miss the really good stuff. Here is part of the article:

In relationships we all enjoy the fun, light, playful, juicy exterior of knowing someone. And then when we come to a breakdown (the pit) we want to throw it away, ignore it, treat it as worthless. The majority of the time we see “the pit” of relationship as a waste of our time, not what we want, not fun anymore.

I believe we’re missing the point.

Just as the pit is the source of life for the fruit, breakdowns are the source of life for the relationship. Not just your relationship with him or her—but your relationship with everything and everyone, including yourself.

If we run from the breakdowns, we simply stay on the surface where we can only have light, fun experiences. When we allow ourselves to really experience the breakdowns, we start to see the core of who we really are. This can feel scary and vulnerable and yet, only by embracing the source of life can we continue to grow.

I’ve learned a great deal this past year, including that I am not someone who throws a relationship away when it experiences a breakdown. That doesn’t mean I’ve figured out how to successfully navigate through breakdowns. I haven’t. But I don’t expect light and fun all the time. In fact, going forward, I’m committed to “fighting” earlier in a relationship rather than later because challenges reveal how committed someone is to making the relationship work. Today, this article felt like the universe telling me that I’m okay, that I did my part this past year, and that I learned something from it.

Then – not that I needed anything else to make today a good one – I also moved offices today! After more than two years of being in temporary, somewhat make-shift office space, I now have a home. I can unpack and fully settle in. The timing could not be sweeter to make today feel like a new beginning.

Not a bad start to my new year, huh?

More Commandments.

In thinking about the events, good and bad, of the last year, I’ve come up with a list of commandments for myself. I made a commandment list over two years ago, so this is something of an update or perhaps a supplement.

  1. If you feel deeply hesitant about a change you are considering, trust yourself. Act only when certain. Any other time will be too soon.
  2. If you have to ask someone for assurance that they still love and want you, you know that they don’t. Believe yourself and move on.
  3. When someone says they want to leave you, let them. Even if you talk them out of it, you are only delaying the inevitable.
  4. If you wonder how well your heart and mind are, look at your body. If you’re heavy and out of shape, you’re struggling with something. Don’t ignore that.
  5. You know that person or thing you think you can’t live without? The truth is that you can. Every time.
  6. When you are sad, write. When you are angry, write. When you are disappointed, write. When you are happy, write. Write. Write. Write.
  7. At all times, be working towards something you want that scares you a little or even a lot.
  8. Be slow in deciding to enter a new relationship, but don’t count out the possibility of love. Ever.
  9. Don’t think you can’t. Whether the goal is becoming faster, leaner, or more bold, finding love, or whatever, know that you are capable.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you trust for help. The worst thing that can happen is that you learn who you can’t count on in times of need. The best thing that can happen is that you get the help you want. Either way, you’ve made progress.

I like lists like this one because sometimes I forget what I’ve learned. It’s good to be reminded.

This is my list right now. Do you have a similar list or item you’d be willing to share?

The Sun Came Out.

Today, Kerry, Stephanie and I ran the Run for the Water 10-Miler, the proceeds of which go towards supplying Burundi with clean drinking water. I woke to a massive thunderstorm this morning and was concerned the event might not happen, but event organizers posted something on Facebook that cleverly said, “Run for the Water, Run in the Water,” telling us the race would go on. Somehow the storm cleared and the race ended up happening in nearly perfect weather. We were lucky.

We ran easy and hard. We ran easy in that we didn’t overdo the pace, but we ran hard in that we forced ourselves to run all of the hills. The course is a lollipop route. It’s an easy couple of miles out, a pretty tough five-ish mile loop, and then an easy couple of miles back.  When I’ve run this race in the past, I’ve walked the hills. But today, we didn’t walk. And we finished in 1:53. Early last year, I celebrated running a flat ten miles in two hours. Now I celebrate running a tougher ten miles in 1:53. We even pushed the last mile at a sub-10 minute pace. That I ran it all, ran it faster, and had plenty of energy left over tells me that my overall conditioning has improved in a big way. I knew that, but the continued confirmation is always nice.

It was also nice that my friend Betsy was out on the course too. Sometimes she was ahead of us. Sometimes she was behind us. At one point when she was behind us, she yelled, “Taline, you’re looking muscly!”  I kind of knew that too, but again, the confirmation is always nice.

Thanks to the run and the fact of a new day, my mental state has improved dramatically since last night. I really have been doing incredibly well these last few months, but last night made me realize that I’m still occasionally feeling new implications of the losses I’ve experienced. I think that’s okay. I’m not someone who flips an emotional switch easily. I don’t quickly go from caring about someone to not giving a damn. I’ve never said, “I love you” to two different people two months apart or even within the span of a year. My heart just doesn’t move that easily from one person to the next. That’s actually something I like about myself, even though it means that hurt sometimes lingers or resurfaces unexpectedly. I think slowly entering and exiting relationships makes me more reliable and trustworthy than someone who falls fast and hard and exits just as rapidly.

I think the universe knew that I needed that aspect of my personality affirmed in some way today. I mentioned last night that Mom and I shopped for curtains yesterday. We picked things out yesterday and were going to measure my windows and return to the store today to make the purchases. But last night, Mom found an enormous stash of curtains that we saved from my old house. I previously lived in a two-story, five-bedroom house. Mom made all of the curtains that hung in that place. I didn’t take them when I sold the house, but I asked the buyers, a sweet couple, to let me know whenever they replaced curtains because, if they didn’t mind, I wanted to pick the old curtains up because my mom had made them. They were kind and called various times over the years, and so I ended up with tons of curtains. Mom brought all that stuff over today. We sorted through it, and it turns out that I still love everything I painstakingly picked out back in 2000. We can reuse a lot of it, so now I only need to buy fabric for one room instead of four.

See? I’m slow to make decisions, but once I love something, I really love it, even 13 years later. My pocketbook celebrates that about me today. And after having some time to think about it, so does my heart.

A Spectrum in a Day.

Today went from silly to somber in 12 hours.

I started the day by participating in the Austin Tour de Donut. It’s a 25-mile bike ride that includes three donut shop stops and time bonuses for donuts consumed. I expected to dominate the female category because there were zero women entrants last year, but this year a huge group of people showed up for the ride. The group included two women who went to Kona for the Ironman World Championship. I didn’t have a chance.  I did, however, make what I thought was a valiant effort on donut consumption. I had three Krispy Kreme donuts and three Shipley’s  donuts. At Dunkin Donuts, the third location, I couldn’t stomach the thought of another donut, so I passed there, but I redeemed myself by successfully climbing Lost Horizon Drive, which some say requires getting out of the saddle, to finish the course. I just sat and peddled, feeling almost as though I could peddle no more, but I made it up the steep hill. I was pleased despite my poor showing comparitively. It was ridiculous fun.

After lunch with some of the Tour de Donut organizers, Mom and I went fabric shopping. I’m giving my house a facelift complete with curtains where there once were blinds and new bedcovers in both bedrooms. I loved selecting the fabrics. Normally, I get overwhelmed by having too many choices, but today I picked my fabrics efficiently. And I think I picked well. I can’t wait to get them all made and installed.

After fabric shopping, I worked on a speech for my Toastmasters Club. I’m working in the Humorously Speaking manual, but, as I wrote my speech, I made myself cry – not tears from laughing too hard, but real tears. Obviously, tears are not the best thing for what is supposed to be a humorous speech. The speech is filled with humor but, given my own tears, I had to question whether I could deliver the speech with the kind of energy I would need to make it funny and to get through it without tears.

Normally, when I have some doubts about a speech, I email what I’m writing to a trusted friend and ask for input. But tonight I realized that the two people who historically have read my speeches and offered input in advance of my delivering them are both mostly out of my life today. That realization brought on more tears. The losses are old losses. I’ve mostly made my peace with those. But the realization was a new realization. It snuck up on me, and I wasn’t ready for it.

Just yesterday, I felt so at peace. I felt so well that my joy felt almost arrogant, even to me. I almost pulled yesterday’s entry down because it felt boastful. And now, tonight, despite all the peace of yesterday and all the fun of today, I suddenly feel a deep longing, not for what I once had, but for a time when I’ve had all the realizations that I’m going to have about what is dead and gone and for a time when thinking back doesn’t hurt my heart quite so much.

Caught in the Act.

Yesterday morning, I went for a run around 10:00 a.m. I ran from my office down to Lady Bird Lake and did a seven mile loop by myself. I realized during my run that, at any given moment, I was thinking about one of three things: (1) how lucky I am to be able to run at 10 on a Thursday morning; (2) how good it feels to run; and (3) how much I’m looking forward to the next four weekends. It’s nice to catch myself in a state of happiness after a hard year.

I love the flexibility of my work life. I get to be a writer and a lawyer, and, though I have an office I can go to every day, I keep my own hours. So on days like yesterday when I woke up not feeling 100%, I was able to sleep in and run later in the morning. It’s nice to be long gone from the days when the firms I worked for owned me and my time. It’s also nice to be more than two years into this effort of working for myself – a leap that was frightening to make at the time but that has paid off in so many ways.

I haven’t always loved running. I’ve loved having run, but the act itself has only recently begun to be really enjoyable for me. I love that I’ve gotten faster this year and that I can comfortably do a 7.5 mile run and get back to work. I remember the days when a 7.5 mile long run on a Saturday would ruin me for the rest of the day. Now? It’s just a regular workout. It’s incredible to feel good running and to feel good after having run. I owe that to my coaching through TriDot.

And my weekends? They are looking wonderful. I have Fred’s fabulous Tour de Donut tomorrow followed by the Run for the Water 10 Miler with Kerry on Sunday. Then next weekend, I get to take my niece to see Les Miserables at the Zach Theater. The weekend after that, I get to return to my favorite farm in Iowa to see my friends and to spend time with a new friend I’ve made through them. The weekend after that, I get to return to Round Top for a Jeanne Guy Gathering. I am surrounded by wonderfully kind and loving people.

I feel really far from the person who wrote this just over a month ago or this back in July. When I read those entries, they are familiar to me, but they aren’t who I am now. I’m grateful to have felt my way through the hard stuff and to have emerged with a renewed hopefulness about…everything.

Wednesday List #28 – Words of Travis Meadows

When I was in Nashville, I heard a good bit of live music. One of my favorites was a guy named Travis Meadows. He introduced himself by saying that he found songwriting to be a place where he could bleed safely. I think that about writing generally, so I immediately took a liking to him. All through the night, I found myself jotting down things he said and lines from songs he sang. Here are some that really struck me.

  1. “I’ve been cleaning out a lot of emotional closets lately.”
  2. “I’m almost at the age where there is less future than there is past.”
  3. “I’m going to get strong enough not to be ashamed of my old scars.”
  4. “I don’t know much but I do know love, and that’s enough to one who needs it.”
  5. “I had a really bad day that lasted for six years.”
  6. “Reach like you know it’s waiting there.”
  7. “I’ve found letting go of what you hold dear leaves your heart and arms a little more wide open.”
  8. “I’m not famous for making wise decisions.”
  9. “I want to make peace with old ghosts, not piss them off.”

I loved his music. I’m grateful for his words and the example he set for me as someone who is willing to be honest and vulnerable. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to see him perform again soon. If you get to hear him before I do, know that I’m jealous. And let me know what you thought.

A Morning Shift.

This morning, my alarm went off at 5:10. I hit the snooze button (which really isn’t a button on the iPhone, but you know what I mean) and rolled towards the center of my massive bed, tempted to sleep in and skip my run. Just a few more minutes. When the alarm went off a second time, both Bread and I groaned. Another hour would be great. Then I thought about how much I love time with Kerry and Jenny, who would be at Lady Bird Lake waiting for me at 5:50. I thought about how good a morning run feels and how satisfying it is to clean up at the gym, grab a smoothie and be heading to work, already having accomplished so much by 8:00 a.m. So I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, scooped up my various bags and hurried out the door.

I’m so glad I did. We had a wonderful run, and the morning affirmed for me once again that I never regret making a workout. I often regret sleeping in, but I never regret getting the workout done. Ever. So why do I have to convince myself most mornings that I really do want to get up and get my day started?

I want to become someone who wakes up ready to start each day. I’m working on that. I’m working on getting to bed earlier so that I’m getting more sleep. But more than that, I’m working on creating a life that genuinely excites me. That can mean different things to different people. I think for me it means (a) having someone I’m excited to wake up to and (b) doing something I just can’t wait to do.

Last year, when I went to Whidbey Island for a PeerSpirit workshop, I went to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 each night and woke by 5:00 without an alarm. I was so excited about the people I was getting to know and the writing we were doing that starting each day felt effortless, with one exception. On Saturday, we had the entire day to write, and we spent the day in silence. So I went to bed Friday night knowing that I was on my own the next day, and I overslept, no doubt because what I faced intimidated me.

As I’m working through the Storyline Conference materials, I’m getting excited about the possibilities for my life. I’m not through the entire program yet, but I’m getting there, and it’s fun. Dreaming is fun, but I’m not just dreaming. I’m planning towards those dreams, which is really exciting. I’m also realizing that I’m excited about the people who are appearing in my life – some of them again and some for the first time.

With everything going on right now, I’m hopeful that my morning self-talk soon will change from “I really should” to “I can’t believe I get to.”

I want an “I can’t believe I get to” life. Don’t you?

A Fishy Tale.

I think I’ve been lying to myself for years and years. For as long as I can remember, I have had fish issues – or “fissues” as I like to call them. I hate open water. I hate being on a beach. Even sitting on the sand makes me nervous. I don’t like critters that live in lakes and oceans, and I don’t want to be anywhere near them. I don’t want to swim with them. I don’t want to look at them. I don’t want to eat them. I want absolutely nothing to do with them. In fact, I don’t even like fish tanks. They creep me out. I do race occasionally in open water, but I only get in open water when I have to, and I make sure there are a few thousand other people in the water with me to scare all the evil away. I have even long joked with my friends that, if ever I tell them I’m going scuba diving, they should know that there is a man involved, and it is serious because never in a million years would I voluntarily subject myself to exploring the deep waters in search of “beautiful” ocean creatures. No way. No how. Never.

For years, I’ve said that my fear of fish goes back to the third grade when my elementary school class in Corpus Christi, Texas, took a trip to the beach and a big chunk of our class was taken down by a huge wave. (Or is the proper term tide? I don’t know. It was a bunch of water that unexpectedly rushed the beach where we were walking.) I was one of the kids swept up by the water, and it terrified me. My feet came out from under me. Suddenly I was jostling around, and I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I didn’t know which way was up. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how it would end. I was just scared. And later, when I was safely back at home, I stripped out of my clothes and saw and felt sand and what looked to me like random bugs and critters all over my clothes and body. I remember peeling gross, living things off my stomach. The whole experience ruined open water for me.  Or so I’ve been telling myself.

Earlier this week, a friend from my middle school geek camp posted this picture of me on Facebook:Lakephoto

This picture was taken in the summer of 1987. I was thirteen at the time. Looking at the picture, I see that I was not a thirteen-year-old kid who hated open water. I was a kid who clearly had been in the water and was happily sitting where the water meets the sand making a sandcastle.

If I hadn’t seen the picture – if Emily had just said to me, “Hey, do you remember when we were at camp and we went to the lake and made sandcastles and swam,” I would have been certain she had me confused with someone else because for years and years I have been telling myself that I have been terrified of open water since I was eight years old. But the picture tells an undeniably different story.

This picture of a happy me at a lake forces me to ask some questions. If my explanation for my fissues is not that I had a bad experience in the third grade and have hated open water since, then what is my explanation? What is the truth? Is there an explanation or did I just look into my past in search of some rationalization for my fear and decide that the incident from third grade was the likely culprit?

I now have no idea why I’m afraid of fish. I know now that the story I’ve been telling myself about why I hate open water is not true. It is true in that the event happened, but that event did not cause the fear I carry.

At the Storyline conference this weekend, we talked about the stories we tell ourselves that might not be true. Shauna Niequest, a writer whose work I was introduced to at the conference, asked us some questions. Are we holding on to old stories? Are we holding on to false stories about ourselves or stories we picked up from other people along the way?

I wonder what other stories I’ve been telling myself that aren’t true.

For years, I told myself that I hated speaking in front of people, but I discovered through Toastmasters that I love being in front of an audience when I get to choose the topic. For years, I told myself that I have good endurance but no speed, but through training with TriDot, I’ve discovered that I am faster than I thought I could be. For years, I’ve told myself that I’m not creative enough to write for a living. Is that true, or have I just talked myself into being afraid to try? For years, I’ve told myself that I’m not lovable for the long haul. Is that true, or have I just not yet met the person who will stick with me through everything?

The exciting thing we talked about at the conference was that it’s possible to write new stories for our lives. I want to do that in more ways than one, and my fissues seem to be a good place to start.

I want to be a person who can swim in a lake or ocean and sit on the beach with no fear of critters. Apparently, I’ve been that person before. How do I become that person again? Do I start some fish tank therapy where I force myself to sit in front of fish and discover their beauty? Do I start accepting my coach’s invitations to do open water swims with just a few other people? Do I try my hand at snorkeling or scuba diving – for me, not for some man? I’m not sure yet, but I intend to figure it out.

I’m working on a story about a girl who developed fissues somewhere along the way but then figured out a way to overcome them and now, once again, comfortably sits on the beach making sandcastles and smiling. That’s a story I look forward to telling.

Does It Matter?

At the gym this morning, I learned that I’m not tall enough to reach the shower heads in the locker room. Someone had pushed the shower head over so that it sprayed the side wall rather than spraying right down the middle of the stall to the floor. When I couldn’t reach the head to adjust it back, I got annoyed. The conversation with myself went something like this:

Someone moved it and left it that way? How rude. I’m not tall enough to put it back? Thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad. Let’s add that to the list of gripes I have about my genes, along with being pear-shaped and having a crooked eye. If I wasn’t such a creature of habit, I might have walked into the next stall over. Next time, look up and check the head before committing to a stall. That would take just a second.

I even debated switching shower stalls but decided that moving my towels and supplies would be too much work. So I stayed there and did an off-balance shower.

And you know what? The shower ended up being just fine. The water was hot, I got clean, and my day went on with no problems.

I’ve caught myself lately wanting to make little adjustments to make things more comfortable for myself.

  • I love my house, but I have piles everywhere. If I could de-clutter it just a little, it would be prettier.
  • I love my job, but my office is a little makeshift. If I could have a real desk and maybe a bookshelf, it would feel so much better.
  • I love my shoe collection, but if I could find a pair of black boots for the winter, my cold weather options would be a little more complete.
  • I love my car, but if I could find a small trunk organizer, I could make the whole car a little neater.

I’ve spent lots of time putting things away, griping about my space, browsing online for the perfect close-toed shoe, and hunting for an organizer. But at the end of the day, do these things matter? I get to live in a house I own. I have a job that more than sustains me and gives me tremendous freedom. I have more shoes than any girl needs. And my car? It’s a little messy with all my bags, but it gets me where I need to be every time. Why am I dwelling on these things?

As I’ve been working through the materials from my Storyline conference, I’m learning that I put a lot of energy into small creature comforts that will not make one bit of difference when I’m gone. They do me no real good. They serve no one. They leave no legacy. They just make things a little more comfortable for me right now. But comfortable isn’t what I’m after.

I want full. I want passionate, exciting, challenging, a little scary and totally worthwhile. I want all of my energy to go into relationships, goals and feeding myself and others in ways that matter. The little creature comforts? I’ve got plenty. I don’t need more.

So the shower was off a little? So what? My problem this morning wasn’t that someone else was inconsiderate of short people or that I have short parents or that I don’t easily stray from routine. My problem was that I made too much fuss over something that just didn’t matter.

I don’t want to spend my time and energy on things that don’t matter. People matter. Goals matter. Needs matter. But stuff? Comforts? Those don’t matter. Not anymore.