Calming The Nerves.

I’m having one of those days when there’s so much going on that I have to stop and write towards clearing my head or else I’ll dip my hands into this and that and the other thing but not actually get anything done.

I had a lovely weekend at a Jeanne Guy Gathering where time seemed to stand still and I was present in what we were doing and what I was writing. I slept well. I ate well. I enjoyed the company of an amazing group of women. I called Mom and one trusted other but otherwise kept myself huddled in the security of a safe circle of women who listen and don’t judge. It was incredible. And now, just 24 hours later, I’ve had a poor night’s sleep, and I’m a frenzied mess. How did this happen?

I think I know. Continue reading

Three Months to Africa.

In three months, I’ll be getting on a flight to Tanzania for my Kilimanjaro climb and safari adventure. That feels so strange to say because Africa was never on my list of things to do. The idea just came to me one day in mid June as I was thinking about possible ways to spend new years, and I decided to follow my heart even though I thought my heart might be crazy.

The first thing I did was mention the idea to my friend Matt who has done the climb. This was Sunday, June 16, days before I was leaving to race Ironman Coeur d’Alene. My thought was to set up a lunch for when I got back, but Matt was so excited that he responded to my e-mail on Monday with, “You have lunch plans today?” I didn’t, so we had lunch, and his enthusiasm was so complete that I walked away from that lunch committed in my own mind about the effort. I got back to my office and immediately requested information from the outfitter that Matt had used. When I got back from Coeur d’Alene, I reviewed the information they sent me and, on June 29, I put down my deposit. Acting in 13 days is record time for me, as I am perhaps the slowest decision-maker on the planet. I suppose I could have walked away from the deposit, but on August 7, I bought my ticket. Then I was in for sure. On September 3, the outfitter charged my credit card for the balance of what I owed. Then I was in for damn sure.

Now I’m buying travel insurance, rescue insurance, and health insurance for the trip. I’m looking at immunization lists and gear lists. I’m trying to figure out what I have and what I need and what I want for this trip. How will I charge my phone and camera on the climb? What will I carry in my day pack? Will I take paper books or an e-reader? How much can I pack in the duffel bag that porters will carry for me? What do I need to buy and what can I borrow from friends?

My Grand Canyon trip has helped because I now have a day pack, sleeping bag, hat and gloves. Hood to Coast helped me because I now have a compact pillow and small travel towels. Matt has helped by loaning me his trekking poles, which have been up the mountain before. He assures me that they know the way! But I need to figure out the clothes, especially because most of what I own no longer fits me. I’ve lost almost 19 pounds since January, so I’m having to buy new pants all around. Even the pants I bought in July with Rey are getting loose. At some point, I’ll do a big REI trip to buy a bunch of clothes and gear. That will be a fun effort.

But logistics aside, it’s hitting me that I’m going to Africa, and I’m going alone. My first international trip (to Italy and Greece) was with a girlfriend and her family. My second (to Spain) was to meet my friend Erin, who was studying there for a semester. My third (England and Germany) was for an extended family reunion on my dad’s side. This will be only my fourth big trip, and I’m flying for over 24 hours alone to climb a mountain in Africa with five other people I’ve never met. The me of two years ago before I’d done any international travel would never have done this.

Who have I become?

I’m someone who is turning forty in less than three months and doesn’t want being forty and alone to feel like…well, the way I expect forty and alone to feel. I want to appreciate that I have a wonderful job that allows me travel. I want to take advantage of not having kids and not being responsible for anyone but myself. I want to enjoy being able to book a trip on a whim – or as close to a whim as I’ve ever come – and seeing it through. I love people and want someone by my side, but I also want to be completely okay with being just me.

Africa is about me doing something I never thought I would do. It’s about proving to myself that I can adapt to a different and challenging environment, that I can enter a foreign territory with no one holding my hand, and that I can battle my way up to any finish line I choose to face. It’s about me trying something new and having fun. Africa is about me enjoying being forty and being forty the best way I know how.

I’m excited. And a little scared. But mostly, I’m excited. I can’t wait to get on the plane. This experience will be all my own, and I have a feeling I will come back changed somehow. I don’t know how, but I suspect it’ll be for the better.

Africa, I have high hopes for you and for me. I can’t wait for us to meet.

Lessons of the Falls.

Yesterday, I met some super nice people with Trailhead Running at Pedernales Falls State Park, which is only about 20 minutes from my house in Dripping Springs. I’m pretty certain I’ve been there before, back in college sometime, but it was the first thing on my list towards rediscovering Austin. I got to do a beautiful 8-mile run with my friend Leary, and I met some really great women. I’d say the morning was a huge success.

Leary is way faster than I am, and he was sweet to run with me the entire time. He pushed me, which is always good, but he also got me thinking. In talking about how he and his wife Susan became active, he said that the smallest decisions can have the biggest impact on our lives. For him, it was a decision to set aside some of his interests to join Susan in her efforts running, biking and doing triathlon. Now, training and being active are a huge part of their lives together.

He’s right, isn’t he? We don’t always know how big an impact a decision will have.

When I took my first job at a law firm in 1996, indexing documents and drilling holes in plastic pipe, I had no idea the people I worked with would still be my work family and some of my best friends in 2013. When I agreed back in 1999 to train for the Austin marathon with my friend Teri, I had no idea that running would become a huge part of my life. When I agreed to do the swim leg of the Danskin triathlon for my friend Molly in 2002, I had no idea that I’d get bit by the triathlon bug and eventually go on to do an Ironman – or four. When I visited Toastmasters in 2007 to support my friend Rey in delivering her tenth speech, I had no idea that Toastmasters would become one of my favorite activities. When I visited Portland for the first time in 2010, I had no idea that I would love that area so much that I’d want to live there eventually. When I agreed to book a trip to Italy and Greece – my first international trip not counting Canada – with a girlfriend I didn’t know very well at the time, I had no idea how much travel would become important to me. Two years ago, when I left a job that clearly wasn’t a good fit, I had no idea that starting my own business and contracting with law firms, rather than being employed, would give me a lifestyle of independence and freedom that allows me to travel, pretty much any time I want to, with no guilt.

The outcomes can be unexpectedly positive. They can also be unexpectedly negative. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but I can think of examples in my life when seemingly small decisions had unintended consequences.

How do we know if our decisions will lead to good or bad stuff in our lives? Can we know? I don’t know. I think we just do the best we can. We do what seems right to us at the time and trust that good will follow. We trust that the people who are meant to be a big part of our lives will be there and things that bring us joy will continue to present themselves.

I left my run and my conversation with Leary with a sense of peace that I didn’t have when I arrived that morning. It was nice to run in a beautiful place, in the company of a kind spirit, and be given an opportunity to learn – or perhaps re-learn – that life really is wise and that my part is to just do the best I can every step of the way.IMG_5884

The Very Thing You Crave.

I spent some time today listening to a recording about an Arbonne nutrition boot camp. One statement in the recording really made me think.  The woman speaking said, “The very thing you crave is likely what’s killing you.” She was talking about food – gluten or carbs or sugar – but isn’t that true more generally?

It got me thinking about what I crave, not in terms of food, but in life. For a couple of years now, I’ve paid close attention to the Enneagram line of thought. In that system, I’m a Peacemaker.  According to the book I read, a Peacemaker’s basic fear is loss and separation, and a Peacemaker’s basic desire is inner stability and peace of mind. I think those things are absolutely true about me.

I put a great deal of effort towards avoiding loss and separation. For much of the last few years, I’ve been torn between Austin and Portland. My life was in Austin, but my heart was in Portland. I tried living between the two. When I was in Austin, I felt far from Portland and all that it offered. When I was in Portland, I felt far from Austin and all that it offered. I had a hard time separating entirely from one to embrace fully the other, and my heart hurt most of the time because I was angry that the separation was required of me to make either work. Couldn’t I have both lives? Shouldn’t that have been possible? In the end, my efforts to keep a foot, and effectively the peace, in both places got me nowhere.

I’m not in Portland. The life I wanted there doesn’t await me anymore. I’m not in Austin. The life I’ve built here doesn’t feel like me anymore. Both lives are gone.

I have moments when I feel overwhelmed by the loss of both lives. But as I spent time last weekend with people from my childhood, it occurred to me that, in this place of complete uncertainty, every opportunity stands before me. I’ve always said that I wished I could go back to my youth and do things over again. I’m almost forty, so I can’t go back to my youth exactly, but I’m effectively in a place of asking myself the same questions I was asking in college.

Who am I? What do I want to do? Where do I want to live? What kind of person do I want to spend my life with?

The kid I was let others influence those answers. The adult that kid became allowed her deepest cravings to immobilize and slowly kill her. In this place of starting over, what will the person I am now do? I don’t know yet. My next steps aren’t clear, but I’m smarter, stronger and more adventurous than I have been. So I think it’s gonna be good.

"How Are You?" Matters

It hit me today that “How are you?” is an important question. When someone asks, do they really want to know? And when I answer, am I being genuine with them?

I’ve been studying my relationships to identify the people in my life who ask a real question and get a real answer. I don’t expect everyone to have that level of intimacy with me, as I’m not capable of having that level of intimacy with everyone. I see value in acquaintances, in relationships that involve mutual cheerleading, and in relationships from childhood that remind us of the kids we once were. Those are all good relationships. But I want some relationships that demand truth. I want some relationships that regularly ask the question “How are you?” and always insist on a real answer.

For a long time, I thought I wanted only one person in that role, but I’ve learned that I need more than one because sometimes people exit your life unexpectedly. Sometimes they want to go. Sometimes you show them the door. Either way, the end result is the same: a once trusted person is gone and what remains is a hole of doubt and uncertainty. Who will care about me now? Who will trust me to love them? When something exceedingly good or bad happens, who will I call? Who will call me? Will I have confidence in my ability to identify the permanent connections from the temporary ones? It’s hard not knowing how to answer those questions.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in the last six months trying to answer those questions for myself. Today, I realized that I’ve been limiting myself in trying to come up with a single answer. For me, there is no one answer. There are answers. There are the people who call and text and email to ask how I am and to tell me they’ve been thinking about me. Some want to make dinner plans. Some want to make workout plans. Some want to make vacation plans. Some just want to talk. There are also people I reach out to because I know they’ll understand why something is incredible or awful. I’ve been overwhelmed by these people this week.

I crave real connections. I am desperate to understand and be understood. And I’m so grateful when someone in my life – whether they are a new friend, an old friend or a downright ancient friend – reaches out and asks me, “How are you?” and gives me the freedom to say, “I’m a mixed bag right now.” Because the truth is, I am a mixed bag. Thank you for asking. Tell me, how are you?

Wednesday List #15 – Good Things About This Morning

Yesterday was a rough day. It started with a nice run and my typical morning at the gym, cleaning up and having breakfast before entering my day. But as soon as I left the gym, I felt off. Driving to the office, I got overwhelmed by my to do list. All day long, whether in person or by email or text, I wasn’t connecting well with people. I was rushing from one thing to the next. I felt like I’d left my ability to think and breathe at home. The day shifted though when one of my partners came into my office late in the afternoon to touch base on some work and just talk. That half hour of easy connection with another person helped me to relax a little. Then on my drive home, I spoke to a friend with whom I’d butted heads earlier in the day, and that process of listening, being heard and moving on helped me recover more fully from the awkwardness of the day. By the time I got off the phone, I felt a calm.

This morning, particularly because yesterday felt wrong, I made a conscious effort to start the day well. I’ve had a delightful morning as a result.

  1. I woke early to spin. I didn’t rush out the door to the gym like I normally do. I decided today to spin at home and make some headway on catching up with The Voice.
  2. After my workout, I got cleaned up and went to my chiropractor. I love my chiropractor and had gotten out of the habit of going each week, but I made a decision a couple of weeks ago to re-enter that practice. I’m so glad I did. He worked his magic today, and I walked out of the office feeling stronger than I did when I walked in.
  3. After going to the chiropractor, I went to my favorite little bakery near my house. I was early for my breakfast date, so I had time to journal. Fifteen minutes of writing down my thoughts did a great deal to clear my head.
  4. Just as I was wrapping up a thought, my friend Bobbi showed up, and we had a wonderful time of reconnecting. I’d run into her at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, and we were quick to set up a time to meet up to catch up for real. It felt good to sit down with her. Something about her manner both grounds me and lifts me up.
  5. After breakfast, I gave myself a few minutes to run by an office store. I love office supplies and needed some folders for a surge of new clients I’ve experienced recently with my writing business. It felt indulgent to take a few minutes of the working day to get that errand done.
  6. After my errand, I went to my favorite bike shop to drop off my bike for a race tune-up. I have a race next week. I wasn’t sure a few days ago if my body would be well enough to race, as I’ve been having a bit of a hip issue, but I think my doctors have helped me, and I’m hopeful the race will happen. The act of dropping my bike off in preparation for the race made the race just a bit more real for me.
  7. At the bike shop, I asked about bike shoes. Since my last Ironman, I’ve had some issues with my feet getting numb after long rides, and I’ve been meaning to ask whether I needed new shoes. Today, as I left the house, I thought to grab my shoes. I was expecting to have to buy new shoes, but the super helpful (and quite handsome) guy at the shop encouraged me to try inserts as a first step. He fitted me and sent me on my way. I won’t get to ride again until Saturday, but I’m excited to try my shoes.
  8. Now I am at the office, easing into my work day.

All of that happened before 11 this morning.  Wednesday is proving to be much nicer than Tuesday was, for me anyway. I hope the same is true for you.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

A Shift.

On Wednesday night, after a lovely mental health day, I went to a book club gathering of some really great girls. (It’s not relevant to this posting, but we discussed The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I inhaled in one sitting.) During the meeting, one of the girls mentioned that the word “shift” was on her vision board for the year. That word has stayed with me. I think things are shifting for me somehow.

I’m experiencing a tremendous shift in my triathlon training because I’m improving. About a month ago, I noted some significant improvement. Last week, I retested the swim and the run and again noted big improvement. My 10K time in early March was 30 minutes and 13 seconds. Last week, it was 29 minutes and 10 seconds, which I did a couple of hours after running the Capital 10K last weekend. I love that I improved so much even though my legs were not fresh. Also, my 800 meter swim time improved from 15 minutes and 50 seconds to 15 minutes and 27 seconds. (On a side note, my friend Jamie posted an 18 minute 36 second time for a 1600 meter swim. Admittedly that burst my bubble a bit, but I let it go – sort of – because he is a pro triathlete and a really nice guy.) I’m thrilled with how my training is going. I’ve always been one to say that I do triathlon for fun, but I’m becoming someone who really cares about speed. My coach told me today that I’m becoming a “bad ass triathlete.” Me, a bad ass triathlete? Physicality aside, that’s an entirely new mindset for me.

That’s not the only way my inner self is changing. About six months ago, I simplified my schedule quite a lot and made a conscious effort to focus on work, writing, training and people, not necessarily in that order. I’ve been doing that pretty well, and I’ve gotten better about guarding my time. I’m leaving events when I need to so that I can get home reasonably and get up early the next day. I’m not returning calls and spending every minute of my time in the car on the phone. Instead, I’m driving in silence or listening to the radio, depending on what’s on my mind. Last weekend, I even spent an entire day at home. I exercised, read, cleaned, did laundry and just enjoyed being in my space with my children, and I didn’t feel guilty about going from pajamas to workout clothes to pajamas and passing up a number of invitations. I’m making decisions that are good for me. I like the person I can feel myself becoming.

It feels like I’m making room in my life for…something. I don’t know if that’s a person, a job, an experience, or what. But I feel like something is on its way. Sometime in my life is about to shift.

Wednesday List #11 – Recent Discoveries

I like learning new things, finding good things, or noticing good around me. These are some of my more recent discoveries.

  1. Title Nine’s sports bras: For the last ten or so years, I have lived with perpetual chaffing from a sports bra. I thought it was a fact of being active, sort of like the occasional lost toe nail. But in January, a friend told me that she’d found a bra at Title Nine that really worked for her. I went in and was amazed to learn that they have lots of different kinds of bras and that they let you try them out and return them if you don’t like them. Crazy. I bought two, and one of the two works beautifully for me, so I went back last week and bought two more. $50 on a sports bra seems like a lot, considering I usually buy my workout clothes from Target. But I’m loving that I ran the Austin Marathon with no pain and my chaffing marks are fading. The bras are worth every penny.
  2. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: I said recently that I don’t need any more new television, but I’m adding this show to my A list. I love sports stories. I love seeing humanity in sports and celebrating people finding a new part of themselves by pushing through a challenge. For example, the current episode includes a story about a woman from Pakistan who left her home to pursue her dream of being a champion at squash and a story about a gay male former rugby player who is now an ice dancer. Both stories are about people embracing themselves in the face of opposition. Bryant Gumbel can be snarky at times, but I enjoy that too. I love this show.
  3. Being annoyed tells me something: I’ve been reading this book called Wild by Cheryl Stayed. It’s a memoir about a woman who hiked the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to find herself. Initially, she annoyed me because I felt like she made the most ridiculous choices that made her life unnecessarily hard. Then my friend Brendan suggested that, when he’s really annoyed by someone, he tries to figure out why he’s annoyed because he always ends up learning something about himself. As I continued to read, I thought about what he said and realized that he’s right. I was hating this woman for making choices about work and men and where to live that I could never make myself. That’s what frustrated me. I envied how carefree she was. I even envied her recklessness a bit. Thinking back, I had an equally strong reaction to Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I felt like she was chasing men all the time, and that got to me. Maybe I need to revisit that book and figure out why that annoyed me so much.
  4. Structure: I’ve mentioned before that I love my new triathlon training program. I was telling my coach Natasha that I’ve dropped weight in the few weeks we’ve been working together. She commented that the more structured we are on one part of our life, the more structured we are all the way around. And she’s right. Since getting on this program where I workout every day and report my progress, I’ve kept up and managed to fit more into my life. I’m working more, writing more, reading more, seeing more friends, and still making time for myself to sit and watch television at times. I love the additional structure in my life.

Random stuff, I know. But that’s what’s been going on. And yes, I’m aware of the conflict between what I learned about myself in 3 and what I love in 4. I’m very aware of it. It’s the story of my life.

Off the Island.

I’m back home after an incredible week on Whidbey Island. I joined a remarkable group of women there and spent the week talking about our stories and writing some of them. After we wrote, we read to one another. Through the readings, we offered the circle of women a piece of ourselves, and those pieces were received and celebrated in the most loving way.

I told the group this morning, as we were saying goodbye, that I had entered the island determined to spend a week alone. The reality though is that I was never truly alone. I did have my own room. I also had quiet mornings to myself before the house woke up. I took time to run by myself to the beach. And we agreed, as a community, to have an extended period of silence so that we could write without interruption. But I was never truly alone. These women entered my heart within the first couple of days, and I carried them with me the entire week – when I slept, when I read, when I ran, and when I wrote. I carried them with me off the island, and I will carry them with me going forward.

I will also carry with me the freedom of this moment on the ferry back to the mainland.

Thank you, ladies. I will carry you with me wherever I go.