Happy New Year to You.

I say this now because I won’t be writing for a while, not here anyway. I’m taking a couple of weeks off to go to Africa. It’ll be an entirely new experience for me – a new continent, a first mountain climb, a first effort in altitude, a first camping experience that will last more than one night, and a first time journeying entirely with people I’ve never met. I expect to learn a great deal about the world and myself while I’m away. Continue reading

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

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?

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.

Brad Pitt is Turning 50?

I read this morning that Brad Pitt is turning 50 in December. Huh? What? Mr. Sexy Abs and Dimples In A Cowboy Hat is turning 50?

I remember seeing Thelma & Louise in the Academy Building of Phillips Exeter Academy during my senior year of high school. I was taking a course called the Art of Protest taught by Christine Robinson, one of my favorite instructors, and watching the movie was our homework. (Yes, it was an incredible course for many reasons.) The movie had come out the year before and was new to me. I gushed when Brad Pitt came on screen wearing blue jeans, a cowboy hat, a gorgeous smile, and nothing else. What that man can do with a hair dryer still makes me blush.

To think that gorgeous young thing is turning 50…gives me hope.

Never once have I looked at a picture of Brad Pitt and thought, “Damn, that dude’s getting old.” Sometimes I’ve thought he looked strange or unnecessarily scraggly, but never, ever old. If anything, he’s more attractive now than he was in 1991. I love the lines on his face, the sometimes there ponytail, and the ever-changing facial hair. I love that he wears more clothes and sometimes has kids hanging on his back. I love that he’s grown a big family and become a humanitarian. He’s just stunning. And he’s 50.

I’ve been fretting the whole turning 40 thing since even before I turned 39. Why? Yes, I’m single and didn’t expect to be. But in every way, my life is a million times more meaningful than it was ten years ago. I have a job I enjoy that supports a wonderful lifestyle of freedom. I have another job writing, which feeds me in more ways than a paycheck ever could. I have a beautiful home in the country that I share with my beloved Bread and Butter. I have parents who love me more than life, and I have the most amazing friends – people I’m completely crazy about who support my goals and dreams. I get to travel the world racing. I’m faster now than I’ve ever been. I’m leaner now than I’ve ever been. And I was reminded this weekend that my story isn’t over. In fact, a new story is just beginning.

This weekend at the Storyline Conference, I started down a path of really looking at who I am, what I want, and what I have to offer the world. One part of the process is to do an inventory of personal experiences. That’s a hard thing because not everything I see in my past is beautiful. Some of it is downright heinous. But I was reminded this weekend of a little thing called redemption. I was reminded that I can look at the downturns in my life, identify something meaningful from each experience, and by doing so, turn that suffering into something useful and beautiful.

For the next couple of months, I’m going to continue the work I began in Nashville, and when I’m done, I hope to emerge with a plan for a new story for my life. I have some ideas of what some of the elements might be, but I’m excited to see what bigger, more clear picture comes out of the process. Whatever it is will be my gift to myself as I turn 40 in December just four days after Brad Pitt turns 50.

Then, one week after I turn 40, I will hop a plane to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro. When I get back, I will pick back up with my Ironman training and chase my dream of a fifth Ironman finish next June in Coeur d’Alene. I will continue to chase my dream of being published as an essayist. And I will go down the path of the plan that comes out of the Storyline Conference experience, whatever that path may be.

I have no doubt that, in December, when Brad Pitt turns 50 and I turn 40, I will look at him as a 50-year-old man and say, “You, Mr. Pitt, are way more sexy today than Mr. Sexy Abs and Dimples In A Cowboy Hat ever was.” And I will look at myself and say, “Hey, you in the mirror who enjoys traveling the world and pushing your limits and loving the people around you in big and beautiful ways, you are too.”

Rough Beginnings.

This trip to Portland had a rough beginning. My flight was delayed for two hours, which was fine, except that it meant sitting in a waiting area with lots of people who were heading to Portland for this marathon, all of whom seemed ridiculously stressed. I don’t bug easily, but they bugged me so much that I had to get up and move twice to get away from their craziness. But since getting on the plane, the trip has gotten much better.

I slept the entire flight. Two nights ago, I was up until after 1:00 a.m. because I had a friend over for dinner. Last night, I played tennis after work and then returned to the office until about 11:30 to get some things done. Last year, I cancelled my trip to Portland for the marathon because work was too busy. I was determined not to let that happen again, so I powered through my work, I packed well after midnight, and once I got on the flight, I slept. It was the sort of sleep that brought on dreams that were so vivid at the time but are completely lost to me now.

Portland

Since arriving in Portland, I went for a short run and ended my run at the hotel that was hosting packet pickup. I got my race bib and shirt, which I’m pleased to report is far too big on me. Then I bought an orange long sleeve shirt and a purple sweatshirt because a Texas girl needs lots of cold weather gear? I don’t know. I liked the orange, and I loved the saying on the sweatshirt: “run + done = happy.” I plan to wear it on Sunday after the race.

Then tonight, I had dinner at a fancier than I intended place next door to my hotel and finally finished Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, which I loved, and then I spent the evening at Powell’s Books at a reading by Linda Spalding. I didn’t know her before tonight, but I figured Powell’s would draw good authors, and I was right. It’s been a lovely night.

This is only my second time in Portland in the last year. I came just over a month ago for Hood to Coast and had a great time. This time I’m alone, though tomorrow I have a dear friend coming to spend the day with me. I’m feeling pretty raw being here. I’m having one of those nights where the tears are just below the surface of my smile and both the smile and the tears that I haven’t released are equally genuine.

I said before that I feel like this month is the end of what’s been a rough (but wonderful) year. This trip to Portland feels like a farewell of sorts. This town holds so much of my heart. It’s not my home, and it didn’t feel like my home even when it was for a short time. It’s just a place where a girl I once knew and a girl I once was spent some time what feels like a very long time ago.

I’ve come here to run a race, but mostly, I’ve come here to lay a dream to rest. I plan to do that by running my heart out on Sunday. I’m going to run as fast as I can. I’m going to pour my sweat and perhaps some tears and hopefully no blood all over this city that carries some of my most vivid dreams that are mostly lost to me now. And then I’m going to go home, to my real home, to the place where I live with Bread and Butter, and start again.

Run + done = happy.

Happy Almost New Years (To Me)!

I’m giddy that it’s October. I’ve been waiting for this month for almost an entire year. For the past year, I’ve been playing this game in my head of, “Oh, this time last year I was doing [fill in the blank]…” and the game made me sad because “this time last year” was really good. But for nearly a year now, I’ve lived without something I thought I couldn’t live without. And it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve made it. And by the end of this month, when I look back a year, I’ll be looking back on life as I know it now rather than the life I once had. That feels really good to me.

Part of me wants to kick the past year to the curb and say, “I never want to think of you again!” But if I do that, I’d be losing so much. I’d be losing my memories of my first season trail running, my fun house remodel, my time on Whidbey Island with an incredible group of women, my time at the Grand Canyon, my first time at Enchanted Rock, my first season of training with Natasha and TriDot, my trip to Barcelona, my doing the Barcelona marathon in nearly record time, an awesome weekend at a Jeanne Guy gathering, my getting through the St. George 70.3, my personal best at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my trip to England and Germany for my family reunion, my reunion with my JBA friends, Hood to Coast, my time in Connecticut with Sarah and Mari-Eleanor, and so much more. It’s been a rich year, despite the cloud of sadness. And this cloud, like all clouds, has begun to dissipate as I’ve simplified my life, reconnected with old friends, made new friends and companions, and set out on adventures that even I didn’t anticipate.

I’m ready to look ahead. Before me, I have my Portland race this weekend, my Donald Miller conference in Nashville next weekend, a fun fall racing season, a return to Whidbey Island, opportunities to host old and new friends in my home, and my trip to Africa. And that’s all just during the end of 2013. The last eleven months have been pretty special. They were not what I expected. They were not necessarily what I would have chosen, had it all been up to me. But it’s been quite the year.

I don’t usually pack my time so fully. I don’t usually make three international trips in one year. I don’t usually travel once or twice a month to see friends or race in a new town. This has been a year of indulgence for sure, but I had to do something extreme this year to fill my heart and spirit in every way that I could. And I’d say I did a pretty damn good job of making the last eleven months more than a little worthwhile.

I’m so grateful for the passing of time and for the passing of time so richly. Happy October, everyone. Onward and upward.