A Wish List.

I keep a spiral binder that I use to make notes to myself about things I need to do or information I need to keep at my fingertips. It contains my to do lists, packing lists, notes about hotel reservations and car reservations, and more. Today, I opened it up to make a packing list for my visit to Iowa this weekend, and I happened upon a list I apparently wrote back on August 18. I say apparently because I have zero recollection of writing this particular list. Continue reading

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 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.

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.

The Little Voice Inside.

It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.

I read this today, and it hit home with me. The little voice inside me can be the worst. It’s been quite ugly towards me at times. Sometimes it comes up with original hatred. Sometimes it repeats again and again the hurtful things others have said. I’m not sure which is worse.

This year, the little voice and I have started to become friends. When my cheerleader walked away, I had to be my own cheerleader. At first, I tried to do that without confronting – without even acknowledging – the little voice, but I quickly realized that I had to have a heart-to-heart with the little voice or else it would send me into a spiral mind f*ck every time it reared its ugly head. Our talk went something like this:

I need you to be on my side sometimes. I’m not saying you can’t speak ever. But I need you to be careful about when you assert yourself. Tell me what you’re thinking when I’m strong, when I’m in a position to hear you and make changes to become stronger. When I’m down, stay quiet; a down me doesn’t need any help beating myself up. And if you could, every once in a while, come up with something nice to say. Don’t lie to me, but see if there aren’t things you like about me, and every once in a while, tell me those things, okay?

It hasn’t been easy, but the voice has changed. My self talk has changed. I no longer tell myself that I’m not fast; I tell myself that I can get faster. I no longer tell myself that I might not finish; I tell myself that crossing what appears to be an unlikely finish line will feel great. I no longer tell myself that I can’t handle change; I tell myself that I’m becoming more adaptable in ways that matter. It’s not that I’m not lovable; I just haven’t yet found the person who will love me best.

Ironman was never about Ironman. My races aren’t about the races themselves. Everything I do in this part of my life is an effort to remind myself again and again that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. That I’m strong physically and mentally. That I have a deep ability to focus on whatever it is that I want to do and find a way to get it done.

I remember being in Coach Burke’s gym class in the fifth or sixth grade. She was teaching us to do headstands. The idea was that we would start on our hands and knees, put our heads down, and straighten our backs until our bodies were shaped like a “V ” and our legs were extended straight with just the tips of our toes on the ground. Then we would have to bring our legs up together – never separating them – using our core muscles, until we were in a headstand. There were some kids in that class who could do it immediately. I wasn’t one of those kids, but I went home that night and practiced and practiced in my bedroom until I could finally do it. And the next day, when I showed Coach Burke what I could do, she put her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and said, “You are my hero. I am so proud of you.” It was a little thing, but I remember the look in her eyes, and I remember the feeling of getting it done after I wasn’t sure that I could.

That’s the feeling I want every day. I don’t want to go home feeling beaten. I don’t want to doubt myself, my worth, or my abilities or sit in envy of others. I just want to work hard and figure out a way to get things done for me.

That little voice in my head hurts me sometimes. But sometimes it helps. And lately, as I’ve worked through my feelings of sadness, as I’ve looked for ways to lift my own spirits, as I’ve discovered my own sense of adventure, that little voice has become less of a demon and more of an angel. Not always, but more and more, I hear it say things like you are getting there. You can do this. Don’t think about what she said to you. You are my hero; I am so proud of you.

There are definitely times the voice still tells me that I should quit. But when that happens, I think about all the little victories. The headstands. The timed 5Ks. The 800 meter swims. The marathons. The half-Ironmans. The Ironmans. The days when I wasn’t sure I could take another ounce of heartache. And I say to that little voice, “Oh, so you want to fight today? Tell me what you think I can’t do, and I’ll show you just how wrong you are, b*tch.”

Okay, so I don’t call the little voice a b*tch. I’m too nice for that. But you get what I’m saying. I’m a fighter. I don’t cross the finish line first, but every finish line I reach means that I didn’t let the little voice get the best of me. And more and more, the voice is urging me across the line because, like me, the little voice wants to win, and I think it’s figured out that it can’t beat me. It certainly hasn’t done it yet.

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