A Track Workout.

On Sunday morning, I hit the track for mile repeats. My training plan called for at least two mile repeats on a 9:20 pace. I did this same workout back on February 23. Back then, I only managed two repeats and I barely hit my target time. I did the first at 9:18 and the second at 9:20 and felt so exhausted that I called it a day. Today, I managed four repeats and was much faster: 9:08, 9:00, 8:54 and 9:01. I might have had a fifth mile in me, but I called it a day at four. A good day. I like seeing progress, and today was definitely progress. Go me. Continue reading

Cry Me A River.

This weekend, my dear friend and I indulged in two movies – Her and August: Osage County, both of which made me grateful for this month of focus that I’ve set out for myself. My plan has been to step away from the computer and be more engaged with writing, my partner, my family, and my friends. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m more emotionally invested in technology than people, and I don’t want a life of estrangement from family. I felt like those films functioned as a cosmic affirmation of my plans for the month.

Then I heard from my mother late yesterday afternoon that Philip Seymour Hoffman died. What? How? Of a drug overdose? At 46?  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.

Wednesday List #24 – Rediscovering Austin Continued

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

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

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

Off in the Wilderness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just don’t know.

Africa Is Happening.

In mid-June, I started thinking about a trip to Africa. Africa had never been on my list of places I wanted to go, but as I thought about turning 40 and doing so alone, I knew I wanted to do something grand for my birthday. I also knew that I did not want to spend New Years at home alone, so I started looking at REI’s website for adventure trips in late December. Almost immediately, I felt drawn to the thought of hiking up the highest mountain in Africa.

So what if it takes forever to travel to Africa and I’ll be travelling alone? So what if the foreignness of Africa scares me? So what if I’ve never been in altitude? So what if I have to get injections or take drugs to keep from getting sick? So what if I’m sleeping in a tent and not showering every day? I can do this. More than that, I need to do this. I need to know that I can put myself in any unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable situation and, not just survive, but enjoy it.

Someone recently told me that I’m not capable of change, and I cannot let that be true.

It’s true that I’ve lived in the same town for more than twenty years, that I’ve been in one line of work, mostly with one firm, the entire time, and that I’m a person who takes comfort in routine and familiarity. It’s also true that I hold tight to my family and friends. I have friends I’ve had since elementary school, middle school, and high school because I value people. Once I love them, I don’t let go easily. I email. I phone. I reach out regularly. If I cause hurt, I ask forgiveness, even when walking away would be easier. If I am hurt, I offer forgiveness where I think forgiveness is genuinely sought. I have a history of dedication and commitment to my work and the people I love. I think all of that is good and that to reframe all of that as a condemnation of me as unable to adapt is a mistake.

Then I worry. Is it true that I can’t change? I talked for three or four years about moving out of Austin proper into the country before I actually did it. It took years of thinking about writing before I made any externally visible efforts to actually write for magazines or other people. It takes me months to move myself mentally from the I’m-getting-to-know-you phase into the we’re-dating phase. I’m slow to make decisions, whether the decisions involve a major life change or buying a blender. I consider and debate and coax myself into action, big and little. And sometimes that means long periods of uncertainty and what appears to be inaction to the outside observer. Does my slowness mean I’m not moving towards change or that I’m incapable of it? I don’t think so.

So this Africa thing is about climbing Kilimanjaro about as much as my Ironman thing is about earning the M-dot status. It’s really about my life, who I want to be, and what I need to know is true about me.

I bought my plane ticket today. It took me almost two months, but I did it. I’m in. The plans are made, and the money is spent. I’m going to Africa.