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.

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

Backwards or Forwards?

The week before I leave town for my big race, work has gone nuts. Isn’t that how it goes? Still I managed to sneak away briefly yesterday to attend Capital City Toastmasters. And I’m so glad I did. Corky took us through a great meeting that consisted largely of table topics. He posed “simple” questions. Hot or cold? Wet or dry? Male or female? Big or small? My question? Backwards or forwards?

Kick me in the gut, why don’t you?

I want so much to go back in time. Back to college when I was rushing through in three years to become an adult. I would choose differently and spend time abroad for no reason except to spend time abroad. Back to my twenties when I was choosing people who never quite loved me. I would choose differently so as not to waste so much time and effort on those who did not reciprocate the feelings I had. Back to my early thirties when I had a fantastic group of friends from church that I pulled away from when our group grew and turned into what the church called the “singles” ministry. How I hated that term. I would choose to stay a part of it and not let a word and the awkwardness of people pairing off in that environment affect my friendships. Back to the last few years when I found someone I could really love who I believed could really love me. I wasn’t confident enough to dive in the way either of us needed me to. I would most certainly choose differently there.

I want to go backwards and fix these things. But that’s now how life works, is it? Forwards is my only option. So forwards I go.

But what does that mean? What’s ahead of me? I wish I knew. All I can do right now is focus on one thing at a time. Right now, that thing is Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

This time next week, Jeanie, Malinda and I will be in Coeur d’Alene. We’ll be settled into our rental homes. We’ll be preparing to drive the course and prep our gear bags. We’ll be going for bike rides and testing out the water temperature in our wetsuits. (I did finally get a new wetsuit.) We’ll be trying to stay calm in the days leading up to the race.

I don’t know what I would have done with myself these last six or eight months if I didn’t have Coeur d’Alene ahead of me. It’s given me something to focus on and work towards. It’s forced me out of bed and into my life even when that was sometimes the last thing I wanted.  I’m grateful for the timing of this race. I’m grateful for my focused preparation. I’m grateful for the experience I’m about to have.

When I look forwards, I can only see to this race. I don’t know what comes after that, but I know I will continue to move forwards.  “Striving for possibilities beyond Ironman” – that’s the subtitle of this blog. Those are my words. After this race, I’ll have to give some real thought to what those words mean to me now.

I look forward to finding the next thing, whatever that may be. But for now, I continue to focus on a successful taper, careful packing, and my adventure back to Coeur d’Alene.

It’s been five years since Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin and I first did this race. I have looked back each year on the anniversary of the race with much joy. The first anniversary. The second anniversary. The third anniversary. The fourth anniversary. I’m curious what the fifth anniversary will hold for us. All good things, I hope. Smooth water for the swim. Minimal wind for the ride. Fresh legs for the run.

Forwards we go. Forwards I go. To Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday List #14 – Things That Make Me Grateful

Since my Barcelona adventure, I’ve been an irregular writer. I’ve missed some Wednesday lists, but I’m back to them now. Today, my list is all about gratitude.

  1. My Work: I woke up this morning to the sound of rain and, after a hectic couple of weeks at work and two big projects coming to a close yesterday, I felt in need of a day off, so I took one. I met a friend at the bakery near my house for breakfast. I had coffee with my mom. I went to my chiropractor for the first time in almost six months. I reviewed my tax paperwork. I went to a Toastmasters meeting. I had lunch with my favorite guys from my Toastmasters club. I made a quick trip to my accountant’s office. I went to the post office to mail my franchise tax report. I went to Whole Foods to buy some snacks for book club tonight. Then I decided to make a brief appearance at work. That was my day, and it was lovely. It could only happen because I work for myself and have for nearly two years now. As that change was happening two years ago, I struggled with it. I could not have known then that all would be so well.
  2. My Mom: When I realized I had time this morning, I called my mom to come to my house for some coffee. She did, and it was wonderful. There’s not a lot that I can give my mother because she is not into things, but she does value time, and she rarely declines an invitation to spend time with any of her kids. Mom and I don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but we do know that we love one another always. I’m incredibly lucky to have her.
  3. My Health: Since I got back from Barcelona, I’ve had a bit of a hip issue. Apparently, I tweaked something in my hip the first time I ran after the long flight home. I didn’t stretch well enough beforehand, and now I have a limp. I’ve been seeing a wonderful rehab doctor that my coach recommended, and today I went to the chiropractor to see if he could help me. He did. Tremendously. I used to see him once a week, but I’d gotten out of the habit of going since about October. I’m back on track now, as he reminded me today what a difference regular adjustments make for my body.
  4. My Friendships: This morning, I sat down for breakfast with a dear old friend. We have both been so busy that we hadn’t connected since around the holidays. But after the exchange of a few text messages, we found ourselves face-to-face in conversation, and that just felt right to me today. We picked up where we had left off. She gave me solid advice, as she always has. And I left her grateful that our paths crossed so many years ago and that she chose to move to my little town when she did.
  5. My Toastmasters Club: This morning, I saw an email from my club saying that two speakers had dropped out for today’s meeting, so I decided to see if I could give a semi-impromptu speech.  I say “semi-impromptu” because I had actually written the speech back in March and had been mulling it over for a while, but I hadn’t practiced it the way I usually practice. Lately, I have shied away from Toastmasters meetings because it’s hard for me to stand up in front of a room full of people when my confidence is compromised. I’ve been rebuilding my confidence ever so slowly over the last few months. Normally, I would have waited until I felt at my best to reappear, but I made the decision to trust my club to receive me today as I am, and they didn’t let me down. My speech wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, and it gave me an opportunity to dive back into something I’ve loved for a long time.

I feel refreshed after my day. Thank you to everyone who played a part in making today so full of gratitude and joy. You did my heart good today.

Wedneday List #3 – Things I Won’t Do.

At Toastmasters today, I was asked during table topics (which, for you non-Toastmasters, are questions that require the delivery of a brief, impromptu speech) what career I would choose if I had life to do over again. My answer had more to do with life choices than career choices. I talked about how I would re-do college and be a party girl rather than a straight-laced responsible student because maybe then I would date more, get married and have kids blah blah blah. When I sat down, I felt like a broken record, and I felt broken.

That got me thinking. During this time of year, I often think in terms of lists, primarily lists of things I want to do. I think it’s time for a list of things I don’t want to do anymore.

  1. I don’t want to dwell on not being married.
  2. I don’t want to dwell on not having kids.
  3. I don’t want to dwell on relationships that failed.
  4. I don’t want too much work to be my excuse for backing out of plans or trips. 
  5. When it comes to writing, I don’t want to claim that I just don’t have time.
  6. When it comes to running, I don’t want to say that I just don’t have a faster gear in me.
  7. When it comes to travel, I don’t want to blame not traveling on not having someone who will travel with me.
  8. I don’t want being alone to be my excuse for not learning how to cook.
  9. I don’t want shyness to be a reason for not dancing.
  10. I don’t want fear of change to keep me from…anything.

These things need to exit my vocabulary and my mindset. Talking about them does me no good. Thinking about them does nothing to move me forward. I want forward movement. Better yet, I am capable of it.

A Wednesday List.

Something has shifted in me since my wonderful retreat to Whidbey Island. I’m home and feeling grateful for the women I met there – the friends I made. I am feeling grateful generally and thought I’d take a few minutes to make a list of wonderful things happening right now.

  1. I’m writing again. My silent time on the island kicked that off.
  2. I spent a wonderful evening on the phone last night reconnecting with a dear one. And if that wasn’t gift enough, Bread insisted on sitting on my lap the entire time.
  3. I had coffee at home with my mom this morning before heading in to work.
  4. I was able to attend Toastmasters today after more than a month of missing meetings.
  5. I just made plans to meet my friend Erin for a run and breakfast before she heads to Barcelona next week.
  6. I’m meeting a friend I’ve known for years but don’t often get to see for dinner tonight, in part to celebrate how close she is to having her first child.
  7. Tomorrow, I get to meet with my financial advisor, who has become a most trusted friend, to talk about retirement planning and goal setting for 2013.
  8. I leave for the Grand Canyon on Friday to celebrate the fortieth birthday of one of my favorite people in the world. (Happy birthday, Jenny!)
  9. I finally know exactly what I’m doing for my mom for Christmas. I owe my new friend Gretchen, from Whidbey Island, for the gift idea.
  10. I made my Christmas card list on my way up to Whidbey Island last week. Looking at it – and realizing now that I have some additions to make after last week’s retreat – I’m reminded at how rich my life is in friendships.

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I hope yours is as sweet as mine has been.