What I Learned at Aldermarsh.

This week on Whidbey Island, I’ve spent my days writing, running, sharing words in a circle of wonderful women, and getting to know them more fully as we spent evenings before a fire with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea, depending on our moods. It’s been a wonderful week.

The week didn’t go quite as I expected or hoped, but I’m winding down and preparing to head home with two very important insights. Continue reading

The Object in the Center.

A year later, I’ve returned to Whidbey Island for another PeerSpirit writing workshop. There are thirteen participants this year, all of whom have been through the initial workshop before. We are led by Christina Baldwin, whose writing and teaching I adore. I’m staying in the same house as last time, the same room even. I just got here this afternoon, and I’ve already done the beautiful run to the beach that I enjoyed so much last year. It’s good to be back in this place. Continue reading

Mile Markers.

Yesterday, I ran the Jingle Bell 5K for time. As part of my TriDot training, we periodically do time trial efforts to gauge progress. Yesterday, I pushed the 5K as hard as I could and improved my 5K time from 28:53 to 27:00.  I was thrilled to see improvement. I was thrilled to push hard and find a new gear. I was thrilled to cross the finish line knowing that I’d done the absolute best I could on that day. Mostly though, it occurred to me that I depend heavily on mile markers, in running and in life, and that maybe I shouldn’t need them quite so much. Continue reading

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?

Wednesday List #28 – Words of Travis Meadows

When I was in Nashville, I heard a good bit of live music. One of my favorites was a guy named Travis Meadows. He introduced himself by saying that he found songwriting to be a place where he could bleed safely. I think that about writing generally, so I immediately took a liking to him. All through the night, I found myself jotting down things he said and lines from songs he sang. Here are some that really struck me.

  1. “I’ve been cleaning out a lot of emotional closets lately.”
  2. “I’m almost at the age where there is less future than there is past.”
  3. “I’m going to get strong enough not to be ashamed of my old scars.”
  4. “I don’t know much but I do know love, and that’s enough to one who needs it.”
  5. “I had a really bad day that lasted for six years.”
  6. “Reach like you know it’s waiting there.”
  7. “I’ve found letting go of what you hold dear leaves your heart and arms a little more wide open.”
  8. “I’m not famous for making wise decisions.”
  9. “I want to make peace with old ghosts, not piss them off.”

I loved his music. I’m grateful for his words and the example he set for me as someone who is willing to be honest and vulnerable. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to see him perform again soon. If you get to hear him before I do, know that I’m jealous. And let me know what you thought.

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.”

The Next Big Things.

After a big race, I usually find myself in a post-race slump. That’s not happening this time. I’m not fretting figuring out what’s next. I’m actually pretty clear on where I’m heading and how I’m going to get there. I have two big projects going on right now.

First, I’ve been training with my coach Natasha and TriDot since January of this year. I’m down 19 pounds, and I raced personal bests at my two big “A” races this year –  Ironman Coeur d’Alene and the Portland Marathon. I can’t argue with results, so I’ve already put in my request for a new TriDot program towards the Austin Marathon in February so that I continue training through the fall and winter. When that’s done, I know I’ll do another TriDot program towards Coeur d’Alene in June and then yet another one towards the Portland Marathon next October. When a program works for me, I stick with it, and this one is working big time.  I’m excited to keep working on my fitness and to return to the races I did this year so that I can repeat courses and accurately gauge my improvement.

The other big thing is that I’m writing more. I’m writing more on this blog, but I’m also just writing more generally. I’m writing more articles and work pieces. I’m writing more in my journal. I’m even writing emails I know I’ll never send just because the act of writing helps me work through my thoughts. I took a class on personal essays from Saundra Goldman in the spring, and that’s gotten me both reading and writing personal essays more now than I ever have in the past. I’m taking a class on memoir from Spike Gillespie now. Just last night, she got me started on a piece that I think could go somewhere – and by that I mean that I might actually want to send out for publication. Since I’ve decided to return to Whidbey Island this year for another PeerSpirit workshop, I’m starting to think about how I want to use that week and what writing project in particular I want to advance.

Over the course of the year, I’ve realized that I am a much more capable athlete than I originally thought, but it’s been hard to change how I view myself. Even after four Ironmans and thirteen marathons and heaven only knows how many other races, I still feel like the chubby girl in fifth grade gym class who enviously watched her friends back handspring and backflip across the gym floor. I look in the mirror, and that insecure kid is not who I see these days, but I have to make a point of looking in the mirror to be reminded that I have changed. I’m finally – and let me stress the finally – starting to view myself as a potential bad-ass triathlete, a term my coach used about me earlier this year. This year, I’ve proven to myself that I do not have to be resigned to being slow. I can improve, and I have improved tremendously.

I’d like to take what I’ve learned about myself through training and put it to work in my writing. I have watched people I know and love get book contracts and become published authors, and the little voice in my head has said again and again, “That will never happen for you.” It’s time to prove that little voice wrong once again. I’ve published pieces in one magazine. Couldn’t I write for more? I write for myself a lot. Couldn’t I write a book? Whether or not I become someone who makes a living on writing, shouldn’t I try, if that’s what my heart wants?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this Ironman craziness, it’s that anything is possible. Absolutely anything. So there will be no post-race slumping going on here, but there will be writing. Lots and lots of writing. And training. And progress. And changing how I view myself. And blowing through one goal after another. I can’t wait.

What I’ve Learned From Erin.

Last night, I went to a going away party for a dear friend and training partner. She’s moving to Dallas to work with a consulting firm, a position she earned while getting her MBA from UT. I’m super proud of Erin and incredibly grateful for all the things she’s taught me and challenged me to do during the last few years.

Though we originally met through work, as is often the case with my best of friends, our friendship really developed through training. We started running together when I was doing the RevFit program in the fall of 2010. She is faster than I am, so running with her is always a good challenge for me. But even better than that, by running with her, I’ve gotten to know her unique spirit, and she’s grown my world in a number of ways.

  1. Erin’s really great about listening to gripes and then saying, “So what are you going to do about it?” She won’t let you wallow in anything. She’s incredibly solution-oriented.
  2. When I was struggling with a job change, Erin was great about listening and helping me to take steps towards owning my own business and, even more so, owning my life.
  3. She introduced me to Elizabeth, who also has become a dear friend. Elizabeth cares for me, and helps me to get out and enjoy my city. Erin knew Elizabeth and I would get along, so she introduced us and said, “You two need to be friends.” I love that she did that, and I love that she was right.
  4. Erin took improv for a bit and challenged me to do the same. She knew it wouldn’t be easy for me, and she knew that I would benefit from giving it a try.
  5. Erin invited me to visit her in Barcelona this year. More than that, she found the Barcelona marathon for me, and set it up so that I could swim and spin at her gym while I was there so I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking a vacation in the middle of Ironman training. And if that wasn’t enough, she housed me the entire trip, which made it ridiculously cheap for me.
  6. When I went through hard stuff, Erin listened without judgment and challenged me to move forward, especially when I didn’t want to.
  7. Erin invited me to join her for a Pose clinic, which was something I’d been wanting to do for quite some time. That clinic led me to make some major changes in terms of my running.
  8. Erin recently reintroduced me to the 10 mile loop of Lady Bird Lake, a run I hadn’t done in probably a decade.
  9. Erin has encouraged my writing always. She reads and comments on this blog. She tells me to write and write and write, if that’s what I really want to do.
  10. Erin makes me a better person. She makes me believe that I have potential in all areas of my life, and she encourages me to find the best that’s out there for me. In terms of work, relationships, and how she spends her time, Erin doesn’t settle for acceptable. She wants exceptional, and she encourages me to insist on the same.

I love this girl. I love her friendship. I love her energy. I love her spirit. I’m sad to lose her from Austin, but I don’t doubt she’ll visit and that I will visit her.  I don’t doubt that this friendship will continue to grow.

Safe travels this weekend, dear friend. I’m here if you need anything. Always.