Field of Dreams

A few months back, I got candid about some of the struggles I was having with losing dad at Christmas. I felt it was important to be honest about the ups and downs of grief. But, today, I want to share the flip side to the lowest of lows. The highest of highs.

My 7-year old is excited about baseball, which means I’m excited about baseball. I’m pitching in where I can with a series of other dedicated parents to coach. On a side note, kudos to every coach who attempts to teach boys in Little League because wow, there’s something to be said about 17 high energy children throwing balls and swinging bats around you. I digress, though.

This week, Jake wanted to play catch. Dad had a meeting which meant for just a moment, I was the cool parent. Prior to heading out, I reminded Jake that I once played Little League. I even showed off my team portraits and our championship trophy circa 1989. He won’t admit it, but I think he was impressed.

Afterwards, we headed outside with gloves and ball in-hand. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather… the signs of spring literally sprouting around us… or, the pileated woodpecker pecking above my son’s head. But, I was immediately taken back to a similar scene 35-years ago. A time when I would beg my dad to head outside and play catch with me. The answer, no matter how tired he was, was always yes.

Back and forth the ball went. I made Jake practice his pop-ups and grounders. He worked on pitching. The nonstop chatter only disrupted by the snap of the ball in my glove. I found myself wanting to capture and savor every second of this exchange while also reminiscing over how I’ve come full circle. I won’t get too cliché here but when folks talk about how meaningful moments are sometimes the simplest of moments – this was it.

The past few months, I’ve been really struggling with how to pay tribute to dad – asking myself how do I keep his legacy alive while also not dwelling in his loss? How to not rush past the pain but to also recognize that life goes on. And that’s actually ok.

This isn’t a post about faith. It is a post about family. But, sometimes the two are blurred. And in this moment, I can’t help but think dad was with me coaching me as I coached Jake.

I’ll certainly play catch with Jake again. I’ll certainly watch him surpass my skills and grow up to be his own person. But, I know he’ll do that without me imparting just a little bit of my dad in him first… and the circle of life continues.

In this moment, I couldn’t be happier.

It’s All Relative

May marked my first double digit in-person race in 18-months. It was my first time running in Eau Claire. The race promised to be an exciting weekend away with one of my favorite gal pals. My training, while not all in, had been consistent. I took Friday off to pamper myself with an early morning spin class, a savory maple latte, browsing an amazing independent coffee shop and investing a small fortune at my favorite Red Barn bare root plant sale (hey, some girls love purses. I love plants).

Things took a little dip when my spin instructor informed that Eau Claire is not in fact a flat city. In my defense, there was no topography map with this race. But, I definitely knew that wasn’t a good sign. She is after all, a seriously badass runner and if she thought Eau Claire was hilly, I was in trouble. Later that day, my bestie’s dad had a terrible accident resulting in her going from runner to caretaker in a heartbeat. I was devastated, for obvious selfish reasons, but also because I’ve been there. I know how challenging it is to balance work, life and caring for family. At the end of the day, father’s always come first.

As I modified my packing, I knew I needed to modify my intentions as well. Sure, I went into my training in January with a specific time goal in mind. I really wanted to clear 14-minute miles. My race a few weeks prior indicated it might be possible. I also knew, similar to how circumstances can change, this too was not a guarantee.

On Saturday, I began the journey south. I opted to “pop in” to see my boys at our family cabin. It was cabin opener and a mere 90-minutes out of the way. The extra car time gave me plenty of time to revisit my why. You know, that thing that’ll fuel your run when there’s nothing left to give. I knew I’d need it come Sunday morning.

I’ve talked a TON about my why. Heck, I even wrote a whole book about it. But, in this moment, my why felt different. It felt like a signal of acknowledging the next normal. The normal where COVID-19 still factors into daily decisions but doesn’t prohibit me from running with strangers. The normal where dad’s still in my phone but won’t answer my call. The normal where I’m starting to discover I’m living in a master’s body that doesn’t rebound as quickly as I’d like. But, at the core, my why remains as simple as because I can.

Race eve I listened to the course director breakdown the pending race. It is here my fears were calmed when she mentioned the course was relatively flat. Looking out my window at some serious hills, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I went to bed that night firm in my why and a hope that Sunday’s race would be successful.

Depending on the benchmark one uses, Sunday’s race was anything but successful. Turns out relatively flat includes a long stretch of uphill at the start and then a series of never-ending rolling hills every time you crossed a bridge. BTW the race is called Bridge 2 Bridge – turns out there are A LOT of bridges in Eau Claire. I was not prepared. And I paid dearly for it. By mile 3, it was clear that even with the help of an Uber, I would come nowhere close to my goal time. I was definitely disappointed. I even had a moment where I contemplated quitting, only I had no clue where my car was and figured it might be shorter to just finish the race then walk home. In racer moments, this was an ultimate low.

Luckily, my why kicked in. I had plenty of time to take in the scene. It was a gorgeous course with over-the-top friendly racers and volunteers. Despite being May in northern Wisconsin, the weather was borderline hot with the perfect mix of sun and shade. I was running with real people on a real racecourse. Spotify did not disappoint with the perfect race tunes. I was once again reminded of Henry Ford’s famous quote, “whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” I crossed the finish line Sisu strong.

Statistically speaking, that race was rough. I finished not only in the back of the pack but the bottom finisher for my age group. It was my slowest time ever. I set a record in new chaffing spots and my calves are still recovering. If I’m being honest, do these numbers disappoint me? Absolutely. I’ll be taking the next few months to evaluate what’s next in my running and fitness journey. In the meantime, I’m reverting back to the basics of just moving my body every single day.

That said, I’m proud to share this story. I had many, many opportunities to quit the past 4-months. My initial race was cancelled. Spring was well spring, resulting in abnormal training conditions at best. Work is busy. Life is busy. I’m grieving. Plans changed. But, yet, it still always comes back to if I get to run, why wouldn’t I? It really is as simple as that.

So for the hundreds of runners that passed me this weekend, thanks for your words of encouragement. For those sitting on the sidelines wondering if they can, you can. I promise you that. It may not be pretty but it is still worth it. Afterall, success is all relative… and for the record, Eau Claire is not relatively flat in this gal’s eyes, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Race Day Recap

This past weekend, I lined up for my first in-person race in over 18-months. Since then, I’ve attended a game changing personal development conference (important for me to note, the conference was a game changer but the host is someone I’ve since lost most respect for), launched a book, said goodbye to my father, navigated a global pandemic and gained what I’ll lovingly call the friendly 15 (aka work from home chips).

Since January, I’ve done average on my training runs. In fact, according to Hal, I’m sitting at a solid C as I enter the final weeks of training for a 10-mile run in Eau Claire. Hal also says based on my training that I will hit my goal time come May 1. This race was a good prequel to seeing if that was true.

I crossed the finish line with no clue what’ll happen May 1. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty but a few race highlights.

  • Turns out one should not assume the course is the same and Duluth’s hills are alive and well. I’d like to say this was a pleasant surprise. It was not.
  • COVID-19 has changed the start of races. Some good. Some bad. It is nice to know there isn’t a sea of people ready to crush you at the start. The introvert in me loves it. However, staggered start times, especially if you are starting in a middle time, means you are continuously getting passed by faster runners. It is hard to not feel like a tortoise in the way.
  • Crossing the finish line is still as sweet as ever. As is the medal.
  • Post-race cocktails are still delish.

When all was said and done, I finished 4 seconds slower than 2-years ago. I’ll take it. Am I still back of the pack? Yep. Am I still pacing ahead of my goal time for next week? Yep. In fact, my 13:37 per mile time is 23 seconds under my goal for May 1. Now, I recognize there is a huge difference between a 5k and a 10-miler but I’m cautiously optimistic that next week might go well.

All of that said, I recently heard one of those game changing podcasts that have me once again contemplating my why and motivation behind running. Brene Brown interviewed Dr. Pippa Grange about her new book Fear Less. It is currently on my to-read list. But, something she said really struck me. In their interview, they talked about a shallow win versus a deep win.

The shallow win is that carrot stick – that next big thing you are always chasing but yet somehow it is never enough. It is the world record, only to determine you need to set another record. Then, there’s the deep win. You know, the one where you cross that finish line with absolutely nothing left and even if you didn’t beat your PR, you still feel a sense of accomplishment because you ran the race on your terms? These past few months, I’ve been writing in my journal that I want to complete a 10-miler pacing under 14-minute miles. It is an arbitrary goal other than it’d be a PR and in my head, the closer I get to 10-minute miles, the closer I am to a runner versus being a jogger. This might be a simplified version of a relatively complex concept, but it does poise a few questions.

Is my goal going to help or hurt my love/hate relationship for running? On the one hand, my training has been a bit more consistent after the chaffing/undertraining/almost dying half-marathon of 2019. On the other hand, I’m wondering what happens if I don’t hit that time. If I’ll still feel that sense of purpose and achievement I generally feel, even when things don’t go well, because I kept showing up.

For the most part, my running goals have revolved around maintaining toenails, run/life balance and avoiding roadside potty disasters. But, the competitive part in me wants to set the bar a bit higher while also not losing site of what really does matter to me – just showing up and trying my best. It is an interesting conundrum to contemplate as I enter this last week of training. I guess we’ll see what happens when I cross the finish line.

In the meantime, I’ll be fine tuning my playlist (spotify premium is worth every nickel), doing a couple final training runs, carbo-loading, and gearing up for a weekend with my bestie who has graciously decided to hit this crack of dawn race with me and celebrate afterward at the Leinie Lodge. To me, right or wrong, shallow or deep, this seems like a for sure win-win to me.

Training Update, Traditions and Transitions

I’m less than 1-month to my almost half-marathon. Hal’s plan this weekend was for me to run an 8-miler…outside. I knew it was time and the weather forecast left me no runway for excuses to run inside. Don’t get me wrong, I loath the treadmill (minus the Tim Riggins part) but running outside is well hard. And frankly, everything seems hard right now.

My recent racing reset has done wonders for my body and soul. I came back from Florida recharged and ready to hit the road again… for about a week. Then Easter week hit. For many, Easter represents those crunchy mini Cadbury eggs (delish), Peeps (gross), and serious religious significance. For me, it marks the weekend mom died.

That’s a tough tradition to break. I’ve celebrated more Easters without mom than with her. Decades have passed since her passing. Yet, I always find myself Easter week replaying the activities of April, 1996, while also trying to find new traditions and memories to fill that void. I’ve had mixed success.

I genuinely enjoy prepping an Easter dinner. I’ve long since abandoned being a holiday church goer but instead celebrate my faith privately. I set aside time on Good Friday to honor my mom (today it was a spin class, latte and 3-mile waterfall hike at the crack of dawn). I savor the Easter candy and embrace the bunny themed décor.

In my quest to be healthy, I am doing my best to do some health habit stacking. This week that included a morning chat with someone I really respect, a set bedtime routine, minimal snacking, lots of water and my training plan. Yep. I said it. My training plan. Last week, Hal said I needed to run 4.5 miles twice. The first time I dived right in. The second time, my body said F-that. I compromised (trying to practice grace here folks) and said I’d walk the 4.5 miles. I was feeling a bit beat down and guess what – the work-out worked.

I came home to chaos. We have new chickens and they haven’t settled into their bedtime routine. The neighbor cat was back. Jake was hyped up on sugar (than you Iron River PTO). I took it all in stride. Right until I didn’t.

I was scrolling through my phone to text someone about a rental when I saw it. Dad. He’s still a contact in my phone. I paused for a moment, trying to shove the wave of emotions down. The practical person inside of me said to hit delete and move on. That this was no big deal. He was a contact in my phone and now he’s not. But I couldn’t do it. I’m not ready to say good-bye.

There’s lots of conversation about the stages of grief. I hate that. They aren’t stages. They are moments. There are moments of anger and sadness and denial and negotiating and acceptance and meaning (if you buy into the new theory of 6-stages of grief). Right now, I’m in the season of allowing myself to pause and be sad when needed while also trying to allow myself to enjoy meaningful moments of joy. I’m in the season of not ready to hit delete but not denying he’s gone. I feel his absence and presence every day.

So Dad is still in my phone. We’re in the process of updating his and mom’s headstone. He sits on my sister’s fireplace. I’m slowly coming to peace with how much our broken healthcare system contributed to his final days. This spring we’ll say one more goodbye to him, but it definitely won’t be our final goodbye. That’s the thing about transitions – I’m finding they can take as long as one needs.

And that 8-mile run? I did it. Well 7-miles of it anyway. It felt great. And, it was some quality time to have a chat with dad and fill him in on what he’s missed these past few months. Hal gave my overall training to date a B. But, I’m giving myself an A in the just keep showing up category making my overall grade good, not great. But solidly good. And honestly, I’m ok with that. I’m ok with giving myself some grace and seeing where this year takes me.

I’m slowly figuring out what’s next for me. Right now, it is a series of upcoming runs, garden planning, cross-training (yep I started a weekly spin class but that’s a different post for a different day) and rock polishing. I’m not sure what will stick but I’m doing my best to have fun trying during this transition.

I hope y’all find some joy in today, whatever your beliefs might be, or whatever transition you might be facing. And in the words of cheesy Hallmark, Hoppy Easter 😊

Ready for a Running Reset?

Life has a reset button. It is called tomorrow. So here we are. I’m over halfway through training for my first almost half-marathon since pre-pandemic. Last week, I took the opportunity to check out of life. I escaped to Florida and spent 8-days eating delicious food, overindulging on cocktails, soaking in hours of sunshine and swimming in the ocean and long sunrise walks.

I also shelved personal development. I took a time out on reading self-help books, journaling deep thoughts, or attempting to manifest my life and instead just lived my best life. I devoured three fabulous books (The Four Winds, the light we lost, and Her Last Breath in case you are wondering) that gave me a break from the monotony of day-to-day tasks. I didn’t log into a single video meeting. And I didn’t run. Yep. I didn’t run a single step.

I went to Florida envisioning early morning beach runs. Instead, I swapped my running shoes for flip flops. Instead, I took a mental break from wondering if I’d make my running goal come May 1 to just be. It was the perfect reset.

I’m intentionally saying reset versus setback. I knew that if I forced myself to run on vacation, I’d resent it. So instead, I took a time out. I cross trained other ways. I skipped waves, swam with my kiddo and hit 10,000+ steps every single day. And, I returned home ready to run.

I share this because sometimes I think we think it is better to half-ass something versus taking a time out. To acknowledge that what we need right in this moment is an opportunity to just enjoy life. I returned on Saturday with a desire to hit the road. Less than forty-days to go until I see what I’m capable of doing on the course. I’m excited. Cautiously optimistic. My plan come race day – Just show up.

I recently won this bracelet from Momentum Jewelry (thank you Instagram contest!). A great reminder of my intention come race day. And if I fail, guess what? I’ll show up again. And again. And again. Because honestly, I’d rather show up and fail than give up on myself.

A couple other quick notes for those following my self-publishing journey. A special shout out to Perfect Duluth Day for sharing an excerpt from my book! Also, I mentioned a few posts ago but I’m now a semi-regular blogger for Another Mother Runner. My latest post, which focuses on faith, can be found here. If you still haven’t purchased a copy and are interested, please consider buying my book. I can now say you’ll be joining hundreds of folks (some of whom I don’t even know) who have invested in my dream. If I haven’t said it today, thank you to each and every single one of you.

Onward we go.

Tough Transitions

Something tells me that maybe somewhere someone needs to hear this. At least I know I do and I figure I cannot be alone. As a writer, I understand that words matter. I had initially wanted to call this post, setbacks suck. Instead, I’m trying this. Tough Transitions. So much of my life these past few months have been about transitions. This past week, it came to a head in something that is most definitely a first world problem, but was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

My race was cancelled. The one I started pre-training for in January after my dad died and was just hitting my stride on in my real training. The one that I’ve been religiously training for because I needed a win. Not in the literal sense – let’s be real. But, in the sense that I needed to feel in control of something.

Sure, I knew it was a long shot when I signed up. COVID-19 is still real and I respect the very tough decisions race organizers are facing right now. But dam, I needed that weekend to push myself. Yes. I know I can run any number of virtual races. Yes. I know my husband would set-up a mock half-marathon course and cheer me on. But that’s not the point. I had a plan and my plan was turned upside down… again.

I was really mad. So mad I almost deleted Hal’s training plan right off my phone. I definitely was NOT going to hop on the treadmill for my 3.5 mile run without a reason. I definitely wanted to have a pity party. And man did the waterfall of tears start flowing.

To be honest, I’m a bit sad. I’m really, really tired of losing things. And, no matter how hard I try, this idea of finding meaning in the hard stuff is kicking me in the ass. Yep. I’m going there. I think it is time to say that sometimes things just flat-out suck. The silver lining just isn’t there. That if handed rotten lemons, one could make nasty lemon-aid or they could just say, throw the lemons out.

That’s where I’m at today. There is no silver lining to losing my dad. Yes. He is done suffering. And, I am so glad that he is no longer in pain. I am glad that my dad got to make the decision but that doesn’t ease so many of the what-ifs. And, it definitely doesn’t change my reality. I’ve lost my rock and sounding board. In many ways, a huge part of my purpose.

So yep. I’m mad and sad and not ready to find any silver lining. I don’t want to know his legacy lives on in his kids. I want him here. I want him here to say to me right now, who cares if your race was cancelled. Find another. I want him here to provide me perspective and tell me that running will probably kill me someday because it is hard on my knees. I want to fight over the price of a rib-eye and the weather differences between Iron River and Cloquet. I don’t want to drive by the Scanlon exit but rather to it.

So yes, the cancelling of the May 1 race triggered a lot. It reminded me that I need to give myself some flipping grace. That I’m not ok and right now, that has to be ok. That every day I get up and try hard and do the minimum is a win right now. I’m still showering (most days). I’m still loving on my kid and dancing in the shower and finding joy in the most superficial of things (amazon deliveries are almost daily). I’ve settled on a new vitamin stack and I’m letting Hal tell me what to do 4-times per week. And, I’m trying to come to terms with my new reality of being an orphan. I don’t say that for pity. I say that because words matter. And while I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life, I am an orphan at 42. It sucks.

On a different day, I might try to say that family isn’t just who you were born to but who you befriend along the way. That I am so blessed to have incredible in-laws and friends and a soul mate and a son. But guess what? I had all of that and dad up until December. So nope, no silver lining yet. No greater sense of purpose or understanding or acceptance. It doesn’t diminish the moments I cherish and the time we had together. It just means I still wish he was here back when he was healthy. Back when we’d play catch in the backyard and chat about nothing for hours on end.

Will it get better? I don’t know. Lots of people say it will evolve and change and become the new normal. An extended transition I suppose. But, the road seems really long right now. So, I’m trying to find control in the little things. The Door County Half was one of those. But, that to turned out to be another transition.

If you’re wondering, when my pity party ended, I ran the 3.5 miles. I found a back-up run that’s 10-miles on the same day. My friend was gracious enough to follow my change of plans. I got back on the saddle and said tomorrow is another day. A chance that maybe someday the moments of joy will outweigh the sadness.

Transitions are tough. They are one of the hardest things to get right when writing. They are painful and cruel in real life. A necessary evil to grow and evolve and to do better. I’m hopeful that some of the roughest, choppiest transitions in life pave the way to something I never could imagine. I’m cautiously hopeful that’s what my future holds. That if I continue to show up and speak my truth, my experiences can someday help someone else through a tough transition.

So if that’s you, I hear you and I feel your pain. I won’t say I try to understand it or that things will eventually get better. Inevitably, just like pain found you, I want to believe joy will find its way to you again as well. At least that’s what I’m banking on.

To tough transitions and finding ways through them without losing sight of all that’s good. Sixty days and counting until race day. Let’s go.

PS For those struggling with grief. A game changing books that have helped me…

It’s ok that you’re not ok by Megan Devine

Training, podcasts, and pasta!

Sporting my newest training ball cap. Being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding journey of them all!

Valentine’s Day. What a loaded holiday of unmet expectations. I’m gearing up to channel my inner Finlander by eating my weight in carbs with this TikTok phenomenon known as uunifetapasta. I’ll enjoy this savory meal with my favorite men and a chilled shot of Teramana, Cointreau, lime and Sprite Zero. It isn’t quite a margarita but might be one of the best drinks of ALL time.

But, before I do that, I wanted to talk a little bit about love. Yep. I’m going there. This week marked my first Amazon review by someone I didn’t know. On my first-time author journey, this was a big deal because I honestly didn’t know if anyone who didn’t feel obligated to the read book would. And, it turns out some folks have.

It also tuns out, at least one person, loved it. From Hildee Weiss, “I loved hearing her story of how she got into running and I enjoyed reading her tips and suggestions ranging from what to eat before a big race to what to look for in a shoe. She writes with honesty and humor and with heart.” A five-star review. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt pretty amazing.

My writing is far from perfect. But, the one thing I pride myself on is being honest. I write my truth, for better or worse. I mean how many other gals share their stories about shit-stained pants for the world to see? And, it turns out that vulnerability occasionally resonates with like-minded women trying to find their way in the world. Enough so, that I’m excited to announce that starting tomorrow I’ll be occasionally sharing my running adventures on Another Mother Runner. Dimity and Sarah have been absolutely fabulous to chat with and they are kind enough to allow me to share some stories on the amazing platform they’ve built over the past decade. I am pretty excited. If you are interested in checking it out, sign up for their podcast here. This past week, I also had the opportunity to share more about my running journey on WTIP out of Grand Marais. I was once again extremely nervous, but Annie was an amazing host and it was an absolute honor to share my adventures with folks in Grand Marais. I also dropped off copies of my book at Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, making it now available in 5 places!

Most weeks, this would be beyond exciting. But the thing I’m most excited about this particular week is I just finished Week 1 of my 12-week half-marathon training plan. It was sub-zero so my time was spent on the dreaded treadmill. I had four training runs for a total of 12 miles. And guess what? I did all 12-miles. This week I loved myself enough not to quit running. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. I used all of the hacks. Tim Riggins. Ordering new shoes. Drinking Nuun and using the massage gun. Scheduling the work-outs in my calendar. Doing the Mel Robbins countdown and channeling my inner sisu. Yes. I know that sounds a bit dramatic. But, I’m being honest. Running isn’t easy for me. Especially after a year plus hiatus.

And you know what? It felt good to keep my promise to myself. It felt good to move my body. It felt good to focus on putting one foot in front of another after a challenging month of navigating grief and a harsh Wisconsin Winter. Thank god for therapy, friends and family. I don’t know what the next 75-days hold. I do know that right now I’m savoring this week’s wins and lacing up for another week of showing up not just for those around me, but for myself as well.      

The promises we keep

Ten hours after my father died, I found myself in a pet store trying to comprehend the clerk as she explained she could not legally sell my son and I goldfish due to not having the appropriate tank prepped for the occasion. It was Christmas Eve afternoon and I had promised my son we’d surprise dad with a fish for Christmas. I was still under the impression that a 25-cent goldfish did not take an act of congress to secure. In the haste of navigating nursing homes, a global pandemic, a hospital transfer and hospice, I had neglected researching the complexities behind purchasing a simple fish. Standing under the fluorescent lights of the big box pet store, I fought back tears (and some serious anger) as my mind raced to come up with a back-up plan.  

Meantime, my son, ever so resilient, immediately suggested we peruse the pet store aisles for a pet we could take home that afternoon. He guided me blindly up and down the aisles and before we knew it, I was seconds away from making a 2-year commitment and walking out with a hamster. I was all in until my son confirmed that hamster poop was beneath him and that it’d be my responsibility. In that moment, I regained control, fought the holiday crowds and secured four tropical fish, tank, food, and accessories with a few white lies and a lot of grit. We even made it home and had the tank set-up prior to our 3 pm family zoom call.  

 It wasn’t until a few days later that my world came toppling down. Grief is like that. It comes out of nowhere and leaves you trying to find meaning in even the simplest of things. But, this isn’t a post about grief. It is a post about promises.

Why the fish? Because when I make a promise, I keep a promise. I knew with every ounce of my being that I would not leave the Twin Ports Christmas Eve without a fish. But, the problem with promises is that commitment ends as soon as it is with myself. Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to break a promise to your employer, friend, family, volunteer committee or even random acquaintance on Facebook but promises to yourself are the first to go? If you’ve figured that out, let me know. Because I am guilty as charged.

Last week, I had the honor of being a guest on Another Mother Runner podcast. We talked about all sorts of things surrounding my new book, including the simple question – do you really hate running?

The simple answer is yes. But, anyone who knows me, knows that nothing is simple. Nothing is black and white in my world. I hate running but I love the act of running. And, I love that even during a global pandemic, runners get to write their own narrative. You get what you put in. And come race day, your time reflects your effort. In a world where everything it out of one’s control, I can still control putting one foot in front of the other. I had forgotten that for a while… but as I’ve pushed out my book… I’m remembering. And the truth is, I need that right now. Losing dad leaves a big hole in my heart… my calendar… and my future. I always knew my dad was sick but given the man had exceeded nine lives, a part of me believed he would live forever. Even while in hospice, I genuinely went to bed believing that there was a chance I’d go visit him the following morning and he’d be skimming the grocery ads ready to argue about the price of a rib-eye.

So here I am. One month later. If you’re wondering, the fish are thriving. I am not. I’m struggling quite a bit on a lot of fronts right now and I want to be honest about that. I don’t know how I’ll come to terms working in health care when I struggle with how mediocre and cruel the system is to people and their families. I don’t know if I’ll write another book or ever lose the weight or grow professionally. Many of the dreams I set out on to achieve in 2020 – pre-pandemic and pre-grief seem tone deaf to the life I’m living right now. The RISE conference a year ago seems like a lifetime ago. I find myself now with a blank page on what comes next.

For those wondering, yes, I’m back in therapy. I’m also starting to ask myself what’s next. Slowly, I find myself setting new goals that are a bit simpler, yet true to what really matters to me. I’m going to grow a garden of only vegetables and flowers I love. No more zucchini or marigolds and minimal beans. Good bye broccoli. I’m going to learn about rock polishing and shine some Lake Superior treasures. And, I’m going to run a race again.

Yep. This was a very long-winded post to say I’m running again with a real goal in mind. I hope to find myself lining up at the Door Count Half Marathon on May 1 and crossing that finish line in under 3-hours. It is a goal that is now ten-years in the making. It is time. I suppose one could say losing dad was the spark… but that wouldn’t be honest. The truth is, I want this for me.

I want to take the next 13-weeks and train hard. I want to make a promise to myself that I’ve earned the right to be selfish for a few months. To say I need this win after a year of losses. I need to feel like I’m in control of something right now – even if it is just for a few hours on a cold and windy May day. If the race is cancelled, so be it. I’ll find another and then another. And when I cross that finish line, I’ll be reminded that the most important person to keep your promises to is yourself.    

Why RISE?

To say I was skeptical is an understatement. This introvert does not embrace large crowds. I struggle to strike up conversation with strangers. Nothing about me would seek out a crowd of thousands. So, when the announcement of RISE Fort Myers came across my newsfeed, my instinct was to scroll. Only I didn’t. Something caused me to pause. I clicked. And that quickly, a spark had been ignited in me that couldn’t be put out.

The antagonist in me fought back. I hesitated, assuming tickets would sell out and that’d make the decision for me. Then, I could tell myself it wasn’t meant to be. But, that didn’t happen. Rachel’s marketing had hooked me and seats were available.  Each day her conference would show up in my feed beckoning me to hop on a plane and head due south to see if I could rediscover my true north. Rachel won. For the first time in my adult life, instead of beating myself up over why, I let myself say why not.

I’ve never attended a personal development conference.  I’ve always aimed for perfection but my journey has been in isolation and generally involved higher education. I had no idea what to expect.  So, I did what any Gen X introvert would do…I researched the hell out of Hollis and RISE because if I was going to make this investment, I was going to make it count (Yes, I’m the girl that was irritated when I got an A- in my MBA program). I read the books, subscribed to the podcasts, watched the Rach and Dave Morning Show and devoured the documentary. I quickly accepted that I’d be traveling thousands of miles to dance like an idiot, share scary secrets with strangers, and attempt to navigate Florida’s interstate with Siri as my co-pilot. I was scared but prepared.

I went all in on day one. I showed up early and chatted with strangers. I drank the water and set my intentions. And, I danced. Oh did I dance. This country bumpkin jiggled and strutted with a total of zero rhythm and patted herself on the back for ‘keeping it real’. By the time Rachel hit the stage, I felt like the gold star student ready to show myself that I was so together that this conference was just a brief respite before returning north and resuming regular scheduled programming.

Then, we unpacked. We unpacked and we unpacked and we unpacked. And, just when I thought we couldn’t unpack anymore, we unpacked some more.  We talked trauma. We stood up for our sisters. We talked triggers. We talked habits, good and bad. We dove into body image and the 10 bod commandments.  I soaked it all in. I cried. And I cried. I took notes. I was present. I put away technology and let the words soak into my body. I checked my traumas off on a sheet one at a time, at peace with knowing that while those things happened to me, they did not define me. Years of therapy had paid off.  I was feeling good, right until I wasn’t.

I didn’t know going in that a single aha moment would trigger so much baggage in me, that I’d want to reframe my entire life. Yep. Rachel Hollis went there. What past experiences have shaped your perspective on life?  What if that perspective was wrong? What if you took time to do something about it? And, let’s just keep going, what if you took a minute to understand what triggers the bad habits so that you could do something about it?

Newsflash – I’m over weight. Because I eat too much, sometimes, right? But, I try to conquer that with super healthy habits like running half-marathons. Unlike so many other runners, though, I’ve been running for 9-years and have completed over a dozen half-marathons and gained weight.  I never understood why I’m doing all of this work on myself to do this race but yet am not motivated enough to lose the weight. My inner answer has always been you need to try harder. But damn Rachel and her ability to push us past surface level answers. The truth is, NONE of this was about losing weight.

The reality is running is really hard at my size, especially since I don’t train properly, and despite finding the strength to finish, I never feel amazing after a race. I run half-marathons to inspire other folks and because I put it on the stupid internet my pride says, you better cross that finish line no matter what. Because, YOU show up for people. I don’t know who these people are but I show up for people.  And, I’ve managed to find the joy in finishing last and failing and telling myself it is ok to not be perfect because that’s the lesson I wanted to spread for those people.

But here’s the problem. I DON’T show up for myself in those races. I don’t take care of my body leading up to those races. I don’t invest the time in meal prep or blessing my body with healthy food or stretching or doing any of the things runners do to care of themselves. And, because of that, I’m ok with running. It isn’t selfish or about me, it is about them so that’s ok.

And yep, just like that the trigger hits. Twenty-two years ago I got in a fight with mom about laundry. She’d been sick for 4-years and I was tired of doing everything for her and so for the first time ever, I exploded at her. I told her she could get her own laundry from the basement. And with all the drama of an 18-year old with a license and car I stormed off and went to work…. Ten hours later my uncle was driving me to the hospital so I could say good-bye. By the time I got there she was unconscious. She’d die the next day. And for 23-years, I’ve been trying to make up for that moment by showing up every day for everyone else. If I could just keep showing up for everyone else in the world, it’d be ok.

I had processed in therapy and understood that my mama knew I loved her when she died. That it isn’t my fault she died. But, I never took the time to understand how that single action would reshape my perspective on what I call being a good person. The truth is, it is the most selfish thing ever because when I don’t show up for myself, it shows up as all sorts of crazy in my day-to-day life. It shows up as eating fast food for convenience versus prepping healthy meals. It shows up as binge watching Netflix instead of moving my body or spending time with my family and friends. It shows up as me being short with my husband because he’s trying to help and doesn’t he get it, I help people, they don’t help me. It shows up as me juggling twenty-seven things like so many mamas I know only to say, what this, no problem… even though I’m a mess inside. It shows up as me making myself smaller so I can fit into the life my husband has made for us versus the life I want for myself. It shows up as me investing time and energy in things I don’t love but think I should love. But, something changed this week.

Right before my flight took off this week, my dad landed in the hospital. He’s been on and off sick for about a decade now. My gut screamed, you better stay, because what if something happens? I struggled with what to do. I waited for someone to judge me or give me the fuel to stay. For someone to say, wow, are you sure you should go on that flight? But here’s the thing, nobody said that. Everyone said get on that plane. Everyone said go and have fun. Dad will be here when get back. And, thanks to trip insurance, I forced myself on to that plane because I could always fly home. And, if I’m being totally honest, I hopped on that plane for them because I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t do it. As soon as we were in the air, I second guessed my decision. But, it was too late.

I sat with this guilt while Rachel talked about trauma. I danced with it. I mulled about it back at my hotel room alone. And, when we talked about triggers, the light bulb went off. My trigger isn’t a fear of being abandoned but a fear of abandoning someone I love. A fear of not being enough for them. And, so every time I let someone else down in my head, I’m triggered. Because for years, I’ve been telling myself that while my mom loved me, I let her down that day I stormed out over stupid laundry. And, if I could just double down and never let anyone down, I’d make up for that day.

Here’s the problem – my bar is high. I expect myself to show up perfectly for people every time. They don’t, but I do. And, given I’m far from perfect, I fail A LOT. So I’m triggered a lot, which then makes me feel like I didn’t show up for them, which triggers me to double down on my investment in them versus my investment in me. I honestly believed if I just showed up more for them, I’d be a better version of myself.  But am I? No. How sad is it that others believed in me more than myself—that it was because of them I got on a plane to work on myself.

The conference ended with the future. To understand that at any moment we can make the conscious choice to show up for life.  That’s step one. Then there is the work. The really, really hard part of actually doing the work to live the life you want. That scares me. And is the thing that I need more than ever. So my word of the year is grace. Because this all or nothing approach to perfection or curling up and being small – yeah that doesn’t work for my anymore. That I know that to be me, I’m going to have to give myself and those around me some grace to figure it out. And so, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year I stepped up to the plate but gave myself some grace to show up as me.

My goal is to tackle health, one step at a time. This may culminate in a half-marathon but only if I’m willing to invest the time to do it right. To see what I’m really capable of. My ten year dream is to know I could complete a 12-hour Trail Ultramarathon strong if I wanted because I am truly healthy and whole.. which means I’d run the Ultra for me and nobody else, but only if that’s STILL my dream. To do that, I need to channel some Lindsey Vonn and rediscover the big, bad ass I used to be.

Lots of folks have asked me if attending RISE is worth it. They’ve asked for the down low and whether this is something they should consider. It depends. It depends if you are open to the idea that you are worth more. If you are open to putting yourself first or making the investment in not changing yourself but acknowledging your worth. (And, if you’re willing to release your inner dance moves because you won’t get away with not doing this). This conference didn’t change my life but it reminded me that I am blessed with a life that’s worth living. And, that’s an investment I’m ready to start making every single day.

 

Hello 40!

yourlifeDo you honestly think a writer would let her 40th birthday pass without spewing some thoughts about the day? Here’s the thing, I’m struggling a bit to really shine in this major moment. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview some healthcare workers for a campaign I’m working on. During one of the interviews, someone shared a patient story about an elderly lady who said, “You know what the hardest part about being old is? That when I look in a mirror, I see a 30-year old but everyone else just sees an old lady.”

This really resonated with me not because I’m an old lady by any means, but this week I realized just how often we’re judged by our age. Not necessarily good or bad, but rather just educated on how we’re either too young or really old or in some cases both. But here’s the thing, I’m just not buying it.

I assumed given my dramatic quarter-life crisis and then thriving thirties struggle, that 40 would play out like a really bad Lifetime movie. If ever there were a year to have an existential crisis, this would be it. But, if I’m being completely honest, while I did have that brief breakdown on Pinterest in which I attempted to define my life’s meaning with inspirational quotes and unattainable Bucket List items because the pictures were pretty, it passed. In fact, it passed pretty quickly and now suddenly I’m sitting here on St. Urho’s Eve looking at middle age with a new found appreciation and perspective.

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These first 40 years have been a shit storm of highs and lows that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I earned every inch of the massive crevice of a wrinkle on my forehead overcoming the obstacles thrown my way (and conquered). Those crow’s feet are the result of being blessed with amazing friends who make me laugh so hard my stomachs hurt and my face crinkles. And those stretch marks that span my waistline paved the way for the greatest achievement and challenge of my life—motherhood.

So yes, tomorrow, I turn 40. I’ll pay more for Life Insurance and modify my retirement plan. My metabolism will diminish overnight and I’ll probably spend a bit more time strength training and a little less time with chips and top the tater. But honestly, that’s about all the craziness I can squeeze out of this middle-age milestone. Because when all is said and done, I’m simply happy to be here in this moment.

If you are reading this right now, it means you have somehow played a role in my first 40-years and for that, thank you. The one piece of wisdom I have tonight is I know very little—but what I do know is that the people in my life matter. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without you. What’s equally exciting is I have never been more in the driver’s seat of my own life than right now. I’ve finally reached a place where I am confident saying I’m a work-in-progress but it is my work in progress. So here’s to a new decade and life of living on my terms and to all women who are finding it within themselves to do the same. May we all be so lucky to enjoy so many more trips around the sun.

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