Believe You Can Run

All day yesterday, I was itching to get outside and try a run. The sun rays sparkled through the office windows and I purposely scheduled meetings in our other building so I could indulge in some fresh air a few minutes at a time.

While mentally I was pumped and raring to go, physically I was feeling sluggish, likely due to the less-than-healthy nosh from the weekend. Do it anyway, I told myself as I arrived home after the workday.

I walked lakeside for a minute, sporting shorts for the first time in forever,  before taking off in a run. I focused on my breathing and speed while dodging around walkers, runners, dogs and uneven pavement. Keep going, I kept saying internally.

I’m not a runner. But I want to be a runner. I’ve tried in the past, but never really stuck with it long enough to improve much. I kept wanting to just go and bang out a few miles, rather than breaking it down and building up my endurance one step at a time. I’ve been impatient with my progress in the past and just wanted to be good at it. After enough failed attempts, I’ve learned over the winter that I really do need to do the progressive work to truly get better and actually enjoy it.

Last night I ran 2:1 sprints around the lake, 2 minute run : 1 minute walk : repeat. The first few sprints were tough, my lungs were on fire and I had to push hard to keep going. But as I made my way around the 2.7 mile route, it got easier. I started skipping the minute walks and running longer stretches at a time.

I took a deep breath as I walked out the last stretch of pavement before I reached my car and it felt like I was filling myself with not only fresh air, but with hope and determination. The trees that arched over the trail like a canopy were bare and I envisioned the buds that would soon be appearing, blossoming into fresh, new greenery. A fresh new season. And for me, a fresh new start at training.

I try a lot of things and often times I fail the first few go ’rounds. But I have to believe I can succeed, even when I don’t at first. I have to talk like I’m already good at it, even if I’m not yet. It’s that attitude that eventually gets me there in everything I do. I just have to believe in it and have the patience to see it through.

Spring Ride

Under blue sky and an uncovered sun, I took a couple of test laps around the block to make sure I could still clip in and out of my bike pedals without taking a face plant into the pavement.  After spending the day with my family for the Easter holiday and overindulging on decadent treats, I was excited for a workout.

I’m relatively new to cycling.  I bought a bike three years ago and rode it casually, but typically stayed with the same, ol’ familiar route time and time again.  Last year I was lucky to explore more trails with someone special and it further opened up my desire to get better at the sport.

As I rode out today, I headed towards that familiar route again, going a little bit outside of it’s usual path, just stretching my bike legs and getting my first outing of the season under my belt.   The trails were packed as the city emerged from hibernation after a harsh, long Minnesota winter.  The grass was finally turning green, water rushed down the creek, smiles plastered the faces of people I passed along the way.

I felt so happy as I took it all in.  There’s something about spring in Minneapolis that makes me forget the disgusting cold we experienced over the past six months.  I saw a guy sitting in a camp chair strumming a guitar.  I saw families out for walks, laughing and talking.  I saw a couple swinging in a hammock along the lakeshore and smiled as I remembered doing that last summer with my love.  I saw a dad chasing his kid as he let go of what I’m guessing was his first two-wheeler.  The city felt alive.   I thought about picnics in the park.  I thought about drinks on a patio.  I thought about pick-up volleyball and softball and kickball.  I couldn’t wait to spend every possible second outside for the next six months.

As I pedaled around a second lake in our Chain of Lakes,  I started thinking about one of the goals I made for myself at the start of this year: to complete a triathlon.  It seemed like no big deal to say that back then, when there were a lot more months between me and the season of events.   But as the warmer weather arrived, I started getting nervous and doubted my ability.

There is one particular tri that I wanted to do this July, but I had been hesitant to register for it.  I told myself I would train for it and “see how I felt” as the event got closer.  That way, if I wasn’t ready I wouldn’t have to go through with it.  But if I was, I could just sign up and only commit to it when I knew I was ready.

I felt really great as I rode my bike this afternoon and was excited to go out of my comfort zone on my next ride, exploring more trails.  I had always had this fear of being super far from home and getting a flat or something and not knowing what to do… and that’s why I always stuck to the same trail close to home.  But I’ve realized if that happens… so what.  So I have to call for a ride or figure out how to fix it.   I’ve realized that I can’t avoid new trails because I’m worried something bad might come up.  I have to go out there anyway, expecting bumps and being confident that I’ll figure it out.

And that’s when I decided to register for the July triathlon today.  I’m still nervous.  But I figured out the only way I would push myself to train, the only way I would go all in, was if I committed to it without knowing for sure that I’ll be ready.

Now it’s up to me to try my best.  And when I cross that finish line, no matter what shape I’m in, it will be worth it because I didn’t quit.

Four Weeks

Four weeks.  Twenty-nine days.  A month.  However you want to describe it, it’s changed me.

I’ve been pushed harder than I have in a long time and it made me realize how stalled I had become.  I’d even say I had become lazy in my own personal growth.

Professionally, I was in a job I had outgrown.  Sure, I had tough days, but it was all stuff I could do in my sleep.   I was bored and that trickled into other parts of my life.  Every day for the past four weeks, as I’ve started a new job, I have had to push myself and prove that I was the right person to choose out of the other 203 people who applied.  There have been moments where I’ve questioned my ability… but mostly I feel motivated to be better and smarter than the day before and to prove those moments of doubt wrong.

Personally, I’ve had to practice patience and understanding as I navigated my way through a break-up.  I  have so many questions I can’t ask and I’m learning to be okay with that.  Maybe it’s not for me to understand.   I’ve gone through some pretty dark and painful days… but I’ve come out the other side and believe I am a better person for it.  I still wonder about what she’s thinking… I wonder if I’ve already been forgotten.   I wonder what else is going on her life and how she’s doing.   The unknowns have been hard to make peace with, but I have to have faith that if what I know in my heart to be true is true, it shall be.

Throughout everything that’s been happening in my professional and personal life over the past twenty-nine days, throughout all the ups and downs, I feel like I’ve grown exponentially as a human.  I truly feel awakened.  I think sometimes life needs to shake us up in order to wake us up and help us understand who we want to be.  To make us realize that we have to keep trying in this life, no matter what gets thrown our way.  No matter what doubts creep into our minds.

I’ve recently started watching a new series when I have time and in the very first episode, the lead character gives a pep talk to a friend who is having doubts about the relationship he is in,  if he’s good enough for the woman he wants to propose to and if they’ll work out in the end.  She tells him: “She’s in this with you.  If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but you have to try, because if you try, if you leap and you try, and it doesn’t work out, it’s not on you.”

That stuck with me and I believe is exactly the way we all need to approach all aspects of our lives.  Give it our all, take that leap and try.

 

 

 

 

Balloons

Have you ever tried putting a huge bunch of balloons in the back of your car?  The floating mylar and rubber fighting you as you try and contain them for transport?  Just as you get a few inside and go to add a couple more, the ones you thought you had wrangled find their way free again.  You battle them as that dance replays itself several times until you’re about to lose your cool, frustrated with your inability to keep them together so you can be on your way.

That’s exactly how I’d best describe my emotions over the past couple of months, as a relationship I believed with every ounce of my soul would last forever slipped out of my hands.  I’ve bounced around between anger, sadness, acceptance and back again.  Repeat.  I get impatient and frustrated.   All I want to do is contain these “balloons” and be on my way.

On Friday night, I hit the road after work and pointed my car towards the country.  The city got smaller and smaller in my rear-view and I turned the volume up on my car’s speakers a little louder.  The beat of my “angry” playlist pulsated through me as I pushed the right pedal down a little further.  I started feeling better with every mile I put between me and Minneapolis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a city girl through and through, but sometimes I get burned out on the chaos and routine.  Sometimes I need a few days away to come back with fresh eyes and love for the hustle and bustle.

I spent the weekend playing with my nephew and reading a book that has stirred up a lot of things inside of me.  Things I will write about in a later post.  Important things.  My point being now, is that this weekend,  I paused.  I stopped trying to shove “balloons” in my “car.”  Instead, I let them  bounce around for a little while as I took a step back and just examined them.  Rather than reacting to which ever one was flying at me first, I looked at them in their entirety.

When I slid into my car this morning to head home, I thumbed down to a playlist I’ve had a hard time listening to lately and hit ‘play’.  I set my cruise control and let the music wrap around me as I sailed through the countryside towards the highway.

Three tunes into the set, a song I haven’t been able to listen to at all in the past 25 days started to creep out of the speakers.  I reached over with a sense of urgency and picked up my iPhone to skip past it, but a wave of calm came over me before I could hit that little white arrow.  I set my phone back down and let the song play.  It’s a song I’ve heard a million times before, but in that moment it felt like it was the first time; it’s meaning taking a deeper level.  I listened to it a few more times before letting the mix continue.

My mind churned with each mile that passed beneath me.  I thought about the book I’ve been reading.  I thought about my relationship lost.  I thought about the future ahead of me.  I thought about everything in between those things and beyond.  Somewhere along the way, I released the anger that’s had its claws clamped in me for weeks.  I could literally feel it letting go.

As the city skyline came into view, I felt calmer than I had when I left two days earlier.  I even smiled a little as memories from the past year replayed in my mind.  I felt grateful to have made them.

I realized over the past 180 miles that  I had to stop fighting with balloons and just set them free.

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin […]. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. […] What I know about love and believe about love and giving ones heart began in this.”  – C.S. Lewis

Waves

I sat in my car outside of my house after work today. A song I’ve had on repeat for days played through the speakers and I felt numb. I stared out the windshield and didn’t move… I couldn’t move. I could feel the emotion I’d been suppressing all day pushing it’s way to the surface. I caught a glimpse of my watery eyes in the rear-view mirror and took a few deep breaths to catch my composure before heading inside. My dog greeted me with an excited gallop and I tried to smile as I patted her head.

You’re going to be okay, I told myself quietly. I didn’t believe the voice inside my head at that moment, but in other moments I did. I figured maybe if I kept saying it enough it will eventually be true.

For the past eleven days, I’ve felt like I’ve been standing on a beach with huge, crashing waves slamming into me, bruising my body. My only focus: to just stay standing.

As each wave smashes into me, a different emotion rips through my soul. Anxiousness as I parted ways with a company I’d given blood, sweat and tears to for over eight years… heartbreak as the love of my life told me it was over… excitement and nervousness as I took on a new challenge at a young, kick-ass company… and every single emotion in between. Just keep standing, just keep breathing.

I can’t control what I can’t control. (Thanks, Captain obvious.) All I can do is move ahead, doing my best with each step I take and having faith that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

That’s all any of us can do, right?

Perhaps sometimes we need to stand in the waves and let the pounding water cleanse away the dirt that’s hindered our vision, so when the waters calm, we see the world in a way we haven’t in a long time. Clearer. With what’s most important coming into focus.

There’s more to this story and lessons learned.  More on that soon…

Phantom Limb

Last night I attended the recording of a public radio comedy show at the historic Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.  While en route to the other side of the river ahead of the show, I realized I left my iPhone at home.

Immediately I started wondering how someone would reach me to inform me of all the horrible things that were going to happen just because I didn’t have the communication device resting in my hip pocket.  THE WORLD IS GOING TO END AND I’M GOING TO MISS IT!

Okay, I didn’t take it that far, but I did borrow a phone and send a note to my mom with an alternative way to contact me – just in case.

It wasn’t THAT long ago that we lived (and survived) without mobile phones.  I remember getting my first one when I was nineteen, my parents gave it to me as a Christmas gift.  Back then, it had a single digital strip that only displayed letters and numbers.  Back then, that’s all we “needed.”  Back then was only fourteen years ago.

Now, we are so engrossed in them, we miss everything around us.  Everyone says that, complains about it, but continue to be face down in our screens – myself included.

Forgetting to grab my phone last night, reminded me of the importance of looking around – beyond the electronic glow.  Several times I caught myself reaching into my pocket for something that wasn’t there.  What was I going to do while I sat in my seat at intermission while my girlfriend was out in the corridor?  Talk to other people?  The horror!

I looked around the theater and observed.  A lot of people were typing feverishly on their phones, others were engaged in actual conversations.  I noticed how beautiful the theater we were sitting in was.  I noticed the sound engineer adjusting levels on the sound board.  I noticed… everything.

We complain about not having enough time to do the things we want to do.  But how much time do we burn up looking at screens?  I’ve significantly cut back on watching TV this year… reducing it to a couple shows I catch on Netflix.  I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I spend my time – and how much more I SLEEP.  That’s something I would like to continue into 2014.

A Year Without Meat

Hang on, this isn’t a blog about vegetarianism or the evils of meat. Don’t go running away just yet, my friends.

Fifty-one weeks ago, I ate what is THE best turkey sandwich on the planet. You laugh. You roll your eyes. But I’m serious. It’s the best. And while it was delicious, yes, it was the end of eating meat for me for the next year.

Going vegetarian was something I had always wanted to try and do. I gave it a shot a few times over the years but always caved. Usually because I was too lazy to learn how to make food outside of my normal routine, or I felt pressure in social situations.

But this time… I did it. I took the time to push myself out of my comfort zone to adapt and grow. I learned how to deal with challenges like reinventing recipes or learning new ones. I made myself handle social situations and hold my ground, even when I felt pressure to just conform. This past year has made me stronger, calmer and more confident.

Just by giving up meat?

Yep. What I’ve experienced in the past 360 meatless days applies to so many other parts of my life.

In a career, in workouts, in relationships, in… anything. Strengthening your discipline and fulfilling a goal you set for yourself is incredibly rewarding. For me, it was a practice in breaking patterns and routine in order to grow as a person. It was about being confident in the minority. It was about sticking with something I really wanted to accomplish.

Sure, animal rights is a part of this, too. The more I’ve learned about how meat is manufactured (and “conventional” meat IS manufactured) the more it bothered me and motivated me to take on this challenge. I’ve thought a lot about where I stand in regards to meat consumption over the past year and have come to the decision that I may eat meat again, on a very small scale and if I know where it came from (see also: local, organic, free range, etc.) Then again, I may not. I no longer feel obligated to eat meat just because everyone around me is. In five days, I will have reached the goal I set for myself and will again adjust my practices in order to fit my life, as I need to.