choosing to stay

“To stay, you have to believe there is something worth staying for—and then you have to bring yourself back, again and again.  The initial glimpse of wonder, of love, of possibility, of expansion becomes a commitment to returning, to bringing yourself back each time you bolt.” – Geneen Roth

For as long as I can remember, I have had what Geneen Roth so perfectly describes as “an inclination to bolt.” An overwhelming desire to escape.  My inability to remain in the present moment (to stay) paved the way for the various addictions and dysfunctional ways I dealt with being a normal imperfect human being living in this world.  Eating disordered behavior, substance abuse, co-dependent relationships, self-harm, isolation: these are all excellent choices for those who are inclined to bolt! I’ve had plenty of practice in this area.  Unfortunately, chronic bolting prevents the development of some pretty crucial (& awesome) life skills.

I’ve slowly learned that making the scary decision to “stay” = electing to LIVE.  It hurts and it’s messy.  It means choosing to exercise muscles you haven’t used in a while, if ever.  It is exhausting.  But, just like any habit, it gets easier over time and pretty soon you can’t imagine living any other way.

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My days of escaping through starving, bingeing, purging, drinking, lying, hiding – those dark days are thankfully behind me.  Does this mean I have completely erased my very very powerful inclination to bolt? Nope.  Not at all.  I have to work on it. DAILY.  Every time I choose to redirect my thinking and bring myself back to NOW is a small victory.  I still slip up a lot.  Instead of the sad painful destruction of my old ways, “slipping up” for me now usually means avoiding something that actually demands my attention….(i.e. Ignoring those little red flags instead of being grateful for the fact that I have such vibrant bright ones alerting me to a potential slip!)

For me, red flags are signals of some underlying depression and/or anxiety.  Spacing out, excessive worry, negative self-talk, shutting down, withdrawing.  I might be physically present in those moments but I have emotionally BOLTED.  This is something I continue to struggle with and strongly believe I have it in me to change, as long as I continue refusing to escape.

It is hard work.

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My trail fall last month was a huge bummer.  But I have also come to view it as an opportunity.  A perfect time to exercise my flabby “staying” muscles.  I was physically unable to do much of anything those first weeks, especially anything for myself.  My bum leg, painful stitches, lack of energy and painkiller-induced brain fog meant that I had to ask for help.  WITH EVERYTHING.  For someone whose favorite line is “It’s ok, I got it!”, learning to say “I need….”, “Could you please….” and “Yes I need your help…” was a 2-week lesson in humility and gratitude. (thank you mom!) It was also an open invitation (once I accepted it) to slow down.  To sit in bed with my leg up, with my sweet mom right there with me, and talk.  To listen.  To BE. PRESENT.  To allow someone to see me in a vulnerable state, help me through it, and have that be okay.

And guess what?  I’m okay! :)

Here is my monster wound…

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The reason you don’t see a nice clean line where my 11 stitches once were is because the stitches failed! Boooo. Apparently a deep jagged cut on that part of the body is not conducive to closure by stitching, thereby extending my healing process out even longer and guaranteeing a nice fat scar (and by scar I mean Trail Tattoo)!

More opportunity for me to practice the Fine Art of Staying…

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mud & stitches

I’m starting to kind of loosen my grip on this arrogant belief that I “know best”.  Maybe I really don’t know shit. I have grown to know some things for damn sure, but clearly there is a LOT I have left to learn. Last Friday, Lars & I headed out to Orcas Island for our annual trip/race/getaway/kid-free romantic retreat.  With busy lives as single parents, raising our kids in separate towns, we get approximately 2 of these special weekends per year.  The importance of this time alone together cannot be overstated. It’s what we need.  The fact that the Orcas Island 50k is always part of our weekend is just this delicious crazy icing on the beautiful cake that is our relationship.  Hanging out on the lovely trails of Orcas with so many of our running friends is a sweet sweet bonus.

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my first Orcas Island 50k finish, 2012

Apparently, I needed to have a couple of truths reinforced for me this weekend.  I’m sorry that it took 1) a nasty flying fall on a sharp rock, 2) Lars’ having to drop from the race to help me, 3) a kind volunteer driving her truck miles off the mountain on a crazy road, 4) the sweet race nurse and kind EMT sitting with me while we waited for the “on-call” Dr. to answer her page (clinic closed on Saturdays!), and 5) the amazing Dr. who relentlessly cleaned my wound (thank you god for Lidocaine and Percocet) & gave me 11 pretty stitches, to relearn these truths:

  • I am not perfect.
  • Shit happens when you least expect it. (this course was a muddy slick mess – did I fall on the treacherous downhill technical sections? nope – I fell on a flat section while turning to look behind me – genius!)
  • Never stop paying attention. (I went off course at mile 7ish for about 10 minutes before realizing I took a wrong turn…lost a good 30 minutes and spent the rest of the race (until I fell) trying to “catch up”.)
  • People are truly kind and amazing. (all the runners who saw me fall and walked me to the next aid station said these things: “Are you okay??” “I’m not leaving you!” “I will run ahead and get help!” “We are a community and we are in this together!” “You are going to be fine!” and on and on….hearts of gold, all of ‘em.)
  • It’s okay to be vulnerable. (so this is my biggie. I don’t like to ask for help, I don’t like to be waited on, I don’t like to be immobilized, I don’t like to rely on others. In fact, I hate all of those things. Guess what??? In relationships, you need to be vulnerable. Otherwise, it doesn’t really work out too well. Allowing Lars to pick me up off the dirt, walk me to the truck and to town and to the wheelchair and to the clinic….and allowing him to take care of everything the rest of the weekend….Well, that probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t bit it hard on the trail. Am I so stubborn and emotionally immature that I need 11 stitches to learn these life lessons?  Umm, maybe! I do think I am getting better in this area. <3 Hopefully, I won’t need such a deep & nasty reminder next time.

(CAUTION: GRAPHIC SCARY LEG PHOTOS BELOW!)

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after!

renewal

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In listing my intentions for the coming new year, I will borrow the instructions of philosopher William James: “Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know.”

Here I go with my public pledge! :)

For 2015, I’m seeking a better balance.  More of some things, less of others. I’m betting that the simplification of my goals + a big ‘ol chunk of courage will get me where I want to be by year’s end.

More:

  • discipline (in work, training, caring for my family, my home & my health – this means: having a training plan, a nutrition plan, a schedule & STICKING TO IT)
  • awareness (continue growing stronger in my recovery from unhealthy & addictive behaviors)
  • patience (practice being fully present in my life, even and especially when I am tired, overwhelmed & anxious)
  • saving ($)
  • reading (books)
  • strength (mental, emotional, physical)
  • peace
  • guts! (I’m strong enough to handle a little ass-kicking and this is my year to get some, running-wise)

Less:

  • complaining
  • excuse-making
  • fear
  • waste
  • apologizing (for nothing)
  • comparison
  • envy
  • worry
  • regret

Looking forward to a new year full of wisdom, joy and renewed purpose.  I wish the same for all of you. <3

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expectations

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

After graduating college, I moved to Japan to teach English as a Second Language.  I was 22 and eager to get the hell out of my comfort zone and move somewhere completely new. As life goes, I met my now ex-husband during my second year in Japan and ended up living a total of 8 years there before we moved back to the U.S. together to start a family in Seattle.

Spending my 20s living in a foreign country, I learned a great deal about independence and the difficulty of carving out a little life for myself based on what was truly meaningful to me.  I struggled.  A lot.  But in between those tough times and hard lessons, I created moments that I will always hold dear to my heart. Despite my bumbling around, I was gifted with the opportunity to make whatever I wanted out of that life experience.

One of the strangest and most beautiful things for me was living year after year immersed in a culture with profoundly different traditions surrounding the holidays.  In Japan, Christmas is considered somewhat of a “Valentine’s Day”-type holiday. You go to work and school and then you go out on a date! With your boyfriend! And you eat “Christmas Cake”! (It’s like a birthday cake…???)  The spiritual & peaceful stuff happens during the New Year.  Everything shuts down for 3 days, you visit your family, go to the shrine, eat wonderful traditional New Year’s food.  No champagne or partying. It’s absolutely lovely.

For me, I would get very homesick around Christmas time.  A few years I flew home to Seattle, but mostly I stayed.  Being married to a Japanese man meant that we could share our traditions with each other.  I rode my bike all over Kochi (a very rural town on Shikoku Island where I lived), hunting down anything Christmasy. I scoured kitchen stores and found star-shaped cookie cutters.  I made frosted sugar cookies and fudge for my students, delivered on Christmas. I insisted we rent “Sleepless in Seattle” and watch it on Christmas Eve.  I would cry.  I expected very little and yet those small traditions were huge to me.

In turn, I enjoyed such beautiful Japanese traditions.  On one of my first holidays there I had flown to Bali for Christmas with a friend who was working in Tokyo.  I came back to Kochi late on New Years Eve night, just in time to hop on our bikes and ride to the local shrine by midnight.  The shrine’s enormous bell is rung 108 times (to symbolize ridding oneself of the 108 human desires).  Traditionally you eat long soba noodles and watch the first sunrise over the water.  These simple little rituals soon became comforting to me.

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A few years before I left Japan, I ran my first marathon.  Kana, the woman who saw me through my marathon training and became a close friend, started me on my New Year’s race tradition too!  I think it was a 5k we did every New Years Day, and I think she always won it! New & old traditions.

As a single mama to a teenage boy, I so hope to instill in him an appreciation for small joys.  I know the holidays can cause pressure, stress and eventually end with a sense of feeling letdown.  Personal stresses, financial stresses, worry.  I experience all of these.  As I put up the lights, trim the tree, roll out that favorite cookie dough, I am calling upon my younger self; the one who lived more readily in the moment, willing to accept things as they are, rather than hoping for more.

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<3 peace

sharing

I love it when unexpected words fall into my lap at just the right moment.  I love receiving a message I need to hear. I love feeling inspired to examine something a little deeper when I might not otherwise do so. Change & growth hurt.  By nature, transformation is uncomfortable.  It is only in retrospect, after the hard hard work, that we get to look back and say: “wow….I can’t believe I used to live that way.”

This link appeared in my inbox the other day from a fellow runner/mama.  It resonated with me so much & it’s definitely worth repeating and sharing. And revisiting.  Maybe you will find it meaningful too…

I generally try to steer clear of quick little fluffy articles containing numbered lists promising this or that in 5 steps. Or warning you of such & such if you see these “7 signs”.

This one felt different: “8 Powerful Questions we Should Ask Ourselves Immediately”.  

Here you go:

1. Where do I want to be in five years time?

2. How did I want to feel on the inside in five years time? Where would I be emotionally, physically, mentally?

3. What bad habits do I need to stop?

4. What mistakes have I made today?

5. Who do I envy or admire? What qualities do these people have? In what way can I learn from them? What is it about them that inspires me?

6. What stories have I told myself?

7. Who do I love and who loves me?

8. If no one judged me, who would I be?

And the best part:

I started asking myself these questions on a daily basis.

Moving towards another new year, these questions deserve some reflection.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

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raw

“She insists, however, that her goal is not redemption but self-acceptance, not a catalog of regrets but a clear view and welcoming embrace of experience in all its forms.”

 - A.O. Scott, NYTimes review of the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild”

I think I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in one sitting.  I generally gobble up memoirs, and most particularly, achingly honest memoirs written by women who genuinely allow the reader IN. No-holds-barred honesty. Pair that with a tale of self-discovery through the physical pain & suffering of a solo endurance adventure and I’m completely sold.

The other night I was talking with some mom friends at the curb while waiting to pick up our sweaty teenage boys from practice.  One mom loaned me Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis, the woman who broke the overall thru-hiking record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011.  Soon we started taking about Wild.  Another mom piped in:  “UGH!! I HATED that book! How could anyone make such STUPID choices??? I could hardly read it, I was so frustrated with how irresponsible she was!”

Huh?

I was kind of speechless. I actually took her comment personally! Why was that??? Everyone has their right to an opinion and it’s just a book right??

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Here’s what I think: I think many women (and men but I am a woman so…) tend to walk around with this fear…this fear of “What if?? What IF she/he/they REALLLLY knew me? WHAT IF I GET FOUND OUT?? What if all my shameful/dirty/ugly/horrid/embarrassing stories and secrets, fears and feelings, somehow showed themselves to the world…What then??”

Honestly when my friend made that comment about the book, my first reaction was to nervously giggle to myself.. “wow. ummm, if she knew half of the crazy ridiculous stupid choices I have made in MY life – her jaw would be stuck to the ground!”

In the end, that conversation wasn’t about me. Or my friend. There isn’t one cookie-cutter way to be or live in this world.  I can only say that my life has improved exponentially since I started telling the truth.  To myself and others.  I have been able to move beyond a lot of the shame and regret (still working on it) by simply not sugar-coating or hiding. It is a daily practice and I often screw up.

In a roundabout way, all this truth-telling brings us closer.  It can sting and be hiiiiighly awkward. It can bring up old icky feelings. It can make you want to run for the hills. Thankfully, it becomes easier with practice.

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Training Journal

I began this blog in January, 2013, with the primary goal of documenting and sharing my journey towards my first 100 mile ultramarathon finish.  Over the past 2 years, it’s evolved into a much more personal and therapeutic avenue for me to work through my thoughts & goals and hopefully encourage a few of you to dig a bit deeper into your own.

As 2014 winds down, I am at once extremely motivated to push on with my goals (in running and in life) and at the same time I’m feeling a bit slumpish. End of Year Blues? The Type-A in me likes to make lists, spreadsheets and more lists; I like to have something concrete to follow, track and look back on in order to better determine what to do, what I DID, and what I can do differently or better the next time around.

I’ve decided to add my weekly training log to my blog as a way to remain accountable to myself and to the 1 or 2 of you (hi Dad!) who follow me regularly.  If you are a runner, you may be able to appreciate the special OCD beauty of writing down every run, workout & race result.  If this blabber bores you to tears, I won’t be offended if you move along! And if there are any other mamas out there who work FT, parent FT and are still able to run to your full potential by squeezing in the hard training, CHIME IN! I love and need the fellowship & inspiration.

So! My primary running goals for 2015 are:

  • Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! In mileage, nutrition, strength training & injury prevention
  • Qualify for Boston
  • Complete my first 100 mile trail race (more specifically, hopefully get into Cascade Crest 100 again via lottery and redeem myself from my DNF there in 2013.)

Here we go! I will begin adding my weekly workouts at the end of each week beginning next week. I love a fresh start. :)

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happy trails! photo credit Glenn Tachiyama