Tough Conversations

Burnout is a real thing, for many, many professions. There are a variety of factors that lead to burnout, something a person with a psychology degree and loads of observational experience can tell you. It is highly individual based, as well, stretching from people lacking support from their communities, to institutional oppressions hammering down on one’s ambition and hard work. I hear a lot about organizer burn-out. I have heard that 3-5 years is about the time people start to make tough decisions on how long they want to be in the field. Some people last longer, some people last less, but burnout exists, and it exists for a lot of people.


I used to think that burnout for organizers would come from the work hours. I experienced a period of burnout after working an election while going to school full time. Internships where I experienced the organizer life left me feeling fried by August. I thought I would be crazy to hop back in, vowing never to enter the space again.  Until one day, I was sitting at my old job, thinking about leaving the field, going to work as an organizer again, and I thought to myself “worth it”. I am still 9 months in and firmly believe that it is the team we have, the cause we support, and knowing myself and when I need to take a break, that has left me feeling invigorated still.  What an early call for a young bird, huh? But, I still can smell the burnt ashes in the air and I am tracing the source to where I, myself, can see the burnout happening.


Tough. Conversations.


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Today’s political climate is not unlike political climates of the past. History repeats itself over and over and as the law of entropy states, momentum doesn’t change unless energy isn’t put in.  It is exhausting, and the availability of media and the newscycle makes it feel like it is following us everywhere. For many people in society, I can imagine this is where they go “now you know what it feels like”.  I agree. As one of the more privileged members of society, I am finding more and more that privilege feels a lot like being blissfully unaware of how much issues affect various parts of society. It may feel overwhelming to hear about social justice issues everywhere you look, but imagine being the people brutalized or living in communities where that is your reality. Every. Single. Day.  


According to a New York Times article from 2015, in the city of Chicago, if you were to divide the Black Rate/White Rate of car searches, a black individual will be searched 5.2/1.0 over their white counterparts.  Even more striking… contraband was found 0.7/1.0 to their white counterparts.  


According to a CDC report, calculating the infant mortality rate amongst mothers from 2011-2014, out of 100,000 births, white women accounted for 12.4 deaths due to childbirth complications. Black women accounted for 40. 


The newscycle today is exhausting and the exposure seems intense, heated, and attacking. I think about communities where it isn’t just the news that is attacking and I go, “oh, okay, just change the channel”. I get to change the channel, and that is a privilege.  


Of course, I can’t gaslight people here, because I am also on the team that, at least once a day, I think about deleting my Facebook and going on a Twitter rant.  Deeply meaningful conversations are being broken up into sound bites, where your opinion can go out in the blink of an eye, all the while you haven’t even read the bill you are talking about. It turns into gotcha phrases, hate speech, “othering”, and finding ways to hate people you haven’t even met yet. 


The most exhausting thing about being an organizer is sitting across the table, listening to conversations, or hearing from people you trust, that they fundamentally disagree with your view of politics and human rights. Moreover, it can become difficult when you feel like they are ill informed, ill advised, or have shoved their head so far in the sand, they aren’t willing to hear anything you are saying. That is when the tough work begins. That is when you have tough conversations with other people…and with yourself.


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I would be a fool to think I have not sat, still sit, or will sit at tables where I sound ignorant.  It happens. And, I would be a fool to think that I can go my entire life sitting across the table from people who agree with me.  I think that generation by generation (sorry, it isn’t just millennials) the make or break of our society will be our capacity to have deep and meaningful conversations with those we don’t agree with.  That is where the money is. 


There continues to be a discussion about having a discussion- political discourse almost has created an environment where we are so afraid to talk meaningfully, that  the make of a good speech is meaning nothing, saying nothing, and having a snappy sound bite that can fit well in a Tweet. Discourse is a deeply difficult thing. Deep listening, often times, if you are meeting with a diverse group, is painful, will make you defensive, and oftentimes, create an opportunity for you to show your stuff. Are you really in this to be open, or just saying so?  This happens on both sides of the aisle, and does not discriminate by political leanings. Everyone, once uncomfortable, often time chooses to push away from the ache and push into self-righteousness, defense mechanisms, and othering.


There is one thing to remember though, as we navigate grace in our discourse and organizing, in our lives and in our work: boundaries are NECESSARY. Boundaries are important. Deep listening can only go so far. If a boundary is crossed that you set prior to the conversation, you are entitled to walk away. There are certain things our society cannot allow. There needs to be boundaries.  Grace cannot exist without boundaries. 


How does this connect to running, as this is a running blog? And life, because it all intertwines somehow?


Running is a sport where deep conversations are so, so necessary. You have them with your training partners, your coach, the people in your corner, and yourself. I think a lot of runners understand the places your mind goes in a tough race, and the ways you talk yourself through some really tough stuff. It is important, and necessary to grow as a person.  

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I have found myself closest to burnout with running when A. I refused to have tough conversations with myself (aka your self worth is in running, you need to change) B. I didn’t listen to the voice in my head telling me the truth (you are going to burn out) or C. Operating in what I thought was an honest way, but was really just talking to myself without boundaries (attacking my own character based on how I perform in a race, not how I acted or how I treated people)


When I think about some of the best friends I have, best political discussions I have been a part of, training partners I respected, times I felt most in touch with my values, my marriage, and working environments I thrive in, they are based on a few, critical things: the ability to have tough conversations, without judgement; honesty; integrity; and respect. 


Having tough conversations with ourselves and with others is really, really hard. And, it is important to not mistake if for an excuse to be self berating or to let up on boundaries with others. Tough conversations require grace, honesty, and time on feet.  It takes time to get good at it, much like running, and forgiveness in the process of it all.


The more I have worked in the organizing space, the more I have recognized the need for tough conversations in my personal life. Being honest in my friendships has never been my strong suit- I cling on to hurt and anger like an old, wet blanket, too afraid to figure out what it feels like to let that thing go and ask for a new one. I am good at confronting people I am comfortable with. Hell, my husband can probably tell you a few stories about how I made it very clear how I felt about his vegetable consumption 😉  But again, time on feet and grace set up with proper boundaries helps me get better at it. It is never perfect, but more and more I find that the best know how to sit at the table, talk, and be open.

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Burnout is a real thing- in running, in life, in work, in friendships. Sometimes, you get burned. That is what finding out your potential is all about- getting close to that red line often enough, that your body can respond on race day.  It is never perfect, but operating with integrity and doing the best you can is the only way forward. 


In life, I find it is going in a similar direction- sitting down, feeling it all, setting boundaries, and deeply listening.



The year of heart to the year of …

This past year, my word was “heart”.  How did I do in this department?  In my mind, equally well and poor. That is how it goes; it isn’t perfect. It is growth.

This year, I wanted:

Heart means “courage or enthusiasm”; this year, I want to tackle everything in front of me with the courage and enthusiasm that I know burns in my heart.  I want to look at a start line, a tough conversation, or a scary change with a face of joy and a go-getter attitude.  I want to use my heart as my fuel, knowing that the pure fire that burns inside of me is the best source of energy I can ask for.  I want a heart on fire.              

I think I did well at this. For the first time in a long time, I started to enjoy races.  When I looked at a new journey (aka starting a new career) I went in with a “can do” attitude and approached any interview like a fun challenge.  When S#^+ hit the fan for my family this year, I took care of business and did what I had to do, using my heart to fuel me through.

One area I can improve in this department is giving less energy to dread.  When looking like a big event like a wedding, a reunion, or a holiday, I can still feel my heart feel with the dread of anxiety.  Rather than the fire of enthusiasm, it is fear.  I feel proud to face these scary things with a heart of bravery, but I would like to continue to work on pushing that dread away and filling up with enthusiasm in social situations instead.

This year I wanted to:

Heart means “love or compassion”; this year, I want to become more compassionate and more open to opening up.  I want to look at my relationships and approach places of conflict with a tender heart, rather than a defensive one.  I want to be smart, keeping up boundaries where boundaries should be, but I also want to use compassion and love as my guide on where to build the wall.  I want a heart with softer edges.

I did less well here; though I thoroughly grew by opening myself up to new friendships, spent more time with family, tried to shower friends with love, and used emotional intelligence to try and understand others, I still feel the weight of judgement on my heart.  Perhaps it is because of the way I judge myself. Perhaps it is because I am not the most trusting. Irregardless, though I took strides toward having a softer heart, I still have a lot of work to do.

This year I wanted to:

Heart means “the central or innermost part of something”; this year, I want to remember the important things.  I want to remember that win or lose, the important things are my character and my love. I want to remember that allowing ourselves to accept  joy and self-love into our hearts, is the toughest form of self-compassion there is to accomplish, and therefore, the most important.  I want to remember to look around at the little things, to be grateful, and to pray.  I want my heart to be where my feet are, being happy with who I am right now, what I have this moment, and the time I have been given this second.  I want to remember that when our hearts are full, the spill-over from our fullness runs into our loved ones.  That the inception of external love, is that of internal love.  God starts in our hearts, after-all.  I want my heart where my treasure is, and my treasure will forever and always be love.  Doing it all for love, with love, and through the love God gave me.  I want a heart that is centered.

This is where I was the strongest.  Through our wedding, hard times, great times, races, workouts, job changes, financial changes, and everything in-between, I feel I did a great job at focusing on the important things.  This year, just as many “tough” things happened as they did the previous year. However, it was my attitude that carried me through, and I am thankful for this. I had more fun, because through it all (though I wasn’t perfect…still focused on petty things sometimes) I focused on love.

I experienced a lot of great things this year. I married the love of my life. I made new friends. A great new job.  Vacations to fun places. New family members introduced. Won 4 races. Was mostly healthy the entire year.  Ran 2 marathons. Found some confidence in myself again.


So, all in all, I would like to keep working on my heart.  I want to be more accepting. I want to keep focusing on the important things. And I want to do it all for love, with a fire that can’t and won’t burn out.  So what word has been on my mind, one that will help me keep this momentum?

Per usual, I started to think of this word in October. It would seem that when the season changes, my mind starts to prepare for the next challenge.  Grace.

Grace means mercy. Grace means forgiveness.  This year, I want to get better at forgiveness. I want to open myself up to forgiving myself and therefore, open myself up to forgiving others.  I want to recognize the cool stuff I do, and take joy in it without berating myself for not being good enough. I want to face failure with forgiveness and mercy, and stop blaming myself for everything I am not, could not do, or would not do. When I do that for myself, I want to do it for others as well. I want to stop judging people and expecting them to let me down. I want to face every relationship with grace, remembering to keep my boundaries and keep an open/understanding attitude.  I want to remember the grace of God in my life, and give that grace to others & myself alike.

Grace means ease of movement. I want to start being more confident in myself and step up into womanhood. I want to shed the layer of girlhood that I hold on to, the one that says it is okay for me to play small or play a role based on others’ expectations.  I want to approach races with the grace of a racer, weaving through the streets with confidence and taking a step up, racing with people that I know are faster, stronger, or smarter, thus calling me up to my fullest self.  I want to approach my career with grace, stop apologizing for being myself, and take charge. I want to approach with the enthusiasm of my heart as fuel, with grace and finesse as my wheel.  I want to approach social situations, friendships, relationships, with the confidence of a graceful woman.  I want to remember that the best way to work through any situation, is to focus on efficiency of movement.

Grace is a prayer. I want to open myself up to more prayer, and stop being afraid of God and His judgement. I want to live my life with thankfulness, and see everything as a blessing and an opportunity. I want a heart centered in prayer and Christ, knowing that when I am centered in a place of thankfulness and positivity, every day of my life is a day of grace.

Grace means mercy. Grace means confidence. Grace means gratitude.

This is going to be a fun year.

I think all of us have been put up against a measuring stick before. Been told that we aren’t good enough (or, we are better than everyone else) based on how we compare to that stick.

I have been compared to many sticks. Other people, standards of success, and my own past-self.  Some are self-inflicted and some are not, but either way, when I don’t measure up, I feel this ache of unworthiness creep up.

It really is a losing battle, especially when we compare ourselves to other people.  There is no, no way I can ever measure up to other people because people can’t be compared.  Even when we race others, the time is the thing that is ultimately compared, not the soul, family, or personality of the athletes.  It is just the time.

But it is hard, especially when these ideas are reinforced.  Whether it has been family, romantic relationships, or co-workers, when I am measured based on who others are, I feel the unworthiness creep up again.  It aches, it hurts so much that I feel like I am punched in the gut.  I have fought my entire life to be good enough for everyone, while not even considering what “good enough” is for myself.

Basing my self worth on how God sees me is important but if I were to be honest, sometimes I don’t see it as valuable. Sometimes, I feel like God isn’t that present in my life and that basing my self-worth off how God sees me seems a bit too “Chicken Noodle Soup for the Teenage Soul”. It feels like fluff and pandering to how I really feel.  God loves me, but why does it hurt so bad when I don’t measure up, when I should have this inherited worthiness?

And then, I feel like a total asshole for questioning God.

But, I don’t think that’s how it works.  I think God appreciates the honesty, and that is where we can sift through everything more clearly.

Of course it doesn’t feel like sustenance when I try and base how God sees me versus how the world sees me, as the world offers the more proximate threat.  Having another person tell me “you just aren’t XYZ” hurts a hell of a lot more than thinking in my head “well God loves me because the Bible says so” because one is coming at me externally and the other is being recited based on Bible study.

Maybe I can’t get through this block because I am basing my entire faith and self-worth system on a book that I barely read, one which has been explained to me in snippets of regurgitated “feel good” allegories.

So where do I go from here?

First of all, more regular church attendance would help. Primarily, because exposure to God’s ideas will help me sift through how I feel about myself and the world more clearly.  Second, I think I need to really define my standards for my own self worth, and not let outside factors seep into my metric.  And finally, I think I need to begin looking for evidence to support my inherent worthiness rather than unworthiness. After all, you can base an argument off of any little fact; looking for light is a heck of a lot more fun that looking for the dark.

Go Learn.  Define Values.   Seek Positivity.

And most of all, remember the heart.

Role versus Real

Definitions are strange, beautiful things.

They break down the most complex of ideas and swirl them around until it becomes a uniform color.  Blues, greens, yellows, all facets of this one thing are thrown into the mixer and are spat out as black.

Definitions help us make sense of the world.  They give security, help with language, and bridge connections.  And, oftentimes, they over-simplify.  Especially when it comes to the definition of ourselves.

I’m a CEO.

I’m a cook.

I’m a mother.

I’m a runner.

I’m a wife.

I’m a libertarian.

I am XYZ- a definition.  Yellows, blues, greens, and pinks swirled around.

All we get out, is one, uniform color.  We all start to look the same and forget what makes us special.  So what do we do?  We start to bash other people’s definitions.

“They are so selfish, taking a job instead of taking care of their kids.  They’re a bad “Mother””.

“What good is a degree if you don’t use it? You’re a feminist.”

“You only graduated WHAT level? You’re stupid.”

“Oh…you support THAT party? You’re a racist.”

When we start to define people and ourselves with one word, we over simplify that person to the point where empathy and understanding is lost.  People feel like they have to be everything at once, or one thing and nothing else.  How often do you hear mothers bashing themselves, because they feel selfish for taking “me” time?  How often do you hear dads feeling weak when they feel sad or alone?  How often do you hear other people tear each other down, because they aren’t doing enough, or aren’t giving it all up to do one thing?

We just can’t win with that mentality.

When we begin to see people as a variety of colors, we start to recognize the beauty of their lives and personalities.  They aren’t just a mother- they like to ride bikes, study statistics, draw, laugh, hug their wife, watch TV, and read poetry.  They aren’t just a financial analyst- they play piano, and sing in the shower, hate peas, love their sister, and hate the smell of gasoline.

People are a variety of colors, and so are you.

When we allow ourselves to be a variety of things, the weight of being “everything” or “one thing” goes away and we give ourselves to be each and every color, at its due time.  How easily does this apply to runners, especially injured ones?

We don’t feel like a runner when we are injured, as we aren’t doing that thing at that moment. We define ourselves as one thing and therefore feel colorless when we can’t do it.  But we are blue, and green and yellow, we are swimmers, and computer scientists, and brothers.  And when that beautiful orange comes back in our lives, at the right time, we can be that color too.

When we stop trying to be everything or just one thing, we allow ourselves to be infinite.

We allow ourselves to see every single color.

Chicago marathon and beyond

On a previous blog I wrote in 2015, I talked about how it felt to watch the Chicago Marathon and what it meant to see my now husband-then boyfriend, race.  My observations were that the fans, volunteers, and races all provided an incredible race experience that motivated me to run this race one day.

In 9 days, that day will finally be here.

3 years ago, I started running from a standing start – it was incentive to stop drinking and start getting my life together.  It was incentive to impress my boyfriend and have a common connection.  Seeing Chicago, gave me incentive to want more.  To be a part of the big race.  It was a year of physically getting back on my feat and mentally finding motivation to want more for myself.

2 years ago, running took off.  With about a year of solid training under my belt, I was running faster than I ever thought possible, placing higher and running faster splits that was expected of me.  But I was upset with myself constantly, was not supported by a lot of my family, and was chasing worthiness, coming up short time and time again.  It was a year of great physical feats and mentally trying to hide from pain while chasing big dreams.

1 year ago, I was trying to rebuild myself after a tough job and dealing with some emotional/psychological health issues.  It was like I was constantly pushing up against these two things- feeling unworthy and like I was “wrong” to want more for myself, and couldn’t break through.  Some was mental but through time we found out a lot was physical.  I had gotten my cycle back and as a result, got anemic.  It was a year of gritty physical feats and mentally running head first into the much of pain and being brave.

This year, I rebuilt myself even more, finding a way to stay relatively healthy through two cycles and learn the skill of racing to win.  I focused on having integrity and handling as much as I could before burnout, staying true to myself, and trying scary things.  Mentally, I still struggle with the fact my times are not where they were 2 years ago and physically, I feel a different kind of tired.  But irregardless, I am pressing forward to discover something about the me I am faced with today.  It is a year of being smart with my body and being positive with my mind.

Now, I am back where I started – being inspired to run in the city I love, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and to dream big.  I have run both fast and slow, being crippled by unworthiness and unable to enjoy the freedom and love I have of running.  I cannot and will not let this old mentality ruin this race for me.  This is the year of heart, and my heart is full and ready to run.

I think the marathon transforms all of us, and I would like to add that the build up does the same.  I have transformed, grown, and used lessons (and will use lessons) that have made me now, made me then, and will make me these things – enough, brave, a believer, and someone with heart.

On the other side of the finish will be another lesson, one that took 3 years to get.  A time, a place, or anything that can be put in a spreadsheet won’t describe everything I became in 26.2 miles.  Or any of us, really.  United, we race, walk, cheer, believe, and dream together of a life where we accept who we are today and believe in who we will be tomorrow.

That to me, is together forward.

Running is Hard

Running is hard.

Well yeah.

Anyway, it is the summer, which means the heat, humidity, and late allergies are here.  For those of us with a fall marathon on our plate, that means we are hitting that point (at least I am) where the grind has become less of a “yeah I feel cool and bad-a** and strong” and more “Good God, why is this happening I don’t wannaaaa”.

Running and life, they can be hard.

Ferris Bueler or however he spells it, makes a quote about how life is too short and fast yada yada look around.  It is everyone’s favorite senior quote and if it wasn’t a caption for an instagram pic, did you even childhood?  Anyhoo, when things are hard, it really is tough to look around and see everything.

I tell myself before races and workouts -okay you are going to look around and be grateful and notice everything.  Same with life  –  it is that allusion that I give myself, saying I am going to notice everything.  But life and running move fast, especially when it is hard.

A lot of my favorite memories from races or workouts, have been split seconds where I notice the things around me and it just sticks in my brain like glue.  Noticing the sunrise, cooling down with my husband, looking at the women I am running with and feeling grateful, the final turn before the finish.

Life and running are hard, and a lot of the times we are left with a supercut of memories, strung together by feelings of gratitude, love, and joy.  A lot of pain in there too, but mostly those other things.  Maybe that is why we keep signing up and keep showing up.

When things get hard, maybe it is about taking pressure off ourselves to make the whole experience wonderful, and just look forward to the flicker of a memory that we will take home.  It is like a race medal –  a small memento for the 1000 miles you ran + 26.2.  Sometimes I look at my medals and feel nothing really, just a slight bit of happiness, because these tokens can’t really capture the feeling I had that day.

I look at my wedding photos and kinda feel sad, because they don’t capture the intense feeling I had that day.  What captures it the best, is the flicker of a memory I have when I was walking down the aisle and saw Mitch.

Things don’t really show the suck or intense feelings or joy or whatever, that we experienced to get to where we are now.  It is a flicker of a memory, one that sustains us through the next mile, that we keep locked in our hearts when we need some encouragement.

Running is hard, and our races are coming.  But look around, maybe you are making flickers of memories right now.

Who knows, maybe you are making memories that will sustain you for the rest of your life.

You won’t get this again

Some of my best races (not always necessarily by time, but by feeling) have been ones where I have been grateful for the mile I was in.

Most of the time, at some point in the race, I have the conversation with myself : “You won’t get this again”.  You won’t get to have another mile 12 of the So-and-so half, April 2018. You won’t get another opportunity to run a race with this exact group of people.  You won’t get this again, so savor it.

It is a state of mind that really came out of no where for me, as I am a ignorer of big moments. I fear that all consuming, post-big event depression that happens after a major life event.  So I just shut off my brain, and try and minimize the impact.

But just like in running, when we try and numb down the hurt or the joy, we never set out to accomplish what we have set out to do.  Transform.

I get married to Mitch Gilbert on Friday August 3, 2018.  Part of me wants to numb down the excitement, fearing the crash of a post-wedding letdown.  Part of me is terrified of not being in control of my emotions and letting myself feel things.  But then, there is part of me that remembers what I tell myself when I have my best races.  You won’t get this again.

The apex of ache or the high of happiness is never remembered correctly or completely.  It is that post marathon forgetfulness where we cannot seem to remember the agony we endured, usually 24 hours prior.  Or that post-happy slump, where we can’t remember what deep joy is without the cocaine-like high we enjoyed the day before.  It is never the same, and that is okay.  You won’t get this again.

Maybe the whole point is to be present and grateful.  Knowing I won’t get these moments again, I need to re-frame my mindset from protection to presentness.  I won’t get this again, and that is the whole point.

Maybe to be present is to recognize the privilege we have- the privilege to experience a moment,  to savor it, learn from it, and share it.

Presence is a privilege, one I don’t plan on squandering.

We Decide

Times of transition are hard.  They are frightening, they’re annoying, and most of all, they make me really pissed off.

Right now is one of those times.  Marriage, potentially moving, potential career change, potential selling of a house, etc, etc. Woah.

Having a lack of control makes me want to scream into my pillow and then take a really aggressive walk with my dog, listening to Folk Rock Pandora and talking to myself.  Most often, in these situations, I try and grasp at straws to control: maybe it is my job, my relationship, my body, or my running.

More often than not, though, the feelings of wrath turn away from external things to control and pivot inwards, tackling my self-worth and confidence to the ground.

When in times of transition, it is really hard to believe in myself.

I get moody, controlling, compare myself to others, demean myself, and lose focus of the important things.  Maybe it is because, bashing myself is easier than letting go.  Maybe it is because I take pride in my ability to “keep everything together” so when I can’t do that, I get hard on myself.  Either way, it’s an ugly place to be and I need to learn to let go.

Kristin Armstrong talks about “letting go” in a way that I think I need to apply to my life right now.

“‘There is a vast difference between giving up and letting go. I’m asking you to look at your life, look into your heart and see where you have confusion or discord between the two. As you examine more closely, you will see that one maintains your integrity and the other does not. Be mindful about this difference today’… Giving up says I quit. Letting go says I release outcomes. The integrity piece has something to do with the ownership”

Beating myself up, comparing myself, and trying to control everything isn’t integrity.  It’s giving up on myself, my values, and my faith.  These days, I need to let go of outcomes, whether it be in races, in my work, in my relationships, how I am perceived, my finances, my looks, and my lovability.

I am not giving up, letting the tide of idleness rush over my entire life.  I am not making excuses for the things I DO have the power to control (my attitude, my effort, my heart, my inner dialogue).  I am not changing who I am.

Instead, I am stepping into my integrity. I am letting go of the outcomes and taking hold of my heart again.

When the pace gets hard in life, in running, in anything, let’s transition to the next mile, saddled into our hearts.  And let’s remember that in any transition, we may not get to choose the outcome, but we get to choose how we respond.  And how we respond, ultimately, becomes who we are.


Being there

This weekend, I am pacing a marathon in which I will be leading the 7:05/mile group through the first 13.1 miles of their journey.

This task has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I signed up, and it has been tough to navigate through the space of my good intentions and my deep fears.  It is like anything in life – our destination is often littered with tests of the ego, the body, and the spirit, forcing us to reckon with our fears.

My fear is that I won’t be “enough”.

It is a fear of not being positive enough; not providing the right words, at the right time, instigating a change of heart and body in my group member.  It is a fear of not being fast or fit enough; not hitting the paces correctly, not having the physical strength to finish, not being “good enough”.  It is a fear of being not mentally tough enough; hitting a hard mile (that always comes in every run, ever, no matter what pace)  and not having the mental stamina to push through.

It would seem that in my quest to be everything to everyone, I am once again hit with the fear of not being “enough” and therefore, nothing at all.

This fear transcends the pacing world, and can bleed into every part of our lives.  Maybe you fear being not “enough” for your children, desperate to be the kind of parent that is on, all the time, providing nothing but a positive childhood for your kid.  Maybe you fear not being “enough” in your job, and you walk in every day in fear you will be fired for a missed assignment, making a bad cup of coffee, or just not having the personality that jives with your boss.  And maybe, you fear not being “enough” for your spouse, that you won’t be able to provide all the emotional, physical, and financial support you think you need to give.

I like to turn to my writer/spiritual/runner inspiration, Kristin Armstrong, for guidance on this one, as she too is driven by faith, sprinkled with a good running metaphor here and there.  In her article “Resilience Realized“, she discusses the sentiment that our own compassion and giving cannot be determined by outcome or by “flipping the light on” for someone, but for simply being there.  It is an article that to this day, brings me to tears.  Here is my favorite part:

“I used to think that made me strong, or wise, or capable, when I flipped on the light for someone else.  Now I see that act more akin to impatience, lacking true compassion, or the unwillingness to enter the apex of ache.  You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside.  That may be real love, right there.  The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.

Some of my most profoundly raw and memorable human moments have been when I have summoned the courage to get over myself and step inside and sit with someone in the dark.  When I have spooned a hiding friend in a bedroom with shades drawn, stroked their dirty hair and said not a word as they wept.  When I have gone to the ICU and prayed with my friend instead of making small talk and pretending he wasn’t dying. When I wrapped Jena in a fleece blanket and brought her a cup of tea. When I have admitted to my children that I did not have an answer and just held them instead, soaking up their tears instead of telling them reasons not to cry.  When I have run beside a shattered sister for many silent miles, matching stride.

Our own resilience is realized somewhere in the offering.”

The fear of not being “enough” coincides with this article, doesn’t it?

Being “enough” most often, involves being everything: the wisest, the most capable, always saying the right thing, being the fittest, being the most intelligent, making the most money.  Enough really doesn’t mean “adequate” anymore when we use it to describe our relationships with people: it starts to mean “everything”.

But what Kristin describes is something deeper, something more difficult that being the sickly-sweet personality of “everything”.  She describes being present, right there in the dark.

On Saturday, my new goal is to be present.  To realize my resilience in the offering, giving exactly what I can that day.  My resilience will lie in the fact that everything I need, is already inside of me, and in order to be my best for others, I simply need to be there, be present, and offer all I have to give.  Perhaps that will involve coaxing a runner through the next mile. Perhaps it will involve feeling the ache of distance and effort, and transcending the “can’t” to “can” threshold with the runners around me.  Perhaps it is offering a prayer for someone’s family member.  Maybe it will involve laughing about the flavor of the Gatorade.  Irregardless, this practice is more important that just for my pacing duties, but for my life as well.

I realize that breathing into this intention on race day, is good practice for the rest of life.  For my daily runs, for my upcoming marriage, for my future children, for my family, for my faith, for my job, for all of it.

And, whether you feel “not enough” in your marriage, your child raising, your friendships, your faith, your job, remember that it is about the offering.

And the offering, is truly “enough”.

I can be brave from here

This weekend we (Mitch and I) ran our 3rd Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago! It is one of my favorite races of the year, as it is a huge block party.  The first time I raced it, I surprised myself and ran incredibly fast (for me) and got to run next to some of my heroes.

The second time, left a taste in my mouth so bitter that I have had anxiety about this years attempt ever since.  I was (according to my symptom tracking) low in iron and overall, had a defeated and warped mindset.  I had a horrible race and a horrible day, as I was heartbroken and moreover, did not recognize myself.

My goal this year was to be more of myself, more happy and grateful, and I accomplished that.  However, I was not FULLY myself.  I still worried about what people thought of me and had an excuse mindset during the race. I was also severely worried about getting my heart broken and having a terrible race.  Though I have a MUCH better attitude this year, I still wasn’t fully present and as a result, the race suffered a bit.  BUT I don’t consider it a failure.  Here is why:

Side story.  This year, Mitch and I went to Disney! I LOVED it and conquered a lot of fears, including roller coasters.  Listen, I am not a wimpy baby (I love horror films and adrenaline) however, my mind operates on a constant highlight reel of Final Destination movies; ones where people get their heads chopped off by roller coasters.  Poor Mickey.

Anyhoo, I had a tough time raising my hand in rides.  Tao Cruz would be disappointed in me.  I did not raise my hands in the air, it was not Dyno-mite. However, ride by ride, I would lift one finger, then one hand, then finally, BOTH HANDS! Though it was brief, I raised them up and when it got to be too much, I put them back down and told Mitch “I can be brave from here”.  And, the more I did it, the more I would have my hands in the air.

Maybe yesterday, I wasn’t fully “in it” but I raised one hand.  I didn’t let a bad race keep me from coming back to a race environment that I love! And though I had bad mental thoughts, I did not let them prevent me from at least trying.  I kept lifting that hand off the belt. And next time, maybe I will get both hands off the belt. And when I practice consistent acts of bravery with my heart in the right place, I become more of myself: more brave, more belief, more heart.

And soon, I will say, with both of my hands in the air: “I can be brave from here”.