Begin Again

Personal Narrative

Time certainly does march on. Who knew nearly a year had passed since I last updated this blog? Even then it was more of an announcement than one of my regular posts. I suppose we all do that though – go through quiet spells.

In recent weeks I’ve come to understand that I’ve been quiet in a lot of areas of my life, not just social media. I’ve also experienced bouts of anxiety, which is loud in my head and in my body, but quiet on the outside.

I’ve said no. A lot.

I’ve ignored people. Often.

I needed this time to myself. But like everything else, quiet was a season. And now I’m saying yes more often. And responding more often. And maybe even blogging more often, too.

Today is a new moon. I am affirming my commitment to be gentle with myself. To take baby steps and celebrate all wins. What about you? What are your intentions? What are you starting? Ending? Affirming?

Steps and Strides

Personal Narrative, Sub 60 10k
The view during my first three miles.
The view during my first three miles.

Today was workout 21 of 61, and I ran 3 miles, 5 strides.

The three miles is old hat this point, but we’ve upped the strides this week. That last stride just about did me in! I wanted to give it my all, and I did, but rather than running through the tape, I pulled up at the final split second. I felt disappointed as I heard the last chime, but I gave all I felt capable of at that moment.

All day I assumed the last stride was slower than some of the others, but now I’ve checked – it was fastest! By far! Goes to show, perception is not always reality.

Still, I plan to work at  running through the tape. It’s easy for me to do when I’m somewhat tired, but when I’m truly fatigued, I stop short. If I ponder this long enough, I can probably think of many life circumstances where this was true as well.

Me on Snapchat, after mailing my manuscript.
Me on Snapchat, after mailing my manuscript.

In other news, I hit a writing milestone. Yesterday I polished a children’s book I wrote years ago, and today I sent it out into the world! Very exciting.

Knowing that it takes anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to hear from some publishers, today’s step motivated me to write more. Several things can happen at this point:

  1. No response
  2. Form letter rejection
  3. Personal rejection/ editor’s encouragement
  4. Rejection with request to revise and resubmit
  5. Acceptance

Obviously I’d prefer options 3-5, but I feel liberated. My only choices are to wait or write. Having this story circulating, no matter her fate, is freeing. I choose to write.

#Sub60 10k: 18 of 61 – Stepmoms Run

Personal Narrative, Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k
Memorial Day Race
Blue & Lil Blue post 5k

Thursday morning, I ran with the youngest. He’s 11 and likes a good adventure as much as the next kid.

After a strong finish during a recent 5k race, he agreed with his father and I that running would be good summertime pursuit. He’s athletic, with a determined heart, and was undaunted by my description of Thursday’s running plan.

Eleven (almost 12) is that interesting age where some are still open to public kisses from parents, but are pretty sure they’ve got this thing (life) all figured out. Or at least they want you to think so.

As a veteran classroom  teacher turned new stepmom, it’s an interesting tug-of-war watching this play out, even as you know what’s going on. I know how kids generally work. I know where mine is on this or that developmental scale. But I (and every other parent) constantly wonder – am I doing the right thing? Stepmomming while running is no different.

He jogged the warm-up mile with no problem, and then it was high-low intervals on the track. He ran out of steam early (11-year-olds don’t sleep during the summer), so I left him to walk/run at his own pace while I continued mine. I knew from our earlier talk he was fine with this, and yet seeing him on the other side of the track, small and alone in the distance tugged at my heart. Should I sprint over to him to catch up and check in? Should I slow down on the next lap so we can run together?

Laughing while warming up today.
Laughing while warming up today.

Ultimately I stuck to my plan, checking on him and slowing a wee bit when we passed naturally. Each time he assured me he was fine, and on the way home, when I asked once more, he gave me a “knock it off” look. A polite one, a few steps below tween exasperation and eye rolling, but hinting at it all the same.

He didn’t join Blue and I on today’s 3 miler, opting for Saturday sleeping instead. Just as well. Starting this afternoon he has a big weekend-long sleepover with this friends. I’m sure he needed all extra rest he could gather.

One task

Personal Narrative, Zaimu Challenge

Today I am thinking of fear. Feeling it. Working through it. Understanding it. Appreciating it as a teacher.

Fear, in certain degrees, can feel like a happy excitement. Stomach tingling, breath quickening. I felt that fear today. It comes when I have doubts about something I want to do, and I can see the beginning of paralysis. Self-sabotage. I haven’t given into Resistance yet, but I have the sudden urge to talk myself out of… progress.

But for now it’s just a tingle. It’s commentary about the relative location of me and my comfort zone.

A New Year’s Eve declaration.

Any time fear is my muse, I ponder the word fearless. I explored this a few years ago, and I have come to understand THAT being fearless is not really being without fear, but about lessening fear’s influence.

If giving into fear means remaining silent or standing still, then being fearless means speaking up or moving, despite the fear. The fear is still present, but it does not defeat you.

Fearlessness is about the steps you take when it feels safer, more comfortable, to stay put.

I’m working on a small project. For many reasons, it inspires fear. Will it be good enough? Will it come out as I expect? Will it have the impact I desire?

Will it…?

Will it…?

Will it…?

If fear wins, I’ll soon make up reasons to work on something else entirely.

If I am fearless, tomorrow I will complete one more task; bring it one step closer to completion.

Winter Run: A Moving Meditation

Personal Narrative, Temple Building

January 5, 2016 | 7:10 am.

motivating
I pull up to the trailhead, pleased it’s not crowded.

Understatement. Only one other car is here.

It’s cold this morning, so I get it. It’s been unseasonably warm and the past couple of days Winter took over, as is her right to do. But it’s damn cold. My weather app says 27º. Windchill 19º.

I ran yesterday, similarly dressed in thermals and such. I had to ignore the cold to start. Colder now, but I really want these miles, so here I am. Me and one other brave soul.

It’s daybreak. Sunrise is 30 minutes away. The sky is clear. I see stars and a lovely crescent moon. I try to snap a picture, but the camera on my phone hasn’t cooperated in weeks, and the shots are unusable.

weatherI gather myself and get out the car. I lock the door, slip the key in my pocket, stride to the trailhead. There is no time to dawdle. My stride warms to slow jog as I approach my traditional starting point. It’s a golden rod mile marker a few yards from the entrance. I always begin there. When I reach the slim post, I press Blue’s Garmin. It chirps and buzzes and I’m off.

Immediately I feel the wind. I know if I can make it past the first five minutes, I will be warm enough, encouraged enough to continue. My face is uncovered and the skull cap with my long red locks protruding seems insufficient. I zip up my jacket, which I usually find uncomfortable at the neck, but today it’s fine. I just need to stay warm. And although I don’t appreciate the breeze, I’m not experiencing cold in a truly unpleasant way. It’s just cold.

My feet strike the boardwalk. It creaks, irritated to be touched on this cold morning. It protests, loosening. It will be quieter for the  next runner.

And I am around the first bend. The guard rails have frost and I hear the creek rushing under me. I keep running, faster than normal for my first mile, because I just need to get warm. There’s a magic point where your core is warm, and the thermal top and jacket contain that heat so some of it can move to your outer limbs. I’m running for that moment. It’s not far now.

And here I am. It’s a half mile, a little more than five minutes in. I no longer notice the wind. This pace seems sustainable, but I will not push it. I’ll see how long I last. I know I can do three miles; 1.5 out and back, but I’d like to go a litter farther. Hit 3.2 maybe. I’ll decide at the turn around. I was tired by then yesterday.

Now I’m crossing the swamp. It is crusted over with a thin layer of ice. No ducks will be in that water today. I know underneath it is not frozen. It’s not that cold after all.

I’m on the concrete going over another bridge. This one brings me closer to the one mile marker. I like starting at the golden rod mile marker because between here and there it’s one mile. I hear the creek under this bridge, but I don’t look down. I don’t want to break my stride and the sun isn’t up yet anyway.

jacketSometimes I pass runners coming in as I’m going out. Sometimes they pass me, going faster but in my same direction. Right now I’m still alone. I’m warmer, although my hands have not benefited yet. My thumbs in particular hurt. All of my other fingers just feel cold, but I’m grateful the circulation is going well in my legs. My feet are cold, but only my toes are numb. A vast improvement over the time I could barely feel my feet below my ankles. I know my feet are here and working fine.

Ha. The bunnies are hungry. Three big ones eat breakfast on my right. I speak as I always do when I pass them. One runs closer to the forest. The others remain.

Approaching another bridge now. This one goes up and then under the highway, beside the creek. I hear the first bird of the morning. He’s checking to see who’s awake. In warmer weather, the morning meeting would already be underway. It’s nearly 7:30. Sunrise is imminent. I don’t hear a response and he calls out once again.

I’m under the overpass and running up the slight incline. I’m nearly to the turn around. I believe I am maintaining pace. My energy hasn’t flagged so that’s a good sign.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.17.26 PMThere’s a kindred spirit – an older woman I think. Thick fluffy hair bounces underneath her hat. She has on black running tights like me. She leans into her run. I wonder if she started from the other side and is on her first stretch, or if she started on my side and is on the way back.

Now my hands are warm. I will go to 1.60 and turn around. There is a green mile marker right around there. When I reach it, I tap it and try not to break stride as I make the u-turn. I’m halfway home already.

I pass underneath a wintered canopy. Is it a canopy if the trees are leafless? And now I’m back at the underpass. I see the creek, but I don’t hear it this time. I tackle the hill back to the straightaway. I spy another bunny.  He’s big like the others but he isn’t still. He’s running – or darting is probably more accurate. I’m concentrating because any moment now I’ll hear the chirp-buzz signaling I’ve reached two miles. Then I’ll only have a mile and change left to go.

And there it is. Chirp-buzz.

I still feel good: I’m warm, and my pace feels solid. My toes are slightly numb, but nothing I mind. My hands are sweating now so I pull off my gloves and stuff them in my left pocket. I know they’ll cool off soon so, I’ll don the gloves again then. I unzip my jacket, just a tad. Yes, I’m really that warm. Not hot, but that zipper is getting in the way.

On I run.

Passing frosty trees on my left, I cross the next bridge. Less than a mile to go now. I notice the frost-dusted guard rails saving me from a long tumble into the noisy creek below. I can’t help myself this time. I reach out and brush the top. Some of the frosty snow (snowy frost?) falls to the ground. The rusting rail gives way to wood and then nothing but the boardwalk.

I’m back to the swamp. That layer of ice remains on the water, but now I look down and see newly wet paw prints on the boardwalk. They seem to be heading toward me but cross to the other side. I immediately think these are raccoon prints, although I’ve never seen racoons here. They probably belong to the countless squirrels who live here.

I pass another runner. I’ve seen this man before. I’m pretty sure he’s just starting. We wave.  I smile. This is my tribe.

This boardwalk is noisy, resisting as the first one did. It’s cold and does not want to be bothered. It will warm up in a few hours. Maybe it will be in a better mood then.

frostI am near the home stretch. I speed up, excited to hear the birds. They are nearly a mile away from the early bird’s podium, but the morning meetings are going strong now. Birds are laughing and catching up on the night’s events, or so it sounds to me. I smile wondering how long they will chatter.

I continue to press, knowing the end is near. This pace is a little challenging, but I’m grateful I’m not wheezing. Keeping my chest insulated makes running in the cold a lot more pleasant, numb toes aside.

I approach the last bridge, which was also the first one. I round the corner and stride down to the boardwalk. As I hit the homestretch mile marker, I begin the countdown. When I’m fast, I can make it from here to the first golden rod marker by zero, but today I am not fast.

One hundred, 99, 98… I count while my feel tap tap in cadence.

I’m going faster than I thought. I’m nearly there when I notice wetness around my face. Is my hair wet? I can tell I will get to zero before I get to the final post, but I won’t have much left to go.

When I hit zero, I count down again, this time from ten. That feels ambitious still, but I really am close. Just after the second zero, I cross the finish line and press the button to stop the Garmin. I save the run.

I stretch and right now I am so proud of myself. There’s still only one other car out here. Today, I have won.

SO much win

Half the distance, twice the win

Personal Narrative

It rained forever and a day. Seriously. Forever, then 24 more hours of rain.

It was probably more like a week, but it really seemed the clouds would never cry themselves out.

I run. And while I engage in a variety of exercise programs, running outdoors is my favorite. It’s lovely to watch the sun rise. To smell the flowers and pine trees and whatever else is on my running trail. To listen to birds as they sing, or fight or just say hello. It’s corny. It’s great. I love it. And thanks to The Rain, I couldn’t run. For days. (Forever).

Then The Rain stopped.

The local runners waited a day for The Dry because we knew our trail would be flooded or overrun with unpassable puddles, slick with wet leaves and what have you. So we had to be patient. And on the second dry day we ventured out to brave the probably-still-messy trail.

But the main trail entrance was locked. A big gate chained shut so no cars could get near the trail head.

Not to be outdone, we, and now I really mean me, I took to the street to find another trail head at the nearby park. It would be my first time using this new entrance, so I set off with an adventurous spirit. I found it with little trouble and was on my way. A little muddy,  a teeny bit slippery, but I had a nice run on a new path. I managed 4 miles that day.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.40.55 PM

Then The Rain returned.

Between The Rain and The Dry, it would be another SIX WHOLE DAYS before I could run again. And even then, I had to sneak. On the sixth day, trails were still closed, but the shy sun beckoned and I answered her call. Off I went to put my name on four miles.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.39.45 PMIn my excitement I started too fast and tired quickly. And if that weren’t enough,  I soon came to a puddle I couldn’t pass. It was simply too deep and the grass around it too muddy. I was going to have to call it quits just halfway to my goal. Disappointed, but really glad to be outdoors, I turned around and ran it back in.

In the end I claimed the win. First, for going out and trying my best. And second, for getting some miles. It took twice the grit to get half the distance, but that’s how champions are made.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 8.45.28 PM

It’s #NaNoWriMo Day…

Personal Narrative

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.01.06 PMToday is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The competition, commonly hashtagged as #NaNoWriMo, encourages creative writers to draft 50,000 new words (a “novel”) in the month of November.

I’ve decided to participate this year, and I’ve set my own goal as I did when I wrote in 2013. My goal then was 30,000 words. Though that bar will be more difficult to accomplish this year, that’s my goal for 2015 as well. Yes, I create my own rules!

I’ve done more pre-work this year. Well, more isn’t saying much as I did none at all in the past. I’m very excited about my ideas in progress. They are a culmination of seeds long ago planted, and I can’t wait to tend to them.

Deciding on my project was a tug-of-war. The truth is, I can’t see an outlet for it. But believe it or not, that’s what made me truly press ahead with this idea and not another one. There’s no pressure to perform! There’s just fun and exploration! It’s an idea with themes, characters and conventions that are important to me, so I’m going to honor that inspiration and just write.

This has been the root of my most consistent acts of self-sabotage: worrying about the audience and the next steps instead of being true to my own ideas. Who’s gonna read it? Where might it go?

It doesn’t matter. I’m gonna read it and it’s going on the page.

Getting free is goodness. What’s holding you back? What small thing can you do today to set yourself free?

To #NaNoWriMo or Not to #NaNoWriMo

Personal Narrative

It’s been a couple of years since my first and only participation in National Novel Writing Month. Despite my reticence of previous years, I found it a great experience and I was very glad I tried it.

Last year this time, I thought I’d try it again, but the beginning of #NaNoWriMo happened while I was on a honeymoon. Who knew two people could sleep so much when relaxing on a boat!? Suffice to say, I was focused on other things and could never really get my mind on starting or continuing work on anything major last fall.

So here we are.

I think I’m in, but I’m not positive. In a few short weeks, I’ll be undergoing a surgical procedure. I’ve never been under general anesthesia. I’ve never even had a broken bone. I simply have no idea what to expect (and I do know anything is possible). For sure I’ll be completely out of commission for a few days, and then managing pain for an undetermined length of time after that. What effect will this have on my writing momentum? What about the fog of painkillers? What about the energy required for healing? It’s all a guess.

But as I type this, I feel a sense of rebellion against the “play it safe” stance I’d normally take. I don’t want to be deterred from starting, just because the finish looks so uncertain.

So that’s that.

I’m in for #NaNoWriMo this year. My month might be more like two weeks, but no matter what, starting is the first victory.

Are you in?

Nic and Blue on an excursion during our honeymoon cruise.
Me and Blue on an excursion during our honeymoon cruise.

Getting Free

Personal Narrative

It’s such an amazing feeling – freedom. Freedom from my own thoughts of limitation. Freedom from an old path. Freedom from what no longer serves me.

I’ve felt this freedom in recent days, swelling in a joyful crescendo this evening. To celebrate and reaffirm my recent decisions, I started tossing and recycling items long outdated. Tomorrow I get to cart them away.

There’s new space in my garage where anchors used to be. There’s new energy and mental clarity where there was once clutter and dread. It’s wonderful.

Embracing my true self.
Embracing my true self.

Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal, if they are of one mind. ~Nichiren

Although many quote this passage from Many in Body, One in Mind to highlight the second half, I reference it most often for the first. More than once, I’ve found myself wavering about a decision. I have clear thoughts about where I want to go, but take steps at cross purposes with my own desires. It’s like stepping on the gas and the brake the at same time. You don’t go anywhere, and if you do, it’s a jerky, unpleasant experience.

It’s liberating to choose life over fear. Now it’s time to be who I’ve always said I wanted to be… 

Next steps

Personal Narrative
sesimbra sidewalk
Nic taking steps in Portugal.

I long held on to something that was once a good stepping stone and source of support but it turned into something… much less productive. After a couple of years it became a crutch. And over the past few months, and most clearly the past couple of days, I realized it was more like an anchor.

In Nichiren Buddhism, once you realize you’re in a less than ideal situation, you seek to understand your role in it. You take responsibility and try to transform it. Hendoku iyaku, or changing poison into medicine, is a powerful approach. But it doesn’t work if you try to transform the wrong thing. You can’t change other people. You can only change you.

I’ve felt stagnant and frustrated for quite some time, but ultimately, I was allowing an external situation to weigh me down. I was the one holding on, and in effect, creating my own stagnation. My outlook and resulting actions were the poison I needed to change.

And so, Thursday, I resolved to let go. And Friday, I started the wheels in motion. Today I am overjoyed, looking forward to next steps.