Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Facing Pain and Finding Bold

"We cannot live without the luxury of pain. We cannot avoid it or live in the shadow created by fearing it. We cannot minimize our existence by numbing it, or marginalize our experience by living around it. We must learn to welcome it, even embrace it, as a sure sign of a life well loved." -Kristin Armstrong 
The quote above was shared by my friend Jessica from Pace of Me.  I love what Jessica shares on a daily basis.  Her training.  The way she wears her heart on her sleeve.  Her inspiring workouts and races where she digs deeper and deeper to make her dreams come true. It has been so encouraging and lovely to get a window into her spirit and see how she continues to unfold. She's one of those REAL DEAL kind of people.  

Beautiful inside and out.
One of the things I'm most amazed at when it comes to Jessica is just how much she has improved with her running over the last few years.  It's incredible.  Just this last weekend she set a new PR in the half marathon with a time of 1:26:25.  If I'm not mistaken, this is big PR for Jessica and one that didn't come easily.  It came with a price:  hard work, dedication and pain. The good and satisfying pain.  The pain that comes when you are working for something you really want.  After the race, she posted a picture of her watch with the words:
"What a race! Nobody said it would be easy, but it sure was worth it. When my tummy cramped at Mile 12 and I had to walk and then stop to take care of it (so sick of this happening, by the way, not gonna lie!) I knew I had a choice in that moment - to either give up and settle for "good enough" or to be bold and run my heart out. I chose BOLD and I'm so glad I did!"
Jessica's picture after her race.  Here's her race report from the USA Rock n Roll Half Marathon 2014

I love what Jessica says above.  Nothing really worth having is entirely easy. In fact, it can often involve some pretty painful experiences in getting there.  Life (and Racing) is about choices and pushing past the hurdles so we can keep going strong. If we want to accomplish big goals, make our dreams come true and live an extraordinary life, we need to be Bold.  Jessica inspires me to live with more BOLD in my life.  And my racing. 
I am reminded again and again of just how much racing and training for marathons (or other races) parallels life.  This Kristin Armstrong quote was another reminder of this.  Life is full of seasons.  Some of them involving hard work, difficult times and a climb of some sort and some simply a time to be still, content with where we are at, and take things easy. These words about pain make me think of so many moments in my life that were painful.  Times that my heart stings just a little or experiences that have knocked the breath out of me and brought me to my knees. Moments that were necessary parts of my living that helped me get to who I am today. There is so much to be said about pain and the necessity of it in becoming who we are meant to be.  Pain is a luxury in a sense.  Nobody enjoys it while its happening.  Well, most of us don't.  But when life brings us trials and obstacles that are painful and knock us down or make us want to turn the other way and avoid facing it, we have a choice to either push through the pain, embrace it, and learn from it or avoid it at all costs and never get to where we want to go.  When it is all done, we more often than not, look back at our pain and can see how was part of our personal growth.
When I reflect on the way I deal with pain in life, I know that for the most part, I don't avoid it. I don't run away or numb myself.  I let it wash over me and I work through it in my own time so I can rise above it and learn from it. When it comes to racing and the pain that comes from truly pushing myself to a certain level..body, mind, spirit.. I can be much different.  Most of my races have been just under that point where I need to be to break through to a new level.  Just above my comfort zone but not enough to be as BOLD as I can and leave it all out there.  This doesn't mean I don't work hard and dedicate myself to my goals. It does't even mean that I have to be putting myself in more pain or going after that big bold level in a race.  I'm actually pretty content being comfortable right now and making training and raising more about fun. But it does mean that if I'm ever going to have another personal best time with these legs of mine, then I'm going to have to push things a little more.  I'm going to have to feel a little pain and be bold!  Although a personal record isn't why I train for marathons (at least not at this stage in my life), I know I have more in me than I put out there.  I also know that by being bold and pushing myself a little more...even through some solid pain that comes from digging deep...I'll see this boldness carry over into my life.  And really, let's be honest here Amanda:  It would feel really darn good run my personal best marathon time at Boston this year!  Maybe it's time to think about this bold that Jessica talks about and this pain that can be a luxury so that I can push past that comfort zone of mine.  
Just as accepting pain as a sure sign of a life well loved, feeling a bit of pain (the kind that comes from pushing ourselves) in a race and being BOLD can be sure a sure sign of a race well run (and well loved after the fact).  When we look back on our life, those moments of pain are probably some of the most powerful aspects of making our life amazing in the long run.  Thank you Jessica...for inspiring me and others to be more bold with living AND our sports.  You have me extra excited for Boston! No matter how I decide to run it.   

I don't write here as often as I used to but you can find Runninghood on:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Letting Go of Guilt, Replacing it With Positive Self Talk and Love, and Helping Our Kids Learn the Same

A lot has changed since I first started this blog in late 2010.  Lots. Races trained for. Travel. Motherhood milestones. Lessons learned. Love gained. And so much more. As I look back, I see a very different ME. A version of myself that carried a much heavier bag of everything: expectations, fear, fearlessness, immediate goals for improvement, invincibility, and that big ugly G word: GUILT. 

Gosh, I had a lot of motherhood guilt back then. Wooo wee, I'm so glad I've let some of that go! Amazing what a difference three years can make. Don't get me wrong, I still have high expectations. I still have goals and dreams.  And I still have a fair dose of guilt that creeps in and clouds my vision of all the really great and positive things I'm doing as mother, friend, wife... that voice that comes out at the end of the day to remind me of all the things I forgot to do or messed up with, leaving me feeling like I'm not enough. The voice that says things like:
  • You yelled too much.
  • You could have reacted to that meltdown differently.  Or not reacted at all.
  • You forgot to read with your middle child.
  • Did you remember to do that project with _______ like you promised?  
  • You didn't say YES to anything today.  
  • You forgot to....
  • Gosh, I think you nagged more than talked normally today. 
When I look back on the self I was just a few years ago, I'm mixed with feelings of wanting to hug myself and take away the pressure and hurt I was filled with and wanting to slap myself around and tell myself to stop being so overly sensitive and dramatic. What a process we go through in life as we learn and change.  Thank goodness we get to learn and move on, right?!  But, no matter where we are in life, we are where we need to be. 

I'll always have things I'd like to improve upon. Setting goals and making reflection part of my life habits are here to stay. However, I no longer let guilt linger for too long. I don't go to bed every single night beating myself over the head with a long list of all the ways I feel like I failed.  Instead of swimming in a muck of guilt and feeling of failure, I take note of the things I'd like to improve on for the next day and I make a point to do just that. I'm easier on myself: more love and grace. With every thought of something I feel like I kind of messed up with, I tell myself something I did well that day.  I give myself lots of positives and acknowledge the GOOD STUFF that I AM DOING RIGHT!  This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've learned since starting this blog.  I'm finally able to do so much more of the stuff that I've written about in regards to helping our children do for themselves: positive self talk and self love.

As much as I see a very different person when I read back over some of my past posts, I I've also been reminded of some pretty important lessons or ideas that I find helpful now.  One particular post on Helping Our Children Love Themselves written in December 2011 was written after what was then a very difficult experience for me as a young mother. It was the first time I had to deal with something and I was extra sensitive (as mothers often are with their first borns). I was definitely harder on myself than I would be now but it led to some good family lessons. I forgot that we even used to do family meetings with compliments and "bucket filling"...this was a long time ago!  But I'm thankful for the reminder and I hope to try some of these things again in working to help my children (and myself) with positive self talk and love.  

Reading this post again made me aware that in addition to going easier on ourselves and, there are so many things that we can be doing for our kids that can help them do the same for themselves. Self love and positive talk is perhaps one of the greatest things we can teach them. Some highlights from this post:

"After doing some repairing of feelings by assuring my daughter that she is wonderful and great despite the mistakes she makes, we had a brief talk about the power of self talk.  I used the bucket metaphor which isn't anything new and certainly not all my idea.  Lots of teachers and therapists use it.  Basically, I explained:
  • When you say bad things about yourself like "I can't.  I'm no good.  I hate myself.  Nobody likes me.  I'm stupid...." you are filling your heart bucket up with gross, smelly black stuff that you don't want to be around.  Nobody else wants to be around it either and before you know it, it is so stinky and heavy and black that your heart is heavy and sad and you feel awful about yourself. And when you say these things to others, you are taking away from their buckets or filling them with YUCK. 
  • When you love yourself and fill your brain with positive thoughts like "I love me.  I am beautiful.  I am smart.  People love me.  I CAN DO THIS!  I am kind.  I am loving.  I am a good friend." these things will BE!  You are filling your heart bucket up with brilliant color and love and beauty.  You want more of it and you will feel good.  Others can sense this positive self worth too and when you think thought of love and positivity, you are a person that others feel good around.  
  • You ARE WORTHY of LOVE.  Even when you make bad choices. We all make bad choices sometimes.  WE need to love ourselves and others and just keep picking ourselves back up and trying to improve on the things we can control.

Some things I learned from this experience:
  • Kids need to feel safe sharing things with us or they will bottle things up and this will cause them stress.  It depends on the kid of course.  Some, like my oldest daughter, are more private than others.
  • I'm definitely harder on my oldest than I think I will be on my younger two.  I think this is normal.  My standards are pretty high and I can sometimes be too hard on  her.  If I'm not careful, I'm just one big nag of a mom and she can end up feeling like she can do nothing right. These feelings can stay for a long time.  
  • Every difficult situation we work through with our children is a learning opportunity.  I'm thankful for some conflict and difficult times NOW because it will only help make them stronger for LATER.  
  • You can never overdo it when telling your kids that you love them.  
  • It is so important to find moments to praise our children and catch them in their efforts and hard work.  I try not to praise them as a person but more so their choices and actions.  Instead of saying "You're such a good girl or a good boy", I say things like "I really love the way you folded your clothes! Thank you".  I don't want them to judge their self worth off of how good they are.  I want them to always feel worthy of love and feel self confident even when they do make bad choices.  This is tricky. I'm probably not making sense here as I am typing rather quickly and my time is running out.  
  • Positive self talk is SO IMPORTANT for all of us.  Athletes, mothers, children, self.  So much power in how we talk about our self.  I am smart, I am beautiful, I am a good friend, I am worthy of love, I am a child of God, I am funny, I am fast....these things are so POWERFUL in BEING what we want to be.  I can't stress this enough for my children.  We've really been working on saying these things before we go to sleep at night." 

Last night when I went to bed, I did my usual reflection of the day.  But unlike the ME from the past, I was able to simply look at the things I did well and think of the things I wanted to be better at the next day.  So much more self love and grace these days!  And because of that, I'm not quite as hard on my kids. I'm better at modeling love and positive talk for them since I'm better at doing it for myself.  We've all benefited from this.  However, I think this is always something to keep working on. I think tonight we will have a family meeting with compliments and imaginary bucket filling!  

Here's to growing!  


I don't write here as often as I used to but you can find Runninghood mostly on Instagram or: 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Purely Processing

Blowing off the dust of this blog again. At least today.  It might be another couple of months before I post again. There is something quite calming and therapeutic about writing  on this blog at the times when my head and heart are full.  A different kind of processing for me than if I just write in my journal or in email.  It's like I'm talking to myself but yet still feel like I'm being heard in some way.  In a human connection sort of way.  For awhile I think I got stuck in a trap of filtering too much of my posts or thinking I needed to stick to a concise topic. I forgot:
1. This blog is for fun and for personal expression.  
2.  I can write about whatever I want and it doesn't matter if anyone reads it. 
3. Part of this blog is about processing my life as it comes. 

So, random bullet post for me.  Because, well, that's what today calls for.  
  • Boston Marathon has been going quite well.  I can't say enough about how much I respect and value the plans that have been written for me.  Smart and tailored to me in such perfect ways. Thankful for a smart coach. 
  • This training cycle has been different than any other with my mindset, goals, and just the overall place where running fits in my life.  
  • Parenting continues to be full of challenges as well as moments that bring me more joy, love and pride than I ever imagined.  It is HARD WORK.  But wonderful work.  
  • I continue to be amazed by the human spirit: resilience, forgiveness, acceptance, ability to love, and our limitless potential to grow and change in new ways.  We are never too old to learn, be humbled or see things from new perspectives.  
  • So true that the basic human need is LOVE.  To Love and Be Loved.  
  • Patterns of behavior that we learn growing up can be some of the hardest to change in order to not continue the cycle through the next generations.  
  • Things we feel the most hurt and anger from in regards to the people we love are often things we do ourselves even if we aren't aware of it.  It takes really being able to step back and look at ourselves and ask why something affects us the way it does.
  • It takes conscious work to change patterns and learned behaviors that were harmful so that our kids and their kids have different relationships with us and each other than we had. 
  • If we want lasting, loving, attentive and close knit relationships with our kids and grandkids someday, we need to start NOW with letting them know that this of value.  By taking the time to build those meaningful relationships and special times together, we are setting the stage for years to come.  And it's important for them to see us valuing communication and making family a priority (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) if we want them to grow up doing the same.  These things are learned.  This can be hard if it wasn't modeled for us. But we have the power to break the generational cycle. 
  • I spent the first 3 miles of my easy 5 mile run today beating myself up with all of the things I'm not doing right or that I've messed up with the last day, year, month...all the ways I feel like I'm failing or not measuring up.  Then the next 2  miles were reminding myself that this kind of self-talk gets us NOWHERE!  It's one thing to recognize our flaws and then lovingly tell ourselves to just try better next time now that we are aware of things.  It's an entirely different thing to hold ourselves to an impossible level of standards that we will break ourselves trying to measure up to.  This is a constant lesson for me:  Focus on the things you are doing right. Celebrate and be gentle on yourself when it comes to working on the things you want to improve on. And then treat the people you love in the same way: With Grace and Love.  Perfection is impossible for anyone.  
  • Guilt and Shame lead to more Guilt and Shame.  Grace and Love leads to more Grace and Love.  For ourselves, our children, and all of those closest to us.  
  • We never stop learning. This is awesome!  And exciting.    
  • A heart of gratitude goes a long way to creating a happy life. 

Thankful for:
  • Hearing the birds sing this morning...a reminder of spring being near.  Such a wonderful season.  
  • Running.  It is such an incredible gift.  It has added so much to my life: energy, drive, healing, clarity, beauty...Running leads me to more and more life.  Always.  
  • The Boston Marathon is in less than 7 weeks.  This will be a very special one for many reasons and I'm honored to be a part of it.  The whole family is going this year.  
  • Time to process today.  
  • Living here in Western North Carolina.  I love it here.  
  • New opportunities with sports that just started for my kids.  One especially exciting step for my oldest daughter that has me beaming with pride and happiness for her.  Fun to watch her chase dreams from her dream list that she has.  
  • Clarity and seeing how the past few years have unfolded in such purposeful ways.  
  • New insights that make life that much more beautiful! 
  • Life is in a really great place right now.  So many things to look forward to and to enjoy right now.  It is busy but happy.


I don't write here as often as I used to but you can find Runninghood mostly on Instagram or: