Current State

At one point in life I was told that while running, as long as your arms are moving your legs can't stop. If you’re beginning to feel tired mid-hill you start pumping your arms and naturally, you’ll continue to move forward. This theory hasn’t been fact-checked but regardless, I’ve been practicing this technique the past 12 years and it’s carried me to my current state.

I strongly believe that majority if not all training techniques used during running, be that mental, physical or spiritual, can also be applied to life.

You see, just as I’ve been pumping my arms all these years to keep my legs moving forward, I’ve been smiling every day while continuing to search for that undeniable state of happy. My smile hasn’t been a lie all these years by any means, but some days it was harder than it should have been and on those days my smile may have been a little white lie.

This morning as I was driving into work after a long weekend, it was raining, the AC in my car is broken so I was sweating profusely because there was zero air circulation and I knew I had a long to-do list waiting for me on my desk. But I could not wipe the smile off my face. I even tried a couple times, it just wasn't possible.

The smile these days is real and it’s made me never want to escape reality.

No Escape

When I was sixteen dad built a fancy bulletin board that, to this day, I pin items to, the OG Pinterest for me. Over the years this board has been a reflection of what I’m striving to accomplish or be at that moment in life.

Right now the board has a magazine tear-out that reads “ESCAPE PLAN” amongst a jewel-encrusted broach and a column that discusses luck.

This past week, over the course of seven consecutive days, I ran fifty miles. These miles were run in torrential down pours, eighty-five degree weather and the wildest circumstance of all, in lieu of a steak!

In order to complete these miles I didn’t have a running buddy knocking on my door and I didn’t necessarily have a wide-open calendar. I had to carve out nine hours during my week to run by myself. I had to remain dedicated to what I believe is the best thing for myself right now, to something that I know I have control over. It wasn’t easy but there was no way in hell I was going to allow myself to bail mid-way when it became a little tough.

Truth is, I had this challenge mapped out and it was actually supposed to end with the completion of forty-nine miles. A friend told me I couldn’t leave that last mile out there. I remapped one of the routes to include mile fifty.

On Saturday morning after completing the challenge I looked at the words “ESCAPE PLAN”. I’ve been dreaming up some grand escape plan over here when in reality, you have to endure to overcome and to be honest with yourself in order to truly grow. There is no escaping difficulty and there is no escaping truth.

I few years ago I sidestepped Jennifer Garner so I could get a better view of the cheese selection at a market in LA. There are only a select few individuals that could make me fan-girl real hard. Alongside Adele and Miley Cyrus stand Jesse Itzler and David Goggins. The personalities of these individuals vary drastically but at the core they know their truth and they are committed to bettering themselves in this lifetime.

The most recent addition to this list is David Goggins. I was introduced to his story through Jesse Itzler but now I can’t stop thinking about his message. David has an incredible story to share. Coincidentally I watched this interview after I completed the fifty-mile challenge. All the things he learned throughout the challenges he endured, were the same realizations I had during my fifty miles.  The thing is, he may be a Navy SEAL, ultra-marathoner beast and myself a moderately in shape runner that eats smoothies for lunch, but when you make a challenge personal, the competition becomes yourself. Whatever the guy next to you is doing, doesn't matter. Personal challenges don’t allow you to rely on just your physical capabilities; you have to have the drive to endure the uncomfortable space that you’re about to enter. Only then will you become your best self.

I am no longer trying to escape, I want to endure and find that truth myself.

I’ve never been one for speed. I guess it’s time to get a little uncomfortable. Next challenge.

Balance

I always tell my mom that she’s made of steel and I’m her little cotton ball. Well, I guess I got the urge to believe I was something more, maybe a Brillo Pad?  Definitely not a steel beam but I can feel some type of transformation happening within.

I am someone that thrives in the sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my seasons but that’s only because I have an unhealthy obsession with velvet and faux fur. Because this past winter was rather generous with the number of “Get me out of here!” days, I purchased sunshine pills, Vitamin D supplements; hoping these would get me through the depths of winter.

And they did! In the first few weeks you could have told me that Nordstrom Rack was closing its doors and I would’ve smiled and said, good for them! There was very little that could’ve upset me. Sunshine consumed me!

Then something incredible happened, I began to realize that I was finally in control of my mental being. The daily annoyances continued but rarely was I allowing them to control my mental clarity. Vitamin D was nothing more than a lemon flavored gummy, I was the one making the change.

It was when I was having this initial ah-ha moment that a project fell through and I was suddenly left with an open chunk of time. Nine weeks out from the Flying Pig Marathon I put my name on the waiting list. Eight weeks out, I was in.

During these eight weeks I pushed myself harder than I ever have, physically, mentally and spiritually. My mileage increased from three to eighteen in a six-week span. I felt it in my body but the more I felt physically challenged, the more I pushed myself mentally. When both body and mind wore thin, I looked to my soul to carry me.

Walking to the start line at six am by myself sans phone and music, surface level, was pretty typical for me. I’ve been single my entire life so I’m comfortable going places on my own. It’s more natural than the alternative. The feeling in my chest, now that is something I had never felt before. My heart raced and for the first time I felt ready. No anxiety, just ready to perform.

For 26.2 miles I ran. Each and every one of those miles was for myself. This year I didn’t run to prove to myself that I could do it. No, I already knew I could. I ran because I deserved it. I deserved to feel that sense of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line. I deserved to know that I have the power within, it just needed to come alive and I needed to be the one to control that.

The funny thing, I didn’t realize this race was a personal record until an entire day later. Friends and family asked how I did and my response for the most part was positive despite not having reached my goal time. I was proud of myself because I performed. I didn’t feel the need to look at a time. What does time mean anyway if your body, mind and soul are in disarray? To have balance means your wildest challenge can become your greatest accomplishment. To me, now that’s incredible.

The power within is alive and I'm hungry for more.

I should have prefaced this entire rambling with the single fact that my family plays the role of my placebo sunshine pills on the dreariest of days. Go rogue and join us, Compete For Fitness.

Being Scared

Esprit, that was the brand of the first piece of clothing that I ever purchased myself. It was a black shirt with quarter length sleeves and white piping around the neck. I can remember going to Dillard’s with my mom and handing $24 over to the cashier. This was my hard earned money from weeks of delivering the Western Hills Press and a couple nights of babysitting.

I wore this shirt to picture day in fourth grade which was a huge deal given the fact that I wore a uniform every other day during the school year. Picture day was a chance to show your style and if you didn’t pick something good, your style credibility was destroyed for the year. You’d have to wait 365 days to redeem yourself. I’d like to think I nailed it that year.

That Esprit shirt was a little like the gateway drug for me.

I love clothes. I enjoy getting dressed in the morning and rarely if ever do I look at the weather when picking out an outfit, it’s all about how I’m feeling.

I’ll admit there are days when I’m actually a little scared to walk out the door because I’m not completely confident in the look I’ve put together. There are also days when I think my look is super cool, but then someone hits me with a large dose of reality and I realize the kelly green linen pants, blush pink sweater, metallic gold gym-shoes and faux fur coat, maybe isn’t the look corporate America was hoping to see. On those days, I just have to own it. I tried something and it didn’t work, but tomorrow I'll be back at that clothes rack trying to work in yet another risky piece of clothing.

Seventeen years later the risk factor that I’m working with is a little greater than what the Esprit shirt provided, the most recent piece being black velvet overalls. The look is something between mom’s dropping me off at a play date and I’ll be in the barn milking a cow, then off to brunch in the city.

I was for sure scared to wear my overalls for the first time but when I put them on, man did I feel good.

I thought about the number of times that being scared has kept me from feeling my best or being my best. The number of times I’ve not contributed to a conversation because I was scared the table would judge me or the times I opted out of an activity because I was afraid of failing.

Being scared is what success hides behind. You’re not going to have a cheerleader by your side every second of life. It’s up to you to be that cheerleader. You have to be the one to tell yourself to do the scary thing, all the scary things. Go after your dream job, wear the ridiculous outfit, talk to the cute guy, do the challenging workout. Get in your head and be the positive voice.

Be scared. If you fail, tomorrow is a new day. And hot damn who knew that velvet overalls could make you feel so powerful?

Refined

In the final episode of Sex and the City Carrie is in Paris with that pitiful Aleksandr Petrovsky, her Russian artist boyfriend at the time. While in Paris she loses her infamous nameplate necklace. In a scene where she’s coming to the realization that Petrovsky is not her guy and she’s grappling to find her identity, she reaches into her vintage Dior purse to discover a hole in the silk lining. Out of that hole she pulls her beloved script necklace and in that moment she races into the arms of Big and back to New York life with her girls, a life she embraces and a life spent with those she loves.

Now back to reality.

I too have a beloved script necklace, though mine reads Lil Flip. Elegant is exactly the word I use to describe this piece of jewelry. I was gifted this necklace back in college and no matter the outfit or occasion, this necklace was worn everyday. For me, every piece of jewelry that I wear must have meaning.  Lil Flip encapsulated a time when I began to explore my vulnerability and during that time I began to claim my identity. As life morphed over the past several years, as it does naturally, the everyday jewelry transitioned to new pieces with different stories. Lil Flip was hung in the jewelry box for a few years and in some sense, was forgotten.

I was doing a lot of searching this past year. Two months ago if you had asked me what I was searching for exactly, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.

Imagine sitting in a snowstorm at the bottom of a giant hill in a car without four-wheel drive. You shift to the lowest gear to trudge up the hill but every time you push the gas pedal it’s a little too hard and because you don’t exactly know what you’re doing, you just spin out. The only thing on your mind is getting to the top of the hill and because of that, everything else in your life freezes. That’s a lot like this past year. I know where I ultimately want to be in life but getting there isn’t exactly straightforward. The next step in my life isn’t defined because once you pass a certain point no one is standing there telling you what to do; it’s all up to me.

Over the holidays the ordinary Saturday morning tidy session turned into an all day purge event. While digging though my jewelry box I pulled out Lil Flip, shined her up real nice, and clasped her around my neck.

I was instantly reminded of the moments in my life when I was wearing this necklace and I wanted to feel that again. I want that optimistic spirit back and I want to enjoy each day and be proud of the life I’m living. I’m tired of waiting for that moment in life when sparks supposedly fly and everything is just perfect. Instead, I’m going to create those sparks myself.

I’ve come back to The Loft Talk because this is a place that challenged my vulnerability, made me accountable, and kept me thinking. I don’t know what this space will morph into but I do know that I feel alive and that one day I’ll figure it out but until then I’m going to embrace all of the days in between. Here we go.