Tuesday, November 8, 2016
I no longer feel that Mother Nature is laughing with joy like when I ran through her wildflowers in alpine meadows. The trees of gold have once again reminded me to stop and appreciate fleeting moments of beauty before it's too late.The crystals on jagged rock and a chilling breeze hint that this place will soon become a snow globe come to life. It's the time in between, when the mountains grow quite. Satisfied by what has passed, ready for what's to come, but perfectly content with their current state of being. For a brief time it's as if the mountains say "not only can we teach humility, but we can be humble too." Yet at this very moment, their beauty is no less mesmerizing or inspiring than at any other time. My heart still pounds with gratitude. My soul is still electrified with joy. My mind still realizes this type of beauty can only be experienced in the now, never to be captured and taken away. In these precious seconds, I too am perfectly content just breathing, just being.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
I’m not sure exactly when things changed, but I know I was young. I’m sure I was still at an age where I should have been carefree and primarily seeking out activities based on the level of fun I thought they would be. Maybe things changed around the time when I became the quiet girl in class. I think 1st grade was the first of many times when my teacher told my mom that I was the quietest kid in class. Once in 8th grade a girl even told me i was "a waste of space" because I didn't talk enough. I didn’t want being quiet to me by only identity, so I clung to sports. I have always loved physical activity, often spending any spare moment exercising since I can remember. So I embraced the idea of being a good athlete and a hard worker at everything I did. I didn’t just have to be the the shy girl who tried to fit in. If I could do well in sports, then I would be enough and everyone else would also see that I was enough.
It didn’t take long for sports to become less about fun and more about being trying to be the best. If my team lost, I placed the blame completely on myself, my lack of natural talent, and not working enough to perfect a certain skill. I’ve always loved running, but I thought I didn’t look like a runner and thus would be too slow to do well, so I focused solely on basketball. I’m pretty sure I started doing strength exercises in elementary school. In junior high, for some reason my mom let my sister and I run around our apartment community with ankle weights on at dawn so we could get our first workout in before school. We were obsessed with training, but basketball was losing its fun. But what did that matter when it’s how I fit in and how I got acknowledged at school? In high school, between honing my basketball skills, strength training, and doing some type of aerobic activity, I was probably working out between 3-5 hours a day while also staying up late to try and maintain straight A’s and finish AP art assignments. I was exhausted. I even tried to purposely break my ankle so I didn’t have to play basketball one season, but at the same time I’d tell people my goal was to play basketball in college.
I wish someone would have told me how unhealthy it was to be that age and not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation makes physical performance go down while also making it harder to learn, two of the things I was trying to excel at. It also can cause weight gain and depression, making me the perfect model for the negative effects of sleep deprivation. I had no idea though. I was known for being a hard worker, part of what made me enough. I never felt like I was enough though and that was diminishing any light inside of me.
|Photo Credit: Impossible2Possible|
Fast forward over a bottle of aspirin, food addictions, razors, and prescription drugs I didn’t have a prescription for. In our sophomore year college, Rachel and I both realized we needed a change, and together we founded Students Making a Difference, our college's first volunteer group. It challenged my social anxiety, but I loved it. When I volunteered I never questioned whether or not I was enough. Soon after I found ultra-running through Impossible2Possible and I was the happiest I had ever been. Nature always told me I was enough too.
I entered my first ultra, Mohican 100, just wanting to prove to myself that my mind was strong enough to run a 100 miles. I ended up placing 1st female and 4th overall. Then I won another race and then another. Part of me was happy about this, but underneath the wins I began to think I had to keep winning to prove I was enough once again to myself and this new world I was in. I trained harder, put more pressure on myself, and slowly lost the joy of racing. I stilled loved running, but racing was becoming a nightmare. That’s when my left achilles declared it had enough too. My achilles literally stopped working. It wasn’t torn, but it could have easily with one wrong move. It was time for surgery.
I barely ran for a year and a half. I ached to run on beautiful mountain trails, but at the same time recognized that life was giving me a gift. Could I learn to be so grateful for all of the other things in my life that I loved that I could be okay without running? Could I learn to see myself as enough without sports or without seeking approval from others? For too long I challenged myself in races, while ignoring my biggest challenges- my own beliefs. Every day I tried to focus on the gratitude I had for the people and things I loved. Every night before going to bed, I looked myself in the mirror and said “I love you and I am always enough.” I didn’t believe those words for a long time, but eventually I started too. Actually, between focusing on gratitude, telling myself I was enough, learning new things, and focusing on getting enough sleep, I had become pretty damn happy. In fact, I was the happiest I had ever been.
Of course time has a way of flying and eventually I felt ready to race again. I quickly realized that giving my body a break allowed it to become stronger than ever before and I thought the same was true for my mind, but part of me was terrified that one crappy race would uncover that my old beliefs about what made me enough were still firmly planted in my mind. After a few good races, I found myself throwing up halfway into a mountain 50k, a race that had been my goal race of the summer. I did everything I could think of to recover, but I eventually became so dehydrated that I had to tearfully ask another racer to tell the aid station I was getting dizzy. I later found out that a few runners had told Sage that I looked pale and was wobbling around. (Thank you Meredith Terranova for already helping me figure out what I did wrong!) It was my nightmare come to life, my fear placed firmly in my path. Once the kind runner said she’d let the aid station know and ran off, I promptly threw up again for the 10th time and cried. As my tears faded, I remembered the training leading up the race. I had loved every second of it. Actually, I loved most of the moments in between my runs as well. Not only that, I let myself acknowledge that I was really proud of myself for even starting the darn race and I truly loved the person I had become in the past year. Sure, I still make a ridiculous amount of mistakes and say stupid things, but I still love myself for trying to learn and become wiser.
|Loving every moment of running in the mountains! Photo Credit: Sage Canaday|
With my stomach now completely empty, I tried running a few steps. I hadn’t been able to keep down any fluid or calories down since around mile 16 so every moment felt terrible, but I knew if I could force myself to run a bit and while taking some walk breaks that I could finish the race. I crossed the finish line in tears, right into Sage’s arms, knowing I had nothing left to give. I was wrecked and severely dehydrated, but I did it. That was enough for the day and I was truly proud of myself physically and mentally. Despite many lost battles in the past, I had won the war in my head that lasted far too long.
Maybe I wasn’t enough for a sponsor, not enough to meet someone else’s wants and needs, not enough to be liked by everyone, not enough to fit a certain image, not enough in countless shallow ways, but in the deepest, most loving sense, I had been enough every single moment of my entire life. There had only been many moments I didn’t believe that I was enough. I know I’m not the only this hold true for. “I’m not enough unless I weigh this much.” “I’m not enough unless I make this much money.” “I’m not enough unless I go out of my way to take care of everyone else while ignoring my own needs.” “I’m not enough unless I can get that person to love me.” “I’m not enough because I made that mistake.” What horrible stories we create in our own minds. If you’re like me, you’ve told yourself multiple things you need to do in order to be enough. We all have the power to change this. We have the power to help each other rewrite our stories. You don’t need an achilles surgery that stops you from running for over a year to learn you’ve always been enough. Things won’t change overnight. I know I’ll still have plenty of slips in the future, going back to old beliefs. Yet every night, when I look myself in the mirror and say “I love you and I am always enough.” I give myself the chance to remember what is true. Every single one of us, in the truest sense of the word, is enough.