That’s done!

It’s been almost a month since I met my goal of completing a triathlon.  Yes, I did it!

Me, gooey, but triumphant.  : )

kpr.tri2

In the final week leading up to my planned event, I did decide to register for the “alternative” triathlon — the one with the pool swim and somewhat shorter distances.  This was good!  The triathlon I did was a perfect first event.  I now know what to expect (when I felt beforehand like I was going into a great unknown), and I can build on the experience if I decide to do more tri’s in the future.

So, what did I learn?  I learned that I need to be more assertive during the swim and speed up my transitions (skip the banana next time and have my number already pinned on my shirt!).  I learned that competing in the rain isn’t bad, as long as it’s not cold (which it wasn’t).  I learned that living and biking in Boone has taught me not to freak out on the uphills (gotta say, quite a few people were complaining about the one “really big hill” on the route, which just did not seem that big to me!).  I learned that it’s possible to run a “personal best” 5K time after swimming and biking.  (How weird is that?!)  I learned that lots of the people who compete in triathlons are nervous or scared or have a “weak event” (i.e. everyone is not an uber-confident pro!).  Mainly, I learned that you don’t really know what something is going to be like until you do it.  As much as you prepare and envision and psych yourself up (or psych yourself out), you can’t know the experience — how it will feel, what you will like and not like about it, what you will be capable of — until you experience it.  You just gotta do it. 

It was good for me to go outside my comfort zone and push myself to do something that was unusual and challenging.  I was happy and proud when I finished.  I’m still on the fence as to whether I’ll compete in more triathlons or other crazy feats of physical endurance or whether I’ll say to myself, “OK, it’s over!  I never need to do that again!”  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, my big 50 birthday, which inspired all this, is just a few weeks away.  Does meeting my goal (set almost a year ago) make me feel differently about turning 50?  Have I made peace with all my demons and let go of my regrets?  Am I at ease with the aging process and what it means physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Am I completely satisfied with where I am in my life?  Do I feel financially secure?  Are all my relationships in order?  Is the path forward clear and free of obstacles?  Well, actually…no.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could give an unequivocal yes to all those questions (and the myriad more that are unvoiced or unformulated)?  But I can’t.  As those who know me will attest, I’m a bit of an over-thinker, and I do ascribe to the idea that the unexamined life is not worth living.  But sometimes all the examining in the world won’t give you the answers.  You just gotta do it.  So here I go — moving forward to 50 and beyond with all the imperfections and uncertainties of my life still knocking around — with all the grace and integrity, physical and emotional health, and joy and kindness that I can muster.

For others who have had “big birthdays” (which ones feel the biggest probably varies from person to person), how did you mark the event?  What did you do?  How did you feel?  Please feel free to share below!  : )

Down to the wire…

Once again, it’s been awhile since I’ve written.  It’s been a busy summer.  But, truth be told, I’ve been reluctant to write about my goals because well…  I’ve been having doubts about whether I can accomplish them.  Doubts, tickling my toes, like little baby waves lapping at the edge of a lake.  lap lap lap.  slap slap slap.  death by a thousand kitten licks.

Still, I’ve soldiered on with my triathlon training, hoping that continued activity will resolve the uncertainty.  And, in so many ways, it’s been great.  I’ve scored a wealth of amazing, perfect moments over these past few months.  Feeling, as always, so lucky to live in this beautiful place where the opportunities to be inspired occur daily.

pasture

And, without a doubt, I’ve gotten stronger.  It’s cool to hardly notice hills on my bike that I labored to get up a few months ago.  I like the feeling of just itching to get outside and exercise and knowing it will be fun and satisfying because I’m in better shape.

Yet, there remain a few elephants in the room.  The running — still slow.  But, more significantly, the lake swim.  Around mid-July I began to think seriously about the lake swim.  I knew I had to practice.  But this was easier said than done.  There’s a small local lake that I jumped into a few times, but you can only swim in the roped off area, not further out into the lake so, although it gave me a small taste of swimming in the cold, somewhat murky water without lane lines to follow, it was still a far cry from the big lake swim that’s part of the triathlon.

Finally, last week, I asked a friend to go to the triathlon site at Watauga Lake to swim with me.  He had done the triathlon before and was planning to do it this year, and was also interested in practicing the swim.  We got up early and drove 45 minutes to the lake.  I was excited and not sure what to expect.  Other than a little trepidation about crossing past the “Private Property” signs, everything was perfect — beautiful summer morning, lovely peaceful setting, no boats or activity of any sort in sight…  And, the kicker… the water was incredibly warm!  We started swimming and it felt great, very easy and relaxed, in a “Look, Ma, no hands!” kind of way.  But then something weird happened.  At a certain point, I suddenly felt like I was way too far out in the lake and I started to get scared.  I decided to swim back to shore.  Feeling a bit anxious, I even flipped over on my back for awhile to relax.  Everything was fine, and we were both glad we had done the swim.  But those few minutes of fear have made me think seriously about whether I’m up for the .6 mile open water swim.  I’m sure it will feel more secure with lots of support kayaks in the water, and I think I probably would have been fine if I had stayed closer to shore, but…  Is this an obstacle I can overcome in the next week and a half?

watauga.lake  (big lake!)

For some people, I’m sure the answer would be an easy yes:  conquer fear, gut it out, push through the obstacles.  But I’m not one of those people.  Earlier in the spring, I started to write, but never finished, a blog post titled, “How Hard Should a Hard Goal Be?”  The answer to that question is probably different for everyone.  There’s a thin line between “enough” (enough to be different and exciting and truly challenging) and “too much” (too hard, too scary, maybe just not feasible).  My aim in all this, after all, is to feel celebratory and accomplished, not demoralized.

The upshot…?  I’m hoping to swim in the big lake one more time in the next few days to see if the second time’s a charm.  But the weather is not looking good, and it may not happen.  Either way, I need to make a decision.  In the meantime, I’ve been looking for other triathlons that are coming up soon.  I found one scheduled for the same weekend as the Watauga Lake Triathlon.  It’s near Asheville — still Western North Carolina, still mountainous biking and a scenic running route, but with the swim in a pool.  Back-up plan?  Check.  One way or the other, I’m going to get to the celebrating part!

I got this reeeally tight shirt…

So, yeah, I ordered a special triathlon top, and it arrived in the mail a few days ago.  Several of the reviews on the website (Athleta, by the way) said that the top was “hard to put on”.  This is an understatement.  Once you pull it over your head and shoulders, there is this complicated heavy-duty bodice thing made of mesh and padding and super thick, strong elastic that you get stuck in.  This is where your boobs are supposed to go. But while you’re putting the top on, your boobs are trapped outside and it takes some major adjusting to get everything in the right place.  Even in the complete privacy of my own home, I felt fairly ridiculous trying to get this top onto my body.  Definitely not something I will be whipping on and off at the race site.  Yet amazingly, once it’s on, it’s remarkably comfortable (which the reviews also said), and nothing is moving.  That’s for sure.  It’s like Spanx.  (At least I think this is what Spanx might feel like.)

Special shorts are on the way.  Similar to biking shorts but, somehow, so much better (?!).  I know, I know.  I’ve been swept up in mindless consumerism!  I probably have a top and shorts that would work just as well.  But, what the heck?  You only turn 50 once.  And this stuff can double as “control” undergarments, which I may need somewhere down the line!

Really, this is so comfy…

purple.top

A little touchy-feely every once in awhile never hurt anyone

2012 ended rather gloomily, and 2013 was starting slow and creaky.  I was talking the talk of being a goddess of self-actualization, but I was not walking the walk.  Inspiration and motivation were in short supply.  Something had to give.

I read the essay (below) from Keri Smith’s “Living Out Loud” a few days ago, and it seemed fitting as I tried to find the right approach to achieving my goals for the coming year.  It made me realize how much I compare myself to others and/ or worry about what other people think of me.  I don’t think this is a huge issue for me, but it’s funny how it can still creep in from time to time, without me even knowing it, and create unseen obstacles in my life.

In terms of my goals, I had especially been thinking about how intimidated I felt about attempting a triathlon.  A lot of my fear comes from the fact that I’m pretty much surrounded by super-athletes.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.  But  a good portion of my close friends and broader circle of acquaintances are very athletic, many of them quite accomplished.  I’m not sure if it’s because we live in an area of the country renowned for its outdoor recreational opportunities, which tends to attract a lot of adventurous sporting types, or if I’m just drawn to healthy active people (a good thing!).  Either way, for the kid who grew up being picked last in elementary school gym class (not just a cliche — but actually true!), it’s hard not to make comparisons and feel intimidated about athletic endeavors.

Sometimes reading an essay or article like this one provides exactly the little jolt I need to bring things into perspective and start moving forward again.

Below is the piece from the book (which I keep in my Zen Kit, by the way, with all my other slightly touchy-feely stuff…).  And here is a link to a longer version on Keri Smith’s website.

Facing the Fears

The week I turned thirty I made a list of “30 Things to do in my Thirtieth Year”.  I wanted to move forward into a new decade with power and excitement.  Many things on the list were relatively small and easy to accomplish:  Enjoy a long walk on the beach, eat a fresh lobster, plant a rosebush for my mom.  Some of the things were more difficult and intimidating:  Write a book, learn to drive.  These things were a way of trying new things and pushing myself “out there” beyond my known world.

One of the difficult things for me to do was singing in public.  When I mentioned this to one of my friends, an accomplished folk singer, her eyes lit up, and she invited me to do a song with her grop at its next show.  My reaction was one of giddy excitement, which quickly gave way to fear.  (Singing around a bonfire is more what I had in mind.)  “But isn’t this what you wanted?” I asked myself.   “What better than an opportunity with a deadline?” I had to try.

The show was more than a month away, providing ample time to rehearse and work on my voice.  But could I sing?  I had not sung since sixth-grade choir, when my best friend at the time let me know that I might better spend my energy on things.  Even though, I loved to sing, I had never sang again.

I was pleasantly surprised by my first rehearsal with the group.  We managed to learn the song and get some harmonies down relatively quickly.  To my untrained ear, it sounded on key and actually quite good, but could I really pull this off?  We had chosen was “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls, a tune that talks about moving beyond comfort zones and taking life less seriously, something I had hoped this whole experience would help me with. 

After weeks of practice and lots of support, I had an epiphany:  I cared too much about what other people thought.  I worried that if I san poorly, people might think less of me.  I had to be willing to fail!  I had to surrender to the process and let it happen.  I finally realized that I made my list to push MYSELF, not to impress OTHERS.

On the night of the performance, the cafe was packed.  There was an electric buzz and energy in the place.  Although I wasn’t singing until halfway through the second set, I started to lose feeling in my arms.  I said a silent prayer to whoever would listen.  When it was my turn I seemed to float in the direction of the stage.  I pulled up the stool for support.  The audience, which had been so rowdy, now sat silent and transfixed with all eyes on me.  And in that moment all my fear vanished.  

I told the audience about my list of thiry things, and people cheered.  Then I knew that everyone in the room was with me.  I had no fear because they had joined me in my journey, I could not fail because I had already succeeded in pushing myself.  As we held the last note, the place errupted into wild applause.  I screamed into the microphone, “I did it!”  More applause.  I was on top of the world.  People ran to hug me as I left the stage.  A woman with tears in her eyes said, “Thank you.  You’ve given me courage to face my own fears.”

I have learned that we must never underestimate the poer that facing our fears has on other people.  We help the world to be stronger when we ourselves become stronger.

So there it is, a little reminder not to get caught up in comparisons and worrying about what other people think.  Easier said than done sometimes.  But reminding yourself does help.

Here’s a link to the Indigo Girls singing “Closer to Fine.”

And here’s some more cool stuff on Keri Smith’s website.  Because a little touchy-feely every once in awhile never hurt anyone.

Last word:  Finally went running today for the first time in weeks.  It was good.  : )

My life as a goddess of self-actualization: Do one thing. Finish it. Repeat.

To pick up where I left off…  but first a meme and three truths:

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization while looking at your phone.

Somewhere along the way, much to my horror and embarrassment (and I’m still battling denial on this), I became one of those people who is constantly (or at least frequently) interacting with her phone.

Feeling bored, anxious, stressed?  Got a spare moment in the car or between meetings?  Check email, read a movie review on Flixster, finish an online crossword, check the New York Times headlines, look at Facebook, check the weather, check email, look at Facebook, play a few turns in Words with Friends.

All of these things can be fun, useful and interesting.  But they have the potential to become mind-numbing, habit forming, and immobilizing.  At least for me.

Today is Day 5 of my internet/ iPhone detox.  It’s hard!  But it’s going well.

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization while multi-tasking.                       (Closely related to truth #1, above)

My new mantra:  Do one thing.  Finish it.  Repeat.

This works well both at work and at home.

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization without engaging in basic activities that help you stay healthy and happy.

Thus, as a starting point, a return to my simple daily goals.

Yoga                                                                                                                                 Meditate                                                                                                                                   Use Positive Discipline                                                                                                      Journal                                                                                                                                    20 minutes of exercise                                                                                                      Floss teeth                                                                                                                Something creative                                                                                                            Write

And so, I begin to lay the foundation for my year-before-turning-50 goals.  Which will be revealed.  Soon.  On this very blog.  : )

If you are working on goals — short-term or long-term, tangible or abstract — what are they?  How is it going?  What are your strategies for preparing to achieve your goals and for achieving them?

After the election or “My life as a goddess of self-actualization”

So, months have passed while this blog lies dormant.  I’ve had a few twinges of regret about not writing, but I’ve successfully squelched them by letting myself become consumed with election season angst and devoting an increasing amount of time to online media and social media, interspersed with other fragmented or mindless pursuits.  Exercise has pretty much fallen by the wayside.  My daily goals, so modest, yet so pleasing, have been neglected for weeks.  We’ve been dealing with some pretty major financial stress, and the “homework wars” still rage on.  These personal challenges, combined with my unease about the election, created the perfect conditions for just kind of letting things slide.  But now the election is over, and I have no excuse not to get my act together.  And so, I begin.  Tonight.

To begin, I need to go back a bit.  Back to June, when I reflected on the school year that had been the original source for this blog and floated the idea of, “what next?”  I had an inkling of what I might write about, but I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.  The topic was more personal and probably less interesting than writing about parenting.  So I pushed it off.  I hee-hawed and ho-hummed.  Time passed, and a critical date came and went.  I didn’t broach the topic that was on my mind.

The significant date was my birthday in October.  I turned (gulp) forty-nine.  Crazy, right?  How can this be?!  As several friends who are a year ahead of me turned 50 over the past year, I watched.  I took note of what they did and said, and how they said they felt.  I began to formulate some thoughts on what I wanted for myself from this milestone.  A few ideas began to emerge.  First, that the day itself needed to include some serious pampering  (for which I better start saving my money now!).  Probably not a party.  And definitely not a surprise party.  You heard me, people.  I am not a suprise party kind of gal. The last thing I want on my big day is to feel self-conscious, embarassed and silly.   Which is how I think a surprise party would make me feel.  No, I’m thinking spa day, healthy hike, intimate meal somewhere relaxed but elegant with incredible food.  You get the picture.  But this is just the superficial stuff.  And there’s plenty of time to figure out the details.

The trickier part of my birthday plan was an idea I had about accomplishing something great in the year before I turned 50.  I wanted the whole year to be a project — a fun, interesting, challenging, worthwhile project that would have me feeling satisfied, invigorated and accomplished when I turned 50.

But what would it be???  I pretty quickly had some ideas, but I found that I was afraid to say them outloud.  I’ve talked before about setting goals.  My formula for the short-term goal:  1) pick a goal that is reasonable to accomplish in a finite period of time; 2) announce your goal; 3) break it into parts; 4) write about it; 5) stick to your plan.  I felt quite smug when I wrote those words.  Easy-peasy.

But were my year-before-turning-50 goals “reasonable to accomplish”?  What if I said them outloud and then I didn’t do them?  What if people thought my goals were weird or silly?  What if I lost interest, was lazy or afraid?  What if factors beyond my control interfered with my plan and kept me from my objectives?  Did I really have it in me to stick to a year long project?

Hmm… getting late…  on that note, I leave you for tonight.  (on the edge of your seat, I’m sure!)  Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), more about these so-called goals and how I will accomplish them.