Kings Cross Station

There is a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry awakens in limbo after Lord Voldemort tries to kill him.  As the scene progresses, elements solidify as if out of mist until Harry determines he is in Kings Cross Station in London.  This image, of things slowly forming, has been a very powerful one for me this year.  One that I have often gone back to for reassurance that the mist would clear and I would know exactly what was stretching out in front of me.

The choice of Kings Cross was not arbitrary for JK Rowling  — for it represented choice and change and motion.  I have come to realize that image, of all the things I have read and seen in 41 years, was not arbitrary for me either.

If you recall, a year ago I finally admitted that I had hit rock bottom around my shopping addiction.  And today I am proud to report that I have had 375 days without debting.

It has been quite a year.

I have been tested in every way a person can be tested.  But 375 days later my marriage, my relationships, and my sense of self are all light years ahead of where they were in July of 2016.  And as the 7th month of 2017 fades away, I feel the spark of excitement rising…

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The spark lit from that moment of change and desperation has added such extraordinary light to my life.  Two lessons in particular from this strange fog of a year have changed my perspective on almost everything.

1. Each of us are inherently and wholly lovable and NO ONE can take that away.  We are NOT our mistakes.  We make mistakes.  And we move forward.  Worth is not measured by the number of miles we run or the weight on a scale or the grandeur of our homes or the behavior of our children.  We are worthy.  It does not come from other people.  It is within us.  And here is the trick… That worth can only be respected by others if WE set boundaries.

2. Everyone is doing the best they can at every given moment. Going into situations with that mindset has been challenging and hard.  I had not thought of myself as a super judgmental person, but guess what – I was.  And when I started believing that other people were REALLY doing the best that they could, it changed the way I treated them – externally and inside my head.  It also changed the way they responded to me.  And I found something I had longed for – peace.  Because I stopped trying to control everyone and everything.

So what does all of this have to do with fog and Kings Cross Station and Harry Potter?  And what about running and fitness?  Isn’t this a running blog?

Well – here is the thing, my friends.  I am irrevocably changed by the past year.  As the fog has lifted and shifted and cleared, I have found a new well of joy hiding under all that messy stuff.

Here is the hardest truth of all… running has been filling a void for me and I want it to play a different role in my life.

I want to be healthy and strong and have goals, but I no longer want to be obsessed with races and beating times or beating people.  I want to fill my time with a myriad of things to help me grow and spend time with people I love.

Running will always be a part of who I am, but it’s time for the other facets to find light too.  To know that peace of mind is just a mile away is the greatest gift I have learned from running, but it is just one tool of many.

Because the joy is there in the mess.  I just have to be willing to find it.

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Photo Credit: Potomac River Running

Namaste, friends.

Hope.

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I often wonder when it starts.

When do we begin to shift from hopeful to cynical?

Does it start when we are in junior high and trying so desperately to fit in that we hide our love of Barbie dolls or Disney World or Transformers as to be “cool”?

Is it when we are in high school and our heart gets broken for the very first time?

Does it happen in college when our imagined major turns out to be nothing like what we thought it might be and it’s time to face “reality”?

For me it was all those things and many other moments – big and small.  I found myself pretending to be cynical and world weary and sarcastic to seem grown up and cool and not naive about the world.  Adulthood was hard enough without giving anyone a reason to not like me or determine they could take advantage of me.

Over the last few months – since the election really – I have been pondering our collective response to the world and the ways cynicism is everywhere.
The 0.0 stickers.
Social media comments and cruelty.
Watching things happen and not stepping in to say – this is NOT OK.
And the response to toughen up, accept that this is the world we live in.  That if you see it differently you are a loser or aren’t living in the real world.

But what is wrong with hope?  Or having a passion so amazing it makes  you spring out of bed in the morning?  

This past weekend I went on a run that reminded me of the way becoming a runner has changed my thinking.  It was a regular Saturday run with one of my favorite people in the world, Deb.  Snow covered our route and we passed the time as we always do – sharing stories, laughing and just being ourselves.  I left our 6 miles feeling a giddy joy that I have only ever found with regularity on a trail or race course.

And just like that… My sneakers became glass slippers.  

The magic of the miles brings me back to the present.  The world is full of possibility again.  There are other things that do that too, of course.
Moments with my family.
My son’s face first thing in the morning.
A beautiful sunrise.
Wonderful, long conversations with friends.
A REALLY good book.

But those moments often get lost in the shuffle of my day-to-day.  Running, on the other hand, is part of my routine.

I won’t pretend that I don’t run to stay in shape and to fit into my clothing and to get medals and to see great friends and to stay sane.

But I also run because of the positive energy of the running community.  Because of those glass slipper moments.  And we should all have those.  They make life that much more sparkly for however long we get to hold onto them.

WHATEVER your thing is… Love it.  Be it. Embrace it.  We only live once.  And I, for one, would rather live a life of hope than of cynicism.

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The Joy of Being is Worth the Pain of Becoming

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On a podcast, I once heard the great Brene Brown say that until she had fully worked through the big life somethings, she would not share her stories with her readers.  It wasn’t because she was trying to hide — she just had to get past the point where someone else’s approval could make or break how she was feeling. (My words, not hers.)  I related to that concept so much and it explains my lack of posting over the past few months.

What I am about to share here was hard for me to write.  But I have learned that those are the things I need to share and, often, that others need to read.  So this is me, standing in front of you, being brave.  And I thank you for listening.

Our story begins this past Sunday when I ran the Jingle Bell Jog 5k with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  She had been busy moving further out west and having a baby.  (The nerve!)  When I found out she was running this race, I texted and asked if she wanted company.  More on our silly, fun, joyful adventure in another post.

What I wanted to share with you was what she said at about mile 2.7 of our 5k – “you have had quite a year”.

Her words have been playing over and over and over in my head.  That quite a year has meant a lot of things – finishing my first Ragnar Trail relay this spring and the Baltimore Marathon with a 30+ min PR in October.  2016 also gave me TWO shots at my 15 mins of fame –  speaking on the Another Mother Runner podcast AND having my hair selfie featured in a Women’s Running magazine article.  Goals were accomplished and shining moments abounded!!!

But there was also darkness for me.  

And that was the year my dear friend and I spoke about on Sunday – amidst sparkle and tutus and about a thousand running Santas – she gave me the gift of her listening ear, as only true runner friends can do.

As I have shared on this blog, I have lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember.  Over the years my toolbox has grown to be able to manage my mental health quite well.  But there has been one addiction I have returned to over and over again despite my all of my growth.  Shopping and debt.

You see, I spent years caring so much about what others thought of me that I would never take up drugs or alcohol as my addiction point – I chose the one that was most socially acceptable.  And from the very first moment I was handed a credit card, I spent money I did not have.

The behavior has ebbed and flowed over the years.  My husband, one of the most fiscally responsible people I know, has done his best to work with me.  He helped me pay off round 1 of heavy debt when we first got married, tried to put me on a budget, cajoled and pleaded with me to change… He got so frustrated with my behavior, he eventually just separated our finances completely so I could not hurt our future. As a responsible, educated 40-year-old mother this mortified me.

But he was right.  I could not be trusted with our financial future.  I had spent the last six years of our lives racking up thousands of dollars in secret debt.

I wanted to stop.

I tried to stop.

I read books and froze my credit cards (literally – froze them in the freezer).

I listened to self help books and tried to white knuckle my way out of the situation.

I ran miles and miles and miles.  And did yoga.  And meditated.

But the truth is, every time I would feel sad or frustrated or hurt, I would go back to my habits of spending hundreds of dollars in a sitting.

In June I had decided enough was enough and began attending Debtors Anonymous meetings.  Despite my own hard work and how much I’d finally embraced what I was learning – for the first time in 22 years – it was going to take a long time for me to fix what I had created.  And in the middle of ANOTHER budget discussion, I came clean to my husband.

And he did not leave.  And he did not hate me.  My biggest secret was on the table and he was still in his chair. There have been tears and anger and frustration.  But I have not used a credit card in 145 days.  And we are finally working through this together.

If it weren’t for running and knowing that I can do hard things, I would never have had the courage to face up to my own behavior patterns.  I wouldn’t have known that if I did the work, the path in front of me would illuminate.

This year has been harder than expected.  And it did change me.  In ways I never would have imagined on January 1, 2016.

And I remain forever grateful for every mile and every lesson.

Namaste.