Scroll through social media and you will get hit hard with lots of promises for fast and easy ways to reach a goal.
“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days”
“Run your Boston Qualifier in 16 weeks”
“Become a millionaire with 5 easy steps”
These promises lure us into goals that may not even be ours or do not align with our goals. We are left chasing dreams that belong to someone else. Then, when the going gets tough (because it always will), we find ourselves creatively manufacturing excuses and justifications for why this won’t work. Read More
I am running a 100K through the Zion National Park, the wind blowing softly through my hair, my feet light as they float across the earth. The sun gently warms my skin and all is right with the world. Nary an issue with my stomach ever arises and I feel strong and powerful from start to finish. I cross the finish line proud of my time and I look gorgeous, full of joy and vigor and glowing from within. Not for a single moment did my depression wake up to say hello. On this day, I was victorious and it took no effort to get there. I simply woke up one day and did it.
Two weeks ago my family visited me in DC which was refreshing for my soul. I had set up my training program so that the week they were here would be a down week, an easy week. I planned it this way to maximize family time. It worked out beautifully. I loved every minute with them and adored the extra snuggle time, the extra games, the extra love.
As they rolled down the road to head home, I set out for a run. It felt great and was the perfect way to handle the sorrow I was feeling after saying good bye. It put me back into my routine and set me up for a smooth transition. Amazing how running seems to be the perfect fix to everything in my life. Read More
Female runners are amazing creatures. Our ability to accomplish unthinkable feats of endurance is only limited by our imagination. Perhaps because we are designed to have children and therefore bear intense pain to gain our most precious rewards, women are able to suffer in a way that I don’t believe many men can quite understand. This allows women to accomplish goals with remarkable strength and success.
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about this lately since I am away from my family while I pursue a leadership goal. While I am motivated, proud, and passionate about the goals I set, it can be hard to not feel guilty all the time. I do not think this guilt is limited to mothers, but I do believe it is exacerbated for mothers because of cultural expectations that mothers be the primary caregiver. While juggling motherhood, a career, and a time-consuming hobby (like ultra running), the guilt can pile up quickly.
I feel guilty for taking time to go running. I feel guilty that I am not the kind of mom that puts my kids ahead of everything else even my own needs. I feel guilty that I get up before my kids and I am not there when they wake up. That dad or grandma meets them when they get up because I am out running. I feel guilty that I work all day and my hobby involves running 12-15 hours a week.
But I have a confession….No matter how guilty I feel, I still do it and I don’t want to change. What is wrong with me?
FACT – There is nothing wrong with me. In truth, I am a better role model for my children because I pursue my dreams relentlessly. I am teaching them how to chase goals against all odds. I provide examples of self care and self love. I show them that balancing life doesn’t always mean perfect equilibrium. Rather, a life full of passion and dreams is often unbalanced at different time and in different ways and that is okay.
To help mitigate this imbalance, I have developed some strategies. While it’s not perfect, it works for me and my family:
Rise early and run before the kids get up – Except on my long run days, I am almost always home shortly before or after they wake up. This strategy makes it easier to maximize my time with them and not be thinking all day about when I will get to run.
When WITH the family be WITH the family – Usually evenings after work are my family time. I get my workouts in early so we can play board games, eat dinner together, or watch a family movie at night. But the rule of thumb is when I am with them – be present. Put away the smart phone, leave work at work, and engage.
Mix socializing with running – I don’t have many friends who aren’t runners because most of my social time is done on the run. Finding time for friends and a hobby that takes a lot of time is almost impossible. But combining the two makes both friendships and running a lot more fun.
Employ a bike riding companion – While my boys can’t go for a 6 mile run with me, they can ride their bikes along side. It is a great way to explore together and helps them get exercise and build healthy habits of their own.
Explore ways to make it a family affair – There are lots of ways to involve kids in the running community. We find fun runs like a Slip’n’Slide 5K or a Foam Glow 5K to do as a family. Or during races, my kids help crew me or my husband or volunteer at aid stations. They love offering a helping hand and they are learning about service to others. And nothing is sweeter than having my kids hold my hand while I cross a finish line.
Marry an ultrarunner who doubles as a stay-at-home dad – This might not be possible for everyone, but I am extremely blessed with a spouse that understands and supports my compulsion to run AND stays at home as the primary caregiver of our kids. It doesn’t lessen my guilt, but it does reassure me that my guilt is entirely in my own head!
At times, I get the sad eyes and request, “Mommy do you really need to run again” and once or twice I have a skipped a run if they genuinely need me. But more often than not, once I lace up and am out the door, the boys are off enjoying their own adventures. I have learned that I am always with them even when I am not there. I ask myself what version do I want them to see – the sad bitter person who threw aside my own needs and dreams or the strong woman who overcomes great odds to accomplish amazing feats? It is a question that is easily answered.
The journey continues…..
In a day and age when we live almost constantly on a super highway of information and social media connectedness, every day life can become overwhelming. In the past, I would catch myself frantically scrolling my phone because I don’t want to miss any interesting news, friend’s posts or possible group activities that might be taking place.
The fear of missing out is a real problem. With so many ways to gather information and interact, we are faced with regular information overload. To add to the challenge, I have a personality that hoists onto a pedestal being an overachiever and an epicurean. In a nutshell, this means that I have an intense desire to taste EVERYTHING life has to offer and this desire is seeded in the irrational belief that I am somehow a superhuman being that is capable of actually doing everything.
Because of these traits, I have been prone to bounce from activity to activity, always believing that the next activity will be even more exciting, flavoring life with an array of elaborate and exotic spices.
The downside of this dramatic flair towards the never-ending rotation of exciting adventures is that life can easily become a series of “to-dos”. Always having something else to check off the list. And boy do I love my to-do lists. I love checking boxes so much that when I start my to-do list for the day, the first item is “Make to-do list” so that I can immediately find satisfaction in checking the box. Something about checking a box leaves me feeling accomplished and the more boxes I check, the more accomplished I become and feel.
Or at least that is what I used to think.
As I watched from afar the lives of other amazing individuals, I started asking myself, how is it that they are so accomplished? How did they manage to tackle over 200 ultra marathons or how did they write 10 books and so on?
It finally occurred to me that individuals who accomplish so much tend to be rather focused. Writers spend a lot of time writing….not writing and dancing and taking karate and learning how to be master chefs, while also knitting a sweater, raising 2 kids, having a full time job…..you get the idea. And the latter describes how I was trying to live my life – to be a master of all. What I managed to become however was a master of none.
Less is often more as the old saying goes and I have found that to be very true in my life. Here are some strategies I have started incorporating into my life to focus my time and energy on my priorities:
Life has a way of taking control of us and before we know it we are spending time on things that aren’t really adding value to our lives. It takes mindfulness and diligence to spend our time on the things that really matter. Taking time to think about where you can do less to gain more is critical and an activity that must be revisited regularly.
What can you do in your life to make less into more?
The journey continues……
It has been more than four weeks since I held my children’s hands, kissed my husband’s lips, ran my hand down Amira’s back. I am alone in a new land, making my way. Before leaving home, Kenny and I talked a lot about how I would make the most of this time. By ramping up my running and dialing in my nutrition. Working towards these goals has given me focus and purpose, but not companionship.
Without the daily support system of my family, I find myself swatting away the edges of depression trying to cling to me like cobwebs in the woods. Talking with them and video-chatting are certainly helpful at times, but at others times, it just makes our separation so much more tangible. I try not to share how much I miss them because I know that we are all putting on brave faces and I want to stay strong. Yet it is always there. Read More