The poet and I, we don't really do gifts for special occasions. I would much rather fill my house with people and then fill their bellies with food than ever open a present - nothing makes me happier, that is how I celebrate, surrounding myself with the warmth of relationships. But one of my private (except for the part where I hit publish and the goddamned internet remembers it forever) celebrations is this post, piecing together a few hundred thousand million words as I sit still for a moment, reflecting.
In the past, it's often been a letter to myself, and that's where I've been struggling. This year, I think it's fair to say that just about everything I've posted (outside of a million bicycle selfies and pictures of me running around Boulder in my underwear, for shame) has been some version of the letter I would write in this particular space. As I've worked through the days and weeks of my life over the last twelve months, I've spent less time posting lists and puppy pictures and training recaps and more time using this as a safe (?) place to vomit up every piece of myself that I am untangling, be it ugly or shiny or bloated or graced with a six-pack, out into the world (obviously I'm gonna post one of these again right now, mostly because it makes Jen and also the entire internet super happy).
So instead of a letter, I think, I'd prefer to reflect on my more ordinary moments, the ones that are abundant in a year I consider extraordinary despite the fact that it has been scattered with the gifts of failure. Failure at ironman, in relationships, as a coach, as an athlete, as a wife, as a friend, I'm pretty sure I've checked every one of those boxes at some point. But I'm not sure I would ever want to sit down and type a post that starts with wow, life has been absolutely perfect lately, either. That sounds boring, dull, like I am hiding in the closet instead of out crashing noisily through the world, saying fuck fuck a fat duck when I drop things, stuffing my foot into my tonsils at every turn and leaving muddy footprints and the smell of chlorine in my wake. So when I look back, my disasters are not what I am going to remember. The moments I will remember? Are these.
My alarm went off at 5:20am, just like it does six days out of seven. I scraped together breakfast, I threw a hoodie over my jammies, OSMO into my swim bag and drove to the pool under the round eye of the moon. Earplugs, cap, goggles and I dove - oh how I love this moment - into the lane next to my good and dear friend, one of the few brief flashes of grace in my life, weightless, flawless, my moment of choosing to fly. I spent an hour watching the sun rise out the window, chattering and splashing and emptying the pool with butterfly, back and forth in a new suit while the clock blinked the seconds away.
I hugged my friend Erin in the weight room, I helped one of my athletes learn how to use his ass for more than holding his pants up, I cautiously foam-rolled my newly-back-in-place sacrum. I went out for coffee with a friend (I always ask let's meet for coffee? even though I don't actually drink it), stood in line at the post office to send treats halfway around the world, drove home to cook a luxurious four pieces of bacon with my breakfast. I filled the pockets of my jersey and rolled out, winging into the breezy sunshine of the day. The miles unrolled, the watts rose and fell, pangs and twinges came and went in the body but the mind was constant - as constant as a northern star - and steady, too soon the Garmin flipped over to 90 and I was back in my driveway, pink-cheeked with wind and work, hoarse from accompanying Florida Georgia Line.
Puppies, crying and wrist-biting and racing to get to their favorite place in the world - outside! - more OSMO, a blaze through email, a shower and a swipe of mascara and we were back out the door, not a single item of spandex on my body and shoes that click-clack down the walk. Dinner with friends, filling my round puppy tummy with a rich and sweet and non-Paleo feast, wine poured into the cracks, laughter, chocolate, not a thought to the waistline or the scale or dragging it all up the side of a mountain on the bike. Tumbling noisily back home, the evening a warm blur until I was tucked into a dark room full of soft snores and the gentle thump of tails wagging in their sleep.
This day, these moments, all are precious but none are extraordinary. The extraordinary fact is that these are my ordinary moments (other than the fact that I did almost no work on my birthday because I don't believe in it). But even work, the life I have built in that particular bucket and the people that have filled it, that matters, that is important, they are a huge part of the reason why this year has been exceptional.
In a year. I left my job to spend every moment nurturing something that is bigger than a business. It is truly a family, and with perhaps the only maternal instinct I will ever have, I feel the need to defend it, ferociously. I worked my way into new running shorts, I taught Sofie how to roll over, I stopped eating grain, I snuggled myself even more comfortably into my little life here in Boulder. I broke my arm in Mexico, I (possibly) broke my ribs on 36, I broke myself of a lifetime habit of the post-race shame shower. I ate one million salty balls. I stumbled into some new friendships; I gently stepped away from others after too many moments of heartache. I was fortunate to cross many finish lines, some battered, some bruised, some triumphant, but all, crossed. I worked, I studied, I watched, I learned, I made mistakes and I have failed.
And maybe it's all crap. That's what I think as I edit this post for the third time, maybe it's time to say good-bye to this space, maybe I'm just talking to myself in circles with too many fluffy adjectives when instead I could be bragging about my watts and how many OMG miles I ran last week and how I felt. Maybe there is such a thing as too much vulnerability, as too much wandering around in public in your emotional underpants, there is probably even a thing as too many bicycle selfies but please don't tell any of my friends on Instagram that. What I want out of the world, the poet says it all the time, is to help people make their lives better. If I am lucky, at the end of my life I will be able to say, yes, at least one person, I helped. But this year I worked hard to make my own life better, in a million small ways as I staggered like a drunk, forward in time. There's gratitude there, for that.
So. This year, a lot of shit has gone into my brain, I've figured some shit out and then discovered new shit that now I need to figure out. That's how life goes. And to reflect on anything more would probably just be more repeating myself. But the important things I've pulled out, to not forget. Be brave. Be stupid. When someone in your life is staining it an ugly dark green with negativity, when they make your heart cramp with sadness, boot them the fuck out and do it the first time, not the fiftieth. When someone in your life adds a piece to your puzzle, no matter how insignificant, grab them by the ear and plaster on your most disarming smile and flutter your eyelashes like Miss O'Hara herself and ask sweetly, wanna go ride bikes? Buy the most ridiculous swimsuit, sing at the top of your lungs no matter what it does to your watts. Be humble but be proud. Just be naked in the locker room, I promise no one cares and it's a lot faster when you aren't dicking around with a towel. Your heart is no good to you in perfect and pristine condition, rip it out and whip it at the sky and let it be used, breathe into rejection and try again. Hug the introverts. Work on Saturday nights so you can swim on Tuesday afternoons, it's worth it. It is not the goddamn critic who counts. Be vulnerable, my God, if this trip around the sun hasn't been sponsored by that word already, and don't just lean into it but stalk it with the expert eye of the hunter. Fuck it, take the selfies, if there is something the internet needs it is more ridiculous shit to make people snort with laughter and less everyone telling everyone else that they are wrong while they sit on their couch wasting their lives.
And run. Lace up your shoes, scrabble your hair up into the visor and head directly west, into the wind, chasing the sun, feet turning on dirt, primal, you bet your life on it, do not forget. How it started, how I started, five years now of blogging, of puppy pictures and ridiculous faces and race reports and overly wordy and personal posts about how I am gradually figuring out how to exist on this planet, it all began with the run. With my love for it, my fierce desire to move my body over the flex of the earth; I'll never know if I was chasing something or if something was chasing me, but as the days have flipped over, as the miles have turned and I have opened delicate to the sky, that has never changed. It never will.
2013 birthday post
2012 birthday post
2011 birthday post
2010 birthday post