HERE IS WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE: AS WE MOVE TOWARDS A MORE JUST SOCIETY, ONE WHERE IT IS CLEAR THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER, TWO TRUTHS THAT POWER OUR ATHLETIC LIVES WILL STAND IN OUR QUEST FOR PEACE. WE ARE ALWAYS IN A STATE OF EXPANSION OR CONTRACTION (AND WE NEED BOTH) AND THAT NOTHING CHANGES WITHOUT QUIET HARD WORK.
This was a very hard episode for me to create.
I wasn’t sure if I should even have come to you this week, another white voice.
But then I thought about just how much I value the podcasters that I listen to each week and how they help me process my feelings and decide to take action, each in their own way.
I’m absolutely gobsmacked that there is a group of people who count on me for the same. So even though it is hard, I absolutely couldn’t walk away from that responsibility this week.
I created Finding Finish Lines, and I show up here twice a week, out of just this feeling like I was absolutely going to burst if I didn’t find a way to tell you, yes YOU because you, right now, YOU because you hit the button and are here with me, how incredibly powerful you are.
How loved you are.
How valuable you are.
And how much the world needs YOU and your voice and your experience and your power.
You who are white, black, brown, cis-gendered, transgender, non-binary, soldier, pacifist, athlete, runner, triathlete, swimmer, curious-couch-potato, friend, daughter.
Because I am just a regular human woman who is living life as a wife and mom on this planet, I know just how easily the messaging all around us can convince us that none of that is true.
We can feel powerless.
We can feel worthless.
We can feel like just another cog in the wheel.
Our voices can feel silenced because they just get added to the noise.
And it can feel like there isn’t a point to show up for something bigger.
I know this.
And I know it to be a lie.
Let’s try something together, place your hand over your heart for just a moment and take a few deep breaths.
Do you feel that expansion and contraction of your lungs? Do you feel how there is air right there for you to take into your lungs and use and release?
Did you have to ask permission for that air?
Did you have to apologize for inviting it into your lungs and releasing it back into the universe different?
Do you feel any guilt for having done so without permission?
Of course not!
And why would you? The trees needed you to do it. Creatures all around you need those plants, you need those plants!
Everything around you, everything in this world needs you to take in that air for yourself and release what you don’t use.
CONTRACTION & EXPANSION
Your heart is also expanding and contracting to pump blood throughout your body.
When your well-trained heart forcefully contracts with the power to oxygenated blood all the way to the tips of your toes, it’s not a gentle movement. It’s powerful. It’s so powerful that when you are in the midst of a medical emergency, the first responders who come to help you immediately feel for that pulse, the work of your heart in the innermost, most protected part of your body, all the way at your wrist with their gloved fingers! And they can feel it and know that you are alive.
What does your heart do with all of its life giving power? It goes to work. It never takes a break. It serves your entire body, by consistently and quietly going about its business.
Your most basic parts of your brain, the parts that keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing, they don’t recognize the good or the bad of their actions. They don’t understand morality.
The truth is, at this basic level, we find the evidence of two truths that we can hold when it feels like nothing is all that stable.
- We are always either expanding or contracting
- Quiet, consistent work is powerful, life sustaining work
I am not a comfort zone friend.
That is a deliberate choice in my life.
If I have never made you feel stretched ever-so-slightly beyond where you are comfortable, then we probably aren’t really all that close.
Does that sound super harsh? I hope not!
But the truth is, I am on a mission to grow and I am always looking to surround myself with other people who are also trying to grow.
I get bored easily. It’s my Sagittarius nature. We are explorers.
And based on the fact that you are here, listening to a podcast for women who love, or are learning to love, the journey that we set out on in this crazy world of endurance sports like running and triathlon, I’m pretty sure that you are also not a comfort zone friend.
Which means that you are training yourself to be the kind of person who thrives when you expand.
Or you are in a season of expansion.
If you are setting your sights on new, big goals like a longer race or a faster pace at a distance you know, AND YOU ARE ACTIVELY TAKING STEPS TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL, (because that is the important part)
And I think for us, on this expansion path, these massive contractions have the power to be debilitating.
Especially for those of us that are new to this whole dream chasing business.
Because habits are hard to break.
Especially habits that keep us feeling safe.
Like inaction. That one definitely feels safe.
Hanging out on the couch watching netflix feels pretty safe.
Pouring another margarita and letting our thumbs do all the work tonight as we scroll through our feeds feels kinda safe.
Not speaking out against systems that have protected you but victimized our sisters feels safe.
So let’s rewind to about January.
Maybe you started this year with the fierce energy behind newness. Right? New Year. New Month. New DECADE.
Maybe it was a New Year, New Decade, New Me kinda moment.
And you laced up your shoes and started making better choices. Things were feeling good. Maybe your body was shrinking but your self-esteem, mood, power, all the good things were expanding. You were growing.
Until the end of February when word of the pandemic reaching out shores started as a whisper and grew to a siren blasting through every speaker.
And with a mix of responsibility to each other and ourselves, and realistically some fear, we all went into our homes.
An enormous contraction for our lives.
Many of us went into this season like Han Solo with that big pole in the trash compactor scene of A New Hope.
You know, trying to push the walls apart for as long as we could hold it.
I started our quarantine by posting daily, or as often as I could muster, on Instagram about the #ForcedPause. I wanted to remind myself that this was a time to step back and evaluate what is important in this time where we don’t have anywhere to frantically run around.
And I’m glad that was my reaction.
But I couldn’t keep it up longer than a month.
Because exactly how we manage to thrive in the contraction is that we adjust. We take up less space. And soon, it no longer felt like a contraction. It just started to feel like life.
This is how we live our lives now. Smaller. Less busy.
And I wonder if this is exactly how so many of us forgot just how much power we hold?
How many seasons of contraction and then adjustment have we lived through without noticing?
I watch my daughters when they play. Alone or with just the two of them, they put on their costumes and they build empires with their toys. They don’t ask if their ideas are any good, do they have value, do other people approve. They just build and imagine and soar.
Until they get around some friends. And all of a sudden, the games are a little smaller. Build with a few pieces, wait for some sign of approval from the group, then add a few more.
Here is what I need you to know: especially as it feels like everything is getting smaller, the world is counting on brave, bold, powerful women created for a purpose to remember that you, even at your most inner core, must also expand to live.
You need both: contraction and expansion.
You can be safer at home, and training harder than you have ever trained with the chance to give yourself the rest that you need to recover.
You might not have as many opportunities to see people that you normally encounter, so you can meet up with some of the best minds in history through books.
Maybe you find yourself speaking less right now as a white person so that you can listen more to black voices in a way that you have never paused to listen.
You need both. Expansion and contraction.
Here is what we can’t have, dear athletes: one or the other.
I say all the time that life very very rarely gives us binary choices.
We almost never get to pick one or the other. It’s almost always both in varying measure.
It is incredibly unlikely that you are lacing up your running shoes for the first time in a long time to start running and that you will run a marathon next month. That straight line trajectory towards expansion is unsustainable. Your body will break down. That’s where injuries happen.
You wouldn’t give yourself a rest, so your body gave it to you. A contraction.
In the same way, we can’t take to our homes and stop everything that brought us joy. We can just quit because we have to slow down. We can’t have steady contraction.
We can’t collapse inward until we disappear.
And right now, dear athletes, I am concerned that many of you are feeling this way: a steady state contraction.
I’m sure nobody needs a reminder of all of the ways that life is complicated right now.
BUT YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO ONLY CONTRACT.
Here is how I know:
The hardest working muscle in your body, your heart, is quietly and consistently powerful in both contraction and expansion.
We have lessons to learn from this heart of ours.
QUIET HARD WORK
Your heart IS your endurance muscle.
Think of this: when was the last time you went on Instagram and saw a perfectly lit and composed picture of an athlete you admire and thought, “Woah. That woman has worked on her heart!.”
Now when was the last time you said, “I wish I had her abs/quads/glutes/shoulders…whatever..” You know, the muscles that contract when called upon, not the one that never stops serving.
Because let’s be real: it’s just not true that the part of the body doing the most work gets the most attention or glory.
And this is true with the body of human beings.
Mercy! Is it true!
You know this. You have likely worked in a group project at some point in your life. I’d be willing to bet that you have come across a situation where a member of your group was conveniently not present during the actual creation phase or the work phase, but definitely made his or her presence known during the presentation and glory phase, right?
You probably know someone who is naturally blessed with athletic ability that could just decide tomorrow to run a 5k at the pace that you have been working towards for months, on a whim.
Their medal would look exactly the same as yours, their post on Facebook will show the same accomplishment as yours, but it won’t tell the story.
It won’t tell how you made a massive change in your lifestyle to get here and that person is the same today as they were a year ago.
It wont tell that you were so nervous you could have passed out walking into the starter chute in the morning and went anyway, while that person just strolled in.
Nobody will know the story of how you foam rolled and ice bathed and stretched and dreamt, and manifested, and achieved your goal while that person just rolled out of bed.
And all of those changes? All of that work? All of that bravery? That’s where the power is in the entire story!
It’s not found at the finish line or in the medal or on social media.
The power of achieving this dream was in the work. The quiet, consistent work.
ME AND IG
I have to be honest with you that I really do, with my whole heart, want to share my journey to Ironman with anyone who wants to witness it, because I believe there is power in being a witness!
That energy can be contagious!
And I feel like Instagram is probably the place to share the journey. And, probably as you can imagine as an average athlete, feel completely out of place trying to do it!
I struggle so much with saying to my husband or my kids, “Hey, can you take a picture of me?” after a run when my fingers are swollen like little sausages and my face is covered in salt. Or when I’m on my trainer in the basement gym that shares a space with a guest bed and a craft table.
You know…a real life space in my real life human house.
Anyway, I feel ridiculous. I feel like a clown!
And it never feels good enough.
Because when I look at other accounts, I find so many people who must take their pictures dressed like someone who is going for a workout, but the workout must happen at a very different time (or not at all) or they don’t sweat into their hair and their makeup doesn’t smudge.
And I want to say that I believe that people want to see something real, and then I feel like I’m wrong.
Because Instagram is created to show beautiful things in a way that an algorithm can learn.
And real life isn’t algorithmically beautiful. It’s humanly beautiful.
How quickly we forget.
And then I remember, I’m not posting for the algorithm. I’m not posting because I want to be some kind of Instagram megastar.
Oh Lord, please no!
I ask my family to take a picture with my rolls over my waistband and my sweat soaked shirt because I want you to know when you come home from a beautifully hard run and have a roll over your waistband and sweat making your shirt stick to your torso that YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT.
I want you to know that it is hard as hell to show up daily, sometimes 2x/day for kind of unexciting zone two workouts on the same streets as yesterday and tomorrow. That way when it feels impossibly hard, you know that you are doing it RIGHT, not wrong.
I want to remind you that you are doing the quiet, powerful, consistent work of expanding into that athlete that believes in herself and chases her dreams hard, and not the loud half-effort of someone who only talks about it.
Or posts about it.
Or shows up just enough to claim a title but not hard enough to get messy, sweat, scream, and allow that messiness to mold them.
In this life, you are doing the heart work and not the glute work.
While my default is quiet and consistent training, I am trying to force myself to show up in that show-y space in the most authentic way that I possibly can to help you feel ever so slightly more empowered to get your quiet, consistent work on.
But it’s a strange fence to try to straddle.
Life in 2020 is about our two truths
I’m feeling like that is just the way it is in 2020.
This kind of weird life that we have built in our society has us desperate for something real and searching for it in a curated, ad-driven world online, where opinions are legion and expertise is rare.
Where loud expansion is valued and quiet, consistent work is disregarded.
And this can make us feel completely out of sorts!
Another woman led podcast that brings me so much joy is Pantsuit Politics, led by Beth Silvers and Sarah Holland-Stewart.
One practice they have recently begun is that at the end of the month, often they share some just beautiful things they learned that month.
Just the other day, Beth mentioned, “Social media has never improved my mood” and I felt that!
I don’t think it is entirely true. I have a few groups that I know I can tap into and come away feeling refreshed. But for the most part, a social media news feed is so much noise and so little value. And this is coming from someone who spends a ton of time in them and working on reducing that time.
I’m ready for a contraction in that area.
But I bring this up because 2020 is testing the two truths I offered in the beginning:
That we are constantly in a state of expansion or contraction and that quiet, consistent work is powerful work.
Because social media, one of the only ways to interact with society during a pandemic, makes it feel like everyone else is only expanding while we are only contracting, and that loud, noisy yammering has more value than work.
And I just want to help you tear down that lie. All the way down.
ALLLLL the way down.
Because you are an endurance athlete, you already know it’s just not true! You know what it takes to make a change and for it to be impactful.
I think maybe it just might be helpful for someone to point out the truth that sits right at the end of our nose.
So I want to leave you with this, dear athletes.
We are going to have to make some changes.
We know the truth. We know that those of us who are going to squeeze every ounce of goodness available to us from this life of ours are the ones who can get comfortable with both expansion and contraction and put in the work.
So as we move forward from here, as athletes in a world coming to terms with life with the novel coronavirus and a society where we have to remind some people that Black Lives Matter, I challenge us to be that self aware.
I believe that there will be times when those of us who have white skin covering our bodies are going to need to contract so that our black and brown sisters can have the microphone that we have held for oh so long.
There are going to be times where we need to expand in ways that probably will feel very uncomfortable at first to shield our black and brown sisters when they are tired, from the invective of people who haven’t yet internalized a world that didn’t give us an equal playing field. Not because we are heroes, but simply because we can.
We might have to stay apart for a while longer, and we can still grow. Not because we have to or because we are less-than if we don’t. Growth could simply be more self love practiced as rest. But if you want to, it could be a new skill, a new goal, a new dedication.
It could be training for your first marathon even though we have no idea if it will actually happen anytime soon. You might not get that medal moment for a long time, but you get the journey.
Nobody gets to define your growth because giving the power of that wayfinding to someone else is actually just a contraction masked as expansion.
And because we know the power of steady, consistent work, we are going to have to lead the shift from noise to action.
From protest and destruction to shopping to building with our money, and time, and effort.
From posting on social media as a member of the group to doing the work as a member of the group.
If you feel unsure of how to take action. I’ll post a link to a Medium article with 75 ways to take a stand for justice. Find it in the show notes at FindingFinishLines.com/30
As for me and this show going forward, expect to hear from a diverse group of women athletes as has always been the plan. Like many a race plan that fell apart under the heat, I don’t seem to be executing as well as I imagined in the beginning. I will do better.
Expect to be introduced to products and services that I believe could be valuable to our community, as I find them, from minority owned creators and businesses.
Expect for this to always be a place of love and acceptance through much MUCH more than just words, but through action.
Expect that wherever I show up on social media or in this podcast, you will find an authentic voice trying to live my real, messy life with all the learning, and faltering, and laughing, and sweating that one would expect from an actual human and not a bot.
If you are looking for a place where you can avoid the news cycle and connect with positive, brave folks who are about that quiet, hard work, come join us in the new facebook group for our community, We Are Finding Finish Lines. I’d love to get to know you.
Thank you for trusting me today with your thoughts for a little while today. I encourage you to guard your heart over the next few weeks as you settle into the idea of steady expansion and contraction. It’s a weird one.
I’ll be back with you for 5 Minute Friday, a powerful pep talk before you head into the weekend and again next Monday.
Until then, carry on, woman of valor.
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