Thursday, August 29, 2013

Love Letter to Arizona

I skipped tonight's run because I needed to write. I feel recharged after a too-quick vacation to Arizona last weekend. Confession: Arizona has never been at the top of my list of places to go. I had done the Grand Canyon thing years ago and every year my dad goes to watch baseball spring training there while I politely refuse. All I think of are red rocks and the sun beating down on your brow.

But I am so glad I made this trip after all. Sometimes the places we remember from our childhood changes so drastically when we visit them again as adults. It's like reading a favorite book over again in that you find things that you missed the first time around.

I am not one for scenery usually (I'm more for malls and wineries), but the Grand Canyon and Sedona were breathtaking. I actually climbed out onto a ledge with my friends -- something I never would have done before. But I braved it because they were all out there to meet me and all of them held their hands out, making me feel safe. It was nice to literally sit on top of what I felt like could be the world, with no fear of falling or failing. When you look out at the vastness of the crags and the sky it is a freeing feeling.

Since coming home I haven't really felt the same. I'm a bit lovesick actually. The sun doesn't set on majestic rises of earth here. There are no cabins in the woods to retreat to. My friends have all since gone their separate ways until we meet again sometime in the near future (probably at the usual food/drink place). I wonder if I return to Arizona again if it will take on a whole other meaning and if my memories will layer over each other like rocks, and I would have to dig deep to unearth those genuine feelings of seeing something for the first time -- and falling in love.

When packing to leave I always bring a lot of baggage, and it's funny because going home I try to bring the least amount possible. I feel like I left a lot in Arizona, and yet I feel like I am carrying a boulder on my shoulders still. I used to dream of traveling to other countries constantly. And here I am barely with the money to afford a trip to the state next door; my passport is about to expire, and I feel more and more like my time is running up.

On the long drive home we all talked about our next trip. And suddenly the road ahead didn't look so straight and narrow, ending somewhere far off. I realize now that the actual journey is far from over. The rocks, sunsets, and eateries will all still exist in other far off places, waiting for me to discover them one day. I just hope it's with the people I love.

We saw the World's End our first night in Arizona. The film reminds me now of how I can get nostalgic about places and friendships. I like to think we conquered the world a bit last weekend. When you hold out your hand for another person and are willing to let go of the things weighing you down, you realize the end isn't near, and you may in fact be standing at the beginning of something. I'm so glad I got another chance to experience this place, and I vow to never cross anything off my list prematurely again. You never know what you might find in the place you never thought to look.

I hope everyone had a wonderful summer!

Monday, August 5, 2013

10K in May

Apologies for not posting in a long time. I pushed myself every month (and sometimes weekly, and before that daily) to post, and I am sad to see that this year I have missed a whole month. It's the first gap of any great length I have had since starting this blog. But because I know I am a pusher (it comes with being a writer) I want to push myself to start posting again.

I started blogging to push myself to write more. But the truth is, I sometimes lack the discipline that should come with writing. One area in my life where I have always felt strong and disciplined is with my workout regimen. In fact, there are some nights where I know I will only have the energy to blog or hit the gym and I almost always choose the gym. I choose working out because I think it will make me fit in my clothes better, keep me healthier, give me more energy, or excuse the wine or cupcake I devoured. And while endorphins certainly do work their magic on me, sometimes the guilt from not writing is greater than that of missing the gym.

But when my friend Damon signed us up to complete our first race, everything changed, and I was surprised at how clearly things came into focus. We decided on pushing ourselves in a 10K (6.2 miles) rather than take the easy way out in a 5K for our first competitive race. My motivation kicked into gear and I got into the swing of pushing myself to run over 7 miles three times a week for practice. While I ran I cleared my head, de-stressed, focused on shaving seconds off my time, and challenged myself in a way I never had before. I realized then that all those times I had decided to hit the gym had paid off; it allowed me to build towards this goal of completing my first 10K, something I had always wanted to do and yet had never pushed myself to do until now. It's funny to me that I had such a specific goal in mind and had put the work in to do it for years, but then just never committed to a particular race. Why I had been able to push myself to the last breath but not push myself to fill out an entry form is beyond me.

Because when I crossed the finish line at a personal best time of 53:45 everything was worth it. My legs ached (I actually only stopped twice the entire run and that was only for a few seconds at the most), my face was bright red, and sweat was raining down my entire body, but I had never been so proud of achieving a goal.

As I think about that finish line now, I think about my writing. I think about how I have neglected this blog to fulfill other goals. In addition to accomplishing my fitness goal I also achieved a professional one. I now blog full-time over at Salon Fanatic. Starting that blog and maintaining it is a huge part of what I was hired to do at my new job. And being a professional blogger means pushing myself in different ways with writing, work, and beauty. I am just now starting to get into the swing of things and am focusing more on that project now. I hope you will join me, as a lot of what I have been writing here has prepared me for that job even though the subject matter is different.

But I am still keeping this blog. I may not post as often as I used to, but I have put the work in for much too long to stop now. I still feel that I need a place to call my own when it comes to writing. A space void of work talk (mostly) that allows me to say the things that come into my head during a good run. I promise to push myself to write and post more, because the goals I have for this blog are different -- they are big, they are scary, and at times they keep me away. The goal of this blog is to write and to write honestly. And oftentimes if I feel like I have nothing worth writing about or if I am tired of blogging all day, I stay away. It is important for me to reach my goals here of being sincere and writing from the heart. I don't feel like this race is over. Sometimes it takes an extra push, and sometimes it means writing despite aches, pains, and sprains, but nothing feels as good as when a post is published, and my thoughts are out there. It feels like crossing the finish line every time. And only then do I allow myself to take a rest and catch my breath before starting the process all over again.

Damon and I both want to do the Laguna Hills Memorial Day Run again next year. We agreed it was one of the best things we have ever done. All the people involved were so positive and encouraging, just like those who have been reading and leaving comments here in my absence. We are both still running and pushing ourselves in preparation for next year (though I have been laying off the 7 + miles because my foot started to hurt). That's the thing about running: you finish many a race, only to come back and do it all over again as soon as possible. It takes a crazy kind of person to be a good runner. They must have a stamina and endurance that is ironclad; they must have the cloudiest or the clearest of all minds to have their thoughts occupied for such distances. They have to be almost as crazy as a writer.

I have always had an obsession with running, it has always been my workout of choice. And though I have loved writing longer, I can't deny the similarities they share. While sometimes it feels like I am robbing from one to support the other, I feel that they can go hand in hand. I just have to push myself to try a little bit harder. Sometimes when I am running I imagine what I am running from, and use that to push me to go faster. When I am writing, I push myself to confront the things I am often running from, and that's how posts happen.

I honestly believe it's not about how many races you run or the quickest time -- it's about what you are doing daily to prepare and what you get out of the race that matters most. For some it may be Olympic gold, for others bragging rights, but I know I will never be a professional athlete or a record breaker. For me it's about knowing I pushed myself to do more than I ever thought I could and finish better than I had expected. It's about knowing that all the work I have done, the choices made, the sacrifices taken, have been used to their fullest capacity and that I can say I didn't waste my days away, but that I used every bit of my ability. Time for a cool down, then stretch, and then rest. This post was a long, uphill climb, but I have at last finished. I will see you back here soon, ready, hungry, and that much stronger for the next chapter.