Guest Post: Pace

I am so very thrilled to be sharing insights today from the lovely Stephanie Marie of The Fete Blog. She is a jill of many trades and (this completely blows my mind) a professional runner. An Olympic hopeful, writer, gatherer, thoughtful thinker, and lover of beautiful things…Stephanie, let’s do this!

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Pace

I first started my life as a runner in elementary school; my mother would take us to the local track where she would run laps and I would mimic her. My brothers would play in the middle of the field or cut corners, but I would keep to lane one, one foot in front of the other.

This grew to middle school running, high school cross-country, college track and field, and today—where my “career” is professional running. To say I have an overly intimate knowledge of pace as far as running is concerned is an understatement.

And yet, ironically– I can never pace myself correctly.

When I race, more often than not it goes like this: I start out hard, make a silly aggressive move in the middle, then flounder, tired and with an alarming lack of confidence, at the end. I finish deflated, embarrassed, and frustrated. WHY can’t I just run a smoother, easier pace at the beginning and finish faster? That’s clearly the way to run a great race. Pace yourself to start; slowly pick up your pace until you are all out and that will usually correspond to one or two laps to go, and having the momentum from nearly being done combined with enough energy conserved (from running a smart pace in the begin) equals victory. Easy.

But why isn’t it easy for me?

Honestly, this new silly race strategy is a new thing. A few years ago, I had confidence and I was fearless and I didn’t care who I lined up against—I was going to race my little heart out and feel awesome no matter what. Then I began putting pressure on myself and felt expectations (from friends, coaches, teammates, sponsors) that stemmed from being such a good racer… and all that confidence disappeared. Instead of feeling excited by racing, I was anxious, fearful, a nervous wreck. I would start my races out so hard because I was afraid that if I started with a smart, slow pace, I would fall behind and not be able to catch up when the faster girls really took off. The time to strike would come and I wouldn’t be able to respond, because my pace would be too slow—or so I feared. I doubted my ability to be a competitor and didn’t believe I was good enough to keep up. Other people’s pace clouded my vision and I was scared.

You know where this was going.

All this is a very apparent metaphor for my creative, off the track, real life. In college, I dominated my little world—whatever my heart fancied, I went out and made happen. I had adventures and I didn’t care about other people’s to-do lists or social media bragging. I was ambitious and I had no fear. But then, college ended and I was thrust into a real world and the paper I wrote for closed down and I got married and moved away and was unhappy and began the process of ending said marriage and felt left out of the creative community I had left behind and doubted my silly career as a runner and didn’t take advantage of opportunities in front of me and and and…

My pace has been off the past few years—in running and in my life. 2013 was a scramble of taking on as many projects as I possibly could fathom, going into it all as hard as I could, then gradually slowing to a complete standstill. I couldn’t juggle it all—there wasn’t enough time in the day!—and all my projects were thrown into chaos. I missed deadlines. I was buried in to-do lists. I had overbooked myself, in order to not feel left behind when others picked up their pace, and instead run myself into the ground.

Pace is subjective. The pace you run / live your life is not what I should base my own pace upon. Stepping back and giving my life a hard look has helped me figure out my own unique pace—and now it’s all about having the confidence to conduct my living so that I can finish strong. Panicking, feeling fear, doubting yourself—all that leads to going out too hard and fading fast. I’m not about that life anymore; my pace—in running and, more importantly, in life—is all up to me. When I step onto the track this year, I’m going to be calm, confident, and fearless. Start out smooth… and end with a bang!

Stephanie Marie is a wedding stylist / PR gal, writer, and athlete. She is a UVA grad, a New Balance-sponsored athlete, and a documenter of daily wonders.

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This post is a part of my 2014 Rising Tide Project. Read all of the posts about January’s topic, pace,  here

2014.

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting all of my earth shattering revelations from one of our local radio stations. Move over Steve Martin, this is a VA Story. So the other day I was driving Asher to school and listening to a local DJ interview a running coach about sticking to New Year’s resolutions and this running coach said something along the lines of, in order to get started and be successful, you have to own where you are. What he was specifically referencing had to do with how often people don’t achieve their goals because we want to be super human when we might actually just be a mere, slightly out of shape mortal. In the case of running, this leads to injury or apathy, or both, but I think this makes sense in our creative lives too.

At first I heard this and started thinking about my exercise goals for the year (just do it!) but more broadly, I’ve been thinking about how sensible this advice is for starting anything.

I just need to own where I am.

And when I do that, I might start finding a good pace because my goals will be in alignment with my abilities, and as my ability grows, so too will my goals. Shazam, radio inspiration!

So the next time that I stood in front of the freeway billboard had a revelation while listening to the radio, a guest was talking about creating vision boards as a way of patterning or manifesting for the New Year. Some of you will be really excited by what I just wrote and others might be rolling your eyes a little, but hear me out, mmkay?

She said that there are three key components to creating a vision board: creating it, letting it go, and then being ready.

I’m pretty familiar with the first two elements here, obviously we have to create something that we’re putting our intention into, I was less familiar with the idea of then putting the board away, or letting it go, but when she said, and then be ready to take action when the opportunity arises, all of my brain dingers started dinging.

Be ready to take action. For me this translates to: have your s#*t together so that there’s enough time to take action when inspiration strikes, because that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing: looking for more time. But truthfully? I know that there’s plenty of time, I just need to get better acquainted with spending it wisely. One of the first pieces of advice that my clever (and published) aunt gives aspiring writers in her classes is to stop watching tv. If I cop to watching about 1.5-2 hours of Netflix a night, I’m also owning up to around 730 hours of time this year that is mine for the taking.

730 hours.

Own where you are. Be ready to take action. Find a good pace.

I feel like the marital conversation that Drew and I most often have is, there’s something in between all or nothing, more than just black or white. And we all know this. As we get older it becomes all too clear that 98.99% of our lives exists in grey. And grey has such a bad wrap for being bland and boring and unclear, but grey is where all the good stuff happens. The nuances, and quick glances and the feelings that come to comprise who we are. Grey is where a small change can become a new habit, where baby eyes light up and suddenly there’s a person in there, where feet find each other under the covers and all is forgiven.

Grey is basically the rainbow of our lives, the space that we exist in when it doesn’t just have to be this or that.

 My hope for the year is to embrace the in-between place, to own that the only changes that I’m in a place to make right now are small ones, and to create enough mental space that I’m at the ready should inspiration stroll on to the scene.

So here it is, 2014: I’m still going to watch some Netflix this year, and I’m likely still going to knock around aimlessly in my house and life, because there is something really essential about being aimless from time to time, and also because having another baby has left Swiss cheese sized holes in my brain.

But I can also take it easy on my all-or-nothing approach and just be content to make some small changes when and where I can and see what happens. To go back to the coach’s advice, I am not going to be able to hop out of bed and run a 10K tomorrow morning because I haven’t worked with body to earn that ability. Similarly I’m probably not going to crank out a novel or completely supplement our produce with our garden, but I can write a little every day, and I can grow tomatoes. That’s where I am, and unlike years past where the resolutions are BIGGER and BETTER and BRIGHTER, this year it’s all about integrating and owning it and being ready and being patient.

This year it just might be about hitting a good stride.

Axx

This post is a part of my 2014 Rising Tide Project. Read all of the posts about January’s topic, pace,  here

a rising tide lifts all boats

For the last couple of years I’ve been floating. Pardon me for quickly looking back when this month is all about looking ahead, but last year I wrote this in January:

“In the dreamy summer that I spent in Madison, Wisconsin nearly ten years ago, my dear friend Nelle and I would steal away with a canoe and paddle through the locks between the two lakes that hug Madison. We would paddle into one, sink down with the water, have the lock open up and glide through safely to the other side. Something big was happening around us, we were dwarfed by larger boats with big engines, but even in the narrow little canoe, we were able to stick our paddles in the water and row to what felt like the other side of the rainbow. It was thrilling and a simple enough mechanism, but one that was ultimately transformative. This year feels like that adventure. perhaps 2012 was the distance that I needed to travel between my twenties and thirties, a slow and discreet move between the prolonged adolescence that America is so fond of and my arrival into womanhood. It seems though that right now, on this day, and this point, I’m sitting in the locks watching the water slowly drain, waiting to see the gate in front of my little boat open. It seems like I might be about to paddle through to the next phase of my life.”

And now here we are in 2014 and I’m about to kick of a year-long project that is fittingly based on yet another boat metaphor. And y’all, I don’t really even know that much about boats. In fact, I’m about as land-locked as a girl can be, but I do know that every single one of us can identify with the wild feeling of having our feet standing strong on a floating floor in a vast sea. And what I particularly love about this year’s metaphor is that it’s taking the emphasis off of feeling solitary and putting it back on us. You and me. You and You. Y’all. Us. Because…

A rising tide lifts all boats.

I don’t want to be a boat this year, I want to be part of the tide. What I love about this little adage is that it points to the thing that we all seem to long for on and off the Internet these days: the truth that the collective affects the collective. How we speak and act becomes not only who we are, but it also becomes a part of a tide, and I want the tide that I’m a part of to be rising.

So I’m kicking off the Rising Tide Project here at Flux Capacitating. I need a little direction and this is going to be it. The premises is very simple. Each month will be dedicated to a topic and I will be joined by other writers who explore that topic with me. I’m lining up some pretty wonderful folks, and my hope is that even more of you will join in. I want to curate a positive space that will help me focus my writing and sharing efforts, but that will also serve as an homage to all that I gain from all of the incredible personalities in my life. Someone was recently telling me about her (impressive) button collection and without hesitating I said, I think that I collect people. I want to start sharing that collection.

January’s topic is PACE. I like having a word for the year (which apparently I quickly forget, because I just saw from my copy and paste above that my word for last year was Pivotal which turns out to be the perfect word for 2013, but I had already forgotten its assignment. My brain.) I will be diving in this week with some writing about pace, and I hope that you’ll join me.

So that’s it. In the absence of rooftops and support groups, this is the best I can do to shout it out and hold myself accountable. I’ve never finished a year-long project and I am anxious that I will blow it and excited that I won’t. Because last year was pivotal, something essential turned on for me, and this year is going to be all about finding a good pace.

See what I just did there?

To the year ahead. You and me and us.

-Axx

Back At It

Well team, we have a baby.

He’s three months old.

Let’s blow off some cobwebs around here, shall we?

First and foremost, Lucas Harkins Walton. He was born four years and one week to the day after his brother, and shares his birthday (and middle name) with Drew. He was minutes away from making his grand entrance in the hospital lobby, but we were able to get into a room with about eight minutes to spare before he arrived. A story for another day.

He is loved.

He sleeps. He squeaks. He eats. He rolls over. He coos. He melts me. To the core.

I tried to write while I was on maternity leave and ran into two problems. The first was that Lucas really really liked to be held for those first 8 weeks–more than I remember Asher liking. And as it turns out, I was happy to oblige, but my hands-free moments were few and far between and they were largely spent doing really exotic things like showering or visiting with the company that had come to hold the sleeping baby who really liked to be held.

The second is All The Feelings. I have them all. And with All The Feelings, sometimes it’s easier to take a picture for Instagram than to type, coiffed in greasy hair and one handed, about how life is changing.

The third reason I took a little hiatus isn’t a problem at all, it was basically just joy. I experienced some kind of postpartum euphoria this time that felt, at times, a little manic but it was a welcome alternative to other postpartum scenarios, so I just rolled with it. My pendulum is swinging a bit more in the middle these days, my hair is starting to fall out (WHY can’t we just keep pregnancy hair forever and ever? My stomach will permanently look like the remains of a tiger’s afternoon snack…would it be too much to ask to just keep the amazing pregnancy hair?) and my jeans are slowly entering the picture again. I’m back at work, we’re finding a rhythm, it’s the New Year, and I feel good. Lucas feels good. Drew feels like he has one semester of school left, and honeys, that feels real good. Asher feels like today would be a good day (the best!) to bring Christmas back to the future.

I’m joining the masses and kicking off a year-long writing project here starting next week. It’s going to be bonafied and in keeping with my resolution to ‘complete’. More to come on that, but I felt like I couldn’t start that without first bringing Lucas to the blog and getting back on the horse.

Horse? What?

Anyway, the happiest to you and yours and a very, very hearty welcome to this futuristic sounding land of twothousandandfourteen. Be here now.

The final countdown

Have fun singing that for the rest of the day…I know that I am. (Truth be told, I woke up with Ellie Gouldings’s Anything Could Happen–there’s a lovely acoustic version of it in this interview from the World Cafe–and I think that’s the mantra for the end of pregnancy. Or for life. But right now pregnancy. And I don’t even know if I’m really a fan of hers? But anything could happen. I digress.)

So, where was I?

That’s another thing about the end of pregnancy–I don’t really know where I am at any given moment, but man am I in a good mood. I might not seem like I’m in a good mood when I’m huffing up a hill or setting the pathway to the various bathrooms that I frequent on fire, and if you saw me at night flopped out and looking puffy and grim you might not think, “Good Lord, that woman’s in a good mood!” but my internal life has always been robust and so my brain and my body are singing two totally different songs right now, and that’s cool. There’s something about knowing that it’s all coming to an end, he’s almost here, that has flipped a mental switch for me. I’m happy. I may not have a lot of physical energy, but I’ve got mental energy for days. I like going to bed at night and thinking that I better fall asleep as quickly as possible because…anything could happen.

There’s this thing about the end. Where you constantly look at your stomach and think, you could be out here right now, little one. As they are in there, so they’ll be out here. There’s just this pesky layer of skin and one very wild ride between us, but that moment is coming. The moment when they’re in the air but only moments before they were in this impossible-to-fathom darkness. For days after women give birth we say, this time yesterday, 3 days ago, last week you were…trying to wrap our minds around the strange reality that a person was in our bodies and now that person is in the world doing all sorts of wild, normal, wordly things. It’s also so funny to me that he seems larger than life, huge and mature in there right now, having come so far from his microscopic start, and yet tomorrow? Next week? He’ll be in our arms and we’ll all be saying he’s so tiny. He’s so new. He’s a glimmering minute speck in a massive universe. The perspective that new life brings is a hard one to hang on to, but even getting to sit with it for a few weeks is a game changer. No matter what else I do in my life, incubating these two lives will always define me.

And mostly, Asher. The final weeks are so bittersweet for me because despite the excitement about the new baby, I want to just absorb Asher and protect him and make every moment the best moment in his 4-year-old world. We stretched his birthday out over two weeks kind of intentionally and unintentionally and he’s been shamelessly spoiled and loved on. The reality is that I’m a sloth by the end of the day and so I feel like I should be or could be doing more? But if it were someone other than myself saying that, I would tell her to stop being ridiculous, so there’s that. Where I can’t use my legs to run with him, I use my words to fill the gap, and he’s definitely the calmest member of the family when it comes to talking about the baby. Something in him just gets it. All of that being said, The Young Sir had a sleep over with his grandparents Friday night so that we could sleep. Drew was up with the sun to head to the hospital, and I was…not. So to my parents I say: THANK YOU. And to my guilty conscience I say: shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So there it all is. That’s why I’m repeating myself and having to make 16 trips back into the house in the mornings for forgotten things and laying down a little too much and waxing poetic about minute shifts in the breeze and crying about anything and everything. Because I’m waiting for something to click on in our little Walton universe and it’s hard to be normal when that’s filling my brain. Unlike last time, there’s not a perfectly organized room waiting for this guy (though it’s almost there) and I haven’t exhaustively researched strollers and baby wipes. But in some ways, I like this part even better this time because I KNOW how sweet it’s going to be when the labor ride is over and the heavy weight of the next stage of our lives is in our arms, and we will be sharing it not just with each other, but with Asher. It won’t all be a teacup ride in cotton candy land, but the big picture? Knowing that I’m going to be looking back on this fleeting time one day as an old woman with a feeling that will always defy words? That’s worth getting re-aquainted with the middle of the night and living in a foreign body for.

So let’s do this thing.

Anything could happen.

This day

“Hey Mama? Did you know that I’m four years old today?”

Four fingers waving proudly in my face.

A family of three that’s waiting for any minute now when we become four.

Four years of life on earth, of questions big and small, of sounds and colors and actions and firsts and lasts. Of a baby coming and then fading into a toddler and now into a professor.

Asher asked for two things for his birthday: A claw truck that can pick up logs, and an aquarium. The little boy scientist who tells us that he’s going to be a paleontologist, who loves looking for worms and gets excited when it rains because “the plants need sun AND water to grow.” The petite red head who said to me the other day, “Mama, it’s so hard for me to see right now because the biggest star in the solar system is shining in my eyes.” It took me longer than I’m proud to admit to realize that he was talking about the sun.  Of course Asher would ask for a fish tank, something living that he can ‘wook’ at, a source for a thousand more questions with the best that we can do to answer in return.

And of course we obliged.

I re-read Asher’s birthday letter from last year, and thought about how I kind of don’t need to write another one yet because his essence is so much the same. And I wonder if I will read it when he’s 15 and again at 25 and one day at 40 and think about all of the stories that I can tell about his life–our life–but also think about how little has changed since he turned three that one time. At his core, Asher is fundamentally sweet and curious above all else. Drew said it perfectly last night when he said that Asher just has a nugget of sweetness in his core and it’s so very true. His name means Happy, his eyes crinkle when he smiles.

And on a slightly different note, this:

On the night of September 10, 2009, Drew and I were in bed and I was rubbing my massive belly kind of jokingly telling the mysterious baby inside that he might want to skip being born the following day because I didn’t know about having September 11 as a birthday. You know the rest of the story, and at 12:50 p.m. on Friday, September 11 another little light clicked on in the world.

Asher asked me for the first time this year what it meant that a plane crashed today and I did my best to talk to him about it in the way that seems appropriate to me. The truth is, we know what that day felt like 12 years ago. We, as individuals and collectively, we all know. We’ll never not know. But honestly, today is a day of celebration in our house. We spent last night taping up streamers and balloons in the dining room, talking about labor starting, and marveling at the time that has passed between that night and this night. I think that we were more giddy this morning thinking about sharing this day with Asher than either of us have been about own birthdays in years. That’s in the forefront. But under that is that little thing that lives in all of our guts since 2001. The rock that can take us back instantly to the sickening moment that we heard, or saw. That moment.

This is the first year that I’ve written about our family sharing such a special day with such a sad day and in some ways I think it’s the natural order of things that there is happiness sharing the space with the other memories. In the proverbial order or doors closing and windows opening, time has marched on steadily, bringing with it new life, new days, new chances, but always with the weight of the memories of the past tethered close behind. Much like the various scars that criss-cross our bodies, this day tells a story of hurt, but also one of healing. The two narratives can’t exist without the other, and so the question becomes, which side of the story do we focus on?

Asher will grow up hearing about how I stood in the landscaping shed lot at Warren Wilson with my backpack dropped to  the ground listening on the radio as the second plane hit the second tower. In much the same way that I know where my parents were when Kennedy was shot, he’ll know the broad strokes of that story that happened 8 years before he was on earth and he’ll know its impact. But he’ll also know this story:

And so when people ask me if it’s weird that Asher was born on September 11, I just say that it’s a day for remembering.

This song from 12 years ago is for all of us, for the hurting and the healing. For remembering.

Lately

Summer is slowing down, there will be a big yellow school bus competing for road space on our windy roads tomorrow morning and I am four weeks away from running another marathon. And by running I mean not running. And by marathon I mean labor. Same diff. I am slowing down which is remarkable because I’ve been feeling pretty slow already, but the inevitable final weeks of slothiness are upon me and in the evenings instead of picking up and blogging and things like that, I just want to be horizontal and quiet. Technically I want to be horizontal and quiet while a team of elves move around me unpacking the baby’s room and holding up tiny darling socks for me to oooo and ahhh over, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to will a team of elves into existence. I do have a Drew and he’s been doing the lion’s share of the housework while also installing new floors in our basement and painting and getting ready to go back to school himself, and I’m happy to oooo and ahhh over him in place of those elusive elves.

So, I know I’ve been a little silent, but here’s what we’ve been up to:

Dates with this guy:

This is how Asher eats a muffin. It’s more of an excavation than a meal, but he’s happy and muffin eating is not a battle I choose. I’m hyper aware of getting this time with him, and since I’m kind of shot on the fun stuff in the evenings, we’ve been sneaking in little morning dates together. I’ve been looking at Asher’s baby pictures, inevitably drawn back as we prepare to begin again and getting mighty nostalgic for how fleeting that time was with him. He suddenly seems HUGE, but then I watch him eat a muffin, totally consumed in his task, and my little boy is still there.

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The winding down of summer has looked like this:

And this:

And this:

And don’t look now, but that watermelon up there? That came from here:

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I turned 31 last week and ate appropriately. When one turns 31 while 35 weeks pregnant, it seems that eating is the best way to celebrate and I took the cake.

Ahem.

I’m not particularly funny about aging other than the passage of time has a way of surprising me. I use a night cream and make an eyebrows-raised note of the changing direction of various body parts, I’m human afterall, but all in all, I generally feel that aging is a privilege and certainly better than the alternative. My birthday makes me a little nostalgic for the passing of time, but it also makes me excited for cake and well-wishes and thoughts of what’s been and what will be, and so it came, it saw, it ate.

Drew will tell you that I’m prone to crying on my birthday, something I’d rather not confess, but it’s not really ever because I’m sad about getting older, it’s more like I feel a lot of things all at once on this day in August. Tell me I’m not alone in this. Last year Drew and I went on a backpacking trip and I turned 30 on the top of a mountain with my best friend, some Ramen, and a nip or two of whiskey. It was sublime and will hopefully be a tradition of sorts once there’s not another person sharing my body with me. Make no mistake, I have great friends who always have a way of making my birthday special and celebratory which I also love, I’m just discovering that with age comes a certain amount of appreciation for a little time to reflect mixed in with the confetti. A nice balance of champagne and water.

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Asher took this picture of me recently and it’s so spot on.

When I’m not trying to remember why I might have stashed the milk in the oven or where I parked my car, I’m thinking about labor and this child coming and labor and tiny socks and labor and how to swaddle and labor and breast feeding and labor and what to expect when you’re expecting and labor…it pretty much goes like that all day in the old brain. This is it, you know? This time, these last few weeks…the calm before the storm.