Sunday, March 30, 2014

Surrender + Sensitivity = Strength

Surrender + Sensitivity = Strength:
 How Letting Go of My Edge, Competitive Drive, and “Shoulds” Have Led to a Stronger Me

I am naturally a hard worker.  It has been in my blood since birth- I am simply wired that way. 
However, in the past few years, I haven’t felt like I have been working that hard.  I wasn’t working hard, because I didn’t know what I was working for.  In the past, I was competitive.  Then about 2 years back I began to lose my competitive side.  Now it is almost completely gone.
[Competition- I remember sitting in a neighborhood leadership class a few years ago, pondering “why am I twin?”  Sandi and I had been competitive with each other for years, which almost destroyed our relationship. At that time of the class, Sandi had been living in Colorado for over half a year.  All the anger and hurt we had caused each other over the years was melting away.  Now we were missing each one another, leaving only love behind.    Suddenly an answer came to me.  Being a twin helped me to realize competition does not matter.]
And this is where it all started to fall apart for me…and grow anew.
If you have been following my writings and FB posts over the past year or so, you may have noticed a few things.  Mainly that I have been quite lost about my life, work, and running.  I was searching for meaning, but only skimming the clouds in a sky of answers.  
I will admit I still do not have all the answers (and I probably never will), but I am getting closer.
How do I know? 
For one, I am happier.  Two, I am starting attract my passions.
But…I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s back track a bit and explore what else I lost…and gained, with losing my competitive side, edge, and "should". 

In the past, I worked hard so I could “be the best” and to “prove myself worthy”.  But for what reason? And to whom? Now that these questions were there, they weren’t going to go away easily. 

I also lost my “edge”.  No longer did I have a cool and tough exterior.  Now I was the one to cry at movies.
With the loss of these two things, I grew frustrated with life and then with running. (As I have always found running to be a metaphor for life and vice versa, this made sense for me).  I couldn’t find satisfying or truly meaningful work, and at the same time felt guilty for not having a job to complain about like half of the population (even those people were at least contributing to society, right?).  Plus running wasn’t going all that well either.  At races, my competitive drive would at times still kick in, making me think of “beating” the next woman, leaving me not only dejected when I didn’t beat them but darkened by the thought.  Nor was I winning anything. Simply doing my best wasn’t doing any good either…I was still stuck in the “should be better” mode. 
I questioned my life and running.  I knew I wanted to live, but what was the point without feeling I was fulfilling a greater purpose?  As for running, could I still race hard without the desire to be the best or beat someone else? 

This all left me feeling pretty far off my trail.  I didn’t know where I was going.  I didn’t know my reason to continue, let alone work hard.  I had lost my sense of purpose.
It wasn’t until recently that I have found my way back.  (Luckily, I have had enough love from others and intuitive sense to keep going in the meantime.)

I dived to deep in to books and discussions on purpose and meaning, reading the works of Gabrielle Bernstein, Marianne Williamson (“Return to Love”), grazing on ideas from the “Sedona Method” and other works.

I reflected, meditated, and wrote.  I talked to my Twin.

A few words always seemed to pop out at me: love, Universe/connectedness, and surrender.
New words, no.  But, words I began to see in a new light and fresh perspective.

Perhaps…perhaps I was put here to love, and that all I really am...all that we really are… is love.  Now my job is just to break down all the walls I’ve built against it.  Perhaps I was simply worthwhile just by being here, from the minute I was born.  This thought was very consoling. I may not know or at least fully understand my purpose for being here, but if I didn’t have a purpose, I probably wouldn’t be here.   
If we are all connected, and I believe that we are, we all have an effect on the Universe and each other.  My being unhappy did not service to the world.  My being happy, vital, and loving does.

As for the “how”? Well the “how” is actually of very little importance on my part.  I found out that the word “surrender” doesn’t mean white flags and giving up.  It does not mean one is weak.  It is actually a word full of strength and trust.  I learned that surrender really means letting go of the “hows” and “shoulds” and trusting in my Inner Compass and Higher Power so I could start living and realizing my potential.
By letting go of my competitiveness, edge, and “shoulds”, I now had room for these more powerful thoughts and feelings. 

I also became way more sensitive.  Like surrender, it is often thought of as quality of someone who is weak.  I found that not to be true either. 

Yes, I do cry more.  I tear up during sad stories.  I balled my eyes out reading “Half the Sky”.  I choke up when singing “and if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free”.
I can no longer watch violent movies.  I can’t open up my PETA emails or watch ASPCA commercials.  Dogs and animals are too pure to me, I can’t stand seeing or thinking about them in pain.

When I let myself think about it, I shudder that men still kill men to solve problems instead of using their brains and hearts. 

Yes, the injustices of the world could bury me in a pit of despair.
But what good would that do?  Instead, I use my feelings and emotions to help me connect with others and fuel my light against the darkness.  Because I am sensitive, I can love more.


So far, I have very briefly outlined 2 pages of what I’ve learned in the past few months.  You may be thinking “That is all very nice Rachel, but how have you put that into practice?”   Well, I will tell you!
Let’s back track a few months to New Year’s Day, 1/1/2014: Steve, Pacer and I were taking a few days of vacation in one of my favorite places, Black Mountain, NC.  I was pretty tired that night but I stayed up for a bit to reflect and write my thoughts down in my journal.  Here is part of what I wrote: “Hopeful I will be guided to a good opportunity (job). But, I surrender my path to God- my job is simply to make the most of whatever that path is.”

The next night, 1/2/2014, I again stayed up to browse jobs and other updates on the internet.  While I was at it, I decided to check out the Girls on the Run of Greater Summit Webpage, thinking about either signing up to coach again or become a SoleMate.  Not really thinking about it, I happened to click on the “News” section of the page.  Then appeared a brand new listing from that day, stating a position was open for a Girls on Track & Volunteer Coordinator.  “OhMyGod!” I thought, really meaning the “God” part and exclamation point.  I quickly scanned the position description and qualifications…I figured I was mostly qualified (my confidence wasn’t fully there yet), and I applied that night, deciding against writing a business cover letter and writing a heartfelt one instead.
By 1/14/2014, I was hired.  I was beyond thrilled.  Finally, I was working for an organization that I loved and believed in.  Finding something I cared so deeply about, I was once again ready to work hard.
(My ego still played some tricks on me after that, but I know you don’t want to sit here forever reading).
Running was actually a bit tougher for me in terms of sorting my thoughts.  I had taken nearly 6 months off of racing and training, just going out on the trails with my dog.  Eventually I felt the itch to get back in to training and working hard again, but I still wasn’t sure of my “why”.  Why put myself through the workouts?  Why race if I don’t want to compete?  Why run if it doesn’t benefit anyone but me (and Pacer)?
After checking out what a few of my friends had to say and a conversation with Steve that almost left me in tears, I again turned to my journal and wrote: “Help me to find my “Why”.  What is the point of doing my best, especially in terms of running?  Is it selfish?  Is there reason and meaning behind it?  I feel I should do my best, that there is something more to it- I just need help in figuring out what that is.”

Here are some of the answers I received, both from books and intuitively:
·         -Doing my best inspires and allows others to do their best.

·         -Because God gave me the gift of endurance and it would be a shame not to use this gift, even if I don’t understand the purpose behind it.

·         -The Universe deserves my best.  To NOT do my best would be selfish.

Now I will also add: Adventure and running are passions of mine.  Passions usually indicate that you are doing something you are meant to do.  Following your passion  should make you happy and allows you to shine your brightest.  One person’s happiness does have an effect on our world, as we are connected with everything else in it.  Yes, it may be a little selfish and I am still working on that one, but I am going to go with the Thais on this one and not overthink it.
I also had to ask myself the question: Could I still race without the desire to beat the next woman in front of me?  In the past I have talked about the thrill of “counting ponytails”, but I no longer wanted that thrill.  I wanted to cooperate with the other women, to urge them to do their best by doing my best.  But could I really, honestly do this? I finally decided that yes, I could do it.  It was just going to take some practice and meditation.
With those answers I was ready to start training and knew that this time around I could use some help.  I asked Sandi to be my coach, and she graciously agreed.
I cannot explain what a huge relief having a coach has been to me.  By surrendering over my running schedule, I was able to get out of my own head games that have always led me to over train.  I didn’t have to worry about how many miles to put in or when I should rest.  I simply tell Sandi my schedule, how I’m feeling, what the trail conditions are (half the time she knows the weather report before I do) and I do what she says.  How freeing!

As for racing…  It just so happens that I had my first mini race of the season today, Fools 25k.  My main goal was to enjoy it. ..I really had to pull my tools out of the bag to prepare!
Yesterday I spent about 5 minutes releasing any competitive thoughts, with myself and others.  Then I spent another 5 sending love to the race directors and volunteers, to the race course, the trees, the mud, the snow, and the other runners. 
Today I was still tested, and actively had to put everything into practice.  I meditated for a few minutes in the morning, again focusing on feeling love.  As I warmed up, I thought loving thoughts on myself and others.  Gathering for the start, I sent love to the crowd around me.  And I smiled…the smile rarely left my face the whole race.  (Just and FYI: the trails we a big sloppy slushy muddy MESS!).  I laughed to myself as we started out through the muddy fields…I was the one who chose to be a trail runner after all! 
Just like always, I and a few other women leap frogged a bit until we fell into our natural pace and I reminded myself that we were not competing but cooperating. I sent them love and thanked them for urging me to do my best.
Running through the mud and slush but with the sun shining through snow covered trees, I remembered that the same light that shined from the sun also shined in me.  I did my best to shine that light on others.
Then, it hit me.  I again needed to surrender.  I surrendered my time and my place to the Universe.  When I surrendered that, my only job was to do my best and enjoy the run.  Again, I had “found my free”.  (I should mention, I have an awesome shirt designed by Sandi that says “Find Your Free”)
This may all sound a bit…okay, really…corny, but I don’t care.  It worked for me.  I haven’t been that happy in a race for a long time, and I felt good and finished strong, the smile still on my face.
I saw the time, and eventually checked the stats.  It would be a lie to say I didn’t have any thoughts of “I should have done better” but this time I could let them go and not have them affect my mood for the rest of the day.  As I write this, I am happy.

Final thoughts:
Surrendering is not easy.  It is not something that comes naturally when for most of my life I have practiced otherwise. 
I still worry about the future all the time.  My anxiety drives me bananas.  Every day I repeat the affirmation “I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing all is well in my future”-Louise Hay. 
One thing I absolutely know is that I am supposed to work with Sandi in some way.  I know it because I can feel it down into my core.  Steve says it is just a twin thing, I know it is not.  I believe with all my heart we were put on this earth together for a reason (other than her being my best friend and keeping me doing when I am down).  Again, I am just not sure exactly what.
This too involves surrender and trust.  I try to let go of planning and instead try to remain open to whatever comes our way whenever that time may be.  It is also an effort not to focus on the absence of Sandi and missing her when she is thousands of miles away, but instead focus on the feeling of what it will be like when we work and go on adventures together.
Like any trail, I continually have my ups and downs, but I can climb up much faster from any down period. In addition, I continually as my Higher Power for help.  I ask “Help me to see this differently” and “Inner Compass, please guide me”.  It helps knowing that I am never truly alone.
To end this very long blog post (thank you for staying with me this whole time), I will leave with a song that was just shared on Facebook.  I hope you enjoy it:



1 comment:

  1. There is one journey, but many paths. Seems you have found your one. And you have attained quite some wisdom, so early in life.